EVALUATING BEEKEEPING PRACTICES
By: Glenn Stanley
(Iowa State Apiarist Emeritus)
3835 Merced Street
Des Moines, Iowa 50310
As I write this on the 27th day of January,
the temperature here in Central Iowa is 60 degrees with a very
warm sun. It is logical to believe that during a mild winter such
as we have had so far, colonies consume more honey stored as opposed
to a very severe winter. That could well be the case as during
a mild winter colonies often start early brood rearing.
I do not recommend opening hives and disturbing
colonies anytime during the winter months. However, I did just
that today and found the amount of brood within the colony would
equal a full comb of brood. That is a beautiful sight as it means
a good strong colony to come in April. There is still plenty of
honey left in the hives so there is no need to bother them again
until colony management begins in April. The picture shows the
With a relatively mild winter
and unseasonably warm temperatures, it is possible to
find brood as early as middle to late January.
This is not the first time I have found brood
within colonies in mid to late January. Some 45 years ago, as
I was doing some research on wintering colonies that was the case.
Having half dozen thermometers within the upper brood chamber
was of extreme interest. With any sunlight at all, it was generally
30 degrees warmer between the paper and the outer walls of the
hive than the outside temperature. As one of the thermometers
extended through the inner cover reached 92 degrees, it was an
indication that there was brood in that area of the brood chamber.
Having a closer look, I found that was the case.
Even though we are not yet half way through
the winter, I am hearing of significant to tremendous losses already
which seems to be mostly due to starvation. Beekeepers who let
this happen only create more hardship on themselves and it amounts
to a major loss.
In the late 1930’s and early 1940’s
when we operated 1300 colonies nearly every year we would lose
about 25% of our colonies simply because we were doing a poor
job of preparing our colonies for winter. After I returned from
the service in 1946, my brother, Lloyd, and I were determined
to do a better job of beekeeping and our first endeavor was to
do a better job of wintering colonies. After a few years we accomplished
that as well as improving our beekeeping in many other ways. The
late 30’s and early 40’s were excellent years for
beekeeping in Iowa. In spite of our poor beekeeping our colonies
would average about 300 pounds. Everything was favorable for beekeeping
and producing honey in those years.
As we revised our practices, we realized it
was of extreme importance to know exactly how much honey was within
each hive as the colonies were readied for winter. We found here
in Central Iowa, that the weight of colonies with a double brood
chamber should be 115 to a120 pounds, and must be weighed to make
sure. It is easy to get that amount of honey within the hive,
even though there may still be some brood present. If, in Minnesota
the weight may need to be in creased by 10 lbs. In warmer climates,
maybe less honey. Colonies should be brought up to the desired
weight sometime before the weather becomes too cool. If bringing
colonies up to weight on sugar or Isomerose make sure the bees
have it stored before snow falls. Getting colonies up to desired
weight with a supplemental food is more difficult than with honey.
Colonies that weighed 90 pounds or less were not acceptable for
wintering. The honey they did have was used to bring other colonies
up to the desired weight. If the queen excluders are used to prevent
the queen from laying eggs in the surplus honey supers, you will
find the bees keep a better brood chamber and by the same token
if the queen gets into the surplus honey supers, the colony is
completely disorganized. By taking hints from other beekeepers
and using our own discoveries we managed to cut our winter losses
to less than two percent.
(continued on Page 9)