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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Sunday, February 21, 2010

So Far So Good

I have heard many reports of bees wintering in good shape. The weather this winter has not been bad for bee survival. As long as the winter chill of several days of sub zero temperatures stays away, I expect the colonies that have adequate food stores, young queens, and have low mite levels to make it.
  • Some of the beekeepers that have had some losses either did not treat for mites or treated to late.
  • The queen in the colony has been through one winter already and is going into a third season, she is considered to old for the rigors of winter survival.
  • Checking for mite load in early September and getting good numbers is great but consider this. Feeding the hive syrup by not starting until late Sept, and feeding until mid to late October can lead to problems. Late feeding increases the mite load of a colony due to increased brood production brought on by this feeding nectar flow. Late feeding keeps brood in the colony too late and causes the hive to deplete winter stores with the bees keeping the brood warm. Late October feeding keeps brood in the colony until late Nov. and possibly early Dec.
The thing I remember in beekeeping is using the calender to dictate hive management helps to do things at the right time.
I know that:
  • Pulling honey by mid August helps to move the fall management to a better schedule for the bees. Pull the honey and feed then. Get the feeding done early. This will keep the late mite load down. I want the hive to shut down brood rearing as early as possible.
  • Treat for Varroa if needed, as soon as possible. No later than the first of Sept. A week earlier if possible.
  • Requeen regularly, by requeening every year in May greatly increases the odds of winter survival and cuts swarming in June to a lower level. Example: If a beekeeper has four colonies and requeens them in the spring. The cost is around $80 - $90 dollars. If swarming is managed four hives they may yield 480 lbs of honey, 12o lbs each, lets say. Each colony that swarms loses the nectar flow for the year. Over $200 dollars per colony in lost income. Now if a beekeepers has had one swarm and two colonies die in the winter and has to be replaced with a package. That is $120 for new packages, for a total of $320 dollars. Now the new queens look pretty cheap. This is the economics of farming.