4 ways to prepare for spring beekeeping

I have gotten a few emails from wannabe beekeepers this month asking where they can get bees to fill their new hive boxes. The short answer is, nowhere! If you’re in the Northern Hemisphere, bees are not readily available until April, but there’s still plenty you can do in preparation for their arrival.

  1. 1. Research! 

I know I am a broken record on this point, but seriously, use this time to learn as much as you can about bees and beekeeping! You want to be able to hit the ground running with your new bees in the spring. You don’t want to be scrambling to figure out what you are doing. If you like my teaching style, check out my Online Beekeeping class. It’s like having me sit in your living room for 2.5 hours explaining everything you need to know. After you have a grasp on beekeeping, delve into honey bee biology books, too! You should also figure out where you want to buy your bees from. Many apiaries start selling new colonies in January, even though they will not be available for several months. Make sure your reserve yours early.


2. Plant Bee Food! 

Start a pollinator garden, plant some flowering bee trees and try to talk your neighbors into it, too. The more flowers your bees have, the better they will do and the better your chance of a honey yield. Plus, if you grow native plants, you will also be creating valuable habitat for our native bee species.


3. Build Your Equipment!

If your beehive is sitting unassembled in your garage, build it! Then paint it. Make sure you have a stand with legs if ants are a problem in your area. It’s a good idea to have extra supers ready to go. Sometimes bees build out really quickly in the spring. If you don’t have boxes ready to go, you could miss your chance to fill them with honey or even worse, the bees may become too crowded and swarm! Don’t forget about getting your frames ready, too. Whether you install foundation, foundation-less comb guides or wire.


4. Start a Project!

There are plenty of bee related projects you can start during the off season. If you’re handy, you can build your own solar wax melter. You could try your hand at making candles, soap or lip balm with the wax you harvested from previous years. Maybe you’d like to create a fun honey label for your spring harvest. You could even start experimenting with making mead!

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Susan Rudnicki

For any newbees reading, I want to strongly second Hilary’s urging to get thoroughly educated by reading! I have asked my students to read this one which I found just fascinating—on the biology of bees —Jurgen Tautz “The Buzz About Bees: Biology of a Superorganism”

By studying the underlying social structure of these complex insects we can much better tend to their needs and growth through the year. One thing, however, about the sourcing of bees and availability— if you are being mentored by people who take feral (wild) bees in the urban environment, either with swarms or via cutouts (removal of a hive colony from a structure) you may find bees at any time of the year in Southern California. I have hived big swarms in December, and removed a water meter colony with a student just yesterday. If you are buying breeder bees (packages) those are on a more restricted mailing schedule.

Bruce Rodriguez

Great post as usual but there are 2 typos (hot, built) and 1 missing word (be). Hope you don’t mind me pointing it out for ya. Loved your interview on Kiwimana!


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