Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Is the answer to varroa in African bees?

This article was found by beekeeper Denise.  It appears African bees are less susceptible to varroa.  This study is looking at a variety of factors that could be useful in combating varroa in North American bees.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

WHPA Summer Meeting

Wisconsin Honey Producers Association Summer Meeting- Saturday, July 11 Lions Hall, 161 Dearborn Street Redgranite, WI- 8:30am Registration -- Cost: $20, includes lunch -- Meeting Begins at 9:00am -- Keynote Speakers: Blake Shook -- In 2003, when he was just 13 years old, Blake Shook began beekeeping as a casual hobby. By the time he graduated high school, he decided to pursue it full time. In the years following, Blake has built Desert Creek Honey into a thriving company running over 1,200 hives operating in Texas, California and the Dakotas. In an effort to promote beekeeping, Blake serves as a director for the American Beekeeping Foundation and the Vice President for the Texas Beekeepers Association. - Ellen Coffey -- Ellen is a member of the Minnesota Honey Producers Association and a part of the bid committee to bring Apimondia to Minneapolis. She will discuss progress on the Apimondia bid and answer questions with Matt LaForge about the joint 2016 Summer Meeting with the Minnesota Honey Producers Association.

Friday, June 26, 2015


This story submitted by beekeeper Gerard.  It has several valuable lessons we can all profit from.  

"I might have mentioned that I had captured a swarm that came from one of my hives several weeks ago.  I had put them in a deep with foundation figuring they were full of honey and would draw out the comb and life would be good.  Then I decided to "help" them by putting on a super (above an excluder) with drawn comb and some honey from last season so they would have plenty of honey for comb building.  And since they had so much in raw materials now I might as well add the second deep of foundation right away.  So, two deeps of foundation, an excluder, and a super of drawn comb with some honey.  What swarm could ask for more?

Two weeks later I thought I'd take a quick look to see how they were doing.  Not an inspection since they were in a new place.  In and out.  Many bees were in the super, but the deeps were hardly started and not a lot of bees in them.  Not what I was expecting, but also didn't think a whole lot about it, I added a super to give them more room since the first super was so crowded.

Last weekend I took a better look and found both supers full of bees, and the deeps virtually empty with no drawn comb.  That wasn't right.  I pulled some frames from the supers and found capped brood cells, but the bees were so angry, and I was using a mended veil and a bee got in, that I just removed the deeps and moved the supers down to the screened bottom board and got out.  So what the heck was I dealing with?

My new jacket and veil arrived and today I went to study this more in depth.  I found larvae, capped worker and capped drone cells, pollen and honey, but did not find the queen or eggs.  I also didn't go over every frame.  The bees were again pretty agitated, but the new veil proved bee tight.  I figured with larvae and capped brood cells that I could say the colony is queenright, but how did she get above the excluder?

I texted a friend about this, and that I thought maybe the queen was on the cover when I added the excluder and supers?  How else could she get above the excluder?  The friend said maybe she's a small queen and got through the excluder.  That triggered the thought that the colony would indeed have thinned the queen down in preparation for swarming and she may very well have slipped through the excluder with encouragement from the colony.  Let's see, foundation here, drawn comb there.  If I would have waited a couple of weeks before "helping" the bees with extra honey, perhaps they would have drawn out the deeps like I expected.  Anyway, I now have a three medium (supers) colony building up nicely.  Next time I go in to inspect and hunt for the queen will be sunny with less humidity."  


1) In preparation for swarming the bees do slim down the queen by feeding her less and possibly chasing her around the hive so she is slim enough to be able to fly.  

2) In this slim condition the queen can sometimes pass through an excluder.  Remember how small some new  queens look when received in the cage in a new package of queens.

3) The bees tend to be more aggressive on high humidity days. Sometimes even smoke will not calm them.

4) Keep your equipment in good condition; especially your veil.

5) The rules about bee behavior are frequently ignored by the bees themselves.     

Thursday, June 25, 2015

BEEKEEPER'S POT OF GOLD! by Beekeeper Fred

My plan for today was simple;  add a super to two hives and start up another hive using a surplus nuc.  The first super was added with no problem.  While adding the second super I began to hear a dull roar from a nearby hive.  Rather quickly the sky was filled with a swirling cloud of bees.  Surprisingly, the swarm was coming out a topbar hive I had started on May 4th with a package.  After what seemed like an eternity (really about 5 minutes) the cloud condensed into a nearby tree about 35 feet up.

Unfortunately, it was beyond the reach of my 24 foot swarm catching pole.  After surveying the situation I decided it was time for drastic action.  I raced home and got my chainsaw and swarm catching pole (and camera).  With a few judicious cuts the swarm dropped to  about 20 feet and was now in reach with aid of the swarm catching pole.  (This tree was of no consequence; a wild boxelder.)

                                          Swarm Catching Pole extended to branch with swarm

By jamming the basket of the swarm catcher into the bottom of the swarm body bees are shaken loose and fall into the basket.  The basket was then quickly lowered and the contents poured into the top of the waiting hive.  This operation was repeated about 10 times and by then I had about 60% of the swarm in the hive.  I still was unsure if I had captured the queen, because the bees in the tree swarm weren't following down to the hive.  At any rate I decided to put the inner cover on the hive.  Bees were entering and leaving the inner cover center hole at about the same rates.

The swarm in the tree had by now gathered into a smaller cluster so I had another go at them with the swarm catching pole.  I simply poured the basket contents on to the inner cover.  By luck I noticed the queen on the outside of the inner cover and gently brushed her into the center hole.  After that the bees began to march into the hive and the tree cluster began to shrink.  Feels good to be on the winning side for once.  Now I need to find a home for that nuc!

Monday, June 22, 2015


This article from Mother Earth News describes the pros and cons of doing "walk away" splits.  It can be a valuable tool for a beekeeper wanting to start a new hive.  Thanks to beekeeper Denise for finding this article.   PS-the time window to do a walk away split is rapidly drawing to a close, because the new hive will not have enough time to raise a new queen and gather honey to survive the winter.


Friday, June 19, 2015


Things are looking good.  Your overwintered hives are booming. Your packages are installed and thriving.  The honey flow has started and the bees bringing in loads of nectar.  You have supered the hives to take advantage of the honey flow.   Some beekeepers think it’s time to relax until the August honey harvest.

This is when many hobbyist beekeepers run into trouble.   Its hot in your bee suit and many beekeepers tend to slow down on their hive inspections and let nature take its course.  Actively managing your hives can increase your overall success.  As a minimum you should be conducting a weekly inspection of the supers.  During a good honey flow a hive can fill a medium super in a week.  So the weekly inspection’s first aim is to make sure the bees have enough storage space for the incoming nectar.  Add another super any time there is less than ½ super’s worth of open space.  If the bees run out of storage space they will most likely begin storing the nectar in the brood nest area.  This can trigger the hive to go into swarm mode; which is undesirable for multiple reasons. 

Compare how your hives are filling the supers.  There will always be variation between hives, however, any hives that are significantly lagging the others should be inspected in more detail.  Once the supers are on inspections of the brood chamber (to verify continued brood production) are usually discontinued by most beekeepers.  We all tend to get a little lazy at this time of year.   It’s a lot of work lifting off supers.

If you detect a definite drop off in nectar storage in certain hives, its time to do a quick inspection of the brood chamber and verify the queen is present and laying or as a minimum the presence of brood.  Finding your hive is queenless in August at honey harvest time greatly lessens the chances the hive can recover (even when re-queened) and survive the coming winter.   I’ve been caught in this dilemma numerous times and in most cases the hive did not survive the winter despite fall feeding.  The crux of the problem is the hive does not have sufficient population, even with the new queen in August, to efficiently utilize the fall feeding.  Try to detect a faltering hive as early as possible and take corrective action.  

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

16 June 2015 HONEY OF A DAY

Sunny, lower 70's, slight breeze.  Ideal for the bees.  The bees are really active and out gathering nectar.  Last year at this time the bees in my hive on the scale were bringing in from one to three pounds of nectar per day. What plants are they visiting in central Wisconsin?

                          DUTCH CLOVER-a common yard "weed", but not a weed to the bees

SWEET CLOVER-an out of favor forage crop, but a lot of volunteer plants are around.  Probably the favorite bee nectar source.

                     LADINO CLOVER-a cousin of Dutch clover with bigger plant and blossoms

                TREFOIL-a legume commonly used to stabilize roadside ditches after construction

                                             STAGHORN SUMAC-a common wild shrub

Did you see the bee in each photo?  If not, you can blame the photographer.  Now I can't find the bee in the trefoil picture either.  I wonder where it went?

Monday, June 15, 2015


Surprisingly, honey bees can not see red.  I wonder why our bee suits are not red??

Here are a few links that provide information about honey bee vision.



Sunday, June 14, 2015

Varroa Control with Oxalic Acid

As previously mentioned in this blog Oxalic acid has received approval from the EPA for varroa control in honey bee hives.   Oxalic and formic acid are naturally occurring compounds; not synthetic pesticides and are therefore considered by some as better methods for varroa control.  Oxalic acid for varroa control can be applied in two ways; via a vaporizer or via a drip method.  The link provided below describes the drip method.  Maybe we can get beekeeper Charles to demonstrate his homemade oxalic acid vaporizer at one of the fall bee club meetings.


Saturday, June 13, 2015


Here is a website that has a variety of articles on honey bee health.  Such as:

Varroa & Honey Bee viruses
Small Hive Beetle
Winter Loss Survey Results
Best Management practices


Thursday, June 11, 2015

Ants in your pants? oh, I meant Hive

This link provides "natural" solutions to prevent ants from getting in your hive.  I also have ants in  some of my hives.  I usually take two approaches.  1) Do nothing (how much honey can an ant eat anyways, 2) Use ant poison external to the hive.  Note:  Most ant poisons have sugar in them to attract the ants.  You must make sure the bees can NOT get to the ant poison.


Sunday, June 7, 2015


Here in central Wisconsin it is now prime time for this year's honey flow.  Although the black locust flowering is complete many other large volume nectar sources are starting.  In my walks around the neighborhood I have seen the following plants are now either in bloom or just beginning to bloom.

Ladino clover
Dutch clover
Alsike clover
White and yellow sweet clover
Red clover

Please note that the florets of the red clover blossom are too long and prevent most bees from reaching the nectar with their tongues.

It is a good practice to check the status of your supers on a weekly basis.  A strong hive can easily fill a super in a week if nectar is available.  Of course there will be a big variation between hives.  Last week I was pleasantly surprised to find I have two hives that already filled the two supers initially installed on the hives.   I happily added a third super to each. Conversely, other hives have yet to deposit any honey in the 1st super.  My records, kept over several years, show most hives will have restocked the outer brood chamber frames and started storing honey in their supers by June 15th.  You should have installed your honey supers by now; even on hives started with new packages this spring.  Inadequate space to store the honey flow can also trigger swarming if the bees start storing honey in the brood chamber proper thus restricting the space in which the queen can lay.   Proper hive management helps yield more honey.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015


So how did you bet on the Russian queen cell yield?

The manual graft of 20 cells only yielded 5 capped cells.  I guess it must be operator (beekeeper Fred) error.  Unfortunately, I don't know where I may have gone wrong, but suspect I may not have had enough bees in the swarm box or didn't select one day old prime larvae.

The graft done using the EZ queen kit yielded 18 capped cells out of 20.  There was a 19th cell fully drawn, but had not been capped.

If I can find them homes the queens from these cells should be mated and laying by June 26th.

                                                         Queens made with kit

                                                                Queen hand grafted

As a side note I was out randomly checking a few hives for honey in their supers.   To my surprise one hive had already filled two (2) supers!   Make sure your hives have the supers installed and don't miss out on the honey flow.  I suspect this honey has come from either black locust flowers or dutch clover which are both in bloom right now.

Also, swarm season is here.  I got a call from the local school about a swarm in the playground.  The swarm looks to be about 5 pounds of bees and filled two brood chamber boxes.  If lucky I might get a honey harvest from this swarm this year.  What's the saying?  A swarm in May is worth a load of hay.  A swarm in June is worth a silver spoon.  A swarm in July ain't worth a fly.