As always, All beekeeping is local. Here’s my beekeeping calendar for the South Carolina Midlands for the month of December:
Hive checks this month are tied directly to outside temperatures. Do not disturb the brood chamber or break propolis seals around boxes unless absolutely necessary. On a warm day in the 60’s you may remove the inner cover briefly and view down between the frames. Try to not be too disruptive in order to allow them to get their house (brood box) in order for winter. Use of a stethoscope or an ear against the side of the hive will often tell you all is well inside.
1) Clean, paint, repair equipment, assemble new equipment, build more hive stands, make some of those time saver gadgets, and replace any bad equipment.
2) If you use a telescoping cover, lift the cover and note for wetness or mold indicating excess moisture within the hive. As needed, ventilate hives with a 1/8th inch crack at the front of the inner cover to prevent condensation and mold. Also, tilting the entire hive forward slightly with a shim placed under the hive, in the back, will allow condensation to run forward and down the front of the inside of the hive preventing it from dripping on the bees’ cluster.
3) December is an excellent month for selling honey.
5) Order packages, nucleus hives, or queens for delivery mid to late March or as early as possible for your area.
6) Review and evaluate how well your bee colonies performed this year and if necessary make decisions on how to improve your operation particularly regarding disease management and pest control such as Varroa mites, small hive beetles, and wax moths. Document your findings in your beekeeping journal.
7) Plan now for changes you’re going to impliment next season.
8) Call, visit, or write farmers or landowners where you’d like to place hives for out yards next spring.
9) Renew you membership in your local Beekeepers Association. Attend local meetings. Register for state Spring beekeeper’s conference.
10) Scout trees for placement and prepare swarms traps. Construct a swarm capture bucket.
11) Build a nucleus hive now to keep in your car or truck for community swarm captures next spring.
12) Order or ask Santa for a copy of that beekeeping book you’ve been wanting to read. Read some every day.
14) If, for some reason you have not yet treated for Varroa, this time of year presents the Midlands with as close to a broodless period as we get. A cheap, economical, quick and easy, method of Varroa treatment during this broodless period is the oxalic acid dribble. Read about how it’s performed here: Once a Year Opportunity to Save on Varroa Treatment
15) Celebrate Lorenzo Langstroth’s birthday on December 25.
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.