The beekeeper's year
Whether bees come from packages or have been kept over the winter, the beekeeper does basically the same things. The bee colony is inspected to ensure that the queen is present and laying eggs, that there is no sign of disease and that the colony has sufficient stores to last until the first nectar and pollen becomes available from willow bushes. The colony is given preventative medication to ensure that diseases do not become established. The colony should be inspected and medicated every two weeks. When the bees in the hive cover seven of the
frames in the top super then a new super should be added. Medication should stop by June 10 to ensure that none of the medication ends up in the honey crop.
As July approaches it is time to put an extra super of white frames on the colony to hold the honey. Bees need this extra room or they cease working well and may even swarm. Continue to monitor the hives and add another super on top as the five center frames fill with honey. When all the frames in a super are filled with honey and one-half of the cells are capped with wax, the super and frames may be removed from the hive and the honey extracted. Normally honey flows in British Columbia slows down in August and the amount of space given to the bees can be reduced somewhat. After the first killing frost all the supers above the second can be removed and extracted.
Once the honey supers have been removed, the bees in the
colony can be killed if you plan to buy package bees in the spring. If you wish to winter your bees then the colony should be examined to ensure the queen is still viable and that no disease has developed. Medicate the colony at this time. The colony must be fed sugar and water to ensure that it will have enough
food to survive the winter. This feeding is best done before the end of September. The total weight of two supers, lid, bottom, honey, pollen and bees should be at feast 125 pounds. Towards the end of October the bee colony can be moved indoors for winter or wrapped to protect the bees from the elements.
If the bees are outside there is little that can be done to assist them. They can survive covered by snow if their ventilation isn't blocked, because they will die if completely encased in snow. If the bees are indoors ensure that the temperature stays low and constant (about 5°C) and ventilation is maintained. It is normal for bees to leave the hive during the winter and die.