A New Beekeeping Season is Upon Us

alden frost graham

Even though the north east is under the barrage of a strong winter I am looking forward to a spring gardening and challenge of what the beekeeping season will bring.  Last year many beekeepers were reminded that the weather is a relentless foe and we as beekeepers in the north east need to stay diligent and manage bees for winter survival.  The more organized of us are already getting ready for when and if the Indian summer break in late February or early March to inspect and add bee candy if necessary.  Not only do we need to keep the supply of carbohydrates in the hive but perhaps add feeders to stimulate the queen to fire up the brood chamber and start laying eggs.  A good crop of honey needs a large volume of bees so fooling the queen to thinking that light nectar is coming in stimulates her to start laying eggs.  It is amazing that late March early April on days above 50 the bees are out and bringing back pollen seemingly that the landscape looks baron.
It has been an interesting season.  I was able to capture 7 swarms and rescued 3 established hives.  I also witnessed the birth of my son Alden!  Swarming was a problem this year also as I lost a couple of hives and I think that part of colony collapse is due to African genetics in bees and their tendency to throw off more swarms.  Most all bees are bread in the south and inevitability the African honeybee is a part of the genetic landscape.   I am overwintering 17 hives this year 2 are very late swarms and another was very slow to build up in population and stores.  I think at least 10 have a very high likelihood of making it overwinter.  Five of the hives are a variety that I am guessing or calling “European Blacks” not really like any commercial bee I have seen. They are very dark like Russians but darker some with no yellow at all on their abdomens and are more aggressive.   I have had all the major breeds now, Italians, Carniolans and Russians.  None were a silver bullet for survival in upstate NY and do seem to swarm more frequently and are aggressive, however European Blacks seem to do incredibly well.  They not only survive they are very good and building up honey stores for the winter. They don’t seem to swarm much and they take very well to splitting.  Next year I am going to be more aggressive at splitting up the surviving hives.  My goal is to one day start breeding these survivors so that I can start selling NUCs and queens.
If any new beekeepers would like to reach out I am always open to talk about beekeeping.  TWC did a story on me over the summer just too busy to post.