You may be called to come out and get the bees from someone’s water source. I get a few calls now and then. In the Spring they want beekeepers to come get them off the bushes. In the Summer it’s bird baths and swimming pools. Here’s a typical response I offered a gentleman who reported 20 or so bees coming to his garden pond. He was able to track them towards a wooded area close by:
“Yes sir, we have a member over that way. I doubt they are his bees as usually the bees will find the closest water source and use it exclusively. I see between the two of you there are lots of water ponds the bees would have to fly over to get the mile or so to you.
There really is no way to round up bees coming to a floral source or water. A colony of bees this time of year might have about 30,000 or more bees so 20 is just a few. Also, the queen has to be captured in order for a colony to survive. Otherwise it’s certain death for the workers captured. They have no way to reproduce without the queen and the lifespan of a worker is about 6 weeks.
Take comfort in the fact that only 1 in 6 colonies in the wild survive the winter. That means they will most likely be gone next Spring. In the meantime, also know that honey bees only sting in defense of their hive unless harassed. My mother in law lives with me and sits on our front porch where we too have a garden pond. She has come to enjoy the hum of the bees coming and going to the water source. By Fall they will stop coming and start settling down for the winter. In the Spring they have all the fluids they want in the way of nectar. So this is the only time of year they come to water sources.”
All beekeeping is local. These chores are for the Midlands of South Carolina. During May the nectar flow settles in, providing a steady influx of nectar keeping the bees busy. Robbing is minimal as food is plentiful. The bees are typically gentle and easy to work. Populations continue to grow and the beekeeper needs to be mindful of space management or else swarming may occur. Weather in the Midlands has stabilized with few surprises and the bees continue to fly longer and longer hours each day.
New beekeepers, starting nucleus hives or packages, may find that during a strong nectar flow their bees will no longer take sugar syrup. By now they have developed a foraging force of their own and nature’s food is preferred over sugar syrup. Continue to encourage them to build comb at least until they complete the brood chamber hive body and food chamber hive body. After they have completed those boxes, it is your decision whether to continue to feed or hope to capture some real honey in the first honey super.
1) Add space as needed during first part of month. There is still a month of nectar flow left to be gathered and your bees should be at maximum foraging force.
2) Manage space within the hive in population expanding situations as well as declining population situations. If a hive appears weak in population, or is not active, then investigate. (Colony population should be growing this time of year. If the colony population appears declining, investigate. Do not allow too much unguarded space inside the hive if the colony weakens, swarms, or declines.
3) Plan on checks every week and no longer than every two weeks.
4) Swarm season continues but is lessened. Continue to watch for swarms.
5) Continue to check for queen cells – make splits if swarm cells observed. Have an extra hive body, a five frame “nuc” box, or some other means to collect a swarm or to hive a split.
6) Monitor for disease. Assess varroa mites levels. Temperatures this month will allow wax moths to set up shop in weak hives – kept your hive volume and colony population appropriate (this is what we refer to as “a strong hive.”
7) Honey supers above the feed chamber that are filled may be removed or left in place until the end of the nectar flow but no longer. Provide super space with drawn comb if available for bees to deposit nectar to ripen.
8) Notice Blackberries in bloom. Tulip poplar in bloom. Then Honeysuckle, Dandelion, Privet Hedge, Confederate Jasmine, Persimmon.
9) Add additional space conservatively toward end of month. Remove capped honey, as nectar flow lessens to encourage the bees to fill the open cells, remove moisture, and cap.
11) Email your local club Secretary asking what you can do to help, or volunteer to lend a hand in your organization. Many hands make light work. If you’d like to see your organization grow as well as offer and maintain your current level of member services your help is needed.
The above are general guidelines for the average bee colony in the Midlands of South Carolina. We all have hives that may be outperforming the average. We also have colonies that underperform the average. Use your judgement in making changes suggested here. Beekeeping is an art as well as a science. Only you know the many, many particulars associated with your physical hives as well as the general health and population of your colonies.
Let’s say you were going to open a new business and wanted to hit the market with a bang on day one of shopping season – say black Friday or whatever. You’d have to start preparing for that day ahead of time. How far ahead of time? You really don’t want to hire employees too soon and not have anything for them to do for months. Instead you want to hire them just enough ahead of time to get them oriented to their new jobs, well trained, and ready to service mobs of customers exactly on your Grand Opening date.
The same applies to your honey bees. Grand Opening date is the day the nectar flow begins in earnest. We can never know exactly when that date is as nature deals us a slightly different set of circumstances each year. But seasoned beekeepers in your area can give you a good estimate of the date nectar flow begins and ends in your area. Your job, as the beekeeper, is to have a full staff of employees ready and trained to gather that nectar starting on day one of the season. You’ll also have to worry about employee retention and expansion over the course of the nectar season. Finally, you’ll have to curb hiring as the season diminishes so that you’re not squandering resources on employees that will never gather nectar.
Here in the Midlands of South Carolina most seasoned beekeepers recognize the beginning of the spring nectar flow as April 1st. This year it appears to be running behind schedule. For the purpose of this article we’ll say April 1st and you can adjust for your location and observations. A 3 week old foraging bee available to work on April 1st has already graduated through the various stages of nurse bee, house bee, wax producer, etc. Prior to that she spent 21 days as an egg, larva, and pupae. So exactly when did you need your queen to lay that egg to produce that foraging bee available for work on April 1st? Bee math tells us she needed to lay that egg on approximately February 14. This is easy to remember as it is Nicolai Nasonov’s birthday. But wait, if the queen lays 1,200 eggs per day and does so on February 14 that results in 1,200 foraging bees on April 1st – but we want more than 1,200 bees don’t we? No worries, she didn’t go from 0 to 1,200 in one day. Instead, she’s been increasing her output since the winter solstice. But my point is February is critical for the beekeeper to stimulate production if he or she wants to have a full staff of foraging bees to get the job done in a manner that produces excess honey.
The same math can be used to determine when to start curtailing hiring new employees (bees) during the nectar flow. Our Midlands nectar flow ends approximately June 1st – a brief 2 months from its start date. An egg laid on April 19th will become a foraging bee on June 1st. That’s simply too late to contribute to nectar gathering. But that same bee will eat as much as any other bee in the hive and required the same amount of nutrition and work to create. Now here’s the dilemma, that colony is going to be in full tilt workaholic mode during the course of the nectar flow. It’s all hands on deck and as long as nectar is coming through the front door the queen will continue to lay eggs. The colony will continue to build and build bees because they have all the resources to do so. And the summer solstice isn’t until June 21st so that’s of no help. If you’re still hiring bees after April 19th you’re setting yourself up for having to feed those non-productive bees during the remainder of the nectar flow as well as the coming summer dearth. That means less excess honey for you.
What’s a beekeeper to do? A couple ideas might be to use that nectar flow time after April 19th to create a brood break by caging the queen. This would benefit the colony by reducing mite count via a brood break. A second option might be re-queening your hive allowing for a brood break. Moving your queen across the yard and allowing them to requeen would provide an almost perfect 25 or so days with out new brood. (Your queen across the yard is your failsafe.) Another option might be to “steal” frames of brood and get an early start on summer splits. The number of cells in a deep frame is around 7,000 although there is honey and pollen taking up some of the cells. Nevertheless, taking a frame of open brood, a frame of closed brood, and a frame of honey will hardly set an expanding colony back much and should result in an increase in your honey yield due to fewer mouths to feed. Plus you’ll get another colony, a new queen, a break in mite production, and a backup colony should anything go wrong in the fall. And with the nectar flow still in progress everything goes easier – wait until dearth comes and the same tasks will be much more difficult.
I’ll end here. Tending bees is a lesson in looking forward.
Stephen Taber III. (17 April 1924 – 22 May 2008) was an American apiologist, noted authority and author in the field of artificial insemination of queen bees for the purpose of developing disease resistant and gentle bee colonies.
Mr. Stephen Taber III, was a world-recognized honey bee researcher. He was born on April 17, 1924, to Dr. Stephen Taber II and Bessie Ray Taber of Columbia, S.C. His father was the South Carolina State Geologist from 1912 to 1947 and the head of the Department of Geology at the University of South Carolina, where he was involved in the engineering of the Santee Cooper Dam among many other projects.
Steve became interested in bees at an early age, using the banks of the Broad River in Columbia as his research yard. Steve’s first commercial beekeeping experience was in 1941 in upstate New York where he worked one summer making $30 a month. He continued working in NY and later Wisconsin where he claimed to have learned much of the basics of beekeeping.
He graduated from University High School in Columbia, SC in 1942 and enlisted in the U.S. Navy as an Aviation Cadet in October that same year. While serving in the Navy, he taught beekeeping as a sideline job at several local universities. Steve was later honorably discharged from the Navy in September 1945 after the end of World War II. After the Navy, Steve attended the University of Wisconsin. In 1950, he graduated from the University of WI in Madison, with a Bachelor of Science, specializing in Bee Research under the tutelage of Professor C.L. Farrar.
His first position was with the Entomology Research Division of USDA as an assistant to Dr. O. Mackenson in Baton Rouge, La. This is where he met his longtime friend Murray S. Blum. It was during this time that Steve pioneered the use of instrumental (artificial) insemination, undertaking some of the first seminal and biochemical investigations carried out with invertebrate spermatozoa.
After 15 years in Baton Rouge, he was transferred to the USDA Bee Research Center in Tucson, Arizona, where, in his words, “I was my own instructor.” Steve traveled extensively teaching, lecturing, and researching.
Some of his students are leaders in the world of beekeeping research today. His book, Breeding Super Bees, will attest to some of his research and his studies around the world. His articles and research publications are still being referenced by honey bee researchers worldwide. Articles written by Steve, and his collaborative efforts with others, appeared in numerous publications for more than 50 years. They include American Bee Journal, Gleanings in Bee Culture, Journal of Economic Entomology, Journal of Apicultural Research and Beekeepers Quarterly.
From his obituary:
“The life and legacy of Steve Taber is one that will remain in the hearts of those who knew him. His knowledge and mannerisms have molded the lives of all those he touched. He will never be forgotten.
One of his students writes: “Taber was the most brilliant and wonderfully eccentric bee researcher, ever. He also was the best teacher; he made us question everything we knew or took for granted, and then transformed those questions into creative and constructive research problems – all while teasing and yelling and laughing wildly and free.”
Birth: April 14th, 1846
Death: June 3rd, 1918
Gilbert M. Doolittle (1846-1918) was a 19th-century apiarist and author considered to be the father of commercial queen rearing. His book Scientific Queen-Rearing: As Practically Applied (Thomas G. Newman: Chicago, 1888) was reissued over several editions.
Doolittle also wrote several brochures on beekeeping, and submitted regular articles to Gleanings in Bee Culture over many years. His involvement coincided with a great expansion of beekeeping knowledge in the United States.
From the Online Books Page: Online books by Gilbert M. Doolittle:
Bee biologist Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), known as “the father of honey bee genetics,” served on the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty from 1947 until his retirement in 1974. Long after his retirement, however, the professor continued his research and outreach programs, publishing his last scientific paper at age 87 and his last book at 90. He died at age 96 at his home in Davis.
Childhood and Career Development
Born April 12, 1907 in Houston, Harry spent his boyhood and teen years in the Southeast: Virginia, Florida and Louisiana. In his childhood, he developed a keen interest in bee breeding and worked with his grandfather, Charles Quinn. They experimented with mating queen bees and control breeding and developed what became known as the Quinn-Laidlaw hand-mating method.
In 1929, while working in Baton Rouge, Laidlaw was encouraged by his boss to attend Louisiana State University. He completed his master’s degree in entomology in 1934 from Louisiana State University and received his doctorate in genetics and entomology form the University of Wisconsin in 1939. Two years later he was inducted into the U.S. Army, commissioned. and served as the Army entomologist for the First Service Command in Boston. There he met Ruth Collins, whom he married in 1946. They lived in New York City where he worked as a civilian entomologist for the Army. His career with the UC Davis Department of Entomology began in 1947.
Laidlaw is best known for developing artificial insemination technology for honey bees. His contributions enabled selective breeding of honey bees and pioneered the fundamental study of insect genetics. He authored numerous scientific publications and four books on honey bee genetics and breeding.
Laidlaw studied pests and diseases and conducted research on the breeding of queen bees and on re-queening bee colonies. His research on artificial insemination of bees inspired poet E.B. White to write a poem, “Song of the Queen Bee,” published in the New Yorker magazine in 1945. It included the lines “What boots it to improve a bee, if it means an end to ecstasy.”
Laidlaw received national and international awards for his research and service to the university, agriculture and the beekeeping industry. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1955, and the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in 1991. At UC Davis, he was the first associate dean for research (1969) in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The College of Ag selected him for its Award of Distinction in 1997.
Laidlaw was awarded the Western Apiculture Society’s “Outstanding Service to Beekeeping” award in 1980, being cited as “one of the great scientists in American agriculture.” In 1981 he won the C.W. Woodworth Award of the Pacific Branch of the ESA.
Laidlaw published his classic text Queen Rearing in 1950, in collaboration with J. E. Eckert. He published his last book, Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding, written in collaboration with Robert Page, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, in 1997
Although retired, in 1980-85, he established a honey bee breeding program for the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture as part of a joint UC-Egypt agricultural development program.
Naming of Laidlaw Facility
In 2001, the Bee Biology Laboratory at UC Davis was renamed the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Local artist and sculptor Donna Billick and entomologist-artist Diane Ullman designed the sign at the facility.
Source: Harry H. Laidlaw Papers from the UC Davis Special Collections
Biographical materials, correspondence, writings, research materials, course materials, printed materials, memorabilia, photographs.
Upper entrances. Increasing efficiency of nectar delivery to the hive means more honey stored. George Imirie developed a shim to add entrances between boxes. This is an upgraded version and the idea came to me from a friend. An advantage over Imirie’s design is the space between boxes is reduced to 3/8″ thereby reducing burr comb. I modified the measurements and added reducers.
Additional benefits include:
-They allow upper access and reduce travel across the brood nest possibly decreasing brood nest congestion and swarming. -They add ventilation.
-They cut down traffic across the brood to the honey supers allowing better access thus some think an increase in honey stores.
-If doing comb honey they cut down staining
– And if using an excluder it may help encourage storing in the supers.
Cost is less than a buck each.
Read more about my upper entrances here: Goals in Beekeeping and Upper Entrance
Congestion. A topic I repeatedly misunderstand. And, in all likelihood I remain confused. Congestion, which leads to swarm behavior.
I used to think congestion was not enough room within the hive to comfortably house all of the bees. Kinda like when your cousin comes to town with his 6 kids and stays for a week. Apparently this is in error. Adding an empty box with foundation may help a little because the wax producing aged bees may go up and draw some wax but that’s not it, really. I mean your cousin’s kids are still holed up in your bathroom even if you make them sleep on the back porch. With my cousin’s kids it’s not congestion in the house, it’s congestion in my bathroom. With the bees it’s not congestion in the hive, it’s congestion in the brood nest.
So, I’ve read about opening up the brood nest with an empty frame. I tried this a few years ago (2015) only I couldn’t bear to place an empty frame in there so I placed a frame with foundation. Mistake again. Placing a frame of foundation only split the brood nest up causing more problems rather than helping.
So a couple years ago (2016) I thought maybe it’s time for me to switch to nine frames since I have drawn comb now. That has to be more “open” right? Turns out I got it wrong again. What this would do is reduce the number of frames for bees to hang out making them more likely to be crowded on each frame.
Okay, so what I understand now, I think, is (how can I really know anything when it comes to bees?) that it is nurse bee congestion in the brood area, not bee congestion. And it is not simply too many nurse bees. I mean it IS too many nurse bees, but more importantly it is unemployed nurse bees in the brood nest. The nurse bees are getting in each other’s way. There is an overabundance of out-of-work nurse bees for the amount of work available. It’s like ladies night and there are only 4 guys in the bar.
So, what does a colony do when it has too many nurse bees, which also happen to be coming into wax creating age? Swarm, that’s what.
So how do we reduce their unemployment and keep them in the hive? Give them work. 1) Add drawn comb in the brood area for the queen to lay in, producing more work space and more employment opportunities for nurse bees as well as spreading them out (reducing congestion). 2) Also add drawn comb above the brood nest for the bees to store nectar in thereby reducing the tendency to backfill the brood nest with nectar.
All this adding of drawn comb into critical areas promotes more work space, egg laying, and work opportunities also creates some disruption in the hive, something I consider beneficial during the period the bees are contemplating swarming. It may also allow for Queen pheromone to be more equally distributed amongst the workers which satisfies another swarm theory.
This worked for me last year so I’m going to confirm by trying it again this year. Good luck with your bees!
The varnishing of cells?
Where does this get a mention? It’s in the study notes..
They asked lots of people too.
In Ribbands, Chapter 27, Huber (1814) observed that new combs become more yellow, more pliable stronger and heavier and sometimes there were reddish threads on the inner walls. Chemical tests showed this was propolis.
Source: Uses of propolis
This week reports of swarms have increased indicating that swarm season has started in earnest. The flood of calls has yet to begin but will start soon. This picture, from last year shows a swarm capture utilizing my friend Dave’s combination arborist’s tree tool and a homemade bucket with paint strainer modification. These bees were about 28 feet up.
In the US, those interested in catching swarms should visit Bees on the Net which lists beekeepers willing to go out and retrieve swarms in their area.
It’s time to start enjoying your bees!
Do you like to watch behavior? Are you itching for more during this “leave ’em alone” period of time after package installation? Okay here’s your treat. Recently a friend, posted a positive review about a book link she had read titled, “At the Hive Entrance” by H. Storch. It was one of my favorites when I started beekeeping. And it’s something you can do now – watch the hive entrance. Just place your chair off to the side of the front entrance about 6 or 8 ft. away and watch. After a few days you’ll start to see the routine of the bees. You’ll notice different pollens coming in on different days. Some days they’ll almost jump into the air on takeoff and zoom in on landings. Other days they’re a little slow. You’ll start to relate this to the temperatures, the flow, the season, and other things. You’ll get a feeling for the range of normal behavior (which also varies depending on seasons). In time, you’ll also notice behavior that’s not their norm which may necessitate an inspection. Which brings up the single warning about enjoying this book – it is only one factor in your assessment – entrance observation. If it looks like something unusual you may have to open them up to take a look. Enjoy.
Ebook is available via: Brecknock and Radnor Beekeeping Association
The Bee-keeper’s Manual,
Practical Hints On The Management And Complete Preservation Of The Honey-Bee;
With A Description Of The Most Approved Hives, And Other Appurtenances Of The Apiary.
This review was long due. “Review” would be a misplaced word here. How do you do a critical appraisal of a beekeeping manual written 166 years ago? A technical know-how book is hardly a thing of leisure reading, unless you have an inherent interest in the particular field. I don’t even do beekeeping; neither do I fancy myself taking up this occupation in the future. But this is precisely what is appealing about Henry Taylor’s The Bee-keeper’s Manual. To read the book, you don’t need to have an interest in beekeeping, just a healthy appetite for curiosity.
My curiosity in the subject of beekeeping was sparked when I read Neil Gaiman’s The Case of Death and Honey. Right after reading Gaiman’s Sherlock Holmes short story, I found The Bee-keeper’s Manual while browsing Project Gutenberg on a dull day at work. Enticed by the book’s fine Victorian woodblock illustrations (illustrator unknown) of beehives, I thought “Why the hell not?”
The Beekeeper’s Manual is about the art of beekeeping and not just the technicalities of the apiary—an occupation that needs a Zen-like dedication, for when dealing with bees, as the author says, “Entire quietness is the main requisite.”
Henry Taylor was an amateur bee-keeper extraordinaire. In his words, he took up bee-keeping to seek “occasional relaxation from weightier matters in watching over and protecting these interesting and valuable insects.” Following a friend’s request, he wrote the book as a brief practical handbook on the management of bees. The book must have been quite a success considering it went for six reprints.
Taylor starts off by introducing the poetic sounding Apis mellifica, the domesticate honeybee found in his native country, England. Although outdated to be adapted to modern times, the book covers every aspect of starting an apiary including, but not restricted to, how to deal with bee stings (in case you are attacked by a swarm of bees, stick your head into a nearby shrub). Clear and concise descriptions along with beautiful illustrations show how to construct different hives, protect the hives, manage the hives in different seasons, protect the bees from disease and predators and aid the bees in their work without annoying them.
Bees are sensible creatures. They follow a clockwork precision, yet adapt themselves to changing circumstances. Each bee has its function in the hive spelled out: build cells for the hive, nurse the larvae, lay eggs, and bring farina to make wax and honey, or impregnate the queen.
The last category of bees—the drone—is the most interesting one. The only job of the drone bee is to fertilize the queen bee. Once this is done, the drone bees are kicked out of the hive or killed. Although drastic, this is quite a practical measure from the perspective of space conservation. Additional cells are required in the hive for the larvae that the queen will lay. Also, the drone bees are pretty much useless after the breeding season, unlike the worker bee that works throughout the year. So, it is only prudent to do away with the unwanted drones than to construct new cells. Why carry the extra baggage?
During the swarming season (similar to migration session of birds), the combs in the hive are occupied by larvae. It is also the season when honey is in abundant. However, there is no room to store the collected honey. The bees can’t wait for the young ones to hatch and leave the hive. The flowers will wither and there will no honey to make. Te young bees can’t kick out too early, the brood will diminish. So how do to work around this dilemma? Although, preprogrammed by nature to work and live by a set schedule of weather, bees are clever little fellows. This is what Henry Taylor observes:
Mark the resources of the industrious bees. They search in the neighbourhood for a place where they may deposit their honey, until the young shall have left the combs in which they were hatched. If they fail in this object, they crowd together in the front of their habitation, forming prodigious clusters. It is not uncommon to see them building combs on the outside.
And they quite attached to their brood as well, especially the queen. As the queen moves around the hive, the bees show their affection by bringing their antennas in contact with the queens. She returns this gesture likewise.
She is the mother of the entire community, her office being to lay the eggs from which all proceed, whether future queens, drones, or workers. Separate her from the family, and she instinctively resents the injury, refuses food, pines and dies.
Henry Taylor’s humane perspective towards the bees makes the book a delight to read. The technicalities of beekeeping are quite extensive throughout the book. However, they are easily absorbed due to the author’s empathy towards his subject. Bees are just not the means to obtain an end product—honey and wax. They are “wonderful creatures” that teach “perfect organization and faultless adaption of means to an end, a lesson of humility; and finally, by the contemplation of their beautiful works.”
…How oft, when
Man might learn
Abbe Warré developed the popular hive based on his experience with 350 hives of different systems existing at the time as well as on the natural behaviors of the bee . In order to disseminate his works, he wrote several books: Health or the Best Treatments of All Diseases , Honey, Its Properties and Uses , Health, Guidebook for the Sick and Well- Being and especially the Most Important ‘Beekeeping for all’ , a new edition was published by Coyote in 2005. The previous edition was published in 1948.
Its goal was to obtain a hive closest to the natural conditions of the bee, while being practical for the beekeeper. He preferred to make savings rather than profits and was looking for savings instead of productivity. His hive was thus based on a small financial investment for its manufacture and its exploitation. He hoped that everyone could have a hive and harvest honey without having to equip themselves with many tools of extraction.
Happy Birthday William Woodley born at Oxford on March 9, 1846.
Source: originally written in the Obituary British Bee Journal – 25 October 1923 and presented here as found at: Beehive Yourself
From Mr. Woodley’s Obituary Notice in 1923:
Thirty years ago Mr Woodley had become famous as a bee-keeper. He specialised in sections with great success, and for years carried off the best prizes at the biggest shows. He was no jealous guarder of secrets, but for many years by his contributions to the “Bee-Keepers’ Record,” the “Berkshire Bee-Keeper;” to this journal, and occasionally to the American bee-keeping magazines he placed the advantage of his knowledge and great experience at the disposal of those who were seeking success in bee culture. Until the last he was a reader of current American bee literature, but his habit of thought saved him from the error of imagining that methods and practices that suit America are equally suitable for this country, with its different climate and flora. Years ago Mr Woodley worked over 200 stocks, and did a large business in honey and in supplying swarms of bees, many going to Scotland, where they were worked for the heather. Acarine disease robbed him of the whole of his stock, but he had began to work it up again, without any intentions, however, of going so extensively as formerly into the business.
Mr Woodley was led by his cousin to take an interest in bees. Mr A. D. Woodley’s father promised him a hive of bees, but for some time he did not accept the offer. An article in “Chambers’s Journal” which he read in 1879, and the subsequent possession of Cheshire’s “Practical Bee-Keeping,” published about that time, filled him with enthusiasm. He accepted the offer, and got his father during the Easter holidays to help him make a frame hive, into which he transferred the combs and bees. He persuaded Mr Woodley to take an interest in the bees his great-aunt kept at Beedon, and at Whitsuntide of the same year went over to Beedon and made him his first hive. This hive Mr Woodley called “Jumbo,” and it is in existence today. Mr Woodley secured some most beautiful honey in bell glasses, which were exceedingly popular in his novitiate days, and the products of his bees were soon on the show bench at the Crystal palace and elsewhere. Until disease swept away his stock Mr Woodley had been a regular exhibitor at the Royal Agricultural Show.
Read the full article originally written in the Obituary British Bee Journal – 25 October 1923 at: Beehive Yourself. There you will also be able to further explore the life and works of Mr. William Woodley.
Worked as a Apicultural Assistant with the USDA Bureau of Entomology. Wrote many pamphlets and books on honey bees.
Commercial comb-honey production / by Geo. S. Demuth.
The temperature of the honeybee cluster in winter / by E.F. Phillips and George S. Demuth
Wintering bees in cellars / E.F. Phillips and George S. Demuth
The preparation of bees for outdoor wintering / E.F. Phillips and George S. Demuth.
Comb Honey 1917
George S. Demuth is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery, Medina. Medina County, Ohio, USA
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.
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.
Click one the video below to see a video lecture by Joe Lewis
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
The rule of 72 and mite control.
The rule of 72 is a financial rule of thumb that says that 72 divided by an interest rate will tell you how long it takes for any given amount of money to double.
There are a lot of factors involved but this is also true with many other things in life. For example, we could determine a similar calculation for mites in honey bee colonies.
How is this relevant? The relevance is in the doubling effect. A financial planner will tell you to start saving early for this reason. No matter how much, or little, it matters to start early. Why? To get more doublings.
Your first year’s savings may take 7 years to double. That may be doubling from $1000 to $2000. Not much in the big picture of retirement, huh? But remember there’s another $1000 for each year you saved after your first year. And so it goes. Compounding takes effect and the total grows.
In ten years lets say you have$15,000. That $15,000 doubles in another 7 years plus any additional you have added. By the second doubling you’ll start to see the effects of compound interest.
So, here’s the kicker. By the time you are ready to retire, let’s say you have $500,000. That’s great but what if you had started 7 years earlier? Think about this. The answer is you’d have another doubling in the equation. That’s right, $1,000,000. The big One Million. Or an additional $500,000 in just seven years. Crazy huh?
And to the point of this post. A mite population has a rule of 72 which can be calculated by it reproductive rate. What does that mean when it comes to mites? It means, just like the rule of 72 and money, it isn’t the first doubling that kills the colony, it’s the last doubling. Now doesn’t this explain some things that sometimes seem unexplainable? Like sudden colony crashes and what appears to be abscondings? That last doubling is simply overwhelming. The viral load transmitted by the mites becomes unsurvivable by the bees. Of course, with bees, the rule of 72 with mites in beehives has a limiting factor – the survivability of the bees.
Bees fill voids greater than 3/8″ (1cm) with comb. When not given a guide to work with they build it according to their own liking. Hence the marvel of Hoffman frames and hive designs that encourage them to build within the design guidelines.
I made this mistake last year, discovered it, and left it until this year. Somehow I placed six shallow frames in a medium hive body located in the center brood box position. On inspection last year I realized my error when I tried to remove the frames. Oops! Since last summer I have spent many sleepless nights tossing and turning anxiously awaiting 2018 spring inspections when I hoped the box would be vacated and I could remove it. Yesterday was the day and last night I finally had a good night’s sleep. 🙂 BTW: These bees get an F for maintaining proper bee space.
(All beekeeping is local. The dates given below are guidelines for the Midlands of South Carolina. Adjust to your local area as needed.)
This time of year both beekeepers and the honey bees are working towards the same short term goals but for different reasons.
Let’s start with some bee math. We can expect a bee born this time of year to have a life expectancy of approximately 5 or 6 weeks. Of those 6 weeks only approximately 3 weeks will be spent as a forager.
We also know, based on information provided to us by our seasoned mentors, that here in the Midlands we can expect our nectar flow to begin, in earnest, around late March / early April and to last approximately until the first week of June.
To gather the greatest amount of nectar (ultimately honey) and to get the most comb drawn during that 2 month window of strong nectar flow we must have all hands on deck on day one of the nectar flow. Meaning a colony at its peak of nectar gathering abilities, fully staffed to handle the challenge of millions of blooms occuring in a short period of time. (Think of it as having enough wait staff in a restaurant just prior to dinner hour. Too few staff and things just don’t get done.)
The bees want the same thing we do at the same time. They want a full staff on day one of the nectar flow. Missing the mark and showing up with a full staff at the end of the nectar flow is useless and, in fact, a burden on the colony’s ability to feed lots of bees after the nectar is gone.
So, it seems we have a mutual goal between beekeeper and honey bee – lots of bees on day one of what amounts to their work shift.
Let’s make a best guess as to when Day One occurs based on history as given to us by our mentors and say it’s April 1st here in the Midlands. Should I run an ad in Free Times advertising for Help Wanted to help with this year’s nectar flow?
“Seasonal Help Wanted: Honey Bees to help gather nectar during this year’s nectar flow. Must be willing to travel and be in foraging phase of life.”
No, probably won’t work. But using bee math and the bees own instincts for this time of year we can determine how to get those bees. I need a three week old bee available on April 1st. Given it takes 21 days from egg to birth and then allowing for the three week age requirement for the job, I can determine that a new foraging bee on April 1st was an egg exactly 6 weeks before the nectar flow began. Also, since the queen can only lay a set amount of eggs a day – perhaps 1,200 or maybe a bit more, I had better start even before that 6 weeks if I want a FULL staff on day one of the nectar flow.
Still with me? Great because the good, and bad, parts are coming soon.
What this means for you today (Feb. 20th), is that we are just now at that date when an egg layed today will get her work permit as a 3 week old forager on the first week of April. That’s good! Another thing that’s good is the bees have already been ramping up and your queen should be a laying machine right now. What you want to do is encourage that queen and that colony to continue this egg laying, brood rearing mania, tirelessly for the next 60 days. Important: Do you know how to do this?
Now for the bad news. Your reasons for the buildup are not the same as the bees. You both want a buildup and on that point you support each other’s efforts. However, because you have different end goals you have to understand each other’s motivations if you are going to be successful partners.
I’ll try to be gentle but, you see, they (the bees) want to move out. Not all of them; just about 60% and the queen. They’re preparing now for their move. You may have thought they were building up for the nectar flow and you’re right, they are, but they see the start of the nectar flow as providing the means for a successful move. We call it a swarm; they call it reproduction. By moving out at the start of the nectar flow it gives them the best chance of building a new home and surviving.
For the beekeeper this is like half of your employees leaving just as your grand opening day presents itself. And the amount of work to be done is so great that you’ll not get it done if you lose more than half those employees (well, you’ll probably get enough for them but not you).
So, the dilemma is to convince the bees they’d actually like to stay around in their current home for just a while longer. Very Important: Do you know how to do this?
Heck, convince them that if they stay, in June you’ll actually help them move (i.e. make split).
I’m not at all convinced the warm climate we are seeing this winter is here to stay. But I’m not sure the bees agree with my weather predictions either. Watching the landing boards with foragers in full pollen collection mode and brief inspections tell me that some colonies are already in full tilt brood production.
What does this mean for the beekeeper?
Well, it means lots of excitment watching them grow at a rate that is phenomenal. By this time next month either you will have made roo…m for the extra bees and managed them for swarming or you may be looking up in the trees for half of your work force.
Or it could actually be more dire. Winter food stores up until this point may have been steadily declining at a gradual but predictable rate. So what happens when the queen starts her spring buildup, egg laying extravaganza? Well, between increased consumption of ever more house bees and foragers, plus trying to feed thousands of larvae, the food stores decline can no longer be graphed as a straight line. Now it is a sharp spike upward!
Beginning now is when the beekeeper needs to remember to lift the backs of their hives. And on those pretty days when you get into them to ooh-ahh at their numbers and beauty, look and assess for nectar stores. December and January saw a full pantry with slow, steady declines, but brood rearing brings on food demands that dwarf late fall and early winter.
And a final scare for you. It’s quite a curiosity that starved bees don’t slowly decline due to lack of food. No, for them it’s the Three Musketeers: “All for one and one for all,” meaning they’ll do down together if they run out of food. One day they are all fed, the next, well…not.
Not long ago, someone asked when we should start feeding the bees. The answer given was another question – What are your goals?
We want to building strong colonies but for what purpose? To catch the nectar flow? To make splits?, nucs?, or early pollination purposes? Each goal has a different start date.
Much of what we do with our bees involves looking forward. Last year I wrote a piece on when we should start the push towards building them up for purposes of capturing the nectar flow. I’ll bump that article to the top at a later date when it’s more relevant. Today, though, I’d like to think through another planning exercise for the beekeeper wanting to make strong splits from overwintered colonies.
I like bee math!
An experienced mentor and bee buddy of mine called me recently to ask if I wanted to order some early season queens. He caught me off guard just a bit because I really had not done my math homework for the coming splits season. Well, I’d better get hopping and decide if I’m going to order queens or make queenless splits.
And if I’m going to make spilts, when do I need to get busy?
Framing the issue:
We know from prior swarm seasons and winners of the “Golden Hive Tool Award” (given to the first captured swarm of each season) that swarming in the Midlands starts as soon as late, late February but typically early, early March and will remain strong for a month to six weeks into April then taper with an occasional spurts and sputters along the way.
We know that nature provides natural pollen and nectar for buildup in the Midlands around early to mid February (give or take). Some people see some earlier and this is climate and location dependent. So in nature we see feed for the bees a ~ month or so before swarming.
We know that the climate is still a bit dicey March 1st with occasional surprise freezes which could impact the survival of splits. I’m not sure I want to tempt Midlands weather.
March 1st looks to be an intersection between climate and colony readiness.
So, with natures help,some colonies are ready to swarm as early as ~ March 1. What constitutes being “ready?” Well, colony swarm preparations are a topic in itself but one hardwired componet is drone production. So we deduce that swarming colonies will have made drones ready to mate. I presume nature and the bees assume other colonies have done the same so as to provide some genetic diversity. But back to the point. If a colony is ready to swarm with ready drones when did they start those drones? The answer might help me as to when to start pushing buildup.
Let’s try to nail down a date to promote drone production by reviewing our bee math for drones: 3 days as an egg; 6 1/2 days as a larvae, and capped by day 10. 14 days as a pupa – 24 days. Right? Oh, but we must not forget that that drone is but a wee tot when born and needs to get to his “adolescence” to be ready for mating. That occurs after another 14 days give or take. Okay, I need to start making drones 38 days prior to making queenless splits. Right?…Wrong. Remember that if I make a split the bees will have to begin queen cells and we don’t need ready drones at the start of queen cells. We need them to coincide with the time it takes to make a queen and allow her to “harden” ready for her mating flight. Oh my, that probably negates some of my original calculations.
Nature tells me it will start making the splits for me (i.e. swarm) around March 1st. Let’s use that a date that nature chooses as the earliest date swarms are likely to survive and use subtraction to come to the date I need to start building up my hives in order to maximize my success with queenless splits. March 1st minus 38 days leaves me at January 16th. I know this date as the birthday of Johann Dzierzon, father of parthenogenesis. (In animals, parthenogenesis means development of an embryo from an unfertilized egg cell. Ain’t that a coincidence?) But, as much as I would like to start pushing for drone production on Johann’s birthday, remember I need to deduct (or add back) the time for the colony to create a mating ready queen or approximately 20 to 24 days. My head is starting to hurt. Okay, January 16 plus 24 days = February 7th (or three days before Ormond Aebi’s birthday).
Isn’t it a curiosity that my efforts at calculations results in a bunch of needless time wasting when mother nature gave me the buildup date to begin with – the bloom of Red Maples! That is, when the maples bloom is the start date when nature itself provides the necessary ingredients to maximize successful colony reproduction on a date conducive to climate and impending nectar flow. You can’t fool mother nature. I’m exhausted but it serves me right. Beekeepers should probably reply to questions like this with bloom dates rather than calendar dates.
Our swarm season has officially begun here in the Midlands of South Carolina. Beekeepers, old and new, 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 for ventilation on the lid. His second piece of equipment is a plant mister/sprayer with some sugar water. Otherwise he wings it.
I have been caught out without any equipment while driving around and responded to a phone call unprepared, yet 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 on a ventilated bottom board. If space in your car or truck is a concern a five frame nucleus box (wooden or cardboard) will suffice. You’ll want to be able to keep them enclosed for the drive back so use some screen or otherwise completely block the entrance. Next is a mister bottle of sugar water to wet the cluster down prior to shaking them or moving to your box. Sugar water 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, gloves. 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!
There’s lots to do in the bee yard today since mother nature has stolen at least two weeks preparation time out from under us here in the Midlands of South Carolina.
I had a few, okay maybe a half dozen, hives that were just too burr combed up in the feeding shim to properly handle than I would have have ten or more days ago. Things weren’t better today.
The first venture into the hives after winter is probably one of the most difficult and dreaded for me each year. They have burr combed up all my violations of bee space and propolized everything together such that not much goes quite as planned. Then there’s always that space between boxes where the bottom bars of the frames above become connected to the top bars of the frames below. The bees, having not been allowed much in the way of drone comb find this a great spot to build drone comb and raise spring drones. That the hives in question today had been deferred spoke to the fact that I didn’t really want to deal with them ten days ago as I should have.
But things must be handled and there’s always the knowledge that afterwards the hives are easier to work for the remainder of the season.
My first adventure today was into a well populated two story nucleus hive I overwintered. They objected somewhat but adequate smoke kept them in check while I rotated a full box off the top and replaced it with drawn comb and returned some of their stores. I was happy to get out of there though as I was spending far too long performing my tasks being a little rusty and not having every widget available I normally like.
I did the same for several more nucleus hives and started in on the ten framers that still had feeding shims in place. That’s when the trouble started. Entire feeding shims filled with willy-nilly comb in all directions and filled with honey and drone brood. And black with bees covering everything and spilling out over the boxes. A little smoke helped move them but nothing short of a rap of the inner cover on the box dislodged them back into the uppermost hive body. Unhappy bees; unhappy beekeeper. Usually though they settled down shortly. Once I had to take a walk with them following me for 100 feet or so. I was probably not working them slow enough in the hive nor fast enough overall to get out of their domain. Get ‘er done, and I was almost there.
I had passengers in the truck with me as a drove away from the last hive. Windows down, suit on, and proud of myself having gotten the deed done without a sting through my glove or on top of my head as sometimes happens with the veil pulled down tight.
Oh, what’s that? A hive over by my main stretch of ten framers with it’s brick standing on end. Usually I use this brick position to indicate a queenless condition but I remembered from ten days ago why I stood it up then. The bees were too thick and they were too irritable to bother so I deferred and stood the brick up. Having completed all except this one hive I decided to stop and complete today’s task list. Only take a minute – probably.
The bees were still thick under that inner cover and they had the entire feeding shim filled with honey comb and drone brood. Most of it hung down off the inner cover. I smoked them down and waited. They kept coming back up in short order. As mentioned earlier, there tends to be an overall time limit for bees after which they just say, “You’re done here.” I was running out of time and knew it. I had a thought to go back to the barn and get a bottle of Bee Go to run them down out of that shim with its unpleasant odor. But my dilemma was time. Things weren’t going to get better in ten minutes. I was already taking a heavy bombardment of bees against my veil. I decided it would be best to bang the inner cover against the shim and smoke them some more. After a couple raps most of the bees dislodged and I was able to get the inner cover and the shim removed. I scrapped the honey and drone comb into a ready bucket and thought I’d better close up. Then, as one does when they are tired, a bad decision presented itself to me. While it’s good to know that I’m still capable of decisions at my age, bad ones just stink. I decided as I reached for the replacement inner cover that the bees were so thick I had better check for swarm cells between the boxes. Okay, that’s a quick hive tool between the boxes, a tilt upward, and I should be done – right? Well, there was drone brood between the boxes as I should have known, and maybe in my haste I forgot to smoke them down. Or maybe I did and they were so thick they had nowhere to go. I took my hive tool and scrapped the first top bar and my gloved had was covered. Second top bar and they have decided to cover my entire right arm. Third scraping and they are like Velcro on my jacket and veil. I can’t remember the final strokes as I was in get ‘er done mode. I did get the box down and in place when I started to feel the stings though my jeans and forearms. Oh my! Folks, when they decide they have no place left to light on you other than your jeans you’ve stayed far too long.
I started walking, stopping occasionally to brush some off. New beekeepers, remember I told you to buy a brush! I walked and walked and covered a hundred yards. Finally I headed back. I still had to replace the inner and telescoping covers. I did so and had to walk again with irritable bees. I had made every mistake I could have, overstayed my welcome by a stretch, rapid movements, and kept coming back when they said, “GO!”. One last trip and I eased into my waiting truck and drove off fully suited with about twenty bees that decided it best they give me an escort.
Done but not proud of my finesse on this one. Maybe I’ll go back for my smoker later, or tomorrow. Wonder where my hive tool is?
Birth: Feb. 17, 1851
Death: May 30, 1911
William Z. Hutchinson (1851-1911) was a 19th-century Michigan apiarist and author. He founded the Bee-keepers’ Review in 1888, and served as its editor over the remainder of his life. Hutchinson was an enthusiastic proponent of producing comb honey.
It takes preparation to get to the Olympics. Are your bees going to the Olympics this year?
Time is short. Will you be ready? Have you coached them up and prepared them for the adventure of the spring nectar flow? Are they building strength in population? Are they healthy? Is their mite count 1% or less? Is your equipment ready?
It takes approximately 6 weeks to prepare a bee population of sufficient size to fully capitalize on the nectar flow. The time to stimulate that increase is now. It is time to do everything you possibly can to get your bees healthy and increase their populations. The saying is, “build your bees before the flow, not on the flow.”
One either prepares before the nectar flow begins or one stays behind the entire spring. Nature does not wait for the procrastinator.
Born February 10, 1916
Died July 19, 2004
Source: Wikipedia – Ormond Aebi
Ormond Aebi (1916 – July 2004) was an American beekeeper who was reported to have set the world’s record for honey obtained from a single hive in one year, 1974, when 404 pounds of honey were harvested, breaking an unofficial 80-year-old record of 303 pounds held by A. I. Root. Together with his father Harry, the Aebi’s wrote two books on beekeeping: The Art and Adventure of Beekeeping (1975) and Mastering the Art of Beekeeping (1979) (both currently out-of-print).
He was known to have enjoyed beekeeping all his life. In 1981, Mr. Aebi told the Santa Cruz Sentinel he knew his bees so well that, when out driving, his father would say, ” “Ormond, isn’t that one of our bees?,” and I’ll say, “No, I don’t think so,” or “Yep, sure is.”
Ormond told me a curious story that day though, which I’ll retell just as he told it to me. Ormond was a character with very strong beliefs, beliefs that I don’t happen to share, but he was earnest and sincere and his beliefs do make for a good story. So here it is.
He said that Jesus came to him in a dream one night and told him that if he wanted to increase the productivity of his hives that he should attach a wire to the queen excluders of his hives. Jesus was very specific about the length of the wire and Ormond carefully complied with Jesus’ instructions.
For those who don’t know, the queen excluder is a series of parallel wires placed closely together in a bee hive. It sits between the lower brood boxes and the upper supers, the boxes where the honey is stored. It functions to keep the queen from laying eggs in the boxes that contain the honey in them. She’s too big to fit between the wires, but the worker bees can still come and go unimpeded.
So Ormond attaches the precisely measured wires to the queen excluders and waits. Sure enough, just as Jesus promised in the dream, the productivity of the hives increases significantly.
Ormond is a religious man, and so he doesn’t think it is too surprising that Jesus’ advice worked. He mentions his experience to his beekeeping friends, and word eventually reaches the biology department of Stanford University.
Stanford University finds it surprising, very surprising. They come to his home in Santa Cruz to investigate.
What the scientists eventually conclude is that somehow the wires that Ormond attached to his hives were acting as antennae, turning the hives into natural radios and piping in the local classical music radio station to the hives. The bees loved it. (KSCO AM 1080, if you’re curious, it is now a right-wing talk radio station. I wonder what effect Rush Limbaugh would have on honey production.)
In his later years he was diagnosed with Diabetes, which did not seem to affect his health, but did contribute to his decision not to continue beekeeping when his swarms were destroyed by varroa mites. He worked as a part-time handyman at a daycare next door to his home for the last several years of his life, and continued to write to friends he made worldwide due to his books.
Source: Wikipedia – Ormond Aebi
Here are two articles on a topic we should brush up on now that swarm season is almost here. The first article is on Checkerboarding, a swarm prevention technique invented by Walt Wright. The second article is titled, Swarm Control and Management by Dr. James Tew. (The second article is a little misaligned but you should be able to find it elsewhere.)
Checkerboarding is a relatively new approach to swarm prevention. Although it has only been published for about 15 years, it defies the old adage that “swarming is inevitable.” This submittal is intended to substantiate or quantify the advertised reliability.
Implementation of the checkerboarding (CB) manipulation is disgustingly simple. The manipulation consists of removing alternate frames of honey from the top box and replacing those frames with empty comb suitable for rearing brood. Since there is no brood nest disturbance, it can be done in late winter before the brood nest expands into the top box of capped honey. After the initial manipulation, to sustain swarm prevention reliability, maintain empty comb at the top for the colony to grow into with brood nest expansion. If that sounds too simple to be effective, you are in good company. Almost nobody believes it would get the reliability that is inherent in the approach.
Read the full article here: Swarm Control — Bill’s Russian Bee Blog
“If beekeeping was easy I guess it wouldn’t be interesting.” Fleming Mattox
Reading the old timers’ beekeeping books from the 1800’s and early 1900’s I am struck with their struggles with wax moths and “disappearing disease.” It almost sounds like they are writing about today’s beekeeping struggles. We could say, “but we have mites” but then they also had the struggles of transporting their bees via horse and wagon so maybe beekeeping has always involved a bit of effort.
Books and articles written in the late 20th century talk about the additional problems encountered when tracheal mites arrived and later Varroa mites. These two pests caused many beekeepers to hang up their veil. But there have always been those that persevere through difficult times. And, ironically, some are drawn to the challenge.
I generally dislike articles written from the perspective of singling out a particular bad guy on the topic of current honey bee health problems. Instead I like those articles that state a problem and offer solutions that I can take to my own bee yard and implement. I know that commercial beekeepers take over two million hives to almonds every year which receive compensation depending on their grading. In Georgia, the package bee industry makes so many excess bees every year that it absolutely boggles the mind. My local association alone usually orders from four to five million honey bees each year – and we are only a single club. So, it can be done! I want to be like that guy with the extra bees and I’d like to see all beekeepers succeed with their bees.
Randy Oliver has said in “The Rules for Successful Beekeeping,” honey bees need four things: food, a dry cavity, help managing pests, and protection from toxins. That’s the proactive way of stating their needs and tells us what we can do to help them survive. (If your mind thinks differently he stated the same thing in a different article, “The Four Horsemen of Bee Apocalypse,” but from the negative point of view, what kills bees: famine, chill, pestilence, and poisons.) Randy runs about a thousand hives and sets up multiple experiment yards for his scientific studies. He knows bees.
It seems that thoroughly understanding the above four things that honey bees need might be the answer to keeping bees alive and healthy. The problem is each of these four items is accompanied by a lengthy list assessments, methods, timings, and manipulations. Instead of four things to remember I now have many. Not to mention I have to choose wisely among the many options to accomplish these four goals.
Soon after getting involved in beekeeping I got the thought that there might be some secrets involved to being a successful beekeeper. You know, like some sort of insider tricks which weren’t being generally offered in books and articles. I decided to start listening very closely when in conversation with successful beekeepers in the hope they’d let something slip. I checked my own thoughts and beliefs at the door and listened to them talk, hopeful of gaining a tip or trick here and there. Soon it started to pay off. Yes, there were tricks and tips that I hadn’t read about. For the most part these secrets weren’t really secrets though. They were methods and observations that really worked to satisfy, “The Rules for Successful Beekeeping.” Some were old school and some were new school. And the jewels came out when least expected, sometimes during a lecture, in casual conversation, before or after a meeting, during a get together over dinner, or in a bee yard while tending the bees. There was no telling when one of these jewels would just pop out and a light bulb would light up in my head. As for the speaker, I doubt they were even aware that the casual bit of beekeeping wisdom or artistry they had imparted was exactly what I needed to hear at that particular moment.
In closing I’m going to share with you how you too can get the inside scoop on improving your beekeeping. Beekeeping is both art and science. You can read a lot of the science but successful beginning beekeepers learn the methods of successful seasoned beekeepers. And I’ll add that this goes tenfold over for beginning beekeepers. Go to the knowledge base of your club. They are talking bees before, during, and after every monthly meeting and if you’re not there you are missing information on the art of beekeeping you need now or will need later.
I’m still a long ways from being the beekeeper I want to be. I’ve got more things to learn – some from the bees and some from others. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Life Is a Journey, not a destination.” Pardon the poor paraphrase but for beekeepers, “Beekeeping is a journey, not a destination.” Enjoy the ride!
Sitting inside thinking about the recent rains beating down on the hives, it occurs to me that I’ve not written about my experience using markers for writing on and identifying hives.
This may appear as an advertisement of some sort but I assure you it’s simply a suggestion for those that are tired of marking and numbering hives only to realize weeks or months later that your notes or numbers have long since faded away. I tried everything to simply number my hives so I could match up my notes with the hives. I tried permanent markers, sign markers, and every marker I tried let me down. It seems the sun and the weather is a lot more brutal and persistent that I realized.
At first I tried to use permanent Sharpies for labeling hives. They make a clear and nice looking mark for stencils and labels but they faded in sunlight lasting only a couple months in daily direct sunlight, rain, etc. I moved on to their marker designed for Signs (also designated permanent) with disappointing, similar results. Then my friend showed me a really permanent marker he uses to label his hunting equipment and other outdoor property. The trick to finding a really permanent outdoor marking pen is in the name. If it says SOLID marker then you are getting real paint and not ink. I can’t remember the name of the one my friend originally showed me but since that first Solid Marker Pen I have started using Deco Color ID: Solid Stick. The ID Solid Stick is the perfect paint marker for most surfaces and is thermal resistant to extreme temperatures from -10°C to 200°C. This paint stick is opaque, water proof, fade resistant, dries in 5-7 minutes, and can be used indoors or outdoors. Use it outside on glass, tires, concrete, garbage cans, street address identifiers, PVC Pipes and plastic tubing/sheeting and much more! Indoor uses include sporting gear, toys, bicycles, boots, pots and pans, ect. Available in 5 colors: Red, Yellow, Blue, Black and White. They are available at Hobby Lobby for under $5 which is a little more expensive than I’ve found online but worth the price. They are truly permanent it seems. I started using them two years ago numbering hives. Last year I started using the hive tops as my notebook making notes, writing dates, hive status, etc. and so far the numbering and writing looks the same as the day I first wrote on the hive covers. In fact, the paint pen is so permanent the only way to remove the marking is to paint over older notes. Truly a product that works.
When you see a swarm of bees like this, over 12 feet in a tree, what to do? I’ve lost several very large swarms of Honey Bees, only because they where so high up in a tree (15 to 22 feet), that I had no chance of getting them back. It’s heart breaking to just stand there and look at them, knowing you aren’t going to be able to catch them. They might stay there for a day or two, but that’s about it. Therefore, I came up with a serious plan for being able to catch them back. If you’ll pay close attention to how we go about this, I’m certain you’ll benefit from these tips.
Get your gear together, and setup. The pole and bucket that you see, is PRICELESS! The pole is a paint pole, that extends. The bucket us called a Hipps Swarm Bucket. Yes, you can figure out how to make your own if you’d like.
You might need a helping hand in order to get this job done. Bees that have swarmed, are heavy with honey. Once the main swarm of bees hits the bottom of the bucket, you can’t just TIP the pole over and dump it into the hive….the aluminum pole will just snap. After the bees hit the bottom of the bucket, one person holds the pole upright, while the other person screws the black handle lose, and let the pole slide down into itself, and THEN you can dump them into a hive.
Get the bucket positioned under the swarm and give a solid push. Make certain that the swarm itself is even inside the bucket, before you thump them off the limb. You’ll feel the weight hit the bottom of the bucket, and then it’s up to you and your helper to get the pole upright, and keep it that way. Once the swarm hits the bottom of the bucket, pull the chord hard and close the lid on top of the bucket. Before I put the bucket up in the tree, I spritz inside with some sugar water.
Once the pole is under control, losen the handle and let the bucket come down to a managable level. Then you can walk over and dump them into a hive body. Be sure to take out several frames in order for the bees to have plenty of room to make it into the box.
You may even have to go back up with the bucket in order to get another shot at the remainder of the bees. You may do this several times, at least. The point here is; once the initial swarm has been in the bucket, that BEE SMELL from the Queen becomes your “bee lure”. Use it to your advantage. The bees will come down into the bucket in order to find the Queen. You should have gotten the Queen in the first grab.
You might even leave the pole and bucket up against the tree for a few minutes, in order to the bees to settle in the bucket. You might even put in a few old, black brood frames if you have some extra. Bees love these black frames!
Have your helper take off the hive lid, and dump in more bees. This is repeated about 4 times, or more.
Notice on the hive above, the porch entrance is blocked with a towel. I have placed sugar water on them. I left the hole in the box OPEN. Once the bees get oriented inside this box, they’ll start coming out for a look.
You can go back up for more bees.
Dump them in the box. Each time, you must COLLAPSE the pole.
Leave the pole against the tree for a few minutes. Bees that are flying around, will settle down, and find their way into the bucket to have a look around. You can close the lid again, and bring them down. They’re a bit confused and lost. Help them find their new home!
Letting them settle into their new home.
Let the bucket lure in more bees.
Collapse the pole, bring down more bees.
Dump into hive body. Put the lid back on top of the hive body, but upside down…which makes it easier to remove and put back on. We want this lid to stay on while we work the bucket. I want the bees to come back out of the hole, and begin to fan. They’ll “pooch and fan”, telling their sisters to “Come home! Come home! The food is here, and the Queen is here! Come home!” This is what you’re looking for, so watch the bees closely.
When you bring your bucket back down, with more bees in it, just set the bucket facing the front of the hive, or tap the bucket off upside down in front of the hive. They’ll quickly figure out where their new home is located.
All of these bees got up and made their way into their new home. After about an hour, these bees where all settled down in their new home. We left the hive in this wagon over night, giving the Scout bees a chance to make it back into their new home also. Later that night, well after sundown, I came out and plugged the hole with Cotton. Early the next morning, I gently moved this wagon to where I wanted to place them on my property. Sadly, within a week, we had a bad cold snap, and temps got well below freezing and we lost all of these bees. I was heart broken, after having done all that work. We fed them properly, but to no avail. They don’t always grab food that is close by. On the flip side, this was our first big catch with our Pole & Bucket system. We learned a lot, and felt much more confident about our abilities to catch HIGH SWARMS. If there are swarms that are over 22 feet up in a tree, we’ll just let them go. By doing so, I populate the surrounding area with “wild bees”, in hopes of a KICK BACK swarm in the next few years.
Get you a pole at Atwoods and a make you up a bucket or buy one from Brushy Mountain. You’re sure to need one, if you’re going to keep bees!! Otherwise, you’ll be standing there just like I did for 2 years, wondering what to do.
Source: Little Creek Bee Ranch
One of the first things that will present itself to us in the spring (actually late, late winter) is swarms. And they are great fun too (unless they are your bees). There are many ways to capture swarms such as trapping and climbing ladders. But one device I have learned to appreciate more than any other for getting me up where I need to be is the extendable pole bucket swarm catcher. I made my bucket after seeing someone else’s. They aren’t difficult to build using an old bucket and a painter’s pole. Oh, the reason I’m posting this today is because this is a great winter project and one you don’t want to be wishing you had built when you see that swarm hanging in a tree.
Last spring, first swarms came very early to the South Carolina Midlands- around February 15th. That sounds like a long time from now but it will get here sooner than you think and swarms are unforgiving with beekeeper tardiness. Building and getting ready for swarm trapping is something that you should consider doing during these off months of winter. Remember, once swarm season starts you’ll probably be caught up in preparing your own hives for the primary nectar flow and have a limited amount of time to prepare traps. However, for those who are prepared there will be free bees. Here are a few sites I recommend:
And multiple videos by outofabluesky:
I promote swarm traps as another part of good beekeeping. Swarm management starts within your own hives and can go a long way to reducing the number of swarms that issue from your apiary. Intensive management can come close to eliminating swarms. However, life happens and you will experience the occasional swarm. Some thoughts on the matter:
1) The swarms you catch in a trap will typically perform better than the ones you knock out of a tree.
2) You’ll lose a portion of the swarms that issue for various reasons like too high in a tree, etc. It’s really nice when that swarm you had to leave in the tree shows up in your trap the next day.
3) Coupled with good swarm management in the hive, and capture of those swarms easy to gather, adding traps is good stewardship. Dr. Lawrence Connor in his book, Increase Essentials, says only 1 in 6 swarms survive their first winter. By capturing them you’re increasing their chances of survival.
4) Swarm captures makes better neighbors. Some neighbors will be as fascinated as you are at the miracle of swarming; others won’t. Capturing your own swarms may prevent you some heartache.
And finally, here’s an excellent, free, eight page article on the biology on swarming and nest selection with excellent advice on swarm trapping:
Bait Hives for Honey Bees by Thomas D. Seeley, Roger Morse, and Richard Nowogrodzki
Before there were nail guns, powered screw drivers, exterior screws, star and hex bits, and more, there were specialized nails developed for a wide variety of applications.
Long ago, and remember when we talk about Langstroth hives we are talking mid 1800’s, there were multiple options in the ranks of the simple nail. Common nails and spikes, crate nails, cigar box nails, cooler nails, egg case nails, box nails, and more – all fine tuned for the job by shank and head size for a particular job.
Box nails, which we use for hive bodies, are slimmer than common nails of the same penny size and have a slightly blunted point which helps avoid splitting. Along the way, a 7d box nail was deemed ideal for the material and dimensions of bee boxes. It may even have been sold as a bee-box nail. It’s probably still the best nail for the job, but newer fasteners and power-nailers have lessened the demand, making it harder to find.
If you order your hive bodies from one of the major bee supply companies they typically will not come with nails. However, you may be able to order them as a separate item along with your boxes. What you’ll get is the traditional 7d box nail used for ages before the advent of modern fasteners found in big-box hardware stores.
However, what I most typically use is a substitute for tradition. Pictured are 6d, 2 inch, galvanized nails. The galvanization brings the shank size up a bit and provides a little protection from the elements. And they are easy to find in any hardware store. To pay homage to the 7d of yesterday, I usually take a few minutes to look for it on the shelves but I’m always disappointed.
Sometimes a board visually speaks to you and announces it is going to reject your attempts to apply a nail to it. I used to use soap on the nail to ease the boards objections, and the inevitable, but I now have a new helper – beeswax! Often we don’t know if our efforts help or not, but when a nail completes its task without incident we can assume credit with having eased the board’s objections to becoming a box.
I’ve noticed some prebuild boxes are now being assembled with staples. Perhaps in response to inquiries, we’re told the staples (or nails for that matter) are for holding things together until the glue dries. This may be true and I’ve started stapling the lighter, 5-frame nuc boxes but I’ll not risk my well being to a heavy, deep, 10-frame box joint coming undone sometime in the future while 30,000 bees are inside. So while I use a generous dab of waterproof Tightbond III on the hive body joints, I also appreciate the security and tradition of a nailed joint.
Every year I hope to have extra wax for candles and such. However I end up using all of it adding extra wax to the foundation for the benefit of the bees. The extra wax entices the bees to build their comb as well as encourages them to build it uniformly within the confines of the frame.
On the right are 15 sheets of unwaxed plastic foundation. In the middle, 15 sheets factory waxed. On the left , 15 home waxed using a minimal amount of wax but covering all cells. But regardless of the amount of wax, the aroma difference of the home waxed far exceeds the factory wax. So fragrant the bees were landing on me to investigate while I coated the foundation today.
Some things don’t change much year to year in beekeeping. At least not the chores. There is some comfort in the routine. This year is much like last. Building boxes, cleaning frames, painting and maintenance. And building bees for the spring. ~sassafrasbeefarm
This time of year can be as busy for the beekeeper as the spring nectar flow period. But now it’s all about preparation. My experience, since beginning this beekeeping journey, is that there is never enough time during the nectar flow. In fact, time becomes precious even before the nectar flow with the need to rotate hive bodies or employ other swarm reducing measures, placement of swarm traps, movement of hives to out yards, making splits, and lots of last minute surprises.
So, here are few pictures of what I occupy myself with during this so called off season:
In 1920 the American Bee Journal published a book called “Beekeeping In The South; A Handbook on Seasons, Methods and Honey Flora of the Fifteen Southern States”. Written by Kennith Hawkins, a Beekeeping Specialist and “Former Special Agent in Bee Culture”, this book paints a nostalgic picture of what it took to keep honey bees in the south a century ago. While major players of today’s industry like the infamous Varroa mite are missing from this text, it is surprising to see just how well the author’s advice holds up in today’s beekeeping industry. Below is an excerpt from this book, a chapter entitled “What a Beginner Must Learn”, shared here with permission from the American Bee Journal.
1,503 more words
Book is accessible online at: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/115789#page/1/mode/1up
Read the complete article here: A century old tale of ‘Beekeeping in the South’ — UF/IFAS Entomology and Nematology Department
Always eager to improve methods of hive assessment, I have now developed the non-invasive queenlessness test method, hereafter known as The Number 6 Method.
Step one: Suit up well. No, really well as in “rubber bands around your pant’s cuffs” well. An extra cap under your veil is also advised.
Step Two: Clear the yard of bystanders.
Step Three: Crank up your riding mower and proceed to cut a swath directly down the front of your hives at normal cutting speed. If the mower hits a stob or cuts off during this procedure be prepared to abandon ship.
Step Four: Do not stop but as you loop away from the hives take a brief glance at the front of the hives. If a hive appears to be swarming out the front entrance console yourself that they aren’t swarming.
Step Five: If this was the hive you suspected of being queenless, the final assessment should present itself almost instantly in the form of a cloud of 50 -100 bees now chasing you and your lawnmower.
Step Six: Feel good about not unduly disturbing the bees with invasive inspections to determine queenlessness. You deserve a pat on the back as you shift into Number 6 on the lawnmower’ s speed control. With any luck they won’t follow you more than 100 yards. Be amazed at how honey bees can stick to your veil like Velcro.
Step Seven: Properly performed, this test should be conducted at the end of your beekeeping day. Returning to the bee yard sooner that 12 hours is not advised.
Embarrassing as it is, the above is based on a true story.
As many of my beekeeping friends might remember, I started December vowing to answer to, and identify myself as, “Lorenzo” to reservation takers, waitresses, and others. I am pleased to report that this has worked out well, with the exception of that overly serious State Trooper, so I am extending the practice another month. But Lorenzo Langstroth’s birthday month has come and gone and it is time to pick another beekeeper to honor. I encourage anyone so inclined to participate in this exercise of giving and responding to the name of a famous beekeeper for the month. Who knows when a question on the Certified Beekeepers test may become a simple remembrance due to your participation in this venture. So, with no further delay, during the month of January I will give and respond to the name, “Johann” in honor of Johann Dzierzon born January 16th, 1811. Apparently he also went by the name “Jan” so try each out from time to time to see how that flies. Try it out, it’s pronounced exactly as it’s spelled. Hey, I’m not sure it matters.
Dzierzon came from a Polish family in Silesia. Trained in theology, he combined his theoretical and practical work in apiculture with his duties as a Roman Catholic priest, before being compulsorily retired by the Church and eventually excommunicated.
His discoveries and innovations made him world-famous in scientific and bee-keeping circles, and he has been described as the “father of modern apiculture”.
In his apiary, Dzierzon studied the social life of honeybees and constructed several experimental beehives. In 1838 he devised the first practical movable-comb beehive, which allowed manipulation of individual honeycombs without destroying the structure of the hive. The correct distance between combs had been described as 1½ inches from the center of one top bar to the center of the next one. In 1848 Dzierzon introduced grooves into the hive’s side walls, replacing the strips of wood for moving top bars. The grooves were 8 × 8 mm—the exact average between ¼ and ⅜ inch, which is the range called the “bee space.” His design quickly gained popularity in Europe and North America. On the basis of the aforementioned measurements, August Adolph von Berlepsch (May 1852) in Thuringia and L.L. Langstroth (October 1852) in the United States designed their frame-movable hives.
In 1835 Dzierzon discovered that drones are produced from unfertilized eggs. Dzierzon’s paper, published in 1845, proposed that while queen bees and female worker bees were products of fertilization, drones were not, and that the diets of immature bees contributed to their subsequent roles. His results caused a revolution in bee crossbreeding and may have influenced Gregor Mendel‘s pioneering genetic research. The theory remained controversial until 1906, the year of Dzierzon’s death, when it was finally accepted by scientists at a conference in Marburg. In 1853 he acquired a colony of Italian bees to use as genetic markers in his research, and sent their progeny “to all the countries of Europe, and even to America.” In 1854 he discovered the mechanism of secretion of royal jelly and its role in the development of queen bees.
With his discoveries and innovations, Dzierzon became world-famous in his lifetime. He received some hundred honorary memberships and awards from societies and organizations. In 1872 he received an honorary doctorate from the University of Munich. Other honors included the Austrian Order of Franz Joseph, the Bavarian Merit Order of St. Michael, the Hessian Ludwigsorden, the Russian Order of St. Anna, the Swedish Order of Vasa, the Prussian Order of the Crown, 4th Class, on his 90th birthday, and many more. He was an honorary member of the German Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. He also received an honorary diploma at Graz, presented by Archduke Johann of Austria. In 1903 Dzierzon was presented to Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria. In 1904 he became an honorary member of the Schlesische Gesellschaft für vaterländische Kultur (“Silesian Society for Fatherland Culture”).
Dzierzon’s discoveries concerning asexual reproduction, as well as his questioning of papal infallibility, were rejected by the Church, which in 1869 retired him from the priesthood. This disagreement, along with his public engagement in local politics, led to his 1873 excommunication. In 1884 he moved back to Lowkowitz, settling in the hamlet An der Grenze, (Granice Łowkowskie). Of his new home, he wrote:
In every direction, one has a broad and pleasant view, and I am pretty happy here, despite the isolation, as I am always close to my beloved bees — which, if one’s soul be receptive to the works of the Almighty and the wonders of nature, can transform even a desert into a paradise.
He died in Lowkowitz on 26 October 1906 and is buried in the local graveyard.
Johann Dzierzon is considered the father of modern apiology and apiculture. Most modern beehives derive from his design. Due to language barriers, Dzierzon was unaware of the achievements of his contemporary, L.L. Langstroth, the American “father of modern beekeeping”, though Langstroth had access to translations of Dzierzon’s works. Dzierzon’s manuscripts, letters, diplomas and original copies of his works were given to a Polish museum by his nephew, Franciszek Dzierżoń.
In 1936 the Germans renamed Dzierzon’s birthplace, Lowkowitz, Bienendorf (“Bee Village”) in recognition of his work with apiculture. At the time, the Nazi government was changing many Slavic-derived place names such as Lowkowitz. After the region came under Polish control following World War II, the village would be renamed Łowkowice.
Following the 1939 German invasion of Poland, many objects connected with Dzierzon were destroyed by German gendarmes on 1 December 1939 in an effort to conceal his Polish roots. The Nazis made strenuous efforts to enforce a view of Dzierżoń as a German.
After World War II, when the Polish government assigned Polish names to most places in former German territories which had become part of Poland, the Silesian town of Reichenbach im Eulengebirge (traditionally known in Polish as Rychbach) was renamed Dzierżoniów in the man’s honor.
In 1962 a Jan Dzierżon Museum of Apiculture was established at Kluczbork. Dzierzon’s house in Granice Łowkowskie(now part of Maciejów village was also turned into a museum chamber, and since 1974 his estates have been used for breeding Krain bees. The museum at Kluczbork houses 5 thousand volumes of works and publications regarding bee keeping, focusing on work by Dzierzon, and presents a permanent exhibition regarding his life presenting pieces from collections from National Ethnographic Museum in Wrocław, and Museum of Silesian Piasts in Brzeg
More at: Source: Wikipedia Entry
Time to build your swarm traps. Re use the worst of your used or recycled frames covered in the smell of a hive. Strips of foundation, wax or plastic painted with last years wax for increased odor. If you have a frame of partially drawn comb place it in the center of the trap. They will be attracted to the scent and availability of the drawn comb. A few drops of lemongrass oil on a Q-tip placed in… a partially closed baggie placed on top of the frames helps. Entrance should be 1.5 square inches and box size should be about the size of a deep Langstroth (38 – 40 liters). Don’t break a leg trying to position the swarm trap high in a tree. Be safe, place it as high as is comfortable – if it is a well built trap and meets their needs they will choose it.
Caught in the middle with bees!
Starting out, the first two or three years, it seems easier, safer, and more financially prudent to simply buy queens from the local association prior to making spring splits. If you have 2 or 3 hives that need splitting it’s not too costly and ensures a greater degree of success to buy the queens and make splits installing the purchased queens. It almost always results in a good outcome.
Then, if your bee fever grows, you begin to have more colonies and the check for those queens adds up to serious cash – cash better saved for other beekeeping toys. Additionally, aren’t we suppose to be selecting breeding stock and rearing our own queens that survive our climate and the mites? Plus, raising my own allows me to drop that cool word, “sustainable.”
I’ve been resistant to rearing my own queens for the past couple years although I know I should have been doing so. I’m not quite sure if I’m just lazy, busy with other bee projects, afraid of failure, or just not interested in queen rearing. But, at last, it’s time.
I’m not sure if my eyes are good enough anymore for grafting. I thought about buying some of those jeweler’s or watchmaker’s glasses. But then I’d also be buying more dedicated queen rearing equipment as well. Cell punching helps and I’m waiting for a class which may convince me to adopt a simple grafting method. Regardless, most all the grafting methods neccessitate multiple boxes, transfers, more bee stuff and can be a bit pricey. Simplier (non grafting) equipment like the Nicot or Jenter systems are also costly.
On the other extreme is the walkaway split, making sure the queenless split has larvae of appropriate age and allowing the bees to make an emergency queen. Additional methods of cell crushing can be added to improve the outcome but making multiple walkaway splits is a bit scary – what if half of them don’t make it? I’m a little OCD and looking for a little more control and perhaps even better outcome.
So, remembering the low tech methods of our forefathers, and with a mind to keeping costs at a minimum, I decided on using one of the throwbacks like the Miller or Hopkins methods. A mentor once suggested the Hopkins method to me and it sounds easy enough and promises to raise more queens than I’ll need. Basically it involves taking a frame of appropriately aged larvae and placing it horizontally over a densely populated queenless split. It’s low risk as well, if all goes poorly, such as a sudden change in the weather, the worst that can happen is I re-unite that split with their parent colony. So that’s what I’ve decided to attempt this year. Another adventure in beekeeping! Above are pictures of the 2″ shim I’ll be using to place the frame over the colony. Also a link below if you’re interested in reading more about the Hopkins method of queen rearing.
An article by the Northeast New Jersey Beekeepers Association
This year, beekeepers are celebrating the 210th year anniversary of “the Father of American Beekeeping.” Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth was born Christmas Day, December 25, 1810 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. L. L. Langstroth developed the modern hive after exploring existing hives including the pre-cursor to the top bar hive. Francis Huber invented the Leaf Hive in 1789 in Switzerland. The leaf hive had movable solid frames that touched making the box like top bar hives. The leaf hive was examined like pages in a book.
(photo: In 2010 the Philadelphia Beekeepers Guild began a wonderful Christmas tradition. They gather each year at 106 South Front Street, Philadelphia; the birthplace of Lorenzo L. Langstroth on Christmas Day, which is also Langstroth’s birthday, for a Champagne / mead toast to Langstroth.) A Toast to Langstroth)
In the summer of 1851 Langstroth developed the hive that is still used today and the “bee space.” Langstroth patented the first movable frame hive on October 5, 1852. Henry Bourquin, a fellow beekeeper and Philadelphia cabinetmaker, made Langstroth’s first hives. Langstroth hives encourage rapid inspection without enraging the bees. Weak colonies can be strengthened. Strong colonies can increase space. Queens are quickly replaced. Diseases, pests and parasites can be quickly determined and remedied. Inspection by removable frames is now required in the United States. Langstroth also began using queen excluders to confine eggs to the lower boxes. Removable frames encouraged honey extraction without destroying the comb. Honey comb requires 7 to 14 pounds of honey for every pound of beeswax. Besides increased honey production, the beehive no longer had to be killed to remove the honey.
Langstroth published “The Hive and the Honey-Bee” in 1853 still in print today after 40 editions. Langstroth died October 6, 1895 while preaching a sermon on the love of God at the Wayne Avenue Presbyterian church in Dayton. L. L. Langstroth is buried at Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio. Langstroth’s epitaph reads —
INSCRIBED TO THE MEMORY OF REV. L.L. LANGSTROTH, “FATHER OF AMERICAN BEEKEEPING,” BY HIS AFFECTIONATE BENEFICIARIES WHO, IN THE REMEMBRANCE OF THE SERVICES RENDERED BY HIS PERSISTENT AND PAINSTAKING OBSERVATIONS AND EXPERIMENTS WITH THE HONEY BEE, HIS IMPROVEMENTS IN THE HIVE, AND THE LITERARY ABILITY SHOWN IN THE FIRST SCIENTIFIC AND POPULAR BOOK ON THE SUBJECT OF BEEKEEPING IN THE UNITED STATES, GRATEFULLY ERECT THIS MONUMENT.
Once a year an opportunity comes along for the beekeeper to treat all of his or her hives for Varroa for less than ten dollars and about five minutes per hive. That’s ten bucks to treat all of your hives. But this opportunity only comes once a year and is only available for a short period of time. In South Carolina, that time is now, or soon, during the broodless period.
I’m reading more and more about hive losses or abscondings. It’s interesting that most posts relating these events place the blame on wax moths, yellow jackets, or robbing. I suggest these invaders are the second or even third string teams coming in after the true villain has struck a weakening or fatal blow. Did the bees abscond? Yes, most likely from the reports I read they did indeed. From reports, one week the bees are there, the next week gone. But I ask you, if your home was overridden with ticks, with the infestation getting worse each day, how long would you stay in your home?
Why now? Varroa levels increase in the fall and having no drone brood and minimal open worker brood means mite density in the brood area increases.
Last year I watched a group of nine untreated hives go into winter and come out as three. Ten dollars total and maybe 45 minutes might very well have saved them if they had been managed differently.
For more information on how to perform an oxalic acid dribble, Rusty lays it all out here on HoneyBeeSuite: https://honeybeesuite.com/how-to-apply-an-oxalic-acid-dribble/
And here’s a “how to” YouTube video:
I’ll close this post with some words from Randy Oliver of Scientific Beekeeping:
“Three strategies I’ve found that always fail when battling varroa are:
1. Denial—“I haven’t seen any mites, so my mite levels must be low.”
2. Wishful thinking—“I haven’t seen very many mites, so I’m hoping and praying that my bees will be OK.”
3. Blind faith—“I used the latest snake oil mite cure, and it’s gotta work!”
Every time I’ve been “blindsided” by the mite, I was in actuality simply being blind.”
I know this but after an evening answering questions at a local famer’s market I decided I needed as refresher on Raw Honey myself – just in case I was omitting some points. I found the following on a blog called Honey Traveler.
Raw honey is honey that is unheated and minimally processed. It is pure honey where nothing has been added or removed. To be raw, honey should not be heated above temperatures one would normal find in a hive (approximately 95 degrees F). Additionally it should not be ultra-finely filtered to the point of removing pollen and organic materials that are an intrinsic constituent of honey.
Unheated, “raw” honey contains all the vital ingredients that give it its healthful properties and wonderful aroma. Most commercial honey you see in supermarkets is not raw honey. This mass produced honey is often heated to temperatures far above the normal temperatures of the bee hive. Heating past the maximum hive temperature of 95 degrees Fahrenheit changes honey’s essential composition and degrades its quality. It partially destroys honey’s beneficial enzymes and ‘boils off’ volatile compounds that account for the unique, delicate floral aroma of the honey. This is done to make it easier to extract from the honey comb, to filter it, to package it, to ‘pasteurize’ it to kill benign yeast and prevent fermentation and to delay crystallization.
Micro-filtering also degrades the healthful properties of honey by removing beneficial pollen residue. Much commercial honey is micro-filtered, often using a diatomaceous earth (DE) process to eliminate even micron-sized particles. Why go to these lengths when a relatively coarse strain would result in a clear, visually beautiful product and not remove healthful pollen? The reason is to slow down the naturally occurring crystallization of honey. Tiny particles act as ‘seeds’ for the crystallization process, by removing them with micro-filtering, crystallization is delayed.
But crystallization is not a problem to be solved. Almost all honeys crystallize after time. It is actually a good sign the honey is raw. To re-liquify, simply heat the honey jar in warm water (104 F, 40 C) until it returns to the liquid state, stir occasionally to transfer heat, and replace the hot water if needed. Note some honeys will not crystallize easily because of low glucose levels and in these cases, this is not a sign of heating or micro-filtering (ex. honeydews, black locust-acacia, tupelo, sourwood, sunflower, sage).
A good trick to ensure you are getting raw, unprocessed honey is to purchase it in the comb.
Many of the healthful organic compounds and substances in honey are destroyed or inhibited by heat.
Antibacterial, Antimicrobial Properties from Enzymes in Raw Honey:
The main enzymes in honey are invertase (saccharase) diastase (amylase) which break down sugars and help digestion. The enzyme glucose oxidase produces the antibacterial, antimicrobial hydrogen peroxide, a well-known disinfectant.
Antioxidant Properties in Raw Honey:
Dependent upon enzymes and a wide range of compounds in honey, antioxidants are substances that can retard or inhibit oxidation and/or neutralize the effects of damaging “free radicals”. Increasing the body’s antioxidant content may help protect against cellular damage and the development of chronic diseases.
From the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2002, Vol. 50, No. 21, pp.5870-5877:
“…Antioxidant analysis of the different honey fractions suggested that the water-soluble fraction contained most of the antioxidant components, including protein; gluconic acid; ascorbic acid; hydroxymethylfuraldehyde; and the combined activities of the enzymes glucose oxidase, catalase and peroxidase. Of these components, a significant correlation could be established only between protein content and oxygen radical absorbance capacity ORAC activity (R(2) = 0.674, p = 0.024). These results suggest that the antioxidant capacity of honey is a product of the combined activity of a wide range of compounds including phenolics, peptides, organic acids, enzymes, Maillard reaction products, and possibly other minor components…”
Other antioxidants include polyphenols, flanonoids and phenolic acid in Raw Honey. Polyphenols in foods are thought to play important roles in human health such as cancer preventative, and anti-inflammatory, radical scavenging and antioxidative activities. The most important classes of antioxidant polyphenols are the flavonoids and phenolic acids. It is these substances in honey, wine, fruits and vegetables that are most responsible for the antioxidant characteristics, and thus the healthy image of these foods.
Darker honeys like Buckwheat honey are stronger antioxidants compared to lighter honeys.
The cold weather is here, You’ve done what you can to tuck them in for the coming season. So, what are you going to do with all your time now?
1) Continue to lift the back of your hives to check for weight. Now is why you learned this method of assessing stores.
2) Perform maintainance on honey supers pulled off hives – painting or otherwise.
3) Assemble new equipment for next year – boxes, frames, stands, etc.
4) Order packages, nucs, or queens.
5) Plan for changes you’re going to impliment next season.
6) Call, visit, or write farmers or landowners where you’d like to place hives for out yards next spring.
7) Attend local and state beekeeper meetings.
8) Scout trees for placement and prepare swarms traps. Construct swarm capture bucket.
9) Build a nuc now to keep in your car or truck for community swarm captures next spring. Register with on-line swarm call lists.
10) Order or ask Santa for a copy of that beekeeping book you’ve been wanting to read. Read some every day.
I have raised 5 frame nucleus hives since 2016 from Spring splits and allowed them to grow out to double boxes (ten frames). Last year, and this coming, I’ll graft queens and be using the Coweta mindset and method (below) to make increase or to sustainably maintain a hive after the sale of a nucleus hive or queen. I always retain 5 frames with at least one frame of young larvae and notch the cells to raise a new queen as detailed in the following article.
Source: Coweta Sustainable Beekeeping Method by Steven Page
Most beekeepers are not sustainable; they purchase nucs or packages each spring to replace winter losses. This is expensive and prevents the creation of local, sustainable honey bee genetics. The true cost of a package or nuc can escalate when some die during the winter before producing any honey. If only half of these young colonies survive until next spring the cost per a nuc or package doubles.
A beekeeper with only a few hives may experience the disheartening loss of all their colonies. No honey will be harvested for a year and they must start over purchasing nucs or packages if they can find them.
The current or traditional methods that the beekeeping books teach do not account for the difficulties we experience. A book may teach Varroa mite control but not how to thrive in spite of Varroa. Most are teaching beekeeping from a time before the combined effects of:
· Varroa Mites
· Numerous diseases
· Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)
· Small hive beetle
· Short lived queens
· High pesticide use
There has to be a better way.
If you have bees you can make more bees or more accurately, colonies can be used to make more colonies. All beekeepers have the resources in their colonies to become sustainable.
In the south, winter losses average one-third. During the summer make enough splits to begin winter with one and a half times the number of colonies required for honey production in the spring. If six colonies are required for spring honey production, begin winter with ten. For example, begin the winter with six production hives and four nucs. After losing two production hives and two nucs during the winter, a 40 percent loss, the two remaining nucs are used to replace the dead colonies restoring production hives to six. There is no need to buy colonies because of winter losses. In May, splits can be started to replace the nucs bringing the total number of colonies up to ten again.
“Almost every emergency of management can be met by putting something into or taking something out of a nucleus, while nuclei themselves seldom present emergencies.” E. B. Wedmore, A Manual of Beekeeping
To read the complete article visit: Coweta Sustainable Beekeeping Method