My beekeeping management plan
I have been keeping bees since 2007. Since that time it’s really been what I’d call a hobby. I have spent the time learning about bees and how to keep them. I don’t consider myself an expert on the subject matter, but I know a few folks that are.
Since the beginning I’ve felt that I needed a plan. Something that I could put into practice and tweak as the years go by. To a certain degree I’ve been doing this all along. But this year I intend to formalize my plan. One aspect of that is to talk about it. How better to gauge the plan’s successes or failures than to have it published and shared. Later, you can ask me how the plan is going.
Starting this year I’ll likely have around 10 hives starting in spring. Each hive is scheduled to receive 3 standard deeps for brood, pollen, and honey. I will not use a queen excluder. I will bottom super the hives, meaning that when I add a new super it will go under all the existing ones. In fact there will be two empty deeps below the super containing the brood. One for them to expand onto and one for protection and hygiene. The box directly below the brood will contain frames. Yet the one below that will not. By bottom suppering, I’m encouraging them to build downward as they do in trees and most other spaces. I’m told queens won’t usually lay eggs above the honey line. So harvesting the top boxes once full should contain little to no larva.
I will not provide foundation to the bees. The bees must draw their own comb. This should cut down on wax moth. As well as allowing them to expand the comb where and how they see fit. I will provide a bead of wax in the groove of the topbar for the bees as a guide. This bead of wax will come from naturally made comb from last year. I believe that bees need to make wax and I need not be so greedy and impatient by depriving them of the task.
I will not use any chemicals, treatment, pesticides, miticides, fungicides, antibiotics, or fumigants. I do not want to consumer or sell honey that might contains any such thing. I will not artificially feed the bees with sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, pollen substitutes, or anything else. If they are unable to collect enough food to store and sustain themselves resulting in death, then so be it.
I will split each hive into two after the second major honey flow, but before it gets too late in the year. July or August should do nicely. I will take each 10 frame deep down to two five frame nucs. I will split each hive in two. They will each get two five frame deeps, one for brood, one for honey. In this way I will double my hive count going into winter. If I loose a few over winter, I’ll still be ahead come spring. The idea of wintering in nucs came to me by accident. I had wintered one hive in a nuc last year. They consumed less over winter. They were also the fastest to build come spring. I split that hive 4 times last year. I believe it’s because they have less area to cover and warm. All the resources are within easy access to the cluster. I’ve seen hives that starved during winter that had stores all around the cluster. I’m told that this is fairly common. I’m also told that the cluster moves up to access additional resources. Not out. By giving them a tall narrow area to work with this should suit their desire well.
What honey isn’t used to supply the nucs with 5 frames each of honey will be harvested via the crush and strain method. This should be the second and final harvest of the year. I will bottle and sell what I get.
Come spring I will do inspections and decide which ones and how many hives I’d like for that year. Any nuc above that number will be sold. The remaining hives will again be expanded to ten frame deeps as the above starts over again.
I will market the fact that the honey I’m selling is supplied by chemical free bees. I expect to charge a fair bit more for chemical free honey as I believe it is worth more. Be able to get a higher price will depend on educating the consumer what makes my honey different and special. If they don’t want to pay the price they will have plenty of other choices among cheaper honeys.
That in a nut shell is my 2011 Beekeeping management plan. Along with that I intend to practice queen rearing and possibly selling queens at the local level. We’ll both know this year what worked and what didn’t in this plan.
If you have experience with anything I’ve mentioned above, please leave a comment. Thanks. God bless