My hives are scheduled to ship out on Saturday headed for California. I have been a little anxious to take a peek. I haven’t checked them since they were insulated and wrapped two months ago. I was quite happy with what I discovered.
As I think back upon the many experiences I have had while working bees there is one day that stands out as the most memorable. Just when I thought nothing else could go wrong, this unbelievably crazy day took on a life of its own as my brother and I battled hunger, thirst, fire and a host of other challenges, barely making it home with a full truckload of honey supers.
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.
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.
In an ideal beekeeping world each hive would have access to nectar flows that last well into fall and store plenty of honey in the bottom boxes of the hive to survive the winter. Honey is the best food for bees. Unfortunately, some hives, for multiple reasons, don’t store enough honey to make it through the winter. Feeding your hives becomes necessary for their survival.
Three years ago I purchased the 20 frame extractor from Dadant. It has been a great machine and I have been very happy with its performance. Two weeks ago while finishing up the last load of the day the motor would not power up. At first I thought the motor had died or possibly a fuse had blown inside the controller box. I contacted Dadant and was told that the problem was most likely the fuse.
I have heard several different terms over the years such as “jerking honey” and “robbing the honey”. Call it what you will, pulling honey is the most labor intensive work you will do as a beekeeper. I know that some natural beekeepers are against the use of fume boards, but they are one of the most time effective methods of removing the bees from the honey super.
I had the truck loaded with empty supers and was headed for a full day of checking beehives. It had been three weeks since these hives had been last checked and the first round of supers had been put on. These were all locations that normally provide the hives with plenty of nectar each season, but with last years drought, the honey crop was a bust. My anxiety was running high during my drive to the out yards fearing a repeat of last years nectar dearth. As I visited bee yard after bee yard my fears soon left as I saw the beautiful glistening nectar dripping from the frames.
The following signs, listed below, can help determine if your hives are experiencing a nectar flow or dearth.
I once heard it called “the old man’s super”. When I first saw one, I thought it looked to small to hold any significant amount of honey. You’d have to stack so many of these on top of the hive to give the bees enough room. Yes, I am speaking of the medium honey super. Fifteen years ago we decided to start using these smaller boxes in our family bee business and soon discovered why mediums are far superior to using deeps as honey supers.