Sunday, October 14, 2018


Remember that there will be a club meeting at 9:30 AM this Saturday, October 20th, at the Caestecker Library in Green Lake.

Now an unadvertised opportunity for club members only.

We have been able to get some more free sugar.  The shipping containers holding the sugar were punctured during handling and the sugar is considered “NOT FIT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION”.   It may have a little dirt from the floor mixed in and normally it goes to the landfill.   We are able to get it for feeding to our bees.   Many members have been using the sugar from this source for several years.  Personally I have never seen any contamination in the sugar.  

Yes, its late in the season for feeding your bees but I bet you all have some empty containers that you can store the sugar in for use next spring or for making sugar discs for mid-winter emergency feeding.  

It will be distributed at the club meeting this Saturday, October 20th, AND ONLY THIS SATURDAY.  It is being done this way so all club members have the same opportunity and so I won’t be hassled with a bunch of individual requests.   The initial limit is 10 gallons of sugar (roughly 50 lbs) per member.  Once everyone has had a chance for the initial 10 gallons the remainder will be available with NO limit.  Bring as many containers as you want.   The tote of sugar weighs roughly 1500 lbs, so all club members with containers should be able to get at least two 5 gallon pails full.  The remainder will be distributed equitably.   A donation to the club treasury of a few dollars is recommended or you can donate one pound of honey with your label (honey is preferred).  Only one donation is requested regardless of the amount of sugar you receive.  Remember 50 lbs of sugar costs $18-$25.  The honey will be given to the source of the sugar as a holiday gift for his effort on behalf of the bees.     

Remember this sugar is NOT for human consumption; its for the bees. 

Thursday, October 11, 2018


Follow this link to an excellent writeup on treating your bees one last time using oxalic dribble or oxalic vapor.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Friday, October 5, 2018


Its now early October and we have seen nighttime temperatures down into the 30’s.   Only a few asters remain blooming. 

For once I followed my own advice and on October 2nd went out and graded the hive strength of my hives.  A week prior I had been removing the feeders from my hives and felt that most hives would be strong.  I started the grading at about 11AM.  The air temperature had increased to a cool 48 degrees F.  The first hive I looked at only had 5 frames of bees when I raised the inner cover.  The bees were not roaming about under the inner cover.  This shocked me a little since this hive had produced 3 supers of honey and had had a strong population throughout the summer.  Then it dawned on me that the bees had drawn up into a cluster to maintain warmth around the brood nest area. 

On my first go through of the hives there were roughly 29 strong, 6 medium and one weak hive.  All hives I had graded as medium were in cluster. 

About 1 1/2 hours later, I returned to one of the medium hives because I had noted too many uncapped honey cells in the upper brood box.  The temperature had increased above 50 degrees.   When I lifted the inner cover to install the feeder the bees had broken cluster and now filled the entire hive.   I rechecked the medium hives and they had all broken cluster and were occupying the entire hive. 

Based on these secondary findings 35 hives were graded as strong with addition of one weak hive.  This is the best conditions my hives have been prior to winter.  I attribute this to the feeding I  did after removing the honey supers and feeding of all start-up hives. 

Now to the weak hive.  This hive had been troublesome ALL spring and summer.   It had barely survived the previous winter.  I should have taken two actions then and there:  1) I should have replaced the queen.  2) I should have added brood from other hives several times.  Being a softy, I wanted to give the queen that had overwintered the benefit of doubt and give her a chance to rebuild the hive.  It wasn’t until mid-August that I finally replaced her.  However, I still didn’t add any brood.  By August and September, I was worried about weakening strong hives by robbing brood to aid this weak hive.  In hindsight I should have known a strong hive could spare a frame of brood without a problem.   The hive even told me it was in trouble when it did not quickly consume sugar syrup I offered in late August.

What are the lessons learned from this fiasco?  First, I should have replaced the queen in all hives not showing a continuous population buildup through May and June.  Two, just like helping weak hives with brood transfers in the spring, weak fall hives can also be helped by adding brood from strong hives.  I had hesitated doing this because I did not want to weaken any of the strong hives. 

There are 4 remaining tasks yet to do in my apiary during late October.

1)      Reposition the entrance reducers so the smallest (1 inch) opening is controlling bee movement. 

2)      I will be adding mouse guards to a few hives this year.

3)      On a warm day I will be giving each hive a oxalic acid vapor treatment to knock down the varroa mite population one last time.  A warm day is preferred in hopes that the bees won’t be in a tight cluster.  This allows the oxalic acid vapors to coat every bee and any attached varroa mites.

4)      I will continue feeding the 12 winter nucs until they no longer take the sugar syrup.  The cooler days have already slowed the consumption of sugar syrup by 75%. 

Thursday, September 27, 2018


 New England Aster in foreground.  Seeding goldenrod in the background.  Goldenrod is in the aster family also.
 Unknown flower.
Smooth aster; flowers are much smaller, but more numerous, than New England aster.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


October will be arriving next week and summer is now officially over.  Out in the fields only a few flowers of the aster family are still in bloom.  The first frost is not far off and will kill this last remaining pollen and nectar source. 

I looked into several hives and nucs last weekend.  The queens have severely cut back on raising of brood although there were still small patches of capped brood, open brood, and eggs.  With the decline in both nectar and pollen coming into the hive, northern queens will soon stop all laying.  Some queens of Italian stock may continue laying throughout the winter, but a slower pace. 

The stopping of brood rearing provides an ideal time to do a last mite treatment for the year.  By late October all brood should have emerged; along with all varroa mites hidden in the capped cells.   With no mites hidden inside brood cells this provides the ideal time to apply an oxalic vapor treatment to kill phoretic mites and leave the hive relatively mite free throughout the winter. 

The daily high temperatures and nighttime low temperatures are also declining.  These lower temperatures will cool any feed being offered to the bees.  The bees will not take in cold syrup and, as a consequence, the hours per day when the feed is warm enough for the bees to eat is greatly shortened.  Hopefully you have already completed any fall feeding you were planning. 

Any weak hives should have been combined in September as recommended by previous articles in this blog. 

On the few warm days ahead the bees will be propolyzing the cracks and minor holes in the hive.  This is done to prevent winter winds from gaining access to the hive.  After October 1st do not split the upper and lower brood chambers.  This will break the propolis seal between the boxes and the bees may not be able to repair the damage. 

For those beekeepers that approach beekeeping from a more scientific basis it is a good idea to understand the strength of each hive.   Strong hives tend to survive winter better.  By raising the inner cover for a few seconds you can visually determine the colony strength.  Simply count the gaps between frames that are filled with bees.  Eight to ten frames (8-10) with bees are considered strong hives.   Less than five (5) frames are considered weak.  Ideally, all of your hives will be strong. 

The next thing to consider is how you will limit moisture build up in the hive during winter.  Moisture is generated by the bees when they  eat and metabolize their stored honey.  You should be incorporating moisture control methods now; not in the middle of winter.  You can either let natural air movement vent any moisture from the hive or you can incorporate some type of moisture trap into the top of the hive.  Everyone knows that warm air rises.   This air movement will take any moisture from the hive if you provide an air escape hole high in the hive.  Some beekeepers simply drill a one inch diameter hole below the hand hold recess in the upper brood chamber.  This hole is left open throughout the winter.  It also provides a secondary exit if the lower entrance becomes blocked by snow. (This is the method the author uses with good success.)  Other beekeepers modify the inner cover and add a ¼ inch deep by one inch wide notch in the edge of the inner cover.  The notch is positioned down against the top of the upper brood chamber.  (Inner covers with the notch already present are available commercially.)  Both methods work.  If you don’t want to put holes in your equipment, then you need to add a moisture trap below the inner cover.  The moisture trap can be wood chips or shredded paper suspended above a screen, or a commercially available moisture board.   
 Here is an example of the moisture vent hole drilled below the hand hold cutout.  It also acts as a winter emergency exit. 
Here is a moisture vent cut into the inner cover.  The vent is placed downwards against the top of the brood chamber.  It also acts as an emergency exit if NOT covered by the outer cover rim.  

The weather is still to warm to contemplate adding winter wraps or providing winter feeding,.  Winter wrapping is usually done in late October.  The pros and cons of wrapping your hives will be discussed in the next post and probably at the next club meeting.    As will the providing of emergency winter feed.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Friday, September 14, 2018


In several previous postings we talked about feeding the hive to get its weight up to a minimum necessary for winter survival.  In the central Wisconsin area a minimum hive weight of 130 pounds is recommended. (This is for a standard 10 frame Langstroth hive.  I assume the minimum weight for an 8 frame Langstroth hive would be the same.)  This weight consists of the wooden ware, an upper brood chamber 90% full of honey and a lower brood chamber with a combination of bees, brood and honey.  Further north in Wisconsin and in Minnesota beekeepers sometimes use 3 brood chambers or roughly 200 pounds to ensure winter survival.

For those beekeepers with a more scientific bent it is possible to make a simple and cheap hive weight measuring tool.  Total investment is about $15 and a little of your time and labor.

First purchase a digital luggage scale.  These are inexpensive; $9 to $15.  The one shown here was $9.  It will measure up to a maximum of 110 pounds (50 kg).

If you have a strong back and strong arms you can simply attach the scale via a canvas or nylon web strap beneath the landing platform on the hive.  Then lift the scale until the front of the hive starts to lift.  Based on a few mechanical calculations the scale should read a minimum of about 59 pounds.  The rear of the hive is supporting the remainder of the 130 pounds.

By building a simple lever mechanism you can make the task much less stressful.  I slightly modified a short length of 2X4 to hold the scale.  Then using a gas can ( or box, etc.) as a pivot point I can easily raise the hive by lightly pressing on the end of the 2X4 while watching the digital readout.    59 pounds is still the minimum weight required.
 2X4 modified to hold the scale.  

 Scale in place. 
2X4, scale and nylon web strap which is looped around the landing board.  
 Gas can pivot.  Nylon webbing looped around the end of the landing board.  NOTE: I didn't have a hive in my garage so I just used a top feeder to demonstrate the idea. 

After varroa and viruses, starvation is probably the next most common cause of winter hive losses.   An ounce of prevention saves buying a new $120 package.  

Thursday, September 13, 2018


While out and about I have noticed that the goldenrod flowers have mostly turned brown.  Other than a few asters there is very little natural forage left for the bees.   A classic nectar dearth.  

This morning I went out to my Long Langstroth top bar hive and removed 5 frames in order to make a few cut comb squares.  I transported these frames in a nuc box back to my house in order to have a clean area for cutting out the squares and to get away from pesky bees looking for a free lunch.  I think maybe 50 bees came home with me.  After cutting the squares and removing any residual honey I returned the clean frames to the nuc box by my back door.  Within 1/2 hour roughly 1000 bees were surrounding the nuc box and in a robbing frenzy.  The closest hives are about 1/4 mile away!  

Face of nuc box

This brings me to the point of this article.  Its time to put in the entrance reducer if you have not already done so.  Adjust the reducer so the 4 inch long opening is open.  This will make it easier for the weaker hives to defend their winter food stores.  Do not close the entrance down to the 1 inch opening yet.  We may still have hot days and the hives need the larger entrance to get adequate ventilation.  

Monday, September 10, 2018


The window for doing mite treatments is closing rapidly.  You may have missed it as far as winter survival is concerned.  However, treat anyways.  If you kill the mites in your infected hive you may prevent a varroa/virus bomb that will affect both your neighbor’s hives and any feral colonies in your area. 

Check the weight of your hives.  The top brood chamber should weigh 80 to 90 pounds.  Most of us do not have a scale and must make the measurement by guess and by gosh.  Another way is to inspect the frames in the top brood box.  At least eight should be capped honey or a substitute.  The two center frames should be partially filled.  After you lift a few brood chambers so provisioned you will then be able to better gauge a fully provisioned hive.  Be careful, don't hurt your back.  Simply tipping a fully filled is another way to gauge its weight. 

If feeding is required use 2/1 sugar syrup or high fructose corn syrup.  Feeding should be accomplished as fast as possible.  Provide large volumes (gallons) of syrup via top feeders.  Don’t dribble it with quart entrance feeders.   The cooler weather also results in the bees being active for shorter times each day.  It takes time to move and dry the syrup to 82% sugar concentration.  High fructose syrup does not need drying and can be directly stored.  The bees will also NOT eat cold syrup.  The syrup in entrance feeders cools much more rapidly than internal top feeders.  Try to finish your feeding in September. 

Please note that the bees see feeding as a nectar flow.  Their natural response is to start raising brood.  This will permit the varroa to also raise more young.  Feeding is a double edged sword, so make sure to re-treat for mites after feeding.   Several oxalic acid vapor treatments in late October will kill off the emerging phoretic mites.  The goal is to have your hives as mite free as possible going into winter. 

Thursday, September 6, 2018


Just a short reminder that the monthly club meeting will be on Saturday, September 15th, at 9:30AM at the Caestecker Library in Green Lake.


Please read this article in the Nature's Nectar blog.  We are slightly to the south of the author's location, but not by much.  So the advice he gives is good for our area also.

Sunday, September 2, 2018

EARLY SEPTEMBER by beekeeper Fred

While on a walk yesterday I saw the honey bees heavily working goldenrod.  I can’t remember when I last saw this occurring.   In addition, there were the usual bumble bees, yellow jackets, wasps and even medium size red ants.  The honey bees were working the freshly opened bright yellow flowers only.  They were not loading up their pollen baskets, so I am assuming they have found nectar on the goldenrod this year.  Maybe it’s the influence of our recent heavy rains. 

This year I treated my honey producing hives with formic acid in late July.  I have left the honey supers in place and will hopefully be catching a little goldenrod nectar flow to increase my honey harvest.   When performing my mite treatments, I also made a rough count on the numbers of supers of honey.  When the majority of the goldenrod flowers begin turning brown it will be time to harvest my honey crop and I will be able to roughly measure the increase in honey from the goldenrod. .

Some packages this year did not build up enough to produce surplus honey.  In late August I started feeding these hives 2/1 sugar syrup to ensure they have sufficient stores for winter.   This will continue until I see a slow down in their uptake of the syrup.  
This weekend I also combined two weak hives in the hope of getting one winter survivor instead of none.  

This blog had previously provided a link to the efforts of a Hudson, Wisconsin beekeeper that last winter overwintered about 60 double deep five frame nucs and had 80% survival.  He had no need to purchase packages in the spring.  This summer I have set up 12 double deep five frame nucs and will try to emulate his success.  In the past week these nucs were moved to their intended winter locations (a sunny south facing sheltered area) and are being fed 2/1 sugar syrup to ensure they will be at full strength going in winter.  They will be also getting oxalic vapor treatments in September and October to minimize their mite load.  In late October they will be wrapped in 1 ½ inch foam insulation for better heat retention.   Also, as shown in the picture the nucs are gathered into batches of four (4) to allow for a potential sharing of any heat the clusters produce.   

Friday, August 31, 2018


Beginning in September the bees will begin raising their "winter bees", which have special traits to withstand the long winter.  You want your winter bee larvae to have a minimum exposure to varroa transmitted viruses.  The following week is about the last week to treat for varroa so that the exposure to viruses is minimized.  Failure to treat will almost condemn your hive to death by viruses in January or February if not before.  If your hive succumbs in September, October or early November many of your infected bees will flee to neighboring hives (both your's and your neighbor's hives) with their load of varroa and viruses.   Do the right thing and treat your hives now!!!

Saturday, August 25, 2018


Honey needs to have a moisture content of less than 18.6% in order to avoid fermentation.

The bees know their job.  They will not cap honey if its moisture content is too high.  They do not want their winter stores to be sour or alcoholic! 

A beekeeper that extracts only capped honey can be assured that the moisture level will be below the 18.6% limit.  To ensure it remains below 18.6% the honey should be stored in a sealed container.  

When removing frames from a hive the good beekeeper leaves on the hive the frames that are not capped.   Given more time the bees may yet cap this honey.   

However, many frames of honey contain a mix of capped and uncapped honey.  The rule of thumb followed by most experienced beekeepers is that at least 90% of the cells on the frame should be capped in order for the frame be harvested.  In that way the low moisture honey balances out the high moisture honey.  

In the same thought process a fully (100%) capped frame of honey could balance an 80% capped frame.  While extracting frames with uncapped cells the beekeeper needs to ensure at least 90% of all frame area is capped.  

However, utilizing uncapped honey increases the risk of having honey with more than 18.6% water.  It is a good idea when done extracting to check the water content using a refractometer.  If your honey turns out to be over the limit it must be used quickly to avoid fermentation.  There is no better way to lose your customers than to sell them fermented honey.  Ugh!

ECWBA owns two refractometers.  Contact club member Mark Ingram if you want to borrow a club refractometer to check your honey’s water content.   The Nature’s Nectar website also has a short discussion on using refractometers.  Click on the following link.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018



This year, in recognition of the varroa epidemic, I have altered my late summer beekeeping methods.  In previous years I had removed the honey supers in mid-August and then treated for mites.  This year multiple mite treatments were the order of the day.  In early summer I had applied a ½ dose of FormicPro.  Then in the last week of July I applied a full dose of FormicPro.   Although it requires more work on the part of the beekeeper I laboriously removed the honey supers, split the brood chamber to insert the miticide and then immediately reinstalled the honey supers.  Please note that formic acid treatments are the only ones certified for use while the honey supers are in place.  With my mite treatments done I could hopefully gain additional honey flow in August from alfalfa, goldenrod, knapweed and Joe Pye weed.

Most of the honey my bees have gathered has been by overwintered hives.  Hives with new packages were slow to build up and consequently have yielded little honey.  I would say that 75% of my new packages did not put anything into honey supers.  The best hive in the remaining 25% of packages yielded about 1 1/2 supers of honey.   My packages were received May 1st this year.  Next year I plan to request packages at the first available date; usually about April 7th.  This entails a bigger cold weather risk, but gives the hive an additional 3 weeks of buildup time so that they can be up to full strength in time for the start of the honey flow in mid-June. 

In early August I set up 12 nucs for overwintering.  These nucs are double deep 5 frame nucs (10 frames total).  I have started treating these nucs with oxalic acid vapor to minimize any mites.  My first attempt at overwintering nucs last year was not successful.  They expired in January, which is when varroa related diseases also begin killing full size hives.   If I get these nucs to survive I won’t need to buy packages in the spring. 

In mid-August I started to feed 2 to 1 sugar syrup to several June start-up hives and to any hive that has not been putting honey into honey supers.  This feeding will continue until the hive doesn’t take any proffered feed.  It takes time and warm weather for the bees to dry the syrup to the 82% sugar concentration needed for safe storage.  Don’t wait too long because cold weather will result in the bees going into cluster and ignoring the feed.

While feeding the hives I also take the time to evaluate the strength of each hive.  There are several weak hives that will be culled or combined prior to winter.  Even so I am treating them with formic or oxalic acid vapor to ensure that if they collapse that they will not become a varroa bomb and infect my other hives. 

What’s ahead?

-Now I am simply waiting for the end of the goldenrod nectar flow.  Then it will be time to pull the honey supers and have an extraction party with other local beekeepers.  This will be sometime in early September. 

-After removal of the honey supers I will offer each honey producing hive a sugar syrup top off.

-The top honey producing hives are also the top varroa producing hives.  I will be performing alcohol washes on about 6 of those hives to ensure the varroa populations are below acceptable levels. 

-In the second half of September and late October I will hit every hive with several oxalic acid vapor treatments.  Although I can’t prove it I don’t think I lost any queens this summer as the result of either formic or oxalic acid treatments. 

Sunday, August 19, 2018


Heritage Honeybees has notified ECWBA that they will be offering free beekeeping classes this fall.  This would be ideal for someone interested in starting beekeeping next spring.  See info below.  NOTE: ECWBA endorses no suppliers or their products.   Also, ECWBA does not know if this class would qualify for Fond du Lac's class requirement.

We now have registration links posted on our website ( under the "Classes" tab for our free 3-part beekeeping class.  The class is designed for the beginner up to the veteran beekeeper and will cover:
  • bee biology
  • equipment
  • package/nuc installation
  • colony growth and development
  • pest/disease management
  • honey/wax harvesting
  • winter preparation
  • and more....
We are offering the same 3-part class on two separate schedules.  Choose one of the following when registering on the website:

Thursdays from 9am-4pm on Sept. 13th, 20th and 27th
Saturdays from 9am-4pm on Sept. 15th, 22nd, and 29th
We will provide coffee, tea, water.  Please bring a sack lunch.  Class registration will close once the class size reaches 40 for each series of dates.
Pass this along to anyone you know who is interested in becoming a beekeeper or wants to learn more.

Friday, August 17, 2018

Emergency Queens

This article indicates that bees do not always raise emergency queens from eggs containing a high commonality with their own genetics.

To me this is not so surprising.  Everyone knows the queens mates with multiple drones.  Also research has indicated the sperm do not readily mix.  Therefore at any given time the nurse bees that would be raising an emergency queen probably have difficulty finding eggs with both the right genetics and also of the right age (0 to 1 days after hatching) to raise into a new queen.

Sunday, August 12, 2018


Many beekeepers feed their hives during the late summer and early fall to improve the chances of winter survival.  Most beekeepers use a 2 parts sugar to 1 part water solution for the feeding.  Either cane sugar or beet sugar are acceptable.  GMO (genetically modified) beet sugar has been found to have NO adverse effect on the bees.   Other beekeepers use fructose (corn syrup).  Fructose syrup is more expensive, but its sugar concentration is higher and it therefore takes the bees less time to process the fructose up to honey sugar concentration levels.  Remember the bees must dry nectar and any other food until it is roughly 82% sugar and 18% water to avoid fermentation.   

Experienced beekeepers can tell by the heft of the upper brood chamber whether feeding is necessary.  The upper brood chamber should weigh about 90 pounds in order for the bees to have sufficient stores to make it through winter.  Spending $10 on sugar in the fall can prevent starvation and the need to buy a $125 package of bees in the spring.   Commercial beekeepers simply feed all hives to minimize losses. 

Feeding the bees in the fall is like another nectar flow.  The bees will naturally respond to a nectar flow and begin to raise more brood.  More brood means more MITES!  Mite control philosophy has been evolving and now recommends fall feeding be accomplished in late August and early September.   Delaying feeding to late September or early October gives the mites an extended period to raise mite brood and results in higher mite populations throughout the winter months.  Mite control recommendations now suggest mite treatments be applied in early to mid-August to give the winter/fat bees the best chance to be virus free.  Continuing to feed into October simply gives the mites a longer time to rebuild their populations prior to the naturally occurring bee brood break, which limits mite population growth. 

Tuesday, August 7, 2018


Here a bunch of statistics about hive losses from the USDA.  Again the primary reason listed for losses in varroa.

Friday, August 3, 2018


This week the ECWBA has had a booth at the Green Lake County Free Fair.  Like all public events there were periods of boredom and of hectic activity.  Thank you to all club members that put in a little time supporting this activity.  There is still time to put in an appearance.  As a minimum its a good place to discuss beekeeping questions with your fellow beekeepers.

 Al manning the booth during a slack period. 
 Side view.  The observation hive was a hit again this year. 
 Al explaining the activities going on in the observation hive to a number of small children.  
The queen and her court.  The kids were excellent in quickly spotting the queen.  

Thursday, July 26, 2018


One down side of formic acid treatments is that they should be used when temperatures are less than 85 degrees F.    Sometimes this temperature window is hard to find during the ideal mite treatment time of the month of August.  The coming 10 days are predicted to remain below the 85F limit in the ECWBA area.  If you are planning to use formic acid treatments now would be a good time to apply them.


A sideliner is a beekeeper that is too big to be considered a hobbyist and too small to be considered commercial beekeeper.   Typically, they run from 50 to 100 hives. 

This past week beekeepers Jon and Fred were talked into aiding an aging sideliner re-queen some of his hives.  We thought we might learn a few useful techniques that would help in our hobbyist beekeeping. 

Location, location, location.  The hives were all located southeast of Montello.  The area had large fields of alfalfa.  All of this beekeeper’s hives were located on the edge of the alfalfa fields; usually with a tree line close by to block any winter winds.

All hives were mounted on old hay wagons; six (6) to ten (10) hives per wagon.  All wagons had an electric fence barrier around the edge to counter transient bears that are in this area.  

Although the wagons allow for easy relocation of the hives, in truth, working the hives on top of the wagons was not ideal.  One, space is limited.   There was little room for opening the hives while doing regular inspections.  There is always the danger of falling off the wagon.   Two, with several workers on the wagon it was always rocking and rolling. 


Our method for finding the queens was to simply split the hive and look through them frame by frame.  Each person took a hive and slowly worked through it.

 The Good.  With the exception of one queenless hive, all hives were very strong.  Brood patterns were excellent.  We used smoke on all hives and only suffered 3 stings after disassembling 15 hives.  On the way home we wondered why these hives were being requeened.  The stated reason had been that they were overly aggressive.

The Bad.   These strong hives were overflowing with bees and this made locating the queen more a matter of luck than skill.  We only found five queens in the first 15 hives we worked or roughly 33%.    

Poor hive maintenance resulted in a lot of burr comb and propolis.  We didn’t think these hives had ever been cleaned.  Each frame was glued in place.  We frequently pulled the top bar off a frame trying to remove it. 

This beekeeper was running 9 frames in a ten frame broodbox.  Proper spacing was accomplished using a metal frame spacer along one side.  This spacer added to the difficulty in getting the frames out. 

He was also running 8 frames in the 10 frame honey supers.  These supers definitely contained more honey than my 9 frame supers.  I would guess another 5 pounds.  He said honey extraction was also quicker.

After our poor success in finding the queens we decided on a different approach for day two. 


On day two we decided to use a queen excluder to try to screen out the queen.  Watch the following YouTube video to understand what we were doing.

In this team approach one person was pulling frames from the brood box, a second was shaking the bees from the frames and the third was storing the shaken frames for later reassembly in the hive.   On our first hive we shook the entire 18 frames and searched in the shaking box for 20 minutes before finding the queen.  We were a little dejected on how long it took.  But we still had 100% success rate. 

Then the person pulling frames realized he had a little time to scan the frame before passing it on.  He could do a quick scan before the shaker was ready.  Then the shaker would also do a quick scan.  The third person was also usually helping scan in spare moments.  After that we were finding 90% of the queens prior to shaking all the frames.  So instead of blindly shaking 18 frames from the two deeps we were many times only having to shake only a third of the hive and had the elusive queen in our hands. 

On day two we shook 18 hives.  One was queenless. Of the remaining 17 we found 16 queens.  That’s a 94% success rate.  Quite an improvement over day one.  Only two queens made it into the shaker box.  We actually got to be pretty good at finding queens whether they were yellow, black or striped.  We think it was the fact that we had 3 pairs of eyes watching for them helped tremendously. 


Despite the huge hive bee population and the excellent location most hives only had a single super of honey.  It was usually full.   The upper brood chambers seemed to have excessive honey.  We suspect that the beekeeper was not providing the bees with sufficient empty supers and, as a consequence, had lost out on a lot of honey. 

We were also introduced to a plastic propolis screen; which sort of looks like a queen excluder.  The propolis screen is placed on the top of the hive above the honey supers.   The bees propolize this screen.  The screen is frozen and then flexed will in a plastic bag to release the propolis.  The beekeeper said he was getting $10 per ounce of propolis!  

Propolis screen trap

Despite 20 plus years as a beekeeper this beekeeper seemed to be a novice in some aspects of beekeeping.  This is the end of July but he was planning on starting 3 frame nucs and expected them to grow and overwinter if provided heavy fall feeding.   We suggested 5-6 frames as a minimum of which several should be frames fully filled with capped brood.  I guess time will tell.  We were under the impression that new hives need to be started no later than the end of June to successfully build up for winter.

This beekeeper fall feeds with fructose.  The advantage is that its sugar content is around 80% so that the bees can more quickly dry it to acceptable levels. 

We also noticed he had tried using the oxalic acid on paper shop towels.  He said that many times the bees did not remove the shop towel, which then blocked bee movement between the two brood chambers.  He was not planning on using this method any more.

Friday, July 20, 2018


Here in the area of ECWBA beekeepers we are entering what is commonly called the summer dearth as it pertains to the honey flow.  The sweet clover, trefoil, and flowering tree honey flows are now complete.   Probably 90% of the honey in your supers has been gathered.  From here on out the bees will consume any remaining nectar almost as fast as they gather it. 

Like in anything beekeeping related there are exceptions.  Alfalfa can still provide a honey flow if the neighboring farmer has not done his 2nd or 3rd cutting yet.  There are also two other exceptions.  Purple loosestrife and knapweed are two invasive plant species that will provide nectar in late July and August.  Purple loosestrife is spreading into marshes and other wet areas.  I have seen it in the Oshkosh and Berlin areas.  Knapweed is commonly found on roadsides.  Although good for honey bees, please DON’T plant these two invasive species.   However, the bees will happily gather the nectar.  After all, the honey bee is an invasive species too.  

The dearth also triggers a reduction in brood rearing in the bee hive.  Some beekeepers take advantage of this and apply mite treatments.  As the amount of brood declines the proportion of phoretic mites increases and this make the overall mite population more susceptible to treatment.  Please remember if your honey supers are still on the hive the only approved treatment is formic acid.  Treating now, in theory, helps the hive have lower mite loads prior to the time period when they begin raising the winter “fat body” bees.   Low mite loads will result in winter bees with lower virus and bacterial infection rates.

Some beekeepers choose to remove and extract their honey in early August.  This allows use of other mite treatments since the honey will not then be contaminated.   

The summer dearth will be eased by the appearance of fall flowers.  In our area these include asters, coneflowers and goldenrod.  In some years goldenrod can be a source of secondary honey flow.   Strong fall honey flows are usually very localized. 

Monday, July 16, 2018


Next Saturday, July 21st, is our regularly scheduled club meeting at 9:30AM at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.  There will be a general beekeeping discussion mainly pointed towards the upcoming honey harvest.  Also to be discussed is support of the ECWBA booth at the Green Lake County Fair.

Saturday, July 14, 2018


Here is a short article about the chemical basis that causes African bees and hybridized European honey bees to become so aggressive.  Follow the link.

Thursday, July 12, 2018


As a break from this summer's theme of mite control here is a short article about how the bee's gut bacteria species change depending on the age of the bee.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018


In conjunction with our theme of getting ECWBA beekeepers to control their mite populations I can offer you a link to Randy's recent article on controlling mites.  Please note that he is recommending 2 to 3 mite treatments for our area; a single fall treatment is not sufficient. .

Sunday, July 8, 2018


If you would like to contribute some mites to a University of Wisconsin-Stout research project follow this link.  This group is studying the distribution of the Serratia marcescens sicaria bacteria in the U.S.  SMS bacteria can also cause winter hive loss.  Last winter there was an article on SMS on this blog.  It is found throughout Wisconsin.


Beekeeper Gerard submitted this photo of a bee working milkweed.  So in addition to being important for Monarch butterflies the milkweed is a nectar producer for the honey bee.  Glancing around I am also noticing sweet clover, Dutch clover and trefoil are in bloom.


ECWBA club members keep asking what they should do to control the mites in their hives.  At club meetings we have recommended both a spring and mid-summer (early August) mite treatment.   This article and last week’s article show in the real world how mite levels respond to treatments or lack thereof. 

This past week beekeepers Jon and Fred did another 2 sets of alcohol wash mite checks.  In addition, I finally finished my comparative test of oxalic alcohol fog and oxalic acid vaporization. 


This mite check was performed on two remote hives that have not been treated for mites this year.  These two hives were started on May 1st using packages.  It’s now been eight weeks plus a few days that the mites have been allowed to build unimpeded.  The alcohol wash of 300 bee (1/2 cup of bees) samples yielded 2 and 0 mites from the two hives.  At the mite level of the first hive the mites will probably cause a mite related crash this winter without additional beekeeper intervention.  These hives have honey supers in place so the recommended treatment would be formic acid (MAQS or FormicPro) ASAP during a cool stretch.  


This time it was in Jon’s Apiary.  After disastrous results last year when Jon lost about 95% of his hives in September Jon decided to implement a strict regimen of applying an oxalic vapor treatment to his hives once per week.  He thought the risk of elevated queen loss due to the repeated treatments was less than the potential loss of the entire colony due to mite born diseases.  Since installing the new packages of bees on May 1st Jon has treated his hives every Monday; a total of eight (8) times.   The hives have now built up to the point where a few bees were exploring the honey supers. 

It’s now been nine weeks since package installation and we decided it was time to get an accurate reading on the mite levels in his hives.   We decided that 3 hives should provide a good measure on the success of this oxalic acid vapor treatment scheme.  Taking ½ cup samples of nurse bees from frames containing open brood we performed an alcohol wash.  From the first hive we washed out a total of one (1) mite.  The second hive was queenless and had no open brood.  We did see an open queen cell, but did not see the replacement queen.  The third hive yielded zero (0) mites.  A fourth hive yielded one (1) mite.  

So this mite control method appears to be holding the mite levels at a tolerable level.  Although we did encounter a queenless hive we feel this queen loss level (25%) was no worse than normally occurring with new packages and the loss might not have been related to the treatments.   In comparison I had lost 3 of 15 queens (20%) in my packages prior to any mite treatments. 

With the mites at these low levels a break in the treatments could be in order while the honey flow is   on. Treatments could begin again after the flow without the mites getting out of control. 

EDITORS COMMENT: The EPA has not approved use of oxalic vaporization while honey supers are in place.  It is common knowledge that beekeepers in Europe and elsewhere use oxalic vaporization and that this honey is imported into the U.S.   If we can import this honey why can’t we use the same mite control methods?  Makes no sense to me.  Ah, the vagaries of big government. 


Two weeks ago, I reported on the alcohol wash mite checks performed on a few of my hives.  My worst hive, from a mite perspective, yielded 3 mites.  Based on Randy Oliver’s varroa model that means this hive has approximately 1000 mites; a combination of phoretic mites and those inside capped brood.  Three days after the alcohol wash mite level check I treated the hive with oxalic alcohol fog and monitored the mite drop for 4 days.  I mixed the oxalic alcohol solution and used it within 15 minutes in case there was a tendency for the oxalic acid to breakdown into another substance.  Total mite drop in those 4 days was five (5).  I was expecting a higher mite drop if the oxalic alcohol fog was an effective mite control. 

Next, I treated the hive with my oxalic acid vaporizer.  Total mite drop in the next four days was twelve (12); 3 mites the first day, 5 mites the 2nd day, 3 mites the 3rd day, and 1 mite the 4th day.    From this comparative test it is easy to see that oxalic alcohol fogging was NOT as effective in controlling mites as the oxalic vapor (5 vs 12 mite drops). 

I had run this comparative test earlier this spring, but I discovered one of the hives in the test was queenless.  During this first test the oxalic alcohol fog was also not as effective as the oxalic acid vapor treatment.  However, I discounted this earlier test due to the fact that one of the hives went queenless and this may have effected the test results.  Now with this second test completed and also the warning on the Scientific Beekeeping website ( that the oxalic acid and alcohol combines into a harmless ester, makes me conclude that using the oxalic alcohol treatment is simply not worth the risk.  In addition I have heard of several beekeepers having astounding hives losses in the fall and winter after utilizing oxalic alcohol treatments.