Tuesday, November 29, 2016


This link provides a path to a series of videos about beekeeping in northern climates such as Minnesota and Wisconsin.


Monday, November 28, 2016


Here is a link to the Northern Bee Network.  This is a web site that lists suppliers of northern bred queens and nucs.  The concept behind this list is that northern bred queens will likely be more winter hardy.  I will add this link into the supplier list in this blog.


Wednesday, November 23, 2016


This is a reminder there will be a club meeting on December 3rd at 9:30 AM in the Silver Creek Room at the Ripon Public Library.

There will be a general discussion about about meeting topics and public outreach for 2017.  In addition members are encouraged to bring any bee related crafts they participate in for an informal show and tell.  For example candle making, soap making, lip balms, honey related foods or drinks, hand made beehive equipment, etc.  There is a rumor that Gerard will be bringing homemade baklava!  

Friday, November 18, 2016


After reading the varroa mite articles in the Nature's Nectar blog and seeing sticky board pictures sent in by beekeepers Gerard and Grandpa Jack I decided to do another mite check on one of my hives.  I chose to utilize a sticky board so I could directly compare with the pictures from those three sources.  
So Wednesday I slipped a sticky board into Hive U.  This hive has a Ankle Biter queen.  I had previously treated the hive with MAQS in mid-August and again in mid-September and mid-October with oxalic vapor.  I was not expecting to see many mites.  When I removed the sticky board 24 hours after another oxalic vapor treatment I counted 19 mites.  
                                                                   Mites are circled.

So now for a big question.  Are 19 mites good or bad?  I had absolutely no idea. Gerard indicated this was much lower than what he had seen from his hive.  Like most beekeepers I was not able to find a handy go/no go recommendation for the method I used.  The closest I found were limits ranging from 12 to 50 mites for a "natural" mite fall onto a sticky board in 24 hours.  "Natural" mite fall occurs from mites dying and dropping or being groomed and dropping or just losing their grasp on a bee and dropping.  I could not find a limit for my accelerated method which used oxalic vapor.  

In a beehive at this time of year the population is slowly declining.  Right now I am guessing the population is in the 20,000 to 30,000 range.  I've seen recommendations that mite infestation levels should be in the 1 to 5% max level.  A 1% level means there are about 300 mites on 30,000 bees.  Oxalic acid vapor is reputed to kill 95% of the mites on bees (not those on capped brood).  95% of 300 is 285.  So potentially on a "good" 1% hive I could kill 285 mites.  From this I am making the inference that my 19 mite fall in 24 hours is "GOOD".  Since I have treated all my hives in a similar manner I am feeling good about my chances for good winter survival.  It looks like the snow may start flying next week so my outdoor beekeeping is done until spring other than periodic checks tosee if the hives are still humming.  Stay tuned.   

PS-you probably saw that I treated my hives with 2 different natural acid compounds; MAQS (formic acid) and oxalic acid.  MAQS is reported to be able to penetrate the brood cell and kill juvenile mites. MAQS is also reputed to have a higher potential for killing the queen; therefore I was hesitant to apply it more than one time.  MAQS also needs warmer temperatures to be effective.  Oxalic acid can be used at lower temperatures; down to 40F.  However, oxalic acid does not penetrate into the brood cells. It is most effective after the queen has stopped laying and all capped brood has emerged.  I had also just received the oxalic vapor tool and was playing with it.     

Thursday, November 17, 2016

2017 Beekeeping Classes

Here is information on one possible source for beekeeping classes.  As always the ECWBA does not endorse people or products.  These classes are held in the Madison area.  When the Editor hears of additional classes they will be posted on the blog.

Learn to Keep Bees!   Beekeeping Classes  2017

Cost: $50, additional family members $25 each.

Beginners Class   Repeats on Jan 21,  Feb 18,  Mar 11,  April 8,  May 6
For those with no experience at all in beekeeping, we will touch on everything you need to know for your first year:

 -Elementary bee biology                         - What to do about swarming?
- What about the neighbors?    -  Splitting a hive, or moving it
- Equipment and protective gear              - Pests and diseases
- Installing your first package  - Harvesting your Honey with Tips on Selling
- Inspecting your hive                             - Preparing for winter

This is a lecture style class with props galore!  Handle everything in sight, taste some pollen, sample honeys.  Plenty of time for questions. 

Second Step Class  will be held March 18, 2017

For those who have already kept bees one year, and now find themselves with many additional questions, and a feeling there is more to know, we will cover the following topics and more as requested by you:

- Bee Behavior                                                        - Splitting Hives/Making Increase
- Equipment beyond the basics                                - Swarm Capture
- Inspecting                                                             - Pests and Disease Treatment
- Queens                                                                  - Preparing for winter                             

Registration includes:

-Full day class 9 am - 4 pm                                           -Class Handouts
-Morning Coffee (Please bring your own lunch)          -Catalogues
-Bakery with Honey                                                      -Sample Journals
-Membership in the Dane Co. Beekeeper's Association -Honey Recipes

You may purchase artisan honey, hand dipped candles, and several other products.  Bring change.
Rich Schneider of  Capital Bee Supply will be on hand with woodenware and equipment for sale.

Classes will be held at the       Lyman Anderson Building
                                                5201 Fen Oak Dr.
                                                Madison, WI 53718

To Register, send 1.) name   2.) address   3.) phone number   4.) e-mail address
5.) date and name of desired session and   6.) check or money order made out to:

          Jeanne Hansen                     For further information or questions, contact:
          824 Jacobson Ave.                                               Jeanne Hansen   608-244-5094
          Madison, WI 53714                                    jeanniealabeannie@yahoo.com

Mentoring   in the Apiary, on an individual basis, by appointment,   $20 for a 2-hour session.

!!*!!*!!  If you mail a check and don't get a receipt, please contact me  !!*!!*!!

Tuesday, November 15, 2016


Here is nice write-up about how once mite free colonies get re-infested.  Thank your neighbors within a mile radius.


Saturday, November 12, 2016


This article is about beekeeping and bee winter survival in Ireland.  However, it also cites some European studies regarding queens.  The two most applicable to Wisconsin are:

1) Locally raised queens have a longer survival than purchased queens; an average of 83 days longer.

2) It is better from a winter survival standpoint to re-queen in mid-summer.  Re-queening during late summer or early fall is not as successful in getting the hive through winter.  



We have been harping you about the need to control mite levels in your hives.  Controlling the mite levels is key to minimizing the chances of deadly bee viruses from getting out of control.  Here is a simple homemade varroa check kit.  It can be used for either powdered sugar or alcohol wash checks.  The magazines and blogs that I read indicate that both powdered sugar and alcohol wash yield similar results.  

To make this varroa checker you must be a cheesehead.  I think all members of the ECWBA qualify.  First eat the cheese out of two spreadable cheese containers.  Next cut the bottom out of the containers leaving a lip around the outside edge.  Sandwich a piece of screen between the two containers.  Join the containers using 3 or 4 screws and nuts.  WhaLa! you now have a varroa mite checker.

If you plan to use this with alcohol also place a bead of RTV rubber at the joint of the two containers. 

Most varroa checks recommend using 300 (1/2 cup) of bees.   Place a mark 1 1/4 inch from the bottom of one container which is the lvel of 1/2 cup or 300 bees. 

Place 2 teaspoons of powdered sugar in containers.  Scrape 1/2 cup of bees from a brood frame into top container.  Replace lid.  Shake vigorously for several minutes.  Towards the end of the shake allow the powdered sugar (and mites) to fall through to the lower container.  Remove lid from lower container over a white sheet of paper and count the mites.  Pour the aggravated bees back into the hive.   For 300 bees 3 mites equals 1% infestation; 6 mites equals 2%, etc.  The most commonly seen limitation is 3% or 9 mites.  If you have 9 or more mites you should treat your hive.  If you are of the "live and let die" persuasion at least you will know why your bees have died.  NOTE: Some experts are now recommending a 1% level as the treatment threshold.  

For those club members that might not have cheese containers I will be bringing to the December club meeting about 6 sets of parts to be given away on first come/first severed basis.  

                                                           Assembled varroa tet kit.
                                            Cut out bottom with Exacto knife or equivalent
                                                   Place screen between containers
                                                                  Screws and nuts
                                                                       Secure together

Friday, November 11, 2016


This link provides an article that discusses how much space is needed for a bee hive.  It also gives guidance to placement of the hive to minimize encounters between bees and people.



The article in this link doesn't provide a solution to Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), but does show the on going work to understand and some day defeat or control it.


Tuesday, November 8, 2016


The November 8th article in the Natures Nectar blog shows the benefit of a late fall oxalic vapor treatment.  Make me think I should treat my hives once more and I've already treated them 3 times.  Follow this link to the article.


Beekeepers Gerard and Jack applied oxalic acid this past week (week of Nov. 7th) after reading the above article.  Both sent in pictures of horrendous mite drops.  Their hives had all been previously treated in August.

                                                                   Jack's mite drop
                                                                   Gerard's mite drop

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Primer for Potential New Beekeepers by beekeeper Fred

The following recommendations are based on personal experience and extensive reading on the plight of the honey bee.  As a new beekeeper you will soon find out that every beekeeper has his own experiences and opinions.  As a new beekeeper you will need to sift through all of this advise and come up with a plan of your own for raising and maintaining your bee colonies.  

Potential new beekeepers often enter the hobby with altruistic goals.  Most have heard of the plight of the honeybee and after reading various articles think that they can immediately become successful beekeepers.  Many potential beekeepers become enthralled with the idea that left alone the bees will naturally develop mite and virus resistance and that everything will be wonderful.  This sometimes, but rarely, happens in isolated areas where an apiary is free of outside influences.  It also takes years of dedicated effort for this to occur.   In the beekeeping community this approach to beekeeping is sometimes called the “Live or Let Die” or “James Bond” method. 

Every beekeeper knows that the European honeybee is beset by varroa, tracheal mites and viruses.  In combination these three factors can cause the demise of a colony of bees during the additional stress of winter.  New beekeepers will quickly be taught this lesson by the school of hard knocks when they lose the majority of their bees the first winter.   Ideally it would be in the best interest of the bees to allow them to develop via natural selection the ability to effectively neutralize these pests. Natural selection has the nasty habit of killing of the weak.  The double whammy of varroa and viruses if left uncontrolled frequently results in 30 to 100% hive loss over the winter.   Such horrendous losses are not necessarily in the best interest of beekeepers who are interested in honey production and selling pollination services.  Several approaches have been developed by beekeepers to hopefully end up with the same end result; honeybees that can survive without chemical intervention.

The key to helping the bees survive is understanding the relationship between the bees, varroa mites and the viruses.  The honeybee has developed good natural defenses against virus transmission in the colony.  However, the recent arrival of the varroa mites has upset the equation.  The mites feed on both the adult and larvae bees.  In addition they move between bees.  Therefore any virus infection in the colony gets transmitted from bee to bee by the varroa and can kill a colony if the mite infection rate is too high.   Controlling the level of mite infestation is the key to controlling viruses.
The first thing to be said in a discussion on bee survivability is that 99% the queens received with packages are raised from long established genetic lines.  These genetic lines were developed to maximize honey production and the docility of the bees.  These established genetic lines have NOT shown the ability to withstand the assault of the three pests.  Also to date most major queen breeders have NOT been motivated to change their breeding stock to more resistant types.   So every time you purchase a package to replace your winter’s losses you are simply getting more of the same inferior genes.  If your beekeeping philosophy trends towards the “live or let die” approach you will probably be purchasing packages every year until you give up and quit beekeeping due to the expense of buying packages every year.  Also, when you purchase these inferior queens you are importing the poor genes into not just your apiary, but also into your neighbor’s apiaries since bees tend to mate with drones from other areas.   Sad, but true. 

There are various approaches to giving your bees a fighting chance against varroa.  First is to provide them with a little aid in their fight with their antagonists.  This involves the use of chemicals (either natural or artificial) in an attempt to control the mites.  History has shown that the mites have repeatedly developed resistance to artificial chemical treatments.  Over the last 30 years several chemical treatments were the silver bullet for controlling mites for a few years until the mites via natural selection developed resistance to them.  There are currently 4 or 5 treatments that are still effective, but the efficacy of these may also decline in the future.  New beekeepers should consult with experienced beekeepers in their area on the use of chemical treatments.    Chemicals that kill mites can also kill your bees and also do harm to you if not applied to the proper manner.   Also remember that the continued use of chemicals to control mites will not aid the bees in developing a natural resistance to mites.  Most hobbyist beekeepers, who are mainly interested in honey production, will probably end up using a chemical approach for controlling mites. 

Other less invasive methods include screened bottom boards for the hive, drone brood trapping of varroa, and temporarily caging the queen; all of which can also aid in the fight against varroa.  A new beekeeper needs to understand the pros and cons of these approaches and also understand their limitations.

The next (and more difficult) approach is to develop genetic lines of European bees that can control the mite level themselves.  Other types of honey bees (Asian) have developed the ability to coexist with the varroa mite.   There are many reports of beekeepers who have not chemically treated their hives of European bees for many years and their bees have also developed resistance to mites. Only very dedicated beekeepers are likely to succeed in developing resistant bees because the selection process is long and difficult. The time frame for those who have been successful is on the order of decades.  However, hobbyist beekeepers can take the step of procuring queens that have these resistant traits and getting these genes into their apiaries.   Varroa resistant lines include Varroa Sensitive Hybrids (VSH), USDA Primorski Russian, Buckfast, and Purdue Ankle Biters.  The VSH, Buckfast and Purdue Ankle Biter strains were developed by beekeepers or scientists performing slow and meticulous data gathering, analysis and then long term breeding programs.  The Primorski Russian bees were a line of European honeybees that were exposed to mites in the Primorski region of Siberia and over a period of 100 plus years underwent natural selection and finally only resistant bees survived.  New beekeepers should read up on these resistant strains of the European honeybee either by doing internet searches or reading about them in one of the bee magazines; such as American Bee Journal or Bee Culture.  Users of these specialized strains have reported varying degrees of success.

It is recommended that new hobbyist beekeepers should NOT follow the “live and let die” philosophy for two reasons.  The first is that you will most likely lose your bees in the winter do to the varroa and virus effects.   All beehives in the US now contain varroa mites; your new hive isn’t any different despite your wishful thinking.   You can’t see them (the varroa), but they ARE there.  The second reason is that the varroa from your hive will migrate to your neighbors’ hives.   Bees inherently drift between hives; especially the drones.  Varroa use this phenomenon to expand their territory and populations by hitching a ride on the drones.  Also when your hive dies (as it most likely will) robber bees will come to loot the stored honey.  In doing this they will pick up mites and return them to their home hives.  Thus you are unknowingly infecting your neighbor’s hives with varroa. 

In summary every new beekeeper should remember:
1)      Every time you buy a bee package to re-stock your hive you are importing same inferior genes into your apiary. 
2)      Following the “live and let die” philosophy, although altruistic, will most likely result in high colony losses in your apiary and is harmful to your neighbors’ bees also.
3)      If truly interested in being helpful to the honey bee you should incorporate varroa resistant genetic lines into your operation; the sooner, the better.
4)      Unless you have unlimited financial resources for purchasing replacement packages it is wise to understand and apply a mite control program.  After you have become more knowledgeable and are successful in getting your bees through several winters you can then begin experimentation.

Thursday, November 3, 2016


A new virus, the Moku virus, has been identified in Hawaii.  It appears to be similar to Deformd Wing Virus and Isreali Acute Paralysis Virus and can also be transmitted by the varroa mite.  Here are a few links.  Unfortunately I haven't yet found a description of the symptoms associated with the virus.   On the plus side it appears that the presence of the DWV virus controls the Moku virus.  So far it has not been reported in the continental US.



Wednesday, November 2, 2016


Here is a link to a blog article discussing our warm weather.  The article also stresses the need for all beekeepers to treat for mites.  If you don't like using hard chemicals then you should consider either formic or oxalic acid treatments.