August 24, 2020
At last you have decided what kind of hive you are going to use, what kind of bees you want to start with and are ready to move forward. Now what!
New beekeepers seem to fall into two main categories, those that think all they have to do is set out a box and get out of the way and they will be harvesting a ton of honey next week and those that “know” they have to manage every aspect of the colonies life. Truth is neither is true. Years ago, before the arrival of the Varroa Destructor, most bee keepers had very little interaction with their hives beyond harvesting honey and catching swarms, this is what I have heard anyway. But today things are different as I have noted in other posts the arrival of the varroa and the shb changed everything.
There are few hard and fast rules in beekeeping and the common saying is that if you put 10 beekeepers in a room and ask a question you will get 12 answers and a whole lot of “well it depends”. And this actually makes sense. Every location is different, food sources, distance to water, and exposure to chemicals all have an effect. Then add in beekeepers management practices and even bee traits and you start to realize there are a lot of ways to accomplish raising healthy productive hives, just like there are a lot of ways to do your bees serious harm.
So, what are the real rules, well it depends, not really I only have one thing that I consider to be a “RULE” and that is to have a Varroa management plan. Other than it being effective enough that you are not spreading mites to the other bees around you I am not too concerned with what your plan is. If you want to go treatment free and use drone removal and splits to maintain your bees go for it. BUT just saying that you are raising survivor bees and letting your bees die every year is not a plan. There are experts out there using controlled selective breeding and artificial insemination that will eventually greatly reduce our need to manage the mite but we are not there yet.
The Florida Master Beekeeper Online program recommends inspecting your colonies every 7 – 10 days during production season, every 2 – 3 weeks during summer and early fall and then as needed during the winter. For a new beekeeper it is often hard to stay out of a hive for 7 days but beware every time you open a hive you are creating circumstances that could cause your hive to perish. Simply pulling the wrong frame too quickly can cause damage or death to your queen and all of the bad things that go along with that. Inspect your hives, manage them but let them be bees as well. A lot can be learned about a colony just by watching the outside of it and comparing it to other hives and how it looked previously.
Except for the Varroa stuff most of what we beekeepers do is for the good of the beekeeper not for the good of the bee. A saying I like is that if it does not happen in a bee tree it is for the beekeeper not the bee.