Monday, September 17, 2012

Honey Harvest and Winter Prep - 9/17/2012

The time of year for honey harvest as well as beehive winter preparations has arrived.  Varroa mite counts and treatments are at the top of the list.  The weather is still nice, but I really should have done this at least two weeks ago.  Ah well, better late than never.  I hope...
Before harvesting and digging through the hives I debated over which winter treatments I wanted, or needed to do.  I am leaning toward the idea that a hive should be strong enough to survive without medications, but I really feel that anything I can do to help the hive survive, I should do.  So I chose a middle path.  I elected to not treat for Nosema since I really saw no signs of it, but I did treat for Varroa.  I have been reading about how some beekeepers are having success with using only 25g rather than 50g of Apiguard, so thought I would follow suit.  I know that last year I used the full 50g and it seemed a little overpowering and lingered for quite a long time, so the half strength idea just makes sense to me. We'll see how it goes.
So I pulled what honey I reasonably could from the hives, and installed 25g of Apiguard in each hive.  The bees took the process quite well.  I was pleased that they all seemed to be quite calm, especially compared to their disposition last spring.  The Apiguard did set off a lot of immediate fanning, but by evening everyone was back inside safe and sound.  I think that the hives might a little light, so I will be feeding them when I install the 2nd round of Apiguard.  I am waiting to feed since I would like to avoid the potential for robbing for as long as possible.  I hope the weather holds out long enough for them to get enough stored.  Let's hope that I'm not making a mistake by waiting.
I didn't get as much honey as I had hoped for, but I did get enough to make the effort worthwhile.  I know that my late start in spring had much to do with a smaller harvest, but it was a lesson well learned.  The incredibly dry season we had didn't help much either.
Off to the extractor we go!  Will be installing round 2 of Apiguard on October 1.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Keeping notes - worth gold

I really need to be sure to post my inspections here - EVERY TIME I do one.  That will be my goal from here on out.  I have learned a valuable lesson about record keeping.

I am finding that the records I kept last year are a HUGE help for this year.  I see that at this time last year my hives were only three medium boxes high, and that I began mite and nosema treatments mid September as well. So now I know, I better get my butt in gear and get busy with the final honey harvest and treatments.  I am also glad to know that the hives were only 3 boxes high, and not 4.  That means I can take a little more honey for us humans!

So here is the update for the past few months;

I learned A LOT after splitting the hives.

I found out that early June was WAY TOO LATE to split a hive (in this area) to effectively avoid swarming.  At least one of the hives ended up swarming within two weeks of the split anyway.  Luckily I was home and witnessed the ordeal, and recaptured the swarm in my own backyard (My first official swarm!).  The other hive may have swarmed, but I really can't tell.  After all was said and done, I had 6 hives.

Note to self:  Do hive splits BEFORE you see swarm cells.  Early May is probably a better time to do swarm prevention.

I also learned more about queens and re-queening.

Out of three new queens, only one of them was readily accepted by the hive.  The second one swarmed, and the third one just vanished.  I had the pleasure of letting one hive raise their own queen, but the last hive needed to be re-combined with the parent hive.  So in the end I now have 5 queen right hives. Whew!  I learned that it takes a lot of patience to see the results of the bees own work in queen rearing.  Just when I was beginning to panic and was ready to combine the hive, the new queen magically appeared.  One extra week is all they needed.

I think the most valuable advise I got was that if I was in doubt about the queen status of a hive, simply steal a frame of fresh eggs from another hive and insert into the hive in question.  If they need a queen, they will make one.  This is the simplest and least disruptive way to ensure you have a queen.

Note to self:  Let new splits make their own queen.  It may take a while, but they know what they are doing, not to mention it will save you from paying $20 for an insect.

So now, with the summer months rapidly drawing to a close, we begin our Autumn and Winter preparations...

The goal for this week - finish honey harvest, medicate hives for varroa and nosema,  and begin aggressive feeding for final winter build up.