All Beekeeping Notes

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Beekeeping Notes for April 2021

General Notes:

  • The weather has turned to spring and everything is blooming early BUT beware of a cold snap and cold rainy weather in April. It always happens.
  • There is now lots of pollen and some nectar flow for the bees.
  • Hives that have made it through the winter are most probably in good condition and the queens should be 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 the small hive beetles love the patties. If you do continue to use the patties, only use maybe ½ a patty at a time.
  • Recommend all feedings be done internally not externally.
  • Swarming will be a possibility throughout April and on into May, June, and July.
  • Every 7 to 10 day conduct a “quick hive check”, “not” a full-blown inspection, to keep watch for rapidly expanding hive populations and frames becoming filled with nectar and pollen which can cause conditions that promote swarming.
  • Be sure to check for a good brood pattern and the number of frames of capped brood, eggs, swarm cells etc.
  • You might consider making hive or Nuc splits from strong hives.
  • It is the time to install packages of bees or Nuc’s.
  • Good time to re-queen any hives that have queens that are not laying or have a poor brood pattern.
  • Early spring Varroa mite treatments should be completed, and it is recommended that most treatments be removed if you are going to be placing 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.
  • Remove debris/observation boards from screened bottom boards after mid-month; and remove all entrance reducers by after md-month. Except for newly established hives or splits that are still in the growth phase.
  • After putting on honey supers, wait about a 3 to 5 days before adding queen excluders to allow the bees the freedom to move up into 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 which may help to avoid the queen from moving up into the supers. If there is any brood, new larva or new eggs in the supers, move those frames down below the excluder.
  • Recommend a ground cover under each hive stand such as 30# roofing felt/paper or similar material. Also suggest spreading salt on the ground around under hive stands. It does help to control hive beetles, Varroa mites and other pest. These actions help control – they are “not a prevention”.
  • In strong hives, recommend reducing the number of frames in each box with fully drawn comb down from 10 to 9 for ease of inspection and management, especially in the honey supers.

Special Notes:

  • The weather in April: Normally there is week or two in the month of April that turns cold and rainy—beware.
  • If your primary objective is to produce honey, then your efforts must be focused on having healthy hives with large bee populations. If you split strong hives or pull brood frames for any reason, you will most likely reduce the bee population, and this may impact your honey production.
  • Swarm Traps should already be up. Check them at least once every week or two.
  • Swarm Catching and Removal: this is great fun and helpful but make sure that you are properly prepared and understand the liabilities and how to properly manage a new swarm.
  • Beehive swarm prevention should be a priority. Make 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. Also make sure that the hive does not get honey/pollen/brood bound.
  • The nectar flow will begin in April so be prepared to start placing honey supers on the healthy strong hives full of bees around the mid of the month. Very strong hives may have needed one added already.
  • 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 Check” inspections of the hives and supers needs to be made every 7 to 10 days from 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 to add supers as needed.
  • Avoid Over Inspecting your Hives: Over Inspection is the biggest causes for damaging or killing the queen, creating too much disruption in the hive causing swarming, queens to slow down or stop laying and reduced honey production.

David Shockey

Beekeeping Notes for November and December 2020

The weather is still rather mild this year—at least in comparison to past years. The bees are starting to cluster up during the very cold nights and are flying 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.

Hive Losses

In recent years, hive loses range from 30% to 50% even with commercial beekeepers. There are many who have hive loses this high and they are generally good, diligent beekeepers. Possible reasons for hive losses over the winter are:

  • The queens do not survive or are not healthy or viable
  • Starvation
  • Moisture
  • Disease

Disease causing viruses are carried in by Varroa mites.

Very Weak Hives And Weak Queens

The best remedy for weak queens is re-queening in August or early September. Combine weak hives with stronger hives preferably in September or October. 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.

Downsizing

Downsizing a beehive that has a reduced population for whatever reason is an option to consider. Beehives in single eight and 10 frame deeps and even in five frame nucs can be successfully over wintered. Providing adequate supplemental feeding is essential. If you decide to downsize a beehive, only do this on a warm, sunny day preferably in the 50’s, 60’s, or warmer with little to no wind blowing.

Moisture In The Hive

Bees will die from cold moisture or even freeze because of too much moisture in the hive. This may be due to a lack of adequate ventilation. There needs to be a reasonable size bottom entrance opening around 2 inches or so and many beekeepers provide an upper entrances with a ½ to 5/8 inch hole in the top front center –usually in a candy board or 2” spacer. This will allow for some moisture control as well as an upper entrance for the bees. Many references discuss other options for moisture control.

Starvation

Starvation may be 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, etc., can help avoid die outs due to starvation. Additionally, having the bottom entrance centered helps because the bees tend to cluster toward the side or position of the lower entrance.

Feeding

Some beekeepers provide a little supplemental feeding through November with the use of a winter patty between the brood boxes. Beehives without food stores will require some source of supplemental feeding like candy boards, sugar fondant cakes or winter patties. Normally, place these on the hives in early December. Just having several frames or even a medium full of honey/pollen in a hive may not be adequate for sustaining the hive through December, January and February.

Varroa Mites And Viruses

It has pretty much become accepted practice to treat for Varroa Mites in September and then again shortly after Thanksgiving or early December. The recommended late treatment option is with Oxalic Acid because the queens have most likely stopped laying and there is little to no brood. Temperatures in late November and early December are not conducive for the use of other treatments. Be sure the weather is warm and the bees are not clustered on the day that you treat them.

Lastly, it is advisable to provide some type of wind break for the beehives if one does not exist. Some beekeepers wrap the back and sides of hives with roofing paper. Some beekeepers put up a 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 unused beekeeping equipment is properly stored for winter and to start working on any repairs needed to your beekeeping equipment.

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.