Wednesday, December 30, 2015


Well sort of.  Here is a link to a website in Germany that is showing live action of the activity inside a bee hive.  Only problem is that it is winter in Germany just like here so there is not much activity.  The hive is rigged with several cameras so you get several views inside the hive and the landing board.  It would probably be more interesting during spring and summer.   I watched the site for several minutes and only saw one live bee.  This is not totally unexpected since the live bees are gathered in a cluster to stay warm.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015


Here are two YOU-TUBE shorts on honey bees.  Very basic stuff, but good to show a beginning beekeeper.

Honey Bees-Natural History 1
Honey Bees-Natural History 2


I stumbled on the Texas A&M web site and saw mention of past ECWBA member Liz Walsh.  There were two short write-ups on Liz.  One on the home page and a second on the "People" page.

Sunday, December 27, 2015


Beekeepers frequently talk about improving the genetics of the bees in their apiaries.  The genetic traits most often considered are hygienic behavior to combat varroa, resistance to foulbrood, overwintering capability and honey output.   Improving the genetics is not as simple as a one time buy of a queen (as most beekeepers mistakenly think).  Difficulties arise due to the mating behavior of the queen honey bee. 

So you go purchase a queen with the genetic traits that you want.  Usually such queens are mated in somewhat controlled conditions.  The queen breeder controls mating conditions by flooding the mating area with drones of the same basic genetic makeup as the queen.  Conversely, in open mating areas (ie. Your apiary) drones are from the surrounding area with various uncontrolled genetics.  
So now you have your new queen.  So far, so good.  The first generation of workers raised from this new queen will have the desired genetics.  Also, the drones raised in this hive will also have the desired genetics.

Problems arise beginning with the second generation if the hive successfully re-queens itself.  The issue has to do with the mating behavior of honey bees.  The honey bee has evolved a mating system intended to prevent inbreeding.  This system prevents the mating of the virgin queen with drones from the same hive.  First, the queen leaves the hive about an hour later than the drones.  This prevents the drones from the same hive preferably mating with the virgin queen.  When the virgin queen arrives at the drone congregation area (DCA) she is met by thousands of drones from the surrounding area.  In the DCA only a small percentage will be from the queen’s hive.  Most of the drones in the DCA probably do not have the desired genetics you had purchased with your queen.  The virgin queen mates with an average of 17 drones.  In a few generations this behavior will dilute the genetics you paid for in your new queen.
The reality is that those desired genetics usually get passed on to a neighboring apiary, not yours.  Of course the next generation in your apiary may see return of those desired traits from your “now improved” neighbor’s bees.
So how can you improve your apiary’s genetics and have them sustained?
1)      Upgrade multiple hives with genetically optimal queens to increase the amount of drones with the desired genetics in the DCA.
2)      Understand apiary improvement is not a “one time” event.  You should plan on procuring new queens for several years in a row.
3)      If possible have a remote hive(s) with the desired traits at a separate site one to two miles away.
4)      Try to minimize the annual procurement of package bees and queens.   Remember the package bee suppliers have no financial incentive to provide you with better bees.  They are in the business of selling packages, which won’t happen if your bees survive!  This is exactly opposite of your goal.  The higher cost of better queens is another disincentive to the package bee suppliers.

Although it takes a little effort and perseverance, you should consider improving the genetics of your apiary.   Several approaches are available:
1)      Hygienic bees which remove varroa-infected larvae from the brood cells. These bees are usually labelled as VSH (Varroa Sensitive Hybrids).
2)      Primorsky Russian bees which have good wintering characteristics and mite resistance (both tracheal and varroa).
3)      Queens raised from survivor and northern stock

 Good books on this subject are:
- Mating Behavior of Honey Bees (Apis mellifera)

-Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Manual Extraction of Honey submitted by beekeeper Denise

First year beekeepers usually do not have a honey extractor.  Mostly they rely on friends or manually extract the honey.  The following article describes the process for manually extracting honey.

LOG BEE HIVE submitted by beekeeper Denise

The top bar hive is one way to mimic how the bees live in nature.  The log hive in the attached article is even closer to nature.  This appears to be a "do it yourself" project; so be careful!

Monday, December 21, 2015


This short video condenses all of the issues affecting bee health into a short 5 minutes.  Watch and learn.


Tuesday, December 22nd, is the winter solstice.  That's when the sun reaches its farthest point south and day light is at its shortest.  From now on the days will be lengthening.  Lengthening days are commonly thought to trigger the hive to begin raising brood again.  Brood raising is initially very slow due to the limited space (warm area) within the cluster where the temperature is warm enough (92F) to allow the eggs to hatch and larvae develop.

Since the bees are already beginning to think spring, you, the beekeeper, should also begin thinking about your beekeeping plans for next spring.  Now is the time to order and assemble any new equipment.  If you plan to improve you apiary genetics by ordering new queens, remember that queen suppliers usually begin taking orders for spring and summer queens beginning January 1st.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


The top bar hive is an excellent way to make comb honey sections.  The bees do all the hard work of drawing new comb; without the need to put in any thin foundation.  You just need to remove the top bar with comb and cut out the comb honey section.  Remember that comb honey is considered exotic and sells for about twice that of extracted honey (provided you don’t flood the market).

However, the top bar hive does have several drawbacks.  The foremost is the tendency of the bees to attach the comb to the angled sides of the hive.  Do to this difficulty of pulling the comb, the beekeeper tends to inspect the top bar hive less often or not at all!   In addition, populating a new top bar hive requires either a package of bees or a captured swarm.  Trying to populate a top bar hive with bees from a Langstroth hive, while possible, is a challenge, because you need to shake bees from the Langstroth frames into the top bar hive.
After reading an article in American Beekeeping Journal about horizontal hives, I have decided to address these issues by building a hybrid top bar hive this winter.  Instead of the angled sides I have retained the vertical sides of the Langstroth hive.  In addition, instead of the top bar I have sized the hive to use standard 9 5/8 inch Langstroth style frames.   In essence this is a horizontal Langstroth hive.  A hive length of approximately 5 feet would be the equivalent of a vertical Langstroth hive with two 9 5/8 inch deeps (the normal brood chamber) and four 6 5/8 inch medium supers.   There will space for about 40 frames.  That volume should accommodate most hive colonies except a really booming colony.  If its a booming colony you can easily pull several capped frames and give them empty replacements to abort their inclination to swarm. 

To populate the hive I can simply take a split from a standard Langstroth hive.  I have the choice of letting the bees raise their own queen, adding a queen cell or using mated queen.   The frames from the split are placed at the end of the hive with the entrance.  The bees naturally keep the brood nest close to the entrance.  Conversely the bees use the frames far from the entrance for honey storage.  No queen excluder is required.

For my first year with this hive I will start with twenty (20)  9 5/8 inch frames with foundation.  About six of these frames will come from the split.  Then will come fourteen (14) frames with new foundation.  These first 20 frames will always be left for the bee colony at honey harvest time, so that they have sufficient winter stores (this is the same as two (2) deeps).  The next 20 frames will be foundationless.  I have experimented with foundationless frames in the past year with good success.   The bees can easily draw out a frame in less than a week during the honey flow.  Being foundationless these frames can then be cut up for comb honey.
This hybrid hive can be constructed at a lower cost than a standard Langstroth hive because you need not buy the bottom board, excluder, four super bodies, inner cover, telescoping cover and the foundation for about 50% of the frames.  So far, I have spent $30 for the 5 pieces of 1” X 12” X 6’ pine boards used to construct the box itself.  Another $8 or so will be necessary for plywood for the top cover.  It also provides a therapeutic winter project for those beekeepers that are also woodworkers
This arrangement will allow for easy removal of brood frames for periodic inspection without the hassle of the foundation being attached to the top bar hive side walls.

Here are a few photos of the hive.  I will report on its progress throughout next summer and next winter.  Winter will be the big test to see if the bees will move horizontally to their winter stores. 

                                                      Stack of 5 1" X 12" X 6' pine boards
                                                           Detail of frame rest cuts
                                         Assembled hive showing frames and entrance hole
Another view of hive showing frames at one end and single frames at 20 and 30 frame points

Sunday, December 13, 2015


As part of the holiday season you may want to donate to a charity to sets up people in impoverished areas of the world with BEES!

NOTE: ECWBA does not endorse any products, companies or charity.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Thursday, December 10, 2015


ECWBA Meeting Schedule 2016
  • January 23, 2016. Start at 9:30 am.  Location is Ripon Public Library in the Silver Creek Room (downstairs).
Memberships for 2016
The new year also brings with it membership renewal time.  The membership dues are $5.00 for a one year membership.  One membership entitles the member(s) to receive the newsletter, to vote on officer elections and organizational business issues, and to hold a position as an officer.  A membership may include more than one person (e.g. husband/wife, parent/child, etc.), but only one newsletter will be sent out and only one vote may be cast per membership.
ECWBA Officer Election January 2016 Meeting
At the January, 2016, meeting, the offices of president and secretary, are up for re-election.  Here’s an opportunity to become involved as a volunteer in an organization serving fellow beekeepers.  Please think about running for one of these offices.  If you would like more information, please get in touch with ECWBA president, Jeff Champeau.
I, myself as ECWBA President, will not seek re-election for the office of association president.  So, we are looking especially to fill the upcoming vacancy of the president office.
The office of secretary is currently held by Patti Ingram and will be up for re-election in January.
ECWBA Website
Visit the ECWBA online for the latest association information at Fred Ransome manages the ECWBA website.  Please direct any inquiries regarding the website and blog to Fred at .
Beekeeping Notes:
  • As for 2015, if there is something you have not done yet for your bees, don’t worry – it’s too late!!!
  • Start planning for 2016 – do you want to expand your beekeeping operation or just improve upon what you already have?  These upcoming winter months are a good time to plan ahead for your next year of beekeeping, catch up on your beekeeping reading, and tend to your equipment – repairing the old and preparing the new.
  • Be good!!! – Santa Claus just might deliver some good beekeeping stuff!!!
On behalf of the East Central Wisconsin Beekeepers Association, I would like wish all of you, your families and friends, a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!!!
Best of beekeeping,
Jeff Champeau
ECWBA President


The duties of the club president include but are not limited to:
1) Set club meeting schedule and agenda/
2) Reserve the meeting room for the club meetings
3) Chair the club meeting
4) Act as focal point for interaction with the public. 

The duties of the club secretary include but are not limited to:
1) Record the minutes of the club meetings.  

Friday, December 4, 2015

STORING OLD COMB submitted by beekeeper Denise

Beekeeper Denise has submitted this article on uses and storage of old comb.

Blog editors comment: Used comb can be overwintered in Wisconsin by storing it outside; either in a hive box or an unheated storage shed.  The typical cold weather in Wisconsin will kill off any wax moth larvae. The main thing is to prevent mice from getting to the comb.  This can b done by placing the comb in their respective size boxes.  Make sure both the bottom and top of the boxes are covered (sealed) with a a piece of wood and plug any other holes with a cork.   I store all my comb in unheated sheds using this method and have not had issues with wax moth larvae or mice.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Were you wondering what to do with your clean wax cappings after harvesting your honey?  Here is a recipe for making your own furniture polish.  You will put your beeswax to a good use and also get the satisfaction of making a useful everyday product.  You could probably modify the recipe and add a little lemon juice also.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015


Here is a link for information on a beginning beekeepers class at UW- Fond du Lac.  It is on 4 nights ( Feb 4th, Mar 17th, July 21 and a yet to be announced field day.  The classes are from 6 PM to 8:30 PM.

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Winter vs Summer Colony Loss

I was surprised last year when a large number of my colonies lost their queen in early to mid summer.   Luckily I recognized the loss and was able to take remedial action.   Recent data has shown that summer colony losses are climbing while winter losses are decreasing.  Winter losses have usually been associated with varroa and tracheal mites.  One could speculate that mite treatments, hygenic bees and natural selection may be having a little success in the fight against the mites.  The rise in summer hive losses is still disturbing.  Do to the fact that summer losses have not been tracked until recently makes speculation on a root cause just that speculation.  It will be interesting if data from the European Union, which recently banned neonics, will show significantly different results.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Winter Insulation for Screened Bottom Boards contributed by beekeeper Gerard

This article was contributed by beekeeper Gerard.  He had be wrestling on how to protect his bees from cold drafts coming in through the screened bottom board.

"I think I finally have a decent solution for blocking the winter wind coming up from under a screened bottom board.  I had been trying 1/4" thick wood products (pressed board, panel board, plywood) for the past 4 years and every spring they were warped and nearly impossible to get out.  Took a lot of work to remove them.  So I went looking for 1/4" Styrofoam insulation and all I could find is pink fan-fold underlayment.  It seems perfect.  Won't warp. and if it somehow did, it will break out easily.  So I cut out the wind blockers today using the sticky board that came with the screened bottom boards as a template.

Since it's fan-fold I had to cut the sheets along the fold, and then I got (3) wind blockers per sheet.  It's only sold in large packs so I have enough for 72 wind blockers, and it works out to about $.55 each. 

I attached some pics so you can see what I'm referring to.  This might be a solution for others who have struggled with a way to block the winter wind on a screened bottom board.

I hope you have a Happy Thanksgiving.

                                                         Bundle of 1/4 inch insulation board
                                                Sticky board laid on insulation as pattern
                                            Insulation inserted into slot beneath screen bottom
                                                            Insulation taped in place

Monday, November 23, 2015

A little more on the Bayer controversy

This article tells a little more even handed story about Bayer and its two sided approach (neonitinoid pesticides and also development of miticides).  Time will tell if neonictinoids are th elephant in the closet.  I liked the cigarette industry comparison.

Monday, November 16, 2015


Here is an article predicting a hard winter for honey bees.  I find it interesting that one of the chief scientists for Bayer (the neonictinoid inventor) is coming out in advance and blaming varroa mites for upcoming winter losses.   One would tend to think that neonictinoid or other pesticide losses would most likely occur during warm weather and the growing season.  So obviously winter losses would be varroa related (unless pesticides also weaken the colony's ability to withstand winter stresses).  Usually complex problems have multiple causes.  You can draw your own conclusions.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Extractor for sale

The time to buy equipment is in the off season.  New club members are frequently asking where they can extract honey.  Here is an opportunity to get your own equipment

Bruce in Eureka has a 4 frame motorized extractor for sale.  It is not a radial style extractor.  The extractor must be stopped and frames reversed to extract the other side.  The asking price is $350, but is negotiable.  Bruce can be contacted at 920-684-5841 or 920-410-0340.

Please note that the ECWBA does not endorse any products or sellers.

A little human/honey bee history

Here is a link that provides the long history of interaction between honey bees and humans.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mid Summer Queen Loss

At the last club meeting several members, including the author, described losing queens during the course of the summer.  In order to take corrective action the beekeeper must first recognize the loss.  The best remedy here is to conduct bi-weekly inspections for eggs and brood.  Early intervention is the required if the beekeeper wants the hive to produce a honey crop and also store enough honey to survive the winter.   Many times the queen may still be present, but just not performing; ie. laying enough eggs and of the right type (95% worker/ 5% drone).  A queen can go bad for a number of reasons including old age, poor mating, pesticide poisoning, etc.  It can't be avoided and actually seems to be on the rise.  The following article gives a few pointers on recognizing the problem.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Thursday, November 5, 2015

A Genome Based solution to strengthen honey bees?

Here is an article relating how the University of British Columbia is trying to speed up the process of natural selection and develop a honey bee resistant to varroa mites and other pathogens.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015


To survive the winter in central Wisconsin the honey bee hive needs several things; 1) adequate food, 2) a dry ventilated and wind free environment, 3) a minimum of pests and 4) an adequate population to provide for cluster warmth and to raise brood.  A deficiency in any of these four areas will put the hive in jeopardy.  This article is focused on the “adequate food” portion of the above equation. 

Winter feeding of bees is considered controversial.  After all, the bees evolved a system that has allowed them to survive millions of years without artificial feeding during winter.  Of course beekeepers have only begun stealing the so called “surplus” honey during the last few thousand years.  Also the recent industrialization of agriculture has greatly altered the types and duration of forage for the bees in only the last few decades.  Probably the best approach is to simply leave a full super of honey on top of the hive.  If unused, the super can be extracted the following spring.  Or a heavy feeding of 2/1 sugar syrup after super removal is recommended for underweight hives.  What else can be done? Winter feeding!

The concept of winter feeding is to provide the bees with emergency rations if they have depleted their stored honey.  These emergency rations are added to the hive AFTER the bees have gone into cluster, because you do not want the bees to shift to the emergency rations prior to consuming their more nutritionally balanced honey.  The emergency rations can be presented to the bees in a number of methods.  All methods require, as a minimum, removing the outer telescoping cover.  Don’t be overly concerned about this operation as long as it’s done quickly.  Research has shown that the internal hive temperature is basically the same as the outside air temperature.  So removing and then quickly replacing the outer telescoping cover will not “chill” the bees to any degree. 

The simplest method of giving the bees emergency food is to spread sugar or granulated honey on top of the inner cover around the center hole.  In warm weather areas this can be effective.  However, in central Wisconsin the bees are very reluctant to leave the warmth of the cluster in winter.  Even when the cluster has risen to just below the center hole the bees will usually not venture more than a couple of inches from the center hole simply because they can’t remain warm enough.  As spring arrives they will venture further away.  So although this is the simplest method of winter feeding, it is probably the least effective. 

                                                        Sugar added on inner cover
NOTE: I have shown approximate distance the bees will venture from the center hole

The next easiest method is to spread sugar or granulated honey on a sheet of paper laid on the top bars of the brood chamber frames.  This will be below the inner cover and thus be slighter warmer.  Do not make the paper too large.  If the bees must leave the cluster to get around the edge of the paper they may not be willing to make the journey.  Also do not block the inner cover center hole.  Air flow through the center hole removes excess moisture from the hive.  It is probably not a good idea to use a paper plate because the raised outer rim will inhibit bee movement.  The amount of sugar that can be applied is restricted by the space between the frame top bars and the underneath side of the inner cover.  Some beekeepers insert a one inch shim below the inner cover to provide more space for the sugar. 

Sugar added on thin sheet of cardboard

Next is the winter patties sold by the bee supply houses.  Winter patties have high sugar content and low protein (pollen substitute) so as to feed the bees, but not induce brood raising.   It may be necessary to flip the inner cover to provide room beneath the cover for the patty.  Also remember to not block the inner cover center hole. 

Picture of winter patty on frame topbars

 Next up is the candy board.  The candy board is candied sugar poured into a form.  After the sugar sets up the board is then placed under the inner cover.  When the cluster reaches the frames top bar it will begin eating the candied sugar.   The advantage of the candy board is the amount of sugar that can be put in the hive.  Depending on the thickness of the candy board 5 to 10 pounds of sugar can be added at one time, thus minimizing the number of times you need to open the hive in cold weather.  Again the bees will only eat the candied sugar in close proximity to the cluster as shown in the following picture. 

Candy board

Bees only removed sugar above cluster

The final method is a winter super; invented here in central Wisconsin to address the bee's needs during prolonged cold spells experienced here.  More about the winter super will be provided in a future article.  

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Honey bee larvae absorb the social culture of the hive

The web is interesting.  Here is a study done and published by the University of Illinois, but the article about it is in the TIMES of India.  One interesting thing in the article is that aggressive bees tend to have better immune systems than gentle bees.  Hmmm, those "hot" hives we usually requeen probably have a better survival rate than the gentle hives.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Monday, October 26, 2015


Its surprising that even in Africa there is a worry about the decline in bee population.  Here is an article discussing about how industrialized farming results in a decrease in the diversity of bee food and affects the health of the bees.

Monday, October 19, 2015


The time to feed your hives with liquids in preparation for winter is essentially at an end.   There are several reasons for this.
      1)      With temperatures below 57F for much of the day the bees will be in cluster in order to maintain temperature.  They typically won’t go far from the cluster to feed.   Each day there is only a short window when the hive temperature is warm enough for the bees to be active.  It’s not like midsummer when the bees are working 24 hours per day.
      2)      The internal hive temperature essentially matches the air temperature outside of the hive.  At these cooler temperatures the bees will not be able to evaporate the water from the liquid feed (usually sugar water) to keep it from spoiling.

       3)      The temperature of the liquid feed also cools to the outside air temperature.  The bees typically will not feed from cold liquids.

       4)      With the bees in cluster, an external Boardman type feeder essentially becomes useless since the bees won’t  break cluster to feed from it.  Also you chance breakage of the feeder if ice forms inside.   
       5)      It can be dangerous to use an internal plastic feeder because if the liquid freezes the feeder may split and drench the bees with cold liquid.  This is a death sentence for the wet bees.

The next best thing you can do now is to provide your bees with some type of winter emergency feed, which should be added later.  When the cluster eats its way to the top of the hive the cluster will warm and eat food provided at the top, but only for a very short distance away from the cluster where the cluster heat still warms the bees and food.   Alternate methods of winter feeding will be discussed in a future article. 

Saturday, October 17, 2015


On Saturday, October 17th, the club president, Jeff Champeau, presented a short beekeeping overview to a variety of attendees.  The 15 attendees were from Berlin, Princeton and Green Lake.  The attendees included current beekeepers, past beekeepers thinking of starting again, those considering getting into the hobby and a few participants just interested in bees.  The overview provided presentations on three beekeeping topics; beekeeping equipment, the life cycle of the queen workers and drones, and a beekeepers tasks for a period of one year.  All attendee questions were answered.  Although scheduled for an hour duration the questions resulted in the presentation continuing for roughly 2 1/4 hours.  These small venues are good for public education and beekeeper recruiting.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Getting Started with Honey Bees and Beekeeping

Date and Time:  Saturday, October 17, 2015, at 10:00 am.

Place:  Caestecker Library, Green Lake, WI

Title and Subject of Presentation:  Getting Started with Honey Bees and Beekeeping.  The talk will include discussion of the current  state of honey bees, honey bee biology, beekeeping equipment, and getting a hive started in the spring.  The presentation will be about an hour long with about a half hour for questions.

This will be open to the public for attendance.  ECWBA members are encouraged to attend to provide a variety of perspectives regarding beekeeping.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Neonics especially hard on Queens? Revised

Here is another article citing research that confirms neonictinoid pesticides are especially hard on queen bees.  This article is mostly fluff without a lot of detail.  I will try to dig into the research further.

More details are available.  The results are in text and graphic form.  It shows that queens exposed to neonics had a 34% survival reduction compared to normal bees.  Maybe that's why I lost so many queens during the summer season.  To see the report scroll down in the above link.  Click on the report "10.1038/SREP14621".  For some reason I couldn't link up to this report any other way.

These articles mentioned two neonictinides; clothianidin and thiamethoxam.    Clothianidin is used on corn seed.  Not sure what the prime use of thiamethoxam.

Friday, October 9, 2015

WAX MOTHS by beekeeper Fred

After beekeeping for 6 years I have seen my first case of a mild wax moth infestation.  I didn’t see any wax moths but did see the wax moth larvae.  I think I was lucky in that the infestation was rather small.  They appeared to have gained a foot hold in a hive that was in decline.  The hive appears to have been queenless, which the beekeeper (ie. Me) did not detect.  The hive had also been robbed out.  The sudden decline in flight activity alerted me that something was amiss.   The hive had done a good job through the honey flow, filling one deep and one medium.  Being lazy I quit the biweekly inspections due to the difficulty of moving the full deep.  If I had done so I would have detected the decline in time to re-queen the hive.  

At any rate the wax moth(s) was able to gain entrance into the hive and lay eggs which progressed to the larvae stage.  In total I found about 6 cocooned larvae and may 10 more active larvae.  I removed all larvae and cocoons.  Cold weather will kill any I have missed.  There are no bees remaining in the hive to keep the larvae warm.   See the photos below for pictures of the larvae and cocoons. 

I haven’t seen any larvae or cocoons in any other active hives, so conclude that a strong hive quickly ejects a wax moth trying to enter the hive to lay eggs. 

                                           Batch of cocoons and one larvae in corner of box
                                Larvae silk. Also, look at comb bees built when I left out a frame.

                                                                    Several larvae.

Thursday, October 8, 2015


The USDA is again offering aid to farmers and landowners for the planting of bee forage.  This year another $4 million is being offered.  The $4 million however is spread over 5 states.  To receive the money requires the filling out the usual government paperwork and submitting to potential government inspections.   If interested see the link below.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

AUCTION OPPORTUNITY submitted by beekeeper Vicki

Vicki reports there is an auction near Waukau this Sunday, the 11th.  One item being offered is a beehive with bees and miscellaneous equipment.  Vicki checked it out for the auctioneer and indicated the hive is active and full of honey.  According the auctioneer the owner had died last spring and the hive has been unattended since then.

Location: 2209 County Road M just off of Highway 91
Time: 9:00AM this Sunday, the 11th

ECWBA does not endorse any product.

Saturday, October 3, 2015


Some new research may indicate that royal jelly is not the only factor in creating a queen instead of a worker.  Read the article via the link below.

Friday, October 2, 2015


The queen is the major determinant of the honey bee colony performance.  Her genetics influence how the colony does in honey gathering, hive population, mite resistance, etc.  Some beekeepers feel bees acclimatized to regional or local conditions also influence the winter survival of the colony.  

To that end I have put together a list of queen suppliers from Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Michigan.  This list probably does not list all “local” suppliers, but gives you a start.  I have not purchased queens from all of those listed, so cannot speak to the quality of the queens or level of service.   ECWBA does not endorse any supplier or product. 

Also, please note that queen bee suppliers in the Midwest region can not start raising queens until mid to late April, so mated queens may not be available until late May or early June.  This listing will be put into the RESOURCES section of the blog for your future reference.

Jon Polcyn-Lone Oak Apiary of Montello, Wi.
TYPE: Open mated VSH Italian and VSH Carniolan
AVAILABILITY: June thru August
Telephone: 920-229-3046

Sweet Mountain Farm on Washington Island
TYPE: Local Russian Nucleus Colonies and Queens
AVAILABILITY: see website for availability
Telephone: 920-847-2337 (emails preferred)

Fred Ransome-Flying Squirrel Apiary of Princeton, Wi.
TYPE: Open mated USDA Russian
AVAILABILITY: June thru August
TELEPHONE: 920-229-2204


Golden Ridge Honey Farm
TYPE: USDA Russian
TELEPHONE: 563-547-4222

AVAILABILITY: June thru August
TELEPHONE: 515-991-4666


BBHONEY of Houston, Minnesota
TYPE: Minnesota Hygenic and Hygenic Italian
TELEPHONE: 507-896-3955

NATURE’s NECTAR LLC  of Stillwater, Minnesota
TYPE: Carniolan, Italian and Minnesota Hygenic


Rhodes Bee Farm
TYPE: Carniolan, Italian Minnesota Hygenic, Buckfast Cross, Grey Mountain (caucasian) cross

TELEPHONE: 231-245-3039

Wednesday, September 30, 2015


If you've taken a walk in the fields in the last few weeks you have seen there is almost nothing for the honey bees to utilize.  If you would like to aid your bees next fall now is the time to begin thinking about next spring's planting.  The aster family of flowers has a lot of fall blooming varieties.  My favorite is the New England aster, but there are many others.  The Maximilian Sunflower is also a fall blooming plant.  Both are in their prime right now and are good pollen sources for the bees.  They are both perennials and will slowly spread.  I had trouble establishing the asters from seed and had to resort to rooted sets.  I am sure your bees will appreciate any help you give them.

                                                                 New England Aster
                                                               Maximilian Sunflower

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Sunday, September 27, 2015


Colder weather is just around the corner.  Now is the time to accomplish two important beekeeping tasks.

If you are going to treat for mites you need to pay attention to the daily temperatures.  Most miticides, whether natural or chemical, work best in warm (not hot nor cold) weather. Consult the directions that come with your miticide for the best temperatures.  By late October temperatures will be too cold for the miticides to fully vaporize and be effective.

Feeding of liquid feeds also is affected by temperature.  If the feed is too cold the bees will not utilize it.  Remember the bees begin to cluster when overnight temperatures are in the mid 50s.  So they won't be feeding for a good portion of the 24 hour day.  Also, the feed pail or tray will also cool to the overnight temperature.  Th bees will avoid feeding until the feed warms up sufficiently.  Also the cool temperatures will slow the water evaporation of water from the feed. So if you are giving the bees a pre-winter boost get it done now.

Also remember to remove the queen excluders if you utilize them.     In addition, reduce the entrance reducer to the 4 inch opening to help the bees prevent robbing.  Then in November reduce it further to the 1 inch opening.

Friday, September 25, 2015


Here is an interesting article from Cornell University that indicates that wild bees are adapting to the presence of varroa mites.  Natural selection in action.  Of course this has been slowly occurring over a period of decades and most beekeepers do not have the patience to wait for this long term phenomenon to occur.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


Here is an article about an apiary that has a 90% survival rate.  (Not clear to me whether this is an annual or winter survival rate; however it is impressive none the less)  The article indicates they select for hygenic behavior by a somewhat detailed procedure.

Editors Note: They appear to be doing what can also be done by purchasing Varroa Sensitive Hygenic (VSH) or USDA Russian queen bees.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015


This link leads to an interesting article in Science Daily about bees in New York that have developed a natural resistance to varroa mites via natural selection.  As a side note, this phenomenon is similar to how the USDA Russian strain of bees developed their natural resistance to varroa in the Primorsky region of Russia.

Another important point of the article is the importance of maintaining genetic diversity in the bee gene pool.  This helps the bees select genes via natural selection (ie. good ones survive, bad ones die) that help them combat varroa. Continuously procuring your bees from the same source probably is not the wisest choice.  The industrial queen raisers who supply queens for packages are probably not motivated in this direction.  So it will be up to you individual beekeepers to increase the genetic diversity in your apiary by varying your source and type of packages and queens.  

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Locally the city of Appleton has approved allowing residents to keep bees within the city limits.  But its not as wonderful as the headline reads.  There are requirements for classes to take, fees to pay and neighbors to mollify.  Read the link for additional information.

Also in the news is an article stating that Africanized honeybees are spreading further north in California.  Feral Africanized bees have now bee found as far north as the Sacramento valley.  Makes one wonder if our California package bees will begin arriving with Africanized queens.  It would be a good idea for midwest beekeepers to start sourcing their own regional queens, packages and nucs.

WINTER PREPARATIONS submitted by beekeeper Denise

This link provides a few recommendations on how to prepare your hives for winter.

A few other items:

1) Make sure you remove the queen excluder between the brood chamber and any honey supers you leave on the hive.  Although the worker bees may be able to pass through the excluder your valuable queen can not.

2) It is a good idea to fall feed ALL the new hives you started this year.  These new hives are the most likely to have a shortage of winter stores.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


The pesticide "sulfoxaflor" was in the news last week when it's EPA approval was overturned by the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals.  What is "sulfoxaflor"?  It is pesticde that acts similar to neonictinoid, but is not exactly a neonictinoid.  All this make my brain hurt.  A short write-up on "sulfoxaflor" can be found at the following Wikipedia link.

Wikipedia also has a good summary about neonictinoids and their relationship to honey bee decline.  This class of pesticide has 7 different chemical compounds and is sold under 19 or more different trade names.  The link to Wikipedia follows:

At this time 100% of seed corn and about 33% of soybeans is coated with neonictinoid pesticide.  So here in Wisconsin we are surrounded by it.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Tales from the Apiary contributed by beekeeper Denise

story from the hive - NOT one of mine....but i still feel terrible.

student sent me a video with a question, "what's going on here?"

the video showed 3 hives next to each other with about a foot of
space between.  the hive on the left was APPARENTLY the strongest
of the had 3 honey supers on it.

bees were POURING OUT from the bottom entrance - many of them
crawling up the front vertically - only to amass...and fall to the ground.
(and seemingly the other hives were not effected)

i replied, "ROBBING"  (4 pm in the afternoon)
he asked - what can i do?  i replied - pretty much nothing...throw a sheet over it.
and reduce the entrances on the other hives!
which he did...  the beekeeper and his family were leaving for a camping
trip and didn't have an immediate chance to go through the hive. when he came
back and went through the hive - he reported....

TOTAL LOSS - all the honey gone
MASSES of dead bees on the ground

....makes me want to tear into my own hives RIGHT NOW!!!!

EDITORS COMMENTS: This is fall.  This time of year is definitely one of poor availability of nectar and pollen.  Bees will rob neighboring hives to try to support their own populations.  Any weakness is exploited.  The Italian strain of bees is especially known for this.   In this particular case it appears hive beetles have weakened a previously strong hive.  It neighbors commenced to rob it.  This usually results in enormous battles to the death inside the the hive bees defend their winter food supply.  What can you do?  For weaker hives it is a good idea to re-install the entrance reducer with the 4-5 inch wide entrance in position.  This lessens the width of entrance the guard bees need to cover.  .If you see a lot of wax flakes at the hive entrance robbing is probably occurring as the robber bees decap the stored honey. Another tip off is a huge increase in flight activity at a hive entrance.  Compare activity between hives.  The one with the most activity is probably being robbed.  


In case you don't look at the "Calendar" section of this blog, please be aware that there will be a club meeting this Saturday (September 19th) at the Fund du Lac public library at 9:30AM.   Discussions will cover your honey harvest results and preparations for winter.

If you plan to apply anti-mite chemical this is the time to do it.  Most chemical treatments require warm days to distribute the chemical fumes throughout the hive.  Temperatures may not be high enough in October and definitely not high enough in November to accomplish this.


Here is a recently published article regarding neonitinoids and their potential harmful effects on honeybees.

Friday, September 11, 2015


According to the LA Times the US 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has revoked the EPA approval of the pesticide sulfaxaflor (sold under trade names of Closer and Transform) due to flawed data in relation to its toxicity to bees.  This pesticide is used on a variety of crops.  Read the LA Times article via the link below.  Whether this ruling will help our Midwestern bees is still a question.

Sunday, September 6, 2015


Traditionally, small scale honey extraction involves use of a heated de-capping knife.  This is a time proven method.  With fully filled super frames de-capping is a breeze.  It can become challenging for a novice when the comb is uneven in depth, but with a little practice and patience even these frames can be uncapped. 
Traditional heated de-capping knife

This year to add a little spice to our extracting party we tried three other methods.  We had 5 people running the equipment.  One novice, two highly experienced and two with intermidiate experience. The article summarizes our findings.  The first alternate was an “uncapping punch”; essentially a narrow plastic roller with short spikes that penetrate the cappings.  It was a breeze to use; making an elongated hole in each comb cell.  It was much faster than the uncapping knife; especially on uneven comb surfaces.  However, it seemed to have two drawbacks.  The spikes seemed to load up with wax over time; resulting in a shorter elongated hole in the cappings.  As this happened extraction efficiency degrades.  Over time we began finding frames that were getting only partially extracted.  Stopping frequently and cleaning the tool could probably have alleviated this issue. Since the objective is to get as much honey as possible, our consensus was to stick with the heated de-capping knife and only use the uncapping roller in comb areas not readily accessible to the knife.  The second drawback is that the face of the comb has hundreds of tiny wax flakes adhering to it.  These flakes fall off the comb during extraction and speed up the plugging of the coarse screens which we use to remove wax debris from the extracted honey.  (We don't filter our honey, but do run it through a series of 3 screens; 600, 400 and 200 microns, to remove wax and other debris. Pollen passes freely through all three screens.)
                                                 De-capping roller; notice the small spikes. 

During our lunch break we viewed a Utube video of de-capping using an industrial heat gun; a hair drier on steroids.  Not having an industrial heat gun we actually pressed a hair drier into service.  Although its power output was lower the hair drier did uncap dry cappings (“Dry” cappings are white in color due to a thin air bubble beneath the cap.  A “wet” capping has no air bubble beneath the cap and the cap appears the color of the honey touching the cap’s underneath side. )  Using the hair drier was definitely slower than the heated de-capping knife.  A few days later we tried an industrial heat gun.  The industrial heat gun definitely was faster than the hair drier; about on par with the de-capping knife.  However, we noticed that even some dry capping cells glazed over again with wax.  There was honey in some cells after extraction.  The consensus of the group was to put the heat gun aside.

Our final experiment was a de-capping plane.  This tool was definitely faster than the decapping knife; a definite plus.  However controlling the depth of cut was a little more difficult.  We noticed there was a tendency to cut too deep.   This puts more of the valuable honey in the de-capping pile.  We fully recover the honey from the de-capping pile, but why cause ourselves additional work. 

All said and done everyone gradually moved back to the heated decapping knife.  Sometimes the old tested designs are the best.  Of course, if someone were to let us try an automatic de-capping machine we could probably be convinced to give it a test next year.

Put together 10 beekeepers and you get ten different opinions.  Feel free to provide any feedback you desire.  Maybe we were missing some important techniques that make these other tools more efficient.   

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Poor Mans Comb Honey by Beekeeper Fred

Prior to the invention of the extractor most honey was sold in the comb.  Lately comb honey has had a resurgence in popularity.  A 4" by 4" square of comb honey sells from $10 to $15 each.  The square weighs approximately 1 pound, so the seller gets a premium price for his honey over the selling price for extracted honey.

Being frugal (or cheap) I was looking for ways to make comb honey without having to by the special kits sold by the big bee equipment suppliers.  Comb honey can be cut from the combs removed from top bar hives.  Or my alternate method was to let the bees draw out comb in regular Langstroth hives.  To do this I put a wax starter strip in a 6 5/8 inch super frame. The starter strip is approximately 1/2 inch wide so that it will extend out approximately 1/4 inch into the open frame.    (Don't use wire re-enforced foundation.) I locked the starter strip in place with melted wax. You do not want to use a full width piece of foundation for two reasons.  1) Foundation is made from recycled wax and may contain undesirable contaminants, which is probably not good to eat.  2) The foundation is thicker and tougher than foundation that the bees will draw out.

The bees will naturally draw out comb and fill it with honey.  The distance from the bottom of the starter strip to the frame's bottom bar is just wide enough to cut a 4 inch wide chunk of comb honey.  The frame is long enough to allow harvesting of four (4) sections of square comb.

I mark the frames with the comb honey starter strips so I can locate them after they have been filled.  Otherwise they look just like a regular filled frame.  I also wait to insert them into the hive until the first super is filled with honey.  I then move two of the full frames to another super and insert two of the "comb honey" frames in their place.
                                          Frame marked to help identify it at season's end

Frame ready for cutting
Position cutter at edge of starter strip
Removed comb honey section