Read our "Bee Handling Tips" for excellent advice.

What are the bees doing in January and February in our geography?


November - December - January - February

Some colonies will have drastically reduced any brood rearing. Depending on weather and race, others may continue with more than a frame or 2 of brood while others may be drastically reduced to near nothing. Generally, towards the end of December, bee colonies rely on fall (September/October) nectar sources for over-wintering. The aging process of worker bees is suspended by a few months, allowing them to live longer over the fall and winter months.

Wintering success depends on many factors:

  • Adequate Honey Stores 
  • Adequate Pollen Stores
  • Clustering Behavior
  • Overall Colony Health
  • Population Size

While it may be sub-freezing outside, workers in the colony cluster are generating heat, keeping the hive anywhere from the low 70'sF to low 90'sF when brood-rearing commences, dependent on lengthening day-light hours. 

  • In general, disturb your bee colony as little as possible this month.
  • Keep entrances clear of dead bees. It's natural for older bees to die under stress of cold.
  • Heft your colony to judge it's weight--too little and the colony would need to be feed to survive.
  • Mouse guards in the form of entrance reducers should have been put on in the fall. Make sure they're in place.
  • Check the colony periodically on warm days to keep the entrance clear, and make sure the bees are flying.
  • Bees will fly on sunny days, when the temperature exceeds the low 50's, and wind gusts are minimal.

It's a time to get excited for the new season. The first blooms of the new year in our area are the Silver Maples. In 2015, the first recorded bloom was on January 26 in Merriam, Kansas. In 2016, it was on Friday, January 29th. Of course, it was an El Ninÿo year. It was observed on December 15th, 2016, that bees were still bring in pollen. Amazing out there!

The Northeastern Kansas Beekeepers' Assn provides a monthly newsletter that is informational, educational, and fun! Click on the links at the side to view "The Bee Buzzer" newsletter. 
This is how we announce our meetings, topics, locations, and timely advice.

Celebrate the honey season by sending chocolate to the editor:  Not really!—he doesn’t need it. However, he does need your pictures and stories of success to share with readers, along with pictures and stories of what went terribly wrong to help us all better keep bees. Email them to our editor, Matthew Merz, and thanks in advance.   

What should you look for and be doing....

     From the January NEKBA Bee Buzzer 
tips for january
  •  Begin your recordkeeping for the new year; calendars are already 1⁄2 price so get one that you can write on. Vow to keep track of when different plants bloom in your area, if you fed, how your bees did, if you replaced any equipment etc.
  •   Check a beekeeping book out of the library— bring back any books that you have checked out
  •   Build or repair any equipment
  •   Renew your membership, send in your dues—you can do it online now by going to
  •   Order your queens and package bees as soon as possible
  •   Check the lids on your hives; make sure they have a heavy rock or a cement block on top.  We have had some fierce winds this winter.
  •   Plan next year’s garden to include some nectar producing plants that have not been treated with neonicitinoids.
  •   As we go into the New Year think of all the friends you have made at the beekeepers meetings.
  •   Plan to attend at the Kansas Honey Producers spring meeting —excellent program for both beginners and more experienced beekeepers—details at
  •   Bring at least one new beekeeper or prospective beekeeper to a meeting and get them to come to our new beekeeper classes! ​

Northeastern Kansas Beekeepers Association
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Tips and hints


August - September - October

Honey bee colonies rely on fall nectar sources for over-wintering. The last flowers die with onset of 1st heavy frost and freeze.  Generally, any summer honey to be harvested should be pulled by the Labor Day holiday. This does couple of things in preparing the colony in your hive for winter. It packs the brood boxes with bees, and concentrates the protection of the colony with bee,  making the bees place food stores of pollen and nectar in, around, and above the brood nest area. Keep in mind, nectar is the bees real food. Nectar is converted into honey for their long-term storage - winter food!

September is the normal time to help your colony prepare for the long-haul of winter.  Make sure your bees have the best chance by knowing and checking your mite load and food stores.​ Mother Nature plays no favorites. Fall can be a difficult time to correct any problems that may have been discovered too late. 

October / November    What you should be doing from now until the end of the year

​As part of your seasonal management, it's time to get ready for what fall brings to the bees and beekeeper(s). October and November are times to make sure your colony is ready for the cold winter months.  Yes, we know it has been un-seasonable warm these last few weeks. Don't be fooled. Mother Nature during winter in 20F in dark January will not be kind to your bee colony.

  • Honey supers should be removed. Supers full of honey left on your colony are at risk of being lost, and is not necessarily needed for colony survival. The colony population is under seasonal contraction. Already, it could be down at least 25% to 40% from the peak in June/July. 
  • Mite treatments should already have been completed by this time.
  • Check all hives to make sure lids are secure from wind and rain. Place a heavy weight on top. 
  • Cut grass and weeds that might be blocking the hive entrance.  Place entrance reducers.
  • Feed colonies that do not have sufficient stores for winter, which is generally 60 lbs of honey. Each deep frame holds 6 lbs of honey. You should have at least 10 of these with honey. Use the spreadsheet calculator on this page (above), if you need to make up sugar syrup to feed. 
  • Be sure to know your bee population. If you colony population is low, there may be nothing you can do. If your population is medium to high, plan to check them on a monthly basis for stores. 
  • Renew your membership to your associations. Go to the meetings. Find out what others do. 
  • Attend your state beekeepers' meeting in October, and join or renew. 
  • Subscribe to at least 1 monthly magazine and renew subscription(s). 
  • Plan for what you'd like to do next season: more honey, cut comb, pollen harvesting, etc. 

​Are you leaving honey supers on for fall or winter or spring?

why, that's just too much for the bees!  You'll be encouraging next year's swarms in April, besides taking the risk of losing the honey should the colony not make it through winter. Your honey bee colony produces, under decent conditions, way more honey than they can possibly use. The population can decrease another 25% by January/February from their peak in June/July.  Help your honey bees help themselves!  Avoid the risk. Take your honey when you should and when you're supposed to. Otherwise, it could be a detriment.           

Harvest the Spring Honey Crop in early July

Why?  It's all about risk. As part of our Best Practices tips, we encourage beekeepers in our area to harvest the spring honey crop as soon as possible in early July.  Conditions are generally perfect  - warm and dry.  It's simple. There is too much risk in leaving the spring honey on the colony all summer.  Hive populations are at their peak in June/July.  By September, they can be as much as  25% lower, if you wait that long.  Beekeepers would be taking a great risk, and could lose it all - both honey & bees.  There are just too many bad things that can happen to the honey bee colony due to mites and small hive beetles!  If they happen to go queen-less or collapse, the beekeeper risks losing ALL of the honey.  So, take your spring honey in July. Don't delay. Plan ahead.

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Harvest the Summer Honey Crop in early September 

Why?  The summer honey harvest will be smaller than the spring, and look and taste different, too!  Take advantage of letting your bees make a summer honey crop. You'll be amazed.  Removing summer honey by early September (Labor Day), and removing supers, encourages the bees to use the remaining season to store food stores in the upper brood box, assuming that you are over-wintering as a double-deep in a Langstroth style hive. (If you have a populous colony, you could still leave one (1) super until later in the fall -but harvest the honey!)  Therefore, you most likely won't have to feed for winter!  Each deep frame holds 6 lbs of honey & pollen. After frost, it's all over for any type of incoming natural food resources such as nectar (carbohydrate) and pollen (protein) for the year.  Too, depending on your treatment product for mites, this could be the best time to get the mite population under control for your bee colony. Most miticide products cannot be used with honey supers on the hive. So, manage accordingly to keep your colonies alive. Keeping bees alive means that we must all be 'active' in our management style. We cannot be passive about our endeavor to keep our bee colony alive and thriving.