July - August 2015
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. If unfamiliar with your advice giver, check his credentials with other beekeepers. Beekeepers with little experience have a tenancy to give advice that might well be bad! I find that the best advice is based on experience and not necessarily education.
All advice is intended for the novice beekeeper. More experienced beekeepers may have the skills to attempt practices not recommended for the novice.
SPECIAL NOTICE: Small Hive Beetles (SHB) will become more active as the summer heats up. A few SHB on the inner cover is not a cause for alarm if the hive is normal strength. However, weak hives with good pollen stores are a major target for SHB larvae. If you prop your outer cover open to increase ventilation, be sure and use a square (actually not round) stick or whatever and use one at the front of the hive and one at the back. Round "props" allow SHB to hide near the area near the center of the circumference. A single prop at the front of the hive cover creates a similar but more severs hiding place for SHB as the spacing approaches zero at the end opposite the single prop. If you have a queenless colony that you need to mix with a stronger colony [which is what I strongly recommend over trying to re-queen during the summer months]. Remove all frames with pollen stores and place them in a deep freeze for a couple of days before placing them in the stronger hive. (If the pollen frames have clinging bees, shake them off in front of the hive and allow them to re-enter before mixing - if you shake the bees directly into the colony, you will likely also shake in SHB adult, larvae and eggs. Freezing will kill the SHB adult, eggs and larvae. If the strong colony does not need the pollen, save it in the freezer for 2016 spring splits and or swarms season. Any dark combs removed from colonies should be stored with paradichlorobenzene (PDB - moth crystals) to prevent wax moth invasion. It has been my experience that the PDB will also kill adult SHB and their larvae.
If you loose a hive and find large pools of SHB larvae, place them in a container (like a plastic outer cover) and place them in direct hot sunlight and it will kill them quiet quickly.
Take your surplus honey off as soon as possible because this reduces the space that the bees have to defend against SHB. Process all honey removed from your hives the next day if possible. If you have any pollen in your frames of harvested honey, it will be a major target for SHB larvae. If you get SHB larvae in your harvested supers, you will likely see the 1/2 inch or so long SHB larvae AND a watery looking, slick film on the capped frames of honey (This is called "slime") . If you get slimed combs, place them in a deep freeze to kill the beetles, eggs and larvae. Then place them back on a good strong colony and they will clean up the mess in a few days. Then you can remove the supers again and harvest the honey. You can also wash the slime off (after freezing) with water and a garden hose. CAUTION: DO NOT EVER place SHB (or wax moth) infected supers or other combs on a strong hive for cleanup UNLESS IT HAS BEEN FROZEN (or some other method that kills the eggs, adults and larvae). If you do, you stand a chance of loosing the strong colony. If the colony is strong enough it might recover but it is not wise to take the chance.
If you have any weak colonies, keep an eye on them by inspecting the combs with pollen. If you mix colonies, per above, do not shake the bees from the weak colony directly into the strong hive but instead shake the bees in front of the weak hive before mixing. This is to prevent unintentionally shaking adult SHB and larvae into the strong colony. If you use the "newspaper method" remove and freeze as many combs from the donor colony as is practical before adding them to the receiving colony. For example, remove a frame, shake the bees back in front of the hive and then freeze the frame.
2015 as been an average to below average honey production year for me. The hives should be full of bees on July 1. I normally do not recommend that beginning beekeepers make summer splits in north Alabama but it can be done. If the hives are near cotton, soy beans or other summer foraging, don't split unless you prefer more bees over a fall honey crop. If you are near a summer nectar producing source, like maybe cotton or soy beans, it is a good idea to harvest yuor spring honey then put the supers back on for the summer flow.
If not near a summer nectar source, remove your surplus honey and store the empty supers. Leave one super with storage space because some summers we do get a nectar flow. Be careful placing wet supers (those that have been extracted but still have a litttle honey sticking to all surfaces and combs) out for cleanup. If practical place them 100 yards or more away from the nearest colony so the bees will tell the "cleaning colonies" exactly where the honey source is located. This is to prevent starting your colonies from robbing each other. If, you return the wet supers onto an active hive for cleanout, (which is more common for a very low number of hives) try and do it just before dark, this will allow less daylight for robbing to get started. By morning, the supes are usually cleaned enough to not to be quiet so attrasctive to robbers .
If you decide to make summer splits, make them strong with bees. Place 1 frame of pollen and honey and 3 or 4 frames of brood and clinging bees. Go light on the amount of pollen because of SHB. Then shake in more bees until the split is jammed with bees. Fill any open frame slots with foundation or light in color drawn comb. Feed 1:1 sugar syrup. Keep an eye on them and add frames of brood and clinging bees if needed (most likely it will not be the case unless you have queen problem). If splits are made in early July, they can be made with or without a queen. If without, make sure that at least one of the frames of brood also has eggs. Check on the split in one week to make sure they have started a good queen cell, if not , give them another frame with eggs. I do not recommend using pollen substitute or pollen supplement in the summer as this too will attract SHB.
END OF SPECIAL NOTICE
1. 2015 is shaping up to be a "below normal" honey yield year in north Alabama.
2. Take off your surplus honey as soon as possible as this reduces the space that the bees have to defend against SHB.
3. 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. You may not get cotton honey. For whatever reason the honeybees in north Alabama stopped working cotton in most fields some 12 or so years or so ago. In recent years, bees seem to have started back working cotton in some fields so you may or may not get surplus cotton honey.
4. If your bees are near Kudzu or Soy Beans, you may get summer honey from both. If you are real lucky and have Sourwood trees near you, you may get a crop of Sourwood honey. If you do, keep it separate as it sells for a premium price. In years past white bloom Soy Beans did not produce honey and pink/purple did but the guys with the lab coats have screwed that up with their genetic modification so give either or both a try, you never know!
4. There may be a fall wildflower honey flow but that seldom produces a harvestable surplus because that 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 (Paradichlorobenzene) and save it for spring “bait hives”.
· Use Moth Crystals (Paradichlorobenzene – 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, the fumes eliminate the wax moths. The fumes are heavier than air.
· If a "wood rimed" 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.
· New, white combs seldom have a wax moth problem and will likely not need PDB fumigation. Wax moths seldom attack combs that are not dark and or have not had brood raised in them. The best way to store supers with light (new) combs is to cross stack them in a well lighted location with good air circulation. If white comb is intermixed with dark combs, you may well get wax moth damage in both.
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. Bees seem to like old dark combs that have been treated with PDB obviously they have to have been thoroughly "aired out" before use. Also, the paper like combs left after the wax has been melted from old dark combs works quiet well in swarm trap hives.
7. Small Hive Beetle will attack weak colonies. It is the SHB larvae that do most of the damage. They look a little like wax moth larvae but are much smaller and their head is darker. They will be concentrated in any area where there is pollen and or dark combs. Probably the best way to deal with them is to put the infected frames in a Deep Freeze for 2 days or so. PDB used the same as for Wax Moths will also kill the larvae. If SHB larvae are placed in an up side down plastic outer cover are exposed to direct sunlight, the larvae will die quickly. Do not let them get to the ground alive as they will burrow in and pupate and return as adult beetles.
of SHB larvae
found in corners
Small Hive Beetle
found on top
bars and all
Wax Moth Larvae
(this is a
8. 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.
9. 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).
10. Keep weeds trimmed from entrance as this hinders flight and ventilation.
11. Get your honey harvested and bees medicated by 15 August, if possible (If the bees are storing cotton or other summer 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. Click here for information on medicating your bees.
12. 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.
· You will be out the cost of a queen
· You will be out the cost of medication
· They may not make it through the winter
· If they don’t, it will likely result in Wax Moth damage
· If they are weak and you combine them
· You greatly enhance the likelihood that they will survive the winter
· You have no additional cost
· Come spring, you can split them, if they are strong enough
· If they are not strong enough, you would likely have lost both colonies had you tried to over winter separately.
13. 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 filled with brood and stores (usually the brood chamber) and one medium of stores for winter food. It is much better to feed bees while the weather is warm so try and have stored honey (sugar water or otherwise) in the hive before cold weather but if you miss the deadline you may be able to save the colony by feeding during cold weather, so feed if need be.
CAUTION: Making splits after mid July is more risky because of Small Hive Beetle. If you attempt to make splits make sure they have lots of bees and keep an eye on them.
14. 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.
15. 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.
16. 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.
· 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 to sting.
· 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. You can use more than one Boardman per hive this way. Make sure that no outside bees can get in to the feeder(s).
17. When you remove your surplus honey, leave the equivalent of at least one deep and one medium of honey for the bees to over winter on.
· If in August, you have removed all but one deep, make sure and put a medium super back for the bees to store fall honey for over wintering. If they do not make fall honey, you will likely have to feed them. Any sugar water honey or honey made after medicating should not be consumed by humans. It is a very good feed for other colonies.
· If your bees need feeding, try and get the feed on in time for them to store 60 lbs. before the weather gets cold.
· If you feed weak colonies from now until winter, use Boardman feeders with great caution as stated above.
18. 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 (Click here for guidelines on proportions of water to sugar or corn syrup for a 1:1 and 2:1 syrup):
· To increase the number of bees in the colony:
o If you need more bees in the hive, use 50% sugar 50% water by weight. This produces a liquid that 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:
o I 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 50 lbs. of sugar can be dissolved in 3 gallons of water using this method. One and one half 10 lb. bag to one gallon of water is an acceptable mix for small quantities. HOWEVER, I increase the water content by 1/2 gallon in real cold weather to prevent the sugar crystallizing in the jars. ie...I mix 3 1/2 gallons of water to 50 lbs. of sugar in cold weather. It can be difficult to tell that the sugar has crystallized so best not to take the chance.
o This will not likely stimulate brood production but it is the best approach to prevent starvation.
· Feed in small batches (quarts or pints) because sugar water (especially 1:1) will ferment in hot weather.
END OF FILE