By Gerald Przybylski
Jerry has been an East-Oakland beekeeper since 2011; local bees preferred.
What an interesting year so far…
The dearth would be well underway just about everywhere in Alameda County if we were in a drought year like ’16, ’15, ’14, ’13…
This year conditions challenge our conventional wisdom for keeping bees in August, and perhaps September too.
In many areas the rains from last winter have stretched the spring nectar flow into late July, and August. Susan Kuchinskas notes that Rosemary, Lavender, Abelia Grandiflora, Privet, Fennel, Sambuca Mexicana, Echium Wildpretii, Scabiosa are providing forage now. Let’s not forget flowering weeds and thistles, and perhaps ivy too.
What impact for us beekeepers?
As long as forage is acceptable, our bees won’t be strongly driven to rob. Robbing brings in hitchhiker mites that can overwhelm a hive.
If you don’t want your hives to be robbed, particularly smaller or weaker hives, give them a narrow entrance for the guards to defend.
Users of screen bottom boards can give them an inch or two-entrance opening on the landing board as long as air can flow freely through the bottom screen. (i.e. remove under-screen counting board or make sure the airflow through the screen isn’t blocked)
For migratory bottom boards, a 14″ x 3″ piece of metal screen or #8 hardware cloth folded or rolled length-wise into a “U” can be pushed into one side of the entrance. Air will flow through the screen, but bees and robbers will be blocked. When inspecting around the time of the dearth, look for stress in the hive.
A strong indicator of good forage is how “Wet” and shiny the larvae are. Dull looking larvae are nutrition stressed.
Stressed hives without any capped honey can be offered some 1-to-1 syrup (cane sugar -to- water by weight).
Try them out on a small quantity. If there is adequate forage, they won’t be very interested in the syrup, so don’t fight it.
If the hive has plenty of pollen stored away this year, they may consume some of it during the dearth.
If the hive isn’t bringing any pollen and has none stored, then consider offering them a protein supplement.
Try them out on a couple of ounces; see if they consume it.
(If you put in too much protein supplement for the bees to consume in a few days, the small hive beetle, and/or Australian sap beetle will eat it!)
New beekeepers may wonder when and how much honey, if any, to harvest in this climate…
The end of the nectar flow (more or less now) is a good time to harvest honey. (Rob the bees)
Take the frames of capped honey. Leave the frames of uncapped honey.
Leave the bees two frames of honey per brood box. MAKE NOTES! Next year correlate your notes with your experience this fall.
Check the hive’s honey stores every couple of weeks until the rains start. Don’t let the hives get honey-bound (we wish!)…
If your colony fits into a single box, four to six frames should be available for brood. The rest can be honey and pollen.
Leave the bees with one or at most two frames of pollen.
Freeze the extra frames or use them for splits.
This simplistic formula for honey robbing may mean you have no honey to harvest, especially if you got a late swarm, or your bees drew out a box full of comb.
You may have too few frames of harvested honey to justify borrowing the extractor… so just seal the frames in plastic bags, and store them in the freezer. (Wax moth can attack frames not protected by bees or stored in the freezer).
While the weather is nice, slap a lick of paint on the hives that need it. Better now than after the rains start.
If you can’t get paint to stick to the weathered wood fibers, mix equal parts boiled linseed oil with paint thinner.
Apply several coats to seal the wood… Let dry… then repaint.
Reusing returned jars, and can’t get the label off? The gummy glue can be defeated by smearing some bacon fat on it. Let stand until softened… then wipe off the residue, and run them through the washer one last time.
“If you can’t believe what you read in comic books, what can you believe?”
— Rocket J Squirrel in memory of June Foray 1917 – 2017…