March in the Apiary


As with last year, we’re continuing with a relatively warm late winter after a relatively cold early winter.  All of which has good parts as well as concerns.

Bee activity:  On days above 50 or so, you should be seeing lots of cleansing flights, foraging (early pollen mostly) and if it’s warmer, some hive cleaning.  At this point (getting warmer and warmer) you probably won’t see as many “yellow spots” as the bees can fly further without getting chilled.  This all helps avoid dysentery.

Hive:  With all this increased hive activity the girls are getting hungry.  They’ll be consuming more of their honey reserves and not bringing anything in nectar-wise as nothing much is blooming yet.  THEY CAN STARVE.  One of the most disappointing events in beekeeping is the hive that makes it through the winter with minimal stores, then dies in the Spring due to starvation.  You should check the food stores by either lifting the back of the hive for weight or looking under the top cover if it’s warm.  If you do emergency feeding you should be careful not to kick off brood production too early (light syrup) as that will really encourage eating through the stores.

Mites:  All hives have mites.  The two times of year that mites can get the upper hand are in spring and fall.  In spring, the bee population is at its lowest (no brood through the winter) so the mites make up a larger relative population with the bees.  As the bee population starts expanding, the mites do as well and can outbreed the bees if the mites start out strong.  Therefore, if you decide to treat, spring is an excellent time, just as the colony is starting to ramp up for spring.  To help with your decision about treatment, you can do a mite count.  Powdered sugar, ether and alcohol shakes are frequently used with ethanol wash being the most accurate.  Each beekeeper needs to do their own research as to what/whether to use.  In the spring time I use MAQ (Mite Away Quick Strips (Formic Acid)) Mites.  It needs to be above 50 degrees, and below 85 degrees when applied.  Keep in mind that in the springtime, there are fewer (1/3) phoretic (on the adult bees) mites and more on the brood (2/3) so a mite count will only show 1/3 of the mites in the hive.  If in doubt, treat.

Nosema:  Keep an eye out for Nosema infected hives.  Symptoms include slow build up, distended bloated abdomen, diarrhea on the hive, and crawling bees around the hive (crawling bees can also be tracheal mites).  Both conditions are treatable.  Good ventilation, a sunny hive location and not feeding light syrup during cold weather are key factors in avoiding these maladies.

Equipment/bee replacements/additions:  If you have any dead outs, old equipment or just want to increase your apiary, you’ll need to get things ordered and ready soon.  Equipment needs to be ordered early enough to get it put together and/or painted before needed.  If you’re ordering packages/nucs, there are deadlines, usually between mid-March and Mid-April which are normally quite strict, so order early.  They will frequently arrive late April to mid-May.  We have a list of suppliers, both local and statewide on the web site.

Watch as spring unfolds!  Enjoy!

Here is the short list of early & mid spring plants that are either blooming or will be in the next month(s). We’ve tried to only include plants that are popular landscape plants in Central Oregon.  Note that just because a plant is blooming doesn't necessarily mean it's beneficial to our honeybees.

High Pollen/Nectar sources: Buttercups (y) , Barberry (y), Snowdrops (y/o), Crocus (o), Honeysuckle bush (y), Rhododendrons (blue), Willow/Weeping Willows (y), Scillia (y), Red Maple (grey), Cotoneaster (y/grn, low pollen, high nectar)

Medium Pollen/Nectar sources: Hellebores (y), Heather (brn), Snowflake (y/o), Oregon Grape (grn/y), Alder/Poplar (grn/y) pollen only, no nectar, Grape Hyacinths (creamy white to yellowish green), Cottonwood (y/yellowish brown) no nectar, Manzanita

Low Pollen/Nectar sources: Witch Hazel (y), Pasqueflower (y), Birch (y/grn), Brunnera (o), Fritillaries, Tulips (y or purplish), Spirea (y or brownish), Viburnum (y), Serviceberries (y)

No Pollen/Nectar sources: Forsythia

Thanks to Kim & Allen for these notes

and to Patricia for the plant list!

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