Updated: Mar 2, 2020
Keeping your bees healthy and alive throughout the year and winter is a challenge for a new beekeeper. We do a survey each spring in our Local Davis county beekeepers association and there is about 50% loss of hives each year vs our 10-15% losses. Although our 600+ hives are awaiting the almond bloom in California, we do keep some hives here in Utah as well. As I talk with beekeepers that lose hives every year, a common theme I hear is "I got busy with life and neglected my hive a little at the end of the summer; there was plenty of honey left, so I just let them be bees and figured they would do okay. But they died or disappeared by the end of December. I don't understand what happened."
We teach classes which are very helpful to get a feel for what is involved in the management of a hive. But sometimes the timing of what we do is a challenge to stay on top of with our busy lives of full time jobs and family. For those of you signed up for our "Latest tips and tricks and sales," you will get these tips at the beginning of each month. I realize there are many variations to beekeeping, and everyone has their own opinion, but I believe it boils down to a few basics that need to be done in a timely manner in order for your bees to succeed; so I'm launching "Follow the Homer's Beekeeping management plan." For me, this is a continuous learning experience and the Bees have been my best teacher; I'm happy to share what they have taught me with you!
January has just passed the winter solstice and the days are starting to get longer. The bees do notice this. As the days get warmer and we get more and more days that exceed 45 degrees, the bees will emerge from the hive to cleanse their bowels (cleansing flights). Depending on where you are, the timing can vary some. Here in Northern Utah, there aren't many of these days but we typically get a few.
I like to supplemental feed solid fondant during the month of January. I have good success in keeping my insulated "Bee Beanie" with a top entrance, on December thru early March. This is my method of feeding during the winter. I place a fondant patty on the hive under the insulated "Bee Beanie"and another later in the month, if needed. If I have done my job and left 80 lbs of honey, they won't eat much of the fondant, it's simply my insurance policy to make sure they have plenty of food thru the winter.
You don't want to open the hive or do any deep inspections during January. I only peek under the "Bee Beanie" to see if they need another fondant patty or not. I can quickly install another without opening the top for more than a minute. I try to pick the warmer days of January to take a quick look.
Beyond that there isn't much you can do in the hive in January. So it is a time when I continue my bee education. I read articles and watch youtube videos, take classes and visit with other beekeepers at the local Association meetings. I like to ponder the upcoming bee season. This includes planning mite treatments, supplemental feed of sugar syrup and pollen patties, deciding whether to do splits to grow, sell, or stay static, and finally make arrangements for the equipment I will be needing if any.
More next month!!