Monday, April 29, 2019


It was delightful to see dandelions blooming; a reminder that spring is here.  Unfortunately the weather is not ideal for the buildup of new colonies.  Eight of the next 14 days are predicted to have rain.  This will prevent foraging for both pollen and nectar.  Make sure that your new package colonies have been provided with a good supply of 1:1 sugar syrup and a pollen or pollen substitute patty.   On the few sunny days, verify that the bees have not run out of either.  New colonies should be fed continuously until their population fills both brood chamber boxes (3 boxes if you are using mediums as your brood chamber boxes).

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Late April at the Flying Squirrel Apiary by beekeeper Fred

Just about every day the bees have been out gathering pollen.  I could hear them high up in the maples, box elder and pussy willows.  I have also noticed the bees are filling some cells with a clear nectar.  I am not sure whether this is simply water, nectar, or a mix of water and honey. 

April was the time to assess the condition of all hives that survived the winter.  In my hives there is a wide variation of strength; ranging from 3 frames of bees to both brood boxes being totally packed with bees.  In fact, one hive dwindled away during April (for those number counters my survival is down to 86%).  Most likely it has been queenless for quite a while. 

After verifying the weaker hives were queenright, I added a frame or two of bees and brood from stronger hives.  This strengthens the weak hives and reduces (not eliminates) the risk of a strong hive to swarm later in the spring.

All but one of the overwintered nucs are doing fine.  They are averaging about 3 frames of brood.  This indicates they are about 4 weeks ahead of a new package at this point.   In addition, I did not have to fork over $125 for a new package.  Next winter I plan to increase the number of winter nucs in my apiary to try to finally attain what is called “sustainable” beekeeping; ie. no need to purchase packages every year.  

Just as with weak hives, after verifying the one weak nuc was queenright, I added a frame of brood and bees to the one weak nuc.  All winter nucs were moved to the location of an empty hive and will be installed in the hive when good weather permits. 

All overwintered hives were given roughly two (2) gallons of 1 to 1 syrup.  This was done for two reasons.  Hives with big populations could potentially have already eaten through their winter stores and would begin eating larvae if other food is not available.  Second, this food will induce them to raise more brood in preparation for the honey flow.  The feed is limited to only 2 gallons because additional food could induce them to swarm, which is not my intent. 

Temperatures have now warmed up enough to permit the entrance reducer to be changed from the one (1) inch opening to the four (4) inch opening.

I clean off the bottom board by one of two methods.  If the outside air temperature will potentially harm the brood I use a hook which I insert through the hive entrance and pull out dead bees and other hive debris.  If the temperatures are in the high 60’s or higher, I disassemble the hive and manually scrape the bottom board.  You will find that strong hives have usually already cleaned the bottom board themselves.

My packages have been installed and feeders are installed.  Feeding will continue for at least a month in order to promote brood raising.  I utilize the leftover honey from any deadouts to also feed the packages.  

Its already been a busy month and the beekeeping season is barely started.  What’s next?

1.       I am delinquent on implementing my varroa control plan.  All overwintered hives need two (2) oxalic vapor treatments before the honey flow begins.  I aim to get ththis done before the end of April.

2.       Overwintered hives need to have honey supers installed by May 1st.  The added volume in the hive will suppress the hive’s desire to swarm due to overcrowding. 

3.       Newly started hives (either by nucs or packages ) will not get honey supers until the bee population increases enough to fill both brood chamber boxes.    Feeding will continue until that point. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Dead outs, and some things to look for submitted by Grandpa Jack

By now most of you have had a chance to at least check your hives to see how many made it.  Hopefully you have not waited until now since March is always a tough month.  Our royal highness the queen should have started laying some eggs in late February or early March and the survivors have had to feed the developing larva, plus still keep up enough energy to keep the brood nest at 92 degrees,

This Saturday, April 20, the ECWBA is going to meet at the Rushford Meadery to do a post mortem on one of the clubs hives that did not make it through winter.  It will be interesting to see if we can figure out what happened.  A little CSI will be in order and hopefully some of the following photos will be of help.

I had one dead out this winter and the following photos are from that hive.

Upon opening the hive, there were dead bees on the top of the frames.  That observation and the fact that the hive made no sound at all told me that they were dead.  My mother didn’t raise any fools. A little nosema, but not bad.

A recent article that I read, said to start at the bottom of the hive and work up.  They recommended this procedure due to the fact that you will knock dead bees to the bottom board as you work through the hive and this could skew some of your observations.  I don’t know if it would have made any difference in this inspection.

This is the bottom board.

This is the slatted bottom board

I noticed moldy bees, as if they had gotten damp.  Possible the hive was not vented enough.

I started removing frames and one of the observations was the total populations seemed down from what it should have been.

There were very few frames with dead bees on them.  Also notice how close the honey was to this small cluster.  Honey was located within inches of the cluster.  Looking at this small group would lead you to believe that they could have possibly died of starvation.

 With their small little bee butts sticking out from the comb and their bodies fully  embedded into the comb, this is a sure sign of starvation.  But, there is also something else going on.  If you look closely to the edges of the comb, you will see the telltale signs of varroa poop.   The little white particles that are on the edge of the comb

The signs of varroa were left on many of the combs.

But….why did this hive not make it and the others did ?  Did they go into winter with a small population.  Did this beekeeper miss something ?

Notice all the supercedure cells that were located on two frames.  Was this done in the late fall and the queen was never mated ?

This was the total amount of bees that died in the hive.  I would estimate that there was approximately two pounds of bees going into winter.  About 7000 bees.  Not enough.

My conclusions:

There was a little nosema in the hive, but not enough to get excited about.   Since all hives were ventilated the same, I do not think that ventilation or the lack of it was any cause for concern. Sometime in fall the queen failed and the colony did a supercedure to attempt to requeen. I did not find the queen in the mess of dead bees and am assuming that requeening was not successful.  There was no capped brood in the hive.

The varroa mites took their toll of the hive.  Much of the damage they did could have been early in the fall.  I had treated this hive several times with oxalic acid and formic acid but obviously my timing was off on this hive.  

My record for treating this hive is the following: 4-16  Installed as a package 4-24  vaporized with oxalic acid 6-26  vaporized with oxalic acid 8-7  formic acid (two strips) 9-22 vaporized with oxalic acid 10-10  noted that there were many mites on inspection board. Vaporized with oxalic acid 10-18 vaporized with oxalic acid. Inspection tray has large number of mites 10-24 vaporized with oxalic acid 10-29 vaporized with oxalic acid 11-3 vaporized with oxalic acid

This is the treatment that most of my hives received last fall. Only two of them did not get a 113 treatment.  My survival rate for the winter is 86%.  This hive had just too many things that impacted it chance of winter survival.

Its possible that you will draw a different conclusion than I did, and I welcome your input.

Monday, April 15, 2019


There will be a club meeting this Saturday, April 20th at 9:30 AM.  This meeting will be at the Rushford Meadery & Winery west of Omro Wisconsin.  The two club hives are located there.  One hive survived the winter and one did not.  Weather permitting, an autopsy will be performed on the dead hive and the live hive will get a spring inspection and cleaning.  Use of an oxalic acid vaporizer will be demonstrated on the live hive.  Finally, a nuc will be installed in the dead hive after the autopsy and cleaning.  Dress for the weather.

As a side note Mother Nature has not been cooperating with our bees.  The snow and cold of last week has prevented the bees from foraging.  It would be a good idea to verify your hives have adequate food; either left over honey from last year or by providing them with sugar or sugar syrup.

Thursday, April 11, 2019


Although varroa is the number one killer of bees, pesticide cocktails of even "bee safe" pesticides can harm bees.  Follow the link to information on pesticide cocktails that harm bees.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

WINTER NUCS RESULTS by beekeeper Fred

I took advantage of this warm Sunday morning and did a little work with the winter nus.  I had tried to winter over 12 nucs in double deep five (5) nucs in an effort to cut ties with package bee suppliers.  Eleven (11) of the nucs are presently alive.  That's 11 packages I won't need to buy this spring. The strength of the nucs are varied at this time.  See the picture below of 3 nuc entrances.  All three had bees bringing in pollen.
Based on entrance activity I opened one of the weaker nucs.  Bees in the upper box , but very few in the lower box.  The lower box was practically devoid of honey.  It's reported that a winter nuc will on average consume 25 pounds of food.

Bees on at least 4 frames. The bees have almost consumed the 2 lb. sugar patty I inserted in early.March.  This weaker nuc is equivalent to a 4 frame nuc people buy for $150 and usually they don't get their purchased nuc until mid-May.  By then I expect this nuc to be filling all 10 frames.

Next winter I will be doubling the number of nucs I overwinter so I will no longer need to buy packages in the spring to replace winter losses.

If you want to try this, make sure you really go after the mites in the fall!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

POLLEN COMING IN by beekeeper Fred

Saturday, April 6th, was a disappointment.  The sun never made an appearance in the afternoon as predicted.  But temperatures were warm enough for the bees to be working the budding maple tress for pollen.

Here you can see two bees with loaded pollen baskets.
Close up.  See the third bees with white in its pollen basket

I have also been trying to get the bees to take a little stimulative sugar syrup using a hive top feeder.  No luck; must still be too cold.

Only a few bees at the top of the feeder; almost none down on the sugar syrup.  

So I decided to do a quick in and out check of the hive to check on their overall health.
Darn, there's another of those plastic frames I don't like.  But the hive is looking healthy with no signs of nosema.  I will need to keep watch on this hive because it looks to have the potential to swarm later this spring.

Monday, April 1, 2019


At the last ECWBA meeting Gerard broached the topic of reversals.  The Natures Nectar blog site has a good description of a reversal process and its benefits.  Follow the link below to the article.