The first thing that Cookeville TN area Bee Keepers need to do in February is plan to attend our regular meeting on Thursday February 2nd – TTU South hall – chat and mingle from 6:00 with the meeting beginning at 6:30 PM.
H.L. Foust of Sunrise Apiaries in Cumberland county – purveyor of bees and beekeeping supplies will be our guest speaker at this meeting.
We will also be taking orders at the February meeting for package bees, so bring your check books. Eligible new bee keepers will be able to find out more about the TBA hive grant program as well.
Begin or continue feeding pollen substitute if this is part of your plan – once you start don’t stop until weather and natural pollen allow the bees to provide for their selves.
Sometime during the last third of the month you might want to plan to reverse hive bodies if you have a dual brood box system – but only if all of the brood is in the top box! If brood is split between two boxes when you reverse you will “split the brood nest” and cause a lot of potentially fatal stress. Obviously you have to inspect the hives to accomplish this – so watch the weather forecast for a a suitable day. Not everyone does this manipulation, but the purpose of it is to attempt to prevent swarming.
Plan to add honey supers around March 15 – so arrange for that woodenware soon!
You might think that there isn’t very much for a bee keeper to do in January, and there is a certain amount of truth to that, however…
As you know here in mid TN we can have nice weather almost any time – on one of those sunny days when the bees are flying and the temps are in the 50s take a quick peak into the top of your hives – no need to use smoke, but do wear a veil. Does it look too wet? If so you probably need more ventilation. Is the cluster all the way at the top? You might need to feed candy or dry sugar. Don’t stress your bees by opening the hive too much or too long, but a quick peak on a nice day won’t hurt.
Don’t let your bees starve! There was very little nectar produced in our area this fall and if you have any doubts about the stores that your bees have you can still feed them – dry sugar is one of the easiest ways to provide emergency food. This subject was covered in the Oct 2011 Kelley newsletter.
Speaking of the Kelley Newsletter – sign up for it – it’s a great source of that “what to do this coming month” information that was previously mentioned and will hit your inbox just in time to use it. There are several very fine beekeeping resources on the web where you can find or get your questions answered just about any time – just fire up the Google and type in “bee keeping” or even “why did my bees swarm?” Great entertainment on a cold winter day. You-tube has many informative videos as well.
Some people feed pollen substitute in the form of patties or candy beginning about the middle of January to stimulate a quick and early spring build up. Educate yourself before deciding to do this, and once you start you need to keep it up until the weather and nectar flows are consistently good – or else all that brood you stimulate will eat your hive out of house and home and they may all starve in April. Personally – I had good results feeding Mega-Bee (from Kelley) made into candy last year.
If you are interested in buying any package bees NOW is the time to take action on that – soon they will all be spoken for, and you won’t be able to get them until the Spring season is well underway.
Now is also the time to get together the equipment you will need next year. If you started with bees last year and your bees did pretty good you will probably need more room for them. Don’t wait until your hives are full of honey or your bees are about to swarm to try to find (and assemble) frames and supers to fit your hive setup. If things go well you might need a stack of supers taller than you are – plan ahead. Also seriously consider buying or building an extra hive setup – or a nuc – so that you have some options in case you get the chance to catch a swarm, or need to make a split to prevent one. If the warm weather we are having continues you might need that equipment sooner than you thing – Like in February. Don’t wait.
Just a heads up – late February/March is when the swarming process can start – about the time you see dandelions in bloom. In April when you see queen cells in your hives, and a cloud of bees flying around the train has already left the station, so plan to deal with it before it starts by reversing hive bodies, adding supers, checkerboarding, splitting or some other means depending upon your available resources.