Saturday, October 31, 2020


 As part of my evaluation of my breeder queens I was also tracking the mite fall of two mixed breed hives.   For the past week the two mixed breed hives have been having a daily mite fall of zero mites. 

Previous readers know that my mite control plan is to treat my hives 3 times.  One half dose of formic in mid-June, then a full dose of formic the last week of July and then a final fall cleanup treatment with oxalic acid vapor.  On October 28th I performed the last oxalic treatment; a single treatment of 2 grams of oxalic.  These hives were broodless at this time.  Note: a single oxalic treatment of a hive, when broodless, should kill 95% of the mites in the hive.  

In the three days following this treatment one hive has dropped 75 mites to the witness board and the second 29 mites.  This shows that although the daily mite drop was low (actually zero) that there was still a large quantity of mites in the hive.  

This end of season mite treatment will greatly improve the chances of these hives surviving winter.  

Friday, October 23, 2020



Until recently mite resistance from grooming/chewing has received little attention in the national bee magazines.   I had previously used Purdue Mite Biter stock with this trait.  Last fall I became aware of the availability of feral bee stock that also exhibited this trait.   I find it fascinating that wild/feral bees had naturally developed a resistance to mites.  NOTE: All honeybees exhibit chewing/grooming to a limited extent.  The PMB line and this feral stock show enhanced chewing/grooming. 

In 2020 I purchased two breeder queens from Dorothey Morgan in Kentucky.  One was of Purdue Miter Biter (PMB) stock and the other of feral stock from mountainous areas in Kentucky.  Both stocks are known for “chewing” on varroa mites.  Dorothey has not treated her bees for the past seven years since converting her entire apiary to PMB stock.  The feral stock came from members of the Kentucky Queen Breeders Association.  Testing by Dorothey and Dwight Wells had shown this feral stock met or exceeded the level of “chewing” exhibited by the PMB stock.    Dwight is knowledgeable about the subject of feral bees.   NOTE: In 2020 Purdue University did not produce PMB breeder queens for distribution due to the COVID19 shutdown of their campus.

Dorothey also credits some of her overwintering success to not purchasing packaged bees and thus avoiding importation of any viruses floating around the general bee population (read that as from bees that were held in the California holding yards prior to almond pollination).  Also, PMB and feral bee lines do not eliminate the mites, but reduce their numbers sufficiently so that hives can overwinter without need for mite treatments.  Reaching an equilibrium between the parasite and host is how the Apis Cerana (the Asian honeybee) evolved to live with the varroa mite, although not through the same mechanism.      

I wanted to assess how these two breeder queen hives were doing in relation to mites.  You could say I am from Missouri, the “show me” state.  I wanted those two hives to show me that they had reduced mite counts.  Utilizing witness boards was intended to fulfill that need.  Near the end of June, I began daily inspection of the witness boards.  Initially I simply counted and recorded the number of mites on each board.   During the rapid growth stage of the hives, I did not want to be removing 300 bees to perform alcohol-wash mite checks.  I was already opening the hives on a weekly basis to take brood for queen rearing.  Too much stress on a hive can result in queen supercedure.   

I also tracked mite counts in two overwintered mixed-breed hives.  One hive’s mite drop was rising rapidly by the end of July (already greater than 20 mites/day), and consequently I treated both mixed breed hives with FormicPro.  Due to the treatments I did not include their data here.   The worst hive needed a second treatment at the end of August when the mite drop again built up to 20 per day.  (As a side note I requeened the hive after the second treatment with a f1 PMB queen).  

Here is the mite drop from the two breeder queen hives.  I am presenting the data as 7-day moving averages to smooth the curves.  The maximum daily mite drop for the feral queened hive was 10 mites and for the PMB queened hive 23 mites.  The maximum drop for both hives occurred on the same day after the nighttime temperature got down to the low 30s (lowest so far this fall). 


A few comments/observations.

1)      It must be remembered that these were not overwintered hives which would have a longer time frame for the mite population to build. 

2)      Recommended sticky board mite drop limits are all over the place.  I have found some recommendations that mite drops of more than 10 or 12 mites per day indicate the hive is in trouble and needs treatment. Other sources indicate daily drops of up to 40 or 60 per day in the fall are the treatment threshold.  I put the 12 mites per day limit in my graph.   

-BetterBee recommended a 12/day limit in August

-Brushy Mountain recommended a 60/day limit in fall

-PerfectBee recommended a 60/day limit in fall

-Virginia Cooperative Extension recommended a 40/day limit

-Ontario Ministry of Ag recommends a 12/day limit in August

3)      I performed two alcohol-washes (Aug. 21st and Sept 25th) which yielded either 0 or 1 mite.  These values are good for that time of year.  Limits of 3% or 9 mites per 300 bees are normally deemed acceptable.  These two alcohol wash checks show these chewing/grooming bees were controlling varroa mites as desired.

4)       I haven’t found any literature stating how to compare alcohol-wash results versus mite drop counts.   


6)      This uncontrolled test was a small sample of only two hives.  I would not jump to the conclusion that “feral” queens, in general, are better than “PMB” queens.  It may be true, but the small size of my test prevents me from stating this is so.  I can’t determine whether the feral hive or PMB hive is doing a better job of removing mites.  Is the lower daily drop of the feral hive a sign of better grooming performance or is the higher spike during the cold spells a sign the PMB hive is doing a better job.  I can’t wheedle the answer out of my limited data.  The IMPORTANT thing is that the varroa levels of both hives are staying below both the alcohol-wash and sticky board limits. 

7)      My initial thought was that the two spikes in the mite drop at the end of the summer were attributable to the end of summer decline in brood rearing and cooler nighttime temperatures resulting in the bees clustering.   But after looking at the nighttime temperatures it seems that nighttime temperature was the primary factor in both spikes.   The first spike occurred when the temperature dipped to the high 30s (Sept 19th, 39F).  The second bigger spike occurred when nighttime temperature dropped to the low 30s (Oct 2nd, 32F).   Mite drop rose following each cold spell, usually several days in length, and began declining as the nighttime temperatures warmed again. The maximum height of the bump up occurred a few days after the cold night due to the damping effect of the 7-day moving average used to smooth the curve.    I assume the colder temperatures are causing the bees to cluster and results in enhanced grooming/chewing.   A third cold snap (Oct 19th, 25F) did not result in a mite drop spike.  Why the difference? 

At the end of July, I started gathering all mites from the witness boards and examining their legs for evidence of chewing.  I have had no formal training in this process, but simply looked for severed legs or missing edges on their carapace (shell).  I was using a low cost/low magnification digital microscope which may have hindered the accuracy of my observations.  In addition, I did not think of looking for severed antenna that are located between the eight legs.  About 5% of the dropped mites were alive and moving their legs,  45% were dead, and 50% had chewed legs and dead.   Both the PMB and feral hive drops exhibited roughly the same 50% chewing rate.  If I assume all of the dead mites were due to natural mortality (this assumption is highly questionable), then I could surmise that the “chewing behavior” had roughly doubled the mite mortality. 

The onset of colder nights (~ <40F) also resulted in finding no live mites on the witness board the following morning.  When nighttime temperatures warmed back up live mites again appeared on the witness board.   My thought is that the live mites that are on the witness board die of exposure during the night without the warmth of the bee cluster.   Are the live mites falling to the witness board simply because they lost their footing or due to grooming?  I can’t answer that question.  So if mites are dislodged by either “chewing” or grooming or simply losing their footing they will probably die during the winter if they drop to the floor of the hive.

Now playing with the data a little.  The graph shows a daily mite drop of roughly 8 mites per day (average of the two hives).  Taking away the 50% of mites showing chewing that leaves 4 mites per day which would be considered natural mite drop do to mortality.  Natural mite mortality runs about 0.5%.  Therefore, there is about 800 mites in each hive (4/0.005=800).  Based on Randy Oliver’s mite program a hive with 800 mites in mid-October should NOT have a varroa induced crash.  That makes me very hopeful about this potential solution and confirms in my limited way that these bees can survive with no treatment. 

Overall, I am happy with the performance of both hives/queens and will be taking these two hives through winter untreated.  Assuming they survive (and with these low mites loads they should survive), I will track mite drop through another year to see how they cope with the longer period for mite reproduction.   

I would say both the PMB and feral queened hives have controlled the mite build up as advertised.  My only reservation of my observations is that they were not of overwintered hives.  Given the fact that Purdue’s and Dorothey’s apiaries have been untreated for years puts that issue to bed and these queens will continue to be my focus for mite control next year.    

From these breeder queens I have put about 50 queens into winter nucs.  Next year I will monitor a few of these f1 queens (first generation) to see if they control the mites to the same extent.  I would expect them to be not as good because this year’s drone population in my apiary was not all of PMB/feral genetics and therefore there would probably be a dilution of the “chewing trait”.  I expect it will take several years to improve my entire apiary to equivalent performance and for me to be able to stop mite treatments.  This problem of dilution also occurs with all improved bee lines (VSH, Minnesota Hygenic, Russians, etc.).   Once you make the decision to improve your apiary you need to stick with it for several years to counter the genetic dilution effect that occurs due to the honeybee queen’s mating behavior.  Purchase of package bees/queens also adds to the dilution.   Its everything or nothing.  



Thursday, October 15, 2020

BEEKEEPERS IMMUNE TO COVID-19??? Submitted by Beekeeper Gerard

 This article was found on the US National Library of Medicine website.  Written by a Chinese doctor this article provides anecdotal information that Chinese beekeepers near Wuhan, China have not contracted COVID-19.  The implication is that bee venom somehow provides immunity to the virus.

Sunday, October 11, 2020


 Next Saturday, October 17th, will be the October ECWBA meeting.  The meeting will be about winter preparation.  The meeting will be at the Rushford Meadery near Omro starting at 9:30AM.  Due to a spike in Covid19 masks are strongly recommended.  

PS-the next 3 days appear to be the last opportunity for pre-winter feeding.  After that temperatures will be too cool for syrup uptake.  

Friday, October 9, 2020


Dan Ziehli, the state apiary Inspector, for our area has been replaced by Charlie Koenen.  Charlie's contact information is:  

Charlie Koenen  608-444-3209  Email:

The following link may also be useful: 

Note: It costs $50 for a visit by the state inspector.  

Wednesday, October 7, 2020


 Many beekeepers perform a one time varroa mite treatment using oxalic acid in addition to a late summer treatments.  The idea is to perform this last of the season's (also called a cleanup treatment) treatment AFTER the queen has stopped laying and all brood has emerged.  When this occurs no mites are hidden inside brood cells and are therefore exposed and susceptible to the oxalic acid vapors.  Up to a 95% mite kill is possible at this time.  The bees will go through winter as mite free as possible.  

I had occasion to be inside several hives and nuc yesterday, October 6th.  All still had capped brood.  So it is still not time perform the cleanup treatment.  It is better to wait to the last week of October or first week of November.  

Tuesday, September 22, 2020


 Honey extraction is completed so I was able to get back to working on the bear fence.  Today I completed the fencing for the mating yard.  To make the size of the fenced in area manageable I had to move forty 5/5 winter nucs.  Next was erecting the fence, which is composed of fiberglass posts and a electrical conducting tape.  Finally was to wire in the solar energized power unit.  It delivers a 3000 volt DC pulse about every 3 seconds.  See below.  This fencing protects my future; 40 Purdue Mite Biter or feral bee queens each in its own 5/5 winter nuc.  Now on to the grafting yard where the PMB and feral breeder queens are located along with another 24 winter nucs.  

End of fenced in yard showing the 3 strands of electrified wire. 

View of entire fenced in area.  This little pocket is in a little valley between two hills.  It gets sun in the winter, but is protected from winter winds.  Ideal for wintering bees. 

Thursday, September 17, 2020



He’s back!  I had reported in June that a black bear went through my area and knocked over two hives.  Luckily the hives and queens survived.  The bear seemed to be more interested in honey than the brood boxes.   I even got 2 supers of honey off one of the hives.  That was June.

Typical black bear

Now he’s back in September.  So far, he’s knocked over 7 hives, some twice, and destroyed 6 supers full of honey in a period of about 4 days.  A neighbor about 1 mile away had pictures of him on a trail camera.   I had started to remove my honey supers the day before, but in the case of those 6 supers I was a day late and a dollar short.  Here is a picture.  The 3 supers on this hive were spread over a 100 foot radius!  None of the frames were broken but the foundation will need to be replaced.   Needless to say I removed all remaining honey supers pronto!  But he is also knocking over hives that I had previously removed the honey supers.  So every morning I need to check every hive for damage.  This puts a little excitement into my retirement.  

Wildlife is the property of the State of Wisconsin; so I headed in that direction for relief.  After working through the DNR bureaucracy I ended up with the USDA Wildlife Service (a federal agency).  They are contracted by the DNR to administer the state program for restitution for damage done by wildlife.  This is done on a county by county basis.  Surprisingly, they provided me with four sets of solar powered electric fencing.  It will remain in my possession as long as I remain in the program.  Also, they (the DNR) will be reimbursing me for my honey losses next June (payments are made only once per year.)  I suspect it won’t be as much as I could have sold the honey for, but it’s better than nothing.   Of course, there is always a catch.  I had to agree to allow one licensed bear hunter access to my property if asked.  But since the bear density is so low in Green Lake county the field agent doubted I will ever be asked.  The second downside is that I must relocate my hives so that they will all be inside the fenced in area.  When the hives are protected the bear will most probably leave the area.  

The agent was knowledgeable on the damage bears can do.  But when I showed him photos and a bear foot print on a honey frame he instantly concurred the damage was caused by a bear.  

So if you are having bear problems this is a potential solution.  My agent was Steve Krueger out of the USDA Wildlife Services office in Waupun.  He covers three counties.  A different agent may cover your county, but Steve would be a good starting point.  The office phone number is 920-324-4514.  One catch is that you must have damage prior to making the request.  



Friday, September 4, 2020


In an earlier post (Mite Treatment Observations dated 21 August 2020) I reported on how FormicPro greatly knocked down the mite population in two hives.  One of the two hives, however, has seen a rebound in mite population as measured by its daily mite drop to witness board.  Recently there were several days where the mite drop hit 20 mites per day!  Without doing either the daily mite drop count or a follow mite test I would have never suspected the initial treatment with FormicPro had not cleared the hive of mites. 

A portion of this increase could be explained by the natural slowdown in brood rearing that occurs in late August.  But to be safe I applied another full dose of FormicPro to this hive.   Again, the mites rained down onto the witness board.  146 mites in the first 24 hours,  69 mites in the second 24 hours and a total of 366 mites over a period of a week.   

What is the point of this article?  1) Mite treatments are not always successful especially if the mite load is too great.  2) Mite checks don’t always reveal the true mite levels.  3) A beekeeper needs a backup plan. 

My backup plan is incorporation of a queen with mite resistant genetics.  So this weekend it will be off with the old queen's head and installation of a new queen with mite resistant genes. This is the standard recommended practice for someone trying to improve the mite resistance of their apiary; simply eliminate the hives (ie queens) associated with high mite levels.

As a side note the two hives with the Purdue Mite Biter and feral breeder queens continue to show low daily mite drops; on average of 1 to 2 mites per day.   I sure hope these good results continue until winter arrives and the hive temporarily stops brood rearing for the winter.   Then the mites can no longer reproduce since there will be no bee brood.   

Microscopic examination of the mites from these two hives shows a large percentage of the mites are missing legs, portions of legs and some mites even show damage to the carapace (outer shell).  This damage is the result of the chewing behavior exhibited by the offspring of these breeder queens.  I will be continuing counting and examining mites until November and summarize my observations at that time.  Here are two pictures; one of an undamaged mite and one that shows a mite which has had several legs chewed off.  Is this the answer to the varroa mite scourge?   I hope so!

View of the bottom of a varroa mite showing its 8 legs. 

  View of a varroa mites where several legs are either removed or shortened.

In my personal examinations I am frequently seeing mites with missing or damaged legs.  

Wednesday, September 2, 2020


ECWBA member, Buzz Vahradian, gave a presentation on bees to Westfield senior citizens on September 2nd.  The event occurred outdoors at a shelter at the city park due COVID19 restrictions.

Buzz showing the audience his educational hive to meeting attendees.  Most were able to spot the queen, which Buzz had obligingly marked with a bright green dot.

Thank you Buzz! 

Thursday, August 27, 2020


Two examples of bearding that occurred on these last two hot and humid days.  The bearding is likely field bees (foragers) that return to the overly hot hive.  Bearding usually occurs in late afternoon and overnight the hive will cool and the bearding bees will re-enter the hive.

 Remedy for this bearding hive was to place a 3/4 inch stick between the outer and inner covers to allow more air circulation.
Winter nuc is strong enough to excessively beard.  To reduce bearding in the long term I removed the feed bottle on top of the nuc.   Ready for the coming winter.

Monday, August 24, 2020


Today while inspecting a few hives I got the distinct scent of dirty gym sox.  That scent is the prime indicator that the bees are getting nectar from goldenrod.  Occasionally the bees can fill a whole medium super with goldenrod nectar.  The scent slowly dissipates as the bees turn the nectar into honey. 

I see the weather forecast has a few 90+F days this week.  You can expect bearding and should remove any entrance reducers to help the bees with hive cooling. 

Also, while inspecting a few mating nuc boxes I noticed a newly returned queen with the mating sign still in place.  The worker bees will soon remove it.  This queen mated 7 days after emerging from the queen cell. 

Friday, August 21, 2020


 At the past few meetings Gerard discussed removal of the honey supers.  Follow this link to videos of two methods.


As promised in the previous article, beekeepers Fred and Jon performed alcohol wash mite checks on the 4 hives on August 21st.  These were 300 bee samples from the brood nest; frames with both capped and uncapped larvae.  The samples were shaken vigorously for 2 minutes while the bees were submerged in alcohol.  

Here are the results. 

Hive A-0 mites!  Feral breeder queen hive, hive is 3 months old, no mite treatments

Hive B-1 mite!  Purdue Mite Biter breeder queen hive, hive is 3 months old, no mite treatments

Hive C-0 mites!  Overwintered 3 or 4th generation PMB queen; treated w FormicPro 3 weeks ago

Hive D-5 mites!   Overwintered 3 or 4th generation PMB queen; treated w FormicPro 3 weeks ago

Mite infestation percentages are:

Hive A-0

Hive B-0.3%




1)      The FormicPro treatment of hives C and D reduced the mite levels to well below the recommended treatment level of 3% (9 mites per 300 bees).  

2)      The hives with the feral and PMB breeder queens are well below the 3% (9 mite) treatment threshold and therefore do NOT need mite treatments!

The only caveat is that the two breeder queen hives are only 3 months old and not overwintered, and therefore have had less time to build their mite levels.  Although these results are very positive I feel several consecutive years are required to prove the mites are licked!  Humm, maybe I am from the show me state.  On the positive side my source for these queens has been treatment free for 7 years! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2020


I have been watching the natural varroa mite fall from four hives using screened bottom boards with witness boards.  The main reason for doing this was to track the mite fall of two types of mite biter breeder queens I had purchased. One a standard Purdue Mite Biter (PMB) and the second a feral queen crossed with PMB drones.   Every day for the past two months I have pulled the witness boards on all four hives and recorded the number of live and dead mites dropped by each hive.   I wasn’t actually comparing apples to apples.  The two breeder queen hives were started in early June from nucs.  The other two hives were overwintered hives.  The overwintered hives had 3rd generation PMB queens.  Due to the difference in the hive populations and longer time period for the mite population to grow, one would expect the overwintered hives to drop more mites; which they did.  Mite drops have been recorded every day since June 27th. 

Witness board partially withdrawn.  It is fully withdrawn to allow easy counting of the mite drop. 

Just prior to applying mite treatments to the two overwintered hives I calculated the daily mite fall of each hive (based on a 7 day moving average). 

Hive A-1.8 mites per day   Feral breeder queen hive

Hive B-0.7 mites per day   PMB breeder queen hive

Hive C-2.4 mites per day   One of the two overwintered hives with 3rd gen PMB queen

Hive D- 11.3 mites per day   Strongest of the two overwintered hives with 3rd gen PMB queen

The mite fall has been slowly increasing for all hives as the summer has progressed.  This would be expected because the mites are continuously increasing in number as they reproduce.  I have previously read that mite drops of more than 10 to 12 per day indicate a hive in danger of a varroa caused crash. 

Formic acid treatments are known to be hard on queens.  Not wanting to risk my breeder queens at this time I skipped treating Hive A and B for now.    Hive C and D were treated with a full dose (2 pads=1 packet) of FormicPro on July 29th.   Here were the results 

In the first 24 hours after treatment Hive C dropped 59 mites and Hive D dropped greater than 200 mites.  Mite drop was its maximum on the first day after treatment and declined afterwards.  The mites dropping after treatment were all dead.  Prior to treatment it was a mix of live and dead mites.  Total drop for the 2 week FormicPro treatment period were 259 mites for Hive C and 443+ mites for Hive D.   

Here is a table showing the mite drop. 

Days after treatment

Hive A

Hive B

Hive C

Hive D












































































 The results of the treatments on Hive C and D show FormicPro does kill mites.  The initial mite kill is massive and then slowly tails off as the strength of the emitted formic acid vapor decreases and the number of mites declines.  A low level of mite drop will likely continue as the capped bee brood reaches maturity and emerges.  Along with the emerging bees come hopefully more dead mites, both ature and juvenile, from beneath the cappings.  The slightly elevated mite drop will probably continue for 3 weeks. 

One thing that is puzzling me is the relatively low mite drop from the overwintered hives with the 3rd generation PMB queens.  Are the genetics in the 3rd generation queened hives still having a negative effect on mite populations?   Based on the Scientific Beekeeping Varroa model I would have expected the mite drop to be in the thousands.  Just maybe these 3rd generation queens are contributing to my good winter survival.  

Hive D exhibited less mite resistant behavior than Hive C.  I plan on replacing Hive D’s queen with a queen from one of my breeder queens after removal of the honey supers.   

I also plan to do alcohol wash mite checks on all four hives for several reasons:  1) as a cross check on the sticky board results, 2) to verify the mite treatments effectively did their job of killing off the mites,  3) to verify the mite levels of the two breeder queen hives are really as low as indicated by the witness board counts.   I will report on these new test results when completed.

What was especially encouraging from this little exercise was that the two hives with Mite Biting breeder queens are not, to date, showing the sharp rise in mite counts that normally occur in August.  Their mite counts are remaining low; 1-2 mites/day on average; well below the 10 mite per day drop where treatment with miticides is recommended.   I will continue to track the mite drops of all four hives through October.  Normally mite levels shown by mite drop to sticky boards or by alcohol washes sharply rise in August through October as the hive’s bee population downsizes in preparation for winter.   The rise in mite counts isn’t because there are more mites; rather there are less bees and less brood cells for the mites to hide in.   Therefore, the probability of a bee or larvae getting damaged by a mite sharply rises. 


Wednesday, July 29, 2020


This week I have been applying FormicPro to my hives.  The air temperatures have been within the recommended range of between 60 and 85F.  Hives have reacted differently to the treatments.  Here are pictures of 3 hives that are within 20 feet of each other.  We can all speculate on the reasons for the different reactions.

 This hive shows no reaction to the treatment. 
 This hive had slight bearding at the main entrance and vent hole.
This final hive has heavy bearding on the front and sides.  The bees are about 1 inch in thickness.
NOTE: The next morning all bees were inside again. 

Thursday, July 23, 2020


In the ECWBA area the weather forecast for the next two weeks appears ideal if you are treating mites with either MAQS or FormicPro. 

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


One of the first signs that the honey flow is winding down is that the stronger hives start robbing from weaker hives.  Today I saw 2 mating nucs being robbed.  Being inherently weaker than a full size hive they are more susceptible to robbing.  Tomorrow morning I will be reducing the entrance size of all nucs so they can hopefully self protect themselves.  These two mating nucs are also located in my main apiary which was probably a mistake.  Most of my mating nucs are isolated and hopefully less prone to robbing. 

Of course, the honey flow in your area may still be going strong.  Remember the adage "Location, location, location".   

Thursday, July 16, 2020


Fall will soon be upon us and we will be thinking about feeding our bees.  Watch this Youtube clip.  Basically the best feed is table sugar; either cane or beet.  Other feeds can be problematic.  Homemade fondants can also be problematic.  Corn syrup is OK, but "off spec" corn syrup is problematic.

Sunday, July 12, 2020


Historically speaking the nectar flow in our area begins tapering down in the second half of July.  Most nectar bearing plants reduce flowering after the summer solstice (June 20th).   Combined with the typical reduction in rainfall in late July and August the nectar simply dries up.  Contrary to this, every year is a little different and early July rainfall can extend the flow.  A good beekeeper always wants to leave room (ie an extra super) on the top of the hive for any extra flow.  Empty storage space encourages the bees to work harder and longer trying to fill this space.  This is especially true for stronger hives.

Late August and early September can produce a smaller flow from goldenrod and purple loosestrife ( an invasive species).  The goldenrod flow is very problematic.  Some beekeepers remove their honey supers prior to this flow so that the bees will be forced to store this nectar, if it occurs, in the brood boxes in preparation for winter.

Late July and early August is also the time to treat for varroa mites.  Only formic acid treatments (Formic Pro or MAQS) are approved for use while the honey supers are in place.  This requires removing the hopefully heavy honey supers, inserting the treatment, and then replacing the honey supers.  An alternate approach is to simply remove the supers and extract them if the honey is capped.  The approach you take is up to you as an individual beekeeper.

We can discuss both approaches at the next ECWBA meeting, which will be on July 18th at the Rushford Meadery outside of Omro.  Start time is 9:30AM, but early arrival is encouraged for additional information exchange.  See you there.

Friday, July 10, 2020

Senior moments in beekeeping by Grandpa Jack & Beekeeper Fred

Eight  years as a beekeeper and several years of prior experience still doesn't exclude me from making one of THOSE mistakes. 

A couple of days ago in anticipation of removing several supers of capped honey, I put my bee excluders on.  I use a triangle board that will let the bees out, but will not let them back in. Note:  Unless you leave them on too long.  I like using the triangle board, its does a very good job and beats brushing each frame off of bees. 

Luckily I threw a coat on and put my hood up, even though at the time I felt that it was quite unnecessary.  Usually after a couple of days most of the bees have cleared out and you can just take the super off and the hive is unaware of what your even doing.

I cracked the cover loose and was met with a noticeable roar.  That was my first clue.

I had put the excluder in one of the hives, upside down.  Instead of the bees going down to the super below, they were coming up into the super and unable to leave.  Talk about packed with bees !
Luckily I had a one inch ventilation rim on top and that was packed with bees.

Now you would think that they would of been happy to see me considering their circumstance, but they let me know by way of a couple of stings, that they were ticked off.  I backed off, lit my smoker, put on a pair of gloves and grabbed the bee brush.  After several minutes of rearranging and telling them that I was very sorry for what I did, the hive and super full of capped honey was back in place.

We will try this again in a couple of days.  Grandpa Jack

Not wanting to Grandpa Jack feel all alone I have my own story from today.

I drove over to two of my remote hives.  One hive is working its 5th super, so being an optimist I was going to add a 6th super.    The tower of two deeps and 5 supers is the limit of my lifting capabilities.  I suited up so I could move one of the lower full supers to the neighboring hive which was still working its 2nd super.  Like in Jack's situation the bees were none to happy, but everything went fine.  I had the hives reassembled and bent down to pick up the bricks to secure the covers in place.  Unfortunately I had forget to zip one side on my hood.  Bending over opened the gap. And in flew a bee.  It went straight for my ear.  I was anticipating a sting, but the bugger went straight into my ear.  I think the hair on his body prevented him from backing out.  Expecting a sting any second I drove 5 miles to a neighbor who kindly retrieved the bee without me getting stung!  Whew!  This incident will keep me zipping up the hood for another year.  

Sunday, July 5, 2020

Tracheal Mites

When beekeepers get into discussions about controlling mites the discussion sometimes turns to tracheal mites.  There are two items of good news on this front.  One, most bees in North America have evolved defensive mechanisms so that tracheal mites are no longer a problem.  Two, some varroa mite control products also control tracheal mites.  Specifically, two fumigant mite treatments, formic acid vapor and thymol, kill tracheal mites.  NOTE: The active ingredient of Apiguard is thymol.  To read more on this topic follow the link provided below.

This paper had no data stating if oxalic acid vapors also control tracheal mites.  

Thanks to Gerard for tracking down this information.

Thursday, July 2, 2020

NEVER A DULL DAY by beekeeper Fred

Being a conscientious beekeeper I try to spread out my hives to minimize drifting.  Some hives are a 1/2 mile away from my main apiary.  This does have its downsides; one being the extra distance to be covered while working the hives.  A second downside is that the hives are away from human habitations and that means wild animals can make unwanted visits.  These two hives had been visited by skunks in the spring. But last night is appears a bear made a mess of these two hives.  Pictures say it better than I can.  A paw print in the middle of one honey frame told the tale.

 Hive YY
Hive WW

About 15 minutes and a few bee stings later everything was reassembled.  Casualties among the bees were surprisingly few.  Most brood and honey frames were intact.  Queen status will be determined at a later date.  

Sunday, June 28, 2020

LATE JUNE by beekeeper Fred

It’s been a busy time at the Flying Squirrel Apiary in the past month.  Not even time for surfing the net for interesting bee articles.

In early June I made a trip to Indiana to pick up two breeder queens.  One is the standard Purdue Mite Biter type, while the second was from an excellent feral bee line from the Kentucky mountains crossed with Purdue Mite Biter drones.  Both types chew on the mites.   Since then I have been grafting small quantities of larvae twice weekly and raising queens.  My goal is to convert all my hives to one of these two queen types prior to fall.   This mite chewing behavior is one of the schemes developed by mother nature for the bees to cope with the mite scourge.  Us humans haven’t been very successful over the past 30 years, so I figure to utilize what mother nature has provided.

I am aware of one bee breeder that has been treatment free for the past 7 years using these genetics.  This is not to say their winter losses are zero, but they are low enough to be tolerable.   They are also using the trick of not importing any bees into their apiary.  This minimizes the chances of importing viruses.   By emulating these tactics, I hope to also become eventually treatment free.  Time will tell.

But since not all of my hives have been converted yet, in mid-June I applied a ½ dose of formic acid (I use FormicPro) to all hives.  I do this rather than doing mite counts on all hives.  My philosophy is that all hives have mites and therefore need treatment.  Over the past three years my treatment scheme has yielded about an 80% winter survival rate.

We have just passed the summer solstice when we are getting the maximum amount of daylight.  This also coincides with the maximum amount of blooming flowers and trees.  Consequently, the maximum honey flow occurs in this period; roughly June 15th to July 15th.  Make sure to monitor your honey supers and add additional supers as needed.   A strong hive can fill a medium super in as little as one week.   For whatever reason the honey flow seems to have started later and is less intense than last year.  I am not expecting the bumper crop like I harvested last year.   I do think part of the reason is that I steal bees and brood from every hive to stock the mating nucs I use for queen rearing.  Lower hive population results in less surplus honey.   But until the honey harvest in early August I will remain hopeful of getting my share of honey. 

Just because the honey flow is on you should not ignore regular hive inspections.  Don’t wait until your hive collapses from being queenless or from disease.  Coincidently, I noticed a hive starting to dwindle.  It was queenright, but the brood was not surviving to maturity and getting capped.  Not being a brood disease expert, I fumbled around a little until deciding it was probably a case of European Foulbrood.   I was able to obtain Terramycin (oxytetracycline) antibiotic from another beekeeper.  Sprinkling some on the frames seems to have reversed the situation.  Brood is again growing and being capped in less than a week from beginning treatment.  The honey supers were removed to both ease application of the antibiotic powder and to prevent any of the antibiotic from adulterating the honey (note: this hive had not produced any honey do to its weakened state).   This is the first time in 12 years of beekeeping that I have encountered this disease.

Another reason for hive inspections is that the swarm season is still in force until about mid-July. 

In the coming month I will be closely monitoring the hives for adequate space in the honey supers.  With the honey flow essentially ending by the end of July I will also get my order in for mite control treatments.  These treatents should be applied in early August.