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.  

Wednesday, July 4, 2018


Beekeeper Gerard submitted this photo of a bee gathering mold or fungi from a stump near his apiary.  This purpose of this behavior is presently unknown, but one could speculate the bees are using the mold or fungi as a dietary supplement or to control disease.  There is still a lot to learn about bee behavior.  

Note the tattered wing tips.  This worker is nearing the end of its useful life.  

Thursday, June 28, 2018

APIARY MITE CHECK by beekeepers Fred and Jon--REV. 1

There’s nothing like opening up a full strength hive on a hot summer day.  A smoker and full protection were the order of the day.   The bees still extracted their revenge a few times.  After watching the “making a varroa plan” webinar on Tuesday Beekeeper Jon and I decided to run comparative alcohol wash and powdered sugar shake mite checks on four (4) of my hives.  To do the mite checks properly you need to get nurse bees from the brood chamber; hence disassembly of the hives. 

This is my homemade sugar shaker made from two spreadable cheese containers with a screen sandwiched between. 

The powdered sugar shake requires a ½ cup (roughly 300 bees) from the brood area.  Mites preferencially latch on to nurse bees.  To these bees add 2 teaspoons of powdered sugar.  The sugar either causes the bees to furiously groom or causes the mites to lose their grip on the bees.  No one knows the real mechanism.  Then vigorously shake them to ensure they coated a sugar coating.  Then let two minutes elapse before removing the powdered sugar.  Put the sugar into a plastic bowl and adding a little water makes the sugar dissolve and reveals the mites.  The bees are returned to the hive.

Here is Jon's homemade alcohol washer.  The bees are captured in the cheesecloth.  After shaking the mites fall into the bottom of the cup with the alcohol for counting. 

An alcohol wash is similar.  Again, use ½ cup/ 300 bees as the sample.  In a sealed container add rubbing alcohol to the bees.  This kills both the bees and mites.  Remove the bees and the mites are suspended in the alcohol. 

I chose to test four hives. 

Hive 1 was an overwintered hive with an Ankle Biter queen.  This is a strong hive and starting on its third honey super.  This hive had had been treated twice with oxalic vapor in early April and had a ½ dose of MAQS in mid-May.  The alcohol wash yielded zero (0) mites as did the powdered sugar shake.

Hive 2 was an overwintered hive with a Russian queen.  This was the strongest hive and is also working its third honey super.   This hive had had been treated twice with oxalic vapor in early April and had a ½ dose of MAQS in mid-May.  The alcohol wash yielded two (2) mites while  the powdered sugar shake yielded zero (0) mites.

Hive 3 was started with a package on May 1st.   Bees have only recently been moving up to the honey super.  This hive was treated in early June with a ½ dose of Formic Pro.   The alcohol wash yielded zero (0) mites as did the powdered sugar shake.

Hive 4 was also started with a package on May 1st.  This hive had a single oxalic vapor treatment in mid May.  The alcohol wash yielded 2 (possibly 3 mites) while the sugar shake yielded zero (0). 

I was under the impression that alcohol wash and sugar shake would give similar results.  This small test did not confirm this.  I suppose my sugar shake technique may not be effective.  Or this may only be true for a heavily infested hive, but may not be true for light mite loads.  I think the alcohol, which kills both the mites and bees, probably loosens the mite’s grasp on the bees better than the powdered sugar. 

At first glance these results look good; zero (0) to two (2) mites per 300 bees.  But this is only the end of June.  Playing around with Randy Oliver’s varroa model on the Scientific Beekeeping website I adjusted his model to account for my miticide treatments in the spring and to get 2 mites/300 bees on July 1st.  This model predicts that the two hives with 2 mites will probably have a varroa caused crash in the fall if I took no further action. 

Another formic acid treatment (either MAQS or Formic Pro) in early August should put these hives in good shape to survive the winter.   I will be treating all hives because of the tendency for drones to drift from hive to hive and thus redistribute mites throughout the apiary.  NOTE: Other treatments can be used.  I have chosen to use Formic and Oxalic acid treatments. 


Wednesday, June 27, 2018


No reports of foul brood in our area, but follow this link to a report of foul brood in the Hudson, Wi. area.

Saturday, June 23, 2018


Here is the second You Tube video on varroa mites that I promised to provide last week.  Varroa mites are your biggest enemy to being a successful beekeeper.

Friday, June 22, 2018


The summer solstice has just occurred; providing us with the maximum amount of daylight.  What does this mean in the world of beekeeping?

The long days provide the bees the maximum of time for nectar gathering.  Mother nature has made this coincide with the blooming of alfalfa, clovers, and numerous other nectar producing plants. 

Hives populations are nearing their maximum as the bees were using the pollen and nectar for raising brood.  For a short time, the population will remain at its maximum before beginning a decline in mid-August.   In response to the shortening days the queen will soon begin reducing her egg laying.  

Varroa populations are also increasing because of the abundance of brood in the hive.  At this time the majority of mites are hidden inside brood cells parasitizing the brood.   With the honey supers on the hive the only ways of controlling the mites is use of formic acid treatments or drone brood removal, which require partial disassembly of the hive; not a task relished by the beekeeper. 

Some beekeepers indicate that the summer solstice is the cutoff date for naturally starting new hives in northern climates.  At this point there is insufficient time and food resources for a new hive to build to a sufficient size to survive the winter.   There are techniques to work around this rule, but are labor intensive on the part of the beekeeper.   

Recently there has been interest in overwintering nucs.   However, even here the varroa problem intervenes.  Without effective varroa control these nucs will be doomed in winter.  Well, that’s my lead in for reminding you to watch the webinar on “Making a plan for Varroa” at 7PM EST ( ^ PM CST) next Tuesday, June 26th.    Log in to the webinar at  The webinar is hosted by Michigan State University’s Meghan Milbrath.   

Tuesday, June 19, 2018


This month's meeting will be at the Rushford Meadery and Winery.  Usual time of 9:30AM.  The address of the meadery is shown on the club calender.

The meadery is the location of the two club hives and the club extractor.

The meeting will consist of our usual business meeting, a tour on the extractor and how to schedule time for its use.  We will also inspect the club hives if weather permits.  In conjunction with our recent theme on controlling varroa mites we will show how to monitor mite levels utilizing either a screened bottom board or sugar shake.  Pam and Gerard have already treated the hives for mites so hopefully we won't detect any, but we will go through the process.

Finally the meadery owners will host a mead/wine tasting.  Their excellent products will be for sale.

Saturday, June 16, 2018


Megan Milbrath, a beekeeper associated with Michigan State University, is making three YouTube videos concerning the varroa mites problem.  Here is a link to the first video.  As the other two are released I will pass them on to you.


Just like humans our bees are affected by the heat.  This weekend the temperatures will be in the 90's!  The bees work to cool their hives by bringing in water and by fanning at the hive entrance.  The water, when it evaporates, removes heat from the hive.  Therefore a water source, either natural or artificial,  should be available within a few hundred feet of the hive.  Also make sure the entrance reducer is removed.

Another method the bees use to limit heat within the hive is by bearding on the front of the hive.  Bearding usually occurs on hot afternoons and evenings.  By morning the bees will usually all be back in the hive.  Bearding is normal behavior and NOT a sign of imminent swarming.

Wednesday, June 13, 2018


Here are two links to articles with information about bee flight.  NOTE: The second article states it will add cookies to your computer.  Don't open this article if you don't want them.

Mid-June Checks

The honey flow has started in central Wisconsin.  But don't let up on your every other week inspections of your hives.  Overwintered hives should be putting honey into the honey supers.  New package hives are still building their populations.  It takes a full two months after package installation for the bee population to reach a point where the package will be large enough to bring in surplus nectar.

Another thing to be on the outlook for is American Foul Brood.  The Natures Nectar blogsite is reporting a few instances of infected hives in Minnesota.   Follow this link to read about it.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

June Apiary Check by beekeeper Fred

June is a high activity time in the apiary.  There are many task that a beekeeper needs to accomplish if he/she wants to maximize the return on their investment of time and money.  

Hives started with package bees or nucs need to be regularly inspected to verify they are queenright.  Failure to do so can have dire consequences.  For myself, I had two packages go queenless.  I noticed both in time.  One accepted the new queen and is on its way to full recovery.  The second did not accept the replacement queen.  Unfortunately, I was distracted by other tasks and this hive ended up with laying workers.  I am currently trying to remedy the situation.  Hives with laying workers are a good subject for a separate article. 

Package hives should by now have had the second brood chamber installed.  The hive population at this point should have recovered or surpassed the 10,000 bee level (the original 3 pound package population).  By the end of June the population should grow to the 30,000 to 40,000 range.   A queen excluder and honey super could be added at anytime although a package hive will probably not make use of it yet.  But also remember these items will need to be removed and replaced when you are verifying the colony is queenright. 

In May I installed screened bottom boards on six (6) hives.  Periodically I remove the witness boards and count mites.   Both the overwintered and package hives had mites.   I am experimenting with treatments of both oxalic acid vapor and Oxalic acid alcohol fog.   As expected it took three (3) weekly treatments of oxalic acid vapor before the mite drop stopped.  I am now waiting to see how quickly mites reappear.   Unfortunately, the hive I was performing the oxalic acid alcohol fog test on went queenless and I must repeat that test. (I don't think it was related to the mite treatment)  At any rate I will be recording mite drops on these six hives throughout the summer. 

I am beginning to see trefoil, staghorn sumac and clover in bloom.  This is the start of the main honey flow in central Wisconsin which will run through mid-July.   In my strongest overwintered hives the bees have only filled one or two frames.  I suspect this was from the black locust bloom, which is now complete.    The honey flow to be several weeks slower than previous years. 

As a queen raiser I have also been very busy grafting larvae and setting up nucs for queen mating.  Here is a photo of my latest attempt.  27 out of 30 queen cells were capped!  For me that’s outstanding.  This batch of cells are scheduled to emerge on about June 10th.   Ideally, the cells should get placed into mating nucs prior to then, so the queens can emerge in a hive.    If they emerge while still in the incubator, this causes another set of tasks.  So this weekend promises to be a busy time.  Oh yeah, I also promised to man the ECWBA booth at Walleye Weekend at the same time.   Might be a long day.

 To the uninitiated queen raisers sell ripe cells (one to two days prior to emergence), virgin queens and mated queens.  The price of each is proportional the risk undertaken by the buyer.   Roughly $10 for a cell, $20 for a virgin queen and $30 for a mated queen.  


1)      Verify my hives are queenright every other week.

2)      Monitor the honey supers and add more if needed.

3)      I will be treating the new package hives with a ½ dose of formic acid (Formic Pro).  I treated the overwintered hives with a ½ dose last month. 

4)      Inspect the witness boards on hives with screened bottom boards. 
5) If you want to increase your apiary hive count any new hive should be started no later than June 21st.  This provides them time to grow their population and store honey for the winter.  You will not get a honey crop from these new hives.  

Friday, June 1, 2018


Here is a new twist on mite control; refrigerating the hives to induce a brood break.  A 3 week brood break is needed to allow all brood and mites to emerge and then easily be treated.  Hmm? Couldn't caging the queen for 3 weeks accomplish the same thing?

Tuesday, May 29, 2018


A few native nectar sources.   I hope your hives are strong enough to make use of these short lived flowers.  

Two shrubs, names unknown, that the bees were foraging heavily

Monday, May 28, 2018


The honey flow is starting in the ECWBA area.  Today in addition to numerous bushes in bloom, I saw raspberries, clover and black locust in bloom.  In some areas the black locust honey flow can be significant.

Overwintered hives have already began storing nectar in the honey supers.  This year's new package hives have not yet reached a population large enough to generate a surplus for the honey supers.

Overwintered hives, of medium to strong strength, should definitely have a honey super installed at this point.   Check the supers weekly and be ready to add another super when the first super is 60% filled.  At this time you do not want the bees to begin storing nectar in the brood nest area if the honey super gets filled.  This will cut down on the places for the queen to lay and may promote an urge to swarm.

Some beekeepers recommend what is called "bottom supering".  In this technique the new empty honey super is installed underneath the partially filled first honey super.  The claim is that this method motivates the bees to gather more nectar.  "Bottom supering" requires more work of the beekeeper because he/she must remove the heavy partially super to install the empty super underneath.  I have seen no scientifically gathered data to support this claim.  Like most things involved with beekeeping there are varied opinions about "bottom supering".

Sunday, May 27, 2018


Today I was out checking some of my new package hives.  One hive was lagging behind the others.  Although there were several frames of capped brood there was no uncapped brood or eggs present.  A more detailed search showed my hive was queenless.  I took immediate action to install a new queen.

A hive without a queen is in trouble.  This is a lesson usually learned by hard knocks by new beekeepers.  For this reason it is recommended for beekeepers to inspect their hives every other week.  The inspection is intended to verify that there are eggs and brood present.  If these are present they allow the beekeeper to assess the condition of the queen even if they are not skilled enough to readily find her.  A hive with eggs, uncapped brood and capped brood is termed to be "queenright".

If you see eggs you know in the worst case the queen was present as little as 4 days previous.  If you see pearly white uncapped brood you know as a minimum that the queen was present at least 9 days previously.  Capped brood is an indication she was present at least 21 days previously.

Without a queen the hive goes into decline.  a queenless hive also triggers other events.  Without the presence of queen pheromones the bees will usually initiate an emergency queen replacement if the right age and right sex larvae can be found.  Emergency queen cells are usually found in the middle of the frame.  Swarm cells are usually found on the bottom of the frame.

The brood also emits pheromones.  The brood pheromones inhibit normally sterile worker bees from laying eggs.  21 days after the loss of the queen the worker brood has all emerged.  Then the workers attempt to propagate the genetics of colony by raising drones.  Although they may raise drones, drones contribute nothing to the survival of the hive and the hive will go into inevitable decline.

By inspecting once every two weeks you will be able to detect the queenless condition prior to hive population crashing and prior to laying workers beginning to raise drones.

Most beekeepers (new and old) get into trouble once the honey supers are put on the hive.  Then the work involved with a hive inspection gets more time consuming and many beekeepers (new and old) blow off the biweekly inspection much to their peril.   Some beekeepers think they can accurately gauge the condition of the hive by the amount of flight activity at the entrance.   Things appear normal until all the brood is done emerging.  By then the brood pheromones are dissipated and laying workers are in control.   Do so at your peril.

Put in the effort to verify your hives are queenright and you will be rewarded with more honey.

Thursday, May 24, 2018


The hot weather of this coming week will be good for the bees.  However, you should remember that strong hives need ventilation to cool the hive.  For strong hives it is recommended to now completely remove the entrance reducer.  This year's new package hives are still growing and their population is probably not yet large enough to cause overheating.  The entrance reducer for these hives should oriented so the 4 inch opening is open.


Here is one of the first reports on this past winter's hive losses.  What is interesting is that the losses of backyard beekeepers were 46% compared to 26% for commercial beekeepers.  It also indicates varroa is the primary reason for winter losses and that year round monitoring and control of varroa is required to lower backyard beekeeper losses.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018


The weather in the coming week will be ideal for swarming of strong overwintered hives.  Follow this link for some excellent advise on how to prevent swarming and how to catch swarms.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018


This is a reminder of our regularly scheduled club meeting at 9:30AM on May 19th at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.  Topics for the meeting will be checks needed for new packages and other items of interest.

Monday, May 14, 2018


Today I got reminded twice on one of the routine tasks required of a good beekeeper.  That task is to perform a periodic inspection to verify your hives are queen right.  I started out the day with a plan to inspect all hives started this spring with packages.  I went through 12 hives and at the last one found a hive to be queenless.  Luckily I have several new mated queens arriving tomorrow.   This experience reminded me to take a look at an overwintered hive I had been wondering about do to its slow buildup.  Yep, another queenless hive.

A hive can be queenless for a little more than 3 weeks before laying workers take over.  Three weeks is the time it take for all the brood to mature and emerge.  The pheromones from this brood suppress the urge of the workers to lay.   So a good beekeeper tries to verify his hives are queen right about once every two weeks if he or she wants to avoid a hive going queenless and then getting laying workers.

Sunday, May 13, 2018


Why re-invent the wheel.  The Nature's Nectar blog has a good article about package buildup and also what to do with overwintered hives.  Follow the link below:

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

May 1st Apiary Check

We are finally getting a little bee friendly weather.  The bees have been busy bringing in tree pollen with which to raise brood.  Also been seeing a little clear nectar.  But the late snow storms in April have really set back the normal hive buildup.  While inspecting hives in the last week of April I have noticed two things.  In general, bee populations in overwintered hives are significantly lower than last year.  Last year the hives were fully occupying both brood chamber boxes by this time.  This year, the bees were only in the top box of most overwintered hives.  Slightly better, but not by much, than newly installed packages.  Dandelions also made a late appearance on April 27th.  It appears we are about 3 weeks behind what is normal for central Wisconsin. 

As a beekeeper who raises queens I also need to monitor the hives for the presence of drones.  So far this year I have not seen any drones although I have seen a few capped drone cells.  Currently the bees are putting all available resources into raising worker brood.  Based on these observations I doubt conditions at this time will result in May swarming.  June swarming is an entirely different kettle of fish.  To get swarming requires high bee populations, drones, queen cells and a strong honey flow; none of which are present right now. 

This year I am trying to improve my mite control process.  As part of this I have installed screened bottom boards on two overwintered hives in order to closely monitor mite populations.   About two weeks prior to installing the screened bottom boards I treated the two hives twice with oxalic acid vapor.  Two days after installing the screened bottom boards I checked the witness boards and both hives had dropped 2 mites each.   After 2 more days I checked again and there were 7 and 3 mites on the bottom boards.   I will be using a mite drop threshold of 10 mite in a week as the trigger to do a mite treatment.  Curiosity getting the better of me I checked again after 2 more days.  This time there were 0 and 4 mites.  Both hives are now tied at a 9 mite drop after 6 days or 1 ½ per day.   It appears that the 2 oxalic acid vapor treatments did not eliminate the mites in these two hives.   I will be following up with more treatments and mite counts in May and also comparing the effectiveness of oxalic vapor versus an oxalic alcohol treatment.

Based on the mite drop noted above it is possible to roughly estimate the mite population in those two hives.  Based on the 1 ½ mite drop per day there are approximately 300 mites in each of those two hives.  Consulting with Randy Oliver’s varroa mite model it appears that these two hives will definitely be in the danger zone by August.  Therefore, I will be treating for mites on all overwintered hives prior to mid-May.   I will probably be using a ½ dose of MAQS or FormicPro. 

Last week (April 26th) I got my courage up and did my first queen graft for the year.  The first night the newly grafted queen cells spent the night in my basement since overnight temperatures were down in the upper 20’s.  As of May 1st I had 17 capped queen cells.  There still is a 3 week wait for the queens to emerge and mate.   

Our replacement packages finally arrived on April 30th.  So I spent today installing them.

Tasks to be done in May are:

-Split extremely strong hives

-Check the new package hives after about one week to ensure the queens are released, accepted and laying
-Continue feeding new package hives 1:1 syrup until the bees stop taking it or the frames in both brood chambers are fully drawn with wax
-Consider adding a 2nd brood chamber to the new package hives if the queen has laid eggs in the center 6 frames

-Treat for mites in all overwintered hives about mid-May

-After the mite treatment is a good time to install the first honey super.  There is always the chance of a big nectar flow from locust trees.  Use or not use a queen excluder according to your preference.