Several people in my club have asked this question recently…”shouldn’t I wait to use the oxalic acid vaporizer until it is colder?” I wanted to vaporize while it was warmer, and this is a good chance to learn to think about bees.  Here are the facts we know, and some questions:

The bees started making brood after the solstice,  ( I can tell you this is true because I see them in my observation hive.

The more brood there is, the more mites will be protected from the vapor.

The phoretic mites will be on the bees nearest the brood, in the center of the cluster.  Will the vapor really get in well if the cluster is tight?

Bees are paralyzed by cold, will the vapor be so disturbing that the bees will uncluster and be unable to get back?

My instinct tells me that I need to vaporize while the bees are in the hive, but not clustered tightly, and it is warm enough that they can move around a little to groom and still get back in the cluster, and before there is any more capped brood where mites can hide.  It took a while to find someone with an answer, but David Baker from To Bee or Not To Bee had one.  He says what he has read is the OA vaporization should be done between 30 and 50 degrees.  40 was the number I had in mind, since that is the temp at which bees can move inside the hive to access honey stores.  Adding together the facts we know about bee behavior is a good way to come to a conclusion about how we should react to what we see in our hives.   What do you think, did I miss anything?  T

Winter is the perfect time to learn about our bees, and the perfect time to set goals for ourselves and our beekeeping. The CSBA Master Beekeeper Certification Program is gearing up for a busy and educational summer. I am meeting this week with our web guy (have you seen our new web page?) about getting the MB program back up there.  First to appear will be our new Apprentice Level written exam which is based on “The Beekeepers Handbook” by Diana Sammataro.  It would be so fun to form a study group in your bee club and prepare for not only the exam, but also to be a better beekeeper. Topics include winter cluster behavior, indications of swarm preparation, robbing, flower fidelity, bee biology, and all those things about our bees that fascinate us. If you have been a beekeeper for two years, you qualify to take the exam, and after also passing the field exam, you graduate to the Journeyperson level. I have to admit, I thought it was pretty interesting just to see if I could pass the exams.

Beekeeping Merit Badges

For those of you who have already qualified to move on to the Journey Level, we’ll have Guided Studies on all kinds of topics like Feeding, Development of the Honey Bee, Pesticide Poisoning, Mites (of course!), Over-wintering, Queen Rearing. These studies are for you to work through on your own.  They will help you learn to research effectively, and help prepare you for the written and lab exams.   CSBA will sponsor and schedule classes this spring on these and other topics such as swarm prevention and increased honey production. We are still working on the budget, and we are looking for funding to help keep your involvement in the Master Beekeeper Certification Program much more affordable. Imagine if you really knew how to keep your bees healthy and happy, and the beekeepers around you all did, too.

Let’s get started!   Get your copy of “The Beekeepers Handbook”, start studying, and keep your eye on for more info coming soon.

One of the neat things about horizontal beekeeping versus (vertical) Langstroth beekeeping is that you can be a lot more active in the winter without disturbing the cluster. I just got in a couple of my top bar hives yesterday. Working from the back of the hive I removed full honey combs and set them aside until I reached empty combs and started seeing a few bees. The goal here is to place the full honey combs in the hive, up against the back of the cluster, and push the empty comb to the back of the hive out of the way. But, here is where the temptation comes in. I really thought I should be seeing more bees than what I was,and the temptation to peek at the cluster proved too strong.  I kept going until I saw the tiny cluster with the queen. Since the temps were above 50′, they will be fine,(probably) and now I know. The queen and cluster were in the middle of 5 empty frames, and of course since it is after the winter solstice, that is where she wants to begin laying. Now they have room to lay, but honey is easily accessible, in case of a cold snap. Long hives can have this treatment as well, as long as there is a covering over the cluster so that you don’t let the heat and scent out.  Happy Beekeeping!  T