Adapted from the Cookeville Beekeeping Calendar
TN Beekeeping Annual Calendar
Annual Schedule for beekeepers – Of course all dates are approximate, and dependent on weather…
The Bees will be clustered during cold weather, but it is common for there to be several days when the weather is warm enough for the bees to fly and cleanse – although little if any forage is available most years.
A small amount of brood production re-starts around mid-January.
If hives are light – or if it is your regular practice – Dry sugar, sugar candy, or pollen sub can be fed on top bars in almost any decent weather.
Order bees, maintain equipment.
Don’t let your bees starve – this goes for every month of the year.
If you plan to do a pre-season varroa treatment you need to plan it now – depending on the specific treatment it may need to be completed long before honey supers go on.
Maple pollen and nectar may be available toward the end of the month, but usually bad weather limits foraging opportunities. The Bees will be clustered during cold weather, but it is common for there to be several days when the weather is warm enough for the bees to fly and cleanse. Populations bottom out during February and start to increase (healthy hives) by the end of the month. Increasing amounts of brood increases food demand – hives can easily starve even when food is available in the hive if prolonged cold weather sticks them on brood.
Our state experts recommend a pre-season varroa treatment. If you plan to do this then you need to choose and order treatments so that you will have them when needed. Mite-Away-Quick-Strips – formic acid – is best used in cooler temps and may be a good choice. Apivar – amitraz – synthetic treatment must be completed at least 2 weeks before honey supers are added. Please Do Not take this as an endorsement of these products – just information about their timeliness.
Maple blooms in earnest – with sufficient fair-weather honey may be stored, but usually maple nectar is mostly consumed by increasing amounts of brood. Populations increase a lot in March. By the time Dandelions bloom later in the month is the traditional time to start swarm prevention such as reversing hive bodies or adding honey supers. Note the date of the main dandelion bloom – fruit trees and swarming usually follow about 3 weeks later.
Complete early mite treatments before adding honey supers as per directions for the particular poison.
Starvation remains an issue during cold snaps. March and early April may be the time when the most hives do starve. Fortunately there are usually fair days with upper 50 F temps when thorough inspections can be performed and countermeasures can be taken. It is warm enough in March to begin feeding syrup – but be careful lest ye aggravate swarming later.
The appearance of drone brood in March signals the beginning of the reproductive season – splitting or queen rearing may begin when drone brood is at the purple eye stage.
Beekeeping begins in earnest by April – you should be doing regular inspections to monitor hive conditions. We are frost free many years by the 15th most years by May 1.
Early blooms such as fruit trees make ample forage available when the weather is fair – but hives can still starve during extended cold or rainy weather, because large amounts of brood can quickly eat through all available stores. But his becomes increasingly unlikely as April progresses. Swarms however become increasingly more likely throughout the month.
Wax/comb production ramps up in April.
Our main flow consisting of black locust and tulip poplar may begin later in the month.
Main beekeeping tasks are to keep supers going on and try to prevent swarming. You might even try to collect a few swarms. April is a great time to make splits or begin rearing queens.
If you are a beginner – April or May is probably when you will get and install your bees – hereafter known as the happiest day of your life.
May is normally when our main honey flow happens – If you and your hives aren’t ready to take advantage of it by May 1 you are going to miss it. Everything blooms in May. Hive populations will be at or near maximum.
You should be doing inspections, supering, swarm management, making increase – all the fun, hard work of beekeeping this month. BTW – do you know how to tell if a hive has swarmed or not?
Beginners – feed 1-1 syrup as long as they will take it, give them a new box when all but 2 frames are drawn out, and do your inspections!
By the middle of June, the honey flow has usually tapered off quite a lot, and the danger of swarming should be about over if you have done your part so far. There will still be a few flowers around, but the large populations of bees will be working the last of them harder and harder – forever smaller rewards. Wax/comb production will decline to very little during June. And robbing will begin. Honey will be capped and cured during this month and harvesting may begin. Try to prevent robbing and be vigilant about queenlessness. When hives do become queenless you will need to be prepared to introduce a new queen.
Beginners – continue to feed 1-1 syrup as long as they will take it, give them a new box when all but 2 frames are drawn out, and do your inspections! If your new hive completely fills two hive bodies with drawn comb, brood and bees – congratulations you can consider splitting them to make more hives!
July is time to harvest Honey in TN – it is ready by now if it ever will be, and you need to get it off hives so that you can treat for Varroa mites. The market for local honey is quite good in our area with prices as high as $18 per quart in good sales locations – don’t undersell your hard-earned honey! Advertise for free on LSN or on our club website Local Honey page or on other internet local honey sites.
July is robbing season in Mid TN – so take all precautions to avoid setting it off. It is also SHB and Varroa mite season – so do your inspections and try to keep your hives strong and healthy. Plan to complete varroa treatments before August 15 to insure that the fall build up can proceed with healthy bees. It may be too hot for MAQS – formic acid – to be safely used so consider Apiguard (naturally occurring miticide) which works better when it is hot – but requires more than one treatment, or Apivar – amitraz synthetic – which only requires one but leaves synthetic chemical residue in the hive. You just have to learn about them and choose your poison.
Brood rearing is usually considerably curtailed during July and August because the normally hot dry conditions result in a dearth of nectar – although pollen may remain plentiful.
Big strong hives may be quite aggressive – wear your veil when in the bee yard.
First year beekeepers may need to continue to feed in order to get hives sufficiently built out – especially if you already made splits – but beware of robbing if you are in the vicinity of any other bee hives. Be careful not to spill feed and keep entrances as small as possible – refrain from using honey-bee-healthy or other “feeding stimulants” at this time, because they aggravate robbing. Consider fitting your hives with robber screens.
You may consider moving hives and resources around a bit in order to equalize hive sizes and strengths – this activity can continue until mid fall, but it is best done in moderate steps.
According to Ed Holcomb – Requeen between July 10 and August 21 if your existing queen has already performed through one or more intensive brood production periods. It is important that your queen is performing at her peak potential during the fall build up. Without a strong hive population going into winter, it will be impossible to build up sufficiently to exploit the short nectar flow that is available in the south.
Some people believe that Queens which are mated after the summer solstice – Around June 22 – perform especially well during fall build up because of the shorting of the days at that time. It seems to possibly be true.
Other than keeping an eye on things and completing mite treatments by the 15th there isn’t a lot to do this month. Hive populations fall off. Robbing continues with any nectar source getting mobbed by out of work foragers.
Brood production restarts in early September – usually there are some small but unreliable nectar flows which end by late month even in a good year.
Evaluate all hives early in the month, and combine, shake out or requeen any which are lagging. Cut your losses now before you have fed and babied lackluster hives for months only to have them fail over the winter – or fail to be productive in the spring.
Start feeding light hives 2-1 heavy syrup until they put on sufficient weight to overwinter on.
Remove any excess frames or supers – reduce hives down to the size that you want them to be for winter. Continue feeding light hives. Brood production and hive populations will continue to diminish.
Do your last inspections while the weather is fair – try not to set off robbing when you open hives. Options are limited if you find any hives that are in trouble. Killing frost usually happens in late October.
Install mouse guards and configure hives for winter – top ventilation – but don’t accidentally open up a back door for robbers or wax moths.
Not much to do this month. Hopefully, you have fed all hives so that they have sufficient stores to last until spring. Brood rearing and foraging activity will continue through this month – some pollen, but little if any nectar available.
Brood production will pretty much be over by Thanksgiving.
December has quite a lot of fair weather here in the South. Watch the weather predictions and plan to do a varroa mite treatment on one of those fair-weather days. You can do this last treatment any time after brood is no longer present in the hives – usually by Thanksgiving. Oxalic acid – either vapor or trickle – can be done almost any time regardless of the temp. MAQS requires a day warm enough for the bees to fan – preferably 2-3 in a row. OA vapor doesn’t even require opening the hive.
If you plan to do Mt Camp sugar as an insurance action after you do your mite treatment is the ideal time.