INDIANAPOLIS — Beginner beekeepers may get overwhelmed by the to-do list of starting a new hive.

Ashley Adair, Purdue Extension educator in Montgomery County, shared a timeline for beekeepers to make the process easier.

“We’re going to start with the month of May, when you might expect to receive your first bee colony, whether you get a package or nuclear colony,” she explained.

Take a look in a year in the life of a beekeeper:


  • Get your package or nuclear colony and transfer to your new hive.
  • Add a honey super on top of your brood box.
  • Observe activity.
  • Inspect your hive after bees settle in.


  • Inspect your hive weekly.
  • Make sure you can find the queen.
  • Join a local beekeeper’s club.
  • Attend meetings.
  • Learn how to collect swarms.


  • Inspect your hive weekly.
  • Add more honey supers, if needed. This is unlikely in the first year.
  • Observe bee activity on hot days.
  • Bees may cool off by resting on the outside of the hive.


  • Activity will begin to slow down a bit.
  • Continue inspecting.
  • Watch out for robbers. Wasps and other bees may try to gain entry to your hive to steal honey. An entrance reducer can help.


  • Harvest your honey, if there is any extra.
  • Make sure to leave 60 pounds of honey for the colony for overwintering.
  • If your hive is small, you may need less, but it’s always best to err on the side of caution.


  • Activity is very slow.
  • Begin winterizing.
  • Install mouse guard on the entrance, if there’s not already one in place.
  • Finish winter feedings of bee syrup.
  • Set up a windbreak, if needed.


  • Almost no bee activity.
  • Clean, repair and store equipment.
  • Attend beekeeping meetings.


  • No bee activity
  • Do not open the hive — bees are conserving heat and maintaining the center of the hive at 92 degrees.
  • Prepare equipment and bee orders.


  • Bees may be active on warmer days.
  • They will fly out to excrete waste, called a “cleansing flight.”
  • Hive will consume about 25 pounds of honey.
  • Make sure to keep snow brushed off of entrance.
  • This is the time to emergency feed on a warm day.


  • Bees may take cleansing flights on warm days.
  • Hive will consume about 25 pounds of honey.
  • Make sure to keep snow brushed off of entrance.
  • Make sure your order is in for new bees or equipment by February.
  • Begin prepping equipment, if needed.


  • March is critical for bees — colonies may die in March due to low food reserves.
  • Peek under the cover on a mild day to check on brood health.
  • If you don’t see honey, prepare emergency feedings — fondant or sugar, if cold; syrup, if warm.
  • Continue feeding until they are able to bring in nectar on their own.
  • Prep for a varroa mite treatment, if necessary.


  • Do your first major inspection.
  • Locate the queen.
  • Look for eggs and brood cells.
  • Prepare for new bees. if you ordered any.
  • If your hive is looking well-populated, consider the likelihood of a swarm. Swarms are a bee colony’s way of splitting once it gets too big.

Learn more about beekeeping at

Erica Quinlan can be reached at 800-426-9438, ext. 193, or Follow her on Twitter at: @AgNews_Quinlan.


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