These notes are only a guide and actual timings may vary with your location.
· Check the apiary periodically to ensure no hives have lost their roofs or got knocked over.
· Shade entrances if you expect snow, to discourage the bees from flying; on sunny days they can get confused by the sunlight reflecting on the snow, fly into it and perish.
· Heft the hives to gauge the level of stores. If they are light, feed fondant on the top bars directly over the cluster or sugar syrup on top of the crown boards.
· Fit insulation to keep the colony warm. Use an empty super to support the inner cover and roof.
· Review last years records to plan for the coming year. Decide which colonies to re-queen and which to use for breeding.
· Buy and additional equipment you need. You can solve problems with “spare” equipment.
· Attend local bee-keeping association meetings to listen to speakers and discuss and swap ideas with other bee-keepers.
· Use your records, local knowledge and commonsense as timing can change from area to area.
· Longer days will stimulate brood production, so continue to heft your hives to check on the level of stores. Provide emergency feeding with fondant or sugar syrup if necessary.
· Bees will be collecting water to dilute their winter stores, so make sure you provide a supply in a sunny spot that will warm the water before the bees drink it. A chilled bee will be unable to fly back to the hive.
· Make sure hives have not been disturbed and that a mouse guard is fitted.
· Clear the entrance of dead bees, snow and leaves.
· Clean and prepare your equipment for the coming season.
· Check bees are flying when weather conditions are good.
· Check for pollen being taken into the hive.
· On a warm day use a small bit of smoke and lift the inner cover. The colony should look strong.
· Look for visible excreta on the top bars, which is a sign of dysentery.
· Heft the hives and, if necessary, feed diluted syrup (1:1 sugar/water) over the bee cluster.
· Do not look at the brood nest too early or the bees may get over excited and kill the queen. Wait for a good warm day and you should be able to inspect your bees safely.
· Keep an eye on colonies, which will be expanding quickly this month.
· Adda super over a queen excluder when the brood box is full of bees.
· Start regular brood nest examinations of larger colonies. Every 7 days on warm sunny days around noon.
· Remove any old, broodless frames and combs that you wish to change, and replace with frames of foundation. Should frames should be replaced every 2 years.
· Feed syrup if necessary to help the bees produce wax to draw out the comb.
· Look for signs of swarming during the examinations. (queen cells)
· Make sure you have spare equipment ready to deal with swarms and to rehive the swarm.
· Seek experienced help if you think all is not well. Four eyes are always better than two.