Michigan Radio reporter Dustin Dwyer joined the Great Lakes Bee Co. for the second day of bee pickups this year to learn more about these buzzing pollinators and how they are helping the environment.
“When you get a nuc – a 9-frame nuc – you’re getting a regular hive box that you can use in your yard and they’re filled with bees,” Great Lakes Bee Company Owner Genji Leclair told Dwyer during the annual event. “There’s probably some honey in there, a queen, and baby bees being born – they’re so cute.”
The country’s agriculture depends on bees as farmers need them to pollinate crops, such as blueberries, apples, peaches, cherries, and almonds. Sarah Szymczyk and her family were among the many backyard beekeepers who attended GLBC’s annual spring bee pickup, bringing home thousands of bees inside their nuc.
“Our goal in life is to be sustainable living – being able to grow our own food and live in a space that we don’t depend on any other market and bees is the way to that,” she told Michigan Radio. “You have to have food and bees give you food.”
Listen to Michigan Radio’s full podcast about GLBC’s annual bee pickup: “Bee-ing More Observant.”
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!