Bee Colony Maintenance

Now that we have our queen bee and her army of worker bees safely nestled into the the bee box, The job is over. Time for a lemonade on the porch and a good book! HA! I make jokes. Now is when the fun begins as we learn bee colony maintenance. 

Generally speaking, you can check on your hives about once every two weeks. You are going to be on the lookout for foul play from local animals

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that are attempting to get into your hives. During your routine checks, also look for things like standing water from rains, other insects that aren’t honey bees and look around for any debris that may be blocking the entrance. We get pretty strong winds in this area sometimes and I’ve found anything from twigs to plastic bags that have blown over the entrance. This is a standard part of bee colony maintenance. 

If you start to notice that species other than honey bees are taking up residence inside the beehive, consider installing an entrance reducer. The entrance reducer will shrink the accessible area for anything coming in and out of the beehive. This simple tool will enable the worker bees playing the role of guard bees to be able to protect the honey bee swarm better. The only caveat here will be with a smaller entry hole, the chance for debris to completely plug it up will be increased. The honey bee swarm is pretty self sufficient in these regards. As long as the object isn’t jammed in the entry they will force it out and away enough to continue use.

Now, we just keep an eye on the necessities and do routine bee colony maintenance to make sure nothing major is going on. Be sure they have a nearby water source and make sure nothing funky is going on inside the bee boxes and wait. This is the hardest part.

If this is your first year setting up a bee farm, don’t be too disappointed if you don’t pull out a massive haul of honey when it comes time to harvest. Fresh honey bee swarms need time to develop a surplus of honey. On a related note, you need to make sure you are leaving enough honey in the hive for the winter months so that your honey bees can survive. On average, the bees will consume anywhere from 70 to 100 lbs (approximately 32 to 45 kilos) of honey through the cold months. Those two key points combined will usually translate into a smaller first year yield. Once the hive is established however, the worst problem we run into is not enough space. Thus, as noted previously, having an extra bee box or two is monumental to maximizing bee honey yield.

In addition to the general guidelines above for bee colony maintenance, we also place a mat or piece of wood panel underneath the hive stands. This gives a little bit of clearance all the way around the bee hive box so that when I come through with the mower, I don’t disturb the beehive as much. Bumping into the bee box stand with a mower will get the whole bee hive swarm worked up. I try to avoid this as much as possible mostly because I don’t typically wear my full bee suit while mowing my lawn unless I’m looking to get the neighbors confused.

The surrounding environment is also a maintenance task. I check to make sure the local pollen sources such as flowers or vegetables are flourishing. I also clean out the water source and refill it. In our backyard bee farm, this consists of replacing the water in the bird bath. When we go to the remote bee farms, I bring water along to refill the bucket systems we have in place. We typically visit the remote farms about once every week if they are close, two if they are not. The backyard bee colony gets checked pretty much daily because I am here most. The water in the birdbath gets changed out at least every 2 days. One of our neighbors has a lot of bird feeders which is great for the birds but they love cleaning themselves in our birdbath so it tends to get dirty quick.

Now that we have covered general beehive maintenance or bee colony maintenance, we can move into harvesting that sweet honey bee gold! In our next section, we will discuss harvesting honey. Please click the arrow below to proceed.