Best time to start a new beehive

by Linda
(Ohio)

When is the best time to start a new hive? We live in NE Ohio and the winters can be brutal. Will this affect the bees (a new hive)?

We also have a lot of raccoons in the area. Do they try and raid beehives?


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Hi Linda,

In most cases, the best time of the year to start a new hive is early in the spring.

This gives the colony plenty of time to build up its population for the big honey flows, which in most locales are predominately in spring and early summer. This allows them to store enough honey to see them through the winter.

Starting a hive in early spring also meshes well with the bees' natural instinct to build their population as fast as possible early in the season.

Later in the summer queens are usually laying eggs at a much lower rate than in the spring.

Even now (early August), I suspect that bees in your area are raising brood at a much slower pace than they were in the spring. (And I know that's the case here in Texas.)

It certainly isn't impossible to start a hive mid to late summer. But in general, the later a hive is started, the less its chances of surviving its first winter. (My opinion, anyway).

And if you will be buying your bees, packages and nucs are most available in the spring and very early summer.

Raccoons: I've never really heard of them being a significant predator of bees. I would think they'd be happy to chow down on bee brood given the opportunity, but I haven't heard of them raiding a hive.

We have lots of raccoons where I live, and I've never experienced a problem with them. (With my bees, anyway; I've experienced lots of other problems with them!)

If there are beekeepers that have had problems with raccoons, and they read this, hopefully they'll add a comment about their experiences.

Skunks are another matter. They can deplete the population of a hive. But they just do it one bee at a time. A skunk will sometimes scratch at the hive entrance at night, and when a bee comes out to investigate the sound, the skunk gobbles it down.

That said, we've got lots of skunks here - or at least it seems that way - and I've never had a serious problem with skunk predation. But I've known of other beekeepers having a real problem with them.

Hope this helps, and best of luck to you when you do start your hive.

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