The Central Iowa Beekeepers Association’s September 2018 meeting was held at the Dr. Amy Toth Lab Bee Field Station, in Ames, Iowa. The Dr. Amy Toth Lab Bee Field Station is located on the Iowa State University Horticulture Farm. The meeting included a presentation on winterizing by Jamie Beyer and Linn Wilbur, a tour of the Lab Bee Field Station, and a business meeting.
Overwintering is an important topic, because in Iowa a majority of hives die over the winter. If beekeepers properly prepare their bees for winter, the bees have a better chance of surviving winter. Just because bees die in the winter does not mean that the beekeeper did something wrong. This winter, we have had a large loss rate so far. Finding out why so many bees have died will better our knowledge of how to prep our bees for winter in the future. Winter prep is all about raising healthy, strong winter bees. There must be healthy bees to raise the strong winter bees. We must start preparing the bees for winter three generations of bees before the winter bees.
As always, beekeeping is local. The following calendar is based on Iowa temperatures and weather. In August and September, honey supers should be removed from the hives and the hives should be treated for varroa mites. Reducing the number of varroa mites in beehives will reduce the stress on the bees as they overwinter and will make the bees healthier. In October to November, honey bees should be fed sugar syrup and, if the beekeeper chooses, pollen substitute. This will ensure that the bees will have plenty of food to eat over the winter. In early December, all beehives should be winterized. Winterized means insulation, wrapping (when material gets wrapped around a hive to keep the hive warmer), and winter boxes (explained shortly) should be on and the hive should be sealed up for the winter. Emergency sugar should be added to the hive. We mountain camp our hives (explained in this blog post). Fondant and candy boards can also be used. If the beekeeper chooses to treat the bees with oxalic acid for varroa mites he will treat in late December or early January. From January to April, the beekeeper will monitor his hives to make sure they have enough emergency stores. The beekeeper will only go into the hives on warm days of forty degrees Fahrenheit or higher unless it is an emergency. In Iowa, we can expect the first dandelions to start blooming in mid April. Dandelions are the bees first food and announce the arrival of spring for beekeepers.
There are many winterizing options for hives. There are black cardboard boxes that go over the hives that keep the hive warmer (to the left of the picture below). Some beekeepers wrap their hives with tar paper to keep them warmer. Almost all Iowan beekeepers insulate their hive in some way because moisture is much more likely to kill the bees than cold. One way is to put a moisture board on top of the hive. We put winter boxes on our hives. Winter boxes have wood chips in them. The wood chips absorb the moisture and prevent it from dripping on the bees.
At the Dr. Amy Toth Lab Bee Field Station, they are doing research on what pollen bees are bringing from year to year. We were able to hear a presentation on their research and even see the difference ourselves. The bags on the table have pollen in them. They collect the pollen using a pollen trap which is on the far right of the table.
They are also doing research concerning Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) and Lake Sinai Virus (LSV). I am going to be completely honest, I have no idea what these clear things are.
They are also doing research concerning Kashmir Bee Virus (KBV) and (I believe) Black Queen Virus (BQV).
Here is some of the research data that they have collected concerning honey bee diseases, temperatures per month, and the effects of bees foraging on soy beans.
This poster shows some of there research concerning honey bees and the effect they may be having on native bees.
They have also been researching planting for pollinators. They have a plot of land that they plant for pollinators then they find out how many insects are attracted to the plot. Here is a box of Iowan pollinators including bees, flies, wasps, and butterflies.
This box contains beneficial insects including beetles, lady bugs, and praying mantises.
This box has more pollinators.
Olivia and Mom enjoying the ride on a tram.
Bethany enjoyed seeing all the pollinators.
I really enjoyed seeing what the researchers are doing up in Ames. I also enjoyed learning about overwintering and having a schedule for it.
Note: Always bring your beekeeping notebook with you to beekeeping events. Do not leave it in the car. I left my notebook in the car and was unable to go back and grab it.