Here is update from Rich’s 2015 post: January, our winter, is time for planning and our bees time to cluster for warmth. We have already seen an occasional winter flight day. While we anxiously await February, March and April overwintering successes (our bees toughest winter stretch), it is a good time to be planning projects for 2018.
One item you might be planning is how you are going to manage swarming, or what you might want to change in how you combat varroa mites. However you might also be planning how many colonies you want to keep and, relative to that, planning where you are going to keep your colonies. One element of your planning might well be how many colonies will you keep at any one site?
With only a couple of hives, your planning is pretty simple –keep them in your garden. Perhaps you have been thinking of starting some new colonies this year? If packages or nucs, NOW is the time to place your order. Brushy (in Wilsonvile) and GloryBee in Eugene have posted their 2018 distribution dates for packages and nucs. WVBA nuc suppliers can be sought on the WVBAHive dashboard.
Foremost in you planning the backyard apiary is consideration of your neighbors and the bees need for water. The bees can just as soon go to your neighbors bird bath or pool or dogs dish to get water as to your own. If you have colonies in your yard already, how many more might your garden accommodate? Or any site for that matter.
There is no simple formula, no concrete answer to question to add or not add? . Generally there is enough forage (pollen and nectar) for several colonies at one site in most of the WVBA area. Occasionally there have been mid-spring (April/May) starvation “issues” from Silverton northward to the Columbia River, in the foothills east of I 5, but part of that is weather related (bees are living on the edge, with little surplus stores and lots of brood to feed so a cold spell with no or very limited forage for 3-4 days in a row, even though there are flowers in bloom, may push strong colonies ‘over the edge’).
Bee needs vary seasonally. Spring bees need pollen, the closer the better. For you to harvest honey, the type and quantity of flowers within a 3-mile radius is important. And for a chance to successfully overwinter colonies, fall pollen and nectar sources are keys.
If you are doing well with screening your backyard hives and forcing the bees to go up and out of their apiary and your neighbors have not expressed concern, then more hives should not be a problem, provided you have adequate space available in your backyard. This is not ‘easy spesey’ of course, since most beekeepers do not “know” how their neighbors feel about bee hives. Screening hives from view is always wise and it helps insure bees fly above everyones heads. “Smelly’ water with vegetation is the bees preference and put it where the bees will find it.
Rich includesthis advice: January is a great time to assemble beekeeping equipment. If you are new and haven’t had bees before, it would be best to wait until after you have attended a bee school or at least read up on the subject of honey bees. When it comes to bee equipment, there is some things that you must have, some things that would be nice to have, and some things you just don’t need. There is no use wasting good money on things you don’t need. Especially when even the local livestock feed stores are selling bee equipment.
January is good time to look at the new bee catalogues. Also, Rich advised you take a look at the seed catalogs and plan some plantings for the bees. Think about planting some blooming trees that the bees can benefit from.
Finally, If neighbors are an “issue”, then I suggest you look elsewhere for addition of more colonies. January is good time to move colonies during colder weather. If needing to move a short distance within your yard, pick up and move on cool day when bees are inside and restrict entrance at new apiary site. Older, forage aged bees will be dying and new foragers will orient to their apiary site before flying off. .
Keeping bees “somewhere else” is fraught with problems. You need permission, even if another family member’s property. You have a new set of neighbors to deal with. You have to get there – and back (think about how you might transport your lit smoker – or do you have funds to have a smoker for each site) You can store a smoker in covered, dry, empty hive box, along with fuel, matches, hive tool on top of one of the colonies. Out-apiaries, as they are called, might be more susceptible to hive theft or vandalism. It isn’t only the bees in CA that get stolen or vandalized.
Now is time for planning. Spring will get here, sooner or later.
Dewey M. Caron