Sunday, April 30, 2017

MAYBE NEXT YEAR submitted by beekeeper Gerard

A tax break for Wisconsin beekeepers.  Maybe next year.


Another month has come and gone in the Flying Squirrel Apiary.  Things continued to warm up nicely although the snow flurries and the overnight freeze last Thursday were not appreciated.  In the past month one hive dwindled away; taking the apiary’s overall winter survival down to 82.5%.  Russians did the best at 88%; Ankle Biters at 75% and package Carni’s at 60%.  Several hives are still touch and go as to their survival. 

During April I did a cursory inspection of each hive.  A prolonged inspection and hive cleaning won’t occur until short sleeve shirt weather arrives.  Some hives were booming and others lagging, but then wide variation between hives coming out of winter is not uncommon.   I did a little redistribution of frames of bees between hives to help out a few weaker hives and will probably repeat this again in May.  The booming hives raised concerns in me about potential swarming, but I remembered that swarming only occurs after the honey flow has started and abundant drones are present.  Although the bees were bringing in both pollen and a little nectar the conditions just weren’t right for swarming yet.
  To date during hive inspections I have only seen one hive initiated swarm cell.  I removed this cell and also removed bees to slightly weaken the hive. 

During April I did a few hive reversals to try to stimulate the laggard hives.  To the strong hives I added honey supers to ensure there was enough space for all the bees.  Several of the strongest hives have already started putting honey in those supers.  I hope this bodes well for a bumper honey crop.

Trying to be an optimist I started the month long process of raising some local queens.  Trying to raise queens this early in Wisconsin is always risky do to the potential of cold temperatures and rainy or snowy weather.   Juggling around the rain and cold days I did manage to start four batches of queens; both Ankle Biters and Russians.  Two batches have reached the point where they needed to be put into the mating nucs.  To date there a 24 mating nucs deployed; 13 with Ankle Biter queen cells and 11 with Russian queen cells.  Here the booming hives became useful as I stole frames of bees to stock the nucs.  (This has the added benefit of relieving the overcrowding in those strong hives thus lessening their urge to swarm.)   By about the second week of May I will know if there are enough mature drones in the area when I see if the new queens have successfully mated and begun laying.

                                 A few Ankle Biter queen cells maturing in the incubator
                                              These cells are now in mating nucs

I did have a few packages on order, but to my frustration they did not arrive at mid-April as promised. 
The month of May will be busy:
-Install the packages when and if they arrive.
-Conduct periodic hive inspections to ensure all hives remain queenright.  All ECWBA members should be doing this every two weeks.  New package queens have the nasty habit of dying or not being accepted.   You don’t want to get into a situation with laying workers!
-Try to be in the apiary every warm sunny day about 10AM to look for swarms from your hives.
-Install honey supers as necessary since the honey flow in this area typically starts in mid-May.  This is also a good time to perform an inspection to ensure your queen is laying.
-Conduct mite level checks on random hives to see if any remedial action is required.  This will also allow comparing mite levels between my Russian, Ankle Biter and Carni hives.
-Continue raising both Ankle Biter and Russian queens.   My records (and the queen color code markings) show the Ankle Biter breeder queen has survived one Wisconsin winter and the Russian queen has survived two winters. 
-In mid-May I will be receiving several queens with which to start new hives:
- 3 Russians from certified breeders to refresh the Russian genetics in my apiary. (Because the bees in my apiary and in my area are not all Russian the genetics of my bees will slowly drift away from true Russian stock through interbreeding)
-2 Mite Maulers (Beekeeper Jon and I plan to microscopically inspect dead mites for evidence of bee caused injuries to the mites to see if we can confirm the benefits of the Ankle Biter, Mite Mauler and Russian bee strains.)
-Several Saskatraz-a winter hardy Canadian bee strain

Follow the ECWBA’s OurBeeBlog as the season progresses. 

Saturday, April 29, 2017


Do to some construction beekeeper Jon was forced to relocate his apiary.  We tried hand carrying a few hives and were huffing and puffing.  In the end we rigged up the tractor to move the hives.  Saturday was a very cool day and the bees were not flying.  Although we started taping the entrance closed we soon got brave.  No stings during the entire operation.

                Only one hive was left to move when we thought of getting pictures for the blog.
                                    Hive carrier hooks into the hand holds on the hive ends.
                                                  Getting tractor into position.
                                     Attaching the hive carrier to the tractor with a chain.
                  Ready to move hive.  The stick attached to the hive stabilizes the hive
                                                        during the move.
                  Guiding the hive into a landing.  (Beekeeper Fred looks like the Michelin man!)
                   You can see the red ratchet strap we used to hold the hive together for the move.
                                             All eleven hives in their new location.

Friday, April 28, 2017

Wednesday, April 26, 2017


Here is a report that documents/suggests that neonictinoids DO affect honey bees in a very negative way.  This particular pesticide is used on corn, soybeans and cotton.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017


If you have been out checking your hives you may have noticed that many overwintered hives are extremely strong.  I have already seen capped queen cells in one of my hives.  This means they will probably swarm when weather permits and the honey flow starts.  Usually this is about mid May, but may be slightly sooner this year.  So its time to think of doing a DIVIDE.  A good description of the process of doing a divide can be found at the following link.

Sunday, April 23, 2017


ECWBA President Gerard being a good mentor while guiding new ECWBA member Diedre through installation of her first package of bees.  Looks like they both have new white protective gear.  

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017


Here is another method of applying oxalic acid.  I don't know if this method is EPA/FDA/??? approved.


New beekeepers are frequently enamored with the concept of treatment free beekeeping.  The following link provides a description of "treatment free" beekeeping.  New beekeepers should be aware of several facts/requirements if they are to be successful with treatment free philospohy.

First the link:

1.  Do not attempt to start treatment free beekeeping using package bees and queens.  These bees are not adapted to our climate and they are from stock raised under a "treatment intensive" regime.  In a few short words these bees are unlikely to survive without continued treatment or in our harsh winter conditions.  Replacing your annual losses will be both financially and psychologically difficult.

2. Get local bees that have been raised in the treatment free regime for a number of years.  They may cost more but will survive better than package bees. Or capture wild swarms; at least you know awild swarm has most likely survived at least one Wisconsin winter.

3. Be prepared for winter loss rates approaching 50% or more for the first several years.

4. Never replace your losses with package bees.  Split your survivor colonies which have shown the ability to survive.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017


Here are a few rambling thoughts on preventing swarming.

Beekeepers love strong overwintered hives, because strong overwintered hives also produce a bumper crop of honey or they can be split to make more hives.  However, on the downside strong hives may also swarm.

Swarming is the natural way the hive super organism reproduces.  Weak hives do not swarm.  Swarming is about a month long process.  First certain preconditions must be met.  These are overcrowding, no egg laying space, pollen available and a honey flow.  At that point the hive initiates the swarming process.  First they start replacement queen cells.  Then they slim down the queen.  After about 10 days the new queen cells are capped.  Only then will the urge to swarm become overwhelming. 

Through manipulation the beekeeper can minimize swarming. .   If a swarm gets away all you have lost is a little honey.  On the positive side the hives undergoes a brood rearing break while the new queen emerges and mates.  This also interrupts the mite cycle and reduces the hive mite load.
There are a number a ways to potentially prevent swarming.  NONE is foolproof.

1)      Conduct weekly hive inspections to understand hive strength, space, and find potential swarm cells.  If there is little or no space in the brood boxes for the queen to lay eggs then the hive will probably initiate the swarming process.  Inspection intervals longer than weekly increases the chances the hive will go through the entire process undetected.

2)      Reversing of strong hives should be reserved for in the spring.  Getting the queen in the lower brood box seems to promote brood rearing.  But it should not be done too early because it may split the brood and result in chilling of the brood in the smaller piece. It may lessen the swarming tendency by giving the queen more room to lay.

3)      Overfeeding a new package hive or even an overwintered hive can result in the brood nest getting filled with sugar syrup.  This decreases the space in which the queen can lay and thus cause the hive to swarm.  Otherwise a new package will almost never swarm. So quit feeding a new package once the honey flow starts (about May 15th around here).

4)      Make sure you super the hives with sufficient honey supers.  This creates space for the surplus bees and also promotes honey production.  Anytime a super is 60% full (not necessarily capped) add a super.  Replacing capped frames with empty frames accomplishes the same thing. If there is no room in the honey supers the bees will store honey in the brood nest.  Loss of open cells in the brood nest promotes swarming.

5)      Just the simple action of removing 3 or 4 frames of brood and bees from a strong hive and starting a nuc can prevent the urge to swarm.  Place undrawn frames in the hive as the replacement.  This provides more room and lets the bees work at drawing new comb. You can let the nuc raise their own queen (about 60% success rate) or provide the nuc with a queen of your choice.   This is my favorite.

6)      You must do something if you see swarm cells. You can physically remove swarm cells but if you miss only one swarm cell the hive will swarm.  But also be aware the hive is simply going to build more swarm cells unless you take further action(s) to lessen the overcrowding. 

7)      You can do a split and start a new hive(s).  Put all swarm cells in one half and the queen in the other.  This may lower your honey harvest.

8)      You can do a partial split.  Take out 4-5 frames with the swarm cells and place them in a nuc or 2nd hive. Put in replacement frames for the hive to draw out and the queen to lay in.

9)      In preparation for swarming the bees cut way back on feeding of the queen.  This is so she will lose enough weight and size so that her wings can get her airborne.  If you encountered an already slimmed down queen it would be a good idea to cage her while you are taking other corrective actions; splitting, starting a nuc, etc. 


1)      Swarms usually issue from the hive between 10AM and noon and between mid-May and late June.  I am sure everyone can quote an exception to the rule.  The swarm usually alights in a tree, bush, etc. within 100 feet of the hive.   If you can be in the apiary daily about this time you may be able to catch the swarm prior to them leaving.

2)      If you see capped queen cells during your inspections the hive may have already swarmed.  Look extra hard for the queen.  Remember she will be slimmed down in preparation for the swarming flight. (Marked queens are easier to find)

3)      If the hive did not slim the queen enough you may find the swarm near the hive on the ground like a big puddle of bees. 

4)      Know the difference between swarm cells and emergency cells.  Swarm cells are usually around the bottom of the frames because all other cells are already filled with eggs or brood.  Emergency cells are usually in the middle of frames where the bees convert any larvae of the right age into a queen cell.   
a)      If you find the queen you can quickly do a split.  Put the queen in a cage and in the new hive.
b)      If you don’t find the queen DON’T remove any queen cells.  Those cells are the queen’s replacement. 
5)      Sometimes once the swarming process is set in motion the old queen is going to leave no matter what you do.  Putting the queen in a split with absolutely no queen cells may prevent the swarm.  This is doubly true if you cage her for week or so.
6)      You will need a spare empty hive or nuc to make a split.  Plan ahead.  Remembers the 6P’s. Prior Planning Prevents Piss Poor Performance

Coming soon a primer on catching swarms.

Friday, April 14, 2017


New beekeepers are anxious to see how their new bees are doing after installing the package.  Be patient.  Don't do anything for the first week other than to ensure the bees do not run out of feed.  After a week is up the first task is to verify the bees have accepted the queen and that she has started laying.  It is not important to find the queen; just new eggs.  The less time you spend in the hive the better.  Weather conditions are still not ideal and taking too long during your inspection could chill and kill the new eggs and larvae.  Don't do an inspection if the temperature is lower than 60 degrees F. Go to the following link for a picture and video on doing this first inspection.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

The Kim and Jim Show submitted by beekeeper Denise

Here is a link to a number of videos.  These videos are part of the "Kim and Jim Show".  These two men are wrtiers for Bee Culture Magazine.  The video called "Latest University Research" was interesting.


Every year there are a host of new beekeepers that are bound and determined to utilize the "treatment free" philosophy in the management of their newly arrived bees.  This inevitably results in high summer and winter losses.  Consequently many new beekeepers throw in the towel and drop out of beekeeping.  The following link provides some information for new beekeepers to think about.

New beekeepers should follow a monitor and treatment philosophy until they are more knowledgeable about beekeeping; including the methods of monitoring for and treatment of mites.  Then they should incorporate mite resistant survivor stock into their operation and slowly decrease treatments after they verify the mites are not getting the upper hand.

There are a number of easy to use "natural" mite treatments that can be used until the beekeeper incorporates mite resistant bees in his or her apiary.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

SWARM SEASON IS JUST AROUND THE CORNER submitted by beekeeper Grandpa Jack

With the recent warm weather and with all the new brood in the hives, its just a matter of time until we start to see our first swarms.

Last Saturday the East Central Wisconsin Beekeepers Association held their regular meeting and one of the discussions was that of bait hives, so I thought I would summarize a few things that you need to know about bait hives.  I will not go into detail of the how's and why's, except to say that there are many articles written about that on the web

Get your bait hives out in the next couple of weeks!

The bait hive should have a volume of 35-40 Liters, with 40 liters being optimum (40 liters is 2441 cubic inches - H x W x L inside measurement or roughly 1.4 cubic feet) 
A ten frame deep is very close to 40 liters. 
An eight frame deep will work
Two 5  deep frame nucs mounted together is same as a one ten frame deep (maybe better due to the narrow but deep space provided)
One 5 frame deep and a 5 frame medium joined is also close.

The entrance should be 2.3 square inches, or an opening 1 1/2" x 1 1/2" square. You can use a hole saw that is 1 1/4" to 1 1/2" in diameter.  The entrance should be towards the bottom of the bait hive according the Dr. Thomas Seeley.
This year, some of my bait hives will have an upper entrance with bait frames or old comb at the bottom.  This is generally what you will find in the natural setting.  Place 1/2" hardware screen or a nail across the entrance to keep our feathered friends from inviting themselves in. 

Place 4-5 frames in the bait hive, with at least one of them having old brood comb.  The other frames can have a sheet of wax or starter strips of wax. Do not put frames of honey into the bait hive as this will invite some unwanted guests into the hive.

A couple of screened 3/4" vent holes towards the back of the hive are a good idea.  Cap these over with a board that you can remove when you move the hive to their permanent location.  Bees don't like a lot of light, but do need ventilation when they are locked up for transit.

Use a scent that the scout bees will find inviting.  This can be a commercial queen pheromone, lemon grass essential oil or a commercial product such as Swarm Commander.  The lemon odor emulates the nasonov pheromone or the "come hither" scent that the scout bees find quite enticing. Do not overdo the scent.  A spray once a week is more that enough.

Placement should be along a wooded tree line or woods or anywhere the bees can find it.   the scout bees normally travel 10-15 feet in the air looking for a home, but will travel at ground level if the home looks good enough.  They prefer being up in the air.

A south or east entrance is recommended with the hive located in a partially shaded area, not in full afternoon sunlight.

Just remember that where ever you put the bait hive, you will have to take it down if a swarm comes into the hive.  The hive will weigh more coming down than when it went up.  Be careful, free bees are not worth a fall.

If you see bees coming and going into the bait hive, don't rush to move them.  The bee traffic could be just scout bees looking the new home over and you don't want to interrupt their decision making process (or as Thomas Seeley would say "Honey Bee Democracy")  Wait until you see bees bringing in pollen.  This will indicate that the queen is happy with the new home and is laying eggs.

When the time has come to move them, go out at night and close off the front entrance with regular screen or use one of the commercial entrance disks.  If there are bees hanging out in front, just take a spray water bottle and spray a mist on the bees outside.  They will move in just like we would if it started to rain.  At this time also remove the board that is covering your vent holes to give them plenty of ventilation.  As a general rule, you should move them at least two miles away so they will not go back to the original location. 

Have fun, experiment and share your success with the group.   These are only some guidelines that have proven to be somewhat successful.  Maybe you will be able to add to the list.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Monday, April 3, 2017

EPIPEN RECALL submitted by beekeeper Grandpa Jack

For those beekeepers who have a bad allergetic reaction to bee stings please be aware of the recall of EpiPens and EpiPen Juniors.  See below.  

FDA News Release

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is alerting consumers to Meridian Medical Technologies’ voluntary recalldisclaimer icon of 13 lots of Mylan’s EpiPen and EpiPen Jr (epinephrine injection) Auto-Injector products used for emergency treatment of severe allergic reactions. This recall is due to the potential that these devices may contain a defective part that may result in the devices’ failure to activate. The recalled product was manufactured by Meridian Medical Technologies and distributed by Mylan Specialty.
While the number of reported failures is small, EpiPen products that potentially contain a defective part are being recalled because of the potential for life-threatening risk if a severe allergic reaction goes untreated. Consumers should keep and use their current EpiPens if needed until they get a replacement. Consumers should contact Mylan at 800-796-9526 or with any questions.
As stated on the product label, consumers should always seek emergency medical help right away after using their EpiPens, particularly if the device did not activate.
At this time, the 13 lots identified – distributed between Dec. 17, 2015, and July 1, 2016 – are the only EpiPen lots impacted by the U.S. recall. Consumers who have EpiPens from lots that are not included in this recall, do not need to replace their EpiPen prior to its expiration date.
The FDA asks health care professionals and consumers to report any adverse reactions or device malfunctions to the FDA’s MedWatch program, by:
The FDA, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, protects the public health by assuring the safety, effectiveness, and security of human and veterinary drugs, vaccines and other biological products for human use, and medical devices. The agency also is responsible for the safety and security of our nation’s food supply, cosmetics, dietary supplements, products that give off electronic radiation, and for regulating tobacco products.