This is the time when people reflect upon the past year and make goals for the year ahead. Want to learn a new language, lose 20 pounds, or switch your diet to 100% raw vegetables? Make these your New Year’s Resolutions! Everything seems possible in late December with the New Year just around the corner and the actual hard work of achieving those resolutions still several days away. I’m not making any personal resolutions this year, but I do have some bee resolutions that I am sharing with you. Don’t be surprised if you see some of these topics appearing in future blog posts.
- Finish getting our bees through the winter – The main goal of a honey bee colony is to survive winter. Many people think the goal of a honey bee is to make honey, but bees make honey so they can have food when the flowers aren’t blooming. If the bee colony’s main goal is to get through winter, that needs to be the beekeeper’s main goal too. I have already written posts about getting our bees ready for winter and how they were doing as of mid December. The bees look healthy with no signs of varroa mites. The winter has been mild in our area, which should help reduce the amount of food the bees need. Starvation is still my biggest concern, so we will monitor closely and keep adding winter feeding patties.
- Plant more wildflowers – Many people think that the best way to help bees is to become a beekeeper, but that is not the case. Planting more flowers that bees like to forage is one of the best ways to help bees. Some people in the beekeeping community argue that hobby beekeepers actually hurt bee populations, and I will write more about that in another post. What everyone can agree on is that honey bees and wild bees all need more sources of food. The best way to provide this food is by planting native wildflowers. Americans have obsessions with green lawns. We mow everything and chemically treat everything until all dandelions are eradicated. We create landscape beds containing a few shrubs of foreign origin separated by several feet of ground covered with painted mulch so that everything looks neat and orderly. Americans didn’t always landscape this way. My father tells me when he was a boy, people kept the smallest yard they could and let the rest of the ground grow up in wildflowers (aka weeds). People did this because they didn’t have gasoline powered lawnmowers. Keeping a mowed lawn was time-consuming and hard work, so people kept the mowed portions of their property as small as possible. I’m redesigning my landscaped areas this year to pack in as many wildflowers as I can. I planted three different types of milkweed this fall hoping to help out the monarch butterflies as well as my bees. I am also trying to ensure that I have something blooming from early spring through late fall so the bees always have something to forage. I will write future posts about my flower gardens.
- Try a new varroa treatment – We treated our bees with a miticide that is embedded in polymeric strips. The strips hang inside the brood boxes. The treatment was easy to use and seemed to be effective. However, I read that people in our state are reporting increased varroa resistance to miticides due to overuse. In the year ahead, I would like to try the oxalic acid dribble treatment. You can read a great blog post from the Honey Bee Suite if you want to learn more about this treatment method. Oxalic acid is very effective and does not contaminate your honey. We didn’t harvest any honey last year because we wanted the bees to have it all. This year we hope to harvest some honey.
- Create our own queens – This goal is really my husband’s goal, but since he is half of our beekeeping team, his goal makes the list. I haven’t read much about how to do this, but Doug has purchased a queen castle and has been reading how to use it. This is a great time to point out why beekeeping is an awesome hobby for couples. There is so much to learn that it is difficult for one person to research everything. Doug and I focus (aka worry) on different things. While Doug learns how to make queens, I study which wildflowers are the best for our bees.
- Install a bee hotel – Most bees do not live in colonies. Honey bees are the exception not the rule. Many wild bees are solitary and like to make homes in hollowed out sticks or other nooks they find in the garden. There are some beautiful bee hotels that you can make to provide homes for native bees.
- Help educate the community about bees – I volunteered to be the outreach coordinator for our local bee club. The club receives requests on a regular basis to talk to schools and scout troops about bees. Most people are fascinated by honey bees, or they are just extremely polite as I prattle on about honey bees. I would like to advertise our club’s educational service and find more opportunities to speak to the community about the value of planting for pollinators and protecting native bees as well as honey bees.
Thanks to everyone who checked out my website and blog this year. Blogging has been an unexpected source of joy for me this year. I value all the feedback I receive, and I get excited when I log on and see that people all over the globe have been reading my blog. I wish all of you peace, joy, and love in 2019.