In all but the warmest climates, honey bees follow a seasonal pattern, and thus the tasks of the beekeeper also follow a calendar rhythm. Beekeeping tasks can be divided by the season, though you should keep in mind that seasons in your particular region may vary a little bit from the calendar dates. The start of "spring" in northern North Dakota, for example, is well past March 21/22, and "summer" in Florida is a considerably longer season than Alaska's ten-week season.
Checking on your bees frequently over the course of the year is a good idea, but can be overdone. you don't want to disrupt their hive building and daily activities too much.
Spring is definitely the time to get new bees and start a hive! Read up in late winter on beekeeping, plan your hive, buy or build it, and start going to those local beekeeping clubs.
- Keep feeding the bees if necessary. They will have consumed most of their honey stores over winter, and you must make sure they have food until blooming flowers are present to provide nectar.
- Position an empty hive or two in case some of the bees swarm and are looking for new homes. If you don't do this, you could lose bees that travel elsewhere. Spring is the time when bees swarm and travel.
- Harvest honey from an established hive: when flowers are blooming, harvest any honeycomb not used over the winter.
- Inspect your hive for a solid brood pattern, and if you suspect the queen has died, replace her.
- If you have more than one hive, even out the populations so the number of bees is relatively equal across your hives.
During the summer your bees will basically take care of themselves--you just need to check up on them every couple of weeks and head off any problems before they balloon into big issues.
- Stop feeding now, as the bees will be in flight constantly for nectar.
- Check frequently to make sure there are water sources near your hives.
- Watch to make sure stronger hives are not robbing weaker hives.
- Inspect frequently to make sure the queen is laying well.
- Monitor for Varroa mite infestations.
- Make sure combs are hanging straight if you're using foundationless or top bar methods.
- Harvest honey.
Now it's peak honey collection time, and also time for making sure your bees are prepared for winter.
- Harvest honey, but make sure to leave enough for the bees for food for winter.
- Check the pattern of the combs, looking for good brood patterns.
- Check for diseases; treat or discard diseased combs.
- Add weak hives to stronger ones, provided they are disease-free.
- Reduce the hive entrance, put on mouse guards, ensure adequate ventilation. Complete any treatments for diseases and pests.
- Begin to feed bees once flowering plants and nectar are no longer available.
- Protect the hive from winter winds, but allow for good ventilation
- Weight down the tops of the hives to guard them against toppling in winter winds.
Before winter, you'll help your bee colony get settled and snug for the long cold spell ahead.
- Make sure all disease treatments are complete.
- Make sure the hives are sheltered from the wind.
- As winter hits, monitor your hives for wind damage frequently, and check openings to make sure there is ventilation. Your bees can tolerate cold, but sealing the hives entirely can cause condensation that will devastate the population.
- As winter begins to approach spring check on them on warmer days by quickly opening the top of the hive to make sure the bees have enough honey for food. If they are out of food, place pollen patties or another form of food in the hive.
- Order new equipment and bees. Normally late February or early March is the latest date you can make these orders in time for spring.