This page is your seasonal cheat sheet for keeping on top of beekeeping chores. We highly recommend you refer to your beekeeping book of choice for detailed information on the following topics. And remember, beekeeping is always local, so you'll need to make adjustments according to your elevation and location!
Quite often, we receive questions about dead bees and debri on the front entrance of the hive. On a rainy day following a sunny day, the colony will put more of its efforts into house keeping, resulting in trash on the entrance. You would not usually see more than a few dead bees scattered across the entrance. If you see much more, it might be an indication of something more than housekeeping.
On a similar note, if you install an old brood comb into the hive, the bees will set to work cleaning out the comb cells, and you will often see small chunks of pollen and debri on the entrance. Before installing an old comb, consider the risk of latent pathogens in the comb. For example, foulbrood can remain latent for decades.
Blackberries are blooming on the Valley floor. Time to get your supers ready. Make sure you remove all feeders and treatments before installing supers. Some beekeepers wait a couple of days after installing supers to install the queen excluder. This gives the bees time to start building comb and get committed to the super.
Feeding in May:
It is tough for the bees to get enough forage in this rainy May weather of the Willamette Valley. Keep feeding them so the colony can continue to expand in time for the main nectar flow.
Getting a colony to accept a new queen can be tricky. There are several techniques to improve the acceptance rate, but as a minimum, we suggest the following precaution: install the queen with the queen-cage cork still in place for a couple of days to allow the colony additional time to accept her. After the two day waiting period, follow the standard requeening instructions for removing the cork.
If you installed package bees in early April, they should be ready for their second brood box by now. If you have seven or more combs of bees, don't wait to install the second box. We are now in swarm season in the Willamette Valley, Oregon, Insufficient space inside the hive is a key trigger for the bees to swarm.
Feeding: May is a tricky month for nectar foraging. Generally, there is plenty of pollen available, but nectar availabilty is more sporadic. Our bees are still taking food, even though there is plenty of pollen coming in. A good rule is to feed until they start ignoring the food.
With the warmer weather this week this bees should be flying. If they are you can do a litte maintenance like cleaning the tops side of the inner cover without removing it from the hive body. If you have a solid bottom board, this is a good time to clear it from any dead bees that accumulate under the hive body. Carefully use a wire coat hanger.
We are past the winter solstice, so the queen might slowly begin production soon, depending climate. Moisture in the hive is a big problem this time of year. If you do plan to feed the bees during this period, try dry food such as Drivert sugar and pollen patties or pollen substitute powder. The bees take to it readly, and it does not add moisture the way syrup does. If you have a deep inner cover you can sprinkle some drivert on the inner cover hole, and place the rest in a doughnut shape aroud the inner cover. Remember, any intrusion into the hive during cold weather must be very brief. Best to wait for the next "warmer" winter day.
You can give your bees some extra protection by placing a piece of oversized plywood ontop of your hive lid. Place a rck on top to hold it down. See picture on the right side.