Site last updated 17th November 2019

The Beekeepers Year

 

This list of actvities is to provide an indication of the time a beekeeper needs to commit to looking after a colony and the activites that need to be undertaken. It is not intended to be a definitive list as factors such as weather, climate, neighbourhood and even the type of bees you have will influence what needs to be done. The list gives you an overview of what's likely to be going on each month in the hive. It also suggests some important tasks for the beekeeper, and provides a rough estimate of the amount of time you might spend with your bees during a given month. 

 

 

January

The Bees.

The queen is surrounded by thousands of her workers. She is in the midst of their winter cluster. There is little activity except on a warm day when the workers will take the opportunity to make cleansing flights. There are no drones in the hive, but some worker brood will begin to appear in the hive. The bees will consume a considerable amount of stored honey this month.

 

The Beekeeper.

Little work is required from you at the hives. If there is heavy snow, make certain the entrance to the hive is cleared to allow for proper ventilation. If a January thaw presents itself (in January or February) you will need to provide supplemental, emergency food for the bees such as fondant (or syrup if not too cold). This is a great time to catch up on your reading about bees, build and repair equipment for next season and get your bees suit washed and equipment sterilised. 

Time Spent. Estimate less than an hour.

 

 

February

The Bees.

The queen, still cozy in the cluster, will begin to lay a few more eggs each day. It is still "females only" in the hive. Workers will take cleansing flights on mild days. The bees will consume a considerable amount of stored honey this month so make sure they dont starve.

 

The Beekeeper.

There is not too much to do this month. If you still havent got your equipment ready, now is the time to do it.
Time Spent. Estimate less than one hour.

 

 

March

The Bees.

This is the month when colonies have a high risk of dying of starvation, particulalry if the weather starts to warm up and then turns cold again. With the days growing longer, the queen steadily increases her rate of egg laying. More brood means more food consumed. The drones begin to appear. The bees will continue to consume honey stores. Flights to collect pollen will already be taking place.

 

The Beekeeper.

Remove mouse and woodpecker guards. Early in the month, on a nice mild day, and when there is no wind and bees are flying, you can have a quick peek inside your hive. It's best not to remove the frames. Just have a quick look under the cover. If you do not see any sealed honey in the top of the frames, you may need to provide some emergency food (fondant if cold temps prevail, sugar syrup if the weather is mild (1kg sugar to 500ml water)). Remember, once you start feeding, you should not stop until they are bringing in their own food supplies. If you are going to do a spring Varroa mite treatment, now (or soon) is the time to start its application.
Time Spent. Estimate 2 hours this month.

 

 

April

The Bees.

The weather begins to improve, and the early blossoms begin to appear. The bees begin to bring pollen into the hive. The queen is busily laying eggs, and the population is growing fast. The drones will begin to appear. Inspect the hive weekly.


The Beekeeper.

On a warm and still day do your first comprehensive inspection. Can you find evidence of the queen? Are there plenty of eggs and brood? Is there a nice pattern to her egg laying?  Later in the month, on a very mild and windless day, you should consider doing a spring clean, replacing the brood box and floor with clean ones. Spring mite treatments should be completed, and removed prior to adding any honey supers. You can begin to feed the hive syrup.
Time Spent. Estimate 4 hours.

 

May

The Bees.

Now the activity really starts hopping. The nectar and pollen should begin to come into the hive thick and fast. The queen will be reaching her greatest rate of egg laying. The hive should be bursting with activity. Inspect the hive weekly.
The Beekeeper.

 Add a queen excluder, and place honey supers on top of the top deep. Watch out for swarming. Inspect the hive weekly. Attend bee club meetings and workshops. You may need to extract some honey before it sets in the comb if your bees have been on the oil seed rape.
Time Spent. Estimate 5-6 hours this month.

 

June

The Bees.

Unswarmed colonies will be boiling with bees. The queen's rate of egg laying may drop a bit this month. The main honey flow should happen this month.

 

The Beekeeper.

Inspect the hive weekly to make certain the hive is healthy and the queen is present. Add honey supers as needed. Keep up swarm inspections. Attend bee club meetings and workshops. You may need to start extracting honey if things are going well.
Time Spent. Estimate 4-5 hours.

 

July

The Bees.

If the weather is good, the nectar flow may continue this month. On hot and humid nights, you may see a huge curtain of bees cooling themselves on the exterior of the hive.


The Beekeeper.

Continue inspections to assure the health of your colony. Add more honey supers if needed. Keep your fingers crossed in anticipation of a great honey harvest. Extract your honey.
Time Spent. Estimate 2-3 hours.

 

August

The Bees.

The colony's growth is diminishing. Drones are still around, but outside activity begins to slow down as the nectar flow slows.


The Beekeeper.

No more chance of swarming. Watch for honey robbing by wasps or other bees. There is not too much for you to do this month. Have a little holiday. Depending on the weather and if you have removed all of your honey, you may wish to start varroa mite treatment.

Time Spent. Estimate about an hour or two.

 

September

The Bees.

The drones may begin to disappear this month. The hive population is dropping. The queen's her egg laying is dramatically reduced.

 

The Beekeeper.

Harvest your honey crop. Remember to leave the colony sufficient honey for winter. Check for the queen's presence. Feed and medicate, if required, towards the end of the month. Apply mite treatment. Continue feeding until the bees will take no more syrup. Attend bee club meetings.
Time Spent. Estimate 2-3 hours.

 

October

The Bees.

Not much activity from the bees. They are hunkering' down for the winter.


The Beekeeper.

Watch out for robbing. Configure the hive for winter, with attention to ventilation and moisture control. Install mouse guard at entrance of hive. Setup a wind break if necessary. Finish winter feeding. Attend bee club meetings.
Time Spent. Estimate 2 hours.

 

November

The Bees.

Even less activity this month. The cold weather will send them into a cluster.


The Beekeeper.

 Make sure mouse and woodpecker guards are fitted and store your equipment away for the winter. Attend bee club meetings.
Time Spent. About one hour this month.

 

December

The Bees.

The bees are in a tight cluster. No peeking.


The Beekeeper.

There's nothing you can do with the bees. Read a good book on beekeeping, and enjoy the holidays!
Time Spent. None