This page is a resource for Beekeepers of any experience. You will gain a lot of knowledge and these helpful insights are contributed by SC Beekeepers. Contributors to this section is from David MacFawn is a Master Beekeeper, Cynthia Robinson is a Journeyman Beekeeper, and Donna Fletcher is a Journeyman Beekeeper.
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Author: David E. MacFawn, Master Craftsman Beekeeper
There has been much discussion about walk-away-splits. A walk-away-split is where you split a strong hive; provision both parts of the split with honey, pollen, fertilized eggs, and day old larvae, and older brood. With the fertilized eggs and day old larvae, the bees will raise themselves another queen in the part that does not have a queen. There are antidotal reports of larvae older than a day old being used for emergency queens by the bees. Normally the part that does not have the queen should be larger. However, this does result in an emergency situation and often the queen produced is inferior to a grafted, supercedure or swarm raised queen. Often, a walk-away-split queen will be superceded after she starts laying, by the colony. Walk-away-queens are superceded more often that mated queens, but both are often superceded.
1I usually split the end of February / first of March. I am in the Midstate, South Carolina area. I have found splitting strong colonies the end of February / first of March time frame reduces swarming during the nectar flow that is usually from the first of April thru the second week in June in the Midstate area. Colonies normally only swarm once in the year and this is mainly during the spring nectar flow. During the end of February / first of March time frame queens are difficult to obtain and you will have approximately four to five weeks prior to the nectar flow to the first of April. Hence, I usually do a walk-away-split the end of February / first of March, with my workers starting to hatch around the middle of April. I usually still obtain a good crop of honey. If after the queen starts laying, and I end up with an inferior queen, I will replace the walk away queen with a mated queen. The walk away split should not be done until after the drones start flying.
When you let the colony raise their own queen it takes approximately 12 days to raise the queen ( you can shorten this time by using a queen cell) + a week to ten days or so for the virgin queen to mate + 21 days for the worker brood to hatch. This time schedule means you a looking at six or so weeks to get workers, which put you into mid-April. This will impact your hive productivity but not as much as if the colony swarmed on you.
Often, I will also split after the nectar flow is over in June. I normally treat for varroa after the nectar flow is over the first half of June since the queen is tapering off her egg laying but the existing bee numbers are high, and the varroa counts are on the increase. After treatment, I often will split my colonies if I am going to place them on cotton. It should be noted that treating prior to splitting results in having to treat one hive in place of two splits. Cotton blooms six weeks after planting which puts the bloom during July. Since I need immediate laying , I use a mated queen rather than doing a walk-away-split.
I often will also split again in August, after cotton, and before the soybeans start to bloom the end of August / first part of September. Again, I need an immediate laying queen, so I use a mated queen rather than doing a walk-away-split.
The middle toward the end of August, the bees start transitioning from their summer bodies to the winter bodies that contain more “fat” on their dorsal and ventral sides. Hence, you need to minimize a long period of no brood hatching, since this will impact the number of bees in the colonies going into winter.
What type of split you do, whether walk away or with a mated queen, depends on your time horizon to a great extent. The walk away split often produces an inferior queen that is superceded, but also a mated queen is superceded but less often. When a walk away queen starts laying, you can make a decision of whether to keep her or not. Walk-away queens are mated in the colony location, which does result in obtaining genetics from the local area. Using a walk away procedure can save you the cost of a queen but will cost you time. It should be noted that the bee numbers will dropping while a walk away queen is being produced that needs to be watched closely so you do not lose the colony. When making splits, you should feed both parts, especially the part that does not have the field bees. It will take several weeks for the split without field bees to build up their field force.
Mark Sweatman comments:
I am not a promoter of walk away splits. Comb condition (old dark comb
not easily formed into a queen cell), conditions may not be favorable to
produce an abundance of royal jelly, and maintaining proper temperature for
queen development (especially in early spring).
I think your points are valid
and correct. Emergency queens are OK if you evaluate the performance and
re-queen later if needed.
Author: David E. MacFawn, Master Craftsman Beekeeper
Originally we used solid bottom boards prior to Varroa mites in 1987. Prior to the separated bottom board from the brood chamber, we pulled the frames and scraped out the detritus / debris on the attached bottom board to the brood chamber. The modern Langstroth / Dadant hive incorporated a detachable bottom board from the brood chamber design but detritus / debris still collected on the solid bottom board, resulting in the bottom boards having to be scraped and cleaned every spring.
Early Version of Dadant Hive
Varroa mites were introduced into the United States in 1987. We looked for ways to deal with the mite using Integrated Pest Management Techniques (IPM) in addition to chemicals. Drs. Ellis, Delaplane, and Hood did some pioneering research on screened bottom boards that was published in 2001 . They found that Varroa populations in colonies treated exclusively with screened bottom boards were 14.9% lower than solid bottom boards; however, the difference was not statistical significant. Also, of significance, screen bottom boards did not require scraping in the spring, which was a positive side-affect. It was thought that mites would fall thru the bottom board screen and not be able to get back into the hive if there is at least a 2 inch gap under the bottom board, and a mite collection board under the screen would allow collection of mites, for mite infestation testing.
Bee Hive Woodenware – Kelley with a detachable bottom board
Solid Bottom Board – Dadant
Screened Bottom Board – Dadant
Since 2001 we have found that hygienic colonies chew the Varroa mite and a lot of the damaged mites fall thru the screen in addition to some healthy mites. We have also found that screened bottom board “sticky” boards tend to be unreliable single point indicators of Varroa levels. This variation is due to colony population level changes with respect to the bee year, hygienic colonies and non-hygienic colonies, dying colonies that result in varroa from the dying colonies invading healthy colonies, and the equipment stack configuration. Alcohol or detergent wash has been found to be more reliable than sticky boards with the analysis bees typically coming from the brood nest.
We have also found the reduction in the use of the bottom brood chamber due to the bees moving the brood nest further up the equipment stack which results in higher equipment cost.
Screened bottom boards also have additional cost of around $2.00 to $3.00 more than solid bottom boards.
These above items are versus the decrease ingress of mites into open brood cells.
Kerry Owen in the upstate area indicated:
• I have both solid and screened. We see no advantage to the screened as far as bees are concerned. However screened bottoms are light and easy on the back.
• We see NO difference in mortality in winter and mites are still there to the degree that some form of treatment is necessary. You have to treat to kill a small amount of mites just as a large amount of mites.
• I actually worked on Dr. Hood’s payroll during this time great research.
The Bee Well Team www.beewellhoneyfarm.com
• All, just catching up on this conversation. The best knowledge I know about this is from Harbo, J.R., and J.W. Harris. "Effect of screen floors on populations of honey bees and parasitic mites (Varroa destructor)." Journal of apicultural research 43.3 (2004): 114-117" © IBRA 2004 in which they conclude screens decrease ingress of mites into open brood cells which, of course, is necessary for mite reproduction. I don't think the "drop through the screen" hypothesis is well-supported.
The data suggest that mites were controlled to a significant degree by open-screen floors in hives. Open screen treatment was associated with the percentage of the mite population in brood (P-MIB) cells, and lower P-MIB has been related to lower mite populations (Harris et al., 2003). A lower P-MIB may be the mechanism that reduces mite populations in colonies with open-screen floors. We found a relationship between the presence of screen floors and a lower percentage of the mite population residing in brood cells. Colonies with open-screen floors produced significantly more brood than colonies with wood floors
• I am staying with screened bottom boards but not for the original thought of varroa mites falling thru the screen, but for the lower percentage of mites in brood hypothesis.
• Sticky boards have lost favor for me; with alcohol wash or detergent wash what I am going to use to count my mite loads rather than sticky boards. A wash to determine varroa levels is better and more accurate. A free fall mite drop past top bars / comb / etc. does not make for a very accurate count.
• Several people are using screen bottom boards in conjunction with an oil tray for Small Hive Beetles.
Ellis, J.D., Jr., K.S. Delaplane, and W.M. Hood. 2001. Efficacy of a bottom screen device, Apistan-J, and Apilife VAR-J in controlling Varroa destructor. American Bee Journal 141(11): 813-816. August 28, 2001
Dealing with the heat & humidity in the beeyards of SC
by Andrew Rausch
SUMMER CONFERENCE DOOR PRIZE ALERT!!
In South Carolina doing any amount of work in the bee yard during the months of June, July, and August is a guaranteed way of eliciting the unwanted salt water bath. I don’t mind heat, but I am strongly averse to its symptoms of drenched clothing and a lack of energy . . . so I guess you could say that I do mind heat but pretending to not mind it somehow makes it easier to deal with. So, feeling the way I do, I set an elusive goal of finding a way to stay as cool in the bee yard with a bee-jacket on as I would have been were I jacket-free and able to catch a passing breeze – because sometimes not wearing a bee jacket is not an option.
Well, that did turn out to be a bit of a high and lofty goal and not 100% achievable, but * * * DRUM ROLL PLEASE * * * I have found that with the combined use of a vented jacket and Black Ice Personal CoolSwap™ Wraps, I stay MUCH cooler. This is not to say that I don’t sweat, I’m still proficient at that (after all, how else would I know that I had done an honest day’s work?) but it has certainly done a lot to improve my morale and energy level. I can actually work with bees all day and come home simply tired but not utterly wiped out. I think most beekeepers know what a vented jacket is (if not, find a beekeeper buddy and ask—they probably know), but I would venture to guess that not as many know what a Black Ice Personal CoolSwap™ Wrap is, so I’ll explain (with some help from their website and my own comments interspersed http://blackicecooling.com/personal_cooling_ccx-s.html.)
* * * DID I MENTION THAT BLACK ICE WILL BE AMONG THE DOOR PRIZES at the summer meetings at Clemson University? This Is Not a Cooling Bandana, Block of Freezing Ice, or an Attempt to Give You Pneumonia!Soggy bandanas use evaporation for cooling, so they don't work well in high humidity. Black Ice gives you refreshing 57°F cooling—no matter the weather!
Black Ice is a comfortable two-piece personal cooling system worn on the neck. It comes with a soft neoprene wrap and detachable (hook-and-loop fasteners) cooling pack that delivers regulated 57°F cooling with a quick 20 minute recharge (so get 2 packs so you can switch them out).
Black Ice is unaffected by humidity ß that should get a southerner’s attention in summer.
Because some of you will have questions about Black Ice’s Personal Cooling Products, here are some FAQ straight from their website:
What's inside the Black Ice Personal Cooling Pack?
Smart Ice, the coolant contained inside the Black Ice Personal Cooling Pack, is a molecular alloy formulated to produce a 57°F temperature output once "charged." The material is chemically classified as a light mineral oil, so if you were to break a pack open (please don't do that), you would find a very thin, oily liquid.
How do you recharge Black Ice?
You can recharge Black Ice Personal Cooling Packs in any of three ways*:
Why does it only take 20 min. to recharge a Black Ice in ice water? Since the freezer is much colder, shouldn't the freezer charge a pack faster?
Good question–and there is a massively complex answer. But since heat transfer is a job we leave to the engineers and their annoying little calculators, we're going to paraphrase here (Please don't tell the engineers–They really hate the term paraphrase. . . .): Thanks to the physics of heat transfer, water transfers heat much more efficiently than air. That means heat is pulled from the pack faster in ice water, which makes it charge quicker.
Now, I know that some of you deal with the heat-humidity duo better than others, but a quick reminder of the warning signs of too much heat would be good for all of us. I personally know of an experienced beekeeper who suffered some of the more serious warning signs just last summer – let’s be proactive and avoid heat-related problems. The following symptoms and helpful hints are from www.medicinenet.com:
Symptoms of too much heat that indicate corrective action is necessary:
Dizziness, cramps or involuntary spasms of the muscles (usually in the legs), headache, nausea, difficulty breathing, rapid heart rate, loss of coordination, confusion or restlessness
Stay Cool, Stay Safe
*In case some of you are wondering, I do own 4 Black Ice Personal CoolSwap™ Wraps (in 2 colors) and I have 10 of the recharge packs and 2 of the soft-sided coolers – all bought and paid for by me. Do I believe in the product? Probably – just kidding, obviously I do! And no, I do not get anything for promoting them except for knowing that in the check-in packets for the annual summer meeting held in Clemson this July 23-25, there will be a picture of me wearing one and a discount code for you.
Address: 1362 Gravley Rd
City & State: Pickens, SC 29671
Andrew is a SC State Member and SCBA Update & INFO contributor
Article by Lawrence Welle
Pee Dee Beekeepers
South Carolina Beekeepers now have a new weapon in their arsenal in their war against Varroa mites! Oxalic Acid was approved by the EPA for use in beehives as a mitecide on March 10, 2015 and South Carolina quickly followed by approving its use May 26, 2015. What does that mean? It means SC beekeepers can now use what much of the rest of world was successfully using for greater than 20 years to combat mites!
What is Oxalic Acid and why is it good to have in our arsenal against mites? In short Oxalic Acid (OA) is a naturally occurring organic compound that is found in many leafy vegetables such as collards, spinach and rhubarb. It is what gives these items their bitter taste. It just also happens to devastate mites!
It is found that vaporizing a swarm, package, broodless colony or split with OA that OA will kill greater than 96% of phoretic mites (those are the mites that are on the bees, not in the brood). That’s an awesome number! Not only does it kill that super high percentage of mites, the vapor does NO harm to brood, bees or the queen and it does NOT contaminate the comb! The temperature range that one needs to apply OA in a vaporized form is just 37f; there is no upper limit as with formic acid. This is just about perfect for the SC beekeeper.
Now is the time to think about treating. Soon (if not already) the mites will begin to outbreed the bees. Without some form of treatment, you could easily lose your hive to mites. During late August, we recommend a 3 week regimen of OAV (Oxalic Acid Vaporization) treatments, once every five days as OAV will not kill mites in the brood. Within that treatment period, you will vaporize most of the phoretic mites and those that emerge with the bees and enter their phoretic period. We also recommend a one-time OAV treatment between Thanksgiving and Christmas during the broodless period (where all the mites are phoretic) so that your hives go into winter basically mite free. The two biggest killers of bees during winter are mites (and the diseases/viruses they bring with them) and starvation. Now we can control BOTH of these!
OvaVap.com specializes in the vaporization of OA. Vaporizers are the easiest method for applying OA by hobbyist and sideliners because there is no need to open the hive to treat! We presently carry two vaporizers. One is the Varrox. It is the one mentioned on Randy Oliver’s website as “one of the highest ranked.” It is truly the one “you’ll pass down to your son.” It is manufactured in Switzerland, has a world-wide patent and we import it here in the US. If you have 10 or more hives or just want the very best, the Varrox is for you. Our next vaporizer is the Varrocleaner. It is a high quality vaporizer for the hobbyist that has several hives. It is manufactured in Serbia.
Both units do an outstanding job of vaporizing mites. In production and testing is another vaporizer that is glow plug heated. It too is well suited for both hobbyists and sideliners alike. We hope to have it available for viewing and purchase at the conference at the OxaVap booth. Visit out booth at the conference to learn more about this great new form of mite treatment.
The only good mite is a Vaporized One!
Lawrence (Larry) Welle
1085 Virginia Pine Court
Manning, SC 29102
Years in beekeeping: 47
Currently running 30 hives
Have worked for commercial operations with greater than 4500 hives.
Have worked for a queen breeder that raises over 7,000 queens annually.
Presently: Owner of OxaVap LLC
US Distributor of the Varrox and Varrocleaner Oxalic Acid Vaporizers
Record Keeping by Digitization
by Andrew Rausch
DOOR PRIZE ALERT -- Propolis, gloved hands, and digital devices in the bee yard
The problem most people have with using anything digital in the bee yard is that, like anything else in the bee yard, it gets coated in that lovely mixture of stick, stain, and gum we call propolis which, incidentally, is nearly impossible to remove from certain items. There is, however, a way around this inconvenience. The use of a stylus makes touching your screen or keys, as the case may be, unnecessary and comes with the added benefit to people with fat fingers like I have, of hitting only one letter at a time.
While double entry finds usefulness in the accounting world, as a beekeeper I would just as soon avoid it if possible, but if I use paper to record hive inspections I know that I will have to copy my notes to the computer or risk not being able to find them later when I need/want them. For this reason, I prefer to put them on the computer or some digital device in the first place and not have to worry with moving them over when I get to the house.
All styli are not equal, some do well with sliding motions such as handwriting but poorly when it comes to pressing “buttons” on a touch screen and with others the reverse is true. One stylus that does very well with anything that I’ve tried it on is the Maglus stylus – you can see it here http://maglusstylus.com/product.php/5/Maglus_Stylus_Black -- though likely not the only one capable of great results, I have one that I really like so I did some asking and now I happen to have insider information that one of these will be given away at the July summer meeting at Clemson. The stylus not only works well as an extra (and clean) finger, but it also has a built in magnet that will work with several cell and tablet cases and comes with an extra magnet that can be adhered to a non magnetic cover or placed in the pocket of your bee jacket –like some of us already do to hole our hive tools.
Address: 1362 Gravley Rd
City & State: Pickens, SC 29671
Andrew is a SC State Member and SCBA Update & INFO contributor
by Andrew Rausch
You don’t dare ask the question. It has been pounded into every beekeeper’s head so that no matter which way you turn, you hear that “good records are essential.” I can’t help it--somehow the phrase “record keeping,” when used in relation to bees and beekeeping, conjures up images of someone standing next to a hive with a clipboard or of a person looking back and forth between that same clipboard and a computer screen inputting the data.
Now, if you thought that I was going to tell you that as a beekeeper you really don’t need records, I’m sorry to dash your hopes. I, too, believe good records are essential --but essential to what? Those of you who know me know that I firmly believe that a well-defined question is a half-solved question. So, as far as “essential to what” goes, it is understood that they’re essential to success, but there is still a problem because there are as many definitions of what success with bees is as there are beekeepers.
Beekeepers need the right tools for the job and keeping records or a running history of your bees and management techniques is nothing more than a tool to help you achieve your definition of success. Perhaps you keep no more than 3-5 hives and your goal is to make a little honey or just to have the most fascinating hobby on the block, then keeping records really won’t help you as much as those with larger apiaries—although your records could prove useful—but I won’t be the one to put you on a guilt trip.
Once you get past 3-5 hives, unless your memory allows you to play professional chess on the side recounting each move in order at the end of the game, it doesn't so much matter what your goals are—you're going to need something, namely records, helping you to avoid repeating past mistakes and to identify trends that you otherwise might not have noticed. But your records system needs to match your goals in order to help you achieve them. In other words, if you’re rearing queens, you could be tracking almost anything that has a genetic correlation as well as when the earliest point occurs that you can reliably produce well-mated queens; if your goal is commercial honey production, you'll want to be tracking which swarm prevention techniques work the best and when to employ them and things relating to pollen and nectar flows; and if your goal is simply to be the best beekeeper that you can be, you're probably going to fall somewhere in-between these two. The bottom line is that with the diversity of goals and personalities, there is no one-size-fits-all record system that I have discovered (yet).
So in the coming months, I plan to share a variety of systems as well as some tools that hopefully will make the task of record keeping easier – let’s face it, if it is cumbersome or time-consuming or difficult, we're much less likely to keep records regardless of how convinced we are that it is a good or even great idea. So if you have any tricks or tools for the job I would love to hear about them and I’m excited about some of what I have found and will be sharing. My email address is scAndrewRausch@gmail.com and I look forward to hearing from you.
Here in SC the Maples bloom usually around the end of January / first of February especially along the coast. The colonies usually do not need any additional pollen since there is an abundance of pollen usually. However, if you do use pollen patties to get them to build up early you would usually not need the pollen patties until mid-February. The nectar flow starts the end of March/first of April. I guess whether you feed pollen patties depends on what you want to do with the colonies; after the flow which ends around the end of May/first of June or move them prior to the flow to say California for the Almonds. Most colonies that starve are in the March time frame which means you would probably have to feed syrup if you feed pollen patties to get them to build up early.
Colonies start swarming around the end of February/first of March in SC when the drones start flying. If you feed pollen patties and syrup you had better be ready to make splits or other swarm controls. If you want to be ready to split the end of February, then feeding pollen patties mid-January would do it.
You will have issues with SHB if you feed patties in large quantity early. I found it best to place the patty directly above the brood nest in small quantities and feed patties more often to control SHB. Also keeping the colonies in direct sunlight helps. SHB issues are usually not a large issue in January/February.
You should start feeding in mid-January if you want to split the end of February/First of March. Tough to get queens much earlier unless you want to make a "walk away split" and let the bees raise their own queen. If they raise their own queen the first workers would emerge in the middle of April. This means that you will not have many bees if you are interested in catching the nectar flow in SC (end of March/first of April thru end of May/first of June). If you feed patties/syrup too early you will be spending a lot of money keeping the bees alive and not starving. You may want to a swarm cell if you split the end of February/first of March. Some believe using swarm cell will cause smarminess in your colonies.
Steve Tabor often thought about experimenting and feeding patties/ syrup early to see if he could make a super of honey off the maples the end of January/first of February. I do not know of anyone in SC that has successfully done that.
I have never fed patties starting in November thru the winter since I wanted the bees to build up naturally in the spring to minimize swarming and also time the nectar flow starting the end of March. Usually in SC there is something blooming throughout the winter with some source of pollen coming in. I do know that if you start feeding patties/syrup mid-January your bees will be "bubbling over" the end of February.
Often the colonies will have some brood in them year round in SC with the minimum amount of brood in the November/December time frame. As usual they start building up naturally starting in December.
Should you wrap you hives in the winter?
Wrapping hives is not necessary in SC. It rarely gets into the upper teens. As long as you have plenty of bees (about 4-5 frames in December), plenty of honey for the bees to eat and produce heat you will be fine. I do not worry about the cold in SC. I do worry about the wind though and make sure I locate my yards/hives with a wind break, on the S to SE side of a hill, etc. to protect them from the wind. The temperature inside the hive is usually a few degrees warmer than outside. The bees warm the cluster and not the inside of the hive. If you do not have 6-7 frames of bees in the September time frame the weak colonies should be either requeened or combined with a strong colony.
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