ATTTA’s Spring Honey Bee Management Guide

Thursday 8 April 2021

As we approach mid-April and with warmer weather on the way, spring beekeeping is upon us! Have you got your to-do list laid out and your tasks organized in a spring honey bee management plan catered to your goals for this season? If you are not quite there yet, no need to worry, ATTTA’s Spring Honey Bee Management Guide is a great resource to help you make sure you hit all the key points of honey bee management for spring.

Announcement: ‘What’s the Buzz with ATTTA’ beekeeping podcast Episode 3 is now live and ready for your listening, learning, and enjoyment! Keep reading for more details on what topics are discussed in the third episode of our podcast.

ATTTA’s Spring Honey Bee Management Guide

There are a number of spring housekeeping practices to ensure hives are clean and colonies can build up. Spring housekeeping tasks include:

1.  Unwrap hives

The timing for unwrapping hives is largely dependent on weather, but hives are typically unwrapped in April in Atlantic Canada. The timing of unwrapping is important since brood can get chilled and die if a colony is unwrapped too soon and the bees are not able to keep the entire broodnest warm enough. If in doubt, wait; the risk of overheating in spring due to the wrap is very low.

2.  Remove entrance reducers  

Although shrew guards have already been taken off, entrance reducers can be removed in spring to allow for more ventilation as the weather gets warmer and to provide a larger entrance/exit for foragers to pass through. If a colony is weak, the entrance reducer may be kept in place so that the colony has a smaller opening to defend.

3.  Check and clean bottom boards

When cleaning bottom boards, check for dead bees, observe any abnormalities, and remove residue (can be scraped with a hive tool). Reverse the bottom board if reversible and/or torch the bottom board after scraping to help destroy diseases that may be present.

4.  Reverse hive bodies to move cluster to the bottom box

Hive bodies (chambers) can be reversed for colonies overwintered in doubles. As the cluster moves through the hive over the winter, it will end up in the top box in the spring. Take the top box and reverse it with the bottom box to encourage bees to move through hive but leave some honey in the bottom to provide a close food source during cool weather. Before reversing, make sure to assess the colony’s broodnest placement and check the weather forecast. If it gets too cold after reversing and the broodnest is not a single continuous unit, a colony might abandon a section of brood to preserve another if there are not enough bees to keep both brood sections warm!

5.  Assess comb

Inspect and replace comb in the spring. Try to rotate comb out every three to five years. Inspect for signs of American Foulbrood (AFB). Check out last week’s blog to learn more about why old comb should be rotated out and how the age of comb impacts a colony’s productivity!

6.  Feed hives

A 1:1 solution of sugar syrup can be fed to stimulate brood rearing. Be careful to not feed too much in case the hives become ‘honey bound’ too early, causing the queen to run out of room to lay eggs and potentially stimulating swarming. If the hive contains too many honey frames and there is limited room to lay, remove some of the honey frames and replace with drawn empty frames to encourage brood rearing. Pollen patties can also be fed.

7.  Monitor for diseases and pests

Sample for Varroa mites (see Integrated Pest Management section of ATTTA’s Spring Honey Bee Management Guide for further information) and send off bee samples for Nosema spore counts (or count on your own with a microscope). If Nosema spores exceed threshold, feed fumagillin in sugar syrup. Beekeepers may add thymol or other products to sugar syrup to lower the Nosema spore count if the threshold has not yet been exceeded. If mites exceed threshold, select a treatment method not used in previous 12 months.

For more tips and information on spring beekeeping duties, check out the full ATTTA Spring Honey Bee Management Guide available online.

What’s the Buzz with ATTTA Beekeeping Podcast: Episode 3!

The third episode of ATTA’s beekeeping podcast is now live and ready for you on a variety of listening platforms! With this month’s podcast, the conversational tour of beekeeping in our regions continues and talk to well known local beekeeper Chris Lockhart. Chris is from New Brunswick and keeps bees around the Moncton area. As a second-generation beekeeper, his business, Lockhart Apiaries, is involved in pollination and honey production. He sells quality, local honey under the brand Atlantic Gold which is found in stores across the region. During conversation, Chris talks about the challenges of running and growing a beekeeping business during these difficult times of Covid-19 and climate change. Listen to the podcast to find out more about beekeeping, pollination services and baseball bats! An informative chat of interest to anyone beekeeping in Atlantic Canada!

To access Episode 3 of the ATTTA podcast from a variety of listening platforms, visit the ‘What’s the Buzz with ATTTA’ beekeeping podcast website. Hope you enjoy!

Connecting with ATTTA Specialists

If you’d like to connect with ATTTA specialists or learn more about our program, you can: