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Preparing bee hives for spring – Beekeeping in April 2020 2020-04-06T11:03:56+00:00

Beekeeping chores in April

Hey beekeepers! It’s April now and nearly the entire country is in spring conditions outside. Warm days, chilly nights, torrential downpours and the like are a part of April, and so is swarming. No matter if you have been beekeeping for a couple of years now or just getting started beekeeping, so are swarm calls. Especially the calls for bee removals, that turn out to be carpenter bees. Or the swarms that need to be removed, but it turns out, they are full-size hives that have been in their house for 3 years. You know what I’m talking about. Never the less, it’s April so let’s prepare.

What are bees doing in April?

If you are a first-year beekeeper, hopefully, you have your hives up and running this month. The later in the year you start a colony, the harder it is to get that colony ready for winter. Most colonies are started in March, April, and May. If bee growth was graphed like the stock market, you would call April a bull market (increase) for bees and July would start the bear market (decrease).

1st Year Beekeepers

If you are a first-year beekeeper, hopefully, you have your hives up and running this month. The later in the year you start a colony, the harder it is to get that colony ready for winter. Most colonies are started in March, April, and May. If bee growth was graphed like the stock market, you would call April a bull market (increase) for bees and July would start the bear market (decrease).

2nd Year Beekeepers

If your bees have made it through the winter, they should be ripping and running by now. Their number one goal this year is to swarm, so be prepared. They may have swarmed in March, and if they haven’t, expect it in April. Ideally, you will want to keep them from swarming. Your bees are building comb and the queen is laying 2,000 eggs a day!

Just to give you an idea, one side of one deep frame is 3,500 cells. One side of a medium frame is about 2,200 cells. A queen can quickly fill up those cells with eggs, so be aware of that. When those frames get full of brood and the bees start running out of walking around the room, they get the itch to swarm. What do you? I’ll talk more about that later in this article.

3rd year+ Beekeepers

If all is going according to plan (because it always does right?), you should have a few colonies, experienced a couple of swarms and possibly a dead hive by now. This is the year, beekeeping starts to get a little easier, or should be. There is a pattern to every year and this April is very similar to last April. A healthy hive is busting at the seems right now because it is growing so much. It’s time to learn from last year’s mistakes and make the most of them for this year.

Each April, flowers start to bloom in full force, especially the flowers that make a difference to bees. Some beekeepers put their bees on a scale that measures the weight of the entire colony, boxes, and everything. It is not uncommon for the weight to increase by 5 – 10 lbs in one day. That weight increase is all from nectar being brought in from flowers. It is very common for this type of weight change to happen to start in April. This is why the queen has been laying so many eggs in the past couple of months. They need a high population of bees to make the most of this period when all the flowers are blooming.
April is probably the swarmyiest (is that a word) month of the year. This is due to the brood nest being filled with brood quickly and the intake of fresh nectar and pollen from the environment (or from feeding). The combination together makes for a crowded bee hive. Be on the lookout for a crowding hive.

Preparing bee hives for spring - Beekeeping in April 2020

What are beekeepers doing in April?

Whoa! April is already here and the bees have been ready for weeks. Not all colonies are the same, but some of our hives are busting out of the seams. Bees have been swarming all March long and that shouldn’t stop just because it’s April. Bee season can best be divided into two parts, 6 months of growth and 6 months of decline. We are smack dab in the middle of growth season and the bees aren’t shy about it. So this isn’t a month to sit back and count your honey money, so get out there and check on your bees.

This colony is in the beginning stages of becoming honey bound. Look closely at the cells in the middle of the brood area and you’ll see some shiny cells. This colony is running out of room to store nectar and is putting it in the brood nest, which leads to swarming. Solution? Stop feeding, give bees another box and place a new frame or a frame with only drawn comb in the middle of the brood nest.

1st Year Beekeepers

More than likely, you are getting bees this month or just got them recently, as well as bee hives for beginners. I hope you are still excited because you should be. If you haven’t gotten them yet and are buying a package of bees, please read our post on how to keep your package of bees from leaving. Click here to read it. Know a beekeeper getting started with a package, please send them the link or post it online. If you already have your colony set up in your hive, that’s great and really exciting.

Make sure you feed your bees. Maybe you don’t really want to feed them, but you should. You should feed your new colony because they are too small to adequately feed themselves. Even though there is plenty of flowers for them to forage on, they don’t have enough bees to make the most of them. Meanwhile, full-size hives have enough bees to make the most of the blooming flowers. Because your colony is small, you’ve got to help them and the best way is by feeding them sugar water.

2nd Year Beekeepers

Your bees are alive? Great, I hope so. The 2nd year for a hive (and a beekeeper) is when everything really gets rocking and rolling. So do your best by staying ahead of the bees. It’s better to be early than late with honeybees, so anticipating what they need before they need it is key. This time of the year, they are growing, so the chance of wax moths and small hive beetles damaging your active hive is very minimal.

You don’t want the bees to get crowded in their hive, so add honey boxes sooner than later. Since you are a 2nd-year beekeeper, you don’t have any honey frames with drawn comb. It will take bees extra time for your bees to form the comb in the new boxes. You should already have at least 1 additional box on top of the core of your hive. IE: you over-winter your hive in 2 deep boxes, you should have 1 medium/shallow box on top of the 2 deep boxes. The same goes for if you use another setup of boxes. They should have at least an additional box on there for them to store honey in. Don’t be shy about having more than 1 honey box on right now.

3rd year+ Beekeepers

One of the best parts of beekeeping is over time, you and your bees start to build some momentum. If you are in your 3rd year, hopefully, you have some honey frames with a drawn comb in them. That should be the first box you give your hive going into spring. Drawn comb is one of the most valuable things to a beekeeper, so be sure to protect it from year to year. Your bees will fill that comb up with nectar/honey quickly, so be aware of that. Before they fill that box with honey, you want to have another honey box on the hive for them to start working on. It is not uncommon for an established hive to need 2-3 honey boxes in a year.

Preparing bee hives for spring - Beekeeping in April 2020

This season I will test Summerhawk Ranch twin super

When do I add another box?

One of the toughest things to understand is when to add more boxes to your hive. In short, it’s better to add them earlier than later. In most parts of the United States, a colony grows in population from January through June. Followed by 6 months of population decline. That period of growth is when you will be adding boxes. The rule of thumb for when to add a box is when the previously added box is about 2/3rds full of drawn comb with something in the cells. Meaning, most of the cells are occupied with eggs/larva, pollen, nectar/honey, etc… and the cell is being used. If you wait until all of the frames are being used, then the bees may feel crowded, become honey bound and make plans to swarm.

Did you open up a hive that looks like this?

Preparing bee hives for spring - Beekeeping in April 2020

This is what a wax moth larva infestation looks like after they have done their damage. They leave behind this webbing and lots of cocoons. What do you do? If you used a plastic foundation, you can just scrape off all the debris and reuse the frame. It’s best to rewax the foundation with melted wax before giving it back to the bees. You don’t need to pressure wash, bleach, boil, etc… the frames. Just scrape it all off and rewax.

Preparing bee hives for spring - Beekeeping in April 2020

If you used 100% beeswax foundation, it is likely to the point where it’s not worth it to save the frame. Used frames are difficult to clean well enough to place a new 100% wax foundation back into it. You could possibly place plastic foundation back into the frame though, but even that can be difficult.

What’s happening next month? Beekeeping in May

May is just about a duplicate of April. Beekeeping tools and equipment had been tried and ready for the season. The swarms are typically smaller than they are during April, but there are still lot’s of hives swarming. In most states, flowers are still producing lot’s of nectar, so you will need to make sure bees have a place to store it.

Happy Beekeeping!

Preparing bee hives for spring - Beekeeping in April 2020