Early Spring Chores in the Apiary

by Charles Lorence – Mar, 2014

Cleaning out dead bees
1. If starvation occurred, many bees will be buried, head first in the cells.
2. Sweep bees with a bee brush...away from the hive.
3. Tap frames (top bar) on edge of hive body to loosen or dislodge as many dead bees as possible.
4. Clean out all hive bodies likewise.
5. Stack hive bodies off the bottom board and remove bottom board from stand. Discard dead bees a distance from the hive. Use a bee brush and/or hive tool to remove bees from IPM screens or solid bottom board.
6. Remove masonite panels and clean, inserting it back in the bottom board.
7. On live colonies (If temperatures are in the mid 50’s with little or no wind) remove boxes from bottom board. Clean off dead bees and debris away from the hive stand. You also may use a coat hanger or some type of wire object to pull dead bees out of the bottom of the hive without disassembling the boxes.
Feeding live colonies
1. Decide what type of feeder you are going to use
  • Hive top feeder
  • Division board feeder
  • Pail feeder – 1 or 2 gallon
  • Wide mouth gallon jug with threaded lips and 10 – 12 (1/16”) holes drilled in the center area of the cap
  • Zip-lock plastic bag feeder
  • Boardman feeder
2. Feeding from the top of the hive is best. I prefer a pail feeder or wide mouth gallon bottle feeder. This supplies syrup 24/7 to the hungry honey bees continuously.

Feed pollen substitute patties. – The pollen Patties stimulate brood rearing and are excellent to build up colonies for making divides (splits) later in the first part of May.
  • Place patties on top bars near the bee cluster.
  • Place extra holes in the patty with a dinner fork or slash with your hive tool.
  • Push patty downward to allow holes to spread open.
  • Make sure wax paper is kept on the pollen substitute so that it doesn’t dry out.
  • Make sure patty is not placed under inner cover hole so syrup feeding is prevented.
Early spring nectar/pollen sources
Witch hazel – cultivated variety – yellow – Arnolds promise
Willow – Pussy, weeping, black – all good pollen sources
Soft maple/silver maple – one of the 1st available nectar sources.
Spring flower bulbs – crocus, hyacinth, snowdrops, scillia, jonquils, daffodils, tulips, dandelions, wild plum.
Catching swarms in your bee yard
  • Set up bait hive
  • Use nuc boxes or old brood boxes equipped with bottom board and cover.
  • Dark used drawn combs are very desirable for catching swarms.
  • Elevate off the ground into a fork or crotch in a tree.