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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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Why bees always have a safe landing.

This is a good point for beekeepers, bees don't really need landing boards or anything special at a hive entrance.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New Research From Univ. of Michigan about Varroa

This is a link to some recent discover at Univ of Michigan. It is about Varroa and how they can possibly develop different compounds to attack it.
This link was forwarded to me by another beekeeper. Thanks Rob.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

American Foulbrood

I had a weak colony that was too weak to winter. On a closer inspection I noticed that there was some foulbrood on two frames. The colony was weakened from the foulbrood. Foulbrood kills older larvae. This was in the colony for a while and affected the population to the point of it being too weak to survive. There was still honey in the colony so it had not been robbed out. If the colony had been robbed out by other colonies the infection may have been spread to the other colonies.
AFB spores survive in the scale. Scale is the dried dead carcass of an infected honeybee larvae. The scale is highly infectious and stays that way for decades.
Old used equipment is one way this gets spread around. A new beekeeper gets a good deal on some beehives not knowing that there is AFB scale on the combs. Knowing what it looks like can save an expensive lesson.
This colony ended up on the receiving end of a lit match.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Making Creamed Honey

Creamed honey is easy to make and is well received for holiday gifts. Creamed honey is granulated honey that is started with seed honey. The seed crystals replicate themselves to a fine texture.
The time table to make creamed honey:
  • Warm honey to 95 degrees
  • Mix in seed
  • Cool Rapidly
  • On the second day stir again, make sure the seed is spread out well
  • Third day, scrape off any foam floating on top. Bottle honey
  • Set in a cool place, 57 degrees is perfect for the honey to granulate.
  • Seven to Ten days, check on it to see if is set up or not. When the plastic container is firm the batch is ready.
Click on the video to get a bigger screen.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Deformed Wing Virus

A Terri McD Video.
Teri shows bees suffering from deformed wing virus. This virus is usually a latent virus that normally does not emerge in the bees. High Varroa infestation bring these and other normally hidden virus's to become active.
This is why it is so important to keep Varroa levels as low as possible.
Checking the mite load a good management technique to know where the colony is heading.
Checking mite load with a powder sugar method:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Time to wrap the bees

This weekend looks like the end of the warm weather.
Winter covers should be going on anytime now if they aren't on already. I will be covering mine next weekend.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

New Varroa Treatment on the Horizon

This new formic acid formulation could revolutionize the treatment of Varroa. It is in a strip format. I have not seen a picture of it.
The strip goes on for 7 days. It kills Varroa on the bees and in capped cells. The bees will remove the strip or it can be removed and composted. It can even be applied during the nectar flow according to the literature because this product occurs already naturally in honey.
If this is the case beekeepers could treat for Varroa in late July and stop the rapidly increasing Varroa onslaught that happens in late summer.
This will greatly increase a hives ability to successfully survive the winter.
I don't know anything else about it but stay tuned for more information from the manufacturer and the EPA.
Here is the link explaining the product. http://www.miteaway.com/html/saving_the_honeybee.html

Monday, November 9, 2009

The warm weather

The weather has been very pleasant. I still have not covered my bees yet.
This week will be warm also with no cold weather in sight. The bees have been flying. I have been done feeding for a while now. This warm weather is great for the bees to finish up rearing brood. By finishing up having brood in the colony during this warm stretch helps the bees conserve some food for the coming winter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Package Bees 2010

A few people were nervous about getting bees from Calif. in the spring due to their drought.
I talked to my supplier and he assured me that there will be no problem getting bees and queens next spring. The only issue that we can't control is good weather for queen rearing and mating.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Winter Covers

I have just received a shipment of winter hive covers.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Weather is not beeing friendly

I woke up this morning to a very picturesque landscape of a coating of snow.
This usually causes heart palpitations to beekeepers who haven't finished feeding their bees. As I have always said beekeeping is all about timing, doing the proper management at the right time. Failure to operate in this manner, makes it more difficult at successfully wintering a hive of bees.
The colder weather makes it harder to feed. Bees don't like cold syrup.
Opening hives this time of year is still no problem. The bees can easily handle these temperatures without any problems.
It is still to early to cover bees with winter wraps, after Nov 1st is usually ok.
Wrapping a hive to early can make a hive to hot.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Feeding in Oct

I have been asked several times why feeding should be over with by Oct 5th.
That date is just a date I always tried to shoot for to finish feeding. I know that the later it gets the bees can become reluctant at taking the syrup as it gets colder.
A beekeeper can feed into late Oct. but consider this. Feeding stimulates brood rearing. The later a hive is fed there will be brood hatching out a minimum of 21 days after the feeding is done. The bees have to keep the brood at a higher temperature so they will eat more of their winter stores. Also Varroa will still be increasing their numbers if brood is still being raised. The bees have to convert the sugar syrup to honey.
All of this takes more effort that can be prevented by finishing by early Oct.
If a hive needs to be fed then of course feed it. By putting two feeder pails on at once can get the food in the hive faster and not drag the feeding out another two weeks.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Finishing up getting ready for winter

The mice will be looking for a warm house to live in. Entrance reducers usually will keep them out.

I am getting done with getting the hives ready for winter. Mite treatments will be coming off shortly.
Feeding will be done by Oct 5.
Other than that, not much happening on the bee front.
Winter covers will be going on in late Nov.
It is important to remember that the bees need a 1 inch hole in the top box for a winter entrance.
Next week the weather looks to start cooling off. Entrance reducers should be going in to keep out mice.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Time for entrance reducers?

I received this e-mail:
Hello Jim,
Strong Carniolan hive. Fumagilin fed. Small amounts of bright orange pollen still coming in. I noticed an oval area approximately 4x2 inches in the middle of one frame in the lower brood box where the bees had removed the comb completely down to the white plastic foundation. Nothing like that in the Italian hive next to it. I cannot find a reference to this on line. Problem? Thanks for the time,
My reply:
Being this is the lower brood box, a mouse has probably snuck in and chewed up a frame. Eating the honey and/or pollen.
In the lower box there are less bees in there especially if it is cool out. They are more than likely clustering in the middle box on a three high hive. They will put the run on the mice while it is warm, but when it starts getting cold the bees won't even go into the bottom box, on a three box hive. A two box hive has less of a problem with this, due to the fact the bees are in that lowest box.

Now as the cooler weather comes in, it is time to put in the entrance reducers. They should keep out the mice. This time of year I set them at the large opening.
When it is in the 70's or if the hive is being treated with Apiguard I would not put them in. But as the night time temps start getting into the 40's the mice will start to move in.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

High Moisture Honey

I have been seeing quite a bit of high moisture honey.
To be grade A, honey has to be 18.6% water content or less. I have tested many samples in the 18.8 - 20% range. Honey above 18.6% will ferment with time.
When I bring my honey home I put it in my honey house with a dehumidifier running for at least a week. This will lower the water content before I extract it.
It is hard to get the water content down after the honey is extracted.
If this is not an option, always extract the capped honey first, then the uncapped. Keeping them separate, then check the water content. I do check honey moisture content for free.
Always stir honey if it has sat for a week or so. Moisture will separate in honey and the higher water content can lay on top of a pail. By stirring it before a sample is taken, will be a more accurate sample.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Getting A Hive Ready For Winter

Treating a colony with Apiguard.

Now that the honey is off the hives it is time to get the hive ready to winter.
This is what has to be in a hive:
  • Eight frames of bees. Meaning that if the hive is checked when it is a little cool, the bees will cover both sides of the frames. It is important to realize if the bee numbers aren't there they will not make it through the winter.
  • Have a low number count of Varroa.
  • Feed two gallons of Syrup treated with Fumigilan to prevent Nosema.
  • Enough food. A colony of bees need this layout of honey
Top deep box, eight full frames of honey one partial filled frame in the center. The partial frame helps the bees move up from below later in the winter.
Middle or Bottom box (if in two deep), four frames of honey. Two on either side on the very outside of the box.
If a colony does not have this amount, it is time to feed. Feed 2 parts Sugar to one part water - heavy syrup. Feeding now gives the bees time to turn it to honey. If a colony isn't even close to this amount of honey they will not be able to survive the winter.
Bees eat about 12 - 14 pounds of honey a month in winter. Once Feb. hits that jumps up towards 30 lbs because of brood rearing.
  • Entrance reducers go in to keep out the mice. If treating with Apiguard the entrance reducers should be left out until the treatment is done.
  • A top entrance is needed for winter cleansing flights. I have 1 inch holes in all of my brood boxes. I don't know which one will end up as the top box. The top box hole is left open and the lower boxes are corked closed.
  • Covering a colony with winter wrap is done in Nov.
  • If a colony doesn't have the bees and/or the food to survive it is better to depopulate them in the late fall instead of letting them die in early winter. Take the loss in the fall.

Treating for Varroa

I have pulled most of my honey off my colonies. It is time for a treatment of Apiguard.
Apiguard is a thymol gel treatment. Thymol is the safest mite treatment to use at this time. It also affects tracheal mites.
The treatment is two gel packs. One goes on for two weeks, then the second one is added for another two weeks.
Apiguard is temperature dependent, it needs temperatures in the 70's to work.
The sooner it gets put on the better.
Apiguard can only be used in the fall.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

The State Fair - Nature's Nectar Award

Congratulations to :
Denise Wetterlind First Place Deep Brood Frame

Joerg Kessler First Place Medium Extracting Frame

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Cool Bug - A Walking Stick

I found this cool bug and got a picture of it. It is a walking stick. Click on the picture to enlarge it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Nature's Nectar on Heavytable.com

Katie from heavytable.com came to our extracting workshop and did an article and took some photos of the day. Here is the link to see the article. You have to scroll down, we are the bottom article.

A late season swarm

Terry McD had a late season swarm after she took the honey. I have heard of over twenty late season swarms this year.
Her video has her troubleshooting the colony looking for eggs, varroa infestation and disease.
She had to combine the hive with another colony.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Pulling Honey with a fume board and Honey Robber

I pulled a super of honey off a hive using a fume board and Honey Robber. This is my preferred method of pulling honey. The odor bugs some people but the ease of removal outweighs the odor. In beekeeping timing is everything. Using fume boards is the same thing. I wait for a warm day and plan to pull it then. As always follow the manufacturer's directions when using any product.
If you watch this video on youtube it is a bigger screen. Right click on the video and a box comes up click on watch this video on youtube.

Pulling honey supers using a bee brush

I pulled a super of honey using a bee brush to remove the bees. This is an easy way to remove the bees off a couple of hives.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Bee and Varroa Lifecycle

Teri McD forwarded this link of a video showing the lifecycle of a honeybee then a Varroa mite. It is interesting to see how the varroa can sneak into a larvae cell at just the right time to continue its lifecycle. Hopefully this type of research holds the key to combating this parasite.
As beekeepers, understanding how the varroa functions helps us to implement proper controls for minimizing this pest.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Honey Recipes

Delicious Honey Recipes

Honey Crinkles

¾ cup butter or margarine
¾ cup brown sugar
¼ cup honey
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. each baking soda, cinnamon, and ginger
¼ tsp. salt

In a mixing bowl, cream the first four ingredients until smooth and fluffy. Add remaining ingredients and mix well to make a smooth dough. Chill 10 minutes. Shape dough into 1” balls and roll in additional granulated sugar. Place on lightly greased cookie sheets. Drip 1-2 drops of water onto each cookie. Bake at 375° for 8-10 minutes until golden.

Honey Caramel Corn

½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup honey
Dash of salt
¼ tsp. baking soda
2 quarts dry popped popcorn

Combine the first four ingredients in a saucepan; stir over high heat until the mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium; boil without stirring about three minutes to 265 degrees. Remove from heat; stir in baking soda. Put popcorn into a large bowl and slowly pour on the syrup and stir until coated. Turn onto a greased cookie sheet and bake 45 minutes at 250 degrees, stirring every 15 minutes. Cool and break into serving-sized pieces. Store in an airtight container.

Honey Lemonade

Mix equal parts of reconstituted lemon juice and honey. Add water to taste and chill.

Mock Apple Crisp

My daughter made this recipe. It was very good. I thought I would share it.
It is a great way to use up the zucchini's.

Mock Apple Crisp
Bake at 350 degrees

8 - cups Zucchini (peeled and sliced)
2/3 cups lemon juice
cook until clear
1 - cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
mix in and cool

2 - 1/2 sticks butter or oleo
4 - cups flour
2 - cups sugar

Mix and press 1/2 of the mixture into a jelly roll pan and bake for 10 minutes.
Add zucchini and top with the rest of the crust.
Bake for 40 minutes.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

pre -extracting thoughts

1. Make sure the honey is ripe.

Capped honey is normally ripe with a moisture level of 18.6% or less. That is the threshold for Grade A Honey. Extract uncapped honey separately. Eat this first before it can ferment. The only way to check the moisture content is with a refactometer. I will check honey at my shop for free. Bring a full container. The amount can be small but the container should be full to get an accurate measurement. I only use a few toothpicks full for the sample.
Putting honey supers in a closed room with a dehumidifier running will bring down the moisture level of the honey before it is extracted.

2. A good place to store it.

A pail with a lid works great. If the pail has a honey gate that helps for bottling. A open headed pail is a must. If the honey granulates in the pail a open top makes it easier to get it out of.
A tight lid keeps the honey from absorbing moisture from the surrounding air.

3. Put down cardboard.

It helps to put down cardboard on the floor before extracting. The cardboard will keep the floor for getting wax and honey on the linoleum. Recycle the cardboard when finished.

4. The day before honey super removal, go out to your hive.

Take the supers off the hive. Then rotate them 180 degrees and put them back on. This will break loose any interconnecting bridge comb. By putting them back on, the bees will have a day to clean up any dripping honey. When you take the honey off the next day dripping honey off of bridgecomb will be much less.

5. A note of safety.

  • It is easy to poke the sharp tines of a capping scratcher into one's fingers.
  • Rotation of a honey extractor can injure fingers and hands. Never put hands into a rotating extractor.
  • The hot knife is hot, hence the name. A burn can happen quickly. The knife is also sharp. Cuts are possible.
  • Extract in a bug tight environment. extracting in an open garage will invite every bee, wasp, and hornet in your county into your garage.
  • Heavy loads. Make a little pallet the size of a supers. Use a two wheeler to move around supers.
  • A lid opener is a great little tool that can save on the fingernails

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Monday, July 27, 2009

The Silence of the Bees - about CCD on Public TV

There is a very good tv show on TPT about CCD.
It is a Nature series. The show is what is happening with the bees and CCD.
It has about two showings left. They are at odd times. Set your dvr's or tape them.

Sunday, July 26, 7:00 PM on Channel Image


Monday, July 27, 1:00 AM on Channel Image


Sunday, August 2, 12:00 PM on Channel Image

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

The Rain

I had a good soaking in Stillwater. My rain gauge said one inch fell. Hopefully this will keep the nectar flow going another two to three weeks.
Spotted Knapweed is blooming all over now. I still see white sweet clover although not as much as before. Purple Loosestrife should be blooming in swampy areas soon. Loosestrife honey has a nice flavor but the honey looks like new motor oil, it has a greenish hue.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Nature's Nectar Hours

Nature's Nectar will be closed Wed - Fri. Open Sat regular hours.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Checking supers today

I was out checking supers today.
There are many of my hives with 6 supers on, some with three supers, some with one and some that are not doing very well.
I am going to combine the weak ones trying to salvage some colonies for winter.
The nectar flow is still going. We do need some rain. I am hearing many beekeepers with 3 - 6 supers on. Also reports of new beekeepers that started with a package on foundation have up to 3 deeps and two supers all drawn out and filled with honey.
My swarm hive that I caught and left in one deep. I added my third super today of foundation. It has filled and capped one super, the second super is about half full.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Honey and the comb

Terry McD has some thoughts of honey and the comb that holds the honey.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Swarming is going on again

I have been getting calls of hives swarming. This could be an indication the the nectar flow may be drying up in some areas. More than likely the lack of moisture is having a negative effect on the nectar flow.
Hopefully some rain is in the forecast for the upcoming week and we will see the flow intensify a bit.
I see the basswoods in Stillwater area are in full bloom and clover is still going on. Spotted Knapweed is about ready to bloom.

Terry Mc D's Hive is queenless

Terry checked her parent colony and it was queenless. It was hard to tell if they had swarmed and had made a new queen. By having two colonies she had another option to fall back on. By taking a frame of eggs from the queen right colony to the queenless colony she will be able to confirm if there is a queen present or not.
Checking the frame 4 days later she saw queen cells. This confirmed there was not a queen in the hive. Had she not seen queen cells we would have to assume that a queen is in there but not laying yet.
The next post shows here combining the hives.

Combining a queenless colony with another colony

Terry McD is combining a weak queenless colony with a queen right colony. The resulting colony should be a honey producing powerhouse that she should be on the lookout for swarm cells.
But it is the best way to combine colonies and there is usually no problem with acceptance and very little fighting.

American Foulbrood

I had a beekeeper stop by yesterday with a question. She says her two hives have performed poorly for the last two years and she could not figure out why.
She said she had a deep brood box in the back of her car. We went out and looked through the box. By the time I had pulled the third frame I knew she had American Foulbrood ( AFB ). After further inspection she had 6 of the 9 frames infected with AFB scale.
Both of her colonies had it. The weakest hive had very little bees left was a Carniolan. The stronger hive was a MN - Hyg and was fitting the bill as a disease resistant bee. It still had AFB but was coping with it better.
The solution she was going to follow was to burn all the frames and start over next year with new bees and new comb.
Treating the hive with TM or Tylan does nothing if we don't get rid of the AFB scale. It is the scale that is infectious, and failure to get rid of it does not fix the problem.
I asked her how she thought she got it. She said she didn't use any used equipment ( the most common way to get AFB ) or feed any store bought honey. The most likely scenario is that her bees robbed out a dead or dying colony that were near hers and brought the AFB tainted honey back to her hive. Sometimes the general public will see honey bees and put out honey to " help " them out with food. Honey can have AFB spores in it. That is why we never feed honey to our bees unless it is only our personal honey. AFB spores in honey has no effect on people at all and are not a concern.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Bob Sitko Update

Bob continues to improve. He is at a rehab facility. His strength is getting better and is walking short distances.
At this time Bob is not taking phone calls or visitors.
Cards are deeply appreciated.
Bob Sitko
13042 N 10th St
Stillwater, MN

Saturday, July 4, 2009

The Nectar Flow

The nectar flow appears to be booming. Flowering plants in the Stillwater area are everywhere.
I am seeing yellow and white sweet clover, birdsfoot trefoil, and many other wild flowers.
My Basswood trees will be blooming today or tomorrow.
Beekeepers need to stay on top of the nectar flow.
Keeping supers on ahead of the bees is very important. Failure to do this will leave the brood nest honey bound. Bees have a hoarding instinct, the more room they have the harder they will try to fill the supers. Not putting on enough supers can also cut the possible yield. Whenever a beekeeper checks the supers at the end of the season. If all of the supers are jammed packed with capped honey it is safe to say the beekeeper would have got more honey if the room would have been there.
I still have new beekeepers telling me that they won't be putting supers on because you won't get honey your first year. This year is different. If their deeps are drawn out, throw the supers on, the bees might give up a few supers of honey.
I have been getting reports of beekeepers with two to three supers full already. Many of these are beekeepers with a package started on drawn comb.

Friday, July 3, 2009

Sunday, June 28, 2009

A great nectar flow

Honey glistening in the comb

This is the second super on a colony. The bees have worked up into the second super after only about one week. This is a package I started on drawn comb from my April 25th delivery.

This nectar flow is maybe going to be a great one. The weather is great, we have ample moisture, and the hives have been building up nicely.
The basswoods are blooming in the west metro and mine here in Stillwater should be blooming by Tues.
The warm days and nights hopefully will make the basswood flow. If that happens the supers will fill quickly.
Right now I have several colonies with two supers and with honey in the boxes. I have added two more supers on them.
It is important to stay ahead of the honey coming in because a super can be filled in less than a week. Supers go on two at a time.
Drawing new foundation in the supers? Put foundation directly on top of the brood nest. The bees will draw it out better.


This row of hives in one of my yards it is a typical line for drift. I have eight hives in a line. In this case the last hive has three supers and is the strongest colony

When ever hives are in a straight row there is drift of the bees.
The bees tend to move to the outside hives. The hives in the center get weaker the outside colonies get stronger.
When hives in lines get like this the simple fix is to move weak colonies to the outside and strong colonies to the middle. This will even out the populations.
One way to manage this is to not put hives in long straight lines.
Offset the colonies to break up the line.

Friday, June 26, 2009

The nectar flow

My Catalpa tree is in full bloom. Usually when that is blooming the nectar flow has begun. I think everyone in the metro area should be seeing something.
If you don't have supers on, they have to go on NOW or your hive may become honey bound with no room for the queen to lay.
Anyone doing comb honey I would wait until honey is in the supers before putting on the comb honey frames.
The basswood and linden trees should be blooming within a week. If they produce a good flow everybody will be entering a perfect capped frame of honey (deep, medium, or both) in the State Fair. First prize is $75.00 in each of these two categories.
How to win? Enter online at the MN State fair website. Look in the premium book under bee class. Follow all the instruction in the category you are interested in.
This is competition so make it nice. It is fun to compete all your friends and family will come to the fair to see your entry.

A video by T McD

Terry has forwarded a new video of various observations. Her queen is beautiful.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Good Article in the Star Tribune

This article has comments from some local beekeepers Bob Sitko, Dan Malmgren and studnets from the U of M.

Bob Sitko

We talked to Bob's wife Darlene today. Bob is sitting up and working with a physical therapist to regain strength.
Bob and Darlene are very grateful for the cards and she read each one to him. Please keep the cards coming.
Bob said right now his bees are good. He has supers on all his colonies.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

I have a nectar flow

The bees are just starting to work on a few frames in this new super. Notice the glisening nectar
click to enlarge

A fuzzy close up but you can see the wax coming out from the frame and some nectar

I checked my swarm hive today. I had put a super on last Sat.
I noticed that the bees were in the super starting to draw comb and putting up honey.

Monday, June 22, 2009

The Heat

When it gets hot like this bees will leave the hive and cluster under the front of the bottom board or will be all over the front of the hive.
This is normal. They are cooling off. Some bees are still inside, their numbers are not needed to cover frames to warm brood. The outside air temperatures will do this.
Hot weather can make the bees slip into swarm mode.
When it gets into the 90's bees don't seem to collect much nectar. It is like they are using there energy to cool the colony.
Also the bees can get really cranky when hot.
A safety note. A sweaty bee suit that is dripping wet, bees can sting through a wet suit like there is no suit even there.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Bob Sitko Update

We heard from Bob's wife today. She reports he is doing better today.
He would love to receive some cards at the address on the previous post.
The family still requests no visitors.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Bob Sitko

We want to let you know that Bob Sitko is in the hospital with serious heart trouble.
Cards are encouraged to:
Bob Sitko
13042 N 10th St
Stillwater, MN
Please no visitors!

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Checking my swarm

Looking at a frame of new honey. I should bring this frame to the State Fair. First prize in the honey frame competition is $75.00.

I checked my swarm today. The queen is laying and they have put up some honey. I had this beekeeper take it home and put it on a weak colony of his. Hopefully he will get some honey off of the combined colony.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Checked my bees today

I checked my bee today. They were packages from the April 25th delivery. Most of them looked great. All of them are in two deeps on drawn comb. I have fed very little because I had frames of honey in the hive when I installed them.
During my inspection I had some that were heavy with honey the others had ample food. The bees are perfect for the nectar flow. Great populations and heavy already with food.
I put honey supers on all of my hives and removed all the entrance reducers.
I looked at the weather forecast and it seems some very warm and humid weather is coming next week. If your hives have a good population it might be a good idea to remove the entrance reducers. Nothing puts bees into swarm mode than a hot hive.

Friday, June 12, 2009


Swarming is getting into high gear. I have collected three swarms so far. I have had several calls from the public about swarms in trees. An inspection for swarm cells with a 7-10 day schedule will catch queen cells before they are capped.
If you see capped swarm cells in your hive, it has more than likely swarmed. Hives with two year old queens are more prone to swarm than hives with new queens.
A hive that has swarmed will usually not produce much excess honey.
The swarming season usually lasts until the nectar flow starts coming on strong..

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Nectar Flow or you can't get honey if your supers are in the garage

The nectar flow is coming. I stole that title line from Basil Furgala.
I think everyone should be close to being done on drawing comb. ( If they kept feeding syrup).
When the deeps are basically done at being drawn out it is time to do the last reversal of the season. Bring the bottom deep to the top and the top deep to the bottom. This is to get the darkest comb in the top box. The the top box will get full of honey for winter stores. Bees will move up on to dark comb in January easier than white comb.
It is best to put the honey supers on sooner than later. Put them on two at a time If the nectar flow is intense at the start, the bees can fill up a box in a week.
I did see some clover blooms on my lawn and some yellow sweet clover in the ditches. The farmer down the road has cut his hay field. Things are progressing, now with the recent rain I am hopeful for a decent nectar flow.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Black Locust are Blooming in Stillwater

Black Locusts are blooming. They are a large white flower mass. That hang down off the tree. Black locust are a very good nectar plant. If you are lucky enough to have a few of these trees near the bee yard they will make a decent amount of honey.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_locust here is a link for more information.

Monday, June 1, 2009

What does skunk trouble look like?

This hive is being hassled by a skunk. The scratch marks and muddy calling card has skunk written all over it.
Notice how the scratch marks are at the entrance only. The skunk will show up every night at the same time and scratch the entrance. As the bees come out to investigate they become dinner for PePe Le'Pew. A skunk will depopulate a hive and it will become a very weak hive..
Another symptom of a skunk is the bees will be agitated when you work them.

Notice the grass beaten down in front of the hive.
Solution, fence out the skunk or get rid of the skunk.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Now that the swarm season is here what do I do?

Fail: The grass is to tall it must be kept short so the bees can ventilate properly.

Swarm cell on bottom of frame

Fail: this strong colony needs to be divided, plus the winter cover is causing overheating in the colony.

The swarm season is up and running. The trick with this is to at least keep it at bay the best you can and react before they leave the hive.
The things that trigger swarming are:
  • Having an old queen in the hive. The hive wants a new queen, they achieve this with swarming. Queens cells are made and the hive swarms with the old queen when the queen calls are capped in the hive. The hive gets a young queen to carry on and the bees that swarmed look for a new place to setup shop. The swarm has alot against it to survive period. It needs to get established, grow in strength, an put up enough honey to survive winter.
  • Overcrowding, there is nothing that sets swarming off like crowded conditions. Failure to divide a strong colony in May is a swarm ready to happen in June. If your hive swarms there will be no excess honey for the beekeeper on that hive.
  • Heat, this is partly with overcrowding. A hive that can't keep itself ventilated will swarm. Keep the grass cut in front of a colony, remove the entrance reducer. Most colonies will not need entrance reducers after June 7. If it is a strong overwintered colony the do not need an entrance reducer anymore until fall.
  • All queens cells are not the same. As beekeepers we need to know when a hive is truly in swarm mode. An inspection schedule of every 7 - 10 days to check for swarm cells. Active swarm cells have a larvae in them, peanut shaped, usually on the bottom of a frame, But can really be anywhere. Looking is the key. Bees will make cups on the bottom of frames but these are just for show. It is the larvae filled that is troublesome.
  • The easy way to stop a hive that is hell bent on swarming is to do this: Hive A is in full swarm mode, Hive B is a weaker colony chugging along. Switch hives, move Hive A to where Hive B is and move Hive B to where Hive A is. What happens is the field bees fly out to forage. When they comeback they fly to where they used to live. Now Hive A the swarm hive gets weaker and Hive B gets stronger. Swarming impulse will diminish on Hive A and Hive B may turn out to be the honey producer. This method works every time and there is no problem with fighting.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Hiving a swarm

I caught the swarm in a cedar tree. It was about 6 - 7 lbs of bees. I sprayed them with 1:1 sugar syrup to get their wings wet so they wouldn't fly as much. I put a 5 gallon pail underneath them, a sharp shake of the branch and most of them fell into the pail. Dumping them into the hive is easy. After doing this three times, I had captured most of the bees. Being they stayed in the hive, the queen must have been in the mass. The white towel under the bees in front of the hive helps them crawl inside. There was so many bees they all did not fit in the 5 frame nuc box. I put them in a deep hive body the next morning with some feed. At present they like their new home and seem to be staying put. I will add these to my weakest colony in about three weeks. The swarm queen will be killed off because I don't know how old she is. By then the swarm should have 4 -5 frames of brood and drawn out the 7 frames of foundation I put in with them.The new combined hive will be strong and will produce honey this year. Had I not added the swarm, the weak colony would not have given me any extra honey.
It was getting dark when I caught the swarm so the video quality is a little lame.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

When Do I put on the second box? What are the bees eating?

I have been asked this question many times of late.
I think anyone who was on the April 11th load should have put on a second box a week ago. The folks who were on the April 25th delivery are almost done drawing comb in the first box. I think by next Wed. or so, another box could be added.
Remember if you are drawing out foundation there has to be feed on the colony at all times.
Hive populations are growing. Foundation will be drawn out at a faster rate now. The bees will use a little more sugar water with the added bees.
Now that the dandelions and fruit bloom is over there will be a dearth in nectar coming in. This will usually kick off the swarming impulse in strong overwintered colonies with older queens. Check strong colonies for swarm cells.
Watch the food in the colony so the bees don't starve.
The next major nectar flow will be the first hay crop. Alfalfa should start blooming in early June. The lack of water may hinder this date.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Dividing a colony by T McD

Terry McD did a divide on her colony. Her method is different than what is taught at the U of MN but the outcome is basically the same.
When she released the queen the workers were very content with her and made no attempts to kill her. Holding her for four full days then releasing her helps for queen acceptance.

Finding a queen cell in a box.

A Terry Mc D video.
Terry found a queen cell. Rather odd because the hive wasn't that strong. Maybe the queen is showing her age being it was an overwinter colony. The bees might be trying to replace her.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Why look at the brood?

I had a customer call me. He said that his hive was dwindling. After talking about it I suggested maybe it was Nosema Ceranae. But he said he treated already with fumigilan. He has kept bees for several years and was confident with the process.
He said he would go back and look again.
He called me back later after another beekeeper looked at his colonies with him.
It turns out he had American Foulbrood. The discussion of the hive problem would have been diagnosed had I known that there was a brood issue.
Word to the wise is if a hive isn't getting stronger pulling some brood frames will tell the tale. Anytime there is discolored and or misshapen brood there is usually a disease problem. While not always AFB, a clue there is a problem will help in finding a cure.
Brood that is glistening pearly white is healthy. Any brood that does not look like that, there is a problem.
How AFB gets transmitted is usually through buying used equipment that has AFB scale in the combs, feeding
someone else's honey to your bees, or through a colony robbing out a dying AFB infected colony.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Sunday, May 17, 2009


All medications should now be done with and should not be applied until after the honey supers are removed.
Read the manufacturers recommendations and follow those directions. ie. Fumigilan, foulbrood and mite treatments.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

May 7th inspection of pkg and overwintered hive.

Terry McD has made a new video. A May 7th inspection of two package colonies and an overwintered colony.
The packages were from the April 25th delivery. Nice video Terry.
The package bees are about at their lowest population and should be building up their numbers for the rest of the summer.
Her over wintered colony had a much larger population as noticed by the extra noise and activity.

Monday, May 11, 2009

my e-mail and bee meeting

My e-mail has not been working since last Friday. Hopefully I will have it going tomorrow or Wed.
I will not be at the hobby bee meeting on Tues evening as my work schedule is five more days of night shift.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

The fruit bloom

Here in Stillwater my wild plums are coming into bloom. They are usually the first fruit tree I see around here in bloom. They bees love the pollen they get from them. I love to stand out in them to listen and watch the bees working the flowers. The blooms are very fragrant.
Over the next two weeks we should see most of our fruit trees in full flower. The bees should have an abundance of pollen. Now if the weather stays warm and not to windy, the wind can affect the quality of the fruit blossom.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Why divide an overwintered colony?

There is my nectar flow. Up in a tree. I won't get honey from that colony.

This colony is very strong and will swarm. Leaving the beekeeper with no excess honey for the year.

This time of year many new beekeepers with overwintered colonies are unaware how strong their colonies are and how big they will get in a short period of time.
If you have 8 frames or more of brood in your colony by around mid May dividing it may be the only way to stop it from swarming.
I have a link about dividing colonies at the lower right corner of this page.
If the beekeeper doesn't want more colonies there are people looking for bees right now and will be happy to purchase a divide from them.

Friday, May 1, 2009


My work schedule has changed for 13 days starting Sat evening. I will be on the night shift for that time period.
If you want queens this is how I have to do it.
Anyone that wants a queen(s) after Sat May 2nd will have to call one day before they need it during the week. Leave a message on my voice mail of what you need and who it is for.
I will get it ready and it will be available for pickup Mon - Fri, 5 pm - 7 pm ONLY. No one will be available after 7 pm.
Sat. May 9th someone will be available 9 am - 3pm to sell queens.
Thank You for your cooperation.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

The Dandelion Bloom

Dandelions are starting to bloom around the metro area. This is the first major nectar flow of the season. A much needed bounty of nectar and pollen. I like looking at the hive entrances this time of year. They are a bright yellow from the pollen.
I make sure the bees have room to put the nectar. If a strong colony does not have room to put the nectar, they may fill the hive with nectar plugging all the cells solid.
With the hive plugged solid, the queen will have no place to lay eggs. The hive will dwindle and not get any bigger. This hive may even not be able to over winter because they will weaken so much.
The solution is a super on top of the colony. A strong colony might make an extra 60 lbs of Dandelion honey.

Hello St Croix Free Press Readers This is how to start a hive.

A hive is started in April with a 2 lb or 3 lb package of bees with queen.

Unloading package bees in Stillwater off a Bee delivery truck

Align Center
Shaking bees into 2 lb and 3 lb packages in Calif.

The article in the St Croix Free Press didn't get all the facts straight. I do not get my bees mail order. They are trucked in from Calif on a special truck designed for hauling bees.
This is how to start a hive.
A video by Terry McD
Terry does a great job on her videos. She films, narrates, and edits the videos.Thanks for sharing the video Terry. Enjoy

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Releasing a queen from a package of bees

Releasing a queen the first time is a nerve wracking ordeal.
The questions are spinning in your mind:
  • Will she fly away?
  • Will I kill or injure her?
  • How does she get out of her cage?
Being careful not to drown her in syrup or chill here before putting her in.
The marshmallow method works great but the thing to remember is, This release method is a fast release. Introducing a new queen that has not been in a package cage for four days with a marshmallow will probably by a quick demise to a $20.00 queen.

A slow release is a hard candy that takes the bees about 4 days to release the new queen. Or the best release is to hang the queen cage in the hive for four full days then either directly release her or put a marshmallow in the cork hole for a 3 hour release.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Looking for eggs, how can I see them?

Another Terry McD video. She caught me explaining to a customer how to see eggs. Another way I recommend how to see something about beekeeping. Is to click Google - Images and type in the picture you would like to see.

Friday, April 24, 2009

If your returning cages

If your returning cages;:
please clean out all debris and wash off anything sticky
throw away feeder cans and queen cages
no broken or torn screen cages
my cages only
thank you

Saturday, April 18, 2009

It is time to check for queen acceptance

This is what I hope to see. A frame with a solid pattern of brood in egg and larvae stage. The bees aren't capped until day nine after the egg has been laid.
photo by T. Driggers

It has been a week since I installed my packages. I am going out today to open the hive and look for eggs.
If I see eggs I know the queen is alive. No reason to look further I will close up the hive. Maybe refresh the pollen patty if it is getting hard. I know the package probably didn't eat it all but a fresh one keeps the hive moving forward.
Refilling the feeder pail is also on the to do list.
If I don't see eggs I will close up the hive and check again on Tues. If I don't see eggs I know I need a queen.
Failure to check for queen acceptance can lead to the death of the colony.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A reversal on an over wintered colony by Terri McD

Teri McD has made another you tube video. It demonstrates a springtime reversal.
Reversals are important to help expand the brood nest. This promotes greater egg laying by the queen, leading to a more populous hive. We can then possibly divide the colony in early to mid May.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Looking for Queen Acceptence after hiving a package.

This is a new frame about 10 days from when the bees started working on it. The bees start at the top and work their way down a frame. This frame has black foundation.
photo by T Driggers

After putting in a package of bees they need to establish themselves in the hive. I don't look inside at all.
I know that seven days after hiving them I have to go back and open up the hive while wearing Protective clothing and a lit smoker. This is looking for queen acceptance.
I know that failure to check for queen acceptance will lead to possibly the death of the colony.
I will start at the side where no bees are and remove a frame or two. Then I gently slide the frames back until I get to where the cluster of bees are. Removing one of these core frames I will scan it for eggs. I look at the frames until I find them. Once the eggs are found there is no reason to look any further. I know the queen is alive within the last three days.
One has to resist the temptation of looking for the queen. The more the frames are disturbed the odds of accidentally killing her go up.
If I see eggs I know the queen has been accepted.
If I don't see eggs I close up the hive and come back three days later. Again I will look for eggs. If I see them I am good to go. If there still is no eggs I know she is dead and I will need a new queen.
A new queen would be installed with the slow release method. A marshmallow is not a slow release. Candy in the queen cage is the proper method.
Opening a hive more than once a week will lead to queen supersedure and will adversely affect the hives ability to survive.

A bee question I thought I would share

Hi Jim,
I had a couple of questions. I bought the feeder bucket from you, but it was leaking and the syrup was dripping out of the hive. So I changed the feeder to the Mann Lake hive top feeder I had. Do you have any suggestions with the bucket feeder so I could use it?
Also, I put grass in the entrance. But I had the 3# box in the deep super (I couldn't spray the bees with sugar water due to the temp, and couldn't get all of the bees out). I went in the next day to get the box, I still couldn't get all of them out, so I put the 3# box by the entrance so they could go in the hive (therefore I had to remove the grass). Should I replace the grass back?

My response:
The hive has to be reasonably level or the pail will leak, also the pail should be full when you put it on, and the top needs to be snapped on tight. If you do this the pail will not leak.
Some of my hives are not level. I bring a pocket level with we and level the pail by shimming one side with a stick or corn stalk or whatever is laying around.
The grass should be out now. If you can't get a few bees out, it is not an issue.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Bear picture

This is the bear that has been been hanging around. Causing a ruckus. My trail camera time was off due to the batteries died and I didn't reprogram it. This was taken on April 11th. Obviously the time is wrong on the picture because it is light at 8:17 am.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

First Pollen Of Spring

Another video by Terry McD. She noticed yesterday there was no pollen coming in. Today the bees are finding some yellow pollen. Note the yellow pollen on the bees hind legs.

Friday, April 10, 2009

This happened the same time as the hostage situation.

I was going to post this earlier but, I figured the drama was high enough. My batteries had run down on the trail camera so the date and time is wrong
Now to add to my stress level. I had a visitor last night. My bird feeders were wrecked, a pallet of misc bee stuff was in disarray. And of course what tipped me over is a missing pail of corn syrup.
I had a few pallets of pails of syrup and some hives a guy wants to me install some bees in. The pail is gone and down the hill about 200 feet from the pallets. The pail weighs 60 lbs. The pail is full still. He didn't get it open.
And of course the hives that were screwed together with sheet rock screws were torn apart.
And he will be back tonight.
The bees will be ok tonight in the barn and the garage.
A post note he did come back and wrecked two pails of syrup.

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A question about cold weather hiving of a package

I have a question about my honey bees

1. What can I do to keep them warm when they come April 11th? Last year I killed them (froze after I put the sugar water on them). Clearly I will not spray them with sugar water if it is below 45 degrees, but any other suggestions to keep them alive?

If you have some drawn comb when the bees come, at the time of installation you can spray sugar syrup into the cells of two frames. You don't have to fill the frames but spray the edges and along the top cells. You will feel the frames gaining the weight of the added syrup. After you put the bees in add these two frames to the center of the single deep box under the feeder pail. This should give the bees ample food to immediately produce heat to keep themselves warm. You can do the same thing with frames of honey. You should scratch open the sides of the frames with a capping scratcher exposing honey. The bees will have immediate food and can produce heat. Even if it is in the 30's.


Sunday, March 29, 2009

Over-Wintered Colonies No Two Are Alike

This colony is weak. It is only about 3 frames of bees. It is a MN - Hyg queen. This may not be able to build into a decent colony. I will add a frame of capped brood from another colony on the next warm day.

The colony shown here again is a MN - Hyg queen. About four frames of bees maybe. It is a little weak but pollen patties and a little syrup might bring it around. If these two colonies were Carniolans, I would have more faith in a positive turn around.

This colony again MN - Hyg queen. It is much stronger than the previous two. Pollen patties and a little syrup will have this colony bursting at the seams by mid May. The other two were also given pollen patties. Pollen substitute is critical to getting a colony to proper strength for Late spring divisions.

Package Bees Still Available

I still have package bees available for my second load.

Monday, March 23, 2009

A day in the bee yard.

Master beekeeper Bob Sitko teaches a beekeeping class at Century College. His class starts in Jan once a week for 6 weeks.
His class includes a trip to his bee yard.
The video from Terry McD and posted with her permission shows two hives and how they compare.
Terry works hard on the editing to make this a great springtime video.
Thanks Terry and Bob.
Part 1
Part 2

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A late winter question from a beekeeper.

Nice frame. Food and room to lay for the queen.
This was a new frame last year. The upper corners are nice and white. Brood comb where the brood is being raised will turn dark brown with time. This is normal.
The dark color comes from brood debris that gets embedded in the wax.

Brush off the dead bees. The bees will clean up the rest.

A little mold, the bees will clean it up. Notice the pollen in the cells. ( Brown muddy looking) The bees will need this to build up the brood.

> Hi Jim
> I don't mean to take up your time but we could use some advice.
> We checked the hives again today - first time since January.
> Both hives have three boxes. We must have had brood hatching because both
> hives are absolutely full of bees.
> We have two hives, 3 boxes on each. The MN Hygenic hive looks great, all 9
> frames in all 3 boxes are covered with bees. Frames look very clean in all
> three boxes. Top box still has a lot of honey on the outside frames. We
> swapped the top and bottom box and put in the queen excluder.
> In the other hive the top two boxes were the same, full of bees and the top
> box still had honey. When we got to the bottom box of that hive there were
> not nearly as many bees and the frames looked darker and not nearly as
> fresh. Less than a quarter of each frame had bees working on them and when
> we pulled one of the outside frames it looked pretty bad. (See pix
> attached.) There was a big clump of dead bees and they looked moldy. We
> pulled those two frames and replaced with new. We noticed that the bottom
> board on that hive was so full of dead bees they came up to the bottom of
> those outside frames. They couldn't even use the bottom entrance. We
> cleaned up the bottom board and swapped the bottom box to the top thinking
> they would move up there and clean that box up.
> Now I'm worried that maybe we should have pulled that whole bottom box and
> replaced it in case that mold might indicate some disease? I don't want the
> whole colony to get sick from it.
> I'm also wondering if, since the boxes are so full of bees, do we have to
> worry about them swarming before we have time to get them fed and before we
> can start putting supers on? We plan to divide both hives once we can see
> where the queens are but I think we'll have to wait a couple weeks before
> we'll know.
> Thanks
My response:
No queen excluders until you are going to divide. You need 8 - 10 frames of brood (bees in all stages, eggs. larvae and capped) to be able to divide a colony. Most divides happen in May. I will have queens available May 1st.
There can be a rare occasion the a hive is so full that they have to be divided a little early, if you absolutely have to divide in late April, I may have a queen for you.
The hives will unlikely swarm this time of year.
The dead bees on the bottom board is normal.
The bees will clean up that mold. Brush off the dead bees off the frames the bees will clean up the rest.
Your frames look fine. The nice white new combs will get darker with time and will end up a very dark brown. This is normal.
Make sure the bees have enough feed. They will use more during brood rearing. Don't overfeed. Just enough to keep the going.
It sounds like you did a reversal. Maybe a little early, but if it is loaded with bees you probably are ok.
If the hive isn't boiling with bees I would hold off on reversals for a week or so. On a three deep hive for a reversal I like to move the bottom box to the top and move the top two boxes down leaving them in the same order.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

FAQ What load of bees am I on?

I have two loads of bees coming. April 11 and April 25.
The second load is a smaller load, added after the first one was almost sold out.
Everyone who is on the second load is getting an e-mail or phone call to let them know they are on the second load.
No e-mail or phone call you are on the first load.
If you still are unsure e-mail me and I will tell you which load you are on.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Short video of a 50 degree day with a hive

Terry McD has a new video. A short video of a hive on the first warm day when bees can work from the bottom board.
They are busy cleaning out the hive of dead bees. Lots of activity at the upper hole where the brood is. The bees are enjoying the pollen patty that is helping them feed the brood and expand the hive population.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Queen Cell Builder Colonies

The queen cell building yard is full of bees. The grafted queen larvae are moved to these cell builder colonies. They are strong queenless colonies that need a queen. So their desire to make queen cells is great.

Starting a queen cell building yard.

Open barrel feeding of syrup in a bee yard. This is not recommended for hobbyists because it will lead to robbing,