Utah Beekeeping (A work in progress)
By Tracie C. @ Jones Bee
Let me start with a back ground on our business, we started keeping bees near the capitol in the 1950’s. My uncle Richard brought them home and the love affair began. My grandpa Jones, Bill, was an engineer and for retirement he started commercially keeping bees. When I was a kid he had around 1000 colonies, I know that is not a lot but for me it was insane. My dad started working for the family business, Jones Bee Co., in 1988, before then he was a Manger for a trucking company, he liked making the honey contracts for supplying the bakeries here locally and delivering the honey. However we no longer service them. My dad and grandpa worked well together. Grandpa was in it for the bees, and my dad was in it for the honey; which I will define the difference as I go.
The short answer is:
Pollination: Got bees to pollinate your garden, don’t really want the honey.
Bee: Anything to save the hive, don’t care about the honey, or the pollination.
Honey: It’s all about the Honey, no matter what; it is about how much honey I get.
The differences will come as you start your journey.
First thing is having a sunny or mostly sunny spot to place your hive in; unlike everything you have found in reading. Here in Utah you want to place your hive where it will get the most sun throughout the day. In the shade, or partly shade we see an increase in Nosema, or diarrhea. Whereas in the sun we don’t really see it except when the bees start flying in the spring, but it usually passes in the first week of flight. If it doesn’t then we would recommend treatment with Fumidil B. We also see mold in our hives in the spring if they are in a lot of shade. For either, our first suggestion is to move your hive into a sunnier location, and if they where there last year and you didn’t see these problems, we ask what has changed; for example have you moved your camp trailer closer to them?
You are wondering if you can keep bees in your neighborhood I would check out http://www.rules.utah.gov/publicat/code/r068/r068-001.htm.
First Year Hive
You have been reading the internet, you have thought about this for a long time. Now there is so much information how do I know what applies to me? Well that is where we come in.
March: Preparation, finding bees for sell.
April-May: Next thing to know is that it does take time. When you first start with your bees in the spring (April) you are in your hive every 10 days treating with Terramycin (duramycin-10) to prevent foul brood. You’re also adding sugar water to feed your bees. It takes about 6 weeks (middle to the end of May) for the population to grow to the point that the second super (box) goes on Super one should have bees working on seven frames; if you wait until seven frames are full of brood, pollen and honey your hive may swarm. When I place my second super on the hive I move two frames of bees up into the new box so that the hive will find it sooner. At this point I am only in my hive about 2 hours every three weeks, or less. So far we only have what the bees need for them, at these boxes being filled. We are now at the beginning of the hot months.
June: Nectar plants are blooming. Plants such as: clover, alfalfa, Tamarix ramosissima, olive trees, honeysuckle, Russian sage, anise, and lavender.
July: Most have had their bees eleven to thirteen weeks, which means it is time to add third super. You have probably read that there are many choices to make for your third box.
1- Honey (Medium) super, out west is a 6 5/8” box.
2- Deep (Standard, or brood) super which is a 9 5/8” box.
3- Shallow super, eastern honey super which is a 5 3/4” box.
4- Ross rounds, which is round molds the bees build comb in, I haven’t had any luck with them. 4 1/2 - 4 5/8” box.
We have always done deep boxes; yes they get heavy but if you take along an empty box then place half the frames in it when pulling honey and they are not so heavy, or run all medium supers and this would be your fourth box. It should only take your bees 4 weeks to have the population fill the new a deep super, roughly.
August: During this month some may need to add another box, others may need to start extraction. I have found that I lose less honey if I spin my first load now. If there is not a lot in bloom I will definitely try to get it done.
Labor Day, September: It is time to get your honey off your hive, at the beginning of the month it only takes about 5 minutes to spin your honey at home. Towards the end of the month it can take as long as 45 minutes to spin out your honey at home. The colder the month the more your work increases, if it is warm it may not affect it as much.
· Should I leave all the honey for the bees?
o Boxes 1, 2 and possibly 3 are needed for the bees, if you use small boxes add one to each.
· Do I get honey the first year?
o Usually here in Utah you will, depending on locality, rain, heat, what is planted within a mile of your hive.
· How do I tell if it is honey or nectar?
o You can buy a refractometer and test your water content. In order for it to be honey it has to be 17% or less moisture content.
o Or you can do the tip test which is tipping your frame horizontally while holding the top bar. If it drips like honey you can spin it. If it runs like water that means it nectar so it is returned to the bees or stored for next year. It is recommended that you spin the uncapped honey separate from the capped honey.
§ That way if it is not exactly 17% or less it is not affecting the rest of the honey.
· How do I know if I can take the honey?
o If at least 70% of the frame or super is capped you may take it.
o Or passes the drip test/refractometer test.
· Should I treat my hive with mite treatment/ Terramycin before or after I take my honey?
o You should not treat for mites while the any food product is on the hive. However you should check for mites.
§ I recommend checking 10 cells, preferably drone cells because the mites go to the drone cells first, by sliding your capping scratcher or kitchen fork along the capped cells to pull out larva. Look for red to black dots (mites) on the larva. If less than 4/10 have mites, don’t worry about treating. If greater than 4/10 you need to treat.
o You should not treat for foul brood before you remove any food product; treat after removal.
· Should my bees be bearding after removal of the honey supers?
o Yes you should see some bearding on your hive after you remove 1/3 of their hive.
o If you are concerned about swarming: go in and check when you place your second treatment of terramycin on the hive for queen cells, you should not see any.
· Should I scrape?
o No! It takes 13% more effort to make the new wax than it does to make honey for the next year.
o Although if you only have 5 or less frames it may be easier than cleaning up your honey out of the extractor.
· Should I purchase an extractor?
o I personally recommend renting the first year, so if you decide you rather not do it again you didn’t have that 500 dollar purchase.
o If you purchase/rent/burrow an extractor I would take it to the carwash to clean it. That way the honey that you wash out of the unit doesn’t get tracked into your home on the souls of shoes at walk through your yard. Or clog your drains.
· Can I take somewhere to be spun?
o Yes, but you have no proof you are getting your personal honey back. Here at Jones, we mix it with others honey.
· Should and how do I filter it?
o Yes you should run your honey through a window screen size filter; no one wants a bee in their tea.
· Should I heat my honey?
o If you heat your honey have a thermometer ready because once heated over 120° F it is no longer considered raw.
· Where do I store the honey?
o I recommend storing the honey above 80° F or below 30° F to prevent the honey from crystallizing.
o I recommend not storing your honey in large bucket. Because if it crystallizes you have to dig it out of the big bucket, which is a chore you can threaten your children with. Not to mention in today’s society we are about convinces, large buckets are rarely convenient.
· How do you use an extractor?
o Is it a radial?
§ Uncap both sides of the frame, I recommend a cooler to do this, yes you can buy an uncapping tank, which works a little better.
§ Fill the extractor with the uncapped frames, start the motor, or crank, just fast enough to get the honey starting to fling out of the frames, as it gets lighter you can go faster, until most or all the honey is gone.
§ Figure 15-45 minutes per load. As September passes your time will grow also.
§ Motors that have too few rotations may take even longer to spin the honey.
o Is it a tangential extractor? This is what Jones Bee rents out.
§ Uncap both sides of the frame, I recommend a cooler to do this, yes you can buy an uncapping tank, which works a little better.
§ Leave the gate open to let honey drain while spinning
§ De-cap both sides of the frame set into extractor start with a speed fast enough the honey is flowing when the frame is half empty flip over and stay at the same speed once even speed up and finish second side, and flip and finish first side.
§ Should take 5 minutes per set in the extractor, as the month passes your time spinning will also increase.
· Where do I store my supers?
o Store your supers where they will freeze.
§ Storing your supers in the basement you may get wax moth in your home and your supers.
§ I recommend storing them outside in a shed/garage where water will freeze.
§ If you have the room you can purchase a deep freezer and store the drawn frames in it, which keeps out all unwanted pests.
September: If you have removed your honey it is time to treat with Terramycin (duramycin-10) again, we like to do at least three treatments, sometimes the weather changes to much to get the third on.
October: It is time to check weight, I recommend trying to lift the hive with just three fingers and see if you can move it, if you can’t don’t do anything. If you can, you have to make the choice if you feed all winter or replace your bees in the spring.
November through January: If not you are feeding, check weight same rule applies. Now if the weather outside is under 45° F do not remove your full top, if it is only 45° have everything ready time is of the essence. I recommend the in hive feeder so all you have to do is slide the top over and pour the feed into the feeder. If you have chosen the hive top feeder quickly place it on the hive.
President Day, February: Feed your bees. I use an eight pound sugar to four pound water ratio, with a pinch of cream of tartar. It is available in the hive, not the feeder, for 21 days.
Second Year Hive
Fall through winter: Even though in truth this the first winter these bees have been around for there comes a lot of questions with the change of seasons.
1. Do I wrap?
· This is a tricky question, there are points that I fill they need to be covered but as a permanent cover I personally would say no. One of my friends told me “if you are going to tarpaper your hive: do it before it is cold that way the bees know when it is cold.”
· By wrapping them you may through off their clustering instinct, which is the almost worse than letting them freeze. Which means they attempt to work on days that are less than 50° f., they will freeze in under 3 min usually outside the hive.
· Should I bury it in straw?
· I have not personally heard how well this works here. The one thing I see as a problem is checking weight, and feeding, other than that I would go make sure I didn’t have activity on days that is less than 50°, if you do remove some of the straw.
· Should I remove the snow from my hive?
· A lot of what is published says yes, I don’t usually remove the snow from my own hives, when they are here. Snow is an insulator. It will help keep the cold wind out of the cracks and as it warms up it will melt , if your hive is tipped so the entrance is higher than the solid back I would place a stick under the back of the hive so the water runs out and not in.
· Should I build a lean to for my hive? Surround with Hay/Straw?
· If you are in a windy location you may want to. However they still need what sun they can get to keep the heat in the hive.
2. Do I feed?
· What do I feed?
· I personally use a 2 sugar to 1 water; by weight, not volume, sugar feed, I have good luck getting it into my hives and them accessing it.
1. Volume is not always actuate. That is why I use the scale or 1 quart water to every 2 pounds of sugar, add a pinch of cream of tartar to keep from going rancid, fermenting turning into beer.
· Do I need Pollen patties?
· My family didn’t use pollen patties on their hives until they started going to California.
1. Utah’s trees are usually in bloom, leafs, from March to November, when you took your honey you should have seen some pollen in the cells, if your queen was having problems you may have frames of it.
2. Our hives don’t need high levels of brood in February. If you’re going to use pollen patties I would try to place them in the hive around New Years Day. I would place only 1/2 per hive.
· Do I make a sugar cake?
· I have heard customers here tell me their bees eat about half of one, my dad took some hives to California that had the sugar cake and for whatever reason left the hive, the other 100+ hives around the ones that where void of bees didn’t seem to have robbing on the sugar cake, so I don’t know if I personally will attempt them, if someone wants to send information on how their personal hive did and what formula was used I will add it for others to have an opinion on what to make of using them.
· Why can’t I use my entrance feeder?
· The entrance feed does work well in the spring, however in the fall when temps drop the bees are not as able to get out to them, it must be 50° f., for the bees to leave the hive and collect the sugar feed, which is why I use an in-hive feeder. I know there are those that say you lost honey having it in your hive, but my hives generally don’t get to the ‘outside’ frames anyway.
· Do I need Honey Bee Vitamins or similar?
· My family has never used the additives, if someone wants to send information on how their personal hive did and what formula was used I will add it for others to have an opinion on what to make of using them.
3. Do I need to treat for mites?
· If you have checked for mites and seen over 40% infestation, Yes treat.
· Ways to check:
1. brood count, described above.
2. Powdered Sugar place 1/4 powered sugar in to a canning jar and catch at least 10 bees, shake until the bees are covered in sugar. Let them go, add water to the jar, the sugar will float and the mites will sink, count them same rules apply.
3. A screened bottom board. There is a grid paper you can purchase which has glue on it that the mites and other stuff get stuck to, you count so many inch squares and divide the mites by that number which is suppose to tell you how infested you are.
· What is the recommended treatment?
· Don’t stay brand or chemical loyal use different one every year.
· As odd as it sounds, they are all hard on your queen, I try not to treat until March. However, if your counts are up then yes treat.
1. Apistan: (Tau-fluvalinate) When you read the instructions it says place one strip per every 5 frames bees, I usually only use 2 strips per hive, it seems to get the job done, and seems to be one of the more mild on the queen.
a. 6-8 weeks needs to stay in hive.
b. May have problems in October/November removing it.
2. Sucrocide: (Sucrose Octanoate Esters) Mix 3 tablespoons with one gallon water and spray (weed spray bottle preferred) every bee.
a. Makes them upset.
b. Need to treat three times.
c. Weather should be no less than 60° f.
3. Apiguard: (Thymol) Suggested to place one of two treatments above the brood box for two weeks, pull out and place two of two in for 2 weeks or until fully evaporated.
a. Needs to be 60° F. or don’t fully release chemical.
b. Plan on re-queening in the spring. I usually use this one and it seems to be hard on the queen.
4. Api Life Var: (Thymol) In this form it is a tablet. Cut it in half long ways, then cut it in half the other way, take each 1/4 piece and break it up into 4 equal halves, place one on each corner of the brood nest for 10 days, repeat don’t clean up, 10 days later repeat, 12 days after that brush off any remaining residue.
6. Mite Away: Need to wear the recommended safety equipment for acid, I personally won’t use anything that I need a gas mask.
7. Hopguard: (made from hops) Natural treatment, haven’t used.
8. Checkmite: I know is used for the beetle, which we are just starting to see.
· Should I use essential oils?
· I have heard a lot of mixed comments on this one, my over all recommendation is do the same type of count before and after and if your numbers are lower then go for it, if not use something else as with all other treatments.
4. How much honey do they need?
· 70 pounds. Which is 7-8 full frames, not just honey is usually on the frame. So for example: Your hive has approx 7 frames 75% full of honey, 3 nearly empty frames, 1 feeder, 9 frames that are 25%-33% full of honey, so the 7 would equal 5 and 1/4 frames, the 9 would equal 2 and 1/2 which is at least 7 and 3/4 frames, as long as the empty ones are on bottom box your hive should be okay until February.
· How many frames of honey/brood should I leave?
· The honey is answered above; the brood should be 4 or more in September. The queen should have some cells available not on the edge to still produce eggs in. The bees she is making now are the ones that get through the winter.
· If there is not any space for her it produce eggs in, you may honey bound your hive and kill it.
5. How do I care for a dead hive?
· How do I tell what killed my hive?
· Foul brood?
· Bad Queen?
· Over motherly?
· Too hot?
· Too cold?
· Chalk brood?
· Weather snap?
· Fermented Sugar?
· How do I clean my hive?
6. How many boxes do they really need?
7. Should I replace my queen?
8. Fall splits?
9. How cold is too cold to check on my bees?
10. How frequently should I check to see if they are alive?
11. Does having them at higher elevations affect the outcome of my hive?
12. Do I need to worry about the inversion in January?
13. What happens when the weather suddenly snaps?
14. What do I do if I see robbing?
15. How do I store my spun honey boxes?
· How do I treat for wax moth?
· Should I use paramoth crystals?
16. Do I need an entrance reducer?
Weeds Vs. Gardens:
Screen bottom boards
All Medium Box Differences
Double Queen Hives