It’s been a busy time at the Flying Squirrel Apiary in the past month. Not even time for surfing the net for interesting bee articles.
In early June I made a trip to Indiana to pick up two breeder queens. One is the standard Purdue Mite Biter type, while the second was from an excellent feral bee line from the Kentucky mountains crossed with Purdue Mite Biter drones. Both types chew on the mites. Since then I have been grafting small quantities of larvae twice weekly and raising queens. My goal is to convert all my hives to one of these two queen types prior to fall. This mite chewing behavior is one of the schemes developed by mother nature for the bees to cope with the mite scourge. Us humans haven’t been very successful over the past 30 years, so I figure to utilize what mother nature has provided.
I am aware of one bee breeder that has been treatment free for the past 7 years using these genetics. This is not to say their winter losses are zero, but they are low enough to be tolerable. They are also using the trick of not importing any bees into their apiary. This minimizes the chances of importing viruses. By emulating these tactics, I hope to also become eventually treatment free. Time will tell.
But since not all of my hives have been converted yet, in mid-June I applied a ½ dose of formic acid (I use FormicPro) to all hives. I do this rather than doing mite counts on all hives. My philosophy is that all hives have mites and therefore need treatment. Over the past three years my treatment scheme has yielded about an 80% winter survival rate.
We have just passed the summer solstice when we are getting the maximum amount of daylight. This also coincides with the maximum amount of blooming flowers and trees. Consequently, the maximum honey flow occurs in this period; roughly June 15th to July 15th. Make sure to monitor your honey supers and add additional supers as needed. A strong hive can fill a medium super in as little as one week. For whatever reason the honey flow seems to have started later and is less intense than last year. I am not expecting the bumper crop like I harvested last year. I do think part of the reason is that I steal bees and brood from every hive to stock the mating nucs I use for queen rearing. Lower hive population results in less surplus honey. But until the honey harvest in early August I will remain hopeful of getting my share of honey.
Just because the honey flow is on you should not ignore regular hive inspections. Don’t wait until your hive collapses from being queenless or from disease. Coincidently, I noticed a hive starting to dwindle. It was queenright, but the brood was not surviving to maturity and getting capped. Not being a brood disease expert, I fumbled around a little until deciding it was probably a case of European Foulbrood. I was able to obtain Terramycin (oxytetracycline) antibiotic from another beekeeper. Sprinkling some on the frames seems to have reversed the situation. Brood is again growing and being capped in less than a week from beginning treatment. The honey supers were removed to both ease application of the antibiotic powder and to prevent any of the antibiotic from adulterating the honey (note: this hive had not produced any honey do to its weakened state). This is the first time in 12 years of beekeeping that I have encountered this disease.
Another reason for hive inspections is that the swarm season is still in force until about mid-July.
In the coming month I will be closely monitoring the hives for adequate space in the honey supers. With the honey flow essentially ending by the end of July I will also get my order in for mite control treatments. These treatents should be applied in early August.