Part 6 ‘Seasonal Beekeeping tasks’
Throughout the year there are several beekeeping tasks that you can carry out to facilitate the growth of your hive and the health of your bee colony. These tasks can be categorised by season as follows:
Spring: The springtime is the best season to start a new hive and feed your pre-existing bees if necessary. During the winter they will have relied upon their summer food stores which may be depleted by spring. Alternatively, if your hive has any excess honeycomb stores left over the winter, now is the time to harvest it. If you need to add any new chambers to your hive or carry out any repairs then springtime is also the ideal season during which to carry out these tasks.
Summer: During the summer your bees will be working at their fastest rate: building honeycomb, bringing nectar, and pollen back to the hive and caring for their brood. As a result, there are not many tasks which you will need to carry out during the summer months. However, it is worthwhile checking on your bees regularly in order to prevent any future problems from occurring. For instance, if you are using a top-bar hive or if your hive does not have a foundation then you should check that all of your combs are hanging straight. Summer is also the time to harvest any excess honey stores which your bees are producing.
Autumn: During the autumn months you will need to begin preparing your hive for the cold winter months. This will require providing your bees with sufficient food stores to survive through the winter and into the spring, as well as reducing the hive entrance, facilitating effective ventilation channels, and applying guards against pests and rodents. Moreover, the autumn is the prime time for collecting the honey which your bees have produced during the summer. However, it is important to leave enough honey stores to enable your bees to survive and feed themselves throughout the winter.
Winter: The winter is the season during which your bees are highly susceptible to the cold and severe weather conditions. On a regular basis your bees will need to maintain temperatures between 22 and 25 degrees Celsius for the general colony, 34 to 35 degrees Celsius for the brood chamber, and up to 40 degrees Celsius for honey maturation. As a result, it is vital that you cover your hive with a protective jacket. You can purchase custom jackets online or construct your own using a thick plastic bag that has been lined with a strip of insulation. You should fasten this jacket to the bottom of your hive with tape or staples to ensure it does not fall off during high winds, rain, or snow.
You should also order your new bees in the winter months for their arrival in the following April. It is possible to order bees from specific online stores or to check with your local Beekeeping Association for suppliers near you or for any local swarms. If you are purchasing bees from a local or online supplier, then it is advisable to order 5 or 6 frame nucleus of bees. Nucleus will consist of a frame of honey bees along with a brood, a queen bee, and food stores.
It is advisable that you purchase bees that have been bred locally within the UK in order to avoid a foreign hybrid species. As well as checking online or with your local Beekeeping Association, you can locate a reputable Bee Breeder via beekeeping magazines and journals through which to purchase complete colonies or nucleus.