Monday, December 10, 2018


OK, OK!  I know I am overdoing the mite control thing.  But the main reason beekeepers drop out is losing their hives to varroa mites and viruses during the winter.  Here is another short article to increase your knowledge.

To me there were two important messages.  One, the sugar shake method of measuring mite infestation is NOT as good as the alcohol wash method.  Also, the article says that August is the time to apply mite controls.  But oddly it did not provide a recommendation about acceptable mite levels.

We have all heard different things on what thresholds are good and bad when measuring mite levels in August.  We have also seen the limit being lowered over the last ten years.  At this Saturday's club meeting we will try to increase everyone's understanding about various limits and the potential for a hive crash by presenting Randy Oliver's Varroa Model.   See you there.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


It now mid-December.  The days will still be getting shorter until the winter solstice which occurs on December 21st.   Temperatures to date have not been cold enough to really test the bees.  If you completed your mite treatments on time last fall there shouldn’t be any issues with hive survival.  But remember that even in pre-varroa days an 85% winter survival rate was typical.  Even with treatments survival is never guaranteed.   Unfortunately for me, I have already had my first winter casualty; a topbar hive that went silent last weekend.  So far, I haven’t had time or inclination to investigate.  But over the years my topbar hives have had lower winter survival.  I think a major contributor to this is the difficulty in working (inspections, feeding, treating, etc.) with topbar hives.  

Last summer in our area the honey harvest was down.  The general consensus was that it was down by two thirds.   Most beekeepers pointed to a cooler and wetter spring and summer.  This slowed population buildup and reduced foraging opportunities.  This is being brought up in December because your hives may be light on winter stores.  A quick inspection of your hives and possible adding of emergency feed is recommended.   See the December 2nd post for one possible winter feeding method.  Other methods have been and will be discussed at our regular monthly club meetings. 

On the bright side, some experts say that after the solstice the queen will again begin laying and brood production.    So we see the yearly cycle starting again. 

The next EWBCA club meeting will be at 9:30 AM on Saturday, December 15th in the basement of the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.    Old members and any potential new members are always welcome to attend. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Winter is the time to sit back, relax and learn.  Click on the link below to a lengthy 20 page discussion about swarming, preventing swarming and splits by author Meghan Milbrath.  This and other articles can also be found by going to her website:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

WINTER RAMBLINGS by beekeeper Fred

At the end of November, I went through my apiary and added an emergency feed sugar disc to each hive.  While doing so I listened to each hive and all are alive!  But we all know that mid-January is the real tipping point, but so far, so good.   Here are a few photos on how I set up my winter emergency feeders.  This method isn’t better than others; just the way I do it.  I figure it makes financial sense to provide the bees a few dollars of sugar rather than having to buy a new $120 package if they were to starve.  

 Today's fresh snow.  

Outer cover removed to show 3 inch wide spacer.  Spacer/hive joint gets sealed with duck tape since the bees can no longer propolize the crack.
Inner cover removed.  Cloth added to minimize internal air movement and prevent melting frost on underside of inner cover from dripping on the bees. 
Cloth peeled back to show 2 1/2 pound sugar disc. 
A few bees are just below the disc, but main cluster is down deeper in the hive.  A new disc or pollen patty can be added as required. 

In the month of December there isn’t much outdoor bee work.  I will confine mine to listening to each hive and clearing the entrances of snow.  In addition, I will check every other week on the status of the emergency food supply.  Ideally the bees will not need it. 

However, the weather in December does promote indoor work.  You  can think about your 2019 apiary plans, read bee magazines and bee equipment catalogs.  Its also a good time to assemble and paint new or replacement equipment.  That way its ready when the need arises in the spring. 

Of course, there is the December ECWBA club meeting on December 15th.  I’m not sure what President Gerard will be talking about, but I will be giving a short presentation on use of Randy Oliver’s (Scientific Beekeeping) varroa model.  Unfortunately, these days a good knowledge about varroa dynamics inside the hive are necessary in order to be a successful beekeeper.  I will plug into the varroa model the varroa control methods used by 3 local beekeepers and show the expected outcome as pertains to a varroa crash in the fall or winter.  Time permitting, I can input your varroa control plan to see how things may turn out for you. 

It also time to begin thinking about packages for 2019.  Talk to other beekeepers near you and consider buying packages in bulk.  Bulk buys usually get a discount.  Also, only one person needs to make the trip for pickup thus saving time and gas money for the others in the group. 

Another consideration is when you want your packages to arrive.  Usually there are three options; early April, late April and early May.  Each time period has its advantages and disadvantages.  Early April comes with a high chance of cold weather and snow.  But get you package hived and fed and it will build its population up for the start of the nectar flow.  Mid-April provides warmer weather, but with a later buildup of the hive population and some lost honey.  Early May just about eliminates chances of snow and cold, but the hive populations will not be ready for the nectar flow and the chances of getting surplus honey are greatly reduced.   Every beekeeper gets to make his choice.  Note, if you are making a group buy they usually must all be delivered at the same time.