Wednesday, February 24, 2016


Beekeeper Denise suggested ECWBA members read David Burns E-book "Beekeeping:Getting Your Bees Through the Winter".  This is a Kindle E-book and costs $9.99.  According to Denise you can get a free download of the Kindle software for your computer.  I tried to find this book in either hard or softcover, but didn't have any luck.

Comments from beekeeper Denise:

"i like his ideas about requeening in fall (TO BREAK THE BROOD/VARROA CYCLE)
and caging the queen in "fall" (TO BREAK THE BROOD/VARROA CYCLE)

...i'm thinking a combination of either DRONE CUT and OXALIC to get both
emerged and unemerged varroa....

OR...caging the queen for 10 days (to get the unemerged - emerged...) then OXALIC....

thinking,,,,,thinking... :))))"

Use the link below to electronically purchase this book.

EDITORS NOTE: 1) ECWBA does not endorse any products.  2) Maybe Denise can give a oral report at the next club meeting.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

A LITTLE HUMOR submitted by beekeeper Denise

You've probably checked your hives in the last few warm days and may be a little depressed.  Take heart, spring in coming.  Time for a little humor.  I sure all Wisconsin beekeepers have heard or experienced the 10 stages of drunkenness.  Well here are the 10 stages of beekeeping addiction. .

Monday, February 22, 2016

WHEN DISASTER STRIKES submitted by beekeeper Denise

Spring is the time for cleaning out hives that did not survive the winter.  While cleaning the hive a good beekeeper looks for the classic signs of the different hive failure modes.  The write-up in this link provides instructions on how to recognize the four most common failure modes: starvation, nosema, tracheal mites and varroa mites.  If you understand what caused the hives demise you can take appropriate actions to prevent a recurrence.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


In an earlier post it was reported the UW Fond du Lac will not be having their beekeeping class this spring.  Here is an alternate class I noticed while perusing Craig's List.

The first class is in four sessions.  March 6th, April 3rd, June 12 and August 14th.  Its title is "Learn to Keep Bees" and is intended for beginners.  It is hosted by Capital Bee Supply in Beaver Dam.  Their phone number is 608-444-1493 or look on Craig's list for added details.

The second class, also hosted by Capital Bee Supply, is titled "Beekeeping-The Second Year and Beyond".  7 hours on March 26th only.


Saturday, February 20, 2016


Here is another case where wild bees in New York have developed resistance to varroa mites.  Initial thoughts are that this is occurring through natural selection.  So the lesson to learned is that feral bees have somehow found a way to survive.  Now if we beekeepers would just stop diluting these good genetics with package queens and their progeny the bees could theoretically develop resistance to varroa.

WATER GATHERER submitted by beekeeper Gerard

Nice sunny weather today.  Reached 48 degrees F by my house.  About 90% of my surviving hives had bees out taking short cleansing flights.  Gerard sent in the following picture.  He got down close to the bee and could see her sucking on the surface of the snow.  She repeated this several times.  Evidently she was gathering moisture to help with dissolving sugar that Gerard had placed in each hive as emergency stores.

Thursday, February 18, 2016


Here is a YouTube video showing several bees grooming off varroa mites.  In one case after the removal you can see the bite mark that is on the bee's back.  This type of grooming behavior is one of the desired traits in the battle against varroa.  

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

FOND du LAC AREA BEEKEEPER NEWS submitted by beekeeper Denise

A. There will be NO BEEKEEPING CLASSES at the Fond du Lac UW extension this year do to
"BUDGETARY CONSTRAINTS".  To keep bees within the Fond du Lac city limits residents must have 7 hours of beekeeping education.  Presently, the only other qualifying class is probably in either Greenville (HoneyBeeware) or maybe in Madison. 

B.  The Fond du Lac Riesterer and Schnell store has a real interest in beekeeping as part of their animal care division and will be carrying some beekeeping equipment beginning this spring!  If the program proves to be
successful - it has the potential of expanding to their 11 other locations.  It would
give us beekeepers more (closer?) access to all those "emergency" items - extra
frames, extra boxes...and glassware.

C.  A 1.5 hour HOW TO GET STARTED presentation by beekeeper Denise
is being held at the Fond du Lac Riesterer and Schnell store on Feb 27th at 9:00am. 
This is NOT A CLASS.  It's an information gathering session for anyone looking to get started started in beekeeping

Monday, February 15, 2016

Ron Hoskins

Here is the website of Ron Hoskins whose apiary was highlighted in the posting of two days ago.  If you read the section of this website marked "My Research" you will understand the long process he went through.  It seems his strain of bee would be like a combination of VSH, Russian and Ankle Biter bees.  The Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) immunity is still not understood.


Even the big commercial beekeepers are not immune to high winter losses.  Here is a typical story.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

YouTube Video-Bees immunizing themselves

Here is a VERY interesting video.  One lesson is that it might just be better to not use miticides!  But there seems to be two conflicting ideas in the video.  The beekeeper thinks its the genetics of his bees and his not using miticides for 20 years.  The scientist is stating a second virus is out competing the DFW virus.  Take a look and let us know your thoughts.  I suggest you watch it several times to let the various ideas sink in.

SWARM TRAPS by beekeeper Jack

EDITOR'S NOTE: At the last club meeting there was a discussion on trapping swarms.  To provide this information to club members that could not attend, beekeeper Jack agreed to write a short article on swarm trapping.  Thank you, Jack

Swarm Traps

To begin with, I want to make it clear that we are not referring to catching a swarm hanging on a limb. 

The swarm trap is a box/hive that is sitting in a tree waiting for a swarm to come along and move in.  As with many things, that is an over simplification of how, when, where and how much. 

With the increasing price of package bees and the problem of obtaining them nowadays, the swarm trap has become a very useful tool that every backyard or sideline beekeeper should consider.  Not only that, but it’s fun and adds to the hobby in more ways than one.

There are a couple of types of swarm traps that are sold, one being the cone that looks like a large flower pot with a hole in the bottom.  While this can and does serve as a swarm trap, it has one large disadvantage.   When a swarm takes up residence in one of these units, they do what all swarms want to do and that is to make wax.  Current regulations state that all hives must have removable frames.  Thus you have to cut those combs from the inside of the trap and transfer them to  frames, to be placed in a Langstroth  or top bar hive.  Anyone that has removed a swarm from a house etc. will tell you that this is not a good way to introduce yourself to a colony that has just called the swarm trap their new home.

Now, on to a little psychology of the honey bee. 

To coin a phrase “bee’s do two things, they make bees and honey”.  When the word has gone out in the hive and the process of swarming has begun, unless steps are taken, this hive is going to do its own style of split – the swarm.  At the time of swarming this group of bees has no idea where it’s going to go, except out.  Often the swarm goes not far from the apiary and will alight in a tree or some other structure.

Within this mass of bees we have the mature forager bees.  Their main job to that point has been to bring in nectar and pollen from the area.  Can you imagine the area that they have covered in a 2-3 mile radius of the hive ?  Well,  after swarming many of them have a new job, and that is to be a scout and find a suitable place to establish a new home. (UPDATE - The most recent edition of American Bee Journal reports that only 10% of the scouts were foragers – not sure what the previous job was of the other 90%).  Hundreds will fly out looking, checking every nook and cranny and going back to places that they have been before in their travels.   When they find a place that interests them, they will fly around it, walk on it, smell it, and check it out.  Not just one scout, but many.  When they find a place that looks good, they will go back to the swarm, and like most democracies, take a vote.  Majority wins !

Over simplification, you bet.  But you get the picture.

I give you this information, so you can understand the process the honey bees go through.  They are a complex insect and with a little understanding, will allow you to follow some of the steps that I am going to show you on the mechanics of swarm catching.  I don’t profess to be an expert, but have had success catching swarms.

Swarms like a certain amount of room.  Totaling filling the bait trap with frames should be avoided, so the bees will think there is room to grow.  I use all 5 frame nucs for my swarm traps.  One deep and one medium.   My traps are hand made boxes with simple lap joints in the corners; not dove tail joints like in most factory built boxes.  Therefore most amateur carpenters have the necessary skills to make one.  

NOTE: Although this picture shows the deep on the bottom and medium on top, I will be building future traps with the medium on the bottom and deep on top.

                                 Entrance disc; also showing screen (hardware cloth) on the inside

The entrance hole can be in front or on the side.  I like to position the hole on the bottom, since bees like to build comb from the top down.  The open space on the bottom is also an attractant, since a swarm is looking for a certain amount of space.  So I place the deep frames in the upper medium box.  They extend down into the deep box, but leave the open void.  

                                            Here you can see the big void below the frame.

I put in two old drawn brood frames, plus 3 open frames with wax or starter strips.  
Inline image
Ventilation is important, especially when you close the front cover (disc) to move a captured swarm to a new area.  I put two 1" diameter holes on the back of the trap.   I cover both the ventilation and entrance holes with screen to keep out unwanted critters.    The screen on the entrance holes is placed on the inside of the box in order to not block movement of the entrance disk.   NOTE: The screen on the entrance hole is 1/4 inch hardware cloth, which bees can easily pass through.  The screen on the back must be smaller; such as house screen or 8 wires per inch screen.  Otherwise the bees will use the ventilation hole as another entrance/exit. 

A bracket in the back is useful if you are hanging the trap from a limb or on the side of something.

I’m using regular hive staples to join the two supers, but you can use lathe and dry wall screws just as well.

This year I will be reversing the deep and the medium supers. With the present system,  I have to remove the frames of bees and transfer them to my regular deep or another nuc.  By putting the deep on top with the frames, you can just remove the medium and put a nuc cover and a nuc bottom board on the  nuc deep and let them set up their new home.  No need to transfer frames or disturb the bees at all.  As the colony grows, you just add another deep or transfer them to a regular brood chamber.  You can then transfer whenever you want.   You will be surprised how fast a five frame nuc grows.

The medium super on the bottom will provide space that the scouts are looking for.   The entrance hole  can be in front or on the side.  The hole in the entrance is a 1” hole with ½” hardware screen on the inside to keep out the unwanted visitors, such as birds, squirrels etc.  I also put a rotating disk over the entrance hole, which can be closed at night after a swarm is caught or went transporting.

You should put the bait boxes out the beginning of May, just before the flowering crab, apple and plumb trees start to blossom.   Many of the experts will say that the hive needs to be at least 10 feet in the air. I have not found that you need them that high.  I use a step ladder to place the swarm trap, usually in the crook of the tree.  Safety is a concern.  Remember that if you catch a swarm, you also have to take it down, and now it will be heavier than when you put it up there.

Place the opening of the hive to the south or east.  Placement can be along fence lines, or in the flowering trees themselves.

 I use a product called “Swarm Commander”.  This is a commercial product that smells like lemon grass and has a blend of oils that supposedly emulates the nasonov (come hither) pheromone.  Many of the commercial company’s also sell queen lore or lemon grass essential oil which also works well.  The smell of the old drawn brood comb also acts as an attractant.

A word of caution on scenting a swarm trap.  Don’t over-due it.  With the product swarm commander, just use a couple squirts.  Lemon grass can also act as a deterrent if used in excess.

I usually re-bait once a week and watch for activity.  On any given day there are usually a few bees checking it out.  When they are serious about finding a new home, there will be dozens of scout bees looking your swarm trap over.  When they make that final move, your trap will be covered in bees and the entrance will look like bees are being poured into the hive.  It’s quite the sight!

The real plus side to this type of trap is – if you only occasionally check on the trap,  and the bees move in, don’t worry about it. They have plenty of room to start their new hive and you can move them on your time line.

The bees that you are catching are survivor bees that have gone through a winter.  They are bees that were from an established local hive or a feral colony.  Local package bees are $135 for three pounds.  The swarm that you are catching is at least three pounds and hasn’t had to ride from California.

Have fun and happy trapping!

Grandpa Jack’s Bees

EDITOR's NOTE: If you have any questions for "Grandpa Jack" please enter them as comments to this article.  I will pass them on and get you answers.

Monday, February 8, 2016


I just added a recipe for honey glazed pecans to the RECIPE page of the blog. If anyone would like to contribute a honey related recipe for the blog please email the recipe to the blog editor at "".

LIZ WALSH UPDATE submitted by beekeeper Gerard

The attached article reports an award presented to past club member, Liz Walsh, for her work on miticides and bees.  Liz is a 2013 Ripon college graduate and is now in a Phd degree candidate program at Texas A&M.  She is also a consultant for the Kelly Beekeeping newsletter; answering reader questions.

Sunday, February 7, 2016


Honey bees usually do not succumb to varroa mite infestations.  Rather the mites are carriers of the deformed wing virus (DFW) and transfer the virus to the bees.  When the infection level becomes too high the hive/colony expires.  This usually occurs in winter do the virus having a longer time to replicate in the longer lived winter bees.   The attached article is for those beekeepers with a scientific background and discusses the how DFW does its damage to the colony.

So maybe we just need a vaccine for DFW.  I wonder whether you would give the vaccine (if one existed) to the bees or the mites?

Friday, February 5, 2016

Madison News article on bees

Here is a link to an article Isthmus newspaper on Wisconsin's plan to help pollinators.  Actually its just repeats everything you already know.

Thursday, February 4, 2016


We all know varroa mites are related to our difficulty in maintaining healthy bee colonies.  The following article refines this further to the combination of varroa and the deformed wing virus as the true menace.    Not new information, but a nice concise summary.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016


For those of you with a smart phone (Android or Iphone) there is a free app available that will help you diagnose diseases in your hive.  Here is a link to get the free app.

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

MEAD MAKING by beekeeper Fred

One use of any excess honey is to make Mead or Honey Wine.  Some people make mead with the honey from uncapped comb (this should be done in the fall prior to the wet honey beginning to ferment).   Like all honey bee related activities making mead requires an initial investment in ingredients and tools.  This small investment gets spread over many batches of mead.

-1 gallon glass jug-free to any good scrounger
-Air lock and stopper-$2
-Case of bottles (12)-$20 NOTE: Old cork style wine bottle can be used if your new corks fit properly.
-Corks (30)-$7
-Corking tool-$20
-Siphon-$10 (optional but recommended)

-Acid blend-$2.25
-Peptic enzyme-$2.50
-Yeast Nutrient-$3.00
-Grape Tannin-$3.00
-Campden tablets-$3.00
The small bottles of these ingredients are sufficient for roughly 60 bottles of mead or 15 one gallon batches.

To make a one (1) gallon batch of mead you will also need 3 pints of honey and a package of brewer’s yeast which costs $1.00. I use Lalvin 71B-1122 or Red Star Montrachet
NOTE: Some people make mead or wine in a 5 gallon carboy.  I suggest the smaller 1 gallon jug until you are proficient and getting repeatable results.
Here are the instructions for making a one gallon batch.
1)      To a stainless steel pot add 3 pints of honey to 11 cups of water. 
2)      Bring to a boil.  Boil for 10 to 20 minutes.  This kills any wild yeasts in the mixture.
3)      While boiling remove the foam (pollen proteins) that collects on the surface.
4)      Cover and remove from the stove.  Allow to cool to room temperature.
5)      When cool add the following ingredients:
-1 ½ cups orange juice
-1 teaspoon Acid Blend
-5 drops Peptic Acid
-1 teaspoon yeast nutrient
-1/4 teaspoon Grape Tannin

6)      Mix.
7)      Pour the contents into the 1 gallon bottle.  Keep the fluid level about 3 inches below the bottle top.  This prevents foam from getting into the airlock and making a mess.
8)      Install the air trap.  NOTE: Add water to the air trap.  The air trap lets CO2 and oxygen out of the bottle and prevents oxygen from entering.  Oxygen in the bottle will turn the alcohol to vinegar.  You may need to secure the air trap to the bottle with rubber bands.
Note: Fluid level well below airlock cork

9)      Allow to ferment until bubbling stops; approximately 20-45 days (varies with ambient temperature and amount of sugar in the honey).  The must (liquid) starts out cloudy, but will become clear with a golden tint.  There will be sediment on the bottom of the bottle.  Avoid stirring up the sediment.
10)   Siphon the must into the bottles.  Try to avoid siphoning any sediment to the bottles.  Add ¼ SO2 pill (Campden tablets) to each bottle.  This kills any remaining yeast.  The sediment won’t hurt the taste of your mead, but does look unsightly.
11)   Cork the bottles. 
12)   Lay the bottles on their side.  This keeps the cork damp.
13)   Age for 6 months minimum.  The longer you let it age the smoother it gets.
14)   This recipe results in a sweet wine. 

This is the basic recipe.  I have also made “hard cider” using apple cider in place of  the water.  If you prefer a dryer (less sweet) wine cut back on the amount of honey and replace the deleted honey with an equal volume of cider.   Others substitute cranberry juice in place of the water.   

Monday, February 1, 2016

DRIFTWATCH RENEWAL submitted by beekeeper Gerard

Gerard sent in a reminder that it is time to renew your Driftwatch membership.  Driftwatch is a service that connects beekeepers with pecticide applicators.  When you join Driftwatch the location of your hives is entered into a data base.  Commeical pesticide applicators are required to consult this data base prior to any pesticide application and forewarn the the beekeeper of a pending application.  If interested in joining just google "Driftwatch".

FEBRUARY 1ST HIVE CHECK by beekeeper Fred

Its now about half way through winter.  Today warmed up to 39F.  Bees were out on cleansing flights and making those nice gold spots in the snow.  Although November and December were warmer than average, January was about normal with at least three nights with temperatures lower than -10 degrees F.  At this point my overall survival this year (68%) is not as good as last year (97%).  Part of this is probably beekeeper error.  Of course I shouldn't cry, because so far I have enough hives surviving  to make splits and make up my losses.  I hope your winter survival rates are better than mine. I've heard some beekeepers with 100% and some with 0% survival.  

In a little more detail

Italian hives, which I treated with a full dose of MAQS miticide, have a 58% survival rate.

Russian hives, which I did not treat with anything, have a 66% survival rate.

Russian hives, which I treated with a 50% dose of MAQS, have a 80% survival rate.  

Wrapped versus unwrapped hives are still even.

"Fall fed" versus "unfed" hives have the same survival rates.  

Now I get to think about my plans for spring and also my mite treating procedures for next fall.  

                                                       Bees at the upper air vent
                                                        "Golden spots" in the snow