Saturday, September 23, 2017


The September club meeting has come and gone.  Three to four prospective new members introduced themselves.  All members also introduced themselves and provided a brief summary of their summer. 

After conducting the usual list of club business we got around to discussing the problem of getting your hives through the winter.  In pre-varroa days the biggest danger to a hive was moisture and starvation.  However, now the biggest danger is varroa mites and the viruses they carry.  So make sure you treat your hives for varroa.  Many members report using MAQS in August with follow up oxalic acid vapor or dribble treatments in September and October.

This summer was unusual and many hives have not filled the bottom two brood chambers with honey.  Heavy fall feeding was recommended.  The upper brood chamber box of a 10 frame box will weigh approximately 90 pounds when full of honey or honey substitute.  Eight frame boxes will be proportionately less.  This 90 pound weight is considered sufficient to get a hive through a normal winter.  People running 8 frame boxes should consider adding a full medium super to get to that 90 pound requirement.

For the benefit of the new members/new beekeepers several of the established members brought in examples of how they ensure adequate hive ventilation and provide the hive with emergency food in the winter.  Emergency feeding is above and beyond the amounts mentioned above.   Some winters the emergency food is consumed and sometimes it is untouched.  But a few pounds of emergency feed is cheap insurance compared to the cost of a package of bees.   Six presenters and six totally different designs. But all designs provided ventilation to let any moisture/condensation escape and provide room to slip in an emergency food supply.   Show below are a few pictures of their handicraft.

Gerard providing a few introductory remarks. 
 Oxalic acid vaporizer made by adapting a insect fogger.  NOTE: Not USDA approved.  Various designs of this type can be seen on YouTube. 
Simplest winter emergency feeder. 3 inch rim plus rug over sugar 
Most complex design includes center feeder, upper entrance, ventilation holes, blanket to prevent air from ventilation holes getting directly into the brood chamber.  
Simple rim plus hardware cloth bottom where sugar is placed.  Covered with fiberglass insulation 
 Note insulating board has groove cut to provide ventilation. 
See ventilation slots in sides.  Top is insulation board. 


Patti, the ECWBA Secretary, has opened and will be taking care of a Facebook page for the club.  It can be accessed by looking in the Web Links section ( on right side) of this blog.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


1) This Saturday, the 23rd, there will be a club meeting at the Ripon Public library commencing at 9:30AM.  The primary topic will be about wintering your bees.

2) Friday is the official start of fall.  Although its been warm this week temperatures will soon be falling.  Get your feeding done NOW if you plan on feeding.

3) Experienced beekeepers have already treated their hives for mites.  If you haven't, get it done NOW.  If you already have treated them it is time to do a post treatment mite level check.  Mite levels greater than 1 per hundred mean you should re-treat.  Most mite treatments are only 90 to 95% effective.  Hives that had very bad mite levels prior to treatment could still have too many mites and put winter survival into debate.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Here's what I've seen recently.

Sam's Club-$10.36 for 25 lb=41.4 cents per lb. (you need to be Sam's club member)
Walmart-$15.51 for 25 lb=61 cents per lb
Amish store south of Montello-$22.00 for 50 lbs=44 cents per lb

Occasionally I see 4 lbs for $1.79 at local grocery but there is a strict limit on amounts you can buy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Beekeepers can harvest a number of things from their hives depending on their motivation. Honey, beeswax, pollen and propolis are the four primary products.  For most beekeepers honey is their primary goal.  However, an easily obtained secondary byproduct of the honey harvest is beeswax.  The process of extracting honey whether by decapping or the crush method yields beeswax.  Beeswax can also be recovered when the beekeepers periodically replaces the foundation in frames.

From Wikipedia:

“Beeswax (cera alba) is a natural wax produced by honey bees of the genus Apis. The wax is formed into "scales" by eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments of worker bees, who discard it in or at the hive. The hive workers collect and use it to form cells for honey-storage and larval and pupal protection within the beehive. Chemically, beeswax consists mainly of esters of fatty acids and various long-chain alcohols.”

Beeswax can be obtained by washing the cappings or crushed comb in water to remove any residual honey.  Then the cappings and comb are melted.  This can be done in a solar melter or double boiler.  Beeswax has a melting point lower of roughly 145F.   NOTE: Beeswax is very flammable and should never be melted over an open flame.   After it is melted the wax should be poured through a cloth filter to remove any minor bits of contamination. 

Don’t think you will be getting hundreds of pounds of beeswax from your hives.  Most smalltime beekeepers will be lucky to get one or two pounds of wax per year.  However, you can easily buy clean beeswax from many sources (for example Amazon, Ebay or Walmart) for roughly $8 per pound if candle making or soap making trips your fancy.   Or ask your fellow beekeepers for their wax or cappings.  

The beeswax has a white to pale yellow color.  If you make your wax from cappings only you will get this pale yellow to white wax.  If you are adding old foundation the wax will have darker yellow coloration. 

Most hobbyists use their beeswax to make candles, soap, or lip balm. 

 Solar melter.  You can make one as a winter project or buy one.  Unless you have a lot of cappings using a double boiler may be cost effective. 
White cappings and some dark crushed comb in melter.  Note the crushed comb is darker and will yield darker wax. 
 A small double boiler is used to safely melt the beeswax. 
 A vegetable crusher/strainer and bread loaf pan.  The strainer is lined with cloth to filter the wax. 
Finished product: Blocks of wax after removal from bread pan.  Note variation is color of the blocks.  One pound honey bottle shown to give scale.

These items can usually be picked up at garage sales or flea markets for a few dollars.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Extracting honey in a group setting makes the work go faster.  A few jabs at slowpokes or a jab at the guy in charge of the extractor overflows the honey bucket makes the time zip by.  Today we did about 30 medium supers in about 4 hours including cleanup and training of newbies.  Jon, Al, Derek, Norb, Fred and Jim all have their extracting done for this year.


Can you identify which of these nine (9) insects are bees?    I sure didn't make a passing grade.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


On several of the weaker hives that I have been feeding with sugar syrup I have noticed that robber honey bees are trying to get in to also partake of the bounty.  The Nature's Nectar blog has a good article on how to counter robbing.  Follow the link below.

Thursday, August 31, 2017

FIELD DAY TEST RESULTS submitted by beekeeper Denise

As part of this summer's field day at D's Bees the state bee inspector took bee samples from six of D's hives.  Denise has now recieved the results of the analysis performed by the USDA and presents them here.

"as part of the bee inspection / field day - some of the bees
were sampled (into the alcohol) and sent to the east coast for

The results are back.

555 bees / 3 mites
putting my mite count at .5/100
(varroa mites detected at more than 3-10 mites/100 are
thought to cause damage and colonies exceeding this
threshold should consider treatment)

and viruses all came back negative EXCEPT FOR:
DWV (deformed wing virus)
IAPV (israeli acute paralysis virus)

the DWV quantification was BELOW 30% of the average
the IAPV quantification was 50% the average
AVERAGE MEANING: compared to other samples where the
count was greater than 0.

i don't know about you - but to ME....this means
even though i had a LOW mite count - those little )(*)$*)@# are DIRTY!
concentrated with viruses!!!  i'm wondering about what that
number looks like for people with 10 or more mite count!?!???!?"


1) DWV has ALWAYS been present in bees.  The DWV virus has a number of different subspecies.  Some are benign.  Others are virulent (ie will kill off your bees).  I doubt the USDA went to the expense of identifying the specific subspecies of DWV virus D's bees were infected with.  It has been reported that hives infected with the benign DWV virus are immune to deletirious effects of virulent DWV.  Some scientists are reportedly working on how to infect all hives with the benign form.  However, viruses are known to mutate constantly.

2) According to Denise one of the six samples was Russian, one Carnie, three Italian, one unknown (swarm). But all samples were mixed together into one big sample for the USDA analysis.  

3) Here is a summary of Denise's mite control program.

a) Denise periodically monitors mite fall using sticky boards.  She analyses them comparatively (ie she doesn't count each and every mite).  She then treats hives with "abnormally" high amounts of mites.
b) She does drone cutouts in the spring and summer until the 3rd honey super goes on the hive.  Thereafter she relies on the sticky board counts to determine mite levels.   A drone cutout is the installation of a medium frame in the brood area.  The bees draw out drone comb in the space below the medium frame.  She periodically removes this frame and cuts off the drone comb and discards it.
c)Denise does not mite treatments in the spring of summer unless the sticky board indicates an out of control situation.
d) Denise does a full treatment of formic (MAQS) when supers are removed for the honey harvest. The third week of August for her.   However two of the big italian hives got an early treatment in the summer because they WERE CRAWLING with mites.   (Like pepper sprinkled on the sticky board)    After each hive gets a full maq... I'll switch to weekly oxalic vapor.   The two Biggie's are gonna get another full Maq in 30 days! 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Bee colonies can die throughout the year.   There are three primary reasons for losing colonies.  They can go queenless in the spring, summer and fall.  A good beekeeper periodically checks that his hive is queenright throughout this period and re-queens if necessary.   They can be killed by varroa mites and the viruses they vector; primarily in the winter.  Again a good beekeeper knows what to do via management techniques or chemical treatments.  The third most likely reason for losing a hive is winter starvation.  We previously discussed fall feeding of hives which will normally prevent starvation.  However, a number of hives are lost each year due to starvation even after fall feeding. 

You ask; It’s still summer, why are we reading about this so early.  The answer is simple; so you can plan ahead.

Educated beekeepers know that the bees start the winter in the lower brood chamber.  In fact they usually fill the upper portion of the brood chamber with honey when they are “re-organizing” the hive   in the fall in preparation for winter.  Then as winter progresses the bee cluster slowly eats its way upward through the stored honey.   The movement in general is always upward.  Only on warm winter days do bees from the cluster venture sideways to the side frames that are full of honey.  At some point the cluster reaches the top of the hive.  Ideally spring has arrived prior to this happening.  The warm weather of spring allows the bees to break their cluster and forage sideways in the hive. 

In central Wisconsin wintered hive are composed of 2 deeps or 3 mediums. Historically this methodology has kept winter starvation to a minimum.  For maximum winter survival from a food standpoint 3 deeps or 4 mediums would probably be better.  But this severely limits the amount of honey available to the beekeeper.   Also now with the added losses due to varroa the idea of any hive loss due to starvation is anathema to beekeepers.  So now many beekeepers provide the bees with emergency food at the top of the hive during the winter. 

In the winter all feed is in the form of solids.  No liquids; which will freeze.  Also, if there were a warm day the cold liquids could drip on the bees which would be fatal. 

Winter feed is usually put in the top of the hive in December.  At this time the bees should be in a tight cluster down in the lower brood chamber.  For most beekeepers the winter feed is simply sugar; cane or beet based sugars.  Pollen or pollen substitutes are not fed until after the New Year since it may trigger brood rearing too early.

The sugar can be presented to the bees by many different methods.  Here are a few.  With all of these methods a spacer is required so that the sugar can be applied between the top frames and the hive inner cover.   The width of the spacer will determine the amount of sugar that can be provided.  Also since the spacer is being added in December it is a good idea to seal the joint between the spacer and hive body with duct tape since the bees will not be able to seal the joint themselves with propolis.
1)      Newspaper (Mountain Camp) Method—Spread a double layer of newsprint on top of the frames of the upper brood chamber.  Do not block air movement along the edges of the hive; leave a 2 inch space.  Some beekeepers punch a hole in the center of the newspaper to allow the bees access to the sugar without having to go to the outside of the hive which is colder.  Pour granulated sugar on top of the newspaper.  The amount of sugar will be limited by the thickness of the spacer. 
2)      Candy boards—This method involves heating a sugar/water solution up to XXX degrees F ie the candying temperature.  This hot syrup is then poured into a rimmed board the same size as the hive rim.  After the candy cools and sets, the candy board is inverted and placed on the hive beneath the inner cover.  The candy acts as both a food source for the bees and a moisture absorbent. 
3)      Sugar discs—sugar discs can be made by combining roughly 5 pounds of sugar with 7/8 cup of water (or any amount if you maintain that ratio of sugar to water).  Thoroughly mix with a spoon.  Then put in a form and tamp the mixture.  Allow to dry overnight.  The sugar discs can be laid directly on top of the frame tops.  I also place a piece of limp rug over the top of the discs to minimize air movement.  The thickness and diameter of the discs are left to your discretion.

Beekeepers, being independent types, will think up other methods for winter feeding.  The idea is that for a small investment in sugar and time you can prevent the needless loss of a hive do to winter starvation.  After all you did steal most of their winter stores ( ie the honey) the previous fall!

Do not be too concerned about removing the hive cover in the winter.  The bees do not heat the entire hive.  They only heat the cluster.  But don’t dawdle.  Have things organized.  Remove the outer and inner covers.  Immediately place the sugar in place.  Install the spacer.  (Make sure to check beforehand that the spacer height is greater than your sugar thickness).  Replace the inner and outer covers.  This shouldn’t take you more than 45 seconds if you have things planned out.  Now you can take your time and duct tape the joint between the spacer and hive body. 

I would recommend checking about once every two weeks to see if the bees have consumed all the emergency provisions and are in need of more.  Hopefully the majority of your hives will not even touch them until spring.   I generally put in two 2 ½ pound sugar discs in December.  Some hives consume it all and need replenishment while others don’t touch the emergency stores.  Also Italian bees tend to winter with a bigger cluster and are more likely to eat themselves out of house and home. 
Variation on newspaper method; I used a pizza cardboard. 
Candy board
The bees really ate the sugar off this candyboard. 
 Inner and outer covers removed.  Ignore the green grass.  Think snow.
 I add about a 3 inch rim.  Remember to duct tape the joint. 
Sugar disc production line. 
 I cover the sugar discs with a limp rung to minimize air movement. 
 One of those other ideas beekeepers think up.  Center hole accepts a 5 lb column of sugar. 
Blanket covers hole to minimize air movement.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


By now you should have treated your hives to control varroa mites.  If not, get cracking!  So on to the next fall beekeeping task.
In central Wisconsin bees need the equivalent of 2 full deeps (10 frame equipment) of honey to survive the winter.  For those of you who run 8 frame equipment the equivalent is about 2 deeps and a medium.  Many colonies fall short of this goal.   Startup colonies or hives with late captured swarms frequently haven’t reached this point.  So each hive should be assessed in late August.  In our area the bees are no longer making any honey surplus.  Sure they are hard at work foraging for nectar and pollen, but there simply isn’t the quantity necessary for them to make any surplus after satisifying their daily consumption. 

 A good time to assess the food situation is when treating for mites.  When the 2 deeps are separated to insert the mite treatment the weight (heft) of the upper box can be evaluated.  Also if you see that any of the outer frames are not drawn and filled with honey then it is time to feed.  NOTE: Those of you that treat with oxalic acid vapor (and therefore are not splitting the two deeps ) will need to split the deeps anyway to assess the situation. 

If in doubt, the best recommendation is to feed. (I automatically feed all startup hives)  Fall feeding is usually done with a 2 to 1 sugar to water solution.  Internal or top feeders are recommended.  This tends to keep the feed warmer, which facilitates the bee’s uptake. Using entrance feeders is not recommended.  First they do not hold the necessary volume of feed.  Second, the feed cools down rapidly at night.  

Feeding should also be completed before the end of September.  The bees are reluctant to transfer cold feed.  The colder nights in October cool the feed which inhibits the transfer of the feed into the hive.  October daytime temperatures usually do not warm the feed sufficiently.  This is even true for internal feeders.

It is not uncommon for a hive to quickly pull in 5 gallons of syrup.   The bees will evaporate the water from the syrup to about a 4 to 1 sugar to water concentration before capping the storage cells.  
A 50 lbs. bag of sugar costs about $22 and is usually sufficient to fall feed two hives.  So for about $11 of sugar you can ensure against winter starvation of your hive.  Compare that against the cost of a new package of bees; $120 per package. 

An article about winter emergency feeding will be published shortly.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Here is a list of plants that are beneficial for both bees and Monarch butterflys.  This list was compiled by Iowa University, but would also be applicable for Wisconsin.  It provides plants that will bloom for the entire season.  Downloading the list is free.

Friday, August 18, 2017


Last Sunday and Monday I removed honey supers.  This Thursday and Friday I have been applying MAQS varroa mite treatment.  I treat this early so that the bees that raise the "winter/fat bees" will  hopefully be varroa and virus free.  These pictures taken at 6:30PM show the different reaction various hives have to the MAQS (formic acid vapor) treatment.  All hives had the same relative strength although I must say the hive with the biggest beard was also my best honey producer (5 medium supers).  Whether the queen was also out there in the beard I can't say, but the acid vapor is obviously irritating the bees.  That said 90% of the treated hives had no beard.  So if after treating your hives you see the bees are bearding there is no cause for alarm.


Saturday, August 19th, is National Honey Bee Day.  Here is a link to some of the events and other information.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

OBSERVATION HIVE REPORT by beekeeper Grandpa Jack

Workers at the fair had fun discussing the goings on in the club's observation hive that had been stocked by Grandpa Jack.  Here is his report about the hive after he took it back to his apiary.

The ECWBA observation hive has been at the Green Lake County fair since Thursday and many have enjoyed watching the new hatch come out of their cells.  While members and fair goers were watching through the looking glass of the observation hive, what was going on in the inside ?

Sunday was the last day of the fair and the hive made the trip back to the original hive of beekeeper Jack's.  The hive was stocked with two  frames of capped brood and one frame of honey-nectar-pollen and a shake of a frame of bees for added population.

We thought we might of gotten the queen in the lower box, since from the sound of the hive that the bees came from, indicated that they were not happy with the frames that were removed.  Also we found newly laid eggs on the frame that was placed in the observation panel.  Beekeeper Fred is one of our resident queen raiser's, and spotted  the eggs while looking at the frame with a flash light.

Sunday, the last fair day, it was noted that there were queen cells started at the bottom of the observation frame. 

The bottom line of this story is - there was no queen in the observation hive.   

What do bees do when they don't have a queen and they have all the ingredients to make one ? 

On the observation frame by the window, there were four queen cells with larva and royal jelly.  On the frame that  had brood,  that was located in the body of the hive, there were six more queen cells.  All the cells had larva that was floating in royal jelly.  

The decision was made at the fair to not make splits this late in the season.  The queen cells were destroyed since the original hive has been re-queened and has a strong working queen.


After off and on again sprinkles the fair concluded and the ECWBA teardown crew moved in and disassembled our display.  We noted that the observation hive started 3 queen cells during their 4 days of captivity.

                                         Small children really enjoyed the observation hive.
 Future beekeepers?
Cleanup crew talking bees while waitng to the bitter end.

CCD Waning?

Beginning to see reports that the CCD (colony collapse disorder)portion of the bee crisis may be waning, but varroa is still the main problem facing the bees.   Of course, it may just be that beekeepers are getting more educated about CCD and are no longer mistakenly blaming CCD for thier bee losses.

Friday, August 4, 2017


Club members are at the Green Lake County Free Fair this weekend doing a little public outreach.  Intermittent rain has so far kept the attendance down, but things look better for the weekend.  Here are a few photos from Thursday.  Any help to man the booth is apprecaited.  You can always just talk bees with other club members.

 Overall setup
The well populated observation hive was a hit with all visitors. 
Club members Jack and Al searching for the queen, eggs and emerging bees prior to arrival of visitors.
 Old time beekeeper stops by for a chat.
Observation hive

Thursday, August 3, 2017

AUGUST IN MY APIARY by beekeeper Fred

Here is what I do.  I feel that dabbling with bees for more 5 years in no way makes me an expert.   Also remember that my methods are influenced by my local conditions, equipment limitations and choice of mite control.  Using these methods I luckily got greater than 80% survival last winter.  I hope some of that good survival was due to my methods and not just the warmer than usual winter.  These techniques may help you in your apiary.

August is the time for a lot of beekeeping activity in my apiary.  Since early July I usually do not need to add any additional honey supers because nectar availability has fallen off.  This year, despite all the rain, has been no different.   

Beginning the first week of August I start feeding this year’s startup hives with 2 to 1 sugar syrup to ensure these new hives have sufficient food stores for winter.  These startup hives have usually not completed filling the two brood chambers with honey and would likely not survive their first winter without this aid.  I continue feeding these hives until I see they have filled out the outer honey frames.  I then stop feeding so that they won’t fill the brood nest area.  For new beekeepers, either cane sugar or GMO beet sugar is considered OK for feeding.  Note:  I reserve this supplemental feeding for hives started in late May or June that I started with a new queen and a few frames of bees.  Hives started with a package of bees in April or early May usually do not need this supplemental feeding. 

I plan to remove my honey supers beginning about August 15th.  I remove the supers at this time for two reasons.  One, the honey flow in my area is basically complete by this time.  If any honey is being brought in it is usually immediately consumed.  If by chance the bees are getting a little surplus I would like them to store it in the upper brood nest area.  Two, it’s time to treat for varroa mites.  I use formic acid vapor (MAQS) which must be applied between the two brood chamber boxes.  Installing and removing the MAQS pads is much easier to accomplish if the honey supers are not present.

Watching the weather forecast I schedule the MAQS application during a week where the temperature won’t exceed 85F.  You have to be flexible to not apply the treatment when it is too hot;  ie above 85F.  Above 85F the formic acid vaporizes too quickly and could actually harm the bees in addition to the mites.  At the end of the one week period I remove the spent MAQS pads, because you don’t want there to any obstruction to movement of the bees or to cause the cluster to get separated during the winter.

Those of you that use other mite control products should follow the application instructions closely.   

Why am I treating in late August?  I want a big mite knockdown now so that the “winter” bees, which are being raised a month from now, won’t be exposed to varroa mites and associated viruses in the brood stage.  The winter bees must be in tip-top health in order to survive the 6 months to spring. 

In late August or early September I then move the feeders from the startup hives to other hives that seem light. Its best to feed when the weather is warm.  As cooler fall temperatures arrive the bees may not feed on cold syrup or break cluster to go to the feeder.  I also do a last inspection to verify all hives are queenright.  This is also a good time to replace any old queens, to replace queens in hives that have performed poorly or to incorporate improved genetics.  Young queens tend to overwinter better. 

Once the honey supers are removed you must also plan on extracting.  Have you lined up an extractor?  Do you have sufficient bottles?  This time of year the bee equipment suppliers frequently run short of bottles.  Don’t get caught short. 

Monday, July 31, 2017


August is here.  Typically central Wisconsin will be seeing a drying out period.  Consequently bee forage will be on the decline and honey gathering will slow.  There are still a number of plants providing nectar and pollen, but just not in the quantities seen in June and early July.  Here are a few of the plants the bees are working.  Two agricultural plants can also provide nectar; alfalfa and soybeans.
                                                                  DUTCH CLOVER
                                     DAY LILIES ( I have never seen bees work these plants)
                                          BIRDSFOOT TREFOIL-usually seen on roadsides
                                QUEEN ANNES LACE-saw my first honey bee working it today
                                                            BLUE VERTHANE
                                             GOLDENROD IS STARTING TO BLOOM
                                                JOE PYE WEED-found in marshy areas
                                           WHITE SWEET CLOVER-sorry its out of focus

Monday, July 24, 2017

BEEKEEPING PODCASTS submitted by beekeeper Denise

This link takes you to a list of podcasts (along with a short description of each) about beekeeping.  Although the link is sourced from New Zealand most of the podcasts were sourced from US authors.

Sunday, July 23, 2017

WHEW! by beekeeper Fred

On Friday I heard a crop duster working the neighbors corn and bean fields.  Like Gerard this concerned me greatly.  I went and talked first with the neighbor.  He said the pilot was aware of my beehives and would not be spraying near them unless there was no wind or a wind out of the northeast which would tend to blow the chemicals away from my hives.  They were spraying a combination of fungicide and pesticide.  Corn cut worms were the pesticide target.

Friday night I also got a call from the pilot.  He was aware of all of my beehives having seen them in previous years from the air.  I queried him about DriftWatch.  He indicated that they utilize Drift Watch while making up their flight plan and encouraged me to sign up.  Also turned out I know him from another hobby pursuit.

Saturday afternoon about 3PM, after our club meeting, I heard the plane again and went to watch.  I looked at the weather and there was only a 2MPH wind speed. I got right under his flightpath so I could see what was happening.  The pilot leveled off at what seemed to be about only 10 feet above the corn.  The chemical plume didn't seem to spread more than 5 feet beyond plane's wingtip and quickly settled down to the corn.

My beehives are set back from the property line by about 150 feet except for one hive which is about 50 feet from the corn.  Four hours later I went up to the hives expecting the worst.  On the closest hive I saw two (2) twitching bees on the landing board.  Nothing abnormal on the remaining nine (9) hives.  I took another look this morning.  All appeared normal.  That closest hive was going full tilt out gathering nectar.  I popped off the outer and inner covers and the population seemed normal.

So I assume my hives were not hit by any overspray.  The two twitching bees were probably under the plane's flight path and came in direct contact with the pesticide.  I will be checking again tomorrow.

After this scare I will defintely be signing up at DriftWatch.

                                                        Gerard's hated yellow plane            

Thursday, July 20, 2017


For first year beekeepers this will be your first time to also extract honey.  Try to team up with an experienced beekeeper for this first time.  If not watch this Natures Nectar video before you buy a lot of equipment.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017


Its time to be thinking about varroa control.  New beekeepers should especially take note and read this article.  This article by Meghan Milbrath is a good refresher for everyone.

My take on this article and also based on my experience is that either formic aoid (MAQS) or thymol are the most effective mite controls, but require openning the hive.  Other treatments, while easier to apply, are less effective and may require multiple applications.  Using a combination of treatments may be the best strategy;  such as MAQS right after honey harvest in mid August and then an oxalic vapor follow up treatment later in the fall.  

Monday, July 17, 2017


Again this year we have been asked to have a informational booth at the Green Lake County Fair, August 3rd through the 7th.  More details and a sign up sheet will be provided at this Saturday's club meeting.

Saturday, July 15, 2017


There will be a club meeting at the Ripon Public Library on Saturday, July 22nd at 9:30AM.  Topic of discussion will be control of varroa mites.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017


The bee forage in central Wisconsin is continuing to bloom.  All of the clovers are still in bloom; White dutch, Yellow sweet, white sweet, Ladino, Alsike and prairie.  These plus alfalfa are the primary nectar sources.

The roadside plantings of birdsfoot trefoil, crown vetch and sweet clover are all doing well also.

The black locust flow is long past, but some areas may also get some nectar from basswood and linden trees.  

In wild areas milkweed, thistles and bee balm are also contributing to the flow.  Still be make an appearance are joe pye weed, coneflowers, sunflowers and asters.

Monday, July 10, 2017

MID-JULY REPORT by beekeeper Fred

Well we are in the dog days of summer now.  It’s getting too warm for my old dog to go out for a long walk and he prefers to lay on the cool basement floor.  Usually about this time of year the nectar flow also really drops off.  But this year the bees seem to be still working hard at bringing in nectar.  Yellow and white sweet clover is still blooming.  In fact over the weekend I noticed 5 of my hives were busy drawing new comb and filling the top honey super past the 25% point.  Based past years I normally wouldn’t bother with adding a super.  However, with the very wet June in central Wisconsin I decided to be an optimist and added a super to each hive.  I still have hopes for a bumper harvest this August. 
Be sure to verify your hives are queenright.  Just last week I noted another queenless hive.  I decided to write off this hive.  The population was just too low to successfully recover prior to fall.  If I were a better beekeeper I would have noticed the extremely slow hive buildup and taken a corrective action sooner.  I’ll put this down as a lesson learned and add it (slow buildup) to my check list (in my head) for next year.

In mid-June I also gave each hive a shot of oxalic acid vapor to knock down the mite populations.  I checked a few hives with a powdered sugar roll and also using witness bottom boards.  The sugar rolls showed no mites, but the bottom witness boards showed my hives are not mite free.
My queen rearing attempts has had its ups and downs.  The spring was too cold and wet.  Consequently the queen yield was low.  I was getting more requests than I could supply.  Then my breeder queen quit laying.  She actually lived on for a month after that.  Since about mid-June, things have improved.  I was able to get a replacement Ankle Biter breeder queen.   Right now I am grafting twice per week with the aim of putting all the mating nucs into use.   I hope to have a large number of queens for use for re-queening in the fall.  

The honey harvest in mid-August is fast approaching.  Count the number of full honey supers in your apiary.  Each full super equates to about 3 gallons (36 pounds) of golden honey.  Do you have enough buckets and bottles to hold your harvest?  More than once I have tried to get bottles in September, only to be told there were none in stock.  Plan ahead.  

Saturday, July 8, 2017


Another successful ECWBA Field Day!  Denise Palkovich hosted the field day this year.  She had arranged for one of the Wisconsin State Bee Inspectors, Dan Ziehli, to be present.  Denise and Dan went through about 6 hives.  Denise pointing out the typical things to look for during a normal hive inspection.  Dan was also taking bee and debris samples for analysis later at state and federal labs. 

Denise had a combination of 8 and 10 frame Langstroth hives.  She demonstrated some of her varroa control measures; varroa trapping on drone brood which she removed periodically.  Denise uses drone comb or lets the bees build the drone comb in deep supers by inserting a medium frame.  The bees fill the empty area with drone comb.  Her varroa control techniques appear to be working.  We got to inspection the varroa mite drop on pull out inspection boards.  The counts ranged from 0 to 3 mites for boards that had been in place for a week. 

Denise has enlarged her apiary since our previous visit and is now running about 12 hives.  The state inspector found nothing out of the ordinary.   From Denise’s comments she has typical beekeeper issues; hives superceding their queens, poor performing hives, and hives making so much honey that the hives were getting unmanageable.  

Denise ended the field day encouraging everyone to practice good mite control after the honey harvest in mid August and gave a brief description on how to use Apiguard, MiteAway Quick Strips and oxalic acid vapor. 

Don’t be afraid to ask the state inspectors for a visit.  If they can schedule it they will.  Their goal is not to punish beekeepers, but rather to work with them to take any corrective actions needed.  Dan’s phone numbers are:  Office: 608-224-4572 or Cell: 608-444-3209

Thank you Denise for a good educational field day.  

                                                               A few of Denise's hives
                                                                 Field Day attendees
                                                 State Inspector, Dan Ziehli, on the left
                                             One of the drone combs used as a varroa trap
                                                    A drone larvae with two varroa mites

Thursday, July 6, 2017


Here is an interesting graph coming from the Minneapolis area.  The nectar flow has suddenly increased.  They have been experiencing similar weather patterns as central Wisconsin.  Now with the drier and hotter weather the bees are really bringing in the nectar.  It looks like 15 lbs  in 2 days.  That's about a third of a super!  So make sure to check your supers this week to ensure the bees have room to bring in and process that nectar.  NOTE: The nectar weight can actually decrease as the bees dry out the nectar to 18% water, which increases the honey sugar content.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017


This article points the finger more strongly at neonicotinoids.  Since Minnesota banned neonics I wonder if their bees will do better than ours.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017


A. Remember that this Saturday, July 8th, the ECWBA Field Day will be at Denise's Apiary.  It is located at N7928 Cty Rd WH, Fond du Lac, Wi.   The state inspector will arrive at 10:30AM sharp.  ECWBA recommends to be there at around 9:30AM for other discussions prior to his arrival.

B. Be sure to be inspecting your honey supers.  With the decline in rain the bees will be working overtime collecting nectar.  Add another honey super anytime the current super is more than 60% filled.

C.  Also continue your biweekly hive inspections to verify your hives are queenright.  Yes, removing the honey supers to get to the brood chambers is a pain in the you know what, but thats the only effective method of verifying the hive is queenright.

Good beekeeping.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017


In the world of beekeeping there are many controversial subjects.  One of those is re-queening.
Sometimes your hive goes queenless.  In about 30% of those cases the hive does not successfully re-queen itself.   It then becomes necessary to re-queen that hive rapidly to avoid laying workers from taking possession of the hive.  Laying workers take control soon after the last developing brood is capped.  The combination of queen and brood pheromones tends to keep the laying workers in check.  Addition of a frame of eggs and uncapped brood from another hive can delay the laying workers.  Re-queening in this situation is not controversial.  It is then just a matter of whether to use local/regional raised or factory raised queens. 

NOTE: “Factory Raised” queens is a term referring to large scale queen breeders that raise thousands, no tens of thousands, of queens.  This can cause a genetic bottleneck since both the queens and drones come from a small (not genetically diverse) population.

Local/regional raised queens in theory have become acclimatized to the local/regional weather and forage.  This should help with winter survival.  Whereas, factory raised queens probably come from California or one of the southern states.  These queens may not be acclimatized to our severe winter weather. 

A second reason to re-queen is to keep the average age of your queens lower.  Young queens are less likely to be superceded in the following year. The probably of a supercedure of a 3 year old queen is rather high.  If a supercedure is just prior to the honey flow, the multi-week process could cut into the nectar gathering potential of the hive, since the hive bee population normally dips at this time.  There is some data that indicates 2nd year queens are the most productive.  After that the queen productivity declines.  Re-queening allows the beekeeping to somewhat prevent unplanned supercedure and to also keep the queen productivity in the optimum range and hopefully increase honey yield.
A third reason to re-queen is to alter the genetic makeup of the bees in your apiary.  Most beekeepers start with packages that come with factory raised California or southern queens.   Historically these queens did not have anti-varroa characteristics and are thus more susceptible to winter failure from varroa related viruses.  Recently selectively breed bees with anti-varroa characteristics have been developed.  These are VSH (varroa sensitive hybrids), Primorsky Russians, Purdue Ankle Biters, regional survivor stock (such as Michigan Mutts) and others.  Ah ha, the topic for another blog article; designer bees!   Although technically not re-queening many beekeepers incorporate improved genetics when doing splits in the spring.
Re-queening for the second and third reason is usually done in late summer after the honey harvest.  Queens are usually in short supply at that time; so plan ahead.
The alternate approach is to do no re-queening and let nature take its course. 

Monday, June 26, 2017


We have now gone past the summer solstice, when the longest amount of daylight occurs.  From a length of day standpoint its all downhill from here to December 21st.  The solstice also marks the beginning of summer. The bees somehow know this and the hive/queen will begin to slow the raising of brood from its peak spring rate.  The plants also seem to know this.  Most seed producing plants have already bloomed.  Therefore the honey flow also tends to slowly decline from here on out.  Based on my personal observations it seems that the bees have already stored more than 60% of nectar by this point. In our area it seems that by mid-July the hives are basically just breaking even between consumption and nectar gathering.

 Remember the third line in the swarm poem.  “A swarm in July ain’t worth a fly”.   That’s because even a strong swarm in July usually can’t store enough honey to make it through the winter; let alone to gather a surplus.  Also as the raising of brood is reduced the bees begin to store honey in the upper portion of the brood chamber.  This adds to the impression that honey making has slowed since it is not ending up in the honey supers.  That said, the extra rain we have been seeing this year may extend the length of the honey flow.
The solstice also marks the time after which it is unwise to attempt to start a new hive unless you will go to extra lengths to allow its full development.  After the solstice a nuc and new queen will not have enough time to grow the hive population and store enough provisions to survive the winter.   Of course by heavily feeding a new hive,  adding capped brood or frames of bees from another hive can give the new hive a boost and let them get strong enough for winter.  Experienced beekeepers know to start new hives prior to the end of June to avoid the extra work and winter loss risk. 

Now is also the time to begin thinking ahead about your fall plans.  Remember the 6P’s. ( Prior planning prevents piss poor performance)  So what should you be thinking about?
-Have you lined up the use of an extractor?
-Do you have buckets and bottles for the honey harvest?  Think in terms of 3 gallons of honey for each full medium box. 
-After the harvest in mid-August comes mite control.  Have you procured the items for the method you have selected?  Mite control should be done in mid-August so that the “winter” bees raised after that will have the least problems with mites and the associated viruses. 
-Are you planning to re-queen the hives with older queens? 

Think about these things now so that later you won't be saying to yourself  "I should of thought about that before". 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

NEW OR OLD BEE PREDATOR? submitted by beekeeper Jon

Beekeeper Jon caught this itsy bitsy spider having a bee snack on his spray bottle.   I've noticed similar colored spiders lurking under the lip of my outer covers.