Thursday, April 27, 2017

Absconding: Why is my Hive Empty?

Your hive is empty? What the heck happened? Beekeeping always has an element of chance when it comes to success.  For every successful hive, there is always the chance that a hive will abscond. Absconding is when an entire colony just ups and leaves their current location in search for a new home. While swarming is a very common action for a colony to take, absconding is much rarer. It can happen any time of year but is most common during the first few weeks of a brand new colony or later in the fall.


There are many variables that can drive a colony to abscond. A few of the of those reasons could be:
  • Lack of Resources: One of the most common reasons is the colony deciding that there is not enough resources available to them in the area. Even if your hive has shown signs of effective foraging and activity, a quick change in the environment can cause trouble. If a colony is new in a hive and, let's say, during a dearth they are unable to find resources at their normal foraging spots, they could decide to pack up and relocate. Slightly similar to swarming except since the colony is so young, it is better for the whole colony to relocate rather than split into half. If you notice that weather conditions are hindering your colonies foraging, it is always best to provide sugar syrup using a feeder.
  • Foul Odors: This can most commonly happen with newly painted hives. If you paint your hive and don’t give it a couple days to air dry completely before installing your bees, the fumes and odors could drive the honey bees away from the hive.
  • Pest & Robbing: Robbing is when honey bees try to invade a different colony and steal some of their resources, whether it be stored nectar or provided feed. Even with an entrance feeder, larger pests could try and dig into the hive to try and feed off the feeder or even the bees. Depending on the severity of robbing, this could potentially cause a colony to abscond. To prevent robbing, keep a watchful eye on your hives activity and the nectar flow. Robbing happens most often during dearth’s or times of minimal resources, so if you notice that your bees are not foraging as much, you may want to reduce the entrance size to help provide your bees with less room they have to protect. Click here to learn more about robbing.
If you discover one of your hives has absconded, there are a few options you have to help build a new colony back up:
Splitting a Hive into a Nucleus Hive
  1. With a second colony that is very strong, you can split the colony and use a portion of it to build up a new hive. To split, select 4-5 frames from the strong colony that include a wide variety of available brood and resources (eggs, larvae, capped brood, and stored nectar). Move these frames into an empty hive and fill in all available frame space (in both the new and old colony) with drawn comb or new foundation. You can allow the colony to try and produce their own queen, but it is recommended to source your own queen and introduce her on your own.
  2. Started your hive with a package or a NUC? There is always the option of sourcing bees out again. Local Bee Associations are a great place to start when looking for the best ways to get bees in your area.
  3. Speaking of Associations, you can always get in contact with fellow beekeepers to see if they have any swarms or hives they are willing to split with you.
The best prevention against absconding is observation. You do not want to open your hive constantly for that could cause just as much disruption with your hive growth (inspection every couple weeks is still recommended), but keeping a watchful eye on their activity in and out of the hive can provide you just as much information.

Absconding is something only a small number of beekeepers ever have to worry about, but it is wise to understand the possibilities and stay informed.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Preparing for your New Bees

A beekeeper can’t be a beekeeper without bees. Packages and Nucleus Hives (NUCs) are the simplest way of finding new honey bees. If you have not pre-ordered your Package or NUC yet, we still have some available for pick-up at our retail stores. Click here to view our pick-up dates and pricing. If you have already found your source for honey bees, you are well on your way to becoming a beekeeper! Before you get started, though, here are a few tips on how to best prepare for your new bees.

Nucleus Hive (NUC) being opened for inspection

Pick up your bees in an appropriate vehicle.

Honey bees in transit are not the happiest. The longer they are confined, whether it be a package or a NUC, the more stressed they become. Would you not be as well? The stress of transporting a colony can cause them to overheat and cook themselves. This is one of the reasons why we recommend you pick up your package of bees rather than having them shipped. They will need constant airflow to keep them from overheating. An open bed vehicle like a truck is a great vehicle to transport bees. If you have to load the bees into a car to travel, make sure you have the windows open and air conditioning on the entire trip. You may get a little chilly but that may be better than cooking your new investment.

DO NOT pick up your hive supplies the same day you get your bees.

Every hive component (hive tops, boxes, and bottom boards) needs either a coat of laytex paint or a sealant to help protect and preserve the wood. The paint or sealant must be dry and the odor dispelled before you install your bees. Picking up your supplies the same day as bees will require an additional 3-5 days before your hive will be ready for the bees. Order your supplies now and get them ready.

Make sure you provide plenty of feed for your new colony.


Installed Package w/ a Cypress Entrance Feeder

Imagine that you have just moved to a new city. Are you going to know where the closest grocery store is located? How long will it take you to build that bookshelf in order to organize your house? While your new colony is learning the environment around them, you will want to provide plenty of sugar syrup for them to feed on. Sugar Syrup is easy to mix and can be fed to the bees in many different devices. Adding feed supplements will provide the additional nutrition to the sugar syrup the bees need. A good rule of thumb is keep feeding your hive sugar syrup until they stop taking it or until the first honey super is added.


It’s never too early to start fighting Varroa Mites.

They are considered one of the key factors in honey bee decline. A small, bloodsucking tick opens wounds on the bees making them more susceptible to infections and diseases that can last multiple generations. Varroa’s reproductive cycle is based upon that of the bees and the female mites will produce young within capped brood cell. One of the best times to treat for Varroa is before the bees are able to cap their brood. Packaged bees will not have capped brood and can be easily treated with a mixture of sugar syrup and oxalic acid, a natural varroa treatment. In a package 100% of varroa mites are exposed so there is nowhere for them to hide.