Spring is the most productive season for both bees and beekeeper. Those of us who implemented best practices during the previous summer and fall will realize the greatest return on their time and investment in the next few months. Strong hives coming out of the winter months in Western North Carolina will never make more bees and honey than they do during the spring. April through June are the months when nature provides the greatest amount of nutritional provisions for the hive and all the bees know this is the time for peak growth.
What bees do in the Spring
The warmer, longer spring days encourage the queen's to ramp up egg laying. A robust queen bee can lay up to 1500 eggs a day. More bees means more honey and pollen for the hive, which are necessary for colony strength. Keeping up with this huge increase in bee population is essential for beekeepers in the spring. Some beekeepers try to stay ahead of this dramatic expansion by adding honey supers before the nectar flow begins. The additional space provided by these extra supers will relieve overcrowding, which can prevent the hive from swarming. Hives that swarm lose a significant amount honey production. There are two reasons for this: First, half of the bees leave with the queen when they swarm, and most of those bees are foraging bees. Secondly, a new queen requires 16 days to mature from egg to royal adult. After killing her rivals, she needs another week or two to get her freak on with several drones and begin laying eggs. There is a noticeable dearth of hive bees during this period and an actual decline in the hive population as older bees die. All this leads to a lack of incoming nectar. There may be enough stored honey in the hive for its survival, but no surplus for the beekeeper to harvest and sell.
Spring Apiary Activities for Killer Bees Honey
Similar to last year, we are experiencing a late spring. Once again, cold and rainy days prevented flowers from blooming and foraging bees from exiting their hives. Many of our colonies have come out of the cold winter months strong, but are running out of resources to sustain the hive. which is why starvation is a common cause of hive colony death in the spring. Individual bees never hoard, but share with one another to the very end. A robust hive of thousands of honeybees can starve out within a few hours. In anticipation of this type of scenario, we saved several deeps and supers of honey from last year. In fact, we were placing supers on most hives at the end of March before any buds or green shoots began to appear in the forest. During the sporadic warm days that have occurred, we quickly enter the hives and replace empty frames with frames filled with honey. Unfortunately, out of the four swarm boxes filled with bees we left up in the trees from last year, one did perished from starvation.
Spring will eventually arrive in Appalachia. Healthy, established hives with strong queens will explode in population. These hives will produce honey at a furious rate. Weather permitting, some hives will experience an increase in nectar weight of up to five to seven pounds a day. It’s up to the beekeeper to anticipate this and the further needs of his livestock.
Fate or luck is never a reason for success with honeybees. Luck is an intersection of knowledge, experience and the hive preparations that began last summer. The next few months will be good for our bees and for Killer Bees Honey.
The attached photo depicts our interns Madison & Amara during a spring inspection.