Thursday, March 31, 2016


Although this is more of a fall topic I am posting this now for you to think about.  Its interesting that even in warmer Massachusetts they are thinking of overwintering in 3 deeps.  That would definitely lessen the chances of winter or spring starvation.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

HOMEMADE HONEY BE HEALTHY submitted by beekeeper Gerard

See the RECIPE section of this blog for Gerard's homemade "honey be healthy" supplement of essential oils.  Is this one of Gerard's tricks for excellent winter survival?

Saturday, March 26, 2016


If you are a new bee keeper and do not have a mentor I suggest you look at YouTube for methods of installing your bee package.  I typed in "Bee Package Installation" into the YouTube search engine and it immediately came back with 140 videos (7 pages X 20 videos per page)  about installing package bees.  Remember that if you ask 10 beekeepers a bee related question you will get 10 different answers to your question.  Its the same with installing a bee package.  Many methods and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

Get a mentor to help you the first time if you can.  Otherwise, watch the videos and do it yourself.  Its not rocket science.  Just wear a veil to protect your head, go slow step by step, and you won't have a problem.  Its just a little intimidating the first time you confront those 10,000 bees in the package.  

Monday, March 21, 2016


This year's field day will again be at beekeeper Fred's Flying Squirrel Apiary in Princeton on Saturday June 4th from 10 am until ???.  Last year many thought the field day was canceled do to rain and therefore did not get the opportunity to see the process of queen rearing.  So we will try again.

This year's field day will cover three things:  For beginner's: Hive inspections will be lead by beekeeper Gerard.  Gerard will also select frames to make up a queenless nuc from a strong hive.  For the more advanced: The queen rearing demo will be lead by beekeeper Fred and Jon in the same format as last year.

So put the June 4th field day on your calendar.  See you there!

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Seems like people just never learn.  You think some organization like Driftwatch would be monitoring the almond fields during the bloom.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Via the following link you can view Wisconsin's pollinator protection plan.  To beekeepers this is like speaking to the choir.  Also, to be successful the plan must be followed by some dollars ( in terms or grants or tax credits) to allow implementation.  This area is sorely lacking from the plan.  But this written plan is at least a start to helping honey bees and other pollinators.


Those with gardens are probably planning out their garden now.  Remember the bees when doing this planning.  Read the following article for a few helpful hints.

Monday, March 14, 2016


Gerard attended the Advanced Beekeeping class in Greenville on Sunday, May 13th. The intended audience was beekeepers starting their second season so the emphasis was on swarm control, introducing new queens, rearing queens, Varroa mites and diseases, and preparing for the second winter.  The speaker/instructor was Dr. Michael (Mike) Goblirsch of the Spivak Lab at the University of Minnesota.  Here are Gerard's notes:

Some takeaways for me ~

Reverse hive bodies not only once in spring, but multiple times throughout the season.  Mike suggested every 10 - 20 days. Assuming that the queen is laying eggs in the upper box prior to the reversal, she will now be laying in the bottom box.  When that box is full she will move up into the next box, which was the bottom box.  While she's laying in the upper box bees are emerging in the bottom box and vacating cells.  When the cells are full in the upper box the colony will start to think about swarming.  But if the boxes are again reversed, there will again be empty cells above.  But the reversal needs to occur prior to swarming mode.   

Once the bees have decided to swarm, they're going to swarm.  If swarm cells are found on the bottom of frames, the colony can be split to simulate swarming and keep the bees, now in two hives.  Mike's suggested method for making a split is to put a queen excluder between the hive bodies and then check for the presence of eggs after 3 days.  The box with the eggs is the box with the queen.  That box stays in its location and becomes the honey producing colony.  Add a second deep (if you're using the two deep hive method) on top of the box with the queen and add supers when the second box is 80% full.  

The second, queenless hive, needs to be placed at least several feet from the mother colony and fed syrup.  This hive should remain queenless for at least 24 hours prior to introducing a new queen.  Since commercial queens are not available until very late April or early May, don't start the split before you know when you'll be receiving a new queen. Or wait until our local queen breeders have stock of northern queens around early June.  

You can also let the bees make a queen, but for that you need larvae, no older than 3 instar (3 days after hatching).  A frame with eggs and larvae can be switched with another frame from the split, but it will take around 45 days afterwards before new bees will emerge......if all goes well.  And make sure the queen isn't on the frame of eggs and larvae that you're switching (which is probably right where she is).  This split is an increase hive and may not produce honey in the same season that it's started.  The focus should be on building up for winter.

Mike's preference for introducing queens is to place the caged queen in the hive for 3 days with a cork in the hole.  After three days he does a direct release on to the tops of the frames.  If the bees don't nip at her and attack her he lets her go.  If they do attack her, he'll recage her for a day and try again.  

Mike spent some time on Varroa and the current treatments available.  He is very excited about oxalic acid as he feels it does the least damage to the bees.  It can only be used during cool temps (30 - 50 F) and that corresponds with the broodless, or very low brood, periods in spring and fall.  His preference is the drip method.  He feels that's the safest method for the bees and the beekeeper.  He also encourages the use of, and breeding of, hygienic queens to combat Varroa.


- When adding foundation, put a box of drawn comb above the box of foundation (if you have one) so the bees have to pass through the foundation to store honey.

- Feed syrup when foundation is added unless there is a strong nectar flow.

- When adding supers with mixed drawn comb and foundation, keep the drawn comb and foundation together.  Don't checkerboard the frames.

- Do NOT use Fumagilin.  It does nothing to the nosema spores.

- Currently a 4% mite count is considered high.


Sunday, March 13, 2016

FIELD WORKERS BRINGING IN POLLEN submitted by beekeeper Gerard

                                                              I think this maple pollen
                                                       I don't see any hitchhikers (varroa)

Thursday, March 10, 2016


Today I saw bees working the pussy willow catkins and also maple tree buds.  So spring is here. PS-don't do hive inspections yet.  It is still too cold for the brood.



The ECWBA will be having a club meeting this Saturday, March 12th, at 9:30AM.  The meeting will be at the Ripon Public Library in the Nash room on the library's lower level.  Primary business to be done is election of a new President.  Then we will review club member's winter losses and lessons learned plus discuss spring beekeeping activities.  See you there.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016


Mutualistic Symbiosis   Wow that's a mouthful.  At any rate that what varroa mites and deformed wing virus are to each other.  In a few words,  these two bee diseases work together and both benefit.  For more detail read the link below.

The first article referenced the following article.  It states that Apistan at least temporarily increases the virulence of DWV while killing the mites.   In short, the Apistan may kill the mites, but it sets up the hive for a severe DWV infection.  This increase in virulence did not occur when other natural miticides (formic and oxalic aicd) were used.  This paper is dated 2012, so it may be outdated.

FRESH POLLEN submitted by beekeeper Gerard

This early in spring (actually late in winter) there is not much for the bees to gather.  However, beekeeper Gerard found some of his bees visiting witch hazel blossoms today.  About all my bees seem to be doing is robbing dead-outs.

Saturday, March 5, 2016


This post is a re-print of an article from October 2014.   Springtime is the preferred season for planting trees.

Winter is on its way.  Just like gardeners, beekeepers will be perusing their new 2015 catalogs.  Beekeepers typically look at new equipment to buy and assemble during the winter months.  Gardeners are looking at seed and tree catalogs.  Beekeepers should take a cue from the gardeners and also look at tree catalogs.  Everyone associates bees and flowers, but in reality much of the pollen and nectar gathered by bees is from trees. 
Planting trees for the bees is a long term proposition.  Unlike flowers which provide pollen and nectar within one (annuals) to two years (perennials), trees typically require several more years before flowering.  However, the reward for waiting is a larger source of pollen and nectar as the tree continues to grow each year.  In addition trees cool the environment, provide seeds, fruit or nuts for wildlife, and shelter for wildlife.  Trees, which grow vertically, provide more pollen and nectar than flowers on the same area of ground. 
So for next year think about planting a few bee beneficial trees.  Here are a few recommended native trees:
-American Basswood (also called a linden tree)—one of the best sources of pollen and nectar.  Old time beekeepers tried to locate their apiaries near basswood do to the heavy honey flow associated with this tree.   The Wisconsin DNR occasionally sells basswood seedlings.
-Black locust—A good source of late spring nectar
-Pussy willow—A good source of early spring pollen
-Littleleaf Linden-late summer blooming.  A good nectar source.
-Willow—Another source of spring pollen
-Sourwood—Blooms in early summer and is a good source of nectar and pollen
-Catalpa—blooms in late spring
-Southern Magnolia—although primarily known for their flowers  they are a good nectar source
-Tulip tree—Sometimes mistaken called a magnolia, it also is a good nectar source. 
-Redbud—Good spring pollen source
For more information on trees beneficial to bees do an internet search on the following titles:
--“10 Best North American Trees for Bees”
--“Plant Trees for Bees”
--Trees for Bees   This site is sponsored by Arbor Day Foundation and sells tree seedlings at a reasonable price.
So while you are snuggled inside during the cold winter weather think about planting a few bee friendly trees next spring.   ...Beekeeper, Fred

Friday, March 4, 2016

WEBSITE CHANGES by blog editor Fred

At the January 2016 club meeting there were a few suggestions on how the website could be improved.  I have taken a little time pondering these suggestions and can hopefully make changes that will accommodate these suggestions.  First, remember that the OURBEE BLOG website is a free website with limited capabilities.  Going to a custom website would be more expensive than the limited readership warrants.  I estimate we have a maximum of 25 readers.  Our free website has a limited number of pages and doesn’t have the capability of drop-down menus.

Here is what I can do within the limitations:

a)      The first page (Home) will remain unchanged.  I believe this is the page which gets the most traffic.
b)      In lieu of drop-down menus, which are not a feature of our free website, a table of contents will be added to the top of each subsequent page.  Then the reader can see the contents of each page without having to scroll down through the entire page.

c)       This will permit some pages to be combined.  For example the Events, Calendar and Places pages will be combined into a single page “Events”.  This will free up space for additional pages on topics the club deems important.

d)      Nobody is sending pictures or news.  I plan to delete the NEWS and PICS page. 

e)      A CONTACTS page will be added after we agree whose names and contact info is to be added.  I suggest adding every club members name, email and phone number.   I would also move the SWARM CATCHERS list here along with any MENTOR volunteers.
f)       A “BEE FACTS” page can be added.  I do not plan to author this page.  This new page will only be added if a volunteer comes forward and agrees to provide a biweekly input.  This is not as easy as it seems.  You cannot just click and drag (ie copy) someone else’s work.  That would be plagiarism and also copyright violation.  You must write the text yourself unless you have written consent from the actual author.  After that I will be happy to insert it into the blog. 


Blog editor Fred

Thursday, March 3, 2016


Here is a report on some European bee research.   It shows that queens are able to immunize their offspring against some diseases.  Why this doesn't work against DWV is not clear.  Maybe its a difference bacterial and viral diseases.

MARCH 1ST HIVE CHECK by beekeeper Fred

This time of year you wonder why or if you are a beekeeper.  Winter losses make you question each.  I share my results (both good and bad) in hopes we will all learn valuable lessons. 

Since the end of January I have had additional losses, but analyzing the data may have pointed me to the biggest cause of my high losses.   Remember that before varroa, winters losses typically ran at 15-25%.  At this point my losses have risen to 45% (55% survival).  Hopefully none of the survivors will dwindle away and via splits I can restock.  From the beekeeper’s grapevine I hear other beekeepers are seeing from 0 to 100% survival.  Most are in the less than 50% survival category. 

My results in detail:

-Overall survival: 54.5%.
-Russian survival is at 56%.  Italian survival is at 50%.  Italians received a full MAQS miticide treatment.  The Russians were either untreated or received a 50% MAQS dose.  The survival rate for the treated and untreated Russians was the same. 
-Wrapped vs unwrapped hives-same survival rates. 
-Fall fed hives have an overall 68% survival.  Un-fed hives have 32% survival rate.  
-An unscientific (sample of one) observation: My one hive stocked with a feral swarm seems to be the strongest.  (I had lifted the inner covers on all hives to insert brood builder patties)

Initial conclusions:
a)      Fall feeding is a definite boost to survival.  In my data it is a bigger factor than queen type.
b)      Russians are doing better than Italians even though partially or untreated with miticides.  (Remember I am partial to Russians, so take this as you like)
c)       Wrapping provided no measurable advantage for 2 years running. 
d)      Unscientific observation from the grapevine: Those beekeepers using miticides seem to have better survival than those who don’t use miticides.  Using miticides is definitely a good short term strategy, but may not be the best long term strategy.

The difference in survival of fed versus unfed hives obviously had me intrigued.  I queried two beekeepers with 100% survival.  They all fall fed.  In fact they were feeding twice as much sugar as I had used.  They were feeding at a rate of 50 pounds per hive.  I had fed roughly 25 pounds per hive.  In addition the beekeepers with 100% survival had left a super of honey/sugar syrup on top of the brood chambers.   The additional super provides more easily accessible food.

My next step will be to analyze each deadout during March to determine the cause of each hive’s demise; starvation, Varroa/DWV, Nosema, etc.

At this time I will probably be changing three things next year in my winter preparations.
1) Double the amount of fall feed I provide.
2) On a limited basis I will try the University of Minnesota recommendation of wintering with 3 brood chambers.  In this scheme the beekeeper takes the normally untouched outer frames of honey from the two lower brood chambers and re-installs them in a third brood chamber above the cluster.  During winter the bees always move vertically following the food while staying close to the warmth of the cluster.  They usually don’t move horizontally until bumping into the inner cover.  The 3 brood chamber scheme works with the bee’s natural tendencies and allows utilization of the unused honey from the exterior frames. 
3) Continue with my changeover to Russian stock. 


Tuesday, March 1, 2016


Do you ever wonder how people get their facts wrong?  Well this story, although well intended, is riddled with inaccuracies.  For example its states in its second paragraph that Deformed Wing Virus is "Man Made".  DWV is a natural virus.  Man may have aided in its world wide distribution, but that's about it.  At any rate here's the article.   There are several other errors in the article.  Se if you can find them.


March has arrived.  We are getting a few warm days now and the bees are beginning to take more frequent flights.  These flights will still be mostly for voiding.  The first available pollen will be from maple or willow trees.  Local beekeepers have noticed pussy willow catkins as early as March 15th.
On these warm days go out and see which of your hives have survived winter.  A word of caution here.  Many hives that have survived so far will still just slowly dwindle away if the cluster is not of the critical mass to raise brood.   If you are planning on ordering packages, now is the time to do it.  Most package suppliers have a mid-March cut-off for orders.  Packages are usually delivered from mid-April through mid-May.  The earlier packages have an extra month to raise brood and usually produce more honey than the later packages. 

Spring officially arrives on March 20th.  On the 20th you will see 12 hours of daylight and 12 of darkness.  Average high and low temperatures for March are 56F and 37F.  Remember that’s AVERAGE.  Higher highs and lower lows are possible.   Records show lows near 0F and highs in the 70’s on occasion.

Another temperature to remember is the bee cluster temperature.  It is quoted as being from 50F to 57F.  Inside the hive bees will remain in cluster to maintain warmth.  Also remember that the brood nest area is maintained at about 93F.  So during March it is best to not be doing hive inspections (removing frames).  Even quick removal and replacement of the inner cover won’t hurt the bees themselves, but could chill and kill the brood.  So it’s a good practice to minimize or totally avoid removal of the cover. 

But you can make use of the occasional warm days by cleaning and inspecting any hives that did not survive the winter.  Cleaning the hive now will hopefully prevent the mess of moldy dead bees and comb.   As you disassemble the hive to clean out the dead bees also try to determine the reason for the hive’s demise.  Read the post of a few weeks ago with descriptions on how to determine the cause of hive demise.  If it was simple starvation, think about increased fall feeding.  If it was a Nosema infection, think about using FumigilanB.  If you settle on varroa and deformed wing virus as the cause, consider changing the type or begin using a miticide next fall.  Part of being a beekeeper is keeping the bees alive through the winter.