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Spring Beekeeping Tips from Ontario Tech Transfer Program

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

Spring can be a stressful time for bees and beekeepers alike! Here are some tips and resourced from the Ontario Beekeepers Association TTP to help get your bees through this vulnerable season.

  1. Ensure that your bees have enough food stores to get them through spring. To check your colonies’ food stores without opening the hives and stressing them out, you can use the “heft test.” To learn more about the heft test, and when its necessary to give your colonies emergency feed in the spring, check out our Guide to Feeding Bees:

  1. Overwinter colony mortality – or “deadouts” – is an unfortunate reality of beekeeping. If you do lose colonies over the winter, it’s important to find them ASAP so they aren’t sitting exposed in your beeyard, where they can be a source of pest and disease transmission to healthy colonies.

We advise checking your colonies for life on a sunny day, when the temperature is above 5 degrees C. Check for signs of life including flying bees, bees crawling at the hive entrances and fresh dead bees in front of the hive. If you are not seeing signs of life, then you can crack open the hives and take a peek.

  1. If you do find deadouts, it’s important to deal with them ASAP. The most important step is to try and determine the cause of death. Determining the cause of death can be daunting, so we have created a Checklist of Potential Reasons for Colony Loss, to guide beekeepers through the process. You can print this out with you and bring it to the beeyard.

If you can’t perform the assessment right away, you can seal the hive up using entrance reducers and/or duct tape, so that no healthy bees can get in. But don’t leave it too long – the longer it sits, the harder it can be to determine cause of death.

  1. It is important to check all deadout frames for signs of brood diseases like American foulbrood (AFB) or European foulbrood (EFB), to avoid spreading the disease to other colonies. It is critical that all beekeepers know how to diagnose these diseases. You can read about diagnosing AFB here:

If you find no symptoms of brood disease, the hive equipment can be reused. Scrape any dead bees off the frames, and bottom boards into a garbage bin or burn barrel. Old brood frames, or frames containing large amounts of dysentery should be disposed of. Moldy frames are okay – a strong colony can get them cleaned up. If you do find signs of AFB or EFB, you must notify an OMAFRA apiary inspector, who can talk you through the next steps:

  1. Don’t take your winter wraps off too early! There is no rush to get them off, and they are critical for helping your colonies get through the spring. Leave them on until overnight temperatures are consistently above 0 degrees C for at least a week.

To learn more, check out our Guide to Spring Colony Management:

As always, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to reach out to TTP. We’re here to help!

Instagram: @obattp

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