Each year as spring approaches I reflect on my strategies of how best to run my beekeeping business. I look at what went well the previous year as well as what improvements that could be made. Below is a list of my 2014 goals.
It’s a bit late to write a post about the fall management of beehives since it really begins in late summer. It’s during the fall when many of the problems with hives start to rear their ugly head and take many beekeepers by surprise. With a proactive approach verses reactive you can greatly improve your chances of hive winter survival.
If I were to pick one part of beekeeping that I dislike most, I would say moving bees in the dark of night, by hand. You see, bees don’t fly when it’s dark, they crawl. They crawl all over your bee suit. And when the conditions are such they will sting the crap out you. I learned a terrible, yet valuable lesson about the temperament of ticked off bees many years ago when I was stung over fifty times one night moving hives.
The greatest challenge all beekeepers face is hive losses. The list of stresses that are prematurely killing off beehives seem to be ever increasing. No single stress is to blame for the mass die-off, but multiple stresses hitting the hive in a short period of time setting off a chain reaction. Once the hive is overwhelmed and reaches a certain threshold it begins to “crash” or collapse. CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder) has become the generic term for why hives are dying, but as we analyze and take stock of past years I believe many of the answers are right before us.
Considering all the things you can do for the health of your hives nothing will help more than to place them in the ideal location. The perfect location will include a water source along with a variety of vegetation that gives the bees access to ample pollen and nectar. Since most beekeepers realize that no single location will provide the bees with year round blossoms, the next best choice is to chase the nectar by moving the hives to where it is available.
The process of splitting hives, also known as making nucs, has become essential for all sideline and commercial beekeepers. Making nucs is done for a variety of reasons:
- Replace hives lost during the winter.
- Expanding the business with increased number of hives.
- Splitting the hive before it has a chance to swarm.
Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD has reared its ugly head again. The losses are similar to those I saw in 2006 when I lost seventy percent of my hives. This year the number reach eighty percent. It’s as bad as I have ever seen it. What gives me hope is that my families bee business recovered from our losses in 2006 and went on to enjoy five prosperous years with strong honey crops and all-time high pollination income. As I have put plans in motion to recover from our catastrophic losses of the past eight months I am hopeful that the coming years will be kind to our bees.
A sideline beekeeper, as I would like to define, is someone who works another full-time job and runs a side beekeeping business. This beekeeping venture probably started as a hobby with a few hives and grew to a dozen or more. You are starting to make a side income and the amount of time spent with the bees has increased to the level of a part-time job. Now decisions will need to be made as to how large of an operation to run, how to effectively build it and how to balance all the other demands of life while pursuing this great adventure. Continue reading