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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Saturday, September 29, 2012


Some of my colonies still need feed. The next week looks good for feeding. Next weekend looks cold. The colder it gets the harder it will be to get the bees to take the feed down. I am going to get out tomorrow and load up the colonies with syrup. The colonies that don't get fed will get a treatment of Mite Away Quick Strips for Varroa.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Last chance to comment to EPA to save the bees


Submit a public comment before the deadline on Monday urging the EPA to stop stalling, and take action to protect bees from the harmful pesticide clothianidin.

Deadline Monday: Tell the EPA to save the bees.

Dear Heidi,

The sudden bee die-off known as colony collapse has claimed about 30% of the U.S. honey bee population each year since 2006.

Scientists believe the pesticide clothianidin is at least partially to blame, but twice in the last year, the EPA has refused to intervene to review the pesticide's safety.

If we don't convince the EPA to reconsider, it will not review clothianidin again until 2018. By then it could be too late for the bees, and the one third of our food crops that bees play a crucial role in pollinating.

The EPA is currently accepting public comments on its latest decision not to declare bee die-offs an emergency situation and suspend the use of clothianidin. Now is a crucial moment to make our voices heard for the bees.

Tell the EPA: Stop stalling. Ban the pesticide that's killing bees. Submit a public comment to the EPA now.

The science of colony collapse is complex, but increasingly scientists are pointing to the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids — which includes clothianidin — as a major causal factor.1

The pesticide, which is used to treat seeds like corn and canola, expresses itself through the plants' pollen and nectar — the honey bees favorite sources of food. Neonicotinoid pesticides are relatively new, and their use coincides with the rise of colony collapse.

Astonishingly, clothianidin was approved by the EPA based on virtually no scientific study.2 Yet the EPA continues to allow its use.

Now, a group of senators have joined the call, writing a letter urging the EPA that waiting until 2018 to again review clothianidin and other neonicotinoids will be too late.3

There is no time to waste. Please submit a comment now urging the EPA to immediately suspend approval of clothianidin to protect honey bees and our food system:

Thanks for taking action for the bees, and safe food.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. "Pesticides and Honey Bees: State of the Science," Pesticide Action Network North America
2. "Leaked document shows EPA allowed bee-toxic pesticide despite own scientists' red flags," Grist, 12/10/10
3. "Gillibrand Calls for Expedited Review of Harmful Pesticides to Protect Honey Bee Health," Senator Kristin Gillibrand


Moisture boards

I do have moisture boards available.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Changes to the State Fair Bee Exhibit

 How the honey is displayed, extraction, live bee display, types of entries will change, how the whole display is in general is going to change. Everything is on the table. Any ideas to Dave is appreciated.  The time is short so comments need to come soon.
   People should direct their suggestions to dschaaf@gmail.com before this Saturday.
An opportunity like we've never had before...

As you've no doubt heard there are big changes ahead for the Bee & Honey Show.  Every year the MN State Agricultural Society, the governing body of the Fair, undertakes a major project.  Next year's project will be a renovation of the Ag-Hort building.  There hasn't been much official information released yet, but here's a brief mention from the MN State Fair Foundation, the main fundraising arm of the Fair:  http://www.msffoundation.org/pages/programs/agricultural.html

At the same time the building is renovated, the Ag-Hort superintendents are being asked to re-evaluate and update their exhibits.  There are good reasons for this.  The Ag-Hort building has remained static for some time.  The State Fair directors understand that to attract visitors they need to keep the Fair interesting, relevant, and current.  Our audience has changed.  The overwhelming majority of State Fair visitors are from the Twin Cities with no direct experience with agriculture.  We're being asked to make our exhibits more educational with this particular audience in mind.

Having just completed my first State Fair as Bee & Honey Superintendent, I have a better appreciation than ever of the rich history of the Fair, and the special place Bee & Honey occupies.  The efforts of many talented and dedicated people have built our Bee & Honey Show into one of the leading honey promotions in the nation.  I'm proud to be carrying on this tradition.

At the same time, I'm excited about the possibilities ahead.  We have a unique opportunity to raise our standing at the Fair.  I'd like Bee & Honey to be as iconic and sought after at the Fair as seed art and butter sculptures are now.  I'd like to bring our message to a wider audience.  This is our chance to take the show to the next level. 

Looking for big ideas...

We're brainstorming now.  Winnie Johnson has collected some of our ideas (attached).  This is an early draft and doesn't include our most recent ideas and changes.  Don't be startled by some of the things proposed.  Remember we're just brainstorming.  We're trying to propose big ideas.  It remains to be seen which ones will be accepted and implemented.

If you have any more ideas or suggestions I'd love to hear them.  No idea is too big or far fetched.  I need your ideas by Saturday Sept 22nd (sorry, not much time).  I'll be revising the proposal this weekend and submitting it to the Fair on Monday Sept 24th.

What's next ?... 

The Ag-Hort superintendents will meet sometime in October to go over everyone's proposal and get the process started.  It's going to be interesting.  I'll keep you updated.  Thanks for your input and for your ongoing support of the Bee & Honey Show.

David Schaaf
Bee & Honey Superintendent, MN State Fair

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Table at an Apple Festival

My table of honey and beeswax products at an Apple Festival.

Wax Moths

Wax moths webbing and larvae have wrecked this frame.
Photo S. Ramsey
Wax moths can be a hassle. They usually go after dark combs eating pollen and protein rich wax. They spread their webs across the combs and leave it a mess.
A beekeeper ends up replacing all the comb with new foundation.
Wax moths are a problem in MN from mid June until it starts cooling off in Sept. The only method of control is Para - Moth. The Para - Moth is put on top of a stack of boxes on newspaper and the stack is closed up. This will repel the moths from getting into the stack of boxes.
Putting the frames in the freezer for a few days is also good control, if they are caught early on before the wax moths get to far on the comb. Freezing temperatures kills the moth in all stages of development.
Mothballs are not acceptable for wax moth control.
As it gets cooler in Sept and into late fall wax moths have a hard time getting going in hives. Storing equipment outside in freezing weather will kill the wax moth. Storing equipment in an attached garage may prove to be too warm and the moth may continue to do damage.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Colder Weather Moving In

It looks like we are about to be slammed with some refreshing fall weather.
 Now is the time to put in entrance reducers to keep the mice out. I always put mine in the widest opening.
 It is too early for winter covers. I wouldn't even think about putting on the winter wraps until at least Nov 1st. Personally my covers go on Thanksgiving weekend, unless we are going to get dumped on with a snow storm.
Feeding can still go on now, but as it gets colder the bees won't take the feed as well. So feeding as soon as possible is always the best bet.
Several mite treatments are temperature sensitive. Apiguard and Mite Away Quick strips don't work well at all when daytime temperature stay in the 60's. The best option for this colder weather treatments is Hopguard.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pulling Honey

Tuesday is going to be 92 degrees. A perfect temperature to pull honey using a fume board with Honey Robber or Fishers Bee Quick. The warm temperature will make the bees leave the supers quickly.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What is going on right now

The nectar flow is over for most of us. The Goldenrod is waning and has lost its golden luster. Most beekeepers are pulling honey now or in the very near future. 
 Colonies have been looking good with nice hive populations. Mite levels on overwintered colonies have been very high and most need to be treated if they are going to survive the winter. New package bees installed in the spring, mite loads are mixed, many have had small mite loads, some with higher mite loads need to be treated.
 Some beekeepers have told me that their hives are heavy with winter stores while others say they need to get their hives up to wintering weight.
 In a perfect beekeeping world a hive set up for winter should be:
  • The top box should have 8 full frames of honey and one partially full frame located in the center. Some beekeepers did a reversal too late in early summer and put the heavy box on the bottom, this heavy box needs to be on the top.
  • Middle box on a three high hive or the bottom box on a two high hive should have four frames of honey. Two on the outside on either side.
  • Bottom box on a three high hive should have two frames of honey one on each side on the very outside of the box.
  • Do not leave a partially filled box of honey on top of the hive. The bees may move up into it in late winter and starve, even though there is honey below in the lower box.
Feeding is going on now. Some mite treatments make it hard to feed, others can be done at the same time. It is a good idea to get the feeding done as soon as possible. Feeding spurs the queen to lay eggs because it is an artificial nectar flow. Brood has a 21 day schedule from egg to emerging bees. So feeding should be completed by Oct 10th if possible.
 The goal is to have the bees shut down brood production before winter sets in. If brood is present late into early winter, the bees will consume more of their food stores keeping the brood warm. This can lead to late season starvation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Great Varroa Shot

Photo by D. Beck - Varroa riding on a honeybee

Robber with a mask

The dog was going crazy tonight. I thought it was a deer. Until I saw the varmint. He climbed a tree right next to my trail camera and went to sleep. I couldn't get the SD card out of it to see if I got his picture. I will check the camera tomorrow if the varmint moves along.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

White House Beer Recipe


More Honey

Tedd from Lake Elmo extracted his honey two weeks ago. He put his supers back on for the bees to clean up. The bees wound up refilling them with Goldenrod honey.
The Goldenrod flow seems to be spotty around the area. Some beekeepers getting a super of it, other beekeepers not much. The moisture content of the Goldenrod honey seems a little on the high side. I did check some Goldenrod honey today, the super was fully capped but the moisture content was still 19%. US grade A is 18.6% or less.