April 09, 2018

Beekeeping In Early Spring

If you follow me on Instagram you know that I am an amateur beekeeper. A few years ago a friend of mine invited me to get involved with the upkeep of his hives and I jumped at the chance. Who doesn’t want fresh, local honey at their fingertips? So last year I took on half the responsibility and have started to learn the ropes.

Because Maplewood is densely populated, relatively speaking, having a back yard hive isn’t necessarily the most optimal set up. Neighbors tend to get nervous when they know a hive is nearby and, despite the fact that honey bees aren’t aggressive, it’s important to respect that. My friend’s two hives live at the Durand Hedden House in Maplewood. In lieu of rent, they help keep the gardens there healthy and pollinated… I’m not sure who is getting the better deal! Because honey bees range about 2 miles from their hive, possibly more, I still feel that my back yard garden gets direct benefit from “my” bees – Every time I see a honey bee exploring my garden I get excited and ask it where it lives!

Springtime beekeeping is relatively simple… you just suit up and sort of hope for the best. You want to get in as soon as you can to be sure things are working but you do have to wait for the weather to hit 50 degrees so that the bees are active and won’t freeze when disturbed. On a recent spring-like weekend, the one right before we got hit with a snow storm, I took advantage of the warm weather and opened the hives for the first time since the Fall.

The main objectives in a spring hive inspection are:

  1. Confirm that the bees made it through the winter… both hives did and are already hard at work.
  2. Make sure there is enough food for them to eat until the flowers and trees really start to bloom. This has been a long winter with a lot of late snow so I was pleasantly surprised to see that the bees have already started to make honey. There are already heavy frames and some of the comb has been capped – this means that the water content in the honey has reached the correct balance and it can be saved for later.
  3. The last thing you need to do is add a box with empty frames so that there is plenty of space for the bees to store honey as spring heats up and the flowers start blooming. It will happen, I promise.

Seeing that the colonies made it through the worst of the weather alive, I did a little housekeeping. I cleaned up the frames as best I could, swept away some of the dead bees to help the little guys out with their spring cleaning, and then closed it all up again. I will have to go back in in a few weeks to be sure the queen is laying and the honey is being stored in an orderly fashion, but so far so good. I’m thinking we will be able to pull honey relatively early this year… can’t wait!


In the mood to read more? Check out these related posts: Get Outside: Encouraging PollinatorsGet Outside: A Simple Brick BorderGet Outside: Fighting Whiteflies In The Garden