The Beekeeping Calendar – For Natural Beekeeping.

Emmett Royal Honey will regularly update this yearly calendar with new information as it becomes available. Due to the complexity of ‘natural beekeeping,’ which for the sake of this article will be – ‘successful beekeeping without the use of miticides and chemical treatments.’

Overall we support the IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach. For a detailed look at what IPM is, you can check out the article from Clemson University in South Carolina:

Emmett Royal Honey takes a more significant stance on hive management than in IPM. Our approach takes much more time to implement and focuses entirely on a zero chemical approach (including both synthetic and ‘organic’ chemical treatments). We do this mainly since it greatly benefits breeding – but also from a logistics standpoint. Still, we feel it leads to a stronger hive with nutrition, genetics, and hive ecology playing prominent roles in hive health and stability.

This may not be the correct hive management for you due to the amount of time required and the potential of significant hive losses at the start. We suggest the IPM approach for most beekeepers. We will post more on our management approach for those that are interested in learning about it.

It’s essential to remember that not every month is the same as outlined in this article, but it is a general guideline. Also, this article does not outline the modifications we use on our hives to increase hive ecology (which we feel is a vital component). Instead, this article outlines the procedure we use approximately every month in hive management.

There are two different inspection types we highlight here – a ‘full inspection’ is where you are opening up the whole hive, including the brood chamber, seeing how the colony is doing – this is most vital on your first spring inspection. ‘light inspection’ is a look at the entrance and opening up the inner cover and looking into the colony (without getting into the brood chamber)

The below yearly beekeeping calendar will be best for the SW Idaho area but could be used for other sites.


No internal inspections should be done.

During this time, queen bees will increase their laying for preparation for spring.

If you prepared your hives well in the fall – no checks are needed.

This would be the time to continue building hives/or start buying them for the spring or just relaxing =).


This month in our area is about the same as January.

If daytime temperatures get above 60F – with no wind – you could do a brief inspection outlined for March – but overall, this will be like a January month.

No internal inspections should be done.

During this time, queen bees will increase their laying for preparation for spring.

If you prepared your hives well in the fall – no checks are needed.

This would be the time to continue building hives for the spring or getting things ready for March inspections.


When daytime temperatures reach the high 50’s – honey bee will take their cleansing flights. This would be the month that your first inspections could be done. We pick the arbitrary number of 60F+. If it’s above 60F during the day, with no wind, that’s the day our first brief inspections will happen.

Try to keep your inspection under 5 minutes – you would not be doing brood inspections at this time. You are mainly looking to see. Are the bees alive? How much food do they have? Remember, if you start to feed your honey bees – you cannot stop until the spring nectar flow. Only feed if they have approx 35 pounds of honey or less left(again, an arbitrary number to go by). If you have to start feeding your honey bees, use dry sugar. Liquid could be a liability to them with the low temperatures. You can transition to 1:1 sugar/water in April (or when day temperatures regularly get into the 60F’s (and nights are hitting above 40F). ONLY feed them if needed. The food they gather naturally is better than what we can give them. If you see foragers returning with pollen loads – most likely, they do not need to be fed.

For a look at how to do inspections, see this video from the University of Guelph Honey Bee Research Centre:


This would be the first month of your full inspections.

Pick a day that day temperatures are above 65F, with no wind or rain. Since your inspection may last for more than 5 minutes, you need to be careful about chilling the brood. Keep the review under 10 minutes where possible.

April has a few essential items to address. Is the queen laying eggs? Do they seem to be expanding? How is their food supply? Any signs of disease or hive issues? These are the main questions you want to ask. You want to prep the hives for spring expansion – this also includes cleaning the hive. It’s essential to clean your bottom board, have a spare handy, and during your inspections, you can just quickly swap out for the new bottom board, and then clean the old one at a later time.

It is recommended NOT to clean the brood box. A good rule of thumb with bees, if they put it there – do not remove it. So don’t clean bur comb or propolis – bees use these items. Only remove it if it is preventing you from inspecting – otherwise, leave it there. Bees do not need you to clean up after them – they have lived for a long time without your help…just keep that in mind =). In most cases, cleaning the hive in early April means in case of dead-outs or if there is bees – then all you need to replace is the bottom board (or clean it out).

For an in-depth article on how to clean out dead outs, click here: (article to come)

During your brood inspections, look for any older frames you moved to the side in the fall. Replace these with newer frames.

If you have hives that are dead-outs – it’s essential to scrutinize them. Why did they die? Did they have enough food? These are critical learning points for you when inspecting dead-outs. So take your time and do your research. In all cases of dead-outs, you want to clean all hive equipment (frames, boxes, tops, and bottoms).

For natural beekeeping, mite checks are not required (unless you keep the data for information purposes – which we do). If you are curious about what the mite load is, we recommend an alcohol wash – For a good video on how to do this from the University of Guelph Honey Bee Research Centre click here:

The only ‘mite’ treatment we recommend for natural beekeeping is using a grease patty. For a recipe, the University Of Florida Honey Bee Lab does a good job explaining it – for that, click here:



During your inspections this month, you want to start looking at hives that you will be splitting.

Is your brood box about 80% full? You will know if you just look down between the frames. Are most of the cracks filled with bees? If you answered yes, it’s time to split them. For a good video on splitting a beehive, click here:

Other than splitting, you want to have regular light inspections – about once every two weeks – or at the very least once a month. Depending on how much you want to learn – by ‘ regular inspections’ – that could be a full inspection or a brief inspection. Doing a full inspection (if you are not doing treatments) – can be during splits or every month or two if the honey bees look healthy and active during your brief inspections – no need to tear their home apart in order to do a full inspection. During the spring, once every two weeks for a brief inspection is a better option, so you manage any swarming.


June is very similar to May. The main concern is swarming – since this will decrease your honey production – so managing swarming will assist in keeping your honey production high. Again, as discussed in May – you can spit the hive or add another super on top of the hive. If you are at (as an example) three medium supers all full (or 80% full of honey reserves) on top of your two brood boxes or three medium broods – I would not add another super – instead, I would split them.


Usually, this is the earliest time to extract your honey (sometimes June – sometimes August – depending on your area and weather). Full capped honey is what you are after. If most of the frame is capped – you are good to go. If you’re selling your honey – you may want to get a refractometer to make sure the moisture content is below 18.6% (above these levels, fermentation occurs). A good rule of thumb is about 90% – if 90% or more of the frame is capped you are good to extract.


August is similar to July. If they don’t have enough honey for themselves – don’t take any of their honey. This would be the last month to harvest. You only want to take the reserves – never take what they need to survive winter (and just think you can supplement sugar syrup instead – if they don’t have extra honey, then you don’t get any this year). If, at this point, your honey bees have no reserves for you and are low themselves – this would be an excellent time to start feeding them 2:1 (sugar to water by weight) – feed them until they stop taking it.

For the most part, any supers still on the hives by the end of this month should be taken off.


How is the food supply for the bees? Do they have at least two deep or three mediums full of honey/pollen/brood? If they are light – you may want to feed them. But, again, this is the last case scenario – you want the bees to get their own honey – IF you harvest from them this year – then you should have left them enough honey to get through winter – if you did NOT harvest from them and they still are not stocked up – its time to feed them 2:1 (sugar to water by weight) – feed them until they stop taking it.

This is also the time to make sure they are ready for their winter preparations – if you are following our management style – then you know we don’t do ANY modifications to the hives for winter. If we suspect a cold winter – we will push the hives together and make sure winter winds are blocked (if you have your bees in a fenced yard – you are good to go). We may even add dry sugar to the top of the inner cover as an emergency feed and to absorb excess moisture. We don’t believe in wrapping them or adding straw or anything else to the hive or reducing the entrance- the bees will take care of themselves – if they want the entrance smaller, they will make it smaller. You check out our article on winter preparations here:

This would be an excellent month to do a final full inspection on the hive to make sure everything is good to go.


You should no longer be feeding them sugar syrup – if you still have sugar syrup going into October, go ahead and remove it within the first week of the month. You should have no weak hives at this point if you feed them continuously during August and September. For the most part, this is the last month to do anything with the honey bees. So ending the month, all colonies should be in their winter formation – no syrup on – dry sugar on the inner cover (if you want) and say goodbye for the winter.


Pat yourself of the back for a good year’s work. Feel free to read up on some beekeeping books – relax. For the most part, under no circumstances will you open the hive. Now it’s up to the bees to adapt to what comes their way.

Here are some other relevant blog posts: