Hi I'm Tricia an organic gardener. I grow organically for a healthy and safe food supply for a clean and sustainable environment for an enjoyable and rewarding experience.
Beekeeping is a symbiotic relationship the bees provide honey and the beekeeper provides flowers a dry home, keeps toxins away from the hive and makes sure that the parasite level is tolerable. Bees need enough forage to make it through the winter, make your garden bee friendly by growing a continuous supply of flowers. Planting seeds like this flowering pollinator mix which will bloom year-round in mild climates or the good bug blend which will bloom for nine months in all other climates are great flowers for your bees.
On or around Labor Day is a good time to check your hives honey stores, a colony needs twelve full combs or about sixty to eighty pounds to make it through the winter. If you have less than forty pounds by Labor Day you can feed them a syrup made of two parts organic sugar and one part water or you can leave a honey super in place. Part of a healthy happy hive is a warm dry place to live, place hives in full sun and face the entrances toward the morning sun, hives in full sun tend to be healthier. Keep toxins away from your hives, use organic pesticides and insecticides and read the label carefully because even organic products can kill bees and don't spray when the bees are flying avoid using synthetic miticides which can build up in the comb and make bees sick. You want to monitor for parasites and discourage parasites through good hygiene and then provide treatment. If the parasite level gets too high the number-one nemesis of bees is the Varroa mite you need to use a combination of controls to make sure this baddy doesn't decimate your bees.
You need to monitor for Varroa mites and tools to do that with are the screen bottom board and this mite observation board if you want you can cut the board to the size of your high footprint and then you want to smear on some organic shortening. Place the hive stand and then the observation board and then the screened bottom board and then set your hive on top, return twenty-four hours later and check for any mites that have fallen onto the observation board. The sticky board method can be inaccurate at the beginning and end of brood rearing season, another monitoring method like the sugar shake should be used at those times. To do the sugar shake get a wide mouth mason jar a one eighth inch screen like this sprouting screen and a wide mouth funnel, remove a frame and check carefully to make sure that the queen is not on that frame and then shake enough bees into the jar to fill it three quarters full. Put the screen on with a canning ring and sift one rounded teaspoon of powdered sugar onto the bees, role the jar until all the bees are coated and then let them sit for a minute, after the minute is up shake the sugar and dislodge the mites onto a white pan, return your powdered bees to the hive and count how many mites you've dislodged. You should monitor your hive in the winter while brood-less sample before the honey supers go on and then again in late summer and finally in early winter just as the hive goes brood less the two most critical times to keep mite populations low is before you put the honey supers on and from the middle of August when the bees are starting to winterize the hive. High Varroa levels in August means a hive may not survive the winter try to keep mite infestations under one percent that means three mites per sugar shake and ten mites per twenty four hour fall on sticky boards. The first line of defense against mites is to get a resistant variety of Queen check with your apiary before you buy any bees. If you have a hive that is continually displaying high mite counts consider re-queening with a resistant queen. Pay attention to your hives, Varroa favor drone or male brood, destroying infested drone brood in the freezer while it is capped can help keep Varroa populations down. Using screen bottom boards can also help reduce mite populations because live mites will fall and can't get back into the colony, a powdered sugar dusting will make it hard for the mites to hold on to the bees. Practicing good hive hygiene by routinely removing old comb is also helpful in reducing mite populations.
We'd all like to have treatment free bee hives however in today's bee unfriendly environment that's just not always possible. Fortunately there are natural mite treatments to use when Varroa mite populations build over safe tolerance levels, Apiguard is one such treatment, the active ingredient is thymol found in thyme plants. After honey harvest simply set the tray on top of the brood box, peel back the foil, close up your hive and check back in a week or two, remove the tray when the bees have emptied it. Take care of your bee hives and the bees will hold up their end of the bargain by giving you sweet honey, so here's to healthy hives and grow organic for life.