Thursday, August 31, 2017

FIELD DAY TEST RESULTS submitted by beekeeper Denise

As part of this summer's field day at D's Bees the state bee inspector took bee samples from six of D's hives.  Denise has now recieved the results of the analysis performed by the USDA and presents them here.

"as part of the bee inspection / field day - some of the bees
were sampled (into the alcohol) and sent to the east coast for

The results are back.

555 bees / 3 mites
putting my mite count at .5/100
(varroa mites detected at more than 3-10 mites/100 are
thought to cause damage and colonies exceeding this
threshold should consider treatment)

and viruses all came back negative EXCEPT FOR:
DWV (deformed wing virus)
IAPV (israeli acute paralysis virus)

the DWV quantification was BELOW 30% of the average
the IAPV quantification was 50% the average
AVERAGE MEANING: compared to other samples where the
count was greater than 0.

i don't know about you - but to ME....this means
even though i had a LOW mite count - those little )(*)$*)@# are DIRTY!
concentrated with viruses!!!  i'm wondering about what that
number looks like for people with 10 or more mite count!?!???!?"


1) DWV has ALWAYS been present in bees.  The DWV virus has a number of different subspecies.  Some are benign.  Others are virulent (ie will kill off your bees).  I doubt the USDA went to the expense of identifying the specific subspecies of DWV virus D's bees were infected with.  It has been reported that hives infected with the benign DWV virus are immune to deletirious effects of virulent DWV.  Some scientists are reportedly working on how to infect all hives with the benign form.  However, viruses are known to mutate constantly.

2) According to Denise one of the six samples was Russian, one Carnie, three Italian, one unknown (swarm). But all samples were mixed together into one big sample for the USDA analysis.  

3) Here is a summary of Denise's mite control program.

a) Denise periodically monitors mite fall using sticky boards.  She analyses them comparatively (ie she doesn't count each and every mite).  She then treats hives with "abnormally" high amounts of mites.
b) She does drone cutouts in the spring and summer until the 3rd honey super goes on the hive.  Thereafter she relies on the sticky board counts to determine mite levels.   A drone cutout is the installation of a medium frame in the brood area.  The bees draw out drone comb in the space below the medium frame.  She periodically removes this frame and cuts off the drone comb and discards it.
c)Denise does not mite treatments in the spring of summer unless the sticky board indicates an out of control situation.
d) Denise does a full treatment of formic (MAQS) when supers are removed for the honey harvest. The third week of August for her.   However two of the big italian hives got an early treatment in the summer because they WERE CRAWLING with mites.   (Like pepper sprinkled on the sticky board)    After each hive gets a full maq... I'll switch to weekly oxalic vapor.   The two Biggie's are gonna get another full Maq in 30 days! 

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Bee colonies can die throughout the year.   There are three primary reasons for losing colonies.  They can go queenless in the spring, summer and fall.  A good beekeeper periodically checks that his hive is queenright throughout this period and re-queens if necessary.   They can be killed by varroa mites and the viruses they vector; primarily in the winter.  Again a good beekeeper knows what to do via management techniques or chemical treatments.  The third most likely reason for losing a hive is winter starvation.  We previously discussed fall feeding of hives which will normally prevent starvation.  However, a number of hives are lost each year due to starvation even after fall feeding. 

You ask; It’s still summer, why are we reading about this so early.  The answer is simple; so you can plan ahead.

Educated beekeepers know that the bees start the winter in the lower brood chamber.  In fact they usually fill the upper portion of the brood chamber with honey when they are “re-organizing” the hive   in the fall in preparation for winter.  Then as winter progresses the bee cluster slowly eats its way upward through the stored honey.   The movement in general is always upward.  Only on warm winter days do bees from the cluster venture sideways to the side frames that are full of honey.  At some point the cluster reaches the top of the hive.  Ideally spring has arrived prior to this happening.  The warm weather of spring allows the bees to break their cluster and forage sideways in the hive. 

In central Wisconsin wintered hive are composed of 2 deeps or 3 mediums. Historically this methodology has kept winter starvation to a minimum.  For maximum winter survival from a food standpoint 3 deeps or 4 mediums would probably be better.  But this severely limits the amount of honey available to the beekeeper.   Also now with the added losses due to varroa the idea of any hive loss due to starvation is anathema to beekeepers.  So now many beekeepers provide the bees with emergency food at the top of the hive during the winter. 

In the winter all feed is in the form of solids.  No liquids; which will freeze.  Also, if there were a warm day the cold liquids could drip on the bees which would be fatal. 

Winter feed is usually put in the top of the hive in December.  At this time the bees should be in a tight cluster down in the lower brood chamber.  For most beekeepers the winter feed is simply sugar; cane or beet based sugars.  Pollen or pollen substitutes are not fed until after the New Year since it may trigger brood rearing too early.

The sugar can be presented to the bees by many different methods.  Here are a few.  With all of these methods a spacer is required so that the sugar can be applied between the top frames and the hive inner cover.   The width of the spacer will determine the amount of sugar that can be provided.  Also since the spacer is being added in December it is a good idea to seal the joint between the spacer and hive body with duct tape since the bees will not be able to seal the joint themselves with propolis.
1)      Newspaper (Mountain Camp) Method—Spread a double layer of newsprint on top of the frames of the upper brood chamber.  Do not block air movement along the edges of the hive; leave a 2 inch space.  Some beekeepers punch a hole in the center of the newspaper to allow the bees access to the sugar without having to go to the outside of the hive which is colder.  Pour granulated sugar on top of the newspaper.  The amount of sugar will be limited by the thickness of the spacer. 
2)      Candy boards—This method involves heating a sugar/water solution up to XXX degrees F ie the candying temperature.  This hot syrup is then poured into a rimmed board the same size as the hive rim.  After the candy cools and sets, the candy board is inverted and placed on the hive beneath the inner cover.  The candy acts as both a food source for the bees and a moisture absorbent. 
3)      Sugar discs—sugar discs can be made by combining roughly 5 pounds of sugar with 7/8 cup of water (or any amount if you maintain that ratio of sugar to water).  Thoroughly mix with a spoon.  Then put in a form and tamp the mixture.  Allow to dry overnight.  The sugar discs can be laid directly on top of the frame tops.  I also place a piece of limp rug over the top of the discs to minimize air movement.  The thickness and diameter of the discs are left to your discretion.

Beekeepers, being independent types, will think up other methods for winter feeding.  The idea is that for a small investment in sugar and time you can prevent the needless loss of a hive do to winter starvation.  After all you did steal most of their winter stores ( ie the honey) the previous fall!

Do not be too concerned about removing the hive cover in the winter.  The bees do not heat the entire hive.  They only heat the cluster.  But don’t dawdle.  Have things organized.  Remove the outer and inner covers.  Immediately place the sugar in place.  Install the spacer.  (Make sure to check beforehand that the spacer height is greater than your sugar thickness).  Replace the inner and outer covers.  This shouldn’t take you more than 45 seconds if you have things planned out.  Now you can take your time and duct tape the joint between the spacer and hive body. 

I would recommend checking about once every two weeks to see if the bees have consumed all the emergency provisions and are in need of more.  Hopefully the majority of your hives will not even touch them until spring.   I generally put in two 2 ½ pound sugar discs in December.  Some hives consume it all and need replenishment while others don’t touch the emergency stores.  Also Italian bees tend to winter with a bigger cluster and are more likely to eat themselves out of house and home. 
Variation on newspaper method; I used a pizza cardboard. 
Candy board
The bees really ate the sugar off this candyboard. 
 Inner and outer covers removed.  Ignore the green grass.  Think snow.
 I add about a 3 inch rim.  Remember to duct tape the joint. 
Sugar disc production line. 
 I cover the sugar discs with a limp rung to minimize air movement. 
 One of those other ideas beekeepers think up.  Center hole accepts a 5 lb column of sugar. 
Blanket covers hole to minimize air movement.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017


By now you should have treated your hives to control varroa mites.  If not, get cracking!  So on to the next fall beekeeping task.
In central Wisconsin bees need the equivalent of 2 full deeps (10 frame equipment) of honey to survive the winter.  For those of you who run 8 frame equipment the equivalent is about 2 deeps and a medium.  Many colonies fall short of this goal.   Startup colonies or hives with late captured swarms frequently haven’t reached this point.  So each hive should be assessed in late August.  In our area the bees are no longer making any honey surplus.  Sure they are hard at work foraging for nectar and pollen, but there simply isn’t the quantity necessary for them to make any surplus after satisifying their daily consumption. 

 A good time to assess the food situation is when treating for mites.  When the 2 deeps are separated to insert the mite treatment the weight (heft) of the upper box can be evaluated.  Also if you see that any of the outer frames are not drawn and filled with honey then it is time to feed.  NOTE: Those of you that treat with oxalic acid vapor (and therefore are not splitting the two deeps ) will need to split the deeps anyway to assess the situation. 

If in doubt, the best recommendation is to feed. (I automatically feed all startup hives)  Fall feeding is usually done with a 2 to 1 sugar to water solution.  Internal or top feeders are recommended.  This tends to keep the feed warmer, which facilitates the bee’s uptake. Using entrance feeders is not recommended.  First they do not hold the necessary volume of feed.  Second, the feed cools down rapidly at night.  

Feeding should also be completed before the end of September.  The bees are reluctant to transfer cold feed.  The colder nights in October cool the feed which inhibits the transfer of the feed into the hive.  October daytime temperatures usually do not warm the feed sufficiently.  This is even true for internal feeders.

It is not uncommon for a hive to quickly pull in 5 gallons of syrup.   The bees will evaporate the water from the syrup to about a 4 to 1 sugar to water concentration before capping the storage cells.  
A 50 lbs. bag of sugar costs about $22 and is usually sufficient to fall feed two hives.  So for about $11 of sugar you can ensure against winter starvation of your hive.  Compare that against the cost of a new package of bees; $120 per package. 

An article about winter emergency feeding will be published shortly.  

Saturday, August 19, 2017


Here is a list of plants that are beneficial for both bees and Monarch butterflys.  This list was compiled by Iowa University, but would also be applicable for Wisconsin.  It provides plants that will bloom for the entire season.  Downloading the list is free.

Friday, August 18, 2017


Last Sunday and Monday I removed honey supers.  This Thursday and Friday I have been applying MAQS varroa mite treatment.  I treat this early so that the bees that raise the "winter/fat bees" will  hopefully be varroa and virus free.  These pictures taken at 6:30PM show the different reaction various hives have to the MAQS (formic acid vapor) treatment.  All hives had the same relative strength although I must say the hive with the biggest beard was also my best honey producer (5 medium supers).  Whether the queen was also out there in the beard I can't say, but the acid vapor is obviously irritating the bees.  That said 90% of the treated hives had no beard.  So if after treating your hives you see the bees are bearding there is no cause for alarm.


Saturday, August 19th, is National Honey Bee Day.  Here is a link to some of the events and other information.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

OBSERVATION HIVE REPORT by beekeeper Grandpa Jack

Workers at the fair had fun discussing the goings on in the club's observation hive that had been stocked by Grandpa Jack.  Here is his report about the hive after he took it back to his apiary.

The ECWBA observation hive has been at the Green Lake County fair since Thursday and many have enjoyed watching the new hatch come out of their cells.  While members and fair goers were watching through the looking glass of the observation hive, what was going on in the inside ?

Sunday was the last day of the fair and the hive made the trip back to the original hive of beekeeper Jack's.  The hive was stocked with two  frames of capped brood and one frame of honey-nectar-pollen and a shake of a frame of bees for added population.

We thought we might of gotten the queen in the lower box, since from the sound of the hive that the bees came from, indicated that they were not happy with the frames that were removed.  Also we found newly laid eggs on the frame that was placed in the observation panel.  Beekeeper Fred is one of our resident queen raiser's, and spotted  the eggs while looking at the frame with a flash light.

Sunday, the last fair day, it was noted that there were queen cells started at the bottom of the observation frame. 

The bottom line of this story is - there was no queen in the observation hive.   

What do bees do when they don't have a queen and they have all the ingredients to make one ? 

On the observation frame by the window, there were four queen cells with larva and royal jelly.  On the frame that  had brood,  that was located in the body of the hive, there were six more queen cells.  All the cells had larva that was floating in royal jelly.  

The decision was made at the fair to not make splits this late in the season.  The queen cells were destroyed since the original hive has been re-queened and has a strong working queen.


After off and on again sprinkles the fair concluded and the ECWBA teardown crew moved in and disassembled our display.  We noted that the observation hive started 3 queen cells during their 4 days of captivity.

                                         Small children really enjoyed the observation hive.
 Future beekeepers?
Cleanup crew talking bees while waitng to the bitter end.

CCD Waning?

Beginning to see reports that the CCD (colony collapse disorder)portion of the bee crisis may be waning, but varroa is still the main problem facing the bees.   Of course, it may just be that beekeepers are getting more educated about CCD and are no longer mistakenly blaming CCD for thier bee losses.

Friday, August 4, 2017


Club members are at the Green Lake County Free Fair this weekend doing a little public outreach.  Intermittent rain has so far kept the attendance down, but things look better for the weekend.  Here are a few photos from Thursday.  Any help to man the booth is apprecaited.  You can always just talk bees with other club members.

 Overall setup
The well populated observation hive was a hit with all visitors. 
Club members Jack and Al searching for the queen, eggs and emerging bees prior to arrival of visitors.
 Old time beekeeper stops by for a chat.
Observation hive

Thursday, August 3, 2017

AUGUST IN MY APIARY by beekeeper Fred

Here is what I do.  I feel that dabbling with bees for more 5 years in no way makes me an expert.   Also remember that my methods are influenced by my local conditions, equipment limitations and choice of mite control.  Using these methods I luckily got greater than 80% survival last winter.  I hope some of that good survival was due to my methods and not just the warmer than usual winter.  These techniques may help you in your apiary.

August is the time for a lot of beekeeping activity in my apiary.  Since early July I usually do not need to add any additional honey supers because nectar availability has fallen off.  This year, despite all the rain, has been no different.   

Beginning the first week of August I start feeding this year’s startup hives with 2 to 1 sugar syrup to ensure these new hives have sufficient food stores for winter.  These startup hives have usually not completed filling the two brood chambers with honey and would likely not survive their first winter without this aid.  I continue feeding these hives until I see they have filled out the outer honey frames.  I then stop feeding so that they won’t fill the brood nest area.  For new beekeepers, either cane sugar or GMO beet sugar is considered OK for feeding.  Note:  I reserve this supplemental feeding for hives started in late May or June that I started with a new queen and a few frames of bees.  Hives started with a package of bees in April or early May usually do not need this supplemental feeding. 

I plan to remove my honey supers beginning about August 15th.  I remove the supers at this time for two reasons.  One, the honey flow in my area is basically complete by this time.  If any honey is being brought in it is usually immediately consumed.  If by chance the bees are getting a little surplus I would like them to store it in the upper brood nest area.  Two, it’s time to treat for varroa mites.  I use formic acid vapor (MAQS) which must be applied between the two brood chamber boxes.  Installing and removing the MAQS pads is much easier to accomplish if the honey supers are not present.

Watching the weather forecast I schedule the MAQS application during a week where the temperature won’t exceed 85F.  You have to be flexible to not apply the treatment when it is too hot;  ie above 85F.  Above 85F the formic acid vaporizes too quickly and could actually harm the bees in addition to the mites.  At the end of the one week period I remove the spent MAQS pads, because you don’t want there to any obstruction to movement of the bees or to cause the cluster to get separated during the winter.

Those of you that use other mite control products should follow the application instructions closely.   

Why am I treating in late August?  I want a big mite knockdown now so that the “winter” bees, which are being raised a month from now, won’t be exposed to varroa mites and associated viruses in the brood stage.  The winter bees must be in tip-top health in order to survive the 6 months to spring. 

In late August or early September I then move the feeders from the startup hives to other hives that seem light. Its best to feed when the weather is warm.  As cooler fall temperatures arrive the bees may not feed on cold syrup or break cluster to go to the feeder.  I also do a last inspection to verify all hives are queenright.  This is also a good time to replace any old queens, to replace queens in hives that have performed poorly or to incorporate improved genetics.  Young queens tend to overwinter better. 

Once the honey supers are removed you must also plan on extracting.  Have you lined up an extractor?  Do you have sufficient bottles?  This time of year the bee equipment suppliers frequently run short of bottles.  Don’t get caught short.