Sunday, November 8, 2009

Beekeeper Mentoring Program

I traveled to Shirley Murphy’s Tennessee River home to help ensure that her bees were ready for winter. Shirley is beginning beekeeping through the Tennessee Beekeepers Association’s mentoring program which is matching 72 new beekeepers with seasoned beekeepers. While beekeeping literature, training sessions, and expert speakers available at beekeepers association meetings are valuable, a mentor can answer pertinent questions, identify what is being seen in the bee hive, and help plan the timing of beekeeping activities.

Shirley started her hive by installing a nucleus colony, a small colony of bees with a laying queen, brood, and workers covering a few frames of comb. She placed the bees in a hive that she built after attending the Memphis Area Beekeepers Association’s Forty-Fourth Annual Short Course in Beekeeping. She assisted the bees to draw out the comb on the frames of foundation by supplementing their foraging by feeding sugar water. Shirley is following many of the same procedures that I employ in attempting to care for the honey bees in a chemical-free manner. Her integrated pest management approach started with a queen bred from parasitic mite resistant stock. Her hive is placed above the ground for good air circulation and uses a screened bottom board for ventilation. Screens block robber bees from entering her top feeder while providing ventilation to the top of the hive. She traps small hive beetles inside the hive, removing the beetles without the use of any chemicals. We monitored the levels of the colony killing Varroa mites by removing drone brood pupae and counting developing Varroa. A frame of drone brood foundation is available for sampling mites and killing them by freezing. Shirley also tests for colony mite loads by counting mites on a sticky board. She has encouraged the reduction of mites by dusting the bees with powdered sugar. Her hive is now set-up for the winter with a prolific queen, a large population of young bees, and good stores of honey.

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