Don’t look now, but the “main flow” of honey is right around the corner. It’s time now to prepare by turning your attention to hive maintenance.

In January and February, be sure to check your hives periodically to see if supplemental feeding is required. Colonies tend to be a little light this time of year. If a colony needs a boost, place hives close to a pollen or nectar source for nutritional support. Monitoring pests during this month is also key to keeping colonies healthy. Varroa mites can still be an issue, even now that the peak activity period has pasted. Treat hives if varroa levels reach 3%. Use the 3 mites per 100 method to evaluate by using either the alcohol wash or the sugar shake methods. See the links below for more information or ask your local county extension agent about testing procedures.

Figure 1: Taking samples of honey bees from a comb for varroa testing.  Credit: UF/IFAS Honey Bee Lab

So, what if you meet or pass the threshold for varroa infestation? Not to worry, there are viable treatment options such as, Apiguard, Apistan, Apivar, Hopguard, and Mite Away. As always when applying an insecticide, read the label carefully.

Treating colonies for Nosema should be another point of emphasis this time of year. Nosema is a gut disease and can devastate a colony. Evidence suggests that proper nutrition with regular feeding has been shown to reduce Nosema effects. If a treatment is needed, Fumagilin is the preferred option. Colonies can be reevaluated for Nosema spore count a few weeks after treatment.

This is also a good time to be in equipment maintenance mode. Take inventory of your supplies and order what you need for the upcoming season. Repair or paint your woodenware.

By March, colonies should be growing at a steady rate, but keep an eye on swarming activity and control as soon as possible. At this point, it is also the time to add supers and make nucs/splits. After that, it’s time to map out your strategy on hive placement for the season.

Following these hive management measures will help ensure your honey production will yield great results year after year. Call your local County Extension Office for more details.

More information can be found in the following publication links:
Florida Beekeeper Management Calendar
Varroa mite sampling method procedures
Tools for Varroa Management
How to Quantify Nosema Spores Infection Rate in a Honey Bee Colony
Nosema Symptoms in Honey Bee Colonies (video)
The Benefits of Pollen to Honey Bees
Swarm Control for Managed Beehives
Preserving Woodenware in Beekeeping Operations