All beekeeping is local. These chores are for the Midlands of South Carolina or a similar climate where the bees are flying at least a few hours most days of the year. March is full of action in the bee yard from growing populations in our hives to first swarms. Weather in the Midlands can still hold surprises – last year we had two unexpected freezes which disrupted swarming but also caused some early splits to fail.
1) Towards the end of February, and the first of March, if not already done, place swarm traps with pheromone attractant or lemongrass oil attractant to catch swarms. Traps ideally should be 10 – 12 feet above ground but can be lower for convenience and safety.
2) On growing, overwintered hives, place first super at beginning of this month. Stop syrup feedings if they are making white wax indicating a flow is in progress. Plan on checks every 7 to 10 days to head off swarm preparations.
3) Inspect for laying queen, disease, etc. If warm consider spring splits early in month.
4) Swap (rotate) brood boxes if not previously done. Disruption delays swarming.
5) Checkerboarding frames above brood nest with drawn comb alternating empty with honey also provides disruption as well as food availability in case of a period of unexpected colder weather.
6) Open up brood chamber with drawn comb.
7) Look for poor queen performance and mark for queen replacement for when queens become available.
8) Notice Flowering Tulip Magnolia, Bradford Pears, Pine pollen, Yellow jasmine, Oak pollen, Azaleas starting. Note lots of pollen coming in as brood expands.
- Rotate brood boxes if two exist or add 2nd if only one exists. If you add a brood box, place it above existing brood box. Use drawn comb if available.
- Check the brood comb and replace frames that have excessive drone cell, are old, or have other problems.
- Check for queen cells. Repeat every seven to ten days for about four times. If you find an capped cell, verify hive is queen-right and consider making increase by moving queen to new hive to simulate swarm.
- Inspect queen/brood status, if weak, mark colony for re-queening when new queens are available.
- If running 2 brood boxes, rotate boxes to maintain space for queen to lay as well as for swarm prevention technique.
- Last week of month, place minimum 2 empty supers of drawn comb or 1 super if using frames of foundation on strong colonies (assuming no major beetle problems).
- Medium strength colonies should receive 1 empty super if using drawn comb to allow them room to both guard and grow.
- Replace 2-3 frames of old drawn comb in each hive body with frames of new foundation.
- Remember to remove all medications from colony according to product label directions.
Email your Association’s Secretary asking what you can do to help, or volunteer to lend a hand in your organization. Many hands make light work. If you’d like to see your organization grow as well as offer and maintain your current level of member services your help is needed.
The above are general guidelines for the average bee colony in the Midlands of South Carolina. We all have hives that may be outperforming the average. We also have colonies that underperform the average. Use your judgement in making changes suggested here. Beekeeping is an art as well as a science. Only you know the many, many particulars associated with your physical hives as well as the general health and population of your colonies.