July/August Tasks for RI Beekeepers
I generally plan on extracting honey around the 4th of July. That’s not set in stone, but it’s easy for me to remember. Frames that are 80-100% capped can be assumed to be ready to extract. Uncapped frames MAY also be ready to extract, but without a refractometer to test, there’s no good way to be certain. 18.6% moisture or below is what you are aiming for.
Wet supers can be placed back on the hives to refill or clean, depending on flow/dearth conditions in your area. Wet supers should not be left out in your yard or a field for bees to rob out. This is essentially open feeding and can attract pests, cause fighting between bees at the food source, lead to robbing of hives, and contribute to the spread of disease/viruses/mites. Open feeding should never be used by backyard/small scale beekeepers, it’s completely unnecessary. Even for commercial beekeepers with 1000s of hives to deal with, open feeding was cited as one of the top 5 WORST management practices in a recent BIP study:
Remember to do a post-treatment mite check to ensure that the treatment was effective! Dead mites on a sticky board are NOT an accurate method of determining treatment efficacy.
Some beekeepers are reporting dearth conditions locally. “Dearth” means there is a shortage of available nectar for bees to forage on. Hives with low honey stores MAY require feeding during a dearth, but this decision needs to be informed by how much honey/nectar is already in the hive. You don’t want to overfeed and lead to a honey-bound condition where the queen has no empty cells to lay in. Robbing becomes a big concern during a dearth. Robbing screens should be in place BEFORE robbing occurs. Once it starts it can be hard to stop, so a little prevention goes a long way. Limit the amount of time hives are open for inspections and clean up any spilled honey/syrup around the yard. Keep your smoker lit at all times and don’t be afraid to use it, bees are often more defensive during a dearth.
Some areas do get a fall flow. August sees clethra, goldenrod, and japanese knotweed coming into bloom. In some areas these can produce surplus honey so plan to have supers ready if needed. Depending on the condition of the rest of the hive you may choose to let them store this incoming nectar to overwinter on, rather than extracting it. As always, make your decisions based on what you see in your specific hives, not on an arbitrary calendar date, or someone else’s experience that may not apply to you.
President, RI Beekeepers Association
SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 13, 7pm Live Via Zoom
Dr Meghan Milbrath: “Successful Overwintering”
Dr. Meghan Milbrath began working bees over 25 years ago, and now owns and manages The Sand Hill Apiary, a small livestock and queen rearing operation in Munith, Michigan. She is currently an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology at MSU, where she does honey bee and pollinator research and extension and is the coordinator of the Michigan Pollinator Initiative. Meghan is active in multiple beekeeping organizations, writes for multiple beekeeping journals, and speaks about bees all over the country. She currently runs the Northern Bee Network, a directory and resource site dedicated to supporting queen producers, and she is passionate about keeping and promoting healthy bees.
A link with the Zoom login info will be emailed to all RIBA members in good standing approximately 1 week prior to the talk. Please make sure your dues are up to date and that your email allows mail from ribeekeeper.org to prevent missing out.
RIBA 2020 Spring/Summer Update
Beekeeping is an ancient occupation, but the successful beekeeper in 2020 is one who has learned to adapt to changing times. We can no longer just stick hives in a field, ignore them, and expect to have healthy colonies (or honey crops) at the end of the year. Mite treatment guidelines are continually being refined, antibiotics now require a Veterinary Feed Directive to purchase, and a new collection of gadgets and fad hive designs is available every year. RIBA has always honored the wisdom and traditions of the past while simultaneously looking towards the future. We don’t want to cling to lore and anecdote, or ignore potentially important innovations. This spring is certainly putting that philosophy to the test. I had anticipated challenges when I was elected, but obviously nothing like the situation we’re dealing with now. Rest assured, RIBA is committed to fulfilling our core goals as laid out by our bylaws: education, best practices, cooperation, support, and networking. How we will accomplish these goals will look different this summer than it has in the past, but we’re beekeepers; by nature we are resilient, stubborn, and iconoclastic. I think we can also add optimistic to that list; beekeeping is more challenging than ever, and the potential rewards come months, or years, in the future, yet here we are.
If you have any questions, concerns, or suggestions about how we can better serve RI’s bees and beekeepers during this period, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me personally.
Spring Banquet (April 25) – The actual banquet has, of course, been postponed, but our speaker, Gary Reuter (University of Minnesota), will be addressing us via Zoom at 1pm. You should have already received the meeting login information via email. Zoom if free, easy to use, and takes just a few moments to set up the first time.
May General Membership Meeting (May 17) – The in-person meeting has been cancelled. We’ll probably be replacing this with another Zoom meeting online, but the details have not been finalized yet. Details will come via email, so be sure you membership status is up to date.
June Field Day (June 14) – This has been cancelled for 2020.
July General Membership Meeting (July 12) – No decision yet, but as of right now, I’d expect this will be cancelled.
EAS Annual Conference – Orono, ME (Aug 3-7) – This has been cancelled for 2020.
The decision to cancel these events was made with a heavy heart, but the health of our membership is of paramount importance. I want to thank all of our dedicated board members, committee chairs, and other volunteers who have been working so hard over the past month to plan these events. I anxiously look forward to being able to meet again in person, whenever that may be.
I hope you’re all staying safe and sane. Here’s to another exciting season!