July - August 2007
This information is for the North Alabama area. If you are a novice beekeeper in other parts of the world, join a local beekeeping association and ask known-experienced beekeepers for similar advice.
All advice is intended for the novice beekeeper. More experienced beekeepers may have the skills to attempt practices not recommended for the novice.
1. This is shaping up to be another bad honey production year in north Alabama. North Alabama had no winter until mid bloom season. During mid bloom season we had our winter, 2 weeks of hard enough freezes to kill most blooms and some trees. After the cold weather we got virtually no rain until the spring bloom season was over.
2. It is time to take your surplus honey crop off. If you are near cotton, you might still want to remove your surplus honey and replace the empty combs for your cotton honey crop. Cotton honey is very light in color and has a good taste BUT it does crystallize quickly therefore keeping it separate is not a bad idea. If you plan to make “creamed honey” cotton honey is a good choice because of the very small crystals when crystallized. If you prefer to use other nectar sourced honey for your “creamed honey” cotton honey is still a good choice to seed the process.
3. Don't be surprised if you get no cotton honey. For whatever reason the honeybees in north Alabama a have not worked cotton for the past 3 years.
4. There may be a fall wildflower honey flow but that seldom produces a harvestable surplus because hat is normally left for the bees to winter on plus it may not be harvestable depending on when you medicate your bees.
5. Wax Moths are now a problem and will become a bigger problem, as the weather gets hotter. If you have “dead outs” or unused dark comb treat the combs with PDB and save it for spring “bait hives”.
· Use Moth Crystals (Para dichlorobenzene – normally available at Wall-Mart) do not use Moth Balls (Naphthalene)
· Stack supers to be treated 3 high, then place a ¼ sheet of newspaper with about 3 Table spoons of PDB.
· Repeat every 3 supers.
· Close all openings in the stack as well as the lower entrances, as the crystals evaporate and it is the fumes that eliminate the wax moths. The fumes are heavier than air.
· If a queen excluder is placed above the top PDB (under the inner cover), you will get better air circulation and more effective results.
· Check the stack at least once a month, if the PDB has evaporated, replaces it.
· Before you re-use the PDB treated equipment let it air well (until no odor is present) before using with live bees.
6. If you have comb that has been damaged by wax moths, render the wax and clean up the equipment and get it ready for reuse. Be sure and save any good used dark combs for use in bait hives next spring.
7. Order your jars, lids and labels, if you plan to sell honey.
· Use a nice looking label.
· Make sure jars are sparkly clean.
· Wipe off any sticky honey, as sticky jars are a major customer turn off.
8. If you sell (or consume) comb honey, it should be stored in a deep freeze for a minimum of 3 days to kill Lesser Wax Moth eggs before it is sold or consumed. If you have several supers of comb honey, store it in the deep freeze until needed obviously you will have to let it warm before cutting and placing in boxes or jars (if chunk honey).
9. Keep weeds trimmed from entrance as this hinders flight and ventilation.
10. Get your honey harvested and bees medicated by 15 August, if possible. If the bees are storing cotton honey this can be delayed until 15 September. Keep in mind that Menthol must be placed on the bottom board if the temperature is above 80°F. If placed on the top bars when the temperature exceeds 80°F, it will likely drive the bees out of the hive and you stand a very good chance of loosing the colony.
11. If you have weak failing colonies between now and winter, mix them with a strong colony. Re-queening a weak queenless colony is difficult this late in the year.
HOW TO MIX
· Remove the outer and inner cover from the strong colony.
· Place a sheet of newspaper on top where Inner cover was; make sure it covers the entire super. Make sure it has no holes big enough for a bee to pass through.
· Separate the weak hive from its bottom board.
· Set the weak hive on top of the newspaper.
· Slide the inner cover on the top (weak) hive back ¼ inch or so to allow the bees ingress – egress.
· Put a spacer (entrance reducer works well) to prop the outer cover up to allow the bees to go in and out.
WHY TO MIX
· If they are weak and you re-queen.
o You will be out the cost of a queen
o You will be out the cost of medication
o They may not make it through the winter
o If they don’t, it will likely result in Wax Moth damage
o If they are weak and you combine them
o You greatly enhance the likelihood that they will survive the winter
o You have no additional cost
o Come spring, you can split them, if they are strong enough
o If they are not strong enough, you may have lost both colonies had you tried to over winter separately.
12. Summer splits can be made any time from now until mid September. If making a split without a live queen make sure that you have eggs in at least one frame in the split. Feed the split until fall or until they have at least one deep (usually the brood chamber) and one medium of stores for winter food.
13. If your hives have lots of live bees piled up at the entrance, hanging down in large clusters and even 2 inches or so thick on the front of the hive. Don’t panic, this is normal during hot / humid weather. It is likely not about to swarm. BUT DO CHECK FOR SPACE if there is any flow on (like cotton) this can be an indicator of a need to add supers.
14. You may have small summer / fall swarms. This is not cause for alarm. They are not worth much but can be a fair source for a queen for re-queening.
· It can be an interesting project to try and get them to live through the winter. This will almost always require feeding.
· If available a full super of honey before winter will get them through the winter if you have at lease 1-½ lbs of bees however you must monitor honey stores closely through the winter and especially in the late winter / early spring.
15. As the honey flow shuts down, it is normal for bees to become more defensive toward the beekeeper and toward each other.
· Because of this, be careful about spilled honey and exposed open honey cells in the bee yard.
· Be careful when feeding week hives as this will encourage robbing. If a Boardman feeder is used do not place it in the entrance but instead place it on top of the inner cover, near the vent hole and place an empty deep and otter cover over that. Make sure that no outside bees can get in to the feeder.
· If you have been working your bees without protective clothing and plan on continuing to do so, proceed with caution. Bees are more docile during a honey flow. After the flow is over they become more defensive and are much more likely sting.
16. When you rob, leave the equivalent of at least one deep and one shallow or medium of honey for the bees to over winter on.
· You can rob closer (leave less honey) in August then medicate and then replace the empty super for the bees to store their fall honey.
· If you do this and the fall flow is bad such that they do not re-fill the empty supers, you will have to feed to survive the winter.
· If you feed weak colonies from now until winter, use Boardman feeders with great caution as stated above.
17. If you are feeding your bees during the summer the percent sugar in the mixture that you feed should be adjusted to meet the reasons for feeding as follows:
· To increase the number of bees in the colony:
If you need more bees in the hive, which is the most common reason to feed right now, use 50% sugar 50% water by volume. If using cane sugar fill the container half full of sugar crystals and then fill to the top with water. This produces a liquid that is has roughly the same sugar content as nectar. Nectar coming into the colony stimulates the colony to produce more bees.
· To keep the bees from starving:
Feed a saturated solution ie.. dissolve as much sugar as you can in the water. This is best accomplished by heating the water to just under boil and mix or stir until no more sugar will dissolve. Stirring is a critical step as “burned or caramelized” sugar is not good for your bees and should not be fed to them. It has been my experience that roughly 25 lbs of sugar can be dissolved in 2 gallons of water using this method. One 10 lb bag to one gallon of water is an acceptable mix for small quantities.
This will likely not stimulate brood production but it is the best approach to prevent starvation.
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