Category Archives: About

2015 year is underway

It is Early March and Honeybee Spring is will under way for 2015. Unusually warm winter days, few rainy days has the bees well advanced in their spring buildup, as compared to a normal year. Little rain over Winter makes for a low nectar and reduced bloom however, so the bees will burst out with early swarming and then be stressed to collect enough resources to live through the year in some areas such as the Royal Oaks area.

Last year I treated my bees for mites for the first time. I used formic acid in the form of mite away quick strips. This is one of the few organic treatments available, and it can be used while the honey supers are still on the hive. The acid can also be very hard on the bees, and I lost about 5 queens during the treatment. Over all it was worth the effort and it did help to reduce my winter loss. In October 2014 I had 27 Hives and 14 Nucs, In the beginning of March 2015 I have 18 Hives and 8 Nucs. This translates into a winter loss of 33% for Hives , 43% loss for nucs and an overall loss of 37%. Over the winter of 2013- 2014 I lost about 80% so this winter was a vast improvement. It is worth noting that nucs are too small to be treated per the mite away quick strip directions so they were not treated. In my hive count some nucs had changed into full hives and some hives had reduced to nucs over the winter so my numbers are not really representative if comparing hive and nuc losses.

A review of the 2014 season shows that I only harvested 12.5 pounds of pollen, my usually harvest is 130 to 150 pounds. I harvested 240 pounds of honey as compared to 700 pounds in 2013, this is well below my target of 1000 pounds per year. The drought has been very hard on the hives especially in the Lewis Road area. Harkins Slough is much better and the bees are doing better in that area overall. This year looks to be another very dry year so I do not plan to harvest any pollen. Any honey to be harvested from the Lewis Road area must be obtained by the middle of  May and we can expect a nectar dearth through June and July. I had to feed several hundred pounds of sugar last summer so I will leave most of the honey this year to decrease feeding requirements. It looks grim in the Lewis road area as far as a harvest goes so I will concentrate on the Harkins Slough apiary for production.

Bees are already swarming on the Monterey Peninsula so I am setting out my bait hives in preparation of the coming swarm season. I posted a notice on the social website www.nextdoor.com with great results in finding locations to set bait hives though my home area so I am hoping to get enough swarms to restock my empty hives. My target is 50 hives going into winter with hopes of 20 strong hives the following Spring. As of March 9 I have set 14 bait hives.

Treating for mites

I have decided that I can not continue like this and will be using Formic acid in the form of Mite Away Quick Strips http://www.miteaway.com/ as a treatment for the mites this year. I hate to treat with anything but the formic acid seems like the best solution, it is approved as an organic treatment and can be used at any time unlike all the other poisons that are approved for use in hives. Per the manufacturer of the quick strips “Formic acid naturally occurs in honey at levels ranging up to over 2,000 parts per million (ppm). The formic acid concentration in hive air during MAQS treatment remains well below 100 ppm, so the levels in the honey do not go outside of naturally occurring levels.”

History

I have kept bees on and off since 1976. I decided to have a sideline beekeeping business in my retirement so I started accumulating bees and equipment about 8 years ago toward that end. My desire is to have 20 production hives going into the early Spring. In a good year this would give me about 2000 lbs of honey and 200 lbs of pollen which is plenty for my sideline business. Since I am a chemical free beekeeper I have been using zero treatments and trying to get disease resistant bees. The biggest problem of course are the varroa mites. I started out with about 50% loss over winter and so figured I needed enough equipment for 40 hives going into winter. I have been trying to grow to my target of 20 spring hives and have yet to attain it. At first I would get bees each year through both package purchase and swarm collection. I was never able to collect as many swarms as I needed which is why I would purchase some packages. I discovered that the packages were not doing any better than swarms at the same time as I discovered the benefits of bait hives. I now get all my bees for replacement and expansion from swarms, bait hives and splits. The problem is that over the last three years each year sees a higher winter loss so I have never made my spring 20. In 2012 I went into the winter with 43 hives and came into Spring with 16, a 65% loss. Of the 16, 8 were very weak. I had little problem expanding back to 40 by the middle of May but with only 8 strong hives coming out of winter I only got about 700 lbs of honey and 150 lbs of pollen. Going into winter in 2013 I now had 53 Hives thinking that this time I would make my Spring 20. Not so! My worst loss ever at 85%. I am down to 9 hives at the beginning of 2014 year.