Bee Keeping in January

granulated sugar being fed directly to honey bees using the mountain camp method
One of the safest and easiest ways to provide emergency food to your bees is the so called "Mountain Camp" method - granulated sugar placed right on top of the frames. A feed shim or empty super can be used to make room for the feed.

At the last meeting it was mentioned that we need to do a better job of talking about what bee keepers need to be doing in the near future instead of what should have been done last month.  So-

First of all Plan to attend the regular January Meeting on Thursday January 5, 2012 @ 6:30 pm –  TTU South hall.

You might think that there isn’t very much for a bee keeper to do in January, and there is a certain amount of truth to that, however…

As you know here in mid TN we can have nice weather almost any time – on one of those sunny days when the bees are flying and the temps are in the 50s take a quick peak into the top of your hives – no need to use smoke, but do wear a veil.  Does it look too wet?  If so you probably need more ventilation. Is the cluster all the way at the top?  You might need to feed candy or dry sugar.  Don’t stress your bees by opening the hive too much or too long, but a quick peak on a nice day won’t hurt.

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Easy Mouse Guard

This video from Germany (I think) is showing robber bees crowding in through a little hole above the regular entrance. It also shows a really simple way to attach hardware cloth mouse guards using push pins.

I did a spot inspection today and my bees were robbing like mad. Trying to anyway. Every hive I checked still has at least some brood – in one I even saw quite a few eggs. But they all seem to be well stocked up for winter – so I’m finished feeding sugar syrup for the year.

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Home Remedies for Honey Bee Maladies

A very populous hive of bees
The white material is what remains of an Essential Oil pad after a few days.

Before I step out on a limb I should first tell you that the USDA approved way of treating your bee hives for mites and diseases is to use a USDA/EPA approved treatment which has been scientifically tested and approved for those applications – which are produced of course by the nice folks in the  agricultural chemical/pharmaceutical complex  who produce the ag chemicals that get sprayed on crop fields next to your apiary.

The regimen that I am going to tell you about here may not even work.   The main reason that I think it does work is that since I started keeping bees in 2009 I have yet to lose a single hive (other than a few small, weak, queenless mating nucs – which have secumbed to hive beetles) to any parasite or disease.  I over wintered 10 hives last year – all of which were strong in the spring, and produced my first ever honey crop this year.  There may well be some other factors at work and they may all die tomorrow –  So use your own judgment.  However, I’m not alone in using these concoctions – other people also report success using similar mixtures and methods.  In addition to these home remedies I also apply an organic acid treatment in December when hives are pretty much broodless.

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Decapping Honey with a Heat Gun

I just ran across that video and thought that it might be interesting to some.  According to discussion on a beekeepers forum surface tension draws the melted cappings open so that your honey can be extracted without heating the honey or tearing up the combs – also without the wasted honey, wax and mess of the usual way of knife decapping.  Might be worth a try.

What Should I Do Now?!!

Honey bees bearding in hot weather
Are these bees going to swarm? Probably not. First year package hives usually don't swarm unless you completely neglect to give them room.

When the weather gets hot your bees might hang out on the outside of the hive – this is commonly called “bearding”  it doesn’t mean that they are going to swarm – even when it’s as extreme as in the picture above.  It just means that it’s hot and they would rather be outside of that hot little box than inside of it.   It isn’t really a good thing though either.  If you have a screened bottom board and you haven’t already, then you should go ahead and remove the mite count sticky board and leave it out for at least the rest of the summer – if not always.  Keep it though because you might want to use it to do a mite count.  It will probably stow inside of your telescoping cover.  Also open up the entrance some – if not all the way.

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Tips for New Beekeepers

1) Don’t get in a hurry to add another super to your new package colonies – the rule of thumb is to not add another box of new foundation until 7 out of 10 (6 out of 8 if you have 8 frame hives) of the last one are pretty much completely drawn out into comb.  If you do they probably won’t work it anyway and they will build up better with less space to heat/cool and defend.

Beautiful natural comb built on the bottom of the inner cover because a feeding shim (or empty super) was left on too long in the spring.

2) If there is any open space in the hive that is where they will build comb instead of on your foundation – bees prefer to draw comb the natural, organic way.  They will only draw foundation if there isn’t anywhere else for them to build comb.  So, always fill all available space with frames –  don’t leave out frames for any reason, and don’t add empty hive bodies to the hive for any reason unless there is some barrier to keep the bees where they belong.

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More Natural Bee Keeping

new foundationless comb with brood

The presenters at our January meeting were John Seaborn of Wolf Creek Apiaries and Trevor Qualls of Bon Aqua Springs Apiaries and Woodenware.  Natural beekeeping was the subject of the evening – and we really appreciate the contribution of their time and knowledge to our group.  If you need equipment be sure and check out Trevor’s line of innovative locally produced honey bee woodenware.

Not all that long ago you could have a couple of beehives out back for years without paying very much attention to them other than putting supers on in the spring and harvesting honey in the fall, but that is not usually the case any more.

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