Beekeeping Tips for January
by Todd Balsiger
Based on what I learned at the Fall Conference, beekeeping is not going to get easier in 2008, and our hive management practices may need to change to address new concerns. There are two main concerns: a more virulent form of Nosema which is active all year (N. ceranae – discussed in the last issue of The Bee Line), and the loss of synthetic miticides to control varroa (old news?). Time will tell how these issues will play out. Maybe Nosema ceranae will not be as virulent as some are suggesting – stayed tuned. In regards to synthetics not being effective (fluvalinate and coumaphous in particular), we now have alternatives – many of which are natural chemicals – like formic acid. For your overall stragedgy in 2008, I would suggest you consider the following points:
- Breed or purchase mite–fighting bees (the most important thing we can do according to Randy Oliver)
- Adopt integrated pest management practices
- Use natural chemicals for varroa control, and synthetics as a last stop
- Provide nutritional feeding (especially if stressed by commercial pollination)
Okay, now the tips for January…
- In general disturb your bees as little as possible.
- If you are concerned about starvation, lift the back of the hive to assess its weight. Provide emergency feed to featherweight colonies.
- Brood rearing and metabolism increase at this time of year which adds to hive moisture, so make sure lids are water tight, that hives are tilted so water drains away, and that there is sufficient ventilation.
- Make periodic checks of your apiary, especially after a wind storm to make sure nothing is amiss.
- Prepare for next month's tasks – in the past we have always recommended treating for foulbrood and varroa mites in February. I know some begin these treatments at the end of January if weather allows.
- For the non procrastinators, this is a good time to assemble hive components while there is not much else to do.
- If you have don't it already, order your queens and packages now.