Wonder what goes on in the life of a beekeeper? Here is a quick summary of what we do on the Wasatch Front in Utah.
January, February, March. In January, many commercial beekeepers are preparing their hives to send to California for pollination. I read yesterday that the California almond groves will require 75% of the nation’s bees! Wow! Once bees are gone, it might be the slowest time of year for beekeepers. Stan uses this time to build and repair beekeeping equipment, organize, and prepare for the coming season.
Truck with a load of pollinator colonies.
February and March is the time most bees starve. In Utah, warm, sunny, spring-like days are mixed with blizzards. On the sunny stretches, the queen starts laying eggs to increase the work force. Bees have also eaten most of their winter honey storage. When flowers begin to bloom, workers can harvest more nectar and pollen. When flowers are not blooming yet, but bee numbers are increasing, they could starve. We monitor honey levels within the hive and feeds bees more honey and pollen, if necessary.
March-April is also the time to order packages or nucs.
Checking a colony's weight/honey stores.
April, May, June. April to June is swarm season. We regularly (every 1.5 weeks) check for swarm cells (new queen cells) and either divides the colony or removes the queen cells and adds a super to give bees more room. Bees usually swarm when they run out of room. Stan also spends time catching swarms when they escape. Bees will usually swarm on a warm day following a cold spell. This is the busiest time of year for a beekeeper.
California bees usually come home in early April.
Installing a package.
July-August. In July, beekeepers can starts adding more supers as needed. This is done one at a time when bees start working on the most outside frames of the top box. It is a good idea to move one frame that bees have been working on into the new super to encourage bees to move up into the new box. Some beekeepers continue adding supers all summer and extract honey at the end. Other beekeepers (like Stan) extract honey as bees produce it and then re-use the supers.
There are not many swarms during this time of year.
As dandelions bloom, beekeepers move bees to higher elevations. (See dandelions post)
She's ready to go beekeeping with Dad!
September-November. In September, we are done harvesting honey. Everything bees produce after Labor Day stays in the hive for winter feed. As a general rule of thumb, the 2-story bee box should weigh about 100 pounds going into winter. Sometimes we re-queen in the fall, if we didn’t do it in the spring.
Extra supers need to be stored in a bee- and pest-tight area.
Some beekeepers winterize by putting inner covers, entrance reducers, and mouse guards on their hives at this time.
December. This is time to relax, enjoy the holiday season, do some art, and leave bees alone so as to not disrupt their cluster.
Stan with Bee Art display at Sprinville Art Museum's Religion and Art Show
"Fish in Honeycomb"