The uniqueness of bee behaviors causes us to sometimes make management decisions that aren't really solutions for them - let's talk about 4 of those.
How to Navigate the Waters of a Rapidly Changing Environment
Agility is that concept of having the ability to move with the circumstances that present themselves. Sometimes the circumstances change abruptly (like our pandemic event) and sometimes it’s a subtle change in current that nudges but doesn’t pull you under. Each has its challenges – one requires the reactive reflexes of a cat, the other discernment - and the ability to change course with the flow. It also requires the discipline to avoid the “escalation of commitment” syndrome, that "stuck in a rut" condition that quite frankly, a lot of beekeepers embrace. Doing the same thing, at the same time, for the same reason.
Feeding - Knowing Where the Landmines Are
The spring minor flow comes early here with the Large Leaf Maple, sometimes it comes on slowly and sometimes it erupts!! Brood chambers get plugged with pollen. With that comes huge population explosions, turning all that pollen into bees. Huge populations of bees means they go through the nectar from that flow pretty fast once it stops, and all of a sudden you're in a post flow dearth. If you get behind on feeding it gets ugly!! Bees will get “hangry"!! If you don’t super early you'll miss getting enough in the boxes to keep them until the major flow (here it's blackberry in June). If your colonies come out of winter lagging a little, you'll miss it. If you don’t watching the forage carefully, and just do what you normally do, when you normally do it, well, yup, you'll miss it!!
Mistake #1 - Not Knowing Your Local Food Sources
My Local Forage Chart
Knowing when the feed is plentiful and when it's scarce is the biggest skillset a beginner can develop!! It tells you when to feed and when to take off excess so the bees will stay in their boxes. The red zones are the times when the forage in my area is not sufficient to support the bees and I need to pay attention to getting them resources.
So solution #1 - Know Your Dearth Zones and Feed Accordingly!!
Mistake #2 - Not Controlling Colony Strength
Populations expand quickly - it's what they do. Making more bees so they can split their colonies in two and swarm is how they reproduce. The trick to keeping them where you put them is being able to anticipate when they have enough bees and resources to leave town!! One way to combat that challenge is making sure they never have enough of either to be able to make that decision. Sooooo......take resources and they'll never have the confidence they can leave. If you've got queen cells in your hive, it means they're ahead of you and you need to remove the existing queen before she leaves of her own accord (a more advanced technique).
Keeping honey off their heads is one useful way to mitigation swarms (Walt Wright’s series on the Swarm Impulse is a great resource – you can find it here…. https://www.beesource.com/threads/nectar-management-101.365673/). So getting that honey out of the center of the box above the brood chamber is one way to keep them on their toes and not thinking about leaving.
Solution #2 - Pulling frames of brood, bees and honey to reduce the swarm impulse.
Mistake #3 - Not Knowing Your Queen Status
Queenlessness is one of the most detrimental conditions you can come up against. For a couple of reasons - first, there's just no way to fix it without eggs (which requires a queen). If you don't have second colony to use as a donor, whelp, you're stuck buying one in. That in itself is a challenge in these times due to the labor issues with postal deliveries. An ignored queen can sit at a post office or in a hot truck for hours and what's left is a non-productive queen who has had all her sperm burned off. Most beginners ignore it - and I get it. It's a daunting problem, but ignoring it will only create a laying worker condition where all your comb will be destroyed by drone brood in short order. So best to bite the bullet and deal with it quickly. So identifying it as early as possible is the best option you have for saving the bees that are left and getting them redistributed to another unit before they go rogue!!
Solution #3 - Inspect as early as possible and look for brood. If you're in a queenless state, then decide early what you're going to do with those bees before they damage comb and create problems with disease.
Of course, the 4th mistake beekeepers make is not paying attention to the varroa mites. It's such a big topic and although the last mistake in our list, it is the Number 1 problem and we've dedicated an entire blog article to it, so check that one out!!!
For more basic information go to our 10 interesting things you probably didn't know about bees.....
....and NO WORRIES, if you don't feel confident dealing with any of these problems!! We have THE solution!! Don't hesitate to come with us to get the mentoring you need to overcome indecision and lack of confidence!!! Hit the link below!!
The Road to Better Beekeeping
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Categories: Management Processes