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.
Sorting out equipment from dead hives is a necessary evil for a beekeeper – one of my least favorite tasks. Most of your equipment can be reused and will save you time and money as you prepare the equipment for the upcoming spring spits or package hives you will be adding to your operation. Below are a few guidelines I have used over the years which I’ve found very helpful.
In recent years there has been a growing concern about harmful chemical residues finding there way into the wax and pollen in the hive. Beehives are exposed to these chemicals by many past and present treatments for varroa mites, as well as the bees returning to the hive carrying pollen laced with pesticides, herbicides or fungicides. It’s not known how long this contamination will last in the frames and to what extent it hinders the health of the bees. Many beekeepers are adopting the practice of yearly comb rotation, thus gradually removing the contaminated frames from the hive.
One recent survey, however, has shown that being too aggressive with comb rotation can increase the chances of winter loss by as much as ten percent.
For beekeepers who live in northern climates with winter months that sometimes reach single digit temperatures, wrapping your hives will often lower hive loss. This practice of wrapping hives is not a guarantee for winter survival, but coupled with other winter preparation this will improve your odds.
We’ve all been there. While checking each hive in the bee yard there is often one or two hives that just aren’t performing like all the rest. You decide to dig a little deeper in the hive by pulling out multiple frames from the brood box. Your frustration grows as you can’t find any eggs, or worse, frames full of scattered, bulged out drone brood. You ask yourself “what happened to the queen?”
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.
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.