Friday, September 25, 2009

Fall is Here!

This is a picture of the payoff for pollinating crops! This watermelon is from Jimmy's house were we keep several hives. They gave us this 80+ pound watermelon in late August. Lilian had never seen a watermelon this big in all her years! (she's nearly 2).

Fall is a busy time for bee keepers (as is Winter, Spring, and Summer!) as we attempt to build up and maintain for the winter.
To start, we have had some calls about late swarms (which is not a good sign if they are your bees!) but we were happy to get them when they are getable. Some decided to stick around, and some left again. We have also had some calls for a couple of cut out jobs.

Fall is the time for building up and strategic analyzing, deciding when to combine and how to make them stronger. Part of this strategy is re-queening. New queens are more vigorous and help build up the hive. Some queens can be good for up to five years, but in most cases they can do well for a short time, maybe one or two years. However, a young queen is less likely to swarm so it is best to replace when given the opportunity.

Another part of the strategy is pest prevention, meaning mouse guards and powdered sugar treatment for mites. Mouse guards are essentially made up of 1/2in hardware cloth. It is best to put them on in late September. The worry is not that the mouse will eat all the honey; the problem is really that they make a mess. We changed over to screen bottom boards in order to effectively incorporate the powdered sugar treatment.

Powdered sugar treatment is one good way to get rid of mites. The mites get on the bees, so when the bees themselves are sprinkled with powdered sugar and they clean themselves off by licking their bodies, it makes them slick. The mites fall off of the bees and down though the bottom screen board and can't make it back up into the hive. Supposedly, this cuts down your mites by 20%. This is a good, non-chemical way to prevent these mites.

We also got some fancy new suits. Jessie got one on her 30th birthday and Greg and James were able to get some new hoods and jackets with the proceeds from a cut out job. Let's just say it was about time.

In other news, we are looking for a new apiary site. We have maxed out capacity here at Holt Farms and are scouting our new territories for hives. Ideally, this site would be drivable as hives can weigh upwards of 150-200 lbs. They are heavy and hard to move, so it would be best to be able to drive right up to the hives and put them on the truck.

So as the temperature drops and the leaves fall softly to the ground, we are busy as "bees" getting ready for the long winter.