Red Maple – Harbinger of Spring
Sooner or later, if one stays in beekeeping, it becomes apparent that success is directly related to being proactive in one’s management of the bees rather than reactive. After all, this is exactly what the bees are doing. The bees never wait until the last minute to put up stores for winter. Nor do the bees wait until the day before the spring nectar flow to gather a full house of foraging bees to harvest nature’s bounty. Rather, the bees work months ahead to make sure they have everything needed to succeed. You too should follow their lead in preparing now for spring beekeeping if you want to have the best chance of success.
For short term goals I would direct you to the beekeeper’s calendar for your area which will guide you as to the tasks at hand for the immediate future. This article will discuss longer term goals.
Let’s consider some likely beekeeping for colonies here in the Midlands which you can work on during the coming months:
– Establish your goals for 2021
– Inventory your current assets
– Assess your needs (equipment mostly but may include outyards, personnel,etc.
– What knowledge will you need to be successful?
– Lay out your time management plan.
What can you do now to ensure your spring will be the best spring ever? Let’s start with considering your goals. Often, I have heard questions asked at monthly meetings that get the response, “Well, it depends.” Answering the question usually goes into what the beekeeper’s goals are. Are they making bees or honey? Do they want to grow their apiary or just manage a few hives for pollination? Are they hoping to produce enough honey to sell or do they want to make queens or nucleus hives for sale? What our management practices are depends directly on our goals. If you are planning a trip to California for almond pollination, you’ll start feeding pollen substitute in early January, but if you do that with colonies you are leaving here in the Midlands you may end up with your bees in trees before it’s warm enough to manage splits. So, before we begin, take some time to decide now what your beekeeping goals will be for 2021 – everything else hinges on this decision.
This time of year, with the reduction in time spent managing your colonies, is ideal to inventory your assets. Get out and inspect your supers, scrape frames, and make sure you have enough equipment to handle your spring goals. Write down your current inventory on paper or start a planning notebook. Later, as you begin to see the plan come into place, you be able to compare your list of current assets against your list of needed assets to accomplish your goal.
After you inventory your assets, write down your shopping list of equipment for ordering later. In addition to woodenware you may need lumber for hive stands, or other less obvious equipment like a new tire for your trailer. Making a list now will help you stay within budget. What’s important now is to develop the plan and determine what is needed. Wait until the plan firms up before ordering equipment as plans may change based on current assets, or other unexpected events which can come up during this planning stage.
Also included in the planning stage is thoroughly thinking through your plan. If it involves establishing out yards, have you located and secured permission for land use? If not then you may want to use any of several methods including the ‘stop and knock’ method, Google maps, or an ad in the local or state Market Bulletin.
Education may also be needed in the planning stage. If your goal is making increase you may want to order books or attend a local course on making splits and nucleus hives. Queen rearing may become something that you’ll have to consider. And if you are not ready for queen rearing, then making plans for purchasing queens to place in those splits if you hope to have them ready in time for spring sales. Purchasing queens would then become an item on your budget which may cause some changes to the original plans. Be flexible.
The idea here is considering all the implications of your plan. Hammer out the timeline now so that you can adjust early in the process. Once spring comes, you’ll be busy managing your bees, so time spent planning during these cold days is time well spent.
Once you’ve completed the assessment and planning portion of your spring preparations it’s time for implementation. Time to finally start the project. By now you have purchased the needed equipment, read up on aspects of your goals, and laid out a timeline for your tasks which includes consideration of the bees’ and nature’s timeline. Let’s get started!
Over winter, it’s time for equipment maintenance and to build boxes, frames, and other woodenware if needed. Also, you may need to visit potential out yards to determine suitability. If you are planning on renting colonies for pollination a pollination contract with dates and other particulars needs to be written and established with the farmer. Will you need more bees or queens? If so, make sure you get your orders in on time to reserve your bees. Also, make it a point to attend as many educational bee meetings as possible. You never known when someone will offer up that nugget of knowledge you’ve needed to hear that will save you a mistake in the future. The final part of implementation will be the actual harvest of the product, the sales of the honey or bees, or the pollination of the crops. Or perhaps the establishment of an out yard which will serve you in the future. As you work through implementation enjoy the process. It’s great fun to see a project come together step by step.
In closing, now is the time to make those plans for success next spring. Start daydreaming now, develop a viable plan, and implement your plan to ensure success next year no matter what your goals may be.