Keeping Bees in January and February
Out of sight, out of mind is not a good thing for the Tillamook beekeeper. Here’s your to do list:
1. Reread the November / December in the Apiary. Most of what was written there applies to January and February, too.
2. Hopefully you treated your bees for varroa mites in December. If the white board indicates you still have a problem, vaporize them again with oxalic acid (OA), once every 5 to 7 days until very few mites drop. The club owns two InstantVap vaporizers which makes it easy. It’s free if you have a premium membership. Contact Deb Klumpf 503-801-0959 to reserve one. Directions are on the beekeepers forum and come with the vaporizer. You must have your own respirator.
3. OSU recommends putting apivar strips on your overwintered hives in mid-February. Apivar only works when you don’t have a serious problem. Directions are in the Honey Bee Health Coalitions Tools for Varroa Management. There is also a wonderful video on using Apivar in February on the beekeepers forum within the OSU video topic.
4. It’s during this time that a hive can have too much moisture and too little food. One thing is for sure in Tillamook, it’s raining most days. That means the bees won’t be going out on “cleansing” flights. When the weather does clear don’t be surprised if there are more dead bees in front of the hive. Bees may die in the hive and block the entrance. Use your tweezers to pull them out.
5. If you find moisture in your hive be sure to add insulation below and above your outer cover. See suggestions for ventilation.
6. Keep hefting your hive using one hand. It should be hard to lift. If not, it’s critical you feed. You may need to add a spacer if you didn’t put one on when you winterized. Some options include granulated sugar, a sugar block from TCCA Farm Store, or fondant. You can put sugar on a newspaper on top of the frames or put it on the inner cover. Best is to make a healthy mixture which includes a nutrient supplement like megabee, available at the Farm store.
7. If you know that one of your hives has died, take any opportunity to go through that hive. Use Dewey Caron’s Dead Colony Forensics to help figure out what might have happened. If you have a small cluster of live bees, send them off to OSU for free analysis. See https://honeybeelab.oregonstate.edu/diagnostics
8. Also for dead hives…. Any frames with capped honey you can save for your spring colonies. Frames with nectar will ferment and be useless to humans and bees. Move those frames into another living colony or loan them to a bee buddy or just put them out on a warm day for open feeding of your bees. If you bought a nuc last year, chances are good the wax on the five frames that came with the nuc are very black. They are considered unhealthy from years of miticides and potential viruses. They are absolutely perfect for a bait hive. They will attract swarms. Just don’t put them back in your main hive. Otherwise you can remove the drawn wax by putting them outside on a warm sunny day. The wax will soften and easily roll off your hive tool or putty knife.
9. It’s a good time for planning. Are your hives where you want them? Are they too close to one another? Would it help to have a tarp under the hive to keep the grass from growing up? Are you going to use a different varroa treatment plan this year? Spec it out. What frustrated you about beekeeping? Do some online research on the subject.
10. Be sure to come to the monthly TBA meeting.