Beekeeping 2015 Season Recap

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It’s been busy year for me and for the bees. Managing 8 beehives has further exposed me to the amazing world of nature and to the issues and effects of the honeybee species are facing worldwide.
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This year has been trying to say the least. With all the effort I put in to installing, maintaining, and creating hives it is so discouraging to see issues plague my bees.  I’ve dealt with more problems than in years past. New problems. I can attest first hand about all these issues you hear about in the media as it relates to honeybees.
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Positives
– Harvested 17+ gallons of honey and was still able to leave the bees with plenty of honey for the winter
– Successfully split an over wintered colony into 2 hives, expanding my fleet
– Created 4 nucleus (or nuc) hives raising 4 queens from over wintered stick
– Gave away a quality queen I raised, spreading the genetics of a more locally adapted bee
– Collected a swarm of bees
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Negatives
– Discovered small hive beetles in 2 of 4 locations (make it hard for a colony to manage the hive, larvae consumes and spoils honey)
– Found small hive beetle larvae in frames I pulled for honey harvest. Had to return the frames to the hive and honey almost went to waste
– Mites heavily prevalent in several hives
– Brood disease that I have not seen before (likely result of mites, and/or poor bee packages)
– After going 4 years of beekeeping without losing a swarm while managing as many as 8 hives, I lost my first swarm from a very successful and productive colony (overwintered 2 seasons) in mid-September (very late in the season to swarm)
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In the future, I’d like to spend more effort on fighting mites and preventing them. I don’t believe in treating my bees with chemicals. It’s not good for the bees, the environment, or consumers of my honey. One thing I can do is allow the bees to build up their wax combs naturally rather than giving them a plastic foundation sheet to start building from. When the bees build their own comb they can more easily manage their colony through comb cell size. For worker (female) bees, the cell size is smaller. For drone (male) bees, the cell size is larger. Even for storing honey, the cell size is different. The plastic foundation sets a standard size (larger than a typical worker bee cell) and makes it more difficult for the bees to deal with varroa mites who thrive in large cells where they lay their eggs.
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Thanks to Matt Bierzychudek for joining me for extraction and an inspection taking these great photos featured in this post! More of his work can be found here.

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