Kentucky Beekeepers’ Calendar

Jake Barker originally adapted this calendar from John Benham’s The Bee Calendar 4th ed. A great deal of the following content is John’s. Jake has modified the content into a bullet-point format, and has added and removed material where he saw fit. 11/14/2021 Edition.

This calendar is somewhat regionally specific, and reflects the seasonal experiences of its
authors. John Benham is off of the I-65 corridor in south central Kentucky, between Glasgow and Bowling Green. Jake Barker operates apiaries ranging from Louisville to Carrollton in north central Kentucky. Our apiaries are ~120 miles apart, but in areas with seemingly similar conditions. Beeks operating in different locales may still find this calendar useful, but may find parts of it inaccurate to their local conditions. Your mileage may vary.

January

  • Not much colony activity. Brood numbers will increase along with food consumption.
    Occasional warm ups will occur during the day that allow for cleansing flights by the
    colony.
  • Food checks!
    • Tilt/lift the boxes to check for remaining food stores(weight).
    • Look on warm +45°F, low wind days to confirm sufficient supplemental food remaining, such as candy, sugar, fondant, etc.
      • A common observation will be non-flying bees around the food source with abdomens elevated exposing stingers. This is a way the bees are informing you that they are ready to defend against intruders. The extended stingers are also releasing the sting alarm pheromone informing other colony mates about you, and your intrusion.
  • Do not linger in the hive.
  • Use as little smoke as possible. The smoke can disperse the cluster and cause them to
    freeze.
  • Catch up on your bee study, attend a school or two!

February

  • Brood numbers and adult bee population are still increasing.
  • Food stores will be decreasing, continue monitoring. Most starvation occurs in February and March.
  • Super Organism reproduction (Swarming) preps begin as temperatures increase and flora sources start producing pollen.
  • An early pre-Spring warm up may allow for brood box rotation, if this is a part of your management system.
  • Adding brood builder (high protein) patties mid-month is OK. Cut patties into small strips to resist SHB infestation. Use only what the bees will take. Monitor for SHB infestation.
  • Prep honey supers.

March

  • This is the month that things begin to happen, with many possibilities.
  • Depending on the weather:
    • Good conditions: new food sources are appearing daily:
      • Stimulates a dramatic increase in colony population.
      • Large number of adult bees emerging daily.
      • Rapidly expanding brood area, instigates swarm preparations.
    • Poor conditions: a long period of bad weather occurs that does not let bees bring in food, colony starvation likely!
      • This is the time of year most colonies starve.
      • Carb feeding: add 1-1syrup if temperatures permit, raw sugar, or candy/fondant / solid feed if temperatures do not.
      • Protein feeding: In-hive pollen patties: cut into small strips to resist SHB infestation. Use only what the bees will take. Monitor for SHB infestation.
  • Early swarm prevention routine will need to be initiated, including brood box rotation and adding supers.
  • Prepare for splits: multiple methodologies.
  • Add honey supers (brood box rotation first if not yet completed, if that is a part of your management system).

April

  • HERE WE GO! Lots of stuff in progress: multiple food sources available; unpredictable weather; drone population surge; peak queen laying; multiple frames of brood; adult bee population rapidly increasing.
    • Remember: one frame of capped brood will produce 3 frames of adult bees, keep an eye out for fast building colonies.
    • Earliest swarms launch.
    • Checkerboarding frames can relieve some swarm pressure.
  • “Wet weather” diseases such as European Foul Brood, Sacbrood, Nosema Apis and Chalkbrood surge. Be prepared to deal with them. Requeening often indicated.
  • Earliest splits and queen rearing! Erratic weather can make it difficult. May is easier!
  • Colonies often forego supplemental feeding, opting for the natural foods available.

May

  • Much of what will happen in May is a carryover from April, as the population continues to increase with nectar and pollen being plentiful.
  • Colonies that were slow building in April because of the wet weather/disease/whatever may show signs of recovery and begin building accordingly.
  • Swarming peaks.
  • Hive inspections now become a real chore because of heavy, rapidly filled honey supers. When doing inspections:
    • It will likely not be necessary to look into the bottom brood box if things are booming in the top with normal brood frames, honey stores, lots of bees, no disease, etc.
    • Be careful when removing frames during an inspection! It is extremely easy to roll and kill the queen when lots of bees are present!
    • Requeening now often stalls honey production, greatly reducing yield!
  • Remember to keep adding supers. It takes two empty supers to store the nectar required to fill one super with cured nectar/honey.
  • Never leave spilled honey or burr comb in the apiary after inspections.
  • Initial mite counts and treatments as indicated for commercial bee stock. Formic acid as Formic Pro or Mite Away Quick Strips are preferred due to supering. Follow manufacturer’s instructions, observing expiration dates and temperature limits.
  • If part of your management: As temperatures increase, remove IPM boards or convert to screen bottom boards.

June

  • Colony population peaks as major Spring flow comes to an end.
  • Swarming wanes.
  • As daytime temperatures begin to warm into the 8O’s and 9O’s, nectar curing and honey capping become a major focus of the colony, along with ventilation to aid in the curing process and cool the brood chamber.
  • Some of the late building colonies will have lots of bees but a shortage of food stores. This imbalance will lead to starvation as the flow ends.
  • Robbing screens and/or entrance reducers should be installed well ahead of the robbing season to be effective.
    • Guard bee activity increases as foraging decreases.
    • Scout bee foragers search for more food sources as flows dwindle, which includes colonies that allow them entry!
  • Summer solstice 6/21.

July

  • July is normally a dry and hot month, with the summer dearth beginning.
  • Colonies in starvation can appear queenless.
  • With the end of the white clover bloom: Supers are pulled, honey is harvested and aggravated robbing begins.
    • White clover’s end is dependent/caused by a drought spell.
  • As we enter the dearth and robbing pressure builds:
    • Spilled honey or feed can instigate robbing events.
    • Move with purpose when exposing frames of food when doing inspections or installing mite treatments.
  • The mite population will increase dramatically in proportion to the bee population.
  • Colonies, especially incipient colonies, may need feeding to continue growth and/or drawing comb.
  • Robbing screens and/or entrance reducers should be used and checked occasionally for obstructions such as dead bees.
  • Provide the apiary a water source.
  • Bearding is common.
  • Late splits are often performed in July.
    • Pull supers before white clover bloom wanes, so nectar is still coming in and drone populations remain high.
    • Pull nucs or splits out of those colonies you are removing supers from, to remove swarming pressure. Build subsequent colonies strong enough to defend themselves from robbing.
    • Defer mite treatments until after new queens establish.
      • Final new queen checks, combines, and mite treatments are often conducted simultaneously.
    • Late splits generally need supplemental feeding to successfully winter.
  • If not raising new queens, mite check and treat as indicated. Apivar and Apiguard are popular for this time of year. Follow manufacturer’s instructions, observing expiration dates and temperature limits.

August

  • Colonies in starvation can appear queenless.
  • Make sure the apiary has water available.
  • If not yet performed, mite checks and treatment as indicated. Apivar and apiguard are popular for this time of year. Follow manufacturer’s instructions, observing expiration dates and temperature limits.
  • When a mite treatment culminates, do a count to check for effectiveness. Address over-limit hives.
  • Begin analyzing your colonies and make plans to cull, combine, requeen, etc. before the fall flow.
  • If shipping in mated queens, northern queen suppliers are recommended, as they are likely in areas where a flow is still taking place with lots of viable and fertile drone populations assuring a well mated queen.
  • Requeening in hot weather with a low colony population and older bees is the most difficult time for acceptance. Feeding colonies while requeening helps improve acceptance, as does adding a frame of brood with nurse bees.
  • Drone populations drop, queen mating success becomes difficult.

September

  • Colonies in starvation can appear queenless.
  • Flow restarts with appearance of wingstem. Yellow and White Wingstem bloom, along with Boneset, Goldenrod, and finally Aster. Flow quality can be erratic.
  • Culling, combining, requeening and mite treatments should be close to completion if not already done.
    • If not yet addressed, immediately assess and control mite population.
  • The importance of a healthy thriving colony is paramount.
    • “Fat Bees” or ”Winter Bees” are going to be reared beginning in late September.
    • Without Healthy “Fat Bees” the odds of colony survival through Winter are very low, and Spring build up will be negatively affected.
    • The long lived “Fat Bees” provide the protein needed during winter for the colony to start brood production when protein sources are all but non- existent. They are also more efficient at heating the Winter cluster.
  • New colonies started late, or slow builders that finally started growing, often need to be fed syrup and/or brood builder patties.
    • Pollen patties rapidly become SHB problems. Small strips. Monitor for infestation.
  • Mouse guards installed while temps are still over 55F.
  • Address ventilation needs as Winter approaches. Moisture kills bees. Using top entrances advised, in case bottom entrance clogs over winter.
  • Low drone population makes queen mating difficult.

October

  • Colonies in starvation can appear queenless.
  • Generally, too late to mate queens. Hives are effectively droneless.
  • Last chance for combines.
  • Make sure stores are plentiful, 5-7 deep frames of honey or the equivalent.
    • Feeding may be required, but be careful not to feed syrup as temperatures drop. Bees need time to cure and cap stores. Syrups generally not taken below 55F.
    • Rapid feed, in volume, 2:1 and heavier syrups.
    • Candy boards, fondant or raw sugar may be required and if so, should be checked periodically during the Winter for signs of depletion.
  • If your bees do not appear to be healthy and disease free at this point, they will likely fail over winter, and the reservation of a nuc for next Spring may be indicated.
  • (La Grange) Average first frost October 16th. Fails most pollen and nectar sources. Aster may continue until first freeze, ~ 2 weeks later. Native witch hazel may continue blooming even after a freeze, for a limited period.
  • If part of your management, late October is sometimes good for an OA vaporization. Dependent on the hive entering a low/no brood phase, minimum >37F, higher temps preferred.
  • Finalize winter preps
    • Colonies in cluster will not cross empty frames to find food. Consolidate.
    • If part of your management, insert IPM boards or convert to solid bottoms.
    • If part of your management, install quilt boxes, or complete other top conversions.

November

  • Keep an eye on food supplies. Observe bees on flying days for normal behavior.
  • Make sure there is water available. Your bees will need a water supply to use hard feeds.
  • OA vaporization if part of your management, minimum >37F, higher temps preferred. Dependent on the hive entering a low/no brood phase.
  • The bees are now clustering most of the time and hive defense is low.

December

  • December marks the end of the broodless period and then the beginning of the Spring build up after the Winter solstice, 12/21.
  • Keep an eye on food supplies. Observe bees on flying days for normal behavior.
  • OA vaporization if part of your management, >37F, higher temps preferred.
  • Enjoy some downtime!
  • Now is a good opportunity for equipment repair and maintenance.
  • Catch up on periodical articles about innovations and other news and discoveries.
    • If you find something interesting do an internet search to confirm the validity!
  • As the days get longer over the next several weeks, enjoy observations of the flora and fauna in your area: signs of birds returning; the hummingbird migration north; soil warming with the appearance of dandelions, henbit, purple dead nettle, and maple blooms. All are good signals that Spring and the main nectar flow are approaching. Your bees know these things are occurring!