Yay! Spring is here and the days are simply beautiful. The mornings are a little chilly, but the sun is out and we have had some rain that makes the flowers bloom. It doesn’t get better than this here in central Arizona. Beekeepers are splitting their hives to sell to those of you who are just starting out with great excitement. I know that I’ve had two Beekeeping 101 classes at Blooming Ranch so far and I’ve see that excitement. So let’s take a look at what this month holds for us.
March begins with highs in the 50s and lows in the 40s in central Arizona. The majority of the month will be spent with lows in the 50s and highs in the 70s, creeping into the 80s. This is prime weather for being in a beesuit. It only gets warmer from here. Remember to not open your hives if the temps are below 55° F.
What to do in the Garden
Flowers to Sow or Transplant: African Daisies, Ageratum, Alyssum, Bachelor Buttons, Carnation, Clarkia, Delphinium, Everlastings, Gaillardia, Globe Amaranth, Gloriosa Daisy, Godetia, Gypsophilia, Helichrisum, Hollyhocks, Larkspur, Lupines, Nasturtium, Nicotiana, Pansy, Petunia, Phlox, Pinks, Poppy, Salpiglossis, Shasta Daisy, Snapdragon, Sunflowers, Sweet Peas, Sweet Sultan, Sweet William, Verbena, Viola
Sow Herb and Vegetable Seeds: Arugula, Basil, Beets, Bush Beans, Cantaloupe, Carrots, Corn, Cucumbers, Eggplant, Fennel, Kale, Lettuce, Onions, Peppers, Potatoes, Radishes, Sage, Spinach, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Tomatillo, Turnips, Watermelon
Transplants: Artichoke, Eggplant, Kale, Lettuce, Marjoram, Melons, Mint, Multiplier Onions, Oregano, Peppers, Rosemary, Sage, Spinach, Summer Squash, Swiss Chard, Thyme, Tomatoes
Continue to pull weeds like Stinknet before they bloom so you don’t have so many next year. Doing so after a rain is so satisfying and easy. Bees don’t like this flower, so don’t feel bad pulling it.
What to do in the Hive
This month colonies are going to be growing rapidly because of the warmer weather and an abundance of flowers from trees, wildflowers and gardens.
This is prime time to watch for swarming behavior.
To prevent swarming in advance, make sure there is enough room the hive for the queen to lay eggs and for nectar storage. That means empty cells and empty drawn comb. You can add a box of drawn comb or split your colony to give more room. Other techniques that slow or prevent swarming are checkerboarding, caging the queen or creating artificial swarms.
Bees give signs that they are preparing to swarm. They will begin producing lots of drones a month or more before swarming. You will also begin to see the bees building many queen cups along the bottom or sides of the frames. If you see a queen cup with an egg in it, then you know the bees will be ready to swarm in a week or less. If this is the case, find your queen, cage her, and remove all the queen cells. This is a good time to split the colony or give aways some brood frames with bees. You want to keep that queen. Any queen that mates in Arizona will likely cause your hive to be Africanized.
To learn more about managing swarms, an excellent book is Swarm Essentials, by Stephen Repasky and Lawrence John Connor. Honeybee Biology and Beekeeping, by Dewey M. Caron is another I recommend.
If you didn’t already treat for mites when the brood levels were low, then make sure you do it now. Oxalic acid using the vaporizer method once per week for 3 weeks or Swedish sponge (or dishcloth) method are good options. That is what I will be using. Please keep up to date on the most current Varroa treatment methods. Temperature plays a big role in your choices. Randy Oliver, from Scientific Beekeeping is at the forefront of experimental mite control. This month I will be using this method HERE. Make sure to get actual Swedish dishcloths made in Europe and not China. Also be sure to not get the dish towels on a roll. This is an exact science and the cloths absorption rate is modified with other towels.
I lost way too many strong colonies last year to not be on top of Varroa this year. I’ll also be using Formic acid according to this technique from Scientific Beekeeping HERE.
Depending on the size of your hive, you will want to put a honey super on your hive with or without a queen excluder below it. If your bees have 7 of their 10 frames or 5 of their 8 frames (in an 8-frame setup) filled with brood and food, then its definitely the time. Add supers or harvest and replace them quickly if the bees are filling them with honey. This year I am going to try using the single deep method I read about HERE from Fat Daddy’s Apiary.
I’m here for you.
As always, if you have any questions about beekeeping in Arizona, or for resources you need to find here, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
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