Monthly Archives: February 2011

February 2011

February 11, 2011


For anyone who might be reading this, and has any comments or suggestions, or questions please don’t hesitate to email me.  I am always interested in feedback.

The whole purpose of this journal is to get my ideas and thoughts out so that I can read them and use them towards bettering my operation and management.  If I can gather some feedback from anyone who reads these entries, I’ll be better for it.

Posted by Ian Steppler at 09:58 AM | Permalink

February 07, 2011

Winter 2011

Honey house renos is going well.  Should be done by the middle of February, or end of  February by the latest.  The renos has kinda taken longer than expected, so I will have to cut some of my hive construction plans til next winter.  No problem, I have put full priority on the honey house right now.

Every winter about this time I just cant help myself but to check on the hives in the wintering shed.  Then I find problems.  And then spring goes by, the problems dont seem so big and I tell myself I should of just left them well alone.

Well, I opened some lids.  One particular grouping of hives I surveyed a 50% loss.  Dead hives completely empty of bees but with live hives beside them bulging from the seams.  Another particular grouping of hives I surveyed a 10% loss, with the live hives bulging from the seams.  I dont have the ability to assess all of them other than looking through the entrances.

This has really gotten me frustrated.  Why cant I seem to winter theses bees better than this?  Every hive I put into that shed should be viable and should make it to the spring.  I work hard all season to ensure thats what I have done.  Yet I continue to find dead hives?   I have to be able to find a better way to manage disease and increase winter survival.  I have some ideas, but it involves a complete change of hive management Im use to.  Currently I have been trying to manage the hives in a more “natural” sense with little disturbance and let them develop and perform in their own nature.  Perhaps these losses reflect the hives natural ability to deal with the coctail of disease influencing them.

These bees are being kept in an un natural environment.  In nature they would not survive in this area of the world on their own.  Its too cold and the summer is too short.  Also all the bee forage is grown in mono culture not allowing “natural” hive development and growth.  Maybe I should look at this whole issue differently.  They cant survive here naturally, so why try to manage the bees in a natural sense?  They need protein, sugar, protection from the elements, and disease control to survive here.  Maybe the answer for my operation is to increase the intensity of hive management and manipulate their development.  Provide more “un natural” intensive disease control and increase the intensity of hive manipulation shifting the focus totally away from honey production and primarily concentrates on hive growth and maintenance.  Perhaps taking smaller amounts of surplus honey as a crop would yield close to the same total honey production as if I were managing the hives as honey producers.

Smaller disease free hives, but more of them.  Yearly queen maintenance possibly achieved with the use of a two queen system.  Maybe running a two queen hive during the spring, and combining them during the flow to provide a strong viable single hive unit for the fall.  That would provide a more uniform prolonged and effective disease treatment in spring which in turn should build enough to collect honey.  Then shut them down earlier in the late summer to focus again on the brood nest to prepare for winter.

Maybe the answer lies in my whole way of thinking.  Am I a honey producer or a bee keeper?  If I had expendable bees, or half the disease issues I would gladly stay as a honey producer.  But the way Im looking at this whole issue right now, perhaps Im going to have to keep my focus on the nest year long.

Posted by Ian Steppler at 12:35 PM | Permalink