Sunday, June 30, 2019

JUNE REPORT by beekeeper Fred

2019 has definitely been a different and difficult year for beekeeping. Extreme winter low temperatures.  Then spring turned out to be cooler and wetter than normal.   But in June the weather has warmed up and the amount of rain declined a little allowing the hives to strengthen.

New hives established with package bees are still struggling to fully develop.  Several of my hives established with package bees on May 1st are just now putting a splash of nectar in their honey supers.  The cooler weather of May and June slowed brood development probably by restricting the amount of the brood nest area the bees were able to cover and maintain warmth.   

Nectar from clover and alfalfa has been readily available in June.  Overwintered hives have had no trouble filling from 2 to 4 supers providing they didn’t swarm.  A friend with a hive on a scale reported a 5 pound weight gain in one day.  If we can only see more days like that.  This nectar will continue to be available until mid to late July when rainfall usually declines and growth of these plants slows. 

Of course, the strong overwintered hives were following their natural instinct and decided to reproduce; ie. swarm.  I think I had from 6 to 8 hives swarm.  Luckily, I was able to catch 4 of these swarms.  Two of them successfully reestablished themselves.  One I had to requeen when the virgin queen did not return from her mating flight.  The fourth, a smaller after-swarm, was combined with another hives when its queen did not begin laying after two weeks.  Swarms can be headed by either the old queen or a virgin queen.  The old queen begins laying within a few days.  A virgin queen needs roughly 2 weeks to get mated and between laying.   The other swarms got away into the wild.  I only saw one bee check out one of my two swarm traps.  All of the overwintered hives that swarmed were already putting honey into the honey supers.  After swarming this activity stopped for roughly four to five weeks while the hives slowly rebuilt their populations.  I hope the honey flow is still going when they regain their strength.

In June I applied a 50% strength formic acid mite treatment; the only treatment permitted while honey supers are on the hive. 

With the warm up in June I was finally get to get a little success in raising queens.  But since it takes roughly 30 days to raise and mate queens, mated queens are just now becoming available. 

What’s ahead for July?

1)      Continue to monitor that your hives are queenright.

2)      If the honey flow remains strong you can expect swarming to continue although historically it tapers off after the summer solstice.

3)      Monitor your honey supers. 

a.       Add supers when the current super is 75% filled.

b.       Bottom supering is reported to encourage the bees to gather more nectar.

c.       Bees tend to not fill the outer frames.  To make more efficient use of your equipment, when the center frames are filled then rotate the outer frames into the center of the super.

4)      By late July the queen will begin reducing egg laying.  Phoretic mite levels will spike up when this happens.  By monitoring phoretic mite levels you can determine which hives are controlling mites and which are not.  It is recommended that hives with higher mite levels should have their queens replaced with mite resistant queens. 

5)      Make a rough estimate of your coming honey harvest.  Do you have sufficient jars and labels?

6)      If your mite control method can be used with the honey supers in place you can consider a full strength mite treatment the last week of July.  Remember that most mite treatments have high temperature limitations and finding an appropriate weather window can be difficult.  High temperatures increase the outgassing rates of formic acid treatments and could cause harm to the bees.    

Saturday, June 29, 2019


We will be seeing hotter weather in the next few days, weeks and months.  Strong hives will have bees hanging on the landing and face of the hive.  They do this to reduce the temperature inside the hive.  Too high temperatures are hard on the brood.  They will also be fanning at the entrance to move cool air through the hive.  The large groups on bees on the face and landing board are call bearding.  It is normal behavior.  Bearding usually occurs in late afternoon or early at night when the field bees return.  During the night as air temperatures fall most bees usually re-enter the hive.
Photo of fanning.  Heads pointed in, tails out.  You can hear the hum of beating wing, 
Photo of bearding.

If you want to help the bees you can place a small piece of wood between the edges of the outer and inner covers.  By breaking the seal between the outer and inner cover hot air in the hive can rise through the center hole of the inner cover and exit through the gap you created.  I usually use a small of scrap 1/4 or 3/8 inch plywood to raise the outer cover.  A piece about 2 by 6 inches placed at the front of the hive will tilt the outer slightly.

Here you can see the small piece of wood installed and creating a gap between the outer and inner covers.  

Some beekeepers use a slatted bottom board to reduce bearding.

Bees also use water to provide evaporative cooling for the hive.  Hives should be within a 100 yards of a water source.  If you place a water source in your apiary make sure there are enough floating objects the bees can land on so they don't drown.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019


Follow this link to a good discussion on how to add honey supers.


Some plants help both honey bees and monarch butterflies. Actually the monarch is helped three times by the milk weed.  It feeds the monarch caterpillar, acts as a shelter for the cocoon and the flowers feed the monarch itself.

I counted six monarch caterpillars in about a 10 by 10 foot area.  You can see the caterpillar is making a meal of this leaf. 

Friday, June 21, 2019


The honey flow is going full throttle.  Clover, alfalfa, basswood, trefoil, and crown vetch are all in bloom.  The black locust bloom has come and gone.  Strong hives are packing away nectar and capping it once the water content is reduced below 20%.  Yes, somehow the bees know how to gauge the water/sugar content of the honey.  On a few overwintered hives the bees are starting to work their fourth honey super!  The key words in that sentence were “few” and “overwintered”.  Unfortunately, it takes work to get all hives to perform in that manner.

This honey bounty also has its downside.  When the supers are on the hives it becomes more difficult to conduct hive inspections and to apply mite treatments due to the added labor of removing and replacing those heavy honey supers.  The honey flow also urges the bees to reproduce.  Consequently many overwintered hives build swarm cells that a lazy beekeeper like me does not always remove.  Based on checks I have done it appears that up to 6 of my hives have swarmed.  Luckily, I was able to capture and hive 4 of the swarms.    However, since it takes a hive about a month to rebuild its strength, a hive that has swarmed misses out on storing a lot nectar from the honey flow.  I estimate that each swarmed hive costs the beekeeper about 2 supers (60 lbs) of honey.  So do as I say, not as I do.  Inspect your hives every 2 weeks and remove swarm cells if you want to deter swarming.  Most hobbyist beekeepers never realize their hive has swarmed and wonder why “their bees” do not gather as much honey as their neighbors hives.   Our club President has reminded me that with the passing of the summer solstice the urge for reproductive swarming is reduced. 

During the second week of June my apiary was inspected by the Wisconsin state apiary inspector.  His primary focus was in finding American Foulbrood, European Foulbrood, Hive Beetles, and Varroa.  My apiary had no adverse findings.  Mite counts were in the 0-1 range.  He did identify two other minor diseases; “snotty mite brood’ and “Sacbrood”.   These two minor maladies are usually not treated and strong hives will cure themselves. 

Comparing hives is interesting.  Overwintered hives (that haven’t swarmed) are now busy packing away honey.  The hives started with overwintered nucs this spring are also storing honey, but only about ½ the amount of the overwintered hives at this point.  My mid-April packages have, at this point, just put a minor splash of honey into the supers.  The May 1st packages are still struggling to populate the 2 brood chambers.  This shows of importance of keeping your hives alive through the winter.   Not only does it save you the expense of buying a new package, but overwintered hives also greatly outperform packages in spring buildup and honey production.  The key to winter survival is: (you guessed it) VARROA MITE CONTROL

This past week I treated all hives with a 50% dose of FormicPro in order to keep the mite populations in check.   Note: Formic acid is the only mite control method approved for use while the honey supers are in place. 

The main honey flow will continue in our area for 3 to 4 more weeks.  After mid-July the nectar flow really tails off. 

To take maximum advantage of this flow:

1)      Make sure to add an empty super when the present super is about 75% filled.

2)      Rotate outside frames into the center of the super.  The bees tend to concentrate on the center frames and sometimes do not fill outside frames.

3)      Adding the new super below the filled super (called “bottom supering”). This reportedly stimulates the bees and they increase their honey storage efforts.

4)      Keep removing swarm cells until mid-July.  At that time the weakening nectar flow lessens the urge to swarm. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2019


This Saturday, June 15th, the club's monthly meeting will be held at the Caestecker Public Library in Green Lake.  See you there.

Sunday, June 9, 2019


Public outreach is one of the objectives of the ECWBA.  In the past week the ECWBA discussed pollinators and beekeeping in Westfield and also at Fond du Lac's Walleye Weekend.  Thank you to club members that participated.

 Mark and Patty in Westfield
 Al, Patty and Mark at Walleye Weekend


Black locust trees have decided to bloom this year. This is about 9 days behind their normal schedule.  The bloom will last for about 10 days.  Black locust can provide a lot of nectar.  Be sure that you have room in your honey supers to accommodate this nectar.  Check your honey supers every few days to ensure there is room for this bounty.  With a little luck we will be having a few days of sunshine which will allow the bees to work these short lived blossoms.

 Big stand of black locust starting to bloom. 
Closeup of black locust blossoms. 


Follow this link for a listing of bee related projects being worked by the USDA.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019


Tuesday, June 4th

Beautiful bee day.  Sunny with a light breeze.  The bees were out.  For some reason the bees were very temperamental and began harassing me as soon as I entered the apiary.  Not sure of the reason for this, but suspect it is the high humidity and a lack of abundant nectar to keep them occupied. 

I used today to check my nine (9) hives on the edge of a marshy area.  I verified each hive was queenright as I did my inspections.  At my next visit in 2 weeks I will also be treating them with a ½ dose of Formic Pro.

Hive DD-this was a hive started with an overwintered nucleus colony.  Inspection showed a strong colony fully occupying the 2 brood chamber boxes and already putting honey in the 1st honey super.

Hive E-this hive was started with a package on April 19th.  I added 3 frames of capped brood approximately 3 weeks ago from an overcrowded hive.  Three weeks after this bee transfusion the colony occupies the entire two brood boxes, but has not yet entered the honey super added last week. 

Hive YY-this hive was started with a package on April 19th.  It did not get a bee transfusion like Hive E above.  It has only grown to a full bottom box and 4 frames in the upper brood chamber.  I topped off the syrup feeder to speed their growth.  

Hive M-this was an overwintered hive with an Ankle Biter queen.  It has filled 7 of 9 frames of the 1st honey super.  I moved the two empty outside frames into the center positions.  The bees were also working on the frames in the 2nd honey super.   I added a 3rd super to make sure they don’t get ahead of me.  

Hive AAA-this is another overwintered hive.  It had required spring feeding but is now starting to place honey in the 1st honey super.

Hive EE-this is an overwintered Saskatraz hive and is putting honey into the 2nd honey super.  

Hive OO-this was an overwintered hive with Saskatraz queen.  It swarmed several weeks ago.  It has about 7 queen cells.  Last week I saw the replacement virgin queen, but this week I couldn’t find her or any eggs.  There is still capped brood that is emerging so there is not an immediate danger of laying workers.  She gets one more week to make an appearance or I see eggs and open brood.  After that I will requeen the hive. 

Hive PP-this was an overwintered Russian hive.  It has just started to put honey in the 1st super. 

Hive WW-this hive was started with an overwintered package.  Already putting honey in the first super. 

As you can see there is a wide variation between hives.  It pays to keep notes of your observations so you can determine if individual hives are growing or failing. 

Another interesting observation is that the hives started with overwintered nucs are greatly outperforming even early package hives.   This and the fact that the overwintered nucs don’t cost me anything makes them an interesting method to better my apiary sustainability. 

Saturday, June 1, 2019


Bees obtain nectar from many plants.  Here is a list of the MAJOR nectar sources in central Wisconsin.  There are also too many to mention MINOR nectar sources. 


                -Black locust









                ‘-Sweet clover


                ‘-Alsike Clover

The tree sources of nectar are of relatively short duration; usually less than about 10 days.  The plant sources are of longer duration.   Clovers can produce up to 500 pounds of honey per acre in good year.  As Grandpa Jack likes to say “Location, Location, Location”.