Honey bees are small and a honey bee colony’s instinct is to start another and fly off. This is known as swarming and it is unnatural for the honey bee to be convinced to stay in one hive. According to the books I’ve read books and honey bee sources of information such as the beesource forum there are certain things I should be doing for the honey bees to keep them alive and staying in my yard. But can honey bees be domesticated to the point that they follow my cues? I’m not so sure. They are pre-programmed with DNA to tell them the right thing to do and for a honey bee colony that is to reproduce. I would like to know honey bee honey bee what is up with thee but I’ll have to settle for the observations from the video I took today which depicts the outside of the hive and what the foraging honey bees are bringing in and the home bees are taking out. Pollen and nectar are coming in and trash is going out. This is my approach to less intrusive honey bee management.
Who am I to interfere with several millennium of growth and evolution? I am a holder of honey bees and that’s not a natural thing. But I am a producer of food and the world in which I grew up in that was not considered normal either. However I learned and studied about the threat to this species I studied a threat to a species and decided to participate in its revitalization. Initially I wanted bigger and more produce. So I started last year with a package of Russian honey bees from the Walter T. a Kelly company located in Clarkson Kentucky. Soon the other benefits of the having honey bees took over the initial urge to grow bigger and better veggies and fruit. Once I saw how hard these honey bees work I wanted to ensure their ability to survive. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve done things to hurt their chances or if what i’ve done with feedings and fall medications was the right thing to do. Did I delay their demise or have I assisted a colony through a winter to welcome the spring and then thrive into summer without swarming or dying. It’s now April 21 and I can attribute the continuance of the colony thus far to their tireless work and a couple of voices of caution out there to help me decide how to manage the arrival of spring.
In episode 44 Beekeeping For Dummies Book Review I spoke highly of Howland Blackiston’s beekeeping for dummies and I still do but with caution. It is a fine book for beginner beekeepers. However, The advice for the second season proved to be questionable. I had planned to follow the recommend schedule of reversing hive bodies in Mid-March. I was then planning to apply preventive medication for European and American foul brood in April, as well medicate for tracheal mites. The book also recommends testing and treating for Varroa mites this month.
About 2 weeks later though I produced Episode-52- Keep Honey Bees Healthy In Winter and shared it with the folks at Bee source forum The advice I received there about my video from that episode and questions regarding swarm prevention and honey harvesting was great and led me to the 2 voices of reason I alluded to earlier. Folks on the Beesource forum led to learn about Walt Wright and his studies and experimentation with checker boarding. That led me to Michael Bush of Bush Bees .com and then I found Rusty at Honey Bee Suite.com. My questions to Rusty were promptly answered and I was motivated to Checkerboard the honey above the rood nest of the hive. This was a less intrusive than reversing the two deep hive bodies. The results were filmed and presented in Episode-59- Checkerboard Honey Bee Hive For Swarm Prevention and Growth Checkerboard the honey above the brood nest of the hive. This was something not noted in Beekeeping for dummies or the Backyard Beekeeper which has also been a constant source of guidance.
I had to decide about what I wanted as a beekeeper. I didn’t want to be greedy but since the honey bees have made it this far I decided on trying to harvest honey and keep the bees. Checkerboarding proposed to help achieve both goals and once I had the hive checkerboarded I couldn’t get enough of the less intrusive honey bee management advice that both Rusty and Michael provide.
I decided not to medicate for disease because I could not confirm it was necessary. I also didn’t want medications interfering with a potential honey harvest. The benefits of attempting to raise honey bees without making them dependent on artificial chemicals may just allow them to fight, defeat and survive disease.
Varroa mites in particular are supposed to be colony wreckers and I have been a vigilant checker. Last fall I treated the hive with apistan strips for Varroa mites and teramycin to combat foulbrood along with Fumigil to ward off nosema. I had also kept a grease patty in the hive to help prevent a tracheal mite infection. I thought winter was to be the hardest time for bees but once the break in the cold weather was here to stay all I could find was information on how hard Spring is for colony survival.
Apparently coming out winter presents many problems such as the ability of the bees to find pollen, nectar, and water. A cold snap after a warm spell could spell trouble and the death of the colony. The list of potential troubles didn’t seem to end.
In spite of the threat I proceeded with plans and produced Episode-66- Spring Into Action With Honeybees, Gardening And Cherry Blossoms. The video associated with that episode shows the steps I took to check the colony with as little interference as possible. I treated for Varroa mites by dusting the bees with powdered sugar. The visit was concluded with the addition of 2 shallow honey supers for honey I could keep. Last week I had attempted an inspection to look for eggs and realize the healthiness of the queen bee if she is still present. However the bees were very aggressive and getting stung twice prevented me from having more than a quick peek. I didn’t get into the brood nest to look for eggs and larvae but I noticed a lot of new bees and that led me to believe I didn’t need to look further at the time. I dusted them with powdered sugar again and closed up the hive.
Now I would like to know honey bee honey bee what is up with thee but I’ll have to settle for the observations from the video I took today which depicts the outside of the hive and what the foraging honey bees are bringing in and the home bees are taking out. Pollen and nectar are coming in and dead bees are going out. I have a nice close of a dead larvae being taken out. At first I was concerned but it all seemed very normal. I would like to go in again and look for eggs to be sure but do the bees require such a check right now? I think not.
I believe the hive is fine for the moment and if they do plan to swarm it’s probably too late for me to stop them. If they don’t then they have plenty space for raising more new bees and producing honey. Regardless there is still another package coming in early May from Kelly bees and their new hive from Brushy mountain bee farm is waiting for them. That’s it for today now go and do something useful
- Episode-44- Beekeeping For Dummies Book Review
- Episode-52- Keep Honey Bees Healthy In Winter
- Rusty and HoneyBeeSuite.com
- Michael Bush and BushFarms.com - The Practical Beekeeper
- Episode-59- Checkerboard Honey Bee Hive For Swarm Prevention and Growth
- Episode-66- Spring Into Action With Honeybees, Gardening And Cherry Blossoms
- Episode-73- To Bee Or Not Two Bees
- Walt Wright and Checkerboarding
- Awesome Bee Forum Beesource.com
- Walter T. Kelley Company – Honey Bees and Supplies
- Brushy Mountain Bee Farm – My hive supplier
Song of The Day - Symphony No. 8 In G Major, Op. 88, B. 163: III. Allegretto grazioso