Thursday, September 16, 2021

AUTUMN is Approaching!

Sedums are in bloom and Goldenrod is winding down.

Sedums are a great late season source of pollen and nectar for pollinators, and honey bees love them!  I'm happy that I see so many blooming in my neighbor's yards. They're a reminder to me that it's the time of year to share some honey with them.

The goldenrod is still going but it's winding down pretty quickly in my area. I extracted honey this past weekend and it's primarily goldenrod honey.  It's darker than earlier honeys, which means it has more minerals, and goldenrod honey crystallizes quickly.  I bottled some today from an extraction on Saturday and it's already cloudy.  It might be that it has a higher sugar crystal content than others, but I don't know.  Kathy says it's the sweetest of the honeys that I extract anyway.

I've put some frames with Ultrabee powder (technique demoed at the last meeting and pictured below) in the hives for the bees to make beebread. In a couple of weeks, I'll put out my repurposed Gatorade bottle Ultrabee powder feeders. The bees harvest the powder every flight day once the goldenrod is about done until it gets too cold for them to fly to gather resources. But not all beekeepers have had success with their bees gathering the powder from feeders, so putting it in the frames is a better method.

In addition to the frames of Ultrabee powder (protein), I've given my colonies a dose of ProDFM (probiotic) to help promote gut health.  I see this as a positive way to help the bees fight disease because if they have a healthy gut microbiome they will absorb more nutrients.  (SuperDFM is another probiotic.)  Some beekeepers treat their colonies in fall with Fumidil-B (fumagillin) but research has shown that this antibiotic doesn't discriminate between beneficial bacteria and non-beneficial bacteria and kills them both, causing the bees to be less healthy overall.  Fumagillin products are banned in many countries, but available in the U.S. 

Most of my hives are within the winter population numbers that I like, but I have at least two that aren't.  I'm robbing brood frames from very strong colonies to give to the weaker ones but there's only a few weeks left to do this.  I've started feeding the weaker hives 2:1 sugar because they don't have much honey stored or personnel to collect nectar.  Hopefully the added brood will get their numbers up and the syrup will load the larder in time.

 - Gerard

Sedum Photo courtesy of Jody Kulick.

Goldenrod Photo courtesy of Gerard Shubert

Ultra Bee Powder pressed in Brood Frame Photo courtesy of Gerard Shubert


Wednesday, September 1, 2021

Winter Preparations Begin

September is the time to start preparing the bees for winter.

Be aware of Varroa BOMBS!

There are two ways that I know of that mites from collapsing hives can get into our hives.  

1. When a colony collapses in late fall due to an overwhelming population of Varroa, the bees abscond and take up residence with surrounding colonies, bringing the mites with them (aka; Varroa bomb).  

2. After the colony has abandoned its hive, bees from other colonies detect the unguarded honey left behind, and being opportunists, will rob out the abandoned honey.  While robbing, mites in the hive will hitch a ride with the bees and end up in our hives.   

Mite Treatments

Apiguard treatment in mid-September after the honey is off.  Apiguard treats for both Varroa and tracheal mites and needs to be administered (~28 day treatment) while temps are still in the 60's.

Some of us also treat in October and November with an Oxalic Acid Vapor treatment, and that is good insurance against any mites entering our hives as colonies around us collapse and their mites become our mites.

Upper Entrance

An upper entrance allows the bees to take cleansing flights in winter when they can't get out of the bottom entrance. It can get blocked by snow, ice, or dead bee bodies piled up on the bottom board.  

This is the time to start thinking about how you're going to provide one.

Fall Feeding

Fall feeding should be 2:1 syrup, after honey for human consumption has been removed.  

Also, this is the time to add/squish pollen substitute powder into an empty brood frame's cells so the bees can ferment it into beebread.  This way the nurse bees will have ample supplies when the queen starts laying in January.

Pollen patties needn't be offered because the bees have no way to store it and it will most likely just sit on the top bars.  Mid-January is the time to start offering pollen patties, when the queens start laying to replace natural winter losses.

It'll be a couple more weeks and then resources will become very scarce, and that's when we'll see robbing activity increase.  I opened a couple of hives recently and almost immediately yellowjackets were in the hives.  I don't know how they get there so fast, but they respond quickly to the scent of honey.  They may already be hunting for hives with easy access.

Check for Queenrightness in the all the colonies. Laying worker colonies can be combined with weak colonies or just killed off with an alcohol or soap bath. Low number colonies can have a capped brood frame with their nurse bees put in from a flourishing donor colony to build the strength on the low numbered colony.

One way to combine a laying working hive. Take the laying worker colony and dump it 30' away. Place a strong colony or swarm colony in the spot of the laying working colony. The foragers and workers will make their way back but not the laying workers. The returning bees may not want to accept the queen they find there, but her colony should protect her. Hopefully the returners will accept her.  Those that don't make it back will die where they were dumped, and those that don't accept the new queen may die in battle.

The season is winding down, but there's still a little time to build up weak colonies with brood from donor colonies, combining colonies, and to take care of queenless and laying worker colonies. There's still queens available, but there won't be for long.  

It's important to check our colonies and do what we can to help them get winter-ready. 


Wednesday, August 18, 2021


Protect against honey robbers...

I've been seeing yellowjackets at the hummingbird feeders so their brood season must be over and they're turning from protein (meat, pollen, etc.) to sweets (honey, syrup, nectar, fruit, soda, etc.).  

During the yellowjacket brood season, they gather protein to feed their larvae. The larvae reward them with a drop of a sweet substance.  The yellowjackets are addicted to the sweetness and continue to bring food to the larvae to continue to be rewarded.  When there's no longer any brood, the adult yellowjackets seek out sweet stuff  in the environment. What could be better than a hive full of honey?!

A robbing event from other honey bees can be a death sentence for a colony under attack. Once the hive is overpowered, predators like wasps have an easy time of accessing the hive and killing the remaining bees.

In order to recognize a honey bee robbing event, the following link will take you to one of Rusty Burlew's posts on robbing. There you will find suggestions on how to stop a robbing event that's in progress. 

So our colonies are in jeopardy of bees robbing bees, and yellowjackets robbing bees.  While I was in my apiaries the other day, I put in entrance reducers and plugged the upper entrances with vent plugs in all of the hives.  That's my method of assisting the colonies against robbing.  

If anyone has other methods to discourage robbing, please share them here.


Rare Pic of Dead Forager!

I happened upon a dead bee on a goldenrod blossom the other evening while taking a walk with Tucker.  It's rare that I see a dead bee in the field even though 800 - 1200 bees per colony die each day during summer.  

More emerge than die every day during the season buildup, and that's how our colonies grow.  But now with diminishing resources and winter on its way, our queens will decrease egg laying and the colony populations will start dwindling to winter size.

I could see her proboscis extended into the blossom, so she was apparently collecting nectar at the time of her death.  Her wings look to be in pristine shape (no ragged edges) so she's not an old forager.  

It's a bit disconcerting to see a young forager dead while gathering nectar, but I know that there are no pesticides being applied anywhere near this area.  The cause of her death is unknown.


Monday, August 2, 2021

The Final Flow!

Goldenrod is just beginning to bloom, and that signals the final flow of the season. 

Goldenrod grows abundantly in our region but isn't a reliable source of nectar, as some years have heavy nectar flows and some years have light flows. You'll know when it's coming into the hives by the scent of gym socks in the air! 

Goldenrod honey has a bitterness to it that some people don't care for and others love. I remove honey from my hives prior to the goldenrod flow to keep it separate, then do a final harvest just as the bloomtime is passing its peak which will be in 3 - 4 weeks. 

Goldenrod pollen is the final major source of protein for pollinators. Honey bees, bumblebees, wasps, hoverflies, and other insects will be visiting the blossoms. 

Now is the time to make sure the hives are healthy. Do mite checks and treat if necessary. Check for queen rightness and combine weak colonies with strong ones. Hives should not be disturbed in September with combining or requeening, as that is when the Fat Bees will be being raised.

The active beekeeping season is coming to a close faster than I ever like, but we still have lots to do in August and into September if we want to see our bees in April!