Monday, December 22, 2014

A New Bee Year Begins

Today is the first day of a new Bee Keeping year. As the days lengthen the attendant bees will begin moving the queen around and forcing her to lay more and more eggs to begin the Spring build up. The queen maybe the one that lays the eggs and puts out the pheromones that rules the hive but according to some much smarter people than me it is the attendant bees that make all the decisions. 

Whenever you see a queen in the hive she will almost always be surrounded by ten or so attendants. These attendants are the oldest bees in the hive next to the queen. They have survived the nurse bee stage, been guard bees and foragers and moved up to the top tier of the bee aristocracy.

Here is a good picture of a group of attendant bees. A couple of years ago I had a queen that somehow got out of her hive and she is nestled in the center of her attendants. They are all facing her and in the process of moving her back into the hive where she belongs. The attendants will do the same thing in the hive directing the queen where to lay and how many eggs in each comb section.

The attendants and old foragers are also the ones who decide when to swarm, which eggs will be raised as new queens and guide a swarm to it's new home. I am assuming they are also the ones who begin to realize when the day's get longer and decide on the timing for the Spring build up.

This maybe the first day of a new bee keeping year but the hardest days are now soon to come. The delicate balance of building up while not using up the stores that remain in the hive is the most dangerous time within the hive.  January, February and March are the leanest months of the year for the hives with few days of flight and very little if anything out there producing nectar. Pollen usually isn't as much of an issue but only the larva consume pollen mixed with honey and known as bee bread.

Even feeding the bees dry sugar or liquid feed is not a guarantee of honey. It needs to be turned into honey and if the conditions are too cold and wet they may not have time to produce honey out of those raw materials.

What I typically do is run two large brood chambers on each hive before adding on surplus supers. My theory, which seems to be working for the most part so far, is that the two large chambers hold enough stores for the bees to make it through Winter and I never touch those taking only what get's put in the over flow surplus supers. However severe, long stretches of cold can require more honey than usual too so there is always that unknown factor.

It hasn't been especially cold here this year so far but we have had a lot of rain and gloomy days. Very little time for the bees to get out and fly. I imagine they are all still balled up keeping warm and eating their stores.

Here's hoping for a good build up and plenty of food to make it through the next three months or so.

Keep Prepping Everyone!!!


  1. Very interesting post. I'm getting my first bees this spring, and so am reading everything I can on the subject. I've wondered how much honey to leave for overwintering, and you've given me an idea about that. Thanks.

    1. Leigh - a lot of the bee keepers up here got used to the mild Winters we were having and only left the bees with one large brood super for Winter. Many of them had a rude awakening come last year. If i remember right you are a pretty good clip South of me so you might be able to get away with less for over-Wintering too. Of course I don't think it matters how much you leave the girls all beekeepers still bite their nails from November to the end of March :)

  2. another one added to the print and then file binder about bee-tending! you have the absolute best info about bee-keeping out there - you should be proud, my brother! (you know that i wanted to type wiener...but when your posts are this good, and your latest several have been really good - i looove little Sasha - she's beautiful!, well then i don't have to constantly remind you that you are a wiener! most of your readers will not understand this comment at all but you know my saying - keep 'em guessing! and keep up the good work, bro!)

    much love to you and yours, always. your friend,

    1. Awww shucks kymber :)

      All Sasha does these days is sleep. I swear I have never seen a creature sleep as much as she does from October to April she almost never moves anymore unless it's a really out of season warm day.

  3. Thanks, I needed that! Have some warmish days predicted and need to check the girls. I leave two hive boxes and a honey super and still fret over the amount of food for the winter.

    Merry Christmas to you and yours!



    1. Nice Name BTW!!!

      and Merry Christmas to you and yours as well!!!

      I put the wet medium supers back on the hives after my last pull in the early Fall. Any hives which have not built up to two brood chambers yet or have not filled a medium as surplus get the wet frames I extracted back on them to clean up. I think it helps as there is still some honey left in them. I think it works better than trying to store em all Winter anyway.


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