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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So, I'm going to start my first hive in the Spring, and I've been reading everything I can get my hands on. I'm learning a lot, but none of the books seem to address my specific climate very much. And, unfortunately, there is no local beekeeping association (and I've messaged a bunch of the locals that subscribe to this board, with no response). So, can anyone answer these beekeeping questions for me?

1. I have read that buying black plastic foundation is great for beginners because it makes it easier to see eggs. However, I am concerned that because they are dark they might retain heat more than other colors, which could be a concern during the hot summers. Any thoughts about this?

2. It seems that in most climates, the harsh winters will keep a hive's population in check. Here in Tucson, the winters are very mild. So, do bee populations in hot climates continue to grow, or do they have other factors keeping them in check? (Am I going to have to worry about frequent swarming?)

3. Is there anything else I should be aware of that is unique to my climate?
 

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I don't think the color of the plastic in your frames would hold more heat due to the fact that they are inside the hive and not exposed to direct sunlight.

Tucson is just insanely hot with very mild winters. I have no idea what your bee population will do.

Because of the mild temps, do you have a prolonged fall honey flow and then an early honey flow?
 

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Plan,

Have you talked with Joseph Clemens yet? He lives in Tuscon, raises queens and I think sells nucs too. I think he could be a big help to you.

Pugs
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
I have not heard of or talked to Joseph Clemens. Is he on the forum? Do you know how I could get in touch with him? Thanks so much! I have had a hard time contacting anyone in the area about beekeeping (the guy at the local beekeeping supply store was surprisingly unhelpful).
 

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Is that place in 5 Points still there? Dee Lusby will be more than happy to help you out. Just google her for contact info, or contact Dean from Bee Unto Others.
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
I tried emailing Dee, but apparently her email address doesn't work. I haven't found a phone number. I have been seriously contemplating writing her a letter...


Why would I want to contact Dean? It looks like from his site that he lives in Massachusetts!
 

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Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Lol Rustyhawk, thanks for making me feel like an idiot! :eek:;)

I googled Dee's name before, and always only came up with the address/email, never the phone number, too. But of course you get it on the first try.

Also, I am sending Joseph Clemens a PM now.

You'd think with so many bigwig beeks in the area, they would have a beekeeping association around here...
 

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Of course every beekeeper has their own unique management methods. I have been keeping bees for many years in many different locations around the U.S.A. and have learned to adjust my own beekeeping management to suit my various locations and also my own changing understanding of bees and myself.

In a few paragraphs I will try to mention some of the issues and the management practices I have adopted to cope with those issues.

I am presently located in the "Picture Rocks" area of Tucson, Arizona, near the edge of the Western part of the Saguaro National Park. I mention this because many beekeeping variables are extremely location dependent and may be entirely different even a few miles away in any direction.

  • Weather - rain/no rain, heat/cold, humidity, UV intensity. This item is certainly the one I consider the main and most important one. It influences almost every other issue that affects honey bees, especially here in the desert. When it rains in the right amounts and in the right areas the desert here can produce a honeyflow at any time of the year. It is often so hot and the UV from the sun is so intense that most plastics, if exposed, either melt or deteriorate rapidly. Good rain during the Mesquite flow will stop the flow until several days after the rain has stopped, and the terrain has dried well. Humidity is often very low, unless it is raining, this makes it possible for the bees to cure nectar to honey very quickly making room for even more nectar collecting, making our area more efficient for the bees, when their is a flow.
  • Honey Plants and Flows - When it rains, here in the desert, if the rain is strong - it will almost certainly be followed by a "flow". Apparently there are a great many seed lying dormant, of various wildflowers, in the desert sands, that when there is sufficient moisture they germinate and grow. After Summer rains certain wildflowers grow and bloom, providing pollen and nectar, determined only by the sufficiency of the preceding precipitation. Likewise, in the Winter, after strong rains, a different group of wildflowers grow and bloom, providing an entirely different flow. During seasons when rain does not fall in our vicinity, I can still count on a Mesquite flow (almost without fail) from 15 April until the last week of June or first week of July. Most seasons the Mesquite flow, in my area, is like a flood of nectar, limited only by the number of colonies and supers I have available to collect it. However, these past two years it has been weaker and more erratic.
  • Pests - A few years ago I discovered that my main pest was the Colorado River Toad Bufo alvarius. When I went out at night to see how my hives were bearding, I saw that there were dozens of the toads throughout my apiary and that they were sitting at my hive entrances (back then I had traditional bottom board entrances) and literally depopulating my hives. I had recently read about screened bottom boards and top entrances, I had also just read, Queen Excluder or Honey Excluder, so I decided to make myself some closed, screened bottom boards, and use upper entrances only. This literally changed the way beekeeping worked for me, here in the desert, and in many positive ways. Neither SHB, nor mites, tracheal or Varroa, have been of much concern. Wax moth, however seem so tenacious that they sometimes even have negative effects even on strong, productive, hives. I use Bt 'aizawai', or Certan/B401 whenever combs are idle, to suppress their ability to reproduce in my combs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Wow! What an invaluable wealth of information! So you were saying that plastic melts/deteriorates quickly, does that means you use wax foundation in your hives?

Do you find, because of the mild winters, that your bees develop overpopulation problems and you have to divide your hives frequently?

Finally, do you know of any beekeeping association in our area?

Thanks so much for your help!
 

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Plastic frames can melt in the heat and sun (beeswax combs melt very quickly - right off of the plastic foundations), so I am careful to keep them out of the sun. I use lots of plastic foundation and PF120 frames, even a few black ones. I also use some beeswax foundation and some foundationless frames, but I am extremely cautious about any exposure to the sun, especially in the Summer when it is already very hot out, combs can melt very rapidly.

Where I am, Creosote Bush usually blooms strongly in early Spring, providing nectar and pollen to help colonies build-up for the Mesquite flow. This seem to take the place of the Dandelion bloom, common in many other places.

Actually, in my location good rains are rare, either Summer or Winter. The wildflower flows I've seen were too light to even produce a honey crop, just enough nectar and pollen to keep the bees fed and healthy. Though the potential is there if it ever rains enough and at the right times. Most years I've had to feed the bees to get them through the Fall/Winter, sugar syrup and pollen supplement. When it's too dry for too long, especially during a very hot Summer, the bees quickly use up even a large surplus, then they have nothing to eat and can quickly perish. There have been a few years in the past decade where it rained enough and at the right times to keep the bees fed throughout the year. In those years, and several others the Mesquite would usually bring in plenty of surplus that I could harvest. Every year is different, and location is the most important thing. If I lived a few miles East of my current location, there the rain pattern usually brings them much more precipitation than it does us. Every year, during the Summer monsoon, we drive East to town and frequently drive into rain, then as we drive home again it will often be raining until we cross a certain point in the geography, where it will be dry all the way back to our house.

Where you are could regularly receive more or less rain, than even a few miles away. And the rain pattern can change dramatically from year to year. I'm always hoping for a season where I'll receive good rain in Summer and in Winter too. It is fascinating to see how many different types of pollen the bees will bring in when there are good rains. The hives become very healthy under those conditions.

Presently I am only aware of how there were quite a few of us beekeepers in the southern part of the state that met at Dee's home about eight years ago. I am not aware of any formal beekeeping clubs or organizations in our area.

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I'm sure that you will experience many of these same issues, to varying degrees throughout the Tucson area, but there will likely be unique circumstances that only apply to your precise location. For instance; some neighborhoods have many citrus plantings, have a citrus flow and can produce citrus honey. That doesn't happen where I am. There are many micro-environments wherever you go, but they can be very dramatic here in the Tucson area.

I have also designed some beekeeping equipment to suit my style, you can see some of it here.
 
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