//Beekeeping basics

Beekeeping basics

The Stevies beekeepers believe successful beekeeping in the areas they have apiaries comes down to some key factors.

Location and available food sources

The location of apiaries and available sources of pollen and nectar is a very important part of beekeeping. Pollen and nectar are the primary sources of protein and carbohydrates to a bee colony.

In early Spring pollen sources usually, increase and pollen levels in the hive increase. The increased pollen levels signal to the bees that the rearing of more bees (brood rearing) can occur as pollen is the protein source that is fed to developing bees.

Through-out Spring pollen intake is high and in turn so is brood rearing with reaches a peak as the bees and beekeepers seek to maximise bee numbers before the honey flow occurs typically in December and January.

As with pollen, the bees also gather nectar from trees and plants. Nectar is a carbohydrate used by the bees as an energy source. When there is an excess of nectar, this is stored and processed by the bees in the hive to become honey. The nectar is available from multiple tree and plant sources and when the bees collect nectar from one source this provides us with a monofloral or single source honey, for example, manuka honey.

The Queen

Each bee colony has a Queen bee and every bee within the beehive is her progeny. The Queen becomes “the Queen” by being exclusively fed Royal Jelly early in her development. Once the Queen bee emerges from her cell she will spend approximately ten days in the hive before leaving the hive on mating flights. During these mating flights, she meets up with male drone bees from other hives. Once mated a young, vital Queen with the ability to lay eggs in a solid brood pattern is essential for commercial beekeepers.

Varroa Destructor mite

The Varroa destructor mite is a worldwide problem for honey bees and beekeepers.   The varroa mite feeds on the bees and the bees immune system is then compromised by viruses. The mite also feeds on the brood resulting in brood death.

The long-term hope is that mite resistant bees will be bred. In the meantime, the beekeeper is required to treat the bees in order to reduce mite numbers. At Stevies we treat our colonies three times per year using organic compounds and undertake regular mite counts in order to monitor mite levels in our hives.

The Randy Oilver website http://scientificbeekeeping.com has some excellent information on Varroa management.