By Kathy Cox
Beegin anew! The next season of beekeeping is here. Are you ready to start? For new beekeepers there are big decisions to make. What equipment do you choose? Langstroth? Top Bar? 10 or 8 frame? Have you checked on the local laws in your area before starting? Where are you going to place them? The best answer is to place the hives away from traffic, facing south in a sunny location and not in a low area that might sometimes have water standing in it, or where fog hangs. Once you place a hive you can only move it 2 feet or 2 miles! So, place them ONCE. Do you know how to give them room to grow? Hint: once they have covered 7 of the 10 frames in a box, you can add the next box. Do you know that you don’t have to find the queen? All you need is to see eggs and you know the queen has been there in the last 3 days. How often do I need to check on my new hives? The answer depends on different things, did you start with a package or a nuc? I recommend every 7 to 10 days. How often do I need to top off the feeder? Count the days the first feeding lasted and use this as a guide. Bees need to not have interruption in feeding if they are to draw comb. Do you know what the diseases are so that you can recognize a problem when it presents itself? Do you know where the stores of pollen and nectar should be? The answer is usually in positions 1&10. If you have some pollen and nectar in an arch on each frame with a large circle under it of open cells, that is what you want to see in the rest of the hive body, so the queen has room to lay. If you have more frames of honey or curing nectar, you can bait the next box by moving a frame of resources into the next box. And, are you aware of what not to wear to the bee yard? Bears have a contentious relationship with bees. Bears are black and fuzzy. Wear black and/or fuzzy and you are bound to be stung. In addition, bees see ultraviolet where red appears black. So, don’t wear RED! And what about smells? Bananas smell a bit like the bee’s alarm pheromone. Don’t eat one before you inspect! Body odor and bad breath are a no no. Bees on the ground look for a way to crawl up. This can be your leg. Make sure to tape around the bottom of your pants if you are not wearing a bee suit. Half of the heat loss in a hive is in the top. Buy ½ or 1-inch rigid insulation and cut to fit inside the telescoping cover. Leave this on year-round. Propolis is antiseptic, anti-fungal, antibiotic and antioxidant. Do you know that the bees in the wild coat the inside of the tree with it? It is referred to as a propolis envelope. By doing this the bees have less trouble with Varroa mites and the 20 viruses that they vector according to Tom Seeley (HONEYBEE DEMOCRACY). My University of Montana’s Master Beekeeper’s paper was on propolis production in the hive and how to do it inexpensively. Marla Spivak, U of Minnesota, encouraged propolis production using propolis traps cut and stapled to the inside of hive bodies. This is fine if you only have a hive or two, but it is cost prohibitive for multiple colonies. What I found out was that the smooth wood that the hives are made of do not encourage propolis production. So, to encourage the bees to propolize the boxes, I bought a wire brush attachment for my electric drill. You can gouge the interior of the boxes in just a few minutes. The bees then deposit propolis in the grooves you make! Give it a try. If you are new and building new equipment, the easiest way to do this is before you build them when the insides of the boxes lay flat.
There are neighborhood captains listed on the website who are there to help you. Text yours and begin a helpful relationship. Our next virtual meeting is on January 25th. You can find a link on the website calendar. Danny Najera, our club Entomologist and instructor at Green River College will talk from 6:30-7:00pm after which we will break up into breakout rooms with different topics. You can visit the room that interests you the most. If you get back to me with requests on what you would like to hear about, we will try to incorporate them. Details on how to reach me are at the bottom of this page.
I hope you find this column helpful.
Master Beekeeper U of Montana
VP & Education Chair PSBA