Friday, September 19, 2014

Winter Prep for your Hives

Remember, now is the time your colony is preparing for winter. The bees reared in September and early October are the young bees the colony needs to survive winter. If they are not completely healthy, they may not survive. 

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

Treatments should have been applied if you had higher than normal levels of mites in you hive. It never hurts to recheck the colony once the treatments have been removed. Don’t always assume your treatment was effective. The Varroa Mite can build a resistance to some treatments if you use it year after year. Monitor your infestation levels and alternate with different medications if you find your treatment was ineffective.

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. This time of year, nectar is scarce or non-existent. Bees will forage for what is out there but beekeepers need to provide a food source to prevent starving in the hive. Be sure the bees have ample honey or syrup stored and protein!

Now is the time to prepare your feeder for the sugar water mixture or corn syrup you will be providing. Honey bees require proteins, carbohydrates, lipids, vitamins, minerals, and water. Larvae and queens are fed a diet of royal jelly secreted by young nurse bees’ hypo pharyngeal glands. This milky white acidic substance has a high moisture content and is very rich in proteins, lipids, B vitamins, C vitamins, sugars, and minerals that are not fully found in sugar water or corn syrup. There are several nutritional supplements which incorporate these needed nutrients to maintain a healthy colony. Here are some mixtures for your feed:
Honey B Healthy. This feeding supplement is used in spring and winter to stimulate the immune system. This feed stimulant with essential oils prevents mold and fungus in sugar syrup, calms bees when used as a spray, builds colonies when fed during dearth and much more. The scent of spearmint and lemongrass will attract your bees to feed almost immediately.
Amino B Booster. A blend of free amino acids that assimilates rapidly and directly through the mid gut to the bee’s hemolymph and hemocytes, then transported to the sites where protein is needed for bee growth. Amino B Booster provides your bees the nutrients they need when pollen is scarce or lacks the nutrients bees need.
Vitamin B Healthy. Helps provide needed nutrients vital for bee health especially when pollen sources are scarce or the pollen lacks the essential nutrients the bees need. Helps build strong healthy colonies for maximum honey production and pollination or can be used to help build up weak, over-winterized colonies, packages, nucs or swarms.
Hive Alive. A feed to help bees maintain colony strength. Prevents syrup from fermenting and helps bees absorb the nutrients, proteins and sugars needed to increase brood production. Hive Alive strengthens the bees’ immune system to help manage intestinal issues and other diseases.

Varroa Mite

A colonies health is as essential for winter survival as are the food stores they will need to survive. Providing the necessary feed the will need along with a good supplement will go a long way to keep your hive healthy and strong.


Monday, September 8, 2014

Dealing with Crystallized Honey

After storing your honey for several months it now appears cloudy. Do not be alarmed, your honey has crystallized. Crystallization is not an indication of your honey worsening or deteriorating. Crystallized honey is not harmful or expired. Crystallization is the natural process of honey when it leaves the hive. Honey can even crystallize in the hive if your colony is unable to sustain hive temperature in honey super.

You will find that some honeys will crystallize faster than others. Honey is a highly concentrated sugar solution with more than 70% sugar and less than 20% water. Fructose and glucose are the two primary sugars found in honey. Glucose will crystallize faster due to its low water solubility. The ratio of these two sugars will determine how quickly your honey will crystallize. This is why some honeys will last months or years without crystallizing while others will crystallize within weeks of extraction. 

Other factors which affect how quickly honey crystallizes include:

  • Temperature. Storage temperature has a huge influence on the crystallization process. Storage temperatures between 50-60 degrees Fahrenheit are ideal temperatures for crystallization. Temperatures below 50 degrees will slow down the crystallization process as the honey becomes thicker. Honey will resist crystallization at higher temperatures above 70 degrees. Crystals will dissolve when temperatures exceed 104 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Particles. During extraction particles of debris are caught by the honey. Pieces of beeswax or pollen grains will act as a base for the glucose crystals. Unfiltered honey contains a higher number of particles; therefore, it will crystalize faster than finely filtered honey. Also consider the particles in air and be sure to allow your honey to settle before bottling to allow air bubbles to be released.

Honey can be returned to its lucid form if it becomes crystallized. Gently warm the honey by placing the bottle into a water bath or, depending on size of container, a sunny window. Do not heat honey beyond 104 degrees or it will destroy enzymes, begin to caramelize the sugars and alter the flavor. Heat the water bath slowly and bring the temperature of honey up to 95 degrees Fahrenheit. Heating must be done with care if the honey is to retain its nutritional value. If you have left your honey in pails, use a melt belt to bring the honey temperature up to a safe range or use a honey bottler & liquefier as a double boiler.

Some honey enthusiasts enjoy honey in its crystalized state. It is easier to use in cooking and will spread better on toast. See what your customers prefer.