Friday, April 29, 2016


This article in the Keeping Backyard Bees Blog provides answers to some of the frequently asked questions about honey.

Thursday, April 28, 2016


To central Wisconsin beekeepers.  ANDY at MISKABEES@GMAIL.COM has eighty (80) 3 lb. packages at $90 per package.

Remember ECWBA does not endorse any supplier or product.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016


I’ve been practicing for the June 4th Field Day.  Keeping a close eye on the weather forecast I started two batches of queens in late April.   Here are the results from the first batch where I grafted 20 larvae into queen cells.  I thought the swarm box bees had started all twenty (20), but the finishing hive only ended up capping 9 of the cells and they didn't look pretty!  I don’t know if its my technique or maybe the cool weather is having a negative influence.  Typically northern beekeepers do not try queen grafting until mid May.  Right now the queen cells are maturing in the incubator.  Early next week I will be placing the mature cells into nucs.   I hope the cool weather has not killed them.  

Among other things to be demonstrated for the Field Day we will have three hives set up with sticky boards.  The primary reason is to expose club members to the use of sticky boards to monitor varroa mite numbers.  We will compare the mite drop of two hives; one with Russian bees and the second with Carniolans.  Then we will also demonstrate use of a oxalic vaporizer in the third hive.  I will report on the results several days later.  

Honey Bee Disease Survey Results

This article provides a summary of a recently completed honey bee disease survey.  There were a few surprising results, but varroa seems to still be the biggest problem especially for stationary (hobby) beekeepers.


Saturday, April 23, 2016


As an opening paragraph I would like to relate this story just sent to me.  Its one of those believe it or not stories.

"Local beekeeping story

So the last of the three packages that we installed and we got around to checking 3 days later. In the third hive the package bees killed the queen in the cage. I got a replacement queen and installed her approx 6 days later.  I just checked her status (and the other hives)... She's dead  again! ... They killed her and the attendants in the cage.

But I inspected further; thinking that this was a laying worker situation.  However I found larvae and capped brood everywhere (not drone! Not a laying worker!).  This is after 9 days from package installation.

So there must have been an uncaged queen in the package in addition to the caged queen."  

However, the more common story is that you are inspecting your overwintered hive or new package.  You sadly realize your hive is queenless.  What to do???  You have basically 3 choices.

1) Let the hive dwindle away.  No beekeeper worth his salt would do that!

2) Order a queen.  This time of year queens are only available from the south or California.  

3) You can add a frame of brood from another hive.  If it has open brood and eggs it will do two things.  One, the open brood will suppress the start up of laying workers and maybe give you time to get a replacement queen.   Two, the bees may utilize the young brood and raise a replacement queen.  A frame of brood should be added at weekly intervals until you give up or they raise a queen.  

10 Mistakes new beekeepers make submitted by Beekeeper Denise

I get many calls from new beekeepers that are asking the same questions that are highlighted in the attached article.

Friday, April 22, 2016

SWARM TRAPS submitted by beekeeper Jack

Swarm Traps - Are You Ready ?

With the recent warm weather and the maples blossoming, and dandelions coming on, those colony's are gearing for expansion.

Those swarm traps should be built by now and you should have a good idea where to place them.  This weekend would be a great time to get them out and ready for May 1st.  Any colony's that made it through winter, have been raising brood for a month now and some of the populations are excellent.  Remember, bee's do two things: they make honey and more bees.

I came across an excellent YouTube video that was put on line by Cornell University.  The video features author and professor, Tom Seeley.

Tom Seeley authored the book, Honeybee Democracy.  I have not read the book, but anyone that is going to put out swarm traps, needs to watch this video.  I have provided a link below.

Good luck and keep us up to date on your success !

EDITOR"S NOTE: I have been through many of my hives marking queens so that I can determine if they are superceding.  So far I have seen no queen cells which would be the first indicator that swarming is pending.  I did see a few queen cell cups without eggs or larvae.  Typically, swarming does not begin until the honey flow has started.  So far the bees have primarily been bringing in pollen, not nectar, but this will quickly change as clover and some trees start to bloom.  As Jack said, be prepared.and get those swarm traps out.  You will also need a spare hive or nuc to house your captured swarm.  Good hunting!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Identifying Pollen Sources submitted by beekeeper Jack

The following link permits you to identify the source of the pollen your bees are bringing to the hive. It would be interesting for a few readers to report the sources of their pollen based on this article.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Darn! I should have taken a picture!  We had 58 3 pound packages in the back of my truck this morning for the beekeepers in the Princeton/Green Lake area.   I was able to get my eight packages in by 3 PM.  All queens in my 8 packages were alive.  It's such a let down when you find a dead queen.

But the real reason for this post is to inform everyone that Lee Heine has now officially quit the package bee and queen business.   His is transferring/selling his package bee business to Tim and Sarah Wilbanks.  This will be effective May 27, 2016.

Tim and Sarah will handling all packages for the 2017 season.  Their phone number is: 319-321-2494  Their email address is:

Currently they plan to continue using the same queen and package producers in California that Lee has used for the past 29 years.  Tim is a fifth generation beekeeper originally from Georgia.  Currently Tim and Sarah run the Kolona Honey Co. in Iowa and have been selling package bees and nucs from that location.

Unfortunately, I did not ask if they are in some way affiliated with Dadant's.  As I find out I will let everyone know.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016


Here is a homemade decapper that looks easy to build and effective.  To make it most effective you would probably need to run 9 frames in your ten frame super.

HAPPY READING submitted by beekeeper Jack

For those that would like to have a look back at what beekeeping was like in the mid to late 1800's -  A well known beekeeper and public speaker, Michael Bush has what you are looking for.
His web page is 

Michael Bush has put together a very unique web page with a great deal of information, including old books on beekeeping that many should find interesting. Some of the authors are, Smith, Doolittle, Miller, Hopkins and a collection of American Bee Journals from 1861 to 1900.
The ABJ (American Bee Journal) is still in publication today and is published by Dadant Inc.

If you are interesting in any of these books or publications, go to his webpage, then click on the heading Information - then click on Classic Beekeeping Books.  Under this heading you then click on Cornell's Hive and the Honey Bee Collection.  This will take you to another page that you will click on American Bee Journal.  All the copy's are listed in chronological order and you will notice that at one time, ABJ was a biweekly publication.

Happy reading.

Friday, April 8, 2016


This article is intended to provoke comments.  Please send in your thoughts if you think you see something we didn’t.

Gerard took some pictures of a neighbor’s hive which died this past winter.  The owner said all appeared to be going well until mid-December, when the hive suddenly died.  Also the beekeeper did NOT use any miticide. The hive had already been partially cleaned up prior to Gerard seeing it.  Gerard then shared the pictures with two other beekeepers and together they tried to deduce what happened to the hive. 

This first picture shows randomly distributed capped drone brood. 

The second picture shows some bees head first into empty cells.  (Remember the hive had been partially cleaned up.  There may have been many more bees in this condition.)  This close-up also shows what may be varroa poop (excrement) near the mouth of some cells. See the little white gobs on the cells walls.  

Using these limited clues our trio of beekeepers have attempted to deduce what may have happened.  Here is what they have postulated.

1)      The randomly capped drone brood in the middle of the frame is usually a sign of laying workers.   Laying worked usually emerge only after a few weeks of being queenless. 

2)      Then take into account the drone brood takes 3 1/2 weeks to mature and emerge.  This means the hive was likely to have been queenless for a period of at least 6 weeks.
3)      The loss of the queen would of itself cause the hive population to dwindle and die out during the winter.

4)      A second possibility is that it could also have been a sick queen which began laying drones only and in a random pattern, but this considered less likely.

5)      The "head first bees in cells" is not considered overly significant.  When the bees are in cluster this is the position of many of the bees when they are in tight cluster.  They occupy the cells in order to maximize the bee density to conserve heat. 

6)      The presence of the varroa poop is not surprising.  All hives have varroa mites in them.   We also know deformed wing virus (DWV) is carried by varroa.  The sigificance here is that the cell cleaner bees have not removed it.  Unfortunately the hive was cleaned prior to Gerard seeing it, so he could not look for K-wing or short abdomen worker bees which are characteristic of DWV. 

Our 3 man team is divided between queenlessness and varroa/DWV as the root cause of the hive’s death. 

So what do you think killed this hive?  Please post your thoughts in the comments section.

Another interesting observation.  This beekeeper lost 2 of 3 hives.  The living hive is next to a planting of hops.  There was some speculation the hops may have been controlling the varroa.  If you are not aware, Hopguard miticide is derived from hops.  Discounting this theory is the fact that one of the deceased hives is located only 200 yards away.  It also should have received the benefit of the hops.  

EXPRESS DECAPPING submitted by beekeeper Gerard

Now this is a quick decapping method I could appreciate this fall.

Sunday, April 3, 2016

APRIL 3rd WINTER WRAP-UP by beekeeper Fred

Its now April.  Twentyone (21) of my hives are still surviving.  That is an overall 48% survival rate.  Three hives slowly dwindled away during the month of March despite looking strong at the beginning.

Overall survival of Russian queened hives was 62%.   Overall survival of Italian queened hives was 27%.  All Italian hives received a full dose of MAQS miticide in early September.  The Russian hives either received a ½ dose or no MAQS.  Both groups of Russians had approximately the same survival rate.

I now have had a chance to look at many of the dead-outs and analyze them as to the cause of their demise.   This analysis yielded some obvious shortcomings in my winter preparation process.  After considering everything I have come to several conclusions.


My records and memory show that I tried to overwinter several (4) hives that would be considered dinks (weak colonies).  Every recommendation from knowledgeable beekeepers is NOT to try to overwinter dinks.  They consider doing this a waste of time and effort.  Well they are right.  Despite my good intentions and heavy feeding none of my dinks survived.   A few of the dinks were new hives that I had started as late as August and September from 4 frame nucs.  They just didn’t have a chance to increase their population or winter stores enough to survive. 


I had many losses that I analyzed as starvation.  I plan to up my feeding schedule for next fall after consulting with beekeepers that had higher survival rates.   I had only fed 50% of my hives this year and at roughly 25 lb of sugar per hive.  Next fall I will feed 100% of the hives and at a roughly 50 lb per hive rate.  This change is based on the positive experience of two beekeepers that fed at this higher rate and had 100% survival.  The cost of the additional sugar pales in comparison to the cost of replacements packages.

I will also try on a limited basis a 3 brood chamber wintering scheme recommended by the University of Minnesota.  In this scheme the outer frames of honey from the lower brood chamber boxes are moved to a newly added (3rd) box above the cluster in the fall.  In my experience the honey in these outer frames is never used by the bees.  If it is presented to bees above the cluster they can easily access this honey as they move up through the hive in the winter.

A third possibility would be to just remove the queen excluder in the fall and leave all honey supers in place for the winter to ensure the bees have enough food.  However, I'm not quite ready to take this step. 


My analysis of several dead-outs leads me to believe these hives were actually queenless before or soon after I applied the miticide last fall.  So this year I will be marking all queens so that I can easily verify each hive has a live queen prior to starting fall feeding.   No sense in feeding or trying to overwinter a queenless hive.   I also had five or so hives go queenless during the course of the spring and summer.   

4)      In only one dead-out did I see some of the symptoms of deformed wing virus.  Specifically, I saw bees with the short abdomens.

5)      I had 6 hives that I had been running with 3 brood chambers.  Mid-summer I decided to standardize on 2 brood chamber hives.  So I moved the excluder from on top of the 3rd brood chamber to on top of the second brood chamber.  I then removed the 3rd brood chamber when gathering honey supers.  I fear this may have shorted these hives of too much of their winter stores.  Only 2 of 6 of these reconfigured hives survived.  These 6 were also of the group for which I did no fall feeding. 

6)      None of the top bar hives survived.  Three (3) of the four (4) had mice in them when I cleaned them out this spring.  After the mice messed up the inside of the hive I was not able to determine if the mice or other reasons were the cause of the hive’s demise.  I haven’t cleaned out the fourth.  The entrances of these hives are 3 feet off the ground.  I wouldn’t have expected mice to climb that distance.   At any rate I plan to get mouse guards for ALL hives for next winter.

I hope I remember these lessons learned next fall when I will again be preparing my hives for winter.
In the meantime April is here.  Days are getting longer and warmer.   On the warm days the survivor hive bees are busy searching out pollen for spring brood rearing.  For April average daily highs are in the 50’s and average daily lows in the 30’s.  April is a time of brood rearing.   Hardly any nectar is available from flowering plants.   If we get a few 70 degree days I will be looking at the strongest hives and determine from which I will begin raising queens.   Mid to late April is also the time most bee packages are delivered in our area. 

Here are the survival rates of a few other local beekeepers:

No. 1       8 hives    100% survival     MAQS & heavy feeding
No. 2      20 hives    10%                    No miticide
No. 3       6 hives    50%                     MAQS
No. 4       3 hives    100%                   ????
No. 5        4 hives      25%                  No miticide
No. 6        9 hives      77%                  Oxalic acid
No. 7        3 hives      66%                   MAQS

In general those who treated for mites had the higher survival rates.