Beekeeping: About the care of our bees

Since becoming a beekeeper in 1983 I have seen many changes in the art of keeping bees. The industry has changed dramatically because of environmental and agricultural pressures as well as the introduction of debilitating diseases and pests in bees.  These have been the cause of dramatic changes in hive management over the years.   Even with all these challenges bees can survive without chemicals with (VSH) mite resistant bees and proper management techniques.

My wife Sidney , and I moved into an old farm house with our two sons on Labor Day in 1982.  In that house we discovered we had a hive of honey bees in the soffit of a wall in the attic.  Dr. James Tew once wrote that if you keep bees long enough they begin to define who you are.  I believe this is true because, this single event has helped to direct and define my life.  The following spring in 1983 I started a hobby which has become a lifelong passion.

Dr. Larry Connor Queen Rearing Class at Risks Apiary Dr. Larry Connor Queen Rearing Class at Risk’s Apiary

My first packages of bees included Dadant Starline hybrid queens.  I didn’t know it at that time, but those queens were bred from a program Dr. Larry Connor was managing at the time.  It took me several years before I understood what the bees were doing, and what the books and periodicals were trying to explain.  I read the usual books and magazines available at the time, and asked many questions when I had the chance. But nothing could take the place of quality time I spent working and observing the hives.

After a few years I tried Buckfast bees from one of the Weaver’s in Texas. The bees did not make a tremendous amount of honey in those days, but it was probably more because of the way I was managing my bees than the bees themselves. When the Africanized bees arrived in Texas I decided in 1992 to start purchasing my bees from Florida, and did so until 2004.  By then I had learned to manage the bees for higher honey production and was quiet successful at turning out consistently good crops of honey.

Six years ago, because of  the emergence of the Varroa Mite, the chemicals queen breeders use,  African genes in the southern U.S., and receiving poorly mated queens (which cause supersedure issues);  I decided I was going to start raising my own mite resistant queens.   Locally bred queens are acclimated to our climate and are healthier over all.  For several years now I have purchased several AI ( artificially inseminated) queens from Glenn Apiaries to cross with my own survivors.   Minnesota Hygienic / VSH crosses, Carniolan / VSH crosses, and pure VSH stock.  I have some older lines of Minnesota Hygienic bees, a few Carniolan’s which have survived, and a couple of lines of Russians.  This diversity will give me a variety of stock all showing resistance to both the Varroa and tracheal mites.  My objective is to raise survivor stock and to use Integrated Pest Management (IPM) practices, using no chemicals.  These practices have allowed me to discontinue using miticides to control the mite populations in my hives.

Beginner Beekeeping Class at Risks Apiary Beginner Beekeeping Class at Risk’s Apiary

I have successfully wintered four and five frame nukes over the past six years.  I have been experimenting with different methods of overwintering nukes, and am now comfortable enough to expand my nuke operation enough to supply myself and other local beekeepers with nucs and queens.  I have experienced survival rates of up to 92% with the nukes I have over wintered and the survivors are looking good.  My main objective is to raise production stock for myself, but I do usually have a few queens and nukes for sale most times of the year.  For availability please contact me at mrisk@riskshoney.com or call  517-643-1880