Tuesday, May 1, 2012
Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois! We are David and Sheri Burns and today we want to thank you for visiting our blog/lesson on beekeeping.
Beekeeping is so enjoyable. We love it and it has become a passion of ours to help others start keeping bees. We need our bees for pollination of our fruits and vegetables.
Sheri says, “I don't often see bees on plants like daffodils, tulips, roses or lilies, but early plants they love include boxwood, dandelions, clover, borage and many budding and flowering trees. Mid summer plants and flowers include mint, catnip, flowering herbs, cilantro, and of course vegetables flowering in your garden. I also let some items in my garden flower that typically we eat before it flowers--like the lettuce for example, just so the bees will use some of it. Late in the year, my bees love my cosmos, sunflowers, lavender, sage, coneflowers and seedum”. To read more from Sheri, check out her very interesting blog at: http://www.sheriburns.blogspot.com/
LESSON 118: How To Do A Proper Hive Inspection
When I hold advance beekeeping courses I stress to the students that I will teach them how to keep hives alive. Certainly there are problems that are beyond the beekeeper’s control such as poisonings and some diseases. But an advance beekeeper is trained how to inspect, prevent and solve most colony problems.
Here’s one of the slides from my advance class. I believe the reason that many new beginners do not properly inspect their hive is because they are not sure what to look for or because they lack the confidence to conduct a proper hive inspection.
A beginner is often unaware, unsure, fearful and phlegmatic about hive inspections. By phlegmatic I mean someone who takes a sluggish approach to inspecting the hive. However, we train advance beekeepers to be aware, confident, comfortable and proactive when inspecting hives.
I also show this slide and tell the class there are 6 noticeable problems found within this photo I took of a friend’s hive and I show that two of these problems will cause the hive to perish in the winter months. Can you find the six problems? Click on the image to enlarge it.
I reluctantly share the photo above with you because I do not want you to become fearful and paranoid that your hive is not doing well. Bees normally do well on their own and strong colonies really do not need too much from us. However, like all living things, good management practices can go a long way to ensure proper health.
So, let me walk your through several steps of proper hive inspections:
Keeping good notes when inspecting your hives is essential. I have created a hive inspection sheet that really works well for us. More than just a sheet to write down what you observe, our sheet prompts you to decide what you must do next. This sheet is available FREE by clicking here or going to: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/cis.pdf
This is a .pdf file that you can download and print off as many as you need. Enjoy.
Master of the smoker
Many beekeepers fail to properly inspect their hive because they fail to keep the smoker going, and if the bees become impatient the inspection is abandoned prematurely. In our advance class we walk beekeepers through tips that keeps the smoker going. Remember to start a small fire in the bottom of the smoker and slowly add your choice of fuel. You’re aiming for cool, dense smoke, not hot flames. Keep your smoker lid clean and round so that when closed it makes a good seal. Always take extra fuel in the pockets of your bee suits.
Observe as you approach the hive
As you approach the hive, observe the surroundings of the hive and the outward appearance. Has a skunk scratched the grass and front of the hive? Are the bees flying in and out in a healthy way or are there dead bees on the entrance of the bottom board.
Observe anything that is unusual
After you blow a few puffs of smoke into the entrance and under the lid, look for anything unusual. When you lift the top, be ready to spot a small hive beetle. Have your hive tool ready to kill the beetle when you spot one.
Is there fresh comb attached to your inner cover? If so, it means the bees need more frames because they are in a comb building mood and have no more room. Add the second brood box or another super.
Inspect the content of each frame
Inspect your hive every two weeks for the presence of eggs. This can be a quick inspection. But every 6 weeks, you’ll want to do a complete frame by frame inspection. What do you see on each frame? Is there enough pollen, honey and nectar? What about your brood pattern? Do you see solid and healthy brood?
Start inspecting the hive by slowly removing the comb closest to the outside wall. Keep that frame outside of the hive. Now, slide the next frame into the extra space you have created and slowly lift this frame up, being careful to notice the queen. Do not let her fall off into the grass so hold each frame above the hive when looking at frames. Continue this procedure until you can note what is on each frame.
Inspect content on the bottom board or below
The bottom board can reveal what’s going on above. Mites drop down onto the bottom board as well as extra wax scales, and other debris not needed above. Screen bottom boards provide a much more natural way to keep bees because in a tree, the colony’s debris can fall down and away from the hive.
Inspect drone pupae
Beekeepers must become much more aggressive toward varroa destructor, the mite. By inspecting a purple eyed drone pupa, an assessment of the mite count is much more accurate. If you look at 5 drones and each one has 5 mites then that’s way too many. The varroa mite prefers the drone pupa because the drones are the longest to mature in the cell, 24 days, giving the foundress mite more time to reproduce. Green Drone Comb is a natural way to trap the mites.
Look for viruses, diseases and pests
Good beekeepers who want to keep healthy colonies must become as good as a state inspector in detecting problems in the hive. While we can observe most pests and diseases some require careful lab work for an accurate diagnosis. The Beltsville Maryland bee lab will run tests on your bees for these hard to detect problems such as nosema and tracheal mites. But there is no reason to send samples unless you are certain you have a problem.
It is illegal for a farmer to allow chemicals to drift onto your land and into your hives. Million dollar lawsuits have been awarded for those who have suffered from chemical trespassing. More and more studies are showing that farm chemical may be harming the honey bees. In my opinion, larger chemical companies deny it, while notable researchers are afraid of the repercussion if they publish their findings. So it must be up to the local beekeeper to keep good records, video tape over spraying and report it to the EPA immediately. Call your local law enforcement at the first sign that someone has poison your bees.
Additionally, quickly collect dead bees around your hive, place them in a Ziploc bag and store them in the freezer. Keep out of sunlight or heat. Carefully note what the farmer was doing prior to your bees dying such as spraying or planting. Note the wind speed and direction for that day. Contact the EPA 1-800-858-7378 or report the incident via email to: Beekill@epa.gov
While today’s lesson on hive inspection barely touches the surface, hopefully it has encouraged you to do a more complete inspection. Consider signing up for our next Advance Class on Saturday July 14th, 2012 Click here for more information or go to:http://www.honeybeesonline.com/servlet/Detail?no=157
Please feel free to contact us. Phone is best. 217-427-2678 and visit us online at: www.honeybeesonline.com
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
Posted by David Burns at 6:32 AM