Category Archives: How to Keep Bees

How to keep bees: tips and techniques to get started or to keep bees better

Good Reading for New Beekeepers

At our last meeting, 8 May, CBA members had a brief discussion about reading material that would be useful to new beekeepers. Most members recommended these for new beekeepers:

The Honey Bee by V.R. Vickery —

You won’t find this at a regular bookstore, but it’s available in New Brunswick at the Bee Store in Maugerville or through Country Fields Beekeeping Supplies. This was written by a master beekeeper in Quebec, which means that the conditions it describes are very close to what we experience in New Brunswick (a real bonus, since so many of the beekeeping books are written with an eye to the United States market).

Beekeeping for Dummies

Part of the popular series, so it’s widely available wherever books are sold, as well as through the local beekeeping supply stores. An excellent step-by-step introduction to the basics, highly recommended.

Ontario Beekeeping Manual (2006) —

Some of our members are familiar with this publication of the Ontario Beekeepers Association and recommended it to others. It’s available for $30.00 through the OBA. Write to for more information.


Magazines are also useful, especially for up-to-date detailed information about new developments or for stories of the leading figures and events in apiculture. CBA has donated a subscription to Bee Culture to the Fredericton Public Library, so that magazine is available to anyone who wants to read it.

Also, CBA receives the Canadian Honey Council’s Hive Lights magazine and recent issues are available at our regular monthly meetings for interested members to read.

Pesticide Toxicity and Bees

The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food & Rural Affairs offers valuable information about pesticides, and precautions to protect the environment where pesticides are used. Of special interest to beekeepers is the section called Prevent Bee Poisoning, which reminds the agricultural community that honeybees are vital pollinators and can be greatly harmed by careless pesticide application.

Continue reading Pesticide Toxicity and Bees

Oxalic Acid Mixing Tip

Oxalic acid is for the control of Varroa mites in honey bee colonies. It is applied in late fall to early spring, when monitoring the mite drop tells the beekeeper that treatment is necessary.

Mix 1 kg of sugar with 1 litre of water (which weighs 1 kg), then calculate the amount of oxalic acid dihydrate to be added to the solution. With the sugar and water combined, the volume of the syrup will be more than one litre.

CAUTION: Oxalic Acid may damage bee brood. Oxalic Acid will not control Varroa mites in capped brood. Use only in late fall to early spring when little or no brood is present. Do not use when honey supers are in place to prevent contamination of marketable honey.

For full directions and regulatory requirements for using this treatment method, please see the Canadian Honey Council‘s document on the Conditions for the use of Oxalic acid dihydrate (PDF file).

Spring Pollen Diet for Honey Bees?

From the journals of  the Entomological Society of America, we note a study out of Department of Environmental Biology, Guelph University, Canada, on the Influence of Pollen Diet in Spring on Development of Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Colonies:

A 3-year study on pollen and pollen-substitute feeding in spring suggests that there was little difference in effect between the two diets. Feeding the bees a pollen or a pollen-substitute, either one, helped the colonies to build up in the spring — however —

an investment in supplementing the pollen diet of colonies would be returned for situations in which large spring populations are important, but long-term improvement in honey yields may only result when spring foraging is severely reduced by inclement weather.

So, if I’m reading this right, the decision of whether a beekeeper will get a good return on money invested in spring pollen supplements for the bees is going to depend on the likelihood of poor foraging weather, and how stressed the bees are likely to be (larger spring populations might be more important for commercial honey producers and pollination services).  So, with a good long-term weather forecast, lots of nectar-and pollen-bearing plants within easy forage range of the apiary, and a hobby bee operation where the colonies are not transported or put to monoculture crops, there might be no great benefit in giving extra pollen. Something to keep in mind when planning your spring beekeeping.

The full report has a cost attached, but you can read the short Abstract online, free of charge.