Honey bee colonies have seasons. They are the same seasons we observe in general, Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter. The bees observe the timing and changing of the seasons a bit differently though than we do.
We talk about certain beekeeping tasks and chores that should done seasonally. The first Spring inspection, the last Fall inspection. Treatments for various environmental issues and potential pest problems, etc…
When is Spring for Bees though? When does it actually beeginning? Is it a date on the calendar? In my experience, I would like to suggest that it starts when the bees sense it and act upon it. More of observing certain environmental conditions and the innate responses that are triggered in the colony in response to those conditions.
For me, Spring doesn’t really start until colonies get serious about drone production. During the Winter and what I call “pre-Spring” there are good weather conditions to get inspections done to check on brood production, feed stores and colony buildup. Spring isn’t actually kicked in though until we see the colony make a serious effort at drone production.
When the first batch of drones are capped I can fairly reasonably say that Spring is here and in about 2 weeks swarms might get started and virgin queens will be able to begin mating.
Swarms don’t usually leave until virgin queens are about to emerge. Virgin queens can’t get mated until there is an abundance of drones. “Abundant” being a relative term depending on an area’s population density of colonies.
So, first drones, then virgin queens, then swarms. Spring has sprung indeed. Our hive inspections, manipulations and activities fall in somewhere among these beehaviors.
That’s the beeginning of the year for me. To go to the opposite end, Fall, what do the bees tell me about that?
Once again, the colony tells me when Fall arrives with drones. The colony stops or dramatically reduces drone brood production and actively starts culling the drone population. Fall has slipped up on us.
No more drones means no more queen rearing (unless something goes awry). The active beekeeping year has come to it’s eventual winding down. Once again, those timely inspections, manipulations and control measures will be fit in among the bees drawing down the colony population and makeup.
Somewhere in between Bee Spring and bee Fall is bee Summer. How do the bees indicate that Summer has begun? Good question. The most obvious indicators of Summer in a bee hive are the colony teaching it’s population peak and switching the focus from primarily brood buildup to foraging and honey production\stores.
So with bees as with with everything else, “to all things there is a season and a time to every purpose under heaven…”
When planning those beekeeping activities, Maybee consider is it time for it based on a date or by the bees? Could bee that the bees will have something to tell us about that.
I just got off the phone with beekeeping author Grant Gillard. Through sheer good will and being a good sport, he took my out of the blue sky phone call and agreed to be on the “Hive Talkin” podcast.
Of course, for all 4 of you that have actually listened to the Hive Talkin podcast, you know that it is a laid back and sometimes zany chat between a guest (or guests as in the case of Gary and Margaret from Kiwimana to be released this coming Sunday) and myself.
It’s good that beekeepers are so often nice and good people. If it weren’t for that, I’d never get past the odd looks and seemingly inevitable question of, “Did you fall out of the tree one too many times boy?” by those I talk to.
So, look forward to a cool chat with Grant Gillard, the beekeeping author and swarm catcher from Missouri on Sunday, May 7th.
I live in Omaha, NE. I make most of my own equipment. When I do but beekeeping equipment I always, ALWAYS, make my first call to Jim Raders at Dadant Bee Supply in Sioux City, IA.
If he doesn’t have it or know what I need, he makes the effort to find out. That’s what it’s all about, helping beekeepers to Bee Successful.
However, in the off hand situation that Jim just doesn’t have what I’m looking for, I have decided to make Mann Lake the designated backup.
Why is this? Partly because I really, really liked the customer service experience I had on the phone with them and partly because they ship via my preferred shipper, SpeeDed Delivery.
BTW, Dadant Bee Supply in Sioux City, IA also will ship via Speedee Delivery. In both places, you have to specifically ask for that shipping service via a call in order. Which is my preferred method of ordering anyway.
How much do we charge people to listen to the podcasts, access the website, watch the videos and chat with us at the Bee Smart beekeeping project? 0. Nada, Nothing.
I have to tell you, this project is an experiment in more than just getting adventurous rascal type beekeepers to do a podcast. It is an experiment in “alternative” fundraising.
I am pretty libertarian in my personal philosophy. All that means here is that I want to provide a quality information/entertainment community and experience without charging people for it upfront so that everyone, regardless of income can benefit and gain something from it, even if it’s what not to do.
So if I don’t implement a “Pay To Play” setup like the vast majority of content providers do, how then do I make this happen? I thought, “let’s try to get people to voluntarily “buy in” to help everyone get something useful. In other words, if you really like what I and the Beehooligans are doing here and you beelieve it’s worth pushing onward, you’ll support the project.
There are a great number of costs that go into the project. On the website, there is hosting as the primary cost and the more traffic that comes in, the more it costs for hosting. We want to reach literally thousands, tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands, of people.
For the podcasting there is recording equipment, computers, software, and yes, more hosting with podcast audio hosts like iTunes, Spreaker and others for which there is a cost for those services but gives us a better product for our listeners.
Ditto the videos. Equipment alone is costly. At least we don’t have the ongoing cost of tape anymore.
Perhaps the greatest cost of all in this endeavor though is time. Someone has to spend the time to do it and do it right. There are tens of hours each week that go into maintaining web sites, recording, editing, coordinating, keeping up with social media, etc…
All of that time is time away from running businesses and going to jbs to get bills paid otherwise. I’m taking the risk and putting in the hours of work without pay, obtaining equipment as I am able to, learning and mproving skills that I had of some and am having to learn of others.
Will my risk pay off? Will it bee worth it to put out what I intend to be an informative, useful and entertaining cross-media beekeeping community that will facilitate success for the people who listen, read, watch and interact with us? I certainly hope so, but it will only work if YOU beelieve that it is good enough.
I don’t want every patron to pay a lot of money to help this project bee successful. I want to get literally thousands of Patrons, you, your friends, your associates, t come in and put in maybe 1 or 2 dollars a month. With enough people putting in a buck or two each month, that will go a long way to helping this project improve and bee it’s best.
How can you help? You can become a Patron. The next most important thing you can do to help is to encourage everyone you know to come in and bee a Patron also. Not a lot, just 1 or 2 dollars a month.
How many people have you heard say they wish they could help bees if they could without becoming a beekeeper? This is a sure way to help bees by helping us to educate, inform and motivate beekeepers to help our bees survive and thrive.
How else can you help here? Bee a participant. Ask questions here. Make suggestions, tell me what you think works and isn’t working. Go to the Bee Smart forum page, register and participate in the discussion there. Don’t just loiter in the background, Bee involved.
This week the Bee Smart crew had Dean Stiglitz, Co-Author of “The Complete Idiot’s Guide To Beekeeping” (Hey, I resemble that remark!) with Laurie Herboldsheimer, sit in on the podcast to chat about all things beekeeping books. We covered everything front print books to Audio books and beeing who we are, also get sidetracked. That’s what we do.
The first Bee Smart Weekly Update is here! YAY US!
Every Friday we plan to send out one post to a variety of social media communities on FaceBook, Google plus, Twitter and LinkedIn to let everyone see what we bee up to. It let’s you people know the 4-1-1 on the great stuff to find here at the Bee Smart website just in case you have been unable to stop by on a regular basis to bee in the know.
As you read the update, you can click on each link to take you straight to the related article, video or audio content that is mentioned.
Right off the bat, I posted my debut article on how honey bees make honey. You’re going to bee , as a famous man recently said, “smartificated” by the time you finish reading it.
A very cool video by Schawee was posted showing a 3 queen swarm he captured some time back.
We then brought your attention to an article on the internet telling us about a new bee research center that is going to focus on helping beekeepers in the Midwest to diagnose disease concerns.
In 1911, an ailing William Z. Hutchinson, age 60, published a third edition (The second edition was in 1905) of his awesome 1891 beekeeping book that wasn’t a beginning beekeeping book. Instead, it was targeted directly at the beekeeper who already had a couple of years or more under their belt and looking at “the next step”. Sadly, it was his last as he passed the same year.
It’s always fun to go back and read the older tomes to see what is still relevant and what has changed since then. Here is my own happy little synopsis of Hutchinson’s “Pro Tips” as gleaned from his book, “Advanced Bee Culture”.
Get More Hives
The end all, bee all to Hutchinson’s advice is to get more bees. get as many hives as you can afford to get, then get some more. In a lot of ways, what he is saying here is to work the law of averages, I think. Every beekeeper will experience low producing hives, die-outs, and miscellaneous other problems in their apiaries. In a smaller operation, the lowered production or die-out of just a few among a few hives can be catastrophic. However in an operation with more hives, the relevant impact is distributed among a larger set. In other words, losing five hives out of ten is a devastating loss of 50% of the hives. However, losing five hives out of one hundred is only a five percent loss and is easier to load balance production in.
Only Do Beekeeping
W.Z. was utterly convinced that, in my own words, “Halfway is half-assed”. Meaning, of course, that by doing anything but work that directly r indirectly related to beekeeping was just a wasted of time, effort, resources, etc… if you are meaning to be a successful professional apiarist. He advocated NOT to be a Farmer or a bookkeeper or a shopkeeper or anything else. It’s an “All In” kind of thing to him and if if you want to split your efforts thinking you are supporting your beekeeping by having some other income generator, then you might as well just quit beekeeping except as a hobby.
Education Is Most Important
He suggests that the very foundation of successful beekeeping is knowledge and experience. We should gain the first, knowledge, by reading all of the beekeeping books, magazines, and given today’s technology I’d include web-based articles as well.
As to the experience, he tells us that undertaking an apprenticeship of at least one year with an experienced beekeeper to be the ideal, two years is even better.
Buy and Raise Localized Bees
William felt very strongly that the bees one starts out with is also a part of that bedrock of a successful beekeeping business. Strong, localized stock is his first and foremost preference for obtaining bees not resulting from one’s own splits. Find a local beekeeper with good stock and obtain bees from them.
Finding and getting local feral colonies is also high on his list. He is particularly fond of setting out bait hives to capture travelling swarms. He notes that areas nearer to woodlands will be likely to find more good bait-hive locations in the periphery of the woods and tree-lines. For areas which are more open, setting bait-hives up om top of structures and poles is more likely to net positive results.
Ultimately, he suggests to the budding professional apiarist that raising hardy bee stock, raising queens and inserting them into splits from that hardy stock is the best way.
Keep Track of Successful activities AND of mistakes made.
Mr. Hutchinson somberly warns us that it bodes a man well to keep track of the things he does right. It bodes even better for the man who also tracks what he goes wrong. Learning from one’s mistakes is one of beekeeping’s best teachers he tells us.
What are some mistakes he takes the time to warn us against?
Jumping in with both feet and no instruction. Yes, it can be done, but it makes an already hard row to hoe twice, perhaps thrice as hard to overcome.
Remember it is best to follow only one Master. He advises us against trying to mish-mash multiple systems or methodologies simultaneously. Find one and stick with it. He thinks it is still better to run with a poor choice of system than to try to throw a bunch in together.
More Bees Is Always Better, But Not Too Quickly. W.Z. opines that this may be the ultimate “Newbee Killer”. Start smaller, especially if you haven’t the advantage of doing an apprenticeship first and then grow slowly. Grow, by all means grow. Only, grow at a pace that is able to be reasonably managed and not going to put you n a position to fail.
The last one I’ll mention here, there are more dandies much worth reading in his book, is to not choose a hive system that is too complicated or costly to reasonably manage. Bells and whistles are great….For hobbyists. If you plan to be a professional, “making a living at it” apiarist, then easy to manage and low cost to obtain and maintain is where you ought to be thinking when it comes to bee hives.
Beekeeping Is Dependent On Locality
The ever-successful habits conscious Mr. Hutchinson also reminds us that you keep where where your bees are kept. Do NOT manage bees in Nebraska the same as you would in Arizona or New Hampshire. If you do, you might as well hang it up right then. The successful , professional beekeeper always has his focus on where his hives are and let’s go of where they were.
To Sum It Up
I won’t dare to try to sum up everything in his book. I can’t express more that I highly recommend this book. I liken it to a well-aged bottle of Scotch. It’s overall value has only increased with time. He goes into much more detail and has more to offer than the paltry few bits I have tucked into this insufficient, small corner of the Web. As with many things over time, technology has advanced and made some things obsolete and our environment has changed as well, requiring adaptations like Integrated Pest Management, new pests and diseases, etc…
Yet and still… There is tremendously more to retain in this book than there is to discard. If I were to have just the opportunity, I would jump at the chance to invite the esteemed William, Z. Hutchinson to sit in on one of the Bee Smart weekly podcast episodes and just let him take over the show for the day.
The book itself is now in the public domain and is able to be had freely. This being the case, I have attached a direct link below to the PDF version of it here so that you too will bee able to become savvy to that which is “Advanced Bee Culture”.