BEEKEEPING IN THE NORTHEAST - An account of my beekeeping, not a treatise of expertise, but for friends & family who wish to keep bees vicariously through me, and for the occasional apiarist passer-by.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Drone Trapping in the Spring

Now that I have a shop I'm enjoying hearing so many stories from beekeepers, mostly new and wannabee beekeepers, and helping them get started has been very energizing for my own apiary practices; so if your are wondering why my writing seems to have taken on a little authoritative voice, that's why... not that I am not still learning about bees every single day.

Here is my current message to those interested: 

I strongly believe if you really want to be a good beekeeper and think you have to use some sort of treatment on your bees, knowing exactly what you are treating is best practice. It is also important if you are claiming that not treating your bees is working - and after three winter's survival on some of my hives I must take my own advice here - you should be able to prove with good record keeping that you know what you are boasting about.

Just checking, newbies: Please don't dust your frames of brood with powdered sugar for varroa control. I keep hearing about this despite the many years it has been reported to be a bad idea. See: Jennifer Berry revealing powdered Sugar as a poor choice. - basically, it clumps into the brood area and invites other moisture driven diseases to run rampant.

First year beekeepers can assume they have varroa as it is hard to get someone who has gone to a lot of trouble raising disease resistant bees to sell a nuc to a newbie, and newbies have enough to wrap their minds around... but the rest of us shouldn't assume anything. Again, I will take my own advice this season and monitor regularly my hives with a sugar roll count. I have at least one colony from the same sources that I've sold through the shop and will monitor them at the shop. I'm using drone comb on those starting early this spring.

Important quote about using drone brood frames (the green plastic ones) for your integrated pest management plan, or IPM. This is a long article at Scientific Beekeeping - (which has many valuable insights besides):

"Once your drone frames are full and capped don’t automatically freeze or cut the brood out. Instead, use a cappings scratcher to remove and count the number of mites in several different areas on the comb. Early in the year it’s not uncommon to find only a few mites, occasionally you won’t find any.

Possibly the rearing colony simply has a low mite count coming out of winter, or perhaps there’s a resistance factor involved. Either way, return the frame to the colony and allow that round of drones to emerge. Drones from low mite count colonies are a good thing. Use them at every opportunity. 

If you are really serious about controlling Varroa without the use of chemicals, genetic selection is the only route available. You have to start that selection process somewhere. Preserving or propagating drones from low mite count colonies is as good a place as any."