November 18, 2013 at 9:29 am #7219
Some of you might remember me from my visit in July, I’m the architecture graduate student designing a “beetropolis” (community apiaries and gardens) for my thesis project. I would like to confirm/ understand the seasonal beekeeping cycle in Los Angeles (South LA or Elysian Valley specifically). I was reading Les Crowder’s Top-Bar Beekeeping and he lists the following “seasons” for New Mexico. I seem to recall that late July is like “winter” in Los Angeles due to low forage and less water available? Your help in figuring out the local calendar (generally by month) would be greatly appreciated!
spring flowers, fruit trees bloom, hives make comb to prepare for increased nectar flow
chance for swarming high as hive grows
May – Sept:
Honey stored, check hive at least every 2-3 weeks and harvest any comb/honey that exceeds minimum of 8 frames (in a top bar hive) for low forage season
Fall preparations for lower activity in hive
November – April:
Winter? Lower activity and honey production
AlisonNovember 18, 2013 at 12:12 pm #7220
Thanks for checking in. The difference between Southern California beekeeping and most of the rest of the US is that we don’t have a true winter. In fact, beekeepers from around the country bring their bees here to overwinter due to warmer temperatures and the nectar and pollen flow from Southern Hemisphere plants and trees like Eucalyptus. When we say that the summer months here are like Winter, what we’re referring to is the “dearth”, meaning the time when there is the least resources for the bees to forage. Our bees remain active 365 days a year. Kirk always shares an anecdote about catching a swarm here on Christmas day. Our main “flow” – meaning when most plants are blooming – is somewhere between late January / Mid February through late May / Mid June. The flow varies greatly depending on how much rainfall we get from year to year. This year has been extremely dry, so the dearth has been much longer, which has made it a tough year for bees and beekeepers.
Hopefully others will weigh in with their thoughts and knowledge to help answer your question.
RobDecember 3, 2013 at 3:41 pm #7346
Had a question on HoneyLove’s facebook page today:
“HoneyLove, I need your advice on beekeeping in colder climates… what do the bees need when the mercury plummets?”
I pointed her to Michael Bush’s page on Wintering:
TOPICS INCLUDED ON THAT PAGE ARE:
Screened bottom boards (SBB)
Clustering hives together
Where the cluster is
Eight frame boxes
Wintering observation hives
If you have any other advice for her, let me know. Thanks!December 5, 2013 at 6:38 am #7371
Hi Allison, As Rob mentions, the bee calendar for Los Angeles is unique in its length of time during which bees can forage, due to the abundance of blooms almost year round. For example, I caught very nice swarms both last year and this year in mid- to late October. Harvest of honey depends totally on the ratio of bees and brood, to honey cells. It takes one cell of honey, one cell of pollen, and one cell of water to reproduce one bee. So you don’t want to take more than the population can stand, regardless of what size or style of hive. If you harvest any comb that exceeds 8 frames you definitely run the risk of starving your bees out.
Not sure why you mention inspections every 2-3 weeks May-September but no inspections at any other time? I recommend inspections once a month through October. In October it’s important to prepare for winter by removing unused space from the hive. If boxes are unused by the bees they will have trouble defending them from pests like moths and beetles.
Winter in Los Angeles is basically November, December and perhaps part of January, or even into February. Little honey production takes place during the cold as the bees won’t fly when temps go below 50F. This is when beekeepers should be building new equipment and getting ready to split their strong hives in the spring. As Michael Bush has said,
“All beekeeping is local.”December 5, 2013 at 2:15 pm #7375
The information in my original post was from a book on beekeeping in New Mexico. I think the author meant that the hives should be checked frequently during heavy flows: in his location May – Sept. Thanks for the detailed information on the local conditions, the 1:1:1 scale information is great!
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