Beekeeper’s Calendar Series: Spring

Thursday 21 March 2024

Spring is here! With its arrival, many beekeepers across the Maritimes have started to peek into their hives after the winter season. Throughout the spring months, bees are actively raising brood and increasing their population. Beekeepers are engaged in assessing winter losses, managing dead hives, providing emergency spring feed to colonies, setting up electric fencing, eventually inspecting hives for pests and diseases, and unwrapping hives. Towards the end of spring bees will be sent to pollinate wild lowbush blueberries in the Maritime region. Read this week’s blog to learn more about a beekeeper’s calendar during the busy spring season.

Beekeeper’s Calendar Series: Spring

The onset of the spring beekeeping season starts on that first warm sunny day with an ambient temperature greater than 5°C, typically in mid-March for the Atlantic region. By mid-March it is a good idea to do a quick hive check to assess winter loss, emergency feed if needed, and do any planned Varroa mite treatments, such as placing Apivar® strips. This is however meant to be a very quick check, and the brood nest should not be disturbed. As snow melts away beekeepers should also reconnect their electric fencing, as bears will soon be a concern.


If a colony is low on food stores, fondant is recommended. Conduct a heft test to assess food stores. A general rule is that if a hive can be lifted easily with one hand, then it is too light. Fondant is preferred over sugar syrup because bees will not consume syrup if the temperature is below 10°C.

During early spring, colonies are often fed pollen patties when natural pollen is unavailable. This is because bees require pollen for rearing brood. Feeding pollen patties in preparation for pollination is a practice supported by research and proven to be economically beneficial.

April is typically the time for the first major hive inspections in the Atlantic region. Beekeepers should now monitor Varroa mite levels monthly and provide treatment when necessary. As Apivar has a 56-day treatment period and a 2-week withdrawal period, this particular Varroa treatment needs to begin early in the spring season (mid-March) to ensure completion of the withdrawal period before placing honey supers. Brood should also be inspected for signs of diseases such as European foulbrood, American foulbrood, and Chalkbrood, and appropriate treatment measures should be taken.

By the end of April, hives are usually unwrapped in the Atlantic region. Towards the end of April, nighttime temperatures should consistently remain above 0°C. There is no urgency to unwrap hives in the Atlantic region, as keeping them wrapped helps with early brood rearing. Typically, hives are unwrapped to facilitate easy access for beekeepers to work through them.

During May, hives will be sent across the Maritime region to pollinate wild lowbush blueberries. Up until this point beekeepers need to be assessing hive strength to make sure each colony will be a standard pollination unit. This will require splitting strong colonies and boosting weak colonies. Beekeepers also need to facilitate communication with their blueberry grower partners to make sure plans are in place and consider having a pollination contract.

To read more about a beekeeper’s calendar stay tuned for our next blog post in this series, where the summer season will be discussed.

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