Thursday, February 28, 2013

Hive Weight Gain by Area, Know Your Flows

I discovered something interesting today.  NASA keeps track of hive weights around the country.  By knowing your flows, you can better manage your hives.

Here's a record from my local area:

I have historically harvested honey in June.  Seeing this graph tells me to make sure I leave enough honey for the bees to make it through the rest of the year because there's no more honey to be had.  Apparently the earlier flow is black locust in April and white Dutch clover becomes available in substantial measure in May.

As a side note, comparing this area to others, this is a really ugly area to keep bees.  No wonder there are no commercial beekeepers around here.

Check out your own area at:  Know your flows!

Winter Prep - Bee Informed National Survey

I like to participate in the Bee Informed national survey (  It allows me to really see what helps and what hurts in beekeeping management.  Here is an example:

This graph shows how many people used different types of winter preparations and what their loss rates were.  Now you may say "All of the methods helped."  But rather than looking at the bar graph which is the average, look at the range denoted by the little black whiskers.  That's the actual range of results.  Statistical analysis dictates which difference is significant.  But you can usually tell by which whiskers overlap.

For instance, the range of values for tar paper wrap overlap, demonstrating that the results were not significantly different while the use of an upper entrance were.  In fact, the greatest differences were found among the Upper Entrance group.

The other three that were effective were the 'Equalize,' 'Lid Insulation,' and 'Mouse Guard.'  The use of insulation or wrapping in tar paper are not shown to have different results than not using those methods.

I've never used equalizing, but I have Robin Hooded honey rarely.  But I'm happy to say the ones that I have been recommending for years are effective, upper entrances and insulated lids.  Mouse guards are pretty obvious, mice crawl in and eat honey and make nests.  Upper entrances allow better ventilation and the release of humid air which can cause condensation.  Insulated lids keep that condensation from collecting on the roof of the hive and dripping water on the cluster possibly killing it.

And as I've said for years, the bees don't heat the hive but rather heat the cluster.  Insulation is largely irrelevant.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

A New Year

Sorry, no pic this time.  Weather is dreary and cold.  I don't like winter.  I'm very glad it's short here.

So, what's up this year?

Well, great news thus far.  As of yesterday when I stopped by one of my outyards, I have 100% survival of my 23 hives.  After last year's survival numbers (10/11) I am really stoked that my methods are finally being proved to be successful.  Just in time for my tenth anniversary of the day I drove to Orland California and bought my first 20 packages of bees.

This year, I plan on continuing to do what I began last year. 

I will be making more queens and nucs:  I have talked to several of last year's customers and as far as I know, they've had 100% survival of my stock.  I already have around ten reservations for queens and nucs.  After making 30 hives out of 7 last year, I should be able to make easily as many this year and make a fair amount of honey too.

I will continue my switch to medium hives:  I just finished (minus paint) eight new medium boxes.  It was great to fire up the old table saw again, though somehow I bent the fence.  And it is definitely an old table saw, it's older than me.  But it's a quality machine, all cast-iron and whatnot.  I need to make more of my ten frame nucs, but in medium sizes. I need to start moving mediums to the outyards and deeps back home.  Selling nucs will get rid of my deep frames and I will need to buy more medium ones.

I'm not going to attempt to catch swarms:  Last year I expended a lot of time, effort, and resources to put up swarm traps and got less than 10% return.  Now that I have as many hives as I want, I don't need them anyway.

I will continue to grow the hives that I have:  I have about a dozen deep boxes remaining, totally empty, ready for foundation.  And after my incredible increase from last year, I have a lot of hives which will need supering very soon.  Right now it is cold and the foundation is brittle so I'm holding off on that chore for the time being.

Settling into final numbers:  I originally wanted to run 20 hives, but with two locations with space for 8 each and the home yard with space for nine, 25 sounds about right.  I shall have to be more diligent this year in the fall with combining weak hives.  Not that they have trouble wintering, they seem to do fine, but I want to focus genetics on hives that are a little larger and build up faster in the spring.

And of course, I'll continue to be obnoxious on  I have to keep needling the naysayers, explaining that after all these years, it still can be done and I am still doing it.