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.

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Friday, September 14, 2018

The warm weather, pulling supers, feeding and robbing

The current warm weather can be helpful to beekeepers. The nectar flow is over, now is the time to get the supers off the hive, if you haven't done so. Fume boards and honey robber will work great to pull the honey off the hive. Next week it will be cooling off and fumigants used to pull honey will not work as well.
 When the nights turn cool, a bee escape board will be very effective to get the bees out of the super.
 If a beekeeper leaves the supers on too long, the bees may start moving the honey down into their hives. If the honey is uncapped, the bees will move it down very quickly.
 This warm weather is perfect for feeding. The bees will empty feeders at breakneck speed. If there is a lot of feeding in your future, you will want to take advantage of the next four days. Get the feed on NOW. 
 Next week, around Wednesday it is going to cool down into the 60's for highs. As the weather turns cooler the bees don't take the syrup with the same vigor as when it is in the 80's.
 Robbing, this weekend robbing will be in high gear. Hot temperatures, bees, wasps, hornets all have large populations. Large population with large appetites.  It would probably be a good idea to put an entrance reducer in with the large opening in the entrance. This may promote bearding from a hot hive, but it may prevent robbing from getting out of control.
 I have heard of a couple hives already getting overcome by robbers. Hive killed, dead bees everywhere, hive robbed of all honey. Oh, the carnage.
 Do not put supers near a hive to have the bees clean them out. This can start robbing. Once the supers are empty, the robbers can turn on your hive(s). One by one your bee yard can be overtaken. Don't get the robbing started.
 If you have supers to clean up, take off the telescoping cover and set the supers on top of the inner cover and put the telescoping cover back on top. The bees will come up from below and clean out the supers. This will protect the honey from robbers and the hive will clean the supers out in about three days.
 The hurricane in the Carolina's are holding this warm weather pattern for a few days. Take advantage of this and try to get the chores done.

Saturday, September 8, 2018


Beekeepers are getting in their last chores of the season. Making sure a colony has sufficent stores for winter survival is one of the last hurdles to cross for getting the hives ready for wintering. A colony of bees eats about 12 lbs of honey a month. This is about a frame and a quarter of honey. When brood rearing starts sometime in February, the honey consumption will increase. We can feed syrup again in early March, so that is our target for food stores. While this is a general rule of food consumption, use of stores can increase or decrease by the size of the overwintering cluster.
 For wintering we would like the following, if you have checked them off already that is a good place to be.
  • Have a colony as mite free as possible
  • In a perfect world, we would like to see 8 full frames of honey and one partially filled frame, say about two thirds full. The partially filled frame is located in the middle of the top box. The reason for the partially filled frame is that when the bees move up in January, transitioning from the lower box into the top box, it is easier to move up on a little empty comb instead onto cold honey or frozen honey. The cluster can move up and warm up adjacent honey in the moving process. The box under the top box should have about four frames of honey. This should give them enough food for winter. 
  • Feeding should be done as rapidly as possible. Don't drag this out over six weeks. Feeding with a quart jar with six holes in the lid, does not cut it for fall feeding. Feed with multiple feeder pails or a hive top feeder. With 40,000 bees in the hive, feeders will get empty quickly. If colonies are close to being full, you can feed one colony, then three days later feed the next one. Or, if you have the feeders, feed them all.
  • Your choice of feed for fall feeding is 2:1 sugar syrup, two parts sugar to one part water. The bees will have to suck this down, store it in the cells, dehumidify it to turn it into honey. After the bees turn it into honey, the net amount of actual food will be about 2/3rds of what you put in. Meaning if you fed 10 pounds of 2:1 sugar syrup, your net of honey would be around 7 lbs.
  • Feeding with ProSweet. ProSweet is similar to honey. It weighs about 11.5 lbs per gallon. The bees can take down ProSweet and put it into the cells and they don't have to do anything to it. Put it in the cells and they are done. If you give the bees 10 pounds of ProSweet, they have 10 pounds of food.
How to feed fast:
Three feeder pails can be put right on top of the frames this time of year. The bees will drain them in about 3-4 days. Cover with and empty brood box and inner and tele cover.
Feeding with a top hive feeder:

Feeding needs to happen now. Feed fast and get it done. The longer we feed, the longer brood is in the hive. The longer brood is in the hive, the more mites we get. Feeding spurs brood production. Get the feeding done. We want the queen to stop laying, so when we treat with oxalic acid in late October, hopefully the hive will be broodless. With a broodless hive, all the mites that are left in the hive are on the bees. The oxalic acid treatment will put a serious hurt on any left over mites. Then the colony will be ready for the rigors of winter.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Are you getting behind the eight ball?

The bee season is winding down quickly. Freeze warning this morning in northern Minnesota. The cooler weather is upon us.
Behind the eight ball. A term, referring to the game of pool, meaning in an unfavorable or uncomfortable position

Now is the time:
  • To treat for mites. A graduate student did her work on Varroa studies. She concluded that if bees aren't treated for mites by Sept. 10th. the odds of the bees overwintering go down dramatically. Are you behind the eight ball?
  • Feeding: Do you have enough food in the hive for winter? The top box should have eight full frames and one partially full frame of honey. The heaviest brood box needs to be on top of the brood boxes. Having a heavy box on the bottom of the brood boxes will do nothing to help feed the bees in the winter, it needs to be on top of the brood boxes. If you do not have this you need to feed now. If your hive has not enough honey and you are not feeding, are you behind the eight ball?
  • Time is ticking by everyday. Get the work done now. If it cools down early, the bees may no longer take down feed. If they don't take down the feed, there will not be enough food for winter. Don't get behind the eight ball.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

We are getting close to last call for mite treatments

I hate to be alarmist. But, beekeepers who have not treated for mites, are running out of time.
 Right now the hives are starting to make winter bees. Winter bees will be the bees that live through the winter. Winter bees will be in the hive from early September until March.
 For hive survival, the bees need to be as mite free as possible. Having your winter bees heavily parisitized by mites will decrease the odds of winter survival.
Mites can be a vector for viruses into the bees. This can lead to a colony dying in late February or March.
 Taking the time now to treat for mites is the best solution.
 There are some beekeepers who let their bees die every year and get new packages of bees. This works for them. But, they too have to treat for mites. Beekeepers who do this and do not treat for mites are a big problem for the beekeepers that winter their bees. Untreated hives can spread mites to other colonies.
 This week the weather is perfect for using Formic Pro. If you are trying to get some late season honey, Formic Pro can be on your hive with supers on. Formic Pro is considered an organic treatment. Take the time and treat your bees. The $16.00 you spend today, may save you $120.00 in the spring.
 Here again is my video on using Formic Pro:

Monday, August 27, 2018

Bears are roaming into new area's now

This bear was in Pepin City WI.

This time of year is the start of bear mating season.
Two year old cubs are chased off by their mother. The females don’t have a problem staying in their home range. The young male bears are now in the breeding area of a dominant bear. They are forced to leave their home range or risk a confrontation with the dominant bear. This will lead to a fight and the young bear could be killed.
 These young bears are forced into new territories. Beekeepers that have never had trouble with bears in the past are much more prone to a bear attack now if they have never been hit before.
I always tell beekeepers, put a bear fence up now before the bears hit the hive or you end up paying twice.

Friday, August 24, 2018

Moisture Checking Honey

The definition of U.S. Grade A honey is, it needs to taste like honey and have a moisture (water) content of 18.6% or less.
 The way to tell what the moisture level is to measure the water content with a refractometer.
 There are many refractometers used in many different industries. Refractometers are used in the food, HVAC, and the machine tool industries to name a few. Refractometers can be specific to what is needed to be tested.
 In the honey world, we need a refractomer that is specific to honey. Other refractometers look the same but they would not work to measure water in honey. So if you see one for sale on EBay you better know what you are buying. Every year I have beekeepers bring me their refractometers because they can't read it. Only to find out that they purchased the wrong one.
 Refractometers do have to be calibrated with a glycerin calibrating solution. Not calibrating the instrument can lead to a bad reading and your honey may not be U.S. Grade A. A tiny vial of calibrating solution costs about $10.00.
 I have a high end refractometer, like the one below. I calibrate it every year at the start of the honey season. It is very accurate and holds its calibration very well. I usually never have to change the adjustment. When you get to cheaper refractometers, the need to calibrate them before each season is imperative.
 At Nature's Nectar LLC we do moisture check honey samples for free. If you can't drive here, you can mail me a sample and I will call, text or email the results back to you. I need a thimble size of honey for a sample. The sample should pretty much fill the container. Don't bring a thimble size container in a quart canning jar for example. Any humidity in the jar will absorb into the honey, making the test inaccurate.
 Refractometers sell for $75.00 up to over $400.00. The one below costs over $400.00. We do sell the $75.00 refractometer in our store and I will calibrate it for free if you buy it from us. No other bee store offers this service.

Honey Refractometer

This is the scale in this type of refractometer. You can see at the bottom of the scale that it is for honey. Read the line where the blue and white meets. This honey sample reading is about 19.3% water content. This type of refractometer has a temperature adjustment thermometer on the underside of the instrument.. When adjusted for temperature the final reading was 18.5%.