This week, guest co-host Jim Tew is sitting in for Kim and we have invited four beekeepers to the podcast to talk about their season just past. We call it our Regional Beekeepers show. If you have been a long time listener, you may be familiar with...
This week, guest co-host Jim Tew is sitting in for Kim and we have invited four beekeepers to the podcast to talk about their season just past. We call it our Regional Beekeepers show. If you have been a long time listener, you may be familiar with one or more of these beekeepers.
As beekeepers, we run the danger of living in a world limited by the confines of our own bee hives, bee yards or even region. But, it is a big world and we all must deal with the good and the bad while managing our bees. Biology doesn't change, but it does adapt to local environments, necessitating management differences. This can be seen in the finer nuances in beekeeping techniques, schedules or other details. By bringing together our guests, we can compare and contrast some of these challenges with our own. It is alway educational and informative!
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Podcast music: Be Strong by Young Presidents; Epilogue by Musicalman; Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus; A Fresh New Start by Pete Morse; Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott
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Jeff Ott: Welcome to Beekeeping Today Podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today Podcast is your source for beekeeping news, information, and entertainment. I'm Jeff Ott.
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Jeff: Thanks, Sherry, and thank you, Global Patties. Each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support, and we know you'd rather get right to talking about beekeeping. However, our great sponsors are critical to help making all of this happen, from the transcripts, the hosting fees, the software, the hardware, the microphones, the subscriptions, the recorders. They enable each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture Magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast. Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873.
Subscribe to Bee Culture today. Hey, everybody, thanks for joining us. We're really happy you're here. Before we get started, just a quick reminder to subscribe or follow Beekeeping Today Podcast and give us a five-star rating. It really does help. Also, we are now adding complete transcripts of each episode on the website after the show notes. Check them out. You can also leave questions and comments online. Under each show, you can leave a comment, ask a question, reply to a question, ours or a listener's, click on Leave a Comment at the top of the episode's show notes to join the discussion.
Have you listened to an episode and thought, "That person sounds really interesting, and I'd like to know more about him."? Now you can. Each episode links to a guest profile. Each profile has a guest photo, bio, contact information including Instagram and Twitter details if they have them. Check it out. Finally, share the podcast with your beekeeping friends, email them links or mention them at your next beekeeper meeting. Hey, everybody, thanks for joining. We have a fun show lined up today with the return of our regional beekeepers. Twice a year we invite four beekeepers from different areas around the state to talk about their season just past, and how they are planning for the coming season.
Today, we have beekeepers from Ohio, Colorado, Arizona, and Washington State. Stay tuned for this informative show, and you'll hear how beekeeping is all the same but different depending on just where you live.
Also, today we have Dr. Jim Tew sitting in as guest cohost for Kim. You may know Jim from Honeybee Obscura Podcast, one of his books, or even from a talk at a local or national beekeeping meeting. He's joined us on a couple of occasions in the past, and we welcome him back today. This is a big show, so let's just get to it right now after a quick word from our friends at Strong Microbials.
Strong Microbials: Hey, beekeepers. Many times during the year, honeybees encounter scarcity of floral sources. As good beekeepers, we feed our bees artificial diets of protein and carbohydrates to keep them going during those stressful times. What is missing, though, are key components, the good microbes necessary for a bee to digest the food and convert it into metabolic energy. Only Super DFM-HoneyBee by Strong Microbials can provide the necessary microbes to optimally convert the artificial diet into energy necessary for improving longevity, reproduction, immunity, and much more. Super DFM-HoneyBee is an all-natural probiotic supplement for your honeybees. Find it at strongmicrobials.com or at fine bee supply stores everywhere.
Jeff: While you're at the Strong Microbials site, make sure you click on and subscribe to The Hive, the regular newsletter full of interesting beekeeping facts and product updates. Hey, everybody, welcome back. This is that great time of year when we get the regional beekeepers together, and that's what we're doing. Sitting across a virtual Zoom table right now are four beekeepers plus a new cohost. Not so new. He's been with us before, Dr. Jim Tew. Jim, thanks for joining us today in Kim's place.
Dr. James Tew: Thanks for letting me come back. I feel good to be asked to come back. That's a good sign, right? Good sign.
Jeff: Yes. No one else was available, but I'm glad that you were.
Jim: Okay, I see. Right.
Jeff: All right. Just kidding, Jim.
Jim: I know. Kick a man while he's down.
Jeff: Kim will be back with us shortly. Sitting around the table at Beekeeping Today, right now, we have four regional beekeepers. Starting east to west, we have Tracy Alarcon from northeast Ohio. We have Ed Colby from Colorado. From Arizona, we have Duane Combs, and from Washington State, we have Paul Longwell. Welcome, guys, to the podcast.
Tracy Alarcon: Thanks for having us back. It's always a great time.
Jeff: If you haven't heard our prior episodes with the regional beekeepers, what we do is we contacted four regional beekeepers to talk about their season just past and beekeeping. It's a good experience for everybody to know. Sometimes beekeepers get isolated out in their bee yards and think that they're the only ones having problems. All they do is read and go online and see how great everybody else's life is as a beekeeper. The reality is a little harsher than that sometimes. What we do as regional beekeepers, share each other's stories, both positive and negative, and learn from each other.
That's what we're going to do today. Let's start, last time we did from west to east, let's go east to west this time. Tracy, why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners who may not know you, and let's hear about your season?
Tracy: Thanks for having me again. It's great to be here, and I always love listening to all of you guys from across the country talk. My name is Tracy Alarcon. As Jeff mentioned, I live in northeast Ohio in a town called Diamond, which is about halfway between Akron and Youngstown. It's a very rural community. I am an EAS-certified master beekeeper. I was the Portage County beekeeping inspector for about seven years and been involved with my local clubs in the state organization over the years. Now I'm just a basic beekeeper.
Jim has mentioned, in some of his articles, not beginning beekeeper, but just going back to the basics.
On one of our episodes, Kim asked me after I became an EAS master beekeeper, what was next. What was next was just getting back to basics. This last season for me, it really hit home because back in February, we had a bunch of snow and ice. I slipped and fell, and tore my rotator cuff, and had to have surgery to repair it. For most of the season, I was a one-handed beekeeper. That's a rather difficult thing when you're out there. I had plenty of people that were willing to help, but being a stubborn beekeeper, it's rare and unusual being stubborn in beekeeping, but I wanted to try to do this on my own, and I managed.
It's amazing how much you need both your arms. Just simple things like removing honey supers to get down to your brood nest to inspect. I use all mediums, so that means I tend to have more boxes and more frames. I had to go through each and every box when I wanted to get down to the brood nest and put an empty box down by the colony, and one frame at a time, remove it, and put it in the empty box until I could keep moving down. It was quite challenging. As far as the season goes here in Northeast Ohio, it's always all over the place.
I live south of I-76. We tend to be a lot drier than people that live north of 76 or even more north of 80. I had a pretty typical spring. Dandelions bloomed in about the middle of April. I have very little mite problem this year, which I was very grateful for. I don't know why. I didn't do anything different. I do propagate queens from the colonies that have the lowest mite counts, but I didn't really do a whole lot this year being one-armed, and I didn't have any small hive beetle problems. Talking to people that are a little more north of me and south, they seemed to have a lot more hive beetle problems.
A lot of those were people that purchased packages. They came from the south. I have no problem with package producers. I think they're great. I think they do a great job. They just have some other challenges that we don't have here in northeast Ohio. Since I'm basically raising all my own stock and continuing to replace stuff, I don't seem to have that much of a problem. I don't think the people around me either aren't beekeeping anymore or weren't bringing in packages because a lot of them I've helped teach how to make nukes.
A lot of them do the walk away dirty split, so they're raising their own queens, and they're not bringing in so many packages of bees. We've been trying to stress that at our local club. It doesn't always work, and it goes in cycles. My spring was pretty typical. I did not harvest any honey this year. Summer, for me, summer was dry. It was very, very, very dry. We had rain up until about the middle of May, pretty consistently, and then it was just dry. The golden rod didn't produce at all. I've had do a little bit of feeding, and if you listen to the podcast, for me, in the past, I tend to feed hard food.
Time-wise, it's just easier for me to go buy a 50-pound block of baker's fondant in one of our local grocery stores. That's what I end up putting on top of the colony for most of the winter. The colonies that I have all have 50 pounds of baker's fondant, and they're all healthy. My varroa accounts stayed less than 2% all year. Now, I probably missed some swarms because I wasn't going through my colonies as often in the springtime. That may have been beneficial just with having the brood break and all that.
Jeff: Are you treating at all for varroa?
Tracy: In the past, what I've done is I always make midsummer splits. Then after I do all the splits, and put in queen cells, I give them an oxalic acid vapor treatment per the label when it's broodless. This year, I did not do that at all. In the past, I've experienced some mite bombs coming around August, September. I didn't witness that at all this year. If I get those, then I'll use Formic Pro, the formic acid treatment. This is going to be an interesting year because I didn't use any poison. I didn't use oxalic acid, or formic acid, or anything for varroa. I did monitor, and like I said, my varroa accounts all season long were 2% or less.
Jim: Tracy, Jim Tew here. You didn't take off honey because you're one-armed or you didn't take off honey because the bees didn't make it?
Tracy: I could have taken some spring honey. I probably had enough for maybe three supers of spring honey, and I didn't take it because I was one-armed. Just trying to pull all that, pull the boxes in, and set up the extractor because I still use the extractor in the kitchen, and so I have to bring the extractor in from the shed and set it up in the kitchen, and that's not anything I could do one-handed.
Jeff: I wouldn't be allowed to do it, two hands.
Tracy: I have to wait till my wife is gone at work, and then I have to bring everything in, set it up, get it done, and clean before she comes home.
Jim: Tracy sounds like a typical beekeeper. He doesn't have any friends because he's already imposed on everyone around him to help him through the years.
Tracy: Luckily, there's always the influx of new people that are eager to be abu-- I mean, to be used, er.. I mean, to help.
Jim: Yes, who don't know any better.
Tracy: They don't know any better. Like I said, I was a little stubborn this year. I had plenty of people that were offering to help, but I wanted to see what I could do with the one arm because I was concerned that I wasn't going to be able to do it. It all healed up, and I'm all ready to go for next year. Because my varroa account was low, and they have plenty of food and plenty of pollens, they brought in, because while the golden rod didn't produce any nectar, there's an abundance of pollen. I've done everything I basically can to make sure they'll go through winter. Now it's just the fates will tell whether they all survive or if any survive.
Jeff: Thanks, Tracy. Let's move on further west here. Ed, let's talk about how Colorado is.
Ed Colby: I had a mediocre year. An average year around here is generally about 40 pounds per colony. Oh, of 70 colonies I had maybe 35 that averaged 20 pounds and 35 that averaged 60 pounds. That's all location, location.
Jeff: Do you think any of that's climate-related?
Ed: Some of the areas where I'm keeping bees are becoming suburbanized, and so we're losing some alfalfa that way. I'm out in the country. In addition, we had some farmers around here that thought they were going to get rich on hemp. It didn't work out for them. It seems like there was three or four years when hemp was a pretty big deal. I don't know the details, but there's a lot of ground, especially close to where I keep my bees, that is really a mess. It's just all torn up. It was hemp, and now it's weeds, or it's in the process of getting re-vegetated.
There's a lot of things that I can blame. Poor beekeeping might be part of it, but I seem to do better in some locations. On varroa mites, I do spot checks during the summer. I have 70 to 80 colonies typically in the summer. I'm not a young man. I was pleased to reach the ripe old age of 75 this summer.
Tracy: All right.
Ed: Thank you. I can't seem to slow down. If you're skiers, you might have heard of this guy named Klaus Obermeyer. He's over 100, and he's famous because he started a ski clothing line. A lot of skiers have heard of him. Anyhow, I had the pleasure of riding the lift with him a few years ago, and I said, "What's the secret, Klaus, to living to a vigorous old age?" He said, "Never stop doing what you love to do." What I love to do is beekeeping. I probably do too much of it. I do these spot checks, and what I try to do is every time I visit a bee yard, I have half a dozen of them, is do at least four counts.
Test at least four different hives. I use the sugar shake method. I'll do four, four, and then the next time I visit the yard, I'll do four others. Because I write these numbers down on the outside of the hive, I have a running total of how things are going. If I get a number that I consider to be alarming, which just as an example, a count of 3 mites in a 300 bee sample in July, to me is alarming.
I'll give them some kind of a treatment. I used Formic Pro, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn't. Sometimes it just kills the queen. I used HopGuard this summer, which was largely ineffective. You hear these stories about, whoa, if you have 5% infestation rate with mites, that this hive is dead but it doesn't know it yet. That has not been my experience. I have brought many colonies back that had counts of 25 or 30 mites per 300 bee sample, which would be say, 7%, 8%. Sometimes it gets ahead of me. I had a few weeks ago that had 100 mites and no queen, and I thought, "I'll fix it, I'll bring it back."
A month later, it had a count of six mites. I used Apistan on it, but not very many bees. It's practically out of bees. I don't consider myself a great beekeeper, but I do consider myself a great mistake maker, and I consider mistakes.
Ed: Failure is the greatest teacher. I want to tell you a story that you guys are going to laugh at. You master beekeepers will laugh at this. I just didn't think ahead. I plugged some supers with comb honey. I mean, plugged them. I just had just three or four hives, but I had maybe nine supers plum full of comb honey, beautiful comb honey from a very particularly fine type. Then I harvested my liquid honey, and I just didn't get around to harvesting my comb honey until a couple of weeks ago. The bees had eaten it, basically. They ate most of it.
It was just, what I had, I had some very strong colonies confined under a queen excluder to one brood box. They just decided that they needed some of that honey they'd made during the summer. I don't know whether they ate it or they dragged it down there to get ready for winter, but it's pretty much of a disaster.
Tracy: At least the bees got it, not the small hive beetles.
Ed: Yes, good point. We don't have those around here that I know of. I don't know what a small hive beetle looks like. I do want to talk, just very briefly before I get too wordy here, about my winter preparations. I don't insulate. I think that if beekeepers spent half the time worrying about controlling their mites, that they do insulating their hives, they would do much better overwintering. What I do is I put an empty medium super on top for insulation, and that's pretty much it.
Jeff: You put anything in that medium super or is it just empty?
Ed: Oh, empty comb.
Jeff: Oh, empty comb, all right.
Ed: My losses for 200 colonies, over the past 3 years, have been 5 colonies total. You can call it good beekeeping, you can call it luck, but I credit mite control. The main thing that I do that is most important, I feel, is, in late November or early December, I give an oxalic acid dribble. Basically, I generally can't find a mite until June of the next year.
Jim: Ed, that was late November, early December, you said?
Ed: Yes, that's about the time when most hives have gone broodless. That's the key thing here.
Jim: Yes, I see.
Ed: I've done that in January as well. That also works, but you never know what the weather is going to be in January. The weather doesn't have to be particularly warm. I will do that anytime the temperature is above freezing. I will open those hives up, and I will dribble on the lower super. I'll dribble on the upper super, I close it back up. I think that works pretty well.
Jeff: Let's move west a little bit, but before we do, I'd want to take this quick break to hear from our friends at BetterBee.
Betterbee: Now that the honey harvest is over, it's time to think about winter. It's important to make sure your bees have enough stores to get them through to spring. Visit betterbee.com/syrup to learn how to make your own 2:1 sugar syrup for fall feeding, and to shop for a hive top or in-hive feeder to make sure all your bees get fed. Remember to stop feeding sugar syrup once your daily temperatures consistently dip below 50 degrees Fahrenheit. Visit betterbee.com to learn all about fall feeding. BetterBee, your partners in better beekeeping.
Jeff: All right, we're in the state of Arizona now. Duane Combs, Duane, you're down in the Phoenix area. Why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners?
Duane Combs: Thank you. I'm in the Phoenix area, the land of dry, hot, and African Cheryl bees. When y'all talk about winter, it was 89 degrees today, 88 degrees yesterday. My bees do slow down from about November 15th to January 15th in a normal year. We do also have freezing weather here. The first freeze date is December 30th, and the last freeze date is January 3rd. It also snows here once every 10 years, and they tell us about it because it hits the ground at the airport, they record it, and then it's gone. You might be able to look up on the mountains and see something that'll last half a day.
We have the same problem with rain here. When it rains, it goes away within a day. It's a different world here. I've talked about the low points this year for me is I didn't get much honey. Typically, in a desert environment, you're going to get 30, 40 pounds in a good year. This has been a dry year, but it hasn't been a horrid year. The best beekeeper I know in the state of Arizona pulled 180 pounds per hive for 6 hives. My joy this year is, I've got two yards that are along the Gila River, that has running water in it, I went out to the first yard, and I discovered green honey, fluorescent green honey.
I thought, "Man, some kid must say somebody made up a bunch of green Kool-Aid and left it out, or it was some other drink," but when I discovered the green honey at another yard, they have this 20 miles away, I had to concede that we did produce about 5 pounds of green honey this year. I've had a lot of fun with that because people haven't seen green honey here.
Jeff: What creates the green honey?
Duane: I think it was the Western star thistle. Other people told me it might be salt cedar. I don't know. I'm curious to see if it happens next year.
Jeff: Have you tasted it?
Duane: Yes, it tastes like normal honey.
Jeff: It doesn't taste like a bunch of Sour Patch candy or something like that? [chuckles]
Duane: No. Yes, I would say it's more of a clover, citrus-type honey versus a heavier mesquite honey that we have here. The first time I saw it, I stripped it out of the hive. The second time I saw it, I tasted it, and I said it wasn't bad. Then when I saw it on the other yard, I went, "There's got to be something going on here." It's a lot of fun to see because it is fluorescent green.
Jeff: Is it like Prestone antifreeze green?
Duane: Yes, a bright green. If you go to Facebook and look me up, my picture is the picture of that green honey.
Duane: Yes, it was. Challenges this year. I, right now, have 60 hives, and I sell nukes. I have to buy all of my queens from someplace else because of our African breeds here. The African drones are much more effective at mating than European drones. I was buying queens out of Hawaii, January, February, and I had a 50% six-month failure rate on those queens, which was pretty tough to take. The other thing we have here is I tried to get a handle on heat because that's our big problem in the summer. We had a week this year where the high temperatures were 110 to 117, and it's been as hot as 127 here.
I did an experiment, and I put five 10-frame boxes, Langstroth boxes in the sun, and then I put 2 inches of foam inside the box, and 3 inches on top for another 5, to see how they do in direct sunlight. Then I did the same thing for under misters because we're very dry here, and then in the shade. I ended up losing 100% of the 10-frame bees that were in direct sunlight. I tracked the daily temperatures on it, and one of those hives hit 153 degrees.
Jeff: Did that have the insulation on it or was it in the misted?
Duane: That was without insulation. With the insulation in the sun, I ended up losing one of five. Then the ones that were on misters and the ones that were in the shade, I was able to keep under a peak temperature of 107. If I can keep my bees under 107 degrees, they seemed to do well, and I don't have queen problems. Obviously, when they get to 153 degrees, it's time to hold the funeral because they're gone.
Jim: Duane, does all the wax melt? Does the comb sag?
Duane: Yes. When he talked about cut comb honey, I can't do that. I have to use plastic foundations because if I try to let the bees build their own comb when we hit a hot day, it'll melt. Usually, it melts and blocks the entrance, which causes a problem.
Tracy: Do you have to provide water?
Duane: Yes, all of my yards have water available. The ones along the river have water available in the river and in irrigation drainage ditches, so I don't have to provide water for them, but the other two lots, I provide water. Yes, I have to. Hauling water is part of my existence because, like I say, right now it's 20% humidity, and we go as low as 5% humidity out there for days.
Tracy: My thought was, how do they raise brood with no humidity at all? They do it, obviously, but--
Duane: Yes. The reason that I can only get 30 to 40 pounds of honey is because your bees transport nectar, my bees transport water. [chuckles] You can watch them. I try to provide at least one water source in shade. It's really funny because, in the winter, they'll go to the exposed sun locations, and in the summer, they'll go into the shade locations to get water that's 10 degrees cooler. It's just a different world.
Jeff: It's a unique set of problems.
Duane: Yes. If you get through June, July, and August, the bees do real well here. Like I say, I don't know what winter is.
Tracy: Do you have a small hive beetle problem out there?
Duane: Up until this year, I had never seen any hive beetles. I've got two locations that are irrigated, and I've seen one hive beetle in four hives in both locations.
Tracy: Because it's so dry, there's really no place for them to reproduce?
Duane: Yes, they can't get to the moist soil to reproduce. Florida talks about how they'll go 150 yards to find wet soil. Here, they can go 5 miles, and they're not going to find that soil.
Jim: What about those Africanized bees, or do you have any problem with the genetics of that?
Duane: I actually have 1 yard. I check my check every month. Now, there's some times when I'll use oiled boards because everything I have is a screened bottom, and there's other times when I'll use sugar, and then I try at least once a quarter to use Dawn dish detergent. We were doing that in the yard today. There's 36 hives there, and they're in groups of four except for the first two and the last two. We're checking the first two, and there's no mites. Make a long story short, until we got to the next to the last row, we saw zeros and ones, and then we saw three pluses.
We have two African hives that are at the end. The reason I have them is for Africans, they're fairly gentle. I read a paper that says that if you breed a European drone to an African queen, you can breed out the aggressiveness in two generations, so I wanted to try to do that. They just sit there and we ignore them. We finally got around to testing them for mites today, and one had 27 mites, and the other one had 30 mites per 300 bees.
Duane: Yes. My problem for that yard is coming from those two mite bombs.
Tracy: Those were the Africanized bees?
Duane: Those were the Africanized bees.
Jeff: It goes against the common wisdom that the Africanized bees are better with fighting varroa.
Duane: Yes. I think the way they survive is they reproduce 10 times a year. They grow until they run out of food, and then they abscond and look for better resources. I think they're no better than any other bee in terms of mites. I just think that they breed so fast and move so fast that they outlive it.
Jeff: Just for our listeners just to clarify, when you say they breed so fast, you're not talking about the individual bees, you're talking about the swarming nature of the colony itself. They scounder, they change locations a lot more frequently.
Jeff: One of the other topics that often was cited is lower varroa was because they naturally, unless you have them on foundation, have smaller cell size, and the varroa tend to like that less.
Duane: Yes, I've read that. Because I use plastic foundations on everything, I don't have any personal experience with that.
Jeff: All right. Duane, we'll come back to you in just a little bit. Let's move to the Pacific Northwest. Paul Longwell, why don't you introduce yourself to our listeners and your operation there?
Paul Longwell: Hey. I'm lucky to be in the northwest, where normally it's raining, but not this year in the summer, but boy, it was bad in the springtime. Jeff lives about 15 miles away from me, and first thing we did is we picked up our nukes and everything, and the next thing I know I'm putting nukes in the middle of a rainstorm. We had really bad spring. It rained all the way through April into almost the end of May.
Jeff: To July 4th I think. Didn't it, Paul?
Paul: Yes. You couldn't get into the hives, so you couldn't get in there to do any splits. I had over-wintered hives. I couldn't get into them to do splits, so they were swarming on me. I was catching swarms all over the place, and I went from 4 hives over winter to 17 this year. It's been a bee-growing experience this year for me. Honey, about 30 pounds per hive, but I decided I was not going to harvest any of it. What I did is I moved the honey over to the hives that split, preparing them for winter. My goal is to get up to about 25 hives next winter or next spring if I can. My wife will kill me when she hears that but that's my goal.
I opened up my first out yard this year, which is working out pretty good, other than forgetting to keep on checking them. I run several different hives this year. I use my yard as a teaching yard, so I have 8-frame, 10-rame Langstroths. I got a long Lang, and then I have three hives, and my AZ hives in my bee hut. You can see a whole bunch of different types-styles around here. I really prefer my AZ hives over the Langstroth, especially with the spring. I was into my hives, and I was [unintelligible 00:33:23] Jeff say, "Hey, look at my hives" He's going like, "I can't get out to see his." It was fun.
Tracy: That's because those colonies are in the bee hut?
Paul: Yes, they're AZ hives. I treat them different for varroa. I'm using OA, oxalic acid drip for those, but then I'm using OAB out on the Langstroth hives. It's really nice to work on. In fact, what I'm doing is I'm redesigning my AZ hives to go to a different way. Most of the hives here in United States, they're either a three-level or four-level. I'm going down to a two-level hive, but I'm making it 12 frames wide. We have three frames in the back, which will compact it down. I've been reading some books about guys that are keeping these single deeps with a super on top for better winter survivability.
What I'm also doing for winter this year is I'm putting insulated tops on all my hives. What I did is I moved the hives closer together because when I looked at my AZ hives, I noticed a cluster was always direct more towards a common wall. What I want to do on my Langstroth hives is move them together so the hives have a common wall for heat.
Jeff: You're also going to move your cot into your bee hut, aren't you?
Paul: Yes, I'm guilty. I've slept up there two or three times this year. In fact, I'll probably be out there this weekend since my wife is going down to Portland to see the new grandbaby. It's nice. You can go in there, and as soon as you open the door, you hear the bees. You walk out through the yard, and this morning, it was 45 here in Olympia. You go by the Langstroth hives and all you just see a quiet and a bee or two coming out. You go on the AZ into the bee hive, and you just hear all the sounds. It's nice to hear it. Plus you have the bee smells, and the honey smell and everything else going.
Jim: Paul, on that AZ hive, what's your experience with it? How do you like it?
Paul: I love them. I like them because it's easier to pull the frames out. I'm not dealing with propolis in that as much as that. The only propolis I get is on the inner screen. It's like a kitchen cabinet door, so when you open it up, you have another screen door in there. You can just see right in the frames, and you can turn around, and you could just look at the ends of the frame and say, "There's honey in that one. There's honey in that one. There's no honey in that one. They haven't built that one out, and not even opened it up," which makes it nice.
Then you keep them down to where you want, just stop it, taking a frame out like you're pulling a drawer out and moving it over to well, so you can just manipulate your frames and keep them all in the one level you want them in, which makes it nice. Over in Europe, they just pull the frames. They have mounted in trailers in some places, so they'll go out to Clover, then they'll pull their frames right then and there, so they know they have clover honey or blackberry honey, and it's nice.
Jim: It sounds interesting. I don't know anything about them. I suppose I just need to sell some honey so I can buy some more bee equipment.
Tracy: So you can make more honey, so you buy more bees.
Jim: Right, it's rolling a rock up a hill, isn't it?
Jeff: You're into woodworking, Jim. You could build your own AZ equipment.
Jim: Yes, right. I'll get right on that. Speaking of wives--
Jeff: Paul has done that. Paul's built a lot of his AZ equipment.
Duane: When you slept in your bee hut, did you feel any healthier? I read an article that said people are going to stay in those huts to breathe the bee air because supposedly it has a health effect.
Paul: I felt very relaxed when I got out in the morning. It's like sometimes when you sleep so much then you're exhausted and you finally get, ah, that was a good sleep. Yes, it's relaxing. I did order out of Sylvania one of the kits that you can plug into your beehive on the top, which will actually let you breathe it through a mask, but it hasn't got here yet. I want to try it.
Jeff: Isn't that what Darth Vader was hooked up to? Never mind, never mind. I'm sorry, never mind.
Duane: I am your father [onomotopoeia]
Ed: Paul, when I was in the Ukraine in 2013 for Apimondia, we went on a bee tour, and they have these Ukrainian horizontal hives. They had these little mini cottages built over the top of them. You could go in there, and there was a bed in there. You could hear the bees underneath you. People paid good money to rent a night over the bees. I'm not exactly sure what the benefits were, but there were apparently lots of people who thought there were benefits. I meant from the others.
Paul: You go over there and you can actually see pictures of, they'll have 10 or 15 stations where people have the snorkel into the beehive. They actually pay for treatment out there for that. It's very common in Ukraine.
Jeff: Ain't that a hookah?
Paul: Here it is.
Jeff: A bee hookah. [laughs] Sorry. Do you have any particular challenges this last season, Paul?
Paul: The challenges were the weather. It was really bad to get in the hives and do any typical splits or maintenance you wanted. Because of weather, if we look at our fruit trees, like our plum trees, no fruit. Our cherry trees, no fruit. Apricot trees, no fruit. The apple trees that came out, we had some fruit on some of the trees, but there were only 2 inches in diameter compared to a normal apple, which is 4 inches. Blackberries came on late. Because we're having such a dry fall, the varroa brood keep on growing into the hives. Varroa is, normally they would be broodless right now or pretty close to broodless, but I still have a lot of brood in my hives.
I'm definitely double-checking the treatments and making sure I get them knocked down. Jeff, you have experience with varroa at your place.
Jeff: I'm not talking about varroa right now. That's a nasty word here in this household. Thanks, Paul. At this point, I just wanted to open up the floor and let you guys ask each other questions if you have any questions for each other. We have a few minutes left before we're going to have to wrap this up. I wanted to give you guys the opportunity to talk.
Tracy: I find it interesting trying to keep bees in Arizona when you're talking 153 degrees and 5% humidity. I can see all the wax melting and just being, not only that, but then if you're out working in a bee yard, it's just hot. I grew up in southern California out in the high desert, and we'd get a few days where it was 110, but I wasn't a beekeeper then dressed in anything, trying to work a colony. Do you work for colonies during that type of heat, or--
Duane: In the summer we start at 5:00 AM, and we're done by 9:00 AM.
Tracy: It's still 90 degrees, right?
Duane: Oh, yes. when you're done, you have to wring all of your clothes out and you have to consume water, but you just get used to it. You get up at 5:00 AM, done by 9:00 AM. Our rule is you don't touch bees above 105 degrees.
Tracy: I'm sure they're probably pretty cranky above 105 degrees too.
Duane: Not if you have a spray bottle of water, which we use, instead of smoke.
Tracy: Just plain old water?
Duane: Plain old water,
Tracy: Not sugar water, just plain old water?
Duane: Plain old water.
Tracy: They don't have to go harvest it, right, so that they're probably trying to suck it off of everything?
Duane: Evaporative cooling.
Ed: I have a question for any of you guys. I had an interesting phenomenon this summer was, I was telling you about these powerful comb honey colonies that ultimately ate all their honey. I made these very strong colonies confined to a one brood chamber with a queen excluder over the top. They really outcompeted the other bees in the bee yard, almost all of which had been split. My experience is if you have strong colonies when you have dandelions here with old queens, they want to swarm, but not with new queens. In making these strong comb honey colonies, I took the comb from other colonies and put them into these comb honey colonies to make them super strong, believing, as Gene Killion assured me in his video from 70 years ago, that they will not swarm.
Have you guys any experience with making super colonies with new queens for exceptional honey production? What I was thinking about for next spring is actually splitting up some older hives, making very powerful colonies with new queens, and then just taking those relatively weak leftover colonies, the ones that had their brood stolen from, and just combining them together and letting the queens figure it out, but having very strong colonies with new queens. Is that clear as mud?
Paul: Yes, I'd like your idea, Ed, but I'd never do it because, with my 2 inches of foam on each side, I get 7 frames. When I get to 14 frames, I'm creating a nuke.
Tracy: Whenever I've done comb, honey, I've done pretty much what you've done, but I tend to remove all the brood and put it in a queen cell and shake it. I remove all the open brood. Let me clarify that. I remove all the open brood and remove the queen, and put it in a queen cell. That does a couple of things. The bees aren't having to take care of any brood, and so they tend to forage a lot more. Then because I put in a queen cell, they end up being brood list for a while, so pretty much, immediately, I'm able to give them an oxalic acid treatment. I've had really good luck with creating comb honey that way.
Ed: I apparently didn't make myself clear because what I'm interested in doing is not just producing strong comb honey colonies. I'm interested in producing, I guess, liquid honey colonies the same way. In other words, dividing up my colonies so that I have some really super strong colonies that really get to town making honey.
Tracy: Oh, okay. Michael Palmer does that when he does a lot of his nukes. He uses those as brood factories and adds them to really strong colonies, and then he overloads them with brood so that they have 60,000, 70,000 bees right, quick, and in a hurry. He states he doubled his yearly production and honey up where he is in Vermont.
Ed: What's the guy's name?
Tracy: Michael Palmer. He's in, what is it? French Hills? He's in the Champagne Valley in Vermont.
Ed: Could I google on his name and come up with something?
Tracy: Yes. Oh, absolutely. He's presented in the England Honey Show, and he's on YouTube. Actually, he came out to Medina a couple of times when we were involved there and talked about using over-wintering nukes in his climate and using them to replace dead-outs. Then also using them as brood factories. He would over winter, 4/4 deeps as far as nukes go. Then he'd have all these fresh queens, and he'd have all this brood that he could pull out. Like I said, he would put it into these strong production colonies. We all know that a colony of 60,000 bees makes more honey than 2 colonies of 30,000 bees.
It's just one of those, he would make these big giant colonies with this capped brooded so that the colony he put it into didn't have to have to maintain open brood. Then he'd just have tons of bees to go collect lots of honey.
Ed: Thanks, that's exactly what I was driving at.
Tracy: Check him out. He's a very interesting man.
Jeff: All right, guys, we really appreciated you taking your time this afternoon to join us, and sharing your stories with the listeners of the Beekeeping Today Podcast. I know you all are listeners yourselves, so in a couple of weeks, you get to hear yourselves speak and have some fun. Thanks, guys, and best of luck this winter.
Jim: Jeff, I'd like to say I've had a good time sitting here as a visitor. I always learn more than I could ever disperse. Nice bunch of people. I know some, I've met some new ones. Good time. Thanks, fellas. Thank you.
Tracy: Thank you, Dr. Tew. Thanks, guys, It was great having you guys, and seeing you, and meeting a new person. I learned a lot about not wanting to keep bees in Arizona. It's too hot.
Paul: I can't talk any of you into a land lease?
Ed: I don't need any locations down there.
Jeff: Jim, I'm really glad you were able to join on the regional beekeepers. They're a great group of beekeepers.
Jim: They were a great bunch of beekeepers, and I'm honored that you're appreciate me being here because I don't think I was needed. You just turn those guys loose and give them each an open mic, and your time is up before you know it. I was impressed with Ed Colby. He's a year older than I am, and what do you say he had? 70 or 80 colonies?
Jim: I got 15 to 20, and I was considering cutting back, and I'm just a year younger than he, and Arizona? I'm not going to keep bees in Arizona? Good, grief.
Jeff: That is absolutely a truth. There is enough problems with just water and heat, but then you add in the mix the Africanized Bees, yes, it's a challenge. It's a harsh environment.
Jim: We're probably offending Arizona beekeepers all across the country here.
Jeff: Our apologies.
Jim: You're a tough bunch. You're a tough bunch if you can keep bees where it's that hot and water that limited.
Jeff: Yes, it is. It's a good group of people, and it's good to hear what everybody else in different parts of the country are doing because we've often stated beekeeping is location, location, location but you don't really realize it. You go to a bee meeting, and you're just basically in the same geographical area, but when you start pulling from different regions of the United States, it's different everywhere.
Jim: It made the Pacific Northwest and Northeast Ohio sound pretty tame, didn't it?
Jeff: [laughs] Yes.
Jim: It rains here, it's cool here, it's cold here. It snows here, yes, yes, yes. It's just beekeeping. We got mites, we got small hive beetles. I enjoy talking to beekeepers. They have the same mental illness that I have, so it's good to be around like-minded people.
Jeff: [laughs] That about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple Podcast, wherever you download and stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker. Even better, write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews along the top of any webpage. As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping, for their continued support of the Beekeeping Today Podcast.
We want to thank our regular episode sponsor, Global Patties. Check them out at globalpatties.com. Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of this podcast. Check out their probiotic line at strongmicrobials.com. We want to thank BetterBee for its longtime support. Check out all their great beekeeping supplies at betterbee.com. Thanks to Northern Bee Books for their support of Bee Books: Old & New with Kim Flottum. Check out all of their firstname.lastname@example.org. Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank you the Beekeeping Today Podcast listener for joining us on the show.
Feel free to leave us comments and questions. Leave a comment section under each episode on the website. We'd love to hear from you. Thanks a lot, everybody.
[00:50:14] [END OF AUDIO]
Paul first developed his interest in bees at a young age while watching the commercial beekeepers’ hives on his aunt’s farm in Yamhill Oregon. After a long career serving in the Army and as a public employee, his love and interest in keeping and working with bees raised back to the forefront in 2008.
An avid beekeeper and member of the Olympia Beekeepers Association, Paul enjoys teaching and sharing his love of bees. As a Montana and Washington state master beekeeper, Paul has gained experience in both Langstroth, Top-Bar and Slovenian AZ hives. He noticed how the local maritime winter weather influenced his honeybees and beehive losses. Paul’s research for solutions lead him to better understand the Slovenian bee houses and AZ hives. Discovering better honeybee health and longevity, Paul converted a storage building into a bee house and installed several AZ-type hives.
Paul actively shares his knowledge by giving beekeeping presentations in-person, during podcasts and Zoom classes. He has taught several beekeeping classes for the Washington State Beekeeping Association, including the apprenticeship course to inmates at Cedar Creek Prison. Paul also serves as one of the clubs’ mentors to new beekeepers. He serves on the Thurston County Fairgrounds and Event Center board.
Along with his wife Penny Longwell who is a master gardener, they co-developed the Pollinator demonstration garden at the Thurston County Fairgrounds and Event Center. They also offer pollinator classes for the local Master Gardener Interns.
Sideline beekeeper. Columnist, Bee Culture magazine "Bottom Board" column since 2002. Author, A Beekeeper's Life, Tales from the Bottom Board. (https://www.amazon.com/Beekeepers-Life-Tales-Bottom-Board/dp/1912271885)
Actuarial tables indicate I should be retired, but I continue to be obsessed with Apis Mellifera. I live in western Colorado with the gal Marilyn, the blue heeler Pepper, 15 chickens, three geese, four lambs and way too many bees.
Tracy Alarcon currently lives in Diamond, OH and took up beekeeping in 2006 after his wife, Tina, got involved with the Ohio State University Master Gardener program. After reading everything he could get his hands on about beekeeping he took a Beginners course at the A.I. Root company in Medina, OH where the class was taught by Kim Flottum, and the rest is history, as the saying goes.
That first year he started with two packages in the Spring which turned into seven colonies going into that first Winter. As luck would have it three of those colonies survived that first Winter. He has sold queens and Nucs and managed up to 100 of his own colonies at one time. Currently he manages 21 colonies and would like to get it down to 10 or so, but he still likes raising queens so the number never seems to go down!
Tracy got involved in three of his local beekeeping associations doing whatever was needed and is still writing a newsletter for his home county, Portage, where he currently serves as the President. He also served for 5 years with the Ohio State Beekeepers Association and while there help craft the OSBA Master Beekeeper program and compiled the Best Management Practices that were adopted by the Board of Directors in 2012.
Tracy teaches beginners, queen rearing, seasonal management, and... beekeeping. Tracy served as the Portage County Apiary Inspector, (OH), for 7 years. He also is a recently certified EAS Master Beekeeper class of 2021!
Tracy lives with his wife, Tina, and their 5 dogs on 25+ acres in Northeastern OH. When not tending the bees or the gardens they enjoy life with nature.
Cohost, Author, PhD
Dr. James E. Tew is an Emeritus Faculty member at The Ohio State University. Jim is also retired from the Alabama Cooperative Extension System. During his forty-eight years of bee work, Jim has taught classes, provided extension services, and conducted research on honey bees and honey bee behavior.
He contributes monthly articles to national beekeeping publications and has written: Beekeeping Principles, Wisdom for Beekeepers, The Beekeeper’s Problem Solver, and Backyard Beekeeping. He has a chapter in The Hive and the Honey Bee and was a co-author of ABC and XYZ of Bee Culture. He is a frequent speaker at state and national meetings and has traveled internationally to observe beekeeping techniques.
Jim produces a YouTube beekeeping channel, is a cohost with Kim Flottum on the Honey Bee Obscura podcast, and has always kept bee colonies of his own.
Arizona Beekeepers llc is a family-owned beekeeping operation based in Litchfield Park, Arizona. He is a University of Montana Master Beekeeper and the current president of the Beekeepers Association of Central Arizona.
He says, "We started our company with three key goals: 1) We want to save and increase bee populations and help manage the threat of African “killer” bees in our dry desert environment; 2) We want to produce the best pure, raw local honey possible; 3) We want to use sensors and other tools to develop effective management techniques to help all kinds of beekeepers who are facing an increasingly harder environment and business."
Starting with two Italian bee nucs and using sensor technology, we can manage our hives and still minimize the disruption of our bees; solving a major problem with absconding African bees. Sensors have become so important to us that we have become the United States distributor for Bee Hive Monitoring, so that we can offer scales and sensors to other beekeepers throughout the United States. Bee sensors are sold through our website www.beehivemonitoringUSA.com
African bees are a real management challenge, and part of our commitment to wild bees was to save urban African bees by requeening them to reduce their defensiveness and making them compatible with urban beekeeping. As we could not make the economics work for this model, we have had to abandon this work. We now buy and sell honey, buy and sell bees, sell bee sensors, and teach beekeeping classes.
At our core, our mission will always be to grow bees and help people become successful beekeepers.