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!