Four Ways to Get Ready for Spring Beekeeping
Spring is nearly here, the days are getting longer, and it's time to get ready for increased population and swarming. It is a good idea at this time to evaluate your beekeeping, and set goals for the coming year. This is the first step in being prepared for the upcoming beekeeping season. Below are four actions you can take to get ready for spring.
During winter, you are generally unable to check your bees. Use this time to read up on bees and beekeeping. Buy or borrow a few good beekeeping books; Practical Beekeeping in New Zealand, Control of Varroa, and Elimination of American Foulbrood Disease Without the Use of Drugs are all great reads. Exploring the Internet can also be a great resource, but be careful as there is some bad beekeeping advice out there.
2. Plant Bee Food!
Plant some bee-friendly herbs, flowers, vegetables or shrubs, and try to talk your neighbours into it, too! The more flowers your bees have, the better they will do and the better your chance of a honey yield. Additionally, if you grow native plants, you will also be creating valuable habitat for our native pollinators. Pohutukawa, Sunflower, Cucumber, Pumpkin, Sweetcorn, Lavender, Plum, and Rosemary are all great plants for bees.
3. Purchase and Build Your Equipment
It’s important to make sure you have enough beekeeping equipment for the upcoming year. It is worth having enough extra components on hand for one full hive. Sometimes bees increase population more quickly than anticipated. If you don’t have boxes ready to go, you could miss your chance to fill them with honey or even worse, the bees may become too crowded and swarm.
4. Check your bees
- To find out how strong your bees have come through winter, you should do an assessment of your hives. From the outside on warmer days, you should see bees flying, or if you tap the side of the hive and put your ear against it, you should be able to hear a hum or buzzing. As soon as weather allows, get in and inspect your brood box. Look for the following:
- Signs of a queen (brood and eggs)
- Healthy brood pattern (a solid pattern not a patchy one), and honey stores.
- Good population numbers. A colony with a low population will be vulnerable to disease, parasites and starvation.
- Check Varroa mite levels using an alcohol wash or sugar shake. If levels are unacceptable you will need to apply a varroa treatment. It is best to do this as soon as possible, so the bees go into spring with health in-tact. It is important to alternate your Varroa treatments to prevent resistance.
- AFB disease checking. Thoroughly check your hive for AFB, if in doubt, test using Vita American Foulbrood Diagnostic Test Kit.
- If the nectar flow has not yet started for your area and your bees are looking weak, it is a good idea to feed them.