Beekeepers Monthly To-do List

by Robert Jones


January 1st is the beginning point for the Beekeeping calendar in Deep East Texas for Angelina County and all the surrounding Counties. This is the time that is critical to feed your bees. Some time on a warm day late in December on into the first week of January you should inspect the colony strength and resources.

Pollen patties, along with sugar syrup, can be added at the time of this inspection to push the queen for early brood production. (Note: Do not offer the pollen patty without syrup). Do not go down into the hive looking for a queen or evidence of Brood which will not be there. Rolling a queen at this point will lose the hive. Notice when you open the colony how many of the top bars have bees that come up on them and then count them. This indicates your hive strength.

Feed the bees the pollen patty resource according to the hive strength. Feed a whole patty for 8 to 10 frames of bees and ½ patty for 5 to 6 frames of bees. Two major reasons we feed in the early part of the year is to keep colonies that have wintered to this point from dying out due to a lack of resources and to support the colony expansion due to pollen which appears early in our area around the third week of January. Further south of Angelina county may see this happen in the second week of January.

The beginning of this natural pollen resource means that the hive will re-establish the brood nest since the queen will begin laying eggs for the first time in several months. (Pollen patties offered after the natural pollen has started will not be taken up as quickly and this resource can become a haven for the hive beetles.) With the hive expanding and resources dwindling due to the honey being used for heating and brood expansion, January and February become the easiest months to lose hives because winter cold snaps bring us to below freezing, sometimes for a week at a time. If this happens and the resources (mainly HONEY orSyrup) are not available, the hive will be lost and you will find them with their heads down in the comb with the nest in a ball shape but overcome and gone.

Remember to keep that feeder full, especially this time of year, checking and filling only on warm days for inside colony feeders. Also, package bees are normally ordered from December to January 1st with delivery normally after April 1st.


February is normally another mixed cold winter month. In Deep East Texas below freezing cold days or weeks can be followed by a day or week of warming. The idea is still to keep that feeder full for each colony. Failing to do so could lose the hive. The earliest honey producing flows will come this month in the first to third week from the May-haws in the rivers and streams of Deep East Texas along with fruit trees (peaches, apples, blueberries). Even though this early resource is there do not stop feeding. Some of the most extreme and devastating deep cold freezes happen in this month while the hive is trying to expand.

Two things you may notice during this month are colony loss from long freezing cold periods and dead bee larva dumped out front of the hive porch. This should be the hardest month for survival for the colony. At the end of the month hives should be inspected for the presence of drones. This is the time for deciding when to set up cell building colonies. Without the presence of plenty of drones there is no need to make a queen building colony. This is the key factor one would look for to set the builders and do the grafting.

Traditionally in Deep East Texas builders are set up the last week of February into the First week of March. If you medicate your colonies, the end of this month on a warm day would be the best time to do so.


March normally sees a warming trend along with the blooming of many wildflowers and plants across Deep East Texas.

Expect early dewberry bloom, sweet clover, hairy vetch, dutch/red clovers with the ending of the month seeing hawthorn, Yopon holly, black locust, and other early-flowering bushes and trees.

This is the month for grafting, cell building, splits, early swarms, and the first hive supers added at the end of the month. Keeping bees is really a type of farming. Each and every year you will see winter losses. This month is the time to regain those losses by splitting your hives. There are actually two main reasons to split; Hive loss replacement and Swarm control. This can be done by the purchase of queen cells or live queens, or if you have the understanding of the cell builder, queen bee calendar, and know-how to graft you can do your own.

You can also do this by natural splits made from making a hive queenless and the bees making emergency queen cells or looking for hives that have swarm cells and using those cells also for making splits. The main idea is to propagate new queens and hives to the level you intend to keep. Swarm cells can be friends or enemies according to how you intend to manage your colonies.

When the first honey flow starts it is natural that the bee colonies that are strong want to propagate and split. This, added to hive crowding, along with early weeks of stormy spring weather, is a catalyst for swarm cell building. Since we cannot control the weather we move to what we can control. With colony crowding if you can keep a colony always building and never crowded you have some hopes of keeping your old queen out of the trees along with half the hive. Putting supers on ahead of the colony growth is one key factor to stopping over-crowding.

The other is to keep the nest mixed up by checkerboarding (putting in foundation frames) just in and around the nest area. This manipulation keeps the bees rebuilding the nest and away from building queen cells. The last control method is to replace the old queen with a new one. New queens will not normally swarm in their first year of service.

The main goal for this month is maintaining or expanding your bee Apiary. The rule that we should use for feeding is to feed up to the time of supering a colony with honey supers. New starts should always be fed to support hive expansion with more brood.


April sees the honey flow getting heavier with the continuance of the wildflowers along with the yopon holly that flows to mid-April and with the privet hedge starting about the time the Yopon stops and flowing to May 1st. This early flow is the first excess honey that can be captured in Deep East Texas. The timing of extracting the honey should be about May 10th. Be sure the frames are well capped before extraction.

Supering and queen evaluation take precedence over possible extraction this month.

  • Rule Number One: If you want honey don’t be behind on your supers. Supering after the fact of the nectar flow is just a miss until next year.
  • Rule Number Two: After splits you must evaluate the queen situation in each hive. Whether or not you are using queen cells or live mated queens you must evaluate them about two weeks after their introduction to the hive. Live queens can be rejected and killed at times. Queen cells are always a maybe. You can only know after they return, if they do, if they have been mated correctly. It takes 12 to 20 drones to create a well-mated queen bee. At the first two week mark you will be noting if she has returned and if she is laying eggs (note late queens coming back in the third week will likely be bad). The next time you will note is at the one month mark.

If you are using full box splits with a lot of bees you should want to see a large laid out area at 30 days with minimum drone cells. The larger the laid out area, 6 to 8 frames, the higher the queen quality. If this is what you find, super this colony immediately. This queen will make you honey. However, If the brood area is extremely small and there are no eggs, spotty brood, just drone brood, or the brood just doesn’t exist kill the bad queen bee and replace her. She is a bad queen and will not improve (Note: A queen will only lay out an area as big as there are nurse bees to cover it). If it is late into the season you may also stack this super on a good queen for an extra boost on colony expansion and more honey.

Smaller 2 or 3 frame nuc starts should be evaluated based on their bee resource levels. These small starts should have extremely small entrances and, if possible, be kept in a different apiary yard a couple of miles from your main one. (NOTE: If there is a dearth of nectar small colonies normally are robbed out).

Package Bees ordered back in January will arrive with new queens and will need installation into hives. Swarm control will need to continue during the nectar flow time with extra supers. Keep those bees working. Continue to feed small hives or hives that you are still working to grow for brood production.


May is the first time you will be able to possibly extract excess honey. On colonies that have the extra bee resources you will see excess only if the weather allows for it. Too much rain means that no extra resource will be there. If there is extreme drought the resources will not be there. Rainfall, along with warm days are essential to good nectar flows. The warmer the days the better the nectar flow will be and the cooler the days the slower the nectar flow will be. Either too much or too little rain and the nectar production will be low.

Always prepare for the flow by knowing the traditional days it starts and stops. Keep a watch on these seasonal plants to be sure of the actual timing of the nectar production. This will keep you ahead on supers.

The Mid to the last week of May starts the last big nectar flow of the Tallow which is the largest nectar flow in Deep East Texas. This flow will end in the third week of June. It flows a very long time and produces the majority of what we extract.

This is a good time to have new foundation pulled and extra honey captured. The plan is still not to get behind on adding your supers. Swarms will continue during this heavy nectar time. Continue to feed small growing hives for brood production.


June begins the final nectar run of the tallow trees and signals the end of our spring honey flow here in Deep East Texas.

The first week you should set the final supers on your hives. Check the colonies with the highest amount of activity. These are normally the hives that will produce the majority of the honey you will extract. Don’t get behind on supering them.

The second and third week you should make sure you have everything together for robbing and extraction of your honey. If you need fume for your fume board, get it on order. Clean your extractor and tanks, lines, and uncapping knives even if you have them all covered. A good sanitary rinse and dry will remove any dust. Re-cover it with a cloth until the time of use to keep it sanitary. Clean the extraction room and sanitize it as well. Clean your hauling equipment as well keep everything as sanitary as possible.

Finally, we are at the end of June looking for ripe and ready, minimum 80% capped honey. Note on wet years it may take until Mid to the third week of July to get everything capped and ripe enough for extraction. On hot dry years it normally can be done by the last Saturday of June or around July 4th week. If you are worried about the moisture content of your honey use a refractometer to be certain.

Remember, if you are going to do any cut comb or chunk comb in honey it must be frozen to be certain that any moth or beetle eggs have been killed. Don’t pull honey and leave it uncapped for more than two days. The beetles will quickly take over any unattended comb and ruin your honey.

Follow the health and safety rules for bottling honey to keep your product as clean as possible even if you cannot stamp it with a Texas license. Be sure your product label follows the code and correct weight and note if it has not been bottled in a certified honey extraction uncapping and bottling place.

A final note on feeding young beginning hives. In order to keep down robbing of your hives from other bees, be sure you don’t expose any honey or sugar syrup to those hives or any other hive. Once the nectar flow ends all the field bees will be searching for a nectar source and they don’t care if it’s the small neighbor hive. The nectar will not start back until about the 3rd week of September with the fall weed nectar flow.


July is normally the main robbing and extraction month.

Make certain you handle all of your supers as sanitarily as possible, keeping them covered bottom and top to keep trash and bees out of the unattended comb. You should be moving the boxes to the honey extraction unit as soon as possible. The extracted supers should be cross-stacked for rob-out under a shed for a couple of days and either stacked back on for the fall flow or stored away on para moth crystals. These will need to be refreshed monthly until the end of the hot weather and every three months over the fall and winter months.

Store your excess honey that you cannot immediately bottle in food grade plastic five-gallon storage pails or food grade approved 55-gallon barrels. You will need warming bands on either of these if you wait more than three months to bottle it. All natural honey, with the exception of those high in sucrose sugar, will go to sugar crystal state. This is easily reversed with gentle warming. Remember the Texas clean rules still apply later when you bottle again with proper labeling. Melt your wax when you are finished and process everything completely to keep your area clean.

Last notes for the bees: put out a good water source if there is not one available and be careful with feeding new colonies.

Near the end of July you can set up for late summer splits and queens, but you will have to use whole hive supers because of the bee pests. There are plenty of bees to do this with, but the bee pests, mainly hive beetles, are thick as well. If you try this do not use any split hives that prove to be prone to, or has a lot of, beetles already in the hives. You will see a disaster of hive beetles if you do.


August is a very HOT and dry time in Deep East Texas. Any final extraction duties should be finished during this month.

This time of year has very little to offer as far as nectar or pollen during this month. This month should be dedicated to hive-robbing control and fall splits if you want more colonies. These colony splits will be done with whole hive supers and by the use of live queens or reared cells. The swarm impulse will not be there to help aid in queen production so it will take a large colony of young hive bees. The goal is to produce and mate a queen with a large number of bees with plenty of resources, adding a super on top for the fall weed honey production, and feeding, as well, to be certain of enough winter resources. There are plenty of bees at the end of a honey flow and by splitting late with the extra resources you can take advantage of this.

It is hot work this time of year so work late in the evenings for splits and grafts. This also gives time for any honey that is exposed to be taken care of by the bees over the night time.

If using cells, you will need to check the quality of your queens’ mating by looking at their egg-laying patterns just like you did in the springtime. If live queens are used you will need to check them as well. Any queen that proves un-mated or bad should be killed and the super stacked on something that needs it.


September is another normally hot month but proves to be a transition time from no nectar flow to the fall weed flow at about the third week of the month in Deep East Texas.

The last queens and splits should be finalized and completed before the third week. Anything that is bad or not quite right should be remedied by removal of the queen. You only want good thriving queens going into this final phase before winter time.

Complete all evaluations of every hive and be satisfied with your evaluations. The last look will come at the end of the weed honey flow and you may need to stack together some more supers at that time.

Get an extra super on everything before the third week to capture 40 to 60lbs of honey for wintering for every hive. The resources and the number of bees going into the winter will decide if they make it or not through the coming winter. Every hive, at a minimum, will need a medium honey super, or at best, an extra deep super to have enough resources. This should be your goal for every hive.


October will give us the major goldenrod flow along with a variety of other weeds this time of year. The flow can be exceptional, but again, if too much rain is falling the nectar can be washed out and you will need to supplement with sugar syrup. The fall flow normally lasts until the first fall frost but can be slowed by early cold snaps as well.

This is the time, at the end of this flow, to decide what needs help and what can stand on its own. Several things must be considered at this time. The quantity of honey must be at a minimum of 40lbs, or a medium honey super full above a deep brood box. Additionally, the quantity, or number, of bees must be observed. Hives with nests smaller in size than a basketball will not produce enough bees at this point to over-winter. On the coldest winter days, the over-winter process sees the outer layer of bees die off due to cold. If there are not enough bees at this point, the hive will be lost.

It is best to stack two weak colonies, picking the best laying queen of the two, for winter survival. Leaving both as they are will most likely see the die-off of both colonies. Saving the resources this way will allow you to easily spring-split this colony because it survived the winter with the resources that it needed.


November you should have a good holiday time because everything that you needed to do has been done. The next two months will see only some weight-checking and picking up anything that has died out. This is the time to catch up with hive and frame building and keep up with necessary repairs


December, like November, should be a time of rest and relaxation because the time for the new bee season comes January 1st. Remember early in this month to make arrangements for queens and new colonies.

Look at your successes and failures for the past year. Work on repeating the things you were successful at and try to remember the lessons you were taught by the failures you had. You don’t want to repeat those. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

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