Sunday, May 29, 2016


It appears most of us have been missing the boat when it comes to treating mites just in the fall.  Here is a video recording of the New Jersey state apiarist discussing the present recommendations for mites treatments.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

ECWBA FIELD DAY, Saturday June 4th

Our club field day is next weekend; on Saturday June 4th.   The long range weather forecast is cloudy with no rain.   Here is the agenda.

Gerard will lead a hive inspection tutorial for new beekeepers.  He will point out key items to look for during inspection of several hives.  

Several hives are fitted with sticky boards so he will also check for varroa mites.  We will give a demonstration of use of both MAQS (formic) and oxalic acid for mite control.  Latest recommendations are to knock down mite levels 3 times in the course of the spring, summer and fall.
The club's new observation hive will be unveiled.

Finally for more advanced beekeepers we will go though the step by step process of raising queens in quantity or just a few.  

The field day starts at 10AM.  The hive inspection and queen raising classes will be run in parallel unless the attendees decide otherwise.  Duration will be 3 to 4 hours depending on on-the-spot feedback.


The field day will be held near Princeton, Wisconsin.  Approach Princeton on state route 23.  Approximately, 1 mile east of Princeton turn south on County W.  Travel south to the first left turn; Salbego Lane.  You are there!  Park on the north side of the road only.

                                                      Vicki taking a turn in egg grafting

Saturday, May 21, 2016

WHY DID MY HONEY BEES DIE? submitted by beekeeper Jon

Here is an article that EVERY beekeeper should read.  We have all seen this exact scenario.

EDITOR'S COMMENT:  I put a sticky board under several hives a week ago.  One hive that had overwintered well and had a good spring buildup had a 2 day mite drop of 27 varroa!  Surprising a 5 week old package hive had only 3 mites.  I immediately treated all overwintered colonies.  I will check the treated colony again in a few days.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

LIVE AND LEARN by beekeeper Jack

Having kept bees in the 60’s and returning to beekeeping a few years back  was an eye opening experience to say the least.   A little insect, by the name of the varroa mite was never around in the 60’s .  The worst that could happen to a hive back then was European foul brood.  Of course the treatment for that was fire and then start over.

I read and watched the video’s when I got back into the game and figured “how bad could the varroa be ?”.   Went to the screened bottom boards, installed 4.9mm (small cell) foundation into new equipment and of course started with package bees.  A fresh start that I figured for the first year would easily carry me through on my four hives.

Yes, I knew that I would have to do something about the varroa later in this venture, but not the first year.  The four colonies’s flourished and produced excess honey the first year.  The queens were doing a phenomenal job. 
Went into fall with, what I had considered a few mites on the tray below the screen bottom board.  Normal I thought.  Isn’t that what I’ve been reading about ?  No problem.  I had left plenty of honey for the four huge colonies.   I made sure that the hives had ventilation, wind brake and everything that they would need to make it through the winter.

Winter came and on occasion I would listen to make sure that I could hear the hum of the bees keeping the hives heated.   By Christmas, only two hives still hummed. By March, only one hive showed any life and by spring the few remaining bees in hive four, never had a chance.   I concluded, that my first year back into beekeeping, I had forgotten everything that I had ever known about beekeeping.

More packages were ordered, more videos watched, and more reading about winter loss.  After a careful postmortem of the hives, poking through the mounds of dead bees on the bottom board.  Honey right next to many of the dead bees and some uncapped brood, I concluded that the varroa mite got the best of me and my bees.  The population going into winter was strong, but as the season continued the mite got the upper hand.  As the population died off, there were just not enough bees to maintain the hive and the obvious happened.

So now what ?
I have a profound respect for that little insect we call the varroa mite.  If you have bees, whether a package,  or  a swarm catch.  you have mites.   Not many at first, but as the season progresses they will increase in numbers, the same as your colony does.  But when fall comes around and the honey bee numbers decrease, their numbers will not. Left untreated, in some manner, you WILL lose that hive.

I have no doubt that there are those that are keeping bees that are not using any treatments other than small cell foundation, and  screened bottom boards are having some success.  I would be willing to bet that they are also not buying any packages and are probably in an isolated area that have no other apiaries that they do not manage.  I am not one of them.

For the rest of us, we do have some options.  It was just reported that this past year, beekeepers lost 44% of their colonies in the United States.  Varroa mite infestation was one of the main reasons reported for the loss. 

I am not an advocate for commercial insecticides used in the hive.  Trying to kill an insect on an insect sounds pretty complicated to me. Remember also that you are selling a pure product to the consumer and when they ask if you use any chemicals in the hive, you can tell them no,  truthfully.
 We do have some options that are found naturally in honey and nature.  The only one that I have used and have experience with, is oxalic acid.  There are two methods for treating.  The dribble method and the vaporizer.  

I am not going to go into detail about rates or treatments.  There is a great deal of information on the internet on both treatments.  This is not the only treatments available, so I urge you to do some studying on the subject and ask beekeepers what they use and how.

Fellow beekeepers, you will have a chance to see a vaporizer in action at our upcoming field day,  June 4th at Fred Ransome's  "Flying Squirrel Apiary ”.

Details in Our Bee Blog.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cell Size and Hygenic Behavior submitted by beekeeper Jon

I just finished watching an interesting YouTube video about hygenic behavior in bees.  See link below.   It is rather long (1 hour) and is slightly dated (2013).    It expresses some controversial ideas about how foundation cell size may be a factor in triggering hygenic behavior naturally.  Hygenic behavior is where the workers bees remove brood from the comb that has been infected by varroa mites.   The video also indicates that raising bees on small cell foundation (4.9mm) shortens the maturation time of the brood by up to one day and thus shortens the time varroa can reproduce inside the capped cell.  This results in a lower total mite population.    The “standard “ cell size sold is typically 5.4mm.  4.9mm cell size is closer to “natural” cell size.   The smaller cell size results in more cells per hive frame. 

I also did a little internet searching on the topic and see several “experts” recommend going this route.

Do any club members utilize 4.9mm cell foundation?  Do you feel you losses are lower than other beekeeper’s losses?  Please send in your experiences.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


May is here!  The grass has turned green and many trees are in flower.   Both overwintered hives and new packages are bringing in loads of pollen. 

May is the time of explosive population growth for healthy hives.  It’s not uncommon for strong hives to have up to eight frames of brood.  Since one side of a deep frame has several thousand cells this equates to about 30,000 new worker bees in development.  These new bees will arrive just in time for the June honey flow.
If you are averse to a little extra work do not put your honey supers on until the later part of the month.  Before then you should be inspecting your hives on a regular basis.  Unfortunately, for both new package and over-wintered hives, the queens have a nasty habit of dying or being superceded at this time of year.  The hive is not always successful in re-queening themselves.  Regular inspections allow the beekeeper to take corrective action before the hive dwindles and thus precludes the chances for a honey harvest.
During an inspection you will see hives that are bursting at the seams with bees and those that are lagging behind.   You can do some equalizing between hives to help the weaker ones.  Moving a frame of capped and soon to emerge brood will give a needed boost to the weak hive.   The weak hives still have time to develop healthy populations in time for the honey flow.  However, also make sure the queen in the weak hive is present and laying.
In this area mid-May is the time beekeepers usually do splits of the hives that are bursting at the seams.  Just like weak hives, extremely strong hives also need to be inspected.  Local beekeepers are reporting that their strong hives already have capped swarm cells hanging on the bottom of frames.   That means swarming is imminent.  You might as well make a split because half of your hive is going to leave in the swarm.  One half of the split should get the queen.  The other half gets the swarm cells.   The split half with the queen has the time to recover its population in time for the honey flow.  The split half with the swarm cells will lag behind several weeks and could be penalized when it comes to making honey.  If you want to eliminate this delay you can remove the swarm cells and drop in a purchased queen. 

Also note that at this time of year spur of the moment queen availability is spotty.  Northern queen producers are just starting the queen rearing cycle.  Southern and western queen suppliers are still working to fulfill their commitments for packages and previously ordered queens.   Not all suppliers will give a positive response to your request to buy a queen.  If you want to install a new queen in your split make sure you have a queen on order beforehand. 

Every hive has varroa mites regardless of whether you can see them.  Although spring is a good time to knock them down it is already too late to use some of the harsher chemical treatments, because of possible honey contamination.  The following three treatments are compatible with honey; formic acid (ie MAQS), oxalic acid, and Hopguard.  These can be used from now through the end of honey harvest.     

Thursday, May 5, 2016


Beekeeper Jack has been encouraging us to get our swarm traps built and out in the woods.  Like most people I have procrastinated.  Today while stealing a few frames of brood from one of my stronger hives to set up a nuc I noticed that the hive had 9 swarm cells hanging from the bottom of two frames.  These cells were still open, but did have a larvae in them.

A hive will swarm right after the queen cells get capped.  In this case I estimate the cells will be capped in 2 to 3 days based on the size of the larvae.   Luckily I had removed the queen cells with the frames for the nuc.  This should suppress the urge to swarm, unless I missed a queen cell somewhere else in the hive.   I replaced the removed frames with new bare frames so the queen will have more room to lay.  This should also suppress that urge to swarm.

Overpopulated hives will swarm between now and about June 30th.  So if you haven't put out your swarm trap yet you still have a little time to do it.  Who knows, you might catch your own swarm, a swarm from the neighbor's apiary or a wild swarm.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016


We have all been subjected to some hefty fall and "winter losses" this past year.  The reality is that most of these losses were do to varroa and associated viruses that they carry; not necessarily the traditional winter loss do to starvation and cold.  The following article has one of the best descriptions of the varroa/virus issue I have seen lately.

Embedded in the article is a link to a 17 page BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES plan to counteract the mites and viruses.  This plan is aimed primarily at commercial beekeepers whose livelihood is dependent on getting their bees to survive year after year.  Here is the link to the BEST MANAGEMENT PRACTICES.

After you have read and digested this you should be thinking how you might modify your personal bee management plan.  Things to think about are: Improved Bee Genetics, multiple applications of varroacides (spring, summer and fall), and possibly intentional splits to periodically break the mite cycle.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

IS IT WINTER LOSS? submitted by beekeeper Gerard

All through winter I heard buzzing in all 8 hives.  On warm days there were bees coming and going on cleansing flights from all 8 hives.  It appeared that all 8 hives survived.

On April 14 I reversed the hives and cleaned off the screened bottom boards.  Hive #7 was a mess.  Dead moldy bees jammed from the west wall to between the second and third frames, from the bottom of the lower deep up through the second deep and a medium super.  The screened bottom board had an inch of dead moldy bees completely covering it.  Yet bees were coming and going, bringing in yellow pollen, looking good from the outside.  The living bees, clustered, might have been the size of a small grapefruit.  Still had frames of honey.

The other 7 hives appeared very good.  Lots of bees, very few dead on the screened bottom boards, bringing in lots of yellow pollen. No K-wing, no signs of DWV.  All looked well.

Since I wanted to get through all of the hives that afternoon I didn't look for evidence of queens.  I just reversed the hive bodies and cleaned the screened bottom boards.  I left #7 with one deep and the medium super.  There weren't enough bees for two deeps and the one I removed was the worst of them.  Needed serious cleaning. 

I set out community feeders 100 feet or so from the apiary and fed 2 gallons of 1:1 syrup with essential oils each day for the next 4 days so the bees could add to whatever stores remained in the hives.  They cleaned out the feeders in 3 hours each day.

On April 17, 3 days after reversing the hives, I went looking for queen evidence in all of the hives.  I did not find evidence in hives #4, #6 and #7.  Two of my colonies, #3 and #8 were very strong, so I took frames of brood and honey along with the workers from #8 and put them in #7 to help build the population.  I also shook workers from another frame to get a decent amount of bees to keep the brood warm.

Since northern queens were not even started yet I ordered (3) queens from California on 4/18.  They were sent overnight on 4/20 and I introduced them on 4/21.  Due to rainy weather coming I had to analyze them two days later whereas I usually wait a minimum of three days.  The colonies seemed to be okay with them.  In all three hives there were several bees on the cages facing the queens and attendants.  No hostility.  So I directly released them and watched them go down the combs and disappear.  I also shook more bees from #8 into #7 for a little extra insurance.

I will be checking for queen evidence on the next nice day, of which it seems we have so few lately.  I listen every day to the buzzing in the hives and watch the outside activity and all looks and sounds well.  But I won't know until I go in.

These three colonies were unquestionably doomed on 4/17 if there had been no intervention.  They may still be doomed.  Are these winter losses?  It didn't look like it on 4/16. 

The sand was just about out of the hourglass for #7 whereas #4 and #6 had very strong populations.  I thought it strange that there was no evidence of a queen in those two hives for as strong as they were.  I checked again before introducing the new queens, but nothing.  A lot of very clean cells in the brood chamber, and pollen and honey in the outside frames.

I would call #7 a winter loss with no further ado.  Probably 90% of the fall/winter bees had died along with the queen and the colony was in its final days.  #4 and #6 have me puzzled.  Why was there no evidence of a queen with so many workers and relatively clean screened bottom boards?  When and how did they disappear? 

I've had die outs before.  Bees piling up outside the hives starting in January/February and going silent in March.  That's been my understanding of a die out.  None of these hives went silent......yet.