Charlie's monthly beekeeping calendar

Your monthly guide of beekeeping tips for you and your hives

January 7, 2020

To all SBA Members,
Happy Beekeeping New Year everyone!
The winter solstice on December 21, marked the start of a new year of beekeeping. As the days get longer, the bees will raise the cluster temperature and the queen will start laying eggs to expand the size of the colony in preparation for the spring nectar flow.

I hope everyone's hives have made it through the winter so far. I checked my hives December 26, and all were flying. So far, so good.

I took advantage of the cold weather in December to move two ten-frame hives and a nuc to a new location on the farm. I was quite surprised, that the bees came to the front entrance as I was stapling the hardware cloth on their hive's front entrance, looking to see what all the noise was about, especially since the temperature was 28 degrees. The move was successful, and no bees escaped. They had been in there hives for five or more days due to the cold or rainy weather which is good, by then the bees have forgotten their location of their hive and will have to re-orientated to their new location when the weather is warmer and they come out to forage. I took advantage of some of the warmer days to check food stores and all looks good at this time. With that said, I recommend that you keep a close eye on your hives food stores as the weather permits.

On colder days I have been working in the shop painting three bottom boards and making and installing entrance closers on my two-frame mating boxes to get ready for the spring queen rearing season. Hopefully, I will get an early start making queen cells this year so I can make splits, and have queen cells and mated local queens available for beekeepers to buy.

What are you going to do in January?

  • Continue to enjoy a well deserved break from beekeeping but keep a close eye on your hives' food stores.
  • Take advantage of the cold weather to move or reconfigure hives in your apiary.
  • Educate yourself by reading beekeeping books from the SBA Library.
  • Set goals for what you want to accomplish with your bees this year and make plans to implement them.
  • Place your orders for nucs, packages and queens. If you procrastinate they will be sold out!
  • Take inventory of all your beekeeping equipment and determine what you will need for this year's beekeeping season.
  • Repair, assemble, and paint wooden ware over the next three months.
  • Ensure that fresh water is available when it is warm enough for the bees to fly.
  • Attend the beekeeping conference at Harford Community College on February 15, and best of all it's FREE.

Winter Feeding

Here is a video from Jason Bragg (Queen Breeder) who lives in central West Virginia, on how he makes his dry winter feed mix.

Some beekeepers replace the inner cover with a candy board. Recently I helped the Sustainable Honeybee Program near Harpers Ferry Virginia with filling shims with sugar mixed with vinegar and water to make candy boards. The late Billy Davis, EAS Master Beekeeper and friend, will show you how to make candy for a candy board in this YouTube video.

Here is a video from Kamon Reynolds in Tennessee talking about bee nutrition and making sugar bricks.

All of the videos listed here are just suggestions for what you can do. You will have to figure out what works best for you and your hives.

I hope this information will help you get your bees through the winter.

Happy Beekeeping!
Charlie Thomas,
SBA Pres.