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, December 29, 2007

Package bee information

At this time I don't have any pricing information for package bees. I am waiting for my supplier in California.
I should know by mid Jan what my prices will be.
4 frame nucs will also be available in early May.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Happy Holidays from Jim and Wendy

We wish you a peaceful and restful holiday season.
Cheers to you in 2008.
Jim and Wendy

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Running Deer

I like this pic of some running deer. The tail of one is right next to the camera, while the other is in hot pusuit.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Trail Camera Pic's


Wild Turkey's

Something smelly is over yonder. Click to enlarge to see the skunk

My camera has given me around 100 photo's this last week. The natives must be restless.I really liked the deer and skunk. I hope my electric fence has been keeping the skunk out of the beeyard.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Setting Up a Hive for Winter

To bring a hive though winter we need the hive set up as follows.
  • At least 8 frames of adhering bees. Meaning there should be bees covering both sides of at least 8 frames.
  • A young queen that has not gone through a winter yet.
  • Bees that are as mite free as possible.
  • The hive should have been fed 2 gallons of syrup treated with Fumigilan.
  • The top box should have 8 full frames of honey and one partially full. The partial should be located in the middle of the top box.
  • If you don't have enough honey the choices are, add a candy board on top of the hive or add granulated sugar on top of the hive. See how I did this on my last January post.
  • A top entrance is required so the bees can go on cleansing flights during the winter.
  • If you have a screened bottom board, the slide drawer should be in.
  • The entrance reducer is in now to keep out mice. The large opening is installed upside down. It is upside down to keep the entrance open as hive debris collects on the bottom board throughout the winter.
  • A moisture release board is put on top of the inner cover.
  • Black cardboard winter cover is put over the top of the hive. A hole is cut where the upper entrance is located. One of the top flaps is folded down against the back of the hive. The other 3 flaps are folded over on top of the moisture board. This is very important, This is done to vent the moisture board and get rid of moisture buildup in the hive. A cardboard cover will cover two deep hive bodies. If you have 3 deeps, the bottom box will not be covered. This is not a problem. Cover the box with the telescoping cover. This will not fit over the winter cover. Rest the telescoping cover on top of the cardboard cover and place a rock or brick on top of it to hold it down. I cover my hives around Thanksgiving weekend, sooner if we are going to get dumped on with snow.
  • Don't over insulate the hive. This can cause an early demise of the hive. If the hive is to warm the bees may start rearing brood and run out of food.
  • A wind break is helpful on the north and west side of the hive. If the hives are in the open with no protection from winter winds. Stacking hay bales around these sides can be beneficial.
  • At the end of my video I mistakenly called the Telescoping Cover the moisture board. Steven Speilberg would be disappointed.

Click on the arrow to see the video.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Last feeding?

Shielded Immersion Heater
Heater has to be fully submerged in the syrup
This pail of corn syrup was granulated, You can see the granulation in the bottom of pail. One hour of heating, and it was clear.
It is getting late, very late. When it is getting chilly out the bees don't take the syrup very well. They don't like cold syrup.
When I have to feed late in the season, it is important to give them warm syrup.
The easiest way to heat syrup is an immersion heater.
I use a 120 volt heater. It is made to drop it in the syrup. It is not to be used with honey, as it is not food safe.
The syrup warms quickly, caution is required not to leave it unattended when in a plastic pail.
The warm syrup is put on the hive and is taken down very fast by the bees.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Early Oct, What is left?

It is the first week of Oct. By now mite treatments should be getting finished up.
If you haven't fed 2 gallons of fumigilin do so now. The later it gets, the less likely the bees will take down syrup.
Make sure entrance reducers are in. The cooler weather will make the mice look for a warm place.
Other than that it is a waiting game.
I usually put winter covers on around Thanksgiving. To early and the hive is to warm. They might then keep raising brood and eat their winter stores.
Keep an eye on the weather, if we are going to get a big snowstorm, put them on.
Last year it didn't get cold until mid Jan. That is when I covered mine, and they all made it.
Temps in the 30's are a cakewalk for bees. It is the teens and lower that make covering a must.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

The Bear Story is becoming a Saga

Claw marks and teeth marks are a bears calling card.
a bite of beeswax.
Last night I was hit by the bear again.
This time it was my shop. The bear got the door opened and was surrounded by a roomful of beekeeping equipment.
Woodenware, bee suits, feeders, extractor, all of no interest to the bear.
He did head over to the box of beeswax blocks and handled them with reckless abandon.
I saw the door open at 5:30 am. A mangled beeswax block, now a welcome mat at the doorway entrance.
Luckily the beeswax was all that was damaged.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Bears are not photogenic.

The camera is turned, not in the direction it was in before.

On the right side of this picture it looks like the face of the bear. The reader has to be the judge.

I was hoping for a picture of the bear with the trail camera.
Unfortunately the bear doesn't like the paparazzi chasing him.
The camera popped off 3 pictures at 4:02 am. One is of some branches the other is what looks like a bear, but is quite fuzzy. The third was unreadable.
When I went to change out the SD card I found the camera ripped off the tree and laying on the ground.
The buckle is broken, I hope the camera is still ok.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Nightmare at the Honey House, BEAR!!!!!

I had a visitor last night.
A Black Bear (Ursus americanus).
It was trying to break into my honey house. Lucky for me it came up short.
I think my Golden Retriever (Canis lupus familiaris) put the run on him.
My wife heard the dog barking.
A pail of wax cappings was tipped over and a few honey bees (Apis mellifera) were robbing off the cappings, the bear did consume some of the cappings.
My bee yard has a electric fence ( joltus hurtus) around it, and was untouched.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

What Lurks In The Dark Near The Beeyard?

This is a image that I can't figure out. It is around 2 am. May be a raccoon or fox, possibly a young bear. The ear outline is not a deer.

The course fur is a puzzle. The shot was to close to the camera.

A Nice Big Buck

What is this? The camera is about 3 feet off the ground. I am thinking grey squirrel.
I bought a trail scouting camera to see what is hanging out near the beeyard. I am looking for skunks, possums, and bears.
It has taken a few good photo's. It has left me in a quandary of what some of the pic's were.
I have attached a few. The camera is a Infra Red that emits no flash.
Day pictures in color, night in black and white. Some get overexposed.
The one of an animal up close, white out just the outline. It is not a deer. Is it a dog? The fur outline says possible bear.
The tail shot of some animal leaves questions of what the heck is that? May be a squirrel.
This can be a good tool to know if the hives are being harassed and what is doing it, when we are not there.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Wintering: Survival of the Most Prepared

Winter is coming. It is time to get the hives ready.
What we need in a properly prepared hive:
  • A strong population, 10 frames of adhering bees ( bees on both sides ).
  • A young queen that has not been through a winter.
  • 90 - 100 lbs of honey. The top box 8 full frames of honey, one partially filled frame in center of box. It would be nice to have a couple of frames in the box the bee are in. That would be in the middle box in a three high colony or the bottom box in a two high colony.
  • Feed early if the hive doesn't have this amount of honey. The bees take it fast in Sept. they can drain a gallon feeder pail in two or three days. Use 2 : 1 sugar syrup or High Fructose Corn Syrup in the fall.
  • Give the colony two gallons of syrup treated with fumigilan.
  • Make sure colony is as mite free as possible. Treat if needed.
  • A top entrance needs to be kept open all winter.
  • The entrance reducer should be when temperatures start getting in the lower 40's.
  • A moisture release board that lays on top of the inner cover.
  • Cover the hive with a winter cover.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

ApiGuard, or your bees mite die

ApiGuard gel pack on top bars

1-1/2" Shim raises the roof so the bees can get to the gel.

All holes are corked, shim is under inner cover, we need to put on the telescoping cover.
When I pulled my honey on Monday, I put on some ApiGuard.
ApiGuard is a Thymol gel. Easy and safe to use.
Close all cork holes, leave the main entrance open. Put a 1-1/2" Shim on top of the hive to raise the inner cover and Telescoping cover, to make room for the gel pack. One gel pack on the top hive body for two weeks, then a second gel pack for two weeks.
The warmer it is the better it works.
ApiGuard is used only in the fall.
The manufacturers literature says it is for treating Varroa mites, and has an effect on Tracheal mites and Chalkbrood.

Pulled my honey

Spraying Honey Robber

Fume board on

Super full of bees
Super empty
Screen to prevent robbing
I pulled my honey on Labor day. It was hot. 88 degrees.
When I remove the supers I use Honey Robber and a solar fume board. The warmer it is the better it works. Being it was hot the Honey Robber worked great.
I spray a thin spray of the juice in a double X pattern on the board. Put the fume board on top of the hive. I smoke the hive entrance only. This is so the bees in the supers aren't engorging on honey and don't want to leave .
I was using 3 boards and I could hardly keep up.
The boards were clearing two or three supers at a time. I finished in record time.
I put a screen on top of the supers to discourage robbing.

Monday, September 3, 2007

Lip Balm

This is the lip balm recipe I use.
When ever melting beeswax, caution should be used for possible fire and burn hazards.
Chapped - Lip Balm
1 - tablespoon shredded beeswax
1 - tablespoon petroleum jelly
1 - teaspoon honey
1 - tablespoon solid lanolin
3 - 4 drops essential oil
Melt the wax, lanolin, and petroleum jelly in a microwave. Watch this closely. When it is liquid it is ready. Don't overheat.
Add the honey and essential oil.
Essential oil of Peppermint, Eucalyptus, Wintergreen or Camphor slightly numb painful lips.
Pour it into containers when it cools slightly but, while still liquid.
Use a plastic pipette to fill lip balm tubes. Don't use a glass eye dropper. The glass cools the solution causing it to clog the eye dropper.

Extracting Demo

My extracting demo was on Aug.19. it was a rainy day. 40 people were in attendance.
Master Beekeeper Bob Sitko was demonstrating how to remove honey from the hive, fall medications and wintering techniques.
I was demonstrating uncapping, extracting, filtering and bottling honey.
Wendy and my daughter had many honey food products, cookies, caramels, popcorn, and lemonade.
She also had candle making and lip balm information.
Everyone was able to use all the uncapping and extracting tools.
The beekeepers also bottled a jar of honey to take home for their labor.

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Tips for pulling honey

Pallet for supers
  • Go out the day before you pull and take the supers off then put them back on. This breaks any honey loose in any attached burr comb. The bees will clean up the honey that is dripping. The next day the supers won't be dripping all over the place when they are removed..
  • I made some little pallets the same dimensions of a honey super. Two boards on the bottom edges lifts up the pallet. I then move the supers around with a two wheeler. This helps save the back.
  • Have a small sheet or towel to cover any open honey boxes to prevent robbing.
  • If using honey robber and a fume board, plan to pull on a 85+ degree day. The warmer it is the better it works.
  • Bee escapes work, but remember to close all cracks and crevices that a bee could fit through on the supers. If this is not done bees will rob the honey from the supers. When you come back to pull, they will be empty.
  • I will be prepared to put on ApiGuard mite treatment as soon as the supers come off, saving a trip back.
  • When you take the honey off, put it in a room with a dehumidifier running. This can help lower the moisture content of the honey before it is extracted. The room also will warm up, this helps warm the honey for easier extracting.
  • Make sure you do not have hive beetle, if you leave supers without bees in them. They can make a mess of things.
  • Before extracting, put down cardboard on the floor. This makes clean up a breeze and could possibly prevent a divorce.
  • Think the process through before extracting to make sure you have everything. You might need:
  • hot knife - capping scratcher - something to uncap into - extractor - pails -
bottling pail with honey gate - strainer material - bottles - labels
  • When you have finished extracting have the honey moisture checked. This will make sure it is US Grade A or not.
  • How many bottles? A medium super when full has about 35 - 40 pounds of honey in it. A deep hive body has about 85 - 90 lbs of honey. Using this as a guide the number of containers can be estimated. A hive with four full supers will be about 160 lbs of honey. Containers can be purchased with this number in mind.
    Remember all honey granulates. Is the honey in a container that you will be able to liquefy? It is easier to liquefy a 1 lb jar in a crock pot water bath on low than a 5 gallon pail with 60 lbs of rock hard honey.

Honey, To be or not to be that is the question (click pic to enlarge)

Thermometer adjustment scale

We all produce honey. The important thing to realize is honey has to be the proper moisture content.
U.S. Grade A honey has to taste like honey and have a moisture level of 18.6% and below. Moisture levels above this threshold will ferment and is not considered honey.
To test the honey I use a refractometer. This instrument takes a small amount of honey placed on a glass lens. Holding the instrument to your eye, a scale is visible. Reading the scale, then take it away from the eye.
On the bottom of this type of refractometer is a thermometer. The thermometer has a scale to adjust for temperature change that affects the viscosity of the honey. By adding or subtracting this scale, will give the proper moisture content.
Example, a sample reads 18.2% on the eye piece scale and the thermometer adjustment is minus .5. I take 5 tenths off 18.2% and the final moisture content is 17.7%
There are many refractometers out there. Beekeepers use the ones that specify for honey. Prices range from about $75 - $350.
If someone wants their honey tested I will do this for free. To bring a small sample to be tested, the container should be full. A partially filled sample container will absorb any moisuture in the container and not reflect accurately of what the honey moisture truly is.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

This is why we want to treat with Fumigilan in Sept.

Treat all colonies with 2 gallons of 2:1 syrup or high fructose corn syrup with fumigilan for nosema.

Show me your stuff, enter the fair.

Now is the time for beekeepers to promote beekeeping.
We help our industry by entering the State Fair. http://www.mnstatefair.org/pages/ag_hort_bee.html
This link takes you to the ag - hort page. Find what you want to enter. There is a novice entry for people who have never entered. Follow the directions closely on what your entering. Not sure of what color your honey is? Usually our honey is in the white category. It has to look like dark tea to be classified light amber. Dark Amber is like the color of molasses.
There are many categories, photography, comb honey, creamed honey, capped honey frame and more. Read through the premium book.
This is fun, your friends and family will come and see your entry. You might win a ribbon and some money for your trouble.

Is the flow over?

I have noticed before the bees looking for honey on empty supers I had in my garage. That is a sign of no nectar flow. I thought the flow had stopped.
This week the bees had stopped that behavior and some nectar was coming in again.
Spotted Knapweed is blooming in the area and second cutting of hay has not happened due to dry conditions. The fields are blooming and the bees are taking advantage of it.
Purple Loose Strife is starting to bloom also in the Stillwater area.
I checked my hives last week and added supers to colonies that had honey in the top box.
It is important to stay ahead of the bees as the nectar flow continues....

Sunday, July 8, 2007

A Good Rain, Hope It Adds To A Good Flow

I had a very good rain today. I hope there is results from this.
I have noticed the bees looking to rob. This usually means the nectar flow has slowed down. While working in my barn today, I noticed bees on some empty supers. There was nothing in them but they were looking for some old honey.
When the nectar flow stops and robbing begins, this is when AFB gets passed around. Make sure to deal with any weak colonies that may have this disease.

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Checked My Supers, The Nectar Train Is Still Steaming Ahead

Spotted Knapweed ( click to enlarge)

I went and looked at my hives. Several of my hives needed more supers. It is important to stay ahead of the bees.
Bees have a hoarding instinct, the more space they have to fill, the harder they try too fill it.
When I go to pull the honey off the colonies, and I see the top super is packed solid, I know I didn't have enough supers on. That hive would have produced more honey and I didn't give them the room.
It is good to remember when drawing foundation, put the foundation directly above the brood nest. Move the full or mostly drawn supers up.
I see white sweet clover starting to wane. Alfalfa should be blooming again shortly.
Spotted Knapweed is starting to flower in the Stillwater area. Spotted Knapweed produces a very smooth honey that has a buttery flavor. Very good and worth the trouble of trying to extract separately.
The last rain gave us 6/10" of rain in the Stillwater area according to Jerry Linser. This should help keep the nectar flow going.
I am not worried that is on the dry side. It has been my experience that we get more honey when it is a little on the dry side.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Keep Your Comb Honey Clean (click on photo's to enlarge)

I was out checking on some comb honey today. I checked those hives last.
Being careful not to get charcoal bits on the white cappings I had to take some precautions.
Before I smoke the comb honey super, I put green grass in the spout of my smoker.
This filters the charcoal and keeps the comb honey clean and white.
It is very dry around the bee yard around Stillwater. Be careful with the smoker when out in the beeyard. I carry a fire extinguisher with me.

Saturday, June 23, 2007


nice swarm.
Photo by Forrest Houle
hot bees
Photo by Dick Rienke

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Don't make a honey of a mistake.

Now that the honey flow is going, a warning of a common mistake that many new beekeepers make.
Honey supers have to go on now. Don't make the assumption that I will leave it for the bees and put on supers next year.
What happens if the bees don't have supers to put excess honey? They will fill up the brood nest
with honey. The brood nest gets plugged up with honey the queen has no place to lay. Now the hive will start to dwindle. The hive will not have enough bees to overwinter and will not survive.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

My GPS says a bee yard is here

With warm temperatures it is important to keep the grass down in the bee yard. This will help to prevent swarming.
There seems to be a good nectar flow going in the Stillwater area.
My package bees are starting to move up into the supers.
I have four supers on many of my over wintered colonies and they are in all the boxes.
Still getting swarming reports, I hope this will wane with an increase in the nectar flow.
If you haven't put you supers on yet, in the words of Basil Furgala, You can't make any honey if the supers are still in the garage.

Monday, June 4, 2007

What are my hives looking like right now

My over wintered hives are in two deep and have one or two supers full of honey on them.
The package bees are all in two deep and will be getting honey supers this week.
I have reports of new beekeepers with foundation putting on their third deep last weekend. One persons hive had two deeps.
She had stopped feeding it and the brood nest is slow to expand. On foundation, feeding is needed until mid June.
If it gets into the 80's I think the entrance reducer could be pulled, or for sure by mid June.
Time to put on honey supers now.
I see the black locust have been blooming for about 10 days. I am seeing yellow sweet clover in the ditches. Alfalfa and other clovers should start blooming shortly.
An old beekeeper once told me that the main nectar flow starts 10 days after the first clover bloom is spotted.
Get ready and check for swarm cells. The swarming season is upon us.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Package bee cage

This customer will not get a refund on her package bee cage. Bad Girl.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Drone brood

The picture above was sent to me. The question was are these swarm cells?
The bees build this brood comb on the bottom of frames. It is drone brood comb. The picture shows drone capped larve that looks like the tip of a bullet. They are not swarm cells.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Hives Are Bursting

Overcrowding leads to.......

Swarm cells that lead to....

I checked my hives today. I had a few dead ones show up from late season starvation.
A colony in one yard was crowded with bees but it has a brood disease. I always look at the larvae, I am looking for a nice glistening white color. When I looked at this one frame I new there was trouble. The larvae was a dark mustard color. It didn't rope when I punctured the larvae with a twig, the American Foulbrood test. The larvae that was dead was curled off center in the cell. I think it is European Foulbrood. Now is the time to put Terramycin on the hive.
I had a few hives that had swarm cells. Some were so overcrowded that they were hanging out side in mass quantities. I went through the hive and cut out the swarm cells. One hive had twenty cells.
I hope I didn't miss any. I saw eggs in the hive so I am assuming the queen is still present.
If I come back in four days to divide it and I see queen cells on the sides of the frames and no eggs, I will know that they have swarmed.
Had I not dealt with the swarm cells, the hive was set for departure. With the swarm goes all my honey for this year off this hive.
It was warm today and bees will hang out the front of the hive on hot days. In this case they aren't likely to swarm, they are just hot. Today though I new they were overcrowded.
It was funny, the most crowded hive had very few bees inside. I am sure by later this evening they will be back inside as it cools off.