Week Three --- Managing and Working with Honey Bees

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This gives you some tips on when to open your hive, what to look for and how to work with your bees -- how to get familiar with the calendar year when working with your bee hive so that you know what you are looking at

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Week Three --- Managing and Working with Honey Bees

  1. 1. Week Three: Managing and Working with the Bees Dara K. Dimitrov dkd4@waikato.ac.nz
  2. 2. When to look in the hive  You need to learn to inspect your hives REGULARLY but the calendar year is important  Spring  Summer  Autumn  Winter
  3. 3. Time of Day  Try to Open the hive in the middle of the day  If the weather is too cool – the bees will be agitated  If it is late in the day – it will be too cold  Or they have been annoyed too often Bees can inherit defensive behavioural traits – species of bees Stinging readily may mean you have to smoke them
  4. 4. What you are looking for in the hive (Brood box)  The number of bees in the hives  What types of bees are there  If the bee numbers are low – the queen might be failing  The number of frames of brood  We can if there is continuity in the bee production  Eggs, larvae, capped brood  Honey stores?? - have the bees got food  Examine the brood – and the patterns  Looking for disease (we will cover this later)
  5. 5. Spring – September to December  You will open the boxes more regularly as the weather warms up  Health of the colony  Smell the hive box – Unpleasant smell?  Sound of the hive – loud and agitated – probably queen-less  The condition of its queen (looking for eggs – brood)  Varroa Mite Strips go in (and out before honey boxes go on) This is the time to take corrective action if you think the hive has problems
  6. 6. Spring  The number of the bees increase quite quickly  The hive needs to have adequate food – if not naturally – then you have to feed them (a bit on this later)  The hive will begin to build queen cells  This is the natural way that the hive will reproduce itself  Hive splitting can be done now – more successful than in autumn  The Queen Excluder is VERY important  It is used to separate the brood from the honey boxes  The size allows the bees to pass but prevents the queen and drones
  7. 7. If there is a problem can see it --- You  Queen fails - No Queen --- no eggs or larvae
  8. 8. Hive has low bee numbers  Low Brood numbers - No brood – queen has failed or died  Low honey – No honey –You can’t see any in the frames  No pollen? The bees will be starving – and you will need to feed them You may have to re-queen the hive if there is low brood numbers (more on this next week)
  9. 9. Summer -- Dec to March (Honey)  The bees basically take care of themselves – the less you disturb them – the happier they are  Checking them regularly (every 2 weeks – weekly if you think there is a problem)  Checking the honey flow – the bees shoot out of the hive like they have been fired from a gun  There are flowers everywhere – blooms and trees
  10. 10. Summer  Checking how much available space is in the hive  This is the time you begin to put honey supers on (the honey boxes go on one at a time)  You entice the bees up into the honey supers by putting a couple of frames of honey into the Honey super  Extra room stimulates the bees to store more honey  Remember the WEIGHT OF THE HIVE –  Full depth supers can weigh as much as 40 kilos  ¾ depth supers can weigh as much as 25 kilos
  11. 11. Honey Supers  Important to put the first one as soon as the bee numbers build up  Put the second one on when the first one is half fill (put a frame up in the second one to entice the bees up)  As you get higher – put the filled boxes at the top and the empty boxes above the brood (easier for the bees to get to the empty supers)  This is called Top Supering – you just keep adding supers until the honey flow stops  You can begin to harvest the honey
  12. 12. Autumn – March - June  The peak of the honey flow has passed  Take the honey supers off but leave enough for over wintering Varroa Mite strips go back in  Check the queen and the brood (eggs, larvae) – the queen slows down the egg laying  Can split the hives now too  Reduce the entrance to the hive to keep the warmth in  Can put on extra hive protection (like carpet above the hive matt) to give the hives extra warmth protection
  13. 13. Winter – June – August (early September)  The queen will slow right down on laying eggs  There is no food about for the bees so they usually cluster in the hive  Basically a ball of bees in the middle of the hive (the size of the ball depends on the number of bees in the hive)  The ball is heated to around 35 Celsius (no matter what the temperature is outside the hive  The cluster is layers of bees lined up side by side which creates a thermal barrier  The bees can still move about and eat a little honey  IF the cluster loses heat – the hive will die
  14. 14.  If there are too few bees in the hive and the outer shell of the cluster loses heat – the hive will die even if there is honey in the hive  The bees can’t leave the cluster to go eat – there can be several ‘shells’ of the cluster  Keeping the hive warm is paramount  Cluster can cover 8-9 frames on a strong hive  Very cold – cluster will be reduced to 2-3 frames
  15. 15. Never open the Hive  When it is raining, cold, or windy  WHY?  Chilled brood – the bee larvae and capped brood die  Dead bees still STINK  You have to remove the frames and clean out the hive box  The bees have to work harder to draw out the wax  The hive will become weak – and will probably die out over the winter
  16. 16. Bee Temperatures  35 Celsius – is the optimum core temp in the hive  18 Celsius – the bees will begin to cluster  14 Celsius – the bees will become motionless in the outer cluster shell – even though the bees inside the cluster may still move about
  17. 17. Feeding the Hives (or they starve)  This is the time of the year when the bees run out of stored honey –  This can happening from mid – winter to early spring  The weather is too cold for the bees to break cluster  You feed the hives from inside the hive (dripping syrup into the hive sometimes help if the hive is weak)  If the winter is very cold – your nucs will die off as they can’t maintain cluster and feed (too few bees) ---you may have to put them on top of a stronger hive to save them)
  18. 18. Feeding bees -  Pollen Patties – protein source for the bees (I make my own up) – see hand-out  Sugar Syrup – you need sugar feeders –  Sugar Fondant – sets (so not syrup) – treat it like a pattier
  19. 19. Sugar Syrup in Zip Lock bags
  20. 20. Questions?????

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