Sunday, January 2, 2011

Winter Bee Yard Work

Cold winter days are good times to work around the bee yard without disturbing the bees. The honey bees remain clustered inside the hive whenever the temperatures are below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. As long as we don’t open a hive or strike one, the bees will remain inside, allowing us to safely do certain tasks that may be much more difficult when the bees are active outside the hives. It may be necessary to move a bee yard. Beekeepers should pay attention to the performance of each bee yard. A significantly reduced honey crop or a large number of colony losses may indicate that external factors are affecting the hives in this bee yard. Honey yield and colony health are greatly affected by agricultural practices on surrounding farms, and by horticultural practices of nearby communities or golf courses. Farmland may change in use according to crop rotations. Crops like soybeans, alfalfa, and cotton that produce nectar may be replaced by rice, corn, or wheat that produce no nectar. Farms, suburban lawns, and golf courses are capable of overusing pesticides dangerous to honey bees. If one decides that it is important to move a bee yard, the hives can usually be lifted by two people. The hives usually weigh considerably less in the winter than at other times of the year. Simply place a strap around the entire hive to hold the hive bodies, bottom board, and cover in place; and lift the hive as a unit. The entrance may be blocked with foam rubber.

Other winter bee yard tasks can include repairing damaged hive stands, cutting brush and limbs, and making changes to improve beekeeper access to the hives. Recent cold days gave me the opportunity to build additional hive stands in a distant bee yard to accommodate swarms. We don’t place colonies with unknown genetics or possible diseases in our bee yards used for raising queens and drones. Extra blocks keep rails from warping before the stands are used.
--Richard

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