Prepwork For Packages

So, you bought bee packages and your finalizing your beekeeping planning to get a good running start when they get here.  Love it!  You rock!

Now, by now you’ve probably been wondering about how many boxes you need to have ready for your hive stack.  Someone tells you you don’t need a lot, these are packages after all and everyone knows that package bees don’t produce surplus honey the first year.  Except when they do…

When it comes to bees, I like to hedge my bets and quote James Bond.  “Never say never.”  Bees have a funny way of changing our minds for us.  They also have this ornery tendency to not follow “the rules” even though the books clearly state they should do something or not do it in general.

Bee colonies live in a constant state of flux.  They move in fluid synchronization with Nature, taking the lead from the environment around them.

Because bee colonies are so tied to the environment, I prefer to think of things not in terms of possibilities but in probabilities.  It’s possible that a package bee colony can produce a bumper crop in it’s first year though it usually is a low probability.  There are a lot of typical factors to inhibit the likelihood.

At the same time, given the right circumstances, the environmental factors could set up to increase that probability greatly.

How does this go with having enough boxes?  I believe that like bullets, you can never have enough hive boxes, just in case the probabilities change and the bees change your mind for you.

Better to have them and not need them than need them and not have them.  It’s one of those paranoid best practices things.  So there’s nothing wrong with being a good bee scout and always being prepared.

When that odd season comes along and changes those probabilities on you, you’ll bee glad you did.

IPM is every beeks friend

There are articles floating around out there quoting hobbyists and prominent bee researchers alike proclaiming a dire necessity to “treat” bee hive’s for mite infestations.  These articles condemn the “anti-pesticides” crowd as spoilers of beekeeping for everyone else and some going so far as to setting up a bully pulpit to show “anti-pesticides” beekeepers in a criminal light.

Being someone who has long-established myself as an “organic” beekeeper, I can certainly appreciate the mistrust of the unnecessary use of toxic chemicals where bees are involved.  However, as a former licensed pesticide applicator, I am very familiar with the situations and conditions in which critical circumstances call for drastic actions.

At the same time, again coming from my education, training, and experience as a licensed pesticide applicator, I am very familiar with the concept of Integrated Pest Management or IPM.  I am here to tell you that with IPM, dealing with mites or any of the myriad of maladies that face our bees does not have to be an all or none scenario.

IPM, in a nutshell, calls for a “big picture” approach to pest control.  A more holistic approach in which we aren’t using  “one or the other” extremist tactics but instead a combination of multiple tactics to prevent and act as an early intervention to avoid pest presence and populations from becoming so bad as to require the use of toxic pesticides if at all possible.

One of the problems that lead the discussion is that by using the strong, toxic pesticides as a prophylactic is that historically, it has always lead to stronger, more resistant pests that are harder to deal with.

On the other hand, I am also an advocate for using the “common sense” view that when the Bee feces hits the fan, we should be prepared to at least consider the responsible use of pesticides that might make a reasonable difference.  I’m not saying it should be mandatory to use those “last resort” treatments but they shouldn’t be discarded from the discussion just because they make us uncomfortable either.

Extremist positions never help in the long run.  We all lose when discussion becomes polarized and minds are closed.  I think it’s irresponsible for any beekeeper or apiarist worthy of the name to be so close minded.

So at every opportunity, I will present, teach and advocate IPM as a crucial aspect of any and every beekeeping plan.  It gives us the widest range of options and educated/informed decision-making available to us to have the most success and viable impact in helping honey bee colonies alive and thriving.