Improved Honeybee Health through Foundation Modification

Project Overview

FW13-128
Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 2013: $25,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2015
Region: Western
State: Colorado
Principal Investigator:

Commodities

  • Animals: bees

Practices

  • Crop Production: food product quality/safety
  • Education and Training: demonstration, farmer to farmer, focus group, mentoring, on-farm/ranch research
  • Natural Resources/Environment: habitat enhancement
  • Pest Management: prevention
  • Production Systems: agroecosystems, holistic management
  • Sustainable Communities: local and regional food systems, employment opportunities

    Summary:

    Using the Tycksen foundation method (named after my father Walter Tycksen), participants used a two-inch wax “starter” foundation placed into a traditional frame, allowing bees to build their own honeycomb. Thirty hives were placed in three locations with one-half of the hives utilizing the Tycksen foundation method and the other one-half used a traditional full wax commercial foundation, also known as the Langstroth method. The two-inch guide tells bees where to begin building. The frame, with wire reinforcements throughout, holds the weight of the honey, making commercial honey extraction possible. The intent of the project was to see if the Tycksen method created an environment where the bees were better able to fight disease, have healthier hives, and produce more honey.

    The final outcome showed that the Tycksen foundation hives took longer to establish in year one but were stronger and healthier at the beginning of year two and at the end of the two-year study.

    Introduction

    New honeybee hives takes a minimum 30-45 days to get established and for the queen to begin laying larvae; therefore, this was a two-year research project. During the first year thirty packages of bees were acquired from a single source and were introduced to entirely new hives, foundation, etc. One-half of the bees were put in hives with the traditional wax frame foundation; the other half were put in hives with the Tycksen method of foundation. Three locations were chosen and 10 hives were placed at each location. At each site, one-half of the hives used the traditional foundation and one-half used the Tycksen foundation. All hives were fed for the first month with sugar syrup to insure consistent strength throughout the hives. No chemical treatments were used for mite control during the research project; over the full two-year project, only natural methods of mite control were used, which will be discussed later.

    Project objectives:

    This research project's main objective was to determine whether a change in the method in which honeybees build their honeycomb/foundation improved honeybee health. Objectives and performance targets were evaluated after year one and again at the end of the research project (October 2014). They were as follows:

    1. By utilizing hive weight, mite count, and visisual inspection, would the Tycksen foundation method improve bee health by allowing the bees to build their own foundation?
    2. Did the Tycksen hives produce more honey than traditional Langstroth hives?
    3. If so, was it substantial enough to offset the time it takes to make the frames and install a two-inch strip of wax in each frame?
    4. Did the Tycksen hives see a reduction in Varroa mites in the hive?
    5. If there was not a reduction in mite populations, were the bees strong enough to fight off the mites without use of natural mite control methods?
    6. Was the honey production in the Tycksen foundation hives equal or similar to the traditional Langstroth method?
    7. Was the honey able to be extracted from the Tycksen frames in a commercial extractor? 

    Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.