Beekeeping tasks this month – July

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It’s July, hot hot hot… 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: July

• If moving colonies to sourwood areas, have your bees in their new location before the first week of July.

• Extract any unremoved capped honey to have the supers available for the sourwood honey flow.

• Return extracted supers to the colonies just before dark to prevent robbing.

• Fumigate all supers of extracted combs that will be off the colonies for the remainder of the season with para-di-chloro-benzene. Wax moths can begin destroying them in a matter of days, depending on the situation.

• Pack honey in a quality, attractive package – all new, clean glassware or plastic ware and lids.

• Swarms issuing after mid-June will required constant feeding until they are a full-sized hive. They can be combined with weak colonies.

• Check for varroa mites.

• If your honey flow is over by this month, insert entrance reducers to prevent robbing and reduce the hive to the size of overwintering to help the colony manage hive beetles.

• Colonies will readily take feed and convert it to brood after the honey flow is over. Feed colonies where it is desired to build up their population (e.g. new colonies started late).

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Summer Beekeeping in TN

Honey harvest time is upon us – your beekeeping hobby could produce enough honey to not only be self supporting, but also make a profit. But it is a year-round task to keep your bees healthy and productive.

The fun is (mostly) over and the Hard work begins – Summer separates the beekeepers from the wannabeekeepers,  It’s hot, and many recreational options are much more appealing than putting on a bee suit, but what you do (or don’t do) over the next 3 months will mostly determine if you are still a beekeeper next spring.

If your hives  have honey that you plan to harvest then you need to do so ASAP so that you can proceed with other summertime beekeeping tasks – especially mite treatments.

Your bees almost certainly have some mites, but if you have brood that looks like this:

Then you almost certainly have a high mite load which requires immediate action if you want to save your hives.

If your proactive plan to manage varroa mites includes mite treatments – which I reccomend – then you need to plan now to complete those treatments no later than August 15 so that you can have relatively healthy bees to execute the fall build up which starts around the first of September.

There are several Varroa Mite Management Options which you should read about at that link, but if you want to skip all that I reccomend Apiguard for summer treatments.  Apiguard requires multiple treatments which span 4-6 weeks – which is why you need to act soon.  You will need to use a spacer to make room for apiguard treatments between the boxes as per the instructions – the spacer could be just 4 strips of thin wood or plywood laid around the perimeter between the boxes or it could be one of these shims from Mann lake.  Or if you have woodworking tools you can make a shim – I use 1 1/2″ shims that I also use as feeder shims for winter feeding of sugar and pollen sub candy.   Just so you know – Your bees will probably build some burr comb in the space created by the shim – which you will have to scrape off when the treatments are over.

Whenever beekeepers says “honey supers” what they are usually talking about are supers from which you plan to harvest honey during the current season.   If you don’t plan to harvest honey this year then you don’t have to worry about it with apiguard, if you were planning to harvest honey this year you should do so before applying your mite treatments.  If you ever do need to remove supers which contain stores for any period longer than overnight the only way to store them safely is in a freezer – otherwise they are almost certain to become infested with hive beetle larva.

If your hives are not well established yet you may need to continue feeding through summer and fall – you can only tell for sure by doing your inspections.  If you have more than one hive in the same area you will probably need to take action to prevent robbing – robber screens work better than anything else which I have tried.

Do your inspections - keep them queenright, and feed any hives that do not contain at least 15 pounds of stores consisting of significant amounts of BOTH open nectar and capped honey, plan NOW to treat for mites  -  If you only do those things your bees a much more likely to survive and thrive.

Remember that there will not be a regular Meeting in July, but don’t slack off on your beekeeping.  Summer beekeeping may not be all that fun, but it will make a huge difference in the long run.

Resources:

 

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Support the Federal Highways Bee Act

Submitted by Janie Finch -

POLLINATOR ACTION REQUEST:  You can help honey bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators by signing on to group letter as ORGANIZATION and/or INDIVIDUAL.  <<<< Please click through NOW!

Deadline ASAP, and by June 16—the first day of National Pollinator Week.

Here is some information about proposed federal legislation to promote conservation practices on 17 million acres of highway rights-of-ways by reducing mowing and putting in plantings that improve habitat for pollinators, ground nesting birds and other small wildlife.

As advocated by the Pollinator Partnership, you can sign the petition in support of this legislation as an individual.  Organizations may submit a letter as well on behalf of members.

Support Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Act
(Highways BEE Act)

About this petitionHighways BEE Act:  H.R. 4790 was introduced by Reps Alcee Hastings (D-FL) and Jeff Denham (R-CA) on May 30 and is strongly supported by the Pollinator Partnership (P2).  Hastings and Denham are co-chairs of the Congressional Pollinator Protection Caucus (CP2C).Who Can Sign:

  • Organizations at all levels and types (national, state, local)
  • Companies
  • Researchers, other individuals

Forward this Opportunity:  To others who may be interested.  Spreading the word helps!

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GROUP LETTER IN SUPPORT OF HIGHWAYS BEE ACT

The undersigned support H.R. 4790, the Highways Bettering the Economy and Environment Pollinator Protection Act (Highways BEE Act).

Pollinators, such as honey bees and native pollinators, birds, bats, and butterflies, are essential to healthy ecosystems and are vital partners in American agriculture.  Honey bees, monarch butterflies and other native pollinators are suffering drastic population losses, due in part to loss of habitat.

Highway right-of-ways (ROWs) managed by State Departments of Transportation (State DOTs) represent about 17 million acres of opportunity where significant economic and conservation/environmental benefits can be achieved through integrated vegetation management (IVM) practices, that can—

  • Significantly reduce mowing and maintenance costs for State DOTs, and
  • Help create habitat, forage and migratory corridors that will contribute to the health of honey bees, monarch butterflies and other native pollinators, as well as ground nesting birds and other small wildlife.

Neighboring agricultural lands and wildlife ecosystems will benefit through improved pollination services.

The Highways BEE Act directs the Secretary of Transportation to use existing authorities, programs and funding to encourage and facilitate IVM and pollinator habitat efforts by willing State DOTs and other transportation ROWs managers, building on innovative IVM efforts in a growing number of State DOTs.

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Background:

  • H.R. 4790 promotes conservation practices on 17 million acres of highway rights-of-way (ROWs) by encouraging willing State DOTs to reduce mowing and plant for pollinators, providing improved habitat for pollinators, ground nesting birds and other small wildlife.
  • Important to act quickly, as transportation reauthorization legislation appears to be on a fast track in Congress.
  • The goal is to get an amendment based on the Highways BEE Act in that important legislation.
  • This legislation is nearly identical to a bill introduced by Rep Alcee Hastings in 2011, and widely supported—by 28 national organizations and business, 175 regional organizations, 46 researchers and over 1,500 individuals.  Regrettably, those good efforts fell short. We don’t want to fall short in helping pollinators this time!

POLLINATOR ACTION REQUEST:  You can help honey bees, monarch butterflies and other pollinators by signing on to group letter as ORGANIZATION and/or INDIVIDUAL.  <<<< Please click through NOW!

The deadline is June 16 – the first day of National Pollinator Week.

Posted in Beekeeper Activism | 1 Comment

Plastic Foundation – Love it, or hate it?

I’m not at all iffy about my preference for plastic foundation, and here is one very big reason why:

A used plastic frame

The old comb has simply been scraped off of this used plastic frame – nothing else was done to it.

This frame wasn’t washed or waxed - no sugar water, honey-bee-healthy or anything else was applied.

Once you scrape off any old comb all you have to do is put such a frame back into a reasonably strong hive, which needs more comb, while a decent flow is on, and 2-3 weeks later:

New comb built on a used plastic frame.

Used Plastic frame after 2 1/2 weeks in a strong hive, which needs comb, during a good flow.

Pretty much like new.  The picture at the top of the page is the same frame at the end of May – full of honey which is just beginning to be capped.

Notice that while the frame in the picture is solid plastic I actually do not prefer solid plastic FRAMES – for various reasons.   My personal preference is for plastic foundation in wooden frames.  I have given all of the main options – foundationless frames, wax foundation, plastic foundation, plastic frames, even frameless top bars – pretty fair trials in my apiary as you can see from the motley variety in the picture.  I don’t throw things away just because I decide I prefer something else.  It all works if you give it a chance.

Notice the qualifiers:

  • reasonably strong hive
  • which needs more comb
  • while a decent flow is on – feeding is a poor substitute at best.

You must have all 3 conditions to get plastic foundation efficiently drawn into comb – if even one is missing results will be slow and disappointing – and if you try to push it they may build wacky “snakey” comb which is at right angles to the frames.  Under less than ideal conditions you are probably more likely to get comb drawn on wax foundation or on foundationless frames – however in less than ideal conditions the bees sometimes just EAT wax foundation instead of drawing comb on it.

In case you are wondering our main spring flows are almost over by now – Early June.  Late April – early June is the usual time to get comb built in our area.

 

Posted in Bee Keeping Equipment, Learn about Bee Keeping | 2 Comments

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.

Posted in Honey Bee How to, Learn about Bee Keeping | 2 Comments

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.

 

Posted in Honey Bee How to, Learn about Bee Keeping, Seasonal | Leave a comment