In January and February, a majority of our honey bees buzz into cargo trucks to make the cross-country voyage to California for the state’s yearly almond pollination. The almond industry is big business in California, producing over 80% of the world’s almonds.
More than 2 million hives from Michigan and other states are trucked into California to pollinate the state’s growing almond trees because the “Golden State” alone doesn’t have sufficient bee population for pollination.
Once the bees land in California, they’re dispersed to more than 7,600 farms where they’ll pollinate the almond trees from February to March.
During that time each year, almond tree buds burst into light pink and white blooms in preparation for pollination. As the trees blossom, honey bees forage for pollen and nectar in the orchard. When the bees move from tree to tree, they pollinate almond blossoms along the way. Each fertilized flower will grow into an almond.
When almond pollinating season ends in California, our bees often travel to Georgia, where they’ll pollinate crops there and make honey before returning to their West Michigan home in May.
We trust our bees are enjoying the warm sunshine in California and look forward to their return home this spring!
Michigan bee hives will be “chilling out” this winter as they wait for the upcoming spring season. For beekeepers, there’s not much to do for your bees over the next couple months. No need to peek on your bee colony – opening the hive risks the escape of warm air. It’s time to just let the bees be.
While bees don’t actually hibernate during the winter months, they do cluster tightly together to stay warm in the hive. Beekeepers may see their bee colony die during Michigan’s cold winter. This is okay. If this happens to you, don’t be embarrassed. It is inevitable that some bee colonies just can’t survive the cold weather. If you’ve already winterized your hives, there isn’t anything else you can do to help them until the weather starts to thaw out in late winter. Until then, enjoy the holidays and the coziness that winter brings. If you want to get a head start preparing for the upcoming apiary season, here are a few ideas:
- Join a local bee club, attend club meetings and learn from others about being an apiarian or share your knowledge with others.
- Spruce up your equipment: Is your equipment in need of repairs? Now is a good time to take inventory of your bee equipment and make any necessary repairs or replace old or broken equipment. If you need new equipment, we recommend Dadant for all your beekeeping supplies.
- Read up about bees and the apiary culture: On a snowy day or night, curl up with a blanket and a cup of tea (mixed with our delicious Hasselman’s Honey, of course) and immerse yourself in the world of bees.
A few of our favorites:
For Practical Beekeeping
For the Bee Enthusiast
For Continued Learning
For History Buffs
Autumn’s cool weather is settling in, which means it’s time for West Michigan beekeepers to maintain their beehives throughout the fall months and begin the winterizing process.
Bees residing in regions that accumulate more snow and tend to experience longer winters, like West Michigan, will need food to survive the upcoming cold winter months. For area beekeepers, we recommend taking off supers – leaving single or double deeps as the bees will naturally gravitate to the upper box.
Since bees keep the hive toasty and warm during the winter, with temps reaching over 90 degrees, condensation will collect inside, which is deadly for bees. Here are a few tricks to keep your bees snug during the winter without the deadly condensation.
1: Add a firing strip under the back side of your hive to tilt the box forward slightly and encourage condensation to drip down the inner front box to the bottom board and not on the bees.
2: Be sure the hive is ventilated properly. Add a riser on top to make room for adding food patties – those can go right on top of your frames if they are solid. We also suggest adding a piece of wax or parchment paper down first to keep any of the food from dripping or dropping. The bees will be fine eating through it or going around it for their food.
3. Add a quilt box with some wood shavings or other absorbent material on top of your riser/food to help control the moisture. We recommend putting the inner and outer cover back on and adding an extra brick on top to keep the top secure. Some beekeepers wrap their hives in roofing paper or add a manufactured hive wrap or insulation. Just be careful not to make it too warm or air tight, which causes the condensation. As long as your hive is well ventilated, you should be all good.
4. Turn your entrance reducer up to the smallest opening that can be used. Because many bees often die throughout the winter, you don’t want the dead bees blocking the entrance. Next, add a mouse guard to keep those cute, but destructive creatures out of the hive.
5. Inspect your bees. This may sound like a simple task, but it is an important one for beekeepers in October. As you examine your beehive, you can determine what condition your bees are in and whether they’re prepared for the winter ahead.
6. Most importantly: Enjoy your honey harvest and share your makings!
Happy (soon-to-be) Winter!
Now that you have your bees and they have been pollinating the flowers and trees the past few months, it’s time to stand back and let them make that delicious honey!
July is honey-making month, so it’s a good time to let the bees be as they work their honey magic. You do, however, want to keep an eye out for any swarms during this time. When this happens, the reigning queen and about half the bees will rush out of the hive entrance together, clustering on a tree limb or another similar object. This is called swarming, and usually only lasts for an hour or so as the bees look for a new home. Once the bees have found a new location, the cluster breaks up and the bees fly to their new hive.
The bees that did not leave the hive continue their work in the colony, collecting nectar and pollen and building honey combs. Within the colony, a new queen emerges and looks for rival queens. A fight-to-the-death combat ensues until there is only one surviving queen. Once the new queen has mated, she begins to lay eggs and the cycle begins again.
March is here! This is an integral time for the health of your bees. Just because the temperature is increasing, doesn’t mean your bees will survive. You’ll likely see lots of bee deaths this month, so it’s important to check the hive and clear out the dead bees to ensure proper ventilation into the hive. A good time to check on the bees is on the days when the temperature hits 50 F.
Continue reading Month in the Hive – March
Check on your bees! Michigan temperatures are fluctuating, with some days hitting temperatures above 40°F, however that doesn’t mean your bees aren’t still fighting the cold. Don’t be surprised if you see more fallen soldiers than you had hoped when you take a peek.
Continue reading Month in the Hive – February
January in the Hive! This month the queen and her workers are laying low. They’re trying to conserve energy (due to lower food supplies in winter) and trying to keep the hive warm to protect against the cold weather.
Continue reading Month in the Hive – January
Co-Founder of GLBC and master beekeeper Genji Leclair interviewed on the radio with WGVU’s Morning Show host and producer Shelley Irwin. On Shelley’s segment, Genji talked everything bees. Genji explained how we repurpose honey and beeswax and even how pollination works. As a queen bee herself, Genji goes in depth about the science behind Queen Bees and then transitions to talking about our recent bee-pick-up event where beekeepers and farmers from around the Midwest come to pick-up new bees.
Continue reading Co-Founder of GLBC Interviews with WGVU’s Radio Host Shelley Irwin
Beekeepers from all over the state came to pick up bees to add to their colonies during our annual bee pick-up days. The exact date of pick-up days differ every year, but they’re typically around May when the weather starts to get warmer in Michigan. Around that time, we head down to Georgia to pick-up our bees, who vacation in the peach state for colony building in the winter months. Bees from GLBC also provide pollinating services in California. Continue reading Annual Bee Pick-Up Day
On Earth Day 2021, the Great Lakes Bee Company would like to remind you about exactly WHY bees are an integral part of the world’s ecosystem. Preventing the world wide population decline of the bees will be a huge step in helping save the planet.
Continue reading Save the Bees, Save the Planet