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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Sunday, January 25, 2015

What's happening in the hive right now

This latest stretch of warm weather has come at the right time. This is the time of year when bees move from the lower box into the top box. The warm weather makes it easy for the bees to make this transition. I talked to some beekeepers who said their hives were heavy with honey going into the winter. They told me their bees had not moved up yet.
 While some other beekeepers told me their bees had already moved up into the top box and they were not sure if the bees had enough food for late winter.
 There should not be any egg laying going on yet. I hope that the high 30's that we will be experiencing does not get the queen to start laying. If the colony starts making brood, honey consumption will increase. If a colony is light on food starvation may occur.
 The queen will start laying and the bees will eat honey to keep the brood warm. This extra consumption of honey will deplete honey stores around the brood. The bees will then move out to nearby frames to acquire honey to keep the brood warm.
 This all works well as long as there is honey to get and the weather stays warm. If the weather gets very cold, the bee cluster contracts to concentrate their heat cluster. The bees cluster around the brood doing everything they can to keep the brood warm. If the bees have depleted their honey stores around the brood and the cluster contracts off of nearby honey stores, starvation can happen.
A beekeepers can go out on a warm day and quickly open a hive and move or add a frame of honey next to the cluster. Don't disrupt the cluster. A full frame of honey is usually enough honey to feed a colony for about three weeks. A little less if there is brood rearing going on.
 Emergency feeding methods can be taken to try to get a colony to survive. A candy board, winter patties, or granulated sugar can be added to the top bars for emergency feed.
 Checking a hive for food stores in winter

feeding granulated sugar on top of wax paper. A 1-1/2" shim is used to give room to heap up sugar. You don't need the cross bars.

Heap up granulated sugar. The bees will move up on the sugar and chew up the wax paper as the cluster moves and consumes the sugar. Check it after two weeks and add more if needed. It is easy to heap up 10 to 15 lbs of sugar on top of the wax paper. Don't cover the cluster of bees, they need to be able to get up on the wax paper. 
 Candy board one method. Don't add any pollen


Monday, January 19, 2015

MHBA Banquet

The annual MN Hobby Beekeepers Banquet is Saturday Jan 24th 2015
at Edinburgh USA Clubhouse 
8700 Edinbrook Crossing, Brooklyn Park MN 55443
Social Hour 5:00 pm
Dinner served at 6:00 pm
Benefit Auction begins at 7:00 pm
The auction benefits the Basil Furgala Fund. This fund helps research graduate students in the University of MN beekeeping research area.
Cash bar serving beer and wine
Cost $20.00 per person
Please bring something to auction to donate and bring your checkbook for this worthy cause that helps all beekeepers and the honey industry.
Call Liz @ 763-498-3133 right away to sign up.

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Take a Beekeeping class

Take a beekeeping class. Take the time to sharpen your skills. The classes fill up quickly so sign up early.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

2015 Package Bee Order Form

We are trying something different this year. You can download the 2015 Package Bee Order Form off our web site. Click the link and look for the 2015 order form button.
or use the scanner on your cell phone for the qr code.

Hives short on food

Winter Patties can help save a colony from starvation. If a colony is out of food, two patties is enough food for 7 - 10 days of food. Patties can be stacked on top of one another to give the bees more food. While winter patties are for emergency feeding only, they can very helpful for late season starvation that happens when brood is in a colony during the month of February.
I have had several beekeepers stop in to get winter patties for their hives as they have colonies light on food.
One beekeeper noticed the bees had eaten all of his patties already, I told him his hive is close to starvation. He thought the bees will go down in the hive because his bottom box was full of honey. I told him bees do not move down to get stores in the winter. As the last gasp to save his colony I advised him to do a reversal yesterday while it was warm and put some winter patties in between the two boxes so the bees can transition up into the new top box. The advise I gave was one of desperation because the bees would more than likely not have made it if he did nothing.
Another beekeeper noticed his hive was out of honey. I told him to take out four frames of empty drawn comb. Take a spray bottle with the highest amount of sugar water that can be sprayed through the sprayer. I think 2:1 syrup will not spray through a hand sprayer but I think 1-1/2:1 syrup will. Spray the syrup into the cells of the frames and fill them with syrup, as full as the frames can be.
 Then take the frames and put them next to the cluster of bees in the hive.
 Yesterday was 30 degrees and the bees were flying taking cleansing flights, so the bees were moving around in the hive and can easily move on to the new frames of syrup.
Both of these were last ditch make or break solutions. Will their bees make it? The answer to that is, it was a sure bet they would have starved if the beekeepers did nothing. A better solution for all beekeepers. Check your hives in mid August. If the bees do not hive the top box full of honey at that time, take the honey supers off and feed the bees then. Fall feeding can be tough to get enough syrup into the hive for proper winter stores. 
 I will give these two beekeepers credit that they noticed a serious problem and have tried to fix it. No matter what the outcome is, they did everything they could to save their bees.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Package Bee Prices for 2015

3 lb packages
The package bee prices for 2015.
Your choice of Italian or Carniolan Mated Queen
2 lb packages ........... $106.00 each
3 lb packages ........... $121.00 each
There will be quantity discounts available that will be published on our website soon.
Two deliveries in April.
The first delivery will be 2 lb packages, the second delivery will be 3 lb packages.
There will no longer be a cage deposit.
All cages have been returned to California and we will no longer be taking back cages.
 We will start taking orders in late January.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Year in review

The year started normal with hives wintering through normal weather conditions.
February brought us two subzero blasts. One around Feb 12th and the next in late in the month. The subzero temperatures caused many colonies in the upper midwest to die of starvation. In February the queen is laying and there is brood in the colony. Subzero cold for more than one day can cause the cluster of bees in the hive contract. Many times this takes the bees off available honey, The colony starves trying to keep the brood alive. The hives that survived were strong, well populated hives, weaker hives perished.
 The spring brought us cooler temperatures. Hives that survived the winter were slow to build up.
April brought us the worst weather I can remember in 25 years of keeping bees. The weather was cold, rainy and very windy. This weather pattern was unrelenting for three weeks. It happened at the worst time when package bees were arriving. Many package bees installed on foundation didn't make it due to this cold. The bees could not generate the heat to get food, wax production, and start brood rearing. Most packages installed on drawn comb survived the cold and were chugging along feeding on pollen patties and syrup.
 The cold rainy weather persisted into May. The result was slow build up of package and overwintered colonies. As the weather got better all hives picked up speed and brood rearing kicked into high gear. Hive strength increased with package bees building up normally. Brood expansion had divides happening a little later than normal but the divides had good populations. The increased hive populations were ready for the nectar flow.
 The nectar flow came in later than normal. This turned out to be good news for most beekeepers by giving hives a longer time to build up. When the nectar flow started the early flow seemed the best flow of the season, later flows became spotty and widespread.
 The cold rainy spring weather hurt the nectar flow for most beekeepers in the upper Midwest. Basswood trees developed flower pods but all the flower pods fell off on most Basswood trees before they opened up. There was no Basswood nectar flow this year. The nectar flow in general was very spotty. Poor nectar flows can bring out higher swarming issues as the bees want to leave to possibly better food sources.  Some beekeepers had good crops but most beekeepers experienced poor honey crops. With the poor honey crops beekeepers left their supers on later than normal. Mite treatments were delayed and were put on late for many of us. Some beekeepers lost colonies in October due to high Varroa levels. Hives that looked good in early October then a check in late October saw no bees and the hive full of honey. One word for this Varroa.
 The poor honey crops resulted in low hive weight for winter stores. Beekeepers that noticed this early were able to feed their colonies to get them to proper honey stores. Beekeepers that fed late found it challenging to get enough syrup into their colonies and the result were light colonies going into winter.
 Robbing was in high gear in the fall. Beekeepers feeding their hives finding robbers were stealing syrup and honey faster than they could put it in the hive. Some colonies moving backwards in hive weight due to robbing. Some colonies being overwhelmed and annihilated by marauding robbers. Strong colonies and entrance reducers kept this under control.
Right now strong colonies with a good hive weight are doing fine. There are many colonies light on food and likely will not make the rigors of the winter unless the weather stays on the warm and mild side.
 This report while sounding negative is blunt and to the point, there are some bright spots in the report. Experiance is the road to success. By posting the negative, beekeepers can avoid the pitfalls if similar conditions happen again.
Package bee survival can be greatly improved with one frame of drawn comb. Sugar Syrup can be sprayed into the cells with a hand sprayer. This food will make the package bee survival almost guaranteed. Always checking winter stores in mid August. If there is not enough winter stores then, supers need to be removed and feeding needs to begin. This gives time to get the proper amount of winter stores in the colony.  Beekeepers that wintered strong colonies with good hive weight and treated for Varroa are in great shape to successfully over winter their bees.