Preparing for Winter

One of the most important aspect of beekeeping is preparing for winter. Winter prep starts in September almost immediately after honey is harvested. We checked our hives for varroa mites last September. Varroa mites are parasitic mites that feed on the bees fat body. Most beekeepers treat the bees to kill the varroa mites. After we knew how many varroa mites were in the hive, we treated for mites with Apiguard.

In this picture, Bethany and I are evaluating our hives winter stores.



Bethany’s hive had a ton of stored honey. My hive had quite a bit, but not as much as Bethany.



Mom and Olivia prepared the hives at our home for winter. They treated the hives and checked their honey stores.



Here are Olivia and Mom inspecting Maylyn Sorority.



This nuc continued to become weaker and weaker over the fall.



Mom and Olivia put dry mop pads in the hive to treat for small hive beetles. Small hive beetles are little bugs that eat the pollen in the hive. If the hive is weak, small hive beetles can definitely kill the hive.



Abigail

Sometimes There Is Nothing You Can Do

We try to inspect our hives every week to every other week in the spring in summer. Unfortunately, sometimes something awful happens to the bees during a week and there is no way to fix it.

Here I am closing up Mom’s hive. Mom’s hive is doing wonderful. The rest of the nucs at our house were not doing so great.



Here I am inspecting the nuc up by the garage. The nuc had no bees left in it. The bees had not raised a viable queen so they died.



There wasn’t even a handful of bees left in the nuc. We froze the frames to prevent bugs from moving in and put the nuc box away in the garage.



This nuc died due to queen failure which was probably in part due to small hive beetles and the time of year (late August).

Abigail

A Second Year of Beekeeping in Review – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Beekeeping is a roller coaster of good, bad, and, honestly, ugly experiences. Some years are perfect! Others, not so much. Last year had a lot of learning experiences despite some of the challenges we faced.

Note: All the links throughout this post go to our blog posts on each topic.

The Good

At the beginning of 2019, we had four hives come out of winter. Last year, we expanded to a second location. We placed two hives on a distant neighbors property. The bees at the second location did well. Mom’s hive survived summer. All three hives went into winter strong.



One of the highlights for me was being the Central Iowa Honey Queen. I was able to give twenty-four presentations and attend fourteen events. As always the Iowa State Fair is a highlight of our year. Bethany, Miriam, Olivia, and I volunteered at the Iowa Honey Producers Association’s booth at the State Fair. I was able to give presentations and assist other queens with presentation during the Iowa State Fair. We also entered in many of the apiary categories.



At the end of the year, I was crowned the 2020 Iowa Honey Queen.



The Bad

We had a very rough year last year. Between a wet spring, small hive beetles, and European Foulbrood, we lost two hives and many nucs. We even had hives abscond on us.



Because of the many challenges we faced, we were unable to harvest any honey.

This year, we will be feeding the bees to help prevent disease. We have also been using swiffer pads to try to get rid of small hive beetles.

The Ugly

The worst part of last year was when the state apiarist confirmed that my hive had European Foulbrood. We, unfortunately, were not able to save the bees.



Cleaning up after EFB was pretty gross. We ended up throwing away many of the frames.



Summary

Spring and summer were hard for us since many of our hives died. We missed not getting honey. We did learn a lot about beekeeping throughout the year. We hope to have a better year this year.

I enjoyed being the Central Iowa Honey Queen. I am excited to be the Iowa Honey Queen and have used many of the things I learned as Central Iowa Honey Queen.

Abigail

Hive Inspection August 10th

On August 10th, we inspected all of our backyard bees. At the beginning of the inspection, we had two nucs, a full hive with one super, and a swarm trap that caught an abscond.

In this picture, Mom is inspecting her hive and I am checking the nuc of bees we combined. Mom’s hive did not fill its super with honey. We think they were not strong enough to do so because we took brood frames from the hive in early spring to help our other hives.



The nuc combined well, but was still incredibly weak.



Our swarm trap at our house caught Olivia’s hive that absconded. When a hive absconds, they leave their home because of poor conditions. After it was in the swarm trap for about a week, we put it in a nuc.



Olivia’s hive likely absconded due to the small hive beetles that were in their hive.



I only moved the frames the bees were actually on into the nuc.



We gave the nuc other drawn out comb.



We were hopeful that Mom’s hive would do well over the winter. The nucs needed to grow significantly before they had a chance of winter survival.

Abigail

Combining Two Nucs

In August, we combined two weak nucs. We combined the hives to give them a better chance of surviving the winter.

This is one of the splits that we combined. It was weak because of small hive beetles that overran the hive.



Here are the bees trying to crawl through the opening after we combined the hive. Eventually all the bees orientated to the new hive.



We gave them an upper entrance as well so that the upper box bees would not get too confused.



The newspaper helps prevent the bees from fighting each other. By the time the bees chewed through the newspaper, the bees are used to each other.



The bees got used to each other quickly. They did not grow well, however. More to come in a future blog post.

Abigail

Petting an “Swarm”

In July, one of our hives absconded from their home. When honey bees abscond, they have decided their old home is unsatisfactory and will go find a new one. Unfortunately when you catch an abscond it often will just abscond again.

We considered catching this abscond, but the wire on the post they choose to land on would have made it difficult.



Absconds, like swarms, are very gentle and can be touched. Mom still suited up and wore gloves to pet them.



Bethany petted the swarm with her bare hand.



I also petted the abscond. I was not going to let this opportunity pass me by.



Our five year old brother fearlessly petted the swarm. We were not surprised as he often stands less then two feet from a hive entrance to observe the bees.



Our other younger brother also petted the swarm after the littlest one did.



In this picture you can see the queen bee separating herself from the cluster of bees. Her attendant bees followed her to take care of her.



Can you spot the queen in this picture? She returned to her cluster and allowed the bees to cover her.



Below is a video we took of the abscond. Click on the image to watch it. Enjoy the random commentary.

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The abscond found a home somewhere other then our equipment. We decided to let the bees decide where their new home would be because they were an abscond not a swarm.

Abigail

Checking Olivia’s Hive and the Nuc

During July we had been keeping a steady eye on our hives because of the strange brood and rapidly decreasing numbers in our hives. During July, the hives really should have been growing!

Below Abigail and Olivia are just starting to check there hives.



Here is a picture of the weird brood we were seeing. You can see punctured cells and you can also see hive beetle larvae on this frame.



Here you can see sunken capped cells. You can also see a dead emerging bee.



Here you can see lots of hive beetle larvae they are the little white/cream colored things sliding over the cell walls.



Here is a frame of mostly empty with a little bit of pollen in the middle.



Here is the bottom board of Olivia’s hive! Look at all the dead bees.



Below is a picture of brood. you can clearly see the holes in many of the cells.



This is a picture of almost all the bees left in the hive. You can tell the numbers have not grown.



Here is a lot of the rest of the bees in the hive. You can see the queen and her worn yellow dot in the corner.



With strange looking brood and dwindling numbers we have to decide what steps to take to help these hive survive to and through winter.

Bethany Kelly

Checking Backyard Hive and Seeing the Queen Bee!

I know you will all see July and say isn’t March. We were having problems with our blog so we got a bit behind. I am happy to announce that we got our blog working and we will be getting back into the swing of things.

Here mom is taking frames out of a nuc in our back yard.



Here is a supper frame with bur comb. You can also see honey on this frame.



Below is a frame of brood. You can see larvae and capped brood. You can also see the queen she has a worn yellow spot on her thorax.



In this picture you can see the queen standing over nectar.



This is another picture of the queen! Spoiler Alert: This Picture also won a fifth place ribbon at the Iowa State Fair!



In this picture you can see eggs (if you look really closely), larvae, and capped brood.



On this frame, you can see pollen. You can tell this frame is older because the comb is much darker then the comb above.



Here is mom looking for eggs. When looking for eggs it is best to have the sun to your back. However in this shady area that can be hard.



Below Abigail is adding a empty frame to Mom’s hive.



Abigail puts “Dassel Acres” and “2019” on this frame so we know what year the frame was put in. We Put “Dassel Acres” on in case we lend out frames or they get stolen.



It is always fun to see a queen and it is even more fun to see a queen and eggs!

Bethany Kelly

Cleaning Up After EFB

Upon the State Apiarists suggestion, we euthanized my hive and one of our nucs that had EFB. We talked about why we came to this decision in our blog post Inspecting the Hives with the State Apiarist. We euthanized the hives by taping up all the entrances to that the bees could not leave their hive. After a couple of months, all the bees had died and we were able to clean up the equipment and decide what to keep and what to throw away.

Bethany and I went through the super together. The super was clean enough that we decided to freeze the frames and use them again. This did not risk passing the EFB on because EFB is a brood disease. It is not normally in the super.

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Here is what the top of the deep looked like. It also smelled of EFB and dead brood.

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Here is a brood frame. As you can see, it is slightly moldy. We decided to throw out the brood frames.

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Here is Bethany and I looking through more of the frames. The smell was so bad you could smell it from our front porch.

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Most of the dead bees had fallen onto the bottom board. Small hive beetles had invaded the hive and were eating what was left. In order to make sure the small hive beetles did not make it into our other hives, we threw the larvae away.

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We then looked in the nuc. The nuc frames were also really gross. We threw the nuc frames away as well.

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The nuc frames had a lot more mold then the deep frames.

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There is dead brood on this frame. The nurse bees must have died before this brood emerged.

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Here is the bottom of the nuc. We threw all the gunk on the bottom away.

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In order to ensure that all the traces of EFB were eliminated, I scorched the boxes, bottom board, inner and outer cover, and nuc. We now can reuse all this equipment. I also scorched the hive tool we used to clean the equipment up.

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Here I am scorching the inside of the deep box.

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Cleaning up equipment is a very unpleasant task, but must be done. We were glad we were able to keep some of the equipment.

Abigail