Hi there! I’ve been keeping bees for over 10 years, and I’ve learned a lot along the way. So I’ve put together this month-by-month guide to keeping productive, strong colonies.
It’ll cover everything from hive inspections and mite treatments to honey harvesting and winterization. So whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned pro, this beekeeping calendar has you covered!
I’ve included some tips and tricks that I’ve learned over the years as well so I hope this calendar helps you have a successful beekeeping season!
|Month||What’s happening||Must-dos||Tips and Reccomendations|
|January||Bees are still in their Winter cluster, so this is the best time to rest and prepare for the upcoming season.||-Check food supply|
-Check for pests and diseases
|-Remove dead bees|
-Clear hive entrance of snow and ice
-Place a brick or rock on top of hives in windy areas
|February||Bees become more active as the weather warms. The queen will start laying eggs again, brood patterns may appear, and the bees will consume more honey.||-Provide emergency food|
-Undertake varroa count and plan treatment as necessary
|-Inspect the hive|
-Stock up on beekeeping supplies and get ready for the warmer months.
|March||The queen will be laying eggs at a rapid pace so watch brood patterns carefully to ensure she’s in good health. Bees will be busy collecting pollen and nectar.||-Inspect your hives every 2-3 weeks|
-Add honey supers
-Monitor for swarm cells
-Plant bee-friendly flowers
|-Be less generous with the supers|
-Monitor the weather
|April||Prepare for the upcoming honey flow||-Inspect your hives more frequently|
-Install package bees and queens
|-Prepare for swarms|
|May||-Honey flow begins in earnest|
-Bees are busy foraging for nectar and pollen
-Hive may become more crowded than before
|-Inspect your hives every 4-7 days|
-Feed the bees
|-Add a queen excluder|
|June||Peak activity for bees||-Provide adequate room for both brood and honey|
-Monitor pest populations
-Avoid chemical treatments
|-Check on your beekeeping equipment|
-Enjoy the honey harvest!
|July||Hot and humid weather can be tough on bees. Bees may slow down their egg production and take more breaks to cool off.||-Continue to inspect your hives weekly|
-Add an entrance reducer to limit honey robbers
-Provide fresh water
-Harvest honey and move brood chamber
-Be prepared for summer dearth
|August||A time of transition for bees. Bee activity and nectar flow have slowed down, and the bees are starting to prepare for the cold winter months.||-Prepare for the Winter|
-Keep up with inspections
|-Stay on your toes: During summer dearths, bees may not be so forgiving|
|September||Harvest time||-Harvest honey|
|October||Bees are starting to slow down their activity due to the cold weather||-Install mouse guards|
|-Don’t opening your hives (unless necessary)|
|November||Because of the cold weather, bees will stay inside their hives||-Check your hives once a month|
-Make sure your hives are well-insulated
|-Enjoy the peace and quiet|
-Plan for the Spring
|December||Bees are now in deep winter hibernation||-Don’t disturb your hives|
-Consider expanding your apiary
|-Stock up on beekeeping supplies|
-Read up on beekeeping
As a beekeeper, January is a time to rest and prepare for the upcoming season. The bees are still in their winter cluster, so there isn’t much bee activity in the hive.
- Check the food supply: The bees will need a lot of honey to survive the winter. Gently tilt the hive forward to see if the bees have sufficient food stores. If not, they may require emergency feeding.
- Add insulation: If you live in an area with cold winters, you may need to add insulation to your hives. This will help the bees stay warm and conserve their energy.
- Check for pests and diseases: Even in the winter, bees can be susceptible to pests and diseases. Check your hives for signs of varroa mites, chalk brood, and other problems.
I’d also recommend taking care of the following too:
- Remove dead bees: As the bees cluster together for warmth, some bees will die and fall to the ground. Remove these dead bees from the hive entrance to prevent the spread of disease.
- Clear hive entrances of snow and ice: If there’s been snow or ice, make sure to clear the hive entrances so the bees can come and go freely.
- Place a brick or rock on top of hives in windy areas: This will help to keep the hive lids in place and prevent them from blowing off in high winds.
As the weather starts to warm up in February, the bees will begin to become more active. The queen will start laying eggs again, brood patterns may appear, and the bees will begin to consume more honey.
- Provide emergency food: The bees will consume more honey as it gets warmer so make sure they have enough food. Do this by hefting the hive (gently lifting it to feel its weight). If the hive feels light, you may need to add some honey or sugar syrup.
- Undertake varroa count and plan treatment as necessary: Varroa mites can quickly spread through a hive. Determine how many varroa mites are present in your hive and if the mite count is high, you may need to treat the hive with a miticide.
My two tips for this month:
- Inspecting the hive: If the weather’s warm enough, you may be able to inspect the hive. However, be careful not to disturb the bees too much.
- Stock up on beekeeping supplies and get ready for the warmer months.
March is a time of great activity for bees as the weather warms up and flowers begin to bloom.
The queen will be laying eggs at a rapid pace so watch brood patterns carefully to ensure she’s in good health. Plus, your bees will be busy collecting pollen and nectar.
- Inspect your hives: Start inspecting your hives every 2-3 weeks to monitor the queen’s activity, the size of the brood nest, and the amount of honey stores.
- Add honey supers: If the hive’s strong and the queen’s laying well, you may need to add honey supers to give the bees more space to store honey.
- Monitor for swarm cells: When the hive’s overcrowded, the bees may swarm. Check for swarm cells and remove them if necessary.
- Plant bee-friendly flowers: Planting bee-friendly flowers in your yard or garden will help to provide your bees with food sources of nectar and pollen.
I usually take care to do this too in March:
- Be less generous with the supers: When you add too many honey supers too early, the bees may not be able to keep up with the workload and the honey may ferment.
- Monitor the weather: Cold snaps are common during March. So cover your hives with a tarp or blanket to protect the bees from the cold.
Spring is in full swing in April so you’ll be managing your bees more often and preparing for the upcoming honey flow.
- Inspect your hives more frequently: Every 8-10 days check for swarm cells, queen cells, and signs of disease.
- Install package bees and queens: If you ordered package bees or queens, they’ll likely arrive in April. Install them promptly in strong hives.
- Make splits: If you have a strong hive, you can make a split to increase your bee population. Introduce weaker colonies to stronger ones too, with the former on top and the latter on bottom.
My personal advice would include that you:
- Be prepared for swarms: The hive is still active during this month so the bees may swarm or overcrowd. Be prepared to catch the swarm and requeen the hive if necessary (a queen excluder may be helpful here).
In May, the honey flow begins in earnest. The bees are busy foraging for nectar and pollen, and the hive may become more crowded than before.
- Inspect your hives every 4-7 days.
- Harvest honey: If the honey supers are full, you can harvest the honey. Be sure to extract the honey carefully to avoid damaging the comb.
- Feed the bees: If the weather is wet or cool, the bees may not be able to forage enough to feed themselves. You may need to feed them sugar syrup or pollen substitute.
From experience, May is also a good time to:
- Add a queen excluder: A queen excluder is a device that prevents the queen from laying eggs in the honey supers. This will help to ensure that the honey in the supers is capped and ready for harvest.
- Catch swarms: Late May into June is a great time to catch a swarm of bees, too, so be sure to have a hive ready in case you have the opportunity.
June is a time of peak activity for bees as they collect nectar and pollen from flowers in abundance.
- Provide adequate room for both brood and honey: The hive population is high in June, so make sure there’s enough room for both brood and honey. You may need to add honey supers or split the hive if it becomes overcrowded.
- Monitor pest populations: Keep an eye out for pests such as wax moths, varroa mites, ants. These pests can damage your hives and steal honey.
- Avoid chemical treatments: If you plan to harvest honey this season, avoid using chemical treatments for pests—especially varroa mites. These treatments can contaminate the honey.
Mid-year, I also like to:
- Check on my beekeeping equipment.
- Enjoy the honey harvest!: Since my hives are healthy and productive, I get to harvest a good amount of honey in June. So if you’re the same, enjoy your hard work!
July is a time of hot and humid weather, which can be tough on bees. The bees may slow down their egg production and take more breaks to cool off.
- Continue to inspect your hives weekly.
- Add an entrance reducer to limit honey robbers: Honey robbers are bees that steal honey from other hives. An entrance reducer can help to keep them out.
- Provide fresh water: Bees need water to stay hydrated, especially in hot weather. Make sure they have access to a clean water source.
- Harvest honey and move brood chamber: Collect any honey you find so your bees keep their nectar in the brood chamber where it’ll be more accessible during extremely hot or cold temperatures.
Since July can be tough on novice beekeepers, here’s my personal advice to you:
- Be patient: The bees may not be as active in July as they were in June. This is normal for this time of year.
- Be prepared for the summer dearth: The summer dearth is a period of time when there’s less nectar available for bees to forage. If your hives aren’t producing enough honey, you may need to feed them sugar syrup.
August is a time of transition for bees. Bee activity and nectar flow have slowed down, and the bees are starting to prepare for the cold winter months.
So, there’s not much you can do that you weren’t already doing all summer except:
- Prepare for winter: The weather will cool down soon. You’ll need to start preparing your hives for winter. This includes adding insulation and making sure the bees have enough honey stores.
- Keep up the inspections: Watch out for robbing, treat for varroa mites, and make sure the bees have access to clean water still.
My one pro tip for August:
- Stay on your toes: During summer dearths, bees may not be so forgiving. Expect them to sting more and be more aggressive and cranky. Monitor their behavior closely and protect yourself from being stung.
September is a time of harvest for us beekeepers. Many of us look forward to this time in the beekeeping calendar.
- Harvest honey: If there’s still honey left in your hives, you can harvest it now. Be sure to leave enough honey for the bees to survive the winter, though.
- Requeen: If you have a weak hive, you may need to requeen it. That’s because a new queen can help to revitalize the hive and improve its chances of survival over the winter.
Another pro tip:
- Don’t overharvest: You may get too excited as a novice beekeeper but it’s important to leave enough honey for the bees to get through the winter.
In October, the bees are starting to slow down their activity due to the cold weather.
- Install mouse guards: Mouse guards can help to prevent mice from entering your hives and eating your bees’ honey.
- Move your hives: If necessary, you may need to move your hives to a location that’s protected from the wind and harsh winter elements.
I also advise against:
- Opening your hives (unless necessary): Each time you open your hive, the bees must re-seal the cracks with propolis to keep out winter drafts.
November is a time of dormancy for bees. Because of the cold weather, the bees are staying inside their hives.
- Check your hives once a month: Check for signs of pests (mainly varroa mites) and diseases.
- Make sure your hives are well-insulated: If you live in a cold climate, you may need to add more insulation to your hives.
From experience, November is perfect for:
- Enjoying the peace and quiet: This is a great time to relax and enjoy the peace and quiet of your beehives.
- Planning for the spring: Start thinking about what you want to do to improve your beekeeping operation for the upcoming season.
December is the coldest month of the year, and the bees are now in deep winter hibernation.
- Don’t disturb your hives: The bees are hibernating and shouldn’t be disturbed. Periodically test winter stores by gently tilting the hive, but don’t open the lid. This is just to determine if the bees have enough honey to survive the winter.
- Consider expanding your apiary: If you’ve been successful with your beekeeping this year, you may want to consider expanding your apiary. This is a great way to produce more honey and help increase the bee population.
Pro tips for this month include:
- Stock up on beekeeping supplies: Make sure you have enough sugar syrup on hand to feed your bees in case of a long winter.
- Read up on beekeeping: Brush up on your beekeeping knowledge during the holidays. There are many books and websites (including my own!) that can help you learn more about beekeeping.
Wrap Up: Why You Need a Beekeeper Calendar
Beekeeping is a great hobby, but it can be a lot to keep track of. That’s why a beekeeper calendar is a valuable resource, especially to new beekeepers.
A beekeeping calendar can help you stay organized and on track throughout the beekeeping season.
Here’s my parting thought:
Why not turn your excess wax into candles and give away a few jars of your finest honey as holiday gifts too? It’s a great way to share your love of bees with others.