Sunday, December 30, 2018

AUSTRALIAN BEE NEST submitted by beekeeper Gerard

Follow link to a photograph of the Australian honey bee nest.  This construction might make it a little difficult to extract honey.

Thursday, December 27, 2018


During the December ECWBA club meeting we reviewed the mite treatment programs of three local beekeepers using Randy Oliver’s varroa model.  Now at the end of December, here are current survival statistics for those three beekeepers.  Gerard’s and club hives: 100%; Jon’s hives: 95.5%; Fred’s hives: 97.3%.  All three beekeepers had practiced rather aggressive treatment programs following high losses in the previous winter.  Each beekeeper used different miticides; Gerard used Formic acid and Apiguard, Jon used Oxalic acid vapor only, and Fred used a mix of formic and oxalic acid.  How are your hives doing?  Of course, crunch time usually occurs in mid to late January when temperatures hit their lowest for the winter.  For now, there is nothing to do but wait for spring.  We will continue getting updates on their statistics and report them here. 

We are now over the first winter obstacle. Daylight is growing in length now that we have passed the winter equinox.  For some bee types the lengthening of the day is the que for the queen to begin laying again; albeit very slowly.   This also marks the halfway point of our six month long winter period. 

During December we experienced several days of low 40’s F.  The bees were using these warm days to take voiding flights.  They also use these warmer days to reposition the cluster closer to the remaining honey.   

During winter a hive will consume one to two pounds of honey per week.  I have provided emergency sugar to top of my hives as a matter of standard practice.   There has been great variation between hives in consumption of this emergency sugar.   Some hives haven’t touched the sugar yet, while others have consumed the entire 2 and ½ pound disc in only two weeks.  Therefore, all hives get checked every two weeks and replenished as needed.  The reason for the large variation isn’t clear to me, but there seems to be a slight correlation between cluster size and sugar consumption.   I will be using the checks as an opportunity to add pollen or pollen substitute patties next to the sugar discs.  This protein will help with feeding the new brood.   

My experiment with overwintering double deep nucs continues.  Twelve of twelve nucs still have that reassuring hum emanating from within the hives.  I sure hope this experiment is successful after seeing some of the prices being quoted for three (3) pound packages to be delivered next spring.  Prices are ranging from $130 to $180.  Yikes!  High prices like this will certainly discourage many hobbyist beekeepers.  But it might also finally convince new beekeepers that a good mite control program is in both their and the bees best interests. 

Thursday, December 20, 2018



Greetings Wisconsin Beekeepers,

I apologize about the late notice and for intruding during the
Holidays, but I’m not sure how else to get the word out…

The Center for Honeybee Research is a non-profit 501 C (3)
organization that sponsors an annual international honey-tasting
contest. Cash awards are generated by entry fees and sales of the

The purpose of the Contest is to showcase flavorful raw honeys from
every region. Scoring is based upon taste/flavor by panels of judges
who are not allowed to see or discuss the honey they are sampling.
Please view our short video at to get a
feel for our event.

The reason I’m reaching out is beekeepers in Wisconsin don’t seem to
know about this and I suspect we are missing out on some pretty tasty
honey. Our deadline has been extended to Dec. 31, 2018 and although
that doesn’t give you a lot of time I’d like to point out 1) We do it
every year  2) the honey doesn’t have to be from this year  and 3) you
can enter as many as you like.

Local honey is a valuable resource which rarely finds its way beyond
regional markets and we’d like to “discover” the treasures Wisconsin’s
micro-climates and make them known on an international stage.

Thank you for your consideration and may you enjoy a Happy Holidays!


Carl Chesick
Director, Center for Honeybee Research
Asheville, NC, USA

8th Annual International Black Jar Honey Contest

Grand Prize $3,000    (10) Category Winners $150 each

Rules, FAQs, Register online

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


Here is a short list of companies supplying bee packages in 2019 in ECWBA area.  This list is in no way a complete listing and many suppliers have not yet published their 2019 prices.   The suppliers are listed in alphabetical order.   This listing will be updated in about February when all 2019 prices should be available.  Please note the ECWBA does not endorse any product or supplier. 


                3 lb. package-$130

                Phone: 920-328-4456



                2019 prices not yet posted

                Phone: 877-232-3268


                2019 prices not yet posted


                2019 prices not yet posted

                Phone: 715-369-0383


                Phone: 920-566-2855


                2019 prices not yet posted

                Phone: 319-321-2494



                2019 prices not yet posted

                Order via their website

Sunday, December 16, 2018


One down and ten to go.  Here is an article about a new vaccine to combat American Foulbrood.

Saturday, December 15, 2018


At the meeting we took everyone through Randy Oliver's Varroa Model.  If you want to play with it yourself, here are a few pointers.  First, here is a link to the model:

1) You will need Microsoft Excel on your computer to run this model.

2) Click on the blue title "Randy's Varroa Model 25 Aug Version", which appears part way down the page.  This will download the program into your computer.

Right below the blue title are 4 tutorials you can watch.  I suggest watching the first two as a minimum.

3) You will need to click on the button "Enable Editing" that is at the bottom of the header in the middle of the page.  Now you change the various inputs.

4) You will need to change the hive type from R (California hive) to D (default/Midwest hive).  For beginners I would leave all other inputs alone.  Just play with the first column which is for treatment effective values.  Note: To delete a value already in a cell use the delete key.  Using the "space bar" to clear the cell causes the computer program to say "Error, error, I can not compute!!!!!"  Just kidding but using the "space bar" does corrupt the program and cell must again be cleared using the delete key.

Using this model you can develop a mite treatment program using your preferred treatment methods. Remember multiple treatments are likely to be necessary.  The effectiveness of the various mite treatments are to the right of the graph and table.   Although we did not discuss these at the meeting, drone trapping and splitting are also options for reducing mites.

Have fun!

Monday, December 10, 2018


OK, OK!  I know I am overdoing the mite control thing.  But the main reason beekeepers drop out is losing their hives to varroa mites and viruses during the winter.  Here is another short article to increase your knowledge.

To me there were two important messages.  One, the sugar shake method of measuring mite infestation is NOT as good as the alcohol wash method.  Also, the article says that August is the time to apply mite controls.  But oddly it did not provide a recommendation about acceptable mite levels.

We have all heard different things on what thresholds are good and bad when measuring mite levels in August.  We have also seen the limit being lowered over the last ten years.  At this Saturday's club meeting we will try to increase everyone's understanding about various limits and the potential for a hive crash by presenting Randy Oliver's Varroa Model.   See you there.

Sunday, December 9, 2018


It now mid-December.  The days will still be getting shorter until the winter solstice which occurs on December 21st.   Temperatures to date have not been cold enough to really test the bees.  If you completed your mite treatments on time last fall there shouldn’t be any issues with hive survival.  But remember that even in pre-varroa days an 85% winter survival rate was typical.  Even with treatments survival is never guaranteed.   Unfortunately for me, I have already had my first winter casualty; a topbar hive that went silent last weekend.  So far, I haven’t had time or inclination to investigate.  But over the years my topbar hives have had lower winter survival.  I think a major contributor to this is the difficulty in working (inspections, feeding, treating, etc.) with topbar hives.  

Last summer in our area the honey harvest was down.  The general consensus was that it was down by two thirds.   Most beekeepers pointed to a cooler and wetter spring and summer.  This slowed population buildup and reduced foraging opportunities.  This is being brought up in December because your hives may be light on winter stores.  A quick inspection of your hives and possible adding of emergency feed is recommended.   See the December 2nd post for one possible winter feeding method.  Other methods have been and will be discussed at our regular monthly club meetings. 

On the bright side, some experts say that after the solstice the queen will again begin laying and brood production.    So we see the yearly cycle starting again. 

The next EWBCA club meeting will be at 9:30 AM on Saturday, December 15th in the basement of the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.    Old members and any potential new members are always welcome to attend. 

Wednesday, December 5, 2018


Winter is the time to sit back, relax and learn.  Click on the link below to a lengthy 20 page discussion about swarming, preventing swarming and splits by author Meghan Milbrath.  This and other articles can also be found by going to her website:

Sunday, December 2, 2018

WINTER RAMBLINGS by beekeeper Fred

At the end of November, I went through my apiary and added an emergency feed sugar disc to each hive.  While doing so I listened to each hive and all are alive!  But we all know that mid-January is the real tipping point, but so far, so good.   Here are a few photos on how I set up my winter emergency feeders.  This method isn’t better than others; just the way I do it.  I figure it makes financial sense to provide the bees a few dollars of sugar rather than having to buy a new $120 package if they were to starve.  

 Today's fresh snow.  

Outer cover removed to show 3 inch wide spacer.  Spacer/hive joint gets sealed with duck tape since the bees can no longer propolize the crack.
Inner cover removed.  Cloth added to minimize internal air movement and prevent melting frost on underside of inner cover from dripping on the bees. 
Cloth peeled back to show 2 1/2 pound sugar disc. 
A few bees are just below the disc, but main cluster is down deeper in the hive.  A new disc or pollen patty can be added as required. 

In the month of December there isn’t much outdoor bee work.  I will confine mine to listening to each hive and clearing the entrances of snow.  In addition, I will check every other week on the status of the emergency food supply.  Ideally the bees will not need it. 

However, the weather in December does promote indoor work.  You  can think about your 2019 apiary plans, read bee magazines and bee equipment catalogs.  Its also a good time to assemble and paint new or replacement equipment.  That way its ready when the need arises in the spring. 

Of course, there is the December ECWBA club meeting on December 15th.  I’m not sure what President Gerard will be talking about, but I will be giving a short presentation on use of Randy Oliver’s (Scientific Beekeeping) varroa model.  Unfortunately, these days a good knowledge about varroa dynamics inside the hive are necessary in order to be a successful beekeeper.  I will plug into the varroa model the varroa control methods used by 3 local beekeepers and show the expected outcome as pertains to a varroa crash in the fall or winter.  Time permitting, I can input your varroa control plan to see how things may turn out for you. 

It also time to begin thinking about packages for 2019.  Talk to other beekeepers near you and consider buying packages in bulk.  Bulk buys usually get a discount.  Also, only one person needs to make the trip for pickup thus saving time and gas money for the others in the group. 

Another consideration is when you want your packages to arrive.  Usually there are three options; early April, late April and early May.  Each time period has its advantages and disadvantages.  Early April comes with a high chance of cold weather and snow.  But get you package hived and fed and it will build its population up for the start of the nectar flow.  Mid-April provides warmer weather, but with a later buildup of the hive population and some lost honey.  Early May just about eliminates chances of snow and cold, but the hive populations will not be ready for the nectar flow and the chances of getting surplus honey are greatly reduced.   Every beekeeper gets to make his choice.  Note, if you are making a group buy they usually must all be delivered at the same time.