A beekeeper’s winter “to do” list
No, you cannot sit back and relax. Now is the time to get ready for next bee season! And bee-lieve me, there is plenty to do. Here are some suggestions based on my own plans.
- Clean, repair, and paint honey supers. Although you’ve got lots of equipment in the field, your honey supers are probably in storage. Get them ready for the honey flow now so you can super your hives at a moment’s notice.
- Assemble new brood frames. Because disease organisms and pesticides build up in old and blackened brood comb, I completely replace my brood frames every four years. I do this by replacing the worse 25% every spring. Now is the time to get those frames ready.
- Order queens and packages. If you will need any queens or packages next spring, it’s best to order them before Christmas. The later you order, the later your delivery may be. Yes, it’s difficult to estimate and I’ve erred in both directions, sometimes buying too many queens or sometimes not enough. Give it your best shot.
- Order beekeeping supplies. Try to do your shopping now. If you wait until you absolutely need a piece of equipment, it may be back-ordered. Some stuff is hard to find in the spring.
- Read a book. I like to catch up on new books during those long winter nights. My personal selection for this year: Honeybee Democracy by Thomas Seeley. (Although I can’t believe Princeton University Press allowed that spelling of honey bee!)
- Peruse the garden catalogs for bee plants. Whether you own a section or a flower pot, you can plant something for the bees. Depending on what you choose, you can attract native bees, honey bees, or other pollinators. One of my favorites, High Country Gardens, has lots of water-wise pollinator-friendly perennials.
- Build a solitary bee nest. You can build a mason bee condo, a bumble bee box, or a reed bundle. They are inexpensive, take little room, and provide for many summertime surprises and photo ops.
- Design personal labels for next year’s honey harvest. Think positive: you will have barrels of stickiness to dispense.
- Brush up on PhotoShop. You’ll need it for all those portraits of camera-shy bees.