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.
Around the beginning to middle of August in Iowa, the nectar flow was coming to an end. Right after the honey flow is over you take off your honey supers and start treating the bees. All treatments take a certain amount of time to be completed and most need to be done in a certain temperature.
First we looked through our supers to see if there was any honey to harvest. We worked as a team going through one hive at a time so it would be easier to clear all the bees off any frames we would want to harvest.
We also carefully examined the frames to make sure that the frames had no brood on them. If they did have brood on them, we would have to decide whether to keep the frames in the boxes and either wait to treat the bees or treat the frames and not use them for honey or we could take the frames out and kill the brood.
Abigail (wearing the orange gloves) Is taking off burr comb. While Bethany is scraping off cross comb. Burr comb is comb built where the beekeeper does not want it. Cross comb is comb that is built the wrong way on the frame.
We decided to wait another week to hope for a late honey flow. Here Abigail is picking up her supper boxes and looking to see if there are any honey frames.
Abigail is now looking for eggs or her queen in the hives deep box.
Bethany is making sure her frames are spaced properly. After you have drawn out super frames, you keep nine frames in the super rather then the usual ten.
Sometimes the honey flow is early or late depending on the year and nectar sources. As a beekeeper, you try to keep ahead of it. Unfortunately, last years honey flow was late and we were unable to harvest any honey.
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.
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.
July is right in the middle of the honey flow and in beekeeping you want to stay ahead of the flow by adding plenty of suppers. You also do not want to get to far ahead where you add to many boxes making it harder for the bees protect from pests.
Here is Abigail and Bethany starting to open there hive boxes. Notice the sunflower in the corner! Bees love sunflowers.
From above you can see which frames are starting to get honey and which aren’t. If the frames do not have honey, we move to the next box which is what Bethany is doing. Abigail is pulling out frames from her top box.
Here Bethany is looking at a honey frame that possibly has brood or pollen on it. Abigail is moving her box over to the outer cover.
Bethany and Abigail are looking at frames from the brood box.
In the flower below you can see a squash bee in a squash blossom!
This is another squash bee on a flower blossom.
It was fun to see our bee hives growing! It was fun to see different bees on many blooming flowers.
On July 9th, we inspected our hives at our Squash Yard. One of the hives already had two supers on it. The other one would most likely need supers added to it.
The homeowner at our squash hives put a bird bath out for the bees. She put rocks in the water so that the bees would not drown.
It is a really beautiful way to provide water for the bees.
Here we are beginning the hive inspection. Bethany is looking in her hive’s supers. They had not done much in the supers yet. Abigail is still putting her gloves on.
Abigail’s bees had quite a few frames to build out. That is why they did not get supers put on as quickly as Bethany’s hive got supers.
Bethany’s hive had lots of young pupae. We know they are young because of the light colored cappings.
Both Bethany and Abigail inspected the bottom boxes of their hives. Both queens laid lots of brood.
The squash hives were building up nicely. We added two supers to Abigail’s hive. We decided to add two supers at once because the supers had filled out frames. Because the bees do not have to make beeswax, they are able to work harder at making honey.
Fun Fact: Before Bethany straps her hive down she takes of her suit. She does this because she gets really hot in her suit.
The squash hives seemed to be doing really good. We were excited to see how they would continue to grow.