Saturday, December 31, 2016

Uh oh! Something new-Rev. 1

Check this out.

Here is a second article with a little more technical detail.

Beekeeper Fred's Apiary Update

I performed a sound check of all my hives today using a stethoscope.  That involved a hike through the snow of about 1 ½ miles to reach all of them.  As previously stated I took 40 hives into winter.  Based upon a quick and dirty early October inspection I had classed 27 hives as strong, 10 as medium strength and 3 as weak.  As of today 38 hives are still humming.  Of the two lost since my last report, one had been classed as weak and one medium. 

Although I have lost 2 hives so far I am happy with the results (5% loss) to date.  This time last year I had already lost 23% of the hives.   This is a significant improvement over last year, which I attribute to steps taken back in August.  A) Heavily feed all first year hives (that free sugar sure helped),  B) Don’t try to overwinter any hive started after June, C) Treat for mites in mid August and again in September and October, D) cull or combine weak hives. 

Both of the lost hives had been wrapped with a BeeCozy.  As stated previously I have tracked hive survival of wrapped versus unwrapped hives for several years and have seen no difference.

One hive appears to have mice in it.  Tomorrow I will slip in a little piece of rat poison to try to remedy that situation.  There is a long way yet to go until spring, but the winter solstice has passed and the amount of sunshine is slowly increasing day by day.  

Saturday, December 24, 2016


If interested in getting federal money for bee habitat read the following links.  This help is usually limited to farmers (others need not apply) and the recipients must jump through the usual bureaucratic hoops, but don't let that discourage you.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Winter Thermoregulation

This links provides analysis of winter hive temperatures.  The study was conducted in a 5 year span in Madison, Wi.  The data allowed the analysts to come to a number of conclusions which are at the end of the article.  The ones I thought significant were:

1) The hive makes no attempt to regulate the temperature outside of the winter cluster.
2) Insulating does permit the cluster to be somewhat looser; meaning it is spending less energy to maintain cluster temperature.
3) In the Madison area both insulated and uninsulated hives should have no survival issues under normal winter conditions.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

VARROA VIDEOS from the Honeybee Health Coalition

Back to varroa control again.  Here is a link to a website that has a set of videos decribing varroa mite sampling and the all of the most used varroa control methods.  Watch the videos and choose the method you feel will be most effective for you.  One thing to remember is that if you want to call your honey organic you will be limited to oxalic or formic acid as a means of chemical control.


Received this photo taken yesterday on December 14th.  It was a high of about 10 degrees yesterday.  On the outside of this hive there was a mound of obviously frozen bees.  The heads of most bees were pointing towards the entrance.  The hive is apparently doing fine.  It appears these bees are mostly drones that had been evicted from the hive.  My theory is that this package queen did not get the message to stop raising brood earlier this fall and now that crunch time has arrived the drones are being evicted.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016


The really cold weather will soon be upon us.  Going down to -15F this weekend before a warm up to the balmy 20s.  Nothing we can do now but wait out the cold.  This extreme cold is one reason for utilizing cold acclimated bees.   Nature's Nectar blog has a few words on the hazards of late fall feeding.  Read and be smarter for next year.

Saturday, December 10, 2016

WINTER 2016-2017 by beekeeper Fred

I think with the past weekend’s snow we can all agree that winter is upon us and our bees.   Hopefully we all did our best during the long warm fall to prepare our bees to survive the coming months of cold weather.  Again this year I will periodically report on how my hives are surviving.  As you can tell from previous year’s reports I am not a master beekeeper and have on occasion suffered heavy winter losses.  Some years are better than others.  Each year I try to learn a little more by reading, hard knocks and conversations with more successful beekeepers and then apply those lessons to increase the chances of winter survival for the bees in my apiary. 

Last year my final winter survival was a miserable 50%; worse than some and better than others.  If I had to make my living at beekeeping I would probably be out of business.  In the spring I surveyed several of the more successful beekeepers in hopes of learning their techniques to high survival.  Here were the items that seem to have a great influence.

1)      Never try to take a weak hive through the winter.  Put another way: Only take a strong hive into winter.   Weak hives should be combined with another hive. 
2)      Treat for mites in mid August.  This permits the hive to raise winter bees in a fairly mite free environment. 
3)      Check mite levels after the August treatment and treat again as necessary. 
4)      Do not start new hives after June.  They simply won’t have time to develop large enough populations and food stores in the remaining summer and fall.  In my area the honey flow is essentially done by mid-July. 
5)      Heavily feed all start-up hives through August and September. 
6)      Minimize use of spring packages since the genetics of the factory queens are not ideal.
7)      Incorporate mite resistant bees into your operation.
So how did I do incorporating these recommendations? 

1)      In mid-August after the honey harvest I culled 5 hives from my operation by eliminating the weak hive’s queen and combining the bees with hives of medium strength.
2)      After the honey harvest I treated all hives (except one) with a full dose of MAQS (formic acid).  The one exception was the hive with a Purdue Ankle Biter breeder queen.  I did not want to chance killing the queen during the treatment.
3)      I cheated on the “check mite levels” post treatment.  So yes I was lazy.  Instead in mid-September and mid-October I treated all hives with oxalic acid vapor. 
4)      I did not start any new hives this year after July 1st except for two swarms I managed to catch in mid-August.  These were immediately re-queened and given liquid feed.  A third swarm voluntarily occupied an empty hive in mid-August. 
5)      In early August I began feeding the 2016 start-up hives and also any hives that were not making a honey surplus.   Thank god for that free sugar from the bakery!
6)      I reduced my package purchases this spring to eight and perhaps that was a blessing.  Through the course of the summer only 2 of those packages did anything.  The others just never got going.  Four of them needed re-queening and two more superceded their queen.    I have my fingers crossed and hope to not buy any packages next spring.  At least that’s my aim.
7)      This year I raised and incorporated both Russian and Purdue Ankle Biter stock into my operation.  Both strains are noted for their mite resistance and ability to withstand northern winters.

Although I did not make mite level checks on all hives as suggested I did learn how to perform these checks.  This year I upped my game by learning how to use sticky boards, alcohol wash and powder sugar roll mite check methods.   After a little reading I plan to standardize on the powdered sugar roll method next year.    ALL of the hives I checked did have mites of varying levels; even after those three (3) mite treatments.   All post-treatment mite levels showed my hives below mite limit recommendations (for those few hives I did check).  The fact that I did not check all hives is an obvious shortcoming.   Overall I think my hives are in the best shape going into winter since I have started beekeeping.

As of October 15th I decided to take 40 hives through the winter.  I tried to gauge hive strength by quickly observing the number of frames covered with bees below the inner cover; strong 8-10 frames, medium 6-7 frames, weak 5 or less.   Twenty-seven (27) hives ranked strong, ten ( 10) medium and three (3) weak.   (Yes, I know I should have eliminated those 3 weak ones)  Twenty-five (25) are of Russian stock, eight (8) of Ankle Biter stock, four (4) Carniolan stock and 3 miscellaneous or unknown.  Note: Only a few of these a “purebreds”.  All queens I raise are open mated and therefore their offspring are mongrels that hopefully retain the beneficial traits of their mother.

This year I will again compare the survival of wrapped versus unwrapped hives.  In the previous two years I have done this there was no difference in survival rates.  I will see if this holds true again this year.
                          Unwrapped hive in foreground/BeeCozy wrapped hive in background

I periodically check the hives by simply listening with a stethoscope for the loud buzz of the bees though the upper air vent hole.  I am happy to say as of December 1st all hives were buzzing.  A below zero cold snap will arrive next week which will test the weaker hives.  But as we all know crunch time comes in January and February .  Stay tuned. 

Saturday, December 3, 2016


Here is an article from the Des Moines Register that reports glyphosate contamination in American honey samples.  Actually, its not surprising since glyphosate is one of the most popular herbicides in the US.


The primary topic of the December meeting involved a report from club members who attended the Brown County Beekeepers Seminar in October.  Patti Ingram provided a bullet point slide show with the highlights of the seminar.  Other attendees provided additional background information.  Topics covered in the seminar were winter survival and overwintering nucs.

What I gained from their information is that the overwintered nucs were actually regular deeps that were modified to be side by side 4 frame nucs.  The two nucs could thereby share heat through the divider in the center.  These nucs were also stacked at least 2 deeps in height.

A thank you to Patti, Mark and Paul for their report.

Septembers minutes were read and approved.  As was the treasurer's financial report.

The topic of public outreach was delayed until the January meeting.  All members were invited to provide both ideas for public outreach, but also do recruiting of personnel to support any activity.

Free kits to perform powdered sugar mite checks were distributed all interested club members.  The meeting then adjourned and members went to sample product-of-the-hive treats brought in for our enjoyment.  Baklava, honey glazed pecans, honey spiced chicken, mead, honey brittle, and honey cookies were sampled by club members.

The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for January; exact date TBD.

                                                          Patti giving presentation
                                                               Mmmmm Baklava
                                                            Honey spiced chicken
                                                                     Honey cookies