Thursday, October 3, 2013

The Last Extraction

The fall nectar flow is beginning to slow down and colder temperature are going to be setting in soon. You have pulled off your last honey frames that you plan to extract for the year and left your bees a good 50-60 lbs of honey for them to survive on through winter. 

 Even after extracting there is still a little bit of honey left on the frames that you want to give back to your bees. What better way to give it back to your bees then set it right next to the hive for them to clean out the honey....right?This is not what you want to do. Honey/nectar will draw in other bees and insects. The smell will lure them to the exposed honey and this can cause a robbing frenzy in which bees will physically fight in order to obtain the honey. Once they have cleaned out the honey from the frames you extracted, they will begin robbing the next source of food.

The next source could be your hive!

Your bees will do a much better job cleaning the frames than you will ever be able to but what is the best way?

Some beekeepers will place their honey supers back onto the hive for a week. This will give the bees enough time to clean the comb in order to begin building up the honey stores again. Remove your top but leave your inner cover on. Place your 'dirty' frames above your inner cover and place the top back onto the hive. Give it close to a week before trying to remove the supers.

If you do not want to go back into your hive (you called it quits for the season and you want to leave them closed up) you can place the supers out in the open for your bees to clean up.  You will want to keep the supers at least 200' away from your bee yard. Again, this can cause a robbing frenzy that can lead back to your hives... so the further away it is, the better.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Mites and Nutrition

At this time of year beekeepers should be concerned about two things - mites and nutrition.

Hopefully you have already begun managing the mite population. The mites transmit viruses which remain after your mite treatment. With time the virus levels drop but you need to have time after the treatment, under low mite and virus conditions, for the colony to raise young, healthy wintering bees.

Varroa Mite Treatment

It's no surprise, nutrition can either help or hinder a colony. If the colony is diseased, poor nutrition can amplify the symptoms, but good nutrition can be the elixir needed to get them through.

 Beekeepers presume that their bees have enough honey stored for winter and do not supply the feed the bees need to build up their honey stores. We have been receiving many reports of starvation in hives. Do not assume your bees are bringing in nectar. Place a feeder on your hives so that your bees may build up their honey stores.

Flowering plants produce nectar to attract pollinators like the honey bee. Pollen is easily seen in the pollen baskets of the honey bee, whereas, nectar is not as visible. Pollen is needed for growth and brood rearing; nectar is a sweet treat that is fed to the matured bees.

Here is a great resource to find the region in which bees are foraging for specific flowering plants:

Forage Species within Region

As you can see in the map, nectar flows exhibit a broad regional trend but there can be substantial differences within a region. Heat, drought,and many other factors play into effect with nectar producing flowers. Beekeepers must always be cautious of a dearth and weather that will prevent bees from foraging for pollen/nectar.

Hive Top Feeder

3 Things to do When the Nectar Flow Begins to Wane:

1.  Leave on the honey supers. Honey bees will store an excessive amount of honey, ranging between 100 - 150 lbs. Beekeepers reap the benefit of excess nectar stores that have been capped and cured into honey. Beekeepers must be cautious of how much they harvest from their hives. Bees are dependent upon the honey they have stored and require, depending on location and harshness of winter, 60 - 80 lbs of honey to survive winter.

2.  Beekeepers must feed, feed, feed. Not only do beekeepers need to provide a food supply, but they also need to include a feeding stimulant to increase the health of the hive. Feeding with sugar water or corn syrup is great, but adding a stimulant like Honey B Healthy (there are others on the market) will help improve their immune system, prevent mold and fungus in feed, increases brood rearing and much more. Feeding your bees now will help them build up their honey stores for winter!

3.  Be aware of robbing bees. Bees will fly the shortest distance to acquire the resources they need. If you have weak colonies in your bee yard, they will be prone to robbing attacks. Reduce entrances, add a robbing screen and help protect your hive from robbing bees. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Dealing with a Laying Worker

We have had some beekeepers calling in asking what is wrong with their queens. They find multiple eggs in the cells and the eggs found in the cells are not centralized. There is no visible queen and the capped brood they find is nothing but drone. 
Photo From:  Photo By: Michael Palmer

These are the sure signs of a laying worker. If a hive becomes queenless for several weeks, a worker can take it upon herself to begin laying eggs. It is the lack of brood that begins this process and because the worker has not mated with drones, the eggs are infertile (they develop into drone brood). This is a frustrating problem because it is hard (near if not completely impossible) to go into the hive, find her, and remove her. She will appear as any other worker. 

A new queen must be introduced in order for the colony to survive but couldn't the colony kill off the new queen? Yes, because the colony could kill off a new queen, we recommend two different methods to get your hive queen right. These methods are not full proof but will give your hive a fighting chance.

First: In theory, the laying worker will be heavier due to the fact she is now laying eggs. Move your hive away from its original location (100 yards) and take each frame out, shake off all the bees and return frames into the hive. Do this for each frame until all frames are clear of bees. Return the hive back to its original location. Because the bees are oriented to the original location, they will return to the hive. The laying worker being heavier, she will not be able to return to the hive.

Second: Slowly introduce frames of open brood into the hive. By the third or fourth frame of open brood, your colony will begin rearing a new queen. They will sense the poor/improper production of the laying worker and will want to replace her with a new queen. This method does take more time and more trips to the bee yard.
 In order for the colony to increase the population, it must be queen right. There are many threats that can kill off a queen so be mindful and careful as you inspect your hives. Check for eggs and the brood pattern. If everything appears to be in order, you should be certain your hive is queen right.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Installing your Bees

Beekeepers are beginning to install their bee packages. Here are videos that will explain a package and go over the steps of installing your packages.  This can be an exciting experience and knowing what to do before installing your packages will prepare you for the task at hand. We want you to feel comfortable while installing your package.

About a Package

Installing a Package

Be prepared before you go to your hive to install your package. Ensure you have all the tools you need and are dressed appropriately for your comfort level. With your hive setup and painted, ensure that you have:
Hive tool
Spray bottle with a sugar water mixture (temperature permitting)
Rubber Bands
Feed and Feeder
Protective Clothing

Installing your bees can be a thrill and during the activity certain steps must be carried out. Remember that the cork must be removed from the candy end. Removing the cork from the non-candy end will release the queen prematurely and your colony will not have accepted her yet.

Non-Candy End
Cork Removed from Candy End
Once your bees have been installed, a feeder must be applied. Depending on the weather and temperatures outside, using an entrance feeder or a division board feeder are most common. The feed must be easily accessible by your colony and checked on regularly. The colony is not yet established and will not be able to forage for pollen or nectar. Keep the feeder on until your bees are able to sustain themselves (even then, having a feeder on for that rainy day is recommended).  If temperatures do not drop below freezing, a 1:1 ratio of sugar to water is an acceptable feed. The sugar water mixture will help stimulate colony growth. If colder weather is forcasted, feed with fondant or other semi-moist, hard feed.

Cold Weather Suggestions

We had our first Bee Pick Up Day at the Bee Farm. We know everyone that came to pick up their bees were worried about the colder temperatures and what to do about installing their packages.

Bee Packages
Ideally, a package of bees should not remain in the package for more than 4-5 days. Keep in mind that the bees will have been in the package for about a day before they were picked up at the Bee Farm.

Package Installation
If your weather is forecasted to be:

(a) Cold (highs of 45° or less) for more than 4-5 days, it will be best to install the bees.
(b) Cold, but forecasted for just a day or two, keep the bees in a cool dark place, such as a garage. Be sure to lightly mist the bees with sugar water twice a day. If you see increased bee mortality in the bottom of the package, install the package.

When installing bees in cold weather, be careful not to excessively wet them down with sugar water. It is best to shake the bees from the package so that they can cluster around the queen to keep her warm. The passive method of installation is not suggested as the bees may cluster in the package rather than round the queen.

 In cold weather the bees will cluster and may not be able to access a feeder. Your colony will need a feed that can be easily accessed. If temperature reach below freezing, liquid feed will crystallize and bees can not    obtain the food source. It is best to use a semi-moist, hard feed that can be close to the cluster. Here are some different ways:

(a) If you have some drawn comb with honey from another hive, certainly that can be used by hanging a few of the frames in the middle of the hive with the installed package

(b) If you have drawn comb which doesn’t have honey, you can lay the frame flat and sprinkle sugar into the cells until they are full. Mist the sugar just a little so it gets sticky and doesn’t fall out when you stand the frame up. Now do the other side. Frames loaded with sugar can be hung in the hive and used for food by the bees.

Fondant Frame
Fondant on Frames
(c) If you don’t have any drawn comb, you can apply a fondant to the top bars, or better, use a Fondant Feeder (an empty frame filled with fondant and wrapped with a hardware cloth). The bees can cluster around the fondant and use it as a food source.