Well, here we are at the end of 2023. And what a year it’s been. Between wars, mental health, mass shootings and political troubles, it has been a nice escape keeping bees. I know that is the case for the more experienced beeks. You Newbees may have not felt that so much. I have heard of many who had to deal with Foulbrood, Varroa Mites, Small Hive Beetles and more. So, for you it would be a good New Year’s resolution to study these bee troubles. Read up on the problems bees have and be prepared to recognize these in the hives and know what to do about them. It takes new beeks almost 3 years to successfully overwinter, so don’t be discouraged.
Wintertime is perfect for reading new books about bees. A good place to order from is Mann Lake Bees online. They have a good assortment. I recommend the Beekeepers Handbook by Diane Sammataro and Beekeeping for Dummies. Honey Bee Pest and Diseases is appropriate, too. It is the best time to order treatments for mites and beetle traps. By January, you should be ordering your bees for 2024. Packages are cheaper than nucs, but they are slower to build up and will probably not make a honey crop for you. Nucs have drawn comb and bees about to hatch out in addition to adult bees and a queen. The bees and queen are all related in a nuc, unlike package bees who are weighed out and an unrelated queen is caged and added. Did you know it takes 10 pounds of honey to produce one pound of wax? Wax is precious and a queen cannot lay an egg and bees cannot store honey or pollen without it. This makes nucs more expensive, but the quick start with comb gets it going before the blackberry honey flow. Local nucs are preferrable, as the nucs that come out of the almonds are given California queens and they are not accustomed to our cold wet weather. If you can get queens that have varroa sensitive hygienics, it’s even better. Buying your equipment in late winter is a good option, as you can build and paint, and air it out, long before the bees arrive.
The PSBA website lists Neighborhood Captains. This is a quick way to find a mentor before you NEED one. Make sure to attend our monthly meetings with dates and times on the website calendar. Come early at 6:30pm to get a beginner’s lesson with Tracy Klein. For newbees, there will be classes listed on the website that start in February. Make sure to sign up early as the classes fill up fast.
PSBA is a volunteer organization. There are several different ways to give back. You don’t need to be an experienced beekeeper to help. Give Kit Hiatt or Geraldo Dilillo a call or email and find a spot that you fit.
Meetings start up again in January. We have vendors who will talk about their bee sales and take orders. It is a good opportunity to meet your fellow beekeepers, so come one and all!
Have a Happy New Year and get ready for beekeeping in 2024.
Master Beekeeper U of Montana
PSBA Board Member, Neighborhood Captain, Education Chair