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.