Letters to the Editor
Letters to the Editor - March 2014
Wrapped for Winter
North Liberty, Ind.-The thousands of honey bees in each of these hives can snuggle up thanks partly to warmth inducing black tar-paper wrappings on each hive helping them also to survive the winter.
Wrapping is just one action taken to sustain some 90% survival of my colonies the past two winters.
Here is a check-list of some other actions taken:
- Insulating inside over the inner cover flush with 2” Styrofoam, cutting an air channel from the inner cover hole to the 3/8” x 3/4” opening at front of inner cover for ventilation.
- Leaving ample stores of honey, using the three-deep hive body system (*) for food and early spring population build-up. No nutrition-short corn syrup or sugar water is necessary.
- Breeding from our area’s survival stock. No imported stock from out of our area.
- Avoiding use of chemicals.
- Assuring in-hive water availability during the flight season.
Benefits of these efforts include far above average honey crops and hive survival, both exceptions to media horror stories of colony collapse.
(*)The year around three-deep hive body system, although expensive initially due to cost of 10-frame hive bodies and giving up a first time investment in honey not taken, is a practice perfected by Tim Ives, North Liberty beekeeper.
North Liberty, IN
Beekeeping Among the Redwoods
I read with interest the article entitled “Beekeeping in the Shadow of the Redwoods” in the January issue of American Bee Journal. I lived for ten years in the Central Valley of California and the coast redwoods was my favorite place to go on short vacations. The redwood trees are awe-inspiring and one of God’s greatest creations. My wife loves the ocean so there was something there for both of us.
I worked for Wenner Honey Farm during package season in 1979 to 1981. Clarence Wenner still had some queens from a race of bees obtained in the coast redwood country. These bees were very black, somewhat ill tempered, very nervous and ran when you opened the hive, and prone to American foulbrood. That was their bad qualities. These hives would shrink to an extremely small population for overwintering, but would grow explosively in the spring. They would regularly have a mother and daughter queen in the same hive. I can recall having a mother queen on one side of a frame and a daughter queen on the other side of the same frame. Clarence sold some of these queens and he said that they performed fantastically up in Alaska.
Four years ago, I was visited by a hobby beekeeper who lives in the Eureka area. He told me that he had caught some swarms that were much the same as the bees that Clarence Wenner had. He also said that he killed the queens because the overwintering population was so small that he thought that they were weak queens. So, probably these bees still exist. Though there was no mention of these bees in the article about Mr. Oostra, I thought that this information might be interesting. Perhaps Kees Oostra may run across these bees. They may be worth propagating and have something to contribute to the gene pool of bees in North America.
David Ellingson, Ortonville, Minnesota, shows off his 2013 Harley Street Glide, with a paint job designed by himself. The front and sides reflect a honey and beekeeping theme. Dave parked his motorcycle in the exhibit hall at the January American Beekeeping Federation convention in Baton Rouge.
How are the Bees Doing?
I, like many other new beekeepers, for some unknown reason during the winter months (here in Ohio) have an insatiable curiosity to know if the bees are still alive or if they have enough food to make it through the long, cold winter (it is -13F, as I write this letter). As a result, we often “crack” the hives to take a peek - often at the detriment of the bees - assuming, of course, they are still alive.
My son suggested we assess the bees’ health using his Infrared (IR) camera using the logic that if the bees are alive, they would be clumped together producing heat which would show up on a thermal scan. The picture below showing our two hives (a rock atop each) clearly shows a clump of bees, which are producing heat (i.e., they are alive!) in each hive. No need to sneak a peek!
The other apiary photo shows the six hives of our beekeeping instructor and mentor, Mike Pittman (and a thermal picture of Mike, as well). Unfortunately, only one of Mike’s six hives shows any sign of heat being generated by a living clump of bees. There is a slim chance that some of the five remaining “dark” hives may still have a clump of bees, whose heat did not register on the thermal camera, which may re-emerge in the spring, but the chances are slim indeed.
I encourage other curious beekeepers to keep their hives’ lids on and seek someone with an IR camera to determine if their bees are still alive during the long winter months. Otherwise, endure the suffering of not knowing your bees’ health until, and if, they reemerge in the spring!