Inside Your Spring Hive

March 15, 2022

Inside Your Spring Hive

It’s time to brush off those tools! It's March, and the temperatures are still cool in the prairie regions and British Columbia. As soon as the temperatures warm up enough, you will need to be ready to do a quick hive check for a few reasons.

  1. Observe the cluster size
  2. Check stores
  3. Test For Varroa Mites
  4. Do planned Varroa Mite treatments

For Alberta, SK and prairie regions:

It’s looking like a cooler spring, so when we get to warmer temperatures around 0°C (ideally closer to 15°C) so that the bees don’t get as disturbed or fly around too much. A mid-March hive check should be quick. You are not unwrapping or taking boxes apart, you are just looking in the top box. Look for bee brood, pollen and food reserves.

For British Columbia Lower Mainland (The Fraser Valley and Victoria):

Typically by the end of February and beginning of March when the weather warms, the first inspection of the top box may be done. However, with a cooler spring, hive checks may have to occur later as we need a warmer day where temperatures are around 0°C (ideally closer to 15°C) so that the bees don’t get as disturbed or fly around too much. Look for bee brood, pollen and food reserves.

Something to remember is the Lower Mainland of BC is typically 2 to 3 weeks ahead of most of Alberta in terms of the season. Please check local government guidelines.

Early Spring Checklist

  • Is your cluster size good? (Yes/No)
  • Are there enough stores? (Yes/No)
  • Did you monitor and treat Varroa Mites in the fall? (Yes/No)

Bee Hive Cluster Sizes

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.

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). Note: that the efficacy of mite treatments has been decreasing. 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!

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 in Edmonton has syrup ready for pick up only.

If you have any questions about spring beekeeping or getting started in beekeeping, we are here to help! Live Chat, call or email us.


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