Wednesday, May 15, 2019


Things are really starting to pick up.  We are finally getting warm weather and less rain.   Plum, black cherry, oak and birch are in bloom in addition to dandelions.   A few of the stronger overwintered hives are even putting something in the honey supers. 

I have been primarily focusing on getting the new packages and winter nucs installed and fed.  It appears the winter nucs are about 4 weeks ahead of my mid-April packages in hive buildup.  The winter nucs have managed to fill both brood chambers at this point, while the new packages are still working on the first brood chamber.  This means the hives made from winter nucs will be able to gather more honey than those made with packages.  I need to remember this fact this fall when making my winter plans. 

In my last report I discussed making bee and brood transfusions into a few of the weaker overwintered hives.  This was simply transferring in 2 frames of bees and brood from strong hives to weak hives. Two of the three hives getting the transfusions have started to boom.  Unfortunately, the third went queenless. 

While stealing larvae for queen rearing, I noted one of the strong hives had several swarm cells at the bottom of frames.  Some were capped and some uncapped with viable larvae in them.  The hive appeared to be set to swarm in about one weeks time; weather permitting.  I transferred the frames with queen cells to the above mentioned queenless hive.  This action will delay swarming of the strong hive, but probably not stop it.  So I then went in and removed 3 frames of bees and capped brood.  These frames were installed in a new package hive to speed its buildup. 

Now that I am seeing swarm cells I will be putting out several swarm traps in hopes o catching swarms from my hives that I may not catch overwise.  

I have also been randomly checking hives to verify they are queenright.  In the past week I found two that were not.  One was queenless and the second had a queen but she was not laying.  Previously both hives had multiple frames full of capped brood.  Now most of the brood has emerged.   

Here’s what you should be doing in the next few weeks.

1) From the above you can see the importance of checking your hives every other week to verify that they are queenright.  You need to do this to prevent a laying worker situation.

2) The stronger hives also need to be monitored for swarm cells, especially for about the next six weeks when the prime swarm season is upon us. 

3) Get your honey supers ready and get them installed on strong hives.  This will lessen crowding, prevent the brood frames from getting honey bound and also maximize your honey crop. 

4) Putting out swarm traps baited with brood comb and an attractant. 

Sunday, May 12, 2019


This Saturday, May 18th, there will be a club meeting at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake at 9:30AM.  See you there.

What's Happening in the Hive

This article is from the Stillwater Minnesota area, but has been having weather similar to ours.  There are several helpful hints in the article.

Sunday, May 5, 2019


We have now built up to 14 hours of daylight!  If you hadn’t noticed, the bee population also builds up to a maximum at about the same time as the summer solstice which is the longest day on about June 21st.    In our area this also coincides with the height of the honey flow.  Over the eons the bees have amazingly got their population cycle in sync with the sunlight and honey flow. 

All of my winter nucs and new packages have been installed in hives.  At this time the winter nucs appear to be about three (3) weeks ahead of the packages in their population build-up.  Both the new package and winter nuc hives will be fed 1:1 sugar syrup until the start of the honey flow.  Then the feeding will stop and honey supers will be installed.  

All overwintered colonies have been inspected to verify they are queenright and growing.  In my apiary one colony was found to be queenless and I installed my last winter nuc in that hive.  I thought 4 colonies were building up slowly.  After verifying they were queenright I transferred in 2 frames of brood and bees from strong colonies.  This is called “equalizing”.  It weakens the overly strong colonies and hopefully prevents the strong colonies from swarming.  It also gives the weak colonies a boost and will hopefully get them up to strength prior to the honey flow.  The weak colonies have no problem with integrating the bees and brood into the hive.  The combination of less swarming and more strong colonies will help increase the honey crop. 

The overwintered colonies are bringing in some nectar.  I don’t know the source.  To even out my work load I will be installing the honey supers on these colonies soon even though the main honey flow has not yet started.  The first nectar flow will be from black locusts in my area.  This will probably occur in the second half of May. 

I also just finished the second of two oxalic vapor treatments on my overwintered colonies.  Its important to stay ahead of the mites.  The new colonies, made with either new packages or winter nucs, did not get this spring mite treatment, but will get treated in early summer.

In the past weak all colonies have been hauling in a lot of pollen.  This bodes well for population buildup.  If only we could get a week of warm, dry and sunny weather.  

The photo shows approximately 50% of the bees have full pollen baskets.  The other bees are probably taking orientation flights.  

So far, during my colony inspections I have seen no queen cells.  Of course, it is still several weeks away from the swarm season.   On about May 15th I will be putting out my swarm traps.  The traps should be installed at least one hundred yards away from your apiary if you hoping to catch swarms emanating from your apiary.   For wild swarms you can place your swarm trap almost anywhere.
For about 30 days after May 15th I will try to visit my apiary at about 10am each warm morning to look for swarms hanging in nearby trees.  Several empty hives and nucs are always kept in reserve to house captured swarms.  Remember the Boy Scout motto: “Bee Prepared”.  Well something like that. 

Monday, April 29, 2019


It was delightful to see dandelions blooming; a reminder that spring is here.  Unfortunately the weather is not ideal for the buildup of new colonies.  Eight of the next 14 days are predicted to have rain.  This will prevent foraging for both pollen and nectar.  Make sure that your new package colonies have been provided with a good supply of 1:1 sugar syrup and a pollen or pollen substitute patty.   On the few sunny days, verify that the bees have not run out of either.  New colonies should be fed continuously until their population fills both brood chamber boxes (3 boxes if you are using mediums as your brood chamber boxes).

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Late April at the Flying Squirrel Apiary by beekeeper Fred

Just about every day the bees have been out gathering pollen.  I could hear them high up in the maples, box elder and pussy willows.  I have also noticed the bees are filling some cells with a clear nectar.  I am not sure whether this is simply water, nectar, or a mix of water and honey. 

April was the time to assess the condition of all hives that survived the winter.  In my hives there is a wide variation of strength; ranging from 3 frames of bees to both brood boxes being totally packed with bees.  In fact, one hive dwindled away during April (for those number counters my survival is down to 86%).  Most likely it has been queenless for quite a while. 

After verifying the weaker hives were queenright, I added a frame or two of bees and brood from stronger hives.  This strengthens the weak hives and reduces (not eliminates) the risk of a strong hive to swarm later in the spring.

All but one of the overwintered nucs are doing fine.  They are averaging about 3 frames of brood.  This indicates they are about 4 weeks ahead of a new package at this point.   In addition, I did not have to fork over $125 for a new package.  Next winter I plan to increase the number of winter nucs in my apiary to try to finally attain what is called “sustainable” beekeeping; ie. no need to purchase packages every year.  

Just as with weak hives, after verifying the one weak nuc was queenright, I added a frame of brood and bees to the one weak nuc.  All winter nucs were moved to the location of an empty hive and will be installed in the hive when good weather permits. 

All overwintered hives were given roughly two (2) gallons of 1 to 1 syrup.  This was done for two reasons.  Hives with big populations could potentially have already eaten through their winter stores and would begin eating larvae if other food is not available.  Second, this food will induce them to raise more brood in preparation for the honey flow.  The feed is limited to only 2 gallons because additional food could induce them to swarm, which is not my intent. 

Temperatures have now warmed up enough to permit the entrance reducer to be changed from the one (1) inch opening to the four (4) inch opening.

I clean off the bottom board by one of two methods.  If the outside air temperature will potentially harm the brood I use a hook which I insert through the hive entrance and pull out dead bees and other hive debris.  If the temperatures are in the high 60’s or higher, I disassemble the hive and manually scrape the bottom board.  You will find that strong hives have usually already cleaned the bottom board themselves.

My packages have been installed and feeders are installed.  Feeding will continue for at least a month in order to promote brood raising.  I utilize the leftover honey from any deadouts to also feed the packages.  

Its already been a busy month and the beekeeping season is barely started.  What’s next?

1.       I am delinquent on implementing my varroa control plan.  All overwintered hives need two (2) oxalic vapor treatments before the honey flow begins.  I aim to get ththis done before the end of April.

2.       Overwintered hives need to have honey supers installed by May 1st.  The added volume in the hive will suppress the hive’s desire to swarm due to overcrowding. 

3.       Newly started hives (either by nucs or packages ) will not get honey supers until the bee population increases enough to fill both brood chamber boxes.    Feeding will continue until that point. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Dead outs, and some things to look for submitted by Grandpa Jack

By now most of you have had a chance to at least check your hives to see how many made it.  Hopefully you have not waited until now since March is always a tough month.  Our royal highness the queen should have started laying some eggs in late February or early March and the survivors have had to feed the developing larva, plus still keep up enough energy to keep the brood nest at 92 degrees,

This Saturday, April 20, the ECWBA is going to meet at the Rushford Meadery to do a post mortem on one of the clubs hives that did not make it through winter.  It will be interesting to see if we can figure out what happened.  A little CSI will be in order and hopefully some of the following photos will be of help.

I had one dead out this winter and the following photos are from that hive.

Upon opening the hive, there were dead bees on the top of the frames.  That observation and the fact that the hive made no sound at all told me that they were dead.  My mother didn’t raise any fools. A little nosema, but not bad.

A recent article that I read, said to start at the bottom of the hive and work up.  They recommended this procedure due to the fact that you will knock dead bees to the bottom board as you work through the hive and this could skew some of your observations.  I don’t know if it would have made any difference in this inspection.

This is the bottom board.

This is the slatted bottom board

I noticed moldy bees, as if they had gotten damp.  Possible the hive was not vented enough.

I started removing frames and one of the observations was the total populations seemed down from what it should have been.

There were very few frames with dead bees on them.  Also notice how close the honey was to this small cluster.  Honey was located within inches of the cluster.  Looking at this small group would lead you to believe that they could have possibly died of starvation.

 With their small little bee butts sticking out from the comb and their bodies fully  embedded into the comb, this is a sure sign of starvation.  But, there is also something else going on.  If you look closely to the edges of the comb, you will see the telltale signs of varroa poop.   The little white particles that are on the edge of the comb

The signs of varroa were left on many of the combs.

But….why did this hive not make it and the others did ?  Did they go into winter with a small population.  Did this beekeeper miss something ?

Notice all the supercedure cells that were located on two frames.  Was this done in the late fall and the queen was never mated ?

This was the total amount of bees that died in the hive.  I would estimate that there was approximately two pounds of bees going into winter.  About 7000 bees.  Not enough.

My conclusions:

There was a little nosema in the hive, but not enough to get excited about.   Since all hives were ventilated the same, I do not think that ventilation or the lack of it was any cause for concern. Sometime in fall the queen failed and the colony did a supercedure to attempt to requeen. I did not find the queen in the mess of dead bees and am assuming that requeening was not successful.  There was no capped brood in the hive.

The varroa mites took their toll of the hive.  Much of the damage they did could have been early in the fall.  I had treated this hive several times with oxalic acid and formic acid but obviously my timing was off on this hive.  

My record for treating this hive is the following: 4-16  Installed as a package 4-24  vaporized with oxalic acid 6-26  vaporized with oxalic acid 8-7  formic acid (two strips) 9-22 vaporized with oxalic acid 10-10  noted that there were many mites on inspection board. Vaporized with oxalic acid 10-18 vaporized with oxalic acid. Inspection tray has large number of mites 10-24 vaporized with oxalic acid 10-29 vaporized with oxalic acid 11-3 vaporized with oxalic acid

This is the treatment that most of my hives received last fall. Only two of them did not get a 113 treatment.  My survival rate for the winter is 86%.  This hive had just too many things that impacted it chance of winter survival.

Its possible that you will draw a different conclusion than I did, and I welcome your input.

Monday, April 15, 2019


There will be a club meeting this Saturday, April 20th at 9:30 AM.  This meeting will be at the Rushford Meadery & Winery west of Omro Wisconsin.  The two club hives are located there.  One hive survived the winter and one did not.  Weather permitting, an autopsy will be performed on the dead hive and the live hive will get a spring inspection and cleaning.  Use of an oxalic acid vaporizer will be demonstrated on the live hive.  Finally, a nuc will be installed in the dead hive after the autopsy and cleaning.  Dress for the weather.

As a side note Mother Nature has not been cooperating with our bees.  The snow and cold of last week has prevented the bees from foraging.  It would be a good idea to verify your hives have adequate food; either left over honey from last year or by providing them with sugar or sugar syrup.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


Although varroa is the number one killer of bees, pesticide cocktails of even "bee safe" pesticides can harm bees.  Follow the link to information on pesticide cocktails that harm bees.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

WINTER NUCS RESULTS by beekeeper Fred

I took advantage of this warm Sunday morning and did a little work with the winter nus.  I had tried to winter over 12 nucs in double deep five (5) nucs in an effort to cut ties with package bee suppliers.  Eleven (11) of the nucs are presently alive.  That's 11 packages I won't need to buy this spring. The strength of the nucs are varied at this time.  See the picture below of 3 nuc entrances.  All three had bees bringing in pollen.
Based on entrance activity I opened one of the weaker nucs.  Bees in the upper box , but very few in the lower box.  The lower box was practically devoid of honey.  It's reported that a winter nuc will on average consume 25 pounds of food.

Bees on at least 4 frames. The bees have almost consumed the 2 lb. sugar patty I inserted in early.March.  This weaker nuc is equivalent to a 4 frame nuc people buy for $150 and usually they don't get their purchased nuc until mid-May.  By then I expect this nuc to be filling all 10 frames.

Next winter I will be doubling the number of nucs I overwinter so I will no longer need to buy packages in the spring to replace winter losses.

If you want to try this, make sure you really go after the mites in the fall!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

POLLEN COMING IN by beekeeper Fred

Saturday, April 6th, was a disappointment.  The sun never made an appearance in the afternoon as predicted.  But temperatures were warm enough for the bees to be working the budding maple tress for pollen.

Here you can see two bees with loaded pollen baskets.
Close up.  See the third bees with white in its pollen basket

I have also been trying to get the bees to take a little stimulative sugar syrup using a hive top feeder.  No luck; must still be too cold.

Only a few bees at the top of the feeder; almost none down on the sugar syrup.  

So I decided to do a quick in and out check of the hive to check on their overall health.
Darn, there's another of those plastic frames I don't like.  But the hive is looking healthy with no signs of nosema.  I will need to keep watch on this hive because it looks to have the potential to swarm later this spring.

Monday, April 1, 2019


At the last ECWBA meeting Gerard broached the topic of reversals.  The Natures Nectar blog site has a good description of a reversal process and its benefits.  Follow the link below to the article.

Friday, March 29, 2019

SPRING IS HERE! by beekeeper Fred

March has drawn to a close and SPRING is officially here.  Last week Mother Nature was partially cooperating and provided us with a few days with a high in the 50’s and sun.  The survivor bees are out doing orientation flights and searching for pollen.  A few bees were seen returning with pollen from the maple and pussy willow trees.

I went out at the end of March and did a final survey of my hives concerning winter survival.  The accepted period for winter survival measurements is from October 1st thru March 31st.   But be forewarned that it is not uncommon for some hives to simply dwindle away even with the warmer weather.  My hive survival rate was 88.6%.  Even my experiment with wintering over nucs was successful; there the survival rate was 91.6%.  The combined survival rate being 89.4%.  I am a happy beekeeper.   

As discussed in a previous blog article, this past 2018-2019 winter was slightly more severe than the 2017-2018 winter when all of us had poor winter survival.  I had ended up with miserable 40% hive survival for the 2018-2019 winter and 0% winter nuc survival.  What did I do different?  Heavier fall feeding, but also more attention at controlling varroa throughout the summer and fall.  I would aggressive varroa control as the primary factor for the higher survival.

 Beekeepers Gerard, Jon and Grandpa Jack are also reporting good survival; 83%, 77.7% and 85.7% survival respectively.  They also had practiced aggressive mite control last year which we presented during last December’s club meeting.  Each of us used slightly different control methods.  It appears we were all successful especially considering that normal winter survival was about 80 to 90% prior to varroa.  We will continue discussing mite control at future ECWBA club meetings.

My apiary had three (3) queens types going into winter; Russians, Ankle Biters and Saskatraz.  The survival rates of the different queen types were all similar; with a range of 83 to 90%.  Given good mite control, queen type appears to not make much of difference.   Even last year’s package queens (all Saskatraz) had excellent winter survival.  I guess I can no longer blame “package queens” for my previous low survival rates.

One last item on winter survival.  Two of my hives were in buildings with an entrance through the wall.  I consider these hives “wrapped”.  These two hives died.  The remainder of my hives were “unwrapped”.    The “unwrapped” hive survival rate was 94%!  Of course, I have positioned the hives behind wind breaks so that they are not exposed to north or northwest winds.  

With April here what is next on the beekeeper’s agenda?  It always better to “be prepared”.

1)      Remove the mouse guards.  The entrance reducer opening can still be the one inch (1”) opening, but by the end of April can be opened to the four inch (4”) opening.  

2)      Clean out your deadouts.  Its better to do it before warm weather arrives and mold begins growing on the dead bees.  You need to complete it also before installing replacement bees.

3)      If you need packages or nucs to repopulate hives make sure to get them on order.  It may already be too late. 

4)      Early April is usually still too cold and you should NOT be poking around in your surviving hives.  However, on sunny days with temperatures in the 60’s it is OK to pop open the cover and assess of condition of the survivor hives.  Do not pull frames which could cause chilling and death the brood.  Yes, we should be seeing 60 degree days in April!

5)      If you suspect a hive is dwindling, then action is required.  In this case it will be necessary to pull frames to verify there is a queen.  Don’t be fooled by random drone brood from a laying worker.  Sometimes if there is a queen, the hive can be stimulated by adding a frame of bees and brood from a strong hive.  The added worker population and their warmth helps get them going.  If there are laying workers, the best course of action is usually to salvage what you can by combining the dwindling hive with another hive. 

6)      Get the hives ready for the new packages or nucs.  Clean the bottom boards, put feeders in place, scrape off old propolis, so you are not behind the curve when your new bees arrive.

7)      Install new packages as soon as possible.  Keep them supplied with 1 to 1 sugar syrup until the start of the honey flow.  A pollen patty may be necessary if the bees are not seen bringing in pollen or if the weather prevents foraging. 

8)      Stimulative feeding of overwintered hives is recommended using a 1 part sugar to 3 parts water.  This promotes earlier brood rearing to get the population up prior to the June primary nectar flow.  This syrup should be fed internally (don’t use external Boardman feeders) because night air temperatures are too cold and the bees will NOT utilize cold syrup. 

9)      For hives the survived the winter consider doing a mite treatment in early April.  This will reduce mites and viruses spread by the mites.  

10)   Reversal of the brood chambers of over wintered hives should be put off until the second half of April.  This would be a good time to also clean the bottom boards on surviving hives. 

Tuesday, March 26, 2019


The Wisconsin Honey Bee Breeders Association  (WHBBA) has provided a listing of honey bee queen producers located in Wisconsin.  This listing is shown on the Resources page of this blog.

The goal of the WHBBA is to locally produce queens that are adapted to Wisconsin's weather and mite resistant.  Typically Wisconsin bred queens will not be available until mid to late May because weather conditions do not permit queen rearing to begin until late April or early May.

Wednesday, March 20, 2019


Follow the link to a write up about how bee hive strength and wintering ability is greatly aided by diverse forage.  This isn't something very new, but the article puts are few statistical facts behind the results.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019


Club meeting this Saturday, March 23rd at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.

This Thursday and Friday promise to be warm.  Check on the status of your hives.  The ECWBA has spared no expense and made up two winter survival traveling trophies (hope you won't be disappointed).  Share your survival rate and win!

At cost oxalic acid ($3 per pound) and Hive Alive will also be available.  Patty will also be bringing a random drawing door prize.  Saturday could be your lucky day!

Monday, March 18, 2019


I was one of about seven ECWBA members that attended the bee seminar in Wausau.  One guest speaker impressed me the most; Alex Zomchek.  Besides being an excellent public speaker, he seemed to drop little nuggets of important information that I think I should pass on to ECWBA members.  So here goes. 

One, commercial beekeepers only have 7-9% winter mortality.  Much higher than that they could not remain in business.  Commercially beekeepers actively manage their hives for both low varroa, but also high honey production. Only part of that success is due to their hives going south for the winter.

Two, overwintered hives have a typical spread of 1/3 strong, 1/3 OK and 1/3 weak.  Commercial beekeepers manage those hives in the spring to even things out.  Strong hives contribute bees and brood for strengthening their weak sisters.  This does not seem to weaken the strong hives, but definitely improves the weak hives. 

Three, 95% of the stored honey is usually gathered in the 40 day period of the main nectar flow which occurs in June through early July.    This confirms my own observations.  There may be a secondary flow in the fall, but it should be left for the bees.

Four, feed early in the fall.

Five, the spring population buildup is critically important to having the hive population peaking in time for the honey flow.  Population growth is triggered naturally by the start of availability of low sugar content nectar.  In our area, with its long winters, the population growth is not triggered soon enough for the hive to always be ready for the onset of the primary June nectar flow.  A larger honey crop can be attained by giving the bees an early spring stimulative feeding.  The stimulative feeding is not the usual the 1 part sugar to 1 part water sugar syrup we normally feed new packages, but a weaker syrup mixture such as 1 part sugar to 4 parts water.  This more closely matches sugar concentration of naturally occurring early spring nectars, such as bees utilizing maple sap, and stimulates brood production.

Six, with item five above in mind, what about new packages?  We usually can get packages in three time slots; early April, late April and early May.  Since time is critical in building up the hive population after package installation it would seem logical to avoid May package deliveries.  Early April has an increased odds of inclement (ie cold) weather and is a bigger gamble for the beekeeper, but the bees can usually be successfully installed even then.  If I remember several club members got the opportunity for a few packages in early April last year and successfully hived them.  (I was always surprised at hearing of Minnesota beekeepers getting early April packages.)  So, for me the obvious plan would be as a minimum to request late April bees in the future and would even try early April bees if I were more of a gambler.

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Wednesday, March 13, 2019


Today there were geese winging their way north, sandhill cranes foraging in snow filled corn fields, and a few robins!  Drainage ditches and creeks are flowing. But the sap was not yet flowing up in a few maples I had tapped for maple syrup.  Can spring be far behind?  The moderating temperatures will definitely give the bees a break and promote brood rearing.

Remember the upcoming ECWBA club meeting on Saturday, March 23rd.  Normal place (Caestecker Public Library) and normal time (9:30AM to 11:30AM)

Next week it looks like we will be having a few days with sunny days and temperatures in the 50's.  It would be a good time to check your hive survival rates.  Survivor hives should be flying on the warm sunny afternoons.  Then you need to get replacement packages on order if required.  I am sure potential package sources will be discussed at the club meeting on the 23rd.

Tuesday, March 5, 2019


Many new beekeepers have high ideals and do not like the idea of controlling mites with chemicals; either natural or artificial.  By doing nothing these beekeepers will inevitably lose their bee colonies due to mite infestation.  We call these beekeepers the "Live or Let Die" crowd.  Usually after losing their bees for a few years in a row they drop out of beekeeping.

There is another path they could follow.  They could do what is called biotechnical control of mites, which keeps their populations at an tolerable level.  This methodology is labor intensive, but does yield acceptable results.  It involves drone trapping of mites, brood breaks and finally a fall split of the hive and overwintering the hives in double deep 5 frame nucs.  A beekeeper named Adrian Quiney in Hudson Wisconsin has been using this methodology for several years now with excellent results.  He regularly has 90+% winter survival of his nucs.  

Its a matter of harnessing your idealism and putting it into the extra labor needed to apply all three mite control methods.   Remember all beekeepers are simply trying to survive until the bees or beekeepers develop true mite resistant bees.  Note that mite resistant bees to date have only partially addressed the mite problem and are not a guarantee of success.

Here is link to him describing the biotechnical mite control at the 2017 Bee Seminar in Wausau, Wi.

You can also do a search while on YouTube for the name "Adrian Quiney".  The search will bring up numerous videos on the topic of overwintering 5 frame double deep nucs instead of the full size 10 frame double deep hives most of us use.  

Friday, March 1, 2019


March has arrived and the days are lengthening rapidly.  We currently are getting about 11 hours of daylight and this will grow past 12 hours by month end.  However, the weather forecast shows another bout of brutal below zero nights in the coming week, but nothing like the -30F nights of a few weeks ago.  We have already had 13 below zero nights this winter not counting those yet to occur.   The good news is that meteorological spring is only 20 days away!

I went out on Thursday (February 27th) to check on hive survival.  Since my end of January count, I have lost 2 hives.  This puts me at 91.4% survival with another month of winter yet to go.  However, one hive is sounding weaker and may not survive next week’s string of cold nights.  Surprisingly, 100% of the winter nucs are still buzzing.  

In March, maple pollen will make its appearance.  Weather permitting the bees will be high up in the maples gathering the pollen to raise the new brood.  Although pollen will be available there will be no nectar.  The bees will continue to be dependent on stored honey for nutrition and heat generation.  The need to feed and warm the brood will increase the amount of food they consume to about 12 pounds per month.

If the bees deplete the honey in close vicinity to the brood nest they may starve if cold temperatures are keeping them in a tight cluster.  Now is when emergency sugar, immediately above the cluster, can save your hive.   Hopefully you have paid heed to our suggestions to add emergency sugar. 

At this point you probably have a handle on your probable survival rate.  Its time to think about ordering packages.  See if you can combine your order with other club members.  There is usually a price break when 10 or more packages are ordered.  Also consider when you want to receive your packages.  Early packages have additional time to build their populations prior to the honey flow.  The downside of early packages is that you may be installing them during inclement weather.  Conversely, late packages will arrive when the weather is generally warmer, but there will be less time for the population to build and will probably produce less surplus honey.  The choice is yours. 

Wednesday, February 27, 2019


Back on February 19th the blog posted an article on significant colony deaths during the almond bloom.  This next article indicates the cause may have been found.  A mixture of fundicide and insecticide were sprayed when the bees were present.  Although OK when applied singly, the combination is lethal.  Follow the link.


Tuesday, February 26, 2019


Follow the link to an interesting article.  Sorry but the conclusion is mites and viruses are the primary causes of bee losses; not neonictinoids.  Think about your mite control program now!

Saturday, February 23, 2019


The club has purchased 20 pounds of oxalic acid powder in bulk and re-packaged it for members.  This reduces the cost of oxalic acid from roughly $10 per pound to $3 per pound.  The re-packaged oxalic acid will be distributed at the March club meeting only. (Please remember the March club meeting has been rescheduled from March 16th to March 23rd).  There will be one (1) pound and 1/2 pound containers available at $3 and $1.50 respectively.

To calibrate your purchase, remember that one pound equals 454 grams.  It requires 2 grams of oxalic acid to vaporize a hive of two 10 frame deeps.  Most hobbyists will not use more than a pound throughout the year.   Those beekeepers with one to two hives can get by with 1/2 pound for the year.
If you would like to reserve a container you can email Fred at "".  Specify the size of container you desire.  If you do not show at the meeting your reservation becomes void and the container will be available for other club members.

If the club receives reservations far in excess of the 20 pounds available the club will contemplate an additional bulk purchase.

WILL MUSHROOMS SAVE THE BEES?? submitted by beekeeper Jon

Here is a link to a YouTube video, which states the mycelium in mushrooms is beneficial for bees.  ECWBA has no evidence yet that the claims are valid.

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

ANOTHER BAD WINTER???submitted by Beekeeper Gerard

It appears that some of the big commercial beekeepers are having a bad winter as far as hive survival is concerned.  Follow the link below to the article.  Will this affect package supply or prices?

Monday, February 18, 2019

EATING HONEY IN PERU--submitted by Grandpa Jack

Grandpa Jack received this photo from friends visiting Peru.  The honey in the restaurant was fresh and directly from the comb.  

Editor's note:  Unlike our extracted and filtered honey this honey is being served with the wax particles still in the honey.  

Sunday, February 10, 2019


On this cold day with snow flurries I spent a little time thinking about the greatly improved hive survival experienced by beekeepers Fred, Gerard and Jon this winter.   Was it our concentration on mite control last summer and fall or some other factor such as more benign weather?  We had been preaching the necessity and benefits of good mite control all last year.  Do we have enough evidence to draw a conclusion that it was the mite control and not the weather?     So, I took a little time to review my notes from this winter and last winter.

This winter was milder than last winter through the end of December.  Last year the below zero nights began in December, while this year they held off to January.    By my count, last winter there were 15 below zero nights.  This winter there have been 11 below zero nights so far.  That could make one think last winter was worse than this winter.

But last winter the coldest night was -14F, while this winter we hit -30F.  From this standpoint this winter was the worse of the two.  Just looking at the below zero nights last winter had a total of 106 degrees below zero over the 15 days or a -7F average.  This year a total of 121 degrees below zero over 11 days or   -11F average.    Again, this winter was again worse.   

Last winter had seven below zero nights in a row.  This year had only five below zero nights in a row.  Repeated cold nights and days inhibit the cluster from moving to food and can result in starvation.  Last winter was worse from this perspective.

Last winter the cold nights started earlier (December) in the winter, when the bee clusters should have been larger and better able to handle the cold. From this perspective this winter was worse because by January natural attrition within each hive would result in smaller clusters less able to withstand cold. 

From my viewpoint the two winters were about the same with a slight edge to this winter being worse.  Also our survival rates are significantly higher this winter.    

Therefore, I feel the better mite control each of us practiced is the major factor in our better survival to date.  It is also interesting that hives with either local or package queens are having the same excellent survival.  

February is the time for the hives to start brood rearing.  This makes a big demand on food resources within the hive.  More food is needed because there is now brood to feed and also because the bees increase the brood nest temperature to 92F to ensure survival of the brood.  Late winter starvation may occur if the hive runs short of food for these two functions. Now good beekeepers need to follow through and make a late February and mid-March feedings.  Both sugar and pollen or a pollen substitute are recommended.  Don’t be lazy and lose your hive at this late point.  Get out there and either verify there is plenty of honey or by adding emergency feed.

We can discuss this at our February 16th club meeting:  9:30AM at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.  See you there.  

Monday, February 4, 2019


There are frequently discussions about local versus imported queens.  The following article seems to say that local versus imported queens have about the same winter survival.  It also states that colony strength, hive weight, and varroa control are far more important factors in winter survival.

Friday, February 1, 2019


Well the polar express has come and gone; hopefully there will be no recurrences for the remainder of the winter.  By my count we have now had 9 below zero F nights this winter; the worst being -30F.   On the positive side the amount of daylight has increased more than an hour since the winter solstice back in December. 

They say healthy, well fed, bees can survive extreme low temperatures.  I’ve worked hard at both aspects with a strong varroa control program, fall feeding and adding emergency food stores to all hives.  Just prior to those two nights of -30F temperatures I went out and surveyed my hives.  At that point I was still holding at the 97% survival level.  But it was with more than a little trepidation that I went out today, February 1st, to check on my hives again.    We can say that these extremely cold temperatures are acting to biologically winnow the weak from the strong.   I guess the survivors can be truly called survivor stock. 

The three amigos shared their varroa control programs from last summer during our December club meeting.  All three programs were shown to be effective based on Randy Oliver’s varroa model.   The results we are seeing this winter seem to agree.  

So here are my results.  Over the past 9 below zero nights I lost NO hives.  To date 97% of my hives are still surviving!  So far, I am a happy beekeeper.  At this time last year my survival was only 60%.  Even all 12 nucs are still alive, which totally surprised me.  Beekeeper Gerard reported yesterday that all of his home hives are still alive.  He also reported -36F.  Wow!  Beekeeper Jon has reported that 94% of his home hives are alive.  So, the increased focus on mite control by all of us appears to be improving winter survival and also confirms the prediction of Randy Oliver’s varroa model.     

 After a brief early February thaw, I see the weather forecast has another short bout of below zero nights about a week from now, but this time for only three days and only down to -4F.   There are still 2 months of winter to go, so tomorrow we will all be checking the emergency food supply in our hives. 

Thursday, January 31, 2019


The conventional wisdom about the interaction between the honey bees, varroa and viruses is slowly changing.  It appears to be swinging back to the idea that the varroa mite is the worse actor than the viruses the mite helps transmit.  The following article helps explains the change in thinking.  At any rate either the bee or the beekeeper needs to control the mites.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

JANUARY 30TH APIARY REPORT by beekeeper Fred

Curiosity got the better of me and I went out at noon to check on the easily accessible hives.  My truck thermometer showed it was now a balmy -13F after reaching a low of -26F this frigid Wednesday morning.  All 14 hives were buzzing.  The lower hive entrances were all covered with recent snow.  The upper hive entrances, which I put in the upper brood chamber, were partially blocked with frost.  I will provide another update this Saturday after more seasonal temperatures return.


Follow this link to see internal hive temperatures in a Minnesota hive.   I don't know if this hive was wrapped or not.  Also carefully read the comments.  The thermocouple measuring the hive temperature was initially above the cluster and internal hive temperatures were close to the outside air temperature.  For the last few temperature readings the cluster has moved up and is now surrounding the thermocouple and it appears the hive temperature has increased.  But in reality it is now measuring the cluster internal temperature not the hive temperature.

Monday, January 28, 2019


Here is a short list of companies supplying bee packages in 2019 in ECWBA area.  This list is in no way a complete listing and some suppliers have not yet published their 2019 prices.  The ECWBA does not endorse any product or supplier.   The suppliers are listed in alphabetical order. 
After this week's polar express it would be a good idea to assess the situation with your hives.   


                3 lb. package-$130

                Phone: 920-328-4456



                Nucs @$150
               3 lb. package-$120 plus tax, Italian  queen only


                2019 prices not yet posted

                Phone: 877-232-3268


                2019 prices not posted yet.





                2019 prices not yet posted

                Phone: 715-369-0383


                Phone: 920-566-2855


                3 lb. packages-$132 plus tax

                Phone: 319-321-2494



                Nucs-$170; Packages $150 per ad on Craig’s list

                Order via their website

ABRAHAM RENNE-Amish Farmer by Black River Falls

                5 frame nucs only@ $125 each


                W12704 East Pine Creek Rd

                Black River Falls, Wi.  54615
             3 lb. package delivered to your house-$198

Sunday, January 27, 2019

WHO SAYS THE BEES DON'T WORK IN THE WINTER submitted by beekeeper Gerard

Notice the number of dead bees outside of hive 2 (top photo) which was taken yesterday afternoon, and outside of the same hive (bottom photo) this afternoon.  It's zero degrees on my thermometer.  While standing there, three bees brought out dead bees, flying, but fell to the snow and couldn't get back up.  I put one back in the entrance, but it's probably a goner.  Wondering if they're healthy bees cleaning out the dead and dying in the process, or if they knew they were about to expire and helped with mortician duty on the way out?


Tuesday, January 22, 2019


At the December ECWBA club meeting we discussed use of Randy Oliver's varroa model to help you determine if your mite control strategy would yield acceptable results.  For those who are not computer savvy (ie know how to run Excel) here is another approach.  The Honey Bee Health Coalition has developed a decision tree with which by answering a few questions you can develop a mite control plan.  Here is the link to the tool.  I hope a few ECWBA members will give this tool a try so we can discuss it at the next meeting.

Monday, January 21, 2019


It looks like we will be going into a deep freeze later this week with temperatures running 10 to 15 degrees F below zero for several days.  This will be the first real test of our bees this winter.  I followed Gerard’s lead and went out today and made sure all my hives had sufficient emergency feed to carry them through the next two weeks.  Bees eat one to two pounds of honey or sugar per week in the winter.  So I made sure each hive had roughly 4 pounds of emergency feed if needed to carry them over this cold snap.  I also took data on hive status at the same time.  Hive survival is still at 97% and winter nucs at 100%. I am still unsure if the high survival rate is do to the mite treatments done last summer and fall or the warm winter temperatures we had been blessed with until now.  I hope the survival rate is still this high when the cold snap is over.  Meanwhile I will be hunkering down in my warm workshop.  

For the beekeeper who is handy with tools, winter is a good time to assemble and/or build beekeeping equipment.  If your capabilities are limited to nailing and painting, you can cut beekeeping costs by assembling and painting super boxes and frames.  You can use the money saved to buy an extra package of bees to expand your apiary or just lower the total expense of the hobby.  
Wooden frame with wax foundation.  

For those who have access to a table saw the potential for savings are much greater.  Shown below are a few items that I enjoyed making; nucs, inner and outer telescoping covers (for nucs or full size hives), swarm catching boxes.   Since my labor is free the only cost is for materials.  For example, a nuc sells for $30-45, but my cost is roughly $15 plus my time.  Building your own equipment is another dimension to the hobby and you get more satisfaction knowing you made it yourself.  
 Five frame nuc box.  
Inner cover for a five frame nuc box.  Full size inner cover is just 6 inches or so wider. 
 Swarm trapping box.  The top portion is a five frame nuc with a 4 inch extension added below.  Four eyebolts are present to aid holding the swarm trap in a tree with ropes or bungee cords.  
 Rear of swarm box has a screened hole to allow air circulation.  The screen is hard to seen in this photo.  The fine screen blocks out entrance of bees, mice and birds.  This screens was salvaged from a disassembled 3 pound bee package box. 
The front entrance is also screened with 1/4 inch hardware cloth.  The larger size screen lets in bees, but not mice or birds.  

Marathon County Beekeepers Spring Conference

Again this year the Marathon County Beekeepers Association is hosting a seminar/conference on March 16th.  There will be about 10 different topics being covered.  For more information please use the link below.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019


This Saturday, January 19th, will be the monthly club meeting.  The guest speaker will be Tim Wilbanks of Heritage Honey.  His talk will be about the package bee industry.  As usual the meeting will be at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake, Wi.  See you there.

The long range forecast for last week of January is predicting some zero or below temperatures.  Please make sure your bees are well fed prior to then.  This will be the first real test for the bees this winter.  Only two months to spring!!!   The amount of daylight is already visibly increasing.

Tuesday, January 15, 2019


Well you heard us preaching bout how the varroa attached to the bottom of the bee and fed on the fat bodies of the bee.  By following this link you can now see it.

Monday, January 14, 2019


Only $950 per hive.  Let's for my apiary that would be $950 times XXX= WOW!!!

Here is a special hive the can regulate the hive temperature at 108F, which will kill off the mites.  Follow the link for details.

Thursday, January 10, 2019


Here is an article about washing your beekeeping jacket.  It will look and smell better plus washing eliminates the accumulation of bee alarm pheromones.

Saturday, January 5, 2019


Reading about bees is a good January beekeeping activity.  Here is an article from Bee Culture about how well fed workers feed the queen and induce her to lay eggs for the hive.


Its a little early but we are having a January thaw.  The bees are making the most of it and taking voiding flights (remember those little gold spots in the snow!)
 Bees are encouraged by the bright sunshine to get a little fresh air outside the hive.  The warm temperature, 34F when picture was taken, creates a warm microclimate on the face of the hive.  Based on the thermometer on the side of my house the face of the hive is probably about 60F!
Here is one of those little golden spots where a bee voided.  Unfortunately, many of the bees do not make it back to the hive entrance.  Are these chilled bees or old bees self-sacrificing themselves? Sometimes the bees also land directly in the snow to sip a little water.