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.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Here is an article about the use of queen excluders.  In short the author recommends using them.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


The varroa mite populations have been building all spring while the hives have been building populations befor the honey flow.  This means that mite carried viruses are also building.  This is a good time to knock down the mite populations through applications of either oxalic acid vapor or MAQS application.  In fact in the past week I have seen a few drones with deformed wings which is a BAD sign.

Use only MAQS or oxalic acid treatments while honey supers are on the hive.  These are naturally occuring compounds and won't negatively affect your honey.  Other treatments WILL negatively affect the honey.  DON'T use them.

If you treat the hives now they won't need another tretment until after removal of the honey supers in mid-August.  It also keeps the mite populations in check and will improve the effective of your post honey removal treatment.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


This time of year many beekeepers discover or realize their hive(s) is in trouble.  Their initial investigation shows it is either queenless or has a non-laying queen.  Rectifying the non-laying queen situation is rather straight forward; dispatch the old queen, wait a few hours and introduce a new queen.

A hive that has been both queenless and broodless for a long time will develop into what is called a “laying worker” hive.  Research has shown that all hives have a small percentage of laying workers.  It is when the queen and brood pheromone levels fall off a significantly larger percentage of the “sterile” workers becomes laying workers. 

Beekeepers that conduct weekly or biweekly inspections to verify their hives are queenright will usually identify a queenless hive long before this situation becomes critical.  During each inspection the beekeeper is looking for eggs.  The simple presence of eggs means the queen was present no less than 4 days previously.  These beekeepers know additional action is required when no eggs are found.  At this point it is a matter of re-queening the hive.
To gauge how far your queenless hive has progressed consider these milestones:
1)      After 4 days any eggs will have hatched into larvae.
2)      After 12 days the larvae will have been capped.
3)      After 21 days all the worker brood will have emerged. 
4)      After 24 days all drone brood laid by the queen will have emerged. 

If all that you are seeing is capped drone cell brood you know at least 24 days or possibly longer have elapsed.  When all that you see is capped drone brood with its dome shaped capping you can then start to look for the signs of laying workers.  The signs are:
1)      randomly distributed capped brood
2)      multiple eggs in a cell
3)      eggs adhering to the side wall of the cell
4)      a random egg distribution.

When you see these signs laying workers are in charge of the hive.  If a queen is introduced at this point the laying workers will usually kill her.  In fact it is not easy to re-queen a laying worker hive.  So what are your other options?

If you do nothing the hive slowly dwindles away and you will have nothing to show for the season and you also won’t have a hive capable of overwintering.

Some people have reported success by putting in frames of open brood and eggs from another hive.  This needs to be done on a weekly basis and multiple times.  The brood pheromones slowly suppress the laying workers.  Sometimes they will make an emergency cell and raise a new queen.  It’s not a 100% cure.  Sometimes at this point the hive could accept a new queen.  Putting in the queen is a big gamble.  I have tried this method several times but without success.

If you have many hives you can split up your laying worker hive amongst other queenright hives; several frames of drone brood and bees into each.  The outer honey frames can remain.  Then you take frames of eggs and brood from the queenright hives, refill the empty hive and introduce a new queen.  This is similar to doing a split.  If you do this early enough you may be able to get the hive ready for winter. 

A third alternative involves switching hive locations with a strong hive while the field bees are out foraging.  This throws both hives into chaos.  The strong hive recovers with no problem.  The laying worker hive is inundated with the field bees from the queenright hive.  Reportedly, the field bees quickly eliminate the laying workers.  Then the beekeeper removes the frames with drone brood.  Finally a full 5 frame nuc with queen is added to the hive using the newspaper separation method.

In summary, the best thing you can do is to recognize as early as possible that your hive is queenless.  If you fail at this then you must choose one of the three solutions and work the process of salvaging your laying worker hive.  Good luck in whichever method you choose.  

HONEY BEE FORAGE SPECIES submitted by beekeeper Pam

This link takes you to a handy table listing the honey bee forage species for Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SWARMING AFTERMATH by beekeeper Fred

I hope the swarming season is about over and that the bees will get down to the business of gathering nectar and making honey.  The following is based on my observations of the past month.  I’m not sure how valid my conclusions may be. 

I had 4 hives that swarmed that I am aware of.  All swarms were from hives that successfully overwintered.  I saw one swarm in process.  Two more must have occurred shortly before I arrived on scene.  These first three swarms alighted in trees adjacent to the source hive.  Luckily all were low enough to make their capture relatively simple.  The fourth swarm was kind enough to occupy a vacant hive.  I think I was able to deduce the source hive because of a dramatic drop in hive population from one week to the next.
Now for the interesting part.  We are all taught the old queen leaves with the swarm. Also, the source hive is left with one or more replacement queen cells. 

Hive 1, the source of my first swarm, successfully re-queened itself.  It was about 2 weeks before I saw the queen and 3 weeks before I saw eggs.  Exactly on the schedule in the reference books.

Hive A received the swarm from Hive 1.  I saw eggs within a week after capture.  So I conclude the old queen came with the swarm and almost immediately began laying.
Hive 2 swarmed.  It had about 15 capped queen cells. In the later inspections I saw that queens had emerged from many of the cells, but after 3 weeks I saw no queens or eggs despite 4 or more inspections.   I have re-queened this hive.

Hive B received the swarm from Hive 2.  I initially saw a queen, but for whatever reason she never began laying and in recent inspections I have not seen her.  I have since re-queened this hive.

Hive 3 swarmed 2 ½ weeks ago.  Today I saw eggs.  So it successfully re-queened itself.

Hive C received the swarm from Hive 3.  It is queenless.  I never saw a queen during any inspections.  Did I fail to get her into the hive while capturing the swarm or did she die afterwards?  That will have to be a mystery.  I have re-queened this hive.

I did not see Hive 4 swarm.  I did note the population drop, noted queen cells during a routine inspection, and finally saw both a queen and eggs.

Hive D was a voluntary capture.  The swarm scouts must have liked what they saw and occupied the hive with no action on my part.  It is queenright. 

So 3 of the 4 hives that swarmed were able to re-queen themselves or 75% success.  I have seen data that roughly 70% of hives successfully re-queen after swarming.
Only two of the 4 swarms are queenright or only 50% success.  Did the old queen quickly die or did I fail to capture the queen when I captured the swarm?  I guess that will be one of beekeeping’s mysteries. 

But maybe the lesson to be learned is that both the source hive and swarm itself may end up queenless.  A good beekeeper will monitor both and should also have a nuc with a standby replacement queen available at all times. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017


Here are a few photos of the ECWBA's outreach at Walleeye Weekend.

Club Secretary Patti right after finishing set up of booth on Friday
Scott and Doreen maning the booth on Saturday

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


While taking the dogs for their walk I photographed the following common Wisconsin sources of nectar for honey.  I did not encounter any blooming alfalfa or motherwort during this walk.

 Raspberry or blackberry
 Unknown white and purple flower
 Black Locust
 Dutch clover
 Ladino clover
Yellow sweet clover


Here is information on an educational opportunity in Indianna.



Heartland Apicultural Society was founded in 2001 by Tom Webster (Researcher, Kentucky State University) Greg Hunt (Entomology, Purdue University), and Zachary Huang (Entomology, Michigan State University).  The first conference was held at Goshen College, Indiana with Indiana hosting it again in 2006 and 2011 at Vincennes University.  Their mission is to promote beekeeping by educational conferences held on a yearly basis.
Key participants are the Purdue Apiary Team with Dr. Greg Hunt, Krispn Given and crew who always host a Queen Rearing class; Tom Webster, researcher at Kentucky State University and Dwayne Rekeweg who has represented Indiana since the society was founded.  After six years we’ll be, as Jim Nabors used to sing,  ….…
Back Home Again in Indiana! 
July 13 – 15th, 2017, University of Southern Indiana (USI) will be the host location of the 16th Annual Heartland Apicultural Society Conference.  Founded in 1965, USI is located in Evansville on the far west side, enrolls over 10,000 dual credit, undergraduate and graduate students in 80 majors and is located on a beautiful 1,400-acre campus.
The conference starts Thursday July 13th thru Saturday July 15th; however, we are planning on a ‘movie night’ on Wednesday evening for those that come in a day early.  There will be three full days of breakout sessions, a queen rearing class, a children’s program, a honey show, an art show, some great speakers and many vendor booths.
Our Keynote speakers will include Dr. Ernesto Guzman a professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada, Dr. Jeff Harris an assistant professor at Mississippi State University and Judge Dan O’Hanlon who led the effort to pass a bill in West Virginia granting immunity to beekeepers, the first in the nation.
We have Question and Answer sessions with Jerry Hayes who is the honeybee lead for Monsanto’s BioDirect business unit and Seasonal Management with Dr. Larry Connor or Jim Tew, always a favorite session.  David Shenefield will share his knowledge of 40 plus years of beekeeping with sessions on Hive Inspection and commercial talks; Dave is both knowledgeable and entertaining. We are honored to have Master Beekeeper Kent Williams who can speak on any bee related topic.  Other sessions include planting for bees, top bar hives, cut outs and many, many more.
Along with all the great bee classes, on Thursday night there will be an ice-cream social and Friday night will be a good old BBQ.  Both events will have a lot of great conversations.
Check out our website for pre-registration information, frequent updates on speakers, agenda, hotels, etc.


OK, your hives(s) have made it through winter.  Things were looking good, the hive was building upnicely for the honey flow.  Then bam, activity at the entrance is off sharply; the population is way down.  You look inside and the hive appears queenless.  What happened?  Well it could be several things, all of which are out of your control. 

First the queen has an awesome job in the spring.  She must eat her weight in food every day and then pump out more the 1000 eggs each and every day for about 5 months in a row.  First to increase the hive population and then to maintain it until the honey flow is complete in mid-summer. For some queens, especially the older ones, this is too demanding and they fail.  It could be that they run out of stored semen or just old age.  With old age comes a decrease in their pheromone output which can trigger their ejection from the hive.  It seems logical that the queen would fail at this time of maximum effort.  Then it takes the hive roughly 4 weeks to make a replacement providing they recognized the symptoms.

A second reason the hive may go through a decline is that the old queen was too successful and built up the hive to the point of swarming.  Off she goes with the swarm.  Most beekeepers are not aware their hive has swarmed because they have other things to do; like working.  After the swarm leaves the hive must wait while the replacement queen emerges, matures, mates and finally begins laying. This takes roughly 3 weeks. 

In both of these queen replacement scenarios success occurs about 70% of the time.  The other 30% the hive ends up queenless.  In this situation you as a beekeeper can do something.
New packages can also go queenless.  It can be for: 1) the queen not being accepted by the hive, 2) poor mating of the queen, 3) or just queen failure. 

So now what is a beekeeper to do?  First and foremost you need to conduct regular inspections of your hives so you can realize something is amiss.  Mainly it is to verify the hive is queenright (eggs and brood present) on a regular basis. But is also lets you see there are swarm or supercedure queen cells.  These cells inform you something is afoot.   Another good strategy is to mark your queens.  This makes them easier to find and if you see an unmarked queen you know some type of supercedure has occurred.   You can then also schedule a special inspection to verify that the new queen successfully mated and began laying.

It is important to realize your hive is queenless.  Then you can look for signs that a replacement queen is being reared or is already present.  The danger is that if a hive remains queenless for more than about 1 month some of the supposedly non-fertile workers will begin laying drone eggs.  Once the laying workers are in control of the hive it becomes near impossible to requeen the hive.  The laying workers gang up on any introduced queen and either outright kill her or eject her from the hive.  This hive is then lost for the season.  There are numerous schemes such as putting in frames of eggs and brood or shaking out all the bees 100 feet from the hive but these usually fail, because the only thing that suppresses laying workers is a strong queen pheromone.  

Monday, June 5, 2017


The "Nature's Nectar" blog has two articles on the honey flow which is now kicking into high gear. The first short article is about black locust trees which in our area are also in bloom.  The second article concerns how to super your hives for maximum honey production.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


The Nature's Nectar blog has a few good articles concerning entrance reducers and other hive situations.

June 1st Hive Report

All beekeepers experience highs and lows and frustration.  It goes with the hobby.  For me it’s no exception.  I just completed my second hive inspection for the season and saw wide variations in the conditions in the hives.

On the plus side I was able to capture four swarms during May.  Actually I captured two swarms and two others captured themselves by occupying vacant equipment.  One of the swarms was so strong it is already putting a little honey in a super.  You can’t beat that.  Also on the plus side is the fact that some hives are putting honey in the supers.  During hive inspections I keep a rough count of filled frames of honey and estimate about 9 gallons of honey so far and the flow hasn’t really gotten underway yet. 

On the minus side I had four hives that swarmed.  In theory the source hives will have a lessened potential for making surplus honey while their populations recover.  You also must monitor those hives to make sure that they successfully re-queen themselves.  Statistically about 1 in 4 does not successfully re-queen.  That fact reinforces the need to continue making hive inspections every other week so you can remedy those hives that do not re-queen before they start having laying workers. 

My few replacement packages did not arrive until early May.  At my first hive inspection all packages were queenright.  However, during the second inspection I noted one new package had lost its queen and had five supercedure cells (also called emergency cells) in process to raise a replacement queen.  I hope this is not a repeat of last year when two thirds of my packages superceded in the spring and summer.  In fact only one of nine packages from last year has its original queen.  That’s not a  good commentary on the US queen rearing industry.

Most overwintered hives have successfully turned the corner and growing.  However, during May I had two hives that must have lost their queen and slowly dwindled away.  Several others have gone queenless, but have supercedure cells.  Whether they will recover in time to produce any honey is questionable.   In June I will restock these hives with homegrown nucs.  The best that can be done now is to start these hives anew to get them ready for next winter.
As most of you know I dabble in queen raising.  I was able to raise a few in April, but May was a bust.  To make matters worse my Ankle Biter breeder queen died.  I have a few of her daughters in nucs and am hoping they successfully mate.  I will carry on with raising queens from her daughters.  Hopefully with warmer weather the survival rate of the queen cells will improve.  I will also be raising a few Russian and Saskatraz queens.

We are now going into June.  I see that clover and black locust trees are beginning to bloom.  I am ready to add honey supers as the bees bring in the nectar.  In my area, June through mid-July provides the majority of the honey flow for the year.  

At this point I am behind the curve.  The boom in bee populations also results in a boom in varroa.  I will need to get out to monitor and control varroa populations.  Remember to only use formic acid or oxalic acid treatments while the honey supers are on the hive.  Other mite control products will contaminate your honey.  

Thursday, May 25, 2017


The Bee Infromed Partnership has issued a preliminary report on winter losses for the 2016-2017 time frame.  Overall losses were down.  However, this preliminary data does not offer any guidance for the reason or reasons for the improvement; ie the milder winter, infromed varroa management, etc.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017


This time of year beekeepers are intently pursuing a number of different objectives.  Are my clonies queenright?  Are there swarm cells?  Pursuing swarms in the trees.  Getting honey supers installed.  But most of us forget one of the most important tasks.  Controlling varroa.  Winter survivor hives are raising brood; both worker and drone brood, at a furious rate.  This activity allows varroa to also re-produce.  As a minimum you should start monitoring varroa levels.  Some beekeepers treat varroa in the spring.  If your honey supers are already installed you should only use formic acid or oxalic acid treatments.  If your supers are not yet installed you can use other chemical treatments, but must wait at least 3 weeks prior to installing your honey supers.  Otherwise your honey will get contaminated with these chemicals.

Follow this link for more information.

SWARM SAGA FINALE submitted by beekeeper Gerard

The swarm (Swarm Saga I and II) that was 30 – 40 feet up in a tree decided to take up residence in the bait box (swarm lure) on Monday, 5/22.  I spotted it in the tree on Wednesday evening, 5/17.   That night it endured torrential rain and strong winds, and for the next 4 days it was exposed to rain, wind, overcast sky, and temps not above the mid-50’s.  It appeared to not move a wing.

Monday, after work, I checked and saw bees orientating in front of the bait box and I went back to check the tree.  The swarm was gone.  To verify that they were in the bait box I put my ear against the box to listen.  Yep, lots of bees in there.  I took the dogs for a walk back to the apiary, checking the treetops for any more swarms and didn’t see anything.   So I cut grass since it wasn’t raining at the moment.

I didn’t know which hive had cast the swarm but two hives in particular had been heavily bearding.  (I had put additional supers of foundation on to see if they would change their mind.)  So I got the dogs and went back to see if either of them had discontinued bearding and if my method worked.  No bearding on either hive so I figured it worked for one and that it was the other that had swarmed.   Reasonable, I thought.  As I turned to leave I saw this:

It was 7:15 p.m. and the light was fading.  I hurried the dogs back to the house, grabbed the parts for the second bait box (which is a single deep 8-frame hive), grabbed my jacket and boots, grabbed an empty cardboard box from the burn pile, and my bee brush.  I quickly set up the hive on a couple of concrete blocks I had back there, noticing that the grass in the apiary needed to be cut…..again.

I brushed the swarm down into the box, and they peeled off almost as one.  I took extra care at the center of the swarm, figuring that’s where the queen would be.  They were very docile with not many bees flying around.  I captured around 80% – 85% of the swarm and unceremoniously dumped them into the hive and closed it up.  I watched for awhile and dozens of bees were scenting at the entrance to attract those in the air and those left behind.   Bees that had dropped onto the ground were marching into the hive and I was pretty sure the queen was inside.  All good.

But, I couldn’t leave well enough alone.  On my way out I saw that a softball sized group of bees had regrouped where the swarm had been.  I knew that they would eventually find the hive, but rain was in the forecast (of course) so I thought I’d help them out.  They were not pleased.  As soon as I started brushing them into the box they attacked.  I trust my protective gear, but hadn’t bothered with the bee britches, just blue jeans. 

Moving quickly, I brushed as many bees as I could into the box and took them to the hive.  I opened the hive and was met with angry bees boiling out.   Such a contrast to a few minutes ago.  I hurriedly dumped the bees, closed the hive, and walked quickly out followed by several bees that needed to let me know that I needn’t come back.  Gratefully I sustained only three venom injections.  Two through my blue jeans and one through a goatskin glove.  I feel healthier already.

I went back this morning to see how it all looked.  There was a low hum in the hive, a cluster of bees in the box, and a golf ball sized cluster of bees on the tree.   All’s well.

Any future swarms from this apiary (this season) will be gifts to the world.  I’ve taken enough…..for now.  I still have bait boxes in other locations and will continue to monitor and refresh those, but I want the genetics from this apiary to spread.  The virgin queens need good mates.


Follow this link about neonictinoids and carn and soybeans.

Saturday, May 20, 2017


Hopefully the pictures will show up this time!

Wednesday, May 17, was a glorious day.  I could see the sun, and the flags across the road moving moderately in the breeze, through my office window.  My phone showed the temperature near 70.  A good day to split colonies if I hadn't had to work a day job to support my habit.

I took the dogs for a walk back to the apiary when I got home from work, checking the flora and looking for swarms.  The honeysuckle was in blossom and the bees were working it.  When I say honeysuckle, I mean A LOT of honeysuckle.   There’s miles of patches in this area that are 100 yards long and 10 yards wide.  It’s a major source of early honey for me.

There’s 3 honey bees easily seen in this photo, and they were that thick everywhere.

As we neared the apiary I spotted an extraordinarily dark thickness on an upper branch of a young Box Elder tree which is a swarm wrapped around a vertical branch.

The swarm is 30 – 40 feet above the ground.  Clustered vertically and wrapped around a branch, I couldn’t think of any way to capture them except for a chainsaw, or a bait box.  I had two bait boxes in the shop and wished I had had one out. 

I put the dogs in the house and set up the bait boxes (plural, another mistake).  The bees found both within seconds and soon there were dozens of scouts checking both out.  I knew from having read Tom Seeley’s Honeybee Democracy that the scouts were returning to the swarm and dancing their opinions for the others to go and check them out.  The number of scouts around the bait boxes grew, but remained equal, with dozens coming and going at each.  I realized they probably wouldn’t reach a consensus because the boxes were equal in volume (8 frame deeps), and nearly equal inside with an old brood comb and frames.  (#1 had several empty frames and #2 had several frames with foundation.)

I stood in the tall grass with the wood ticks for 2 ½ hours waiting to record the cluster bursting forth and flying en masse to the bait box of their choice.  Then it got dark.  Having realized my mistake, I removed bait box #2 to tip the votes to bait box #1.  Then it stormed.  Drenching rains and winds strong enough to topple an ancient box elder on my front lawn (missed the house by 10 feet).   Thursday morning the swarm was intact in the tree.

I checked the bait box locations when I took the dogs for a walk at 6:15 a.m. and there were about a dozen scouts at each location.  20 minutes later they had abandoned the location where bait box #2 had been and the number increased at bait box #1.  The daytime temperature didn’t get above the mid-50’s and the cluster didn’t stir.  Friday morning the swarm was still in the tree and there were a couple of scouts checking bait box #1.  I was getting concerned because I didn’t know how long the honey in the swarm bees' honey stomachs would last.  Still don’t.

I shared with Jack and Fred the status of the swarm, and Jack suggested adding a frame of honey to the bait box to sweeten the pot.  I took a frame loaded with honey over to the bait box when I got home from work (about 4 p.m.) and immediately a scout landed on it.  I tried to be careful so I could get the bee in the bait box too, but the motion was enough to cause the bee to fly off.

I scratched the cappings to get the honey flowing down the comb and closed the bait box.  In the short time it took to secure everything 3 scouts showed up and went in.  I think they started shuttling honey to the swarm.

It’s now Saturday morning.  The swarm is in the tree, the bait box has little activity (they know where it is), and I think they’re waiting for warm weather to finally take off for their new home, whether it be the bait box or not.  I’m hoping the bait box wins the election and that the weather forecasters are wrong.

UPDATE: On day 5 after several storms the swarm came out of the tree and occupied Gerard's bait hive.  Then the next day Gerard had the good fortune of capturing a 2nd swarm.  

Friday, May 19, 2017

BAIT HIVES-HOW WE DOING SO FAR submitted by Grandpa Jack

Hopefully everyone is doing better than I have so far.  Interesting year with the cold weather and wind almost every day. 

A week ago the bait hives had some scout bees looking the situation over and as the day went on, the number of scout bees increased.  Late in the afternoon, they were still looking the bait hive over and at one point, I actually wondered if a swarm had moved in.

Evening came and of course the scouts went back to their swarm and I was quite confident that the next day, I would have success to report to the group.  Morning arrived, no scouts, noon arrived, no scouts and as the afternoon became evening, I knew that I would not be able to report success.  So, what happened ?

The scout bees had actually found a home that they were interested in. My bait box!  Did they get overruled by the greater majority of scouts coming back to the swarm ?  That is definitely a possibility.  But with as much interest that they showed (more that 100 bees going in and out and all around) I think what probably happened to my new catch, was the beekeeper found them first.  We all hope that if our bees swarm that we have first chance at them.  That's the game we play and agree to.  If they leave the apiary, they are fair game.

So disappointed and rejected I will once again reset, re-bait and continue to hold out hope that the weather improves, only my neighbors bees will swarm, and that he/she is not as observant next time.

In the baiting game, one man's loss is another man's gain.  Happy hunting !


With the going number of bears in our area here is a little information on what motivates bears to raid bee hives.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

BEE PACKAGE POPULATION submitted by beekeeper Jack

Bee population after package installation

After you install your package of bees and they start to set up their colony, the population starts to decline.  This is a normal process.  If your wondering under normal conditions what that population looks like, the following can help guide you.

After installation:

Day 23-24  Population is at its lowest
Day 30       Population is back to its original amount (10,000 bees in a 3# package)
Day 40       Twice the original size
Day 42       All the original bees are now gone, except the queen
Day 50       The hive population is now three times the original size
Day 59       The population is now stabilizing and has reached its maximum size for the season


Use this link to see an excellent article about hive activity in May.  This author is in the northwest Wisconsin area.

Monday, May 15, 2017



For beekeepers who have just put in a package of bees there are a number of things to look for.  When the package is received a three pound package has roughly 10,000 bees and a mate queen.  While the new hive is getting going an observant beekeeper will note that the bee population is slowly declining.  This occurs because of the relatively short life span of summer bees; something on the order of six weeks.  To counter this the new queen and hive will start raising replacement bees.  It takes twenty-one days from the laying of the egg to the emergence of the new worker bee.  For this entire period the hive population is slowly declining as the bees reach the end of their useful life.  After about one month the amount of new emerging bees will begin to outpace the loss of the old package bees and the hive population will begin to increase. 

If the new package is put on undrawn foundation the new hive must expend a great deal of food and energy to drawn out the foundation and make cells for the raising of brood.  It is said that it takes 6 pounds of honey to make one pound of wax.  The sugar water fed the new hive is not as nutritious as honey so it takes more sugar water than honey to provide the bees with resources to make the new wax.  Keep feeding the new hive sugar water until they have drawn out about 80% of the comb in both brood boxes.

The key to a new hive’s success is the queen.  Remember to do an inspection of the hive every two weeks to ensure the queen is laying eggs.  You don’t need to see the queen, but must see eggs and developing brood at every inspection.  Once you see the eggs and developing brood you can stop the inspection.  This will lessen the chance of inadvertently injuring the queen.  At the two week point there should be multiple frames of developing and capped brood. 


Overwintered hives should be booming right now. They should have 8 to 12 frames of brood in various stage of development. If they are lagging behind a frame or two of capped brood can be added from another hive after brushing off the attached bees.

 Make sure you have installed honey supers.  The hive needs this space for the expanding population and as a place to store the incoming nectar.  If insufficient storage space is available the bees will store the nectar in the brood chamber.  This will slow population expansion and could also trigger the urge to swarm.  The honey flow has started.  I have one hive that has already filled a medium super.  I don’t where they are finding the nectar, but there it is!

Every two weeks a good beekeeper is verifying his hive is queenright. 

Now is also the time to do a split if you are interested in increasing your number of colonies.  You can tailor your split to suit your objective.  For example if you do a four way split you will end up with four new hives, but you will also be sacrificing the potential of harvesting any honey this year.  A two way split (50/50) would be similar to starting two new packages and has the potential of generating surplus honey.  Another option of a two way split is a 75/25 split.  One hive is almost full strength while the second hive would be similar in strength to a new package
The other option when doing a split is whether or not to provide a new queen.  Remember your overwintered hive has shown it was winter hardy.  Maybe you want to keep those genetics.  In that case let the hive raise their own queen.  It takes roughly one month before the replacement queen will begin raising laying.  The success rate of this is roughly 70-80%.  This one month brood break is also considered a varroa mite control strategy.  If you don’t want your hive to be queenless for that long; plan ahead and order queens.   

Sunday, May 14, 2017

SWARM SEASON IS HERE by beekeeper Fred

Swarm season is officially here.  Caught my first swarm today (14 May 2017) in my apiary at 12:15PM.  Sorry no pictures.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

WALK AWAY SPLIT--photos by beekeeper Al

Al is a second year beekeeper.  He was thrilled his single hive came through the winter in a strong fashion.  (Al treated his hive with MAQS and requeened with an Ankle Biter queen last fall)  Even back in March he was concerned that the hive was going to swarm at any moment. After a little coaching Al held out doing the split until last Tuesday, May 2nd, although the anticipation was killing him.  To help lessen the hive conjestion Al had added another deep giving the queen more room to lay.  When he did the split he did not see any swarm cells.

So now a little more than a week has passed and Al has inspected both the original (#1) and new (#2) hives.  He found that the bees had done their job and started 7 queen cells on several frames in the new hive.  Some are capped and some still developing.

He now gets to wait for about 8 more days for the queens to emerge from the capped cells and then another 2 weeks will pass prior to the surviving new queen starts laying.  Way to go Al!!


The Nature's Nectar blog author has written a good description on the development of new packages.  When reading this make sure that you adjust the dates depending on when you actually installed your package.  Note that he recommends continued feeding of a new packages for roughly two months time when the package will have finally built up its own foraging force.  If your bees are drawing out new foundation contiued feeding is especially important.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017


Early May Apiary checks
It’s now early May and it has been warm enough to begin working with the bees.  My first action was a quick inspection to assess each hive’s strength.  Those already fully occupying both brood boxes are obviously strong.  However, a few were just occupying the upper brood chamber.  I reversed the brood chambers on those weaker hives; top chamber to the bottom and bottom to top.  Reversing the brood boxes is thought to stimulate the queen to lay more and also retard the urge to swarm.   On one weak hive I added a frame of capped brood from a stronger hive and since then this hive is getting stronger.
Last week I went through all hives to quickly verify they were all queenright (plentiful eggs and brood in various stages of development).   I did not specifically verify the queen was present; the eggs tell me she was present no more than 4 days previous to my inspection.   Luckily all were queenright.   If I did see the queen I marked her with a white dot (white signifies 2016; yellow significes 2017).  This will help me assess if my hives are superceding their queens.

In late April I took several frames of brood and honey from all of the strong hives in order to set up nucs for the queens I have been trying to raise.  My ulterior motive was to also slightly weaken the strong hives and lessen their desire to swarm, but still leave them strong enough to pull in a good honey crop. 

During my hive inspections I saw swarm cells in 2 of the hives.   I removed the frames with the swarm cells and started another nuc or hive.   So be forewarned.  Swarm time is soon to be upon us.  My guess is that on the first sunny day with high 70’s temperatures we will be seeing swarms. 
In late April I had put honey supers on the stronger hives.  My early May inspections showed only a few of the very strongest hives had placed honey in the supers.  The best had about 1 ½ frames of honey already gathered.
I did get a few packages this year.  They did not arrive until May 2nd.  All have settled in, released the queen and are raising brood.  I will continue to offer them feed until the honey flow has definitely started.   I marked all queens with a yellow dot (2017).

My next task for this month will be to assess varroa mite levels.  I plan on doing a powdered sugar shake on about one in five hives.   Based on the results I will treat all hives or none.   I will also do another inspection of all hives before the end of the month to again verify all hives are queenright.