Monday, May 14, 2012

Spring Treatment

During the winter months, beekeepers expect their bees to be clustered in the center of the hive and production of brood to have ceased. This winter seemed to be an exception with such mild temperatures. Hives were able to raise brood and replenish their losses before spring arrived. Beekeepers experienced early swarming and stronger colonies that required splits.

Every hive needs a thorough inspection to ensure that the mite population is not overwhelming, diseases are not found, and there is a strong population in your colony. During this thorough inspection, some things to check for:

1.  Diseases (American foulbrood, European foulbrood, Chalk brood, Stone brood). If diseases are found, contact you state inspector.
2.  Check brood pattern and population of your hive. There should be several frames nearly filled with brood and your frames covered with bees in the top hive bodies.
3.  Pest control. Most pest can be seen by the naked eye during inspection but to get an accurate count, further testing needs to be completed.

Verroa Mite
Varroa Mite  Photo By: Barbara Locke

Checking For Mites

Varroa Mites can greatly weaken a colony by creating open wounds on the bee, leaving the bee more prone to infection. Mite control is an essential process that needs to be treated on a regular basis. With a mild winter and continuous production of brood, the mite population will grow faster and be larger and the colony will need to be treated. There are several ways to check for mites within your colony. The Varroa Mite is the most predominant mite that create open wounds on the bee, leaving the bee more prone to infection, as well as vector (transferring) viruses, which compromise the health of the bees and the entire colony.

Sugar Shake. Place a few table spoons of powdered sugar in a mason jar (replace the lid with #8 hardware cloth) along with roughly ½ cup of bees (around 300 bees) and gently "slosh" them around, ensuring they are fully coated. The sugar will dislodge the mites, allowing them to fall through the hardware cloth onto a clean surface. Count the mites that are dislodged from the bees; if the mite count exceeds 3, treatment is recommended.

Corex Sheet. This is a sheet which slides under a screened bottom board. Spray the corex sheet with a cooking oil so when the mites fall from the hive they stick to the sheet and can then be counted. Insert the sheet for 3 days and then remove it to count the mites. Once you have a total, divide it by 3 to get the average mite drop in a 24 hour period ; if the mite count exceeds 10, treatment is recommended.

Corex Sheet
Corex Sheet  Photo From:

If this is your first year in beekeeping or you just purchased a NUC or a Package, and you received your bees from a reliable source, they would have already been treated for mites prior to your pickup. These colonies should not need to be treated until late summer/early fall.


Integrated Pest Management (IPM) methods work with the behavior and biology of the target pest to aid in its control. Several methods that can control the mite population include:
  • A screened bottom board which allow the mites to fall out of the hive
  • Drone trapping/Varroa trapping using a Drone frame or Drone foundation
  • Remove frame after cells have been capped and freeze for 48 hours. Reinstall frames after thawing.
IPM methods often are not a sufficient form of control and more traditional methods need to be used. We, and many in the scientific community, strongly encourage the use of “soft chemicals”. These are naturally occurring products and many naturally existing in honey. The two most common are Api Life VAR and MiteAway Quick Strips. Api Life VAR is made with thymol, which is used in mouthwash, and other essential oils. Evaporative wafers are placed on the hive and the thymol vapor kills the varroa. MiteAway Quick Strips use food grade formic acid, which naturally occurs in honey.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Managing a Honey Bound Hive

During the course of keeping bees, one of the main attractions is the ability to harvest honey. What happens though, when your bees have filled all of your frames, in the brood chamber, with nectar and your queen has nowhere to lay?

Honey Capped Frame

This is a common occurrence to have your brood chamber become "honey bound" during the main nectar flow. A typical hive body will have a brood cluster in the middle and the outside frames will contain honey. A honey bound hive happens when brood begins to emerge, it is replaced with nectar. With a heavy nectar flow coming in, the space for your queen to lay will become overrun with nectar.

A queen that has no space to lay will cause complications within you hive. If you notice that your hive has or is becoming honey bound, increasing the area for brood is necessary. A queen that does not have the space to lay can lead into a swarm.

Emerging Worker Bee

To help manage a honey bound hive, add an additional brood chamber on top of your hive. Switch out your outside frames that are filled with honey ( in the honey bound body) with empty frames (in your new brood chamber). This will create room for your queen to be able to lay and grow your hive.