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, October 20, 2017

Wintering a beehive in the upper midwest

These are two videos of different winter covers and how to install them on the hive.
 Winter covers can be put on anytime after November first.
I usually put my covers on around Thanksgiving. But I watch the weather also. If there is going to be several inches of snow, I will run out and cover the hives.
A top entrance is imperative for wintering. If you don't have one, drill a 1" hole like in my previous post.
Wintering a hive, needs at least 8 frames of bees. Meaning at around 45 degrees, the bees would be covering both sides of 8 frames. I say 45 degrees because at that temperature the bees are more concentrated in the hive to get a more accurate judgement on the population strength.
 The other winter parameters are a young queen that has not gone through a winter yet. The top box should have eight full frames of honey with the ninth frame partially full, locate this frame in the center of the box. Put two winter patties on the top bars of the top box for emergency late winter feed.
 If your honey is under the cluster of bees like in the bottom box. The bees will not go down in the winter. They will end up starving. Also, do not leave any partially filled boxes on top of the hive. The bees may move up into this box, remember what I just said? The bees will not move down. Many new beekeepers do leave partially filled boxes on top, not realizing they are making a potential bad situation.
 This is one of the last chores for winter. Then the bees are on their own. A properly prepared hive with a low mite count, has a good chance at winter survival.

Cardboard Snug Fit

Bee Cozy

Winter Patties

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Queenless hive?

I had a customer call me looking for a queen. She went through her hive and could not find any brood. In a panic she was looking for a queen.
 After a short conversation about queen types, I learned she had a Carniolan queen. Carniolans shut down brood rearing in early fall. Right now if you looked in a Carniolan hive you should be broodless.
 If a hive is being fed syrup, that is a nectar flow and there more than likely brood in a colony that is being fed or was fed in the last two weeks or so.
 Italian queens will have brood into November. Especially if they have been fed.
 I have gone into Italian hives on Thanksgiving weekend and have found brood in the hive.
 All of this ties together about mites. Feeding should be done early so a hive can be broodless for the Oxalic Acid treatment. This beekeeper with the broodless Carniolan hive, will be able to get an excellent treatment of Oxalic Acid and it should prove to be very effective.
 Late feeders, who will have brood in the colony ( I am still feeding three colonies myself) the Oxalic Acid treatment may be a little less effective because of capped brood in the hive. But the treatment is still of great value and is worth doing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trail Cam Pics

Here is a few September trail cam pics
Doe is getting her darker brown winter coat

Forkhorn buck

Fawn has almost lost its spots

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Robbing this week

This coming week will be warm all week. Several days in the low 70's.
 This warm weather while very nice, can be a week of robbing. Now most of us that live north of the metro have had a killing frost. Most nectar plants have died from the frost. So the only nectar available is in a hive.
 Hard to say what has happened to the yellow jacket and hornet population. Did the freeze take them out? We will see if they are in the robbing mix.
 All beekeepers can do at the moment is to put in entrance reducers with the smallest opening.
 If mouse guards are on now, cover most of the holes with duct tape or a piece of wood. This will help the bees defend their hive and may minimize the robbing.
 After next week, cooler weather may be here for the duration of the fall. Robbing should become a non issue.

Friday, October 13, 2017

End of Season Chores

The bee season is winding down. Most beekeepers have extracted their honey, treated for mites and made sure their hives were heavy with honey. But what remains?
 If your hives are still light on feed, there is still time to feed some syrup. Next week the highs are in the 60's and even a couple 70's are forecast. 
The bees will take down syrup still.
After next week, the weather looks like it will be cooling off. Feeding syrup gets much more difficult when the highs are in the low 50's and 40's.
 So if you have some feeding to do, get it done asap. Consider feeding ProSweet. The bees don't have to convert it to honey, so the feeding goes faster.
 Oxalic Acid treatments can be applied anytime when the temperature is 40 degrees. It can warm up later in the day, just at the time of treatment it should be 40 degrees. At this temperature the bees are in a tight cluster and the treatment works the best. If the dribble method of oxalic acid is done when it is warmer than 40 degrees, the treatment may be much less effective because the bees may be spread out more in the colony.
 Using a vaporizer is more forgiving. The vaporizer coats the bees and equipment with  Oxalic Acid. The vaporizer does a little better treatment than the dribble method, but the dribble method works well when applied properly. 
 Entrance reducers or mouseguards should be in place now. Vermin will be trying to get into the hives now as the temperature cools. Three deep hives are more susceptible to mice compared to a two deep hive when the temperatures initially starts cooling off. In a three deep hive, the bees will cluster in the middle box leaving the lower box mostly empty of bees. With no bees to challenge the mice, the mice set up shop for the winter. In a two deep hive, there are bees in the bottom box to challenge the mice. But as it gets colder, the mice can still sneak into the bottom box and start to take advantage of rent free housing.
 Winter Covers and moisture boards:
 It is too early to cover hives for winter right now. Winter covers can go on anytime starting in November, I usually cover my hives around Thanksgiving. I watch the weather up until late November. If we are going to get several inches of snow, I will run out and put the covers on early. Once there is several inches of snow on the ground the daily temperatures cool dramatically. Temperatures in the 30's are not stressful for a colony. But when high temperatures are sneaking into the low 20's a winter cover should be on the hive.
 Top boxes need to have a 1" hole drilled in the box for a winter exit. This gives the bees the ability to go on cleansing flights over the course of the winter. The reason for hole is this: As winter progresses and the bees move up into the top box, they would have to travel down to go out the lower entrance, the bees will fly out and poop, fly back into the lower entrance and travel back to the cluster.  The bees will get chilled and die attempting to do this.
 The top hole is right where the bees are in the cluster. They can leave the cluster fly out, poop, fly back into the hole and the warm cluster of bees. There are always dead bees all around the front of the hive in the snow. This is normal. Remember, the hive start winter with around 40,000 bees. The population may fall by 50% over the course of the winter. If on March 1st the bees are totally covering at least four frames in the top box, that is a good number of bees to build up to a May divide.
 Winter is coming, the time is short, get the work done. The bees that get saved may be your own.

This is where I drill my holes in the hive bodies. One inch below the hand hold, center of the box.

I use a one inch auger bit. This type of drill with a screw thread on the end that pulls the drill through the wood. When drilling larger holes like this, the drill motor should be on the slow speed.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Drones being thrown out of the hive

Don't be surprised to see dead bees in front of the hives.
This is the time of year when drones are thrown out of the hive in big numbers.
Look close at the dead bees. The big eyes of the drone is an easy way to tell it is a drone. The workers are getting their hive ready for winter and this is one of the last chores to do before winter hits.