THE PILGRIM RECOMMENDATIONS
Over the years, we have implemented various practices to manage our apiaries. These techniques proved very useful to succeed in our constant battle for colony survival. Knowing the worldwide decline in honeybee population, we believe these RECOMMENDATIONS are worthwhile considering, for the serious beekeeper who desires to do everything in his power to save his bees, and increase productivity.
These practices require some investment in time and material in your bee colonies. But if we consider the resulting advantages, we can conclude and foresee additional income. Winter losses will go down, so less expenses in rebuilding colonies. Bee population will be maximized, and so is production. Bee health and vitality should improve, so brood infections and parasites should also go down, resulting in fewer treatments to perform.
Another point to consider is the number of colonies in your operation. In order to execute these recommendations, you need to schedule more time per colony during the season. However, if average net income per colony is increased, then it is profitable. Sometime, one has to rethink the whole plan and make some crucial decisions.
NOTE: It is important to point out that these RECOMMENDATIONS overlap each other in areas of benefices. Consequently, the positive effects will be greater if they are implemented simultaneously. By themselves, applied singularly, the effects may actually not be visible very much. In other words, the more you do, the more you will benefit.
In our beekeeping operation, we have decided to include the 5 strategic recommendations:
Feed early, near the end of summer, when it is still warm during the day (early September, instead of October), even if there is still a small honey flow. Pollen is usually available for bees to collect, though not as much as during the main flow. The bees must work hard to convert all this syrup into honey. They must add the invertase enzyme, plus they must evaporate all this moisture. If daytime temperature starts to drop below 15, the bees will struggle. The bees must spend themselves; utilize their own body proteins to produce the enzyme. The pollen coming in later, near the first frost may not be enough to feed the bees adequately to recuperate. Moreover, they must do all this quickly, similar to a big honey flow. The bees need time to rest and rebuild their body reserves before the coming of winter.
FEED A POLLEN SUBSTITUTE
Provide pollen substitute patties inside the colony on a continuous basis. It is very useful to insure rapid & uninterrupted build-up in the spring, even when weather is inclement. Nurse bees will raise the next generation better than if they run into a pollen drought. The consequences may be felt several generations over, and this can make the difference between a good or bad crop. Moreover, research has demonstrated the benefit of protein supplement greatly enhance the bees’ immune system over time, making them better equipped to sustain stress related to parasites and brood infections. Another advantage shown by research is the better overwintering ability of bees fed a pollen substitute all summer. Less winter losses & stronger colonies.
REPLACE OLD COMBS
This practice is not very well known. It is a fact that black & heavier combs contain numerous spores apt to trigger infections. This adds stress to the bees who must concentrate more effort on fighting infections, instead of producing bees and honey, even though these infections may not always be visible. By eliminating these old combs, we greatly relieve the bees from additional work.
REQUEEN COLONIES REGULARLY
A young queen produces more pheromones than an older one, and contributes to the well-being and morale of the colony. A young queen is more productive, more vigorous, and increases production. Everything runs better: immune system, communications within the colony. The recommended practice is to replace 2-years old queens, and any other queen not performing satisfactorily. This is rarely done, since it takes a considerable amount of time, and money for the queens. But we believe it is one of the best insurance against devastation, which we hear so much about these years.
PERFORM MITE SURVEYS AND BROOD INSPECTION
You need to know what is going on in your colonies! Treating entire operation is costly, and adds avoidable stress to the bees. If mite count is low, it is better not to treat. If the bees are healthy, well fed, have a new queen, and young combs, they should survive a small infestation because they are ready; and they are ready because the beekeeper has done his job well. On the other hand, if we let the bees fend for themselves, depending on Mother Nature alone, they may not do so well. And yes, not to treat may be a mistake. This is why many beekeepers do not dare skip treatments; their bees are not able to defend themselves against parasites and brood infections.