Out of curiosity I suppose, Steve asked how often you can split a beehive in one year. In other words, if you start with one beehive, what is the maximum amount of queen-right beehives that you can have by the end of the year? I answered that I didn’t know, as I’ve never tried it before and there are so many variables to consider. But it did leave me wondering how many hives a person could make if their only goal was to make more beehives (not honey production), and so the Fresno Experiment was born.
The premise of the experiment was to find out how many hives we could make that would be able to overwinter on their own stores of honey (or very limited feeding).
Get ready for Spring!
Lots of articles speak to the beekeeping year beginning in August or early Fall. Yikes, that’s now!
If you harvested in June then you probably fed your bees through the dearth. If you waited until now to harvest you probably got less honey but you saved the costs associated with feeding. Either way, now is the time to build the best bees you possibly can for the winter.
I know it’s still hot but get back in there on the next reasonably nice day and assess them. You don’t really have to take every frame out and make them upset but get an idea of what they have. Look for capped and uncapped brood, pollen, and honey stores. And start picking up the back of that hive and compare it to what you see inside so you learn what’s heavy and what’s not.
We’re on the cusp of the Fall flow and soon your hive will start to stink from goldenrod pollen. That smell should bring a smile to your face as they are making preparations for winter and raising fat winter bees. Some of you may have more honey than you need, others will see some empty comb. Read your hive and, like an artist, choose your tools to create the ideal hive for overwintering.
Most beekeepers assess and treat for Varroa after they pull honey whether that was a couple months ago or now. You want to do everything possible to increase the health of your bees now so they, in turn, raise strong winter bees over the next two generations. Sickly bees build sickly bees; strong bees build Arnold Schwartenegger bees. You want Arnold on your side when the temperatures are 20 degrees in January and the pantry is waning.
Beekeepers that started this year will reach the pinnacle of their beekeeping in March 2018. Then they will have bees-a-plenty and the race to stay ahead of the bees becomes an exciting and enjoyable problem. Using this year’s drawn comb they will explode. The bees will be saying, “Scotty, give me all you’ve got.” and you’ll be saying, “Captain, I don’t think she can take much more! She’s gonna swarm!” (pardon the paraphrase).
But, back to the topic at hand – building better winter bees. Time now to step up your game one more time before we enter the long dull days of winter. Although most days in the Midlands of South Carolina allow for the bees to fly they won’t be flying much because there won’t be anything out there. And you’ll be stuck inside wishing for Spring to come and waiting for that first Red Maple bloom, or with your ear to the side of the hive listening for their hum as they convert honey into heat.
So, assess them now and and get them flying towards a hive full of strong winter bees and a hive filled with lots of stores for the long winter ahead. Go for it! Build better bees!
Picture: Early Spring bees. Notice no leaves on the trees yet.
As always, All beekeeping is local. Here’s my offering for the beekeeping calendar for the South Carolina Midlands for the month of September: Plan on checks twice this month but do not work unless necessary to prevent triggering robbing.
Although we have recently had a pleasant break in the weather, September weather usually continues to be hot in the Midlands. Don’t expect extended cool weather until mid October. In the meantime, slightly reduced temperatures may open up some alternative Varroa treatment options.
The main management issue this month is a continuation of last month’s focus on pest management. Pests are growing in numbers while bee populations are typically falling in response to a reduction in available nectar. Varroa, Small Hive Beetles, Yellow Jackets, and other pests can overwhelm a hive leading to decline. A weakened hive then becomes vunerable to robbing and wax moths. The beekeeper must get ahead of the pests as responding after a problem is observed may be too late.
September 1st – September 31st
1) Continue to monitor and control pests – Varroa, Small Hive Beetles, and Yellow Jackets. If you have not yet treated for Varroa now is the time to assess and act accordingly.
2) This year’s hive beetle population seems to be greater than last year’s. I suspect this is due to last year’s warm winter, increased rainfall this spring and summer, and overall supportive weather. Place traps or Swiffer pads in hives before you notice a problem. Check traps weekly and replenish or replace as needed.
3) Yellow Jacket traps with lure can be placed around the apiary. There are several low cost or no cost do-it-yourself trap plans online. If you see yellow jackets attempting to breach security at the hive entrance observe how your bees handle the situation. A strong hive will eject the intruder in short order. Keep hives strong by adjusting hive size to bee population. Poor Man’s Yellow Jacket trap.
4) Goldenrod and Asters begin to make their appearance. We sometimes get a short fall nectar flow. If we get a fall flow you’ll notice a renewed vigor on the landing board and lots of pollen entering the hive. The smelly sock odor of goldenrod will be noted when you open the hive and sometimes when walking through the apiary.
5) Typically no local queens are available in September. If you need a queen you’ll probably have to order one from a warmer climate.
6) It’s crunch time to combine weak hives with strong hives. There is a saying, “Take your losses in the Fall.” Experienced beekeepers combine their weak hives with stronger hives knowing they can split in the spring and nothing is lost. Better to strengthen a strong hive than allow the weak hive to perish. Use the newspaper method between boxes with slits to allow the bees to become accustomed to each other. Remove weaker queen prior to combining. Note: Assess and make sure the weak hive is not weak due to disease before combining.
7) Use entrance reducers as appropriate. Many colonies have been bringing their populations down over the course of dearth period. Adjust their entrances accordingly. Addition of an upper entrance such as a notched inner cover is advisable prior to entering colder weather to allow for ventilation.
8) Increase feeding this month to stimulate the brood rearing of nurse bees which will raise your winter bees. I continue to use a 1:1 mix during this time but nothing thinner. Coupled with autumn pollen flow this can give a boost to improving the quality of your winter bees. Some beekeepers begin the use of 2:1 this month. The decision is yours based on your assessment of your hives, their stores, and whether you think we’ll get cooler weather sooner rather than later.
9) Begin to tip colonies forward from the rear to assess their weight. Notice the number of frames of honey stores inside so that you can compare what you are feeling with what is actually inside. You will need this assessment skill during winter when you shouldn’t open the hives.
10) If needed, make efforts to bring all hives with extra supers down to overwintering configuration. For ten frame hives that usually means one deep and one medium OR three mediums. If you have eight frame hives do the math to accomplish the same internal volume.
11) The occasional late swarm caught this time of year can be housed briefly in a box and fed. They will pull out some nice comb but anticipate combining them after a short while with an established colony.
12) Prepare your honey and wax entries for the South Carolina State Fair. Helpful hints can be found here.
13) Attend your local monthly meeting. Volunteer to educate the public on the importance of honey bees by signing up to work a shift at the upcoming SC State Fair booth.
14) It’s September and time to start preparing for autumn! Enjoy the following resources as you prepare your colonies:
Fall Management by David MacFawn
Fall Management Review from MSBA Beekeeper Class
Here in California we had a very hot summer. For most of June, July, and August we’ve had temperatures over one hundred degrees. Most gardens with full sun exposure did not do very well and neither did bees. We were really able to see the difference between hives that were shaded (or had some shade […]
|Birth:||Aug. 27, 1923|
|Death:||Aug. 6, 2007|
By Patricia Sullivan
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, October 6, 2007
George Wady Imirie Jr., 84, a master beekeeper who tirelessly promoted the value of bees and beehives, died of congestive heart failure Sept. 6 at the Casey House in Rockville.
As a beekeeper since 1933, Mr. Imirie knew enough about the stinging insects to brave the swarms at his Rockville home without the usual head-to-toe beekeeping garb.
“Bees don’t like socks, especially woolly ones,” he told a reporter in 1997. “A hat is a good idea, because if a bee gets tangled up in your hair, it’ll sting you. I don’t wear a shirt, because that way, if a bee is on me, I can feel it and brush it away.”
Far more than stings, Mr. Imirie worried about the decline in bee colonies over the past several decades, infestation of the wild bee population by mites, and the level of knowledge and skill of those who keep apiaries.
“He definitely was someone who didn’t feel it necessary to tolerate any ignorance around him,” said Marc Hoffman, a member of the Montgomery County Beekeepers Association, which Mr. Imirie founded. “He would interrupt someone to ask, ‘How many hours is it before the larva emerges from the egg?’ and you’d better know the answer.”
But he also shared his knowledge, writing an opinionated and blunt newsletter called the “Pink Pages,” which addressed how to prevent swarming, how to prepare in fall so bees would overwinter well and how to deal with pests. The newsletter was read by beekeepers around the world. He coined a phrase now popular in bee circles, “Be a bee-keeper, not a bee-haver.”
In addition, Mr. Imirie and his sons thrilled Montgomery County Fair visitors and schoolchildren with demonstrations with a live hive of honeybees.
A Bethesda native born to a family that has been in the area for 298 years, Mr. Imirie started tending hives at age 9, following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. He dropped the hobby when he went to the University of Michigan for his undergraduate degree.
He was studying for a graduate degree in atomic engineering when World War II broke out. He was briefly in the Army, then joined the Manhattan Project in Oak Ridge, Tenn., and Los Alamos, N.M., working on the atomic bombs that were dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
After the war, he studied engineering at Washington University in St. Louis and American University, one of his sons said. Mr. Imirie returned to Bethesda and helped run the family auto parts business for most of his working life until it was sold 18 years ago.
Mr. Imirie resumed beekeeping on his six-acre property in Rockville. He set up the hives in a square around a gnarly old apple tree. A hedge trimmed to a height just taller than Mr. Imirie surrounded the yard so that when bees emerged from the hives in search of nectar they would fly high enough to clear the bushes and avoid bystanders.
He founded the beekeepers association in the 1980s and for many years ran it almost single-handedly. After five strokes in 1990, Mr. Imirie began using a scooter. Throat cancer further slowed him in the late 1990s.
When Maryland agreed to produce auto license plates with a beekeeping insignia, Mr. Imirie was given the prototype, BEE 001, which he affixed to his scooter.
The association named its annual award for education after him.
|Birth:||Aug. 27, 1923|
|Death:||Aug. 6, 2007|
Of all the bad things out there threatening the survival of honey bees in our brave new world, none is more lethal than the Varroa destructor mite.
The Varroa mite has done more than just imperil the future of honey bees, and with that future the very food supply we all depend on. It has pitted beekeeper against beekeeper in the endless debate on whether to treat Varroa mites in your colony, or go treatment free. Treatment lite?
Should we, as Seeley and Winston have suggested, turn our bee genome inside out in pursuit of a honey bee that might outrun Varroa but will end up being just another kind of wasp…no honey harvests, no increase? Do we even have a choice?
Read more about this interesting option here: Eradication is the Goal: Gene Silencing is the Tool — Here We Bee
Quite literally, everything starts with a tasty meal.
In 1943 Abraham Maslow wrote a psychology article proposing a human heirarchy of needs. The short and sweet of the article is: humans start with meeting their basic needs such as food and shelter and, only as those needs are secure can we move to more advanced levels of operations.
So, what does this have to do with bees or insects? Nothing except that we probably need to understand other life forms also have a hierarchy o…f needs even if limited or primitive. Instead of behaviorally based it’s totally instinctual and for most it starts with food and ends with reproduction. Small Hive Beetles, Wax Moths, Yellow Jackets, and other pests are simply trying to have a tasty meal and move on to reproduction.
Our job, as beekeepers, is to interupt their ability to progess from food acquisition to reproduction. They want food; deny them access to food and they never progress to reproduction. Let this thought occupy our minds as we contemplate how to combat these pests (after all, we’re already fed so we can operate on higher Maslovian levels).
Denying food to pests: Does our bee feeding program build up the opposing armies as well as feed our bees? Do you see SHB or yellow jackets at your feeding station? Have we provided our hives with adequate defensive tools like entrance reducers, SHB traps, and “hive right-sizing” to guard and protect food stores? Are we inadvertantly announcing food availability with fragrant oils to attract pests who are actively seeking out food sources?
Using their needs against them: Bait traps can turn the tables on the pests by tricking them into thinking a food source is available. Simple, cheap traps can be made to attract these pests while NOT attracting honey bees. Poor, poor pests; can’t we all just get a snack? If they are hungry they are more likely to try that bait trap. Be careful not to create an increase in pest pressure through careless feeding of the foes.
My point is simply, if they don’t eat they don’t reproduce.
I remember some time back being encouraged to think like a honey bee. During these times of food dearth, perhaps it also pays to start thinking like a pest.
Seemingly indestructible Varroa mites have decimated honeybee populations and are a primary cause of colony collapse disorder, or CCD. Michigan State University scientists have found genetic holes in Varroa mites’ armor that could potentially reduce or eliminate the marauding invaders. Credit: Zachary HuangMichigan State University scientists have found genetic holes in the pests’ armor that…
Read full article here: Varroa mites—bees’ archenemies—have genetic holes in their armour — BEEKeeperTom’s Blog
The worst beekeeping mistakes come from putting off what you should have done yesterday. Somehow, problems inside a bee hive don’t get better by themselves. I keep thinking they will, but they don’t…. [[ This is a content summary only. Visit my website for full links, other content, and more. ]]
We all have days like this. Read more here: Incredibly stupid things a beekeeper can do — Honey Bee Suite
From David Morland, ADBKA Chair: I learnt recently that my Grandfather was the first bee scientist at Rothamsted and one of the founder members of the International Bee Research Association (IBRA). His books and papers were passed on to Eva Crane whose own collection was the foundation of the IBRA library. He was succeeded as […]