Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Here in the Northeast, we are still buried under several feet of snow, with temperatures below freezing every day. Since we can’t go into the beehives, this is a great time of year to stay indoors and do some planning for spring in the beeyard. For everyone, it is a good idea to take stock of where you are in your beekeeping, and where you want to be in the coming year. Setting goals for the coming year is the first step in being prepared for the upcoming beekeeping season.
One of our top priorities is making sure we have enough hives to produce plenty of honey and beeswax for the coming season. If you are planning on purchasing nucleus hives or packages, this should be done ASAP. With beekeeping becoming more and more popular, supply companies and even local beekeepers often sell out early. In our apiary, we tend to replace any hives we lose over the winter by doing splits from our stronger hives, and adding a purchased queen. We do periodic checks in the beeyard throughout the winter to make sure we will have enough hives to make these “splits” in the spring.
It is also important to make sure you have enough hive equipment for the upcoming year. We usually do an inventory to make sure we have enough hive stands, bottom boards, hive bodies, supers, inner covers, outer covers, frames, and feeders. It is important to make sure you always have enough extra components on hand for one full hive. It is frustrating to come across an easy swarm or need to divide a hive, and not have enough equipment. Once you have purchased the equipment, you can spend some time assembling parts, painting hive components, and assembling frames, so you can hit the ground running in the spring.
It is also a good idea to check and see if you will need any other beekeeping equipment for the upcoming year. Last year my husband and I purchased new bee jackets after repairing ours multiple times with duct tape! Hive tools can get lost, so make sure you can still find yours. We also keep several extra entrance reducers on hand in case of robbing. Is your smoker all cleaned out? Do you have plenty of fuel for the upcoming season? What about a lighter or matches? Now is the time to gather your beekeeping equipment and check to see that it is working order!
This is also a good time to come up with a plan for record keeping. Record keeping is really important – especially as the size of your apiary grows. If you have tried different methods in the past, is there one that has worked well for you? If so, you may want to stick with that. If not, it might be a good idea to try a new method. I will have more on this in an upcoming blog, but what works best for me is a three ring binder with a tab for each hive. Each tab is numbered, corresponding to a marked hive in the beeyard.
If you are looking at trying something new in beekeeping this year, make sure you have that equipment ordered! For example, producing comb honey, queen rearing, and harvesting pollen all require specific equipment. Do some reading on the subject, then order the equipment you will need!
Besides the equipment for the actual beekeeping, are there any other supplies you will need for bee – related activities such as candle making, making creamed honey, mead making, etc? Again, this is a good time to take stock of what you might want to try, and what equipment or supplies you will need to make it happen.
Whatever your goals are in beekeeping, by taking some time to do some planning now, you will have a much smoother start to the beekeeping season. Stay warm and think spring!
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