June 5 Meeting Schedule

Our regular meeting this month will be at  Collegeside Church of Christ 252 East 9th Street Cookeville, TN 38501 – for the first time.  You can enter the East side of the building from the big parking lot bordered by E 9th street, Allen Avenue and 10th Street.  The meeting will be on Thursday (June 5) night At 6:30 – the building will be open at 6:00 PM.  Google Map to Collegeside Church

  • Beekeeping season is in full swing now with honey harvest (and sales)  just a few weeks away – if even that.
  • Spring weather and nectar flows have been  quite good and both are soon to end.
  • It is high time to split and make increase – if you haven’t already done so.
  • Hot weather, robbing, and increasing varroa mite loads are all issues which will soon need to be faced.

We will talk about all this and more at the meeting Thursday – I hope you will be there.

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Beekeeping tasks this month – June

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It’s June, it’s officially the summer season… what should I be doing as a beekeeper this month?

The following list was published by Dr. John A. Skinner (Professor & Apiculture Specialist @ UT) in the Beekeeping in Tennessee publication from UT (PB 1745), and is available at the following URL: https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/documents/PB1745.pdf

Seasonal Management: June

• Combine all swarms issuing after June 1 with weak colonies or feed them constantly until they are a full-sized hive.

• Continue to check for swarm cells every 14 days. Raise the super just above the brood chamber and check for swarm cells along the bottom bars of the frames. If developing cells (not empty cups) are present, a swarm is imminent. Either split the hive to artificially swarm it, or watch for an issuing swarm in coming days.

• Continue to add supers as needed until the honey flow ends.

• Remove the capped honey after June 15. Or after Aug. 15 if in sourwood honey producing areas (usually higher elevations).

• Uncapped honey should be checked for moisture content before extracting.

• Prepare and move your bees to the mountains or the second honey flow (sourwood areas) if you want maximum production.

• Extract the honey immediately to prevent destruction by small hive beetles.

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What to do when you are Queenless

This article was originally published in May 2013, but this issue comes up like clockwork every year…

You think your hive is queenless – you can’t spot the queen, and you don’t see any eggs.  What now?

First, don’t panic.  Next, if at all possible give the hive a frame of young open brood or eggs from another hive – aren’t you glad you have more than one?  If the hive really is queenless, then it will start queen cells on the frame of brood right away, and they will be easy for even a novice to spot within 3 days.

If they don’t try to start queen cells on a fresh frame of brood during Spring through Fall then they already have a queen.   If they do already have a queen they WILL NOT accept a new queen – no matter how much you pay for it.

Just about the only ways to be sure that a hive is really and truly queenless is to do the frame-of-brood thing or to actually remove the queen yourself.  Looking for the queen doesn’t do it – even an experienced queen spotter can fail when it really matters.

Also, giving an actually queenless hive a frame of open brood will help to prevent it from developing a laying worker – I think I already said that, but still…

Any hive will benefit from a donated frame of brood.

The reason that you might think that a hive is queenless when it really isn’t is that while a queenless hive will pretty much always try to make a new queen it takes about 24 days more or less for that new queen to develop, get mated, and start laying eggs.  For many people – myself and my 50 yr old eyes included – it will be another week before there is brood which is easy to spot.  So almost a month between becoming queenless and easily spotting brood.  During that time all of the eggs that the previous queen laid will emerge leaving the hive completely broodless after 24 days – all of the worker brood emerges in 21 days leaving only capped Drone brood.  This can make you think that you have a laying worker or drone laying queen.

Whenever in doubt – give any possibly queenless hive a frame of open brood.

Timeline of Queenlessness

No brood of any kind, population weak, laying workers, SHB, robbers, or wax worms taking over – queenless too long to save in my opinion. Shake it out – it’s a lost cause.

No brood of any kind but population strong- hive has been queenless for over three weeks – at least 24 days. If the population is still strong and you can see where they have cleaned out comb for a queen to lay eggs in there is probably a queen that either hasn’t started laying yet, or has laid eggs that you are not spotting. Giving it a frame of brood is good luck anyway.

Capped Drone brood only - hive has been queenless for just about 3 weeks.

Lots of capped worker brood, but no open brood at all - queenless for about 1 1/2 – 2 1/2 weeks.

Open larva but no eggs or young brood - Queenless 6-8 days. You should find capped queen cells in a hive like this.

If I Made a hive queenless then I usually try to leave it alone for about 3-4 weeks if I can remember exactly when I did it. I need to keep better records I know. If I find one that looks like it has been queenless for only a couple of weeks or less I look for cells and then leave it alone for a couple of weeks. I always give a hive which has been queenless for over 3 weeks (little if any worker brood)  a frame of young brood from another hive to see if it builds new cells or so as to confirm if it is still queenless – and to ward off laying worker.

Remember – it takes a hive about 12 days to raise a queen, but it takes that queen another week to harden up and get mated, and then another week to start laying.  Then it might be another week before you can spot any brood.  About a whole month from start to finish to produce an easy to find laying queen.

But it only takes a few minutes to give a hive a frame of brood – and avoid disaster.

And by the way – you will not hurt the donating hive by stealing one frame of brood from it – even if you do it every week for a while.  If it bothers you then plan to pay it back once you get the other hive queenright and healthy again.

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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.   Bees don’t really like to go through a queen excluder anyway, but if there isn’t anything above it that they want (bare foundation) then they almost surely won’t – unless the hive is absolutely cram packed with bees, in which case they are more likely to swarm than to go through an excluder to get to foundation.

As a general rule don’t use a queen excluder until after you have enough comb drawn out to fill your brood boxes and at least 1 honey super.  Then you can put the excluder between the brood chamber and the honey supers – with drawn comb in them – and the bees are much more likely to co-operate.   Although even then they make the hive more likely to swarm.

If you do want to use them so that you don’t have brood in your honey supers you can wait until most of the honey flow is over to add the excluder – say around May 20 or so, after the poplar and locust bloom are about over. Then any brood above it will emerge and the comb will get back filled with honey. As long as you get the queen below it that is.

If you use a queen excluder during the honey flow it will be more work to keep your bees from swarming. But it will also make it so that you have fewer boxes to inspect for queen cells.

It seems that a lot of hobby bee keepers don’t use them anymore – but commercial honey producers mostly do – I think.  If you use an excluder it won’t really make your bees produce less honey – not so you would notice anyway – but they may store more of it below the excluder therefore you won’t have to feed them as much.

As long as they are not out of room below they will be very reluctant to go through an excluder – which is kind of alright, because they will get the brood boxes fully stocked with honey before they go up into the supers.   Which is actually a good thing about the old tried and true method of using deep brood and shallow honey supers with an excluder always between them – if there is any honey in the supers that is yours, all honey below the excluder stays with the hive. It made it an easy call for new bee keepers and also results in pretty white honey combs that don’t have brood cocoons in them – for what that’s worth.

Queen excluders are just a tool, and like any tool can be useful if used correctly, but can be counterproductive if misused.   Because of this many people call them honey excluders, but research indicates that is not really the case.

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May 1 meeting tonight – Thursday

Just a reminder that our regular monthly meeting is tonight at 6:00 The location will also be the same as usual – the Cookeville agricultural extension office located at 900 S. Walnut Ave. Cookeville, TN 38501.

We will be raffling off an 8 frame medium nucleus hive tonight for $2 – If you win you can take home a complete starter hive full of bees tonight – Instant Beekeeper!

New online Forum for area beekeepers – thanks to everyone who has participated so far! I apologize that I did not realize newly registered users would be moderated and because of that I have caused a slower start than there needed to be, but I’m learning.

See you tonight!

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Beekeeping tasks this month – May

Tulip Poplar - one of our main nectar producing plants - just began blooming in our area.

Tulip Poplar – one of our main nectar producing plants – just began blooming in our area.

It’s May, the poplars are popping and the nectar is flowing… what should I be doing as a beekeeper this month?

The following list was published by Dr. John A. Skinner (Professor & Apiculture Specialist @ UT) in the Beekeeping in Tennessee publication from UT (PB 1745), and is available at the following URL: https://utextension.tennessee.edu/publications/documents/PB1745.pdf

Seasonal Management: May

• It is time to add another super when the honey super on a colony is one-half to two-thirds filled (six to seven frames). A few drawn frames can be moved up into an empty foundation super to encourage the bees to move up.

• Supers of cut comb honey foundation should be added on top of the honey super, which is on top of the brood chamber, to reduce the amount of pollen in the cut comb honey.

• Continue to check for swarm cells every seven to 14 days. Raise the super just above the brood chamber and check for swarm cells along the bottom bars of the frames. If developing cells (not empty cups) are present, a swarm is imminent. Either split the hive to artificially swarm it, or watch for an issuing swarm in coming days.

• Keep empty storage space in the supers on all colonies until the honey flow has ended.

• Remove and extract capped supers from your colonies if you need additional supers.

 

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May 1 meeting Schedule

Our regular May  meeting will be this week – Thursday May 1  at 6:30 PM with the usual hanging out and talking bees beginning around 6:00.  The location will also be the same as usual – the Cookeville agricultural extension office located at 900 S. Walnut Ave. Cookeville, TN 38501

Because we have been granted permission to use the facilities at Collegeside Church of Christ this will be our last meeting at the ag office.  I know we all really appreciate being able to use these facilities for the past 2 (?) years, but it is sure going to be nice to have a bit more breathing room.

Matt and JD will be making a presentation on Cut outs – removing honey bee colonies from places they are not wanted and moving them to your apiary.  Free Bees  - except for a bit of work, but how bad could that be?

The club order of Package Bees is still scheduled to be delivered on or about April 9 – so watch this space for updates and specifics.  Any unclaimed bees will be sold very quickly,  so please make arrangements to pick yours up.

Last month Arliss won the  drawing for an 8 frame medium starter hive - but he has generously contributed them back to the club to be raffled off at this months meeting.  This is not just a few frame of bees  in a cardboard box, but rather a durable wooden hive setup full of local bees (with a Mike Haney VSH queen) that you can leave the bees in and add 8 frame  supers to if you want – $150.00 value.  I will bring the colony to the meeting and the lucky winner can take them home with them – raffle tickets will be $2 each.

See you at the meeting…

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Online Forum for Cookeville Beekeepers

Have questions about beekeeping that you would really like to get someone to help you with?  Post them on our new online forum  so that we can all work together to help each other out.  It is easy to use, and freely available to anyone who wants to use it.  When you log in for the first time please use your real first and last name as your username/login.

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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, lots of drones in all stages of development – maybe even swarm cells.

The next few weeks will make or break your beekeeping season, and if your bees take to the trees they won’t be working for you any more.   Swarm prevention is tough – especially if you don’t have drawn comb to work with.  A Cut Down Split does not require a stock of drawn comb.

Timing is critical – Now Is The Time to do a Cut Down Split – about 2 weeks before the likely beginning of our main flow.

When it comes to swarm prevention it is folly to claim a 100% guarantee on anything, but a cut down split – correctly done – is close, and does not sacrifice your honey crop.

In a cut down split you cut down all of the queen cells and then remove the queen and most of the open brood from the original hive to a new location.  Then (in theory) the Queenless hive in the original location doesn’t swarm because it doesn’t have a queen or swarm cells.  Because it also doesn’t have much open brood to feed the nurse bees and young bees which will soon emerge join the already large workforce of foragers and a large honey crop – and drawn comb – will be produced.  The hive will produce an emergency queen from eggs or open brood which are bound to be present on the capped brood frames you leave in the hive.  So, you get a good honey crop, and a new queen (produced at the ideal time) without any further swarm management after doing the split.

The queenright hive (which you place in a new location in the apiary) won’t swarm because it doesn’t have a workforce to swarm with – with one caveat, It must not have any swarm cells when you make the split, or it is likely to swarm anyway.

You have to find and eliminate all of the swarm cells from both halves of the split for this manipulation to work as planned and prevent them from swarming.  Tips – without using much smoke, unstack the hive all the way down to the bottom board, add an empty hive body, then examine and replace every frame one at a time after shaking almost all of the bees off.  If you use too much smoke on the uninspected boxes you will push the bees downward, and by the time you get to the bottom there will be masses of bees to deal with.

Posted in Honey Bee How to, Seasonal, Swarms | 3 Comments

Queens For Pennies

April is prime time for making increase (at least it is when there isn’t a cold front blasting through) and while splitting hives is simple, effective and helps to manage swarming – you might also be interested in giving queen rearing a try.  Now is the time to go for it if you are.

Randy Oliver has a new article on his website Queens For Pennies which details a simple and rather unique method for producing a bunch of queen cells from your very best one queen – very little special equipment required compared to other ways to go about it.  This article also has a very good illustration of how to graft with a Chinese tool.  You really should check it out.

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