Beekeeper’s Corner May 2017

By Gerald Przybylski

              Jerry has been an East-Oakland beekeeper since 2011; local bees preferred.

Ants? Who has ant problems this year?...
The 2016-2017 rain in the East Bay is nearly 150% of our annual average total rainfall.  The soaking we experienced has drowned a lot of colonies of non-native ants… like the Argentinean ants that usually bother our hives, and our trashcans.  The survivors will take a while to recover strength, so expect ant trouble with hives later in the year if at all. Check your ant protection from time to time anyway.

Yellow jackets? Who has yellow jacket problems?
Lets hope the attrition of yellow jacket queens last winter tracks ant colonies.  If so, our problems shouldn’t be as severe this year. Nevertheless, be proactive! If yellow jackets are ever a problem in your neighborhood, put out your YJ traps now to slow the population growth this summer. Empty them regularly, and renew the bait. Make notes about the quantity trapped for comparison with observations next year.
Large ground-nesting colonies that attack beehives are the worst!! Try finding those nests by following the instructions posted here:


We urban beekeepers have an advantage over large-scale beekeepers when it comes to harvesting honey. We can inspect our honey supers one or two days before we intend to harvest honey. First we shake the bees off so we can work with the frame. Then we can trim the bumps and lumps and bridge/brace comb into a bowl or pan for the beekeeper to crush and strain… Then return the frame to the hive.

The bees will clean up all the damage and reseal the cells. When we harvest those frames a day or two later, they won’t leak.
If planning to enter a frame in the County Fair competition, it can be identified and groomed before it’s pulled and set aside for entry.

What about those frames from last year with granulated honey in them?  The conventional wisdom is that if you put those frames in a box under the brood ball, the bees will reliquify the honey by adding water and move it up because they HATE honey under the brood ball.
Maybe… Maybe not. If you have a counting board under your hive, and try this “trick,” look for white sugar granules among the other rubbish the bees discard.  If you see granules, we infer the bees are just digging the sugar crystals out of the cells and discarding them. (yes, they taste sweet)
Sugar crystals in granulated honey change state from solid back to a liquid between 102 and 122ºF. A carefully regulated heating chamber can melt the crystals without melting the wax (which melts at 165ºF).
It can be dangerous to use a kitchen oven to try to reliquify honey because the temperature swings are too great. Honey dripping out of unsealed cells can make a huge mess. Wax dripping onto the floor of an oven can catch fire. Safety first!!

Who doesn’t know we’re in swarm season now…
Check hives often if swarm suppression is important to you; implement your strategy.
Changing the order of the brood boxes can help. Inserting foundationless frames into the brood ball will give the bees three signals: there is space to fill with comb; there  is something to use the abundant nectar for; there is (or soon will be) new comb for the queen to lay eggs in.  Developing larva emit a pheromone that retards the tenancy to swarm, according to Randy Oliver’s web page.
Just adding a honey super may not help, especially if it’s plastic foundation. They may not consider the additional box of frames part of the hive until you move partially filled frames into it.

Enjoy your bees. Watch them return with full pollen baskets. Count the colors. Correlate the colors with flowering plants in the neighborhood. Plant some forage plants that will bloom during the dearth.