Saturday, October 28, 2017


At one of the recent club meetings we talked about using an insect fogger to apply oxalic acid to the hive.  It has been widely shown on the YouTube internet site.  The oxalic is dissolved in a number of different liquids (water, alcohol, or glycerin) which when vaporized will carry the acid into the hive as a vapor.  While researching the effectiveness of oxalic acid on the control of mites I read an article in Scientific Beekeeping.  This input in an 20 Sept 2017 by a professional chemist indicated that the oxalic powder in either alcohol or glycerin forms non acidic compounds in a relatively short time and will NOT kill the mites.  Here is the article.  If using an insect fogger I would only use water as the dissolving agent.

Thursday, October 26, 2017


If you have been watching the downtrend in daily temperatures you know that the fall feeding time is over.  The bees will be in their cluster for warmth about 18 or more hours per day now.  While they are in cluster the air is also cooling down any feed your may be offering them.  Even if the day time temperature is rising above or close to 57F and the bees appear to be active the temperature of any liquid feed on top of the hive is too cold. The bees will not take in cold feed because it will also cool their body and cause hypothermia.

So before the liquid feed freezes it would be wise to remove all feeders.  If the liquid freezes it may crack the feeder and dowse the bees with near freezing liquid.  This would in all likelihood kill your bees.

If you are concerned the hive doesn't have sufficient food for the winter you can add emergency feed as described in an earlier post.

Monday, October 23, 2017


While looking for honey bee related news I stumbled upon an ad for a sonic varroa killer.  If something like that actually worked it could be a partial solution to the varroa problem.  So I did a little reading on the product and also feedback on some bee blogs.  

First I read reviews of similar sonic products used against moles, ants and roaches.  It was hard to find positive feedback, but negative feedback was readily found.  

I found no positive feedback on the varroa sonic device on the web.  If there was positive experiences you could expect the web to be full of information.  These devices have also not been advertised in any of the bee magazines.   Also it appears you would need to buy more than one device because it must remain in the hive for 40 days.

If it really worked I'm sure the bee journals would have by now published detailed scientific reports with positive data.   To date I've seen none.  So my recommendation is to save your money and not buy this product.

Sunday, October 22, 2017


Here is an update on how we are doing with setting up a club extractor.  Although we missed this season's honey harvest the project will be completed prior to next season's honey harvest.  The extractor will be installed in a state approved kitchen and therefore members could sell the honey extracted here commercially if desired.

a.  The extractor and decapping tank have had a preliminary cleaning.
b. The extractor has been mounted on a pallet so we don't have to drill holes in the extracting room floor.
c. Two 6 foot tables and a honey sieve have been purchased.
d. A cleanable honey frame support bar has been added to the decapping tank.
e.  The next step is to move all equipment to their final location.

12 frame Extractor
Decapping tank and staging table

Saturday, October 21, 2017

October 21st Club Meeting

Outside bee work is just about complete for the year.  So its time for more club meetings.  Meeting will be held on a monthly basis through the winter.  The next meeting will be on November 18th at the Green Lake Public Library.

At today's meeting Leanne Doyle gave a review of the benefits and drawbacks of making the club a tax exempt 401C3 organization.  A team will be looking into this further and report back in the future.

Club member Jeff presented his design for a home-made bee vacuum.  It was suggested one of the winter meetings could be about homemade bee equipment.

Grandpa Jack informed club members that the Wisconsin sales tax code is being changed effective December 1, 2017 and after that all beekeepers can make sales tax free purchases of bee equipment.  Wisconsin bee supply houses should automatically change their sales tax policies.  If you are buying bee equipment from Fleet Farm you may need to do a one time fill out of a sales tax exemption form; similar to the form used by farmers.

Beekeeper Larry brought in a few live hive beetles so that we could learn to identify them.

We then adjourned the meeting and had a honey tasting gathering.  Probably the most distinctive were the apple blossom and mint flavored honeys.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

LATE FALL MITE CONTROL by beekeeper Fred

 The following is how I have been keeping my bees.  These methods may or may not work for you. 

Miticides are not 100% effective in killing off the varroa mites in a hive.  Most are quoted to have a 90 to 95% effectiveness.  NOTE: Powdered sugar is NOT considered to be a miticide and has VERY low effectiveness in controlling mites.  If a particular hive had a high mite infestation the 90 to 95% mite knockdown could still leave hundreds of mites in the hive and require a second treatment.  The mites will continue to reproduce as long as brood is present in the hive.   

Most northern beekeepers do an initial treatment for mites in mid to late summer after harvesting their honey.   Applying the miticide at this time has the benefit of allowing the bees to raise the “winter or fat” bees in a relatively mite-free environment.  But it also allows the mites a longer time to rebuild their population prior to the shutdown in bee brood rearing and coincident shutdown in varroa mite rearing.

For the last few falls the weather has been warmer to normal.  Whether this is due to normal weather fluctuations or global warming is anybody’s guess.  But for northern beekeepers the warmer fall allows the bees to continue raising young for an extended period.  I was inspecting several nucs a week ago and saw eggs, brood and capped brood.   With bee brood in the hive the varroa mites will also continue to multiply thus lessening the effectiveness of the mite control you had applied earlier. 

For the above two reasons some beekeepers apply a second or third mite treatment in September or October.  However, as the temperature declines the beekeeper may need to select a different mite control product.  For example, the instructions for Apiguard state to use it only when outside temperatures are above 59F.  For MAQS the minimum is 50F.  The beekeeper must also take into consideration that the applicators (pads, strips, trays) must be removed after a given time period; thus requiring the beekeeper to re-open the hive several weeks later.   For these reasons many beekeepers tend to use oxalic acid drip or vapor for late fall applications. 

Personally, I think that using oxalic drip or dribble is not ideal.  I don’t like the idea of wetting down the bees with the cold water solution of oxalic acid.   This could cause hypothermia and kill the bees in addition to the mites.   The upper and lower boxes must also be separated to get to the cluster in the lower box forcing the bees to re-propilyze the joint.  But again, that’s just my opinion and you know the saying that “10 beekeepers will give you 11 different opinions”. 

Therefore, for a secondary mite knockdown in the fall I use oxalic vapor as the agent.   I have used both an electrically heated vaporizer and a propane powered vaporizer.  Electrically heated vaporizers are available commercially and have received USDA approval.   The propane powered vaporizers have not yet received USDA approval.   Oxalic acid has a lower effectiveness in controlling mites; around 90%.  It also only kills phoretic (those on the bees and outside the brood cell) mites.  For those reasons it is a better secondary mite control that can be used when temperatures are cooler than your primary mite control. 

Remember the goal is to cut down on mite population thus minimizing the spread of viruses when the bees are in their winter cluster.   Also remember, all mite controls are also hard on the bees so over application of miticides could kill your bees in addition to the mites.  Follow miticide application instructions and monitor mite levels to avoid over application. 

Tuesday, October 17, 2017


As part of the ECWBA's public outreach several members provided a presentation to a Quilting Bee Class at the Green Lake Pilgrim Center.  The well received presentation was primarily conducted by Patti.  The audience of about 30 quilters peppered our supporting members with numerous questions throughout the presentation.  Honey sales after the presentation added a little money to the club coffers.

Clubmembers Gerard, Fred, Patti, and Al
Not pictured is Mark who was taking the picture.
A few of the attendees some of which were wearing bee costumes

Sunday, October 15, 2017

SOME THINGS THAT I HAVE LEARNED by beekeeper GrandaPa Jack

I returned to this hobby several years ago after our daughter encouraged me to do so.  She had seen the early pictures from the 60’s of me in bee veil and gloves, smoker and hives.  She said “dad, you use to do this, and we need experienced beekeepers to help out the pollinators.”

I had recently retired from dairy farming and finding that I had more time than common sense, agreed to once again enter the hobby of beekeeping.  How difficult could it be?  I had done this for several years, had a great mentor at the time, my Uncle Roy.  He had several yards and I would occasionally tag along and help out.

The first year back I spent the winter building equipment in anticipation of getting back into the business.  I also found out that Dadant Beekeeping Supply was also still in business.  An old supplier that I did business with many years before.  I also found that there was a new supplier in the area, Honey Bee Ware.  I placed my order for four 3 pound packages of Italian bees, and we were off to a great start.

Having old knowledge of beekeeping is a good thing.  To a point!  Beekeepers were talking about something called the varroa mite.  How bad could that be?  During the 60’s we had something called American Foulbrood.  The cure for that was to burn the hive.

After reading about it, and watching many YouTube videos of treatment free beekeeping, I decided that I just wouldn’t worry about it the first year.  That’s what many were saying.  The second year would be the year I would have to take care of the problem.  And, it was just a small mite, how bad could that be?

The next spring came and r realized that the mite that I had ignored was like the preverbal elephant in the room.  That little beggar closed the operation down.  All four hives dead and full of honey.

I decided to be a little more selective in my YouTube videos.  I  also ordered more bees, built more equipment and also had the greatest respect for the varroa mite.

Through the years you gain experience, and experience is the best teacher.  I’ll share a few bits of knowledge that I have gained in this journey.

For those that are starting out in this hobby and believe as I did about mites – ( there are those that do treatment free beekeeping.)  I have not learned how to do treatment free beekeeping and my hat is off to anyone that can manage numerous hives and not use any type of treatment for the pesky mite.  If you are under the notion as a new beekeeper that you can manage the mite without any type of treatment – order your packages or nucs now for next spring.  They are still at last year’s prices.

The longer you are in this hobby, the more you realize what you don’t know.  The old saying “you don’t know, what you don’t know” is so true in beekeeping.  Every year there are new challenges and you will learn from them.

Read the old masters of beekeeping, Doolittle, Jay Smith, Langstroth, CC Miller, ROB Manley, Dadant.  The information that these early beekeepers gleaned from observing the “Hive and the Honey Bee” hold true 100 plus years later.  Cornell University has old issues of the American Bee Journal that are fascinating to read.  Subscribe to the American Bee Journal or Bee Culture magazine.  We are fortunate today to have so much information in our home that is available on the internet.  But – be selective in your YouTube videos.

One of my favorite sayings in beekeeping, and it has been around as long as men and women have been keeping bees is “get 10 beekeepers in a room and you will get at least 11 opinions”.
I even find myself having several opinions on the same subject.  Must be an age thing.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017


Follow this link for a number of actions you can take to improve your overwintering success.

TRYING SOMETHING NEW by beekeeper Fred

Last spring several ECWBA members attended a bee seminar hosted by the Marathon County Bee Club in Wausau, Wisconsin.  One of the presenters gave a presentation on overwintering nucleus colonies; nucs for short.  This discussion peaked my interest because the presenter was from Hudson, Wisconsin, which is another 150 miles further north than our area and experiences slightly more severe winters than our area.  His nucs were wintered outdoors.   I figured if he could overwinter a nuc then maybe I could too!  My only concern was if he got lucky due to last winter being warmer than normal.  I am about find out.  NOTE: I think ECWBA member Grandpa Jack also overwinters nucs. 

This September I found myself with 3 leftover Ankle Biter queens when a potential customer in Florida had to cancel his order due to hurricane Irma.  This gave me the opportunity to set up three nucs for overwintering.  For any hive to overwinter successfully it needs an adequate bee population, sufficient food, and a weather tight home.  An overwintered nuc would need the same.  As per the recommendations from the seminar presenter I set up 3 double deep 5 frame nucs.  These nucs were nestled together to provide a little additional weather protection.  See photograph below.  The bottom box had three frames for the bees and brood and the two outside frames with capped honey.  If a nuc did not appear to have sufficient bees I put in a frame of capped brood (from another hive) that was beginning to emerge.  The upper boxes were a mix of capped honey frames and frames with drawn comb.  I then fed the each nuc heavily for about 6 weeks; letting the bees fill the empty drawn comb. 

Finally, to provide added weather protection I covered the nucs with 2 inch foam insulation on the sides and top.  Then a water proof cover was added.  These two actions were done after the weather cooled. See photographs.   I also gave each nuc one blast of oxalic acid vapor in mid September to knock down the mite population.  Hopefully these Ankle Biter bees will control the mites during the winter.   Now it’s up to the bees to survive the coming winter. 

There are several benefits that arise from overwintering nucs (providing I am successful).  One, I will have my spring packages ready-made long before I could get a package or nuc and at no cost to me other than my labor the previous fall.   Two, I know my queens will be of winter hardy local stock; not California factory queens of questionable background.  Three, the warm confines of these double deep nucs promote rapid population buildup in the spring and therefore have a better chance of making a good honey crop than a new package. 

Check back about April 1st and I will let everyone know if these three nucs survived the winter. 

 The 3 nucs being heavily fed in September.  The entrance for the middle nuc is in the back.  This was done to minimize drifting between nucs.   I leveled the nucs before putting on the insulation. 
 Side insulation installed. 
 Feeders being removed and inner covers installed.   I temporarily sealed the inner cover holes to keep the bees inside so they wouldn't sting me.  I removed these before putting on the upper insulation.  Despite the cool temperature (~54F) the bees in nuc 19 were very active. 
Inner covers were topped with insulation.  A moisture vent channel was provided for each nuc by cutting a groove in the insulation. 
A side view of moisture vent
Insulation joints were sealed with duct tape. 

 Water tight cover installed and weighted with a few bricks.  Trying to be an optimist I made the cover is extra wide so I can overwinter four (4) nucs next year. 


A new virus that adversely affects honey bees has been identified.  It is on the order of the Deformed Wing Virus and also spread by varroa.  So the importance of varroa control is that much more important.  The newly identified virus is called Varroa Destructor Virus-1 or VDV1.   Follow this link for more information.

Saturday, October 7, 2017


The next club meeting is in two weeks on Saturday, October 21st.  It will be at the Ripon Public Library in the Silver Creek Room at 9:30AM.   Feel free to invite other beekeepers or people thinking about beekeeping to the meeting.

Members are encouraged to bring a sample of their honey for tasting by other club members.  Gerard will supply dipping crackers so that we won't get our fingers sticky.

The primary discussion will be about final winter preparations.

On the few warm days remaining before winter the bees will be in a robbing mood.  Make sure you have installed your entrance reducer.  As a minimum the entrance should be on the 3-4 inch opening; although even the 1 inch opening would be OK now that it is cooler.

Friday, October 6, 2017


Make your mark in saving the honey bee!  The UW-Madison has received a grant to study overwintering survival of honey bees.  They will be monitoring hive temperature, humidity and weight throughout the winter season.  They are also looking for participants to provide data on mite levels, mite treatments, survival, and honey production.

Contact Hannah Gaines Day if you would like to participate.   I believe they will be looking for data only from you, not monitoring of your hives. She can be contacted at her email or phone shown below.

Hannah Gaines Day

Or follow this link:


Follow this link:

Here is a 2nd link with basically the same information.

Here is a short video on the same topic:

Sunday, October 1, 2017


Here is an article on a new varroa control method.  I haven't ever heard or seen of this prior to today.  I did a little internet searching and it may just not be for sale in the US yet; hence our ignorance of this idea.   It is similar to a mouse guard with round holes.  Bees entering and exiting the hive must pass through the holes which are coated with a miticide.   Follow link for a description.