Lancaster County Beekeepers Association

To promote better beekeeping in
Lancaster County, South Carolina

Q&A

Hello Beekeepers! We are working on collecting your questions and will provide answers based on beekeeping practices in Lancaster County and surrounding areas.

Please click below to send us your questions.


Journeyman Course 2017

Hive Inspection

Purpose

  1. What is the pupose of the Lancaster county Beekeepers?

    The objective of the Lancaster County beekeepers is:

    1. To promote better beekeeping in Lancaster County.
    2. To promote local interest in beekeeping.
    3. To educate the public on the importance of honeybees for pollination.
Back to top

Journeyman Course 2017

  1. What are the prerequisites?

    There are a few:

    1) Certified Beekeeper

Back to top

Apiary

  1. How far apart do you suggest we space our hives from each other?

    Typically, you want to space them far enough apart that you can easily get your hands in between two adjacent hives to manipulate the boxes when caring for your bees. Otherwise, there is no minimum space required. Some keepers will paint their hives different colors to help their bees know which hive to return to. You can still get drift, where a bee leaves her hive and returns to his neighbors. She'll live in the other hive quite happily. 

  2. How often do you go into your hives?

    While, of course, you can go in as infrequently as you want, it's recommended that you go in once a week as it's important to keep an eye on the bees. If you see a problem you can correct it before it's a real issue. For instance, if you see your bees are starting to create queen cups, you can do something such as splitting, to manage your hives and prevent swarming. Opening the hives once every two weeks during the summer is a good maximum to go by. In the winter, don't open your hives at all, especially not if the temperature is below 60 deg. Fahrenheit. You can judge whether or not they need supplemental feed by the weight of the hive. Occasionally tilt it throughout the year so that you know what a hive full of bees and honey weighs and use it to judge whether or not your hive feels light.

  3. How do you prepare the hives for winter?

    There isn't much preparation needed for our area. Simply slip the IPM board or some other board back under the hive if you're running a screen bottom board. Add a bar or other entrance reducer to the front to reduce the opening size. This prevents robbing and head loss. Some members just use what's to hand, like a couple of bricks. The hole should be around 3/4"-1". You'll have already removed all the excess supers and stored them for the year. Because the bees have a smaller cavity to heat and all the excess ventilation is closed, they can heat he hive much more efficiently. This is South Carolina, so if you experience a very hot day in the winter, you can slip out the bottom board, but it's not necessary. The bees will do their best to regulate the temperature to what they prefer.

Back to top

Pests

  1. How do I check for varroa mites?

    Coming soon. . .

  2. How do I treat varroa mites?

    Coming soon...
  3. What can I do about hive beetles?

    Coming soon...
  4. How to store my frames to protect against wax moths?

    While your frames are in a healthy hive, the bees protect against wax moths. When you remove honey supers for the winter and store them, you want to protect them from wax moths. They'll destroy not only your valuable wax, but also can destroy the wood frames. Their are chemicals you can use to protect your frames, but the best way is to allow plenty of light and air flow to get to the equipment. If you have or can make a covered area, just stack the supers with the frames in them and vertical so that they have maximum light and air penetration. Wax moths don't like this. It's important to keep them vertical so you don't strain the wax and cause it to sag on hot days. Also, you may want to lay something like a pallet or 2x4s underneath the bottom supers to prevent direct contact with standing water or moist ground.

Back to top

Queens

  1. Do you requeen annually? When do you requeen?

    Professional beekeepers tend to re-queen every year. As a hobby beekeeper, you can re-queen as often as you feel necessary, but every 2-3 years is typical. There are many issues that can be affected and corrected by re-queening. These included aggressive bees, bees that tend to swarm, poor laying/older queen, if your queen is damage or lost, if your bees swarm. During an instance where the queen is killed or the bees swarm, your bees that remain will make a new queen, but there is a long delay while she's raised, bred, lays, and those workers hatch and begin their honey producing cycle that can cause you to have much lower yields. When re-queening always follow the proper procedure to help ensure she's accepted.

  2. Any suggestions/methods on rearing queens?

    Coming soon...
  3. Whats a good source for queens?

    Coming soon...
Back to top

Splits

  1. When and how do you perform a split?

    Coming soon...
  2. Can I split a hive multiple times?

    Yes, you can split a hive multiple times. Either splitting a hive into multiple nucs at once or multiple times a year. Just keep in mind that when you perform a split, you're weakening the hive. The more times you split in a year, the weaker each individual nuc/hive will be. They'll each have less resources and less of each life stage of bee. While a split of a single hive into two in the spring will bounce back quickly and is sometimes necessary to prevent swarming, splitting the single hive into 10 single frame nucs will most likely fail. The same is true if you split late in the year. They won't have time to build up enough of a population to keep the hive warm. Each split should have a good qty of brood, honey, and pollen.

  3. How late in the season can you perform a split?

    Coming soon...
Back to top

Feeding

  1. Discuss your feeding methods. How early do you start? How late?

    This varies. The answer is feed when your bees need supplemental food. Well managed bees don't need any supplemental feeding. The reason many beekeepers feed early in the year is to kick start their bees and get the queen laying again so that you have lots of worker ready to go as soon as the nectar flow starts. Those same bees would start this process on their own, but you'd have a much lower harvest if you let them start on their own. If your bees had issues, were robbed, or you didn't leave them enough honey, then you may need to supplement. Their are various methods to feed them. You can put on a front feeder/boardman feeder, but keep in mind that when it's colder the bees congregate at the top of the hive, because heat rises and might die because they don't come down in the cold to get the feed. Two alternatives that you can use are a top feeder, where the feed is above the bees, and there are insert feeders where you remove frames and hang a feeder in the box. The only time you don't want to feed at all is when you have honey supers on. You can get in trouble if you sell honey as natural raw honey and anyone test it and it comes back as say, 'cane sugar'. Besides, if the nectar flow is on, the bees have all the food they need and nectar honey tastes much better than sugar water honey.

Back to top

Swarms

  1. What equipment should I have to remove a swarm?

    Coming soon...
  2. What steps should I follow to safely contain a swarm?

    Coming soon...
Back to top

Equipment

  1. Where do you store your equipment?

    Coming soon...
  2. How do you clean your equipment?

    Coming soon...
Back to top

Honey Harvest

  1. Can I sell my honey to anyone?

    You can sell your honey to anyone you want to, but there are a few caveats. Most of you are going to be hobby beekeepers. In the state of SC, if you produce under 400 gallons of honey, label it properly, and sell to the end consumer then you only have to have your label approved and apply for a free exemption with the state. There are plenty of companies that will help you create a label that conforms to honey selling laws. By end user, it means that you're selling to the person who'll be eating it. This is if you sold it to your friends, family, and co-workers or at a farmers market. You wouldn't be able to have local stores sell it on your behalf. Once you produce over 400 gallons a year or try to sell it commercially, you have to have a dedicated honey house and it has to be inspected. Find more information on this topic here.

  2. What percentage of capped honey should be on a frame before I pull it for extraction?

    You should wait till approximately 80% is capped to insure that it's all properly cured to around 18.6% water content to prevent fermentation. On a side note, fermented honey, also called mead, was probably the first alcoholic beverage created by humans. It's still produced today, with just honey or with fruits and spices added.

Back to top

Hive Inspection

  1. What type of fuel source do you use for your smoker?

    You can use any thing that burns, however, you should avoid things that could have unnatural contaminates that could harm your bees. For instance, you wouldn't want to use treated lumber, anything that's ever been sprayed with insecticides, or any thing that you basically couldn't find in nature. Good options are grass, bark, pine needles, straw, hay, burlap, wood chips for smokers or for your fireplace, etc... play around and see what gives you the longest burn from what is readily available to you. Pine needles tend to have a long burn time. Properly starting your smoker and giving it the occasional puff has a lot to do with how long it stays lit. Keep in mind to puff it occasionally or even reload it as necessary while checking your hive.

Back to top

Hive Componets

  1. Do you use spacers for your honey supers? Why or why not?

    It's up to you as to whether or not you use a spacer in your honey super. If you have a 10 frame box, you can add 10 frames in the super. Many keepers use a spacer so that they can add 9 frames and have them equally space. You can either install a permanent spacer in the box or you can use a hand held spacer to check it before closing it up. The purpose of putting 9 frames as opposed to 10 frames is that the bees draw the comb out further. Since bee space is approx. 3/8", the bees draw the comb out till they have that bee space between frames. You'll have the same amount of honey in the super, but the comb sticks out further, making it easier to cap the honey with a hot knife and preventing you from having to scratch caps that were sunken and adding more wax that has to be strained out later in the process.

  2. What type of foundation do you use? Wax, plastic, something else?

    There are different types of foundation. You can have pure wax, wired for support or unwired. You can have plastic foundation for brood or specifically for drones. The special drone comb is typically green to let you know at a glance and the purpose of it is that it is sized to for drone cells, causing the bees to lay lots of drones. Varroa mites, a bee pest, prefer to lay on drones. You wait till the drones are capped with all the nasty varroa trapped inside and then destroy all the cells on the frame, thus ridding yourself of many varroa and interrupting the brood cycle of the ones that are left. It's the opinion of some of the beekeepers in our club that the bees prefer natural wax foundation over plastic, so they use plastic in the supers, if at all, and natural in the hive bodies. Plastic is stiffer and doesn't require support of wiring. If you have a wax foundation and you plan to put it in a centrifugal style extractor, you need to wire it to prevent it from coming apart when extracting honey. Some larger wax foundations may need fishing line or wire added to prevent sagging in the frame.

  3. Do you use a screen bottom with removal bottom board? If so, when do you insert/remove it?

    Screen bottom boards provide multiple benefits in our area. The biggest is the allow varroa mites, when cleaned off by the bees, to fall to the ground and die. If you have a solid bottom board, the bees clean the mites off, they fall to the bottom and then work their way back up to the top of the box to re-infest your bees. Another added benefit in our hot humid environment is that it provides excellent ventilation to the hive. You want to remove them when the weather gets hot in the spring and add them back when it gets cool in the fall. The temp you're looking for is ~60 deg. You can permanently add or remove it for the year when temperatures are holding above or below this temperature. Keep in mind that nights are colder than days. Bees self regulate the hive temperature. You're just helping them out so they don't have to work as hard at controlling the temp and can put their efforts into everything else it takes to make you and them lots of honey. If you get a lot of temperature fluctuation, like you do in SC, and you're not sure whether to remove it or leave it in, just use your best judgment and  you'll be okay. If you think they'd rather be a little warmer than cooler, then leave it in and vice versa. You can remove it and add it as much as your time and inclination permits you to. That's a personal choice and if you just remove it completely when the weather is  consistently close to 60 deg. at night and the opposite in the fall, then you'll be fine.

  4. When do you use an entrance reducer?

    An entrance reducer is exactly what it says, an item placed in front of the hive entrance, to reduce the size of the hole the bees can get in and out of. It can bee a specially bought reducer that fits between the bottom board and the bottom of the brood box or it can be a brick or piece of scrap wood you had laying around. Either way, you're reducing the size of the entrance to the hive. One reason you'd want to do this is to prevent heat loss in the winter time. Other times, you'd want to do it so the bees have a smaller area to defend from predatory wasps and other honeybees trying to rob their stores of honey.

  5. Do you use queen excluders? Any trouble with them?

    Queen excluders are something that's up to each individual keepers preference. A queen excluder is a piece of perforated material set between the brood boxes and the honey supers. The perforations are slots that are wide enough that the workers can squeeze through to store honey and pollen, but is too narrow for the queen, thus preventing her from laying eggs in any of your honey. You don't want brood on any frame you are harvesting because they'll cause fermentation in your honey and kill valuable worker bees. Some keepers always use them, some only use them if the queen starts laying a lot of eggs in their supers, some people believe that scrapping against the slots as they squeeze through slowly damages the bees and reduces their working life span, other add an excluder and then check on it later and if they seem to have a harder time getting through it's removed. Some species are larger and have trouble getting through the slots. If you were to leave it on, you wouldn't have any brood in your supers, but you wouldn't have any honey either. The best strategy is to see what you need in your situation. If you're having trouble with brood in your supers, try adding an excluder. Or you can throw an excluder on and remove it if you notice the bees are having trouble.

Back to top
Still have questions? Feel free to Contact Us