In his 2016 February in the Northwest post, Rich had lots of timely information (you can read his post by clicking Calendar on top bar and scrolling down to February in Northwest apiary): He listed some of the local pollen sources (Snow Crocus, Crocus, Paperwhites, Camellia, Hazelnut (about done) and Heath with Oregon Grape and Daffodils coming – none unfortunately “good” sources) and indicated weather had provided “a few days of flight.”
Rich indicated several appropriate managements for WVBA beekeepers for February. He suggests hefting the back of hive if too cold and, if light on food stores, to feed fondant or dry sugar, recommending ½ dry granulated and ½ drivert sugar. Feed the sugar directly on top bars with wax paper or below top moisture trap.
Rich and larger-scale beekeepers are often doing a mite treatment with a contact miticide in February (with little brood, oxalic acid is the best option), and feeding a protein patty, the first of many supplied to colonies. If you encounter any dead outs move the frames to a dry place so boxes (and combs) dry out. Finally he recommended to check the apiary following any wind storms, and order packages and nucs NOW (before they are all gone). He suggested now is a good time to prepare making good records. All GREAT recommendations.
Rich also recommended that February is a good time to prepare your bee records. You can dedicate a calendar to such records (if you subscribe to Bee Culture they include a free calendar with great bee photos). In addition to marking notes of colony inspections (FOR EXAMPLE: col 1 3 frame cluster; good stores, Col 2 weaker, fed dry fondant sugar, etc), make notes of flowering plants – one method is to pick a particular Oregon grape plant or hazelnut orchard you pass on way to work for example and mark on calendar when you observe the first blooms – in subsequent years watch the same plant/orchard. It will amaze you how seasons will vary.
During February there is still time to purchase and assemble equipment. You can make some equipment if you have the tools and time but it is easier for most of us to buy. There is an old adage “Buy Once.” This means spending once for quality rather than seeking the cheapest buys which often need to be soon replaced when they wear out/break down. Cheap may seem attractive but if you buy and assemble well one time, producing a good study home for your bees, it will pay off in the long run. You can take the short cuts down the road but start out with quality.
In my beekeeper survey activity (new one coming this April) I ask about the type of hive you are maintaining. Twenty five (25%) have more than one single type. Natural beekeeping sometimes implies using a hive more “natural” than the Langstroth type hive. Our problem is that alternative hives, such as top bar or Warré hives, cannot be converted into the moveable frame Langstroth hive. With the movable frame hive we do need to take some basic sanitary measures. It is often recommended to transfer frames from one box to the other or recycle frames from dead outs. What is sometimes unstated in this advice is that this should ONLY be done if the hives are disease-free. You need to look.
Any hive looking done this month has to be rapid. The queens of most colonies are laying eggs and bee bread and honey stores will be depleted more rapidly than in December of January. Air temperature should be above 40 degrees to lift tops and hive heft, 55° or higher is better for removing and examining frames. Deadouts should be removed from the apiary and the wooden boxes and combs allowed to dry out. Culling of the darkest/nastiest combs is a good idea before reuse. Some beekeepers like to “wash” such frames with acetic acid (vinegar is diluted acetic acid) or sodium hypochlorite (Chlorox® –although some Chlorox® products have other bleaching agents). Unfortunately there is no clear evidence that this is of much help. Always thoroughly air such treated frames before giving them to the bees.
Cleaning the bottom board (if you use one) is good management and you might consider even exchanging for a dry bottom – wooden bottom boards may hold a pint or more of water. If you use an upper entrance, most of the flight activity is likely to be here than from the bottom. Beekeepers using moisture chambers at the hive top should check to see they are still wicking the excess moisture away. February is a wet month for our bee colonies.
Dewey M. Caron