What to expect in the bee yard in May – by a Master Beekeeper

Edited and updated for April 2020 --- Based on comments from Tony Hogg’s Breakfast with the Beekeeper – April 28, 2018

Blooming now: Privet, some tupelo, high bush gallberry, blackberry, black gum, tulip poplar, dandelion, sparkleberry.

Tip of the Month: Never stack weak bees on weak bees. A strong hive stacked on a weak may work, depending on the reason the hive is weak.

Why would your hive be weak?

If it swarmed and the new queen does not get mated, she will lay drones, not workers. Then, if that is the only problem but you cannot re-queen it, stack it. Once the hive is strong, split it at a later date.

This time of year there may not be a lot of drones in the area. For good genetics, you want your queen to mate with other bees. Drone production is directly related to pollen availability. Depending on your location (rural vs urban), by the end of April, there may not be a lot of pollen available. As a result drone production may fall off. If you are adding a queen-right nuc to a queenless hive, mix sugar water and a little vanilla to spray when adding the new frames. The scent disguises the queen pheromones and makes acceptance easier.

Figure out what your goal is: if a hive is queenless at this point in the flow you will not raise significant honey this season because you have lost population. Consider eliminating the hive by spreading the resources (brood, pollen, beebread, honey frames) among your other hives if the hive that’s queenless isn’t strong. You can also take a frame with nurse bees and brood and shake the bees into another hive. Nurse bees are always accepted.

A crowded hive is a happy hive. If the nuc is not building out well in the 10-frame hive, or if a 10-frame hive is weak, put those girls into a nuc again and let them get strong.

Watch the trees in your area. Can you find a “drone hangout?” Remember the location and put a swarm trap (nuc box) in the tree. Swarms can weigh up to 10 pounds.

Swarming - even in the summer