March in the Apiary


This is going to be an interesting Spring.  Current informal reports are ranging from no losses to 100%.

Bee activity:  On days above 50 or so (and sometimes cooler sunny ones), you should be seeing lots of cleansing flights, foraging (pollen mostly, later in the month) and if it’s warmer, some hive cleaning.  As the March continues (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 general hive activity, and the beginning of brood rearing, the girls are going to be getting hungry.  They’ll be consuming more of their honey reserves and not bringing anything in nectar-wise as nothing much is blooming yet (one of the blessings of Central Oregon).  THEY CAN AND DO STARVE.  One of the most disappointing events in beekeeping is the hive that makes it through the winter with minimal but stores, which then dies in the Spring due to starvation.  You should check the food stores by primarily by lifting the back of the hive for weight (should still feel heavy) or looking under the top cover if it’s warm (seeing capped honey on several frames).  If you do emergency feeding you should be careful not to kick off massive brood production too early (light syrup) as that will really encourage eating through the stores (fondant and dry sugar are good choices early).

Mites:  All (live) hives have Varroa 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 choose to treat, Spring is an excellent time, just as the colony is starting to ramp up the population.  To help with your decision about treatment, you can do a mite count as it gets warm enough to do a quick inspection.  Powdered sugar, ether and alcohol shakes are good methods.  Each beekeeper needs to do their own research and thinking 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.  Additionally, various treatments affect the phoretic and non-phoretic stages of mites differently.  If you opt to treat, “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, keeping in mind that crawling bees can also be a symptom of 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 and resolving Nosema or dysentery, grease patties and formic acid can be used for tracheal mites.

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.  Prior to cleaning dead out equipment for reuse, do a “post mortem” examination, both to determine (as best you can) what happened in order to avoid the same issue next time, and also ensure there aren’t any disease or poison problems that will infect/affect new bees using the same equipment (feel free to post questions on the member mentor or open forum on our website.  New 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 now.  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. (Abbreviations indicate color of pollen)

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!

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software