A Facebook friend’s post this week told how a large honeybee swarm had taken up residence in an empty hive on his property. All on its own! He’d left the hive out all winter, “seasoning it with lemon grass every month,” (rubbing lemon grass into the wood), and the day before saw a scout bee […]
We have had a few weeks of spring lately, with the air full of pollen and the bees going crazy. Rain and cool weather returned this weekend, so I am not able to work outside. I am instead sitting inside and writing this early spring update. A year will come when I feel that my […]
What to do through the spring season in beekeeping – check out our list of simple, spring beekeeper activities.
It’s spring colony splitting time and one thing we should keep in mind as we delve into the congested and complex hive is having the correct balance of bees of various ages within the hive or split. An upset in the balance of bees’ ages upsets the proper functioning of the colony. Ex.: who’s going to clean the cells and feed the young larva if the colony goes queenless for an extended period and all of the bees have passed that stage in their adult development? Reversible? I wonder to what degree, and about the quality of work that can be expected from a bee that has passed it’s normal period for the work expected.
I’ve read below and elsewhere that there is some flexibility in the bees’ ability to move forward or backward in their age defined activities. However, the quality of the work suffers based on the bees’ physiologically ability to perform a particular task.
When making splits during the spring buildup there isn’t any difficulty finding brood of various ages so as to provide a split with a diverse population. Done well, a split hardly misses a beat and continues to grow and build effortlessly, while poorly configured splits struggle to get going and sometimes fail.
A simple diagram showing the life history of the honey bee worker.
The schedule of worker bee activities is both flexible and reversible, depending more upon physiological age than on chronological age, and is altered according to the needs of the colony. Diagram Source: Sipa Honey Bees
Our swarm season has officially begun here in the Midlands of South Carolina. New beekeepers and old enjoy the thrill of the chase which kicks in the excitement factor associated with gathering a swarm.
So what does it take to catch a swarm? I was doing a quick search this morning to determine the ideal swarm catchers equipment list and I was struck by a web page I stumbled upon which detailed the swarm catching of a young sixteen year old making a few bucks while providing a valuable community service during the spring swarm season. What impressed me the most was the young man’s minimalist approach to necessary gear. Basically he had a cardboard office supplies box reinforced with duct tape with a makeshift screen on the lid. His second piece of equipment s a plant mister/sprayer with some sugar water. Otherwise he wings it.
I know I have been caught out without any equipment while driving around yet stopped and the property owner and I have found a box, a ladder, and a pruning shear to successfully capture a swarm. Once home it’s easy enough to put them into a proper box.
But let’s say you really want to gather a swarm this year and would feel more comfortable having a few items in your car or truck ready to make short work of almost any situation. What items are in the swarm catcher’s essentials bag? Well, probably a standard Langstroth box with frames. If space in your car or truck is a concern a five frame nucleus box (wooden or cardboard) will suffice. Next is a mister bottle of sugar water to wet the cluster down prior to shaking them or moving to your box. It isn’t essential but the bees will stay together nicely and it gives them something to occupy themselves with while you work with them. Other items which the homeowner may not have available: ladder, pruning shears or loppers, small handsaw, bee suit. That’s pretty much all that’s needed to handle most situations. An extra suit is nice if the homeowner wants to get involved. Often they are interested and it’s a good time to do some community education.
Here are a couple links if you’re interested in gathering swarms. And also, if you think you’d be interested join one of the online swarm call lists to have your name out there for people in your community to call. Warning: It’s addicting!
This week we are talking to Joe Lewis from Maryland in the big Ol’ US of A. This is Episode Ninety Nine of our beekeeping podcast.
Welcome To the kiwimana buzz…
Hi, it’s Gary and Margaret here, We are beekeepers from the hills of the Waitakere Ranges in West Auckland, New Zealand. Our podcast is about beekeeping, Gardening and bit of politics about environmental issues. We also have been known to go off on tangents about other issues.
This interview was recorded in October 2016.
Joe is a Beekeeper and writer from Bel Air, Maryland which is between Baltimore and Philadelphia in North America. He has a passion for the Honey Bees and took up the hobby after retiring from the US Army. He was self diagnosed with the “Not enough bees disease” over eleven years ago and spends his days trying to locate a cure.
Sustainable Beekeeping thru Nucleus Colonies “Beekeeping 357”
Click one the video below to see a video lecture by Joe Lewis
Here is what you will discover
- How to cure “The Not enough Bees Disease”
- The secret to keeping lots of bees and working a full time job
- Why Five is the right number in Beekeeping
- What the Beekeeping 357 principle all about
- How Joe started writing for the American Beekeepers Journal
Resources mentioned in the show
- Joe Business is Harford Honey, the web site is HERE
- Book Following the Bloom by Douglas Whynott can be found HERE
- The Book Beekeeping in coastal California by Jeremy Rose can be purchased HERE
- Susquehanna Beekeepers Association has a website HERE
- Joe Lewis Queen rearing Calendar Wheel, download PDF HERE
- The fifty two most important people in your BeeClub, have a read HERE
- Our interview with Randy Oliver from Scientific Beekeeping can be found HERE
- Randy Oliver’s Article Queens for Pennies, read it HERE
- North West New Jersey YouTube Channel can be found HERE
- Landi Simone Nucleus Colonies Presentation can be found HERE
- Our interview with the Great Frank Lindsay can be listened to HERE
- J Smith – Better Queens Download from Michael Bush Website HERE
Alright, so the title is a little cheesy. But the question does remain. Where would we be without bees?
The gardens of my childhood were filled with bees. Hot summer afternoons in gardens buzzing with their industry. Lying on our backs in the clover, we marvelled at their meandering flight paths, little back legs bundled with yellow pollen. Our raids on the strawberry patch were more deliciously dangerous for the possibility of being stung. When the inevitable happened we endured the pain of having the sting carefully scraped from throbbing limb with a knife. A paste of bicarbonate of soda and water slathered on the wound followed, to soothe the sting. After which we suffered a parental lecture about the poor bee losing its life as a consequence of our carelessness, since they die shortly after delivering that venomous barb.
And honey sandwiches! Who could forget the real honey of our childhoods?
Ahh, those idyllic bee-ful days of my childhood!
A dear friend started me on this path down memory lane recently when she suggested I look at the important role bees play in plant fertilisation.
So, where are they now? What’s going on? Even Spring in my tiny garden doesn’t deliver on the childhood promise of swarms of bees, nor butterflies for that matter, but that’s for another post. Why does it matter?
Bees and fertilization
It matters because bees are prolific pollinators, playing a huge role in the fertilisation of flowers, vegetables and other food crops. I’m sure I’m not telling you something you don’t already know.
But did you know that European honey bees (Apis mellifera) [introduced to Australia around 1822] are incredibly productive? A single colony can easily contain 10,000-60,000 working bees. Each female worker lives for roughly a month and is so effective at pollination that she may forage more than 500 flowers in a round trip. A single bee may range as far as 10km in the search for pollen and nectar. No wonder they say ‘as busy as a bee!’
Furthermore, the familiar European honey bee is not the only kid on the fertilisation block. More recently, attention is being drawn to our native Australian bees. I discovered to my amazement that in Australia we have over 1,600 species of native bee with endearing names like the Teddy Bear and Blue Banded bee, some of which I’ve seen around our local park Callistemons or Bottlebrush (below). They’re an important pollinator for our unique flora.
Increasingly our native bees, like the stingless varieties (genera Tetragonula – previously called Trigona – and Austroplebeia), are also proving to be valuable pollinators of crops such as macadamias, mangos, watermelons and lychees . Their impressive effectiveness as pollinators has even seen them employed by pollination services for commercial growers of these crops. Some native bees have the added advantage of being ‘buzz pollinators’ whereby the vibration of their wings facilitates fertilisation, a feat almost impossible for honey bees.
What’s the reason for the global bee decline?
It appears there’s not one single factor. Dr Les Davies, Chief Regulatory Scientist from APVMA, suggests ‘mutiple interacting pressures which may include habitat loss and disappearance of floral resources, honeybee nutrition, climate change, bee pests and pathogens [like Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) which has wiped out millions of bees in North America], miticides and other chemicals intentionally used in hives and bee husbandry practices, as well as agricultural pesticides,’ are possible factors in the decline of bees. He makes a strong case for being informed about what we spray on our gardens [if this is a path we choose], advocating ‘a need to ensure that a range of regulatory, industry stewardship and educational measures are in place,’ to reduce the risks from pesticides.
My role as a gardener
We all have a stake in maintaining our bio system. When it comes to ‘bee-ing’ a successful gardener, a bit of research has turned up a number of ways I can contribute. It makes sense to plant any garden with bees in mind. A mix of flowers among the vegies will ensure bees are attracted to the garden and will do their bit to ensure bountiful fruit and vegetable crops.
I will be even more mindful of using chemicals in the garden after reading up on bees. While I’ve always preferred natural pest control, heeding Dr Davies’ advice of being more informed about the sprays, fungicides and other chemical products for garden use seems crucial. Especially given I consume the crops I grow, along with a variety of other insects and useful micro organisms who dine on my garden.
“If the bee disappeared off the face of the earth, man would only have four years left to live.”
― Maurice Maeterlinck,
Read more at http://www.yates.com.au/healthy-gardens-need-healthy-bees/#r6Wma0Yg8TwPdexW.99
The travesty of imported honey http://www.tastyhoney.com/blog/honey/australian-honey-imports-from-china-hit-new-record-high/
How to attract bees http://www.yates.com.au/healthy-gardens-need-healthy-bees/#lwW0XsGMCMLsLbz9.97
Honeybee Research http://www.rirdc.gov.au/research-programs/animal-industries/honeybee
Medicinal Benefits of Honey http://www.abc.net.au/science/articles/2013/02/14/3689565.htm
Bee Biology Research
An article by the Northeast New Jersey Beekeepers Association