All Beekeeping Notes

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December 2018 Beekeeping Notes

Hardin County Kentucky Beekeepers Association

The weather has turned to winter rather early this year—at least in comparison to the last couple of years. The bees are now clustered up during these very cold days and nights and will fly a little on days when the temperatures reach into the 40’s and above. Avoid opening the beehives unless you suspect something is wrong and then only on a sunny day when the bees are flying. There are four things that cause the death of beehives in the winter:

  1. Very weak hives and weak queens: The best remedy for weak queens was to have re-queened in the fall and for weak hives was to have combined them with stronger hives in September/October timer frame. But don’t give up on a weak hive this time of year—it may still make it through the winter. Keep the supplemental feeding available for them. Bees are very resilient.
  2. Moisture in the hive: Bees will died from cold moisture or even freeze because of too much moisture in the hive. This is due to a lack of adequate ventilation. There needs to be a reasonable size bottom entrance opening around two inches or so and many beekeepers provide an upper entrances with a ½ to 5/8 inch hole in the top front center. There are other options for moisture control discussed in many references.
  3. Starvation: Starvation is due to a lack of adequate stored honey and pollen in the hive or the hive clustering in one location and not moving to an area with food. Supplemental feeding with candy boards, winter patties and etc. can help avoid die outs due to starvation.
  4. Varroa mites and related viruses: It has pretty much become accepted practice to treat for Varroa Mites in September and then again shortly after Thanksgiving. The recommended late treatment option is with Oxalic Acid; because, the queens have most likely stopped laying and there is little to no brood and the temperatures in late November and December are not conducive for the use of other treatments.
  5. Lastly, it is advisable to provide some type of wind break for the beehives if one does not exist. Some wrap the back and sides of hives with roofing paper, some actually put up some type of windbreak fence and some relocate their hives for winter so as to provide a place safer from the cold winter winds—caution if moving/relocating—be sure you fully understand the process in order to be successful.

Now is the time to make sure that your beekeeping equipment is properly stored for winter and to start working on any repairs needed to your beekeeping equipment. Merry Christmas

November 2018 Beekeeping Notes

Hardin County Kentucky Beekeepers Association

The queens have probably stopped laying by early November and the bees will start to cluster on cold days and nights and will only fly on warm sunny days.  It’s no longer recommended to feed sugar syrup but rather to start feeding either a sugar fondant or maybe winter patties. It’s a little early to place candy boards on hives. Entrance reducers should already be on, and mouse guards can be added if needed. The debris/inspection boards should already be on screened bottom boards.  If the hives do not have a good wind break, then consider wrapping “only” the back and two sides with roofing paper. If you still have any Nuc’s, they need to be wrapped, stacked and placed so as to be able to survive the winter—to include adding supplemental feeding with such as a candy board—refer to a reliable source for discussion on how to over winter Nuc’s. Take a quick peak under the top cover of the hives at least once every two weeks (on a sunny day with little to no wind) to see if the hives are still viable or having problems such as significant die off of bees. Hives can be treated for Varroa mites with Oxalic Acid during this time of year—reference the Honey Bee Health Coalition website for more information on possible treatment methods.

October 2018 Beekeeping Notes

Hardin County Kentucky Beekeepers AssociationThe weather is going to be changing significantly cooler and everyone needs to consider placing debris boards on their screened bottom boards when the nightly temperatures start to drop below the mid 30’s.  You can still conduct inspections when the temperatures are in the upper 50’s on a nice sunny days with little to no wind blowing. Entrance reducers should be on by now as well as mouse guards if necessary. The bees will move up and cluster in the top brood box when the temperatures drop like that. In October the queen slows down laying eggs and all the Drones are expelled from the hives.  It is important to start feeding hives 2:1 sugar syrup with Honey B Healthy for the bees to build up honey reserves for winter. There are varying opinions on how much honey/pollen needs to be on each hive for winter-- but 6 to 8 deep frames is a good start. BUT it is recommended that supplemental feeding be provided during winter regardless. Bees do not always move toward the frames of stored honey during a cold winter and therefore if the food source is not just above or next to them, they will die out due to starvation.  Also, if the winter is very mild, the bees will consume all the stores rather quickly and be without a food source going into late January and February.  Conduct the last comprehensive hive inspections.  Combine any weak hives with stronger ones. Fall into Winter preparation is underway with the goal of having hives ready for winter with at least 1 full deep hive box (10 frames) of healthy bees; 60 lbs. of honey and pollen; plus a good laying queen with considerable brood in the hive. It is also important to check for Varroa Mites and treat early before the cold weather arrives. Reference the Honey Bee Healthy Coalition website and review the various treatments and time of year treatment charts verse mite count. If the weather remains warm into and through October, then robbing will be a problem that will need to be watched for.