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March - April

Brood Timeline

FEEDING:  Heft your hives and make sure your bees have adequate stores.     Right now (Early March) spring brood build up is in full swing.    This is the time when starvation is most likely to happen because all of those young bees are going to be hungry!     If your hives are light, by all means feed but if they are not light and do not need feed, do not feed.    If you are a new beekeeper and your bees do need feed, I recommend feeding 2:1 syrup.     If you are more experienced and/or know how to discourage swarming or plan on making splits, feed 1:1 syrup.    1:1 syrup fed any time of year will stimulate brood rearing.     If you feed 1:1 right now, you should have a box full of bees when the flow starts and this is ideal if all of that brood stays in the hive.     The problem is that crowding is one of the cause of swarming and they may swarm.      If that happens, you are likely not to get a spring honey crop.     Feeding 1:1 syrup right now will result in lots of bees in the hive or hanging in the trees! 

If you have hives with low activity, go in and see if they have brood if not then you likely have lost your queen.    If that is the case, I recommend moving a frame or two of brood and clinging bees from one of your strong hives into the ones with no queen.    Make sure at least one of the frames has eggs so they can raise themselves a queen.    Make sure that none of the frames that you move has the donor colony's queen.

Installing a new caged queen obviously would be better than letting them raise their own but I doubt you can find queens right  now.    The brood emerging from the frames moved in will bolster the colony while their new queen is developing.    The brood moved from the strong hive will reduce that colony's honey production but nowhere near to the extent a swarm would have and moving the few frames may prevent them swarming.

Get your deeps, bottom boards and covers built or cleaned and your frames ready for foundation.    I try and hold off on installing foundation until close to time to "put bees in the box" - they seem to like the strong smell of new wax, but this is not a necessity.    Swarm season is right around the corner (normally the last week in March so get ready.

Start supering around mid March to the last of March or as soon as the time has expired since your last medication.    Super strong colonies heavily.     The extra space will be used by the bees to spread the spring honey out for drying.     Although beetles can be a problem, the extra space is not likely to cause a beetle problem this time of year unless the hive is pretty weak (but then it would not need lots of supers!).    I have found few Small Hive Beetle in my hives so far this spring.   I have not had a Small Hive Beetle problem and did not have to treat for them for the past 3 years.    For what it is worth, if I do have to treat for SHB, I use Fipronil in Beetle Barns between the inner and outer cover of the hive (NEVER IN THE HIVE).   I have also found that beekeepers that use their own concoction of bait material in modified Jewel Cases or other distribution methods seem to have a bigger SHB problem than those that use only Fipronil.

If you set up trap hives, start getting them setup and in place now.

If you rotate boxes for swarm control), when the bottom board is exposed scrape/clean all of the black peers from the inside of the bottom boards, these can become hiding places for small hive beetles.

Inspect any larvae that is in the burr comb for mites.     That brood is near always drone larvae and Varroa prefer drone larvae so inspect that larvae closely for Varroa Mites then scrape the "burr Comb" from the tops of the frames and remove the bridge comb from between the top bars.    Save the removed wax for coating plastic frames, if you use plastic.

If you use queen excluders, get them cleaned and ready for use.     A heat gun works great for this task (removed from the hive, clean and replace).

REPEAT: Larvae exposed between supers is most likely drone larvae.    Check all exposed larvae for Varroa Mites as they prefer drone larvae.



Rotate your brood boxes for swarm control as soon as the cold weather is over (normally around the mid March in north Alabama.   DO NOT ROTATE boxes if it splits the brood cluster.   If the cluster is centered or near centered between the two boxes so that the top half of the brood cluster is in the bottom of the top box and the bottom of the brood cluster is on the top of the bottom box DO NOT ROTATE.   If you do, the brood cluster will be split and separated.   Should real cold weather occur, the bees may not be able to cover both of the separated brood clusters in which case they will abandon one and cover the other resulting in a sizeable brood kill.

1.   Heft your hives and feed if light.    Right now is a critical time for food stores bees need lots food stores to start the spring crop of brood.   Colony loss can occur quickly right now.    CHECK YOUR BEES FOR STORES EVEN IF THEY WERE IN GOOD SHAPE THE LAST TIME YOU CHECKED, check them again.     

1.   If you wish to stimulate brood rearing, fees a 50/50 (by weight or volume - there is virtually no difference) mixture of granulated sugar and water.   If inexperienced, be careful, as improper control of a stimulated colony will near always result in swarming.

2.   If feeding to prevent colony loss (starvation) feed a saturated sugar solution 2:1.

3.   I find that I can dissolve 50 lbs. of sugar in 3 gallons of water by heating the water to near or at boiling then add the sugar in about 3 steps.    Once you add sugar do not allow the syrup to boil again before adding the rest of the sugar.   Click here for general feeding sugar to water mix ratios.

4.   Do not allow sugar to settle to the bottom directly over the heat as it can caramelize the sugar.    Caramelized sugar can cause diarrhea. 

5.   Do not be alarmed if your bees stop taking or refuse to start taking sugar syrup.    If there is a honey flow on, the bees normally prefer nectar over sugar water and may not take sugar water.    If this happens first make sure the feeder is working properly, and then check the hive for stores.    If they have a good supply of honey, remove the feeder.

6.   Get your new wood wares built and painted (external parts only) ASAP so the paint can cure before you introduce bees.   Bees inserted into freshly painted hives will sometimes abscond.   This could be a $100.00 + package or a nice swarm. 

7.   Get your new frames built, wired and ready for foundation.   

      There is no rush in getting foundation in deep frames to be used for new colonies.   Honeybees seem to like the smell of new comb so put it in, if you have the time flexibility, just before you need it (a week or so).

      The same rule applies for supers but you have more flexibility there.   If you will be using both drawn comb and foundation, and have the option, place one drawn frame in frame position 1 followed by 7 frames of foundation and place a second drawn frame in position 9. 

      For volumetric efficiency, 9 or 10 frames is fine in all brood boxes.

      For production supers, use 9 frames if foundation (even if the outer two are drawn) or 8 frames if all drawn comb.   It has been my experience that bees will move up on and start drawing foundation frames if a frame with drawn comb is placed in frame position 1 and 9 with foundation frames between.

8.   If you have both foundation and drawn comb in a production super it is best to group the two together (all drawn combs together and all foundation combs together - not inter mixed) ie.. do not alternate them.    Alternating usually result in the drawn combs getting fatter and the foundation combs being drawn very thin.

9.    Since bees maintain 3/8 to inch workspace, fewer frames yield thicker combs.   Thicker combs are easier to harvest however to few frames with foundation can result in random comb placement that is a bear to get out at harvest time.

10.               If you are starting from packages, get them on order NOW. 

11.               If purchasing splits, get them on order NOW. 

12.               If making splits, if you use live queens, get your queens on order NOW. 

13.                You should treat all colonies with Terramycin spring and fall (If you can get it.    As of 1 January 2017. Terramycin must be obtained through a licensed Veterinarian through a "Veterinary Feed Directive".    In order to obtain a VFD you must have set up a Client Patient Relationship with the Veterinarian.    At this time no one knows how to do that so you are pretty much on your own as to how you obtain Terramycin.

      Click here for detail instructions on medicating your bees.

      Follow medication product labels to the letter.  

      Get all medication out of the colony 28 days before honey putting production supers on your colonies (at this date [3/8/2017] your bees should have completed your spring Terramycin treatment.

14.               Get your swarm traps (bait hives) ready and put them in place ASAP.

15.               If you have old frames and or hives to clean, do it now so as to have time for repairs and repainting, if necessary. 

16.               Get ready for swarms.   It is a few weeks before swarm time but the first swarm near always surprises you.  The first swarm in north Alabama generally issues around the last week in March, this year (2017) I expect it to happen sooner because of the warm winter we had.

17.               If you would like to remove swarms from neighborhood yards, contact your state (for Alabama or local beekeeping organization and get on the swarm list.

18.               Get started on weed control by cutting the grass around and in front to hives.


Last update 2/26/2018 BRF

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