Honey Bees are amazing. Honey Bees make beekeeping an enjoyable hobby with many enjoyable benefits. Information on this site is provided by certified master beekeeper, David Burns. Information you can trust.
WHY START BEEKEEPING?
Because it is enjoyable, fun and helps pollinate our fruits and vegetables. How To Start Beekeeping.
You've thought about it long enough. Don't put beekeeping off another year. The spring of 2016 is around the corner. To start bees in the spring you have to get your ducks in a row now. Bees are available for purchase only for a short time in the winter, then they are sold out. Purchase your hive equipment from us too. Take a class with us and learn from a certified master beekeeper.
Maybe you have allergies and they are getting worse and you've heard that local honey may ease allergies.
Maybe you're tired of your orchard not producing apples like it did when you had honey bees in the area.
Stop putting it off and join the movement across the country of keeping honey bees.
Take one of our beekeeping classes taught by EAS Certified Master Beekeeper David Burns. Credentials matter when it comes to beekeeping classes. This ensures that you are receiving accurate information, not folklore or opinions. Our classes are known throughout the country as one of the most thorough, complete and understandable beekeeping classes available. Check out our upcoming beekeeping classes.
Thanks for your interest in beekeeping. To us, beekeeping is one of the most enjoyable hobby/businesses ever. We believe you will enjoy it as well. Some people keep bees simply because they are an amazing creature. Did you know that a honey bee flies around 15 mph? A hive of bees flies 55,000 miles to bring us 1 pound of honey. During her life (approximately 40 days) a honey bee will gather about 1/12 teaspoon of honey. Bees must go to two million flowers to gather l pound of honey. Bees can see the same colors we see except red. They can also see ultraviolet. See what awaits as you enter into the exciting world of beekeeping. We offer free online beekeeping lessons, beekeeping videos and beekeeping podcasts, and sell beekeeping supplies, bees and queens. Come to Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois and take one of our beekeeping classes taught by our certified master beekeeper, David Burns.
Beekeeping is simple:
1. Purchase your hives and equipment from us now.
2. Purchase the honey bees from us starting in Dec of this year.
Beekeeping is so amazing and can be such an enjoyable hobby or business. Isn't it time for you to enjoy beekeeping? Think of the honey, and how your honey bees will help pollinate flowers, fruit and vegetables in your area.
We recommend you start with new equipment. Old equipment may harbor diseases such as American Foulbrood which could infect your new bees. A traditional hive is called a Langstroth hive. It was designed by Rev. Langstroth in the mid 1800s. He discovered bee space which is the space bees require to travel and work within their nest area. You've probably seen the white bee boxes in fields. Check out all of our beekeeping equipment available now.
HOW DO HONEY BEES MAKE HONEY
When honey bees reach the age of 23 days old they become foragers and fly out of the hive to gather nectar from flowers. They also gather pollen in the hind legs in pollen baskets. They use their straw like tongue (proboscis) to suck nectar into their honey tank and then return to the colony with their precious cargo. Once in the hive they transfer the nectar to transport house bees who add enzymes to the nectar and dry it for 20 minutes in their mouth pieces before dropping into a cell. Then, the nectar is fanned until it reaches a moisture level of around 18% at which time the bees cap each cell closed with wax. This is to keep the honey pure and fresh, like we can food.
HOW TO EXTRACT HONEY...read more
HONEY BEES ARE TELLING US NOW
WHAT THEY NEED TO SURVIVE THE WINTER
All surveys and polls are in. You can find out this week how well your bees will do this winter, and prognosticators are calling for another cold and long winter (Farmer's Almanac).
In Illinois, when we hit our summer dearth, there is minimal foraging. The honey flow is over. In fact, the bees are very hungry. The goldenrod blooms in the fall.
I will go over this more in our upcoming "Get Your Bees Through The Winter"class, but right now the colony must raise a lot of brood between now and December. The eggs being laid over the next few weeks will be the bees that will overwinter the colony. BUT, for there to be good brood production now, the hive must have a surplus of nectar and pollen coming in the front door. I am not going to wait and gamble on a goldenrod and aster flow. I am going to stimulate brood rearing starting tomorrow by feeding my bees 2:1 sugar water and my own sugar/pollen patties. Do not use the entrance feeder now or in the fall. That is only for spring. If you use it now you will likely cause your hive to be robbed by another hive. It is time to break out the big guns and bulk up the colonies for winter.
I am breaking out the Burns Bees Feeding System. For the colony to build up bee population for winter, they need pollen now, not just sugar. The Burns Bees Feed System keeps both liquid and patties on the hive for maximum preparation for winter. Comes with two mason jar caps with holes. Does not include the mason jar. Use this in place of inner cover.
I want fresh bees going into winter, lots of them, bees that have not been parasitized by the mites. I've got my mite levels down below 2%. In the Winter class we'll be demonstrating how to do a mite count using the powdered sugar in a jar---test. This is a sufficient test for the average beekeeper. If you have done nothing all year to control mites, your bees are telling you they are spreading viruses and probably will die in the winter.
Beekeepers keep telling me they were going to remove the honey supers but not only did the bees take it down into the brood area, but they consumed it all. Remember, you need 60-80 lbs. of honey in the top deep hive body to overwinter. My bees are telling me three things:
1. Feed us
2. Help me build up lots of bees for winter
3. Get these mites out of the hive before the new winter bees emerge.
4. Have your Winter-Bee-Kind ready to put on when you can no longer use the Burns Bees Feeding System which is usually after the colony clusters.
It's your choice. You can ignore these early warning signs, but if you do, it will be a miracle if your bees survive the winter.
QUEEN, DRONES AND WORKERS IN A HIVE
Caste Of Bees In A Hive
-Drone (Male Bee) 2,000
-Female Worker Bee 60,000
HOW TO CATCH A HONEY BEE SWARM
A colony will swarm when it becomes overcrowded. Half the colony will leave with the old queen, and they will raise a new queen with the other half of the colony left behind. The swarm travels to a new location following scout bees that have chosen a new location. Before they get there, the swarm will rest on a tree branch or wall and sometimes the ground. This is the optimal time to retrieve the swarm, while they are resting and before they complete their journey to their final destination. If on a branch, place a hive with frames in it under the swarm and shake the branch so the bees fall into the hive along with the queen. Put a top on it and take it home to where you want to place your new hive.
WHERE DO HONEY BEES GET WAX FOR THEIR COMB BUILDING?
Bees produce wax from their wax glands on the lower side of their abdomen. Honey bees between the age of 6-12 days old have mature wax glands. They consume about 8 pounds of nectar in order to produce 1 pound of wax. Small flakes of wax are secreted from their wax glands and then worked into shape by their legs and mandibles. Bees never rob wax from other hives.
WHAT IS ROYAL JELLY?
Honey Bees produce royal jelly from their hypopharyngeal glands in their heads. This secretion is fed to all larvae for the first three days. However, a colony can produce a queen by feeding copious amounts of royal jelly to a developing larva beyond three days. In fact a queen lives on a diet of royal jelly her entire life which is about 2-4 years. Worker bees live about 45 days in the summer and several months during the winter.
WHAT IS PROPOLIS?
Bees gather propolis from trees and plants and make it into a sticky substance to sterilize the inside of their nest area. Propolis is anti-everything. Anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-fungal etc., so bees use it as their immune system in the hive. It is also used to glue things together. In the winter propolis is cold and hard. But in the summer it is gooey and sticky.
HOW TO MAKE CREAMED HONEY
All pure and raw honey will eventually crystalize, which means the honey will appear solid and the liquid sugar becomes hard over time. The honey is still good in this state. It simply needs warmed up to become liquid again. Honey never spoils and can be left out at room temperature. The process of crystallization can be controlled to produce creamed honey. When we make creamed honey we place 1/10 of very finely ground crystalized honey into a jar of liquid honey. We keep it at between 50-55 degrees (f) for a week or more and the crystals spread and the entire jar becomes a creamy jar of delicious honey. You can make it that easy too. If you do not already have the crystalized honey, it can be purchased.
WHEN IS THE RIGHT TIME TO
When the nectar is dried by the bees to a moisture level of about 18% the bees will "cap" each cell with wax to seal it off. So when a frame of honey is capped over it can be harvested. Harvested means you remove the frame, cut off the cappings with a hot or cold knife and then spin out the honey using an extractor. If you harvest honey before the cells are sealed over, the moisture content will be too high and the honey will ferment in the jar and have a vinegar flavor and is not good to eat.
Here are 20 questions and answers to help you overwinter your honey bees.
1. What is the number one reason most colonies die in the winter?
a. Cold b. Varroa mites c. moisture in the hive
ANSWER: B Varroa mites spread viruses and shorten the lifespan of a honey bee in half.
2. How many pounds of honey should be in a northern hive for it to have enough food for winter?
a. 10-20 lbs b. 30-40 c. 40-50 d. 60 or more
ANSWER: D In the north our winters are longer so we need a minimum of 60 lbs of stored honey for winter.
3. If a honey bee is parasitized by a mite how much is their life expectancy altered
a. none b. 1/4 shorter life span c. 1/2 shorter life span d. 3/4 shorter life span
ANSWER: C 1/2 Shorter life span
4. Can a new and young queen aid in the successful overwintering of a hive? True False
ANSWER: TRUE A new, young queen can usually produce ample brood in late summer and fall. These bees are not worn out foragers and with proper IPM or mite treatment are not parasitized by the mites. These new bees will be healthy and strong in the spring.
5. Wrapping or insulating the entire hive can actually be harmful for bees in late winter and early spring.
ANSWER: TRUE Wrapping or insulating the entire hive can insulate the hive from the sun's warm in the late winter and spring.
6. If you leave a honey super on the hive for more winter food, you should leave the queen excluder on too. True False
ANSWER: FALSE As the cluster moves up into the honey in the super, the bees can squeeze through the queen excluder, but the queen cannot and she may be left behind to freeze.
7. Which is harder on bees? a. wet winter b. dry winter
ANSWER: A wet winter. Moisture is very hard on the hive during the winter. Ventilation is very important.
8. When brood is present during the winter, the cluster temperature must be: a. 40-45 (f) b. 50-60 (f) c. 60-80 (f) d. 90-95 (F)
ANSWER: D Developing pupae must be kept above 90 even if it is -20 (f) outside. Other areas of the hive, far away from the cluster, may be as cold as the outside temperature.
9. In late winter the cluster is located: a. Low in the hive b. High in the hive
ANSWER: B High in the hive. The cluster moves up into stored food and heat rises so the cluster can more easily stay warm.
10. Do small hive beetles and mites die during the winter inside a colony of bees? a. Yes b. No
ANSWER: B No Beetles and mites overwinter in the warmth of the cluster with the bees.
11. Do you know the percentage of mites on your bees going into winter? a. Yes b. No
ANSWER: YOU SHOULD! During our "Getting Bees Through The Winter" we will demonstrate how to easily count mites per 100 bees from within the hive. This will let you know if you should treat or not.
12. In the winter, on a warm day, do bees prefer: a. An upper entrance b. A lower entrance
ANSWER: A An upper entrance. Since the winter cluster moves upward, they are closer to an upper entrance.
13. Do coons bother hives in the winter? a. No b. Yes
ANSWER: B Yes, they can knock lids off if they are hungry. They can be like little bears.
14. To help bees build up in the fall, what ratio of sugar water should be fed? a. One part sugar and one part water b. Two parts sugar and one part water
15. An entrance feeder is an excellent way to feed bees sugar water in the fall. a. True b. False
ANSWER: FALSE When nectar is not plentiful, such as the fall, an entrance feeder can attract other hives to rob the hive with the entrance feeder. A better fall feeder would be a frame feeder or a top feeder.
16. Should an entire pollen patty be placed on a hive to help bees survive the winter? a. Yes b. No
ANSWER: B No Because small hive beetles overwinter with the cluster, they will lay eggs in a pollen patty. Only use a small amount of the pollen patty, maybe a 2" piece or a circle patty no larger than a 3" circle. This allows the bees to better police the beetles.
17. Should bales of straw or hay be placed against the hive for wind protection? a. Yes b. No
ANSWER: B NO If bales of straw or hay is placed against or too close to the hive it will retain moisture and not allow the hive to ventilate properly. Diseases such as European foulbrood occur in early spring in wet and moist areas.
18. Top insulation aids in winter survival. A. Yes b. No
ANSWER: A Yes. This is different than insulating the entire hive. Mainly the top insulation helps prevent upper condensation. Our Winter-Bee-Kinds have an upper vent/entrance and insulation and sugar and protein.
19. Which is a better source in the winter: a. Liquid sugar b. Hard sugar
ANSWER: B Hard sugar Too much liquid in the winter will cause the bees to fill up and not be able to relieve themselves because they cannot fly out for a bathroom break. Harder candy mixed with protein is better during the winter.
20. What is bee bread? a. a protein nurse bees produce b. Small particles of wax that go unused but form the appearance of a small loaf of bread. c. A combination of pollen and nectar
ANSWER: C. A combination of pollen and nectar is starting to ferment and is good nutrition for bees. It has a different appearance than pollen, as bee bread has a more wet look.
TEST YOUR KNOWLEDGE OF HONEY BEES
1. Over time, with continuous use, the diameter of brood cells become larger in size. a. True b. False
False. Over time cocoons are left behind making the brood cell smaller and smaller. And very old comb with many layers of cocoons can be a breeding ground for American foulbrood. It is a good practice to change out old comb.
2. Canola honey crystallizes soon after being extracted. a. True b. False
True. Canola is also known as Rapeseed is grown in Canada and some northern states. It can crystallize within days or weeks. Because of this some beekeepers use it to make cream honey.
3. Oxalic acid, used as a mite treatment, is legal in the United States. a. True b. False
False. While it is very effective, it has yet to be approved in the US. It is also known as wood bleach and beekeepers buy it at hardware stores and vaporize it or drench their hives between frames with it. It is very effective against varroa mites and bees seem to tolerate it very nicely.
4. Mature small hive beetles, when fed well, are able to live: a. 1 month b. 3 months c. 6 months d. 9 months
5. Beeswax melts at: a. 120 (f) b. 132 (f) c. 145 (f) d. 170 (f)
145 degrees (f)
6. The waggle dance in a colony is used to direct other bees to resources that are located in distances greater than _____ meters from the hive. a. 25 b. 50. c. 100 d. 200
7. Honey is 1 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar? a. True b. False
True. Liquid honey is sweeter than sugar yet only has 82.4 g of carbohydrates. Sugar has 100 g.
8. A colony preparing to swarm will reduce foraging _____ weeks prior to swarming. a. 1 week b. 2 weeks c. 3 weeks
1 week. Much preparation must be made prior to swarming. A beekeeper with a good eye will notice these changes and respond.
9. Dark colored honey is generally higher in antioxidants and minerals than light colored honey. a. True b. False
True. Dark colored honey has more benefits.
10. In a healthy hive the following ration exists: 1 egg to 3 larvae to 6 worker pupae a. True b. False
False. The ratio is 1 egg to 2 larvae to 4 worker pupae.
11. When entering your honey in a honey show, at what moisture level will it be disqualified? a. 18.5 b. 18.6 c. 19 d. 19.6
18.6. A refractometer is an instrument used to measure the moisture level in honey.
12. To determine whether to fertilize an egg or not, a queen measures the size of a cell (drone or worker) with her: a. Antennae b. compound eyes c. Front legs
Front legs. If a queen's front leg is torn off, she will lay only unfertilized eggs which become the male drone.
13. As a virgin queen ages in the hive, the workers become increasingly more aggressive towards her. a. True b. False
14. In the winter, a colony begins brood production before there is anything to go out and forage for. a. True b. False
True. In late winter brood rearing is ramped up, thus increasing the colony's demand for food. Yet, there is nothing in bloom and so many colonies perish in late winter. Consider our Winter-Bee-Kind to keep important resources on your hives during the winter.
15. Varroa mites prefer to reproduce in old brood comb rather than new brood comb. a. True b. False
16. How many subspecies of Apis mellifera ( European Honey Bees) are there in the world? a. 16 b. 23 c. 26. 42
17. It is easier to introduce a new queen during a nectar dearth than during a heavy nectar flow. a. True b. False
False. Always better during a heavy nectar flow.
18. European foulbrood spores remain viable in brood combs for many years. a. True b. False
19. In a healthy colony about _____ of the total comb is drone comb. a. 10% b. 3-7% c. 13-17% d. 21%
13-17%. In the fall drones are killed and pushed out of the hive. Sometimes a few drones may overwinter with the cluster, but mostly they are not.
20. A worker honey bee has ______ ovarioles in the ovaries. a. none b. 2-12 c. 28-50 d. 100-115
2-12. That is why, in the absence of a queen and brood pheromone workers can lay eggs but they will not be fertilized and only become drones.
WHICH IS BETTER A 3 LB PACKAGE OR A NUC
A three pound package of bees consists of about 10,000 bees. It also includes a new fully mated queen held in a separate cage. A nuc is the nucleus of a strong colony. Most nucs are made by removing 4-5 frames of brood, honey and pollen and selling it as a nuc. Nucs include a queen that is already released and laying well. Which is best? It depends. Packages are available earlier in the year. They are produced in the deep south and shipped north. Nucs cannot be produced in the north until June. Northern beekeepers can never produce enough nucs to satisfy the number of new beekeepers each year. But package bees can meet this need. Packages can abscond, meaning all the bees leave a few days after being installed. But nucs do not abscond. But with nucs you are buying someone's comb which could harbor disease. Make sure your nucs have been inspected and given a health certificate. Many states also require that nucs have a moving permit before being sold to protect against the spread of disease.
Healthy, strong colonies will swarm. This is when half of the colony leaves with the old queen to find a new home. The colony left behind raises a new queen. This is natural way beehives reproduce and make a new hive. However, beekeepers don't like swarming because it means that hive is weaker for a while and will not produce as much honey that year. How can swarming be controlled? Usually it is very difficult. However, giving your colony room to grow can ease the swarming tendency. Excessive swarming can also be a genetic trait of the honey bee as with Africanized bees.
POWDER SUGAR ROLL FOR
Here's what I recommend to determine the percentage of mites in a hive.
1. A quart jar for canning, with the ring and separate lid which the ring holds securely. Disregard the lid but keep the ring. Now in place of the ring you'll need to cut a piece of 1/8" hardware screen. It is small enough to keep bees in, but large enough to let mites pass through.
2. Two tablespoons of powdered sugar
3. A piece of cardboard or metal shaped like an L
4. A measuring cup
5. A plain white paper plate
Steps For Your Test
1. Place two tablespoons of powdered sugar into your canning jar and keep the lid off.
2. Open your hive and pull out a frame of bees.
3. Shake the bees on your cardboard or bent metal so the bees land in the inside of the L shape piece. This will help them slide into your measuring cup.
4. Pour bees into the measuring cup up to 1/2 cup which is approximately 400 bees. You may have to pour alittle above the 1/2 cup mark as some may fly out while pouring them into the canning jar with the screen lid.
5. Pour bees from the measuring cup into the canning jar and place the screen lid on securely.
6. Dump excess bees from your L shape board back into the hive.
7. Gently twirl and shake the bees so they become covered with the powdered sugar being careful not to let any powdered sugar fall through the screen while shaking.
8. After a few minutes of shaking, turn the jar upside down and begin shaking out the powdered sugar onto a paper plate. If it is windy, you might have to shake into an empty white container. But if it is not very windy and paper plate works fine.
9. As you shake the powder from the bees through the screen and on to the paper plate you'll begin to see reddish brown mites show up on your plate.
10. Don't stop shaking too soon. Try to thoroughly remove all sugar from the bees as best as you can. The bees will endure your shaking.
11. Once you are finished and you do not see any more mites falling onto your plate, you can open the lid and dump the bees back into the hive.
12. Now count your mites. You'll need to fish your way through the powdered sugar on the plate as some mites might be covered. Keep track of your total number of mites. Since we used 400 bees in the 1/2 cup of bees, this will give us a good sampling and a good indication but we will need to do some math to get back to knowing how many mites per 100 bees.
13. Results. Let's say you saw 20 mites on your plate from 400 bees. This means you have 5 mites per 100 bees. Times this number by 2 if you have brood in the hive because there are mites below the capped brood that you cannot see. We are now at 10 mites per 100 in our sample count above.
14. Infestation levels are greater than 10 mites per 100 bees. I am much more strict than 10. My number is 3 mites per 100. Saturday when we sampled one hive, we did not see 1 mite out of 400 bees. On Sunday we sample a hive and found 1 mite out of 400 bees. 1 x 2 = 2 so I am at 2% which is where I want to be.
Now, you will have to decide if you want to be conservative at 3% like me or 10% as most suggest. Once mites are beyond your threshold, you must implement a method to reduce mites, something that we as beekeepers should be doing all year long. For years we have advocated a non-chemical method of: 1. Powdered sugar dusting your deep hive body frames, 2) Screen bottom boards, 3) Green drone comb trapping and 3) Breaking the queen's brood cycle.
WARNING: If you are the type of beekeeper who likely will not aggressively administer the 4 methods above, I recommend you use formic acid. I've spoken about MAQ (Mite Away Quick Strips) before and I do like them a lot because they are approved for use on certified organic honey while the supers are on the hive. They are extremely effective at killing mites on adult bees as well as below the sealed cells of developing pupae. I do not worry about minimal potential brood loss because mites are going to do more damage. I'm not concerned about mites becoming resistant to acid because it's not a medication for bees. When using it, I leave my bottom boards opened, but some people close them for maximum vaporization. There is only a 4-5% difference according to whether the screen bottom board is open or closed, so you decide. I do remove my queen during the first couple of days of initial treatment. You don't have to, but my queens are to valuable to me to risk effecting. So I put them in a queen cage with 5 workers and some candy, just like we do when we ship queens over the same period. Then I place the queen back in after a couple of days. Again, you do not have to do this.
Remember MAQ is formic acid and you must follow the label and wear the proper mask and gloves according to the label. I have never been offered free MAQ strips from the company nor have I been offered money or any benefits to speak about MAQs. It is just that I feel it is a very safe and effective approach to mite management if you cannot follow my 4 step method. You have to keep mite levels down. I hope you will embrace a 3-5% maximum tolerance for mites.
HONEY BEE POLLINATION
Beekeeping is a must for pollination. Honey bees are our major food pollinators. According to the USDA, "Bee pollination is responsible for more than $15 billion in increased crop value each year. About one mouthful in three in our diet directly or indirectly benefits from honey bee pollination. Commercial production of many specialty crops like almonds and other tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables depend on pollination by honey bees. These are the foods that give our diet diversity, flavor, and nutrition.
THE WORK OF A HONEY BEE
IS DETERMINED BY THEIR AGE
AGE IN DAYS WORK
1-2 Clean cells and keep brood warm
3-5 Feed older larvae
6-11 Feed younger larvae (because their royal jelly glands are mature at this age)
12-15 Produce wax, build comb and transport food in the hive
18-21 Guard entrance to hive
22-34 Forage to gather nectar, pollen, propolis and water
35-45 Bees perish from working themselves to death. Bees live for months in the winter.
CAN HONEY BEE STINGS REALLY
PROVIDE HEALTH BENEFITS?
Beekeeping can provide health benefits. Bee stings should never be used in place of medical treatment. Many people, including some doctors have found that honey and bee sting therapy can be an effective healing aid. Some people have claimed that bee sting therapy has helped with MS, arthritis and other health problems. This approach should always be pursued only under the recommendation and close observation of a medical doctor. Honey can be used for burns, coughing, herpes and more. (CITING: webmd)
HOW DO HONEY BEES KNOW
WHERE TO GO FOR NECTAR?
Bees show other bees where the best source of nectar is located by the waggle dance. Foragers return to the colony with a load of nectar in their honey stomach and begin dancing in a figure 8 pattern on the comb while giving out samples of the nectar they found. The dance consists of the dancer vibrating which tells other bees how far away the flowers are. She also dances at a certain angle on the comb which tells the bees which direction to fly.
HOW MANY HONEY BEE HIVES
SHOULD I START WITH?
As a Certified Master beekeeper, I recommend starting with at least two hives if the budget allows. Two hives allows the beekeeper to exchange resources to equalize the hives should one become weak.
WHEN AND HOW TO FEED HONEY BEES
In the spring, when it is warm enough for bees to fly, feed them 1:1 (one part sugar and one part water) sugar water in an entrance feeder. In the summer, bees rarely need fed unless there is a summer dearth. A dearth means there is a gap of available nectar because there are very few substantial flowers in bloom until fall. During this time we recommend using our Burns Bees Feeding System.
In the fall if bees are low on stored honey, feed them 2:1 (two parts sugar to one part water) sugar water in either a frame feeder or a top feeder. Do NOT use an entrance feeder in the fall as it usually causes other hives to rob the hive with the entrance feeder. This is not an issue in the spring when nectar is available.
In the winter, bees often consume all their food to generate enough heat to stay warm. Use our Winter-Bee-Kind on your hive for the winter. It insulates, feeds and provides an upper vent for the bees during the winter.
HOW TO DEAL WITH VARROA MITES
Beekeeping changed when varroa mites arrived in our country. All hives have varroa mites. These mites will eventually weaken your colony of honey bees and cause it to potentially die, especially in the winter. Beekeepers who ignore mites will lose their hives eventually. Beekeepers must have a plan to reduce varroa mites in the hive. In our beekeeping classes we teach a four part approach: 1) The use of green drone comb trapping of mites, 2) screen bottom boards, 3) powdered sugar dustings and 4) breaking the queen's brood cycle.
My wife has a blog dedicated to honey recipes. Visit Sheri's Honey Recipes
AFRICANIZED HONEY BEES
Hollywood has portrayed bees as killer bees. However, bees that beekeepers use are European bees such as Italian bees. They are very gentle. Africanized colonies are very aggressive. They are located in the south west in the US. Outside their colony they are well behaved. However if a hive of Africanized bees are disturbed they will attack. They are the same size as other honey bees, though slightly smaller if studied under a microscope. It is unlikely that Africanized bees will move much further north in colder climates.
HOW TO HELP HONEY BEES
SURVIVE THE WINTER
Are you crossing your fingers hoping your bees will make it through the winter? Beekeeping has changed over the last 20 years. Now more bees die in the winter.Last winter was one of the toughest years on bees. Did you take all the steps necessary to ensure your bees were properly secure for winter? Reducing varroa mites greatly reduces viruses which kills hives in the winter.
WHEN TO ADD ANOTHER
HIVE BODY OR HONEY SUPER?
Beekeeping is all about timing. Timing is everything when adding addition room for your hive to expand. If you wait too long, they swarm. If you add a hive body or super too soon and it seems they never go up there. It is best to wait to add your second hive body only after about 6 frames have been drawn out with wax on the first hive body, then add the second. The same is true when adding a honey super. First, wait until 6 frames are drawn out in the upper deep hive body. Then add the honey super.
DO YOU HAVE A WAX MOTH PROBLEM?
Wax moths always find a weak hive. Maybe you lost a hive last year to wax moth. Be proactive and take the necessary steps to ensure you can avoid common mistakes that lead to wax moth infestations. A wax moth infestation means your hive became low in numbers. A strong and healthy hive does not have wax moth problems. The way to keep wax moths out is to keep your hive very healthy and populated.
KNOW ABOUT SMALL HIVE BEETLES
Small hive beetle is the cockroach of the hive. This beetle can lay eggs in your hive which grow into larvae and ruin your honey and could cause all your honey bees to leave the hive. Did you know there are some simple traps to capture small hive beetles? A few beetle traps between the frames in the deep hive bodies can keep beetles under control. Be sure and keep an eye on your traps. They may need emptied often.
HAVING TROUBLE FINDING
Are you new to beekeeping and find it almost impossible to find your queen in the hive? Our certified master beekeeper, David Burns, has raised queens for years. Here's what he suggests: "Look for a retinue, a circle of bees attending to the queen. Also, the queen has a larger thorax and longer abdomen. Also as the queen walks she briefly leaves a wake of open comb behind her. Of course marking the queen makes it easier to identify her".
WHAT YOU SHOULD DO
WHEN YOUR HIVE IS QUEENLESS?
There are some signs to indicate you may no longer have a laying queen in your hive. It could be louder than usual, more chaotic and restless. If you lose your queen, your hive could quickly go downhill due to a lack of future bees. The queen lays 1,000 to 3,000 eggs a day to build up populations of bees. And without a queen for 3 weeks the workers will begin to lay unfertilized eggs which turns your hive into a drone (male honey bee) factory. You need to take immediate action to ensure you have a good laying queen. If you let the hive raise their own queen, it will take nearly 30 days. That's 30 days without new bee populations. It is always best to purchase a mated queen immediately upon discovering the hive is queenless. Do not delay.
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SMALL HIVE BEETLES
Summer is the time to take special precautions in dealing with SHB especially since this is the season to remove and extract honey supers. Small hive beetles are waiting for you to make a mistake so they can take over your supers in and out of the hive. SHB can ruin your honey and destroy your colony.
SHB has the typical clubbed antennas but can retract all appendages. When you become familiar with identifying the SHB you'll easily recognize it if you see one in your hive. So become familiar with these great photos.
There are lots of beetles in our world. Around the hive, especially when using entrance feeders, sap beetles can help themselves to the dripping sugar. Some people cannot tell the difference between sap beetles and small hive beetles.
The sap beetle to the left is different than the SHB above and below this photo. The sap beetle has a noticeable white mid-section whereas the SHB is one solid dark color, appearing dark brown or black.
Typically the SHB is about the length of a cell in the comb around 5 mm. When you open your hive by removing the inner cover SHB will scurry quickly across the top bars of frames to flee from the light. Adult beetles like to hide down in a cell when exposed to light.
WHERE DID IT COME FROM? The small hive beetle is officially called Aethina Tumida. It is native to Africa but entered the US in the late 1990s. Since that time it has crippled the beekeeping industry mainly in southern states that have longer tropical summers.
Another challenge in identifying SHB is knowing the difference between SHB larvae and wax moth larvae. This photo shows that the SHB larva (bottom larva) has numerous spines along the body as well as three distinct pairs of legs. The wax moth larva (top larva) lacks spines and has an additional four pairs of short, less developed prolegs. Both SHB and wax moth can be found in a hive at the same time. (Larvae photo from the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences webpage)
HOW DOES IT AFFECT A HIVE? It flies into the entrance of a hive and lays eggs. The larvae feed on pollen and honey and defecate when eating honey and a slimy mess is left in the hive, even fermenting and ruining all honey. The larvae exit the hive and enter the ground around the hive to pupate, then emerge from the soil as an adult SHB capable of flying 5-12 miles to find a weak colony. A severe infestation can even cause the bees to abscond, that is, to totally leave the hive.
HOW TO CHECK FOR SHB. The practical way to check to see if you have SHB is to lay your top cover upside down on the ground. Then place your honey super or top hive box flat inside your top cover and smoke the box. Now, lift it out of the top cover quickly and see if any small hive beetles are left in the top cover. They are fast, so have your hive tool ready to smash them. Smashing them with the blunt end of the hive tool is the best natural treatment :)
HOW TO PREVENT AND REDUCE SHB
Since SHB seeks out weak and distressed hives, keep your colonies strong and healthy. SHB can also be reduced through trapping and keeping the apiary and honey house clean.
NEVER cut out stray comb and throw it on the ground.
NEVER leave honey supers or frames lying around.
NEVER give your bees more space than they can patrol in the hive.
NEVER place colonies in full shade as beetles love shady areas. Place hives in full sun when possible.
If you live in an area heavily infested with the presence of SHB be very cautious in using bee-escapes as a means to empty bees from your honey super. As the bees are trapped out of the super, the beetle can have unprotected free-range of the super. A bee escape is a small plastic gadget with small metal pieces that is placed in the oval shaped hole in an inner cover. The inner cover is then placed under a super allowing the bees to walk out of the honey super, but not back in. If you do have beetles and suspect that eggs are on your frames, freeze honey supers for 24 hours to kill all stages of SHB.
There are many traps available: West Trap, Freeman Trap, Hood Trap, Cut Beetle Trap, AJ's Beetle Eater, and Sonny-Mel Trap and the Beetle Barn. These are very effective at reducing overall SHB infestation in the hive. When you have a severe infestation, a ground drench is often suggested. Permethrin as a ground drench that will kill the pupating SHB in the soil. Sold as GardStar, mix 1 teaspoon (GardStar 40% EC) into one gallon of water. Carefully follow label directions and precautions. It is toxic to you and your bees if misapplied. Do not use a sprayer as the vapors can kill bees. Instead use a watering can. Drench a two foot area around and under the hive to adequately kill SHB beetle larvae entering the soil.
INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT SMALL HIVE BEETLES:
First found in South Carolina in 1996.
SHB will not hatch when humidity below 49%.
SHB vector diseases such as Deformed Wing Virus.
Attracted to stressed hives and other beetles.
Attracted to bee alarm pheromones.
Females lay 4,000 eggs a month for 2 months.
LIFE CYCLE OF SHB:
Egg 19-24 hours
Pupae 5-14 days (Soil temps must be 70-80 to survive)
Adult 100-540 days.
Now for the pep talk. SHB are everywhere. Do not panic when you see them in your hive. It does not mean you are a bad beekeeper or that your hive is ruined. Not at all. Look at beetles as just another insect in the insect kingdom. Learn to keep bees among the SHB. It means keeping a better eye on your bees and modifying your management styles, but it will be okay.
HONEY BEE TRIVIA
Did you know that a honey bee flies around 15 mph? Bees fly 55,000 miles to bring us 1 pound of honey. During her life (approximately 40 days) a honey bee will gather about 1/12 teaspoon of honey. Bees must go to two million flowers to gather l pound of honey. Bees can see the same colors we see except red. They can also see ultraviolet. Bees stroke their wings 11,400 per minute. It takes approximately 3,500 bees to weigh 1 pound. Honey bees that collect nectar from flowers are called foragers and visit 50-100 flowers on one flight. The bees gather 10 pounds of nectar to make 1 pound of honey. A foraging honey bee can carry 80% of their weight in pollen or nectar.
Honey bees make up 80% of all pollinators. Honey bees use several dances in the hive to communicate the location of nectar and water to other bees. One well known dance is called the waggle dance. Honey bee pollination has a agricultural value of 15 billion dollars in the US. The queen lays between 1,000-3,000 eggs per day. There is only 1 queen per colony. Two will fight and only one will survive. A queen mates with nearly 20 drones and only mates once in her lifetime. The drone (the male honey bee) does not have a stinger.
Beeswax begins to melt at 148 degrees. Beeswax is produced from the wax glands in honey bees. Propolis is made from sticky plant and tree resin and is used by the bees as a glue and an antibacterial substance in the hive. Read more about propolis. A honey bee lives approximately 40 days in the summer and 4-9 months in the winter.
Gathering Propolis To Coat On
The Inside Of Your Hive
This method has proven to be more controllable for me. It really isn't hard to do. The first method may take more time for the bees to actually add propolis to the traps. I simple took a big blog of propolis, soaked it in Everclear alcohol for a few weeks, got my paint brush out, and coated the inside wall of the hive. To do this on an active hive, you need two extra deep hive bodies. One set that you can keep the bees in while you coat the other set. Then just move the frames over. Now you can coat the other two and save them for future use.
The alcohol evaporates quickly and shows no negative effect on the power of the propolis to work. It is believed that a thin coat is sufficient. Of course you could let the first coat dry and apply additional coats.
I was surprised how much one gum ball size amount of diluted propolis would cover. In fact, by dipping my brush into the mixture one time would almost cover one wall on the inside of a deep hive body.
You can see by the above picture the difference between when I first placed the propolis in the jar and what it looks like after sitting for nearly two weeks. I stirred it well before applying it.
Allow the hive body to dry well before placing it back on the hive. You don't want a bunch of inebriated bees getting an FWI (Flying While Intoxicated). Should you coat the inside of the honey supers. Sure, why not. They do this in nature as in a tree.
7 Ways To Check On Your
Hive In The Winter
An average size colony has the same nutritional needs of a medium size dog. Bees need protein and carbohydrates just like us, just like most animals. Do your bees have enough honey (carbohydrates) and pollen (protein)? Bees consume their food in the winter to stay warm. Ideally, if the temperature stays around 30-40 degrees (f) they consume the least amount of food. But the colder it gets the more food they consume to generate heat.
Our Winter-Bee-Kind provide both carbohydrates and protein for your bees and provides upper vent/exit and 1” of upper insulation to help reduce excessive condensation. Many of you have been purchasing pollen patties from us and I’m glad to see that. While it is not as necessary with the use of the Winter-Bee-Kind, it is necessary if you are just wanting to provide extra protein. Bees cannot exist on sugar alone. Remember you cannot lift frames out of the hive when temperatures are below 60 degrees (f).