Joe's Bee Blog

A Beekeepers Life

Winter Weather is Here

December 13, 2016

  1.   The winter weather is finally here.  The hives are wrapped and insulated. Fondant and pollen patties are on top of frames in each hive for an emergency food source. There isn't much to do for your bees now other than read bee books and magazines. You can check the bees on a warm winter day. If it is above 40 and sunny with little to no breeze would be a great day to open the hive.  Wear a veil and light your smoker before removing the outer cover. This is to make sure the bees are alive and to add more fondant if needed.  Don't remove any frames. Just put the fondant in the center of the hive on top bar of the frames.  You may have to smoke the cluster of bees to move them slightly out of the way.  Do not crush your bees. My advice for all those beekeepers who may have lost or  lose their bees over the winter, order a package or nuc asap.

Winter Beekeeping 

December 26,2016

  1.  Winter Beekeeping is more or less a time to continue your education in beekeeping and try to prepare for the spring. I do a bunch of reading and keep myself busy teaching beginners beekeeping classes. But mostly I build boxes, bottom boards and frames to replace any old rotted hive components.  In the pic, you can see how I get rid of my old bee boxes.  

Late Winter Beekeeping 

February 27, 2017

  1.     The past week has been quite warm. If you are lucky enough to have your bees survive. You should have seen them flying almost every day this week. I visited many hives to give the bees fondant and pollen patties. I did see a few dead outs. It is a bit depressing seeing the dead bees. But unfortunately in this business, You get used to dead colonies. I found a couple dead colonies with the bees spread all over the inner cover and on top of the frames. The bees looked fine. Just dead! Varroa or viruses weren't present. The hives had plenty of bees and honey. It could have been a victim of the weather. If the bees broke cluster on a warm day. But were unable to cluster again before the tempature dropped. Who knows? I will wait for a warm spring day to clean out and totally examine the dead hives. The good news is many of our hives have survived.  I did see some colonies with the cluster covering 7 or 8 frames. Now to get through the month of March. 

          

Dead Bees

3/8/17

  1.   Unfortunately bees die. This year was no different than years past. Dozens of beekeepers are coming into the store to ask questions or tell stories about their bees. The stats are not out yet but it seems like half the people have lost their bees over the winter. Since that warm weather about a week ago, many beekeepers noticed there was no activity coming from their hive or they went into the hive to feed the bees fondant. Thats when they noticed their bees didn't make it through the winter. Its tough being a beekeeper now a days. That is why we teach how to best treat your bees to survive the winter. So far this winter our survival rate is around 70-80%. I'll have the exact number in April when I open up all my hives.

Emergency Feeding

3/24/17

  1. March is the danger month for bees. The hives that survived the winter are raising brood and expanding the hives population. Since there is more brood. The bees will be eating more honey stores to maintain the temperature in the hive and along with feeding the brood several times a day.  I put fondant and pollen patties into each hive and place them in the center of the hive on top of the frames on the top box.   I had placed fondant in most of my hives that last bit of warm weather. Without the emergency feeding, the bees could have perished. Hopefully the spring weather will arrive. So our bees can collect fresh nectar and pollen. 

Swarms

6/28/17

  1.   This is swarm season and has been for the past 6-7 weeks. Since early May we have gotten many calls and reports of bee swarming.  I caught several swarms in the last 5 weeks. Which is normal. The surprising swarms this year were from first year beekeepers. People always are saying  that first year beekeepers never have swarms, Just like the newbies will never produce honey. Well they do have swarms and they can produce honey. This season a few students had swarms with only 16 frames with drawn comb. Others were honey bound. A couple hives were into the honey supers and the populations were huge. They got crowded and swarmed. This one newbie started with 2 hives. The hives both swarmed a couple weeks after the honey supers were put on. He caught both of his swarms within a few days of each other. Now he has 4 hives.  On a side note, I used a bee vacuum once this year and the biggest swarm I caught this year was over 9 lbs. 

Honey Harvest

6/28/17

  1.  Although this season has had its fair share of storms. The hives I visited this week produced between 2-3 honey supers. I am putting bee escapes on the hives and will return 3-4 days later to take full honey supers into my extracting room. I will tried to pull all full supers before July 4. This years honey crop seems good so far. 

Nectar Flow and Honey Harvest

10/2/17

   This seasons nectar flow has been very good. Many beekeepers in Essex County are having their best year for honey production. It seems every visit to the hives leads to more full honey supers. The best hives have produced 6+ honey supers. May wasn't the best months for the nectar flow. The weather wasn't all that great for the bees. But June and July made up for that. It seemed each hive had 2-4 full honey supers by the end of June.   extract and put the supers back on top of the hives.  July was the surprising month.  During my hive inspections, I found many hives with 2 more full honey supers. It didn't seem there was a dearth like in years past. August and early September has less of a nectar flow than earlier in the summer. There was definitely a nectar flow though. We removed all the honey supers to prepare for the winter. Most hives had 1-2 honey supers. Some hive had no honey in supers at all. This year was one of the best our honey harvest ever. 

Stolen Bee Hive

10/4/17

  I never really thought someone would steal one of my bee hives. But unfortunately it happened. Someone stole my bee hive. I moved a hive to Highland rd. in Hamilton in late July to pollenate the pumpkin and squash field. I removed the honey supers a few weeks ago and started treating it for the varroa mites. When I returned for the second treatment.  It was gone.  We reported it to the police. We are also offering a $500 reward to information on missing hive. The hive had grayish bottom board, outer cover and brood boxes.

Robbing

10/4/17

  Im not talking about someone stealing my hive this time. This is about the amount of people mentioning about their hives getting robbed. It's about that time of year. Since there is little to no nectar flow now and seeing how bees are creative foragers. Many beekeepers are witnessing their hives getting robbed. Seeing aggressive action, bees walking up faced off the hive, bees flying up & down in front of hive and fighting on bottom board or ground would indicate your hive is getting robbed. Some Beekeepers also see yellow jackets going into your hives for a meal. It happens.


  Stopping the robbing is a must. Light your smoker and smoke the front of your hive. Then close the entrance down. Put a robbing screen on or entrance reducer.  If you don't have either. Put a block of wood, a handful of hay, or anything.  Just reduce the entrance. Also close down the outer cover so bees can't get in thru the inner cover hole. Putting a mouse guard would reduce entrance as well. You could even cover some of the holes  in the guard to have less openings. 


  Robbing is one reason we do not recommend going  thru a hive in late September or October in our area.