New Jersey Honey bees
The BeeCast / New Jersey Local Honeybee Forecast integrates a composite of long range meteorological forecasts in an effort to assist New Jersey beekeepers in the management of their beehive colonies in a manner that helps reduce risk and maximize quality time in their beeyards. Weather factors including air temperature, solar radiation intensity, wind velocity, relative humidity, and barometric pressure often have an effect on honeybee defensive behavior in colonies. (Southwick, 1987) Our BeeCast / New Jersey Local Honeybee Forecast assists New Jersey beekeepers in making honeybee colony management decisions related to swarm control, feeding, colony increases and local honey production.
All eyes are currently on the South as Hurricane Dorian sets forth towards the East coast, potentially making landfall in Florida. Here in New Jersey, we are enjoying cool weather and overnight lows in the mid 50's. I did some checks of local fields and the cool weather seems to have all of the autumn blooms ready to pop. Goldenrod, iron weed, Joe Pye Weed, Tickseed Sunflowers and asters will provide excellent sources of both pollen and nectar for our bees. Cool temperatures should help to ensure these flowers last long throughout the season.
Continue monitoring mite levels in your hives as bees will now start producing the populations that will help maintain good clusters throughout the winter. If you believe the Farmers Almanac, this winter is thought to be a tough one. Make certain your bees are healthy, mite levels are under great control and your hives have at least one full deep of honey and they will be fine!
It looks like temperatures will range at or below average across much of the East coast. We seem to be getting great rainfall at night followed by extended periods of sun, which has extended out nectar flow into early August. Our Jackson apiary is enjoying a great pepper bush nectar flow right now! This is welcome as it helps fill some supers and eliminates the need to feed. Another two weeks and this flow will probably be over and we’ll start moving into the dearth – keep a good eye out for robbing situations.
Hive populations are ramping up and with them, varroa mite levels. Make sure to get into your hives and monitor you mite levels – treat as appropriate. Our bees will slowly but surely start making new bees to carry them through the winter. We want them to be strong and healthy. Only yesterday, I observed the first clump of goldenrod in full bloom in one of our Cream Ridge apiaries and purple loosestrife can be seen in many of the damp drainage ditches and swamps. This seems early for the goldenrod, but may have something to do with the amount of rainfall. Either way, goldenrod is a critical nectar source for our bees and helps them pack on the pounds prior to winter. All indications point to a great autumn flow and we hope we can make it through the month of August without it being too hot and dry.
Yes, it is summer and it is hot! That's normal for our state and NOAA shows the next month of so to continue to be hot, but not abnormally so. We seem to continue to get routine rain showers and this has extended the clover flow. Beekeepers across the state are now starting to pull their honey supers and start the extraction process. Once the bees have capped the honey in your supers, it should be of proper water content to prevent fermenting - try not to jump the gun!
July not only brings the opportunity to pull honey, but also to make up some summer splits. More importantly - do not forget to conduct your monthly varroa mite checks and treat appropriately. Be careful -many treatment options are temperature dependent and may not be appropriate for use when temperatures raise above 90F.
As we enter into the months where "dearth" is common, determine the need to feed your colonies and have a plan as to how you will address any robbing issues. Be prepared, as bees are opportunists and will take advantage of weak colonies!
Holy honey flow! From what I could see of the month of May, we have had a great honey flow thus far! Although we seemed to have a lot of rain, when it was nice, the bees really turned on and brood nests expanded so fast it was hard to keep up with them from a swarming perspective. We break down most of our hives rather significantly aw we are primarily in the NUC production realm, but when the autumn olive and the black locust nectar started - our supers were filling up in less than a week! We wont remove the majority of this honey,but rather maintain it as the bees move into the dearth period later this summer.
Clover and alfalfa are the flavors of June and July - expected warm temperatures will be excellent for honey and brood production. The threat of swarming is still not over so, be certain to monitor your supers for swarm cells, give the bees plenty of expansion room and continue monitoring your mite levels as we move into July.
Its now officially swarm season and our bees know it! Our hives are loaded with swarm cells and we have been busy making splits like crazy to try to stay ahead of them. Words to the wise – “Never Trust a Bee”! When you think they will do what you want them to do – they will humble you.
We have started grafting our GSA queens and thus far, things look good! If we can get some good flight weather for mating and our queens return home safely, we will have a nice batch of laying queens in early June. We have unsettled conditions for the next week and temperatures leading into the month of May look about average. Watch those bright sunny warm days when they appear as those seem to be the days that encourage hives with new queens to move out! You MUST be on top of your bees during these next several weeks!
We have officially entered Spring and there are signs that our hives are slowly, but surely growing in size. This past weekend, we conducted hive inspections and observed that our queens are starting to produce more brood and, on a few hives, even some drone brood.
Biology and math. If these first drones are set to hatch in 24 days (April 17th) and the drones hang in the hives for another 2-3weeks before maturing enough to take mating flights (drones start flying at age 8.28±1.74 days), it stands to reason that we should start to see some swarming activity right around the first and second week of May. This will be the time that we commence with our grafting and queen breeding efforts. Why? Because it will be the time that our newly produced queens will have the best opportunity to be mated. It might also be a good time to start preparing those swarm traps and getting them in the field.
The long range weather forecast looks favorable in terms of temperatures. It appears we should have above normal temperatures and near normal precipitation probabilities for the next 30days according to NOAA.
Keep a good eye on your hives. Make certain they still have sufficient food stores while we move into the maple bloom and perhaps begin to offer 1:1 syrup if you believe your hives are light. We have been providing dry pollen substitute, but we have also noticed that since the maples, henbit and skunk cabbage have started to bloom, the bees prefer them. The pollen index will continue to elevate as we move into April. It won’t be long before we start seeing swarm cells so keep good tabs on your hives and keep your bees in the hive and out of the trees!
There were scattered flight days during the month of February, allowing honeybees to get out and conduct some cleansing flights. We had only a few glimmers of winter with several small storms dropping light to moderate accumulations of snow. Access to apiaries due to snow cover has not been problematic, but with warmer temperatures leading into Spring, caution should be taken with muddy roads and fields. Don't get stuck. We are now entering a very pivotal time for our honeybees as honey stores can rapidly become depleted as the colony expands. Some beekeepers have been providing supplemental pollen on warm flight days as our queens are now starting to expand their brood nests. The long range forecast for early March indicates continued below normal temperatures across much of the nation and higher than normal precipitation in the South which does not bode well for Southern queen breeders. Take advantage of this time to plan out your apiaries, clean, organize and perhaps even consider placement of your first varroa mite treatment of the year on each of your surviving colonies.