Tuesday, September 27, 2016


A few area beekeepers are reporting wax moth infestations.  Usually wax moths only gain entrance and become a problem in weak hives.  Removed supers can be protected from wax moths by storing them with paradichlorobenzene moth balls or crystals.  The supers are placed in a stack and one (1) tablespoon of the crystals are placed on top of the supers before covering them to seal in the paradichlorobenzene vapors.  Beekeeper Gerard reports the Bushy Mountain sells name brand Para Moth for $15.95 per pound.  He also found that Fleet Farm sells the generic equivalent for $4.95 per pound.

CAUTION: DO NOT USE GENERIC NAPTHA MOTH BALLS!!  The vapors in naptha moth balls are absorbed by the wax and are fatal to bees when the super is installed the next spring.  


When the temperature drops below 57 degrees F the bees in a colony begin to form a loose cluster.  At these temperatures bees may still be seen active at the entrance to the hive and inside the hive, but at a reduced level.  By the time the temperature drops to 43 degrees F all the bees in the hive are in the cluster. Activity at the entrance and inside the hive will be negligible.  As temperatures continue to drop the cluster will shrink in size as the bees pack themselves more tightly together to minimize heat loss.

Many beekeepers feed their hives during the fall to ensure the hive has enough resources to survive the winter.  Top mounted liquid feeders are probably the most used method.  (Boardman entrance feeders are mostly a warm weather feeder and also can induce robbing during the fall)  Other beekeepers place candy(sugar) boards over the top of the hive.  Both of these feeding methods are greatly effected by temperature and the bee's clustering behavior.

Once the bees are in cluster they will no longer be visiting liquid feeders; either top or entrance type.  Of course each fall day as the outside air temperatures rise the bees may break cluster and begin using liquid feeders.  However, the bees will not drink from liquid feed that is too cold.

I noticed that this morning the temperature had dropped to 44 degrees.  I am sure the temperatures will warm back up again since it is only late September, but this is a warning that the effectiveness of liquid feeders is drawing to a close.  So don't delay if you are planning to liquid feed; the window of opportunity is rapidly closing.

Candy boards are usually installed in early November when the bees are already in cluster.  Otherwise, the bees would deplete this resource before winter arrives.  In winter the bee cluster tends to rise vertically until they reach the top of the hive.  If they have a warm winter day they may displace sideways.  If the temperature is too low the tight cluster will not move.  This is the time that the candy board is effective.  When the cluster reaches the top of the hive it will naturally bump into the candy board and its food reserve.  If that warm day does not arrive and allow the cluster to displace sideways then the candy board saves the day.

As an alternative to a candy board some beekeepers add a third brood box.  They take the four outside frames of honey from the bottom brood box.  The bees rarely utilize this honey since it is the habit of the cluster to rise vertically.  These four frames are placed in the added third brood box.  The recommended configuration is to place two empty, but drawn, frames in the center  of the box surrounded by the four honey filled frames; two on each side of the empty frames.  The empty frames are intended to provide room for the cluster.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Monday, September 19, 2016


Here is a summary of a newly published study of bees and pesticIdes/fungicides/herbicides.  It does a lot to correlate these compounds and combinations of these compounds with colony die-off and queen death problems.  Surprisingly, there was no correlation found with neonictinoids.


Sunday, September 18, 2016


A club meeting is scheduled for this Saturday, September 24th at 9:30am in the Ripon Public Library basement.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016


I was concerned that treating my Purdue Ankle Biter breeder queen hive with MAQS could potentially harm the queen. Published data indicates Oxalic acid vapor does not have the same risk.  Beekeeper Jon pointed out the new Kelly vaporizer to me recently.  It has a few features making more user friendly.  My new toy (special tool) arrived on Monday, but today was the first time I could give it a try.

The vaporizer comes with about a 10 foot electrical cord and runs on 12v from a car battery.  I would have preferred a 20 foot cord so I could do more hives prior to re-positioning the vehicle housing the battery.  Adding the extra length will be a quick winter project.

The vaporizer has a built in timer; so no need for a stop watch.  Depressing the start switch starts the 2 1/2 minute heating cycle which vaporizes the powdered oxalic acid.  During the heat cycle a red LED flashes rapidly.  Unfortunately the LED is hard to see in the bright sun.  The vaporizer then automatically switches off.  The red LED then flashes at a slow rate during the cool down period of about 2 minutes.  The vaporizer can be removed after the cool down is complete, however, the hive is kept sealed for another 10 minutes.

The fact that the light was not readily visible bugged me.  So last night I took the cover off the vaporizer handle.  I could see the red LED was bent over.  After straightening the LED back to vertical I carefully re-installed the cover on the handle.  The LED now projects above the handle surface.  Today I used the vaporizer in bright sunlight.  It was now readily visible while blinking. 
              The red LED (right to the left of the switch) now projects above the handle surface.

I did not time myself, but I think I treated 5 hives in about an hour.  Another tool in the fight against varroa.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Autumn Forgae

Goldenrod, JoePye Weed and coneflowers are now getting past their prime.  In addition there are few agricultural flowers available other than occasional alfalfa fields.  Now until the first frost the main flowers available for the bees are from the aster family.  Here are a few photos from beekeepers Gerard and Fred.

With the decline is available forage robbing will  begin in apairies with closely spaced hives.  Make sure to reduce the entrance to 3" on strong hives and even down to 1 inch on weak hives.

                                                               Small flowered aster
                                                      Bee working small flowered aster
                                       New England aster-a perennial that spreads each year
                                                         Bee on New England aster
                                                   Coneflowers are done for the year
                                                                       Various asters
                                                                     Various asters
                                               Not sure what this is but is a nectar source
                       Robbing has started-robber bees trying to enter hive through small holes

Friday, September 9, 2016

Insecticide affects queen bee's egg laying abilities

This article describes the vital missing link between the decline of honey bee and the use of neonictinoid pesticides.  Data is slowly being accumulated that may eventually lead to restriction on use of neonictinoids.



Fall is here and hopefully you have had a good honey harvest from your hives.  As everyone knows winter will be here shortly.  Winter will make short work of any weak hive.  Although it goes against a good beekeeper’s instincts now is the time to eliminate any weak hives.  Whether or not bees feel pain, why put them through the trauma of death in winter.

First you should do a post harvest hive inspection where you are looking at four criteria.
1)      How big is the bee population?
2)      Are the honey stores adequate to get through a Wisconsin winter?
3)      Is the queen present?
4)      Has the hive been an under performing all summer?

The hive should have eight to twelve (8-12) fully covered frames of bees.  To determine hive strength simply tilt the upper brood chamber up slightly.  Count the frames covered on the now exposed lower brood chamber.  Then peek at the bottom of the upper chamber and again count the covered frames.  The total of the two should be eight minimum.  This critical mass of bees is needed to ensure the winter cluster is large enough to accommodate normal winter attrition and maintain cluster heat to raise brood later in the winter.  Hives that do not have the eight minimum frames should be combined with another hive.  It is better to have one strong hive than two weak hives.

Are the honey stores adequate for a Wisconsin winter? The total hive weight should be about 160 lbs.   Experienced beekeepers can get a good idea of the honey stores by the heft of the upper brood chamber without actually having to weigh the hive.   Alternately, you can look at the honey coverage.  The outside four (4) frames should be solid honey.  The inner frames should be at least partially covered in capped honey.  If you are not meeting these criteria there is still time for fall feeding with sugar water (two parts sugar to one part water).  Compared to the price of a new package of bees next spring, the $22 cost of a 50 lb bag of sugar seems cheap.  Do not wait too long to begin feeding.  As the air temperature drops the bees will go into cluster and not actively move the sugar water from the feeder into the comb.

If there is no queen you have a simple decision to make.  If there are laying workers (usually evidenced by random drone brood distributed around the brood chamber) then the hive is a write off.  It is very difficult if not impossible to re-queen a hive with laying workers.  You are better off to move the bees into a hive with a strong population.  If there is no evidence of laying workers then you could try re-queening, but you need to do it quickly because the hive needs time to raise “winter” bees. 

Another reason to replace a queen is if the hive was under performing or was overly aggressive. 

Of course, always remember to perform your choice of mite control.   Experts recommend to do a mite count afterwards to see if you control effort was successful and repeat the process if it was not.


Saturday, September 3, 2016


At this time the main honey flow is done.  The small flow from goldenrod is now also slowing.  The bees are now transitioning from nectar gathering to winter preparation.  The hive begins by raising "winter" bees that have a slightly different metabolism and a higher fat content. This helps the "winter" bees survive the long winter.  Fall is also the time that the hive's workers evict the drones.

 Beekeeper Gerard sent in the following photo he took today.  In the front several hives he noticed a pile of dead brood.  Concerned he investigated.  Everything inside the hive appeared normal except he noted workers were uncapping drone brood cells and then removing the partially developed brood.  He assumes this is just part of the transition process and he was lucky to see it in process.
                                         Here is the pile of drone brood in front of the hive.
I enlarged the photo to see if I could detect any varroa attached to the brood.  I could not see any.  Gerard indicated he applied the miticide "MAQS" on August 6th.  Today is September 3rd; 28 days later.  Drones take 24 days to emerge after the egg is laid.  That means the eggs for these drone brood were laid after the application of the MAQS treatment.  It also seems that the MAQS treatment was effective since I could detect no varroa in this photo.  As you know varroa preferentially target drone brood to raise their young.

Thursday, September 1, 2016


September is here.  You either have or should be removing the surplus honey soon.  Then its time for a hive inspection.  You need to look for the presence of a laying queen.  You need to either see her or evidence of her presence such as eggs or uncapped brood. (PS-don't be fooled by random capped and uncapped drone brood) This time of year the hive is raising the "winter" bees.  These "winter" bees have extra fat cells to help them through the winter months.  If you don't see 8 to 10 frames covered with bees there is a good chance the hive is queenless.

Many beekeepers tend to skip hive inspections during the honey flow.  Then they discover their hive is queenless.  Do the inspection prior to investing in any winter supplements (sugar water or pollen).

If you discover a queenless hive then you need to make a decision whether to re-queen.  See the post of several weeks ago on that decision process.


Spraying for mosquitoes is having a negative effect on bees.  A reminder on the effects of pesticides.