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March Beekeeping

March Beekeeping on the Front Range

While the weather is warming up, March is also the snowiest month of the year in this area, making March beekeeping challenging. This time of year always reminds me of the signs on the way down from I-70. “Truckers you are not down yet. Another 1 1/2 miles of steep grades and sharp curves to go.” (more…)

New Varroa Mite Management Recommendations

We’ve got some changes to our recommended varroa mite management strategy. Both of these changes have to do with more recent evidence of mite migration from collapsing or infested colonies.

We have previously recommended that August be our final mite check for the year and that once you had the supers off, mites knocked down and hives full of honey, you were done.

We now recommend monthly monitoring until the weather is too cold to disrupt the hive. Into September at least. This is because we’ve heard of the following happening. A mite count was performed in August with the treatment threshold being reached, (7 mites in 300 bees) and the hive was treated with Apiguard. Two weeks post-treatment, another mite count was performed with there only being one mite in the sample. Success right? One month later, in mid-October, another count was done with the results being somewhere in the 40s.

The mites came from other collapsing or heavily infested colonies nearby.

Second, we have told people only to treat colonies where the threshold is exceeded. Again, because of mite migration, we are now recommending that if any one of the colonies in an apiary exceeds the treatment threshold, that all colonies be treated.

Also please remember that good Integrated Pest Management practices call for other means of control before chemical control. The most successful of these being drone brood trapping/sacrifice.

August Beekeeping

August is a month where a lot is happening for beekeepers in this area. Often times, during the summer months things are on coast.  Checking to see if additional supers are needed and monitoring mite levels and general hive inspections become a comfortable routine. This changes in August.

Hot and dry weather causes flowers to stop producing nectar. A lot of the nectar abundant spring and early summer flowers such as sweet yellow clover are done blooming, or will be shortly. This period of minimal nectar flow is also known to beekeepers as a dearth. Some people who have stopped feeding first year colonies may need to start feeding again to get comb drawn. There’s still plenty of time to get stores, naturally through nectar collection or artificially through feeding, into comb, but getting comb drawn becomes tougher and tougher as the summer progresses. We recommend feeding first year colonies at least until all the comb is drawn in the brood chamber and overwintering area. Traditionally, in this area, this means two deep boxes of comb.

The dearth can cause also hives to become more defensive. New beekeepers who have been dealing with calm, gentle bees are often taken by surprise the first time their bees seem a little more grumpy. Additionally, colony numbers are up so, there are more guard bees increasing the likeliness of stings. We recommend always having your smoker lit, even if you don’t plan on using it.  It’s a lot easier to put it out with extra fuel still in it, than to light it with a defensive colony open and needing smoke. Additionally, we recommend always wearing at least a veil.  Getting stung in the face isn’t very fun.

This is also the critical time period to make sure that your varroa mite levels are under control. As the brood area has expanded through the year, so have the number of places for varroa to breed. As the brood area contracts in the fall, the mites become concentrated in fewer and fewer brood cells quickly overrunning a colony with viruses.  Also because you want the bees that raise your winter bees to be healthy, now is the time to do final mite counts and treatments. The CSU extension office says in it’s IHM (integrated hive management) publication that “Harvest time is a critical time to check and treat for Varroa mites. (It is critical to monitor and treat, if necessary, before the end of August in Colorado. The most damage from Varroa usually occurs in late summer and is the primary reason colonies don’t overwinter successfully).”

Mite treatment often means supers need to be harvested. Many of the varroa treatments are not approved for use when honey is being collected for human consumption. With the dearth upon us, or quickly approaching, the benefits of leaving honey supers on versus removing them in a timely enough fashion to treat for varroa mites are easily weighed for most of us. Additionally, leaving what fall flow there may be for the bees is probably a more healthy choice for the bees as nectar is nutritionally diverse in a way that sugar syrup is not.

Now is also the time to make sure that you are happy with the queens that you have going into winter.  Queen availability is coming to an end. Decisions should be made soon about combing or requeening colonies.

Good off season preparation starts this month with harvesting, mite treatments, and checking stores.

Winter is coming

June Beekeeping

In June, beekeeping begins to be a little more relaxed.  Swarm season is coming to an end, and the honey flow should be on in earnest in most areas.  The flow is, of course, weather dependent.

First-year colonies:
Continue to monitor your first-year colonies by conducting weekly to biweekly inspections. They are most likely in their second deep by now, and brood should be plentiful.

We add our second deep box on top of the first when two conditions are met.   First, we want about 80-90% of the comb in the first box to be drawn out.  In a 10-frame box, we want them to be at least started on the inside portion of the outermost frames. Second, the population should be growing and substantial.  Bees should be covering 80% of the frames.  You can tell this generally by looking down on the frames when you open the box.

Many people are asking us about feeding at this time of year.  Our stance on feeding new colonies is: We feed until there is no comb left to draw.  Automatically.

Second year or later colonies:
Most likely you have honey supers on.  Make sure that you add supers early and often. We add them when comb is drawn on the previous super, and the frames are almost full and starting to be capped. If we are adding a super with just foundation, not drawn comb, we put it underneath the other supers that may be on the hive.

Mites:
Your bees are near their maximum amount of brood for the year and if you have not had good mite control through the year to this point, your mite levels may be approaching danger levels.  Sometime in early June we do our midseason mite checks. We prefer the sugar roll method of mite counts.

Medication and Treatments – Nosema

It’s almost that time of year again.  With the warmer weather comes cleansing flights and the concerns about Nosema.

Nosema is a microscopic fungal organism that infects the gut of bees. Beekeepers have been taught that the symptoms of Nosema are defecation on and in the hive and that the correct treatment is Fumagillin-B.  As is the case with most pests and diseases, things are not as straightforward as that.

There are two different varieties of Nosema. The original Nosema apis, (more…)

January Beekeeping – 2016

Spring will be here before we know it, so to avoid the last minute crunch here’s what we do in January to make our lives easier in spring.

Repair and inventory honey supers.  Now is a great time to take stock of your honey supers and other woodenware.  By now we have a pretty good idea of how many hives we are going to have in the spring, so we can guess about how many supers we are going to need for them come March.  We believe that supering is like voting, it should be done early and often!

We count how many supers we have, making sure that we have two for each hive coming through the winter.  Early supering with drawn comb is a great method to help aid in swarm prevention.  If we don’t have drawn comb for every box, we split up the drawn comb boxes evenly among the hives that we have. Without drawn comb, there’s no point in putting them on early as fresh wax won’t be drawn until the honey flow is underway in earnest. We make sure that the boxes are still nice and square, nail in any corners that may be pulling out, and add a fresh coat of paint if needed.

 

We take this time to start thinking about making increase.  Our plan this year is to end the season with 50 colonies.  Some of these will be in nucs that we will overwinter, and some will be production colonies. We plan on rearing our own queens this year as well. Now is the time for us to start putting together the equipment list for the woodenware that we will need so we have everything ready when spring happens.  We know most people don’t have expansion goals quite as ambitious as ours, but now is the time to be thinking about these things.

We are making plans about where our bees will be coming from.  For us, we will be splitting overwintered nucs, and rearing our own queens, so we don’t need to order bees, but if you do, contact us for information about ordering bees, because now is the time for that!

We will need to make sure that we have enough nuc boxes and hive equipment for our queen-rearing, splits and production hives. Getting all of that together at the last minute would be a nightmare.

Finally, January is the time we catch up on our bee reading, finish rendering our bees wax, and make candles and cosmetics.

Here’s hoping that everyone has a successful 2016!

David and Ashley

January Beekeeping – 2016

Spring will be here before we know it, so to avoid the last minute crunch here’s what we do in January to make our lives easier in spring.

Repair and inventory honey supers.  Now is a great time to take stock of your honey supers and other woodenware.  By now we have a pretty good idea of how many hives we are going to have in the spring, so we can guess about how many supers we are going to need for them come March.  We believe that supering is like voting, it should be done early and often!

We count how many supers we have, making sure that we have two for each hive coming through the winter.  Early supering with drawn comb is a great method to help aid in swarm prevention.  If we don’t have drawn comb for every box, we split up the drawn comb boxes evenly among the hives that we have. Without drawn comb, there’s no point in putting them on early as fresh wax won’t be drawn until the honey flow is underway in earnest. We make sure that the boxes are still nice and square, nail in any corners that may be pulling out, and add a fresh coat of paint if needed.

 

We take this time to start thinking about making increase.  Our plan this year is to end the season with 50 colonies.  Some of these will be in nucs that we will overwinter, and some will be production colonies. We plan on rearing our own queens this year as well. Now is the time for us to start putting together the equipment list for the woodenware that we will need so we have everything ready when spring happens.  We know most people don’t have expansion goals quite as ambitious as ours, but now is the time to be thinking about these things.

We are making plans about where our bees will be coming from.  For us, we will be splitting overwintered nucs, and rearing our own queens, so we don’t need to order bees, but if you do, contact us for information about ordering bees, because now is the time for that!

We will need to make sure that we have enough nuc boxes and hive equipment for our queen-rearing, splits and production hives. Getting all of that together at the last minute would be a nightmare.

Finally, January is the time we catch up on our bee reading, finish rendering our bees wax, and make candles and cosmetics.

Here’s hoping that everyone has a successful 2016!

David and Ashley

Cold weather feeding a top-bar hive

During times with the weather is cold enough that your bees must cluster, colder than approximately 55f, they are unable to travel anywhere to get food.  This includes the floor of the top-bar hive.

In order for them to access food, it has to be essentially in contact with the cluster (1/4 inch away or less!). If you feel your bees need resources for cold weather, you must hang any resources, such as fondant or pollen, for your top-bar hive right next to the cluster.

You can use cheese cloth, or another porous sack, like an onion bag to hang your feed. Form the fondant into a thin sheet resembling the shape of a comb, and staple the bag to a top-bar.  You then insert your feed bar right next to the cluster, so they can come in contact with the cluster if they need to.

For short cold periods, if your hive is established and there are stores present, this may not be necessary.  For newly installed packages, or swarms with no resources, it becomes more important.

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