Bee Maintenance

Bee Maintenance

There is always work to be done with the hives, and we are ever grateful to the team maintaining them. Recently, the team has been reducing the size of the large Lalita and Indrakshi hives, and increasing the size of the two smaller hives: Brahmani and Jaganmata. After the last harvest in early fall, the focus is optimizing hive space and reducing populations. The winter bee populations are much smaller (2000-5000 bees) than summer populations of more than 30,000 bees.

Knowing when to help and when to leave the hives alone is important. The Bee Team constantly checks the health of the hives. Recently, some hives have been fed thin syrup and pollen patties. When the Queen is fed the syrup, she will think it is raining outside, and flowers bloom, increasing the hive population. Pollen Patties? Ideally, the bees can gather enough pollen from the environment. However, at certain times, they will need additional protein.

Throughout the winter, the honeybee uses the same muscles it uses to fly to vibrate its wings, thus producing remarkable amounts of heat. This technique is used to keep the bees warm during the winter and is employed as a defense mechanism against predators. Similarly, the honeybees are the summer air-conditioners – using their wings to move cool air into the hive and force hot air out. The nursery where the bees go from egg to newly born juvenile must be maintained at 75-95f degrees regardless of outside temperatures. This is why the hives receive extra protein.

The Yellow Jackets have been a particular challenge the past few years. This year, the Yellow Jacket traps have been emptied and replenished with pheromones in the Apiaries numerous times. Yellow Jackets are beneficial insects; they eat insects – many of which eat fruit and vegetable plants. However, they do not discriminate; they eat beneficial insects, even honeybees. The predators (e.g., skunks, raccoons, foxes, bobcats, coyotes) that dig up and eat yellow jacket nests are kept out of the orchard by the fencing.

Hard freezes are nature’s way of controlling the yellow jacket population. Yellow Jackets love sugar, and honey is sugar. As the planet warms, these freezes can occur later in the year and last for shorter periods. When the temperatures hover around 50 degrees, the bees face a challenge. Bees outside the hive slow down and enter a sort of suspended animation. They become frozen in space and are easy prey for yellow jackets and other predatory insects.

The bees will cluster around the brood inside the hive to keep the temperature between 75-95f degrees. While the bees are clustering, the opportunistic yellow jackets will rob the honey stores and store in their hives for next year’s juvenile wasps.

Hive review
Yellow Jacket Attacking Bee

Bees are amazing creatures. If you have questions please send them to