Honeybees in Natrona County

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A backyard beehive
A honeybee queen and her attendant workers. This is a Russian queen

Meetings

The Natrona County Beekeeping Association meets on the 2nd Thursday of every month. 7:00pm - Room 207 of Strausner Hall on the Casper College campus.

Next meeting is 14 May

If you need to contact the System Administrator <- use that link.

Estimated Frost Dates

For Casper, WY - Each winter, on average, your risk of frost is from September 19 through May 22.

Casper is located in USDA Hardiness Zone 3

Casper, WY:

Tempurature 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
Spring: 32° Jun 8 Jun 2 May 29 May 25 May 22 May 18 May 15 May 11 May 5
Spring: 28° May 18 May 14 may 10 May 7 May 5 May 2 Apr 29 Apr 26 Apr 21
Spring: 24° May 9 May 4 May 1 Apr 28 Apr 25 Apr 23 Apr 20 Apr 16 Apr 12


Read more

If you've ordered package bees through Murdoch's, Prairie Wind or Ft. Collins Honey - some good dates to be aware of when choosing your delivery! Murdoch's will deliver in Casper late April to early May - just right!

Know the difference!

Honeybees are not Yellojackets (Wasps)! Natrona county is rich in Yellowjackets. The differences between the two are significant. Honeybees are vegetarians, eating only plant nectar, honey and pollen. Yellowjacets are carnivours and predatory, not only hunting other insects, but are also carioin eaters. This is why they seem to be attracted to your ham sandwich! Many use their prey as fodder for their young. Honeybees will defend their hive or themselves if provoked, but generally are much less aggressive than Yellowjackets. Honeybees do not like to sting, as it kills them. Yellowjacket stingers are barbless and they can sting multiple times without injury to themselves. Yellowjackets are more prone to sting with less provocation, special if foraging or alone. Of more significance, Yellowjackets are not pollinators, and do not produce honey or beeswax! See this site for more details.

If you don't know the difference on sight, take a look at this picture.

Getting started in beekeeping

This all is aimed more at the hobbyist. I'd assume a commercial venture would already know most, if not all of this.

First, maybe watch a short video (5:22) for some background.

Now, you may want some background on honey bees, this video from PBS' Nova (53:52) is a good presentation on the basics of bee biology and how a hive works.

It's strongly suggested you get invovled with a club and/or take a beginner's course. Here's one offered online by the Ohio Beekeepers Association.

Regulations

There a few laws in Wyoming namely, the "Wyoming Apiculture Act (WAA)". The intent of these laws is mostly to prevent the spread of disease and allow for disease control.

Apiaries in Natrona County registered with the WY Dept of Ag, as of Nov 2014. Natrona County has 59 registered apiaries managed by a total of 7 business IDs/beekeepers. Use This Link to see a state wide map

Casper

Currently, the presence of beehives or bees within the Casper city limits is considered an 'environmental problem' and not allowed (Casper Municipal Code: 17.12.050(8) Ord. 5-91) . There is an effort under way to change this!

hobbyiests

Essentially, as a hobbiest in Wyoming, you're allowed up to 5 colonies in one yard. There's no cost or permits. But you must register your yard location and display a registration certificate at your yard. You must also allow inspections by a state inspector at their request.

Commercial - Pollination

If you're providing pollination services, there's a different form for that. If you have more than 5 colonies or more than one yard, you're considered a 'General apiary'. You, typically, may not have a General apiary within 2 miles of another general apiary and there are some fees involved to register. There are other types of apiary in the regulations. Please, read the regulations yourself and ensure you're in compliance. What's here should not be considered legal advice or guidance.

Learn your forage

Bees need food. They need an abundance of blooming flowers to prosper and produce honey. Better yet, they need a sequence of blooms over the summer season so there is a relatively constant source of forage. NASA has an interst in bees and has published the Bee Forage Regions interactive map. Not only can you see what forage zone you're in, but click on your location and find out what forage is typically available for your area.

Here is an abreviated chart of common WY forage and it's bloom times:

Common Name Begin Month End Month
Willow 2 8
Dandelion 3 9
Cottonwood 3 6
Cherry 4 6
Alfalfa 5 10
Sweet Clover 5 10
Alsike clover 5 9
Star thistle 6 10

Gather equipment

Well, this takes more than I want to put on this page - so, lets make a whole new page just on Beekeeping Equipment.

Getting bees

Practically, there are 3 primary ways to obtain bees for a colony when you're first starting out:

  1. Capture a swarm - make a page on plans, lures, etc
  2. Buy a package - In Casper, one of the easiest places to buy bees is Murdoch's in Evansville
  3. Buy a nucleus box (nuc) - see above

If you can, there are advantages to buying bees from colonies that have already overwintered in your area. That means you'll have to find a local supplier or keeper willing to sell either packages or nucs. If that's not possible, then your best bet is to capture a feral swarm. There are those that think captured swarms are the best possible method.

Beekeeping activity

Beekeeping is very much a participatory activity! You can not just setup a hive, abandon it and expect things to go well. Every month, there are things to be done. Even in winter when bees are not nearly as active as in the summer months.

Winter

Winter is a particularly anxious time, special for a new keeper. Did you leave enough stores? Are the gals doing OK? This page has some good info on Winter feeding, making fondant and how to feed your hives for a good spring build up! From the keepers up in Vancouver B.C. - they know winter!

Facts about Honeybees

Pollination

A honeybee covered with pumpkin pollen

Agriculture depends greatly on the honeybee for pollination. Honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination. Without such pollination, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.

Pollen

Honey bee returning to the hive with loaded pollen baskets

Bees collect about 66 lbs of pollen per year, per hive. Pollen is the male germ cells produced by all flowering plants for fertilization and plant embryo formation. The Honeybee uses pollen as a food. Pollen is one of the richest and purest natural foods, consisting of up to 35% protein, 10% sugars, carbohydrates, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins A (carotenes), B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (nicotinic acid), B5 (panothenic acid), C (ascorbic acid), H (biotin), and R (rutine).

Honey

Honey is used by the bees for food all year round. There are many types, colors and flavors of honey, depending upon its nectar source. The bees make honey from the nectar they collect from flowering trees and plants. Honey is an easily digestible, pure food. Honey is hygroscopic and has antibacterial qualities. Eating local honey can fend off allergies.

Beeswax

Honeybee secreting beeswax

Secreted from glands on the underside of a worker bee's abdomen, beeswax is used by the honeybee to build honey comb. It is used by humans in drugs, cosmetics, artists' materials, furniture polish and candles.

Propolis

Propolis along the top of a super

Collected by honeybees from trees, the sticky resin is mixed with wax to make a sticky glue. The bees use this to seal cracks and repair their hive. It is used by humans as a health aid, and as the basis for fine wood varnishes.

Royal Jelly

Royal Jelly in queen cells

The powerful, milky substance that turns an ordinary bee into a Queen Bee. It is made of digested pollen and honey or nectar mixed with a chemical secreted from a gland in a nursing bee's head. It commands premium prices rivaling imported caviar, and is used by some as a dietary supplement and fertility stimulant. It is loaded with all of the B vitamins.

Royal Jelly Facts

  • The larvae chosen to become a queen continue to eat only royal jelly. The queen grows one and a half times larger than the ordinary bee, and is capable of laying up to two thousand eggs a day. The Queen Bee lives forty times longer than the bees on a regular diet. There is no difference between a queen bee and a worker bee in the larval stage. The only factor that is different between them is that a developing queen bee continues to eat only royal jelly.
  • Scientists decided to try feeding the queen bee's diet to other animals with surprising results. The life span of pigs and roosters showed as much as a thirty- percent increases. Fruit flies fed royal jelly increased in size and in rate of production. Chickens given royal jelly laid twice as many eggs, and older chickens began to lay again.
  • In France, there have been reports of women fed royal jelly during menopause, showing complete remission of their symptoms. Some were even able to become mothers again. France also claimed that their studies showed royal jelly to have rejuvenating and sexually stimulating effects on both men and women. Canada has approved royal jelly as a natural dietary supplement for its athletes. Royal jelly is not a drug, but a nutritious, quickly assimilated food.
  • In Germany, Drs. Chochi, Prosperi, Quadri and Malossi (in separate studies) used royal jelly as an aid to badly undernourished and premature babies. The infants fed royal jelly increased in weight and health. Another doctor, Telatui, reported that neuro-psychic patients given royal jelly regained normal weight, a more stable nervous system, and a greater degree of stamina for physical and mental work.
  • Chemical analysis of royal jelly found it rich in protein and the B vitamins (especially panothenic acid). However, analysis of royal jelly fails to break it down into all its different components. It cannot be synthesized.
  • Royal jelly has proven to be a potent bactericide. It also acts as a catalyst, stimulating intercellular metabolic activities without significantly modifying normal physiological activity. Thus, it hastens cell recovery with no side effects. Royal jelly has been known to speed up healing of wounds and to reduce the amount of scarring.
  • The beneficial effects of royal jelly seem not to depend entirely upon its vitamin content, but upon some type of enzymatic or catalytic action of an as yet unknown factor; or perhaps, the known factors working in combination with a co-enzyme through a process that has not yet been defined.
  • Since the action of royal jelly seems to be systemic rather that one which affects a specific biological function, it has been recommended for a great variety of purposes: to retard the aging process, for menopause, correction of under-nutrition, for arthritis, vascular diseases, peptic ulcers, liver ailments, nervous instability, skin problems, improvement of sexual functions, general health and well being.

Bee Venom

The "ouch" part of the honeybee. Although sharp pain and some swelling and itching are natural reactions to a honeybee sting, a small percentage of individuals are highly allergic to bee venom. "Bee venom therapy" is widely practiced overseas and by some in the USA to address health problems such as arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even MS.

Other Bits of Information

  • Honeybees are not native to the USA. They are European in origin, and were brought to North America by the early settlers.
  • Honeybees are not aggressive by nature, and will not sting unless protecting their hive from an intruder or are unduly provoked.
  • Honeybees represent a highly organized society, with various bees having very specific roles during their lifetime: e.g., nurses, guards, grocers, housekeepers, construction workers, royal attendants, undertakers, foragers, etc.
  • The queen bee can live for several years. Worker bees live for 6 weeks during the busy summer, and for 4-9 months during the winter months.
  • The practice of honey collection and beekeeping dates back to the stone-age, as evidenced by cave paintings.
  • The honeybee hive is perennial. Although quite inactive during the winter, the honeybee survives the winter months by clustering for warmth. By self-regulating the internal temperature of the cluster, the bees maintain 93 degrees Fahrenheit in the center of the winter cluster (regardless of the outside temperature).


Three Castes of Honeybee

Queenworkerdrone.jpg

Queen Bee

There is only one queen per hive. The queen is the only bee with fully developed ovaries. A queen bee can live for 3-5 years. The queen mates only once with several male (drone) bees, and will remain fertile for life. She lays up to 2000 eggs per day. Fertilized eggs become female (worker bees) and unfertilized eggs become male (drone bees). When she dies or becomes unproductive, the other bees will "make" a new queen by selecting a young larva and feeding it a diet of "royal jelly". For queen bees, it takes 16 days from egg to emergence.

Many Beekeepers will mark their queens and regularly re-queen their hives. This is done to maintane colony vigor, honey production and prevent disease.

Worker Bee

All worker bees are female, but they are not able to reproduce. Worker bees live for 4-9 months during the winter season, but only 6 weeks during the busy summer months (they literally work themselves to death). Nearly all of the bees in a hive are worker bees. A hive consists of 20,000 - 30,000 bees in the winter, and over 60,000 - 80,000 bees in the summer. The worker bees sequentially take on a series of specific chores during their lifetime: housekeeper; nursemaid; construction worker; grocer; undertaker; guard; and finally, after 21 days they become a forager collecting pollen and nectar. For worker bees, it takes 21 days from egg to emergence. The worker bee has a barbed stinger that results in her death following stinging, therefore, she can only sting once.

Drone Bee

These male bees are kept on standby during the summer for mating with a virgin queen. Because the drone has a barbed sex organ, mating is followed by death of the drone. There are only 300-3000 drones in a hive. The drone does not have a stinger. Because they are of no use in the winter, drones are expelled from the hive in the autumn.

Threats to Beekeeping

Types of Honey Bees to mitigate threats

There has been extensive work to produce a variety of types of bees that are naturally resistant to diseases and parasites. Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses. Use this information to help identify what type of bee may work best for you.

Overview

This video provides an overview of what's going on, namely with the concern for 'Colony Collapse Disorder' (CCD).

Mites

A honeybee larva infested by Varroa mites

The greatest threat to beekeeping are two varieties of mites (Varroa and Tracheal). And although these mites can be kept under control by a persistent beekeeper, the negative effects on the honeybee population has been devastating. The Back Yard Beekeepers Association surveyed its membership and learned that over 40% of the membership's hives died in 1996. These mites are greatly reducing the overall honeybee population in the USA. The mites are of no concern to humans, except for the effect they can have on honey production. In the past few years, incidences and density of mite infestations in Wyoming have increased. We need to be proactive to reverse this trend.

We've a page just on various methods and tools of preventing and Controlling Varroa mites. They've made their presence known in WY, but thankfully haven't had a huge impact state wide. Who knows, though, this may be the season for 'em.

Disease

Beekeepers are on the watch for various diseases unique to honeybees, and harmless to humans. "Foul Brood" and "Nosema" are two such diseases. These problems can easily be addressed by good management and proper medication. Honeybee diseases, identification, treatment and prevention is an extensive subject and one of the primary duties of any beekeeper.

Urbanization

With more and more urban development and the growth of cities, increased weed and pest control, increased mineral extraction and other resource utilization, there is less and less forage available to bees every year.

Africanized Bees

The arrival of so-called "killer bees" in a few southern states has received sensationalized treatment in the media. In some areas of the country, this negative publicity has stimulated - often hysterical and counter productive - local restrictions and ordinances on the hobbyist beekeeper. In reality, it can be argued there are no honey bees anywhere in the world that don't have some level of africanization.

But, since beekeepers are constantly working to improve their livestock - just as any cattle, sheep or horse rancher would. Breeding for desired traits and eliminating traits deemed detrimental. It's a fairly simple process to re-queen any aggressive colony and within a few weeks, have a normal, gentile hive again. The wholesale destruction of aggressive colonies is actually counter productive as there are a few traits these types have that are desirable. Resistance to Varroa mites for one.

And, aggression is the primary difference between so called 'killer bees' and domestic honey bees. Africanized colonies are more prone to defend themselves and maintain that defense longer. This can and does to more stings. But, it's the same type of sting - no more potent than any other honey bee and stinging has the same affect on the bee itself.

One of the other traits of africanized bees is they tend to be very poor at over wintering. They don't cluster the same way our domestic bees do. It's been predicted that the lack of an effective clustering instinct would lead to the death of a strongly africanized colony during Wyoming Winters. As such, the chances of there being a 'killer bee' problem in Wyoming is slim to none. Even if it did present itself, it's fairly easy to re-queen a maintained colony, not only saving it for over-winter, but eliminating the threat of aggressive behaviors as well.

Glossary of Terms

Beeswax: waxy material produced by worker bees and used to build combs.

Drones: Male bees, whose main function in the colony is to fertilize the queen. Drones make up a very small percentage of the total colony. In the Autumn drones are expelled from the hive by the female worker bees.

Foundation: Thin sheets of beeswax imprinted with a pattern of honey comb. The beekeeper installs these sheets into wooden frames as "starters" for the bees in making uniform combs.

Frames: The removable wooden structures which are placed in the hive. The bees build their comb within these frames. The removable quality allows the beekeeper to easily inspect the colony.

Hive Bodies: The first one or two wooden boxes of the colony. The hive bodies contain the brood nest of the colony.

Larva: The grub-like, immature form of the bee, after it has developed from the egg and before it has gone into the pupa stage.

Nectar: Sweet fluid produced by flowers is 60% water and 40% solids. This is collected by the bees and converted into honey at 17 -18% moisture content.

Pollen: Very small dust-like grain produced by flowers. These are the male germ cells of the plant.

Propolis: Sticky, brownish gum gathered by bees from trees and buds and used to seal cracks and drafts in the hive. Also called "bee-glue".

Pupa: The immature form of the bee (following the larval stage) while changing into the adult form.

Queen: A completely developed female bee (with functioning ovaries) who lays eggs and serves as the central focus of the colony. There is only one queen in a colony of bees. A queen's productive life span is 2-3 years.

Royal Jelly: The milky white secretion of young nurse bees. It is used to feed the queen throughout her life, and is given to worker and drone larvae only during their early larval lives.

Super: The supplementary wooden boxes places on top of the hive body the expand the size of the colony, and to provide for storage of surplus honey.

Supercedure: When a colony with an old or failing queen rears a daughter to replace her.

Workers: Completely developed female bees that do have developed ovaries and do not not normally lay eggs. They gather pollen and nectar and convert the nectar to honey. A worker's life expectancy is only several weeks during the active summer months. However, they can live for many months during the relatively inactive winter period.

From backyardbeekeepers.com

Hive modeling software

Want to see how different things, different conditions and management techniques may affect a colony? You can now model a hive using this software freely downloadable from beehave-model.net. I've just started with this myself, but it looks quite powerful! For a brief overview, watch the video presentation here.

Mead

Often called "The Drink of the Gods", mead is an ancient and relatively easy to make alcoholic beverage that contains no gluten. Wyoming's own Michael Jordan of A Bee Friendly Company has posted a bit of the history - and a recepie - of making mead on the Brink of Freedom blog. Enjoy!

More info

A 'Wikibook' on Beekeeping

Help with this Wiki

Consult the User's Guide for information on using the wiki software.