Monday, October 24, 2016


The WHPA annual meeting will be in Fond du Lac next week.  Open and read the following links for more information.


Here is a link to a blog written by a beekeeper in Stillwater Minnesota, which is about 100 miles north of Central Wisconsin.   Looks like he is also computer savvy.  In this posting he is writing about tasks for October and then has several short videos on: Oxalic Drip Application, Wintering Hives in Minnesota and Installing a Bee cozy.  In general a lot of useful information.  I will try to periodically visit this site and pass on items applicable to our locale.

Sunday, October 23, 2016


Tired of Langstroth, Warre', and TopBar hives?  Here is something different.  Please note that I am not sure this hive complies with the state requirements that the hive should be easily inspected for various bee diseases.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


As many of you are aware Lee Hiene has retired from both Dadant and the package bee business.  He passed his package bee business to Tim Wilbanks.  Here is an email I received from Tim regarding spring 2017 packages.  As usual the ECWBA does not endorse any suppliers. Tim's email address is   The following is Tim's email.

Our family is excited to start the process of gearing up for the Spring 2017 package bee season.  We will continue to provide the great service and quality bees from Northern California that Lee Heine provided for so many years.

This email is to get an idea of how many packages, what size, and when you'd prefer to receive them this coming Spring.  It may seem early, but I'm currently receiving lots of orders and starting to compile the list. I'll do my very best to accommodate your preferences (e.g. 2lb. vs. 3lb., timeframe, Italians vs. Carnis, etc.).

Prices will not be finalized until after New Year's once pricing from the suppliers in CA is set, but you can put in your order and send your deposit ($10 per package) to my PO BOX listed below.  Once prices are set, I will let you know via email.  Payment in full is required by March 15th to avoid a log jam at pickup.  Of course, you will be able to add or subtract from your order with no penalties as long as there is still availability.  Deposits secure your order quantity and give you priority for preferred time frame for packages.  As I receive deposits, I'll update my records.  Just like last year, there will no longer be any credits for returned cages.   Most all of the producers have done away with reusing them.  

Mail deposits to:
Heritage Honeybee, LLC
Tim Wilbanks
PO Box 117
Sullivan, WI  53178

We will no longer distribute packages from the Dadant store in Watertown, as Lee did.  Instead, my family is currently constructing our new home and building which will serve as the new pick up location for your bees.  It is located only a few miles off Interstate 94 at exit 275 between Johnson Creek and Oconomowoc.   
Pick up address will be:
N6007 Hillside Dr.,
Sullivan, WI  53178

Please feel free to contact me anytime; I am almost always available at:  319-321-2494 .

Tim Wilbanks
Heritage Honeybee, LLC
PO BOX 117
Sullivan, WI  53178

Wednesday, October 12, 2016


Follow this link to read a paper published last year in Bee Culture on the Purdue Ankle Biter grooming bee.   This paper has more detailed data regarding the performance of this bee type in the field.  Several club members are now utilizing queens with the Ankle biter genes in their hives.  Any means of combating the varroa mite is needed.

Monday, October 10, 2016


This is a short book written by David Burns.  It is available as an E-book from Amazon for those of you that have a “Kindle” e-reader.  I was able to borrow a Kindle from my sister and read the book. 

Nothing you haven't heard before, but it summarizes in one place the necessary steps to get your bees through the winter.  It also explains the reasons for each step.

Here is what I gleaned from this book.
1)      The biggest cause of winter loss of hives is the varroa mites and the viruses it spreads.  If you don’t have year round mite monitoring and control you are doomed to have high winter losses. 
2)      You must have strong colonies in the late summer/early fall prior to the colony going into cluster.  Bees should be heavily present on every frame until cluster.
3)      He encouraged feeding in late summer and early fall of both sugar AND POLLEN (or POLLEN SUBSTITUTE) to encourage raising of fat winter bees. This is addition to fall feeding many beekeepers already do to top off the colony’s winter stores.
4)      Re-queening in late summer helps with raising large quantities of winter bees. 
5)      Other minor aids such as screened bottom boards, mouse guards, etc were discussed.
6)      He stated good beekeepers inspect their colonies every two weeks.    

So here we are getting ready to go into winter and I am reviewing in my mind where I may have slipped up.  I have treated for mites twice and plan to do it once more.  I can’t say all of my colonies are “strong”.  I did combine several, but based on this book I should have combined several more.  I did feed about half of my colonies (weaker ones and new colonies), but not the stronger ones.  Although I re-queened many colonies in late summer I can’t say I was following his recommendation. 

This year my late summer/ early fall preparation for winter was better than any previous year and I am hoping for higher winter survival.  Next year I will add in the feeding of pollen in the fall.  

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

MITE COUNTS by beekeeper Fred

Today beekeepers Fred and Jon conducted mites counts on four (4) of Fred's hives.  It was the first time for both of us.  We had both watched two Randy Oliver demos on You Tube the night before; both sugar roll and alcohol wash methods.   With two people the mite counting process took only about 5 minutes per hive.  We used the alcohol wash method to check for mites.  This method sacrifices ~300 bees per hive.  I didn't want to kill the 300 bees, but felt that I needed to better understand the mite levels in my hives.  The sugar roll method keeps the bees alive, but is not as accurate.  Interestingly 3 of the 4 hives still had capped brood.  None had eggs or uncapped brood.  So the queen have transitioned to their period of not laying.

To run the mite check first you must pull a brood frame and bees.  Very carefully check for the queen.  If she gets in your 300 bee sample you just killed your hive.  We did encounter a queen in one of the four frames we pulled and gently set her aside.  Then you shake the bees from the frame into a plastic pan.  Next you quickly scoop up a half cup of bees and pour them into the mite washing gadget.

 The mite washer is two plastic cups that nestle together.  The bottom of the inner cup is cut off.  A piece of cheesecloth is wrapped around the bottom.  A cup of alcohol is placed in bottom cup.  The inner cup and cheesecloth are inserted into the outer cup.  Pour in the bees.  Put on the cap and begin shaking for a minimum of 30 seconds.  The mites and bees are killed.  The mites drop through the cheesecloth and collect in the bottom of the outer cup.  See pictures.  We poured the alcohol and mites into a tea strainer to make counting easier.

                                     Mite washing gadget-I think the cups were Ziploc brand
                                                            Tea strainer showing 5 mites

As previously stated we checked 4 hives; 2 with Russian queens and 2 with Ankle Biter queens.  The two Russian hives had 5 and 1 mites from the 300 bees samples or a 1.6% and 0.3% infestation rate.  The Ankle Biter hives had 3 and 1 mites or 1% and 0.3% infestation rate.

I had treated all four hives twice. First time in mid-August with MAQS and later in mid-September with oxalic vapor.  I plan to treat them once more in mid-October when all the brood will have emerged and the mites can no longer hide in capped cells.

I'm not sure if my infestation rates are good or bad.  Over the past 10 years the recommended maximum infestation has been lowered.  In the 1990's it started out at 20 per sample. but is now down to 1 to 3 per sample.

BEE THEFT submitted by beekeeper Jack

Reprinted with permission from Farm Journal - Special Features Page - October 2016
By Chris Bennett -

The Real Sting of Bee Theft
Investigators pursue a rash of honeybee crime during almond pollination

Don't dare try to steal from the bee detective.  Jay "Rowdy" Freeman raises honeybees and rents them out during almond pollination.   He's also on the felony investigations squad in Butte County, Calif., and stays hot on the trail of bee thieves.

Honeybees have long been a target for criminals during almond pollination, but the rate of theft has jumped due to fast money and easy pickings.  Specifically, a honeybee shortage and an increase in pollination rental rates have combined to lure thieves.

California's 1.1 million acres of almonds translates to a $6 billion industry.  However, the almond machine would come to a screeching halt without pollination and the Golden State doesn't have nearly enough honeybees to get the deed done.  Every year, before the February to early March pollinations season, trucks from across the U.S.. make a pilgrimage west, packed with billions of honeybees.  Roughly 1.8 million beehives are used during almond pollination - up to 90% of the available commercial hives in the U.S.

Hive rental rates quadrupled in a single decade, reaching an average $190 in 2016.  Bee boxes are frequently placed in unsecured locations.  Thieves case the hives and strike in the late night and early morning.  Who's doing the stealing?  "The majority of hives are stolen by beekeepers." Freeman explains.  "They'll usually grab anywhere from 20 to 200 hives in one hit."

In a form of agricultural fratricide, beekeepers lacking bees for contracts steal from fellow keepers.  For example, 100 stolen hives rented at $200 for a few weeks use means $20,000 in profit for no work or management.  Commercial hives are often kept four to a pallet.  Using flatbeds and forklifts, thieves load and drive several hours to another almond-producing area.  They often take out the frames, place them in their own equipment, and drop the hives into their pollination contracts.  Hive values can average $300 to $350, Freeman adds.  Steal 200 pallets with four hives each and the math can bleed a beekeeper for $280,000: equipment, value of bees and queen and rental profit extrapolated for years afterward.

Gene Brandi, president of the American Beekeeping Federation, has been raising honeybees and pollinating almonds since the 1970s.  "honeybee theft continues to occur because we're short on bees for almond pollination and colony prices are climbing .  Bee rustlers exist and they rent the stolen beehives to unsuspecting almond growers.  Legitimate keepers would never do it, but there are a few unscrupulous people in every industry, including the beekeeping industry, who are brazen enough to commit these crimes.  There have even been a few people who set up chop-shops, grind off ID numbers and brands, and repaint the stolen hives."

Bee theft is low on the legal priority list.  Several years ago, a thief caught stealing honeybees from Brandi and a dozen other keepers received a nine month suspended sentence and two years of probation.  Although financial restitution was part of the sentence, only one victim received payment. FJ

Saturday, October 1, 2016


After viewing a You-Tube video last year the idea of making a oxalic acid vaporizer has been in the back of my mind.  My electric vaporizer works great, but I was thinking of doing a late February treatment and carting the heavy battery around in the deep snow didn't sound like an easy task.  The video showed an easy to make propane powered vaporizer.

For about $40 I was able to buy all components to build the vaporizer.  You might get by for less by buying the components at a big box store like Menard's or FleetFarm.  The components are:

-6 inch length of 1 inch diameter black pipe threaded on both end
-4 inch length of 1/8 inch pipe (ID) threated on both ends
-Two caps for the pipe
-A piece of rubber to seal the upper cap.
-2 small hose clamps
-2 large hose clamps
-A low cost propane torch with piezeo-electric starter (I used a $20 unit from Menards)
-A 2 foot length of  1/8 inch thick steel strapping
-JB Weld epoxy

The most complex part of the assembly is drilling and tapping the 1 inch pipe to accept the 1/8 inch pipe.  The JB Weld is applied to the lower cap threads and 1/8 inch pipe threads  in order to seal these joints and prevent leakage of the oxalic acid vapors.  Assembly is straight forward and by looking at the following pictures is self explanatory for almost any handyman/woman.  The flame from the torch is pointed at the lower cap which holds the oxalic acid powder.

I plan to use a short length of rubber hose from the vaporizer to the hive.  I will bring this vaporizer to the next club meeting.

                                                 Overall view.  Top cap is not installed.
                                Steel strap can be forced into the ground and makes a good stand.
                                                 Oxalic vapor exiting the exhaust pipe.
                                     You can see the blue flame impinging on the lower cap.

REMEMBER: Oxalic acid vapor is harmful to your lungs and eyes.  Use a respirator or stay upwind.


Seven types of Hawaiian bees palced on the endangered species list.  Not the common honey bee yet.