Beyond Beginning Beekeeping Course – Phil Craft, instructor

You may have taken some beginning beekeeping classes, or you may have been keeping bees for a while, but realize that there is a great deal more to learn. Modern beekeeping, while not rocket science, is complex and vastly different from the beekeeping of our grandfathers. Beekeepers face new challenges from diseases and parasites in addition to threats from outside forces such as loss of forage and suburban expansion. Education is the most powerful tool available to anyone seeking to become a successful beekeeper – not just someone who owns bees. While many resources are available, including medications, nutritional supplements, and innovations in equipment, knowing when and how to make use of them is vital to maintaining healthy hives. Phil Craft has been educating and assisting beekeepers for over 15 years. He will share his experience in this one day beekeeping course, including instruction on the following topics:

• Honey bee biology review
• Varroa mites: monitoring & control
• Common queen problems & solutions
• Honey bee nutrition
• Small hive beetle & wax moth control
• European foulbrood
• Reducing swarming
• Yearly management outline

The format is designed to allow time for questions as they come up during classes, and there will be an additional period for an informal question and answer session at the end of the day. Lunch is on your own. There are a number of fast food restaurants within a short drive for those who wish to go out to eat, and a microwave and refrigerator are available for anyone who prefers to bring food and continue our discussions over lunch at the facility. Continue reading

Beekeeping classes by the University of Kentucky’s Ecological Research and Education Center (EREC) and Phil Craft.

I’m working with the University of Kentucky’s Ecological Research and Education Center to conduct beekeeping courses this spring. Classes will be held in Lexington. I’ll be doing all of the instruction, and class sizes will be kept small (40 maximum).

On Saturday (February 24th), we’ll have an all-day beginners’ course, and in April an advanced course. There is still room in the beginner course for additional participants. See: Course information. All those attending the beginner class will receive a free copy of the beginner beekeeping primer First Lessons in Beekeeping, by Dr. Keith Delaplane, and will have an opportunity to purchase nucs or packages of bees at a discount.

Additional information regarding the advance class will be available soon. Let me know if you wish to receive more information on the advanced course as it becomes available.

12″ of snow on the ground today

Need I say more. Not spring yet, maybe in a couple of weeks?

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Checked hives today – they are ALL alive!

It was warm enough today to take the covers, and inner covers, off my hives today, and to observe what it looks like inside my hives. I call this popping lids, the earliest spring beekeeping activity I do. Yeah, i know, it is not really spring, but it was about 50 ͦf, and bees were flying to my bee water supply. I DID NOt pull frames, this check is only to see what hives are alive, and to get an idea of colony strength. I do this by noting the size of the cluster, in the top box. Typically, this time of year, the bees have moved into the top box.

All colonies reported to be alive and well! No winter losses, so far, but they looked OK.

Sometimes we can be fooled as to whether a colony is alive or not by bees flying from the hive. I ask beekeepers: are they flying “in and out”, or “out and back  in”? There is a difference. By observing the cluster, I know my girls are all flying out and back in.

I also placed a winter patty, which I had purchased from the local Dadant branch, on the top bars of the op box. This is similar to bee candy, and will give them a boost, if food stores are low.

Finally, I warn new beekeepers about opening hives and pulling frames very early in the spring. There is the danger of disturbing the cluster, and little to learn. Hold off on pulling frames until we get extended periods of above 60 ͦ F weather. It will come, I hope soon.

 

Beekeeping class in Lexington, KY – Instruction by Phil Craft

In cooperation with the University of Kentucky’s Ecological Research and Education Center (EREC), a one day beginning beekeeping class will be held on February 28th (Saturday), in Lexington, Kentucky. All instruction will be provided by Phil Craft. Registration will be limited to 40 participants, and pre-registration is required. The class will cover:

A brief introduction to honey bee biology and behavior: Beekeepers manage their colonies through an understanding of basic honey biology. The course begins with these fundamentals.

How beekeepers keep bees: Beekeeping is much more than getting a hive and some bees and placing them in your backyard. Even though our grandfathers may have done it that way, modern beekeeping requires management – much like keeping other, larger livestock. Beekeepers must monitor, and sometimes intervene, to keep their bees healthy and productive. This phase of the course offers an overview of what this management involves.

An introduction to beekeeping equipment: The first step in owning your own hive is the purchase of the hive itself, along with protective clothing, and a few other pieces of essential equipment. This portion of the course will demonstrate the equipment and provide information on where it can be purchased, and estimated start-up costs.

Getting started as a beekeeper: Once you know the basics, you’ll need to know where to get bees, and how to go about setting up a hive. We’ll cover where to locate a hive, where to purchase bees, and how to install them.
• 1st year hive management: The final section of instruction will be an overview of management issues, including potential problems which may arise in the first year of beekeeping.

Question & answer session: Before we disperse for the day, you will have an opportunity to ask additional questions in an informal question/answer session.

The course will be held from 9:00 AM to 4:30 PM at the University of Kentucky’s Ecological Research and Education Center (EREC) at 1737 Russell Cave Road in Lexington. Find out more about EREC at http://darwin.uky.edu/~erec/.

Course material provided will include handouts, the beginner beekeeping primer First Lessons in Beekeeping, by Dr. Keith Delaplane, and Phil’s contact information for follow-up questions and opportunities for future instruction.

The course fee is $40; pre-registration is required; class size will be limited to 40 participants. Contact Phil for at phil@philcrafthivecraft.com for a registration form, or for more information.

Beekeeping in Montana

MT_OCT14_92 Hives Last week found me in Lewistown, Montana, attending and speaking at the annual Montana State Beekeepers convention. Montana is one of the largest producers of honey in the United States. In 2013 almost 15 million pounds of honey was produced by beekeepers in Big Sky Country. One might think that this very northern state, Montana’s northern border is with Canada, would not be a great area for honey bees. While the winters are very cold in Montana, in summer the plains explode into color with blooming plants, including yellow sweet clover. Coupled with extremely long days, which give bees more time to haul in nectar, production of 200 pounds per hive is not unusual.

More interesting facts about Montana beekeeping:

• Montana has only about 200 (registered) beekeepers. Of this 200, 36 are commercial beekeepers, who are responsible for the vast majority of the 14 million pounds of honey production. This equals about 417,000 pounds (35,000 gallons) of honey per beekeeper.

• There are approximately 145,000 hives in Montana, again the vast majority – if not all (the small scale beekeepers may not be included in these hive count statistics) – are owned by these 36 commercial beekeepers. This equals about 4000 hives per beekeeper, which does not surprise me. Often when I am at meetings where there are large numbers of commercial beekeepers, I’ll hear I’m only a small beekeeper, I just have 1,500 hives!

• With production of 15 million pounds and 145,000 hives, we get an average yield of 100 pounds per hive, which many beekeepers would consider excellent. However, I had beekeepers at this year’s Montana state meeting tell me that this year (the statistics I have been quoting are for previous years – 2014 information is not yet available), many hives yielded 200 pounds this year. the best production was in Eastern Montana, due to better rainfall.

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Nectar flow is on

We are having a good nectar flow in my area, south of Lexington, Kentucky. I started putting honey supers on a month ago, which was later than most years. As in much of the Eastern U.S., we had a hard winter and late spring, my hives were also behind in April, but have caught up now. I’ve had some swarming, but have at least 1-2 full supers on all of my stronger hives, including those that swarmed. Like a lot of beekeepers, I had a couple of what Randy Oliver calls “dinks”, hives that for some reason, are slow at building up, but even these seems to be putting some nectar into supers now.

We had a nice black locust bloom in my area, which started a couple of weeks ago, but storms last week knocked off most of the flowers. I am seeing a lot of white clover blooming now. We’ve had enough rain that blooming should continue. Drought can slow things down quickly. I was north of Lexington last Tuesday and saw a nice locust bloom there, the beekeepers told me it was just starting. This is a difference of about 50 miles, north – south.

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Here is a photo of my son standing next to one of our hives, taken on May 23rd. Five of those honey supers were full on that day and we added two more. These supers are 10 frame supers, but only have eight frames in each super. All of them were placed onto the hive with drawn comb. I’ll also comment that I did not feed any syrup last fall or spring, I did no spring manipulations – no reversing hive bodies or moving comb around. I did do a thorough check of my hives, both early in the spring and last fall. The inspection last fall included varroa mite monitoring.

By far the most important management task that I undertook was treatment for varroa, this was done last fall, after monitoring.

Winter loss of colonies – dead bees and why did my bees die?

It is finally looking like spring at my old Kentucky home, bees are flying, a lot of blooming underway, bees are bringing in nectar and pollen, and I am putting honey supers on my hives. However, I continue to receive questions about colonies lost this past winter. Winter is rough on bees, winter colony losses occur in hives in nature (trees), as well as in managed colonies. Our role as honey bee shepherds, or beekeepers, is to help our bees survive better than in nature. 

Below are a couple of photos of what beekeepers often see when opening colonies that have died out in winter. The first (below) shows dead bees with their head down in the cells.


 

Dead bees in that position indicate starvation, even though there was stored honey elsewhere in the hive. The other is a very small, baseball sized cluster of dead bees.


I’m certain that the low population contributed to the colony’s final demise. It is not unusual to see clusters of starved bees, in the winter or early spring, inches from honey.

When I speak to beekeepers about helping our bees get ready for winter, I talk about three major issues: 1 – numbers of bees, 2- food stores, and 3 – colony health. Continue reading

Bee Informed Partnership annual surveys

To my fellow beekeepers,

While we have a lot of great honey bee research going on at our state universities, I am greatly impressed by the work of a group called the Bee Informed Partnership or BIP. Based at the University of Maryland, one of the primary roles of the BIP programs is collecting and analyzing information of honey bee health and colony losses, including management practices that may contribute to better health of our colonies. One of the important tools of this data collection are annual surveys of winter colony losses and management practices. I encourage ALL beekeepers to participate in these surveys. The surveys can be filled out on line, Continue reading

Federal program for honey bee losses

I received this press release today, announcing a federal government program for reimbursements for livestock losses – the ELAP program, which includes honey bee colonies. For more information, you can see the 2014 Farm Bill fact sheet, but there is not a lot of information there. Alternate and perhaps best source of information is contacting your local Farm Service Agency office. I’m attaching the link for state FSA offices, from the state office webpages, you may locate your local office. Sign-ups for the program begins April, 15, 2014.