Sunday, 2 August 2009

Structured Request for Beekeeping Stories

Dear colleague beekeeper:

After receiving some responses to my call for stories about people getting involved in beekeeping in my last Apis newsletter, I see that more structured questions might help others submit their reflections on the beekeeping experience.   So I have developed the following questionnaire:

When did you begin beekeeping?  What specifically got you interested?




Is there a family history of beekeeping?




What was your first experience manipulating a beehive like?  What did it teach you?




What is the size of your operation (number of hives)?  Do you plan to expand?  Contract in size? What are your major considerations for this?







Do you produce honey for sale or just as a gift?  Do you market other bee products?




Do you engage in commercial pollination?



Are you a member of an association?  Local? State?  Which?  Do you attend meetings?  Do you have a leadership role?







What short courses have you attended?  What memorable instructors have you had.  What is the most important thing you learned?





What publications (printed and electronic) do you routinely read?




Where do you live? What is the climate like? Temperate? Subtropical? What is the configuration of a hive in the region (all deeps) (a deep and a shallow)





What are the major plants that bees use in your area?  Have you seen any shift in their nectar production?





Where do you get replacement bees (packages? Nucs?) and queens (raise your own; purchase). What kind of bee do you use?  (Italian, Carniolan, Buckfast) Do you collect feral (wild) bees and swarms?










What is your biggest beekeeping challenge now?



Has that changed since you began beekeeping? 




Other remarks about your experience that would encourage/entertain or educate the beginning beekeeper.






I give my permission to Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford to use the above in Electronic and printed media:  Your name here: ________________________


As I stated, I plan to do an electronic summary of the replies I get and will post it so everyone can benefit from the contributions.  Again, I will also need your permission to use the material in both printed and electronic material and provided a space above for this.

Thanks for your participation.

Malcolm T. Sanford

Here is what Troy Fore published in the Summer edition of The Speedy Bee that fits the bill in many ways as a potential story.  Note it contains information about specific management activities (putting on foundation), specific manipulations (I made nine splits  to slow them down a bit), description of a specified location (all  beekeeping  is local—gallberry bloom in the S.E. United States), and also discusses some history based on his experiences  with  his father as mentor, including effect of the number of colonies(You can do this with two dozen hives; it is more difficult with 2,000) and even identifying a “hot” colony and how that might have come about:

Troy Fore, Editor of The Speedy Bee, second generation beekeeper in Jesup, GA:

“We have had an interesting spring (2009) in the bees.  The windup reminded me of a spring over 40 years ago.  I was working with my daddy trying to produce enough honey to make ends meet.

“Conditions looked very promising as we approached our prime season for making cut comb off gallberry.  I have a clear vision of going to beeyard after beeyard in a cold, steady rain, putting on supers of fresh foundation.  A few weeks later, we went back around removing the supers of foundation; most were empty as when installed.  The rain had continued right through the gallberry bloom.  The only thing I accomplished was catching a near-death of cold.

“This spring was also full of promise.  I had lost just three of my 27 colonies.  The remaining built up quickly -- too fast in some ways.  I made nine splits to slow them down a bit.  Since I had not made any preparations to have queens on hand, I had to leave them to rear their own queens.  Five did so; not bad considering we had a late spell of cold, windy weather just then.  I have since identified one "hot" colony; you get these occasionally when using non-selective breeding practices!

“I put on a round of deep supers of foundation.  I had bought just enough (Daddy, if you are reading this -- we can now buy assembled frames with foundation already installed.  It is a bit pricey, but when you consider paying employees and all that goes with that, the pre-assembled foundation is probably no more expensive than what we did in the old days). 

“The weather and the bloom were just right.  I was beginning to wonder if they would run out of room before the honey flow ran out.  I went around, moving a super here and a few frames there to get the empty ones on more populous colonies.  I also moved some sheets of brood to build up weak colonies and take the pressure off the strong. (You can do this with two dozen hives; it is more difficult with 2,000).

“The rains started a couple of days later.  Over the next 30 days, we must have had  measurable rainfall for at least 20.  The first two weeks of rain washed out the remaining gallberry bloom.  At least I didn't have to buy more foundation.  Even so, it was a good spring in the bees here in Southeast Georgia, especially now that I am not trying to raise a family on my beekeeping income.

“Now I need to set up for extracting somewhere.  For the past several years I have been mostly leaving the honey for wintering and making extra splits in the spring, but I am reaching my limit with 30 hives in my backyard.  Oh, I should have noted at the outset, I am telling you what I did, not what you should do.  You have to make your own mistakes.  Happy beekeeping!”

Bee sure to Catch The Buzz, Bee Culture's latest releases important to beekeepers at <>.  Also access the Apis Information Resource Center <>, which contains Dr. Malcolm T. Sanford's archived Bee Culture articles at <> and check out his blog <>.  Finally, take a look at the Global Bee Breeders Association’s efforts to increase honey bee diversity with minimal risk <>