A few weeks ago, the Colorado State Beekeepers Association (CSBA) hosted Kim Flottum for a couple of talks to area beekeepers. Kim is the editor of Bee Culture Magazine and author of several books on beekeeping, notably The Backyard Beekeeper, which was updated to the 3rd edition last year. I always enjoy getting my monthly copy of Bee Culture Magazine – I read it voraciously on the bus ride to work.
I went to one of Kim’s talks in Loveland, CO which was titled “Ten Rules for Modern Beekeeping”. It’s taken me a while to put this post out because I’ve had other things on my mind and unlike some beekeepers I know, I don’t take very good notes.
But here is the Cliff Notes version of Kim’s presentation, as best I can remember it. At the beginning, Kim said these rules apply to other forms of managed animals (e.g. chickens).
Ten Rules for Modern Beekeeping
1) Need to have good queens.
- When you purchase queens, you should ask the supplier whether they have been tested and graded. You want a queen with a B+ or better rating and queens from a supplier should be tested every 6 weeks. Ask if they are part of the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP).
- Queens should be well mated by 20 or more drones
- Queen production can be evaluated by taking pictures of each frame and counting the number of new eggs and then compare with pictures from 12 days later. Difference/12 = eggs/day. A good queen should be laying 1000-1500 eggs a day.
- Wax should be removed every two years to avoid chemical buildup in the hive. Even in pristine environments, the bees bring nasty chemicals into the hive. Set up a plan for rotating out you old comb. For my top bar hives, I move old comb to the back where they can fill it up with honey and when I harvest the honey, I take the comb.
2) Need good genetics
- You should look for traits adapted to your location
3) Pest Management
- Varroa mite is the biggest threat to a colony.
- Kim advocated an IPM approach. Use drone frames (mites tend to prefer drone brood due to the longer incubation period) to trap the mites. Essential oils can also be used.
- European Foul Brood/Chalkbrood can be controlled by feeding
4) Control Swarming
- Kim does July splits to control mites and requeens both the splits. As he says, this decreases his honey production, but provides a brood break for varroa control (no bee larva, nothing for the mites to feed on)
- Anticipate growth – keep track of what is going on during the season (honey flow, bee buildup)
- Provide room for expansion
- Reduce populations in the hive before a honey flow
5) Provide a Safe Environment
- Make sure you use clean wax and get rid of old wax
6) Have Enough Room at the Right Time for:
- Honey – Kim advocated having 3 empty supers on you hive. During the day, the bees bring in nectar and can store it in these supers. At night, they reduce the water content and concentrated it down in the lowest super. At the start of the next day, the upper boxes are empty
7) Enough Good Food
- Land based honey (not sure what that means), but perhaps it means provide good forage
- Good water supply – 1 gallon/day
8) Only Healthy Hives
- Don’t try to nurse weak colonies
9) Winter Well
- Provide enough stores for overwintering
10) Food Safety
- Keep honey clean when processing it.
11) Do no harm
Obviously, my notes got worse as the night went on. But you are in luck – some of the rules are available (with more information) on the Bee Culture website.