Taking care of your bees throughout the year (This page isn't finished but its a start)
January, February and March New Beginnings
Build hives | Budget around $300.00 per hive Find a local seller and purchase your hive material and frames. New hives need to be put together and painted by the beekeeper but sometimes you can find a used hive. If you purchase a used hive, make sure you clean it thoroughly and remove mold/bacteria by passing a torch over the supers. This is the time to find a mentor or beekeeping class if you are just getting started.
Purchase supplies | Budget around $100.00 Make sure you have all the tools needed to make beekeeping easier. Items such as Hive tools, smokers, beekeeping bonnets and jackets and leather gloves are needed for checking on the hive during the year. Honey-B-Healthy, sugar-water feeders, and pollen substitute are helpful in getting the bees healthy and happy before plants start to fully bloom.
Order Bees | Budget around $120.00 per hive Ordering bees is now done in January with delivery coming in April. Bees come in packages or nucs. If you are a beginning beekeeper, consider purchasing a nuc (which is short for nucleus hive) to make the installment of bees easier. Packages of bees come in 2 or 3 pounds and take more care as you need to install a queen.
Clean out dead hives | Budget around $20.00 During the winter, many hives will have died out. In preparation for new bees, you will need to clean out the hives of the old bees. Do an inspection to see if you can find out why the bees died before installing a package. If you have frames with capped honey, place them in the freezer to protect them from mold.
Order Bees | Budget around $110.00 per hive Make sure your bees are ordered. Consider purchasing a package of bees. If you've not learned how to install a package, ask your local beekeeping group for advice or find a mentor.
April and May Installing bees
Hive Placement | Budget $40.00 When selecting a place to put your hive, consider sun, wind and pests. In the winter, the sun will be on the south side of your property so make sure the hive has access to some of this light. Also, make sure that the entrance is fairly open and not obstructed by tall weeds. Hives will need to be elevated so purchase cinder blocks or landscaping bricks to help keep them off the ground. Wood framing can also be done.
Preparing the yard | Budget around $20.00 Make sure that bees have access to water. This is to ensure that your neighbors pool doesn't become the source of water for your colony. Also consider leaving dandelions to grow as they are a good source of pollen in the early spring. Other spring blooming plants or trees may be planted at this time. Consider other plants that bloom later in the season and find places for those in your yard. In Michigan, golden rod is the latest blooming plant that bees can use.
Installing the bees | Budget around $20.00 Time to get out all the tools and install your bees. Make sure the feeder is full of sugar water and in place. Follow instructions for the pollen substitute and the Honey-B-Healthy. Depending on if you have an established nucleus hive or a package, your method of installation will vary.
First Checks | Budget around $20.00 Once the hive has been established, open the hive and look for larva. You should be seeing the small white eggs in open cells. Have a vet come and check your hive to see if you need antibiotics.
June and July Keeping watch
Jars and other items | Budget around $45.00 per four supers Honey flow happens usually in late July to Mid-August. Use this time to purchase your containers for the honey, wax or (in the case of splits) bees. If you plan on selling your products, make sure you know the cottage industry laws and/or Dept of Agriculture rules for labeling your items.
Splitting a hive | Budget around $300.00 for each split Splitting a hive happens when the workers start making new queens and the population of bees explodes. To prevent swarming, split the hive by removing the old queen and placing her into either a nuc box or new hive. Once again, find a class that teaches how to do a split or find a mentor.
August and September The products of your labor
Checking for mites | Budget around $15.00 for the kit and postage Since the late 80s, varroa mites have become a problem in the state of Michigan. Varroa mite kits can be purchased to determine if mites are a problem in your hive. Treatment for the mites requires some education so please look to your mentor for help.
Watch for swarms | Budget around $10.00 If a hive's supers are full, the bee colony may start making new queens which will lead to swarming. Make sure you have removed the honey from full supers and replace with empty frames. A busy bee will not swarm. If your hive does swarm, you may be able to save the bees. In some cases, if you can get the swarm back into the hive box (usually this requires capturing the queen and then removing the queen after the bees are back in the hive) this strengthens the hive and gives you a better chance of overwintering your bees.
October, November and December Winter is coming (If you found this page...I'm still working on it)
Feeding plan | Budget around $15.00 per hive During the winter months, the bees will need to have food in order to make it through the cold period. You will need to determine if you want to feed them sugar or let them hold on to their storage of honey. Candy boards or fondant can be used as a sugar source but have little nutritional value.
Winterizing your hives | Budget around $20.00 per hive There are many methods of protecting your hives from the frigid season. Bees will need to be kept warm and dry so put some thought into which methods you would like to use to achieve this. Foam boards, black tar paper and, in some cases, blankets, have been used to protect the bees from cold snaps. Wood chips placed under the lid of the hive are often used to absorb some of the moisture created by the bees. Lastly, consider reducing the entrance. Hives with honey are an attraction for mice. These methods can be used along with others. Please find a local beekeeping group or mentor to figure out what is needed in your area.