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Follow Homer's Beekeeping! December

Updated: Sep 3, 2021

When I first started beekeeping. I would peruse the web, YouTube, and books from the library about beekeeping. I found it interesting how much of the information I found varied from my hives. If I saw something in my hive I felt was a bit off, it was hard to find something that looked exactly like my hive in order to troubleshoot . The "Fat Bee Man" from the south, Michael Palmer from upstate Maine, Dave Burns from central Illinois, plus a myriad of other newer beekeepers from everywhere had their own way of doing things that were not specific to Utah. I've learned over the years to research general issues on the web, but to be aware that specific knowledge from a perspective of their location and micro climate applied to the region where they lived.

Here in Utah it's important to make our own observations our and adjust the time table of how we manage our hives to our unique part of the world. Here are few things to observe and monitor and keep some records/diary of your observations.

  1. When Brooding-up starts (determines when to do mite treatments and swarm control).

  2. When you first notice Drones in your hive in the spring (indicators of when swarming will start. There has to be sexually mature drones for swarming to begin )

    1. First Drone cells noticed (24 days to hatch).

    2. First hatched drones in the hive (drones aren't sexually mature to mate with new queens until 10-12 days after hatching).

  3. First swarm queen cells (Queen cells indicates hive is preparing to swarm).

  4. Strength and tightness of the brood nest.

    1. Condition of the brood ( it there bee milk in and around the developing pearly white larva).

  5. Honey Flow (Unlike the Northeast and the Southeast, Utah is a desert. There is only one state in the US with a lower average rainfall than Utah (12.2 inches/year)and that is Nevada, our honey flows are drastically different than the lush landscapes of the east.).

  6. Pollen and honey stores, and their location in the hive.

  7. General overall rating.

Noting these events with dates and weather conditions annually will help in planning the coming year for your area. Every year I am asked "When does swarming start?" "When is the honey flow?" Those kind of questions depends on many things, strength of your hive coming out of winter being one. But also some conditions that vary a little every year with how Spring arrives and Winter exits and when the first flower bloom starts.

In Utah we also have some interesting micro climates that change with elevation quite a bit. I have a bee yard in Pleasant view 5974 ft elevation (25 miles from my home), another near Morgan that is 5416 ft elevation (23 miles from my home), and another out by the Great Salt lake that is 4297 ft elevation (5.4 miles from my house). So I have as much as 1677 ft elevation difference in bee yards all with in 25 miles of my home. That elevation change can mean a significant difference in temperature, moisture received, whether it's snowing or raining, and when and how long different honey and pollen sources are available. Those of you in St. George are at 2598 ft elevation again will be different than here in the Salt lake area and hugely different than even Cedar City only about 50 miles from you at 5826 ft elevation. For you Gardeners, we have Hardiness zones from 2b to 6a in this state. So learn to know your area characteristics and the unique micro climate for your area. Learn through observation of your hive to tell when and how things change in your hive where it is and how to help your hive prepare it's self for the coming season, whether winter or spring or summer. Become a student of your bees and learn from them.

Beekeeping Action items for your hives -

  1. Place an insulated top under your outer cover (Bee Beanie, winter feeding board) If you haven't already done so.

    1. Check every 3-4 weeks to see if more fondant - winter bee food needs to be added.

  2. Set your beekeeping goals for the next year.

    1. Develop a management plan to accomplish your goals.

      1. Equipment purchases needed for those goals.

      2. Bee packages or Nucs We are taking orders now for next spring.

      3. Varroa mite treatment Plan for the year.

      4. Swarm control Plan for the spring.

  3. Read and study take classes. (We offer new beekeeper and Advanced beekeeping classes) Continue your beekeeping education. The more informed you are the better you'll be able to understand your bees and guide them properly.

Happy Holidays Everyone!

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