This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 18, 2019


Many of us that started with new colonies are about to put our supers on. We are supposed to do a reversal right then, right.


 If the top box is heavy with honey, it is too late to do a reversal. The heavy box of honey will be the bees winter honey stores. If you put that heavy box on the bottom, the bees will tend to keep more brood in the upper boxes. Then as winter comes on and the bees need more food, their main food stores are in the bottom of the hive. The bees will not move down to get the honey in the winter and they will starve.
 One thing that could be done, is to go into the lower box and look for a frame of pollen. Take that frame of pollen, even if there is brood on the frame and put it in the center of the top box.
 Then in February, when the queen is ready to start laying, the bees can uncap the honey covering the pollen and they will have pollen for early spring, before pollen patties are on the hive.

Do I need a queen?

This is the time of year when a beekeeper discovers a hive with no eggs and the brood is only found in advanced stage (capped brood).  No eggs or young larvae.
 The hive is queenless, right?
 Many times this is not the case. What usually happens, the hive has swarmed and a new queen may be in the hopper but not laying yet.
 So here is the rub, if you just run out and purchase a queen and there is a virgin queen in the hive. The virgin queen will kill that queen you just plopped down some serious money on. Don't buy a queen and let them "fight it out", this does not work. In the mean time the nectar flow is on and the bees are filling the brood nest with nectar.
 Most newer beekeepers are in denial that their bees swarmed. One look at the door of the hive can tell you that the activity at the front door of the hive has diminished.
 So, how do you know what to do?
 This is where having at least two hives can give you a plan B. Take a frame of eggs from the queenrite colony. Place that frame in the top of the top brood box of the possible queenless hive, so it is easy to look at. This frame will do two things.
1. The presence of brood in the colony can prevent the colony from turning into laying workers if it truly is queenless.
2. Check this frame after about five days. If the bees are building queen cells, one can surmise the hive needs a queen. If the hive does not try to make queen cells, one would surmise that there is a queen in the hive and she should start laying in a couple of weeks.
 This time of year don't jump the gun on queen replacement. Patience wins the day.

Nectar flow looks like the real deal

Driving along Hwy 36 I can see yellow sweet clover blooming in large numbers. I also see the white sweet clover getting tall. The white sweet clover is not blooming yet, but should be blooming soon. White Sweet clover and Basswoods are usually the biggest producers of honey in our area.
 Some beekeepers on overwintered colonies already have two to three supers full of nectar on their hives.
 What do you do if you run out of supers? The options are, to purchase more supers or extract the honey once the bees cap it then put the supers back on the hive.
 If a colony is getting too tall with supers, you can take any full supers off and put the supers on a hive that is not producing much at the moment. The weaker hive will take care of the honey.
 How to put honey supers on: If all you have is new supers with no drawn comb, this strategy can work. I usually put the two supers on without a queen excluder. I check the progress in the supers about every four days. When I see the bees have made some comb and some nectar in the comb, I then put a queen excluder in.
 I put on supers on all my hives yesterday. I had about twelve new supers with frames and foundation. I took some older super frames that were drawn out already and put four of the drawn frames in each new box and put on queen excluders. The bees will easily move up as the nectar comes in.
 Honey supers should be put on the hives in pairs, two supers at a time. Supers with new foundation should always be put directly on top of the queen excluder, right above the top brood box. Supers with drawn comb can be simply be stacked on top of one another. Don't pull supers and leave them off the hive. The honey supers not being tended by bees will absorb moisture from the humidity in the air. The honey in unattended super boxes will have high moisture issues and may not be Grade A honey by the time you extract it.
 Get your supers on now. I did notice a big difference in my package bee population over the last week. They went from don't need supers, to get your supers on now, over the course of a week.
 Stay ahead of the bees, when the first super is full of nectar and the bees are working in the second super putting in nectar, that is the time to add two more supers. If the supers are new, put them under these two supers that are filling up. Another option would be putting one new super under the supers with nectar in them. Add a new super to the top of the stack. Once the bees are drawing out the bottom super and adding nectar, slip the top new super underneath the stack of supers, right above the top brood box.
 The honey is coming in now, get your supers on now, they payoff of all of our spring management of our colonies is now, put a smile on your face and pat yourself on the back for getting the bees to now.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

The Nectar Flow - Coming To A Hive Near You

Clover blooming in some lawns in downtown Stillwater this morning

My Basswood seed pods have opened and have exposed their unopened flower heads
There are more and more signs that the main nectar flow is on the horizon. In the southern midwest area's it could already be going. Around Stillwater there are many signs to show the flow is imminent.
 I was out walking this morning down by the river. I saw clover blooming on the lawns of some condo's in downtown Stillwater. More yellow sweet clover is blooming along Hwy 36. Large clusters of Birds Foot Trefoil are blooming also.
 My Basswood trees have opened their seed pods and the flower heads have dropped. The flowers have not opened yet. Maybe in 10 days to two weeks to open.
 Now is the time to get your supers on, if your hives are ready. You never know how intense the nectar flow will be. It may come on very strong and end quickly. It may start out slow that crank up to a higher level. It may start and last for several weeks.
 Supers go on two at a time. Check the hives once a week. A strong hive in a good nectar flow can take a new super with foundation, draw out the comb, fill the super with honey and cap the honey, all in one week. So stay ahead of the bees and you will be able to collect all the honey that the bees can give.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

What's Blooming Today

I was on my morning walk and saw the Black Locust trees in full bloom.
Black Locust trees are a little late this year. Normally the bloom around late May

I saw Yellow Sweet Clover Blooming on Hwy 36 in Stillwater
Also, I have some Birds Foot Trefoil bloomimg in my beeyard. I helped a neighbor look at his bees yesterday and he had a couple of Red Clover heads blooming. The nectar flow will be coming soon. Supers should be on strong colonies now.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Bee Strategy: Swarm Control And Putting Swarm Back In The Hive It Came From

This video is from the same time as catching a swarm video.
  Moving hives for swarm control. Strong colonies are switched with weaker colonies to help eliminate swarming. Also, the swarm is reinstalled to the colony it came from.

Catching a swarm

I got a call for assistance in catching a swarm. The swarm was in a Honeysuckle bush. Julie, the beekeeper was in her beeyard when it took off. The swarm was on the interior part of the Honeysuckle bush. The swarm was only three feet of the ground. Easy to get at, but not that easy to get to.
 The tarp or a sheet under the nuc box, makes it easier for the bees to crawl to into the nuc box after I shook them down off the branches and on to the ground. The tarp makes an easy trek for the bees instead of having to walk through a forest of grass and other plants.
 Julie asked me in the video if we should cut the branch off. My comment was no. The reason is, that for some reason the bees liked that branch. There may be future swarms that like that branch, low to the ground , easy to get to. If we cut off the branch the bees may not like what is left there and may decide that thirty feet up in a tree is better place to land from now on. So resist cutting off a branch on those low easy to get swarms.
 I do have a follow up video coming soon about how we put this swarm back in the hive it came from.