Wednesday, September 18, 2019


For several weeks I have been placing bottles of mixed sugar syrup outside my side door.  Up until today these bottles have not attrached the attention of raccoons, hornets or bees.  Today the bees found this source of "nectar".  Before placing the jugs outside I rinse them with water to ensure they are not sticky.  These jugs are more than 1/4 mile from my hives. 

So a word to the wise.  Make sure your entrance reducers are installed; probably the 4 inch opening is OK.  There is evidently very little nectar available in the field.

Monday, September 16, 2019


The monthly ECWBA club meeting will be held this Saturday, September 21st at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.   9:30AM is the scheduled start time.  However, you can arrive early and join others in exchanging ideas.


Its now mid-September.  It’s easy to see the days are getting shorter and nights are cooling down.  The amount of forage, both nectar and pollen, is rapidly declining.  The bees will soon be living on their stored honey.    The hive has also greatly cut back on brood rearing.  

In the last week of August, I removed most of the honey from my hives.  I did leave a few supers in place if they had full, but uncapped, cells in the hopes the bees will complete their work and dry and cap the honey cells.  These remaining honey supers will be removed the 3rd week of September.

During the first week of September a number of local beekeepers banded together for an extraction party.  In total we extracted honey to fill 34 5 gallon buckets.  We compared notes and a number of us reported that this year was our best ever as far as the honey harvest, while several others said it was their worst.  Go figure.  We are all located within 5 miles of each other.  Also, a few reported that many packages did not build properly and store a surplus.  Overwintered hives had a definite advantage.

This past week I did my second fall mite treatment.  The first, using formic acid pads, was done in late July.  This past week I did a one-time oxalic acid vapor treatment.  The oxalic acid treatment will be repeated in mid-October and early November.  By early October I am hoping even the Italian queens will have stopped brood rearing.   Thus making the final oxalic acid vapor treatment 100% effective and putting the hives in excellent shape for surviving winter.

As part of my goal to be a sustainable beekeeper (ie not having to buy package bees every spring) I  made up a large number of 5 over 5 double winter nucs.  Last year I had excellent (greater than 90%) survival of winter nucs.  If the same occurs this winter I will have strong spring nucs to replace any hive losses.  In late August and September, I have been feeding these winter nucs in order that the upper box will have at least 25 pounds of honey/sugar syrup.  NOTE: I will be writing another article about winter nucs later this winter. 

My observation from this past summer was that hives, begun with winter nucs, outperformed both overwintered hives and new packages.  There could be several reasons for this outcome.  During the late winter population build-up, the winter nucs have less cold air volume which could help with brood rearing.   The winter nucs all had young queens, while the overwintered hive queens were in their 2nd or 3rd winter.  The vigor of a 1st year queen cannot be ignored.  Finally, the hives started with winter nucs seemed to not swarm while many overwintered hives swarmed.   Hives that swarmed usually had 0 or 1 super of honey.  Overwintered hives yielded 2 to 3 supers of honey.  Hives started from winter nucs yielded 2 to 4 supers.  This last observation may be a fluke.  I will continue to track the performance of winter nucs hives in the future.  

My queen rearing and mating efforts ended in late August.  I am in the process of combining the mating nucs with other hives or winter nucs.  

Several non-performing (ie no honey for the summer) hives had their queens replaced.  

What’s ahead for the remainder of September and October?

-If not done already I will be downsizing the entrance reducer to the 4 inch opening.

-Next week I will be removing the remaining honey supers. 

-Next I will evaluate each hive.  Does it need feeding?  Is it queenright?  Hives with little honey stores will be fed.  Hives not queen right will be combined with other stronger hives.

-The wax and propolis buildup on queen excluders will be removed prior to storage.  Do NOT leave a queen excluder in the hive.  It may trap the queen below the excluder when the cluster has moved above it.

-Any unused equipment will be inspected, repaired and painted prior to storage so that it will be ready for use next spring.

-Mouse guards and hive wrap will not be installed until early November. 

Sunday, August 25, 2019

END OF AUGUST by beekeeper Fred

August is winding down.  If you haven’t completed your mite treatments, you are putting your hives in danger for fall or winter failure.  Git er done!  This can’t be stressed enough!

I completed my mite treatments with formic acid pads the last week of July.  However, I will be following up with oxalic acid vapor treatments in mid-September, mid-October and early November.   Overkill?  Maybe, but this process netted me 88% survival last winter. 

I just completed removal of the honey supers; well most of them.  Because this August was wetter and cooler than normal, I am finding uncapped honey in the top super.  These top supers I am leaving in place and will be doing a second round of honey super removal in the second half of September.  Even though its late in August there seems to be a honey flow occurring; maybe a rarely occurring goldenrod flow.  Hopefully by the end of September the honey will be capped.  If not, I will use the honey for making mead before the honey begins uncontrolled fermenting and turns into honey vinegar.


With the honey supers removed you will need to assess each hive on its ability to make it through winter.  First, verify the hive is queenright.  If not, either requeen the hive or combine the hive with another weak hive.    If it is queenright, is the population strong enough to make it through winter?  To evaluate the hive partially lift, by tilting the upper brood chamber from the lower brood chamber.  Look in the gap.  The bees should be between the frame gaps of at least seven (7) of the ten (10) frames on both the lower and upper brood boxes.  At this time, also evaluate the weight of the upper brood chamber.  The upper brood chamber should weigh approximately 80 to 90 pounds and be almost entirely honey.  If underweight now is the time to feed the hive 2 to 1 sugar syrup or as an alternate high fructose corn syrup.   Feeding will initiate additional brood rearing and may increase the population to an acceptable level.  Or if you have a strong hive you could steal a frame of capped brood and move it to the weak hive.   See the Nature’s Nectar blog ( for more on feeding

A hint on evaluating the weight of the upper brood chambers.  First pull the frames and verify they are honey packed; except for maybe the center 1 or 2 frames.  Each filled frame weighs roughly 10 pounds.  Replace the frames.  Now lift the brood chamber.  Remember the feeling of the full box.  Lower the box back into place. Now as an alternate, just tilt the upper brood chamber.  You only need to lift on the front or side of the box.  You will be only lifting half of the box weight.  Remember this feeling.  From then on you can evaluate the boxes by this method.  It’s a lot easier on your back!  

Those of you utilizing 8 frame boxes or medium boxes will need to make your own guidelines.  But you will still need roughly 80-90 pounds of honey for the hive to s.fely make it through a Wisconsin winter.   Our ECWBA President targets for a full upper brood chamber and one full medium honey super.

If needed, feed your hives now while the weather is still warm.  First, the bees will not drink cold syrup.  Second, it takes time for the bees to evaporate the water out of the syrup and raise its sugar concentration to 80% as in honey.  Third, with cooler weather the bees will go into cluster at night and will not be moving the syrup from the feeder to the comb thus greatly slowing the process.   September is the time for feeding.  October temperatures may be too low.  

After the honey harvest I install an entrance reducer.  If there are no yellow jacket hornets present, I utilize the four inch wide opening.  If hornets are present, I use the one inch wide opening.   We may still get hot days in September.  You may need to increase the one inch opening to four inches in order to allow the bees to cool the hive.  

Winter is still a long way off.  DO NOT place hive wraps or BeeCozy’s on the hive yet. 

Thursday, August 22, 2019


The honey harvesting season is drawing to a close.  One of the associated tasks is to clean the beeswax and propolis off the queen excluders.  The following method works with steel excluders.  DO NOT TRY THIS WITH PLASTIC EXCLUDERS.

Beeswax melts at the relatively low temperature of 140F.  By using a propane torch the beeswax rapidly melts without causing harm to the steel excluder.  I was able to clean up 4 excluders in about 5 minutes.  

 Typical beeswax coated queen excluder. 
 Propane torch. 
Same excluder after cleaning. 

Plastic excluders can be cleaned in the dead of winter.  The beeswax gets brittle at cold temperature, but the plastic remains flexible.  Simply set the excluders outdoors overnight.  In the morning flex the excluder and the brittle wax should flake right off.  

Wednesday, August 14, 2019

MEETING REMINDER--This Saturday, August 17th

There will be a club meeting at the Rushford Meadery this Saturday, August 17th, at 9:30AM. There will be a short discussion period and then we will extract the frames of honey from the two club hives.  If you want to extract your honey afterwards please contact Pam to get your needs on the schedule.  

Tuesday, July 30, 2019


Yesterday and today I have been treating my hives with FormicPro.   I also specifically choose this week because of the milder temperatures, which slow the formic acid vapor release. Usually the bees just buzz a little louder when the pads are put in and give the pads a wide berth.  Yesterday I saw an unusual reaction.  About 15 minutes after I treated a hive it seemed that all of the bees exited the hive and then formed a beard beneath the outer cover.  Its now been 24 hours and the majority still haven't gone back in.  I've treated about 40 hives in the last two days and no other hive reacted this way.  

UPDATE--The bees went back in the hive after 3 days.  A week later I checked to verify if the queen was OK.  She wasn't in the hive.  In fact there was no eggs, uncapped or capped brood in the hive.  That means this hive had gone queenless at least 3 weeks ago; prior to the formic acid treatment.  Maybe since the bees were queenless they had no reluctance to abandon the queen in the hive.  


July is winding down and August will soon arrive in central Wisconsin.  Typically, average temperatures will be at their highest of the year and rainfall at its lowest in August.

All beekeeping is a local event and in my area the honey flow has essentially stopped.  In the last two weeks of July I have not had to add a single honey super in my apiary.   In previous years I had always felt the honey flow was 95% complete by about July 15th.   This year appears to be no different.  Since I had to temporarily remove my honey supers while applying formic acid pads to my hives during the last week of July, I also took that opportunity to record the amount of honey present in those honey supers.  I will be comparing those values with the amount of honey I obtain at the end of August when I will be removing my honey supers for processing.   I will report on the additional honey, if any, I obtain in September.   As I said all beekeeping is local and you may get different results.  Some areas in the ECWBA area have purple loosestrife which provides a good nectar flow in August.  This invasive species has not reached my area yet.  At best the bees will probably just break even during the month of August; consuming as much as they bring in.

Follow this link to see how the honey flow has dwindled to nothing in the Minneapolis area.

If you attend our club meetings or read the letters from our club president then you know that August, September and October are the most critical time in getting your hives ready for winter.  Mite levels MUST be knocked down in late July or early August so that the nurse bees can be relatively mite and virus free.  These bees can then raise disease free winter bees (fat bees).   Weather predictions for early August look to be acceptable for the use of formic acid for mite control.  Get it done!  If using other mite treatments make sure you remove your honey first.

After you complete your mite treatments then you need to evaluate the condition of each hive for its ability to survive winter.  Is it queenright?  Formic acid mite treatments are known to kill a small percentage of queens.  Also, many beekeepers neglect to inspect their hives while the honey supers are installed.  Verify there are both eggs and uncapped brood about 3 weeks after the formic acid treatment, which signifies there is a queen present in the hive.

Is the hives population sufficiently large?  Ideally, if you look between the top and bottom brood chambers you should see bees between every frame.  This is the time to combine two weak hives if needed.

Is there enough honey in the hive for winter?  The upper brood chamber should weigh roughly 90 lbs.  Visually, as a minimum, the 3 outer frames (six total) should be solid honey.  If not, feed the hive 2 to 1 sugar syrup until they will take no more.   Feeding needs to be done early in the fall.  The bees need to process the syrup and convert it to honey like (>80%) sugar concentrations.  This takes time and warm weather.  Wait too long and your hive may not be able to process the syrup.  Try to get this done before the end of September.  By October temperatures will limit the processing of syrup to only a few hours per day.

Watch your hives entrances in August and September.  With the nectar dearth that normally occurs at this time robbing may happen.  Robbing screens or downsizing the entrance width may be necessary.

Some beekeepers arbitrarily replace queens in the fall.  Young queens have a higher winter survival rate and also have a stronger spring buildup. 

Tuesday, July 23, 2019


As you can see from yesterday's post I have been doing my late July/early August mite treatments.  Remember most mite treatments require the honey supers be removed first.  Formic acid treatments (MAQS or FormicPro) are the exception, but they do requirements that temperatures be less than 92F.  The next few weeks looking to be acceptable.

Follow this link for more recommendations on mite treatments.

By the way the "formic" swarm in yesterday's photo still has not re-entered the hive.

I have also noticed the flight activity from my hives has slowed considerably.  This is probably do to a lessened availability of nectar.

Monday, July 22, 2019

NEVER SEEN THIS BEFORE by beekeeper Fred

Yesterday and today I have been treating my hives with FormicPro.   I also specifically choose this week because of the milder temperatures, which slow the formic acid vapor release. Usually the bees just buzz a little louder when the pads are put in and give the pads a wide berth.  Yesterday I saw an unusual reaction.  About 15 minutes after I treated a hive it seemed that all of the bees exited the hive and then formed a beard beneath the outer cover.  Its now been 24 hours and the majority still haven't gone back in.  I've treated about 40 hives in the last two days and no other hive reacted this way.  

Yep, that's all bees.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019


If there is sufficient rain and the county road mowing crews don't hit your area, the roadsides can provide nectar for your bees.  Here are a few of the more common roadside flowers.

A mix of white sweet clover and wild chicory 

Crown vetch

Wild Daylilies-never seen a bee on these

Sunday, July 7, 2019


Yesterday beekeeper Gerard reported a swarm issued from one of his hives and parked itself in a high tree.  He tried a bait hive, but eventually it flew off to the wilds.

Yesterday during a routine drive around inspection of hives I noted a swarm had occupied one of my top bar hives.

Today I captured a 5 lb swarm after a neighbor informed me of its presence.

I think all my swarms issued from overwintered hives; none from package.

So during your biweekly hive inspection make sure to look for queen cells and remove them unless you don't mind your hives swarming,

Swarming seems to be lasting longer through the summer this year.  Since swarming usually only occurs during the nectar flow, this may be a good sign for a longer and stronger nectar flow this summer.  We can always hope for the best.

Thursday, July 4, 2019


Its been a different spring and summer so far.  Cool and wet.  Still some colonies are making honey.  Normally the bees do not make much honey in the second half or July and August.  But who knows the high moisture levels may extend nectar gathering into August.  At least we can hope that will happen.  At our July meeting I suspect we will be talking about normal years when the honey harvest is done in early August and controlling mites populations soon thereafter.

The July meeting will be 9:30AM at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.  


Sunday, June 30, 2019

JUNE REPORT by beekeeper Fred

2019 has definitely been a different and difficult year for beekeeping. Extreme winter low temperatures.  Then spring turned out to be cooler and wetter than normal.   But in June the weather has warmed up and the amount of rain declined a little allowing the hives to strengthen.

New hives established with package bees are still struggling to fully develop.  Several of my hives established with package bees on May 1st are just now putting a splash of nectar in their honey supers.  The cooler weather of May and June slowed brood development probably by restricting the amount of the brood nest area the bees were able to cover and maintain warmth.   

Nectar from clover and alfalfa has been readily available in June.  Overwintered hives have had no trouble filling from 2 to 4 supers providing they didn’t swarm.  A friend with a hive on a scale reported a 5 pound weight gain in one day.  If we can only see more days like that.  This nectar will continue to be available until mid to late July when rainfall usually declines and growth of these plants slows. 

Of course, the strong overwintered hives were following their natural instinct and decided to reproduce; ie. swarm.  I think I had from 6 to 8 hives swarm.  Luckily, I was able to catch 4 of these swarms.  Two of them successfully reestablished themselves.  One I had to requeen when the virgin queen did not return from her mating flight.  The fourth, a smaller after-swarm, was combined with another hives when its queen did not begin laying after two weeks.  Swarms can be headed by either the old queen or a virgin queen.  The old queen begins laying within a few days.  A virgin queen needs roughly 2 weeks to get mated and between laying.   The other swarms got away into the wild.  I only saw one bee check out one of my two swarm traps.  All of the overwintered hives that swarmed were already putting honey into the honey supers.  After swarming this activity stopped for roughly four to five weeks while the hives slowly rebuilt their populations.  I hope the honey flow is still going when they regain their strength.

In June I applied a 50% strength formic acid mite treatment; the only treatment permitted while honey supers are on the hive. 

With the warm up in June I was finally get to get a little success in raising queens.  But since it takes roughly 30 days to raise and mate queens, mated queens are just now becoming available. 

What’s ahead for July?

1)      Continue to monitor that your hives are queenright.

2)      If the honey flow remains strong you can expect swarming to continue although historically it tapers off after the summer solstice.

3)      Monitor your honey supers. 

a.       Add supers when the current super is 75% filled.

b.       Bottom supering is reported to encourage the bees to gather more nectar.

c.       Bees tend to not fill the outer frames.  To make more efficient use of your equipment, when the center frames are filled then rotate the outer frames into the center of the super.

4)      By late July the queen will begin reducing egg laying.  Phoretic mite levels will spike up when this happens.  By monitoring phoretic mite levels you can determine which hives are controlling mites and which are not.  It is recommended that hives with higher mite levels should have their queens replaced with mite resistant queens. 

5)      Make a rough estimate of your coming honey harvest.  Do you have sufficient jars and labels?

6)      If your mite control method can be used with the honey supers in place you can consider a full strength mite treatment the last week of July.  Remember that most mite treatments have high temperature limitations and finding an appropriate weather window can be difficult.  High temperatures increase the outgassing rates of formic acid treatments and could cause harm to the bees.    

Saturday, June 29, 2019


We will be seeing hotter weather in the next few days, weeks and months.  Strong hives will have bees hanging on the landing and face of the hive.  They do this to reduce the temperature inside the hive.  Too high temperatures are hard on the brood.  They will also be fanning at the entrance to move cool air through the hive.  The large groups on bees on the face and landing board are call bearding.  It is normal behavior.  Bearding usually occurs in late afternoon or early at night when the field bees return.  During the night as air temperatures fall most bees usually re-enter the hive.
Photo of fanning.  Heads pointed in, tails out.  You can hear the hum of beating wing, 
Photo of bearding.

If you want to help the bees you can place a small piece of wood between the edges of the outer and inner covers.  By breaking the seal between the outer and inner cover hot air in the hive can rise through the center hole of the inner cover and exit through the gap you created.  I usually use a small of scrap 1/4 or 3/8 inch plywood to raise the outer cover.  A piece about 2 by 6 inches placed at the front of the hive will tilt the outer slightly.

Here you can see the small piece of wood installed and creating a gap between the outer and inner covers.  

Some beekeepers use a slatted bottom board to reduce bearding.

Bees also use water to provide evaporative cooling for the hive.  Hives should be within a 100 yards of a water source.  If you place a water source in your apiary make sure there are enough floating objects the bees can land on so they don't drown.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Follow this link to a good discussion on how to add honey supers.


Some plants help both honey bees and monarch butterflies. Actually the monarch is helped three times by the milk weed.  It feeds the monarch caterpillar, acts as a shelter for the cocoon and the flowers feed the monarch itself.

I counted six monarch caterpillars in about a 10 by 10 foot area.  You can see the caterpillar is making a meal of this leaf. 

Friday, June 21, 2019


The honey flow is going full throttle.  Clover, alfalfa, basswood, trefoil, and crown vetch are all in bloom.  The black locust bloom has come and gone.  Strong hives are packing away nectar and capping it once the water content is reduced below 20%.  Yes, somehow the bees know how to gauge the water/sugar content of the honey.  On a few overwintered hives the bees are starting to work their fourth honey super!  The key words in that sentence were “few” and “overwintered”.  Unfortunately, it takes work to get all hives to perform in that manner.

This honey bounty also has its downside.  When the supers are on the hives it becomes more difficult to conduct hive inspections and to apply mite treatments due to the added labor of removing and replacing those heavy honey supers.  The honey flow also urges the bees to reproduce.  Consequently many overwintered hives build swarm cells that a lazy beekeeper like me does not always remove.  Based on checks I have done it appears that up to 6 of my hives have swarmed.  Luckily, I was able to capture and hive 4 of the swarms.    However, since it takes a hive about a month to rebuild its strength, a hive that has swarmed misses out on storing a lot nectar from the honey flow.  I estimate that each swarmed hive costs the beekeeper about 2 supers (60 lbs) of honey.  So do as I say, not as I do.  Inspect your hives every 2 weeks and remove swarm cells if you want to deter swarming.  Most hobbyist beekeepers never realize their hive has swarmed and wonder why “their bees” do not gather as much honey as their neighbors hives.   Our club President has reminded me that with the passing of the summer solstice the urge for reproductive swarming is reduced. 

During the second week of June my apiary was inspected by the Wisconsin state apiary inspector.  His primary focus was in finding American Foulbrood, European Foulbrood, Hive Beetles, and Varroa.  My apiary had no adverse findings.  Mite counts were in the 0-1 range.  He did identify two other minor diseases; “snotty mite brood’ and “Sacbrood”.   These two minor maladies are usually not treated and strong hives will cure themselves. 

Comparing hives is interesting.  Overwintered hives (that haven’t swarmed) are now busy packing away honey.  The hives started with overwintered nucs this spring are also storing honey, but only about ½ the amount of the overwintered hives at this point.  My mid-April packages have, at this point, just put a minor splash of honey into the supers.  The May 1st packages are still struggling to populate the 2 brood chambers.  This shows of importance of keeping your hives alive through the winter.   Not only does it save you the expense of buying a new package, but overwintered hives also greatly outperform packages in spring buildup and honey production.  The key to winter survival is: (you guessed it) VARROA MITE CONTROL

This past week I treated all hives with a 50% dose of FormicPro in order to keep the mite populations in check.   Note: Formic acid is the only mite control method approved for use while the honey supers are in place. 

The main honey flow will continue in our area for 3 to 4 more weeks.  After mid-July the nectar flow really tails off. 

To take maximum advantage of this flow:

1)      Make sure to add an empty super when the present super is about 75% filled.

2)      Rotate outside frames into the center of the super.  The bees tend to concentrate on the center frames and sometimes do not fill outside frames.

3)      Adding the new super below the filled super (called “bottom supering”). This reportedly stimulates the bees and they increase their honey storage efforts.

4)      Keep removing swarm cells until mid-July.  At that time the weakening nectar flow lessens the urge to swarm. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


This Saturday, June 15th, the club's monthly meeting will be held at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.  See you there.

Sunday, June 9, 2019


Public outreach is one of the objectives of the ECWBA.  In the past week the ECWBA discussed pollinators and beekeeping in Westfield and also at Fond du Lac's Walleye Weekend.  Thank you to club members that participated.

 Mark and Patty in Westfield
 Al, Patty and Mark at Walleye Weekend


Black locust trees have decided to bloom this year. This is about 9 days behind their normal schedule.  The bloom will last for about 10 days.  Black locust can provide a lot of nectar.  Be sure that you have room in your honey supers to accommodate this nectar.  Check your honey supers every few days to ensure there is room for this bounty.  With a little luck we will be having a few days of sunshine which will allow the bees to work these short lived blossoms.

 Big stand of black locust starting to bloom. 
Closeup of black locust blossoms. 


Follow this link for a listing of bee related projects being worked by the USDA.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


Tuesday, June 4th

Beautiful bee day.  Sunny with a light breeze.  The bees were out.  For some reason the bees were very temperamental and began harassing me as soon as I entered the apiary.  Not sure of the reason for this, but suspect it is the high humidity and a lack of abundant nectar to keep them occupied. 

I used today to check my nine (9) hives on the edge of a marshy area.  I verified each hive was queenright as I did my inspections.  At my next visit in 2 weeks I will also be treating them with a ½ dose of Formic Pro.

Hive DD-this was a hive started with an overwintered nucleus colony.  Inspection showed a strong colony fully occupying the 2 brood chamber boxes and already putting honey in the 1st honey super.

Hive E-this hive was started with a package on April 19th.  I added 3 frames of capped brood approximately 3 weeks ago from an overcrowded hive.  Three weeks after this bee transfusion the colony occupies the entire two brood boxes, but has not yet entered the honey super added last week. 

Hive YY-this hive was started with a package on April 19th.  It did not get a bee transfusion like Hive E above.  It has only grown to a full bottom box and 4 frames in the upper brood chamber.  I topped off the syrup feeder to speed their growth.  

Hive M-this was an overwintered hive with an Ankle Biter queen.  It has filled 7 of 9 frames of the 1st honey super.  I moved the two empty outside frames into the center positions.  The bees were also working on the frames in the 2nd honey super.   I added a 3rd super to make sure they don’t get ahead of me.  

Hive AAA-this is another overwintered hive.  It had required spring feeding but is now starting to place honey in the 1st honey super.

Hive EE-this is an overwintered Saskatraz hive and is putting honey into the 2nd honey super.  

Hive OO-this was an overwintered hive with Saskatraz queen.  It swarmed several weeks ago.  It has about 7 queen cells.  Last week I saw the replacement virgin queen, but this week I couldn’t find her or any eggs.  There is still capped brood that is emerging so there is not an immediate danger of laying workers.  She gets one more week to make an appearance or I see eggs and open brood.  After that I will requeen the hive. 

Hive PP-this was an overwintered Russian hive.  It has just started to put honey in the 1st super. 

Hive WW-this hive was started with an overwintered package.  Already putting honey in the first super. 

As you can see there is a wide variation between hives.  It pays to keep notes of your observations so you can determine if individual hives are growing or failing. 

Another interesting observation is that the hives started with overwintered nucs are greatly outperforming even early package hives.   This and the fact that the overwintered nucs don’t cost me anything makes them an interesting method to better my apiary sustainability. 

Saturday, June 1, 2019


Bees obtain nectar from many plants.  Here is a list of the MAJOR nectar sources in central Wisconsin.  There are also too many to mention MINOR nectar sources. 


                -Black locust









                ‘-Sweet clover


                ‘-Alsike Clover

The tree sources of nectar are of relatively short duration; usually less than about 10 days.  The plant sources are of longer duration.   Clovers can produce up to 500 pounds of honey per acre in good year.  As Grandpa Jack likes to say “Location, Location, Location”.  

Friday, May 31, 2019

END OF MAY APIARY REPORT by beekeeper Fred

May has drawn to a close.  Comparing with previous years it seems that this May has been cooler and wetter.  My best guess is that this has slowed hive development by roughly two weeks.  With temperatures routinely getting down into the low 40’s almost every night the bees have been going into cluster to maintain warmth.  This has slowed buildup of the hive population because the size of the brood nest is restricted.  Only in the strongest overwintered hives has buildup been normal. 

In my apiary there was one swarm, which I was able to catch.  A second hive probably swarmed based on evidence of queen cells, both capped and emerged, and a falloff in bee population.  I was also able to prevent swarming off a third hive by removing a frame containing capped queen cells and also removing three additional frames of capped brood.  This hive had 12 frames of capped brood cells!   All removed frames were used to strengthen other hives.   These actions weakened the hive enough to stifle its urge to swarm.   Three weeks later they are still in place and have not swarmed.

Some of the overwintered hives have been storing honey in the honey supers.  The strongest hives has placed honey in 7 of 9 frames of its first honey super.  (Note: I run 9 frames in my 10 frame supers.  This makes decapping easier without reducing honey volume.)    None has been capped to date.   This is even before the main honey flow, which is yet to begin.  The cooler weather has delayed appearance of clover, alfalfa, and black locust blossoms.  The only source I am seeing right now is honeysuckle blooming.

Three overwintered hives have gone queenless in May.  So far, I have been able to recover the situation on one of the three; by installing a queen.  I am still working to rescue the second and third hive.  One rejected an added queen.  I am trying transferring in frames of eggs and brood to the third. 

My queen rearing efforts have gone poorly this spring.  I haven’t been raising enough queens to even satisfy my own needs.  I don’t understand the exact reason, but I think the cold nights, which cause the bees to cluster, results in the queen cells being abandoned each night and becoming too cold.  Hopefully June will provide better weather and better success in this effort.

What’s ahead for June?

1)      Build up of nucs and new package hives will continue.  Verify they are queenright and add honey supers when the population in the second brood chamber builds to roughly seven or eight frames of bees.

2)      The potential for swarming will continue.  Monitor hives for swarm cells, monitor trees near your apiary for hanging swarms, and have swarm traps in the area to catch any swarms that get away.

3)      Keep a close watch on your honey supers.  Make sure to add additional supers when the top super becomes about ¾ full.  If you don’t add another super, the bees may backfill the brood nest with honey and thus weaken the hive.  NOTE: Just because the top honey super is full of bees does not mean they are putting in honey in that super.  These bees may just be getting away from a congested brood nest.

4)      Some beekeepers periodically rearrange the frames in the honey supers.  The bees tend to fill the center frames first and may totally ignore the outer frames.  If you see this happening rearrange the empty frames to the center position.  Some beekeepers swear this actually stimulates the bees into gathering more honey.

5)      In mid-JuneI will be performing a 50% strength treatment with formic acid to control mite buildup by using one pad of FormicPro.  (NOTE: Each packet of FormicPro contains 2 pads.)  This will be done to all hives.  The formic acid pad gets installed between the two brood chamber boxes. 

6)      Performing mite counts is also recommended.  Mite counts performed by the alcohol wash method appear to give more accurate results, but at the cost of the lives of 300 bees. 

7)      Each time you open a hive it’s a good idea to verify the hive is queenright.     

Thursday, May 30, 2019


New beekeepers follow this link for views of the various types of swarm and supercedure cells.  I have be seeing both types in various hives and nucs.  If you double click on the text below the pictures you will be forwarded to articles providing additional written descriptions.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Captured my first swarm of the season.  Sorry no pictures.  When I drove into the apiary all was quiet.  About 5 minutes later the bee roar started.  Over a period of several minutes a swarm issued from a hive and alit in a close by tree branch about 8 feet high. I scurried around to get the necessary equipment.  Then I backed the pickup underneath the swarm and stood on the tailgate with a cardboard box.  Shaking the branch resulted in a cascade of bees into the box.  They were immediately transferred to a spare hive.  As of 2 hours later they were still in the hive.  I put on a hive top feeder with 2 gallons of 1:1 syrup to keep them contented and to encourage drawing out of comb.  It looked to be about 5 pounds of bees. Its always nice to recover about $130 worth of free bees!

The swarm came out at about 1PM, when the temperature got up to about 65F.  The next four days will be in high 70's to low 80's and everyone should be on the lookout for swarms from strong overwintered colonies.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

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.