All Beekeeping Notes

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Beekeeping Notes for September 2020

Special Note

I have been participating in a university beehive research program this summer. The researcher sampled 6 of my hives for Varroa Mites and took samples of bees for additional testing and evaluation for viruses and etc. in late July and returned and repeated the same again this past week. Interesting Varroa Mite counts: During the initial inspection, Varroa Mite counts varied from as high as 42 to as low as 0 in hives just a few feet apart. During the follow-on inspection this week and after I had completed an initial treatment of the hives, the 0 mite count hives actually had significant increases in the mite count while the initial higher mite count hives had a much lower count. What is the significance of this information?

  • First, treating for Varroa Mites is very important regardless.
  • Sampling for Varroa Mites on a regular basis to include before and after treatment is very important. Recommend the alcohol wash method.
  • Just because a hive is treated does not necessarily mean that the hive has been completely and effectively treated for mites.
  • I’m treating my hives for a second time in a month starting this week and for the 4th time this year. I will be sampling for Varroa mites again toward the end of September, early October. And I will treat again if necessary.

The researchers have inspected over 20 apiaries across KY and plan on publishing a preliminary report in October and I will post as soon as I receive it.

Beekeeping Notes

  1. The fall nectar flow has varied considerably around the area from pretty good to pretty poor. This will mostly likely continue through mid-September. For some, there is fair chance that you might get a little fall honey. By mid-September, you should have removed all supers from your hives.
  2. It’s time to conduct a good hive inspection to check for a laying queen, eggs and brood. Egg laying may have taper off some; the populations may be down a little; and there are probably no more drones. It’s also time to evaluate the strength of each hive (strong, average, weak) and consider combining weak hives with stronger hives. REMEMBER: queens need a lot of bees in the hive to keep laying.
  3. Trying to find a queen for re-queening may be difficult and the process may not be as effective as you might like.
  4. September is the month to also consider downsizing your hives to where there are plenty of bees in each hive box – 8 frames or more of bees in each box. A hive can be downsized to just one deep and still be successfully managed through the fall and winter. REMEMBER to always make sure that the queen has 4 or 5 frames available in the middle of brood boxes.
  5. During the hive inspection, check to see if the hives have plenty of stores going into the fall. If they do not, then consider to start feeding your hives with 2:1 sugar water through October.
  6. Do not feed outside the hive and be careful not to spill any syrup or other around the hives—it will incite robbing.
  7. Be very careful using Honey Bee Healthy or Pro Heath in the syrup mixture because it can also attract other bees and incite robbing.
  8. In September, some beekeepers start using winter patties like AP 23 winter patties from Dadant or similar. CAUTION: until it turns cold, the hive beetles will be very active and they love patties—so consider only feeding 1/3 to ½ of a patty at a time between the brood boxes.
  9. It is also a critical time to check for Varroa mites; they build up in August and on into September. So it is important to treat in September for Varroa Mites. The weather forecast looks good for starting treatments over the next 10 days or so.
  10. CAUTION: read the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and completely. Remember that their recommendations are based on treating strong hives with good populations. SO you may need to reduce the level of treatment for an average or weak high. APIGUARD is a good example: it comes in single treatment in a square flat canister — that’s for a strong hive – way too much for an average or weak hive—so you may need to remove about half of the jell from the canister. Similarly, FORMIC PRO comes in a two patty single treatment pack for strong hives – too much for an average or weak hive— one patty is sometimes adequate or two treatments of a single patty may be more effective. For the use of both Apiguard and Formic Pro, there generally is a need to add an extra box on top to allow for expansion of the bees up in the hives during the initial few days of treatment due to the strong fumes coming off the treatment. JUST SOME THINGs TO CONSIDER.
  11. If you have not placed entrance reducers on your hives, then it is time to do so, and also consider mouse guards by October as may be appropriate.
  12. Consider putting out Bug Jugs. They are great for collecting up wax moths, wasp, yellow jackets, flies, and other flying inspects/pests. Arizona Tea jugs are excellent. Cut a 1 inch square hole in the upper face of the jug opposite of the handle. Fill with 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of apple cider vinegar, 1 banana peel, and a quart of warm water –about 1/2 to 3/4 full but well below the cut hole. Hang jugs nears your hives. One jug per 3 to 4 hives. They really work. Good from thru October.

Beekeeping Notes April 23, 2020

Note 1: NECTAR FLOW

The locust is blooming down around Bowling Green. That means that it will be blooming up in this area within the next two weeks. I always look at the locust as being the real beginning of the nectar flow. SOOO! Be sure that you have your honey supers on and entrance reducers removed. Be sure to do a quick check (not an inspection) of your hives ever 5 to 7 days because if there is a strong nectar flow, the bees will fill up a medium super in a week of less.

Note 2: REMOVAL OF QUEEN CELLS

Recently if have received several calls about Beekeepers finding capped queen cells in their hives.

MY OPINION

  • “DO NOT REMOVE THE QUEEN CELLS”; if you remove the queen cells, you are disrupting the natural activity of the beehive and you will not necessarily stop it from swarming, BUT you will most like end up with a queen less beehive.
  • This is a natural occurring activity for beehives to start developing queen cells when either the current queen has died or has lost her ability to keep laying. The beehive knows this and they take action to create a new queen.
  • It is much easier to allow the hive to requeen its self than it is to go buy one and install it. You never know these days about purchased queen’s survivability.
  • Most times, a self-re-queened hive is better.
  • Hives that re-queen naturally during April, May and June usually is a good thing and is successful.
  • Queen cells being present is “NOT” necessarily a sign that the hive is going to swarm. On the other hand, the hive may swarm especially if:
    • The old queen has not died and a new queen takes over. Then the old queen may swarm with some bees.
    • There can be more than one queen hatch out, and in this case, they may fight it out and to the winner goes the hive.
    • Or, you may actually see a primary swarm followed by a couple of supplemental little swarms; each having a queen.

I recently removed two swarms that were on the ground from the same old cheery tree, and 3 days later, there was another swarm from that same tree. The bees have been in that old cherry tree for over 20 years. There is still a lot of bees in that tree today.

Last year, I had four or five hives that generated queen cells and I allowed them to go ahead and finish the process. I got at least 2 honey supers off each of them and all of them survived the winter and are healthy hives today.

Supplemental information on Queen Cells

Sometimes, but not always, you can determine if a colony is preparing to swarm or just replacing a under-performing queen.  A colony preparing to swarm will typically have queen cells located on the edges of brood frames and they may be six or more with as many as 20.  A colony replacing a failing queen will usually have queen cells located in the middle of brood frames with six or fewer. If a colony has both queen cells on edges and in the middle of brood frames it is best to treat as a swarm situation.

Note 3: SWARMING

The biggest cause for a hive to swarm is because it has run out of room in the brood bodies due to frames being full of nectar, pollen and capped brood and there is not sufficient space in the hive for the queen to keep laying nor is there adequate space to accommodate the growing population of bees. The other reason is the re-queening process and the lack of room in the hive.

Frame Management: Remove several full frames of nectar/pollen and replace with empty frames. VERY IMPORTANT: The queen needs a minimum of 4 to 5 frames to lay in each brood box.

Hive Management: Add another hive box to help accommodate the population of bees.

If the hive is extremely over crowed and packed full— it is a great idea to split/divide the hive and add a new hive box to each— a deep or medium depending on your hive setup. But be sure to do the Frame Management as well.

The over crowed situation happens often. I have had it happen to some of my hives. If I catch it soon enough, I practice “aggressive” frame management. If I don’t catch it soon enough, then I always split the hive.

** If you split/divide be sure to closely follow the ground rules for the type of split that you do.

Happy Beekeeping—Stay Safe and Stay Healthy

David

Beekeeping Notes for April

General Notes

  • The weather has turned to spring early and everything is blooming early but beware of a cold snap and rainy weather in late April.
  • Hives that have made it through the winter are most probably in good condition and the queens are laying good patterns.
  • Early in the month continue to feed the hives with 1:1 sugar syrup. Stop the use of pro patties because there is plenty of pollen available by this time and small hive beetles love the patties.
  • Recommend all feeding be done internally not externally.
  • Swarming will be a possibility through April on into May, June and July.
  • Every 7 to 10 day conduct a hive inspections so as to keep watch for rapidly expanding hives and the possibility for swarming.
  • Be sure to check for the queen, the brood pattern, the number of frames of capped brood, eggs, swarm cells and etc.
  • You might consider making splits from very strong hives.
  • It is also the time to install packages of bees or Nuc’s.
  • Good time to re-queen any hives that have weak queens or queens that are not laying or have a poor egg laying pattern.
  • Need to remove all treatment for Varroa mites if you are going to place honey supers on the hives.
  • Watch for small hive beetles and take action to control them.
  • Add honey supers around mid-month because the nectar flow will have begun.
  • Consider removing debris/observation boards from screened bottom boards by mid-month.
  • Remove all entrance reducers by mid-month. Except for newly established hives that are still in the growth phase.
  • In late April or early May after putting on honey supers, wait about a week before adding queen excluders so as to allow the bees to have free movement upward toward making honey in the supers. If you want to add queen excluders, make sure that the queen is not up in the supers. You can consider reversing hive bodies at this time that may help to avoid the queen moving up into the supers.
  • You might consider making up Nuc’s from existing strong hives by taking a couple of frames of brood if there is a lot of brood frames available in the hive and the queen is doing really good. You can consider allowing the hives to make new queens or purchase new queens for the Nuc’s. This all depends on your objectives to produce honey or to increase the number of hives you have.
  • Recommend a ground cover under each hive such as 30# roofing felt/paper of similar material. Also suggest spreading salt on ground around under hive stands to control hive beetles, Varroa mites and other pest. This will only help control — it is “not a prevention”.

Special Notes

  1. The weather in April: Normally there is week toward the end of the month that turns cold and rainy—beware.
  2. If your primary objective is to produce honey then your efforts have to be focused on having healthy hives with a large population of bees. If you split hives or pull brood frames, you will most likely reduce the bee population and the honey production.
  3. Swarm Traps should already be up. Check them at least once every week.
  4. Swarm Catching and Removal: this is great fun and helpful but make sure that you are properly prepared and understand the liabilities and also how to properly manage a new swarm.
  5. Beehive swarm prevention should be a priority by making sure that the queen “always” has at least 4 to 5 frames in the center of the brood boxes for laying eggs and raising brood. The rotation of hive boxes is also a viable option. And making sure that the hive does not get honey/pollen/brood bound.
  6. The nectar flow will begin in April be prepared to start placing honey supers only on the healthy full of bees hives around the mid of the month.
  7. Avoid honey/pollen/brood bound hives: if a hive gets bound, it will swarm and/or the queen will stop laying and the population of bees will drop off significantly. Quick inspections of the hive and supers needs to be made every 5 to 7 days now through May— This is necessary to make sure that the hives do not get brood/honey/pollen bound; that the queen always has 4 to 5 frames available in the brood boxes and also to add supers as needed.

Bee safe and bee healthy,
David