Though it’s not the optimal time of the year to be having an evening club meeting, many folks were requesting it in order to go over winterizing a colony.
So before we get into the play by play, let’s take a minute to puff our smokers at Daphne Blackmer and Chris Pedemonte for opening up their apiary despite the winds, fires and evacuations to host the last hive dive meeting of the year.
One of the highlights of the meeting was walking through Daphne’s garden. She’s done an amazing job in the immediate area around the apiary. Her Mystic Spire Sage Jungle was going off and absolutely covered in bees. Between that, their cover crops and the pollinator meadow, Round Pond is really up there with the big bee supporters of this valley.
We got to check 3 very different colonies. It was awesome to get into the first one as it was without any signs of being parasitized, no deformed wing virus or varroamites. They had a decent brood pattern, ample stores, were positioned nicely within the hive for winter and had been back filling all the empty cells as the brood chamber decreased. There are no guarantees in this beekeeping game, but I’d bet we see them in the spring.
The next was limping. They had a low population, spotty brood pattern, curly wing present and phoretic mites riding around on the older bees- basically a bee train wreck. We discussed potential options for getting them back on track, which let’s be honest…are pretty slim this late in the game. Marrying them to another limping colony might be the only sustainable option.
The last colony was absolutely circling the drain and stands little to no chance of rebounding. Looks like they had a young queen that was either from a late swarm or supersedure that didn’t get mated properly or even at all. She had a handful of old foragers, no capped or open brood, very little pollen and nectar, wax moth had set in and there was a battalion of beetle. Seriously big beetle numbers. There just wasn’t a big enough workforce to keep them at bay so it was beetle hell in there. We stripped all their stores to prevent robbing, shook all the bees off the questionable comb, and basically consolidated them down to just one frame. Sadly, they’re dead bees walking.
The take home here is the understanding of what a colony looks like in those conditions and making sure you aren’t creating a bigger problem to all the other bees the area by letting them get robbed out. The bottom line is- and we really need you to hear this… whether you manage treatment free or otherwise, it's your responsibility as beekeepers to keep things tight. No excuses!
Chris took us through building a swarm trap and his experience with the design. Okay yeah, we’ve all heard about putting out swarm traps in the spring, heard Seeley talk about his research on the subject, and may have even dabbled in the swarm trap game a little ourselves, but besides Mike’s swarm traps in Pope Valley, we’ve hardly heard of beeks with Chris’s success rate.
He said bees moved into his boxes way before he even had time to get them placed out in the field. One might ask… Is it the man or the plan?!
He’ll step you through making three traps out of just one 4x8 sheet of plywood. Looks like a great winter project for spring. Daphne liked them as well because they are light weight and easy to move.
It was nice to see so many new faces at this meeting- not that there’s anything wrong with our old faces, but it’s good to know that the Napa County Beekeepers Association outreach is working. So lets all come together in the spring to discuss how we can support each other, make sure we all have bees, disseminate information to best inform our practices and build our community. Clearly we are on the high road at these meetings with all the insightful conversation, good food and great people.
Below is the PDF to Daphnes Bee friendly plants for year round foraging.
Bee Forage Throughout the Year - DB 10.27.19 - Sheet1 (1)(1)