Monday, February 08, 2010

2010 Experiments in Beekeeping

One of the great things about keeping bees is that it's relatively easy to test out new "things." Things being new equipment, new strains of bees, new bee keeping techniques. Measuring the results might be difficult, but it's fun either way. As it's almost time to get ready for the spring I figured it was a great time to sit down and come up with 2010 beekeeping list of key things to do.

1. Focus on hive yield vs hive growth: This year I've decided to keep my hive count essentially flat and focus on my honey yield. The last two years were embarrassingly low. Maybe it wasn't too bad last year as many of the experienced beekeepers in the LI club also had a terrible harvest. I'm at six hives right now, maybe I'll grow to 8, or maybe not. I'll need to make sure they have plenty of comb and are well-feed in the spring and monitor for small hive beetles (SHB) and the Varroa mite.

2. New hive configuration: I'm going to try setting up a hive with just medium supers, instead of two deeps. There are pros and cons, but many people rave about medium setups because they are easier to move around. A fully loaded deep hive body can weigh 90 lbs, while a medium is 60 lbs. It might not seem like a lot of weight but fill them with angry bees and place them at the most inopportune height for picking up and you'll feel my pain. Using three mediums instead of two deeps will give me the same storage capacity. Talking with Pete (master beekeeper) he loves that setup and finds them to have many advantages. I'll start this hive with a package of bees from Pete.

3. Try out ordering a NUC: I'm also ordering a Nuc to start a new hive or if I have a dead hive to restart it. A Nuc essentially gives you a 45 day head start on a package, but they get delivered later than a package of bees so you pick up a 21 day head start. We have an early nectar flow on Long Island thus it might work out better. A NUC comes with 4 frames of bees which only fit in a deep hive body.

4. Test out some Russian bees: Pete is making his Cannonball run to Georgia to pick up a van full of package bees. From Pete I'll pick up a four pound package of  Italian bees with a Russian queen as well as, fingers crossed, two Russian queens to re-queen two of my hives. The two extra Russian queens will allow me to change over their ethnicity from Italian to Russian. He's also going to be setting up a bunch of his own hives which I'll help out with too. Diana will be on hand to shoot plenty of video for your viewing enjoyment. A great way to get even more practice while setting up ~ 30 hives ~ 120 lbs of bees.

5. Build some of my own bee equipment: I'm handy so why not build some bee equipment myself instead of buying everything. Top of my list is to design a hive top feeder that can hold a lot of syrup. 4 gallons would be ideal and be easy to lift off the hive or drain it as needed. More to come...

6. Feeding: I'm going to feed my bees early for a spring build up. I'm also going to plant plenty of clover and other bee food nearby to help provide a close forage.

More to come...