February 10

Answers to the Top Twenty Bee Keeping Questions from David and Sheri Burns…two of my Favorite Bee Keepers!

Answers to the top 2o Bee Keeping Questions

We are David and Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms and Honeybeesonline.com. There are only 41 days until the first day of spring. Are you putting off your beekeeping checklists? Don’t delay.
Our most visited page on our website is our “Frequently Asked Beekeeping Questions” page. After working with experienced and new beekeepers we compiled answers to the most commonly asked questions. I’ve updated these answers and want to provide them to you as an Ultimate Guide To Beekeeping! Please forward this on to others to help them out.
Before I start answering 21 common beekeeping questions, allow me to introduce myself. I am EAS Certified Master Beekeeper, David Burns. I have worked hard to educate and mentor beekeepers all across the country for over a decade. I do this through my  ONLINE BEEKEEPING COURSES  to help educate beekeepers to put an end to the unnecessary die-outs of colonies around the US. Consider taking one of my courses. Let’s face it, it’s hard to know who is giving you sound beekeeping advice. The guy at the club? The fellow down the road? Are you sure they are giving you current and accurate information?
1. How Many Hives Should I Start With?

How to start keeping bees can be confusing. The number of hives to start with is entirely up to the individual. We recommend at least two hives because with two hives you can share resources between hives. If one hive becomes queenless and fails to replace their queen, a frame of eggs can be carried over from the other hive and the queenless hive can raise their own queen. If one hive becomes low in numbers, frames of brood from the strong colony can be moved over to strengthen the weak hive. Certainly starting with one hive is acceptable, but there is an advantage to starting with more than one. Click here to read entire article.

2. How Far Apart Should The Hives Bees From Each Other?

In commercial operations, four hives are placed on a single pallet. For the hobbyist, the distance between hives is usually determined based on the comfort of the beekeeper. The beekeeper may want to work all the hives without walking a considerable distance between each hive. I usually recommend at least two feet between hives. They should be further apart when installing new packages to help prevent absconding.

3. Which Direction Should Hives Face?

Traditionally, we recommend the opening of the hive face south or southeast. However, it really does not matter too much. It does help if the sun can reach the hive first thing in the morning. This will cause the bees to start gathering nectar sooner than if they were in the shade.

4. How Close To The House Can I Put My Hives?

Use good judgment. Bees will fly miles away from their hive to find nectar. If a hive is near your house, the bees will still fly up and away. However, it may take six feet from the hive for bees to gain six feet in altitude. Keep this in mind so that hives are not placed near sidewalks, decks, and clotheslines. Place them so that when the bees leave the hive, they will not be immediately near people or pets.

5. What Should I Plant To Help My Bees?

Bees will pollinate plants around your house, but not in huge numbers. In other words,  if you have 10 tomato plants you will not see thousands of bees in your tomato garden. Certainly, many bees will help pollinate your flowers and garden. However, most of your bees will fly out to an area of abundant nectar such as an apple orchard, acres of clover or a large grove of basswood or black locust trees. If you have a half-acre or more, planting buckwheat, clover and other flowering plants will certainly help your bees, but it is not necessary. Bees are quite capable of flying two to three miles to gather nectar.

6. How Do I Manage My Bees Every Spring?

If your bees survive the winter and are strong, they will swarm which means half of your population of bees will leave with your original queen. The remaining bees left behind will raise a new queen from an egg laid by the old queen. This will greatly reduce your population and will affect your colony’s ability to make honey and thrive. It is best to control swarming by making splits prior to swarm season. Check out our ONLINE SPRING MANAGEMENT COURSE
What’s Covered In This Spring Management Course
-How soon to inspect after winter?
-Feeding solutions in the spring
-How to make a walk away split
-David’s best spring split method
-How to make splits without buying queens
-Swarm prevention techniques
-Split for more hives vs. not splitting for more honey
-Be aware of diseases more common in the spring
-Techniques to equalize hives in the spring
-Replenishing the bee yard with more packages vs nucs?
-How to collect pollen in the spring
-Is it okay to reuse old comb from a hive that perished?
-Tips on Finding Your Queen
-How to Install a new package of bees
-How to inspect your spring hive.
-Seasonal management calendar
-Feeding Solutions for each season

7. Should I Buy Medication For My Bees?

When various pests and diseases were identified among bees, many chemicals became available. However, some of these chemicals proved to be harmful to bees over time. Certainly, some medications do fight certain pests and diseases. However, we prefer not to use chemicals or medication in our hives. This is a personal choice. In my Online Courses, I teach practical management techniques that are natural and as effective as medication or antibiotics.

8. How Much Honey Will I Get My First Year?

First-year beekeepers should not expect much honey from a new hive. It takes eight to eleven pounds of nectar for the bees to produce one pound of wax. The first year the colony is producing a lot of wax to build up their comb. Certainly, some first-year hives can produce a full crop of honey, maybe 70-200 pounds of honey. But this would be in a perfect situation, or from a second-year hive. So it is better to have no honey expectations the first year, but if your bees do produce extra honey for you the first year, it is an unexpected surprise. Year two is when you can expect much more.

9. How Much Honey Can One Hive Make Each Year?

An average hive in Illinois produces around 70 pounds per year. This can change to more or less depending on the weather and the health of the bees and the skill of the beekeeper. The most I’ve produced from one hive in one season is 210 pounds.  If a hive produces 70 pounds and you sell it for $10 per pound you make $700. $10 a pound is a common price for 2019.

10. Can I Save Money By Using Old Equipment?

There are several diseases that can linger in old equipment. American foulbrood is one of the more deadly diseases and AFB spores can live perhaps 50-80 years in old comb. It isn’t worth taking a chance unless you are absolutely sure the old equipment was not exposed to diseases. There is really no way to clean or test old equipment. As a family business, we pride ourselves in the beekeeping equipment that we sell. Please support our family business so we can continue to provide top quality beekeeping information and equipment.  Check out our full line of hives and equipment.

11. Should I Leave My Screen Bottom Board Open In The Winter?

This is a personal preference. However, we prefer to have plenty of ventilation in the hive even during the winter. We leave our screen bottom boards open. If you prefer to close the screen bottom board, simply slide in a thin piece of metal or plastic. In my courses, I teach how to wrap hives for winter and to use our Winter-Bee-Kind feeding system to feed the bees in the winter and to provide upper ventilation.

12. What Do You Recommend To Combat Varroa Mites? 

Varroa destructor will be found in all beehives. We recommend these natural methods:

a. Screen bottom boards, so that mites fall out of the hive.
b. Green Drone Comb TrappingClick here to read my article on the using Green Drone Comb To Trap Varroa Mites. 
c. Powdered Sugar.  See our article by clicking here.
d. Removing the queen to break the mites brood cycle.

13. How Do I Treat Small Hive Beetle?

Since we prefer not to use harsh insecticides in the hive, the best method is be sure your colony is strong in population. Small hive beetles love smaller colonies to infest. Always smash and trap. We have extensive teachings and videos on trapping small hive beetles.

14. What Do I Do If I Want Northern Bees But Can Only Find Southern Packages?

All packaged bees come from the sunshine states, southern states, and California. There is absolutely NO WAY anyone in the north can provide packages prior to May, and probably not then. Many northern beekeepers like the idea of a nuc, which is four or five frames from a strong hive, and a queen. But nuc producers can never produce the volume of bees to ever replace the number of packages sent to new beekeepers. Therefore, many northern beekeepers purchase southern packages, and if the queen fails, they replace her with a northern produced queen.

15. Should I Start With A Top Bar Hive Or Langstroth Hive?

We believe new beekeepers should start with a traditional Langstroth type hive and only try a top bar hive or other types of hives after they have become more familiar with beekeeping.

16. Which Feeder Is Best? There are many types of hive feeders all serve a different purpose. 

1. An entrance feeder is placed in the entranced of a hive in the spring. 1:1 Sugar/Water is used. This feeder cannot be used in the summer and certainly not in the fall or it may cause other hives to rob and kill a hive.
 2. A top feeder is a large feeder placed on top of the hive and sugar water is held in a large reservoir. Sometimes stray bees can get under the top cover and drown in the reservoir, or the reservoir can crack and leak down into the hive and kill the colony.
3.  Frame Feeders are used inside the hive in place of a frame. It’s a frame sized plastic reservoir and requires opening up the hive to refill. It cannot be used in the winter because you cannot open the hive to refill it if the temperature is below 60 (F). It is labor intense
4. Check out our Burns Bees Feeding System which is a very effective way to feed bees in the spring and fall. For winter feeding we recommend the Winter-Bee-Kind feeding system.

17. How Important Is It That I Take A Beekeeping Class?

The more you know the better beekeeper you will be. We have a host of classes available all year. Taking a beekeeping class is so important for today’s beekeeper. There have been lots of changes since grandpa kept bees. Without knowing how to keep bees today, you might lose your new hive quickly or the first winter. We are here to help. Our beekeeping classes are taught by Certified Master Beekeeper, David Burns. Be well informed before you start keeping bees by enrolling in one of our beekeeping classes.  Click here to visit our class list in our new Training Center. We also offer all of our classes ONLINE, so you can watch our video classes from the comfort of your home. When you complete any of our six online courses and satisfactorily complete the worksheets and send them back to us, you will receive a certificate of achievement.

18. Should I Register My Hive? Check your local state requirements.

Most states require hives to be registered and we recommend beekeepers register their hives with the Department of Ag or the Department of Natural Resources. Registration affords you the opportunity to receive helpful, free advice from state bee inspectors. This is always a good thing where it is available.
19. What Happens To Bees During The Winter?
During the winter bees do not hibernate. Instead, they cluster tightly together in their hive and generate heat to keep each other warm. They eat honey and pollen that they collected during the spring and summer. Many beekeepers make the mistake of hoping their bees have the stored honey they need to stay warm in the winter. However, science has shown us that bees need protein (pollen) too. Bees eat what we eat, carbohydrates and protein. We have a new approach to feeding bees by adding pollen into our winter-bee-kinds in the winter, and into our sugar water in the spring and fall. It is so important because without this needed protein, the colony is unable to raise young bees properly. David’s “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter” class is available online. Click here.
20. How Much Time And Commitment Is Required To Keep Bees?
Once your new hive is established, we recommend that you inspect your hive every two or three weeks to ensure that your queen is healthy and laying well. Many new beekeepers find beekeeping so fun that they will open up their hive several times a week. This is fine but really not necessary.
November 23

Raising Chickens and Bees!

A number of folks have gotten interested in bees and chickens and wonder if they can have both together,  I found this very informative article from Whole Fed Farmstead for your information.

Raising Chickens & Honey Bees Together

The Do's and Don'ts of Raising Chickens and Honey Bees Together! Whole-Fed Homestead
Do chickens and honey bees get along? Can you raise them close together?
The short answer is, well… yes.

I remember last spring when we received our first-ever batch of baby chicks and a couple boxes of bees all in less than a month’s time. I wondered and hoped that I wouldn’t find a band of rogue chickens sitting in front of the hives, picking off honey bees as they flew in.

Much to my delight, that hasn’t been the case.

If you are thinking about keeping chickens and honey bees together- and wondering if the chickens will bother honey bees, or vice versa- will the honey bees bother the chickens, the answer is mostly: no, but like almost everything in life, with a few exceptions.

Our chicken coop is a little over 100 feet from the bee hives. The chickens free range all day long, but during the very cold winter and very hot summer they tend to stay pretty close to their coop. Also, they are spoiled. When its nice (as in, not below freezing) we let them out at about 6am. In the spring and summer I make them fend for themselves until about noon, or until the temperature reaches 75 F, whichever comes first. They get a small amount of feed, take their afternoon siesta, and become active again around 3pm until bedtime.

I only mention this because depending on how hungry your chickens are, and what their day looks like might have an impact on their eagerness to eat bees.

Having some of the better free ranging breeds, like Icelandics or having a more aggressive hive might make a difference. Our free-range-extraordinaire-Easter-Eggers haven’t been a problem for the bees at all. Nor was the one aggressive hive we’ve had a problem for the chickens.

Chickens Around the Hives
There are a few chickens that like to meander around the hives regularly, and I don’t mind a bit. I have observed them a lot and have never seen one pick off a live bee. In fact, they don’t even pay much attention to the front of the hive because they are too busy looking for other goodies on the ground. I am happy that they help to keep the area clean, as they will eat ants, beetles and other bugs that we don’t want around the hives.

And actually, our chickens won’t even eat live or dead bees when I’ve offered them. They do however, go crazy for bee larva… and also the wax. So be careful if feeding larva to the chickens, that they don’t run off with a big piece of honeycomb! Although beeswax is generally digestible, it seems like a good way to get an impacted crop.

Our hives are off the ground a foot or two, so even if a chicken were right in front of the hive, they wouldn’t really be blocking the entrance. I think this is a good idea if you have bees and chickens co-existing. If your hives are right on the ground and a chicken is too close, they might get buzzed by a bunch of busy bees. And it is certainly more tempting to eat incoming bees on the landing board if they are right in front of you. If your hives are not raised and you are getting chickens, just keep an eye on them at first. If it turns out that bee-eating is a problem, you may have to raise the hives or put a fence around them to prevent it. Or just feed the chickens more.

Once I saw Otto the rooster jump on top of one of the hives and let out a cock-a-doodle-doo. Seems like a good, tall place to let everyone know who’s the boss. The bees didn’t care. He jumped down and went about his business. It doesn’t seem like bees perceive chickens as a threat in any way.

I am completely comfortable walking right next to the hives without worry that they will sting me. Unless you’re really up in their business, most honey bee colonies just don’t have the time to bother with anyone or anything not obviously threatening them. A small chicken or two walking by isn’t a big deal to the bees.

An exception to this might be if you are working the hives. Whenever I am outside, the chickens like to follow me around (probably because I always have sunflower seeds in my pocket for them!), including when we are inspecting the hives. Sometimes they come and hang out by us while we are working, and sometimes they don’t. I can tell that they don’t like when the bees are buzzing in a tizzy, because they tend to keep a little more distance. It might be a good idea to have a plan of action in place if you are working in your hives and the chickens are getting too close.

The bottom line: honey bees aren’t a favorite snack of chickens, and unless you have really hungry chickens or really aggressive bees, they actually make a great pair. 

Bees Around the Coop
This is what I feel the bigger concern is, and it really isn’t one as long as you take proper precautions.

One day last summer I went out to do a mid-day chicken check and found that the bees had discovered the duck pool… and it was claiming them one by one. I hate accidentally killing even one bee, so to find a couple dozen of them drowning in the pool was aggravating. Come on you guys! Of course, I quickly starting fishing out the live ones and putting them in the sun to dry.

I immediately emptied the pool and and moved it to a new location. Then I gave the bees their own safe water source closer to the hives to ensure that they wouldn’t feel the need to seek out the death-pool again.

Bees really do seem stupid when it comes to water. Even a chicken waterer with much less surface area than a whole kiddie pool could pose a problem if there are no rocks or sticks for overboard bees to use to crawl back out. This is especially true if you live in a really dry climate and natural water sources are hard to find.

You could make your chicken yard completely bee-safe by using chicken nipple waterers. Yes, nipples for chickens. Of course, you still always want to provide a water source for your bees, because you don’t know what kind of situations they could be getting themselves into at a neighbor’s house.

If you find that bees are exploring your chicken’s feed, it may be due to certain herbs that some brands add. This isn’t a big deal, other than the bees are more likely to be eaten if they are hanging around in the food bowl. I mean, they’re pretty much asking for it at that point. If your feed contains Anise Hyssop and your bees are drawn to it, consider switching to a different brand (unless the chickens aren’t eating the bees anyways- then I guess there is nothing to worry about).

The bottom line: ensuring your bees have a safe and always-full water source close by makes them a lot less likely to seek out the chicken’s water. And to further prevent problems, make sure they have water as soon as you add them to your property, because once they find a water source (like the neighbor’s pool) they will keep going back. And you aren’t going to ask the neighbor to drain and move his pool. 

There’s really nothing better than walking outside on a warm spring day and hearing the buzz of bees working the apple blossoms and dandelions, and watching the chickens mill about the yard, enjoying the green grass and fresh air. Honey bees and chickens are very complimentary to each other and are both great additions to a homestead.

November 23

How to Store Raw Honey

Long Term Honey Storage Challenges

Once you have gone to the effort of buying good quality honey, you want to store it in the best way.  This is especially relevant to those of you who want to keep your honey in a liquid (pour-able) state.  This is where we have to talk about honey storage temperatures.

In order to understand why honey storage temps matter, we must first have a better understanding of raw honey. Real honey is made by bees.  It is the perfect food for long term storage in a bee hive.

Then, we humans come along and sometimes try to improve it.  In addition to enjoying the good aspects of honey, we want to be able to mass produce it and store it on a shelf in a pristine state.  Consumers desire that perfect jar of golden honey.

How to store raw honey - not in the refrigerator.

Most people enjoy honey in a liquid state.

The practices used to create a beautiful product for the grocery shelf are not necessarily kind to our wonderful honey.  While honey will be safe to eat for a long time, it can darken in color and become more solid.  That’s doesn’t look pretty on the grocery shelf so honey packers use intense filtration.

Large commercial honey packers often push honey through a filter under pressure.  This is done to provide a beautiful product that will look good on the shelf for a long time.

This creates a problem because ultra filtration removes some of the micro-nutrients and pollen in honey.  Thereby, lessening the nutritional value of the product.

But, you don’t have to be a slave to modern processing.  Local beekeepers across the US produce “table honey” each year. Yes, it will cost a bit more – or should. With proper harvest and storage techniques, we can enjoy all the natural goodness of honey and not waste any.

What is Raw Honey?

Raw food products are in their original form as created in nature.  Nothing is added or harmed in the components of the produc

Honey can only be called “raw” if it has not been processed or super filtered and never heated. The honey should not be exposed to any heat (hotter than it would be inside the hive on a hot Summer day).

Using an extractor to remove honey from the comb is okay – it just slings the honey out.  Allowing honey to drip through a sieve or strainer is okay as no pressure is applied.  Learn more about using an extractor – here.

Raw honey is unique. The color and flavor will vary from year to year. Why?  Because each season the different flowers may or may not produce that same amount of nectar as in previous year.  Nectar production is closely tied to weather conditions.

In my bee yard, it is not unusual to have one bucket of honey that is very light in color and another very dark.  Read this post to learn more aboutraw honey.

Professional 2 Frame Manual Honey ExtractorProfessional 2 Frame Manual Honey ExtractorProfessional 2 Frame Manual Honey ExtractorThis is a manual Honey Extractor. Used properly, this type of equipment does no damage to the beekeeper’s honey harvest.  I have an electric version which does 6 medium frames and three deep frames at one time.

Liquid honey is slung out of the honeycombs and collected in the bo

The Best Way to Store Fresh Honey

Properly stored honey never spoils because bacteria doesn’t grow well in acidic honey. The best way to store raw honey is in a tightly sealed jar kept at warm room temperature.

Because honey can absorb moisture and odors – please don’t re-use an old pickle jar. Unless of course, if you are wanting to add a bit of pickle aroma to your raw honey, that’s your call.

1-Gallon Glass Jar Wide Mouth

For my own use using large-mouth glass jars, is one of my favorite methods of storing honey for long term use. The glass is easy to see through, and does not give the honey any strange tastes. If the honey thickens over time, the large opening makes it easy to scoop out.

These large containers will hold a lot of honey but are not too heavy to lift.  Smaller amounts can easily be transferred to  a serving container.

Bright light doesn’t harm your honey but it can cause honey to darken. (It’s dark in the hive – right ?)

How do you store raw honey in the dark? The easiest method is to place your jar of honey in a room temperature cabinet. An ideal temperature range of 70° F – 80° F is best.

( I break the rule and store a small jar of honey right on my stove top. – I am a rule breaker that way. ) Any “tight sealing” honey pot or container is okay.

Does Raw Honey Need to Be Refrigerated?

No, no, no.  Pure honey will not spoil.  It does not require cold temperatures or a vacuum sealed jar.

Please never put your honey in the refrigerator.  It will not make it last longer or keep it fresher.  Putting honey in the refrigerator can promote some changes that you do not want.

Raw Honey Crystallizes – It’s Natural!

Learn how to store raw honey to prevent crystallization if you do not want gritty honey.

Crystallized honey is not bad. It has just changed form. Some people prefer it this way. If you are not one of them, store your honey at a warmer temperature to discourage crystallization.

This is a common cry among consumers who do not understand the nature of raw honey. The turn often used is “my honey turned to sugar” meaning that the honey has thickened.  This is a natural process!

Honey is a super-saturated sugar.  When honey goes to this solid state, we call it crystallization.  The rate of crystallization depends on the nectar sources of the honey, storage temperature and other variables. But it does not mean that your honey is spoiled!

People ask  how to store raw honey to prevent crystallization. The answer is that sometimes you can not completely stop crystallization.

Raw honey contains pollen, tiny bits of wax etc that encourages the change to a solid. Because cool temperatures quicken the process, the refrigerator is the last place your honey jar should be kept. Honey that is stored in the refrigerator will crystallize faster.

But if you put your jar of honey in the frig, that’s okay it is still good.  Just maybe a bit gritty!  Crystallized honey is okay and safe to eat.  But most people want their honey to stay in the liquid non gritty form. If you want to change your gritty honey back to liquid – read a post on crystallized honey here.

How to Store Honey Even After Opening the Jar

The value of pure honey makes it important to learn how to store raw honey properly. And finding small farmers markets to purchase directly from the farmer increases your chances of getting real honey. Expect to pay more from smaller producers.

But no mater where you get your honey there is one thing to remember.  You do not have to store honey in the refrigerator after opening the jar.  Pure honey will last a long time.

Find a dark warm place to store your honey jar and it will be ready to add to your favorite dishes.

November 7

What is a Slatted Rack?

The slatted rack has become my all-time favorite piece of bee furniture, and I wouldn’t try to keep bees in a Langstroth-style hive without one now that I understand its value to our hives.  I plan insert one whenever I put in a new hive and leave it there year-round. If you’re not familiar with them, a slatted rack (sometimes called a brood rack) fits just beneath the lowest hive body and above the Varroa screen or bottom board. It has the same outside dimensions as the brood box and is about 2 inches deep.

Slatted racks provide dead air space below the brood chamber. This layer of air helps to keep the bees cooler in summer and warmer in winter. In the summer when populations are high, bees congregate in this area which reduces congestion in the hive, spreads out the heat load, and facilitates ventilation by fanning. This increase of space and lessening of heat seems to decrease swarming as well.

In the winter, when the entrances are reduced, the air space within the slatted rack acts as an insulating layer between the brood chamber and the cold area below the hive. It also removes the brood nest further from the drafty entrance.

The queen will lay further down

Because a slatted rack moves the bottom of the brood chamber further from the entrance, the queen tends to lay eggs all the way to the bottom of the frames, thus extending the brood pattern.

Here are some caveats about using slatted racks:

  • If you use a screened bottom board, the slats need to run from front to back— the same direction as the frames. The idea here is that the mites will fall between the slats and then through the screen. If you have the type of rack that runs crosswise, fewer mites are going to fall through so your Varroascreen will be less effective. Similarly, the number of slats should match the number of frames. If you use only nine brood frames in a ten-frame box, your slatted rack should have nine slats. Some manufacturers have designed racks that can be modified for this configuration. There are also slatted racks made specifically for 8-frame equipment.
  • At one end of the slats (running perpendicular to them) is a flat board about four inches wide. This goes at the front of the hive and is said to reduce air turbulence at the entrance.
  • But the most important thing to remember about slatted racks is this: they have two sides, a deep side and a shallow side. The shallow side goes up. Repeat. The shallow side goes up. If you put it in upside down, the bees will draw comb into the empty space. The next time you try to reverse brood boxes, you’ll first have to cut away the comb and brood hanging off the bottom. You can’t even set the box down without doing serious damage. This is not fun, especially when the box weighs 90 pounds and the temperature is 90 degrees. (Hmm . . . Do you hear experience speaking here?)

However, once you get your slatted racks successfully installed, you’ll be a convert. Whatever the reason, hives with racks seem to do better than hives without.

November 7

How to Prepare Your hives for Winter: a checklist

How you prepare your hives for winter depends on where you live, so some of the suggestions below may not apply to you. Nevertheless, the list may give you some ideas. Although the calendar still shows November, those long, dark, cold days of winter are just around the corner. It’s time to get busy.

  • Remove empty supers. Make the space inside the hive commensurate with the size of the colony. If necessary, reduce the hive volume with follower boards, especially in a top-bar hive. A proper interior size is less drafty and less likely to harbor intruders.
  • Check for a laying queen. You should see at least some brood in your hive. If you don’t, order a queen as soon as possible.
  • Check for colony size and combine small ones. Come spring it is better to have one live colony than two dead ones.
  • Check for honey stores. If your hives are too light, you will need to add some frames of honey.  You may also feed….but once the cold gets here it will be too late .
  • Assure that the honey frames are in the right place, that is, they should be on both sides of the cluster and above it in a Langstroth hive. Move frames around if necessary. In a top-bar hive, put the cluster at one end of the hive and put the honey frames next to the cluster on the other side. This way, the colony can move laterally in one direction to find food.
  • Reduce hive entrances if you haven’t already. It’s time for mice and other small creatures to find a snug and warm overwintering place—one filled with honey is especially attractive.
  • Remove weedy vegetation from the base of the hive. Vegetation is a convenient hiding place for creatures who may want to move into the hive and it can be used like an entrance ramp or stepladder.
  • Put a slatted rack** in your hive if you don’t already have one. The slatted rack adds space between the bottom of the cluster and the drafty hive opening. **This is something new I have learned about and am adding to my hives…see my next post for more information
  • Put a wintergreen grease patty in each hive. Grease patties won’t control a large mite infestation, but they can slow the increase of mites during the winter months.
  • If you live in a wet area, make sure your lids will keep out the rain. Make any needed repairs now.
  • Provide ventilation for your hives: air must be able to come in through the bottom and out through the top. I like to use a screened bottom board all winter long.
  • If high winds are a problem, secure your lids with heavy stones or tie-downs.
  • If high winds are a problem, consider providing a windbreak.
  • If winter flooding is a problem, move the hives to higher ground now while the weather is still dry.

 

 

November 7

Catching Up Before Fall Leaves Us Behind

Received the following text from Sean a few weeks ago…and I was reminded today that I still had not responded.  Since Sean’s observations really concern us all, I decided to post and answer here.  You are welcome to add to my comments and perhaps you have questions to raise as well.

From Sean

“Hey Scott. My hive at the apiary is okay one at my house if full. I have three boxes pretty full of honey. Do I add another or leave it alone. Also do I go ahead and put the small opening and seal it up?  Apiary hive is pretty weak compared to the one at the house. Both have signs of queen but one at the house is way more productive. Hope you are doing well” –Sean

First let me say I am doing very well, but for a retired person…I am not very retired.  I am deeply involved in my church and community and have been doing a huge amount of work as a substitute teacher as well.  That being said…my beekeeping time has been greatly reduced, most especially for our Blog…so its time to crank it back up.

  1. Addressing the three boxes of honey…we definitely want to pull off two of these.  Reducing the size of our hives for winter is essential.  I have reduced all of my hives to the brood box and one super.  The super is full of honey for the bees to utilize over the winter.
  2. It is certainly time to reduce our openings.  Many of us will do this as early as August if there is any potential for “robbing”.
  3. Checking to make sure we have queens is another thing we just always be on top of.  Our Winter Bees are being made and the population should be greatly reduced.
  4. Production is always a curious thing.  This is why having hives at multiple locations is a good thing.  I cannot account for your lack of production at the Apiary?  I know that when I put the new community feeder out it helped my hives.  If your stores are still lacking, you should continue to feed as long as it is warm.
     Scott (Mr. G)
August 1

Hive Inspections, and Our New Beekeeper

 

Below  you will meet our newest beekeeper Camryn Clawson.  Camryn and Inspected and worked 11 hives yesterday.  We focused on determining that the Queen was present and working, good brood patterns, looking for pests…especially hive beetles and wax moths, and honey supplies  Erin Denison had already prewarned us that we should consider feeding our hives and she is absolutely correct.  Only one hive had good stores of honey, and unless we feed that hive, the honey will be consumed.  Hopefully fall will bring new food supplies, but until then we must help nature out and feed our bees.  We began feeding all hives we inspected that were not already being fed.  I had received requests from Leigh and the Blacks to make inspections of their hives. If there are others who would like for me to complete an inspection with you or for you, please let me know.

Besides feeding, all eleven  of these hives were in good shape.  No pests were detected and the queens were doing a great job.  We treated all 11 of these hives with a gel treatment of apivar.  One of the causes of hive loss last year is believed to be due to damage done by the varroa destructor mite.  This year we will be more aggressive in our treatment.  I have a new fogging machine made specifically for beekeepers so we may better treat with oxilic acid.

Our topic at our Gaston County Beekeepers Association was the Small Hive Beetle.  I learned some new things.  I would like for us to have an evening together in the near future so we may share with one another. I keep saying we are going to do this…I promise I will.

…And now…..

Welcome to Camryn Clawson as a volunteer for the Smith Education Apiary.  Camryn selected this as her service project for her membership in the Ida Rankin Safety Patrol.  Yesterday we inspected and treated 11 hives for varroa mites and determined the strength of each hive.   Enjoy her first day with me through the photo journal below.

Mixing Sugar Water for our bees.

Discovery of Wax Moths in two of our boxes.

Close look at the destructive powers of the wax moth.

Fire is a great way to destroy these wax moths.  Twenty frames of drawn cone go to flames.  Bye Bye wax moths….and the money needed to replace these frames.

Camryn was an enthusiastic learner and wanted to learn how to do it all.  Here she is preparing to light her first smoker.

Seperating the frames and preparing for her first inspection.

The inspection begins. This her first hive and she shows no fear!

Time to feed our bees. Adding sugar water to the Black’s bees.

Time to take a look at our Top Bar Hive.

Look at this beautiful cone our bees have built.

Learning the importance of smoking our hives properly.

Easy does it. Camryn is the perfect bee keeper…slow and easy.

So many little things we must do to get ready for our bees.

Clean up at the end of the day after 7 hours of work. This girl is a born beekeeper!

 

 

June 7

Bee Inspections Update – June 7

Good morning fellow Bee Sustainers…a few updates for you:

1. Lena will be installing a new package of bees today to replace her hive which decided to leave unexpectantly. She will also be moving her hive to her new home here in Mount Holly which will enable her to enjoy her bees more and also be more watchful. Erin will be introducing her to a new beekeeper in her new neighborhood today as well.  While I love our apiary, I also love and support folks who want to keep bees in their yard. Lena will continue to be a part of our team. I plan to be with Lena and Erin when they do the install later today. I am suggesting a new, gentle way to install a package and will have Erin video for us. I am not sure of the time yet.

Questions Lena Asked:

What happened to my queens?

Truthfully we can only speculate.  My best guess is the first one was damaged during installation.  The second one seems to have just left (swarmed) with a number if bees…which is very rare for a new hive and new queen.  Why?  We just do not know…it happens.  I do not in anyway fault the beekeeper as Lena had done everything by the book.

Can I move my new hive to my house?

Yes.  Remember, these are your bees and your equipment.  Also, most of your bees have left, so this is a good time to move them.  I would just encourage you to complete hive inspections with other beekeepers since you have only the one hive so you have something to compare your hives to.

Do I need to feed my new bees something more than sugar water…perhaps add a frame of honey?

No.  1:1 Sugar water will do the trick.  I do suggest adding HoneyBee Healthy to your sugarwater.  This contains some essential oils that are very helpful to the bees.  You can buy this on line at Amazon or any good bee store.  You also can make your own.  I have a recipe near the beginning of our lessons part of the blog.

2. Meanwhile, Bobby and Melanie are awaiting Estella III. Yep, Estella II took off for parts unknown. If she comes in today, we will complete this install as well. We all can do the right things, but we must understand these creatures have a mind of their own! Please let  me know if she gets in today. Bobby and Mel completed inspections of all three of their hives last week. All hives doing well except for their Estella hive. Plenty of bees, but no brood or queen.

3. Meanwhile, Sean is enjoying huge success and has completed two inspections. While not seeing his queens directly, the huge amount of capped brood tells him all is well. You can see his write up of one if his inspections in the comments of an earlier post. He has determined that feeding is in order. Again, we cannot know what our bees need without inspections.

3. Erin plans to inspect her hives today. I hope to join her. From all outward signs her hives look strong.

4. Andy has one hive in our Apiary and two hives at home. As if this writing I have not heard from him. His hive in the Apiary appears strong.

I encourage you to write up your inspections, observations, and questions from time to time here on our blog in the comment secrion…or text/email them to me and I will add to our blog.  Photos and videos are always nice as well.

May 28

What is Killing Our Bees?

37 Million Bees Found Dead After Planting Large GMO Corn Field

Millions of bees dropped dead after GMO corn was planted few weeks ago in Ontario, Canada. The local bee keeper, Dave Schuit who produces honey in Elmwood lost about 37 million bees which are about 600 hives.

“Once the corn started to get planted our bees died by the millions,” Schuit said. While many bee keepers blame neonicotinoids, or “neonics.” for colony collapse of bees and many countries in EU have banned neonicotinoid class of pesticides, the US Department of Agriculture fails to ban insecticides known as neonicotinoids, manufactured by Bayer CropScience Inc.

Two of Bayer’s best-selling pesticides, Imidacloprid and Clothianidin, are known to get into pollen and nectar, and can damage beneficial insects such as bees. The marketing of these drugs also coincided with the occurrence of large-scale bee deaths in many European countries and the United States.

Nathan Carey another local farmer says that this spring he noticed that there were not enough bees on his farm and he believes that there is a strong correlation between the disappearance of bees and insecticide use.

In the past, many scientists have struggled to find the exact cause of the massive die-offs, a phenomenon they refer to as “colony collapse disorder” (CCD). In the United States, for seven consecutive years, honeybees are in terminal decline.

US scientists have found 121 different pesticides in samples of bees, wax and pollen, lending credence to the notion that pesticides are a key problem. “We believe that some subtle interactions between nutrition, pesticide exposure and other stressors are converging to kill colonies,” said Jeffery Pettis, of the ARS’s bee research laboratory.

The collapse in the global honeybee population is a major threat to crops. It is estimated that a third of everything we eat depends upon honeybee pollination, which means that bees contribute over 30 billion to the global economy.

A new study published in the Journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences revealed that neonicotinoid pesticides kill honeybees by damaging their immune system and making them unable to fight diseases and bacteria.

After reporting large losses of bees after exposure to Imidacloprid, banned it for use on corn and sunflowers, despite protests by Bayer. In another smart move, France also rejected Bayer’s application for Clothianidin, and other countries, such as Italy, have banned certain neonicotinoids as well. After record-breaking honeybee deaths in the UK, the European Union has banned multiple pesticides, including neonicotinoid pesticides.