• May – Paul’s Newsletter

    Date: 2017.05.30 | Category: Uncategorized | Tags:

    It’s been a strange month in comparison to this time last year. On May 7th, I had three swarms in one day and have not seen a swarm since. Last year, the swarming didn’t stop until July and I even caught a swarm last year at the end of September. Does this mean they are through for the year? Of course not. My yellow lab, Maggie, and I will continue our twice daily trips through both bee yards, searching for that distinctive football shape in the trees.
    The University of Georgia Beekeeping Institute at Young Harris on May 9 – 13 was an event anyone interested in beekeeping should have attended. I was especially proud that 4 members of our club (not counting me) attended, two of whom took the training and testing to become UGA Certified Beekeepers. I hope to take a few minutes at our next meeting to tell you who went and who our newly Certified members are. I also want to encourage any of you who have an interest, to make plans to attend next year.
    I guess due to the absence of swarms, it’s been rather peaceful in my bee yards for the last couple of weeks. The girls are going about their business of making baby bees and making honey. I think I have been more diligent this year than last at putting second brood boxes on the captured swarms and adding honey supers a little more timely. That may account for the decrease in swarm activity this year, but I thought I did pretty good last year. Maybe not.
    Last month, I inspected all of my hives very closely to make sure I had productive queens in each. (You don’t have to actually see a queen in order to confirm her presence. If you see eggs and young larvae, you know she’s there.) As is always the case, I have some really productive hives, some moderately productive hives and some weak hives. Normally, I would hunt for a capped queen cell in a hive that had several or a queen I could find, and I’d move that frame to the weak hive and bid a fond farewell to the old, unproductive queen. (CAUTION: never ever move a capped queen cell from a hive unless you have confirmed beyond doubt that there are either others OR you can find and visually confirm the old queen is still there.) In my current predicament, I will soon be forced to combine (using the newspaper method) the weak hives with strong ones. It’s never a good idea to combine two weak hives. You’ll only wind up with a big, weak hive.
    If you choose to purchase a new queen and requeen a weak hive, it can work IF you take some capped brood frames (one is enough if it’s full) from a strong hive and add that when you
    introduce the new queen. All the bees that hatch from the brood frame will be nurse bees long enough to get the new queen established.
    For the last two weeks and for the near future, I will be inspecting the top box (brood or honey super) about every ten days. All I do is lift the outer cover and lightly smoke the bees, then lift the inner cover. If I see bees actively working the top box, I add an additional super. By actively working, I mean lots of bees in that top box with several frames filled out. Sometimes only three or four filled out frames is enough for me if there are lots of bees, especially if it is a honey super I’m looking at. If it’s a brood box I’m looking at, I need to see lots of bees and most of the frames filled out before adding the first honey super.
    In a nutshell, I’m looking for swarms, trying to figure out how to handle the few weak hives and I’m adding boxes. In my free time, I’m cleaning old wooden ware, putting old comb and wax moth damaged comb in boiling water to collect what wax I can, and throwing the resulting foundation away. Unless they are severely damaged, I clean and reuse the wooden frames. (They are not damaged by the 10 – 20 second dip in boiling water. In fact, they are easier to clean if you can do it right away.)
    It’s a good time, too, to be thinking about varroa treatments in the early fall. As an important note, according to all the scientists and professionals we encountered in Young Harris, amitraz (Apivar) is out and thymol (Api Life Var) is in. Where I have recommended Apivar as my choice for early fall treatment in the past, I am switching to Api Life Var for my early fall treatment. I harvest honey the first week in August, usually, so my calendar would be: harvest Aug. 7th, put wet supers back on the hives for a few days. Remove supers Aug. 12th. Begin Api Life Var treatments beginning Aug. 13th, assuming daytime temperatures will allow it (follow the instructions on the package). If it’s too hot, I’ll have to wait until it falls to the threshold.
    I hope this information helps you to be good to your bees and, as always, every word of this is MY OPINION ONLY (hopefully backed up by some good science).
    See you at the next meeting.
    Paul