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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
|The answers and information listed here is what
we have learned after observing our bees for many years within the environment
that we live in with our beekeeping practices.
Everyone knows that genetics, environment and treatment changes
animal behaviour in people, pets and livestock. The same can
be said about bees.
For example, most times we can work our bees without a veil on, but there are a few specific hive locations in our beeyards that no matter how many times we change the genetics of that hive, the hive is still cranky. Most likely the environment is affecting them, whether it is wind or something else. Likewise, when we use that same gentle genetic stock for cell builder hives they also become nasty because we are going into them several times a week. Those hives are reacting to how we are treating them.
So, read the information here, read other information elsewhere, but remember to always read your bees and act appropriately. They have their own personality and may not have read the same information that you have.
Start small and get your feet wet first. Take the Beginner Beekeeping Course and or go visit a beekeeper who is willing to host you. See if you REALLY want to do it. Think about how much money and time you want to invest. Read a lot of local beekeeping information and talk to local beekeepers. It is not the same keeping bees in Saskatchewan as in the United States or other parts of Canada. For example, some articles I have seen circulated recommend that you not take honey from a hive the first year. To follow that advice in Saskatchewan would mean that you would potentially kill your hive because it would swarm, perhaps multiple times. A good rule of thumb is to look to similar climates where you would get gardening advice for Saskatchewan as a source of beekeeping advice. If you think you still want to become a beekeeper, start with one or two hives. Two hives gives you the ability to steal from the good one to fix the other if something goes wrong. Buy new standard equipment or make sure the equipment has been used recently and has been inspected by the official bee inspector in your area. Ask to see the certificate of inspection that they are required to get before they sell the equipment. I've known hobby beekeepers that have bought equipment from a local beekeeper that was retiring or getting out. Often, they received AFB (American Foul Brood) at no extra cost. You don't want the experience to end badly before it even starts. Standard equipment is easy to get and resell as opposed to special equipment. Pay attention to your bees. Neither your neighbours nor your local beekeepers will appreciate it if your hives start swarming or spreading diseases because you weren't paying attention. As you learn what to do, grow gradually. Have fun! Bees are addicting and fascinating. Beware that you might get hooked!
4. Who from or where should I get bees?
We are selling nucs through the Regina Bee Club. We sell queens.
6. What is the difference between nucs and packages?
A nuc (short
for nucleus hive) is a small colony of bees usually on 3 -6 drawn
combs. The queen is already laying and there is a few combs of
brood already. A nuc is sourced locally as they cannot be
mailed. Ask whether it is a local or foreign queen. They
are typically more expensive than packages because they are already
significantly farther advanced than a package and it includes some
equipment (some drawn combs). Make sure they have a valid current
inspection certificate so that you are not buying diseases for no extra
cost. All nucs are not created equal - reputation is an important
guiding post in the sourcing of nucs.
A package of
bees is usually 2-3 lbs of bees with a queen. When they are
received, the bees and queen must be put into equipment to start
them. The population of the colony will continue to drop for
weeks because the queen does not start laying immediately and it is
only when those new bees hatch that the population starts to
grow. Typically, they arrive earlier in the spring from offshore
(New Zealand or Australia). They have been inspected before they
come into the country. They must be fed. My experience with
packages is extremely limited.
top7. How can I get your stock if I can't get nucs?
you can't source nucs, you will have to get packages. You should
then replace the queen in the package with one of our queens. If
you buy a queen she will start laying eggs. Her first bees will emerge
3 weeks from when the first egg was laid. In about 6 weeks, most of
the workers will have been replaced with her progeny. Therefore in 6 weeks you will have our stock.
8. Why don't you supply queens before the first Monday in July?
We control both the maternal and paternal lines of our breeding. It takes about 35-40 days for drones to get from egg laid until sexually mature. Each queen should mate with up to 40 drones. That means that we must flood the area with sexually mature drones during good weather to get properly mated queens. Then research indicates that a queen should be left to lay for a while before putting her in a cage. Saskatchewan springs are difficult to predict when they will arrive. There would be no point in raising queens, if we didn't allow 1 month for drones to mature and another month for queens to get mated and start laying. It is safe to predict that queens will start laying drones by the end of April, but in this part of Saskatchewan, it would be irresponsible for me to assume they would start laying them before that. It would be possible, but not probable. Therefore, we know that we can promise well mated queens in July, but it is a gamble with Mother Nature to promise them before that.
top9. How should I introduce a queen?
10. How do you overwinter your hives?
Outside in singles, 5 frame nucs and mating nuc hives. See the following articles for more information:
11. Is there enough space in a single for a queen to lay eggs?
A standard comb is approximately 78 worker cells wide by 42 worker cells deep on each side of the comb. In our singles we have 9 combs.
78 cells x 42 cells x 2 sides x 9 combs = 58968 cells
Each new worker occupies a cell 21 days from the day that the egg is laid until the adult hatches.
58968 cells / 21 days = 2808
A queen would need to lay 2808 eggs per day to fill up the single with brood. While she might be able to do that for a very short time, she cannot sustain that. So, yes there is enough room for a queen to lay eggs.
However, there is never enough room for large patches of drone cell. Nor during the summer is there room to store excess unused crystallized honey.top
12. What is the difference between running a single versus a double?
of all a single is when you only give the queen 1 standard sized brood
box to lay in all year round versus a double is having 2 standard sized
Here is a link to a powerpoint presentation that I did for the Regina Bee Club about the difference.
13. What are the signs of a queenless/not queen right hive?
Beekeeping is an art as much as a science. The following are signs that a hive is queenless, but depending on the time of year or beekeeper behaviour they could also indicate something else.
|We have used and continue to use depending on the situation:|
15. What is the best method to strip honey from a hive?
depends. We use each of bee escapes, bee blowing, tip off and
brushing combs depending on the situation. We use bee escapes
most often, but we use blowing to empty the bee collection boxes from
our warm room. We also sometimes use tip off or brushing to strip
honey from our queen mating nucs or cell builder hives. I'll give
you the advantages and disadvantages of each so that you can make up
your own mind. (I'm not qualified to evaluate fume boards. I
have only used them once when I was helping another beekeeper.
That particular day, we finally started brushing off each comb because
it was quicker.)
16. What do you know about top bar hives?
have hit on an area of knowledge that I have read about but don't
understand. I don't understand how to get bees for them.
Because they are not standard, you can't get a nuc to transfer
into them. Because it takes about 10 lbs of honey to make one
pound of wax and packages come in too early in our season to
successfully get the bees to draw the wax (which they have to before
they can make new bees), I don't know how you get bees for them.
They were designed for Africa where they could easily catch a swarm
because of the race of bees.
don't understand how you can get the bees to stop making drone comb on
a top bar hive. Every time we stick an empty frame into a hive
either by design or accident they draw it to drone comb. That
works great for us because we then use that as a way to catch varroa
mites. We stick an empty frame in. They draw it to drone.
We pull it out before the drones hatch so that we can destroy the
mites. Drone cell is a mite producing factory, and I don't want
that. But, I don't understand how you stop it in a top bar hive.
And therefore, I don't understand how to get them to live through
the winter with all the mites.
do you get the combs out to inspect them? I've never seen a hive
yet that doesn't build bridge comb. How do you cut the bridge
comb and get the comb out without tearing it to pieces. It's hard
enough when the combs have a wooden frame holding the wax together.
don't understand how you stop the wax from bending over, particularly
on a warm day and falling off the frame when you inspect the combs.
I've had that happen when I've been dealing with swarms and I
don't know how to stop it then and I don't know how you would stop it
in a top bar hive.
do you separate the honey from the brood without injuring the queen or
disturbing the hive? Again this is based on me not have been able
to figure that out in swarms either.
Why can't I just replace the foundation in my frames regularly to ensure that I don't have residues in the wax?
So, I'm sorry that I have more questions and no answers, but I truly don't understand top bar hives. I know that they were designed for Africa, a very different climate where the people were poor. They were cheap and would allow them to keep bees with little investment. But that is the only thing that I understand about top bar hives.
Flow hives were designed in Australia, a very different climate. Given that a Saskatchewan hive can fill a flow hive in 24 hours with nectar, I'm not sure how you could use it in Saskatchewan without either removing nectar rather than honey or making your bees swarm.
There is a good article in the Regina Bee Club Newsletter that evaluates it.
only successfully requeen themselves about 50% of the time. If
that weren't the case, bees would have taken over the world long
ago. If you just let your hives swarm, you are just as likely to
kill them as they are to survive because of that 50% chance. The
stronger a hive is, the more bees there are pollenating. A strong
hive is achieved by properly managing your hive. That requires
time and work. Finally, we did not get Varroa for decades because
we were isolated from other beekeepers. Even though we are close
to Alberta, there were no beekeepers in between the border and our bees
so Varroa did not cross that border to us. Now, that is no longer
the case. There are so many beekeepers that you cannot keep your
bees isolated. The beekeeper who does not manage their bees, but
instead just lets them swarm, spreading their diseases with them is not
a friend of either the bees or the beekeepers.
Revised: March 30, 2017.
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Original Design & Graphics by Karen Pedersen
Photographic images are under copyright and used with permission of John Pedersen or Karen Pedersen