This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

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Monday, January 4, 2016

Bee Season - 2015 Review

This post is a brief summery of the 2015 bee season.
The winter of 2015 was pretty much normal.
January had some normal temperature swings.
February had a couple cold days in the second half of the month that did kill some colonies.
March started with colder than normal temperatures than quickly warmed up to above average, then back to average temperatures. Beekeepers that wintered their bees and treated for mites had nice looking bees at this point. Pollen patties went on.
 Beekeepers that did not treat for mites or had high mite levels had some dead outs due to viruses brought on by the mites.
April is always our transition month. Package bees arrived, the first delivery had temperatures in the 40 - 60 degree range perfect for installation. The second delivery was initially nice but any late installers like myself, there was snow falling. My cold installs were done without any sugar water spray on the bees or the queen. All of the bees and queens made it fine. Overwintered colonies were building up fine with the hospitable weather. Not much for early pollen but the bees were consuming pollen patties at a fast clip. Late April did start to bring out early swarming on overwintered colonies that surprised beekeepers on the numbers of bees in the hive. If reversals were done the swarms were usually held at bay until they were divided.
May was a spot on average month for temperatures. Package bees built up very nicely. Brood nests were expanding and pollen was coming in. Most of my 2 lb packages had four frames of brood. A few nuc suppliers in the area had their nucs coming in around May 7th. All of my package bees were much stronger than most of the nucs that were arriving with two to three frames of bees. Overwintered colonies were busting out of their hive by around May 7th. Divides were in order. There were ample queens available for anyone that needed them.
 Precipitation during late winter and spring was above normal making for good pollen from late April on. Beekeepers who didn't divide their overwintered colonies soon discovered that their hives would do a self divide. Swarming in May was a direct symptom of not quite enough management.
June overwintered colonies and packages were building very nicely. Expansion of brood nests had more boxes going on the hives. Overwintered colonies had supers on by the 10th. Package bees were still filling their boxes out. The main nectar flow started a little earlier than normal and it was very intense in many area's of MN and WI. Beekeepers with strong overwintered colonies that kept their bees from swarming, had three or four full supers of honey by the end of June. Packages, nucs and divides weren't up to their fighting weight yet and were on the sidelines for a great early nectar flow.
July came temperatures never got hot through the whole month. This hurt honey production. By now packages and nuc's were up to full strength. Everyone had supers on. Basswoods were blooming and flowers were everywhere. The nectar flow started to become spotty. With some beekeepers filling all the supers they had on their hives and other beekeepers having a much smaller crop. This was in my opinion because there were not many days in the upper 80's and lower 90's. We had the moisture and good bee populations but the nectar wasn't flowing everywhere. Western MN had a very good nectar flow but St Cloud and points straight east into western Wisconsin did not have an exceptional honey flow.
 I guess this proves the point of an overwintered hive does produce much more honey than packages or nucs.
 Swarming was an issue in July. This is the time when we think swarming in behind us. The spotty flow is a direct cause of swarming in July. Bee populations are coming on strong and if there is not much honey to collect, it is like they feel that they may need to find a new home to help their survival.
 August came and what was hoping to be a Golden Rod flow fizzled to a collection of yellow pollen and not much sweat sock honey. When goldenrod nectar flows heavy, the bees bring it into the hive and the hives smell like wet sweat socks. The odor goes away as the nectar ripens into honey. The honey is actually very nice. Mid August gave way to some very humid conditions.
 Moisture checks on honey came in very low at first but as time went on and the humid conditions persisted the moisture levels in the samples I tested did rise.
Most beekeepers were able to keep their moisture levels under 18.6% water content or U.S. Grade A. Some beekeepers did have some higher numbers and some steps had to be taken to dry out their honey.
Some colonies were light on winter stores in August and beekeepers on top of their management started feeding then. They were easily able to get the needed syrup into their colonies by early Sept.
 The MN State Fair had a great showing of honey. Many beekeepers from around the state showing off their award winning honey. Volunteers were needed to staff the booth to answer questions from civilians. There was a large number of beekeepers that stepped up and helped out. I think we should all be proud of the  Hobby Beekeepers. Their expertise in their craft amazed all the fair-goers.
Sept and October gave us warm weather for feeding and most of us were able to get enough food into the hives.
 Many hives had high levels of mites in late August and early Sept. The preferred mite treatment was Formic acid(Mite Away Quick Strips, MAQS). The temperature for using formic was pretty good until late Sept. As it cooled of treatments shifted to ApiVar. Some beekeepers who did not treat for mites found their hives empty of bees and the hive full of honey. High mite loads leads to whole colonies absconding or early die outs due to viruses brought on by the mites.
October and November found us treating our colonies again with the newly approved miticide, Oxalic Acid. This secondary treatment of mites worked out great. Many beekeepers found their hives became re infested with mites. The Oxalic Acid brought the mite levels down again and the cooler temperatures had all the bees staying in their hives so there was no more passing around mites.
November and December were warmer than average. I am not sure if that was good or bad. Good that the bees were not stressed at all from cold but it maybe bad if they ate more food than normal.
Now we wait and see. 2016 is off to a nice start let's hope it continues.....