When Good Bees go Bad

This article was originally posted in June 2011, but contains seasonally relevant information.

Whenever there isn’t a good flow on (like now and throughout the rest of the summer) strong honey bee hives will often rob weak hives – if it gets bad enough they will completely decimate the hive that is being robbed.

This is the best video that I could find that actually showed robbing going on. Notice 2 things 1) The robber bees are climbing up the hive to get some extra elevation before they take off – this is typical in a robbing frenzy. 2) Groups of bees wrestling on the landing board, and falling off the front in clumps – those distinguish a robbing frenzy from orientation or swarming.

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Queenless!!

Queenlessness is probably the main cause of hive death during the beekeeping season – but it doesn’t have to be.  A hive can lose its  queen for several reasons – swarming, supersedure, beekeeper error,  etc.  Any time a new queen flies out to mate there is a significant chance that she won’t make it back.

When a strong hive becomes queenless for any reason you have about 4-5 weeks to take action to save the hive, but the sooner you do something the better it will be.  This is one reason that we do inspections.

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Emergency Feeding – Don’t let your Bees Starve!

If you have any suspicion whatsoever that your bees might be low on food - or even if they have food but the cluster might not be able to get to it. You can insure that your bees don't starve by "mountain camp" feeding. It is very easy, doesn't require any special equipment, and doesn't require digging around in the hive - you can even do it when it is pretty cold. There is no reason to let your bees starve.

If you have any suspicion whatsoever that your bees might be low on food - or even if they have food but the cluster might not be able to get to it. You can insure that your bees don't starve by "mountain camp" feeding. It is very easy, doesn't require any special equipment, and doesn't require digging around in the hive - you can even do it when it is pretty cold. There is no reason to let your bees starve.

Beekeeping Phenology – Important blooms in mid TN

When you begin keeping bees you start to notice flowers like never before. Certain blooms are especially significant...

Maple - Rapid increase in brood production - Begins in late Feb/early March and lasts several weeks as different varieties bloom at slightly different times. Weather is often fair enough for inspections during the maple bloom, and hive conditions may indicate that it is time to reverse brood chambers.

When you begin keeping bees you start to notice flowers like never before. Certain blooms are especially significant...

Maple - Rapid increase in brood production - Begins in late Feb/early March and lasts several weeks as different varieties bloom at slightly different times. Weather is often fair enough for inspections during the maple bloom, and hive conditions may indicate that it is time to reverse brood chambers.

Feeding Pollen Substitute in Winter

... beekeepers who need big strong colonies to take to California for almond pollination in February, and commercial bee producers who need to sell bulk bees in late March to demanding customers (and others) have learned that feeding pollen sub can greatly improve their productivity and profitability.

How does that apply to the hobby beekeeper in middle TN?...

... beekeepers who need big strong colonies to take to California for almond pollination in February, and commercial bee producers who need to sell bulk bees in late March to demanding customers (and others) have learned that feeding pollen sub can greatly improve their productivity and profitability.

How does that apply to the hobby beekeeper in middle TN?...

Syrup Delivery: an overview of honey bee feeders

So let's say that you're now convinced that you do need to feed your honey bees. You go buy some sugar, mix it with some water, and you want to feed it to your bees. But how do you get it to them? That's actually a slightly more complex question than you might think. Let's take a look at some of your options (listed in no particular order) for delivering liquid syrup to your bees along with the pros and cons of each.

So let's say that you're now convinced that you do need to feed your honey bees. You go buy some sugar, mix it with some water, and you want to feed it to your bees. But how do you get it to them? That's actually a slightly more complex question than you might think. Let's take a look at some of your options (listed in no particular order) for delivering liquid syrup to your bees along with the pros and cons of each.

Be Careful with your Queen Excluder

Almost every beginning beekeeper has a queen excluder that came with a kit - and almost everyone is anxious to deploy it so that they can get a super or two of nice pristine honey without any brood to worry about. To everything there is a season, and your first year with bees is not the time to use your excluder - at least not like that.

Every year I get a question or run across someone who is wondering why their bees won't go through their queen excluder - to get to the super of bare foundation sitting on top. Well the short answer is that they probably never will.

Almost every beginning beekeeper has a queen excluder that came with a kit - and almost everyone is anxious to deploy it so that they can get a super or two of nice pristine honey without any brood to worry about. To everything there is a season, and your first year with bees is not the time to use your excluder - at least not like that.

Every year I get a question or run across someone who is wondering why their bees won't go through their queen excluder - to get to the super of bare foundation sitting on top. Well the short answer is that they probably never will.

Swarm Prevention – Cut down Splits

If you have looked into your hives in the last few days it is very likely that you have seen signs of swarm preparation - rows of queen cups on the bottom of frames, dense populations, nectar choked hives with little room for the queen to lay in - maybe even swarm cells.

If you have looked into your hives in the last few days it is very likely that you have seen signs of swarm preparation - rows of queen cups on the bottom of frames, dense populations, nectar choked hives with little room for the queen to lay in - maybe even swarm cells.