If you’re feeling under the weather or are just busier than usual, don't worry! Honey bees are pretty self-sufficient. In my experience, being an overeager beekeeper, and opening the hive more often than once a week is way worse than not opening an hive for 2-4 weeks. Right now, Coronavirus is still affecting many people throughout the United States and around the world. The most important thing to do is to keep yourself and loved ones healthy!
Ways to save time beekeeping
Right now, it's swarm season. If you don't have the time to prevent swarming, put a slatted rack under your first brood box. This gives the bees somewhere to go, but prevents them from building comb in this area and can prevent swarming.
Do Tasks in Advance Just In Case
Assemble boxes and frames in advance, so you have them ready.
Understand what you need to have and what you need to do for winter so you can order supplies now.
Harvest a smaller amount of honey now and a smaller amount later. You can even just use the crush and strain method (which we show in our beekeeping class). Save yourself from a sticky table and lay a roll of plastic table cloth on your table for a super easy clean up.
How to prevent bees from swarming
It's best to prevent swarming than to deal with a hive that swarmed. If you don't have a slatted rack, make sure you have 3 empty frames in every box of your beehives. That means putting frames with no foundation in every box. Do not put these empty frames next to each other. Space them out in the box. This will give the bees space to build honeycomb.
You can use foundation, but in my experience, bees take to foundationless spaces much faster.
Delays & shortages in bee supplies
If you can't find white sugar, use honey for feed instead. You won't need Honey B Healthy mixed in. Can’t find rubbing alcohol for mite tests? Use powdered sugar. Make sure everything is totally dry or the sugar will clump. Also, make sure you add 1-2 mites to the final count because powdered sugar isn't as accurate as alcohol.
Very important! Most beekeeping supply websites are running out of supplies and/or very busy and taking longer to ship orders.
Order mite treatments, honey harvesting, and wintering equipment NOW!
Getting Your Kids Involved in Beekeeping
I will preface this sections by saying, I'm a mom. I know how sometimes sharing your hobbies and interests with your kids is a ton of fun and sometimes its no fun at all. SO, don't feel obligated to get your kids involved in beekeeping if its the time you get to spend by yourself. That's important too! But, if your kids are bored at home and interested in learning, get them involved.
Here are some ways to get your kids involved in beekeeping:
• Buy a suit and gloves and take them out to see the bees. Lots of bee supply websites sell suits for kids. Buy it big enough that they can wear it for next year too. It doesn't matter if the sleeves come down to their knees, its not like they need to do much when they're in the suit. Start small and for just a few minutes. Ask them to "shadow you" and see how they like it. Go out on a cloudy day when its not too hot so they're not ripping the suit off. Wait to see if they ask to do it again or ask to try things. Try not to be pushy about doing things the right way. Let them try things out without fear of "messing something up".
• A bunch of places you can learn accurate information about bees with them is: The Magic School Bus episode "Inside the Hive" on Netflix, Bubble Guppies on amazon prime, season 3, "Bees", or bee girl has a great free e book about bees to print out and other resources for kids who want to learn about bees.
• Harvest honey together. Do a mini harvest using a strainer and fork. Let them squish the honey out and taste it before it's in the jar or let them try pouring it into the jars. What tasks you can do with them will depend on how old they are. My 18 month old son loves to put his fingers in a jar of honey and lick it. He also loves to squish empty honeycomb and pick little bit of beeswax off of empty frames. LOL.
Bees and Viruses
Bees can’t contract COVID-19 but they do get viruses. A big reason why the varroa mite causes so much destruction to a honey beehive is because they transfer viruses among hives very quickly. Hives with high mite levels also have a lot of viruses. This is because when a mite attaches themself to a bee, they pick up any virus that bee may have. When a bee is at a hive, robbing it, or at a flower when other bees are on it, that mite may jump off the bee's back and jump onto another bee. This new bee the mite is on will contract the viruses that mite had.
When deciding if you want to treat your hives, I think it’s good to look at it the the same way we look at why, as humans, we sometimes need medicine as well. It’s best to be as healthy as possible through exercising and eating healthy, just like there are natural ways to keep your bees healthy using natural practices. However, sometimes you need more help and that’s when antibiotics, or in the case with bees, treatments are used. There are organic and non organic treatments for varroa mites. What treatment you choose to use will depend on a few factors such as weather, if there is brood present, and effectiveness in your location.
During a time when people are trying to stay healthy, share honey, a delicious natural sweetener.
Offer to help someone with bees who doesn’t have the time to check them. Tell your local bee association you're available or help them create a section on their website or newsletter about beekeepers helping each other out.
Support other beekeepers. With local markets closed because of COVID-19, some farmers are losing a revenue stream. Support local beekeepers by purchasing from farmers markets that have gone online, look to see if your favorite honey farm has a website and purchase products from there, or go to the smaller grocery store nearby that sells products from local farms instead of the larger, corporate grocery store.
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