Usually, the packages of bees arrive in the Inland Northwest around mid-April and that’s when we organize our Bee Day, where all beekeepers, experienced and new, come together to get their bees. At BeeManiacs we also have package installation demonstrations and other activities and vendors. We also host the Beekeeping Equipment Swap Meet on that day. You can see a report from a previous event following this link.
Some years we have good weather on Bee Day and other years we get hail, rain, and snow (yes, all on the same day). Some years the packages arrive while the weather is still too cold and the colony depends on beekeepers for too long. The beekeeper has to provide syrup to keep them alive. Also, some bees struggle to adapt to the cold weather and establish a colony (they come from California where the season already started). With lower temperatures, it’s harder for bees to make beeswax and this causes them to build comb in new equipment at a much slower rate.
The weather of the specific day can certainly be unpredictable, but climate is a different thing. By looking at previous year values, we can make climate predictions by taking averages and year to year values. After looking at some charts we noticed that if we delay our Bee Day a couple of weeks, the average high and low temperatures are much more honey bee friendly. The chances for a package to successfully establish a colony are higher at those improved temperatures. You will still have to feed the bees as soon as they are installed in the hive, but they will be able to start finding real food sooner, being installed more in sync with the season.
Over the last years we heard reports about more packages swarming during the first season. Several years ago packages would not swarm during the first season and new beekeepers usually didn’t need to manage the colony to prevent swarming. In recent years more and more packages from all sources, tend to swarm on the first season. We believe that delaying package installation by two weeks would help reduce swarming behavior. More colonies will be focused on making comb, bees, and foraging for supplies than swarming.
Taking all this information into consideration and since we can set up our own date for picking up packages in California, we decided to move our Bee Day from mid-April to the end of April. The two weeks delay would improve the survival chances of the colony and won’t make a difference by the end of the season.
BeeManiacs Bee Day will be on April 28. We will have more information about vendors and other events planned for that day. If you place an order of bee packages in BeeManiacs, you will be participating in this year’s Bee Day event.