This month I will be starting my blog. I will write each month to let you know what is happening with my bees here in Central/West Florida. If you bought a Nuc this Spring in this area then you are in the right place! There are a lot of blogs and videos from beekeepers around the country and they have a TON of good information.. but to get the specific needs for your bees you need to have local information. My hopes for this blog is to alleviate hive loss, swarms and other problems you might encounter with your bees. We are all in this together!
Bartow Bees - For those of you who live near Lakeland, this section will pertain to you! This month I have been pulling frames of capped honey, some of which are orange blossom and some are wildflower honey. My bees are near Orange groves which are healthy and underneath are plenty of wildflowers between the rows of trees. I am now taking care not to pull too much honey and make sure I leave them at least 6 super frames of nectar or capped honey. Summer is upon us and that is our typical dearth period. We also just came out of a drought so take care that your bees always have access to water! It is getting hot!
Wesley Chapel and Lutz Bees
I started pulling honey from these hives about 2 weeks ago and it tastes mostly of Palmetto honey! They are doing great and I am continuing to monitor swarming since we are still in the honey flow.
I have not pulled honey from these hives yet, as they are newly established hives, but I do notice a lot of Spanish needle and Palmetto blooming so they have enough food for survival.
Saint Petersburg Bees
I just started to pull honey from these hives the first week of June. I think it is mostly Palmetto, but I noticed a lot of mango trees bloomed and I believe the Mangroves have begun to bloom as well, so we look forward to that! Of course there are a lot of neighborhoods who have varying flowering plants that the bees love and so I get a nice variety of wildflowers as well!
My first pull from Tampa was the first week of June and it was definitely Palmetto honey with a nice blend of wildflowers, because I know in my yard I have Spanish needle, bottle brush, Columbine, blue Porterweed, mint, basil, Chaya plant, Bahama coffee, blueberry bushes and Cosmos to name just a few!
I do realize even within miles of each other that different neighborhoods will fair differently at different times, based on the plants available to the bees. So, I have a wide array of places to draw from and can condense what I am seeing into a generalized educated guess about what might be happening with your bees. It's ALWAYS an adventure! That's what I love about beekeeping, everyday is different and I never know what I will find when I get to my hives!
As I check my bees, I am still looking for practice queen cell cups (empty, no eggs or larva inside). When I see them I scrape them off. If they are present then I make sure my queen has enough drawn comb (completed wax cells) for her to lay. The bees form these when they suspect she might need to swarm based on the space available. See note #1 below for making drawn comb.
If you saw queen cups then you can do a couple things based on your hive size. If you only have a deep - now you should add a super with drawn comb, leave off the excluder though because the purpose is to give the queen more space to lay. You won't be pulling honey from a hive with only a deep box until the next honey flow.. unless you live in an unusually flowery area. You will know this if they draw the comb quickly and fill your super with wax within 2 weeks.
If you have a deep and a super already, take off the lid, place it on the ground with the inside of the lid facing up (keep the lid clean as the bees like things neat! Then set your super box onto the lid. Start by removing frames full of honey or pollen and place those into another super. When you are done, you will have a deep box, a super box (for queen to lay), your excluder and then finally your honey super above that. Now you are set up to keep the queen happy by taking frames full of bees or nectar and placing them above the excluder, you can give her more space to lay in your super by adding fresh drawn comb frames to her brood super. If she is a VERY prolific layer and you have a huge honey flow going on, you can add a deep box instead of a super. I just find its easier to manage the super boxes and continually shifting frames below the excluder to above it once they are full and eventually cycling the capped honey frames out to be processed and then once you get the honey spun out you can place those back into her laying super. Don't worry about having bee larva in your honey supers.. the bees will hatch out and then the bees will fill those spots in with honey.
Ensure your queen is laying eggs, if you can't see them get a magnifying glass. This is important! If she isn't laying eggs or she isn't present then an intervention is necessary and you have several options.
A. Squish old queen and let the bees make a new one.
B. Purchase a queen and install her via a Queen cage.
C. Assimilate this hive with another hive that you have with a laying queen. (See note #2 about hive assimilation).
5. If all is well, and your queen has places to lay, the bees have room to place nectar and pollen and there are no pests running around inside the hive, then your inspection is complete and you can make notes on what you saw for next time. Keep a log. I track presence of queen or eggs, # of frames of brood, enough nectar and pollen (feel weight of hive by lifting up on the back of the hive to get a good guess if they are light, medium or heavy). If they are light you will need to add sugar water feeding to your duties.
6. If your hive has small hive beetles - add a beetle trap (found online at bee supply stores). Fill the trap with mineral oil.. being very careful not to spill any on the bees! This will kill them and also clean the top of the trap after pouring the oil in 1/2 full. The bees climb on everything and the oil coats them if you don't wipe it clean.
Note #1 - Coating frames with wax - Purchase or use your own beeswax to use in rolling a thin film of wax onto your new plasticell frames. Place wax into a double boiler (make sure you won't need this pan for anything else, because it is too hard to clean up) into a pan of hot water at least 165 degrees - temp that wax melts. Do not let the water boil. Wait for your wax to melt and dip a roller brush into the melted wax and just do ONE pass across the frame.. too much or too thick and the bees can't work it. Place these into your hive and the bees will quickly draw the comb to make new cells.
Note #2 - Assimilation of a hive without a queen onto a hive with a laying queen. You can do this at any time of day. The worker bees will assimilate into other hives, or the new one. The nurse bees will chew their way through the paper and by the time they do this..they will be used to the pheromones that the queen gives off. Sometimes, especially if you assimilate a hive too quickly after it becomes queenless the bees will kill the other queen. Make sure your hive has been queenless at least until there is no uncapped brood left. Brood also gives off a pheromone.
Make very sure the hive is queenless that you want to assimilate.
Remove lid of queen-right hive and place newspaper across the top to completely cover the edges.
Take queenless hive and separate it from the bottom board (keeping the lid on).. move it over to place it upon the queen-right hive, right on top of the paper.
Leave them alone for 2 weeks.
Check to see if the queen is still laying and if the assimilation was successful. If so, you can remove excess boxes or supers if necessary.
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