Frequently Asked Questions
- How can I prevent Wax Moths?
- I live in the King William area; and, am just getting started in beekeeping and have 2 brood boxes, 1 top and 1 bottom. I have also purchased package bees; that I will pickup in April. Should I get a honey super at this time or wait?
- I am reading several books and have come across that it is better to start with an established comb over the package bees. Is this true?
- I have a mass of bees hanging from a tree in my yard. What are they doing?
- Where I can buy honey made within 50 miles of Richmond, Virginia, that is not pasteurized?
- Will natural honey help my allergies?
Wax moths are a persistent problem to bees and beekeepers. The larvae feed on debris in the brood comb, tunnelling through the midrib and leaving webbing behind. Before pupating, larvae burrow into wood and spin a cocoon. The burrowing will only cosmetically scar inside surfaces of hive boxes; but, it will severly weaken frames and other thinner wood in a hive. Generally strong, populous hives do not have a problem with wax moths. Weaker hives containing combs without bees, particularly brood comb, are vulnerable to this pest. The best (only) treatment in the hive is to boost the hive's worker population or combine weak hives to prevent wax moth damage.
Frames in storage can be protected by one of three methods. First, wax moths don't like light. Storing the frames, usually in hive boxes, in a manner that the comb surface is exposed to sun light is helpful. Second, all life stages of the wax moth are vulnerable to cold temperatures. You can place the frames/boxes in the freezer for several days to kill off the moths. You should freeze it for several days to make sure the comb is completely frozen. Afterwards, double bag the frames/boxes in trash bags to prevent reinfestation. Third, moth crystals with the active ingredient paradichlorobenzene (PDB) is registered for use with stored equipment against wax moth. Don't use napthalene moth crystals. Naphthalene is more persistent in comb and will harm your bees when boxes are placed on hives. As a fumigant PDB is temperature sensitive, i.e. higher temps, greater rate of vaporization. You'll need to stack boxes containing frames of comb such that they are "air-tight" by taping up any holes or broken/rotten wood and covering top of stack. Apply 3 ounces on a paper towel, wax paper, or other flat material for each 5 deep or 8 medium depth boxes. Use the product in an outbuilding or outside. Remember PDB is a poison, exposure to the vapors could be detrimental to your pets, yourself, and your family. Also, you should air out the boxes before placing them back on a hive. PDB is toxic to bees but quickly dissipates in 2-3 days after removal of the crystals from the boxes.
Yes, buy one now. In fact, buy three. You should have a minimum of three supers available for your hive. Two supers are for you and one for the bees. It is not unusual for a package to fill at least one super with honey by the end of summer. It's a pretty safe bet that prices will increase next year. Why not buy cheap this year? If properly painted and stored they'll be there when you need them, this year or next. Besides, you are more likely to have free time before the bees arrive to assemble boxes and frames. You will want to have at least three supers per hive on hand for swarm management next year. Additional hive space, when timed properly, will reduce crowding and prevent swarming. Plan to leave one super on the hive through the winter. This will provide a good reserve supply of food for the bees to survive the cold. If they don't consume it during the winter you can always extract it the following spring. But, you don't want the bees to be caught short. The honey in the remaining two supers is yours to eat, give away, or sell.
There is no noticeable difference in starting hives on foundation vs. comb. Possible disease issues aside, drawn comb will give the bees only a few days head start in brood production. However, the drawn comb will not provide that much of an advantage in population buildup through the summer months. There should be enough cells available once a queen is released on foundation to begin laying eggs. The worker population should be just as strong at the end of the season when started on foundation provide they are properly fed. Feeding will make a difference especially for a hive started on foundation or when adding a box above the brood nest.
Honey bees need sugar (nectar and honey) to produce wax for building comb. Bees on foundation require a great deal of sugar to draw out comb for brood production and honey and pollen storage. You should continually feed a 1:1 or 2:1 sugar:water solution to newly installed packages until all, or nearly all, frames of foundation are drawn out to comb. When mixing the sugar syrup consider the weight of water and sugar being used. A gallon of water weighs about 8 pounds. So, 1 pint of water weighs about 1 pound. Use the proper weight of sugar and volume of water to obtain the proper concentration.
Keep in mind also that honey bees prefer natural nectar to sugar water. They may stop feeding on sugar water during a nectar flow. Should the flow stop and frames with foundation remain in the hive you should restart feeding with sugar water. Otherwise, you may see holes chewed in the foundation where the bees are using the wax to cap over brood cells. If you use frames with drawn comb to start a package continue feeding at least until one box is full of brood; and, there is 20 pounds of stored honey in the hive (a full depth frame will hold approximately 7 pounds of honey). This will give the bees a good start to build up through the summer to make it through winter.
Honey bees can pick the most interesting places to gather. Swarms are a natural division of the hive. They occur when the bee population becomes too large and congested in their nest. In response to the overcrowding the hive will rear new queens. Prior emergence of the new queens a portion of the bees, sometimes as many a 2/3's of the population, will leave with the old queen in search of a new nest site; leaving the remaining bees at the old nest site with a new queen. After leaving the old nest a swarm will usually gather on a tree limb, side of building, ground, or any convenient gathering site, as in your target. Scouts are sent out to find a new nest site. Once a new site is found the swarm will take flight again to that site.
The resting or scouting stage of the swarm may take a few hours or several days. Usually they will move on without encouragement. However, occasionally they will begin building comb at the resting site and not leave. It would not be advisable for you to disturb the swarm. Honey bees are venomous insects. They will sting to defend themselves. You should be cautious around the swarm. Allergic reactions to the venom from a bee, wasp, or hornet can be painful, even life threatening.
If the honey bees do not proceed to a new nest site within a few days you should contact a beekeeper in your area. There are two local beekeeping associations the Tidewater area of Virginia. Contact information for these groups is available from the "Local Groups" link on the VSBA website (www.virginiabeekeepers.org).
Honey is a super-saturated sugar product. The hydroscopic properties, acidic nature and other characteristics of honey make it resistant to many bacterial, and yeast, contaminates. Over time the sugar crystals will begin to drop out of solution and accumulate on the bottom of the container. The resulting higher water content will result in fermentation, which will ruin the honey. Pasteurization is conducted to reduce the crystallization rate of honey. Heating honey will re-suspend sugar crystals into solution. This reduces the occurrence of "seed" on which sugar crystals may form and grow. The heating process will also inactivate pollen grains contained in the honey. While there is no conclusive medical evidence to its benefit, many sufferers from hay fever request non-pasteurized honey to obtain relief from plant allergies.
There are two beekeeper associations that meet in the Richmond area. Both groups have beekeepers that sell honey. You should contact the presidents of the associations to obtain a current list of individuals with honey on hand for sale. Listing of the local associations is found on this website at virginiabeekeepers.org/association_map.htm
Honey has been used by individuals throughout the generations to treat pollen allergies. Tolerance to pollen is believed to occur through ingesting small amounts of the allergens. This may provide some relieve to hay fever or pollen allergies through development. Honey bees are ideal pollen collectors. The number and structure of their body hairs make them highly efficient in pollen collection. Normally the pollen would be stored in individual cells of the honeycomb. However, small amounts of pollen will find its way into honey and the comb cappings. “Raw” or unprocessed honey, such as chunk or comb honey, usually contains viable pollen grains. A daily dose of this treat may provide your pet with the relief you desire. Be sure to purchase the honey from a local beekeeper. His or her honey will contain the pollen from the local flora. But, be warned, honey is also used by athletes for a quick energy boost. Don’t be surprised if you pet shows a bit more vigor after eating the honey. For information on local beekeepers contact an association near you. Listing of the local associations is found on this website at