Beekeeping 101: Week Three

Week three of Beekeeping 101 was partially about genetic traits.

Genetic diversity is an important aspect of having bees. Some genetic traits are gentleness versus excitability, varroa mite resistance, trachael mite resistant, resistance to diseases, population dynamics, wintering ability, proneness to swarming, the ability to ripen honey rapidly, extra white cappings, minimal use of propolis, and color. The easiest way to choose which genetic traits continue is by only splitting the hives with good genetic traits. One cannot, however, control which genetic traits the bees end up having.

Knowing how to work honey bees before getting honey bees will help prevent stings and killing excess bees or even the queen. Some beekeepers wear very little protective clothing. Most beekeepers would suggest that a new beekeeper should wear a suit with gloves and long pants the first few times he goes into a hive. After a few times inspecting, a beekeeper can decide for himself what protective gear he would like to wear. A smoker is handy to calm the bees down. One should use as little smoke as possible. The smoke should be cool, white smoke to prevent hurting the bees. Before opening a hive, one should lightly smoke the entrance. One should never block the entrance when working a hive. Slow, deliberate, confident movements will help keep the bees calm. Frames should be lifted slowly and fluidly so that the bees are not rolled. (Rolling bees is when a frames is pulled out of the hive so fast that the bees roll and die. Rolling the queen is the biggest risk.) Hive inspection should be brief but not hurried. It takes us an hour or two to check all four of our hives. Hives should be inspected every seven to ten days.

A beekeeper is looking for the queen or eggs, larvae, and capped brood when inspecting. A beekeeper is also looking for resources. (How much honey and pollen do the bees have?) A beekeeper is also looking to make sure the bees have plenty of room and that they are not planning on swarming. Swarming is the natural reproduction of a hive. Swarms are not aggressive. Beekeepers do not want their hives to swarm because they want to keep the bees that would swarm. A hive somewhere swarms every day in May. Swarms may be caused by a failing queen, a large colony in a small space, congestion in the brood nest, or lots of young bees. Swarms can be prevented by replacing the queen, by giving the bees plenty of space, and by giving the bees upper entrances. Just in case a hive does swarm, some beekeepers put up swarm traps. Swarms are attracted to the space of the swarm trap. If the beekeeper put old frames and lemongrass oil in their swarm traps, the bees may be more attracted to it.


This is a swarm trap in a tree.

A queenless colony is a hive where their queen died. The bees will often try to make a queen to replace the old queen. Sometimes the bee’s attempt to replace her fails and a laying worker appears in the hive. A laying worker is a worker bee who has developed the ability to lay eggs. What can a new beekeeper do about laying workers? They can ask for help from an experienced beekeeper. Experienced beekeepers are often more then happy to help new beekeepers. We had laying workers in a hive this year. We will explain what we did with them when we get to that blog post.

Keeping records is essential to keeping track of what is going on in one’s hives. There are apps that can be used to keep records. There are also record keeping books that the beekeeping companies sell. Some people simply use a notebook and pictures to keep records. We use a record keeping book that we bought from Kelley Beekeeping (Now part of Mann Lake.), a notebook for genetic tracking, and our blog to keep records.

Julia also talked about managing colonies for honey production and pollination.

Honey can be harvested from Non-Langstroth hives, but because Langstroth hives are often the hive style of choice, Julie explained honey production for Langstroth hives.

A hive should be fed sugar syrup and spring patties (protein) in the spring. Bees will choice nectar and pollen over sugar syrup and protein. This stimulates the bees to start rearing more brood which increases the hives population. Because the hive is big and strong, the bees can start storing extra honey quicker. If undrawn supers are placed on the hives, the bees should be feed sugar syrup until the super is drawn out. A beekeeper must be careful not to feed sugar syrup when the bees are filling in the supers. If the beekeeper continues to feed sugar syrup when a super is on, then the “honey” will be sugar syrup. A honey flow is when there is lots of nectar flowers in bloom. When there is a nectar flow on, the bees can fill in a super in just a few days. Bees always make surplus honey. A beekeeper should not feed their bees other people’s honey because it may spread diseases.


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