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The Beekeeper's Journal

November – December – January – February
Off-season work with honey or honey products – filtering, creaming of honey, candles, creams, making mead (mmm!!!!)
Reading, repair of bee equipment, painting hive boxes, dream up new ways to stop swarming, improve honey production, look for new nectar plants, foil the weather, bears – drive your spouse crazy – beekeepers are inventive!
Check beehives every so often, bank up with snow if needed, or open vent holes.
Hive checking – critical time, as bees may run out of food
May begin at end of February, or extend into first part of May – depends on winter. Feeding syrup when it is cold may harm the bees as they will have a hard time evaporating the extra moisture. The fluctuating temp can cause the syrup to drip on the bees and chill them. At this time you should only be feeding candy. If your bees were fed well in the fall, they should be left alone. Bee kind to your bees , bee patient.
On a warm day when bees are flying inspect fronts of hives, look to see if hives are alive, if not, can be torn down before disease sets in.
Clean out a dead hive: Pull out each frame, brush off all bees on surface of comb, Bees in cells can be removed by turning the frame sideways and tapping the side of the frame. A few bees left in the frame is ok. Pull entire hive apart, scrape down boxes and bottom board, with your hive tool. Burn any frames that are too mouldy and deemed not usable. Reassemble hive, screen entrance and upper holes. (Make sure other bees cannot get in). It's important to ventilate the hive to keep the combs in good shape. You can repopulate the hive (May 15, or later, in Thunder Bay.) by making a split from an existing hive, or buying a nuc.
Check for honey stores – if bee stores are low, (1 full frame of honey placed beside the cluster will keep it alive for about two weeks)time to start light spring feeding of syrup (and pollen a bit later), leaving winter covers on.
Take steps (use of antibiotics) to prevent an infection of AFB from establishing itself in your beekeeping operation and then spreading to your neighbour's.
1. All antibiotics should be administered to honey bee colonies according to labels and at recommended rates only.
2. Never administer antibiotics while honey supers are on the hives.

March – April
Continue checking hives and honey stores.
Good time to check out electric fencing around beeyard.

Getting ready... this is a busy month!
On a warm day towards the middle to end of the month when bees are actively flying:
Remove winter covers, reverse top and bottom brood boxes, check hive for disease on frames or on front of hive.
Convert from the existing bottom board to a Varroa bottom board on all hives, before putting boxes back in place, leave entrance reducers on for awhile yet.
Use a sticky board to check for mites.
Inspect frames for evidence of queen that is in good health. Build-up of brood should be happening now to provide foraging force for June.
Place a green drone frame near the center of the brood nest, and remember to remove it before the drones emerge! (see members only page for more information)
Look for swarm cells: hive could be very strong. If present, remove all of them, may want to equalize bees by moving frames from strong colony to weaker ones.
If there is no queen or she is in poor health, will have to make arrangements to get new queen.
Continue feeding until there is a continuous source of pollen and nectar – willows, dandelions.

Swarming time!
Inspect regularly for swarm cells, remove entrance reducers, ensure that there is adequate ventilation to remove hot moist air from hives.
Once the drones are active, hives can be split to produce more hives – not as much honey, but reduces swarming and adds more colonies. More active nectar and pollen collection as brood size increases – add prepared honey supers to provide room once the colonies are on their way, little needs to be done except to provide more storage space (supers)
Great time for watching bees at their best and busiest.

Supering time!
Similar to June, chances of swarming are reduced but still present, especially if have a nectar dearth (shortage), eg: drought causes plants to cease producing nectar, or temps too low for nectar production or too rainy for bees to fly.
May have to feed the bees a little in a time of nectar shortage
Always continue inspecting for evidence of queen, don't be too invasive because it will disrupt the colony and set it back.
If there is a strong honey flow (usually sweet clover) you may be able to extract honey towards the end of the month.

Honey crop time!
If honey wasn't taken off in July, it an be done now, best to extract while honey is still warm and soft, can sometimes take honey off twice if crop season is productive.
Bees are slowing down towards end of month – not as many nectar-producing plants, days are getting shorter, temperatures are a little cooler towards end of month queen is laying fewer eggs – large foraging force will not be required, but she needs to be healthy for the winter
Bees are collecting and storing nectar and pollen in preparation for colder weather.

Bees born now and at end of August will overwinter
Preparations for winter begin:
Remove extra supers to force bees to move down into the brood boxes;
Put entrance reducers and mouse guards on;
Start feeding for winter towards end of month;
Treat for Varroa mite (if present);
Treat bees for foulbrood prevention as recommended by Ontario Ministry of Agriculture.

Finish feeding
Wrap colonies for winter
Ensure adequate ventilation!
Rest for the next four months!