When and why to change the queen bee, what management requires the breeding chamber and what to look for when setting up an apiary,  are some of the tips that the Apicultural Health 2020 experts give in their training.

Here we share some.

In order to have healthy beehives and to grow in yield and production, it is essential that beekeepers take into account some activities and good practices. These include from the location of their apiaries to the origin of the queen bee and the preparation of the beehive’s frames, are part of the contents that the experts of the Bee Health Project 2020 LatAm address in their theoretical and practical training.

“More important than curing, is to know how to prevent the diseases that affect honey bees, which today are subjected to intensive management in modern beekeeping,” says Dr. Mayda Verde, researcher of the project and one of those in charge of the training that hundred beekeepers from Popayán, Totoró and San Martín de Quilichao, in the Department of Cauca, Colombia, are receiving.

These sessions have allowed beekeepers to identify some of the main actions to maintain healthy and vigorous hives. Dr. Mayda Verde highlights six of them:

  1. Choosing the right apiary location

To locate the apiary, the beekeeper must take into account the following aspects:

– The availability of melliferous plants in the flight radius that the bees of their hives will cover.

– The relief of the ground must not be inclined, to avoid the fall of the hives and to facilitate the work of field.

– Avoid the location of hives in difficult access points.

– Avoid locations prone to flooding or landslides.

– Protect hives from exposure to prevailing winds.

– Avoid proximity to homes, industries, animal farms or other facilities susceptible to visits by bees.

– The apiary should never be located near oxidation ponds or other sources of contamination for bees.

– Nearby rivers, ponds or other sources of drinking water should be free of contamination. If this is not the case, locate drinking troughs to ensure that water is available to the insect.

  1. Periodically renew queen bee

The queen bee should be changed once she is 12 to 18 months old, preferably at 12 months. This is done taking into account the wear and tear that means for its organism to oviposit twice its body weight daily. In order to estimate the age of the queen, the beekeeper must mark her with the colour corresponding to the year (see main photo), according to an internationally agreed code.

The queen bee is marked following an international pattern of colors that identifies the year of its birth.

3. Use local queens bees

The origin of the queen bee must be local or from territories with similar ecosystems conditions and beekeeping management. The beekeeper should know that these are the result of the mass selection of the best local beehives. The main aspects taken into account for this selection are:

  • Be less defensive
  • Little swarming.
  • With a proven cleaning or hygiene behavior

It is not advisable to introduce foreign queen bees or those from other territories or countries.

4. Use of queen beekeeping centres

Having specialized centers for the breeding of queen bees is a necessity for the development and professionalization of current beekeeping. The queen bees selected for their genetic and sanitary condition are reproduced in these nurseries. This facilitates:.

  • The change or renewal of old or poorly positioned queen bees.
  • Rapid introduction of queens in cases of finding orphaned hives.
  • Multiplication or division of apiary hives.

5. Keeping the brood chamber clean and renovated

 The modern Langstroth beehive requires 10 combs in the first body or brood or nest chamber of the bee family. It is here that the three breeds – worker bee, drone and queen – reproduce.

This demands of the beekeeper an adequate management in hygiene, organization and renewal of the combs that constitute “the cradle or the uterus” of these delicate young: eggs, larvae, pre-pupae and finally adult bees.

6. Properly wire and laminate the frames of the hive

The correct wiring and lamination of the beehive frames ensures the quality of the future combs.

The wiring must be made with chromed wire of food quality and with a thickness not greater than 0.5 to 0.6 mm. The wire in the frame should be taut and replicate the sound of a “guitar string” when it is vibrated.

This practice ensures that:

– At the moment of lamination, the wax of the sheet is well incrusted.

– The queen bee, once the honeycomb has been stretched, does not despise the cell that remains on the wire and oviposite in it.

– The honeycomb that is intended for the collection of nectar in the honey production hives reaches a greater durability

The stamped wax film must be made from pure beeswax, without additives such as paraffin. The wax used to make the sheet must ensure traceability from its origin and come from healthy beehives.

“Queen bee is like the seed in agriculture, the bees families development depends on her”
Dra Mayda Verde
Salud Apícola 2020 LatAM Researcher