Arkansas Beekeeping Calendar

This information is meant to be a general guide to some of the main activities of honey bees during each month of the year. Being mindful of the bees’ activities can help beekeepers to schedule their activities as well. Many local factors – particularly the weather and temperature, abundance of floral resources, and the presence of hive pests – will influence the exact timing of beekeeping chores. This is merely a suggested checklist for beekeepers to consider throughout the year. Nectar flows can vary considerably each year and in each region of the state. Beekeepers should be aware of local conditions and adjust their activities accordingly.

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January February March AprilMayJuneJulyAugustSeptemberOctoberNovemberDecember

 
January
Bees:

With temperatures still low, the queen bee should be deep in the cluster, surrounded by workers. These workers will consume a considerable amount of honey to generate the heat needed to survive the winter. There is little other activity in the hive unless outside temperatures reach about 50°F, when some workers may take advantage of the weather for a cleansing flight. Winter bees are longer-lived than summer bees, but many will die of old age during the cold months. It is normal to see some dead bees on the ground around the hive entrance. A strong hive will normally remove their dead.

In years with very mild winters, the queen may begin to produce a small brood nest, even though pollen may not yet be available.

Beekeepers:

Check the food supply of the hive periodically by gently tilting the hive forward to judge whether the bees have sufficient honey stores. If not, they may require emergency feeding. In very cold weather, the bees may not be able to leave their cluster for long periods to feed. Avoid opening the hive in very cold weather. If there has been snow or ice, make sure hive entrances are cleared to allow for ventilation. Also remove dead bees that may be blocking the entrance.

In windy areas, place a brick or rock on top of your hives to keep the lid in place. Now is the time to order new equipment, build and repair hives, frames and other woodenware for the coming season. Clean your smoker and hive tools. Order package bees and queens early to ensure earliest delivery. Read a good book or two to refresh and improve your beekeeping knowledge.

 
February
Bees:

The queen will be spending a lot of time in the cluster, but a few warm days will lure some workers outside to investigate. When the first spring flowers begin to bloom, they will return with pollen. Fresh pollen will stimulate the queen to begin some limited egg-laying activity. Workers will take cleansing flights on warm days.

Increased activity and brood-rearing will cause the bees to consume a substantial amount of stored honey this month.  Unless an unusually warm and early spring promotes early flowering, their surplus food supplies may be running low.

Beekeepers:

Check the bees’ food supply, and provide emergency feeding if needed. Continue to read up on bees. Attend your local beekeeping association meetings. Finish your workshop chores so that all your hives are ready for spring. On a mild, sunny day with little wind, it may be possible to have a look inside the hive. Don’t remove any frames, which may risk chilling the brood, but you can estimate the size of the cluster between the frames. Patties of pollen or artificial pollen substitute can be provided to promote earlier brood production. However, in periods of extended cold temperatures the worker population may not be large enough to incubate a large brood nest. If weather permits inspection, weak colonies (those with less than 2 full frames of bees) will probably not recover adequately and can be united with other colonies. Medicate with Fumidil-B for Nosema, if necessary. Excessive condensation on the inside of the lid may mean ventilation is inadequate.

 
March
Bees:

Days grow longer and warmer, and hive activity increases. As pollen-collection increases, the queen’s egg-laying will increase. Bees will require more food to care for all the brood and to fuel flight activities. In years with a late spring, sufficient flowers may not be available for a rapid build-up. The bees can risk starvation and may require feeding.

Drones will begin to appear in the hive. If conditions are good, early swarms are possible.

Beekeepers:

You may inspect the hive on warm days to estimate food stores and see how much brood is present. Evaluate the brood pattern and decide if requeening may be in order. If you plan to medicate the hive for varroa mites or nosema, treatments should be timed according to label recommendations so they are finished before the honey flow begins (usually about 4 weeks).

Reverse brood chambers to provide the queen adequate space to lay eggs. If hives were overwintered in a single hive body, consider adding another brood chamber to accommodate the spring population. Remove entrance reducers. Replace any old or damaged combs before the workers turn them all into drone comb.

Keep an eye out for queen cells, which you can use to divide a rapidly increasing colony. Pollen patties can help boost the population in advance of the nectar flow. You can equalize hives by moving frames of capped brood from strong colonies into weaker ones before the major nectar flow begins. This may also delay swarming by strong colonies.

Once adult drones are seen in colonies, it is safe to begin rearing queens.

 
April
Bees:

Spring is in full swing. Foraging activity and brood production should be in high gear. Crowded hives are likely to swarm. As brood increases, Varroa mite populations may begin to increase. Newly emerged queens will begin mating flights. However, excessively cool and wet weather can keep bees in the hive, depleting their honey stores. Eggs laid during the first part of this month will become the foragers that bring in much of the spring honey crop.

Beekeepers:

For strong, established colonies, feeding should cease as the main spring honey flow begins. Examine the hive every 8-10 days for queen cells and swarming activities. If weather is poor for flying, some feeding may still be required to sustain the bees. If weather is good, and flowers are available, you may need to begin adding supers for honey. Remove all medications as directed before honey supers are added. Mail-order package bees and queens will begin to arrive, and should be promptly installed. Splits can be made from strong colonies.

 
May
Bees:

In the hill areas of Arkansas, the spring honey flow will be near its peak toward the end of May. Bees will be foraging constantly and the queen can be laying in excess of 1500 eggs per day. Swarms are still possible if hives become too crowded or honey-bound.

Beekeepers:
Some beekeepers will add a queen excluder to prevent brood in the honey supers. Be sure that the queen has sufficient comb for egg-laying. Super all hives as needed. In general, if a honey super is 3/4 full of nectar, you may want to add another. Supers full of capped honey can be left on the hive.Many beekeepers will add new supers below those that are capped, so that bees don’t have to travel through to add honey to empty combs. Top-supering is more convenient for the beekeeper, however. While opinions differ, there is no evidence that either method impacts the amount of honey stored.
 
June
Bees:

The bee populations are high, and hive activity is bustling. If the weather is favorable, nectar and pollen will continue to be brought in vigorously.

Beekeepers:
Hives should be checked weekly to ensure the colonies are healthy and the queen is laying. Provide adequate room for both brood and honey. Monitor pest populations but avoid chemical treatments before the honey is harvested.
 
July
Bees:

As the weather trends toward hotter and drier, the nectar flow typically ends in the hill areas. The queen’s egg production may also slow somewhat. In heavy agricultural areas, nectar flow from irrigated soybeans and cotton will be strong. Bees may be seen spread across the front of the hive cooling themselves on humid nights.

Beekeepers:
Continue to regularly check hives for colony health and activity, monitor for pests, and ensure adequate room for honey stores. Ensure that bees have access to fresh water during dry periods. Honey may be harvested as soon as it is capped. However, be sure to leave bees enough for the bees own needs during the summer dearth.  Ensure that hives have sufficient ventilation.
 
August
Bees:

Colony growth rate slows as the nectar flow dries up in hill areas; bees will still forage for clean water. During times of summer dearth, bees can often consume more honey than they are storing. There is little chance of swarming during this period. In the delta regions, nectar flow from agricultural crops may still be strong.

Beekeepers:

Ensure that bees have access to clean water. Watch out for robbing activities, which may indicate a weak colony. In some locations, honey should be harvested before bitterweeds bloom and ruin the flavor of the entire crop. Bees may tend to be cranky and more prone to stinging during times of dearth, so be careful opening hives. Varroa mite levels will be reaching peak numbers.

 
September
Bees:

Cooler, wetter weather may produce a fall nectar flow, allowing bees to collect more winter stores. Drones may evicted from the hives as workers sense changes in temperature and food availability. Egg production will be reduced as the days get shorter and cooler.

Beekeepers:

Any remaining honey is harvested. Each colony will need about 50-60 pounds of honey for winter. After honey is removed, medications for colony pests can be applied. Some beekeepers will requeen colonies now, temporarily breaking the brood cycle and encouraging good egg-laying by young queens in the early spring. Clean and safely store all empty supers away from rodents and wax moths.

 
October
Bees:

The queen’s egg-laying continues to decrease, and the colony population will also decline. No more drones will be produced, and those remaining will be expelled from the hive. Workers continue to forage for winter food stores as long as they can.

Beekeepers:

Colonies may require some feeding to ready them for winter. Fall feeding is done with 2:1 (sugar:water) syrup.  Mite treatments should be removed at the appropriate time (consult product label). Mouse-guards can be installed. Watch for robbing activities. When finished readying hives for winter, don’t open them again unless necessary. Each time a hive is opened, the bees must re-seal the cracks with propolis to keep out winter drafts.

 
November
Bees:

As the weather turns cold, bee activity will be reduced outside the hive. The temperature will send bees into a loose cluster as necessary.

Beekeepers:

Install entrance reducers. Finish winter feeding. Don’t open hives is cold weather. In windy areas, secure hive lids with a brick or rock. Now enjoy some honey. Review your records and evaluate colony performance. Consider what you might do differently next year. Attend your local beekeeper meetings and compare notes. Evaluate equipment and consider repairs or replacements.  Render and clean any leftover wax.

 
December
Bees:

The bees are in a tight cluster, alternating between generating heat with their wing muscles and resting and eating on the outside of the cluster. The queen is taking a much-needed break from egg production.

Beekeepers:

Leave your bees alone. Periodically test winter stores by gently tilting the hive, but do not open the lid. Order new tools and supplies for spring and get all of your equipment in order. Consider expanding your apiary. Enjoy a few books and drink some tea with honey in it. Turn your excess wax into candles and give away a few jars of your finest honey as holiday gifts.  Plan to place your orders for spring package bees and queens early to ensure you are at the top of the list.