TEXAS BEE SUPPLY
New Year's Bee-solutions
Ask the Experts
Reversing Brood Boxes
Cover Photo Courtesy: Susan Caldwelll
6 January Tips
10 New Year's Bee-Solutions
13 Combining Weak Hives
14 California Almond Pollination
18 Ask The Expert - Nucs, Packages or Full Hives
20 Reversing Brood Boxes
26 Shook Swarms
30 Varroa Destructor
32 Ask the Expert - How & When do you treat for Varroa mites?
34 Winter Inspections
38 Recipe of the Month
40 Dry Pollen Feeding
44 Beekeeping Safety
48 Monthly Q & A
52 Winner 2020 Funny Bee Story
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I often do not combine them, and see if they can make it into February, where significant growth should occur.
4. Leave entrance reducers on your hive. I usually recommend removing them when daytime temperatures are routinely in the 60s.
5. Keep wax moth crystals on your stored comb. Check out our video on how to store comb!
6. As your hive begins to raise brood, make sure they have at least 20lbs of surplus honey/syrup stored in their second box. If they don’t, consider feeding a gallon or two over the course of January.
7. Last, but certainly not least, if you want more hives next year, make sure to order nucs or hives, and queens NOW! The sooner you order your bees, the earlier the pick up date you will be able to
choose! For now, we have not raised prices for 2021, so order soon!
Days are growing longer & the bees know it!
1. December was unusually warm in most of Texas, with bees in many areas bringing in small amounts of pollen during warm flight days. In many of my hives they have maintained small amounts of brood all winter!
Now that the days are growing longer, expect to see slowly increasing amounts of brood through January. As a result, continue monitoring food stores. Pollen patty feeding can be resumed in January until a strong pollen flow begins in mid to early February depending on where you are located. You may find bees burrowing into chicken feed, sawdust, etc. They are attempting to find a source of protein and will gather any type of dust thinking it is a protein source. You can open feed protein powder in January to discourage that behavior. All that being said, pollen feeding is not as critical in January as it was over the late summer/early fall months.
2. During quick hive inspections, you will most likely see the size of cluster diminish over time. Expect to continue to see a slow loss in population as the fall workers die. This is normal, and typically does not begin to reverse until late January to mid-February. Hives often lose strength over winter, thus the larger and stronger the hive going into winter the better.
3. When considering weak hives & combining them, I’m a bit more liberal in January. If a hive has made it this far,
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New Year's Bee-solutions!
Join me in saying
“Good Riddance 2020!”
What a year it was…I believe at least a few of you will agree with me when I say, “Let’s move on to 2021!”
Like others, I look back on the year and reflect on what I did right and what I could improve on. For many of you, it was your first year in beekeeping and for some, your last – so no doubt your reflections will vary.
One of the most important aspects I’ve learned in beekeeping is to “pay attention.” I can say, and James would agree, when we began to pay attention to what the bees were telling us (yes, they talk…yours do too) our bees not only survived, but they thrived!
The “Ah-ha” moment.
Have you ever “had to learn” something, and when you started it just seemed hard? Someone is nodding their head out there…
Of course you have! We all have! Beekeeping can be hard – or at least, it can feel hard. Then one day, out of the blue – it happened! We got it! We finally got it!
The books, the classes, the club meetings…it all came together! That was our “Ah-ha” moment! How long did it take? I’m not going to tell you… well, probably about a year longer than it should have. But when it happened, it felt wonderful!
Although we sell bees, as instructors, our goal is for you to learn enough about beekeeping to rarely have to buy bees again (if ever)! Yes, it’s possible to never have to buy bees again! Queens, yes… but bees, no!
Here are a few Beekeeper New Year’s “Beesolutions for 2021”
· Commit to controlling Varroa Mites. Mites are the root to a majority of problems our bees experience and are easily managed when you are proactive.
· Spend down time reviewing your notes to identify mistakes made – TAKE NOTES if you don’t already!
· Learn from your mistakes! To quote the great American Philosopher John Dewey: “Failure is instructive. The person who really thinks, learns quite as much from his failures as from his successes.”
· Spread the word! Bee a beekeeping advocate! Small scale beekeepers are making a HUGE impact on the revitalization of the Honey Bee. Perpetuating beekeepers in turn perpetuates the bees.
· To those who have lost the “thrill” of beekeeping – Learn to LOVE it again. Take your lawn chair out to your bee yard like you did when you first got your bees. Watching your bees work is not only educational, but also therapeutic. Try it…you’ll see…
· Don’t put up with mean bees! Commit to requeening. It’s only hard the first time. Ask someone to help you that’s done it before – watch a video on it – just do it! Don’t settle for mean bees! Bees can be sweet and fun given half a chance.
Finally – committing yourself to learning your bees. Not just “Do I feed now?” or “Do I need to treat for mites?” I’m talking about committing to just hours (not years) of educating yourself on bee biology, bee nutrition, frame manipulation, expansion, pest management… I could go on and on. All these are learned over time, but accelerating the process through classes, clubs, seminars, and other various forms of education, can save you a lot of money and heartache! No one wants to lose bees, especially when we don’t even know why we lost them.
When you decided to become a beekeeper, you were fired up and excited at just the mere mention of the word – beekeeper. Was it what you expected? The cost of mistakes… the cost in general! Do you think you’re alone in this feeling?
I can assure you, you are not!
All these years later I can (we can) attest to it too. But know this – we have gotten so much MORE from our bees than money could ever buy. We’ve had a journey like no other.
Never have we regretted a single moment. Don’t give up – it’s worth the wait – Your “Ah-ha” moment is coming.
Happy New Year Beekeepers
May this year be filled with health, wealth, and HAPPY BEES!
By: Chari Elam
If your hive has 3 frames of bees or less,
join them using the newspaper method. Here are 2 videos to show you how!
1. Identify the stronger of 2 colonies.
2. Smoke entrances to both colonies.
3. Remove cover from
4. Add single sheet of newspaper to strong colony.
5. Place weak hive on top of strong colony.
Combining Weak Hives
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The pollination of almonds in California is the single largest pollination event in the world. About 90% of the USA's almonds come from CA, and almost 80% of the world's almonds come from CA. It is the only place they are grown in America, and one of the only places they can grow in the world.
With bees, almond orchards can yield 2,000-3,000 lbs per acre. Without bees, that drops to a few hundred pounds per acre. That's where we come in as beekeepers. Almost every commercially available hive in the US is needed to pollinate the vast & ever growing almond crop. When bee shortages began to hit about 10 years ago, prices paid per hive rose steadily. Today, they range from $185-$200+ per hive, thus making almond pollination the largest single source of income, and an essential part of most commercial beekeeping operations. With the price for bulk USA honey lower than we've seen in many years, almond pollination is even more critical for the survival of most beekeeping businesses.
Most hives are transported to CA in late January, where they remain until the almond trees finish blooming in
California Almond Pollination
Unloading in CA
By Blake Shook
Bees unloaded in and ready to spread into the orchard
mid-March. Virtually nothing else is blooming that time of year in most regions of the USA. Plus, almond pollen is fantastic for bees. Combined with warm weather, bees can grow rapidly most years. There are cold & wet years, and there is a huge difference in temperatures depending on where in the central valley bees are located. The almond groves stretch from Bakersfield to a few hours north of Sacramento.
One of the greatest challenges for beekeepers is to ensure their hives are strong enough in late January to "make grade." Almond growers are understandably concerned with the strength of the hives they are renting to pollinate their crops. The most common contract asks for a 5 frame minimum & an 8 frame average. This means that any hive less than 5 deep frames of bees will not be paid for. The 8 frame average means that the hives in each orchard should, once averaged, be at least 8 deep frames covered front and back with bees. To verify this, growers often hire third party inspectors to look at 10%-15% of the hives in an orchard, count frames of bees, and average the count to ensure the contract terms are being met.
Hives being stolen is a concern, but is somewhat rare overall. And, typically only a few hives are stolen from each orchard. Advances in GPS tracking for hives is helping deter, or catch bee thieves.
The future continues to look bright for almond pollination. Continued planting should ensure prices climb with time.
Pictured: Orchards typically need 2 hives per acre. 16-24 hives are usually placed per "drop" around the perimeter of the orchard and down the center roadways. Nights are spent unloading & spreading bees, and days are spent checking bees and sleeping when possible. Almond trees produce minimal amounts of nectar. It is often just enough to sustain a hive, but never enough to make a surplus of honey. Even if they did, almond honey tastes terribly bitter!
Pictured: Hives ready to load on a semi to head home. Strong, double deep hives often return with 8-10 frames of brood, and two boxes full of bees. Most beekeepers split as soon as the almond pollination is over.
Pictured: Strong hives ready to take home! While the conditions are often excellent for bees to grow in an almond orchard, you get back what you send. If poor bees are sent to almonds, you will usually get poor bees back. If healthy, strong hives are sent, healthy & even stronger hives usually return.
Introducing our NEW Video series
Ask the Experts
Each month we'll ask our experts questions "you, our readers" have submitted - giving you various opinions and answers.
From this, we hope you'll hear the answer that best fits you!
Which are better to buy, nucs, packages or full hives?
Liberty County Beekeepers Association
Past Texas Beekeepers Association Board Member
Owner Crane Meadows
We All Need Help Sometimes...
Beekeeping can be complicated. Whether you're a new-bee or experienced, all of us get stumped sometimes. A major goal of Texas Bee Supply is to do more than sell you premium equipment and bees. We want you to succeed, and we are here every step of the way for you. When our videos, magazines & classes don't answer your questions, send an email to our beekeeping experts and we will help you with anything we can! Beekeepers helping Beekeepers. That's Texas Bee Supply.
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The Theory Behind it All
By: James Elam
Paul Longwell 2015
Theory- a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based.
The theory of reversing brood boxes comes from the belief that a colony of honey bees, when necessary, moves upward as winter honey stores are depleted. Honey is usually stored above the brood nest and as these reserves are used, the entire cluster tends to migrate in that direction. As a result of this upward movement, most of the winter colony can primarily inhabit the top box.
The arrival of spring will naturally cause colony expansion and storage limitations. If the queen fails to move downward to access open brood frames for egg laying, overcrowding becomes a major issue leading to potential swarm preparations. The goal in reversing brood boxes is to switch the position of the boxes so that you move the brood nest to the lowest point in the hive. Since the bees now have a place for storage and expansion, reversing the boxes tends to delay and/or prevent swarming.
The rights and wrongs of reversing
A colony brood nest that encompasses both boxes will be split into two parts if you reverse. Without enough nurse bees to go around, you risk losing one or both halves in cold weather. In short, reversing too early can be deadly for your colony.
But if you wait too long, swarm preparations may already have begun.
Reversing brood boxes: is it really necessary?
Once a colony is in expansion mode, the decision of whether to reverse brood boxes needs to be made.
Opinions regarding the validity of box reversals and the positive versus negative implications of the action vary greatly from beekeeper to beekeeper.
“I get the feeling that reversing is one of those things we do because we always did it before, not because it has any clear and compelling benefit. In fact, I think it may do more harm than good”.
Rusty - Honey Bee Suite
In February 2011, Bee Culture by Larry Connor, he writes, “Experience has shown me that most colonies will reverse themselves as the season progresses, moving into the top of the lower box and growing downward.” He goes on to say that you can reverse the hive bodies as long as the entire brood nest is in one box. This way, you don’t end up splitting the nest in pieces.
The actions of a honey bee colony are directed by its primary survival instinct. These reactions are simply adjustments to the original action as to sustain the primary instinct of survival. The decision to move up or down can accordingly be both an action and a reaction.
The upward or downward movements of honey bees in Spring within an overwintered colony are a direct reaction to the internal living conditions within the hive. These conditions may have been influenced by the availability of seasonal resources, cavity size, location, and beekeeper actions. Specific actions or reactions are based upon current queen location and her reasonable access to open cells for egg laying, available storage space in appropriate locations for incoming resources and current adult populations.
Consider the following conditions and questions then speculate potential actions and reactions of both the bees and beekeeper.
They are brooding in the top.
They are brooding in the bottom.
They are brooding in the top and bottom.
Where is the greatest portion of the brood nest?
If they are in the top and you add supers, where will the queen expand to?
If they are not all the way to the top, and that top box still has a honey dome above them, what will they do?
If no honey is present in top box, what will they do?
What will YOU do?
Is reversing Really necessary? Yes and No. There are times when you have to disrupt the nest, but there many times when you don't have to.
Reversing is more than a just a matter of Spring colony management. Reversing is also a matter of decision making and understanding the potential results of actions or inactions. Learning the pros and cons of reversing or not reversing, is one of the most important aspects of Spring beekeeping management.
“Education is the is the foundation of successful beekeeping”!
CCHBA Invites you!
To join our club
Join us for our local club meetings on the 3rd Thursday each month at the VFW Hall in Gainsville, TX. We also have Zoom access to our meetings for 2021 - Go to: elmforkbeekeepers.org for link.
CLICK HERE for information on our annual spring beekeeping classes
Jan Hodson - President
The Hays County Beekeepers Association will continue Virtual meetings every 3rd Wednesday of the month 6:30-9pm until further notice. Meetings are open to all and attendees - to register CLICK HERE
Check our our HCBA Facebook Group page for meeting announcements and registration link listed.
Beekeeping 101 Classes
Due to Covid - Monthly meetings are being conducted via Zoom 2nd Monday each month. In person meetings are open to the public but due to security concerns, online meetings are restricted to members only but membership. We welcome new members so click the link above to receive monthly updates and links to Zoom meetings!
Recordings of the General Meetings are posted on the club website and are accessible to the public
Some bees easily move up, some easily move down. Interestingly enough, there might be a reason for each action...Or, is it a reaction?
By: James Elam
Montgomery County Beekeepers Association invites you to join their
monthly virtual meeting! Non members welcome!
Click on the MoCo logo
3rd Monday of each Month for a link to join in!
SPRING 2021 BEES NOW READY FOR PREORDER!
2020 PRICING STILL IN EFFECT!!
READY FOR BEES?!
By: Earnie Welch
Click Here to Print Instructions
Why use the Shook Swarm Method
Converting Deeps to Mediums
If you have deep foundation and you are wanting to convert it to mediums the Shook Swarm Technique works well.
The left-over deep frames full of resources can then be used to help weaker colonies. You can use the double screen method– just set the shaken deep resource frames on top. The double screen must have an entrance separate from the bottom box. After about 7 days when plenty of nurse bees have emerged from those deep resource frames above the double screen, you can add a mated queen, or you can allow them to make their own queen. Then transfer the box to its own bottom board and set anywhere. In a couple of weeks you’ll have bees that have aged into forgers.
Phasing Out Wonky Comb
When a person does bee removals they often save brood comb. They will rubber band the brood to the frames and place in a new box. Once the hive gets established well, and it is your desire to rid yourself of the wonky comb, you can shake the bees off the wonky comb onto new foundation. Place the old hive with wonky comb above a double screen board with the entrance pointing the same direction as the newly shaken hive. Note: On day 10, there will most likely be capped queen cells on the wonky comb which you can harvest and use if needed. Now you can discard old comb.
Brood Break for Varroa
One technique to reduce varroa counts is a complete brood break. When varroa counts are very high, I recommend taking the shaken frames and new hive body and set them on their own bottom board. Move an established hive and set it there so it will have immediate forgers and let them make their own queen. This will accomplish a brood break. The hive that you moved will recover and have new forgers in a week.
Swarm Control in The Spring
In the spring, you can accomplish swarm control while making a strong new hive at the same time (split). Once you shake all bees down on new foundation (Shook Method), put a double screen board on top of that box with a separate entrance and set the old hive with old comb, brood, and food, on top of the double screen board. In 5 to 7 days after some nurse bees have emerged above the double screen board, add a mated queen, or let the bees continue in making their own queen. Then set that box on its own bottom board. Note: There needs to be a flow when using double screen method.
How to Perform the “Shook Swarm” Technique
1. Move original hive over a couple of feet.
2. Set up a new bottom board with queen excluder (A MUST) where the original hive was. Place entrance in the same direction as the original hive.
3. Set your new hive body on the queen excluder, then add new foundation to the new hive body, leaving 3 or 4 frames out for shaking room.
4. Keep looking for the queen as you pull the frames out and once found, cage her and add the caged queen to the new shook swarm box.
5. Frame by frame shake all the bees into the new hive body, making sure at the end of the process that the queen is in the new box.
6. Add back empty center frames.
7. Add a feeder with a 1/2-gallon one-to-one syrup every two days. Also feed a 4x4 inch square pollen patty or enough patty that the bees will consume in 4 days. If you feed too large a portion of the pollen patty, small hive beetles will lay eggs in pollen patty.
8. Remember the bees have no comb, honey, pollen, or nectar. A good strong shook swarm should grow into a full hive body in 2 weeks. Feeding is a must.
9.In about a week after you see young larvae, remove the queen excluder. The new brood will anchor the queen to the box.
"This past summer a good friend of mine Stan Gore and I did a lot of story swapping and experimenting with the Shook Swarm Technique and found it to be a very useful tool in the bee yard."
What is the Varroa Mite (Varroa Destructor)?
Regardless of where you fall in your views of how to treat an infestation of Varroa mites, the HBHC has an honest answer for you. Everything from passive approaches to full on chemical warfare. The bottom line; as beekeepers, we have a responsibility to learn about them, learn how to test, and treat accordingly.
Killing a bug on a bug ~
In this author's opinion, no other organization does a better job at presenting the facts and solutions for combating Varroa mites than the Honey Bee Health Coalition.
Found on their website is this statement:
COLLABORATION IN ACTION
We’ve formed the Honey Bee Health Coalition to bring together beekeepers, growers, researchers, government agencies, agribusinesses, conservation groups, manufacturers, and consumer brands to improve the health of honey bees in general and specifically around production agriculture.
We’re taking collaborative action to improve honey bee health by addressing multiple factors influencing bee health, including hive pests and disease, forage and nutrition, and exposure to crop pesticides.
Simply put, it is an external parasitic mite that attacks and feeds on our Western honey bees, Apis Malifera.
The Varroa mite is considered the # 1 cause of death in honey bees world-wide. That’s a pretty strong statement isn’t it? Ongoing tracking reports over the past decade show colony losses averaging 44% each year. That’s nearly half of all honey bee colonies!
Between the colony loss and the cost to try to prevent colony loss, Varroa mites cost beekeepers millions of dollars year after year across the globe. That’s enough to get ALL of our attention isn’t it?
When Varroa mites were discovered in the United States in 1987, beekeepers didn’t have the treatment arsenal we have now, much less the science to back it up.
Fast forward 34 years; Now we have good tools to help us manage these beasts the size of small ticks. Tools that include treatment methods accommodating most any preference a beekeeper may have – mechanical, organic or chemical. All of these methods come with good solid research and data to back them up, along with educational resources to help an entire beekeeping community win the battle against the Varroa mite.
What is your role/position at TBS?
How long have you been working at TBS?
I have been with TBS for 18 months.
What made you interested in working at a bee supply company?
Being able to work with bees!
What has been one or two of your most satisfying projects or experiences at TBS?
Building the indoor observation hive display in the showroom at the new Dayton/Huffman branch, and helping all of the customers with information on beekeeping.
What's 1-2 of the most common questions you get asked at the store?
How often do you get stung and how do you get started in beekeeping?
What do you most enjoy about your job at TBS?
I love being able to help people!
What is something about yourself that most people don’t know?
I love to crochet, was a past trainer for OSHA, and would love to learn how to paint.
What are some of your interests and hobbies outside of beekeeping?
I love to cook, do competitive baking & go deep sea fishing.
When you have 30 minutes of free time, what do you do?
Introducing our NEW Video series
Ask the Experts
Each month we'll ask our experts questions "you our readers" have submitted - giving you various opinions and answers.
From this, we hope you'll hear the answer that best fits you!
~ Question ~
How and when do you treat for Varroa Mites?
Harris County Beekeepers Association
Treasurer - Real Texas Honey Program
Certified Texas Master Beekeeper
Featured on the Today Show, Vice Media and Eating Well Magazine
2 Hives Honey - Austin, TX
Meet our tbs team !
President Austin Area Beekeepers Association
...so now what? After months of activity caring for your bees, it's finally time to take a deep breath and wait for spring. If you are like me, waiting is the hardest part! Every cold rainy night, or cold front, I begin to wonder... "What's going on with my bees?" "When can I check on them?" "Is it too cold to take a look?" And more! Here are some answers to common winter inspection questions:
1. How often should I inspect?
I recommend some form of inspection 2 times per month, November-January. For November you should be adding a pollen patty each inspection, and doing any last minute feeding. One inspection in December and January can simply be to lift up on the hive and peek under the lid to ensure proper food stores, and then the other inspection can be to quickly look inside the hive.
2. When should I inspect?
Bees do a decent job of keeping their hive warm, and recovering after the hive has been opened. If you are simply checking food stores, and not breaking the boxes apart or lifting frames, it can be done anytime. If you are lifting frames out or breaking the boxes apart, I recommend around noon on a sunny day. This will give the bees plenty of time to form their cluster before it gets
Winter is finally here...
how often, when, and what should i be looking for?
plenty of recovery time before it's cold again at night. As far as temperatures, I've inspected plenty of hives around 35-40 degrees if it's sunny, and the inspection only takes a few minutes. If you want to pull all the frames out one at a time, and do an inspection that lasts several minutes, it needs to be flying weather, so 50's and sunny. But, to just break the boxes apart to see the cluster side, and pull a frame or two out, it can be quite cold and not damage the hive.
3. What should I be looking for?
Typically winter inspections are gauging syrup/honey stores. If your hive has less than 30 lbs in their second box, you can feed. Check out how to tell how much honey is stored here! It will take the bees several days to drink syrup in the winter. During the winter, that's about all you can do. Outside the hive, make sure the lids are on securely, water isn't pooling on the bottom board, and your wind blocks are in place. If you do have a bright sunny day, and want to pull a few frames out, you should see the queen beginning to lay eggs early to mid January. A pollen patty or two starting in early January will help jump start that process.
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1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup yellow cornmeal
1/4 cup sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
2 large eggs (room temperature)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup heavy whipping cream
1/4 cup honey
Recipe of the Month
By: Bev Gore - Burton, TX
Granna D's Honey Bees
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Granna D's Honey Bees
Texas Honey Cornbread
Have a Recipe you'd like to share ? Email us at Editor@TexasBeeSupply.com
Click Here to Print Recipe
Preheat oven to 400⁰
In large bowl, combine flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, and salt.
In small bowl, whisk eggs.
Add cream, oil, and honey. Beat well for 2 minutes.
Stir mixture into dry ingredients, just until moistened.
Pour into a greased 9-inch square baking pan. (I use bacon grease for a little extra added flavor!)
Bake 20-25 minutes. Use toothpick to test doneness.
Cool for a few minutes before cutting. Serve hot with butter and drizzle a little extra honey on top, or top with creamed honey.
January in our home means it’s time for hearty soups, stew, or chili on those cold (well maybe in Texas we’ll say cooler) days. And there’s nothing like a moist slice of cornbread to go along with any dish! Instead of reaching for the box mixes, this recipe for Honey Cornbread made with our Granna D’s honey is now our go to favorite!
Feeding dry pollen substitute can be beneficial during the winter months, however, it is not as critical as feeding pollen patties.
To feed dry pollen powder, you must place the powder outdoors, ideally at least 20 feet from your hive. You can purchase dry pollen feeders or make one. Essentially, you need a container that will keep the powder dry if it rains, keeps livestock out, and the bees have easy access to. A simple and cheap option is a 5 gallon bucket lying on its side with half of the lid cut off. My personal favorite dry pollen feeder is a Pro Nuc box, with the plastic entrance slide removed completely.
I add about 5 lbs of powder, and put either container in a tree to keep varmints and livestock out of it. The bees will forage during warm winter days that are sunny, calm, and above about 45 degrees. They bring the powder back to the hive to use much like natural pollen. Keep in mind, bees will only forage on dry pollen powder if there is no natural pollen flow. The advantage of open feeding is it more naturally simulates a natural pollen flow, and may encourage some additional brood rearing. The disadvantage is you are feeding all the neighborhood bees in addition to yours.
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By: Michael Ruttle P.A. (Retired)
Being a beekeeper can be very rewarding but along with the rewards come some safety hazards. The most common of these are allergic reactions, fire hazard, lifting hazard and exposure to some toxins.
The two most important considerations to help in avoiding issues before they start are:
1) Prior planning of your excursion into the bee yard.
2) Work with a partner if possible.
Knowing what you plan to achieve while in the bee yard will give you direction and prevent haphazard activity. Discuss what you want to accomplish and what you will do if there is a problem or complication prior to your outing.
Frequently a simple hive check identifies issues that have to be addressed including issues that can cause unexpected extended time inside the hive and exertion. Working with a partner can help with that. Your partner can share in the lifting, handing you tools and keep you on track! Not to mention the benefit of another pair of eyes to help diagnose colony problems and find the queen.
Getting stung is part of keeping bees. Every beekeeper I know has a tale about an ill placed stinger. See my cover photo – that was a recent sting to my lip. It didn’t hurt too badly, but I sure looked funny! And…my fellow beekeepers still can’t stop laughing at me. Luckily by the next day the swelling was fully resolved, as is frequently the case.
Most stings give a localized reaction including pain and swelling. There are several over the counter bee sting medications including Benadryl (an antihistamine) that reduces the body’s reaction to the bee venom. We use a product of the hive that works very well; tincture of propolis. Mix propolis with Everclear to make a tincture and then put it on the sting as soon as possible. It dramatically reduces the effect of the bee venom. If you tend to have reactions, before you go into the bee yard you may want to take an over-the-counter slow-release antihistamine (Allegra, Claritin, etc.) which may minimize the effect of a bee sting.
Some beekeepers may go beyond pain and swelling – the sting creates a systemic reaction; a true allergic reaction which causes systemic swelling, especially of the airways. This is an EMERGENCY, and you should get to an ER or call 911 immediately. In the event you have an anaphylactic reaction becoming or remaining a beekeeper should be carefully considered. If you decide to continue with beekeeping you should consult your Family practice M.D. to discuss the need for an EpiPen (epinephrine) to stop the allergic reaction that would occur if/when you are stung. I know a couple of beekeepers that are severely allergic to bee venom. They carry EpiPens and are very careful when working in the bee yard, allowing them to continue to enjoy the beekeeping hobby.
Another option your doctor may suggest are allergy shots taken over a long period of time to significantly reduce the effects of the venom.
When you go into the bee yard just to feed “the friendly ones,” always wear some type of protective gear such as a veil or even a full suit. I’ve tried doing this a couple of times without protection and either got stung or had bees chasing me back to my garage. Not too bad if you are trying to get in a few wind sprints!
When lighting a smoker there is always a danger of burns to you or the surrounding bee yard. To prevent burns to your hands, it is best to light the smoker with gloves on. Having a hose or bucket of water nearby is a great safety precaution. After you finish with the smoker, let it cool down for a little while before you handle it. This will prevent burns or melting equipment (back seats of golf carts etc.)
The inhaled smoke can also be a problem for some people if they have respiratory issues. Try keeping the smoker “down wind” to avoid breathing too much of the smoke particulates. A lit smoker sitting there smoldering blowing back in your face is just as bad as when using it.
As a new beekeeper when the bees got all over my veil, I asked my beekeeping partner to smoke the bees off my head area. I would hold my breath as he smoked me like a brisket - I thought he would never stop! I think he enjoyed it! The bees did leave; however, his aggressive use of the smoker left my veil with several small holes as embers from the smoker landed on the screen and melted holes in my veil. Time for a new bee suit!
Bee hives and the equipment are heavy and when full of honey even more so making lifting them a problem. For beekeepers with back problems or the lack of a helping partner, using eight frame hive equipment as compared to ten frame can help. There are hive carriers that make it easier to carry a full hive, but keep in mind they do require two people.
Always lift with your legs. If you have to carry equipment or honey a far distance, some sort of carrying device helps. Some use golf carts or gas-powered carts with a loading area on the back to hold the hive and equipment. Others use wagons. I have even used a wheelbarrow, but needless to say, that works best on empty boxes and frames….not so well with honey and syrup.
Avoid exposure to airborne toxins– When doing an O.A. (Oxalic Acid) treatment always wear protective breathing equipment. Although O.A. is found in some common foods we eat and is harmless, when vaporized it forms crystals that can damage your airways. A ventilator mask rated for “particulate matter” is strongly recommended.
Other Varroa mite treatments require touching treatment strips or containers. Avoid any skin contact by wearing rubber gloves and discard the used and unused products appropriately.
We have several signs posted around entrances to our bee yards informing anyone approaching that there is an apiary nearby and bees are present. Most of the signs also include a picture for those individuals who don’t know how to read (such as children) or choose not to do so.
When inviting guests into your bee yard, it’s a good idea to first identify anyone who may have an allergy or fear of bees. They shouldn’t be allowed to go near the bees but rather observe from a distance. Any non-beekeeper wanting to see the bees should always wear protective gear that include a minimum of a veil, long sleeve shirt, pants, and gloves.
In summary, beekeeping can be a very rewarding experience when done safely. Planning ahead and being prepared can and will ensure it.
Helping honey bees that otherwise might have a tough time on their own, harvesting honey and helping friends and neighbors enjoy GOOD wholesome honey make it all worth it!
By: Michael Ruttle P.A. (Retired)
Peach Creek Apiary
Follow Nanette on Instagram - gardenvarietybees
A Part of Life
There is a beginning and of course there is an end.
Here is a little bee at the fountain they favor where she stopped for her final rest. Perhaps she was too tired to make it home or maybe it was too cold.
Honey bees are heterothermic. This means they can change between ectothermic, where their body temperature changes with the environment like reptiles, and endothermic, generating their own body heat as we do.
Bees in winter will cluster together and shiver. This activity burns calories and generates heat to help keep the colony warm (endothermic) but also relies on food consumption.
If the season is cold, they must consume more food to stay warm. This is one reason bees store a surplus of food for winter and why beekeepers should not take all of the honey from a hive. #First Frost
By: Nanette Davis - Texas Master Beekeeper
Master's of Special Education (M.Ed.), International Ambassador Flow Hive International
Monthly Q & A
Q: Should i have a wind block outside the hive to the north, especially when it gets really cold?
A: Yes, a wind break is preferred (though not critical) when practical. Keep it several feet away as not to disrupt flight patterns. It can be a solid fence, hay bales, a treeline, etc.
Q: How soon will the bees rebuild the seal of propolis when you open lids during the winter?
A: Great question! Typically the next sunny day the bees will rebuild the seals to however they prefer them to be.
Q: Where do bees get their water in the winter when they are clustered and staying inside? Do I need to help them with hydration?
A: Nope! They get all the nutrition they need through the honey. It also has the water content they need.
Q: My hives are single deeps, and some don’t have any honey in the supers. Would it be bad to leave that super on all winter?
A: I would remove the super if it isn’t providing a food source for your bees. Being singles, make sure to add boxes back on in February as soon as they are 80% full of bees!
Q: If I have plenty of honey in my second box, should I keep feeding in January?
A: No need to keep feeding in January if you have 20-30 lbs of honey stored! The only time you need to feed for the rest of the year is if they have less than 20 lbs or so of stores.
Q: Can I paint the outside of a hive with living bees inside on a warm winter day?
A: Sure! I recommend a latex paint so that it dries quickly. Don't forget to wear your veil just in case the bees don't like the new paint job!
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Q: How often should I inspect my hive during January?
A: I recommend at least 2 times weather permitting. The main goal is to take a quick peek, make sure the population looks good, and make sure the upper box still feels heavy with stored food.
Preserving Bottom Boards
Q: How do you keep bottom boards from cracking at the front?
A: It’s tough, since they are always exposed to all the elements. I just paint them once per year, and caulk a little.
2:1 or 1:1 winter feeding?
Q: For winter feeding, should I be feeding 1:1 or 2:1 syrup?
A:The goal over the winter is for the bees to store the syrup, and/or use it as quickly as possible. They are able to do both those things faster with 2:1, so I recommend feeding a thicker, 2:1 syrup (2:1 by weight or volume) during the winter if winter feeding is necessary.
Q: Should you keep checking for mites every month Nov-Jan?
A: Nope! As long as your last test in November was low, you shouldn’t have to test again until March.
Bees Moving Up
Q: I have a full brood box and a medium. The medium on top has about 6 frames of honey. Will the bees winter in the upper box or lower?
A: They often move up as they need the honey which is stored up above. So, yes, they will most likely move up as the winter progresses.
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