Sunday, May 31, 2015

Scientific Beekeeping Website

This website is authored by Randy Oliver.  He frequently provides articles in "American Bee Journal".  I have not had a chance myself  to review the website in detail, but Randy's articles in "American Bee Journal" are always interesting.  I am passing the link on to you so you can do some informative reading.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

2015 ECWBA FIELD DAY by beekeeper Fred

It was a little wet at the 2015 field day, but the participants witnessed the basics of queen rearing.  Three methods were reviewed; allowing the bees to raise their own queens using a queenless split in a nuc box, manual grafting of larvae into queen cells, and queen rearing using a commercial queen rearing kit.  We will report next week on the yield of the commercial kit process.  Twenty cells were started.  Any bets on how many will get capped?

Aside from queen rearing we also looked a homemade telescoping swarm catcher, a hive mounted swarm queen catcher and an innovative winter feeder.  Thanks to all participates who braved the intermittent rain showers.  I think I can say we all had more fun and learned more than if we stayed warm and dry inside at home.

                                          Clubmember Vicki trying her hand at hand grafting

                                               Did I really catch one of those tiny larvae?

                                      Jon explaining the multiple features of his winter feeder.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

ECWBA Field Day

Based on the current weather forecast the field day will be on May 30th.  Although it may be cool and a little breezy it looks to be better than the forecast for the following Saturday; June 6th.

The field day starts at 10 AM.  If you are there a little early, there will be a few accessories to look at and discuss.  The main topic of the field day will be an introduction to queen rearing.  The demo will take about 3 hours due to the need to have the swarm box bees being isolated for 2 hours minimum.  Idle time if any will be used to let participants try manual grafting.  We will be compressing a 2 week process into 3 hours so you will need to pay attention as we quickly switch topics and sometimes do some steps out of normal order.

Directions:  Coming from the west:  Go through Princeton on Highway 23.  Approximately 1 mile past the high school turn south (right) on County Road W.  Go roughly 3/4 mile south.  Turn left onto Salbego Road and pull into the bee yard.  

Coming from the east:  Take Highway 23 west towards Princeton.  Approximately 1 mile east of Princeton turn south (left) on County Road W and continue as stated above.

There is a google map that can be accessed through the Calendar section of this blog.

Be sure to bring bee protection; veil and gloves as a minimum.  The act of filling and emptying the swarm box puts a lot of bees in the air.   Sometimes they are feisty.  See you there.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Preliminary Results of 2014-2015 Colony Loss Survey

Copied from since I couldn't get the link to work.  

Note: This is a preliminary analysis. Sample sizes and estimates are likely to change. A more detailed final report is being prepared for publication in a peer-reviewed journal at a later date.
The Bee Informed Partnership (, in collaboration with the Apiary Inspectors of America (AIA) and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), is releasing preliminary results for the ninth annual national survey of honey bee colony losses. For the 2014/2015 winter season, a preliminary 6,128 beekeepers in the United States provided valid responses. Collectively, these beekeepers managed 398,247 colonies in October 2014, representing about 14.5% of the country’s estimated 2.74 million managed honey bee colonies1.
About two-thirds of the respondents (67.2%) experienced winter colony loss rates greater than the average self-reported acceptable winter mortality rate of 18.7%. Preliminary results estimate that a total of 23.1% of the colonies managed in the Unites States were lost over the 2014/2015 winter. This would represent a decrease in losses of 0.6% compared to the previous 2013/2014 winter, which had reported a total loss estimated at 23.7%. This is the second year in a row the reported colony loss rate was notably lower than the 9-year average total loss of 28.7% (see Figure 1).
Beekeepers do not only lose colonies in the winter but also throughout the summer, sometimes at significant levels. To quantify this claim of non-winter colony mortality of surveyed beekeepers, we have included summer and annual colony losses since 2010/2011. In the summer of 2014 (April – October), colony losses surpassed winter losses at 27.4% (totalsummer loss). This compares to summer losses of 19.8% in 2013. Importantly, commercial beekeepers appear to consistently lose greater numbers of colonies over the summer months than over the winter months, whereas the opposite seems true for smaller-scale beekeepers. Responding beekeepers reported losing 42.1% of the total number of colonies managed over the last year (total annual loss, between April 2014 and April 2015). This represents the second highest annual loss recorded to date.
As in previous years, colony losses were not consistent across the country, with annual losses exceeding 60% in several states, while Hawaii reported the lowest total annual colony loss of ~14% (see Figure 2).
This survey was conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership, which receives a majority of its funding from the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, USDA (award number: 2011-67007-20017).

    1 Based on NASS 2015 figures
    2 Previous survey results found a total colony loss in the winters of 24% in the winter of 2013/2014, 30% in 2012/2013, 22% in 2011/2012, 30% in 2010/2011, 32% in 2009/2010, 29% in 2008/2009, 36% in 2007/2008, and 32% in 2006/2007 (see reference list).

    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    SWARM CATCHING TOOL by Beekeeper Fred

    Many times the swarm you are trying to catch is just out of reach.  I have copied a friend’s design of a swarm catcher that makes it possible to avoid using a ladder or chain saw and still get those swarms that are up to 20 feet up in the air.  As shown in the pictures the catcher combines a 24 foot telescoping pole and light plastic bucket.  The plastic bucket came from the garden shop at Menard’s although any light bucket will do.  The telescoping pole was found on the internet.  My particular pole was made by Garelick and is composed of four (4) six foot sections.  I also bought the roof rake attachment so that there was something solid to attach the bucket to.   Other makes of telescoping poles are probably just as good.  

    You are probably saying a six foot person and a 24 foot pole would give a 30 foot reach!  But remember when you catch a swarm in the bucket you will have 5 pounds of bees cantilevered way out there.  Getting the bees down to the ground in a controlled, but rapid fashion and into the hive can be challenging to say the least.   Having another beekeeper lending a hand is helpful. 

    Use of the catcher is rather simple.  Slowly extend the pole up towards the swarm and lock each section as you go.  Stop a foot short of the swarm.  When you are ready simply jam the bucket into the bottom of the swarm.  This abrupt action will break their hold on the tree branch and a large portion of the bees will end up in the bucket.  Then in a controlled fashion you need to get the bucket down and shake the bees into the hive.  In theory you can lower the bucket by unlocking each pole section and let the pole collapse into its original 6 foot length.

    If you are lucky and the queen is in the bucket and you get her into the hive, all the bees in the swarm will eventually follow.  Sometimes it takes several attempts to catch her.  Good luck and happy swarm hunting. 

    I will have this catcher at the ECWBA field day at the end of May if you are interested in making one.  

    Monday, May 11, 2015

    SWARM WARNING by beekeeper Fred

    The bee hives have had time now to build up their populations since winter.  Swarm season will soon be upon us.  In fact, yesterday while I was stealing a few frames of bees from a hive to populate a queen mating nuc I found a frame with 5 capped queen cells.  These cells were on the lower edge of the frame; classic swarm cells.  Looking closer the hive showed other classic precursors to swarming.  All center frames were full of capped brood; leaving the queen no place to lay.  The bees were heavy on all 20 frames.  It takes about 7 days after the cells are capped before the new queen(s) will emerge.  The current queen will take flight sometime before that and off she goes with about half of the hive population.

    So today I plan split the hive.  I will take the current queen and half the hive population and start a new hive.  In theory this "artificial swarm" will stop the swarm.  I will then remove the queen cells and install a Russian queen cell that I have available and is due to emerge on Wednesday.   I will end up with two hives with strong populations; instead of one weak hive and one swarm off in the bush.   With a little luck I could still get a small honey crop from these hives this year.

    With last year's mild winter the potential for a lot of swarm activity is there.  Swarms typically emerge from the hive around 10 AM.  If you have a lot of strong hives, it would be good idea to visit your apiary around 11 AM to check nearby bushes and trees for hanging swarms.  Of course you need a spare hive to take advantage of this opportunity.

    Or you could open the hive and inspect for swarm cells.  By slightly tipping the brood chamber back and looking for hanging swarm cells on the frame bottoms you have a good chance of stopping the swarm.  Just removing the swarm cells will not stop the swarming process.  The queen will just start a new batch of replacements.   Doing a split is your best bet.  

    Wednesday, May 6, 2015


    I  learned  another  valuable  lesson  this  past  weekend.      I’ve  been  using  7  frames  in  8  frame  supers  for thicker  comb  which  makes  for  easier  extraction.    Since  I’m  increasing  the  number  of  hives  this  season  I had  to  put  foundation  in  some  of  the  hives.      So  I  put  7  frames  of  foundation  in  supers  on  my  strongest colonies  and  the  bees  decided  they  liked  the  idea  of  building  comb  between  the  frames,  perpendicular to  the  foundation.    So  I  had  these  “chimneys”  of  comb with  bee  tunnels  going  through  vertically.      Panic time.

    So  I  did  a  bit  of  research  on  the  WEB  and  learned  that  you  have  to  start  foundation  with  8  frames  in  the box  so  the  bees  draw  out  the  comb  along  the  foundation,  and  then  remove  a  frame  and  reposition  them so  the  bees  draw  them  out  deeper.    Made  a  lot  of  sense  and  I  rectified  the  situation.    I’m  glad  I  caught my mistake  when I  did.    When  I  started  using  the  7  frame  method  last  year  I  already  had  drawn  out “wet”  frames  so  I  hadn’t  run  into  this  before.
    The same would apply to those that use 9 frames in 10 frame boxes.


    Here is an article giving technical reasons for inspecting your hives on a periodic basis.

    Tuesday, May 5, 2015


    This simple honey wine recipe was passed on to me by a friend.  I have not tried it. I should note that this recipe is apparently not good for long term storage.

    Sunday, May 3, 2015


    This link provides a handy reminder of tasks that a beekeeper should preform throughout the year.


    Hives come through the winter in varying strengths.  Some are busting at the seams with bees causing anxiety that the hive is going to swarm.  Then there are the weak hives.  These weaker hives can go in a number of directions depending on the population of the hive.  They may recover or remain weak all year or get robbed out or slowly dwindle away.   If their population is large enough to have “critical mass” they recover.   Your duty as a beekeeper is to provide them with that “critical mass”.
    Most beekeepers have more than one hive.  So you can relieve your anxiety that the strong hives are going to swarm by transferring one or two frames of bees and capped brood to the weak hives.  First locate the queen in your strong hive, so you don’t transfer her by mistake.  Set aside the frame with the queen and then select a few other frames for transfer.  The bees emerging from the capped brood will give the weak hive a boost by greatly increasing the nurse bee population.  This then allows the queen to increase her rate of laying. 

    Now it the time to perform this equalization.  The main honey flow is still about a month away.  The strong hive will easily recover.   The population boost to the weak hive will give it a fighting chance to be ready for the honey flow and also lessen the chances of it being robbed.   Remember to keep the entrance reducer on the weak hive in place until the hive recovers. 

    Saturday, May 2, 2015


    May has arrived and with it warmer weather.  The bees are thinking of raising replacement queens and swarming.  Some beekeepers are also raising queens now that warmer weather is here.  Shown in the photo are some Russian queen cells raised by beekeeper Fred, who is practicing for the upcoming field day.  This frame of queen cells are due to emerge May 8th.  Then about 2 weeks later they should have mated and started laying eggs. 

    The process of raising queens will be demonstrated at the May 30th ECWBA Field Day.  Beekeepers Fred and Jon will demonstrate two methods of obtaining the proper age larvae.  Attendees will be invited to try manual grafting of larvae from the frame comb into queen cell cups.  A second method using a commercially available “egg catcher” will be shown.  The two (2) week process of raising queens will be compressed into a short 2 hour session.  Critical steps to raise queens will be highlighted.  See the EVENTS and CALENDER page for time and location of the field day.  


                                                      NURSE BEES BRUSHED AWAY

    Friday, May 1, 2015

    2014-2015 Colony Loss & National Management Survey

    Here is a link to allow you to participate in a national survey regarding winter hive losses.  Although the article states the survey runs from April 1st to April 30th, beekeeper Denise reported that the site is still taking in data.  The site also has other interesting bee related articles and links.