Another winter is winding down mid to high 70 during the day & 45 to 50 at night queens are getting up to speed laying eggs in preparation for the coming spring. But wait this just in … winter is back 26 overnight, snow possible. Just great right when brood is at its most vulnerable. Count on chilled brood, you will see larva on the ground in front of the hives, not the end of the world but it will set some hives back a few weeks. Some hives that are strong enough won’t even notice, it is all about the preparation that was done last fall & that is why work on the hives in the fall is the most important work you can do. Proper feeding to build up the strong winter bees so they have sufficient numbers to keep the larva warm during cold snaps like these. Keeping your hives in full sun can help too, at least they warm with early sun.
Beekeeping classes are in full swing already & I am getting the students ready as best as I can some times I really wonder if they really know what they are getting into. Goodness knows I am still not sure. My class this year is another small one, a combination of timing & lack of communication & I think that a 8 week commitment of time 1 day a week scares some people off. Despite all the media attention I think people still think they can just put bees in a box… How hard can it bee ? Well as most beekeepers know its pretty hard. There just doesn’t seem to be any end to the malady’s & problems we all face while beekeeping & as we teach the next generation of beekeepers we can only hope that they will be able help all of us find some answers to our problems.
I will be looking for those problem solvers from…
Behind the Hive
Just finished an early morning run around the hives checking to see if the landing boards are clear of snow . I think it was around 10 degrees with a little wind too! Didn’t see any bees flying… imagine that ! For that matter didn’t see any dead ones either. I guess that is a good sign, Picked up the back of a few hives just to gauge weight & they are doing alright, at least for now. I personally would rather see cold weather with no bees flying than warm with bees looking for food that isn’t there yet.
Planning is moving along for our ” Do you want to be a beekeeper” seminar January 21st & the beginning bee class starting in February . It isn’t just me standing up in front of a bunch of people droning ( pun intended ) on about how interesting this hobby is. I have to impart equal amounts of wonder, bewilderment, confusion, & yes terror. Scaring off the easily intimidated & challenging those who think that you just put bees in a box ! We ( beekeeping instructors ) review & refresh the teaching materials every year some times finding things that make us think ” what the heck did we mean ” other times simplifying overly complicated lessons. We want you to succeed, we want you to thrive.
This time of year you should be cleaning & repainting old equipment & assembling the equipment you got for Christmas your hives should have closed the entrances to the smallest opening & reading up on all the latest literature both in print & on the web. Remember to think when you read, you are going to make decisions using this information, is it reliable ? Is it just someones opinion. At one time beekeepers thought there was a ” King bee ” that ruled the hive.
Former students are always welcome to return for a refresher partly because of the new information that we learn & partly because we can count on those former students to ask the question that the new students don’t know to ask. There are always just a few that are ready to take that next step & mentor a new beekeeper & for me that is one of the most satisfying things to see & that is truly the next step for advanced knowledge.
I’ll be looking for more of that knowledge
Behind the hive
October 2016 Hello all It has finally shown up... Fall, cooler weather, shorter days & the worries that winter is coming. As humans most of us have the luxury of being able to go to the supermarket anytime the pantry gets a little low on food. Imagine having to work & process your food all spring & summer because the stores closed & not only that, the roads to the stores became undriveable until spring. Welcome to a bee's life. They work all summer collecting food only to have the beekeeper take it at a time where there isn't much natural food to replace it. Doesn't sound fair does it ? Well in return we come along & " give" them sugar or high fructose corn syrup to make up for the natural foods that they processed. Well they still have to process it just like they do flower nectar, Reducing the moisture level & adding those important enzymes that make up " Honey " natural or otherwise. They also need one more thing that we can't make... Time, & that is why we check our hives for weight often during the late summer ( you do don't you ? ) once you get into the cool weather it gets harder for them to process the syrups that we try to feed them. One thing that we do to try to " help " is change to 2 to 1 syrup , less moisture to remove & more likely to store for later use. We also try to make it more available by putting the syrup inside or in close proximity to the hive. We all have our favorite feeders, I prefer almost any kind of top feeder over any other, It's ease of use, not having to open the hive, make it my favorite go to feeder. I have top feeders that range from 1/2 gallon to a monster that holds almost 4 gallons they each have a purpose but I find that I mostly go to the " Bundt cake" style . It only holds about 1/2 gallon but that is a good thing, less syrup to go bad almost no bees die in this type & you can check & fill them without opening the hive. Down side is you have to check it more often. Boardman feeders or entrance feeders can be easily checked at a distance for syrup... that's it,other wise they aren't worth using. The syrup gets cold , they encourage robbing & sunlight encourages mold & fermentation. I am not a fan but the bee companies sell a bunch of them. Division board feeders can only be used at time of year when you can open the hive as they take the place of one or two frames. you have to open the hive to check syrup level & that's not pleasant when it's cold or rainy. In the past lots of bees drowned this type of feeder but there are types of " ladders" for the bees to cling to that reduce the # of deaths. I have been also known to spray fill empty comb with syrup & while that works well you still have to open the hive. I haven't been feeding my bees but then again I haven't pulled any honey either & when you get down to it the food that they make for themselves is really best. I think that since the weather has dried up I will go & check the weight of my hives to see if any are light & of course I will do it from... Behind the Hive JJ
August 2016 Hello All By now all of you should have pulled your honey, unless you're a first year beekeeper or are leaving it to the bees for the winter. Some first year beekeepers have expressed dismay that their hives are 5 or 6 boxes tall & are full of " Funny Honey ". They are so tall that it is hard to reach the top to do any kind of inspection... Well you could just pull one ( or 2 ) of the fully capped supers off & put it in the freezer & early next spring you could just pop it back on top instead of trying to feed sugar syrup. I like to reduce the area that the bees have to defend at this time of year anyway. Swarming is unlikely ( not impossible ) & there isn't much new food coming in so I like to remove the frames that they are done with ( fully capped ) leaving behind the uncapped nectar to be processed. Keeping on top of mite counts should be a priority as they can be effecting the winter bees that have been & will be emerging. Small hive beetles can also be troublesome this time of year, during an inspection of the Mill Mountain Discovery Center's observation hive I was a little surprised to see 40 to 50 beetles inside the hive. Normally that would be a bad thing but in this case the bees have built propolis jails in between the frame sides & the glass & yes some do seem to be still alive & are being fed by the bees ! Still I do need to take it outside & scrape & clean the frames & glass to make it more appealing to the public. This will be the second year for this hive in continuous "production" same queen too ! At only 4 medium frames it is always at the edge of swarming because of too many bees or being too "honey bound" for any brood production, all summer long I remove frames of brood or "honey" trying to keep them balanced. On my long list of things to do is make them a Tall observation hive of 10 to 12 visible frames with a full size super on top so the public can see what a " real " colony looks like. I would also like to make one for my house to be installed in our craft room as a partition wall, another conservation piece. August is a trying time for me I am trying to evaluate what colonies should be fed, which should be re-queened, who needs to be reduced in volume & who needs to be combined, all of these are tough decisions that each & every beekeeper will need to make at some time or another & I guess that is what makes it interesting. One thing that isn't so interesting is propolis it is messy, sticky, gooey, yucky & is absolutely essential it fills the gaps that wax moths lay their eggs in, the same goes for small hive beetles. I will scrap clean the frame rests as I am doing an inspection but I won't scrape the inner covers or the tops. This will help keep the tops on during winter winds, I have even had hives that were blown over that stayed essentially intact due to propolis. I have also rehabbed old hives that had been forgotten for years with new hive bodies that the only thing holding them together was propolis. amazing stuff the things that bees make ! I will be looking for more amazing stuff.... Behind the hive JJ
July 2016 Hello all Summer is here in full bloom & of course our thoughts turn to what else ... WINTER ! Just kidding ! I'm still trying to get a handle on where all the sweat comes from when I'm in a bee suit, 90 degrees in a ventilated jacket is still no fun. It is tough to find the time & motivation to get suited up. There are still a few things we can do to help our bees. I like to paint my excess unused equipment in the summer in the relatively cool garage & after drying put them out in the sun to really cook & dry. I also like to do a little cleaning, but not where you might think. I noticed that after putting some jar hive top feeders on some nuc's this year that some were real gluttons going thru 1 quart a day, others less than a cup all this from the same size & approx same number of bees. Of course the pigs were drawing out comb almost as fast as I could add it. Two 5 frame hives side by side started at the same time from the same queen stock one was 4 boxes high & needed 5 so I was removing brood to slow them down & to supplement other hives. The other was barely using two, I was just about to chalk it up to a substandard queen when I was removing the jar on the slow hive & I noticed that there were only about 5 bees clinging to the jar lid. Upon further investigation I noticed that almost all of the feeder holes were plugged with propolis I poked them open & the bees went to town sucking down a bottle every 3 days. I don't think that you would have this problem using it conventionally in a boardman entrance feeder but for those using them as hive top feeders take a look. I also like to, when I am in my hives scrape the frame rests clean it is easy to do just have some place to put the propolis, It is even easier to do if you transfer the frames to your clean new painted ( after drying ) hive bodies. Nothing like a little new paint to make the bee yard look spiffy. One place that I inspect this time of year but don't scrape clean is the inner covers. The first place I look at when I take the top off is the inner cover, top & bottom looking for hive beetles I do not scrape the propolis off either side it will help in winter sealing. We do want a well ventilated hive but we don't want the top blown off! Rain is the single most frustrating thing that I have dealt with this year seems like the nectar of out flowers was there but the bees couldn't fly or the nectar got washed away or the queens couldn't fly to mate . & of course there is the always favorite squeezing a little inspection after work only to have it start raining AFTER you have 3 boxes of bees torn apart, makes you wish for a suit of armor or at least some gloves. I think that the hot temps are going to be here for a little while longer & I am looking forward to cooler weather. I'll be looking for that cooler weather from... Behind the hive JJ