Local Beekeepers Prepare For Winter

DES MOINES, Iowa -- Three years before retirement, Doyle Kincy decided to pick up a new hobby. Growing up, Kincy’s grandfather had honeybees.  Now  with his own grandson showing a strong interest in insects, Doyle decided to take up beekeeping. 

Now Kincy has 16 colonies, each averaging about 50,000 bees at their peak during the summertime. As the colder months near, Kincy and other beekeepers around the state are preparing their colonies to hopefully survive through the winter.

Last winter the Iowa bee population declined by 40 percent, largely in part of the parasite, the varroa mite. 

“That has been our Achilles heel because they weaken our bees and transmit viruses to our bees,” said Kincy.

In order to combat these pests, beekeepers are preparing their colonies early so that the bees enter the winter season as healthy as possible with a sustainable food source.

“What we generally do as beekeepers, is that there is an ability to treat our hives after the honey supers are off for the verroa mite and we do that to try to keep them healthy,” said Kincy.

If a large percentage of bees in a colony die over the winter there are several ways Kincy can rehabilitate the population.

“We can take those that do come through the winter, and we can split and take part of those bees and start another colony,” said Kincy. “There’s also the ability to go and buy a packet of bees, for those that want to get started can do that, that’s around 10-thousand bees and a queen.”

If someone is not interested in beekeeping there are subtle ways to help bees throughout the spring and summer time. Kincy says if everyone does a little bit, it can make an impact.

“The linden trees are an excellent honey producer, we call them the bee tree. So there’s different planting that you can do with trees and shrubs… dandelions are [also] a beekeepers favorite flower. That’s the first thing we have in the springtime of any abundance that our bees can get pollen from in abundance.”

Kincy still urges residents, if you have any interest in bees, to take a local beekeeping class. 

“They are just a fascinating little insect, it’s just amazing and I'm still learning and this is my 11th year. There’s something...just something refreshing every year that you look forward to doing.”

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