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, May 25, 2018

Hot Weather and Late May Happenings

The hot weather is upon us.
 Strong overwintered colonies should have their entrance reducers out. The hot weather may drive some bee out of the hive and they may be covering the front of the hive. The bees are hot and they try to cool themselves by hanging outside. This is normal behavior. After this hot spell, all beekeepers should go through their colonies and look for swarm cells. The heat may spur development of swarm cells. A quick check may keep the bees at home. If the top box has eggs in the box, do a reversal. Moving the queen down on overwintered colonies will give the queen more spaces to lay. Put your supers on if they are not on already.
 April Package bee colonies should all have their second box on by now. Package bee populations should be increasing and the frames will look more crowded. If drawing foundation, keep feeding syrup. When the bees have finished 80% of the second box and you are not going to add a third deep, remove one the frames and run nine frames, Do a reversal. Top box to bottom, bottom box to top. Put your supers on.
 If you are going to run three deep boxes, when the bees have finished 80% of second box, remove a honey and pollen frame that the bees are working on. Space out the nine frames evenly in the second box. Add the third deep, put the honey and pollen frame in the center of the third deep box. Keep the feed on, if you don't have a deep box to cover the feeder pail, use two supers. The populations are getting bigger, so there are more bees to to work faster. The bees may be able to draw out the third box in about ten days. When the bees have finished 80% of the top box, do a reversal. Top box to bottom, bottom box to top.
If the bees are delayed in finishing the top box in either a two or three deep box, if it gets past June 20th, do not do a reversal. If the top box is very heavy with nectar, that is the winter honey for the bees. It will be too late for a reversal. Put your supers on.
 Late May is a time of pollen dearth. The fruit bloom is almost over, if not over in your locale. I think in Duluth and northern MN it is underway right now. But for the metro area,  pollen availability will start to be much more sporadic. Pollen patties should be offered to the bees. They don't need full patties, a third to a half of a patty will give the bees a pollen option if they need it. Checking the pollen patty weekly and replace as needed.
 This pollen dearth may last until around mid June. By then we should start seeing more early summer flowers coming out.
 There will not be much nectar coming in for now either. Colonies should be checked weekly for honey stores. It can be as simple as lifting the hive boxes up. If one hive boxes feels heavy, there should be enough honey stores. If the boxes feel light, feeding should be done right away. It would be a sad day if the colonies starved at this stage of the season.
 Hives a building up, The nectar flow is about a month away. Keep the bees at home and there may be a big crop of honey in your future.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Hot weather coming, I mean swarming weather coming

Swarming on strong overwintered colonies is about to rear its ugly head. If you have a strong overwintered colony, swarm control measures should be in full practice. It is supposed to be in the 90's this weekend, and overcrowding and a hot hive is a fast we to get your bees up in a tree. The fruit bloom is winding down, so the nectar flow is going away. If you have a swarm trap or a single deep hive, now is the time to get it out and to an elevated position to hopefully catch a swarm. I would say by late next week, swarms will be reported in large numbers.
 Need bees? Contact Bob the swarm coordinator from the MN Hobby beekeepers association.
If you have a swarm on an easy to get at, low hanging branch. Don't cut the branch off. The bees for some reason liked this location and future swarms may go to this same branch. If you remove the branch, maybe swarms in the future will like the branch that is 20 feet in the air.

Why do bees swarm

Beekeepers are always wondering why their bees swarm. If we look at the causes it becomes easier to minimize the swarming behavior.
  • Old queen. A queen that has been through one winter is looked as an old queen to a colony of bees. Swarming is nature's way of replacing the old queen with a new queen. The odds of a colony making it through the next winter is greatly enhanced if there is a new young queen in the hive. The odds of a swarm making it through the winter is usually not very good in MN. Requeening an overwintered colony lessens this swarming impulse.
  • Heat/Overcrowding. An over wintered colony is always subject to overcrowding. Dividing a colony helps keep the numbers of bees more manageable. A strong colony is the ticket to a big honey crop. So swarm control management practices need to be employed. Keeping grass down in front of hives so the bees can cool their hives easier. Removing entrance reducers for better air flow. Giving bees more room. Boxes with foundation is not considered room. Bees usually will not occupy foundation boxes in large numbers unless they are being fed or a nectar flow is on. Drawn comb is considered room. Overcrowding can happen in any colony of bees if it is not being managed properly.
  • No nectar flow. Large colonies with no nectar flow can swarm at anytime. A bad nectar year kicks up swarming to a higher level. It is like the bees think they will not survive and leave for possible a better chance of survival.
  • Mites/Absconding. High level of Varroa causes absconding of a colony. This usually happens in late fall but can happen on an overwintered colony with a high mite count. Example, A colony inspected in early October may look great but a return inspection in mid October may reveal an empty hive with not a single bee in the hive. Treating for Varroa in mid August and again in late October, will usually prevent this from happening.
 Management practices of looking for swarm cell in colonies once a week starting in late May and through the month of June will help prevent swarming. Cutting out swarm cells before they are capped is proper management. Once a swarm cell is capped the colony usually swarms. Removing capped swarm cells will eliminate any queens from coming back into the hive. A new queen would need to be purchased to get a queen into the hive. Buying a new queen is usually a better fix than letting a hive make their own queen. A purchased queen will give a colony eggs in 10 to 14 days, and emerging brood in another 21 days, foraging bees in another 22 days. For a total of about 53 days before nectar can be collected from the purchased queen. During this time, there should have been brood in the colony when the bees swarmed, and the bees from this brood, would be emerging and foraging in both the purchased and swarm queen scenarios.
 The swarm cell queen emerges from the swarm cell 6 days after the hive has swarmed, 7 days until the queen can fly, 7 days to get mated, another 7 days before she starts laying.  So that puts new eggs in the hive around 30 days after the colony has swarmed. Another 21 days before new bees start to emerge. Another 22 days before the bees from the swarm cell queen can fly and start to forage. That is a total of about 70 days before nectar collection will start up again. If that happened today that would put starting to collect nectar at late July. The nectar flow will be starting to wane by then. The beekeeper would have to feed this colony a large part of its winter stores. Another negative. So the fix is to stop swarming.
  Colonies that have swarm cells can easily be fixed by cutting out all the uncapped swarm cells, then switch the colony's location with a weaker colony. This removes the large field force from the strong hive and gives them to a weaker colony. This removes the swarming impulse from the strong hive.
Example: Hive A is very strong and is making swarm cells. Hive B is a weaker hive or a new package of bees. Move the entire colony, put Hive A where Hive B is and put Hive B where hive A is. The field bees fly out and then return to the hive where the were before. Hive A gets weaker now with a smaller field force and loses the desire to swarm. Hive B gets stronger with the larger amount of field bees. Hive B now may make more honey than Hive A and it may have an increased risk of swarming.
 Swarming is always a challenging time of year but employing good management practices will keep the bees at home instead of in a tree somewhere.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


This bear took out three colonies up in the North Branch area.
The beekeeper put up an electric fence that should solve the problem

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Doing a Spring Divide

This is a Link to Gary's homepage. It is a great description on how to do a divide.
How to do a divide on an overwintered colony

Sunday, May 13, 2018

What is happening now in the hive

Wild Plums

Package Bees:
 Package bees are starting to build up. New bees should be emerging and the hive populations should be growing. Beekeepers who started their packages a month ago, should have their second box on now. When adding the second box, the entrance reducer should be increased to the bigger opening. If the hive is on foundation, feeding of syrup must continue so the bees can continue to make wax on the new foundation. Failure to feed, will delay the expansion of the hive and wax will not be constructed and the hive population will suffer. Pollen patties should still be on package bee colonies until around mid June.
 Package bees on drawn comb should be fed as needed. If there are several frames of honey from last season in the hive, say two to three full frames of honey in each box, no syrup is needed. Pollen patties should be offered for the next month.
Overwintered Colonies:
Overwintered colonies may be in several different situations. Some colonies are getting ready to swarm and should be divided. Some colonies are not quite ready to divide today, but will be ready to divide within the next week or so. Some colonies are too weak to divide and will not be able to divide this year but should still be able to build up for the nectar flow. The weak colonies should have at least four frames of bees and brood right now. Any thing less than this really needs a frame of brood added to the colony, to increase the hives population. Pollen patties should be offered to the bees. I usually put 1/2 a patty on the hives until about early June. This guarantees that the hive has pollen for the brood no matter what the weather is.
The bloom in May:
The spring flowers and fruit bloom is about 10 to 14 days behind schedule.
Right now dandelions are blooming everywhere. They are just getting going and should be more numbers blooming this week with the warm sunny weather. Strong Overwintered colonies should have supers on the hives right now. There is an opportunity of one or two supers of Dandelion honey. The fruit bloom is just starting to happen. Wild plums are blooming and the bees love the pollen offered. If you have some Wild Plums, they are usually form into a thicket. Take some time and stand in the flowering Plum trees, experience the sweet smell of the blossoms and watch the pollinators work the flowers.
 Right now is ice cream time for the bees. Especially in the urban and suburb areas. Dandelions, flowering crab trees, all variety of fruit trees, flowering shrubs are or will be blooming soon. There will be pollen available everywhere, some nectar from many sources. The huge variety of pollen should be able to give the bees a wide variety of protein and a balanced diet, to aid in the hives buildup of brood and bees.
This pollen and nectar flow should last about three weeks. After that there may be two weeks of very little pollen coming in until early to mid June. Pollen patties should be on during this pollen dearth.
 The weather is getting better, pollen is getting better, hives are getting better, the season if finally moving forward and everything is creeping towards the main nectar flow that will probably will start in late June or early July. It may be sooner if we get a period of unseasonal warm temperatures.

Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Wed, May 9th - Queens

We have received our shipment of queens.
Open today Wednesday, noon - 6pm