In their natural economy honey- bees winter practically without any major amount of pollen (or protein) but consume only honey, a fairly pure mixture of carbohydrates: and since they would apparently have come to do this in the face of natural selection, it is perhaps a fact worth thinking about. ... just as flowers have been modified by natural selection into forms which make their pollen conveniently available to bees, so the nectar of flowers may have become modified into a very pure form of carbohydrate (with in general very low levels of protein) partly because absence of protein has given the highest survival of overwintering honeybee colonies, able to continue the pollination of the flowers of succeeding seasons. ... on the other hand, however, the low protein in nectars could also be a question of providing an ideal mixture for safe storage over winter without fermentation or other deterioration, which again could have been achieved by natural selection.

Swarm Prevention

Swarm prevention is important in the spring and I prefer to make splits of strong, over-wintered hives in early May. Hives with two brood boxes mostly full of bees and brood are excellent candidates. Just separate the boxes to make two swarms. Check that both halves have at least two frames of brood, one to two frames of honey, and some drawn combs with plenty of bees to cover. Place a queen in the other half or let it raise one on its own.  IF you have a few good queen cells, they will do as well. Almost immediately take the hive with the old queen to a new location at least 2 miles away,leaving the new queen‘s hive at the old location.  If at a later date one swarm does not take, you can always combine the split halves back together.

Adding Foundation 

I would not recommend alternating drawn comb with frames of foundation.  They will not draw out the foundation in that situation except as a last resort. Let them build up on drawn frames and then put the all-foundation-box of frames on top and feed heavily to draw out the foundation.  Also, bees don’t like to build out plastic foundation as there isn’t a lot of wax on the frames to start working from and it is best to put full boxes of just plastic foundation on when you do. You can feed heavily or put them on during a heavy nectar flow to draw them out. Another problem with foundation is that if you try to force them into foundation this way during May and June, watch them closely for the tendency to swarm. A frame of drawn comb in the middle of a box of foundation will often help them move into it more quickly.

Bees and Queens

A colony is at its fastest growth rate from about 6 - 11 frame strength. So if you want to split prior to early flows, yet produce the most amount of bees, keep the bees in this strength range.  On the other hand, it is more bee-efficient to mate out queens in smaller nucs.  Mating Nuc size is dependent upon temperature--the warmer it is, the smaller the possible mating nuc.

The 2018  honey crop

Due to the often and heavy rains the bees didn't get some honey crops.  They missed the Russian olive, basswood, most of the clover, goldenrod and other reliable sources.

The bees did okay this year, but not much of a crop.   A few  hives produced surpluses of over 100 lbs but nothing like last year. There wasn't as much variety in the honey produced and some had high moisture contents so that went back to the bees.  At present, December 1st, 2018, I have some wildflower honey left but so little I am only hitting a few market days. I shall have comb honey available for my retail sales thru next may, but that may be my only product in early May outdoor markets. 

2019 Honey Crop as of Jan 2020

I have good stocks of honey left from last year.  I have wildflower, clover, sunflower and purple loosestrife honeys.  I also have a lot of comb honey left. I have enough honey left so that I won't run out before the 2020 honey crop begins.   I have bees on order for this year and I hope to have another great year.  I averaged above 90 lb per hive,  honey and comb honey. 

March 2020  

Package bees and Nucs are on order. I am getting some RusianI-Italian hybrid packa ge bees from Heritage Honeybees, Sullivan, and some  Italian hybrid nucs from John Rogers, Baraboo.   I have one overwintered hive.   I hope to have an exceptional year because I know what I did wrong last year to keep my bees from mite free and what to do this year to fight the mite infestations.    I will be using  Apivar strips in the Nucs and packages as I receive them and organic acid treatments (Apigard and all summer followed by  more Apivar. 

September7,  2020

My bees are doing fine. no losses to mies or anything else.   Some of my bees didn't arrive until mid May but those nucs built up quite well and I added broood to boost them from early package bees from Heritage Honey.  So I have 34 colonies of bees spread out in 6 locations.  15 are home here working the neighbors buckwheat fields, about 40 acres of it.  Cool weather and rain has moved in for a few days so the bees will be staying in but more good weather is expected.   I finally got back to the farmers market on Saturday Sept. 5. I will be there for nice days  thru October so my regulars can stock up.  I also sell at Eugster's Farm  and weekly sales there are better than  3 hours at the DCFM. Sales from home have been good and I have ]been making some deliveries into Madison.   I hope to get back to my artwork this winter.   

Sept 23 

I am checking hives and they are looking very good for overwointering this year.  These Russian and Italian hybrids are quite resistant to the mites and my regular mite treatments  with a variety of materials have been successful.   I hope to have 30 colonies to overwinter.

Nov 2021

I have 18 strong healthy hives  to go thru the winter.  My bees are mostly young Russian /Italian hybrids. They have received regular mite treatments during the year and are now done with the last treatment of,Apigard.   

I have just closed up the hives with a small opening on the bottom and some have small openings on the front of the bottom hive body.  Some hives have small breaks on the edges but these will be covered.  Each hive has a fibre board on top of the inner cover then a 3 to 4 inch screened box of celulose insulation.    In a few weeks I will wrap the hives in a 24" wide  by 1/4 " insulating, silvered bubble wrap so it covers the m edge  of the inner cover.  This weekend it will be in the 60's so I don't want to wrap them just yet.   I have not fed them and am relying on  their honey reserves to get them thru to March.   A few hives are a bit short of reserves. and will be fed.

Jnauary 2022  

My efforts last year fighting the mites have paid off and I now have 10 hives here that are doing great.  During last week's warm up I hauled in 7 hives that died leaving lots of honey which I managed to place on top of each of the good hives which are boiling over with bees. I had warmed the frames on my warming box so they don't get the "cold shoulder."  I still have more honey I can give them during the next warm up if they need it.  

The hives that died were empty of most of their bees and I would guess viruses got them or the queens had perished and the rest gave up by December.   I have one hive at another location that I have not checked yet this winter. 

I harvested about 2000  lbs of honey from 23 hives last year.  I did not have a very good year for comb honey.  Either weather or the work of the Russian /Italian hybrids resulted in  poorly finished comb honey frames.  They just did not want to cap off the bottom half or third of the cut comb frames.

I ordered replacements for the lost hives, going with Italians from California this year.  I hope to run about 25 hives to fill my customer's needs for great honey.