A beekeeping calendar can help you monitor your hive’s development and spot any potential problems. This month-to-month guide gives you the highest priority steps to take during each month of the year.
The beekeeper’s year starts in November of each year, as the bees shut down honey production and stay in the hive as a cold winter approaches.
But first, consider your hive’s geographic location, as the climate will determine the steps needed to keep bees healthy during specific months.
U.S. Beekeeping Zones
Understanding the beekeeping zones or regions a beekeeper resides in is essential in ensuring your colony has proper protection and care. Each area follows a specific month-to-month calendar with particular tasks associated with it.
Not all parts of a state may fall in the same zone or region. Climate change has impacted the beekeeping calendar, so smart beekeepers turn to information offered by extensions of state departments of agriculture or local beekeeping societies for the most up-to-date information.
Many of these groups can offer timely advice in cases of unseasonal weather or pest infestations. They also track variations throughout the state. In Florida, for example, a monthly calendar from the University of Florida IFAS Entomology And Nematology Department keeps local beekeepers in all regions of the state updated on what they should be doing with their hives and alerts them to special concerns. A bit of internet searching will lead local beekeepers to resources pertinent to their state or region.
|Climate||Short summers and long, cold winters|
|Average Annual Temperature||35°F and 45° F|
|Minimum Temperature||0° F -15° F|
|States/Region||AK, eastern ID, MT, WY, ND, SD, MN, WI, northern MI, eastern NY, VT, NH, ME|
Zone A consists of northern states such as Montana and Minnesota, with frigid winters where the temperature frequently dips near 0° F. During these months, beekeepers should maintain the hive’s health by ensuring enough food for the colony throughout the wintertime.
|Climate||Summers are hot, with cold, extended winters|
|Average Annual Temperature||45° F – 55° F|
|Minimum Temperature||15° – 20° F|
|States/Region||Eastern WA, OR. and CA, NV, UT, part of CO, NE, KS, MO, IO, IL, IN, southern MI, OH KY, WV, PA, western NY, eastern VA, part of NC, MA, CT, RI, DE, MD|
Zone B includes states in the midwest and east. In Zone B, though winters may be harsh, activity in the high starts to increase in March or April when the queen begins laying eggs.
|Climate||Long, hot summers are long and hot, short, mild winters|
|Average Annual Temperature||55° Ft – 65° F|
|Minimum Temperature||30° -35° F|
|States/Region||Coast of WA, OR, CA, parts of AZ, NM, northern TS, OK, MO, AR, north LA, MS, AL, GA, TN, SC, parts of NC, parts of VA|
Zone C covers states like Tennessee and North Carolina with warmer-than-average weather accompanied by lengthy cold periods in early wintertime before transitioning into weather warm enough for full-flight activity later in springtime. During Zone C’s colder months, colonies will require frequent monitoring but less labor than in Zones A or B, as preparation work for nectar flow has already started earlier in late wintertime due to higher temperatures in these regions.
|Climate||Warm to hot all year round.|
|Average Annual Temperature||65° F – 80° F|
|Minimum Temperature||30° F and 40°|
|States/Region||Southern TX, southern LA, FL, HI|
Zone D encompasses largely arid environments such as Arizona, which receives very little rain throughout the year, including wintertime, when other parts of the US would otherwise receive moisture. In these regions, beekeepers should do more regular inspections in colder months to ensure diseases do not settle within hives due to lack of humidity due to prolonged dryness conditions reaching well into springtime after cold periods pass.
Annual Beekeeping Activities: Quick Overview
Beekeeping is a year-round activity requiring your regular attention.
Bees do the work of pollinating flowers and making honey. A beekeeper adds the process by
- Ensuring that the bees’ food supply is sufficient
- Testing for, removing and medicating for pests
- Creating, inspecting, and maintaining hive structures
- Introducing new bees, including queens, when needed
- Harvesting honey once the bees make it and usually cap it
Though many activities, such as checking food reserves, feeding the colony, and inspecting the hive, can be done throughout the year, some must follow a set schedule during the beekeeping season.
For beekeepers in most parts of the country, the beekeeping cycle starts in November when bees respond to cooling temperatures by staying in the hive. Once the average daily temperature falls below 50° F, they seldom fly outside the hive. In cooler climates, egg-laying stops, and the queen remains in the middle of the cluster of bees. Many worker bees busy themselves with keeping the queen, any remaining eggs, larvae, and pupae, and the rest of the hive warm.
As the services of drones are unnecessary in the winter, females push them out of the hive to preserve food supplies. They die, and the dead bees can partially block the entrance to the hive. The bees push the bodies out of the way, although a beekeeper might scrape them up.
With cooling temperatures, bees limit their activity, and flights outside the hive become practically non-existent. They tend to leave for cleansing flights when they eliminate waste.
Here is a quick outline of annual beekeeping activities:
- November/December: Feed stimulating syrup as necessary – with temperatures dropping, provide additional nourishment to help them prepare for winter; invite swarms from other colonies into appropriate hives before closing it up until next year.
- January: Check food reserves and ensure they have enough stores for the winter. If needed, feed stimulative feed or pollen substitute, and use a queen excluder so they can’t move up into a box with honey above it. As the spring season approaches, place orders for new bees to supplement the hive.
- February: Begin inspections by removing each box (reverse hive bodies) and checking eggs, queen, and brood patterns. Make sure no queen cells are being formed. Provide more insulating material if needed to keep warm.
- March: Install new stocks for spring – whether installing packages of bees or splitting your hives, this is when you’ll want to do it so they will have time to get established before the flow starts in early summer. Also, check ventilation and medicate for mites if necessary at this time.
- April/May/June: Keep an eye on hives activity – make sure colonies are healthy by doing weekly inspections; look for eggs, queen health, brood patterns, store supplies; rotate boxes every week as needed, so all frames are examined; look for any signs of disease or parasites like varroa mites and treat accordingly.
- July/August: Start watching honey supers – Reverse hive bodies periodically to ensure worker bees aren’t stalling out development in the upper levels; watch nectar sources closely and start harvesting when ready.
- September/October: Continue harvesting honey – consider adding an excluder or inner cover between deeps to minimize robber activities in harvest boxes; carry out final inspections before winter sets in.
Steps To Take Month-By-Month For Healthy Bees
November is a crucial time of year for beekeepers when certain tasks need to be done to ensure a successful season. Remember that you must concern yourself with some tasks earlier or later in some areas.
Here are some of the most important November beekeeping tasks that you should be doing:
- Feed stimulating syrup as necessary to provide additional nourishment to help them prepare for winter.
- Invite swarms from other colonies into appropriate hives before closing it up until next year.
- Kill off any remaining varroa mites in the hive.
- Check your hive for termite damage and ongoing signs of carpenter bee activity.
- Rinse out honeycomb cells with soapy water.
- Protect hive entrances with entrance reducers and mouse guards.
- Make needed repairs to the hive roof while making sure that the hive is well-ventilated.
- Remove excess frames of honey to keep out predators such as wasps.
While bees eat honey in the winter as their primary food source, excess honey attracts wasps and other predators. Also, in extremely cold temperatures, some honey crystallizes and can cause dysentery in bees. The
Varroa mites are a major cause of colony decline that you should address before winter sets in. Kill off any remaining varroa mites in the hive by fumigating with oxalic acid or using drone brood frames can help you achieve this goal;
Watching for and protecting bees from these creatures requires vigilance all year. During winter, bees are more likely to die from the disease when they overwinter than the cold. When mites and other pests, such as wax moths, tracheal mites, hive beetles, and nosema parasites, have infested the comb, cleaning them out thoroughly is essential. This will help prevent honeybee diseases from taking hold during winter and improve the overall health of your colonies.
Beekeepers should harvest remaining honey frames from hives at least three weeks before setting up pre-winter parks for bees. If your local honey regulations require it, labeling each frame as “raw” is recommended before storing these frames in a cool place where they will remain until spring arrives again next year!
By undertaking these November beekeeping tasks now, you can rest assured that your hives will last through the chillier months ahead until new life blooms again in springtime!
Meanwhile, November is an excellent month to assess the condition of equipment, tools, and woodenware. If you need new smoker, frames, foundations, or nuc boxes for swarm capture next season, November is a good month to order them.
As the days become shorter and colder in December, beekeepers in areas with extreme winter weather must be prepared. December is an essential month for beekeepers to prepare their apiaries for the winter season. Honeybees in Zone D should be fed in December if resources are limited to boost their energy going into the winter months, but hives in all zone are topped off in October.
Lastly, if you plan to move your hives around, take extra precautions, like special straps or covers, so that your bees are kept warm during transport and not disturbed by changes in temperature or sudden movements.
By following a few simple steps this December, you can ensure a successful beekeeping season:
- Feed honeybees in December if resources are limited.
- Add an extra insulation layer on top of hives when temperatures drop below freezing. (Don’t forget ventilation.)
- Inspect the apiary regularly for any signs of infestation.
- Order beekeeping supplies ahead of time.
- Take extra precautions when moving hives around.
- Avoid opening the hive as this cools them off at a time bees form a winter cluster and flap their wings to generate heat.
- Finalize orders for supplies, as many vendors may close during the holidays.
January is a month of new beginnings for the beekeeper, and several tasks should be completed during this first month of the year. The key to success in beekeeping is staying ahead of the game and getting a jump on specific tasks before they become too difficult to manage.
For January, beekeepers need to focus on the following:
- Inspect the hive, checking for signs of disease and pest infestations. This is especially important if you treat the hive with pesticides over the summer and fall.
- Protect the bees from harsh winter weather by providing insulation and ventilation, monitoring food supplies, and tidying up the bee yard after any storms or other inclement weather.
- If you live in an area where temperatures dip below freezing at night, consider providing extra equipment, such as electrical heating devices or blankets, to help keep your bees warm throughout the winter months.
- Even a hive that has survived the winter successfully may need a supply of new bees for the upcoming production year. Wise beekeepers order new bees in January in all zones.
Keeping a well-maintained bee habitat will help ensure you’ll have plenty of happy honeybees come early summer when the activity starts humming around your hives!
February is arguably one of the most critical months for beekeepers. This is when most preparations are made for the season, from hive maintenance to feeding and inspecting the bees. As such, February beekeeping tasks are essential for a successful beekeeping season.
Inspect hives to diagnose any problems or parasites that may have developed over winter. Early detection can prevent more serious issues later on in the season.
- Repair or replace frames, if needed, to keep your woodenware functioning well throughout the rest of the year
- Clean and oil tools so they are in good working order before starting any new projects or beginning preparations for honey production season
- Prepare foundation wax sheets.
- Feed the colony if food stores are low with sugary syrup, fondant, and pollen patties. Adding extra protein like pollen during the winter can help prevent viruses and bacteria infection and aid the reproduction process during spring’s dearth of nectar flow.
Finally, inspect for emerging queen cells as soon as possible since swarm prevention starts with queen rearing, and spot treatments need to happen early in swarm season!
March is crucial for beekeepers, who must take the right approach to ensure a healthy and prosperous hive for the year ahead. As temperatures rise, several essential tasks and activities must be considered for your apiary to remain strong.
Here is a brief overview of the top March beekeeping tasks that you should keep in mind as you manage your hives:
- Feed your bees with fondant blocks or an artificial substitute until natural sources become more accessible in spring.
- Prepare new boxes to replace old ones or prepare for new hive growth.
- Begin regular inspections for pests like varroa mites.
- Requeen your colonies if needed to prepare for drones who emerge from healthier hives ready to mate. The egg-laying season typically begins in the April-May months and through June-July.
By paying attention to these important beekeeping tasks during March, you can help start by managing your hives properly now so that your apiary flourishes throughout the remainder of the year!
April is a vital early spring month in beekeeping as it can be the first opportunity of the year to begin managing and harvesting your hive’s honey. While depending on your climate and location, spring may bring blooming trees to kickstart your colony, bees also have plenty of diverse pollen sources throughout this period.
- Continue to offer pollen substitutes and check food reserves.
- Continues checking for pests like tracheal mites and varroa mites.
- Continue essential maintenance of inspecting frames for disease and pests.
- Replace and scrub out old frames to increase airflow through the hive.
- Add more ventilation or heat-reduction measures.
- Skim any debris from the combs to aid ventilation and reduce contamination.
- Introduce new package bees into the hive.
In the spring, beekeepers are concerned that bees will swarm and weaken their colonies of honey producers. They can tell it this likely to happen if they see peanut-shaped cells attached to the comb. By checking the queen’s location, you can determine if the queen cell activity indicates a potential new colony or swarm is forming.
A supersedure cell hanging in the middle of the comb indicates an emergency queen cell for the existing hive. A swarm cell develops new queens for a new hive after a swarm is usually positioned toward the edge. Using various methods of swarm control can reduce the potential that the bees will depart or at least manage the process.
Take note of honey production and feed stores for future planning needs in case of poor conditions later in the season. Beekeepers should consider adding an additional brood box for raising the young, a queen excluder to house the queen, and a super for honey production as the year progresses.
If harvesting honey has been successful for you in previous years, then now’s the time to prepare your supplies before blooming peaks too much later into the spring or summer months.
May is one of the busiest months of the beekeeping season, with a flurry of tasks to complete in all zones.
The first task of the month is ensuring your beehives are strong and healthy. Inspect your hive for food stores and any signs of disease or pests that might be present. A thorough inspection will also help you assess whether or not your colony needs additional resources.
- Check hives for pests and begin treatment, especially for varroa mites and chalkbrood, before it gets too hot.
- Remain vigilant, checking for supercedure and swarm cells.
- Check for capped brood and brood patterns to ensure a healthy queen is laying eggs in nearly every cell and in an orderly pattern. (Random cells can indicate an inbred queen, pest infestation, or brood diseases.)
- Make sure that the queen excluder and supers are in place.
- Introduce a new queen if needed.
Done at the right time of year, adding a new, perhaps younger, and more fertile queen can improve the brood pattern and get her to lay more fertilized eggs that become worker bees. These female bees collect nectar and make honey, all well as take care of all housekeeping activities in the hive.
June is a critical month in the beekeeping calendar that calls for beekeepers to offer individual attention to their bee colonies and the beekeeper’s task list. As June brings with it warmer temperatures and longer days, you will be able to observe your hive with ease.
However, this is the time of year when plenty of damage may have been done while the bees did their utmost in preparing for these months. Adapting to these changes and ensuring your hive is always healthy is essential.
- Inspect your hives.
- Check or manipulate combs that house honey or pollen stores.
- Check for swarm and supercedure cells.
- Make sure that honey supers are in place.
- Make sure all your equipment for honey extraction is ready to go.
- Have containers prepared for honey when it is time to extract it.
- Do an initial honey harvest if you plan on doing it again later in the summer.
Regular colony inspections will give you a better overall view of what has taken place over recent weeks so that various actions so you can supplement feeding via sugar syrups or pollen patties, if necessary. This can also be especially helpful in establishing which colonies stand a better chance at survival. Based on their current state, you get a better idea of where improvements must take place over what remains of summer for healthy, strong hives to come next season.
July is a busy month for beekeepers! The bee colony is growing and needs more food and attention to ensure a healthy, productive year. As temperatures progress during the summer months, July is the perfect time to perform tasks that will help you maintain hive health and keep pest populations in check.
This guide will provide you with an overview of important July beekeeping tasks. This includes:
- Check on the queen’s laying capabilities.
- Assess the honeycomb brood pattern.
- Inspect for signs of pests such as tracheal or varroa mites, which can suck the blood from your bees or wax moths that can eat through stored honeycombs.
Checking on the queen’s breeding capabilities is key during this time of year, as her production can slow down throughout July from its usual level of 1,500-2,000 eggs per day. A decrease in egg-laying can mean your colony isn’t getting enough food or that there are too many drone workers in proportion to workers. The queen can also be old or sick. You may need to carefully introduce a new queen into the colony.
The bees may already have realized that the colony needs a new queen. They may produce supersedure cells that contain what will become the queen’s egg. Larvae from several such cells are fed royal jelly; the first one to emerge usually becomes the new queen. The bees will kill off the extras unless the beekeeper removes the extra cells and places them in a queen mating box or nuc to develop extra queens.
Assessing the honeycomb pattern can alert you to anything out of the ordinary, so take a close look at your frames and note any changes from the last inspection.
August is an important time to complete beekeeping tasks related to preparing the hive for winter and harvesting honey produced in the spring. It’s also a great time to take a break from beekeeping tasks and allow the bees to focus on their growth and development. As such, August’s beekeeping tasks include:
- Inspecting hives for structural damage, pests, diseases, and parasites.
- Monitoring honey stores within each hive to determine if supplemental feeding is necessary.
- Harvesting any remaining honey produced during the spring season.
- Capping off all cells with fresh wax if needed and removing any weeds that may be in or around the hives
- Treating sick or infected colonies with approved medications.
- Uniting weak colonies or small hives with strong colonies for better survival during winter.
After harvesting honey, beekeepers let any honey produced in the next months remain as the winter food store.
By completing beekeeping tasks before winter, you can ensure that your colonies are as healthy as possible when spring arrives, giving them a head start on producing delicious honey for next year’s harvest!
When it comes to beekeeping, September is an important month. This is the time of year when bees bring in nectar and pollen in quantities large enough to begin storing for the winter months. As a beekeeper, several tasks must be done to ensure your hive is healthy and ready for what lies ahead.
- Check the hive for pests (hive beetles, varroa mites, and tracheal mites) by sampling larvae from brood chambers
- Medicate the bees to keep them disease free with preventative mite treatments such as ApiLife Var or ApiGuard.
- Complete any final honey collection to ward off wax moths.
- Prepare the hive for winter with mouse guards and entrance reducers.
Beekeepers should leave 45 to 90 pounds of honey for the hive to survive the winter. Northern climates need the maximum, while Southern bees need the lower estimate. Beekeepers often place a super of honey atop the brood box for the winter.
When bees produce honey in the fall, it is often from goldenrod or aster nectar. This type of honey crystallizes and separates into a liquid that the bees cannot digest or expel on cleansing flights in colder climates. Many beekeepers remove this honey, which is valued by humans as an antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and supplement.
As winter approaches, beekeepers prepare their colonies to survive the cooler temperatures.
Important tasks you should attend to during October:
- Check your hives thoroughly for signs of disease or pests, and take appropriate action if necessary.
- Inspect any locations that may serve as winter quarters for honeybees.
- Add breathable wraps or tarps onto your hives’ roofs to protect them from moisture damage.
- Make sure ventilation is in place.
- Check your stores of feed to ensure it is sufficient.
- Prepare your extraction equipment, such as strainers, buckets, and more.
October is also a good time of year to assess overall hive health by taking measurements such as hive weight (which can indicate whether enough food has been stored) and colony temperature (which must remain between 90-98°F for healthy winterization).
October offers an opportune moment for routine maintenance, such as apiary inspections and feeder fill-ups that are vital before winter sets in. By proactively preparing at the start of autumn, bees will be better suited to face the upcoming chillier months with good care and attention from their keepers!
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1: How often should I inspect my beehive?
A1: It is recommended that a beekeeper inspect their hive at least once a month or more frequently if needed. During the warmer months, when more nectar and pollen are available to the bees, you may need to inspect your hive more often to check for pests, diseases, and honey stores.
Q2: What should I look for when inspecting my beehive?
A2: When inspecting your beehive, you should look for signs of pests or disease, queen cells, honey stores, and a new comb. You should also look for signs of queen failure, such as a decreased number of bees in the hive or a lack of eggs or larvae.
Q3: What should I do if I find pests or diseases in my beehive?
A3: If you find pests or diseases in your beehive, it is important to act quickly. Depending on the pest or disease, you may need to treat the hive with a pesticide or other chemical, or you may need to remove the affected combs. It is essential to consult a beekeeping expert for advice on the best course of action for your particular situation.