2021 Live Bees Pick-Up and Shipping Schedule

Early Spring Hive Check

March 13, 2021

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.


Is your cluster size good?


Are there enough stores?


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.

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