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.

Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Dunn County Beekeeping Class

The Dunn County Beekeepers and the UW Extension will host an "Introduction to Bees and Beekeeping" workshop from 8am to 4pm on Feb 16 in Menomonie. Cost is $48 per person and $8 for each additional family member.
Fee includes lunch. Mitchel and Fran Wayne attended this workshop last year and found it very good. Registration deadline is Jan 3. For more information call 715-232-1636 This should be helpful if you know of anyone who is
just getting started in Beekeeping.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

What is happening right now in a hive

I have had a few calls of some concerned beekeepers about their hives. So to help with that here is some background of what is happening in the hive.
Right now the bees should have no brood in the hive. The bees are in the lower box of a two deep colony and the middle box of a 3 deep colony. If a beekeeper opened their colony right now and looked at the top box there should be no bees present. But if you peered down deep you might be able to see the cluster in the lower box. If a colony has a large amount of stores the bees may be down deep and the only way to know they are there is to rap the side of the hive and listen.
The snow we have received is a bonus for helping to winter the bees. It should provide a little more insulation.
It is not uncommon to see some bees flying out of the hive and dying in the snow in front of the colony. This will go on all winter. The hive started winter with 50,000 bees. If by March 1 there is 20,000 left, that would be considered a nice overwintered colony. So 30,000 bees have to die and go somewhere. That somewhere is either the bottom board or in the snow in front of the hive.
In late winter after the snow is melting back some the snow in front of the colony, it will be covered with dead bees. This is normal.
I did have a beekeeper in yesterday and said his bees were dying in droves and dwindling down to nothing. Could be a virus at work there.
Frost at the entrance of the top entrance hole on a cold day is a sign that the bees are alive and the vapor of their respiration is frosting up the hole. Again this is normal.
It is best to leave the bees alone and check them in Feb to see if they are alive.

Slide show by Jerry Linser

Sunday, December 12, 2010

The blizzard blast

All the snow we have received should be a good thing. The snow should cover most of the bee hives and insulate them against the bitter windchill that will follow this storm. The bitter wind that drives into a colony really seems to have a negative effect on the bees. Some natural insulation will help.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Bee Classes

Now is a good time to sign up for a bee class. They can fill up fast. Having a good foundation of beekeeping knowledge helps for success.
University of Minnesota March 12 - 13, 2011:

Backyard Beekeeping taught by Master Beekeeper Bob Sitko
8-Thursday nights starting Feb 10 - March 31st.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Making Creamed Honey For Holiday Gifts

This time of year I make Creamed Honey for holiday gifts. I usually make 9 oz hex size jars. The 1/2 lb jars make a great gift without using very much honey. The creamed honey needs to be made by Dec 7 to make sure there is time for it to set.
Making creamed honey adds to the skill of the beekeeper to produce another type of honey product. This is also an entry at the State Fair. It is very easy to do and your friends and family who receive it will greatly appreciate it.

Double click on the video for full screen

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Our first snow

Now that we are getting dumped on with snow and the hives are not covered yet. There is no reason to panic. Bees will still do nicely in these temperatures. Covering the hives by Thanksgiving weekend is still an option. A person could easily wait that long without stressing out the bees. Fighting the snow depth is another matter if the hives are hard to reach. My plan is still to cover my bees in a week or so.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It is going to cool down

The weather is cooling down so covering the hive at this time would be ok.
It is important to remove any partially filled supers the are on the top of the hive. Partially filled supers left on top of a hive is a fast way to starve a colony come about Jan. The bees will move up following the honey. If they have the misfortune of moving up into a partially filled box of honey the bees will usually starve after it is gone.
For wintering I always make sure the top box is full of honey, my moisture board is on top the inner cover and my black box with a top entrance is on the hive.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Trail Camera Pics

I think this may be a coyote. It isn't clear but, the head seems too big for a red fox.

Buck foraging in the deer food plot.

I was a little surprised by this picture. Two bucks eating together. The rut has not started yet. I have recently started seeing deer in the dark while driving to work. They are starting to get into the mating season. Much to the delight of the auto insurance companies.
I have many pictures of deer and turkeys on my camera from the last two weeks. The bucks are being photographed only at night. When I start seeing them in the daylight hours then I will know the mating season is heating up.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Moisture Boards and used stuff

After searching far and wide. I have secured the material for moisture boards.
I have cut them up and they are now available.
I have a used 300 lb Maxant bottler for sale that I just picked up.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Friday, October 8, 2010

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

This warm weather is great

The warm weather has been great. A few of my colonies that were a little weak have beefed up with some late season feeding. My light in weight colonies I have been feeding Pro Sweet syrup. The Pro Sweet is perfect for light colonies. The bees put in the cells and don't have to turn it to honey. Being there is no conversion by the bees and no drying to get the water out, Pro Sweet quickly brings the weight up on my colonies. I think if this weather persists for a little while, all of my colonies that I am going to winter will be looking sweet.

Monday, September 27, 2010

The cooler weather

Now the weather is cooling off. I have finished my Api Guard Treatments. Some beekeepers who have put on the Api Guard late are finding the gel trays not being emptied of all the gel. This is because of the cooler weather. It was best to get this on by Sept 1st. The later treatments may not be as effective but can still do some good.
With the cooler temperatures it is better if the ApiGuard is put directly on top of the cluster. If you are in a two or three deep hive, the ApiGuard and 1-1/2"shim should now be placed under the top box. This placement will be a little warmer near the cluster and the odor should be more effective. Feeding is still going on. It is important to get this done as soon as possible. Feeding spurs brood laying. If the feeding carries on into late October, brood rearing may be present in the colony into late Nov. or even into Dec. This late brood rearing makes the bees consume more of their winter food stores that they may need in late winter.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Last Call For ApiGuard

The weather next week is going to be in the 70's. This maybe the last chance to get effective mite treatment for the rest of this fall. The ApiGuard should be put on by Sunday to be in place when the warm temperatures hit.
ApiGuard works best in the 70's. As the weather cools into the 60's it becomes much less effective.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Melting beeswax cappings

With the harvesting of honey almost done, what do we do with the wax cappings.
It is nice to make something out of them. Candles, lip balm, or a salve.
The first step is to make the cappings usable.
I take two stainless pots and make a double boiler with them. The first pot has water in it. I take the second pot that is smaller and float in the water of the first pan. The cappings go in the small pot and I turn on the stove. Beeswax melts at 160 degrees F. The nice part of the double boiler is the water can't get hotter than 212 degrees F.
The water gets hot and melts the wax. I usually turn off the stove when the wax has melted. I walk away until the next day. I then take out the wax block that is floating on top. Underneath the wax is old honey now burnt and slum gum. Then the crud is cleaned up and the bottom of the waxed bock is surface scraped to take off any crud. After everything is cleaned up I then remelt the wax block in the double boiler, when it is liquid I pour it through a tee shirt that is stretched over a rough mold for straining. Once it cools I can use this clean beeswax for some of my projects.
Be careful when melting beeswax it can be flammable if heated to hot. If the beeswax or hot water spills it can burn a person. Never leave a stove unattended when melting beeswax. Always have a plan in place if a fire starts.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

My table at a local apple festival

My table layout from right to left:
candles and beeswax products
cut comb honey
pint size chunk honey
pint sized raw honey
8 0z bears
12 oz bears
1 lb flip top and wide mouth
2 lb flip top and wide mouth
6 lb jars
out of picture honey stix

Wendy and I went to a local apple festival. It is an event we have attended for 13 years. It is a good venue for us and we sell a fair amount of honey.
When attending this type of festival it is a good idea to go to the place to see the layout before the event. This place is a little hilly so I bring wood to shim up the table legs. If there is another honey person there ( I ask ) I don't set up there. Having competition from another honey vendor usually hurts both beekeepers and it is not fair to horn in on someone who has already been there.
We have labels, scissors, tape, pens, chairs, tables, a good quality E-Z up for shade and weather protection. Ample product for the event. We have some farmers markets after this one so there is an outlet if we over bottle.
It is important to have a full table and keep it full. When a table looks empty people tend not to buy. A full table makes you look professional.
Set a table up at home and see how it looks. Having labels that are all the same gives a good look of a pro. Remember this is food. If your product does not have a favorable appearance, people won't buy and your cash box will not have a favorable appearance at the end of the day.

Monday, September 6, 2010

It is time to treat for Varroa

Api Guard is a Thymol gel pack. A 1-1/2" shim is needed to raise the roof so the bees have access to the gel.

I am almost done pulling my honey. As the supers come off the mite treatment Api Guard goes on.
Api Guard is a Thymol gel. It is packed in a foil pack. The foil lid is peeled back and the gel pack is placed on the top bars of the top box of the hive. The gel pack is on for two weeks then another one is put on, for a total treatment time of 30 days. All holes are plugged and the main entrance is open. The slide board is put in on any Varroa Screen bottom boards.
It is important to put Api Guard on now, being it is temperature sensitive. If the daytime high temperatures dip into the 60's Api Guard becomes less effective.
Treating in early Sept is usually the best time to do it when daytime temperatures are still in the 70's.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

High Moisture Honey

With the humid weather we have been having I have seen rising moisture levels in honey beekeepers who have brought some honey by for me to test.
A beekeeper using a bee escape to pull honey over a humid stretch of weather brought me a sample. It was over 20% moisture content. Remember honey that is higher than 18.6% moisture content will ferment and is not Grade A honey. Now with the cooler weather and some better dew points I am hopeful that the moisture levels will drop to a more manageable level.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The State Fair - Nature's Nectar Award

A good picture from the fair of Amber, Light Amber and White Honey

Congratulations to all the participants in the Bee and Honey competition.
Their participation helps showcase and promote the bee industry.
  • Natures Nectar Award winners:
  • Deep Frame Mike Goblirsch
  • Medium Frame Jerry Linser
Jerry Linser also was the Sweepstakes winner in the bee & honey division.
Check out the results of all the winners:

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Small Hive Beetle

Small hive beetle

Beetle Larvae on a bottom board

I got a call from a beekeeper who claims he has some small hive beetle in some hives. He started the colonies this spring with packages. The packages did not have beetles. Now three weak colonies in his beeyard have beetles and beetle larvae. The beetle larvae start on a frame and will defecate and slime the frames. When the larvae are at the right age. They slither their way out the bottom board and drop to the ground. They burrow into the ground, pupate, and emerge as adult beetles and re-enter the hive. The bees in a weak colony usually will abscond and leave.
He was wondering where the beetles came from. I asked him if there is any commercial beekeepers near his hives. He said yes there are some commercial beekeepers near his bee yard. Many commercial beekeepers winter bees in Texas. Most states in the Southeastern U.S. all the way to Texas have the beetle. The beetles which can fly up to twenty miles, more than likely showed up one day and moved in.
Beetles can reproduce when the ground temperature is 50 degrees or warmer. This year the ground was warmer earlier and may caused beetles to start up earlier than normal. Beetles can survive the winter living in a cluster of bees.
How do we combat beetles? Keeping strong colonies, strong colonies keep the beetle from getting their larvae started. Don't have weak colonies or dead outs sitting in a bee yard. If a colony is weak put them in a smaller hive. If you notice beetles put in beetle traps. The traps are cheap and effective. There is also a ground drench that kills the larvae when they burrow into the ground to pupate. Treating for beetles in the spring is the best time because they are limited to places in the colony where they can be. This makes them easier to kill.
If colonies have beetles be careful when pulling honey supers and extracting. Pull the supers and extract them right away. Don't leave the supers sitting around for a long time. Beetles may have come with the supers and they may start laying eggs in a unoccupied super.
The hive beetle, eggs, and larvae are killed at refrigerator temperatures if there are no bees to keep them warm.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The nectar flow in mid Aug

I use this drywall mud mixer to mix sugar syrup. When it is 2:1 the sugar is tough to get mixed in. Some hot water (not boiling) with the sugar mixed in liquefies quickly with this method.

I have really seen the nectar flow slow down in my area. Not much going in the supers. Goldenrod is blooming but I usually never see much of that honey around here.
Now my attention is pulling honey, feeding and mite treatments. Pulling my honey by labor day is usually my goal so I can treat for Varroa before it gets to cool for Api-Guard to be effective. It is not a bad idea to pull the honey by the last week of August, feed that week then treat with Api-Guard. Feeding early helps the bees shut down brood rearing early. By feeding into Oct & Nov. usually means there is brood in the colony as late as Thanksgiving or later. This late brood rearing makes a colony more inclined to starve in mid to late winter because the bees depleted their stores keeping the brood fed and warm into Dec. A hive in winter consumes about 12 to 14 lbs a month. If the bees eat 18 - 20 lbs in Dec and we have a cold winter, look out for the grim reaper.
Remember an overwintered hive needs two gallons of heavy 2:1 (2 parts sugar 1 part water) syrup with Fumigilan in the syrup to prevent Nosema in the spring.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Extracting Demonstration part 2

All the attendees bottled a jar of honey to take home.

Cranking the extractor

Uncapping frames of honey with a hot knife

Using a capping scratcher

Getting a frame ready to uncap.

On Sat afternoon Victor Samelian and myself went and pulled about twelve supers of honey. We were using Honey Robber and fume boards. It was about 85 degrees and the Honey Robber was working great.
The honey was flying out of the frames on Sunday. We were all using the hot knife, capping scratcher, the three frame extractor, double sieve strainer, and bottling a bottle of honey.

Extracting Demonstration

Long Time Beekeeper Warren Schave and Master Beekeeper Bob Sitko
demonstrate a winter cover

Bob makes a point about pulling honey

The beekeepers had a good show from two very knowledgeable beekeepers.
The other half was in the honey house.

Bob and Warren talked about pulling honey, treating for mites, feeding, and wintering bees.

I would like to thank Master Beekeeper Bob Sitko and Beekeeper Warren Schave for sharing their knowledge and expertise with their fellow beekeepers.
Their explanations of how to proceed with the rest of the year will help all of the 50 attendees successfully extract, feed and winter their bees.
I also want to thank Mike Wybeirla for being the sound system roadie. The sound system helped everyone hear above the cool refreshing breeze.
Molly and Bobby were the parking Czars and Wendy made the refreshments.
Honey Lemonade, Honey Crinkle cookies, Honey Popcorn.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Past posts on pulling honey

Remember to search the blog. I have video's on pulling honey. Or you can see these video's on my youtube file. My youtube name is beefitter.
If you search youtube for beefitter video's you will find them there.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

The nectar Flow in Aug

My nectar flow has been dwindling. I am planning on pulling my honey by the end of August and starting mite treatments at that time.
I won't be putting on anymore supers unless they are completely full. I am hoping the bees will fill up what is left and cap it over.
A couple of my hives haven't collected enough honey for wintering. The population has come back nicely but there is not enough food. I will start feeding these hives starting next week with heavy syrup (2 parts sugar:1 part water) so they have time to fill the top hive body with syrup and have time to convert it to honey.
If any beekeeper is planning mite treatments this fall most of the treatments available are heat sensitive to work properly. The daytime temperature has to be in the 70's for them to work properly. Pulling the honey off by the first week in Sept and putting on the mite treatments is important.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Late Season Swarming

After getting many calls for queens lately. The culprit for the calls has been late season swarming. It seems that the warm weather, a little rain and fully mature hives equals a swarm. Most beekeepers haven't seen the swarms. But from checking their colonies have discovered no eggs. By rushing to judgment and wanting to throw in a queen can backfire. In most cases swarm cells produced a virgin queen that has to mature to a laying queen. This may take three weeks to a month before new eggs are seen again in the colony.
If a new queen is thrown in the hive without checking for an open swarm cell. The new queen that the beekeeper has plopped down 30 bucks for is quickly killed by the virgin queen or the bees in the hive.
The first thing I do if I have a queenless hive in July or August is take a frame of eggs from another colony(this is the reason to have two colonies). After about 5 days or so I stop back to look at that frame. If the bees have started to make queen cells on this frame it is safe to assume that the hive is queenless.
If no queen cells are being produced the hive is normally queenright but the queen has not started to lay yet. This works great also to buy time for the hive from turning to laying workers while the beekeeper figures out what is going on in the hive. A frame of eggs that will turn to brood then capped brood will delay laying workers from developing in a colony as long as brood is present.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Extracting Workshop is full.

The extracting Workshop is full.
I do not have anymore openings.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Extracting Workshop Aug 15th

We will be having our annual extracting work shop in a couple weeks. It will be limited to 50 people. Please first time attendees only.
  • When: Sunday Aug 15th 2:00 pm
  • Where: Nature's Nectar Honey House
  • Cost: Free
  • What is happening: There will be two groups. The first group will learn how to pull honey, treat for mites, and winter their bees. The second group will go into the honey house. We will then switch. In the honey house we will be demonstrating how to uncap, extract, strain and bottle honey. Everyone will bottle a jar of honey to take home.
  • How: The workshop is open to 50 people please call (RSVP required) and reserve a spot. No young children please.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Nectar Flow in Late July

I have been noticing the White Sweet Clover starting to wane.
While the spotted Knapweed and Birdsfoot Trefoil is in full bloom around the Stillwater area. If anyone living near a swampy area may be enjoying the nectar from Purple Loostrife. The honey from Purple Loosestrife looks like new motor oil, a greenish hue. The flavor is appealing.
This time of year the intensity of the flow will diminish and it may even end in some areas. I usually watch the supers and make sure there is an empty one on top but no longer put them on two at a time. By the first of August I watch the supers to make sure there is some empty frames in the supers. Having the bees finish filling the boxes usually happens then. But is important to make sure there is some empty frames. Keeping an eye out for a new flower bloom can change this strategy if nectar starts coming in on a new heavy flow. A new Alfalfa, Sunflower, Golden Rod or other late summer flow may surprise a beekeeper with more nectar coming in. Watching the supers with a quick peek will keep us ahead of any late summer surprises. When in doubt throw a super on.
The temperatures and this summers steady moisture may bring an August nectar surprise.
There is still nectar coming in but it starts to be localized to areas that have the right nectar producing flowers.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A fair entry quandry

A beekeeper sent me this email about entering a county fair for competition in the honey division. My response follows.
I entered a pint of honey for the heck of it this year in the a County Fair. I was the only one that brought honey…I received a second place ribbon with no explanation or feed back. When I brought the family to see the fair, I asked them for feedback and they couldn’t provide any, said the judge who was brought in was especially picky and used the state criteria. When I read the state fair book online, it doesn’t really go into prep detail. I am just looking to learn because it was my first time.

It was decanted twice, caramelly red amber honey with hardly any froth and suspended pollen. Debris at the bottom was nil. No air bubbles, but I did notice that someone had handled the jar and smudged it up with finger prints after I had cleaned the jar at drop-off time. The ring and lid was a preserves lid brand new.

Any suggestions or info would be great. Might be a handy blog post for others.


My response:
What did the premium book for the honey entry say? You have to follow the entry criteria to the letter.
Was the bottle full? If it says one pound of honey they will weigh it.
If there is froth on top that is undesirable, points off.
Air bubbles in the honey, points lost
Any debris in honey, points lost.
Moisture content above 16 %, points lost. As the moisture goes up the points go down.
Color of honey. If it is off color of the entry i.e. Light amber and it is lighter or darker, points lost.
Does it taste like honey. Any off flavor will cost you points.
All of these little things add up to a total score. It is hard to get all the points in every category, but you can get most of the points with attention to detail.
At the State Fair an entry in a canning jar would be disqualified.
Remember this is competition. The judges are looking for a quality product. Care has to be put into every jar.
The State Fair entry is 12 one pound jars. Uniformity is key. They ask for glass or plastic jars. The glass will get higher points when the judges put the jars in front of a polara-scope.
I do recommend every beekeeper enter the fair it makes you a better bottler and you will turn out a better quality product because you learn how to do it. It is unfortunate that you did not get input from the judge because it is how you learn.
At the State Fair you will get a score card so you know how your entry stands. They also have a novice class that will make a easier possibility of a ribbon your first time.
Check out class 97 in the Ag-Hort-Bee premium book. At the end of every class entry there is a score criteria for what the judges are looking for and the points rewarded.
That is great you made an entry. It helps the whole beekeeping industry when we can show case our products. Plus you may win some money and bragging rights of having award winning honey.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Checking Supers

I was out checking supers yesterday. I had to come up with some more supers. Most of my hives have 4 supers on them, a few have 5 and six. Of course I have a couple bad performers that have one super with nothing in it. There is really nothing else going on other than dealing with cut comb.
I have pulled my cut comb as it gets capped. If the cut comb is left on to long the capped wax will get a yellowish color called pollen stain that is from the bees traveling over it. While there is nothing wrong with this, a nice white capped comb section does sell better. Remember when pulling off comb honey it is important to stuff green grass in the spout of the smoker. This acts as a filter to prevent little pieces of black charcoal from landing on the comb honey. The small amounts of charcoal are easy to spot on the white comb and difficult to remove.

Trail Camera Pics

The Twins

I think the turkeys are nervous

Friday, July 16, 2010

Spotted Knapweed

Spotted Knapweed

Spotted Knapweed is starting to bloom around Stillwater. This purple weed is considered a noxious weed by the DNR. It can spread into sandy soils and is invasive. It looks similar to a Bull thistle. There seems to be more of the weed every year. I don't recommend propagating this invasive weed but if the bees happen to get some honey off it so be it.
The honey from spotted knapweed has a buttery flavor. I do like the taste of this honey.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Trail Camera Pics

Red Fox with spooky eyes

"Thanks for planting the clover Jim"

Mama turkey and her brood

The Nectar Flow Update

I have all of the supers I own on my hives. This nectar flow for many of us may be the best in many years. I have talked to many beekeepers who are experiencing the same.
Over wintered colonies are performing best but many of my packages are doing well. I have a few dogs that have not put up any honey but that always happens when you run 50 colonies. The dogs have either swarmed or gave me some queen trouble early on. It seems this year if the queen was ok and the hive didn't swarm most of the colonies are putting up some honey.
White sweet clover is still in full bloom in this area. Other flowers will still be coming. The second hay crop has been cut. We may see a third cut of alfalfa. So there may be more of that available in late July or early August with the good rain we have been getting.
A beekeeper called me to report he saw goldenrod starting to bloom west of the cities.
A past post about Growing Degree Days is coming true with August flowers blooming earlier than normal. How this effects our nectar flow is unknown but the way it has been going I am going to have to extract and put my supers back on.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

David Z. sent me this article

Sweet Honey on the Block
For the first time in more than a decade, New York’s beekeepers are claiming their summer perches on the city’s rooftops. Bowing to a citywide campaign, the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene recently removed honeybees from the Health Code’s register of “venomous insects” and other prohibited animals. Not surprisingly, the New York City Beekeepers Association saw a sizable bump in enrollment for its spring classes.

Yet without support from City Hall, it’s doubtful that we can return to anything like the pre-ban era, when hives could be found at city schools, on the roof of the American Museum of Natural History and even inside Radio City Music Hall.

The benefits of urban beekeeping are substantial. Despite the conventional view of the city as a slough of pollution, urban honey is likely to have significantly less chemical residue than commercial honey made beyond the boroughs. This is partly due to the high levels of pesticides in commercial agriculture and partly because small-scale beekeepers tend to use fewer drugs in the care of their hives than commercial operators.

Urban honey also has the potential to be a godsend for New Yorkers with allergies. Although the scientific studies are still lacking, there’s plenty of anecdotal evidence that the pollen in local honey helps people develop defenses against local allergens.

Then there’s the health of the city. Take the honeybees of East New York Farms!, an organization of urban farmers and neighborhood farmers’ markets. These Brooklyn bees pollinate crops for the entire neighborhood. They aren’t just making honey: they’re building community, creating income and employment and maintaining vital urban green space.

Local honey will benefit the health of the planet as well: minor transportation costs, no-fuss manufacturing (courtesy of the bees), minimal processing, simple recyclable packaging and centralized retailing provide a model of effective, low-carbon production and distribution.

Beekeeping isn’t as daunting as one might think. The humans require a bit of training, but bees are famously self-sufficient, needing little more than the right location, a supply of clean water, some feeding in spring and fall and a weekly inspection throughout the summer.

Nevertheless, there are still significant obstacles to city beekeeping, and it’s uncertain that, without the government’s help, it will reach beyond a relatively limited stratum of committed New Yorkers.

For one thing, unless you own your building, your landlord has to approve the hive’s installation, and he has to feel confident about the reactions of the tenants and the roof’s ability to support a 250-pound hive box. Then there are the costs: around $250 per hive, plus about $200 for the bees, the protective suit and other equipment. And even though the image of bees has softened in the wake of colony-collapse disorder, popular fear of bees is ever-present.

So what can City Hall do? For starters, like other cities in the United States and overseas, New York could support urban beekeeping through small grants, through tax incentives for both beekeepers and building owners, through public education programs and by getting hives into city schools as educational and perhaps fund-raising tools.

Beekeeping could also be promoted as a part of FoodNYC, a plan devised by Scott Stringer, the Manhattan borough president, to support grassroots efforts like green rooftops and urban farming. These efforts are already altering the ecology and economy of the city in small ways; with the right citywide support, they could have a far greater effect.

As anyone who has studied a beehive knows, it’s an ordered, self-sufficient world, a reminder that nature is always in our lives, even in the middle of the city. And there is nothing quite like your first open-air taste of fresh, local honey, sparkling with flavor, straight from the source. More New Yorkers should get that experience.

Hugh Raffles is an anthropologist at the New School.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

What lurks near the bee yard

My trail camera got a picture of this Red Fox taking a break

I cropped this photo of the Red Fox

A young fawn starting to munch on the clover and buckwheat I planted

A Doe deer cruising past the camera

I have my trail camera running. Last week I was woken up to a big cat snarling in the woods near my house. Of course I really wasn't interested in a close personal encounter so I stayed inside. The next night I put my camera out.
I heard two days later of a cougar sighted in Stillwater by two different people.
I hope I can catch a picture of it on my trail camera.

New search tool gadget

I have added a search tool above. This may help you find an archived post easier.

Friday, July 2, 2010

The nectar flow

I was out checking my supers today. I had two supers on most of my colonies.
Many were almost full so I added two more to everything. The weather next week looks perfect for nectar collecting.
I have been getting reports of many beekeepers having a stellar year for honey collection. Several beekeepers saying that their over wintered colonies have four supers full and were adding two more. Many were looking to breakout ladders to add supers.
While adding supers with ladders is very impressive, safety in the bee yard is important. If the supers get too high you can take full supers and put them on neighboring colonies if they are under performing. They will take care of the honey until it is time to extract.
Now is the time we want to exploit the bees hoarding instincts. Keep ahead of the bees with more empty supers and they will try to fill them up. If supers are full, the bees may stop collecting honey, swarm or plug up the brood boxes with honey or a combination of all three.
If the supers get full and there are no more supers there is three options.
  1. Extract the full supers and put them back on.
  2. Buy more supers
  3. Put on deeps for supers if you are expanding next year. The bees will get a head start next year with drawn comb to work with.

Update on the honey bound hive

This is the second super off the honey bound hive that has recovered and making honey.

A few weeks ago a beekeeper called me about a hive that became honey bound.
They became honey bound from swarming. He put a new queen in but she had no place to lay eggs.
I told him to extract out some of the deep frames so she has a place to lay eggs. He did and now it is going great. Here is his e-mail:


Your advice has paid off. One full super, another three quarters full
and they are starting in the third super.


Saturday, June 26, 2010

Wedding Favors

The bride and groom

photo by Neza S.G.
3 oz Hex Jar

My daughter was married two weeks ago. It was a very fun wedding. The bride and groom did a great job planning the affair. The music was a swing dance band. Wendy and I did a 3 class community ed swing dance class. I think we did OK. I wasn't throwing her over my shoulder, but she did get twirled a time or two.
At every place setting there was a 3 oz hex jar of honey. The label had the phrase above and the photo of the bride and groom. The picture of the jar above you can just see the edge of the photo.
I bought Avery label #8162 that fit the jar nicely. At the Avery website I downloaded the Design Pro software. I was able to pick my font and add the cropped photo. Also a border and some color to the label.
On the top of the jar is a round gold sticker of two hearts. We found them at Micheal's. The stickers fit perfect with a little fudge room to work with.
The favors were a big hit we had many requests for more, but we only bought enough for the guests and a few extras.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

My local nectar flow

White Sweet Clover

My nectar flow has been non existent the last week. My supers have not gained in any honey weight. I think a change is in the works.
I have finally been seeing white sweet clover starting to bloom in greater quantities. White sweet clover is a major honey plant and provides the bulk of much of the honey collected in my area.
My Basswood trees are just starting to open their flowers. The blossoms are heavier in numbers than they have been in the past.
Hopefully the nectar will start coming in at a better rate in the very near future.

The Secret Life of the White House Bees

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Entering a county fair

It is fun to enter honey in the local county fair. They usually come early in the summer before the state fair. The entry can be a single jar. Read the entry criteria to make the proper entry. It is great to promote the honey industry by entering a fair. Your friends and neighbors will come and look at the entries to see who got a ribbon. It is nice to be recognized for turning out a quality product.
The thing to look out for when entering your honey, is putting the honey entry into the proper class. I have had beekeepers be disqualified for mistakenly putting the honey in the wrong class. Most of the honey we produce is white honey. Light amber honey is quite dark like rust color and amber honey is very dark to black like coffee or molasses.
Entering a fair makes you a better beekeeper by giving you habits of packing a quality filled bottle as an entry. This experience will help most of us produce a quality product in every bottle we fill.
Plus you can make a couple bucks for getting a ribbon and bragging rights that you have award winning honey.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's up with my hive?

I was asked these questions by a few people of late:
  • If you don't see eggs or young larvae your bees probably have swarmed. Putting a frame of eggs in the colony should tell all. If queen cells are drawn out on the frame we could assume the hive is queenless. If no cells develop, the conclusion could be the queen is in there and not laying yet.
  • During the nectar flow if there is still a 3rd deep to draw out, the bees will fill the deep with nectar. If you looked at the frames, there is very little brood and mostly nectar. In this case the drawn frames can be put on the outside of the top box. Any foundation on the outside can be brought in towards the center. This box will be the winter stores for the colony. It would not be a good idea to reverse this box.
  • If drawing out foundation in the supers, they should be placed above the brood box. When they are filling up, add new super below them and move the now drawn supers up.
  • It is important to stay ahead of the bees. Put two supers on at a time. Add more before the supers are full. It is better to pull off empty supers than if they are all full. If all of them are full, there was probably more honey that was available for the bees to collect.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Beekeeping in Northern Climates Short Course

Beekeeping Courses for the Public

Beekeeping in Northern Climates Short Course

Register now for October class! Due to high enrollment (250) and large wait list (140) we are offering this class October 16 & 17, 2010.

I planted a food plot for Deer and Bees

I planted a three food plots for Deer and Bees at my place.
Buckwheat, White Dutch Sweet Clover, and Alsike Clover.

Buckwheat (Fagopyrum esculentum Moench) is a broadleaf plant native to northern Asia. Seeds are brown in color, roughly the size of a soybean, but irregularly shaped, with four triangular surfaces. The seeds germinate and emerge rapidly when planted in warm soil, typically in three to four days. Plants grow rapidly, producing small heart-shaped leaves with slender, hollow stems. Although a field of buckwheat in full flower appears to cover the ground densely, each individual plant, if pulled up, will appear rather spindly upon close inspection.

Flowering begins about three weeks after planting, and proceeds prolifically for a few weeks, before gradually tapering off as the plant matures. At the peak of flowering, a buckwheat field is a striking sea of white petals. After a flower is pollinated, a full-sized seed will form within 10 days, although that seed will need another week or two to reach maturity. Seeds appear and mature earlier on the lower stem, with seed development continuing up the stem as the plant matures. The prolific flowers on buckwheat have made the crop a good nectar source for honey beekeepers.

The honey from buckwheat is black like molasses, it has a strong powerful odor and flavor. I usually find that people either love it or hate it. Usually no one is in between. Usually buckwheat honey commands a higher price due to limited availability.

Catalpa Trees

Catalpa trees are flowering right now. They have big heart shaped leaves and pretty white flowers. They produce long slender bean pods that hang down. Birds like the tree for the dense cover.
I really have never noticed the bees working the flowers much. The significance of the flowering Catalpa tree is that it is the same time as the Basswood/ Linden tree nectar flow. It is easy to spot the trees from a distance to help give a clue when Basswood nectar is coming in.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

The weather

This cool weather has kept the bees cooped up in the hive for almost a week.
Strong colonies have been chomping at the bit to forage.
What do you do if you are stuck inside a hive for a week? What the heck let's swarm.
Strong colonies should be checked for swarm cells as soon as this rain breaks.
Checking all the brood boxes is important. Missing one cell is all that is needed for the bees to say ciao.
I have been noticing flowers blooming everywhere. Later in the week it is supposed to reach the 80's.
I have had beekeepers telling me today of some hives with two supers full and working on the third.
I expect the nectar flow to get better with the warmer weather.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Where is everyone at in the current bee realm.

Right now the honey flow appears to be on. I have talked to several beekeepers who purchased bees through me on their progress.
Most folks from the first load are in two and three deep hives with supers on.
The early load benefited from ideal build up weather.
Beekeepers from the second load had a little more weather issues. While it was warm early, cooler weather moved in and held back the build up by not letting the bees expand as rapidly as was hoped for.
Right now the second load beekeepers should have on their second box and maybe their third on, if they desired a three deep hive. Supers are going on the two high colonies. Bee populations have been building up quickly now and there is anticipation of some honey for everyone.
The rainfall has been sufficient, now some warm weather is needed for a strong run of nectar.
If your colony is filling the brood nest up solid with honey the bees may have swarmed on you and/or there is no queen present.
If the supers are on and the bees are not doing anything in them. Removal of the queen excluder may help this get started. Put the excluder back in later.
The entrance reducer can now be removed.
Comb honey can be put on the hive if honey is coming in. Putting on the comb honey to early may lead to holes chewed in the thin surplus foundation by the bees.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The Basswood / Linden Trees

I was at the MN Hobby Beekeeper meeting tonight. There was a very good speaker who talked about raising his own queens to fill up his 500 colonies that he manages.
When I left I know that there are Basswood trees near the meeting place. I went to check them out to see where they were at as far as their flowering.
The trees have just opened their flowers.
Usually the trees in town are about a week ahead of mine. My Basswood trees have not flowered but the seed pods have yellowed from the green color they were at. I think they will bloom in a week. Normally my Basswoods bloom around July first, this nectar flow is two weeks ahead of schedule.
There is only one thing holding back this nectar flow and that is some heat.
Hopefully the weather can come up with a stretch of 80's will help.

Saturday, June 5, 2010


I am sold out of queens for 2010.

The Nectar Flow Update

Today I saw my first white sweet clover bloom in Stillwater on Hwy 36. This should mean a nectar flow is imminent or possibly going in your own beeyards.
White sweet clover is a major honey crop for the upper midwest. Here is a link about white sweet clover.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010


Nature's Nectar will be closed on Friday June 4 and Friday June 11th

Monday, May 31, 2010

The Nectar Flow

Notice the whitening of the burr comb edges. This is a good indicator the nectar is coming in. A look down into the tops of the frames may show the whole top edges white with new comb.

Now is the time to put on supers. Everything is pointing to an early start. I believe the plants are two weeks ahead of schedule.
My Basswood trees have opened their seed pods. This usually happens about the third week of June. They then flower around July fourth. I expect them to flower around the second to third week of June.
An old beekeeper told me that the nectar flow starts 10 days after the first clover bloom is seen. In my area that was about 5 days ago.
If you are drawing out foundation, when the bees are close to being finished, put on the supers.
The packages should be getting many, many bees. The are turning into a powerhouse of wax production.
The first box took three weeks to draw out, the second box 10 - 14 days. The third box if desired, will be drawn in a week or so.
Stay on top of this in case the nectar flow booms at the start. The bees will plug a hive up with nectar in a week.
It is better to put supers on early than to put them on late.
Dr Furgala said " You can't make any honey if your supers are in your garage".

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Making a colony stronger

A sheet of newspaper is placed on top of the queenrite colony

The divide is opened. There is a comb of uncapped honey due to not enough
frames in the box. It is all beeswax filled with honey, hmmm.
It tasted great.

I found a few supercedure cells being this was a queenless divide.

The divide is added into the second box with some frames of foundation.

The hive is now combined.

I had a weak colony that was slow to develop. The queen was laying fine but the bee numbers were down. This was a weak package that will develop in time. But I didn't want to miss the nectar flow so I kicked it up another notch.
I received a divide from a beekeeper. I then combined it with the weak hive using the newspaper method.
A sheet of newspaper is put on the queen rite colony. A small slit about a 1/4" long is put in the paper. This gives the bees a place to start chewing a hole.
Slowly they will chew a small hole in the paper. As the hole gets bigger the bees will start passing back and forth slowly uniting. After a week a pulpy paper pile will be seen in front of the hive.
This uniting process works great and usually there is never any queen issues.