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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Monday, April 23, 2018


I do have a few queens available for emergencies and for package bee purchasers who are having queen acceptance issues.
The first shipment of queens will be starting next week. I will be getting weekly shipments of queens through the month of May.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Overwintered colonies

Overwintered colonies should be looked at now. Remove the winter cover and stow away until fall. The hive can be broke down to clean off the debris that is on the bottom board. This can be quite a bit, bring a box with you and put the debris in the box. Discard properly later.
 Give the hive a reversal as I described in a previous post. Check the egg laying pattern of the queen. Sometimes it is not uncommon to find that you are queenless and a new queen should be installed as soon as possible.
 If the queen looks good make sure there is a pollen patty on the top bars of every box. This makes sure that pollen is available to the bees on any level of the hive. It does not have to be a full patty, a 1/3 to 1/2 patty works. Replace as needed. There is natural pollen just starting to come in right now. But the bees have more than likely ransacked their stored up pollen, so pollen patties should be in place for a few weeks.

Looking at your package bees

By now all the package beekeepers should have their bees outside. The bees should be flying today and possibly bringing in some new found pollen.
 All package beekeepers should be looking at their bees 7 to 10 days after hiving the bees and looking for eggs. Seeing eggs in the hive is an indication that the queen has been accepted. Not seeing eggs in the cells is an indication that the queen has not been accepted for some reason and a new queen should be installed into the hive.
This pic shows all stages of egg, larvae and large larvae that is close to start capping. All the whitish liquid is royal jelly.
upper left is the egg, then incremental larvae growing, finally capped brood

Friday, April 20, 2018

Package bees

I will be getting 300 - 3 lb packages. Any of my customers that lost their bees during this unprecedented cold weather will be given the opportunity to purchase first. I am sorry you lost your bees but this is farming. Any farmer can lose their crop due to frost, too much rain, too little rain, hail, locusts and mites. We all roll the dice when we do farming activities. You need to call or email me today if possible so I can have a number to reserve.
 If anyone is thinking about ordering, do not mail me an order form. I may be sold out of these by tomorrow and the mail won't be here until Tuesday. Call or email me. I will answer the phone the best I can. Leave a message if I don't pick up, say your phone number twice. If my voicemail box gets full, email me what you want.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Put your bees out

The weather is gorgeous. Put your bees out. Best to carry them to their spot. Set them down. Open them up about two hours later. The bees will be pouring out of the open entrance right away. Best to open them up in the afternoon when it is warmer and they can fly and return.
 When package bees come to me, there is always loose bees on the outside of many of the cages. We collect them when it is cool and put them in a nuc box. If it is warm out when the bees come, we cannot collect them because they fly away.
 I took one of the nuc boxes outside last night, because it needed a queen. I couldn't open it up in my garage as the bees would have poured out in the garage. When I opened them up outside, fifteen minutes later, the bees poured out of the nuc. They settled down a short time later and I put the queen in. It was cooler out last night and I know some of the bees did not return. So releasing them when it is in the upper 50's should be warm enough for them to return.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Overwintered Hive update plus first check for 2 lb packages

Sorry my posting has been pretty lean during these two bee deliveries. The weather for bees has been terrible. The cold weather has made package bees installation more challenging. But, it looks like the weather is going the right direction and beekeepers that had to install their bees in warmer locations should be able to move them outside by Sunday. Long term weather outlook looks like no more deep freeze.
 Overwintered colonies are slowly moving forward. Strong colonies should be on schedule for a reversal, finally, this weekend. Weak colonies may not be able to reverse quite yet.
 To do a reversal on an overwintered colony, three deep hive. Bottom box to top and the top and middle box move straight down.
Like this: Box number
ends up
On a two deep hive, self explanatory, switch the two boxes.
 We should see pollen coming into the hives this week. Pollen patties should still be in place on over wintered colonies. Pollen this time of year can be a little unreliable due to cool weather. 
 Beekeepers that installed two pound packages will be able to check their hives this weekend for queen acceptance. The first check is for eggs. If you see eggs in a nice concentric pattern, with the queen hitting most of the open cells, then the queen should be good. Failure to do a check for queen acceptance can lead to problems. If the bees did not accept the queen, a new queen needs to be installed right away. Failure to put a queen in right away can lead to laying workers and possibly a failed hive.
Here is a video:

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Getting more packages - Update

I am getting more 3 lb packages. Italian or Carniolan. You may not have a choice. It will be one or the other. Delivery date of May 7th.
 I start taking orders on Friday of this week.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Monday pick up schedule - Please Read The Entire Post

 Many people have picked up their bees. There are about 250 people left to pick up. The bees need to be picked up tomorrow, Monday. The feeder cans are getting light so it is your responsibility to pick them up on Monday. I have a few exceptions that I am working with. The Monday pickup schedule has been modified to fit the whole alphabet. Please stick to the pick up schedule. We have to spread this out over the whole day to be able to help everyone in a speedy manor.

Monday, April 16th pickup schedule
M - O  7:30 - 8:30am
P - R       8:30 - 9:30am
S   9:30 - 10:30am
T - V  10:30 - 11:30am
Crew Lunch 11:30am - 12:30pm
W - Z  12:30 - 1:30pm
A - B   1:30 - 2:30pm
C - D   2:30 - 3:30pm
E - G  3:30 - 4:30pm
H - L and Open Time (if the above time is not possible)  4:30 - 7 pm

Sunday pick up

We are all plowed out and ready for customers starting at 7:30 am to 7 pm.
I think with the snow and everyone's situation is different on being able to get down their street. Today's pickup will be wide open, no schedule. First come first served. The bees need to be picked up soon,
We will be here today, Sunday or tomorrow, Monday.
There will be a crew lunch from 11:30 - 12:30. Please no customers then.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

If you want to pick up bees today

If anyone wants to pick up bees today. Please call for an appointment. 651-439-8793. We will be scheduling appointments on the quarter hour slots. e.g. 9 am -  9:15 - 9:30 etc.
I need appointments so I don't have 100 people here at once.
We will schedule from 9 am to 2 pm. Then snow is supposed to pick up again.
Plan your route with the existing road conditions to best meet your time.

Thursday, April 12, 2018

3 lb delivery update - Read this whole post

The delivery date has changed for the beekeepers who were on the Saturday schedule. Saturday pickup is now moved to Monday. 
Please stick to the delivery schedule.
The bees will be arriving sometime on Friday. We will be open for the distribution of bees after the truck is unloaded.
This is how the weekend will go:

Saturday: Closed because of snow, No Handing Out Of Bees We will keep our eye on the forecast. Sometimes a spring winter storm can fizzle out, we will keep looking for changes in the storm.
The beekeepers scheduled for Saturday will be moved to Monday

Sunday:  We will update this post Sunday morning.

Tentative Bee Day Pick-up Schedule
We will go by the first initial of your last name (those further than 100 miles away may come at any time):

Sunday, April 15th (tentative)
D- E  7:30 - 8:30am
F   8:30 - 9:30am
G   9:30 - 10:30am
H - I  10:30 - 11:30am
Crew Lunch 11:30am - 12:30pm
J 12:30 - 1:30pm
K 1:30 - 2:30pm
L  2:30 - 3:30pm
M  3:30 - 4:30pm
Open Time (if the above time is not possible)  4:30 - 7 pm

Tentative Bee Day Pick-up Schedule
We will go by the first initial of your last name (those further than 100 miles away may come at any time):

Monday, April 16th (tentative)
N - O  7:30 - 8:30am
P        8:30 - 9:30am
Q-R   9:30 - 10:30am
S  10:30 - 11:30am
Crew Lunch 11:30am - 12:30pm
T-V  12:30 - 1:30pm
W-Z 1:30 - 2:30pm
A   2:30 - 3:30pm
B   3:30 - 4:30pm
C and Open Time (if the above time is not possible)  4:30 - 7 pm

Sunday, April 8, 2018

3 lb delivery, are scheduled for this coming weekend

Off Loading a Pallet Of Package Bees
The 3 lb delivery of bees are scheduled for this weekend. I do not have a pickup schedule yet. The weather for this coming weekend looks rainy, windy and cold. If it comes in a little cooler it could possibly be a snow event.
 The delivery truck should be leaving California on Wednesday. Not sure of weather impact on the delivery route yet.
 I am not sure how to approach the bee pickup yet. I want to wait a day to make a decision on the pickup schedule.
 Many factors not clear at the moment, please check this blog everyday for possible scheduling updates and possible delivery date changes.

Thursday, April 5, 2018

Driving to Nature's Nectar LLC

The 2 lb package bee pick up schedule is a couple posts down. Scroll down to see the bee delivery schedule. Please look at and follow the pick up schedule. We need to spread people throughout the day to be able to help everyone in a speedy fashion. To familiarize everyone what it looks like at our location these are two videos of what the road looks like one mile from Nature's Nectar LLC. Just pretend it is all white instead of green.

Coming from the south driving north on Manning :

Coming from the north driving south on Manning:

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Transporting and care of bees

I anchored the bottom board to the bottom deep box with a short 1 x 4, I put gorilla tape over the entrance reducer. Also I took 3 ft long 1 x 4 for carrying handles and screwed them to the side of the bottom brood box. This can be a good setup for garage installing.

I removed the top box and feeder pail. Put the tele cover back on. Now I can carry this out of my garage and to my beeyard easier at a later date.
The 2 lb package bee pick up day will be this Saturday. Scroll down this page for pick up schedule. Please follow the pickup schedule it is the best way to quickly pass out bees. If everyone came at the same time it would take several hours to help you. When the pickup schedule is followed, the wait time is usually five minutes.
It will be cold when the bees come in. I don't like it either.
When you pick up your bees:
  • Please no trailers
  • Make sure your car is cleaned out
  • Transport the bees inside the vehicle if possible
  • Do not put them inside a small box or cover them, they can overheat and die
  • They bees can ride in your backseat. Put down cardboard on the seat. The cages may be sticky.
  • We do our best to brush the bees off the cages. 
Care at home
If you are not going to put the bees in right away, put the bees on a large piece of cardboard in your basement. Your garage may bee too cold. 60 degrees is perfect.
  • Feeding bees in the cage can be done by spraying the cage with sugar syrup and a spray bottle. Spray the cage where the bees are clustered, you can see them clustered in the cage. Get the cage wet, don't drown them, top of cage and sides and walk away. Come back after 1/2 hour and wet the cage again, wait 1/2 hour and do it again. If the bees are not going in the hive right away, feed them twice a day.
  • Feed the bees like this about two hours before they are installed in the hive. This will help the bees produce heat if their gut is full of syrup.
  • You can keep the bees like this for about three days. After that you will start seeing dead bees in the bottom of the cage.
Installing bees in the garage. You can put your bees in a hive in your garage.
  • Prep the hive by anchoring the bottom board to the deep box.This will make it easier to move later. Screw a 1 x 4 to the bottom board and the brood box. use about three screws in the bottom board and three screws in the brood box. Do both sides of the hive. Or, search my blog for moving hives and look at the picks on how I anchored the box and bottom board together.
  • Have your entrance reducer in. Duct tape across the entrance, totally covering the entrance reducer. Do a Red Green tape job. You want to make sure the bees stay in the hive.
  • Install the bees. No spray if it is cold in the garage. 
  • Move the bees outside in a few days when it warms up to the forties. 
  • Take the feeder pail off and remove the top box, put the cover back on, when moving the bees to their outside location. It is easier to move them in the one deep box.
  • I screw 2 - 1 x 4's about 4 feet long to both sides of the deep box. This creates two lifting handles and two people can easily move the box together.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

First Delivery - 2 lb Packages

First delivery is only 2lb packages. Keep checking this blog for updates as the date can still possibly change. PLEASE READ THIS ENTIRE POST IF YOU ORDERED BEES FOR THE FIRST DELIVERY.  The second delivery is April 14th and is all 3 lb packages. 

April 6th 
The bees are scheduled to arrive sometime on April 6th. The arrival time is not known so please watch the blog for an announcement that we are ready to distribute packages. No bees will be distributed prior to announcement on blog. This pick up will be first come, first served. Do not come here before it is announced that the bees are ready to pickup. You will be asked to leave. You cannot park out on the road.

April 7th 
Bee Day! Schedule is below.
Saturday, April 7th will be the main pick up day and we will follow the schedule below. If everyone came at once there would be several hours wait to get your bees. With the schedule, everyone is spread out over the course of the day and wait times are very short. The store will be closed on Bee Day. Limited supplies will be available and are listed at the end of this email.

Bee Day Pick-up Schedule
We will go by the first initial of your last name (those further than 100 miles away may come at any time):
N - R  7:30 - 8:30am
S        8:30 - 9:30am
T - Z   9:30 - 10:30am
A - B  10:30 - 11:30am
Crew Lunch 11:30am - 12:30pm
C - D  12:30 - 1:30pm
E - G  1:30 - 2:30pm
H - J   2:30 - 3:30pm
K - M  3:30 - 4:30pm
Open Time (if the above time is not possible)  4:30 - 7 pm
Bees will also be available for pick up on Sunday, April 8th. Check the blog the morning of the 8th for any changes in the pickup schedule.
Our bee supply store will be open on Monday April 9th.
Supplies available for purchase on Bee Day (sales tax is included in pricing):
Pollen Patties (2 patties) -- $9.00
Pollen Patties (10 patties) -- $37.00
Pollen Patties (40 lbs) -- $80.00
Feeder Pails -- $7.00
ProSweet Syrup -- $45.00
We will not take credit or debit cards on bee pick up days.

Saturday, March 31, 2018

Frame setup for package bees

This is a pic of an existing hive setup for package bees. The frames in this case,  are already drawn out comb, six mostly empty frames and three frames full of honey. I know the pic has only eight frames drawn on the box, put in nine. The ninth frame should be empty and go with the three empty frames in the middle of the hive. I would still feed one pail of syrup. The bees will put the sugar syrup where they want it, around their new brood. After that one pail of syrup, I would not feed. There is ample honey in the hive for a month. A pollen patty needs to be put on the top bars. Move the frames of honey indoors a few days before the bees come, so the honey frames are warm.
 Giving the bees cold frames of honey, may not be  good idea.

Another cold weather installation video.

This is another cold weather package bee install. I did not use sugar spray on the bees. Also, I used a marshmallow for releasing the queen.
 First I remove four or five frames out of the hive. The bees are then dumped into the hive from a plastic bee cage (which is the style of cage that is coming with the bees).  The bees are spread out across the bottom board with a hive tool. Then I take the queen, remove the cork and stick a mini marshmallow in the cork hole. I hold the queen cage down into the mass of bees to get several bees on her cage. The cage is then put under a rubber band that has been put around the frame. The queen cage is slipped under the rubber band, screen down. The rest of the frames are put back into the hive. This works on a five frame nuc box or a 10 frame box. In all cases the bees are put into a single box. I think the video explains the process. You may lose a few bees in the process but that will not impact the end result.
Feed syrup with a feeder pail. Do not use an entrance feeder or a hive top feeder.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Cold weather bee installation

I made this video a couple years ago but never published it. I felt it was appropriate for the cold weather that we will be having with the bees coming in a week. It looks like the weather will be in the 30's when the bees arrive.
 I used a 5 frame nuc box, but a 10 frame box can be used. The bees can keep a five frame nuc box warmer easier. With a 10 frame box it is important for the sun not to warm the side of the hive. When the sun warms the side of the hive, the bees may move to that warm side. This may cause them to be off the feeder pail and starvation can occur. This is one reason that bees are put in after 6 pm when the sun is not shining on the side of the hive. 
 Beekeepers need to install their bees with no sugar spray. Getting the bees wet with sugar water may harm them. The bees may be chilled and will not get off the bottom board.
 It would be great to start the colony with one frame of drawn comb with sugar water sprayed into the cells. If you are feeding bees frames of honey, from a dead hive. Bring the honey frames inside your house several days before the bees are to be installed so the honey can warm up. It can take a couple days for the dense honey frames to warm up. Do not use cold honey frames in your hive. The dense honey will radiate cold for a couple days after the bees are put in the hive and may chill the bees and harm them.
 I had a wooden cage at the time of this video. All the package bees now are plastic.
Double click on video for full screen

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Bee Delivery Update

The bee delivery dates that I posted
April 7th - 8th - 2 lb packages and
April 14th and 15th - 3 lb packages
I did talk to our bee supplier this afternoon to firm up the delivery dates. He told me everything looks good as scheduled.
Please check this blog daily starting next week in case there is a change in the delivery dates due to weather.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Online shopping at Nature's Nectar Online

Nature's Nectar online is now up and running. It is being run by Tom and Jessie Minser out of North Branch, MN. We are supplying them with equipment and are testing the waters on how well this online store will work out with our customers. Not everything we sell is on the website but more will be coming if it looks like this is what our customers want. Check it out.

Are you ready for bees?

Our first delivery of bees is less than two weeks away.
Remember, on the days we are passing out bees, our store will be closed.
We will only be selling pollen patties, ProSweet Syrup and feeder pails.
Brush up on your bee installation process:
  • Best to install bee after 6 pm.
  • Grass in the entrance. We want to hold the bees in the hive overnight. Also if the bees are installed early in the day and they can get out because there is no grass holding them in, they can abscond and they will not be coming back. That is why we put them in at 6 pm when it is getting on towards night or anytime, if it is going to be raining all day. Bees don't fly at night or in the rain.
  • If you are feeding frames of honey. Bring the honey indoors to warm up for a few days. Put the honey in the bee boxes right when you will be putting in the bees.  Otherwise the frames of honey, left outside, will be radiating cold for several days. This may hurt the bees if it stays on the cold side.
  • If it is less than 50 degrees, you may not want to spray the bees with syrup. When it is cold, if the bees get chilled from the sugar water spray, they may not get off the bottom board and may not survive.
  • This goes for queen also. Get a big rubber band that goes around a frame. The queen cage can use a marshmallow release instead of spraying the queen on a cold day. Put the queen cage under the rubber band near the top of the frame in the center of the hive. Dip the cage into the mass of bees on the bottom board after dumping the bees in the hive. Get about 6 to 8 bees on the cage, then slip the cage under the rubber band. The bees will keep the queen warm will they are waiting for the rest of the bees to climb up the frame.
  • Do not use an entrance feeder. If it is cold, the bees cluster at the top of the hive. If it is cold, the bees will not break cluster and they will not be able to reach the syrup at the hives entrance feeder and may starve. A pail feeder is the best choice because the bees will cluster underneath the pail.
  • If you have all empty drawn comb to start your colony. Spray some warm syrup into the cells of the center frame under the feeder pail. When the bees crawl up on the frame, they will have syrup to eat and can then produce heat easier. 
  • I will be posting a few videos over the next week that demonstrates these methods.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Honeybees at the Joshua Tree National Park

Jason found these wild honeybees in a downed tree at Joshua Tree National Park.
Desert country in California.

Monday, March 19, 2018

A little cool still

Our weather while warming up some and giving us some melting, is still cool enough to leave on our winter covers.
 Not much has changed on our hive routine at the moment. Pollen patties on, check food stores for proper food supplies. Feed syrup if necessary. Don't overfeed. The weather should improve as we get to the first of April.
 Looking ahead,  around the first of April to remove winter covers. Reversals should be able to be done around this time as well.
 Beekeepers are not doing much right now, the bees are doing it for us. The queen is busy on an early spring build up. The queens egg laying has been increasing all month. The pollen patties we are giving the bees and the increased egg laying, should bring beekeepers healthy spring divides in May.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Package bee delivery date update

Looks Like the delivery date is a little different than previously stated.
First delivery, all 2 lb packages - April 7th - 8th
Second delivery, all 3 lb packages - April 14th - 15th
We will now be open on Wednesday noon - 6pm

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Spring Mite Strategy

As colonies start their spring build up, once again mites are on the minds on most beekeepers.
 As colonies get more populated with the increased brood production, there is also increased mite production.
 Colonies should be treated for mites before divides are done in the month of May. It is better to treat the overwintered colony before doing a divide, than treating them after the divide is made. This is more costly for the beekeeper than if they would have treated before the divide.
Two different mite treatments are the best for spring treatments. Formic acid - Mite Away Quick Strips / Formic Pro or ApiVar.
 Mite Away Quick Strips and Formic Pro can be applied in late April or early May. Proper temperatures are needed to assure a good treatment is delivered. Colonies should have large populations when using formic acid. The vapors can be intense and could injure brood and possibly the queen. Colonies with smaller populations may not be able to split, formic acid treatments may have to be delayed until hive populations increase.
 If ApiVar is used for mite treaments, ApiVar should be put in the hive in late March, around March  20th. ApiVar is a 42 day treatment. The treatment will be complete by May 1st. ApiVar is an opaque strip treated with Amitraz. Two strips are put into the brood area. There is a possibility that the cluster may move during treatment and the strips will have to be relocated to where the cluster is located. ApiVar comes in 10 strip or 50 strip packages. The active ingredient is micro encapsulated on the strips.
 Having a plan for springtime mites will make healthy bees, healthy divides and good hive populations for the summer nectar flow.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

3 lb packages update

We picked up the mail today and there were over one hundred packages ordered.
If anyone wants a three lb. packages, you should call us directly. By the time the mail comes in another day or two we will be out of bees.

Tentative package bee delivery dates

Bee Delivery Truck
These are the tentative bee delivery dates. The dates may change due to weather. But at this time these are the dates we are planning on.

2 lb packages first delivery, April 7th - 8th

3 lb packages second delivery, April 14th - 15th

We will be publishing a pick up schedule when we are near the delivery date. 

Right now we are still selling 3 lb packages but they are going fast. If you need bees you better do it very soon. We have about 10% left to sell.
We are sold out of 2 lb packages.

Saturday, March 3, 2018

Package Bee Update

We are sold out of 2 lb packages.
We are still taking orders for 3 lb packages.

Thursday, March 1, 2018

It is pollen (yes) and feeding (maybe) time

It is almost time to put on pollen patties. Anytime starting this weekend should be OK. Always put the patty where the bees are. The bees need to be touching it. They will not travel much of a distance to get it. A strong overwintered colony should get a full patty and may eat it all in ten days. Once pollen patties are put on the hive they need to be replaced before they are all gone. The bees will increase brood production and they will need the pollen.
 A strong overwintered colony may use three to four full pollen patties. Possibly more than that if the spring season is wetter than normal, keeping the bees in the hive. Plus, a pollen patty should be placed on a hive around mid May because the fruit bloom may be over and there may be no large amounts of pollen available until early June.
 If the bees have not moved up into the top box, the pollen then needs to go between the boxes where the main cluster is. If this is the case you may want to put pollen on top of both boxes.
 Feeding syrup. Feeding can be done now only if the bees need it.  Feed 1:1 sugar syrup or ProSweet syrup. Do not overfeed. The bees will plug the hive with syrup if the beekeeper keeps feeding pail after pail of syrup. This will leave no place for the queen to lay. and will impact the hives population.
 Lift up the top box off the hive a few inches above the hive to feel the weight. If it feels light, feed, if it feels heavy, don't feed.
 I wouldn't pull frames yet and look at the brood. A little cool for that.
 When looking at your hive as the patties go on. The population should have about four frames of bees. Carniolans may have three frames of bees. Anyting less than this population may mean you colony is too weak and may not build up to a viable colony without an addition of bees. If you have multiple hives, a frame of brood can be added to this weak colony later in March. Then add another frame of brood in early April. A reassessment will then be needed to see if the hive needs more brood later in April.
 If there is only two frames of bees in a hive right now, I would call the colony dead. This is because this hive will never build up to a good population probably until late summer. This type of hive will be a total liability. It will never put up enough food for winter and the beekeeper will need to feed it all of its winter stores. This weak colony may be compromised by mites and may fizzle out by the month of May leaving the beekeeper with nothing.
 It would be best to shake out this weak hive in the snow and start again with a new package of bees.
 This can be troublesome to some beekeepers, but this is farming and to be successful at farming, sometimes the herd has to be culled.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

2018 University of Minnesota Bee Class

The University of Minnesota Bee Class 2018. Welcome to the newest beekeepers in Minnesota. 240 students.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Open Longer Hours

We are now open:
Friday noon to 6 pm
Saturday 9 am to 3 pm

Monday, February 12, 2018

Wednesday colony check?

Looks like 40's on Wednesday. Good time to check colonies.
 When it is above 25 degrees and not windy, it is not a problem to open a colony for a quick check.
What to look for: whenever you open a colony in the winter, having a plan on what to look for before the top is pulled off.
  •  Alive or dead. This is obvious, but sometimes the bees are down deep in a hive and may be alive. No bees on top? Look deep in the boxes.
  • Colony strength, Right now we would like to see at least four frames of bees in the hive. Most colonies should have bees in the top box. The cluster should be spread out over four frames. A Carniolan queen hive may have threes frames of bees, this is fine. Carniolans winter a smaller cluster and build up very quickly. Sometimes a hive can cover the top of the frames in the hive and looks fine for population. In reality, that is all the bees there is in the hive. To get a good idea that there is a good population, leave the inner cover and moisture board on, break the top box loose. Lift up one side of the box and teeter it back. Look underneath the top box. If you have bees covering four frames to the bottom of the top box, that is a good population.
  • Food stores. For me the best way to judge food stores is to slip off the winter cover, I leave the inner cover and moisture board on. Break the top box loose with the hive tool and lift the top box off the lower box. This will easily tell the weight of the colony. If the hive box feels heavy you should be good. If it feels light, feeding is on the horizon. If the hive feels empty of food and very light, starvation can be near. Winter patties can get a colony to limp along for the short term before we can feed syrup in a couple weeks.
  • Order new bees. If you colony has two frames or less of bees consider them dead. Weak colonies struggle along and can't get their population to move forward. They will not build up to a productive colony without addition of bees from another colony. 
  • Great bee strategy. If you have a couple hives and have one hive alive or are expanding to a second colony. Some beekeepers plan on doing a divide to expand their colonies. Sometimes colonies do not come through the winter strong, and at divide time the colony cannot be divided. Now the other hive sits empty. Here is the strategy. Purchase a 2 lb package for the empty hive. Install the bees in the empty hive. If the overwintered hive can be divided, the divide can be added to the package. This will assure that all the hives will be filled with bees. The package hive will get very strong. No queen will need to be purchased for the divide. The stronger colony will produce more honey than a package or divide could make. The extra honey the colony makes should offset the cost of the package. Do the math. Package around $128.00 including tax. You don't need to purchase a queen for the divide, cost of a queen $35.00. Now we are at $93.00. If you got an extra super of honey because of the stronger colony, which is about 40 lbs of honey worth at least $2.50 lb that's $100.00.  Package bees paid for. I have had several beekeepers use this strategy and they have commented to me on how well it worked.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Hive Location

I was driving up near Finlayson this morning. I noticed a temperature contrast that was worth noting. Driving on I-35 the temperature was about 1 below in Forest Lake.
 As I continued driving north the temperature was cooling off. By the time I got to the Finlayson exit, the temperature was 6 below. As I traveled west on Hwy 18 the road took a few dips. The temperature in the bottom of the dips was 14 below. As I came out of the dips the temperature rebounded to between 6 below and 9 below.
This is a good lesson when locating hives. Avoid low spots. Cold air runs like water. If a hive is in a lower spot and is surrounded by trees and brush. The vegetation will hold the cold air. If the brush was cut in a fashion that forms paths. The cold air can possibly leave and not settle in on frosty mornings.

Monday, February 5, 2018

What is happening in the hive right now.

The winter is moving forward, now it is early February and beekeeping spring is about 30 days away. Beekeeping spring is when we can feed pollen patties and syrup (if needed) to our overwintered colonies.
 Right now the bee cluster should be up in the top brood box. The exception to this if your hive was very heavy with honey. The bees may still be in the lower box. But, for most of us the bees should be up. In most cases the queen has just started to lay a few eggs or will be starting very soon. The bees will be uncapping and consuming honey. When they start opening capped cells of honey, there should be pollen under some of the capped honey (if you did reversals on your colony last early June). The pollen will help stimulate brood rearing. If you don't think you have pollen under the cells in your hive, just solid honey, you may want to throw a pollen patty on, around Feb. 20th or so. If you did a reversal or two last spring, I would not put pollen patties on until early March.
 Don't put pollen on too early, pollen patties can get the colony moving forward too fast. Putting pollen on too soon leads to increased consumption of honey and in some cases, results in huge hive populations in late April. This can lead to early swarming before queens are available for divides. Think about timing and what you did last year before putting pollen patties on. Once pollen patties go on, you need to keep them on through spring.  
 As we get into the start of brood rearing, this is the time when bees can starve if the weather gets cold.  This week is going to be cold, if the queen has started to lay, I wouldn't worry about starvation because of small amount of new brood in the hive this week. But anytime after the February 10th is around the time when most hives have brood in the hive. There won't be frames of brood, but one side of a frame will be getting eggs laid on it. Being it takes 21 days for brood to hatch, as time goes on, more sides of frames will start having brood on them as the queen starts increasing her egg laying.
 Starvation can occur in February when there is brood present and we have weather that is near zero or below for three or more consecutive nights. The cold weather makes the cluster of bees contract to a tighter cluster. The tighter cluster is needed to maintain a 96 degree temperature over the brood. If the bees have consumed honey off the frame(s) of brood, the bees have to go to the honey that maybe a frame or two away from the brood. The brood can't move, so the bees have to move to the honey. When it is cold for several days in a row. The cluster  moves off the honey, to maintain the proper brood rearing temperatures. Moving off the honey for several days can result in starvation, even though honey is one frame away. This is the time of year when winter patties, candy boards or even granulated sugar on wax paper laying on the top bars of the top box can possibly prevent starvation. If the weather in February, is around the normal highs and lows, most colonies will be fine.
 By the end of February, most hives will have a couple frames of brood in the hive. Maybe more if their population is large and they can cover and feed that large amount of brood.
 Our hives are changing, soon it will be time to dust off that bee suit.

Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Saskatraz Queens

  I talked to my bee supplier today Ray Olivarez. He was talking Saskatraz queens.
He says he has Saskatraz queens in about half of his operation of 16,000 colonies. He has been really pleased with how the queens have worked.
Saskatraz queens when they were being developed, part of the criteria was being sustainable. Sustainable meaning they are better dealing with mites, honey production and winter survival. What Ray has found that his bees have been much healthier. Being that the bees are in the Almond groves of California, fungicides are widely used to protect the blossoms of the Almond tree. Honeybees have been getting injured by the fungicides. Ray has noticed that the Saskatraz have been able to handle the fungicides much better. Ray also feels, in his opinion, that the Saskatraz queens seem to be better dealing with Deformed wing virus.
 Olivarez Honey Bees is the exclusive producer of Saskatraz Queens in the U.S.
Ray gets breeder queens from The Sakatraz producer in Saskatchewan, Canada. So the only companies selling true Saskatraz queens are Olivarez Honey Bees and his trusted sources https://www.ohbees.com/collections/hobbyists-sideliners
 Ray says the orders for Saskatraz queens have been through the roof, over 70% of his orders for packages and queens are for Saskatraz.
 Some queen producers are trying to raise Saskatraz off production queens. The resulting quality do not have all the vigor and vitality of a true Saskatraz Breeder Queen from Saskatchewan. Any beekeeper purchasing these queens, are not getting true Saskatraz queens and are getting a queen that does not have the attributes of the real deal.
 Nature's Nectar LLC is pleased to be the only seller of true Saskatraz queens in the state of Minnesota. We have noticed the Saskatraz are outselling Carniolans and Italians. This is the hottest selling queen around the country right now. We are getting more beekeepers who used to by their bees elsewhere buying from Nature's Nectar LLC, they see the value of purchasing Saskatraz queens. They realize, spending a little more, for a better queen, is worth it.

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Sign of Spring

After the big dump of snow and the bone chilling cold of a short time ago. Beekeepers are looking forward to be able to dig in their hives. While beekeepers need to be patient for the short term. Spring is coming.
 I was out shoveling today. The bright sunny day after all that snow. It was quite beautiful with all the snow still hanging on the tree branches and the fresh new undisturbed snow. The glare of the sun off the snow, being hard on the eyes. But the sunny winter day brought out the chickadees mating call. Fee-Bee Fee-Bee.
 Finally a sign of spring. Also right now Great Horned Owls will be nesting now. Sometimes early in the morning before it gets light, I can hear the Owls hooting.
 Take some time in these next few warm sunny days, stop and smell the roses. Listen for the chickadees. If you live in a rural wooded area, walk outside before it gets light and listen for the owls.

Monday, January 22, 2018

The heavy snow

If you experienced a big snow dump at your place like I did. About 9 inches at 6 pm with more coming.
 If the hives get buried with snow, it is usually not a problem. The snow will add some insulation to the hives. It doesn't look like big cold after this storm as would be normal after a January snow storm. Warm weather will be following the snow. With the black covers and warm sunny days expected, the snow will melt quickly from around the hives.

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Two More Bee Classes

This class is a year in beekeeping.
Taught by Mike Mackiewicz. Mike is an experienced beekeeper. He has kept bees for many years. His class covers a wide variety of subjects that every beekeeper can use.
More info: A year in the life of bees. 
 A year in the life of bees click this link for more info.
Class schedule for the entire 2018 season:                                              
  • February 25:  Introduction to Organic Bee-Keeping
  • March 25:  Building Hives Boxes and  Frames/Equipment Overview
  • April 22:  Setting up Hives and Installing  Bees/ Splitting Second-Year Hives
  • May 20:  Hive Day/Planning Flower Power for Pollinators
  • June 24:  Hive Day/ Assessing Honey in the Hives
  • July 22:  Hive Day/Mite Controls
  • Aug 26:  Extracting Honey
  • Sept.23:  Making Mead, Autumn mite assessment
  • Oct. 28:  Beeswax, Winterizing the Hives, WEI Swarm Party Celebrating Honey
The next class is:
Beekeeping Basics
Tamarack Nature Center
Sunday, January 28, 2018; 1:00-4:00 p.m.
$25 per person
For adults and older teens (16 and older)
Pre-registration is required: www.tamaracknaturecenter.org
This is a beekeeping class for the curious! Come find out why there’s so much buzz about bees everywhere and determine if beekeeping might be in your future. This is not a comprehensive class for new beekeepers, but it will definitely get you headed in the right direction. We’ll discuss basic bee biology and ecology, beekeeping tools and equipment, the costs associated with beekeeping, and bee resources available in the Twin Cities. Plus, honey tasting will be part of our sweet afternoon snack!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Honeybee Netflix documentary

Netflix has a good documentary series called Rotton.
The first episode is about honeybees. They talk about struggles of a beekeeper, adulterated honey and how it happened and the theft of several thousand beehives over four years.

More Bee Classes

The Art of Beekeeping (In Northern Climates)

January 27, 8:00 am - 6:00 pm $40.00
North Branch Area High School, 38175 Grand Avenue
North Branch, MN 55056 United States
+ Google Map

Is Beekeeping for You?

February 7, 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
Harding High School, 1540 E. Sixth Street
St. Paul, MN 55106
+ Google Map

Monday, January 8, 2018

January Thaw

 This video I made a few years ago. The pics were from Jerry Linsers hive. He demonstrates one way to look at a hive on a cold morning. On a cold Jan 29th day. The bees were still peeking out the top hole of the top box.

It will be warm for the next couple of days. This is good timing after our long cold spell. With the warmer weather the bees can move their cluster easily and hopefully re-position slightly on a fresh frame of honey. This will prep them for the next cold blast later this week.
 There should be no brood in a colony right now.
 Bees will be going on cleansing flights over the next few days. It is a good time to see if your hive(s) are alive. There will be bees dying in the snow. This is normal.
 If you don't see bees on cleansing flights, it doesn't  mean that the hive is dead. If a colony was very heavy with honey especially a three deep hive. The bees could still be down deep in the box and can't break cluster to get out. You can rap on the side of the hive and listen for a buzz. If you get physical with the hive, a beesuit may be in order. An interloper could fly out and give you some payback for the disturbance.
 Not seeing cleansing flights today is not a huge problem at the moment. As time goes on, the cluster will shift into the top box and cleansing flights will be more frequent with the warmer February weather.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

2018 Package Bee Prices

Here is our 2018 package bee pricing.
Only thing different than last year is we will be offering Saskatraz Queens with our 2 lb and 3 lb packages. There is a $2.00 Royalty fee on all Saskatraz packages. This Royalty fee is paid to the developer of the Saskatraz line of queens.
 Also, the large quantity pricing has gone down.
2018 Package Bees Pricing

Queen types. Click on the queen type and scroll down for description.
Queen types from OHB

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Local Bee Classes

University of MN Year 1 Beekeeping in Northern Climates
Instructors Dr Marla Spivak and Mr Gary Reuter 
Feb 24th. Click link for info
University of MN Beekeeping in Northern Climates

The Art of Beekeeping in Northern Climates at Century College
Course #1TEC-0082 $149.0  
Feb 8–Mar 5 session JoAnn Sabin Instructor
Th 6:00 pm - 9:00 pm
https://www.century.edu/sites/default/files/CECT-schedule.pdf page 32

An Introduction to Beekeeping
-->Instructors:  Jerome Rodewald, beekeeper for over 40 years and Dr. Brad Mogen, Biology Professor at UW-River Falls and beekeeper for over 10 years. -->
When:  Saturday Feb 3, 2018  Registration 9-9:30 AM  Class End 4:30 PM
Where:  Hammond WI. Town Hall. 
Take Cty Rd T North, go Right (East) on Cty E to 1816 Cty Rd E
Bring:  Sack Lunch – Water and Coffee will be provided.
Cost:  $75 per person, $25 for each additional family member.  Students $25
Reservations:  jrodewald63@gmail.com
Questions:  Jerome 715-307-1774

Beginning Beekeeping
 McColl Pond Environmental Learning Center in Savage, MN
Saturday Feb 10th - 8:30 - 5:30
Instuctor: Joe Coffey  Master Beekeeper/ Entomologist