Managing Your Bees For the Next 9 Months
far too many people forget their bees after the honey harvest around July 4th
in Maryland, not unlike putting your bathing suit in the attic until next summer.
Maybe these people are satisfied with just "having" bees, because they surely
are NOT doing those things necessary to "keep" bees or those things to retard
swarming next spring or to produce a record honey crop next year. Maybe these
people realty don't understand what happens inside the colony during these 9 months
of July through March; so let's talk about each of these 9 months as if we were
on the inside of the hive ourselves.
honey, extracting, bottling, freezing comb honey to kill wax moth eggs, preparing
creamed honey for sale, storing and protecting drawn comb with PDB (para-dichloro-benzene),
testing for Varroa mites with a Sticky Board and treating for mites if the test
is positive, planning entries for all the coming Honey Shows and Fairs, and give
thanks for America on July 4th.
August: Attend the
EAS meeting and LEARN more about good beekeeping, enter honey and hive products
in the COUNTY FAIR, help in our Association Booth at the Fair to tell all the
attendees about WHAT our honey bees do for their gardens and for our human food
supply by pollination (not to mention how to COOK with honey) and our
bees are not aggressive "killer
Bees" but just defensive, install MENTHOL (cost $2) in each colony BEFORE September
to kill tracheal mites, refill PDB on stored drawn comb if necessary.
your colonies, refill PDB on stored comb if necessary
all supers and excluders, Install Apistan strips on October 1 st, start feeding
2:1 sugar syrup to make sure that bees have 70 pounds of honey for winter stores,
cut grass and make hive windbreaks if needed, refill PDB on stored comb if needed,
put mouse guards over hive entrance
November: Feed 1
gallon 2:1 sugar syrup containing Fumadil-B (cost $2) to prevent Nosema Disease,
POSITIVELY REMOVE APISTAN STRIPS on some warm (50°) day after November 15th
December: Start cleaning,
repairing, and painting hive boxes and ail wooden ware, Removing propolis when
it is cold is EASY (not difficult as it is in warm weather), PLAN your spring,
Are you going to try something new - READ about it before you try, write to queen
breeders and inquire how soon they could ship and costs
January: Select some
day when the temperature is over 5O°, sunny, wind calm, take off from work,
and OPEN up a colony and make a QUICK inspection for
brood, disease, and food
February: Start your
REVERSING program to curtail swarming, begin feeding 1:1 sugar syrup to get the
queen laying rapidly; positively do an OPEN HIVE inspection on some day when the
temperature is over 50°. LOOKING AT THE OUTSIDE OF A COLONY TELLS YOU NOTHING.
Your colony might be dead, and the activity you see could be ROBBER BEES. OPEN
THE COLONY AND INSPECT!
March: Continue the
REVERSING and the 1:1 FEEDING. In the warmth of your house, start inserting foundation
into the frames you intend to use on April 1 st and April 15th
Based on the myriad
number of questions that I hear asked, it is quite apparent that only a few people
seem to understand just what is going on inside a beehive at different months
of the year. They would be better beekeepers if they were more informed about
the difference between play and August for example, or April and October. Of particular
importance is the AVERAGE AGE of the bee in any given month, because there is
a VAST difference
in a hive that has many, many nurse age bees (less than 19 days old) as compared
to a hive that has more forager age bees (over 19 days old) than nurse bees.
In our Central Maryland
area, unless the bees have been fed 1:1 sugar syrup in February and March to stimulate
brood rearing, colony population is at its highest in June or early July and at
its lowest in January or early February. The peak laying months of a queen are
April and May; and her rest period, when she is laying very little or not at all,
is late November and December. Carniolan queens, which are noted for their very
early brood rearing, will start laying in January, while most other queens generally
wait until February. Young nurse bees DON'T GO OUT FORAGING, and there are 40
days between the time an egg is laid and the resulting bee goes out FORAGING.
Hence, if our Black Locust bloom appears on April 20th, the egg to produce a foraging
bee to gather nectar on that date had to be laid before March 1 1 th, which is
40 days prior to April 20th. Further, if our nectar flow is essentially over by
June 15th, than we really don't have any use for the bees whose eggs were laid
after May 6th. As soon as the nectar flow slows down or stops, the bees reduce
brood cell preparation and feeding the queen, and hence egg laying begins to slow
down in late May and is materially reduced by the end of June. Let's consider
Varroa mite population: Varroa mite eggs are laid with 4 day old bee larva and
feed off of that. With the peak honey bee brood months being April and May, there
are many, many Varroa mite produced with all this bee brood; but the mites have
a longer life
than a honey bee. Therefore, as the queen reduces brood laying and worker bees
die off at the old age of 42 days, the Varroa mite has an excellent chance of
killing off the colony in July or August by just having over- whelming numbers
of mites feeding on adult bees.
In spite of
all the flowers you might see in July and August in all parts of Central Maryland,
there is almost NO nectar flow during these two months to the point that some
bees have starved
to death because a beekeeper removed T00 much of the honey from the bees.
Most bees, particularly Carniolans, reduce brood rearing during this time because
there is so little nectar to feed the brood (brood is fed nectar, NOT honey).
Possibly some species of goldenrod that produces nectar might bloom in late August
or September as well as aster; but these honeys crystallizes so rapidly, they
have no great sales value and are better left for winter food stores for the bees.
Of course, the appearance of this new nectar encourages the bees to start brood
rearing again that produces new young bees to winter the approaching long winter.
During October and November, all nectar sources cease and brood rearing dramatically
slows and normally will totally stop around Thanksgiving. In December, the bees
are clustered, the queen is not laying, and very little honey is being eaten due
to lack of activity of the bees and even the cluster temperature is lowered because
there is no brood to incubate. If you have followed my suggestions and installed
Apistan on October 1 st and left it in place for 6 weeks and removed it before
December 1 st, there was very little bee brood during this time. Since new Varroa
mite eggs are laid with a 4 day old bee larva, there basically are almost zero
mites remaining anywhere in your colony of bees. What a wonderful situation!
In spite of the fact
that January and early February are the coldest time of our winter, surprising
things are happening in our hives. Don't ask me to explain how the bees know that
"spring is just around the corner and they HAVE to be ready for it to gather enough
honey to get through the following winter, still a year away". Only GOD can explain
how the bees know what must be done in cold January and February. I can only answer
that this is part of the genetics of apis mellifera. In spite of the cold, the
bees begin to eat honey, microscopically flex muscles thereby developing body
heat that spreads through the cluster, raise the core of the cluster to 91 °-96°,
heavily feed the queen, and the queen starts laying eggs. It is interesting that
all of these bees at this time are OLD bees, much older than 42 days, but are
still alive because they haven't suffered the stress of flight to collect nectar
and pollen. Brood rearing proceeds slowly due to lack of nurse bees and enough
bees to keep large areas of brood warm. During this period, there will be a few
days that the weather is warm enough to allow the bees to break cluster and go
forth to collect pollen from skunk cabbage, alders, maples and other winter bearing
blooms; and this acts as a shot of adrenaline to the bees to increase brood rearing
tremendously. This requires warmth in the brood chamber and the bees eat a great
deal of honey to produce that warmth. Further, the bee larva must be heavily fed
with nectar, so the bees use honey diluted with water. If the beekeeper has been
careless and not left a full 70 pounds of honey with the bees as winter stores,
and they are eating up vast quantities of honey to raise all this brood in February
and particularly March, is there any wonder why more colonies starve to death
in March than any other month of the year. We humans would turn the heat down,
wear more warm clothes, and not think about raising more children; but bees don't
think like that, but follow the same program that their ancestors have followed
without change for millenniums.
I hope I have given
you a "smattering" of the things a good beeKEEPER does from July through next
March; and I trust I have helped the beeHAVERS.
Invest $2 and Save
Your Hive from Tracheal Mite Death
lot of people think the tracheal mite is not in Maryland, or death reports were
over done, or that their bees are resistant. The major reason that so many people
feet this way is because the tracheal mite is microscopic and they can't see
it. Hence, the old adage comes to mind: If you can't see it, it must not be
there. I hope they don't feel the same way about a cancer pathogen, or e. coli
in their hamburger. So often t hear about the toss of bees
due to the cold winter or heavy snow or our longs winter.
I don't hear the beekeepers in Alaska, Hudson ,Bay, or Russia mentioning colony
losses for these reasons. One of our EAS Master Beekeepers keeps bees in Fairbanks,
Alaska, when t represented Maryland on the National Honey Board, Idaho member,
Randy Johnson, went to Siberia each year to work with Russian beekeepers, and
I have delved deep among these "far north" beekeepers about. winter losses.
Frankly, they don't lose colonies to cold, heavy snow, or longs winters.
Honey bees that are free of disease or pests and have plenty of winter stores
arrive in the spring "hale and hearty". The fact that tracheal mites live ONLY
in adult bees (never in the brood) and weaken the bee as the bee ages
and there are no new replacement bees in December or January creates the
situation that most colonies infected with tracheal mites die in January! Hence,
it is important to kill as many tracheal mites as possible BEFORE the mites
can so thoroughly "clog-up" the breathing of the bee that it dies of strangulation.
During the past 16 years, the Federal government has only APPROVED two chemicals
to kill tracheal mites, menthol in 1984 and Epicure (formic acid) in 2000. However,
there are some packaging problems with Apicure so it might not be available
until 2001. WHEN USED AT THE CORRECT TIME, menthol works like a charm and kills
99% of all tracheal mite infection. Menthol sublimes (turns from solid into
gas without becoming liquid) at 84°; and hence, in Central Maryland, menthol
must be installed in a colony BEFORE SEPTEMBER 1 st, when there are still enough
hot days to convert those 50 grams (about 2 ounces) on menthol into a gas that
the bees can breath and hence kill the tracheal mites infesting their "breathing
apparatus" (Bees don't have lungs like humans). Many beekeepers have delayed
menthol installation until September or even October, their bees died, and they
had the gall to announce that "menthol does NOT work". Baloney! Menthol works
like a charm, but it MUST be used at the correct time of year for the area involved.
I install menthol in my Montgomery County area on August 15th, and have never
lost a colony to tracheal mites.
You can do the
same by spending about $2 and buy one 50 gram package of menthol for each colony
and place it on top of the brood frames in your bottom story of your colony
BEFORE SEPTEMBER 1st!
If you want to
be "double sure" of protecting your bees from death by tracheal mites, you can
use menthol PLUS a
continuous exposure from July to December of GREASE
PATTIES kept in
the brood chamber of the colony
. These GREASE PATTIES contain NO Terramycin,
but only 2 parts of plain sugar mixed with 1 part of Crisco and this
mixture made into
a hamburger size pattie and kept on the frame tops of brood frames
6 months. Dr. Diana Sammataro earned her Ph.D. at Ohio State University
for the research on using grease patties to control tracheal mite population.
Be assured that
if I hear of you losing your bees during this coming winter, I will embarrass
you by asking you: Did you use menthol? When? It is high time that you spend
$2.00 on something that works rather than taking a chance, your bees die, and
then pay $40 to buy
a new 3 pound package of bees, not to mention losing your honey
crop. I don't believe
that you are so "hard-headed" not to use menthol just to save two
Just some things
you should positively KNOW!
favorite food of
the honey bee is NOT honey, but fresh nectar or even 1:1 sugar syrup. Honey
is a stored food for winter use.
2) There MUST be
a nectar flow of some kind present in order to make the bees draw foundation
into drawn comb.
3) Allowing your
colonies to requeen themselves is about as obsolete as a typewriter or as unusual
as seeing women's hats. This is particularly true in the absence of many drones
due to so much death my mites. It might surprise you, but just as it is highly
irregular for a human brother and sister to mate, virgin queens rarely mate
with drones that came from the virgin queen's hive. Further, bee researcher
has positively shown that when a colony finds itself queenless, in their desire
to become queenrite QUICKLY, the worker bees select an older larva (perhaps
2 days old) rather than an egg to receive the royal jelly that will convert
this worker egg into a queen. Due to lack of enough royal jelly feeding, the
resulting queen is often poor. Queens reared by a skilled queen breeder are
generally far superior to any queen that you could raise, and you are introducing
new genetic lines into your apiary, hence preventing inbreeding.
4) COOL smoke is
normally white like cotton, but never blue or red which has some flame in it.
Use a tightly packed fuel that smolders rather than something loosely packed
that emits flame or sparks. Packed Pine Needles is my favorite.
S) Supers are deemed
quite important by beeHAVERS. However, the real beeKEEPER pays very little attention
to the supers knowing that ALL PROBLEMS as well as ALL SUCCESSES start in the
BROOD CHAMBER. If the apiarist provides comb
space before it is needed, keeps the bees HEALTHY by using approved
treatments on time, learns and uses the new management techniques, and
always has a YOUNG queen ready for early spring laying, the SUPERS will "take
care of themselves" provided that there are enough in place at the correct
EAS Master Beekeeper
Creator and Founder Dead
Dr. Roger Morse,
age 72, died in his sleep on May 12th. Cornell University awarded him a Bachelor's
degree in 1950, his Master's in 1953, and his doctorate in 1955. In 1958, he
went to work as an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology, later
promoted to associate professor and then professor, and served as Chairman of
the Department from 1986-89. He was honored as a visiting professor by universities
in Brazil, Finland, and the Philippines.
Roger had that
ability of communication with the "common man", understanding the problems and
questions of oftentimes "blue collar" beekeepers and replying to them in words
and examples that was very understandable. In this regard, he' introduced the
science of beekeeping
to the practice of beekeeping. Morse is perhaps best known for his many
writings, all concerned about the betterment of beekeeping as scientific research
continued to open new knowledge about apis mellifera. His writings are far too
numerous to mention here.
Back in the 1970's,
Roger was concerned about HOW to get beekeeping knowledge out to the beekeepers
who had (earned the basics from their fathers or grandfathers and simply could
not afford the time or cost to attend college instruction. In addition, Roger
knew very well that many of the beekeeping practices of the day were just carryovers
from previous years and really outdated. Hence, at Cornell University and basically
utilizing only New York State beekeepers, he created the original Master Beekeeping
program. His idea was that he would certify some individual that had proven
by passing difficult tests on all phases of beekeeping -to be a MASTER BEEKEEPER;
and this person could then teach responsible beekeeping techniques to beekeepers
in his geographic location in New York State. This program became so popular
and successful with New York beekeepers, Roger offered the program to EAS so
that EAS could spread the idea throughout its coverage of 20+ Eastern States
and five Canadian provinces. EAS assumed the leadership in the MASTER BEEKEEPER
program in 1981, and
the first two people to be CERTIFIED were my own Bee Partner, Ann Harman,
and Maryland°s Ernie Miner, both of which are members of our Montgomery
County Beekeepers Association. Now 20 years later, there are a total of 130
EAS CERTIFIED MASTER BEEKEEPERS in the world (even from Alaska and Nevada) and
there are NINE who are members of our MCBA.
Because of my personal
interest in teaching responsible beekeeping and trying to upgrade the many beeHAVERS
to beeKEEPERS, 1 will miss Roger a great deal. Whether he was in New York or
wintering in Florida, he was always available to me if I had a question. Roger
was a MAN among many, and he will be sorely missed.