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JANUARY TO-DO

                                                SWOBA Monthly Beekeeper To-Do List 

                                                                  January ish       

Overall, our three main tasks as beekeepers are to check our hives for pests, space and nutrition. In January, in Hamilton County, Ohio and the surrounding area it is winter. We are Zone B here. A is north. C is south. D is the southern tip of the continent. In Zone B we are on a bit of a break from most activity, yet we need to be mindful of a few things. Here are a few things you should have already done, and need to consider for the future. 

Fall

 

Mouse Guards - We should already have on our mouse guards. Mice would love to have a warm home in your bee hive for the winter. They make a big mess and can kill your hive. Two alternatives to mouse guards are to: 

1. Flip your bottom board if you have a solid bottom board that has a narrower shim around the edges of one of the sides. 

2. Put on an entrance reducer that has the same narrower/short entrance. 

I like to peek in the entrance with a flashlight to see if there is a mess of grass and debris which could be an indication that a mouse has already moved in. 

Feeding - Hives should already be fed during the fall months with 2:1 sugar water if they did not have enough stored honey to make it through the winter. In this area 60-70 lbs should do it. Heft the back of your top box on a warmer day to see if it still is sufficiently heavy if you’re wondering. I bought a luggage scale to hook on the back to give me some hive-to-hive comparison. 

Candy Board – Some beekeepers add this in March or April, but a candy board is a good emergency winter food source for the bees in case they need it while you’re not watching. If the hive is well fed, they may not need it. Yet hard sugar will absorb water, so it may absorb excess moisture in the hive, so the bees don’t get wet. A good recipe for a candy board is 5 lbs granulated sugar mixed with ½ cup of water with a hand mixer. Vinegar or essential oils can be added if desired. Spread the sand-like sugar on a cookie sheet and score it in half or fourths, and bake it at 180 degrees F for 2-3 hours. Lay a piece of wax paper on top of the top box’s frames, smoking the bees off, and leaving space around the edges of the paper, place the sugar block on top of the wax paper. Air needs to be able to flow around the wax paper. Check periodically to make sure the bees still have some sugar as spring approaches. Some hives toss it out the front, some need it to survive. No need to mix in pollen powder with the sugar mixture since the queen won’t be brooding in the winter. The bees may not have a chance to have any elimination flights weather depending if they eat it. What they need in the winter is just sugar carbohydrates. Keep the pollen sub for the spring build up. 

Insulation - Each hive needs some insulation on top in the winter. My hives have 2 inches of insulation fit into a 2.5-inch shim on top. Or if you have a quilt board on instead, those wood chips should insulate it sufficiently. Or an even quicker way is to put some pink insulation board the size of the outer cover right on top of the hive, and place a heavy rock on top of it. Without insulation, warm air from the cluster will hit a cold lid causing condensation which would then rain droplets on the bees. Cold wet bees are dead bees. 

Wrapping hives is something some beekeepers do and others do not. Having insulation on top is the most necessary, wrapping is optional. In case you want to know how to do it, here is one way. Buy 18 inch reflective bubble insulation (for 2 deep box hive), and 2-48 inch bungie cords per 10 frame hive from the hardware store. Cut about a 6 ½ foot section of insulation, cover one side with black landscape paper, tar paper or a black 

plastic garbage bag and staple it. Wrap this around your hive and secure with a couple bungie cords. You can double the insulation if you like. The black color is to attract the sun in the winter and to prevent blindness from the reflection off the insulation. 

Ventilation - Keep the entrance open if it snows significantly. An upper entrance can be helpful in this case the bees needed to fly. Also an opening of some kind on top can create air flow, which pushes moist air to the side walls inside the hives, and keeps air flowing so it doesn’t accumulate on the top and rain on the bees. So, make sure the hive has some kind of hole in the inner cover, insulation shim or quilt board frame. 

Winter

Oxalic Acid Treatment - To help your bees survive the winter and start the spring relatively varroa mite free, it is very important is to do an Oxalic Acid treatment or two on each hive during the winter. Now when the queen is not brooding is when OA works best, since it only kills mites that live on the bees and does not penetrate the cappings. Beekeepers will do this sometime in the end of December, and sometimes a second winter treatment in January or February, before the weather starts warming up. There are many websites on how to do this. Basically place 1 gram (1/4 teaspoon) Api-Bioxal Acid (oxalic acid) per hive in the sublimator tool, connect it to a battery, let it vaporize for 3-5 minutes, remove the tool and close up the hive for 10 minutes with a rag. Personal protective equipment is necessary. Honeybee Health Coalition has some instructions on how to do this on page 24.

https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/HBHC-Guide_Varroa-Mgmt_8thEd-082422.pdf

Mann Lake or other bee supply companies have the tool and the acid. 

Dosage of Oxalic acid is controversial. Canada is allowed to use 2 grams per box. 1 gram per box has been proven in studies to not be as effective as 2 grams, yet both leave very low residue in the hive and cause very low harm to eggs and uncapped larvae. Yet we are bound to do what the label states. The label is the law. 

Entrance check – if it snows, watch that your entrances remain open. Brush off dead bees that may accumulate. A few are expected. If there are many, check with your mentor what to do next. 

Anticipation – The best way to keep the hive healthy is to anticipate what may happen before it does. Here are just a few things to anticipate before the spring busy season. 

Equipment maintenance – clean and repair any hive boxes, frames or other equipment, and put in storage.

Store honey frames – if you haven’t already, you can freeze empty comb for 3 days then store it in a 64 Qt/ 61 L Sterilite bin. Tape up the holes under the handles so wax moths or ants don’t find their way in. Para-Moth can be added to keep moths out, but the frames should be ventilated before use. If you have too many to store like this, leave them open to the air and light but under cover. Light deters wax moths. 

Quick Inspection/Food – Bees can die from starvation even if there is honey in the hive, if the cluster cannot get to the honey. If you are able to move honey frames close to the cluster, bees can access it without leaving the warmth of the cluster. On a mild day with no wind, when the bees are flying a bit, take a peek under the cover. Do you see the bees? Do they look ok? They may be in a cluster the top box. See if you see capped honey close to the cluster. Check the weight of the box by hefting the back side of it. If it is light, you may need to start some emergency feeding, candy board would be best if the temperatures are expected to remain cold. 

Inventory – If you have an established hive, do you need any more boxes and frames to sustain its growth? Do you need to purchase a nuc box and frames incase your hive creates queen cells, so you can remove the queen before a swarm occurs? If you want to do any splits or order a nuc hive, do you have the hive set up to do this? Do you need to build a hive stand? Do you have mite treatments for the different weather conditions or hive conditions? Do you have enough honey supers if you get a bumper crop of honey next spring? 

Ordering bees and queens – If you are considering expanding your apiary and need some bees to do it, SWOBA strongly suggests to order from local beekeepers who are selling nucs. These bees will prove to thrive in these weather conditions, and be able to overwinter into next year. SWOBA will have a list of beekeepers who will be selling nucs and queens in the area. 

A Nuc is a nucleus hive which contains bees, a queen and two frames of her brood at all stages of development, two frames of food in the form of honey/nectar and pollen, and drawn comb to grow. Its usually 5 deep frames, but can be medium frames if specifically requested. According to the Ohio Dept. of Agri, a nuc should be a colony of bees in a box with three to eight frames containing a laying queen bee and her progeny in all life stages. The nuc shall have honey and a viable population sufficient enough to develop into a full-sized colony. 

Register your apiary - Please note that according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, any newly established apiaries are required to be registered within 10 days of receipt of the honey bees. Registering your apiary allows the state of Ohio to know where there are bee hives in case of some kind of pesticide contamination. Your apiary will not be inspected unless requested or used to raise queens or sell nucs. It costs $5 per apiary if registered by May 31. When buying queens or nucs, you have the right to see the registration for that apiary. Download the registration from this page: https://agri.ohio.gov/divisions/plant-health/forms/plnt_4201-002 

5 minute Video - https://agri.ohio.gov/divisions/plant-health/apiary-program

Read up/Tidy up/Make up/Think up – Winter is the perfect time to read those bee books and magazines, clean up you bee equipment in the garage or basement, and make something out of any extra wax you have accumulated though out the summer/fall. Review your year in beekeeping. What did you learn? What will you change? What questions do you have? Do you need a mentor to ask questions and brainstorm? SWOBA can provide for you a mentor in your area 

FEBRUARY TO-DO

SWOBA Monthly Beekeeper To-Do List

February

 

Happy February! We are getting some nice days. Spring is near! So, what does that mean to the beekeeper? Remember that we check for pests, space and nutriIon. Soon all three will be essenIal to keep up on, but for now, while its sIll cool and we sIll have some cold days coming, we need to concentrate on nutriIon. On nice days the bees are more acIve, acIve cleaning out dead bees, with eliminaIon flights, gathering water, and looking for nectar and pollen. This means that they are eaIng more of their honey stores. Here are some February chores to do while we wait for spring.

Winter

Inspections – On a day that is in the 40s with no wind, crack open the lid of your hive to see the amount of candy board that is left if you have one. On days in the 50s with no wind, you can quickly open the lid to assess the size and locaIon of the cluster, and the vicinity of stored honey. Move outside honey frames, if any, in closer to the cluster. Loosen the top box and lift the back of it to estimate its weight and honey stores. If it seems light, definitely put on fondant or a candy board. These inspecIons need to be very brief. A big cluster of bees may be eating more and need more emergency food. Check them periodically. A small cluster may need more help also. Check they have an emergency candy board. Insulate them so they don’t lose bees to the cold. When the nectar flow does start, they may need to be fed liquid sugar water until they grow in size.

Candy Boards – Now is the time to add candy boards or fondant if your top box feels light. For the next couple months when the temperatures vary more dramaIcally, the bees may be eating through their food stores. They could starve if there is no emergency food in the hive. Although the bees are out flying on warmer days, resist the urge to feed sugar water. This could mimic the start of the nectar flow before the hive is ready for it and the environment can sustain it. Its easy to make candy boards. Here’s one way: 5 lbs granulated sugar mixed with ½ cup of water with a hand mixer. Vinegar or essenIal oils can be added if desired. Spread the sand-like sugar on a cookie sheet, score it in half or fourths, and bake it at 180 degrees F for 2-3 hours. Open the outer and inner covers from the top box of your hive and smoking the bees down. On top of the frames lay a piece of wax paper leaving space around the edges for air venIlaIon. Place the sugar block on top of the wax paper. Depending on the thickness of your candy bock, you may need a shim so that the lid fits, or if your inner cover has a spacer around the edges, that may be enough room.

To provide pollen substitute, or not to provide pollen substitute, that is a good question. Pollen is used for feeding the young. In the winter the queen is laying very minimally. Adding a pollen feeder outside, or pollen patties inside the hive will indicate to the queen that spring is already here. She will lay more; the bees will feed the young using more of their resources: they will keep them warm which may limit their ability to cluster tightly on very cold nights, so the adult bees and brood will suffer or die. Some maples are starIng to bud and bloom, but cold nights are still ahead. Too much brood and new bees in the hive can also lead to early swarming. There may not be enough mature drones to mate with a new queen The hive remaining may end up with a poorly mated queen. Space – No need to worry about space yet. The bees will probably be in the top box where its warmest as the winter moves on, staying close to stored honey. The cluster will loosen and spread as the temps get warmer to fill the boxes, but not yet. No need to think about inverting boxes or supering with honey supers yet.

Pests – The biggest pests to handle this time of year would be mice and mites. Hopefully mice are already prevented with mouse guards and narrow entrances. Winter mite treatment recommended is Oxalic Acid treatment. Vaporization if best, but dribble is acceptable if you have a hive other than a Langstroth hive where the entrance is too small for the vaporizer tool. This web site explains OA dribble  https://www.betterbee.com/instructions-and-resources/how-to-do-an-oxalic-acid-dribble-treatment.asp

Apply the dribble in the box where the bees are, which this time of year is not necessarily in the bottom box as they assume a position higher up in the hive. 

Entrance check – if it snows, watch that your entrances remain open. Clear out dead bees that may accumulate and block the entrance. A few are expected. If there are many, clear them out and check back in a week or so. If they are clogged again, you may need to treat for mites if you haven’t already. Check if they have enough food resources close to the brood. Check with your mentor what to do next. Mentors available through SWOBA (see below)

Equipment/Supplies – If you have an established hive, do you need any more boxes and frames to sustain its growth? Do you have enough honey supers if you get a bumper crop of honey next spring? Is your equipment in need of repair or a fresh coat of paint? Do you need to purchase a nuc box and frames in case your hive creates queen cells. You will have to remove the queen before a swarm occurs, and pinch all but the one best queen cell. If you want to do any splits or order a nuc hive, do you have the hive supplies to do this? Do you need to build a hive stand? Do you have mite treatments for the different weather conditions or hive conditions?

Local sources of bee equipment are:

• GM Bee Farm – George Anderson 513-615-3736, 2895 OH-131, Batavia, OH 45103

• School House Bees – Spille’s Honey, 4041 Visalia Rd, Covington, KY 41015

• Tractor Supply – various locaIons • Bella’s Bee Supplies, 1017 Riley Wills Rd. Lebanon, OH 45036

Other sources for supplies:

• Dadant Bees 1-888-922-1293 WWW.DADANT.COM

• Mann Lake 1-800-880-7694 WWW.MANNLAKELTD.COM

• Beeline 269-496-7001 hcps://www.beelinewoodenware.com/

• Premier (605) 951-0267 hcps://www.premierbeeproducts.com/

 

Anticipation – Anticipation is the best thing a beekeeper can do to be ready for any situation. Here are some websites to keep you a step ahead with treating for mites; let you know what’s blooming; and what color pollen is when it comes home with your bees.

Link to the Honey Bee Health Coalition web site. https://honeybeehealthcoaliIon.org/

Growing Degree data web site. I love this place. https://weather.cfaes.osu.edu/gdd/default.asp Pollen source, colors etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pollen_sources

Mentors – SWOBA has mentors in different areas of the Cincinnati area if you are a new beekeeper and want some training, so that you have a successful year in beekeeping. Email SWOBAbees@gmail.com to find a mentor.

Nucs/Queens – If you are wanting to replace hives that did not make it through the winter, expand your apiaries or need a new queen, SWOBA recommends buying bees from local beekeepers who carry a Queen Certificate from the Department of Agriculture. Please ask for this certification before purchasing bees. Local bees are much better at thriving in our environment and survive our winters. Listed below are some local beekeepers who have queens and nucs for sale:

• GM Bee Farm/George Anderson, 513-615-3736, 2895 OH-131, Batavia, OH 45103. Queens and Virgins

• Paul Mueller, 513-502-8328, 571 Pontious Rd., Delhi OH 45233. Nucs and Brood Frames

• Mack Apiary Bees/Tom Wehner, 513-544-8302, 3954 Demarc Ct. Cincinnati, Ohio 45248 mackabees@mackabees.com . Nucs and Queens

• Johnson Family Farm/Larry Johnson, 513-255-2185, 4178 Oxford Middletown Road, Somerville Ohio 45604. Nucs and Queens

• E. Marie Apiaries/Elaine Rasp, 513-604-5091, 6320 Duet Ln, (White Oak) Cincinnati, Ohio 45239. Nucs and Queens

Register your apiary - Please note that according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, any newly established apiaries are required to be registered within 10 days of receipt of the honey bees. Registering your apiary allows the state of Ohio to know where there are bee hives in case of some kind of pesticide contamination. Your apiary will not be inspected unless requested or used to raise queens or sell nucs. It costs $5 per apiary if registered by May 31. When buying queens or nucs, you have the right to see the registraIon and queen cerIficate for that apiary. Download the registration from this link  https://agri.ohio.gov/divisions/plant-health/forms/plnt_4201-002 SWOBA Meeting Schedule

Zoom Meetings – register for the meetings by going to https://www.swohiobeekeepers.com/meeIngs Select a meeting, then select the green “To Register” button.

• Sunday Feb 25th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mr. Krispn Given, MS

• Sunday March 31st 7:30-8:30 PM, Mr. Randy Oliver

• Sunday April 28TH 7:30-8:30 PM, Mr. Jerry Hayes, MS

• Sunday August 25th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mrs. Grace Kunkel, MS

• Sunday September 29th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mr. Dewey Caron, PhD

• Wednesday October 30th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mrs. Michelle Flenniken, PhD

• Sunday November 17th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mrs. Rebecca Melton Mastermann, PhD

In-Person Meetings at Parky’s Farm

• Saturday April 20th 12 Noon

• Saturday July 13th 12 Noon

• Saturday September 14th 12 Noon

SWOBA Membership Renewal - You can join or renew your membership at SWOBA at https:// www.swohiobeekeepers.com/join 

MARCH TO-DO

SWOBA Monthly Beekeeper To-Do List

March

Happy March! March begins the most pivotal months in beekeeping. Spring begins this month. The queen is laying. The trees are budding, providing pollen and nectar to our bees. Days are getting warmer, warm enough for some inspections. Of the three main tasks as beekeepers, our main focus this month is still nutrition. Soon our focus will be on space. If your hives have survived this far, we want to keep it that way. With the queen laying, more mouths to feed and more foraging flights, the bees are using up more of their resources, and perhaps unable to replace them as quickly. Let’s see how to keep them alive and growing!

Inspections – Inspections to check emergency food/candy board should be done every week or two at any temperature. If it’s cold, make it quick with just a peek at a candy board. Better to get them a little cold than to let them starve. March brings many days in the 50s F, which means the bees can endure a more in-depth inspection, but make it quick. Try for a day that is sunny with no wind. Smoke them down and see where and how much honey is left. Find the brood nest, and maybe you’ll see the queen and brood at all stages. Make a note to yourself of how many frames contain brood. Make sure the honey is right next to where the queen is laying. No need to check the other boxes yet. Make these inspections quick until it is in the 70s. In the 70s you can check the other boxes to see their condition, and if bees have started to move down.

Pollen – Putting out pollen feeders, or adding pollen patties to the hives, is not recommended right now. If you do, take caution. Yes, pollen is coming in from the trees, but added pollen will increase the queen’s laying rates. The cold temperatures are still a drawback this month. The bees will need to care for and keep the young warm in the comb, and may not be able to cluster well in the cold weather if there are too many young to protect. Or the young will perish because they get too cold. Perhaps add a small pollen patty to hives that are struggling and have too few bees. Hold off for ones that are doing well. If you do add pollen patties, in a few weeks be ready to add more room for the queen to lay. If not properly managed, this full hive can easily cause swarming in April. (More on this in Space.)

Sugar water feeding – Feeding 1:1 sugar water will indicate to the queen that the nectar flow has begun, yet nature’s nectar flow will not actually start for another month or two. Just like adding pollen substitute, the queen will increase her laying, thus filling the hive with bees who will need to be kept warm and fed before the environment can sustain them. This can also cause early swarming.

Space – At the moment, space is not an issue. March has many cold nights, and the bees will cluster where the honey is and where the queen is laying, probably in the top box where it is warmest. As long as there are cold nights in the 40s F or below, the honey needs to stay close to the brood nest. In late March/ early to mid April, the honey frame can be moved outward and replaced by open comb and foundation frames/empty frames to give the queen room to expand the brood nest. For now, just make a note of how many frames of brood you have. More on this next month. Just a couple things to think about when you estimate space in the future. It takes 21 days from egg to emergence of a worker bee and 24 for a drone. If you have a frame full of brood, adult bees take up 3 times the space they do in the comb. One frame of brood equals three frames of bees.

Pests – When you open up your hive more fully, you may see small hive beetles at the top of the frames, on your candy board and on the outer honey frames. Take time to smash them. If there are an abundant amount, put in a SHB trap that traps them in oil. Do not use a device that contains boric acid to kill them. It is illegal and puts poison in the hive that the beetles eat, and defecate in the hive. Yuck. Varroa checks will start soon, on a monthly basis. But we have to wait Hll the hive has 100-300 bees to spare. More on this next month.

Entrance Check – Enjoy time watching your bees fly in and out of the hive. You should be noticing pollen in their pollen baskets. Bees full of nectar can be heavy and almost miss their landing. Guard bees will be inspecting bees entering the hive. You may see a small orientation flight of the first emerging bees. After a cold spell, every bee will be doing an elimination flight, except the queen of course. Check that there are not dead bees clogging the entrance. External viewing is considered almost as much of an inspection as opening the hive, determining the health of the hive from the outside.

 

Sneak Peek at the month of April – In April we will be giving the queen more space and adding honey supers. By this time, we will have already inspected all boxes in our hives. Adding room for the queen to expand her brood nest can be done in two ways.

1. Assuming two boxes are used for brooding, arrange the brood frames in the center of the two boxes above each other. Put empty comb next to the brood nest and foundation on the outside of that if you’d like to build more comb. Move any remaining honey frames to the outside edge of the brood box, two per box is good.

2. Invert the brood boxes. Early in the year, the bottom box may be empty. IF it is, invert/reverse the boxes.If there's brood in both boxes, DO NOT invert the boxes.  The brood needs to be together. Queens have a tendency to move up. Putting her brood chamber on the bottom allows her to do just that.

When to remove candy boards and add honey supers is always a hard thing to predict. A few indicators are, when the dandelions begin to bloom, when the ruby throated hummingbirds arrive, when the cherry trees begin to bloom. Remember to remove your candy board shims else you will have to deal with burr comb.

April is still a pretty chilly month, so keep those wraps on for a little longer if you have them. Same with your insulated shim or quilt box. As a matter of fact, you can keep a piece of insulation on top of you hive lid all year round to help stabilize the hive temperature from heat and cold. Considerations and Anticipation – Beekeepers should always be a step ahead of the bees, well TRY to be. Here are some websites to help with that.

What’s blooming? https://weather.cfaes.osu.edu/gdd/default.asp

When the humming birds come to the area, the nectar flow is on.

Sugar comes off and honey supers go on. https://www.hummingbirdcentral.com/hummingbird-migraHon-spring-2024-map.htm Dandelions are one of the first nectar flower. When you see plenty of them, the nectar flow is starting. Sugar comes off and honey supers go on.

Pollen source, colors etc. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pollen_sources

To be ready to fight varroa, check out Honey Bee Health Coalition. https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/

I would recommend to have a 5 frame nuc box with frames for a couple reasons. • During hive inspections you could put the frame that the queen is on in a nuc to keep her safe. • If you find queen cells in the hive, its hard to stop the urge to swarm unless you take out the queen and destroy all but one queen cell. Put the queen in a nuc with some capped brood and food. You have just started a new hive you can use in emergencies if you lose a queen or hive. Its best to feed this hive, perhaps with an entrance feeder. • It is wise to have an extra nuc to hive a swarm you might find.

Equipment/Supplies Local sources of bee equipment are:

• GM Bee Farm – George Anderson 513-615-3736, 2895 OH-131, Batavia, OH 45103

• School House Bees – Spille’s Honey, 4041 Visalia Rd, Covington, KY 41015

• Tractor Supply – various locations

• Bella’s Bee Supplies, 1017 Riley Wills Rd. Lebanon, OH 45036

Other sources for supplies:

• Dadant Bees 1-888-922-1293 https://www.dadant.com

• Mann Lake 1-800-880-7694 https://mannlakeltd.com

• Beeline 269-496-7001 https://www.beelinewoodenware.com/

• Premier (605) 951-0267 https://www.premierbeeproducts.com/

Mentors – SWOBA has mentors in different areas of the Cincinnati area if you are a new beekeeper and want some training, so that you have a successful year in beekeeping. Email SWOBAbees@gmail.com to find a mentor.

Nucs/Queens – If you are wanting to replace hives that did not make it through the winter, expand your apiaries or need a new queen, SWOBA recommends buying bees from local beekeepers who carry a Queen Certificate from the Department of Agriculture. Please ask for this certification before purchasing bees. Local bees are much better at thriving in our environment and survive our winters. Listed below are some local beekeepers who have queens and nucs for sale:

• GM Bee Farm/George Anderson, 513-615-3736, 2895 OH-131, Batavia, OH 45103. Queens and Virgins

• Paul Mueller, 513-502-8328, 571 Pontious Rd., Delhi OH 45233. Nucs and Brood Frames

• Mack Apiary Bees/Tom Wehner, 513-544-8302, 3954 Demarc Ct. Cincinnati, Ohio 45248 mackabees@mackabees.com . Nucs and Queens

• Johnson Family Farm/Larry Johnson, 513-255-2185, 4178 Oxford Middletown Road, Somerville Ohio 45604. Nucs and Queens

• E. Marie Apiaries/Elaine Rasp, 513-604-5091, 6320 Duet Ln, (White Oak) Cincinnati, Ohio 45239. Nucs and Queens

• Weston Hirschfeld – see Southwestern Ohio Beekeepers AssociaHon Facebook post February 9, 2024.

Register your apiary - Please note that according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, any newly established apiaries are required to be registered within 10 days of receipt of the honey bees. Registering your apiary allows the state of Ohio to know where there are bee hives in case of some kind of pesticide contamination. Your apiary will not be inspected unless requested or used to raise queens or sell nucs. It costs $5 per apiary if registered by May 31. When buying queens or nucs, you have the right to see the registration and queen certificate for that apiary. Download the registration from this link or see attachment to this email: https://agri.ohio.gov/divisions/plant-health/forms/plnt_4201-002

SWOBA Meeting Schedule

Zoom Meetingsregister for the meetings by going to https://www.swohiobeekeepers.com/meetings

Select a meeting, then select the green “To Register” button.

• Sunday March 31st 7:30-8:30 PM, Mr. Randy Oliver

• Sunday April 28TH 7:30-8:30 PM, Mr. Jerry Hayes, MS

• Sunday August 25th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mrs. Grace Kunkel, MS

• Sunday September 29th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mr. Dewey Caron, PhD

• Wednesday October 30th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mrs. Michelle Flenniken, PhD

• Sunday November 17th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mrs. Rebecca Melton Mastermann, PhD In-Person Meetings at Parky’s Farm

• Saturday April 20th 12 Noon – Queen lecture

• Saturday July 13th 12 Noon

• Saturday September 14th 12 Noon 

April To-Do List

SWOBA Monthly Beekeeper To-Do List

April

April is finally here and the bees know it! The queen is laying up a storm in some hives. Nectar is just starting to flow. It’s Bee Season, folks! Let’s get started! Our three priorities are always space, nutrition and pests.  The most important this month will be space.  We want to give the queen space to lay and space for the colony to grow. If it gets overcrowded and no room for brood or nectar, your hive will swarm.  We will talk about how to do this, what to do to prevent swarming (maybe), what to do if you do see swarm/queen cells, and how to build up your hive for good honey production. 

Inspections Hives change quickly in the spring, so it’s important to do some kind of inspection every week to 8 days. The reason is that after the 8 days a queen cell can be capped, and once the queen cells are capped, the hive can swarm. More on this later.  Remember when you go into your hives, we always check for either eggs (one in the bottom of each cell) or the queen, larva at each stage and pupae/capped brood. If you have eggs, tiny and large larva and capped brood, you have a queen in command of your hive.  

    The foragers are bringing in nectar which they will store around the edges of some of the brood frames, and also on the outermost frames. I have seen them store pollen in the frames next to the brood frames, and in the box under it, if you have that. 

    A quick inspection consists of taking out the edge frame, giving space to spread out the other frames as we inspect. Make room around the frame you are going to take out so you don’t roll your queen if she is on it. You don’t have to inspect every frame, just make sure you have eggs, larva and capped brood. Make sure there is room for the queen to lay, either on the existing brood frames, open from emerging brood, or empty frames on the outer edges, or in other boxes. Get a general idea of how many frames of brood there are in the hive. A quick way to check for the presence of queen cells is to tip the box on its side, and look at the bottom. If you have small hive beetle oil traps installed, remove them before tipping the box to avoid spilling oil into the box. Queen cells are downward pointing peanut shaped and often hanging close to or off the bottom edge.  If you see these on any of the frames, check out below.

Space – The queen will lay in consecutive frames and under them, usually keeping the brood in the center of the hive. If she is off to one side or the other, you can rearrange the outer frames to put her and the brood more centered. Be sure to do this in all the boxes in which she is laying to keep the brood vertically aligned. This way she can expand in all directions. She does not skip frames, unless those are ones she has already laid in, that are in the process of emerging. She will go back and lay in those empty cells shortly. It’s not a good idea to add a frame of built comb or foundation in the middle of the brood frames unless the weather is warmer and the hive is huge. This may cause the bees to make queen cells, thinking the queen is missing, even if she is just on the other side of that frame. When you want to add room for her to expand, put the frames on the outside edge of the brood that exists. If you’re willing to run three deep boxes, or four medium boxes, you can move any honey or nectar frames to the top box to start forming a barrier that the queen rarely crosses. If however your queen is very prolific, you may use this extra box to expand the brood chamber even more. When considering how to give your queen room, it’s always best to give her room on the sides as opposed to just adding another box.  If adding another box, arrange brood over brood in each box, and give her empty comb or foundation on the outer edges instead. 

Honey Supers - As the nectar starts to flow, the bees need extra boxes to store this, or else they will store it in the brood chambers, taking needed space from the queen. If you have plenty of drawn comb frames, load up those honey supers and make some honey! 

    If you have more foundation than drawn comb frames, a warning for putting undrawn foundation next to a drawn comb frame, perhaps in a checkerboard pattern. The bees may just build out the combed frame even farther, preventing them from building out any comb on that side of your undrawn frame. Consider this sequence: Comb, comb, foundation, foundation, comb, comb, foundation, foundation, comb, comb. This will bring the bee to work the box instead of skipping a box of undrawn frames entirely. Other arrangements of frames are possible too, depending on how much drawn comb and undrawn foundation you have. Just make sure there is drawn comb on the outside edges and the middle of the box, as the bees seem to start working the middle and build the outside last.

     A caveat to this - building comb works in the nectar flow when the bees are wanting to build, not so much later in the year.  If you need frames built out, spring is just about the only time to do it. 

    Another caveat, bees build comb faster on foundation that is well waxed. If its an option to purchase this type, it may be worth your while.

Feeding – It’s safe to take off your candy boards, unless your hive is really struggling. If so, you can change to 1:1 sugar water.  If however, you have a brand new hive or package, and only foundation without comb, or no built comb on your frames, it’s best to feed these hives with 1:1 sugar water to give them the energy to grow wax. 

    There should be no need to feed pollen patties now.  There is plenty of tree pollen coming in. It’s optional to add pollen patties to build up the brood. Just watch for small hive beetles (SHB) that love to lay their eggs in it.

Entrance Check – Enjoy time watching your bees fly in and out of the hive. You should be noticing pollen in their pollen baskets. Bees full of nectar can be heavy and almost miss their landing. Guard bees will be inspecting bees entering the hive. You may see a orientation flight of the emerging bees. Check the entrance for any debris.  External viewing is considered almost as much of an inspection as opening the hive, determining the health of the hive from the outside.

Pests – Our biggest pests are small hive beetles and varroa mites.  Now that the hives are getting big, it’s safe to sacrifice a couple hundred to do a mite check. Do not catch the queen in that sampling. Honeybee health coalition shows how, the recommended counts for this time of year, and treatments. The second is their tool to help determine which treatment to use.: 

 

https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/HBHC-Guide_Varroa-Mgmt_8thEd-082422.pdf

 

https://cantilever-instruction.com/varroatool/story_html5.html

 

    I recommend taking mite counts each month, not seasonally.  Mites cause disease, and can get out of control easily especially in the fall.  Check for mites now so that your bees enter into the nectar flow in top notch shape. 

   

As for small hive beetles, get an oil and vinegar trap to put between your top box outermost frames. They also hide under the edges of the trap, so squish that part down to smush them. You may see some on your inner and outer cover.  Squish them too.  The bees try to chase them out. SHB will search your frames and eat eggs and small larvae, as well as laying their eggs in the honey. They trick the bees into feeding them too, those crafty stinkers.

Queen Cells and Swarming – If you do see queen cells in you hive, it’s rare that you can stop it from swarming, unless you find and remove the queen from the hive. If done properly, they won’t swarm without her. (See Split below). Yet she may be smaller than she was the last time you saw her, since they may have stopped feeding her so that she is light enough to fly. If your queen is there, and they have not yet swarmed, you can do a few things.  You could make a split, a nuc, or sell or destroy the queen. 

  • Split – If your hive consists of two or more brood boxes, remove the box that has the queen in it and place it on its own bottom board. Make sure she has most of the capped brood of the hive in this box.  The queen will lose the foragers, but the capped brood will emerge and replace them quickly. This box should also have bee bread (pollen stores) and nectar or honey. Also make sure all the queen cells in this box are destroyed, by removing every frame and brushing off the bees to inspect it.  Be careful with the queen though.  It would be a good idea to inspect the hive in four days for any additional queen cells, just to be sure the “Artificial swarm” worked.  

     

           In the original hive, carefully select one queen cell to keep, and destroy all other ones by                inspecting every frame, brushing off the bees to see it clearly. Do not shake the frames. This can        dislodge a developing queen in its cell, if you are keeping this queen cell. It is very important to          check the hive in four days for any additional queen cells!  You should knock down all but one              queen cell again, preferably one that is uncapped.  This should prevent the hive from swarming          with a second queen emerging. You should see eggs from the new queen in two to three                    weeks. 

       Basically you have mimicked a swarm by removing the queen and creating space in the original          hive.  

  • Nuc - Making a nuc is very similar to making a split, but you are just taking out the queen, capped brood and food into a 5-8 frame box. Follow the rest of the instructions above. If you want to make more splits or nucs with a queen cell, you can do that.  Just make sure the  box has food, brood and a shake of nurse bees.

  • You can just remove the queen, destroy all queen cells but one and let the hive requeen itself. This process will take two to three weeks. Again, destroy all but one queen cell as described above. It is very important to check the hive in four days for any additional queen cells!  You should knock down all but one queen cell again, preferably one that is uncapped.  

  • Do you have a queen? - If you don’t see eggs after three weeks and are unsure that you do have a queen yet in the original hive, put in a frame of brood with eggs.  If they make more queen cells, their queen did not make it back from her mating flights, or something else went wrong. At this point, you could purchase a virgin to replace the queen, purchase a mated queen, or recombine your nuc or split back into the original hive. If you choose to let it requeen again from the added brood, be aware that the bees already active in the hive live only 6 weeks, so the hive will reduce in numbers in another couple weeks.

  • Laying worker - Make sure the original hive does get a queen/ that you see eggs by the end of the third week, or a worker may start to lay eggs.  As long as there is still brood in the hive, brood pheromone is present which suppresses any workers from developing their ovaries and laying eggs.  Additional brood may need to be added to prevent this while you decide what to do next. If you do see several eggs in many cells, especially if they are not centered in the bottom of the cell, you may have a laying worker. Sometimes new queens need a day or so to get used to laying, and lay a couple eggs in a cell also.  Look carefully to see which you have.

 

      If you haven’t been in your hive in a bit, this is the way to determine if your queen has swarmed. If you have no eggs and only capped brood, you have lost your queen either to a swarm or a supersedure. It’s rare that a queen will just stop laying for a week.

Considerations and Anticipations – Beekeepers are always a step ahead of the bees, well try to be. Here are some websites to help with that.

 

What’s blooming?  https://weather.cfaes.osu.edu/gdd/default.asp

 

When the humming birds come to the area, the nectar flow is on. Sugar comes off and honey supers go on. https://www.hummingbirdcentral.com/hummingbird-migration-spring-2024-map.htm

 

Dandelions are one of the first nectar flower.  When you see plenty of them, the nectar flow is starting. Sugar  comes off and honey supers go on.

 

Pollen source, colors etc.      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_pollen_sources

 

To be ready to fight varroa, check out Honey Bee Health Coalition.  https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/  

 

I would recommend to have a 5 frame nuc box with frames for a couple reasons. 

•    During hive inspections you could put the frame that the queen is on in a nuc to keep her safe. 

•    If you find queen cells in the hive, its hard to stop the urge to swarm unless you take out the queen and destroy all but one queen cell.  Put the queen in a nuc with some capped brood and food. You have just started a new hive you can use in emergencies if you lose a queen or hive. Its best to feed this hive, perhaps with an entrance feeder.

•    It is wise to have an extra nuc to hive a swarm you might find.

•    There are plastic nucs that are much less expensive than a wooden one. They come in handy in a pinch.

 

Equipment/Supplies 

Local sources of bee equipment are:

•    GM Bee Farm – George Anderson 513-615-3736, 2895 OH-131, Batavia, OH 45103

•    School House Bees – Spille’s Honey, 4041 Visalia Rd, Covington, KY 41015

•    Tractor Supply – various locations

•    Bella’s Bee Supplies, 1017 Riley Wills Rd. Lebanon, OH 45036

 

Other sources for supplies:

•    Dadant Bees 1-888-922-1293 WWW.DADANT.COM

•    Mann Lake 1-800-880-7694 WWW.MANNLAKELTD.COM

•    Beeline 269-496-7001 https://www.beelinewoodenware.com/

•    Premier (605) 951-0267 https://www.premierbeeproducts.com/

 

Mentors – SWOBA has mentors in different areas of the Cincinnati area if you are a new beekeeper and want some training, so that you have a successful year in beekeeping. Email SWOBAbees@gmail.com to find a mentor.

 

Register your apiary - Please note that according to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, any newly established apiaries are required to be registered within 10 days of receipt of the honey bees. Registering your apiary allows the state of Ohio to know where there are bee hives in case of some kind of pesticide contamination. Your apiary will not be inspected unless requested or used to raise queens or sell nucs. It costs $5 per apiary if registered by May 31. When buying queens or nucs, you have the right to see the registration and queen certificate for that apiary. Download the registration from this link or see attachment to this email:

         https://agri.ohio.gov/divisions/plant-health/forms/plnt_4201-002

 

SWOBA Meeting Schedule –  

Zoom Meetings – register for the meetings by going to https://www.swohiobeekeepers.com/meetings   Select a meeting, then select the green “To Register” button.  

•    Sunday April 28TH 7:30-8:30 PM, Mr. Jerry Hayes, MS

•    Sunday August 25th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mrs. Grace Kunkel, MS

•    Sunday September 29th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mr. Dewey Caron, PhD

•    Wednesday October 30th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mrs. Michelle Flenniken, PhD

•    Sunday November 17th 7:30-8:30 PM, Mrs. Rebecca Melton Mastermann, PhD

In-Person Meetings at Parky’s Farm

•    Saturday April 20th 12 Noon – Queen lecture

•    Saturday July 13th 12 Noon

•    Saturday September 14th 12 Noon

MAY TO-DO LIST

The weather is warm, but not too warm.  The nectar is flowing.  It’s May! And this is what Beekeeping is all about, making babies, making wax and making golden honey! Of our three priorities of space, nutrition and pests, it is still space that is our biggest struggle in my colonies right now, maybe yours too.  The nectar is coming in fast which is competing for brood space. We must manage this so we don’t get swarming. Pests are the next to check.  I doubt nutrition is an issue for anyone right now since mother nature is generous and kind.

Inspections – As always, check that you have eggs, larvae and capped brood, light and dark colored cappings. Then you are sure that the colony is all in balance. Hives can change from one week to the next, so make sure you have all your supplies ready to handle whatever you find. There is lots to see and check in the hive so try to get in there weekly. 

Over the last couple weeks, you will have noticed that the brood area is filling with nectar. Putting on supers or medium boxes, especially with built comb, will help elevate this congestion as they can move the nectar to the added box; but sometimes just adding boxes is not the same thing as giving the queen room to lay. If the bees are not maintaining open brood space, you will have to intervene with new frames in the brood area. At this time, it is fine to add frames between the existing brood. You could even checkerboard it, putting new frames between every other brood frame. If you have built comb on them, great. If you have only foundation, or empty frames, you can add those within the brood nest, and a big strong hive can fill them out in a week or two, especially in springtime. I’d say to add two to three new frames per box. The next question is where to put the nectar frames you’ve pulled out. You can add another box above the brood boxes to place those frames. If you’re are using deeps, that can make it pretty heavy to move a third deep box full of honey, so perhaps add some empty frames there too.  You could extract that nectar and keep it for a dearth. However, this is a great way to get some extra frames built out, since it’s harder to do outside of a nectar flow.

If you are blessed with a very productive hive, you may have to maintain bee space, room for adult bees to work. This is great in the fact that you have a mighty work force to collect honey. Make sure to add more boxes.  Remember that one frame of brood equals three frames of adult bees. It’s not great in the fact that more bees dilute the queen pheromone, and possibly start the swarming process. As you inspect, you can put a dot on frames with brood, and/or count how many you have. Opinions will vary, but if you have 13-18 frames with brood, it’s going to be pretty packed pretty soon.  Share the frames with another hive who needs it, or make a split. Check out below. Make sure you don’t share your queen though. 

 

Pests - Our biggest pests are small hive beetles and varroa mites.  Now that the hives are getting big, it’s safe to sacrifice a couple hundred to do a mite check. Do not catch the queen in that sampling. Honeybee health coalition shows how, the recommended counts for this time of year, and treatments. The second is their tool to help determine which treatment to use.: 

https://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/08/HBHC-Guide_Varroa-Mgmt_8thEd-082422.pdf

https://cantilever-instruction.com/varroatool/story_html5.html

 

I recommend taking mite counts each month, not seasonally.  Mites cause disease, and can get out of control easily especially in the fall.  Check for mites now so that your bees enter into the nectar flow in top notch shape. 

As for small hive beetles, get an oil and vinegar trap to put between your top box outermost frames. They also hide under the edges of the trap, so squish that part down to smush them. You may see some on your inner and outer cover.  Squish them too.  The bees try to chase them out. SHB will search your frames and eat eggs and small larvae, as well as laying their eggs in the honey. They trick the bees into feeding them too, those crafty stinkers.

 

Splits – 

  • Reasons for splits 

    • More hives

    • Requeen

    • Increase production

    • Slow hive growth

    • Swarm management

    • Raise queens

  • Equipment for split – purpose dependent

  • Best time to split

    • Bee resources to share 

    • Drone emerging if raising queens 

    • Drones flying if purchasing virgin queens

    • Queens available to purchase

  • Possible time to split – enough time for the hive to build up with a nectar flow (or manually fed) before overwintering

  • What to put in a basic split – 

    • 2-3 deep frames brood and 2 frames food

    • 5 medium frames brood and 3 medium frames food

    • Shake or two of nurse bees

    • Can use a follower board and entrance reducer to reduce space if using a box too big for the new colony

  • Order of frames in a split 

    • Pollen and honey/nectar on outsides

    • Brood in center together unseparated

    • Extra drawn-comb frames for brood expansion on outside of brood frames between brood and food 

  • Forager/drift 

    • Hive with the queen is usually moved to different location to simulate a swarm, and should get an extra shake of nurse bees that will soon become foragers

    • If the split with the queen is not moved, it can be turned around 180 degrees. The remaining queen-less hive facing the original direction will catch the foraging bees to help make a new queen.

    • Other splits without the queen should be especially heavy with brood and nurse bees to support it until a new queen is added or grown

    • You can use forager to strengthen a weak hive by replacing a strong hive with the weaker hive.

  • Timing – 4 day/7 day rule applies to all type splits, when adding a queen or growing a queen

    • 4-5 days after removing a queen, check for queen cells

    • After 4 days, bees cannot make more queen cells, yet some cells may have more royal jelly in them, so it’s best to go back 3-4 days later and knock down any additional queen cells. That’s right, check twice.

      • Adding a queen 

        • Use 4/7 day rule remove all queen cells by shaking or brushing each frame to check.

        • Add queen and check in a week to see if she is released and laying.

      • Add virgin queen 

        • Use 4/7 day rule to knock down all queen cells

        • Check in 10 – 15 days for eggs. 

        • If not eggs, as long as there is still capped brood in the hive, another virgin can be added.

      • Growing a queen 

        • Use the 4/7 day rule check every frame and remove all but one queen cell

        • Brush only. Do not shake off bees to check frames which can dislodge larva in queen cell

        • Choose open queen cells with a larva and much royal jelly. Remember all queen cells are capped at day 9.

        • Queen cells already capped at day 4-5 are panic queen cells and not well selected or fed

        • If two queens emerge, one may swarm. Keep one queen cell.

        • Check in 28 days for eggs. Day 1 egg, Day 4 larva, Day 9 capped queen cell, Day 16 queen emerges, Day 17-23 orientation and mating flights, Day 24 earliest egg.

        • If no eggs are seen by day 31, capped brood must be added along with a mated queen or virgin queen to restart the hive. Brood pheromone prevents worker bee’s ovaries from developing (laying worker). The hive will then believe they have a queen and will be unwilling to accept a mated queen. See Laying Worker

  • Types of splits

    • Even split/Walk away split -both boxes get same resources, ensure both have eggs

      • One box contains the queen

      • The other will grow a queen or receive a queen

      • This type split is for more hives, not honey production

    • Swarm Control Split – 

      • Queen cells are already forming but perhaps not yet capped, eggs may still be present

        • Remove the queen from the hive if she is still present, make a split with 2-3 frames brood, food and space to lay

          • Go back 4/7 days later and check for more queen cells in both hives, especially the original hive, keeping best one.

          • The hive with the queen may not feel like it “swarmed” with the queen and build queen cells again. Give them extra room.

      • Queen cells present and capped

        • No eggs are present

        • No queen present, less bees present - swarm has already happened

        • Keeping only one queen cell in hive

          • Destroy, or remove other queen cells to make more splits

          • Destroy small ones 

          • Destroy unusually large cells, the larva may be dead and had fallen causing bees to extend the queen cell

          • If extra queen cells are not removed, secondary or tertiary swarms may occur

      • Preventing Swarm before seeing queen cells

        • Give queen empty frames on outside edge of brood 

        • Place brood frames in second brood boxes in the center above each other 

        • If two brood boxes already full of brood, move any honey to box above brood boxes, a third brood box, or share it, or extract it for the dearth.

        • Add honey supers for more room for adult bees

      • How to tell if your hive has already swarmed.

        • Queen cells may have bee torn down by bees

        • No eggs

        • Only older larvae and capped brood remain

      • How to check if you hive is queenless, or you just can’t find the new queen

        • Put a frame with eggs in the hive. If it makes queen cells, it is queenless.  If not, check back in a few days/a week to check for eggs.  The new queen may be mating.

      • Demaree Method – making a split but keeping hive in original location on one bottom board.

        • Remove all boxes except the bottom board, leaving it in the original position

        • Put queen and 2 frames capped brood with no queen cells, in a bottom box with frames with comb

        • Place a queen excluder above this bottom queen box

        • Place two or more empty honey supers above queen excluder

        • Place another queen excluder above supers in case the top box creates a queen by mistake

        • Place a shim with the entrance space 180 degrees from the original entrance

        • Put the original brood box/boxes removing all queen cells. 

        • If you don’t have a shim with an entrance hole, prop up the back side of the top brood box/boxes This entrance for the original brood box is now 180 degrees from the original entrance.

        • The foragers will enter the original entrance where the queen is, and utilize the honey supers for nectar and space. The brood in the top box/boxes will emerge, eventually become foragers and also utilize the honey supers from above. Eventually this top box/boxes will be empty of brood. 

        • If needed, this can be done again.

      • Snellgrove Method

      • General rule – check your hives every 8 days in the spring to catch it in case/before it swarms. The queen will not swarm before queen cells are capped on day 9.

    • Cut down Split to increase honey production. Done about 2 weeks before nectar flow. Reduces brood and queen to care for.

      • Add honey supers for nectar and adult bee space

      • Create a nuc/split with the queen and open brood

      • Leave capped brood in original hive

      • Leave one frame with eggs to grow a new queen – 4/7 day rule applies here too

      • 28 days later check for eggs

      • Can add more capped brood to keep bee volume high

    • Confining queen - for less production

      • Cage queen for 2 weeks – banking the queen

      • Brood break helps with varroa control

  • Best time to split

    • Before a nectar flow

    • Enough time to build numbers before winter

    • May need to feed 

  • Review reasons to make splits

  • Queen review 

    • New egg is Day 1

    • Bees will choose a 4-day old just as it goes from egg to larva. 

    • Feeding royal jelly almost exclusively creates a queen bee

    • If the queen is removed from the hive, the bees make panic queen cells, and cap them in 5 days. Then they go back and choose a good egg and feed it well.

    • Days 10-12 are when wings and antennae are forming. Do not disturb queen cells!

    • Day 13-14 they can be moved if grafted or cut off the comb to put in a different hive.

    • Day 16 queen emerges

    • Day 17-23 orientation and mating flights

    • Day 24 earliest egg

  • Laying worker – worker bee ovaries develop with the absence of brood pheromone

    • They lay many eggs in one cell usually on the side since their abdomen will not reach the bottom of the cell. (Sometimes new queens lay more than one egg in a cell as they get used to laying. Look for other cells with properly placed eggs and the presence of a queen)

    • Take entire hive away from original location and shake out all the bees

    • Remove brood frames and hose out multiple eggs. Open drone brood and hose them out of cells

    • Put hive together in original position and introduce a nuc with a mated queen and her brood.

                                                           

                                            JuneTo-Do List

 

June is payoff month, big hives, lots of honey and freshly drawn comb. Well at least from the perfect hive. We’ll talk about how to make that happen at least for next year.  Of our priorities of space, nutrition and pests, this month, and for the rest of the summer, we will focus on nutrition and pests. The nectar flow slows sometime in June depending on when the big trees finish blooming, and if there is rain to support the clover and other perennials. When incoming food slows, the hive growth rate slows also. When that happens, and the heat increases, so do the small hive beetle and varroa populations. The fast hive growth of April and May outpaces most diseases and pests. Now our skills as beekeepers are tested to keep the hives healthy for the production of winter bees in August, monitor varroa, monitor the queen’s vitality, make final splits for the year and feed hives that need it. 

Inspections – As always, we look for eggs (and a queen), larvae and capped brood, a well-balanced hive. There should be a good amount of pollen, stored as bee bread which is pollen packed with honey in the cells. Most two brood box hives will store most of this bee bread in the bottom box. Each frame, and especially the end frames should have honey and nectar stores in them. When you go through the hive, always take note of how much room the queen has to lay.  You may have to share a nectar or pollen frame or two with another hive, and replace them with drawn frames. Of course, make sure they can spare it though. And if you’re especially blessed, you have supers filled with honey

  • Unexpected Inspections -

    • You find queen cells but also eggs.  You still have a queen in the hive.  You hive has either decided to supersede the queen or is preparing to swarm.  Either way I would remove the queen. (You could make a split if the hive is packed.) Wait 7 days and remove all but one queen cell, preferably one on the side of the frame.  Those on the bottom are more prone to getting bumped in an inspection. Brush the bees off to make sure you get them all. Or remove them all and put in a virgin queen or mated queen. 

    • You find queen cells but no queen. Either the hive has swarmed, or they are superseding the queen and have starved her to death ☹. You can estimate by the age of any larvae when the queen was last laying, as they are capped at 9 days. If there are no larvae anywhere and only capped cells, it has been 10 to 15 days since the old queen has laid an egg. A new queen will emerge at day 16. Same actions – leave one queen cell. Wait two to three weeks for eggs, or remove them all and add a virgin or mated queen. With a virgin, eggs in two weeks. With a mated queen, soon as she is out of her cage.

    • You find no queen, no queen cells, no eggs, no larvae, almost no brood. The queen has died or swarmed. Old queen cells may have been broken down by the worker bees. Your new queen is mating but has not started to lay. Or your queen did not survive its mating flights. Or she has not even mated but is too old now to do so, and she is small and easily overlooked. A new queen will start laying on day 24 or after. You could add a frame of brood that has eggs and very young larvae.  If they have no queen, they will start to build queen cells.  If they have a queen, they will just care for the frame as if it were their own. If it is queenless, I would get a mated queen. If its broodless for long, they will develop laying workers.

    • Why does this happen? 

      • Hives like to reproduce by swarming when there is enough natural resources.  Some queens that we term as swarm queens, just like to swarm.  Get a new queen with different genetics in this case. Some beekeepers who catch swarms will always requeen them because of this. 

      • Something may be wrong with the queen that we can’t see.  I have had this happen even with nucs or newly requeened hives.  Never just assume when you have a newly laying queen that all is well.  Keep monitoring her. 

      • Sometimes, although we will never admit it, we kill the queen during an inspection. Handle those frames gently!

    • Spotty Brood – You have a queen, and she looks nice.  You see eggs, but not too many older stage larvae.  Some larvae look shrunk or dark. The capped brood frames have large gaps and empty space on the frame. There may be perforations in the caps.  This can be a sign of disease and varroa infestation. Varroa feces may be attached to the edges of the cells, like little white flakes. Its best to do a mite check and a treatment. Perhaps add a frame of brood from another hive to boost the sad hive. 

European Foul Brood is a bacterium which competes in the gut with healthy bacteria causing the larvae to shrink and die. Strong hives can overcome it as they remove infected larvae. American Foul Brood looks similar but the larvae matter will be sticky and stringy when a stick is inserted.  This is incurable requiring the beekeeper to burn the hive.  Thankfully it is rare. 

    • Absconding - Sometimes there is a disease, high small hive beetle population, outside pest pressure like skunks and racoons, or too high of a varroa count in the hive. The whole hive leaves. This gives them a new home and a brood break which eliminates varroa that multiply in the developing capped brood. Frequent hive inspections and pest management will prevent this.  Keep your varroa counts low and the hive strong to prevent this. 

  • Laying workers can deceive you since they too can produce eggs, larva and capped brood (which will be quite bumpy), but with unfertilized eggs. They cannot raise a queen with a fertilized egg. I had a skilled laying worker that put one egg in each cell for a while.  Next check revealed many in the cells.  My attempt to requeen failed because I neglected to keep brood/brood pheromone in the hive to suppress those ovary developments. Because I didn’t want my frames filled with drone, I squirted the larvae out with a garden hose.  Kind of gross, but better than having to scrape off the drone cappings and then squirting them out, which is quite disgusting. Shake out all the rest of the bees a distance from the original site of the hive.  The bees will find a new home.  If you want to keep this hive, you will have to shake them out and then put a nuc, or at least a frame of brood and a new queen in its box in its original place. The laying workers should be lost, unable to fly, and the returning bees will accept their new queen.  

Nutrition – Here is the biggest question this time of year. How much honey to take, how much to leave.  Some beekeepers will take all the honey in the supers, the medium boxes, and monitor the hive.  If there is nectar and honey on each frame in the brood nest, you’re good. 

The other hard question is whether to feed your hives, and when. We need a crystal ball to answer how much more nectar will be coming, and how much rain we will get to keep the flowers blooming. 

  • If you do not see much uncapped nectar on each frame, and the capped honey in the edges and top of the frames are decreasing, its time to start feeding. 

  • If you look into the frames at the young larvae, and they do not have the puddle of royal jelly surrounding them, the workers are stressed and cannot properly feed the young.  Its best to start feeding. 

  • If the queen’s laying rate decreased, consider feeding. 

  • If your hive is new, and you are building comb on your frames, feed.

  • If we have a drought with basically no more nectar flow, we will all need to feed to have them ready for winter. Each hive will need 50-70 pounds of honey by November to survive.  More on that in upcoming months. Just be aware of the worst-case scenario. 

  • Summer feeding consists of 1:1 sugar water by weight, 1 pound of sugar to 16 oz. of warm water, mix until its dissolved. This mimics nectar. Some beekeepers will dilute it farther. Your can use a pint or quart jar with 2-3 holes in the lid made with a craft needle and a hammer. There are also feeding buckets available from Uline and bee suppliers. Put it on top of the inner cover hole and surround it with a medium or deep box, then the outer cover.  It is best not to use an entrance feeder since other bees can smell the sugar and might start to rob the hive.  If you must use it, put it on the opposite side to the entrance opening, and keep that small, about 1 inch or so. 

Water-Always make sure there is a good water supply for your bees. Don’t let it be your neighbor’s pool since that’s a hard habit for them to break.  Use a bird bath or flower pot tray with rocks or corks. In the heat of the summer, I have used an entrance feeder to supply my hives with water. I put a touch of aquarium salt for some added minerals, and just a touch of bleach which keeps it from molding.  Bees love chlorinated pool water, so I figured, why not, it won’t hurt them. Half a tsp. of each per gallon of water is my recipe.  

Honey extraction – Here are some quick basics to extracting honey. 

  • Never extract honey outside.  Bees will find you, you cannot hide. 

  • You can tote your frames in a 64 quart/61 L Sterilite tote or hive box if you can close it up. 

  • Warm honey extracts easiest. If your extracting area is cool, store your frames in your car in the sunshine. Remember to close the windows, or you may have unexpected visitors. 

  • Put a paint filter in a 5 gallon food-grade bucket, and cut your capping off on top of it, using a board to hold the frame, and let the cappings fall into the bucket. When you’re finished, drain the cappings through the paint filter above the bucket.  

  • SWOBA has extractors you can use, or ask a fellow beekeeper. Always wash, sterilize with bleach water and rinse the extractor before using; after, rinse with cold water after to remove any wax before washing with warm water.  Do not let the bees clean it out. You will have every bee in the neighborhood to the party, and have plenty who couldn’t make it home after that disaster is over. 

  • As the honey flows out of the extractor, let it run through a hop filter or a honey strainer double sieve, and into a food grade 2 or 5 gallon bucket. After a couple days there will be a waxy film on the top of the honey in the bucket.  You can scoop it out with a spatula and spoon, or lay some plastic wrap on top of it, and it will stick to it. You can purchase a honey gate, or a bucket with one attached to it for easy dispensing into jars. You can find 2 or 5 gallon food-grade buckets usually at Tractor Supply, Home Depot, Lowes or Uline. 

Frame Storage – You can let your bees clean up your wet frames by putting them back into your box and back on the hive for a couple days.  If you leave the frames outside, make sure they are a distance from the hives, since the honey can cause robbing of weaker hives. 

When the frames are cleaned out, store them in the freezer for a couple days to kill any ants or other insects. You can then safely store them in the totes.  Be sure you tape up any holes in the totes, or wax moths will find them. If your frames have pollen stored in them, that has a tendancy to mold. It may be best to keep those frames in the freezer, or scrape the pollen comb out, or put them back on the hive.  The bees will collect plenty next spring and summer. Some beekeepers keep the frames in the hive boxes in a garage or basement with para-Moth on top of them. Don’t use any other kind of moth deterrent. 

Scraping the propolis and wax off the edges of the frames either now, during the winter when there is less to do, or in the spring, to get them ready for the spring flow.

Preventing Robbing – The best way to prevent robbing is to maintain a strong hive.  Weak hives are more subject to robbing.  Combine them with a stronger hive, or share brood and nurse bees from a stronger hive to equal the sizes of you hives out in your apiary. Address any issues that are weakening a hive.

  • Bees will smell honey when you are inspecting another hive.  Keep your inspections quick in the summer especially during a drought. 

  • They also smell the sugar of entrance feeders.  Keep the jar on the opposite side from the entrance of the hives, and make that entrance small. 

  • When wet frames are on the hive or in the bee yard, bees will look for it everywhere. 

  • Entrance reducers also reduce the amount of guard bees needed to defend the entrance of the hive. I suggest keeping them installed even in the summer. A little prevention can avoid a mess.

  • If you do see robbing occur, close up the entrances until the event passes. 

  • You can put a wet sheet over the whole hive to close it up, but perhaps this gives the hive more ventilation. 

  • Say a prayer that the hive survives. 

Hot Hot Hot – There are a few things you can do to help your bees in the heat of the summer. First off, bees beard at the entrance of the hive in the summer, hanging on each other like a mini swarm bivouac. Don’t be alarmed. They are trying to maintain the temperature inside the hive for the sake of the brood. You can add a stick between the outer and inner cover to create more air flow.  When you inspect, see if they need an extra box for the amount of bees in the hive. Make sure the bees have a convenient water source as we spoke of earlier. They use it to cool the hive. Some beekeepers will drill a hole in the medium boxes for an upper entrance for nectar deliveries.  This can help with air flow in the heat.

 

Summer Nucs – Beekeeping is easy in the spring. Summer brings more challenges. Hives are harder to requeen. Pests can weaken or destroy hives. Disease can get the best of a weak hive. We have to be watchful to help the bees prepare for winter, even in the midst of the summer.  Its always a good idea to have a nuc handy as insurance, as a source of brood or queen or both.  If you don’t need it, I bet a friend will. 

Requeening a hive with a nuc is an easy way to ensure acceptance of a queen. Remove the hive’s original queen, wait 7 days, knock down all queen cells and add the nuc. Our goal now is to go through the summer and fall with a strong hive that can prepare for winter. Beginning next spring with a strong overwintered queen reared this year, with no lag time from spring requeening, enables her to fill the hive with bees for honey collection. 

How do you make a summer nuc or two? Get or make a nuc box.  Same as in the spring, put in two frames of capped brood, eggs too if growing your own queen, a couple frames with honey/nectar and pollen, and an empty frame with comb if possible. Wait a week to make sure it doesn’t grow queen cells. Either keep one, or knock them all down and add a virgin or mated queen. Virgins will take two weeks till they lay. Wait another couple weeks or so to build up some good brood. Install this into your hive. You must prepare you hive for the nuc by removing the queen the week before, and tear down any queen cells it produces before adding the nuc. No need to separate the two with newspaper.

Pests – I saved the worst for last. Let’s address varroa. Varroa mites which carry diseases multiply under the cappings of developing pupa, especially drone pupa which takes longer to develop, allowing varroa to multiply longer. If you have 100 hives, you might not do mite checks because of the time involved. But there are signs that tell you there is varroa or disease in the hive.  Small holes in the capping are a hygienic trait bees have to eliminate infected developing pupa. If you accidentally open a drone cell, pull it out to see if there are varroa attached to it. If the brood pattern starts to get spotty, the bees may be pulling out the diseased or larvae and pupa effected by varroa. Larvae may be dying before they develop. 

What treatment to use depends on many things: if there is honey for human consumption on the hive, what the temperature is and if you want to use synthetic or natural treatments. A treatment which does not cross the cappings such as Oxalic Acid, will affect the mites on the phoretic bees/emerged bees, which is good to knock down your numbers, but will not address the mites under the cappings. Formic Pro which can be used with honey on the hive, but not in high temperatures, can be used one pad at a time, because it is hard on the queens in the heat. Apiguard should not be used with honey on the hive because it can flavor the honey, and also has temperature limitations, which may be adjusted by the amount added to the hive, see instructions. Apivar, a synthetic, is beginning to show resistance. 

All these variabilities are addressed by honeybeehealthcoalition.org, who has a tool to help you decide.

Each beekeeper has their go-to treatments and a preference when to use it. Differences of opinion are plentiful.  Some things most can agree with is to use different treatments for different purposes. This prevents resistance by the mites to one certain treatment. Use the treatment for the length of time required. This also prevents resistance. Always test after the treatment to see if it worked. Believe me, sometimes it does not.

So here is my preference, yours may be different. Whenever the hive is broodless or very low on brood, like during a requeening or making nucs, I will use Oxalic acid. If I find mites in the early spring, I will treat with Apiguard before I add honey supers. Unless I see signs of mites, I will not test again until I remove my honey supers. If I do see a problem with my honey on, I will watch the weather, and use Formic Pro if the daytime temps are not above 80F the first three days, although the instructions say 50-85F. After the honey supers are off, I will return to my routine of monthly testing of a few hives. If I have mites, all the hives in the apiary will be treated with Apiguard. If the mite count is really high, I will knock it down with Oxalic Acid before I treat with Apiguard. Mite counts have to be very low as the bees move into August when they begin to grow their winter bees. Keeping them low for the remainder of the year is important. Fall usually comes with higher mite loads, so again keep up your monthly mite checks and treat when needed. By December the queen will have stopped laying. This is when I will again treat with Oxalic acid, and perhaps again in January. This will begin the spring mite free and ready to grow. 

Don’t forget your PPEs when using mite treatments. Read the instructions. The label is the law.  Keep yourself safe!

Other Pests – The best defense against Small Hive Beetles is a strong hive. More sun, less beetles too. Beetles look for a weak hive, and a weak hive cannot defend well against them. Check your hives weekly or so. Watch for signs of disease and space issues, and address it. Reach out to SWOBA with questions. A couple other things to do for SHB is to use unscented Swiffer pads wadded in the corners under the inner cover, double reflective insulation from the hardware store on top of the frames of the top box.  Bees will propolize the beetles under it, so remove it slowly as you squish beetles. Oil and vinegar traps work well but spill when moving the box.  Beetles hide under the edges of these too, so squish them before removing them. Since SHB pupate in the soil, use Sevin or Guardstar under and around your hives. 

Wax moths will only affect a weak hive.  Strong hives will defend against them. You can see the trail of the larvae eating a line through the comb on the frame. I usually see them in my stored frames if they didn’t get frozen yet, or stored properly. 

Earwigs don’t seem to get into the hive past the outer and inner cover. They are not a threat.

Ants are annoying, but usually don’t get into the hive either. A couple shakes of cinnamon on top of the inner cover will keep them out. Perhaps ant traps around the hive that bees can’t get into will help.

Have a wonderful summer and bee healthy!

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