Saturday, September 30, 2017

ON THE ROAD AGAIN (or a feral hive) by beekeeper Fred

I'm almost caught up with all my beekeeping tasks.  All but 3 of my feeders have been removed and stored for the winter.  The last two items are to assess the strength of all hives early next week and in late October to wrap a small number of hives.  Although my past data shows wrapping does not improve hive survivability I figure I might as well use the hive wraps I do have instead of letting the mice chew on them.

At any rate I am now taking my dogs for two walks per day.  Good for both them and me.  On my walk today I spied a nice big hickory tree about 30 feet back from the edge of the woods.  Always on the lookout for hickory nuts I worked my way under the tree.  While bending over to pick up a nut I heard a familiar sound over my head; the buzzing of bees.  About 8 feet up the tree I could see an entrance to a feral bee colony.  Was this hive from one of my hives that swarmed last spring; who knows!

I retrieved my camera and took this picture a little later.  Most of the bees were gone, but there was still a small number coming and going.  If you look closely there are 2 bees on the lower portion of the entrance.  To you beekeepers that like to swarm trap in the spring the entrance hole was about 2 inches in diameter and 8 feet up where a branch had broken off sometime in the past.   I have no idea how big the internal cavity is inside the tree.  The tree is about 18 inches diameter at the height of the entrance.  This entrance would be in the shade all day long anytime there were leaves on the tree.

I will add this feral hive location to my winter monitoring list.  I am curious if this feral hive will make it through the winter.

Friday, September 29, 2017

ON THE ROAD by beekeeper Fred

While on the road to pick up a few bags of sugar I took the time to visit with an Amish beekeeper.  I don't know what I was expecting, but I guess all beekeepers confront the same problems.  I stopped mainly to see how this Amish beekeeper controlled mites.  In my imagination I thought the Amish had some special sauce for success.  He indicated most of the Amish beekeepers in this area were following the recommendations of a local commercial beekeeper.  They were treating twice per year.  In the spring they treat with Apiguard and in the fall with Apivar.  So they were alternating chemicals as is currently recommended.  I told him of my use of formic and oxalic acid, but he had not heard previously of them.

It appeared he has just finished his honey harvest.  The supers were all in his front yard and the bees were cleaning out the residual honey.

At his request we started discussing how to "fix" a hopelessly queenless hive.  He was aware of the method of installing a frame of eggs and brood, but he did not indicate he was successful.  I indicated I had tried this several times without success.  The laying workers seem to not initiate queen cells.  I passed on the method where the queenless hive and another strong hive were physically switched in position while the workers were in the field.  I also passed on the method where a major portion of the frames (with bees) from the queenless hive are swapped with frames (with bees) from a strong hive.  In these two method either a new queen is then added or a frame of eggs and brood is added.

So I didn't discover a special sauce, but had a good conversation between two beekeepers.

Sunday, September 24, 2017


If you are planning to feed your bees, get it done now.  The days are getting shorter and temperatures will be declining.  Remember the bees begin to cluster when temperatures dip below 57F.  When in cluster the bees won't be moving sugar water (or other feed) from the feeder to the comb.

If you look at the fluctuation of air temperature on a typical fall day you will see temperatures in the 30's and 40's at night; then warming to above 57F for only about 8 hours per day.  The shorter time period above 57F will limit the time and amount of feed put into storage.  Also the bees are reluctant to drink cold feed and will wait until it is warmed; further shortening the amount of feed to be stored.  Finally the cooler temperatures lengthen the time required to dry the feed to less than 20% moisture, which is required to prevent fermentation.

Those were the technical reasons to get your feeding done now.


I can’t remember exactly where I read the short article (Bee Culture or American Bee Journal) but it was about RAPID queen introduction.  The concept was simple.  Remove or kill the old queen.  Flood the hive with a scent to mast the pheromones of the new queen.  Also spray the new queen with the same scent.  Then put the queen into the hive.  The author claimed success in 9 out of 10 rapid introductions. 

This fall I had a few leftover queens that I needed to use and decided to give this time saving method a try.  In the first instance, I saved the old queen (just in case!).  With a small spray bottle, I sprayed down the receiving hive and the donating nuc with a sugar water solution containing a little lemongrass oil, Nozevit and Honey Bee Healthy.  These three additives produced a strong odor, but none are detrimental to the bees.  I can understand why the bees would be temporarily confused.  For several hours many of the hive bees decided it was nicer outside of the hive than inside.   I then picked up the new queen and put her directly into the hive.  No aggression was noted.  Several days later I verified she was alive and laying.  This first test was putting a new queen into a package queen hive which I think was of Italian origin. 

In the second test I was combining two nucs; one with an Ankle Biter queen and the other with a Russian queen.  On this second try I was a little braver and immediately dispatched the Russian queen.   After spraying down the bees in both nucs I combined the nucs.  A week later I verified the queen was present and laying.  I was a little worried the Russian bees would not be as accepting of the new queen.  But there were no problems. 

I will use this rapid introduction method next spring for introducing queens for any splits or nucs I make.  It sure beats the several days wait while the bees free a new queen from her cage. 

I was also talking with another beekeeper with more experience.  His method of rapid introduction was to coat the new queen with honey.  The effort by the nurse bees to clean her off also distributed her pheromones into the hive.  A little messy, but effective. 

Saturday, September 23, 2017


The September club meeting has come and gone.  Three to four prospective new members introduced themselves.  All members also introduced themselves and provided a brief summary of their summer. 

After conducting the usual list of club business we got around to discussing the problem of getting your hives through the winter.  In pre-varroa days the biggest danger to a hive was moisture and starvation.  However, now the biggest danger is varroa mites and the viruses they carry.  So make sure you treat your hives for varroa.  Many members report using MAQS in August with follow up oxalic acid vapor or dribble treatments in September and October.

This summer was unusual and many hives have not filled the bottom two brood chambers with honey.  Heavy fall feeding was recommended.  The upper brood chamber box of a 10 frame box will weigh approximately 90 pounds when full of honey or honey substitute.  Eight frame boxes will be proportionately less.  This 90 pound weight is considered sufficient to get a hive through a normal winter.  People running 8 frame boxes should consider adding a full medium super to get to that 90 pound requirement.

For the benefit of the new members/new beekeepers several of the established members brought in examples of how they ensure adequate hive ventilation and provide the hive with emergency food in the winter.  Emergency feeding is above and beyond the amounts mentioned above.   Some winters the emergency food is consumed and sometimes it is untouched.  But a few pounds of emergency feed is cheap insurance compared to the cost of a package of bees.   Six presenters and six totally different designs. But all designs provided ventilation to let any moisture/condensation escape and provide room to slip in an emergency food supply.   Show below are a few pictures of their handicraft.

Gerard providing a few introductory remarks. 
 Oxalic acid vaporizer made by adapting a insect fogger.  NOTE: Not USDA approved.  Various designs of this type can be seen on YouTube. 
Simplest winter emergency feeder. 3 inch rim plus rug over sugar 
Most complex design includes center feeder, upper entrance, ventilation holes, blanket to prevent air from ventilation holes getting directly into the brood chamber.  
Simple rim plus hardware cloth bottom where sugar is placed.  Covered with fiberglass insulation 
 Note insulating board has groove cut to provide ventilation. 
See ventilation slots in sides.  Top is insulation board. 


Patti, the ECWBA Secretary, has opened and will be taking care of a Facebook page for the club.  It can be accessed by looking in the Web Links section ( on right side) of this blog.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017


1) This Saturday, the 23rd, there will be a club meeting at the Ripon Public library commencing at 9:30AM.  The primary topic will be about wintering your bees.

2) Friday is the official start of fall.  Although its been warm this week temperatures will soon be falling.  Get your feeding done NOW if you plan on feeding.

3) Experienced beekeepers have already treated their hives for mites.  If you haven't, get it done NOW.  If you already have treated them it is time to do a post treatment mite level check.  Mite levels greater than 1 per hundred mean you should re-treat.  Most mite treatments are only 90 to 95% effective.  Hives that had very bad mite levels prior to treatment could still have too many mites and put winter survival into debate.

Monday, September 18, 2017


Here's what I've seen recently.

Sam's Club-$10.36 for 25 lb=41.4 cents per lb. (you need to be Sam's club member)
Walmart-$15.51 for 25 lb=61 cents per lb
Amish store south of Montello-$22.00 for 50 lbs=44 cents per lb

Occasionally I see 4 lbs for $1.79 at local grocery but there is a strict limit on amounts you can buy.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017


Beekeepers can harvest a number of things from their hives depending on their motivation. Honey, beeswax, pollen and propolis are the four primary products.  For most beekeepers honey is their primary goal.  However, an easily obtained secondary byproduct of the honey harvest is beeswax.  The process of extracting honey whether by decapping or the crush method yields beeswax.  Beeswax can also be recovered when the beekeepers periodically replaces the foundation in frames.

From Wikipedia:

“Beeswax (cera alba) is a natural wax produced by honey bees of the genus Apis. The wax is formed into "scales" by eight wax-producing glands in the abdominal segments of worker bees, who discard it in or at the hive. The hive workers collect and use it to form cells for honey-storage and larval and pupal protection within the beehive. Chemically, beeswax consists mainly of esters of fatty acids and various long-chain alcohols.”

Beeswax can be obtained by washing the cappings or crushed comb in water to remove any residual honey.  Then the cappings and comb are melted.  This can be done in a solar melter or double boiler.  Beeswax has a melting point lower of roughly 145F.   NOTE: Beeswax is very flammable and should never be melted over an open flame.   After it is melted the wax should be poured through a cloth filter to remove any minor bits of contamination. 

Don’t think you will be getting hundreds of pounds of beeswax from your hives.  Most smalltime beekeepers will be lucky to get one or two pounds of wax per year.  However, you can easily buy clean beeswax from many sources (for example Amazon, Ebay or Walmart) for roughly $8 per pound if candle making or soap making trips your fancy.   Or ask your fellow beekeepers for their wax or cappings.  

The beeswax has a white to pale yellow color.  If you make your wax from cappings only you will get this pale yellow to white wax.  If you are adding old foundation the wax will have darker yellow coloration. 

Most hobbyists use their beeswax to make candles, soap, or lip balm. 

 Solar melter.  You can make one as a winter project or buy one.  Unless you have a lot of cappings using a double boiler may be cost effective. 
White cappings and some dark crushed comb in melter.  Note the crushed comb is darker and will yield darker wax. 
 A small double boiler is used to safely melt the beeswax. 
 A vegetable crusher/strainer and bread loaf pan.  The strainer is lined with cloth to filter the wax. 
Finished product: Blocks of wax after removal from bread pan.  Note variation is color of the blocks.  One pound honey bottle shown to give scale.

These items can usually be picked up at garage sales or flea markets for a few dollars.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017


Extracting honey in a group setting makes the work go faster.  A few jabs at slowpokes or a jab at the guy in charge of the extractor overflows the honey bucket makes the time zip by.  Today we did about 30 medium supers in about 4 hours including cleanup and training of newbies.  Jon, Al, Derek, Norb, Fred and Jim all have their extracting done for this year.


Can you identify which of these nine (9) insects are bees?    I sure didn't make a passing grade.

Saturday, September 2, 2017


On several of the weaker hives that I have been feeding with sugar syrup I have noticed that robber honey bees are trying to get in to also partake of the bounty.  The Nature's Nectar blog has a good article on how to counter robbing.  Follow the link below.