Between a lack of food supplies and a rise in the use of harmful pesticides and urbanization, bees have had a very rough ride over the last few years. Sadly, this has put the environment in a very tough spot.
This has put bees in a bit of a tough spot as well and, as beekeepers, you want your hive to be in the best possible condition. You want the residents healthy!
Beekeeping is a Year-Round Responsibility
The typical size of a colony consists of one queen, and between 18 and 20,000 workers and drones (male honeybees).
There are many types of bees and regardless of which type of bee you have, you can’t just set up shop and wander off.
Bees can become sick fairly quickly if exposed to nasty pathogens, fungi, mites, viruses, and bacteria.
A nutritional deficiency can also lead to sick bees. Now, sickness in bees can occur at any time in the year.
You need to keep a constant eye on your hive and make sure that nothing goes wrong. This means you need to be available all year round to keep an eye on things.
So, how do you keep your bees healthy? Well, here are a few ways.
1. Keep your Hives Clean
Purchasing clean equipment is crucial to avoiding diseases that could affect your hive.
If you purchase equipment second-hand then it’s important to make sure that there’s no pollen, propolis, honey, or wax left in the hive.
These build-ups can cause serious problems for your hive. They can also attract pests which can cause just as much, if not more trouble for you and your bees.
2. Keep your Bees Hydrated
Like most animals, bees get thirsty and need water to stay hydrated. The water supply should be clean and ideally be in a shallow bird bath or dish.
It needs to be shallow so that it’s safe for the bees to land and drink. You can add pebbles to the dish/bath for them to land on and drink.
3. Flowers are Food
Flowers provide sugar, pollen, nectar, and other proteins for bees. These are important things for bees if they want to grow healthy and reproduce.
The more variety you have, the better. Apart from the benefit of color to your garden, you also add a variety of foods to the diet of your bees – not all bees will eat the same stuff.
You can scatter the plants in your garden using pots, wall planters, and boxes so you don’t need a lot of space to plant flowers for your bees.
4. Keep the Air Flowing to Prevent Overheating/Melting
Summer temperatures aren’t always the best thing for your bees. Without adequate airflow, the hive will overheat, and your honey will melt. Your bees lose their winter food and you lose your honey.
5. Expand When Needed
Let’s face it, your hive only has so much room and eventually, it will be full of both bees and their brood.
Expanding your hive means more room for more bees and a larger honey crop. That sounds like a win-win to me!
6. Do Regular Inspections
It’s very, very easy for something to go wrong with your hives. You should conduct regular inspections of your hives, checking for diseases and/or pests that could cause problems for your bees.
7. Dispose of Waste Properly
Keeping things clean is crucial to keeping your bees healthy. Make sure that any spills, wax remnants, old comb scraps, and dead colonies are cleaned up and/or disposed of properly.
These things can attract pests and cause diseases to/in your hive which, as I said before, is a serious problem.
8. Put together a Health Plan for your Hives
Make sure you understand what pests you’ll have to worry about and what they can do to your hives and put measures in place to stop them. Record any and all treatment details when it comes to pest/disease management.
Requeen the hive every few years, and make sure you replace the comb(s) regularly. You should also keep careful control over swarming and make sure your bees have enough space.
9. Keep Predators Away from your Hives
If you thought all you had to worry about was pest and disease control, you were wrong. Bees, like almost all animals, have predators to worry about. The most common predators to watch for are:
- Possums and Skunks
- Bugs and Fungus
- Other Bees
You need to watch out for predators and keep them away from your hives.
10. Hosting Fund Raisers will also Help
Hosting a fundraiser will help raise money for your local conservation organizations.
This helps with community relations and allows you to share experiences with other beekeepers and learn from their mistakes.
You also have the opportunity to help out newbies to the beekeeping business and people looking to get into the business.
11. Teach your Kids about Bees
Keeping your kids safe is one of the top priorities of any parent. There are many free resources available to use to teach kids about ecology and nature and how bees are necessary to the environment.
You can also teach them what NOT to do around hives – I’ve lost count of how many times I saw kids take broomsticks and stones to hives…
12. Build Homes for Bees
Most bees are solitary by nature and build their homes in the ground. You can pick a spot on your land and build/purchase little bee shelters…I’m sure they’d appreciate it.
13. Bees need Trees
Trees are a major food source; bees get most of their nectar from tree blossoms and the resin, leaves, and natural cavities provide excellent nesting material and shelters. Plant and care for a few trees and give bees a seasonal buffet and shelter.
14. Switch to Organic Pesticides/Herbicides
Store-bought, synthetic pesticides/herbicides often contain chemicals that are harmful to bees.
Switch over and use organics – stuff like compost – to improve your soil quality (remember: most bees build their homes IN the ground) and attract bugs that will keep the pests away.
15. Supplementary Feeding
When your colony is low on stored food or has little to forage, it’s a good idea to have a backup plan in place.
Of course, you can’t just feed bees random things, you have to know what to give them. Foods to give to your bees are:
Using white sugar or syrup that had been made with white sugar and water can supplement the honey stores in your hive and give your bees a much-needed winter food supply.
In general, the ratio of sugar/water should be 1:1 but some keepers like to use a 2:1 ratio instead – especially when using syrup instead of sugar.
Don’t give your bees honey unless it’s from your own hives, honey can spread bee diseases like foulbrood and attract robber bees to enter the hive.
It’s important to note that raw sugar, brown sugar, and molasses will give your bees diarrhea so it’s not a good idea to feed them those things.
There are times when pollen will be scarce, in these instances you can buy pollen substitutes/supplements from stores that sell beekeeping gear.
Supplementary feeding should also be done before anything stressful happens in the colony (i.e. moving, harvesting, etc.) to reduce the stress levels your bees experience.
Brewers yeast is similar to pollen in terms of its nutritional value and can be dry-fed to your bees but it works better when mixed with syrup – it gets a peanut butter-like consistency (bees have their own type of peanut butter, who knew?)
Happy Bees, Happy Business
Beekeeping isn’t necessarily difficult but it’s not a cakewalk either. It takes serious effort, and there’s a lot that can go wrong.
While the initial hive/colony won’t be horribly expensive, if you have to keep buying new colonies (yes, you can do this) and equipment, the cost will stack up significantly.
This is obviously going to be bad for business so it’s best to remember: happy bees equal happy business.
I hope you guys enjoyed the article and found it informative. Thanks for reading and I’ll see you in the next one!
Greg spent most of his childhood in camping grounds and on hiking trails. While he lives in the suburbs nowadays, Greg was raised on a small farm with chickens. He’s a decent shot with a bow, and a huge knife enthusiast. Find out more about Greg.