Ian Campbell, Newcastle & District BKA and BBKA Social Media Manager

Not a lot has changed since January except that the queen is likely to be laying again now. The brood area can be small although this can vary with the harshness of the winter and your location.

Observe entrances

On a warmer day watch entrances for activity; any early pollen going in is a good sign. Hopefully, the first flowers of the year are blooming and will be attracting bees.

Mouseguards at hive entrances can become blocked with dead bees; check this each time you visit and clear them as necessary.

Leave alone

Yes, still!

Weather watch

The brightness created by snow can fool bees and encourage them to fly out. A board angled at 45° to shade the entrance can limit this problem

Review and plan 

Review your records. Which colonies did well and which could do with some ‘anger management’?

Have a simple game plan in place for the coming season.

This could include deciding on the number of colonies or areas to improve on. Is your focus honey or perhaps raising queens and producing nucs? How did swarm control go last year? The KISS principle - ‘Keep it simple, stupid’ - is worth applying.


Hefting or some similar way of gauging weight can help estimate stores. If light, fondant can be added.

February can be a month for high losses.

If stimulating a colony before taking it to oilseed rape, a pollen substitute or supplement can be considered.

Stock-check and clean

Consider what new equipment is needed. Clean, repair, build and prepare! To save time later you can part-build new frames without inserting the foundation.

Use appropriate PPE when cleaning:

Scrape and scorch wooden boxes with a gas torch.

A washing soda:water (~5:1) solution is good for general cleaning.

Dilute household bleach with water (~1:6), is ideal for cleaning poly kit.

Methylated spirits is great at removing propolis on Porter bee escapes.

Acetic acid (80%) can protect frames against chalkbrood, wax moth and Nosema. Use 120ml per box on pads with great care; it damages concrete, metal (coat this with Vaseline) and you!

Learning and training

Read a few good bee books, magazines, blogs or watch videos. They can be a great source of inspiration - so why not try something different this year! Local beginners’ courses will be starting soon. Courses for improvers and other levels are also well worth considering. Look out for National, regional and local events which will either be happening soon or open for bookings.

Asian hornet activity

Foundress queens may emerge from hibernation mid-month if temperatures exceed 12oC for several days. Selective queen trapping is mainly effective near sites of previous nests.

Time for a holiday?

Take the opportunity if you can to go away somewhere warm now! Tempted?

BBKA exams

Module closing date: 9th February; exams on 23rd March. Application dates for some practical assessments close on 28th February. Check the BBKA website for more information.

Photos: Crocus, David Wootton; Bee with pollen and bee on hyacinth, Christine Balshaw; all others Ian Campbell