Wednesday, June 28, 2017


In the world of beekeeping there are many controversial subjects.  One of those is re-queening.
Sometimes your hive goes queenless.  In about 30% of those cases the hive does not successfully re-queen itself.   It then becomes necessary to re-queen that hive rapidly to avoid laying workers from taking possession of the hive.  Laying workers take control soon after the last developing brood is capped.  The combination of queen and brood pheromones tends to keep the laying workers in check.  Addition of a frame of eggs and uncapped brood from another hive can delay the laying workers.  Re-queening in this situation is not controversial.  It is then just a matter of whether to use local/regional raised or factory raised queens. 

NOTE: “Factory Raised” queens is a term referring to large scale queen breeders that raise thousands, no tens of thousands, of queens.  This can cause a genetic bottleneck since both the queens and drones come from a small (not genetically diverse) population.

Local/regional raised queens in theory have become acclimatized to the local/regional weather and forage.  This should help with winter survival.  Whereas, factory raised queens probably come from California or one of the southern states.  These queens may not be acclimatized to our severe winter weather. 

A second reason to re-queen is to keep the average age of your queens lower.  Young queens are less likely to be superceded in the following year. The probably of a supercedure of a 3 year old queen is rather high.  If a supercedure is just prior to the honey flow, the multi-week process could cut into the nectar gathering potential of the hive, since the hive bee population normally dips at this time.  There is some data that indicates 2nd year queens are the most productive.  After that the queen productivity declines.  Re-queening allows the beekeeping to somewhat prevent unplanned supercedure and to also keep the queen productivity in the optimum range and hopefully increase honey yield.
A third reason to re-queen is to alter the genetic makeup of the bees in your apiary.  Most beekeepers start with packages that come with factory raised California or southern queens.   Historically these queens did not have anti-varroa characteristics and are thus more susceptible to winter failure from varroa related viruses.  Recently selectively breed bees with anti-varroa characteristics have been developed.  These are VSH (varroa sensitive hybrids), Primorsky Russians, Purdue Ankle Biters, regional survivor stock (such as Michigan Mutts) and others.  Ah ha, the topic for another blog article; designer bees!   Although technically not re-queening many beekeepers incorporate improved genetics when doing splits in the spring.
Re-queening for the second and third reason is usually done in late summer after the honey harvest.  Queens are usually in short supply at that time; so plan ahead.
The alternate approach is to do no re-queening and let nature take its course. 

Monday, June 26, 2017


We have now gone past the summer solstice, when the longest amount of daylight occurs.  From a length of day standpoint its all downhill from here to December 21st.  The solstice also marks the beginning of summer. The bees somehow know this and the hive/queen will begin to slow the raising of brood from its peak spring rate.  The plants also seem to know this.  Most seed producing plants have already bloomed.  Therefore the honey flow also tends to slowly decline from here on out.  Based on my personal observations it seems that the bees have already stored more than 60% of nectar by this point. In our area it seems that by mid-July the hives are basically just breaking even between consumption and nectar gathering.

 Remember the third line in the swarm poem.  “A swarm in July ain’t worth a fly”.   That’s because even a strong swarm in July usually can’t store enough honey to make it through the winter; let alone to gather a surplus.  Also as the raising of brood is reduced the bees begin to store honey in the upper portion of the brood chamber.  This adds to the impression that honey making has slowed since it is not ending up in the honey supers.  That said, the extra rain we have been seeing this year may extend the length of the honey flow.
The solstice also marks the time after which it is unwise to attempt to start a new hive unless you will go to extra lengths to allow its full development.  After the solstice a nuc and new queen will not have enough time to grow the hive population and store enough provisions to survive the winter.   Of course by heavily feeding a new hive,  adding capped brood or frames of bees from another hive can give the new hive a boost and let them get strong enough for winter.  Experienced beekeepers know to start new hives prior to the end of June to avoid the extra work and winter loss risk. 

Now is also the time to begin thinking ahead about your fall plans.  Remember the 6P’s. ( Prior planning prevents piss poor performance)  So what should you be thinking about?
-Have you lined up the use of an extractor?
-Do you have buckets and bottles for the honey harvest?  Think in terms of 3 gallons of honey for each full medium box. 
-After the harvest in mid-August comes mite control.  Have you procured the items for the method you have selected?  Mite control should be done in mid-August so that the “winter” bees raised after that will have the least problems with mites and the associated viruses. 
-Are you planning to re-queen the hives with older queens? 

Think about these things now so that later you won't be saying to yourself  "I should of thought about that before". 

Saturday, June 24, 2017

NEW OR OLD BEE PREDATOR? submitted by beekeeper Jon

Beekeeper Jon caught this itsy bitsy spider having a bee snack on his spray bottle.   I've noticed similar colored spiders lurking under the lip of my outer covers.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017


Here is an article about the use of queen excluders.  In short the author recommends using them.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


The varroa mite populations have been building all spring while the hives have been building populations befor the honey flow.  This means that mite carried viruses are also building.  This is a good time to knock down the mite populations through applications of either oxalic acid vapor or MAQS application.  In fact in the past week I have seen a few drones with deformed wings which is a BAD sign.

Use only MAQS or oxalic acid treatments while honey supers are on the hive.  These are naturally occuring compounds and won't negatively affect your honey.  Other treatments WILL negatively affect the honey.  DON'T use them.

If you treat the hives now they won't need another tretment until after removal of the honey supers in mid-August.  It also keeps the mite populations in check and will improve the effective of your post honey removal treatment.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


This time of year many beekeepers discover or realize their hive(s) is in trouble.  Their initial investigation shows it is either queenless or has a non-laying queen.  Rectifying the non-laying queen situation is rather straight forward; dispatch the old queen, wait a few hours and introduce a new queen.

A hive that has been both queenless and broodless for a long time will develop into what is called a “laying worker” hive.  Research has shown that all hives have a small percentage of laying workers.  It is when the queen and brood pheromone levels fall off a significantly larger percentage of the “sterile” workers becomes laying workers. 

Beekeepers that conduct weekly or biweekly inspections to verify their hives are queenright will usually identify a queenless hive long before this situation becomes critical.  During each inspection the beekeeper is looking for eggs.  The simple presence of eggs means the queen was present no less than 4 days previously.  These beekeepers know additional action is required when no eggs are found.  At this point it is a matter of re-queening the hive.
To gauge how far your queenless hive has progressed consider these milestones:
1)      After 4 days any eggs will have hatched into larvae.
2)      After 12 days the larvae will have been capped.
3)      After 21 days all the worker brood will have emerged. 
4)      After 24 days all drone brood laid by the queen will have emerged. 

If all that you are seeing is capped drone cell brood you know at least 24 days or possibly longer have elapsed.  When all that you see is capped drone brood with its dome shaped capping you can then start to look for the signs of laying workers.  The signs are:
1)      randomly distributed capped brood
2)      multiple eggs in a cell
3)      eggs adhering to the side wall of the cell
4)      a random egg distribution.

When you see these signs laying workers are in charge of the hive.  If a queen is introduced at this point the laying workers will usually kill her.  In fact it is not easy to re-queen a laying worker hive.  So what are your other options?

If you do nothing the hive slowly dwindles away and you will have nothing to show for the season and you also won’t have a hive capable of overwintering.

Some people have reported success by putting in frames of open brood and eggs from another hive.  This needs to be done on a weekly basis and multiple times.  The brood pheromones slowly suppress the laying workers.  Sometimes they will make an emergency cell and raise a new queen.  It’s not a 100% cure.  Sometimes at this point the hive could accept a new queen.  Putting in the queen is a big gamble.  I have tried this method several times but without success.

If you have many hives you can split up your laying worker hive amongst other queenright hives; several frames of drone brood and bees into each.  The outer honey frames can remain.  Then you take frames of eggs and brood from the queenright hives, refill the empty hive and introduce a new queen.  This is similar to doing a split.  If you do this early enough you may be able to get the hive ready for winter. 

A third alternative involves switching hive locations with a strong hive while the field bees are out foraging.  This throws both hives into chaos.  The strong hive recovers with no problem.  The laying worker hive is inundated with the field bees from the queenright hive.  Reportedly, the field bees quickly eliminate the laying workers.  Then the beekeeper removes the frames with drone brood.  Finally a full 5 frame nuc with queen is added to the hive using the newspaper separation method.

In summary, the best thing you can do is to recognize as early as possible that your hive is queenless.  If you fail at this then you must choose one of the three solutions and work the process of salvaging your laying worker hive.  Good luck in whichever method you choose.  

HONEY BEE FORAGE SPECIES submitted by beekeeper Pam

This link takes you to a handy table listing the honey bee forage species for Wisconsin.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

SWARMING AFTERMATH by beekeeper Fred

I hope the swarming season is about over and that the bees will get down to the business of gathering nectar and making honey.  The following is based on my observations of the past month.  I’m not sure how valid my conclusions may be. 

I had 4 hives that swarmed that I am aware of.  All swarms were from hives that successfully overwintered.  I saw one swarm in process.  Two more must have occurred shortly before I arrived on scene.  These first three swarms alighted in trees adjacent to the source hive.  Luckily all were low enough to make their capture relatively simple.  The fourth swarm was kind enough to occupy a vacant hive.  I think I was able to deduce the source hive because of a dramatic drop in hive population from one week to the next.
Now for the interesting part.  We are all taught the old queen leaves with the swarm. Also, the source hive is left with one or more replacement queen cells. 

Hive 1, the source of my first swarm, successfully re-queened itself.  It was about 2 weeks before I saw the queen and 3 weeks before I saw eggs.  Exactly on the schedule in the reference books.

Hive A received the swarm from Hive 1.  I saw eggs within a week after capture.  So I conclude the old queen came with the swarm and almost immediately began laying.
Hive 2 swarmed.  It had about 15 capped queen cells. In the later inspections I saw that queens had emerged from many of the cells, but after 3 weeks I saw no queens or eggs despite 4 or more inspections.   I have re-queened this hive.

Hive B received the swarm from Hive 2.  I initially saw a queen, but for whatever reason she never began laying and in recent inspections I have not seen her.  I have since re-queened this hive.

Hive 3 swarmed 2 ½ weeks ago.  Today I saw eggs.  So it successfully re-queened itself.

Hive C received the swarm from Hive 3.  It is queenless.  I never saw a queen during any inspections.  Did I fail to get her into the hive while capturing the swarm or did she die afterwards?  That will have to be a mystery.  I have re-queened this hive.

I did not see Hive 4 swarm.  I did note the population drop, noted queen cells during a routine inspection, and finally saw both a queen and eggs.

Hive D was a voluntary capture.  The swarm scouts must have liked what they saw and occupied the hive with no action on my part.  It is queenright. 

So 3 of the 4 hives that swarmed were able to re-queen themselves or 75% success.  I have seen data that roughly 70% of hives successfully re-queen after swarming.
Only two of the 4 swarms are queenright or only 50% success.  Did the old queen quickly die or did I fail to capture the queen when I captured the swarm?  I guess that will be one of beekeeping’s mysteries. 

But maybe the lesson to be learned is that both the source hive and swarm itself may end up queenless.  A good beekeeper will monitor both and should also have a nuc with a standby replacement queen available at all times. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017


Here are a few photos of the ECWBA's outreach at Walleeye Weekend.

Club Secretary Patti right after finishing set up of booth on Friday
Scott and Doreen maning the booth on Saturday

Tuesday, June 6, 2017


While taking the dogs for their walk I photographed the following common Wisconsin sources of nectar for honey.  I did not encounter any blooming alfalfa or motherwort during this walk.

 Raspberry or blackberry
 Unknown white and purple flower
 Black Locust
 Dutch clover
 Ladino clover
Yellow sweet clover


Here is information on an educational opportunity in Indianna.



Heartland Apicultural Society was founded in 2001 by Tom Webster (Researcher, Kentucky State University) Greg Hunt (Entomology, Purdue University), and Zachary Huang (Entomology, Michigan State University).  The first conference was held at Goshen College, Indiana with Indiana hosting it again in 2006 and 2011 at Vincennes University.  Their mission is to promote beekeeping by educational conferences held on a yearly basis.
Key participants are the Purdue Apiary Team with Dr. Greg Hunt, Krispn Given and crew who always host a Queen Rearing class; Tom Webster, researcher at Kentucky State University and Dwayne Rekeweg who has represented Indiana since the society was founded.  After six years we’ll be, as Jim Nabors used to sing,  ….…
Back Home Again in Indiana! 
July 13 – 15th, 2017, University of Southern Indiana (USI) will be the host location of the 16th Annual Heartland Apicultural Society Conference.  Founded in 1965, USI is located in Evansville on the far west side, enrolls over 10,000 dual credit, undergraduate and graduate students in 80 majors and is located on a beautiful 1,400-acre campus.
The conference starts Thursday July 13th thru Saturday July 15th; however, we are planning on a ‘movie night’ on Wednesday evening for those that come in a day early.  There will be three full days of breakout sessions, a queen rearing class, a children’s program, a honey show, an art show, some great speakers and many vendor booths.
Our Keynote speakers will include Dr. Ernesto Guzman a professor at the University of Guelph in Ontario Canada, Dr. Jeff Harris an assistant professor at Mississippi State University and Judge Dan O’Hanlon who led the effort to pass a bill in West Virginia granting immunity to beekeepers, the first in the nation.
We have Question and Answer sessions with Jerry Hayes who is the honeybee lead for Monsanto’s BioDirect business unit and Seasonal Management with Dr. Larry Connor or Jim Tew, always a favorite session.  David Shenefield will share his knowledge of 40 plus years of beekeeping with sessions on Hive Inspection and commercial talks; Dave is both knowledgeable and entertaining. We are honored to have Master Beekeeper Kent Williams who can speak on any bee related topic.  Other sessions include planting for bees, top bar hives, cut outs and many, many more.
Along with all the great bee classes, on Thursday night there will be an ice-cream social and Friday night will be a good old BBQ.  Both events will have a lot of great conversations.
Check out our website for pre-registration information, frequent updates on speakers, agenda, hotels, etc.


OK, your hives(s) have made it through winter.  Things were looking good, the hive was building upnicely for the honey flow.  Then bam, activity at the entrance is off sharply; the population is way down.  You look inside and the hive appears queenless.  What happened?  Well it could be several things, all of which are out of your control. 

First the queen has an awesome job in the spring.  She must eat her weight in food every day and then pump out more the 1000 eggs each and every day for about 5 months in a row.  First to increase the hive population and then to maintain it until the honey flow is complete in mid-summer. For some queens, especially the older ones, this is too demanding and they fail.  It could be that they run out of stored semen or just old age.  With old age comes a decrease in their pheromone output which can trigger their ejection from the hive.  It seems logical that the queen would fail at this time of maximum effort.  Then it takes the hive roughly 4 weeks to make a replacement providing they recognized the symptoms.

A second reason the hive may go through a decline is that the old queen was too successful and built up the hive to the point of swarming.  Off she goes with the swarm.  Most beekeepers are not aware their hive has swarmed because they have other things to do; like working.  After the swarm leaves the hive must wait while the replacement queen emerges, matures, mates and finally begins laying. This takes roughly 3 weeks. 

In both of these queen replacement scenarios success occurs about 70% of the time.  The other 30% the hive ends up queenless.  In this situation you as a beekeeper can do something.
New packages can also go queenless.  It can be for: 1) the queen not being accepted by the hive, 2) poor mating of the queen, 3) or just queen failure. 

So now what is a beekeeper to do?  First and foremost you need to conduct regular inspections of your hives so you can realize something is amiss.  Mainly it is to verify the hive is queenright (eggs and brood present) on a regular basis. But is also lets you see there are swarm or supercedure queen cells.  These cells inform you something is afoot.   Another good strategy is to mark your queens.  This makes them easier to find and if you see an unmarked queen you know some type of supercedure has occurred.   You can then also schedule a special inspection to verify that the new queen successfully mated and began laying.

It is important to realize your hive is queenless.  Then you can look for signs that a replacement queen is being reared or is already present.  The danger is that if a hive remains queenless for more than about 1 month some of the supposedly non-fertile workers will begin laying drone eggs.  Once the laying workers are in control of the hive it becomes near impossible to requeen the hive.  The laying workers gang up on any introduced queen and either outright kill her or eject her from the hive.  This hive is then lost for the season.  There are numerous schemes such as putting in frames of eggs and brood or shaking out all the bees 100 feet from the hive but these usually fail, because the only thing that suppresses laying workers is a strong queen pheromone.  

Monday, June 5, 2017


The "Nature's Nectar" blog has two articles on the honey flow which is now kicking into high gear. The first short article is about black locust trees which in our area are also in bloom.  The second article concerns how to super your hives for maximum honey production.

Thursday, June 1, 2017


The Nature's Nectar blog has a few good articles concerning entrance reducers and other hive situations.

June 1st Hive Report

All beekeepers experience highs and lows and frustration.  It goes with the hobby.  For me it’s no exception.  I just completed my second hive inspection for the season and saw wide variations in the conditions in the hives.

On the plus side I was able to capture four swarms during May.  Actually I captured two swarms and two others captured themselves by occupying vacant equipment.  One of the swarms was so strong it is already putting a little honey in a super.  You can’t beat that.  Also on the plus side is the fact that some hives are putting honey in the supers.  During hive inspections I keep a rough count of filled frames of honey and estimate about 9 gallons of honey so far and the flow hasn’t really gotten underway yet. 

On the minus side I had four hives that swarmed.  In theory the source hives will have a lessened potential for making surplus honey while their populations recover.  You also must monitor those hives to make sure that they successfully re-queen themselves.  Statistically about 1 in 4 does not successfully re-queen.  That fact reinforces the need to continue making hive inspections every other week so you can remedy those hives that do not re-queen before they start having laying workers. 

My few replacement packages did not arrive until early May.  At my first hive inspection all packages were queenright.  However, during the second inspection I noted one new package had lost its queen and had five supercedure cells (also called emergency cells) in process to raise a replacement queen.  I hope this is not a repeat of last year when two thirds of my packages superceded in the spring and summer.  In fact only one of nine packages from last year has its original queen.  That’s not a  good commentary on the US queen rearing industry.

Most overwintered hives have successfully turned the corner and growing.  However, during May I had two hives that must have lost their queen and slowly dwindled away.  Several others have gone queenless, but have supercedure cells.  Whether they will recover in time to produce any honey is questionable.   In June I will restock these hives with homegrown nucs.  The best that can be done now is to start these hives anew to get them ready for next winter.
As most of you know I dabble in queen raising.  I was able to raise a few in April, but May was a bust.  To make matters worse my Ankle Biter breeder queen died.  I have a few of her daughters in nucs and am hoping they successfully mate.  I will carry on with raising queens from her daughters.  Hopefully with warmer weather the survival rate of the queen cells will improve.  I will also be raising a few Russian and Saskatraz queens.

We are now going into June.  I see that clover and black locust trees are beginning to bloom.  I am ready to add honey supers as the bees bring in the nectar.  In my area, June through mid-July provides the majority of the honey flow for the year.  

At this point I am behind the curve.  The boom in bee populations also results in a boom in varroa.  I will need to get out to monitor and control varroa populations.  Remember to only use formic acid or oxalic acid treatments while the honey supers are on the hive.  Other mite control products will contaminate your honey.