October 2018

Notes from the October 8, 2018 meeting, Northwest Arkansas Beekeepers Association

Attendance - 54

Brad Keck opened the meeting. He reminded everyone about the potluck dinner at 6:00 PM on November 12, 2018. Debra Elam provided the food for the meeting.

Introduction of new attendees.

Earl Rowe introduced the apprentices for this year and described the apprenticeship program. He also asked for anyone who has a member of the family or friends who have someone interested in bees and are within the age group for the apprenticeship program to have them apply for an apprenticeship next year.

Essa Downum gave a powerpoint presentation on her experience with bees. She described how to look for and find a queen, how to look for pests, specifically, Varroa mites and small hive beetles, and catching a swarm. She stated that she had been successful in catching a swarm this year.

Ethan Smallwood of Elkins presented on his experiences in setting up his hive and performing inspections.

David Bercaw presented on winterizing. The goals for winterizing are to get the bees through winter, to have strong, healthy hives that start building in February, and to have sufficient honey stores to make it through winter until the spring nectar flow.

During winter, workers form a cluster around the queen to keep her warm and the workers vibrate their wings to generate heat. Workers rotate their position within the cluster so everyone has a chance to be towards the center of the cluster. With no brood, the cluster stays around 80º F (27º C). When temperatures rise above 50º to 55º F (10º to 13º C) workers start flying outside the hive. Workers will not defecate inside the hive unless sick. Workers perform cleansing flights and forage, even when no food is available. Winter bees can survive 4 to 6 months.

The issue was raised whether the beekeeper's year starts August 1. This time is the start of preparations for winter survival, Varroa mites and small hive beetles are at their peak populations, and the beekeeper has to be extra alert for any hive weaknesses. The beekeeper must ask whether there a strong population and sufficient stores?

We have a second nectar flow from late August to early October, with fall weeds (ragweed, milkweed goldenrod, smartweed, perilla mint) in bloom. The nectar flow is most intense around early September and was pretty much nonexistent this year.

If you treat for mites, treat around the first week in September so mites don’t have time to re-establish their population. Don’t have honey supers on when you do this. Begin feeding 2:1 sugar syrup when the fall nectar flow ends (mid-September this year), and make sure the hives have sufficient stores. Each hive will need a minimum of 40 to 45 pounds of honey for winter survival (a full super is around 45 pounds). Bees in a cluster can starve with honey around them if they can’t break the cluster.

In October, reduce to two boxes per hive (e.g., two deep boxes), pull honey frames to the center of the upper box with empty frames on the outside, put on entrance reducers / mouse guards mid to late October. Do not have or leave queen excluders on.

The objectives of fall inspections are to determine the amount and position of honey stores, extent and pattern of brood area, size of adult population (25,000-30,000 bees), brood and adult bee health, condition of combs, condition of hive equipment, and determine if there is room for expansion in early spring.

There was some discussion as to whether insulating hives or using moisture quilts as are used in northern states are necessary or desirable in this area. The consensus was that it is not necessary due to our warm winters. Ed Levi (former State Apiary Inspector) stated that he is recommending not using moisture quilts even in the northern states because they cause condensation inside the hives.

During the winter months November, December, and January, you only need to open hives for supplemental feeding. Only open hives if temperature is above 55º F (13º C). If we have a warm winter, bees will consume more feed because of increased activity. Fondant or candy boards and pollen patties should be fed. During warm periods, you can feed sugar syrup on external feeders. You can feed sugar syrup using internal feeders, but this requires opening the hive to replenish. We usually get a cold period around end of November to first of December and if the hive is weak, this is when you will lose it. Build and repair equipment and prepare for the next season during the winter.

Winter is the time to ask: what do I want to do next season, what have I learned, and what do I need to do differently?

Late February is when the spring build up begins. The queen should be starting to lay again in February and the hive population will be low due to winter losses. Continue to feed or step up feeding. Bees will be starting to run low on stores. The risk is having the bees starve in February or March. On warm days, bees will be out looking for pollen, nectar, and resin.

Heavy laying will occur around March 1. For a strong foraging force at the start of the spring nectar flow, brood production needs to be strong 45 days before nectar flow begins (mid-April). It takes 21 days for a worker to become an adult and it takes an additional 23 days for an adult worker to become a forager. Switch to 1:1 sugar syrup at this time. Feeding will need to continue until the spring nectar flow. We usually have a cold spell with snow in March up until early April. If the population is too low, you can find dead bees on top of honey.

The floral idea for the month was Vitex agnus-castus, also known as “Vitex”, “Texas Lilac”, “Chaste Tree”. The Vitex grows in up to Zone 7, and requires full sun or partial sun. The height reaches 10-15 feet with a width up to up to 15 feet. It is deer resistant and drought tolerant. However, it needs to be pruned after bloom and before forming seed to keep it blooming.

End of meeting (around 8:20 PM).