The BeeCast / New Jersey Local Honeybee Forecast integrates a composite of long range meteorological forecasts in an effort to assist New Jersey beekeepers in the management of their beehive colonies in a manner that helps reduce risk and maximize quality time in their beeyards. Weather factors including air temperature, solar radiation intensity, wind velocity, relative humidity, and barometric pressure often have an effect on honeybee defensive behavior in colonies. (Southwick, 1987) Our BeeCast / New Jersey Local Honeybee Forecast assists New Jersey beekeepers in making honeybee colony management decisions related to swarm control, feeding, colony increases and local honey production.
Its now officially swarm season and our bees know it! Our hives are loaded with swarm cells and we have been busy making splits like crazy to try to stay ahead of them. Words to the wise – “Never Trust a Bee”! When you think they will do what you want them to do – they will humble you.
We have started grafting our GSA queens and thus far, things look good! If we can get some good flight weather for mating and our queens return home safely, we will have a nice batch of laying queens in early June. We have unsettled conditions for the next week and temperatures leading into the month of May look about average. Watch those bright sunny warm days when they appear as those seem to be the days that encourage hives with new queens to move out! You MUST be on top of your bees during these next several weeks!
We have officially entered Spring and there are signs that our hives are slowly, but surely growing in size. This past weekend, we conducted hive inspections and observed that our queens are starting to produce more brood and, on a few hives, even some drone brood.
Biology and math. If these first drones are set to hatch in 24 days (April 17th) and the drones hang in the hives for another 2-3weeks before maturing enough to take mating flights (drones start flying at age 8.28±1.74 days), it stands to reason that we should start to see some swarming activity right around the first and second week of May. This will be the time that we commence with our grafting and queen breeding efforts. Why? Because it will be the time that our newly produced queens will have the best opportunity to be mated. It might also be a good time to start preparing those swarm traps and getting them in the field.
The long range weather forecast looks favorable in terms of temperatures. It appears we should have above normal temperatures and near normal precipitation probabilities for the next 30days according to NOAA.
Keep a good eye on your hives. Make certain they still have sufficient food stores while we move into the maple bloom and perhaps begin to offer 1:1 syrup if you believe your hives are light. We have been providing dry pollen substitute, but we have also noticed that since the maples, henbit and skunk cabbage have started to bloom, the bees prefer them. The pollen index will continue to elevate as we move into April. It won’t be long before we start seeing swarm cells so keep good tabs on your hives and keep your bees in the hive and out of the trees!
There were scattered flight days during the month of February, allowing honeybees to get out and conduct some cleansing flights. We had only a few glimmers of winter with several small storms dropping light to moderate accumulations of snow. Access to apiaries due to snow cover has not been problematic, but with warmer temperatures leading into Spring, caution should be taken with muddy roads and fields. Don't get stuck. We are now entering a very pivotal time for our honeybees as honey stores can rapidly become depleted as the colony expands. Some beekeepers have been providing supplemental pollen on warm flight days as our queens are now starting to expand their brood nests. The long range forecast for early March indicates continued below normal temperatures across much of the nation and higher than normal precipitation in the South which does not bode well for Southern queen breeders. Take advantage of this time to plan out your apiaries, clean, organize and perhaps even consider placement of your first varroa mite treatment of the year on each of your surviving colonies.