Free returns on all items + Free shipping on orders over $350

Early Spring Hive Check

March 13, 2021 2 Comments

Early Spring Hive Check

It’s time to brush off those tools! It's March, and the temperatures are still cool in Alberta. By mid-March, it’s a good idea to do a quick hive check for a few reasons. 

  1. Observe the cluster size 
  2. Check stores 
  3. Do planned Varroa Mite treatments 

A mid-March hive check should be quick. You are not unwrapping or taking boxes apart, you are just looking in the top box. We like doing our hive check on warmer days when temperatures are around 0°C so that the bees don’t get as disturbed or fly around too much. 

Be organized, plan and observe. 

Early Spring Check List

If you can answer YES to all of the questions on our check list below, you are doing well for an early March inspection. If you answer NO to any of these questions, you may need some help or advice from a mentor.

Yes/No

Is your cluster size good?

Yes/No

Are there enough stores?

Yes/No

Did you monitor and treat Varroa Mites in the fall?

 

Is your cluster a good size? 

When you take a look in the top box of your hive, observe where the cluster is and how big it is. On a 0°C day, you want to see that the cluster covers about 6 to 8 frames with bees on both sides of frames (width-wise). This is a good cluster size for an overwintered hive in March. This is based on a hive that had 20 frames of bees in the fall. Remember your cluster size changes as the temperatures increase or decrease. The cluster will expand with warmer temperatures and contract with colder temperatures.

What if your cluster size is smaller than 6 frames? 

If your cluster is only covering 2 to 3 frames (width-wise) on a 0°C day, this is a very weak hive. This can be very disappointing to see that your hive has not overwintered successfully. If you find you are in this situation, you should check to see if you see any signs of disease. Unfortunately, a hive this size will have a hard time surviving through spring. Contact a mentor or give us a call if you need help or have questions.

Are there enough stores?

If you are a beginner beekeeper, knowing if there are enough honey stores can be hard to figure out on your very first overwintered hive check. The simplest way to check if there are enough stores is to gently lift your hive from the bottom board (without disturbing the hive too much). If it is very light and easy to lift, you DO NOT have enough stores.

  • If you have enough stores and 5+ frames of bees,  you can add pollen patties. Providing a pollen supplement gives the colony amino acids and protein for the queen and food for the larva.

  • If your hive DOES NOT have enough stores, you can do one of the following:
    • Replace an empty frame of comb with a honey filled ones
    • Place fondant or pollen patties above your cluster (but not on your cluster) with wax paper side down. 

As you gain more experience, you can check honey stores other ways by using your hive tool, but this takes practice. You need to ensure you don’t harm the queen. If it's your very first spring check, it's a good idea to call a mentor to do the check with you.

    In early March, the old bees will feed the larva that will become the new spring colony. We want the new colony to be ready to fly when the temperatures warm up and stabilize in the next few weeks. The old overwintered bees will continue rearing brood and dying off. As the brood nest expands, the bees will consume more food.

    Note: spring liquid feeding will begin when the temperatures are warmer and stabilize at the beginning of April.

    Varroa Mite Treatment

    Depending on your fall monitoring and treatments, you may need to do a Varroa Mite treatment now. 

    • Did you monitor mite levels in the fall and do mite treatments? If yes, you can treat with Apivar now OR Formic Pro from mid-April to mid-May ONLY (note: It needs to be 10°C to use Formic Pro). Be sure to check your treatment information before applying.

    At the end of your inspection, replace any insulation and wrapping that was pulled back. If you have any questions after inspecting, it is always a good idea to call a mentor and ask for help. You can also call us, and we would be happy to answer your questions too.

    Be ready for spring feeding in April

    It's the right time to start preparing for liquid feeding 1:1 (sugar to water) by having your equipment and feeders ready. Shop for spring feeding supplies. Hiveworld Nu-bee Syrup will be available for pickup at the Edmonton store this spring. 

    Our Edmonton store is open for curbside pickup and local delivery within 75 km of Edmonton. If you have any questions about spring beekeeping or getting started in beekeeping, we are here to help! Call or email us.




    2 Responses

    Chester
    Chester

    September 17, 2021

    My first attempt at beekeeping.
    I have ordered a 5 frame nuc to arrive May 17. Will I need to feed them pollen in addition to the 1:1 syrup?

    Debbie Coffey
    Debbie Coffey

    September 17, 2021

    I checked my hives today march13 +14c today 20 min.east of Airdrie.Bees flying top boxes full off bees,can I reverse boxes yet or is it too early

    Leave a comment

    Comments will be approved before showing up.


    Also in Education

    What Do I Do With a Weak Colony at The End of September?
    What Do I Do With a Weak Colony at The End of September?

    September 22, 2022

    Some signs of a weak hive may be a small population of bees by the end of September. The hive needs to have a big enough cluster to survive the winter, which is approximately 6 to 8 full frames of bees. You might notice wasps and other pests trying to enter your hive if you have a low amount of bees. Robbing of honey stores may occur, which will further deplete your colony's strength.

    Continue Reading

    What is Fumagilin and How to Use It?
    What is Fumagilin and How to Use It?

    September 14, 2022

    Fumagilin is used to treat a very serious disease found in adult honey bees called nosema. This disease has contributed to loss of colonies in both autumn and spring. Nosema is a fungal infection of the bee's intestines.

    Continue Reading

    What Should Your Brood Nest Look Like in the Fall?
    What Should Your Brood Nest Look Like in the Fall?

    September 07, 2022

    In September there are a lot of variables that will set your hive up for the winter. You might be wondering what the end goal is? What will your hive look like? If you’re a first time beekeeper, it can be intimidating not knowing what to look for in your hive before you close it up.

    Continue Reading