Small Colonies – Defense Challenges

As we get into the dearth, it is important to evaluate your colony space, size, and health and take extra precautions when feeding and inspecting. As flowers dwindle, you may see surrounding bee colonies checking your colony out as a food source.

Once the honey flow is over, make sure you take some time to evaluate your colony space. Smaller populations within a colony may need to be addressed. You always want your bees in an area that they can defend – this defense is against ants, small hive beetles, moths, mice, other honey bees, etc. The point is – it doesn’t matter what they’re defending from, it matters that they can control the space they’ve got. There’s a fine line that is walked around the time that honey bees are growing and bringing in a lot of nectar – you need to make sure that you pay attention to what is going on inside and outside of your hive.

Make sure your apiary is clean from sugar water, loose honey, and even wax as it can promote and alert surrounding colonies to your apiary as a food source. Once they lock onto your area as a food source, you may find that they can take advantage of weaker colonies in your apiary and rob and loot your hive.

A few tips to prevent and avoid robbing during the dearth times:

1) Feed one, feed all. Even if it is just a short squirt of syrup, it will distract everyone.

2) Feed in the evening. That way if they do get excited, sundown is coming soon that will make everyone go home. You may want to take a peak the next morning to make sure they aren’t getting back at it.

3) Be in and out, quick. If you are like me, and move a bit slower, maybe don’t feed and inspect at the same time if you can help it.

4) Keep a jug of water close by. If you spill anything, wash it off fast.

Continued Adventures of a Growing Apiary

This year has been a crazy year of growth and opportunity. While we push through building a profitable business in bees, Justin quit his full time job and is now a full-time beekeeper. It’s such a exciting and scary thing to take that leap of faith. While he continues to work crazy long hours, it’s great to see him doing it in the industry he enjoys so much.

All of the growth this year has really made me take a moment and reflect on how we’ve continued to build our business primarily by keeping an open mind and meeting the needs of our clientele and area. Our “pollination” bee business goals have taken on a pretty wide range of services and products from honey production to cosmetics all the way to agricultural valuation help and bee removals.

I remember listening to a talk from Clint Walker at last year’s Annual Convention about keeping your mind open and listening to the market as you grow your business and nothing could be closer to the truth for us. His example was his “pecan pie in a jar” which I stand by as one of the more brilliant offerings – something I admitted to him I would likely use to partner with a friendly pecan farm near me. This conversation was exactly the type of conversation I’ve been so thankful for over the past few years. As we meet new beekeepers and new community partners, we brainstorm together and continue to learn from each other. We’ve partnered with local coffee shops, chocolatiers, orchards and farms, restaurants, and so many more partners that have been supportive of our local honey and community outreach.

Some lessons we have learned this year for those of you on a similar journey:

  • Technology is our friend for keeping track of business expenses, mileage, and our calendar. We use apps and programs like QuickBooks, MileIQ, Google Suite, and Social Media to share our adventures with our friends and followers.
  • Storing honey in barrels is becoming more sensible than our trusty 5 gallon buckets and that’s pretty exciting.
  • Making strong local connections is a must – our fans have helped us continue to grow through their support of our products and their ability to recruit new fans!
  • Storing labels where you can easily see when you’re about to run out is a good idea… running out right before your next market or large order is a bad idea.
  • Invest back into your business – equipment that makes your job easier will pay back ten fold.
  • Keep learning and keep an open mind – business opportunities and new partnerships are literally everywhere!
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I’m looking forward to this years TBA Annual Convention knowing that if I take home even one gem of knowledge, new information, or connection I will have an even better year next year. Hope to see you all there!

How To Store Empty Supers

There are several ways to store your empty honey supers over winter. Why can’t you just leave them in your garage or shop for the winter? Well, wax moths are prolific at finding wax frames that are not in use. Within the hive, the bees keep the wax moths at bay, but unattended, a wax moth can destroy a frame of wax without much effort.

In Southern climates, winter is generally measured in weeks. If a hive is strong, you could, in theory, place the super(s) back on the hive. However, even a strong hive that can fend off beetles during these months of a dwindling bee population can be put in a tough position – so you may want to minimize the hive interior and store the supers in a freezer or large plastic bags where beetles can’t get to them.

So, what are your options as a beekeeper?

  1. Store in a freezer
  2. Use wax crystals (Para-Moth preventative moth crystals)
  3. Stack them like a checker board with plenty of light and space between each super and – hope for the best!

There are a few other options, but these are the ones we’ve tried that worked reasonably well.

What we actually do is:

  1. Harvest the excess honey
  2. Extract the honey
  3. Put the empty frames out for cleaning (can be put onto the hives themselves or left out in an empty pasture for the day)
  4. Store the supers one of the ways listed above

What’s your favorite way to store honey supers when they’re not in use?

Master Beekeeping Program

If you are a beekeeper who is interested in continuing to learn and perhaps even push yourself outside of your comfort zone in beekeeping. I would highly recommend going through the Texas Master Beekeeping Program.

For us, it was a way to hold ourselves accountable to continuing to learn more about honey bees in an academic fashion. We feel that understanding bees in this capacity has led us to think outside the box in our apiary, pay more attention to pests and diseases, and to reflect on what is happening on our colonies even more closely.

We are finishing up our year as Advanced Level candidates and will be testing for the Master level this fall.

You can find more information here, even if you just want to take advantage of the tremendous resources – this is a great way to continue to grow as a beekeeper.

Texas Master Beekeeping Program Requirements

Good luck!

Tips for Moving Bees

We were recently asked for a few tips on relocating bees in their hives to a new locations. You may need to move them to a new yard, relocate them to a different property, load bees up for pollination, or removing them from a property.

Here are some “best practices” for moving bees:

  • Try to load and move the bees at night
  • Avoid bright lights (you can use red lights but flashlights will attract bees)
  • Secure the hive, especially if it’s multiple boxes (you can use ratchet straps if needed)
  • You can also use hardware cloth across the entrance to keep the bees from escaping but allow air flow
  • On warm /  hot days – keep moving. The airflow keeps the bees from overheating since they are trapped inside.
  • Move the bees quickly – don’t make unnecessary stops and get them where they’re going ASAP

When we move bees for pollination, we do not secure each entrance, but if they’re traveling further distances, we use a bee net to keep the bees on the truck. For long trips, bees require water breaks and you have to make sure to stop in shady areas.