By Chris Erwin
You would think that this month wouldn’t have much of an impact on beekeeping; however, this month is the most critical time for a few things that can make or break a new or veteran beekeeper.
If you are thinking of getting into beekeeping, this month is also the time when all bee clubs host their annual bee schools. It doesn’t matter where you live in Kentucky there is a bee club near you. Out of the 120 counties in Kentucky, there are only a few that don’t have a bee Club.
Beekeeping originations put on their bee schools this month because this is the month that bee suppliers begin to take orders for package bees and Nuc’s (nucleus hives). Last year, the Honey & Bee Connection, a local supplier, delivered some 1,000 packages of bees and 200 Nucs. If you wait until after January, the chances are you may find it challenging to find bees to purchase.
Today I wanted to cover one of the most challenging periods to get through I’m talking about winter. For several reasons, bee colonies can need a helping hand getting through this period. Assuming you keep the moisture out of your hive and you have treated your bees for Varroa mites. The next big thing is, do they have enough stored honey and pollen. To supplement this critical need, beekeepers add a product call Fondant to the hive.
I keep Fondant in my hives until I see spring bees emerging, and I know the nectar flow is beginning. Fondant can be as simple as sugar and water; however, I have found that recipe I’m about to give you far outperforms simple sugar and water.
Directions: The list of ingredients is,
12 pounds of sugar,
1 quart of water,
1 teaspoon of lemongrass oil,
1 teaspoon of peppermint oil,
1 teaspoon of spearmint oil,
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar,
and 3 cups of AP23. ( AP23 is a pollen substitute developed just for bees; this adds needed protein to the diet.
The water and sugar are put in a saucepan and heated as if you are making candy using a candy thermometer. You want the mixture to reach 250 degrees or soft-ball stage. You must watch the contents and make sure it doesn’t boil over. Once it reaches the 250 dregs, take off the heat and add all of the other ingredients, stir in the AP23 until it’s evenly distributed. Then pour the fondant into six pie tins I use 8×8 and it makes them a little over an inch deep once they are cooled you can remove them from the tins.
You can put one in each hive, I usually lay them right on my inter-lid and, in some cases on the top of the frames. You need to check the colonies once a month and add more if they need it. I usually do this on days when the temperature is over 40 degrees. At this temperature, your bees should be flying and not in the cluster.
In the last five years, I haven’t lost any hives to winter or hive starvation. While some people start feeding one to one sugar water in March, I do not. I try to not add any moisture to the hive until all chances of a freeze are over.
All of the local bee clubs are finalizing their bee schools. I know I will be teaching a small part of the Greenup County School. After the 7th of January, I will be covering all you need to know to attend. I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and News Year’s may God bless you. Chris Erwin is the founder and publisher of Kentucky Angling News an on-line magazine available at www.kentuckyangling.com/magazine Chris can be reached by email Trimmer308@gmail.com