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Things to do in February

February is here and summer is slowly progressing.


In short:

  • Harvest honey (as soon as flow is over)
  • Inspect for diseases and mites.
  • Treat against mites


Harvesting Honey

As soon as the main honey flow is over in your area (depends on Weather) you can harvest any honey that you want to harvest.

To know whether a honey flow is still on there are 2 signs that you can watch out for.

Especially in the evening you will notice bees ventilating (while the foraging activity has mostly died down) and a distinct “honey” smell emanating from the hives, as the bees are drying the nectar that they have foraged. This drying procedure requires ventilating by the bees.

The second and sure sign would be the deposition of nectar in and around the brood nest. Foragers do not directly deposit the nectar that they have foraged in the honey supers, but usually in or around the brood nest where other bees will then pick it up and process it. If you do an inspection and you notice cells filled with what looks like water (very glossy and not as matte as honey tends to be) this will likely be nectar as bees do not store fresh water in cells. Turn the frame horizontally and lightly shake it in a downwards movement. If its nectar you will notice drops of it falling out of the cells, like rain. The same technique can be used to estimate if the honey in your honey supers still contains too much water, without having to wait for the bees capping it. Properly dried honey can not be removed from cells by lightly shaking a frame.

General Hive Inspections

Once the honey has been taken off it is a good idea to do an inspection. Check if the hives are queenright, if the brood looks healthy and if there are any sings of diseases. If there are act accordingly.

Treating Varroa Mites

Around this time the most important thing will be to make sure you have your varroa mites in check. Usually with honey supers on varroa treatments are a NO-NO due to residues. Even though some vendors claim that their treatments are safe with honey supers on it is good practice to not do treatments unless absolutely necessary.

If you are unsure about the mite infestation of your hive, an alcohol wash or sticky board check can give you some indication. Inspecting the hives and watching out for signs of PMS will also give you an idea. Generally speaking if you notice any (even early) signs of PMS and/or the occasional bee with deformed wings you urgently need to start a treatment. The manifestation of PMS and DWV in a hive is a sign of a high mite infestation, even if your alcohol wash or sticky board say otherwise, as these can be misleading.

When doing varroa treatments in (late) summer keep in mind that brood rearing is still going strong in the hives. Be sure to use a treatment method that is capable of treating hives during brood rearing. There are plenty of treatments available on the market, otherwise now would be the perfect time to try the “split and treat” treatment that we outlined in a previous blog article.

Depending on how much honey the bees have left after you taking off what you wanted to take off you might have to start feeding the bees, which will usually be done with sugar syrup. Be careful to not cause any spills of sugar syrup as this will lead to robbing.

Since the main flow has ended but all hives still have many forager bees that are now basically “bored” robbing is now starting to become a big concern. Reduce entrances and make sure all hives are properly sealed and do not have any openings or gaps between boxes for robbers to enter. Healthy, queenright hives with a reasonably reduced entrance will be able to fend off robbers.

Also NEVER leave any used hive ware lying around in the open unless it has been fully closed and no bees can enter. Letting wet supers out in the open for robbers to clean them out is piss poor beekeeping and contributes to increased robbing activity around hives and the spread of diseases. Keep your apiaries tidy. In many countries it is illegal to do so and for good reason.

For the same reason do not feed sugar using open feeders please.

From now on is the time that will determine how many of your hives will make it through winter, and how strong/healthy they will be come spring.

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