Articles

Beekeeping In March

Excerpted from: Winterizing Bee Hives

Beehives in winter March is a month where your bees can do great or they can do terrible. The bee population is expanding exponentially and the bees are consuming more food. Weather during March is a mix between winter and spring. Though the weather may be volatile, the bees are charging full speed ahead towards spring.

The queen is laying an enormous amount of eggs now. That brood requires a lot of honey and pollen to fully develop. The bees being laid now will hatch out into adult bees in 3 weeks. The increase in population can mean 2 things:

1. The hive can starve before the main nectar flow starts, or

2. Tthe bees feel crowded and decide to swarm.

This is the month where starvation is at it’s highest possibility. There isn’t a significant source of nectar naturally for bees at this point, so the only food available is any honey reserves left or sugar syrup is given to the bees.

When a significant amount of brood is being laid, which happens from mid-February through May, bees are on a constant search for water and pollen; both are required to raise healthy brood. You may see your bees sucking the moisture from potted plants or puddles, pulling trace minerals in the “dirty” water up as they suck up the water.

With all these new bees hatching out, you will see more activity in the front of the hive. You will see the most activity around 1 or 2 in the afternoon. This is when the new bees will take their orientation flights. Orientation flights are when the young bees fly outside the hive, visually mapping their surroundings.

Hive Protection Against Invaders

This time of the year, varroa, wax moths and small hive beetle populations are low. But you should think about strategy beforehand. If you are planning hive fumigation — decide what device you will choose.

You should time oxalic acid treatments for Varroa mites for when there is little brood in the beehive. You can also kill off brood during treatments and return the brood frames after you have cleared mites from the hive. If your bee colony gets heavily infested during spring or summer, it is permissible to treat using oxalic acid so that the colony is not overwhelmed by Varroa mites.

Oxalic Acid Vaporizer

Oxalic acid vaporization in beehives is an effective Varroa mite control method. Indeed, it kills mites that are crawling around the hive, on bees and in uncapped cells. Vaporization utilizes portable gear that you position inside the beehive. The acid vapor spreads out into the entire beehive. You must wear safety gear at all times when using oxalic acid.

Oxalic Acid Fogger

Fogging with oxalic acid is a very effective method of Varroa mite control. It has an effectiveness rate of up to 99% on every treatment when done properly. Beekeepers should keep in mind however, that fogging with oxalic acid does not harm the mites that are still in honey bee brood cells. Repeat treatments up to 4 times depending on the interval to completely eradicate Varroa mites from your apiary.

Temperature Inside The Hive

Brood nest temperature is of extreme importance to the colony and is controlled with utmost precision. Honey bees maintain the temperature of the brood nest between 90°F and optimally 95°F so that the brood develops normally. When the temperature in the nest is too high the bees ventilate by fanning the hot air out of the nest or use evaporative cooling mechanisms.

There are a number of commercially available in-hive temperature sensors to monitor the temperature, humidity and C02 levels inside your hive.

March Beekeeper Tasks

Top of honey bee hive in March with snow

  As your bees are expanding, many beekeepers will rotate boxes in hopes of stemming the bees desire to swarm. This is done by simply moving the bottom box to the top of the stack, preferably done just before a warm spell.

  Many beekeepers will feed bees sugar syrup or pollen patties in the spring, but this isn’t necessary unless the bees are at risk of starving. It may be necessary if the beekeeper wants the bees to build in population very quickly. Be warned, though feeding bees syrup and pollen in the spring can cause them to swarm very quickly.

  By using the bees natural instinct to grow and expand during the spring, a beekeeper can make splits or nucleus hives from their bees. This is the perfect time of the year to do this, as there will be a lot of drones in the air for queens to mate with. It can be very easy to do, especially when using the walk away split method.

  An optimistic beekeeper can set out swarm traps in the area to catch swarms. A swarm trap will not entice an established hive to leave their hive but will encourage a “homeless” swarm of bees to move into your trap. Lemongrass lure is a simple way to increase your odds of catching one.

  Many beekeepers use pollen patties to help their bees. They often cause to build up their population very quickly. Which is helpful for some beekeepers, but can cause swarms beekeepers who are new. Use pollen patties very conservatively. More is not better with pollen patties.

Feeding Your Bees

Top of honey bee hive with pollen patty

One average medium frame full of honey will weigh 2.5 – 4 pounds. During March, bees will consume several pounds in a week, possibly causing starvation if they run out.

If you don’t believe your bees will have enough food to survive until the main nectar flow, it is important to feed them. Bees can be fed thin 1:1 syrup or thick 2:1 syrup this time of the year.

If you have several hives, it may be better to mix sugar syrup in a 5-gallon bucket. Attaching an inexpensive mortor/paint mixer to a drill will mix the sugar with the water very quickly.

Beekeeper Reading List

Here are a few books that might help to pass the winter nights!

  Buzz: The Nature and Necessity of Bees by Thor Hanson
  Honeybee Democracy by Thomas D. Seeley
  Dancing With Bees: A Journey Back to Nature by Brigit Strawbridge Howard
  Our Native Bees by Paige Embry

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