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.  

Friday, January 4, 2019

BEEKEEPING TOOLS AND OTHER HINTS submitted by beekeeper Grandpa Jack

One of our most common tools among beekeepers is the hive tool.  This little pry bar, wedge, hammer, nail puller,  is probably one of the most important tools in the wonderful world of beekeeping.  American Bee Journal, January 2019 issue did an article on the hive tool and the many different types there are.

The most common type is the one that is about 9 inches long and has a ninety degree angle on one end.  Both ends are sharpened.  Much sharper when first purchased.  The other hive tool that I find very useful is the one with a J hook on one end and is sharpened on the other end. This tool can be used to pry out frames that are propolised .  Not every beekeeper is a fan of this model of tool,  if your frames are not put together correctly you will pull the top bar of the frame leaving the bottom and comb and a number of very unhappy bees left behind. I will go into more detail later on the construction that I use.

One of YouTubes more recognized individuals, aka;  Fat Bee Man say's that if a bee inspector comes onto his property with a J hook he immediately corrects his terrible mistake or asks him to leave.  There's a reason for that and I have described it previously.  I have followed the previous YouTube celebrity and agree most of the time with his comments.  Old beekeepers have a great deal of knowledge and you always want to stop and listen when they talk.  Kind of like when  E F  Hutten talks
But I must admit that I have fallen into the J hook hive tool trap when I am removing frames.   Although I also use the standard for splitting supers and removing covers etc.  Its always nice to have two hive tools around, so that one of them will always be available while your looking for the other one.

Luckily for me, I have never pulled a frame apart while prying it out of the hive.  I have often wondered how much pull a frame can take before you pull it apart.  

Years ago, before we had pneumatic nail guns, every frame was hammered together using a small brad hammer and small nails.  An old beekeeper in our neighborhood would fill his mouth with small nails and load his hammer from his mouth.  I also knew a fellow that did upholstery  that used this same method. He always said that you should always make sure what your swallowing.  Sounded like a good rule to me.  Probably the reason I got a pneumatic nail gun.

The way I'm going to describe, is the way I do it.  I use the D style (wedge top bar with divided bottom)
bar).  I use a 1/4 x 1 1/4 staple.  A word of warning is in line.  Watch where you put your hand and fingers.  A pneumatic nailer has a tremendous amount of power and human flesh  or bone is no match for this equipment.

My assembly procedure is to dry fit the frame first.  Then I will nail the split bottom to the end bar first, using 1 inch brads and hand nailing.  I have found that using a gun on this will tend to split the end bar. The other reason I do the bottom of the frame first is to seat the end bar into the top more firmly.  Then I will flip the frame over and using the gun, put two staples through the top on each end into the end board. I also put one staple from the side of the end board into the top of the frame.  This locks the frame together and will prevent the frame from separating in the hive when your trying to pry it out. 

Find the way that works for you and have fun.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019


New Year’s day marks the half way point in the bee’s winter (October thru March).  Only 3 months to go before a few nectar sources begin occurring.  Something to look forward to.  On warm days in late February the bees may be out and about looking for early season pollen from maple trees.   

The lowest temperature in the ECWBA area so far this winter will occur tomorrow morning when the low is expected to be 7﮿F.  Based on my bee log this winter has been warmer than last year.  By this time last winter several -10﮿F days and one -14﮿F day had already occurred.   These warmer conditions should help with the overall winter survival. 

More trivia.  My records show that eight below 0﮿F nights occurred in January and February last year.  Most hives succumb during late January and early February.  Well fed and mite free hives, however, won’t have any problem with below zero temperatures.  Pre -varroa University of Wisconsin data shows bees can withstand several -40F nights if well fed.  

With today’s bright sunshine a few bees ventured forth.  Apparently, the combination of direct sun and reflected sunshine off the snow warm the hive entrance.  Unfortunately, the ambient air temperature is still too cold.  Most bees venturing out soon chill and are seen lying in the snow.  

Last night's snow has blocked the lower entrance to the hive.  NO PROBLEM, the bees in my hives have an upper entrance.   The silver gap you see is the mouse guard, not a wide open entrance.