The Pittsburgh winter is pretty similar to ours in the UK. So I thought that it would be worth communicating the 10 Top Tips which I took away from Steve’s talk on overwintering:
1. Winter planning starts in July, with healthy young queens being introduced to hives.
2. A block of fondant/pollen patty on top of the cluster in January is good insurance against starvation as the hive begins brood-rearing in early Spring.
3. What works well in one bee-yard may not work in another. Pay attention to local conditions.
4. Bee hives need to be in peak condition by 15th April to take full advantage of nectar flows.
5. Count 4 weeks after the first dandelion flower for the start of the swarming season.
6. Speculation that Pennsylvania beekeepers are seeing “usurpation” of European hives by aggressive bees with an Africanised strain.
7. Overwinter pairs of nucs directly on top of a strong hive. Use a special adapter to take advantage of the heat rising from the main hive.
8. Send a sample of bees which have died mysteriously to the Beltsville bee-lab (UK equivalent = National Bee Lab). Some costs apply in the UK.
9. Oxalic acid (= rhubarb acid) trickle when bees are broodless is most effective anti-varroa treatment (95% knock-down rate). Will try vapour application on heavily infested hives this winter. (NB: Oxalic acid only approved for bees in U.S. in 2014).
10. New Arnia hive monitoring system from the UK is expensive, but looking good in early trials. Especially useful for monitoring far-away hives.
These snippets were just a small part of Steve Repasky’s repertoire of sound advice. All I can say is that, if you get the chance to meet Steve in person, make a bee-line to hear him talk. Sadly, for we Brits, it looks like his books are the nearest we are likely to come for the time being.
Thanks again, Steve. As they say, when the bees are out of season and Steve’s second passion, Penn State College Football, takes over: “Go Nittany Lions!”