Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Well sort of.  Here is a link to a website in Germany that is showing live action of the activity inside a bee hive.  Only problem is that it is winter in Germany just like here so there is not much activity.  The hive is rigged with several cameras so you get several views inside the hive and the landing board.  It would probably be more interesting during spring and summer.   I watched the site for several minutes and only saw one live bee.  This is not totally unexpected since the live bees are gathered in a cluster to stay warm.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Here are two YOU-TUBE shorts on honey bees.  Very basic stuff, but good to show a beginning beekeeper.

Honey Bees-Natural History 1
Honey Bees-Natural History 2


I stumbled on the Texas A&M web site and saw mention of past ECWBA member Liz Walsh.  There were two short write-ups on Liz.  One on the home page and a second on the "People" page.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


Beekeepers frequently talk about improving the genetics of the bees in their apiaries.  The genetic traits most often considered are hygienic behavior to combat varroa, resistance to foulbrood, overwintering capability and honey output.   Improving the genetics is not as simple as a one time buy of a queen (as most beekeepers mistakenly think).  Difficulties arise due to the mating behavior of the queen honey bee. 

So you go purchase a queen with the genetic traits that you want.  Usually such queens are mated in somewhat controlled conditions.  The queen breeder controls mating conditions by flooding the mating area with drones of the same basic genetic makeup as the queen.  Conversely, in open mating areas (ie. Your apiary) drones are from the surrounding area with various uncontrolled genetics.  
So now you have your new queen.  So far, so good.  The first generation of workers raised from this new queen will have the desired genetics.  Also, the drones raised in this hive will also have the desired genetics.

Problems arise beginning with the second generation if the hive successfully re-queens itself.  The issue has to do with the mating behavior of honey bees.  The honey bee has evolved a mating system intended to prevent inbreeding.  This system prevents the mating of the virgin queen with drones from the same hive.  First, the queen leaves the hive about an hour later than the drones.  This prevents the drones from the same hive preferably mating with the virgin queen.  When the virgin queen arrives at the drone congregation area (DCA) she is met by thousands of drones from the surrounding area.  In the DCA only a small percentage will be from the queen’s hive.  Most of the drones in the DCA probably do not have the desired genetics you had purchased with your queen.  The virgin queen mates with an average of 17 drones.  In a few generations this behavior will dilute the genetics you paid for in your new queen.
The reality is that those desired genetics usually get passed on to a neighboring apiary, not yours.  Of course the next generation in your apiary may see return of those desired traits from your “now improved” neighbor’s bees.
So how can you improve your apiary’s genetics and have them sustained?
1)      Upgrade multiple hives with genetically optimal queens to increase the amount of drones with the desired genetics in the DCA.
2)      Understand apiary improvement is not a “one time” event.  You should plan on procuring new queens for several years in a row.
3)      If possible have a remote hive(s) with the desired traits at a separate site one to two miles away.
4)      Try to minimize the annual procurement of package bees and queens.   Remember the package bee suppliers have no financial incentive to provide you with better bees.  They are in the business of selling packages, which won’t happen if your bees survive!  This is exactly opposite of your goal.  The higher cost of better queens is another disincentive to the package bee suppliers.

Although it takes a little effort and perseverance, you should consider improving the genetics of your apiary.   Several approaches are available:
1)      Hygienic bees which remove varroa-infected larvae from the brood cells. These bees are usually labelled as VSH (Varroa Sensitive Hybrids).
2)      Primorsky Russian bees which have good wintering characteristics and mite resistance (both tracheal and varroa).
3)      Queens raised from survivor and northern stock

 Good books on this subject are:
- Mating Behavior of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)

-Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Manual Extraction of Honey submitted by beekeeper Denise

First year beekeepers usually do not have a honey extractor.  Mostly they rely on friends or manually extract the honey.  The following article describes the process for manually extracting honey.

LOG BEE HIVE submitted by beekeeper Denise

The top bar hive is one way to mimic how the bees live in nature.  The log hive in the attached article is even closer to nature.  This appears to be a "do it yourself" project; so be careful!

Monday, December 21, 2015


This short video condenses all of the issues affecting bee health into a short 5 minutes.  Watch and learn.


Tuesday, December 22nd, is the winter solstice.  That's when the sun reaches its farthest point south and day light is at its shortest.  From now on the days will be lengthening.  Lengthening days are commonly thought to trigger the hive to begin raising brood again.  Brood raising is initially very slow due to the limited space (warm area) within the cluster where the temperature is warm enough (92F) to allow the eggs to hatch and larvae develop.

Since the bees are already beginning to think spring, you, the beekeeper, should also begin thinking about your beekeeping plans for next spring.  Now is the time to order and assemble any new equipment.  If you plan to improve you apiary genetics by ordering new queens, remember that queen suppliers usually begin taking orders for spring and summer queens beginning January 1st.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


The top bar hive is an excellent way to make comb honey sections.  The bees do all the hard work of drawing new comb; without the need to put in any thin foundation.  You just need to remove the top bar with comb and cut out the comb honey section.  Remember that comb honey is considered exotic and sells for about twice that of extracted honey (provided you don’t flood the market).

However, the top bar hive does have several drawbacks.  The foremost is the tendency of the bees to attach the comb to the angled sides of the hive.  Do to this difficulty of pulling the comb, the beekeeper tends to inspect the top bar hive less often or not at all!   In addition, populating a new top bar hive requires either a package of bees or a captured swarm.  Trying to populate a top bar hive with bees from a Langstroth hive, while possible, is a challenge, because you need to shake bees from the Langstroth frames into the top bar hive.
After reading an article in American Beekeeping Journal about horizontal hives, I have decided to address these issues by building a hybrid top bar hive this winter.  Instead of the angled sides I have retained the vertical sides of the Langstroth hive.  In addition, instead of the top bar I have sized the hive to use standard 9 5/8 inch Langstroth style frames.   In essence this is a horizontal Langstroth hive.  A hive length of approximately 5 feet would be the equivalent of a vertical Langstroth hive with two 9 5/8 inch deeps (the normal brood chamber) and four 6 5/8 inch medium supers.   There will space for about 40 frames.  That volume should accommodate most hive colonies except a really booming colony.  If its a booming colony you can easily pull several capped frames and give them empty replacements to abort their inclination to swarm. 

To populate the hive I can simply take a split from a standard Langstroth hive.  I have the choice of letting the bees raise their own queen, adding a queen cell or using mated queen.   The frames from the split are placed at the end of the hive with the entrance.  The bees naturally keep the brood nest close to the entrance.  Conversely the bees use the frames far from the entrance for honey storage.  No queen excluder is required.

For my first year with this hive I will start with twenty (20)  9 5/8 inch frames with foundation.  About six of these frames will come from the split.  Then will come fourteen (14) frames with new foundation.  These first 20 frames will always be left for the bee colony at honey harvest time, so that they have sufficient winter stores (this is the same as two (2) deeps).  The next 20 frames will be foundationless.  I have experimented with foundationless frames in the past year with good success.   The bees can easily draw out a frame in less than a week during the honey flow.  Being foundationless these frames can then be cut up for comb honey.
This hybrid hive can be constructed at a lower cost than a standard Langstroth hive because you need not buy the bottom board, excluder, four super bodies, inner cover, telescoping cover and the foundation for about 50% of the frames.  So far, I have spent $30 for the 5 pieces of 1” X 12” X 6’ pine boards used to construct the box itself.  Another $8 or so will be necessary for plywood for the top cover.  It also provides a therapeutic winter project for those beekeepers that are also woodworkers
This arrangement will allow for easy removal of brood frames for periodic inspection without the hassle of the foundation being attached to the top bar hive side walls.

Here are a few photos of the hive.  I will report on its progress throughout next summer and next winter.  Winter will be the big test to see if the bees will move horizontally to their winter stores. 

                                                      Stack of 5 1" X 12" X 6' pine boards
                                                           Detail of frame rest cuts
                                         Assembled hive showing frames and entrance hole
Another view of hive showing frames at one end and single frames at 20 and 30 frame points

Sunday, December 13, 2015


As part of the holiday season you may want to donate to a charity to sets up people in impoverished areas of the world with BEES!

NOTE: ECWBA does not endorse any products, companies or charity.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015


ECWBA Meeting Schedule 2016
  • January 23, 2016. Start at 9:30 am.  Location is Ripon Public Library in the Silver Creek Room (downstairs).
Memberships for 2016
The new year also brings with it membership renewal time.  The membership dues are $5.00 for a one year membership.  One membership entitles the member(s) to receive the newsletter, to vote on officer elections and organizational business issues, and to hold a position as an officer.  A membership may include more than one person (e.g. husband/wife, parent/child, etc.), but only one newsletter will be sent out and only one vote may be cast per membership.
ECWBA Officer Election January 2016 Meeting
At the January, 2016, meeting, the offices of president and secretary, are up for re-election.  Here’s an opportunity to become involved as a volunteer in an organization serving fellow beekeepers.  Please think about running for one of these offices.  If you would like more information, please get in touch with ECWBA president, Jeff Champeau.
I, myself as ECWBA President, will not seek re-election for the office of association president.  So, we are looking especially to fill the upcoming vacancy of the president office.
The office of secretary is currently held by Patti Ingram and will be up for re-election in January.
ECWBA Website
Visit the ECWBA online for the latest association information at Fred Ransome manages the ECWBA website.  Please direct any inquiries regarding the website and blog to Fred at .
Beekeeping Notes:
  • As for 2015, if there is something you have not done yet for your bees, don’t worry – it’s too late!!!
  • Start planning for 2016 – do you want to expand your beekeeping operation or just improve upon what you already have?  These upcoming winter months are a good time to plan ahead for your next year of beekeeping, catch up on your beekeeping reading, and tend to your equipment – repairing the old and preparing the new.
  • Be good!!! – Santa Claus just might deliver some good beekeeping stuff!!!
On behalf of the East Central Wisconsin Beekeepers Association, I would like wish all of you, your families and friends, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!
Best of beekeeping,
Jeff Champeau
ECWBA President


The duties of the club president include but are not limited to:
1) Set club meeting schedule and agenda/
2) Reserve the meeting room for the club meetings
3) Chair the club meeting
4) Act as focal point for interaction with the public. 

The duties of the club secretary include but are not limited to:
1) Record the minutes of the club meetings.  

Friday, December 4, 2015

STORING OLD COMB submitted by beekeeper Denise

Beekeeper Denise has submitted this article on uses and storage of old comb.

Blog editors comment: Used comb can be overwintered in Wisconsin by storing it outside; either in a hive box or an unheated storage shed.  The typical cold weather in Wisconsin will kill off any wax moth larvae. The main thing is to prevent mice from getting to the comb.  This can b done by placing the comb in their respective size boxes.  Make sure both the bottom and top of the boxes are covered (sealed) with a a piece of wood and plug any other holes with a cork.   I store all my comb in unheated sheds using this method and have not had issues with wax moth larvae or mice.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Were you wondering what to do with your clean wax cappings after harvesting your honey?  Here is a recipe for making your own furniture polish.  You will put your beeswax to a good use and also get the satisfaction of making a useful everyday product.  You could probably modify the recipe and add a little lemon juice also.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Here is a link for information on a beginning beekeepers class at UW- Fond du Lac.  It is on 4 nights ( Feb 4th, Mar 17th, July 21 and a yet to be announced field day.  The classes are from 6 PM to 8:30 PM.