|Home||Queens||Honey Production||Employment||Contact Us||Research & Publications||Tours||Items For Sale||Links||FAQs|
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
|The answers and
information listed here is what
we have learned after observing our bees
for many years within the environment
that we live in with our beekeeping practices.
Everyone knows that genetics, environment and treatment
animal behaviour in people, pets and livestock. The
be said about bees.
For example, most times we can work our bees without a veil on, but there are a few specific hive locations in our beeyards that no matter how many times we change the genetics of that hive, the hive is still cranky. Most likely the environment is affecting them, whether it is wind or something else. Likewise, when we use that same gentle genetic stock for cell builder hives they also become nasty because we are going into them several times a week. Those hives are reacting to how we are treating them.
So, read the information here, read other information elsewhere, but remember to always read your bees and act appropriately. They have their own personality and may not have read the same information that you have.
3. Why is my honey that colour? Why did it crystalize or go hard? Has it gone bad when it solidifies?
Every different flower with their different nectars yields different honeys. The differences will show up in taste, colour and crystallizing properties. Saskatchewan is an area where most of the honey is relatively white, mild in flavor and crystallizes quickly. When I worked in the tropics, their honey tended to be dark, strong flavoured and didn’t crystallize quickly. There are areas that get both types or golden coloured honey which can be a mixture of dark and light honey or another flower all together. Colour grading tools for honey range all the way from chocolate brown to water white. There’s that much natural variety in honey. Often you can identify the flower that the honey comes from because it tastes much like the flower smells. Likewise, honey can range from staying liquid for years to crystallizes rock hard in weeks or days. Either is still normal or natural.
With the exception of expensive testing, the only way that you can know whether the honey is honey or adulterated (different types of syrup labeled as honey to get a higher price) is to know the beekeeper or supplier and to know the local characteristics of the honey or to know the local flowers that produce nectar. For example, in our area canola is the dominant flower with alfalfa and sweet clover honey being the next most common. Canola produces a white honey that crystallizes quickly and has a stronger flavor than say alfalfa or sweet clover honey. We try to pack sweet clover and alfalfa honey rather than canola honey because it is milder in flavor and tends to be more spreadable even without processing it for creamed honey. So, if I see a jar of liquid honey that is labelled as unprocessed or raw honey, I’m suspicious. Local honey that doesn’t crystallize has either been heated to get rid of the crystals or it isn’t local honey. Honey from this area will still eventually crystallize even if it was flash heated to get rid of the crystals. Creamed honey is made by mixing very fine honey crystals into the honey so that the honey crystallizes with fine crystals rather than coarse ones, making it a creamy spreadable texture. If I was in the tropics, a light coloured honey would raise a red flag for me which would explain why a lot of new immigrants question whether our white honey is just syrup. Another red flag is when honey is marketed as coming from plants that don’t yield honey like Spruce or Corn. BeeMaid is a beekeeper cooperative that markets honey for western Canadian beekeepers. It is the store honey that I recommend because it is beekeepers trying to market their honey rather than a processer trying to obtain the highest profit margin no matter what they are selling.
4. Can honey go bad? What can I do with fermented honey?
Honey is hydroscopic. That means it absorbs moisture from the air around it. If the percentage of moisture in the honey rises above 18% it has the potential to ferment. You can prevent this by keeping your honey container closed so that it can’t pick up extra moisture from the air and by storing it in a cool dry place. Honey can last and be good for years and even decades if it remains dry.
However, if the honey does start to ferment it will have a slightly different flavor than what you might be used to. Eventually, fermenting honey will start to bubble and smell like other fermenting foods. I do all of my baking with honey. If I do happen to get some that has started to ferment, I use it in bread or other baking. Obviously, you could also use it to make mead. Fermented honey isn’t bad, if what you mean by bad is that it will make you sick. It just doesn’t taste like what honey should taste like. Honey that has access to moisture and high temperatures will start to ferment and will eventually mold if it is left long enough. Long before that point, any person can tell that it is not honey.top
Start small and get your feet wet first. Take the Beginner Beekeeping Course and/or go visit a beekeeper who is willing to host you. See if you REALLY want to do it. Think about how much money and time you want to invest. Read a lot of local beekeeping information (Beekeeping for Beginners: Photo Guide, Beekeeping for Beginners: Planning Guide) and talk to local beekeepers. It is not the same keeping bees in Saskatchewan as in the United States or other parts of Canada. For example, some articles I have seen circulated recommend that you not take honey from a hive the first year. To follow that advice in Saskatchewan would mean that you would potentially kill your hive because it would swarm, perhaps multiple times. A good rule of thumb is to look to similar climates where you would get gardening advice for Saskatchewan as a source of beekeeping advice. If you think you still want to become a beekeeper, start with one or two hives. Two hives gives you the ability to steal from the good one to fix the other if something goes wrong. Buy new standard equipment or make sure the equipment has been used recently and has been inspected by the official bee inspector in your area. Ask to see the certificate of inspection that they are required to get before they sell the equipment. I've known hobby beekeepers that have bought equipment from a local beekeeper that was retiring or getting out. Often, they received AFB (American Foul Brood) at no extra cost. You don't want the experience to end badly before it even starts. Standard equipment is easy to get and resell as opposed to special equipment. Pay attention to your bees. Neither your neighbours nor your local beekeepers will appreciate it if your hives start swarming or spreading diseases because you weren't paying attention. As you learn what to do, grow gradually. Look at the powerpoint presentation that we did to share our lessons learned. Have fun! Bees are addicting and fascinating. Beware that you might get hooked!
6. Who from or
where should I get bees?
A nuc (short
for nucleus hive) is a small colony of bees usually on 3 - 6 drawn
combs. The queen is already laying and there is a few combs
brood already. A nuc is sourced locally as they cannot be
mailed. Ask whether it is a local or foreign queen.
are typically more expensive than packages because they are already
significantly farther advanced than a package and it includes some
equipment (some drawn combs). Make sure they have a valid
inspection certificate so that you are not buying diseases for no extra
cost. All nucs are not created equal - reputation is an
guiding post in the sourcing of nucs.
A package of
bees is usually 2-3 lbs of bees with a queen. When they are
received, the bees and queen must be put into equipment to start
them. The population of the colony will continue to drop for
weeks because the queen does not start laying immediately and it is
only when those new bees hatch that the population starts to
grow. Typically, they arrive earlier in the spring from
(New Zealand, Australia or Chile). They have been inspected
come into the country. They must be fed. My
packages is extremely limited, but we did get packages in 2019.
9. Do you supply bees?
No we do not.
top10. How can I get your stock if I can't get nucs?
years, we have decided not to sell bees or queens. Therefore,
only way is getting a queen from someone else who bought our stock
11. Why didn't you supply queens before the first Monday in July?
We control both the maternal and paternal lines of our breeding. It takes about 35-40 days for drones to get from egg laid until sexually mature. Each queen should mate with up to 40 drones. That means that we must flood the area with sexually mature drones during good weather to get properly mated queens. Then research indicates that a queen should be left to lay for a while before putting her in a cage. Saskatchewan springs are difficult to predict when they will arrive. There would be no point in raising queens, if we didn't allow 1 month for drones to mature and another month for queens to get mated and start laying. It is safe to predict that queens will start laying drones by the end of April, but in this part of Saskatchewan, it would be irresponsible for me to assume they would start laying them before that. It would be possible, but not probable. Therefore, we know that we would have well mated queens in July, but it is a gamble with Mother Nature to promise them before that.
top12. What are the signs of a queenless/not queen right hive?
Beekeeping is an art as much as a science. The following are signs that a hive is queenless, but depending on the time of year or beekeeper behaviour they could also indicate something else.
Do you use cages to introduce a queen?
|We have used and continue to use depending on the situation:||
15. How and when do you make your splits?
As a cautionary note, we are experienced beekeepers in a relatively isolated area. We are constantly inspecting for contagious bee diseases and can recognize them at low levels. We treat our whole operation as a unit and therefore, mix bees and brood often to make queens and new hives. If you are not able to recognize diseases without help and are not in an isolated area, we do not recommend following this method. Learn the trade first.
We don't ever make splits. We use the income tax method of making new hives, skim from the strong without weakening them. Once we have queens, so July or maybe June and into August, we start pulling one or two combs of capped brood from strong hives every few weeks. It is a method of swarm prevention that never weakens our hives. Then we use those combs of capped brood to make new nucs or hives. The number of combs that we use to start a nuc or a hive depends on how late in the season it is. A hive or nuc started in June or July should both produce honey and be strong enough to rob brood from in a month. Note: If you have American Foul Brood (AFB) spores in just one hive, this will contaminate the whole operation very quickly.
We also will cannibalize the brood from the weak hives, the "dinks", once we have queens. Boosting weak hives is a waste of time because a weak hive is usually the sign of a poor queen in our operation. We will kill those queens and use that brood to start nucs or hives as well. Note: Weak hives could also be the sign of AFB, Varroa or another disease. This too would quickly contaminate the whole operation.
16. How do you overwinter your hives?
Outside in singles, 5 frame nucs and mating nuc hives. See the following articles for more information:
top17. Can I overwinter my hive on a screened bottom board?
18. Do you cover the whole hive with snow? How do the bees get in and out?
Yes, we cover the whole hive with snow including the entrances as soon as we have enough snow. We have been doing this since the early 1990’s. We use a push blade on the tractor and snow shovels. The bees generate enough heat that they will melt back a little cavity under the snow so that the hives look like they are in a little igloo. The bees can still fly out into that cavity to both defecate and die. As we get more snow we will go back out and cover the holes (we call them chimneys) that they melt out from under the snow. Every year we put up more snow fence attached to our bear fences around the beeyards to catch the snow.
We have found that the best overwintered hives are those that get covered with a snow drift. Snow acts as an insulator, both protecting them from the cold and protecting them from early warming spells. Early on, we learned that one of the risks of wintering bees in Saskatchewan is an early warm spell followed by a cold snap. A warm spell can stimulate the bees to start brooding because they think it’s spring. However, when winter returns, they cannot keep the brood warm and use up their nearby resources trying. They will still have feed in the hive that they could not access because it was too far away from the brood.
In In the spring, all of the bees that flew out of the hive to die during the winter will be in front of the hive in the little cavity rather than spread out around the surrounding landscape. That large pile of dead bees can scare even the most experienced beekeeper.Most years we also have to clean the snow off of hives in the spring because we collected so much around the hives that it does not melt quickly in the spring. We use a snowblower and shovels to do this.
Spring autopsy of dead hives:
I have a top entrance?
Bees store pollen as close to any entrance that they have. They also tend not to store honey that close to entrances. (Honey is easy to rob and pollen is not.) If you have a top entrance at the top of your hive (in the honey supers), they will store pollen where the entrance is. If that is above a queen excluder, that pollen will never get used because the queen will not lay eggs next to that pollen. Therefore, you will be carrying around pollen as dead weight in your honey supers and the bees will be wasting energy storing pollen that does not get used. If you have no queen excluder, the queen will move up to lay eggs in your honey supers next to the pollen. Then you risk taking your queen when you strip honey or you might lose brood while you strip honey. We do not have a top entrance above a queen excluder. You can make up your own mind. During the winter, a top entrance is important.
22. Is there enough space in a single for a queen to lay eggs?
A standard comb is approximately 78 worker cells wide by 42 worker cells deep on each side of the comb. In our singles we have 9 combs.
78 cells x 42 cells x 2 sides x 9 combs = 58968 cells
Each new worker occupies a cell 21 days from the day that the egg is laid until the adult hatches.
58968 cells / 21 days = 2808
A queen would need to lay 2808 eggs per day to fill up a 9 frame single with brood. We now use a 10 frame single. While she might be able to do that for a very short time, she cannot sustain that. So, yes there is enough room for a queen to lay eggs.
However, there is never enough room for large patches of drone cell. Nor during the summer is there room to store excess unused crystallized honey.top
23. What is the difference between running a single versus a double?
of all a single is when you only give the queen 1 standard sized brood
box to lay in all year round versus a double is having 2 standard sized
is a link
to a powerpoint
presentation that I did for the Regina Bee Club about the
difference or you can read about the small experiment that
we did comparing them.
25. How much honey will a hive produce?
That depends on the location, the climate and the impact of the beekeeper. In Saskatchewan the average amount of honey produced per hive is 200 pounds or 90 kg. Obviously, that depends on the climate. In 2019, it rained on and off during most of the canola blooming season. We produced about 50% of our average crop. However, if you look at the experiment on package hives vs. overwintered hives you can also see that it depends on the stock of the bee. Additionally, the beekeeper can impact that number significantly. I knew a beginner beekeeper that got 200 lbs or 90 kgs out of his hives the first year he got his packages even though he was drawing wax that year too. I also knew a long-time beekeeper in this area that rarely could produce a honey crop because every year he split his hives so much to make up for winter losses, that his hives were too weak to produce a crop or to the survive the winter and he repeated the same process every year. So, in our area a hive can produce as little as nothing if the beekeeper is particularly invasive up to 700 lbs or 320 kgs. Probably, it is safe to assume that your hive will produce near the average of 200lbs or 90 kgs/hive.
26. How do you get the bees to go through a queen excluder? I’ve heard some people call them honey excluder.Two experiments we did shed light on that question even though at the time that wasn’t what we were specifically comparing. Singles vs. doubles and package bees vs. overwintered colonies.The overall conclusion from these two experiments is that the problem does not lie with the queen excluder, but rather the stock and the size of the brood chamber.
top27. What do you know about top bar hives?
You have hit on an area of knowledge that I have read about but don't understand. I don't understand how to get bees for them. Because they are not standard, you can't get a nuc to transfer into them. Because it takes about 10 lbs of honey to make one pound of wax and packages come in too early in our season to successfully get the bees to draw the wax (which they have to before they can make new bees), I don't know how you get bees for them. They were designed for Africa where they could easily catch a swarm because of the race of bees.
I don't understand how you can get the bees to stop making drone comb on a top bar hive. Every time we stick an empty frame into a hive either by design or accident they draw it to drone comb. That works great for us because we then use that as a way to catch varroa mites. We stick an empty frame in. They draw it to drone. We pull it out before the drones hatch so that we can destroy the mites. Drone cell is a mite producing factory, and I don't want that. But, I don't understand how you stop it in a top bar hive. And therefore, I don't understand how to get them to live through the winter with all the mites.
do you get the combs out to inspect them? I've never seen a
yet that doesn't build bridge comb. How do you cut the bridge
comb and get the comb out without tearing it to pieces. It's
enough when the combs have a wooden frame holding the wax together.
don't understand how you stop the wax from bending over, particularly
on a warm day and falling off the frame when you inspect the combs.
I've had that happen when I've been dealing with swarms and I
don't know how to stop it then and I don't know how you would stop it
in a top bar hive.
do you separate the honey from the brood without injuring the queen or
disturbing the hive? Again this is based on me not have been
to figure that out in swarms either.
do you get them big enough to deal with the amount of honey that a
Saskatchewan hive produces?
can't I just replace the foundation in my frames regularly to ensure
that I don't have residues in the wax?
I'm sorry that I have more questions and no answers, but I truly don't
understand top bar hives. I know that they were designed for
very different climate where the people were poor.
They were cheap and would allow them to keep bees with little
investment. But that is the only
thing that I understand about top bar hives.
Flow hives were designed in Australia, a very different climate. Given that a Saskatchewan hive can fill a flow hive in 24 hours with nectar, I'm not sure how you could use it in Saskatchewan without either removing nectar rather than honey or making your bees swarm.
is a good article in the Regina Bee Club Newsletter that
29. Isn’t the perfect natural hive for honeybees a hollowed out tree? If I change the type of hive shape, won’t that help the bees?
Honey bees are not native to North American. They arrived with the settlers and so no honeybee colony in North America is natural. As a beekeeper in Saskatchewan, I’ve never seen a honey bee colony in a hollowed out tree. I assume that is because Saskatchewan does not have big enough hollowed out trees. When they swarm, they instead pick weird shaped cavities in walls or roofs or even cavities in vehicles. If the bees don’t seem that concerned with picking a cavity the shape of a hollowed out tree, I’m not going to be concerned with making my hives that shape. By using the standard Langstroth hives, I’m able to easily inspect and monitor my hives without disturbing them by breaking up their wax and honey. Langstroth developed a cavity shape that would work for both the bees and the beekeepers by reading the bees and acting accordingly. I now have bigger problems to solve that to try and resolve a problem that has already been solved.top
only successfully requeen themselves about 50% of the time.
that weren't the case, bees would have taken over the world long
ago. If you just let your hives swarm, you are just as likely
kill them as they are to survive because of that 50% chance.
stronger a hive is, the more bees there are pollenating. A
hive is achieved by properly managing your hive. That
time and work. Finally, we did not get Varroa for decades
we were isolated from other beekeepers. Even though we are
to Alberta, there were no beekeepers in between the border and our bees
so Varroa did not cross that border to us. Now, that is no
the case. There are so many beekeepers that you cannot keep
bees isolated. The beekeeper who does not manage their bees,
instead just lets them swarm, spreading their diseases with them is not
a friend of either the bees or the beekeepers.
Revised: March 4, 2022
Copyright © 2002 Pedersen Apiaries. All rights reserved.
Original Design & Graphics by Karen Pedersen
Photographic images are under copyright and used with permission of John Pedersen or Karen Pedersen