-Posted by Isaac
I had the pleasure of talking to a northern Ohio beekeeper last week. It was a great conversation, covering all the normal bee gab— honey, nectar sources, pollen, wintering, mites and mite treatments, etc… made my day. I watched the ducks while we discussed the mysteries of buckwheat honey production.
And what really made my day was that he said he’d been following our blog for some time and was complimentary about it. Even though, he said, he didn’t always agree with my politics. (Imagine that!) Before I could put my foot in my mouth and press the issue, he followed with something like, “Well, hey, if we all thought alike, life would be awfully boring wouldn’t it?”
That struck me as somewhat broad. Almost profound in these strange and divisive times.
(Sure, we’re on different sides of the aisle, but don’t we all really want the same thing?)
Like fresh spring willow leaves…
Like healthy bees…
Sometimes that little voice in my head comes in at just the right moment. This time it said, “Isaac, stay off the politics and stick to bees… this guy is obviously smarter than you.”
So that’s what I did. And I’m still listening. We’re going to stick with bees (for this post, anyway), and we’re not even going to brag about the honey production, as most of my bee posts do. Although, I’ve got to tell you, it’s been going great with the fall honey.
We’re a week in, and it’s looking like a terrific crop. But let’s save that for another post.
For now, I’d like to talk a bit about what goes on between the honey extracting. What we do in the mean time.
In the past two months we’ve gone from this—
Off comes the summer honey in August, off comes the fall in October, and by November all the hives will be (hopefully) big, fat, heavy, healthy, and ready for winter.
There are plenty of places to go if you want expert bee advice, but I’m happy to share a few things we do that seem to work. As in, promote healthy, strong and productive hives… hives that also have a good chance of making it through the winter.
One thing is protein.
Starting in late July and going through October, every hive gets five or six pounds. Not all at once! Only a pound or two at a time.
Waste of money? Some say it is… but I’m not so sure. I’m no bee expert, but our hives have looked much better since I’ve been doing this.
Another possible waste of money—
No, not cocaine. (That’s way too much for one hive!)
This is a probiotic.
Every hive gets a sprinkle. We’re now giving our forth shot of the year (every other month) while pulling the fall honey. Again, it may just be an expensive placebo, but I’d swear the hives have been stronger because of it.
I repeat, most important…
You’ve got to keep the mites under control. We’re now on our forth formic acid treatment of the year. And we’ll hit them with oxalic in the late fall and early spring. It’s a constant ‘in the mean time’ job.
And unlike the above jobs— the protein and probiotic— mite treatments are not a quasi-riddle. For our bees, they’re a must. I’ve seen and been to the other side of the tracks— the treatment free side— and it’s hell. Mite-ridden bees are sick bees, simple as that. Even when they survive, they’re not productive.
An interesting article about fighting the mites was posted to social media this week. My friend Dan Williams always has a way of clearing the fog and getting a point across:
The mites have to be controlled. It’s what you do when you’re not pulling honey.
Dan and Bill both know this. They’ve been at it a long time, and these guys really are bee experts.