Greetings! Another interesting "bee summer" has passed and, because of its importance, I will try to summarize for you the honey plant blooming sequence for this year. For the sake of you new members/beekeepers, this list applies to the area where my bee yards are, at 1600-1800+ ft. elevation, near 1-80. Most of you will have the same bloom sequence, but probably a week or so earlier than here. By familiarizing yourself with a bloom chart, you can super ahead of these flows, and will greatly reduce forced swarming and vastly increase your honey crop.
Almost everyone lives in an excellent location for at least 2 or 3 of these plants. Only you will be able to determine the surplus nectar flows for your apiary location.
White Dutch is an excellent time (due to temperature and nectar flow) for hatching-quality queens to be well mated and for starting splits. The exceptionally dry weather hindered small colony development. July/August splits, or any swarms you caught/hived benefited greatly this year by supplemental feedings. Many members have reported that this past spring was the best they've had for honey flow in a long time, especially the black locust. The late goldenrod came to the rescue of many full-sized colonies. Of the late June/July splits, there were 21 of mine that were a little light for winter. Syrup fixed all but two...I'll try frames of honey for them. I've never had to feed my splits, but it's probably something I should do every year to guarantee a colony with 6 or 7 frames of honey, pollen and bees...this is my personal goal for excellent wintering and quick spring buildup. I've had practically no successful wintering with anything under 4 frames. This will be my first year for trying some of the polyurethane 5-frame nucs over wintering. For spring/summer development this year, they were better than wood. They developed faster and seemed to be less affected by weather changes.
At the PA State Beekeeper's Association Annual Meeting this past November 11-12, they had two main guest speakers who presented their views on how to develop a beekeeping system using over-wintered splits. Kirk Webster from Vermont gave a talk on his method of operating 300 colonies, plus splits, raising his own queens and without using medication. Roy Henderson from near Cleveland, Ohio spoke about 5-frame nucs and supering them for honey production. He did purchase queens and medicated when necessary. It was encouraging to know that other beekeepers are succeeding in developing this form of management. Even Penn State is testing a similar system. Hopefully it will be successful.
If anyone is looking for ideas for a good Christmas gift for your favorite beekeeper, I'd like to recommend the following books: First Lessons in Beekeeping ($4.95) is a super buy for beginners or Penn State's Beekeeping Basics (about $10). On a higher level, The Beekeeper's Handbook by Diana Sammataro and Alphonse Avitabile, 3rd Edition ($25.70) is very good. For someone interested in raising queens, I found Contemporary Queen Rearing by Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. ($11.95..ISBN# 0915698064) very informative. The old standby, The Hive and the Honeybee ($36.00...ISBN# 0915698099) is good, but most people would find this to be an interesting choice after first understanding most of the information in the first four books. These books are available through most of the bee supply catalogs. If you have access to the internet, there are websites where you can purchase used beekeeping books that are just like new. I've taken advantage of this several times. We have a credit card with a low limit on it just to use for internet purchases. Sometimes you can save half the cost of the book. One of the websites that has quite a few books is abebooks.com. To be positive of the right book listed, the ISBN # is very helpful.Have a good beekeeper's Christmas!