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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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Volunteers needed for the fair

Dave Schaaf runs the Bee and Honey display
Volunteers are needed to help at the State Fair. It is a three hour stint at the Bee and Honey display in the Ag Hort building. You will be talking to the general public about honey bees. This is a great help for the public to get good information about honeybees from the beekeepers that work the hives. Usually you sit on a chair in front of an observation hive. Everyone wants to see the queen. The queens are marked and are easy to spot. It is in the shade, the doors are wide open and most of the time there is a nice breeze blowing through. So even if it is hot out it is in a comfortable spot out of the sun and weather.
 You do not have to be an expert. You know more about bees than the public. Give yourself credit. You put the bees in the hive, they grew to an awesome colony, and now there is honey on the hive. The civilians that you will be talking to don't know what a queen excluder is, so any new beekeeper sounds like an expert. If you don't know the answer to a question that is ok, someone there will know it.
 Every beekeeper that does this comes away from it as a great experience. It is a lot of fun being the expert, because you are one.
Sign up at the link below.
State Fair Bee Interpreters

Monday, July 27, 2015

The nectar flow is still rolling

The nectar flow is still rolling. Many early honey plants are still blooming. The late summer flowers are starting to appear. Purple Loosestrife is in full bloom.
Purple Loosestrife is a noxious weed and should never be propagated. It can take over a wet land and have a negative effect on the eco system of the wetland.
 Having said that,  Purple Loosestrife is a great honey plant. The honey looks like new motor oil. It has a greenish tint to it. Purple Loosestrife honey has a nice flavor. Sunflowers are blooming. Some Sunflower varieties are very good honey producers while some others are not.
Purple Loosestrife. Photo by W. Kloek

Friday, July 24, 2015

MN State Fair

The MN State Fair is coming soon. I always encourage beekeepers to make an entry. The fair is one of the largest honey and bee displays in the country. This gives MN beekeepers a wonderful opportunity to show the fruits of their labor, while promoting the beekeeping industry.
Honey entries

Volunteer Beekeeper Steve Buck talks to visitors to the bee and honey exhibit
This is the link to the MN State Fair Premium Book.
Find the Bee and Honey section. There are many entry possibilities. You can enter as many of the lots as you desire. Only one entry per lot. Always read and follow all the direction in the lot. You do get your entry back.
 There is a novice class for new beekeepers who have never won a ribbon. Also a Junior lot for kids. More than one child per family can enter the same lot.
 Bottling honey for the fair makes you a better beekeeper. There is more attention to detail because this is competition. Bottling of honey makes you think of the fair and you tend  to bottle a more consistent product.
 I find it helps to make a schedule to get ready for the fair. Have any honey extracted by early August. Let it set for a couple days for the air bubbles to rise. Bottle a week before the entry is due. Any bubbles rise to the top of the jar. Carefully take a spoon and remove any froth at the top of the jar. Top off the bottle if needed with the same honey.
 Your entry at the fair will be seen by thousands of fairgoers. All of your friends and family will stop by to see your entry. If you win a ribbon you will be able to say that you have the best honey in the State of MN and you have the ribbon to prove it.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

The current nectar flow

Spotted Knapweed

The nectar flow is still on. If I was going to put a number on it, I would say the nectar flow is about 60 - 65% done at this time.
  But as we get into the later summer months the flow can start getting a little spotty. A few factors influence the late nectar flow.
 Some areas have good early summer flows and not great late summer flows. Other areas produce nectar the whole summer. While some beekeepers may only get one type of flow off one particular nectar source and that is it.
  Some of these factors have to do with moisture conditions. But I think across the upper Midwest our soil moisture conditions are not a negative factor. Usually nectar flows are better when it is a little on the dry side. But I think the good moisture conditions give all beekeepers a better chance of getting a good honey crop.
 The steady heat we have been experiencing has made the foraging by the bees a more productive endeavor. The bees can get out earlier and longer during the day. The heat makes the plants grow and mature to their full potential.
 Basswood trees are done flowering. There is still white sweet clover in bloom. It has started to wane in some areas but in other areas it is still going strong. Birdsfoot trefoil is still blooming everywhere. Now late summer flowers will be starting in abundance. Many thistles are in full bloom. Purple loosestrife will be coming out soon. I have started to look for Goldenrod, but I have not seen any yet. Goldenrod will more than likely start blooming in the southwest suburbs soon.
As we get closer to August harvesting the honey crop, treating for varroa, and entering the state fair are on the to do list.
 I can't say enough about the state fair. It is a wonderful way to display what a beekeeper has worked hard to produce. There are many possible entries. A novice class for beekeepers who have never won a ribbon. Also a child entry to make the show a true family affair. I will be commenting on the fair soon. But here is a link to their premium book with rules, schedules and entry classifications.
MN State Fair Ag-Hort-Bee Premium Book

Sunday, July 12, 2015


My friend Brian runs 200 colonies in the northwest suburbs. He has been having a great honey year. This is a picture of one of his bee yards.
 He runs one deep and a medium super. His bees winter in Texas. The hives are palletized, with four hives to a pallet. A migratory cover is used for the lid so palletized hives can be stacked on top of them.
  The pallet of bees can easily be moved with a bobcat and placed on a truck or semi. A semi can hold 800 palletized hives in singles.
 If you look close, you can see his queen excluders above the second box.
Just about everything is full of honey. A deep super has about 90 lbs of honey in the box.
Palletized hives. Some hives are doing better than others.

Friday, July 10, 2015

You never know what you can find

My wife and I were out for a long walk this morning. Wendy spotted a Bald Face Hornet nest on a rise next to the Gateway Trail in the city of Grant. Bald Face Hornets are great to have as a neighbor. Over 80% of their diet are houseflies, that makes them a good neighbor. I hope they eat deer flies because that would raise their stature even more.
Bald Face Hornet nest. A gray rippled paper pulp hive.
 Photo by W. Kloek

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Where we are at

The nectar flow is moving forward. There is still nectar plants blooming everywhere. Supers are being added to stay ahead of the bees.
 The huge rainfall we experienced was great for beekeepers in sandy soil areas. Many times sandy areas have a shortened nectar flow if it starts to get dry. The latest rain and rain in the forecast for late in the weekend should keep the nectar flowing for those beekeepers.
 The warm temperatures with days in the 80's for the foreseeable future should keep the bees on their honey collection binge.
 Goldenrod flowers are set around the 4th of July. With the big rain we had, there is a possibility of a Goldenrod flow in August. Goldenrod is a fickle nectar flow. It seems to produce a good amount of nectar only every five years or so. Being that the nectar flow is running on high octane right now. I am thinking the Goldenrod might give us a show as well.
 I am still getting swarm reports. The swarm calls seem to be easily preventable. Some beekeepers leaving entrance reducers in, not putting supers on, not checking for swarm cells in June.
 A beekeeper from Mpls having a hive from hell. She has had four swarms from one hive. Normally when a hive swarms the new queen will run around and kill any other queen in the hive. Sometimes this does not happen. Swarm after swarm will leave over a one week period. Every swarm will be smaller than the next. The swarming stops when the hive runs out of queens. The field bees in the multiple swarm hives are totally depleted. The hive will recover with time but the nectar collection will not be very good.
 The nectar flow is coming along great, time to think about a plan for harvesting the honey, mite control in August, entering the state fair to show off your new honey crop.