Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Things are really starting to pick up.  We are finally getting warm weather and less rain.   Plum, black cherry, oak and birch are in bloom in addition to dandelions.   A few of the stronger overwintered hives are even putting something in the honey supers. 

I have been primarily focusing on getting the new packages and winter nucs installed and fed.  It appears the winter nucs are about 4 weeks ahead of my mid-April packages in hive buildup.  The winter nucs have managed to fill both brood chambers at this point, while the new packages are still working on the first brood chamber.  This means the hives made from winter nucs will be able to gather more honey than those made with packages.  I need to remember this fact this fall when making my winter plans. 

In my last report I discussed making bee and brood transfusions into a few of the weaker overwintered hives.  This was simply transferring in 2 frames of bees and brood from strong hives to weak hives. Two of the three hives getting the transfusions have started to boom.  Unfortunately, the third went queenless. 

While stealing larvae for queen rearing, I noted one of the strong hives had several swarm cells at the bottom of frames.  Some were capped and some uncapped with viable larvae in them.  The hive appeared to be set to swarm in about one weeks time; weather permitting.  I transferred the frames with queen cells to the above mentioned queenless hive.  This action will delay swarming of the strong hive, but probably not stop it.  So I then went in and removed 3 frames of bees and capped brood.  These frames were installed in a new package hive to speed its buildup. 

Now that I am seeing swarm cells I will be putting out several swarm traps in hopes o catching swarms from my hives that I may not catch overwise.  

I have also been randomly checking hives to verify they are queenright.  In the past week I found two that were not.  One was queenless and the second had a queen but she was not laying.  Previously both hives had multiple frames full of capped brood.  Now most of the brood has emerged.   

Here’s what you should be doing in the next few weeks.

1) From the above you can see the importance of checking your hives every other week to verify that they are queenright.  You need to do this to prevent a laying worker situation.

2) The stronger hives also need to be monitored for swarm cells, especially for about the next six weeks when the prime swarm season is upon us. 

3) Get your honey supers ready and get them installed on strong hives.  This will lessen crowding, prevent the brood frames from getting honey bound and also maximize your honey crop. 

4) Putting out swarm traps baited with brood comb and an attractant. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019


This Saturday, May 18th, there will be a club meeting at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake at 9:30AM.  See you there.

What's Happening in the Hive

This article is from the Stillwater Minnesota area, but has been having weather similar to ours.  There are several helpful hints in the article.

Sunday, May 5, 2019


We have now built up to 14 hours of daylight!  If you hadn’t noticed, the bee population also builds up to a maximum at about the same time as the summer solstice which is the longest day on about June 21st.    In our area this also coincides with the height of the honey flow.  Over the eons the bees have amazingly got their population cycle in sync with the sunlight and honey flow. 

All of my winter nucs and new packages have been installed in hives.  At this time the winter nucs appear to be about three (3) weeks ahead of the packages in their population build-up.  Both the new package and winter nuc hives will be fed 1:1 sugar syrup until the start of the honey flow.  Then the feeding will stop and honey supers will be installed.  

All overwintered colonies have been inspected to verify they are queenright and growing.  In my apiary one colony was found to be queenless and I installed my last winter nuc in that hive.  I thought 4 colonies were building up slowly.  After verifying they were queenright I transferred in 2 frames of brood and bees from strong colonies.  This is called “equalizing”.  It weakens the overly strong colonies and hopefully prevents the strong colonies from swarming.  It also gives the weak colonies a boost and will hopefully get them up to strength prior to the honey flow.  The weak colonies have no problem with integrating the bees and brood into the hive.  The combination of less swarming and more strong colonies will help increase the honey crop. 

The overwintered colonies are bringing in some nectar.  I don’t know the source.  To even out my work load I will be installing the honey supers on these colonies soon even though the main honey flow has not yet started.  The first nectar flow will be from black locusts in my area.  This will probably occur in the second half of May. 

I also just finished the second of two oxalic vapor treatments on my overwintered colonies.  Its important to stay ahead of the mites.  The new colonies, made with either new packages or winter nucs, did not get this spring mite treatment, but will get treated in early summer.

In the past weak all colonies have been hauling in a lot of pollen.  This bodes well for population buildup.  If only we could get a week of warm, dry and sunny weather.  

The photo shows approximately 50% of the bees have full pollen baskets.  The other bees are probably taking orientation flights.  

So far, during my colony inspections I have seen no queen cells.  Of course, it is still several weeks away from the swarm season.   On about May 15th I will be putting out my swarm traps.  The traps should be installed at least one hundred yards away from your apiary if you hoping to catch swarms emanating from your apiary.   For wild swarms you can place your swarm trap almost anywhere.
For about 30 days after May 15th I will try to visit my apiary at about 10am each warm morning to look for swarms hanging in nearby trees.  Several empty hives and nucs are always kept in reserve to house captured swarms.  Remember the Boy Scout motto: “Bee Prepared”.  Well something like that. 

Monday, April 29, 2019


It was delightful to see dandelions blooming; a reminder that spring is here.  Unfortunately the weather is not ideal for the buildup of new colonies.  Eight of the next 14 days are predicted to have rain.  This will prevent foraging for both pollen and nectar.  Make sure that your new package colonies have been provided with a good supply of 1:1 sugar syrup and a pollen or pollen substitute patty.   On the few sunny days, verify that the bees have not run out of either.  New colonies should be fed continuously until their population fills both brood chamber boxes (3 boxes if you are using mediums as your brood chamber boxes).

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Late April at the Flying Squirrel Apiary by beekeeper Fred

Just about every day the bees have been out gathering pollen.  I could hear them high up in the maples, box elder and pussy willows.  I have also noticed the bees are filling some cells with a clear nectar.  I am not sure whether this is simply water, nectar, or a mix of water and honey. 

April was the time to assess the condition of all hives that survived the winter.  In my hives there is a wide variation of strength; ranging from 3 frames of bees to both brood boxes being totally packed with bees.  In fact, one hive dwindled away during April (for those number counters my survival is down to 86%).  Most likely it has been queenless for quite a while. 

After verifying the weaker hives were queenright, I added a frame or two of bees and brood from stronger hives.  This strengthens the weak hives and reduces (not eliminates) the risk of a strong hive to swarm later in the spring.

All but one of the overwintered nucs are doing fine.  They are averaging about 3 frames of brood.  This indicates they are about 4 weeks ahead of a new package at this point.   In addition, I did not have to fork over $125 for a new package.  Next winter I plan to increase the number of winter nucs in my apiary to try to finally attain what is called “sustainable” beekeeping; ie. no need to purchase packages every year.  

Just as with weak hives, after verifying the one weak nuc was queenright, I added a frame of brood and bees to the one weak nuc.  All winter nucs were moved to the location of an empty hive and will be installed in the hive when good weather permits. 

All overwintered hives were given roughly two (2) gallons of 1 to 1 syrup.  This was done for two reasons.  Hives with big populations could potentially have already eaten through their winter stores and would begin eating larvae if other food is not available.  Second, this food will induce them to raise more brood in preparation for the honey flow.  The feed is limited to only 2 gallons because additional food could induce them to swarm, which is not my intent. 

Temperatures have now warmed up enough to permit the entrance reducer to be changed from the one (1) inch opening to the four (4) inch opening.

I clean off the bottom board by one of two methods.  If the outside air temperature will potentially harm the brood I use a hook which I insert through the hive entrance and pull out dead bees and other hive debris.  If the temperatures are in the high 60’s or higher, I disassemble the hive and manually scrape the bottom board.  You will find that strong hives have usually already cleaned the bottom board themselves.

My packages have been installed and feeders are installed.  Feeding will continue for at least a month in order to promote brood raising.  I utilize the leftover honey from any deadouts to also feed the packages.  

Its already been a busy month and the beekeeping season is barely started.  What’s next?

1.       I am delinquent on implementing my varroa control plan.  All overwintered hives need two (2) oxalic vapor treatments before the honey flow begins.  I aim to get ththis done before the end of April.

2.       Overwintered hives need to have honey supers installed by May 1st.  The added volume in the hive will suppress the hive’s desire to swarm due to overcrowding. 

3.       Newly started hives (either by nucs or packages ) will not get honey supers until the bee population increases enough to fill both brood chamber boxes.    Feeding will continue until that point.