Author Topic: Alaska Bee Keeping  (Read 16616 times)

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Offline yukonjeff

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Alaska Bee Keeping
« on: May 20, 2017, 12:48:45 am »
Greetings from western Alaska  62.0856 N.  163.7294 W.
I am located on the Yukon river south of Nome in a small native fishing village of 800 mostly Yupik Eskimo.

This is my second year attempt at bee keeping ,last year I flew in one four lb package with a Russian Hybrid. my first contact with a bee keeper was treatment free and didn't feed,so that kind of set down the wrong path from the get go, it ended up swarming, laying worker, mites, I made all the mistakes and then some. They didn't make any honey and did not make it through the long winter.

I hived two more packages April 8th flown in from Cali,to Anchorage, to Saint Marys AK, where I  picked them up on my Honda Atv in a cardboard box 15 miles away, at around 30 degrees. they are Carni queens and doing great so far.



We are now into spring and they have a lot of cat Willow pollen.



And these Alder have pollen dropping.



And nectar from blue berry flowers.



And Cranberry.



Labrador Tea Blooming



Bees were sucking nectar from these today, not sure what they are.



These are blooming again not sure.





And I have Brown bears around, had one in the front yard the other day,still working on my bear fence, the ground is frozen and cant drive post yet.



Well if you all don't mind I will update this from time to time and ask a few questions from you knowledgeable beekeeps,and happy to answer any you might have as well.

Thanks in advance.
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Offline Nugget Shooter

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2017, 02:10:13 pm »
Welcome and great photos and looking forward to updates  :yes: Bears can sure make a mess of things and I hope you are able to get a fence installed soon.
Cheers, Bill
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Offline Lburou

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #2 on: May 21, 2017, 12:42:14 am »
Thanks for this thread Jeff!  How many hours of daylight do you have now?    :)
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Offline yukonjeff

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #3 on: May 21, 2017, 02:50:38 am »
Thanks Nugget Shooter, I am hoping the frost goes out soon so I can drive poles.

And Lburou, sunrise is 5:45 am and sunset is 11:55 pm ,we are gaining light fast now till the solstice.

I did an inspection today of the weaker hive since we are on a flow its doing real good and has four frames of capped brood now and three frames of honey/nectar, I saw a queen cup and thought it might be a good time to add a second deep since we are on a heavy flow at the moment and they are getting honey bound fast, they filled all the drawn comb,and just had a couple of undrawn frames on one side.

I only put one frame of capped brood and a frame of honey as bait up in the second undrawn deep, I hope they can draw comb now rather than swarm like my bees did last year at this time.

Should I have taken down the queen cup ? its on a frame of nectar, why not on a brood frame ? I couldn't tell if a egg was in it. I didn't look real good for swarm cells, I might check again soon.





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Offline CBT

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #4 on: May 22, 2017, 07:43:48 pm »
It's Normal to have emergency queen cells on the side of the frame. All is well if their empty.
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Offline Lburou

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #5 on: May 22, 2017, 07:56:58 pm »
It is true that queen cups can be found in almost any bee hive.  When you get those Russian hybrids, you will likely see more.  I've read that they have active queen cells most of the time, just in case they are needed.

Have you made any mite counts yet Jeff?
Lee_Burough
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Offline yukonjeff

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2017, 01:53:52 am »
Thanks guys, I will keep an eye on them and hope they don't make a queen cell, that was the beginning of my problems last summer.

And no I have not done a mite count I hate to kill bees yet while I am trying to build them up, but I do plan to do MAQ treatment after the main flow in August unless I see deformed crawlers around, and then sooner.

Well we have had great weather here this spring, my bees flew almost everyday since I hived them, still getting down to the mid 30s f and high as 60,supposed to get a little snow flurries in the next few days.

Here is my bee's on the blooming Labrador tea and another flower not sure what it is.



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Offline efmesch

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2017, 02:46:07 am »
That last picture looks to me like a species of Rubus (rasberry).  There is plenty of it all over Alaska.

In the early summer  (May-June) of 2010 my wife and I did some extensive touring of Alaska.  Nowhere did I see any honeybees in action, in spite of looking really hard.  BUT there was an awful lot of flowering plants to see everywhere. 
I wouldn't want to be discouraging, but, in  my opinion, the only way to keep bees in Alaska would be "migrating".  Bring them in for the summer season and take them down south, where they will have a reasonable chance to survive the winter.  If you try to keep them in Alaska all year long You might, with a great deal of effort, be able to get some hives to a stage where they will have enough honey to survive the winter, but I don't think you would be able to produce enough honey to share it with them. 
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Offline Perry

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #8 on: May 24, 2017, 07:12:44 am »
Amazing.
You could always just set up some sawhorses or something like that with wire on them to keep bears out till the ground softens up a bit.
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Offline Lburou

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #9 on: May 24, 2017, 11:57:07 am »
The bear is a real threat to your bees, I hope you get that sorted out.  as long as it comes in the daylight and you are there, the 7mm fence will be effective.  I would expect the bear to smell the brood and curing of the nectar into honey...get ready for that Jeff   :o   

Ef has good points about overwintering.  In my Alaska experience, the one hive did not make any excess.  However, I have since learned that feeding in spring makes a huge difference, plus, we did not have the deluge of blooms available to you on the tundra.  Your results may vary.  You mentioned on another forum something about a shed.  A shed could help you overwinter for sure.  :)
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Offline yukonjeff

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #10 on: May 24, 2017, 02:03:13 pm »
Thanks for the responses and ideas guys, I sure can use them.

Efmesch There is a good reason you could not find any honey bees , there are no feral bees here in Alaska, I believe I am the first bee keeper this far north/ west in Alaska that I know of. The Anchorage area has bee keepers that import package bees,( where mine came from.)

Perry, That's an idea I might try,we are getting rain now so the ground is thawing once I get passed the frost line it will be easy going, hopfully soon. I have three dogs tied near the house and hives and they let me know when bears are out there,had one the other night but they get shot at around here and not as bold as Yogie the Bear in other places,so it left, far so good, but I will get it put up as soon as I can drive post.

Lburou

The bee supply guy that I ordered packages from had a 70 % overwinter rate this year of his hives, so I need to chat with him more, but he is a pretty busy guy and in the Anchorage area 450 miles by air, away.

I am still considering the shed for this winter. I think that might my best bet,

Does anyone have an idea how long they can go without a cleansing flight in winter, Russians raise bees, so it must be possible with the right breed of bee,so I am hoping the Russian queen makes it and gets a good build up by winter.

Offline Lburou

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #11 on: May 24, 2017, 09:17:43 pm »
Jeff, riverbee will give you some pointers on Russian bees.    :)
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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #12 on: May 25, 2017, 12:24:37 am »
jeff, i keep russians as lee said, i read on your welcome thread your russian hybrid queens are coming from iowa? i think i might know the supplier?

anyway, the russians do well for me here in wisconsin. i get my bees from an rhba member in iowa; queens when i need them and are available.  when i get hives that build up and do well, i use swarm cells in the spring for divides, or divide in summer months and utilize a frame of eggs or order a queen or two as i said if available.  russians are slow to build up, when they do, they do very well; a good queen will lay very well and one must keep ahead of them;  they do need both natural pollen and nectar coming in. (pollen subs will probably be ignored). one or the other missing you will see a slow down. they will shut down in nectar/pollen dearths; early in late summer months/ very early fall as nectar and pollen sources dry out. also, russians tend to be very conservative on stores, they pack it away, and can survive in a smaller cluster than most other bees with ample stores.  i think they are an excellent choice for northern climates and will probably do well for you jeff.

as far as how long any bee can go without cleansing flights? i can't answer that.  our winters can be brutal, with subzero temps for extended periods of time. last winter was pretty mild compared to others, but i have seen my bees fly on sunny wintry days at 35-45 degrees (cleansing flight). some don't make it back in. russkies are hardy little buggers if healthy, even mutts of. 

russians can be a little on the cantankerous side sometimes, but it is a trade off for their survival rate imho.

bears and bees...........always had a fence erected in montana around hives. we have black bears here in the river valley where my bees are in wisconsin. i made the mistake of not erecting a fence/fencer. it was costly. equipment, fullly drawn frames, bees and queens.  if you were to lose your hives where you are located in alaska, much more costly because you just can't order a package of bees or buy a nuc from a local supplier. 

happy to have you here on the forum!
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Offline yukonjeff

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #13 on: May 25, 2017, 03:10:41 pm »
Thanks Riverbee for the insight on the Russian's

Last year my first package was supposed to be a Russian Hybrid, she laid a round of brood and then swarmed on me before the single deep was even drawn, from backfilling.(I was feeding too much) I did catch the swarm and quit feeding, then she promply shut down egg laying and did not lay again until the main flow started up, and never built up much after that, and didn't put any stores away, and didn't make it through the long cold winter we had.

Most of all that was my fault I was a new beekeep and didn't understand Russians or even bees for that matter, now I hope I have enough experience and forsight to give them another chance, and I should have a Iowa Russian queen coming next week (I think.)

So you mentioned making splits with a queen cell...here is the question of the day. Is it possible since I have no feral bees here except in my own bee yard to make queens? I have two hives and with the new queen that will make three will  they breed and make a laying queen. ?

Offline riverbee

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #14 on: May 26, 2017, 12:42:59 am »
"So you mentioned making splits with a queen cell...here is the question of the day. Is it possible since I have no feral bees here except in my own bee yard to make queens? I have two hives and with the new queen that will make three will  they breed and make a laying queen. ?"

great question jeff, didn't even think about what would be 'practical' for you and your available drone population and how successful a queen could mate with a limited drone population. the bees can make a queen, but can she mate and mate successfully in your environment and limited drone population? 

i don't have an answer..........you have me thinking about this.  this would also go to supersedure of one of your queens.

as you have already observed, russians queens quit laying in a nectar dearth. in a pollen dearth there will be no drones, and what drones exist are tolerated, and in some years here in pollen dearths, i have seen drones being drug out and not being allowed back in the hive.

lee kept bees in alaska, perhaps he has some better insight than i do, or anyone else have thoughts on this?

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Offline Wandering Man

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #15 on: May 26, 2017, 12:56:16 am »
We should all send him a few drones?
Never argue with drunks or crazy people
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Offline Lburou

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #16 on: May 26, 2017, 08:39:18 am »
Very interesting information about the way Russian bees work riverbee.  The frugality with which they (Russian bees) operate is very interesting and a trait I would value.  :)

My view about getting queens mated where there are no feral hives would be to  order queens from different sources, providing a mix of genes available when the emergency/new queens need to mate.  Having queens from different gene pools would give Jeff's bees  the best chance to produce a fecund queen when they need it.

If you can afford it Jeff, order a queen from a different source for your split.  This will give you a start on the diversity you need in the beginning.  Is anyone in the village interested in your bees?  If another beekeeper had bees from a fourth or fifth source, then your problems would be a lot less when it comes to getting a good mating for your new queens.

Just think, if Jeff could get rid of his mites up there...   :yes:

Quote from: Jeff
Does anyone have an idea how long they can go without a cleansing flight in winter, Russians raise bees, so it must be possible with the right breed of bee,so I am hoping the Russian queen makes it and gets a good build up by winter.

The biggest variable I am aware of concerning the length of time bees go between cleansing flights is the food they eat.  Low ash food (read food with less residue/fiber after digestion) results in fewer flights.  Russians go months and months confined underground for the winter in Siberia.  The Siberian beekeeper who visited my bees here in Texas said he puts the hives about 3 meters underground and does not take them out until spring.  There was a language barrier and I didn't get much more than that.  I believe commercial beekeepers in Canada put their bees in warehouses and keep the temperature around 39 degrees F for the winter.  That temp conserves honey reserves while slowing their metabolisms to reduce cleansing flights.  I'm sure Apis can expand on this better than I, as he knows what he is talking about.  ;)
Lee_Burough
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Offline yukonjeff

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #17 on: May 26, 2017, 08:17:46 pm »
Thanks again folks.  I had planned to purchase queens for now, but,It would be a real shame if I did get a good queen that over wintered, I would sure want to have some of her daughters to keep around. I imagine at some point I will get to put it to the test and see if it can be done.

Perhaps ordering at least a new package every spring with the different drones might be enough? If I can overwinter one yet. I still hope I can with strong hive and a quilt box and a wrap of some kind, underground is not an option here would flood during the snowmelt. I do have a shed and might try one hive in there this winter.

Having some cool temps come in again and snow showers, the bees still flew when the sun came out in-between snow showers and hail.

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Offline Lburou

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #18 on: May 26, 2017, 10:14:34 pm »
Nice picture Jeff...Any hooligan coming up that riverbank in the spring?
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Offline yukonjeff

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Re: Alaska Bee Keeping
« Reply #19 on: May 27, 2017, 03:55:55 am »
Thanks ,Yes we have some but have to travel about 30 miles downriver and its hit or miss, mostly miss for me. They started catching a few salmon I hear, I need to launch my boat soon, we have a commercial dip net fishery starting next month, and then use gillnets later.