Beekeeping 101 Getting Your Pollinators Ready for Spring

As colorful flowers start to bloom and temperatures warm, one thing is clear: beekeepers are entering their busiest time of year. Spring is when honey bees are most active, so it’s best to begin assessing the health of your hives and monitoring for pests before the season is fully underway.

Follow the steps below to properly prepare your hives for a busy season of pollinating plants and producing honey.

Beekeeping 101: Getting Your Pollinators Ready for Spring

1.It’s important to check the health of your colonies following the long winter season.

While it’s quite normal for honey bee colonies to experience losses of up to 15 percent over the winter, higher losses could indicate that your hives are dealing with stressors outside of the winter temperatures. Be sure to look or listen for a cluster of bees deep in the body of the hive. If you hear them buzzing, then that’s a good sign!

It’s also important to ensure the queen of each hive survived the winter and is healthy. Assess her status, as well as the development stages of new bees and the food stores within the hives. Use this handy Healthy Colony Checklist as you determine the health of your bees.

2.Monitor for Varroa mite infestations in your hives and treat if necessary.

As many seasoned beekeepers know, the Varroa mite is an invasive species that entered the U.S. in the late 1980s and has since become the number one enemy of honey bees. This parasite not only feeds on the body of a honey bee, which weakens it, but can also transmit devastating diseases which can lead to the complete collapse of a colony.

Several monitoring methods exist. You can use the Honey Bee Health Coalition’s Varroa management guide to determine which is best for your hives and whether or not you will need to resort to using a chemical treatment to combat any mite infestation you find. Remember to always follow the label directions closely on any chemical treatment you use on your hives.

Beekeeping 101: Getting Your Pollinators Ready for Spring

3.Split large hives to prevent swarming

Once you’ve assessed the health of your hives and their risk of succumbing to Varroa mite infestation, you’ll want to determine if your larger hives are primed to be split. Splitting a hive is a great way to build up or replace those hives that were lost over the winter months; it also helps prevent potential swarming, which occurs when a hive becomes too robust.

While early spring is certainly an important time to assess the health of your hives, beekeepers should be sure to monitor their honey bee colonies often in order to keep accurate records of mite levels and the hives’ overall health throughout the year.

If you currently don’t manage bee hives but you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper, check out the Bayer Bee Health “Becoming a Beekeeper” guide to get started.