Featured Beekeeper of the Month
This month’s featured beekeeper is Ivan
Rickers. He lives in Westside, IA. This is his story.
I first became involved with honeybees when
I was fourteen. My oldest brother bought the bees off an old beekeeper
who had died and I took them over. We purchased three 3lb. packages
of bees and I believe the cost was five dollars each. In 1957
I bought 300 colonies and extracting equipment from John Kruger
at Deloit, Iowa. I learned my beekeeping from him and Herald Partello
at Boone, Iowa and the state bee inspectors Glen Stanley, Bill
Shawler and Larry Greiner. Over the years I increased my colony
count to between 800 and 900 colonies. In the early ears my wife
helped some with the bees but then she became allergic and that
ended that. When my boys got old enough they helped in the bees
along with my oldest daughter.
Our management system consisted of bringing
power houses through the winter and evening them up to 5 frames
each by the first of May and making 5 or 6 or 7 frame nucs from
the excess brood. We also made 2 queen colonies in 5 yards starting
with 1 frame nucs over single screens. This made power house colonies
and was much simpler than the 2 screeners the Minnesota people
used. We made the 2 queen colonies until the tracheal mite came
in and we haven’t done them since then.
For several years we got all of our queens from
Louis Harbin at Theodore, Alabama. He produced excellent queens
and we had an excellent working arrangement with him. During those
years we used some packages and hauled packages for Louis, delivering
to his customers in Iowa and Minnesota. That ended when he passed
away. After that we started raising our own queens and made 3
way splits in August. We made 300 or 400 of these and wintered
them in a refrigerated trailer converted for that purpose. We
did that until about 1998 when the honey house burned down and
the boys moved on to greener pastures.
When the SMR queens came out, I requeened everything
with them. They are resistant to varroa but I think they are not
as productive. I next used an SMR mated to a carniolan and the
following years I used Minnesota Hygenic queens. All grafting
of queens came from Glenn Apiaries in California. Requeening in
August is work but it makes for good honey crops. Right now I
am operating 160 colonies of bees. I still buy about 50 mated
queens every spring to even up with and make nucs.
I did not requeen this summer because the mite
treatment screws up the schedule. In August we pull off the honey
crop down to the brood nest. We never extract honey from the brood
nest. As we do this, we put on the mite treatment on every hive.
The treatment is on the bees 3 or 4 weeks depending on what we
use. This year we used Apigaurd and MiteAway II. The Apigaurd
is thymol oil. MiteAway II is formic acid. Both occur naturally
and don’t contaminate the hive or honey and don’t
hurt the bees. When the mite treatment is over, we go back through
them and check them for weight. If they are light we have to feed
them so they will come through the winter in good shape. We feed
them high fructose corn syrup. We also put insulated lids on the
bees for winter.
I am a member of the Iowa Honey Producers Association
and have been president, vice president and a board member. In
1980 I was named Iowa Beekeeper of the Year and in 2004 they gave
me the Pioneer Award.