Friday, September 14, 2018


In several previous postings we talked about feeding the hive to get its weight up to a minimum necessary for winter survival.  In the central Wisconsin area a minimum hive weight of 130 pounds is recommended. (This is for a standard 10 frame Langstroth hive.  I assume the minimum weight for an 8 frame Langstroth hive would be the same.)  This weight consists of the wooden ware, an upper brood chamber 90% full of honey and a lower brood chamber with a combination of bees, brood and honey.  Further north in Wisconsin and in Minnesota beekeepers sometimes use 3 brood chambers or roughly 200 pounds to ensure winter survival.

For those beekeepers with a more scientific bent it is possible to make a simple and cheap hive weight measuring tool.  Total investment is about $15 and a little of your time and labor.

First purchase a digital luggage scale.  These are inexpensive; $9 to $15.  The one shown here was $9.  It will measure up to a maximum of 110 pounds (50 kg).

If you have a strong back and strong arms you can simply attach the scale via a canvas or nylon web strap beneath the landing platform on the hive.  Then lift the scale until the front of the hive starts to lift.  Based on a few mechanical calculations the scale should read a minimum of about 59 pounds.  The rear of the hive is supporting the remainder of the 130 pounds.

By building a simple lever mechanism you can make the task much less stressful.  I slightly modified a short length of 2X4 to hold the scale.  Then using a gas can ( or box, etc.) as a pivot point I can easily raise the hive by lightly pressing on the end of the 2X4 while watching the digital readout.    59 pounds is still the minimum weight required.
 2X4 modified to hold the scale.  

 Scale in place. 
2X4, scale and nylon web strap which is looped around the landing board.  
 Gas can pivot.  Nylon webbing looped around the end of the landing board.  NOTE: I didn't have a hive in my garage so I just used a top feeder to demonstrate the idea. 

After varroa and viruses, starvation is probably the next most common cause of winter hive losses.   An ounce of prevention saves buying a new $120 package.  

Thursday, September 13, 2018


While out and about I have noticed that the goldenrod flowers have mostly turned brown.  Other than a few asters there is very little natural forage left for the bees.   A classic nectar dearth.  

This morning I went out to my Long Langstroth top bar hive and removed 5 frames in order to make a few cut comb squares.  I transported these frames in a nuc box back to my house in order to have a clean area for cutting out the squares and to get away from pesky bees looking for a free lunch.  I think maybe 50 bees came home with me.  After cutting the squares and removing any residual honey I returned the clean frames to the nuc box by my back door.  Within 1/2 hour roughly 1000 bees were surrounding the nuc box and in a robbing frenzy.  The closest hives are about 1/4 mile away!  

Face of nuc box

This brings me to the point of this article.  Its time to put in the entrance reducer if you have not already done so.  Adjust the reducer so the 4 inch long opening is open.  This will make it easier for the weaker hives to defend their winter food stores.  Do not close the entrance down to the 1 inch opening yet.  We may still have hot days and the hives need the larger entrance to get adequate ventilation.  

Monday, September 10, 2018


The window for doing mite treatments is closing rapidly.  You may have missed it as far as winter survival is concerned.  However, treat anyways.  If you kill the mites in your infected hive you may prevent a varroa/virus bomb that will affect both your neighbor’s hives and any feral colonies in your area. 

Check the weight of your hives.  The top brood chamber should weigh 80 to 90 pounds.  Most of us do not have a scale and must make the measurement by guess and by gosh.  Another way is to inspect the frames in the top brood box.  At least eight should be capped honey or a substitute.  The two center frames should be partially filled.  After you lift a few brood chambers so provisioned you will then be able to better gauge a fully provisioned hive.  Be careful, don't hurt your back.  Simply tipping a fully filled is another way to gauge its weight. 

If feeding is required use 2/1 sugar syrup or high fructose corn syrup.  Feeding should be accomplished as fast as possible.  Provide large volumes (gallons) of syrup via top feeders.  Don’t dribble it with quart entrance feeders.   The cooler weather also results in the bees being active for shorter times each day.  It takes time to move and dry the syrup to 82% sugar concentration.  High fructose syrup does not need drying and can be directly stored.  The bees will also NOT eat cold syrup.  The syrup in entrance feeders cools much more rapidly than internal top feeders.  Try to finish your feeding in September. 

Please note that the bees see feeding as a nectar flow.  Their natural response is to start raising brood.  This will permit the varroa to also raise more young.  Feeding is a double edged sword, so make sure to re-treat for mites after feeding.   Several oxalic acid vapor treatments in late October will kill off the emerging phoretic mites.  The goal is to have your hives as mite free as possible going into winter. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018


Just a short reminder that the monthly club meeting will be on Saturday, September 15th, at 9:30AM at the Caestecker Library in Green Lake.


Please read this article in the Nature's Nectar blog.  We are slightly to the south of the author's location, but not by much.  So the advice he gives is good for our area also.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

EARLY SEPTEMBER by beekeeper Fred

While on a walk yesterday I saw the honey bees heavily working goldenrod.  I can’t remember when I last saw this occurring.   In addition, there were the usual bumble bees, yellow jackets, wasps and even medium size red ants.  The honey bees were working the freshly opened bright yellow flowers only.  They were not loading up their pollen baskets, so I am assuming they have found nectar on the goldenrod this year.  Maybe it’s the influence of our recent heavy rains. 

This year I treated my honey producing hives with formic acid in late July.  I have left the honey supers in place and will hopefully be catching a little goldenrod nectar flow to increase my honey harvest.   When performing my mite treatments, I also made a rough count on the numbers of supers of honey.  When the majority of the goldenrod flowers begin turning brown it will be time to harvest my honey crop and I will be able to roughly measure the increase in honey from the goldenrod. .

Some packages this year did not build up enough to produce surplus honey.  In late August I started feeding these hives 2/1 sugar syrup to ensure they have sufficient stores for winter.   This will continue until I see a slow down in their uptake of the syrup.  
This weekend I also combined two weak hives in the hope of getting one winter survivor instead of none.  

This blog had previously provided a link to the efforts of a Hudson, Wisconsin beekeeper that last winter overwintered about 60 double deep five frame nucs and had 80% survival.  He had no need to purchase packages in the spring.  This summer I have set up 12 double deep five frame nucs and will try to emulate his success.  In the past week these nucs were moved to their intended winter locations (a sunny south facing sheltered area) and are being fed 2/1 sugar syrup to ensure they will be at full strength going in winter.  They will be also getting oxalic vapor treatments in September and October to minimize their mite load.  In late October they will be wrapped in 1 ½ inch foam insulation for better heat retention.   Also, as shown in the picture the nucs are gathered into batches of four (4) to allow for a potential sharing of any heat the clusters produce.   

Friday, August 31, 2018


Beginning in September the bees will begin raising their "winter bees", which have special traits to withstand the long winter.  You want your winter bee larvae to have a minimum exposure to varroa transmitted viruses.  The following week is about the last week to treat for varroa so that the exposure to viruses is minimized.  Failure to treat will almost condemn your hive to death by viruses in January or February if not before.  If your hive succumbs in September, October or early November many of your infected bees will flee to neighboring hives (both your's and your neighbor's hives) with their load of varroa and viruses.   Do the right thing and treat your hives now!!!