Spring has sprung, and though winter keeps trying to hang on, spring keeps gaining ground. Hello everyone, and welcome to another beekeeping lesson from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms located in central Illinois. We are David and Sheri Burns and thanks for joining us.
We’ve reached the beekeeping season where “all hands on deck” is a requirement. As a small family business, we are working hard to fill orders, build, paint, feed bees and meet the demands of another exciting beekeeping year.
We’d like to say hello to hundreds of new beekeepers who will be keeping bees for the very first time. I know you are both excited and concerned. Stay calm, watch our videos and enjoy! Remember, we have a ton of beekeeping information available on every subject of beekeeping available. I have turned down book offers so as to make this information easily available to you so please take advantage of this FREE beekeeping content, from videos to detailed how to lessons on our website: www.honeybeesonline.com
For those of you wondering what to do next with your hives that survived the winter, I want to share some best practices so you can help these colonies get a fast head start into spring. Before we begin, let me bring you up-to-date on what’s going on around the honey bee farm.
Our son, Seth, and his wife came home for his pre-deployment leave. It was great having them home for a few weeks. He’s on his way to the Middle East now for 7 months. We pray for all our men and women serving our country that they will come back safe. Sheri and I have now taught lots of basic beekeeping classes and we have 20 more classes to teach throughout the year on queen rearing, getting your bees through the winter, advance beekeeping and our two Beekeeping Institutes. Check out all our classes at: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/bee-classes/ We still have a few spots in our second Beekeeping Institute on June 26-28. We’ve had people from all over the US attend our Institute, so consider joining us and learning everything you can about honeybees in 3 intensive days.
Sheri and I cannot remember ever seeing this kind of interest in beekeeping. We are swamped with new beekeepers and all of our classes have bee sold out to capacity. Every year beekeeping gains momentum. These are very exciting times to be a beekeeper. If you are still considering it, there is still time. Although we are sold out of bees, you can still purchase your hive and equipment from us and purchase your bees locally near you.
Things are looking good for package bee pick up weekend, May 2-3. Everyone who ordered packages of bees from us should have received a letter from us or will shortly with all the details. If not, please give us a call. If it is your first time to pick up bees from our farm, please be advised that there are a lot of people in one place at one time.
We have many people helping that day, from parking lot attendants to package bee handlers to check out people. But please bring your patience. We do our best to eliminate long lines but remember while you are just one person, there is a lot of logistics to work out to make it all happen so your patience is appreciated.
Now that it is spring and depending on where you live and how warm it is, it’s time to take a look at what to do next to get your bees as strong and as healthy as possible for spring and summer.
First, Feed, And Feed
And keep on feeding! Most people agree that bees should be eating 1:1 sugar water and pollen patties in the spring. All of us are attempting to “spark” our colonies to be ready for the first opportunity to harvest pollen and nectar, which is going on for our southern beekeepers, just about to start this week for our central US beekeepers and is a week or two away for our northern beekeepers.
Some people become confused on how to feed bees in the spring. There are many different types of feeders and approaches to feeding spring colonies. There are top feeders, entrance (Boardman) feeders, frame feeders, and our new Burns Bees Feeding System. All work fine. Some have slight advantages over the others, but some have disadvantages too. It’s all about personal preference. An entrance feeders works fine. A disadvantage is that you have to reach to the front of the hive to change it and bees will be all over the top of the jar when you change it. Normally this is no big deal, but it can be intimidating to a new beginner. Top feeders occasionally malfunction and bees can drown in the reservoirs of sugar water. Frame feeders are labor intense because you have to open the hive up and fill the feeder while it is in the hive and bees can drown in the reservoir.
Our Feeding System has screen where the jars sit as well as well the patties are given to the hive so that no bees exit while adding patties or changing jars. The disadvantage is that you will need a spare deep box to put above the feeder giving you room to encase your jar and feeders below your top cover. I designed our feeder specifically to be used on new spring colonies because no matter how cold it may get on a spring night, the food is above the bees, not below them or outside of the hive. Our system provides an easy way to feed pollen patties rather than just smashing them between the boxes and frames. I just made a new video showing how to remove our Winter-Bee-Kinds and place our Burns Bees Feeding Systems on for spring. Watch my video below:
Aggressively Kill Mites
Even though it is spring and your bees made it through the winter, you must start immediately start your mite control program. I recommend all new packages are placed in hives with one Green Drone Comb in each deep hive body for mite trapping. We include instructions and timing on using your Green Drone Comb traps for mites. Our hives come with screen bottom boards and we have them separately if you want to replace your solid bottom board. Screen bottom boards help mites fall out of the hive. Powdered Sugar treatments can help dislodge mites from bees and later in the year we encourage beekeepers to break the queen’s brood cycle. These techniques are all taught extensively at our classes. If you choose to ignore mites in your hives, your colonies will most likely die a very premature death. There are “soft” chemicals such as organic acids. These include formic acid and oxalic acid. Oxalic was just recently approved in the US a few weeks ago for beekeepers to use in their hives. In our classes we teach how to do accurate mite counts. I recommend you do a mite count every 2-4 weeks to help you better decide on your level of treatment. It is a waste of time to evaluate why your bees died if you have not been tracking and treating for varroa mites.
You cannot pull out a frame of brood unless the temperature is warm outside, 60 degrees (f) or above. So you may not be able to begin your mite evaluations and treatments for several more weeks, but be prepared in advance.
Make Room For Rapid Growth. Have A Spare Hive For Swarms and Swarm Control
No one wants to see their hive swarm. If your hive does really well coming out of winter they will soon be congested and may reproduce into another hive through swarming. Over half of your colony will leave with your old queen to start a new colony. Your colony will stay behind and try to raise a new queen. For central Illinois this takes place in late April through May. It’s next to impossible to prevent swarming. However, I do my best to avoid it by creating the artificial swarm by splitting my congested colonies into additional hives. This, of course, means you need to have another hive to put your splits into, so think ahead and have a spare hive ready. What I find most effective is to pull out 4 or 5 frames from a strong colony in May and place them in a new hive. Since bees are ramped up in May to raise queens, I simply make sure both the old hive and new hive are given frames of eggs. That way I don’t even care which hive has the queen because the one who doesn’t will raise a queen from their fertilized eggs in the brood comb. I then give the congested colony 4 empty drawn comb to replace the 4 full frames I removed. This can help prevent a congested hive from swarming. If you were to carry the queen over with the new 4 frame hive, the old colony might be less apt to swarm due to the energy required to raise a new queen.
Reversing Hive Bodies
If the bees are all in the upper deep brood box and no brood is found in the lower deep brood box, it can help to swap the two boxes. But if brood is scattered through both boxes it is not a good idea to dislodge the configuration of the brood nest. And I only do this in Illinois after May 1 to avoid chilling the brood if the weather turns cold.
Well there you go. I’ve provided some good tools and techniques to help your over wintered colonies grow in the spring. Thank you for allowing Long Lane Honey Bee Farms to meet all your beekeeping needs. Give us a call today: 217-427-2678.
David and Sheri Burns