Norfolk Honeybee Calendar.
Hopefully this calendar gives enough brief information without it being too long. Note that differences between season to season and between different parts of the country mean that this calendar is just a guide and is based on our Norfolk apiaries. Speak to experienced beekeepers or your association for advice.
Photo under the brood nest
Oxalic Acid treatment for varroa early in the month if not done in December. Monitor varroa after. Otherwise leave alone. Put on fondant if light. It's unlikely that you will need to remove snow from the entrance nowadays. However check for dead bees blocking the entrance. These can be scraped out with a stick or piece of wire. Sterilize any spare hive parts you haven’t already done. Check for wax moth damage in stored supers and kill the moths before the weather warms up and they get more active. Renew your association membership for the year.
WBC, strapped down in winter
Heft hive to check for level of stores. If light, fondant can be put over the open feed hole on the crown board (porter bee escape removed). Don’t mess with them otherwise, as this increases stores consumption. They may start to bring in pollen on a good day later in the month. Ensure there’s a water supply nearby; don’t let it get empty or they’ll forget it’s there. Consider booking for the BBKA convention if you want to go.
Heft hive and check for levels of stores. If light, fondant can be put over the crown- board. Syrup can also be fed in March through a contact feeder. If the weather is mild later in the month, (T shirt weather) then the colony can be inspected (quickly) if you wish. Otherwise leave alone. Monitor for varroa levels for a week late in the month; divide the number seen by 7 and then check the FERA varroa calculator. Remove mouse-guards once bees fly regularly. Either in March or early April, carry out a thorough brood-disease check. Carry out that maintenance you were meaning to do 3 or 4 months ago.
The kids can take part too
Inspections can start, depending on the weather. Mark and clip queens now before the colony gets too big. If you have a super under the brood chamber or you have over-wintered on a double brood, the colony may be reduced to one brood box. The first inspection just needs to confirm there is a queen laying worker brood and there’s stores in the hive. If the bees are bad-tempered, consider squashing the queen and uniting with another hive as the temper will not improve and will more likely get worse. As weather permits, an inspection to check for diseases can be carried out. Replace empty old frames and cut out the wax straight away or you’ll be tempted to use them in summer! As the month progresses, a super may be needed – put over the queen excluder, once there is 6-7 frames of brood; bee numbers can expand rapidly and catch you out so better to super early. Peak season starts now! After periods of good weather, colonies have swarmed in April, so check that you have spare equipment. Conversely in 2012 and 2018 colonies needed feeding and stopped brooding due to lack of pollen as the weather was so bad. Put a super frame in the brood chamber so that drone brood can be made below it and then removed when sealed (IPM). Queen rearing starts for the serious – weather and drones permitting.
A second brood chamber may be needed or a second or third super or more, depending on the colony, the forage and the weather. Swarm control may be needed this month as this is the real start of the swarming season. Supers need to be extracted if Oil Seed Rape is nearby as it sets quickly in the combs. Colonies need inspecting at weekly intervals. Ensure you have sufficient equipment to cover swarming and beware that the equipment suppliers can run out of stock so you won’t get next-day delivery! Continue with drone brood removal.
The old saying is “A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon” – well it is if you catch someone else’s! Ensure you don’t lose a swarm yourself! The ‘June Gap’ is possible in Norfolk where there is little forage until the Blackberry starts to flower. Beware of hungry bees and robbing. Inspections need to be quick as robbers will follow you around the apiary!
Bearding on a hot night
The brood area will be reducing from now; hopefully with good forage with blackberry and other plants flowering coinciding with peak bee numbers. This is the month to get the honey in! Colonies are less likely to swarm provided enough space is given. Varroa levels can start to get dangerously huge so use a mite board and check. Sealed supers can be extracted and returned at dusk.
Capped Honey Frame
Last of the supers off early in the month for extracting. Beware of robbing. Beware of wasps so reduce the entrance of the hive if not already done, especially of small colonies. Varroa treatment needs to be started - allow for the bees to get used to the smell for a few days before feeding if you are using thymol. Can start feeding for winter, however don’t spill syrup. Colonies are unlikely to swarm this month and inspections frequency can be reduced. Supercedure may occur – if so let them get on with it. If there is heather, the bees may be moved there. Check and sterilize for wax moth in stored combs.
Beware wasps - they can still be about. Also be vigilant for the Asian Hornet. Colonies can be united in September if you wish to reduce numbers. Check that you are not uniting disease. You may be able to give spare (old) queens to beekeepers in need rather than kill them! Very little chance of swarming. Feed thick syrup to build up stores for winter if colonies are still light; plan to have feeding done by the end of the month. Check mite levels again. Sometimes the odd hive doesn’t seem to respond to thymol and may need additional treatment.
Put a full super under the brood if that’s your practice very early in the month if you have not already done so by now without queen excluder. Inspections will usually have finished by this time of year. Colonies that missed being fed should be fully fed by the middle of the month at the absolute latest. National Honey Show this month. Fit mouse-guards. Check the 'Winter preparation' page. Strap hive together if in a windy spot or where animals could knock the hives over. Ensure there are no leaks. Check for wax moth in stored combs.
Nothing to do with the bees; leave them alone. Lots of maintenance, jarring honey perhaps. Melting wax. Reading. Cleaning and sterilizing. Check your notes; what did you do wrong this year? Study? Send your Christmas present list up the chimney. Check the FERA website (Beebase) for information and check the disease maps; did you have EFB or worse nearby this year and do you need to be extra vigilant next year? Order oxalic acid crystals if you use them or solution ready for December. Addendum: Note that oxalic acid is not an approved treatment and Api Bioxal is*. Apiary/association meetings anyone?
Oxalic Acid treatment between Christmas and New Year. Hope that Father (or Mother) Christmas gets you something good. Plan what you want to do for next year. Get ready for the January sales from the beekeeping-suppliers. Build/maintain hive parts – make that solar wax melter you really wanted 6 months ago? Make some mead. Don’t eat too much and eagerly wait for longer days - the bees will already be thinking of brood-rearing once the days start to get longer next month.
* Api Bioxal contains oxalic acid, sugar and an anti-caking agent so it's err. oxalic acid but more expensive!