This blog explains how I keep bees. It works for me, it might not work for you. Use my methods at your own risk. Always wear protective clothing and use a smoker when working bees.

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Saturday, December 29, 2012

Christmas Bird Count

I have just finished my part of the areas annual Christmas Bird Count. It is a national event that happens the last two weeks in Dec. This area, the northeast metro, does it on a Sat between Christmas and New Years day. I have been doing this for over twenty years. My charge is to watch my bird feeders all day and report my sightings. It is always interesting to see what types of birds I see. The key is to watch the feeders and surrounding area as much of the day as possible. Today I had a Robin and a Cedar Wax Wing that were here only for a moment. Had I not been watching I would have missed the sighting.
 The count is based on how many birds are at the feeders at any one time. 
My tally for the day:
12 - Cardinals
  8 - Chickadees
  1 - Cedar Waxwing
  3 - Crows
  4 - Downey Woodpeckers
  2 - Hairy Woodpeckers
  2 - Red Bellied Woodpeckers
  1 - Pileated Woodpecker
40 - Goldfinches
  6 - House Finches
  8 - Purple Finches
14 - Slate Colored Juncos
  4 - Pine Siskens
  1 - American Robin
  4 - Common Red Poll
  4 - Blue Jays
  6 - Mourning Doves
There was a Barred Owl near the feeders two days ago, and I heard it hooting before it was light yesterday morning. I don't know if that can be in the count or not.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The 2012 Bee Year Review

The last season brought some things that no one around here had seen before.
Winter of 2011 - 2012 was the warmest for wintering bees that I have ever seen in almost 20 years. The warm winter made overwintering bees a cake walk. It seems that if the bees had 40 lbs of honey they were able to survive.
Most queens starting laying early in January. The only cold spell we had was in Feb for about three days. This did kill a few colonies caught with no honey and brood on the frames. Starvation still was an issue in colonies that went into winter short on stores.  Early feeding saved many colonies.
 The early laying put populations on a steady rise. By March colonies were building up nicely. Pollen patties were being devoured at a steady clip keeping the spring build up on course. Late March and early April there was natural pollen coming in. 
 April put colonies three weeks ahead of schedule. Package bees arrived on schedule and the weather proved nice to install them and get the bees up and running. Dandelions were coming out in mid April around the metro area. The fruit bloom started in late April with apples finishing in the first week of May. A hard frost hit in early May severely damaging the fruit crop in MN. The early fruit bloom left many colonies with no pollen coming in for three weeks in May. This dearth in pollen contributed to swarming, queen laying issues and supersedure. Beekeepers that put on pollen patties saw the bees gobbling them up.
  Swarming started becoming an issue in late April. Overwintered colonies began bursting at the seams. This caught many beekeepers off guard. Swarming began early and went on into June. Colonies were being divided three weeks earlier than normal starting in late April into early May. Luckily queens were available for most of the divisions.
 Package bees progressed nicely through May into June.
The main nectar flow started three weeks early around the first of June. Overwintered colonies that were strong began packing the honey away. Package bees still had not fully developed yet and were not able to reap the nectar at this time. The weather was fine and moisture was ample.
 Overwintered colonies put away large amounts of honey around the metro area. Beekeepers in the north had to contend with large rainfalls and beekeepers south of the metro had drought conditions to deal with. Wisconsin beekeepers had very dry conditions that contributed to a poor nectar flow. Minnesota beekeepers in the central part of the state heading straight into South Dakota had a good to very good nectar flow.
 The nectar flow was steady through the first three weeks of June then the weather dried up and so did the nectar for many of us. Package bees were up and ready to go by then but the dry conditions kept the nectar flow at bay.
 July came and the dry weather continued. Swarming came out again keeping swarm chasers busy for a long swarm season.
 The crud was in many bee colonies across the country. This was probably a virus. Luckily the crud responded to a couple of treatments of Terramycian.
 August did produce some Goldenrod honey for many colonies. The honey did have a higher moisture content than the June crop had.
Sept did prove a surprise. Being that the over wintered colonies had an early build up, mites started to rear their ugly little heads. Mite treatments were going on over the the fall months. Some colonies experienced mite damage  in August. Mite treatments applied in Sept and October on these mite damaged colonies  proved ineffective as the bees started to abscond in late Sept and  Oct. Mite damaged colonies were too far gone to save. Beekeepers that treated in August had good luck keeping the mites in check. The mite build up in packages was mixed. Some packages needed treatments but most seemed to have lower mite counts. 
 Winter stores in many colonies were light. Feeding went on through the fall. Beekeepers that fed early were able to get ample food in their hives. Cooler weather made late feeders struggle to get their colonies up to proper wintering weight. They had to resort to putting on candy boards or feeding dry sugar.
Late fall weather was warm even into December. The warm fall made for low consumption of winter stores that will hopefully bring the bees through winter.
While the last year was challenging with the weather most of the bees are in great shape and with a little luck and a normal winter, 2013 looks to be a good one.

Friday, December 14, 2012


Apivar is a new mite treatment has become available in the U.S. The active ingrediant is Amitraz. This mite treatment has been available in Europe for a long time. I don't know anything about cost or availability at the moment.
It is now approved for use in the following states at the moment, SD, OR, ND, CO(*), MS, MN, CA(*), FL, MI, AR, KY for 2012.
 Apivar are contact strips that are inserted into the hive and hang between the frames. It is effective on Varroa and Tracheal mites.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Package bees

I have been getting calls about package bees. Beekeepers have been asking when orders will be taken for the next spring season. I should have my 2013 pricing for bees in late Jan.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Another Honey Melter

This is a honey melter that a local beekeeper came up with. It works for him.
He took a cooler added a light bulb on the lid. He uses a 40 watt light bulb wired into a dimmer switch. He also uses a indoor/outdoor thermometer to measure the temperature in the cooler. He says when the temperature reaches 100 degrees the honey is usually clear. There is so much mass of the honey in the jars absorbing the heat it takes a while to get to that temperature. As always, all wiring should be done by licensed electrician. Safety from fire is always a number one priority.

Photo by R. Schultz - The honey is on a grate.

Photo by R. Schultz -  A indoor/outdoor thermometer monitors the inside temperature. A dimmer switch on mounted on top.

Photo by R. Schultz - The lamp is mounted on the lid.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Making Creamed Honey

Creamed honey should be made by the end of this coming weekend if it is to be properly set by the holidays.
 I made 60 lbs of Cinnamon Creamed Honey this weekend. Two pails of honey that was just liqufied. It was a little too warm for adding the creamed honey seed. It had to let it sit and cool down to 95 degrees before I added the seed. The honey that I used was from western MN, the supers had a mixture of yellow sweet clover and sunflower honey. The moisture content was 14%. Even when the honey was warm it was very thick to stir.
 The seed was added when the honey cooled to 95 degrees. I couldn't find the seed I normally use at the grocery store. They were all sold out. Too many beekeepers making creamed honey this weekend I guess. I had to try another brand, I hope it works out.
 After I stirred in the seed, the honey was a consistent color throughout. I then stirred in the cinnamon powder. After that was all stirred in and thoroughly incorperated  I set it outside to cool down quickly. 
Of course I forgot it was on my deck and left it out all night.
  I brought it in in the morning. I checked it several hours later after it had warmed up. Low moisture honey and cool temperatures kicked everything into high gear.  The honey had all ready started to set. The jars were prepared and I started to bottle the honey. The consistency was already very thick and the pouring was slow going. Normally some of the cinnamon powder would have floated up to the top and would have to be skimmed off before bottling. With this thick honey all of the cinnamon stayed suspended and there was nothing to skim off. Hex jars were used for the bulk of the creamed honey, several plastic cups were also in the mix so I can tell when the creamed honey is set by squeezing the sides of the plastic containers. I think it will be ready by Friday.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Honey Melters

I found these two honey melters on youtube. They both used litebulbs for the heat source. With any heaters there always needs to be caution so there is not a fire. Always use a licensed electrician to do any wiring.
 I am not recommending these. I am just showing what other beekeepers are doing. Making any melter that is not UL approved is at your own risk.
A manufactured honey liquifier ( ie: Mann Lake, Dadant etc) is still the safest way to liquify honey, while they are expensive, they can give you piece of mind that they were properly designed and safe to use.

 Two lite bulbs might be too much. I like the thermostat. The maker of the video is a little annoying with clearing his throat. Double click on video for full size.

I like this concept but he needs a thermostat for heat control, like the one in the first video.

  Mounting a light bulb without an electrical box is not a good idea.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Dealing with granulated honey

Now is the time that many beekeepers are looking at pails and bottles of granulated honey. The frustrating part about dealing with honey that is rock hard. The trick is to warm it up without wrecking the honey. Too much heat can scorch honey and make in unpalatable. Or, heat it and it will darken.
There are some solutions. Like bottles in a water bath in a crock pot on the low setting. A microwave will wreck clear plastic containers. Low Density opaque  plastic can take the microwave just fine.
Here are some other ideas:
 A bucket heater strap. They work ok. The bucket gets hot and you need to stir it.
 A honey bottler: These are the best. They cost from $1300 and up. Temperature is regulated with a water immersion heater easy to control and has a no drip fill valve. I own two of these and they work better than anything else on the market today.
 I like this idea for on the cheap. This gentleman took and old refrigerator and put a 100 watt light bulb on the bottom. Ran it through a thermostat. Sets the thermostat for 100 degrees for bottles and 110 degrees for pails. The pail would go on a shelf in the mid level. A pail would need to be stirred after a while.
This should be wired by a licensed electrician.Wiring yourself can be dangerous and you could burn your house down.

Ford's Theatre, Wash DC

My last bit of American history. I visited Ford's Theater in Washington D.C. It was here Abraham Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth. I had often wondered how Booth could have gotten in to see the President when there were rumors circulating Washington that an assassination attempt was going to happen.
 John Wilkes Booth was a very famous actor at the time. Akin to George Clooney as a present comparison. To give you an idea how famous he was, Booth made around $30,000.00 dollars the year before he shot Lincoln. Quite an income for the times.
 Lincoln had at one time sought out to meet Booth,  who had no desire to meet with Lincoln.
 Booth was given permission to enter unannounced, by Lincolns valet who was seated outside the box. Booth quietly walked in and waited for the funniest line in the play to be said and only one person was on the stage at that time. He then made his move to shoot the President at this time of the play. Mrs Lincoln screamed. Booth scuffled with the Presidents guest, an army General. The General was seriously wounded with a cut vein on his arm by Booths knife.
Booth jumped from the box to the stage(a twelve and a half foot jump) and broke his leg. He then hobbled out to his horse, injuring three other people with his knife on the way.
Booth was found and killed a few days later. His co conspirators were later tried and hung.
In this picture you can see the chairs, President Lincoln was on the chair on the right, his wife next to him. The General and his fiancee were on the left.
This time of American history when our country was divided, at war with itself, and still held a Presidential election is an amazing time and a testament to our desire for democracy.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Draft Wheel at the Smithsonian

This is a draft wheel. It is about 6 feet tall. Names of possible draftees were inserted in small holes on the wheel. The wheel was spun and names were drawn for soldiers to be drafted into the Union Army during the Civil War. Using a draft wheel was a common practice around the country in the north and the south.
 The last draft we had a was during the Vietnam war. Many people have forgot about how it worked. Balls were drawn with month then date. The first date was 001 and the last 365 on the draft list. All nineteen year olds were eligible to draft. The military figured how many men they needed and for example would draft through number 125. All the men whose birthdays were the first 125 slots would be drafted. The rest would not be drafted. The following year a new draft was held with the new pool of nineteen year olds. When I was nineteen, my draft number was 083. 

Honey Apple Crepe

Enjoyed a Honey. Apple, Cinnamon Crepe with whipped cream, it was fantastic.

Friday, November 23, 2012

White House Beehive

Walking around Washington D.C. got a good morning pic of the White House Beehive. It was a beautiful morning, temperatures in the 50's. Not much action at the beehive entrance and no supers on the hive. I hope they treated for Varroa.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Sunday, November 18, 2012

feeding sugar

If a colony is light on winter stores emergency feeding is in order. I do feed dry sugar using a 1 x 2 frame, putting wax paper on top of the frames and pouring sugar on the wax paper. Heaping the sugar on one end, filling up the frame. I leave the end open so the bees can move up into the sugar if they need the feed. The frame does not need the cross supports like in the picture. This was a frame for using formic acid pads. But it works well for feeding sugar. It is easy to heap up 10 - 20 lbs of sugar. Sugar can be easily added later if need be. The bees will chew up the wax paper and more will need to be added if more sugar is added later in winter.
 I do cover the hive with a black winter cover. The hole on the cover usually needs to be elongated to accommodate the added height of the wooden frame.

Lip Balm

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

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Did You Know?

Did you know Nature's Nectar LLC sells beeswax, candle molds, wick, gift jars, and lip balm tubes for making gifts for the up coming holidays.

Friday, November 16, 2012


Some beekeepers did not treat for mites and wanted to. The warm weather over the next week can make it still happen. Most colonies should have very little to no brood in the hive right now. Late fall mite treatments can be very effective. With the absence of brood in the colony all the mites are on the bees making them a good target for this type of miticide. Using Hopguard with contact strips right in the cluster of bees should provide a good treatment with only a single application.
 Hopguard is safe to use and comes from the hops plant. It is considered a food additive.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Making Creamed Honey

Making Creamed Honey is easy and is a big hit for holiday gifts. Plan accordingly, it usually takes two - three weeks for it to properly set.

Rev Langstroth

This marker is located at a church in North Boston, Mass.
Through Rev Langstroths' diligent observations he gave us the Langstroth hive with movable frames that revolutionized the beekeeping industry.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Late Season Die Offs

I have received several calls from beekeepers going out to put on their winter covers only to find there are no bees in the hive. The hive was empty, no bees, full of honey.
 In every case the bees died of Varroa mites. Classic mite kill is in late fall.
Varroa builds up with time and in  September and October the mite populations explode. The mites become so prevalent  that they overcome the colony. The bees know they are sick and will all drift away from the colony over about a two week period.
 Many of the hives that died were over wintered from last year. Some were new colonies from this year.
 Some of the beekeepers in these cases did treat for mites but did not treat properly and there was not much effect on the overall mite population.
After a mite treatment the hive should be checked again for mites to see how effective the treatment was.
 One beekeeper treated his colonies with MiteAway Quik Strips. I think he had about 45 colonies. He checked his colonies after the treatment and found some of the colonies still had some very high mite counts. He had to treat those with Hopguard. But this check saved his colonies.
 A nation wide study that was completed recently. Several bee labs took 30 colonies in many locations around the country. Bees were installed and left on their own with no treatments of any kind.
 The results were interesting. Most of the colonies were dead after two years. All of the colonies were dead after three years. The research showed that in every case, the bees died of Varroa mites.
 The conclusion is, to check the mite load of the hive and treat if necessary. There are two food grade treatments available that are very safe for the bees, the hive, and the beekeeper.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

They did it right

I talked to a beekeeper from Sturgeon Lake today. She was telling me about her fabulous honey crop. They had three over wintered colonies, two packages and two divides. They followed their bees though spring feeding pollen patties. Divides happened in early May due to high bee population. Swarm control kept the bees from swarming and they all stayed home. The large populations in the overwintered colonies gave the beekeepers 600 lbs of honey off the strong colonies. The package bees and divides had about 100 lbs of extra honey total.
A crop of about 700 lbs. Through proper management, strong hives, enough rain and a little luck they proved that a big crop can happen.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Proper Honey Location

I have got several e-mails from beekeepers not knowing where the honey should be located for winter.
 The top deep box should be 95% full of honey. If the hive has that it should be ok for winter stores. It is getting too late to feed now with the cooler weather moving in at the end of the week.
Some beekeepers did a reversal late into the nectar flow and moved the heaviest box to the bottom of the hive. Since that reversal, the nectar flow slowed to a trickle and the top box is light. If they fed and filled the top box they should be ok. If the top box is still light moving some honey frames around to the top box will help.
One last tip. Never, Never, Never leave a partially filled super or deep on top of a hive. Only full boxes on top. Bees move up in the winter, they do not move down. That is why the honey is on top. If a partially filled box is left on top the bees may move up into it. Then even though they have seven full frames in the lower box directly underneath them, they may deplete the honey in the top box and not move down to the other frames. Then they starve even with honey close by.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Wax Moth Damage

photo by T. Ronning
This pic is of wax moth damage from a hive that died in late summer. The unattended hive was very attractive to predators. Wax moths moved in and did some major comb damage. Now with the cold temperatures the moths will not be as big as a problem. Freezing temperatures kills the moth in all stages of development.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Colder Weather

This colder weather that has dropped on us has the bees staying at home. Not much happening for them at the moment. Some beekeepers are still feeding and the bees seem to be able to take it down. It is nice to get the feeding done as quick as possible this time of year. Feeding spurs egg laying because it is a nectar flow. The goal is to get the queen to stop laying and to have a broodless hive.
 The broodless hive consumes much less honey, then the bees will have more for their winter stores.
 The colder weather also brings in the vermin. Mice are looking for a place to winter. Mouse guards or entrance reducers should be in now. Entrance reducers at the large opening.

Friday, October 5, 2012

I have ProSweet

I was up at Mann Lake today. It was snowing. Ish
I did bring back some ProSweet for some late feeding.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


Some of my colonies still need feed. The next week looks good for feeding. Next weekend looks cold. The colder it gets the harder it will be to get the bees to take the feed down. I am going to get out tomorrow and load up the colonies with syrup. The colonies that don't get fed will get a treatment of Mite Away Quick Strips for Varroa.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Last chance to comment to EPA to save the bees


Submit a public comment before the deadline on Monday urging the EPA to stop stalling, and take action to protect bees from the harmful pesticide clothianidin.

Deadline Monday: Tell the EPA to save the bees.

Dear Heidi,

The sudden bee die-off known as colony collapse has claimed about 30% of the U.S. honey bee population each year since 2006.

Scientists believe the pesticide clothianidin is at least partially to blame, but twice in the last year, the EPA has refused to intervene to review the pesticide's safety.

If we don't convince the EPA to reconsider, it will not review clothianidin again until 2018. By then it could be too late for the bees, and the one third of our food crops that bees play a crucial role in pollinating.

The EPA is currently accepting public comments on its latest decision not to declare bee die-offs an emergency situation and suspend the use of clothianidin. Now is a crucial moment to make our voices heard for the bees.

Tell the EPA: Stop stalling. Ban the pesticide that's killing bees. Submit a public comment to the EPA now.

The science of colony collapse is complex, but increasingly scientists are pointing to the class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids — which includes clothianidin — as a major causal factor.1

The pesticide, which is used to treat seeds like corn and canola, expresses itself through the plants' pollen and nectar — the honey bees favorite sources of food. Neonicotinoid pesticides are relatively new, and their use coincides with the rise of colony collapse.

Astonishingly, clothianidin was approved by the EPA based on virtually no scientific study.2 Yet the EPA continues to allow its use.

Now, a group of senators have joined the call, writing a letter urging the EPA that waiting until 2018 to again review clothianidin and other neonicotinoids will be too late.3

There is no time to waste. Please submit a comment now urging the EPA to immediately suspend approval of clothianidin to protect honey bees and our food system:

Thanks for taking action for the bees, and safe food.

Elijah Zarlin, Campaign Manager
CREDO Action from Working Assets

1. "Pesticides and Honey Bees: State of the Science," Pesticide Action Network North America
2. "Leaked document shows EPA allowed bee-toxic pesticide despite own scientists' red flags," Grist, 12/10/10
3. "Gillibrand Calls for Expedited Review of Harmful Pesticides to Protect Honey Bee Health," Senator Kristin Gillibrand


Moisture boards

I do have moisture boards available.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Changes to the State Fair Bee Exhibit

 How the honey is displayed, extraction, live bee display, types of entries will change, how the whole display is in general is going to change. Everything is on the table. Any ideas to Dave is appreciated.  The time is short so comments need to come soon.
   People should direct their suggestions to dschaaf@gmail.com before this Saturday.
An opportunity like we've never had before...

As you've no doubt heard there are big changes ahead for the Bee & Honey Show.  Every year the MN State Agricultural Society, the governing body of the Fair, undertakes a major project.  Next year's project will be a renovation of the Ag-Hort building.  There hasn't been much official information released yet, but here's a brief mention from the MN State Fair Foundation, the main fundraising arm of the Fair:  http://www.msffoundation.org/pages/programs/agricultural.html

At the same time the building is renovated, the Ag-Hort superintendents are being asked to re-evaluate and update their exhibits.  There are good reasons for this.  The Ag-Hort building has remained static for some time.  The State Fair directors understand that to attract visitors they need to keep the Fair interesting, relevant, and current.  Our audience has changed.  The overwhelming majority of State Fair visitors are from the Twin Cities with no direct experience with agriculture.  We're being asked to make our exhibits more educational with this particular audience in mind.

Having just completed my first State Fair as Bee & Honey Superintendent, I have a better appreciation than ever of the rich history of the Fair, and the special place Bee & Honey occupies.  The efforts of many talented and dedicated people have built our Bee & Honey Show into one of the leading honey promotions in the nation.  I'm proud to be carrying on this tradition.

At the same time, I'm excited about the possibilities ahead.  We have a unique opportunity to raise our standing at the Fair.  I'd like Bee & Honey to be as iconic and sought after at the Fair as seed art and butter sculptures are now.  I'd like to bring our message to a wider audience.  This is our chance to take the show to the next level. 

Looking for big ideas...

We're brainstorming now.  Winnie Johnson has collected some of our ideas (attached).  This is an early draft and doesn't include our most recent ideas and changes.  Don't be startled by some of the things proposed.  Remember we're just brainstorming.  We're trying to propose big ideas.  It remains to be seen which ones will be accepted and implemented.

If you have any more ideas or suggestions I'd love to hear them.  No idea is too big or far fetched.  I need your ideas by Saturday Sept 22nd (sorry, not much time).  I'll be revising the proposal this weekend and submitting it to the Fair on Monday Sept 24th.

What's next ?... 

The Ag-Hort superintendents will meet sometime in October to go over everyone's proposal and get the process started.  It's going to be interesting.  I'll keep you updated.  Thanks for your input and for your ongoing support of the Bee & Honey Show.

David Schaaf
Bee & Honey Superintendent, MN State Fair

Sunday, September 16, 2012

My Table at an Apple Festival

My table of honey and beeswax products at an Apple Festival.

Wax Moths

Wax moths webbing and larvae have wrecked this frame.
Photo S. Ramsey
Wax moths can be a hassle. They usually go after dark combs eating pollen and protein rich wax. They spread their webs across the combs and leave it a mess.
A beekeeper ends up replacing all the comb with new foundation.
Wax moths are a problem in MN from mid June until it starts cooling off in Sept. The only method of control is Para - Moth. The Para - Moth is put on top of a stack of boxes on newspaper and the stack is closed up. This will repel the moths from getting into the stack of boxes.
Putting the frames in the freezer for a few days is also good control, if they are caught early on before the wax moths get to far on the comb. Freezing temperatures kills the moth in all stages of development.
Mothballs are not acceptable for wax moth control.
As it gets cooler in Sept and into late fall wax moths have a hard time getting going in hives. Storing equipment outside in freezing weather will kill the wax moth. Storing equipment in an attached garage may prove to be too warm and the moth may continue to do damage.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Colder Weather Moving In

It looks like we are about to be slammed with some refreshing fall weather.
 Now is the time to put in entrance reducers to keep the mice out. I always put mine in the widest opening.
 It is too early for winter covers. I wouldn't even think about putting on the winter wraps until at least Nov 1st. Personally my covers go on Thanksgiving weekend, unless we are going to get dumped on with a snow storm.
Feeding can still go on now, but as it gets colder the bees won't take the feed as well. So feeding as soon as possible is always the best bet.
Several mite treatments are temperature sensitive. Apiguard and Mite Away Quick strips don't work well at all when daytime temperature stay in the 60's. The best option for this colder weather treatments is Hopguard.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pulling Honey

Tuesday is going to be 92 degrees. A perfect temperature to pull honey using a fume board with Honey Robber or Fishers Bee Quick. The warm temperature will make the bees leave the supers quickly.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

What is going on right now

The nectar flow is over for most of us. The Goldenrod is waning and has lost its golden luster. Most beekeepers are pulling honey now or in the very near future. 
 Colonies have been looking good with nice hive populations. Mite levels on overwintered colonies have been very high and most need to be treated if they are going to survive the winter. New package bees installed in the spring, mite loads are mixed, many have had small mite loads, some with higher mite loads need to be treated.
 Some beekeepers have told me that their hives are heavy with winter stores while others say they need to get their hives up to wintering weight.
 In a perfect beekeeping world a hive set up for winter should be:
  • The top box should have 8 full frames of honey and one partially full frame located in the center. Some beekeepers did a reversal too late in early summer and put the heavy box on the bottom, this heavy box needs to be on the top.
  • Middle box on a three high hive or the bottom box on a two high hive should have four frames of honey. Two on the outside on either side.
  • Bottom box on a three high hive should have two frames of honey one on each side on the very outside of the box.
  • Do not leave a partially filled box of honey on top of the hive. The bees may move up into it in late winter and starve, even though there is honey below in the lower box.
Feeding is going on now. Some mite treatments make it hard to feed, others can be done at the same time. It is a good idea to get the feeding done as soon as possible. Feeding spurs the queen to lay eggs because it is an artificial nectar flow. Brood has a 21 day schedule from egg to emerging bees. So feeding should be completed by Oct 10th if possible.
 The goal is to have the bees shut down brood production before winter sets in. If brood is present late into early winter, the bees will consume more of their food stores keeping the brood warm. This can lead to late season starvation.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Great Varroa Shot

Photo by D. Beck - Varroa riding on a honeybee

Robber with a mask

The dog was going crazy tonight. I thought it was a deer. Until I saw the varmint. He climbed a tree right next to my trail camera and went to sleep. I couldn't get the SD card out of it to see if I got his picture. I will check the camera tomorrow if the varmint moves along.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

White House Beer Recipe


More Honey

Tedd from Lake Elmo extracted his honey two weeks ago. He put his supers back on for the bees to clean up. The bees wound up refilling them with Goldenrod honey.
The Goldenrod flow seems to be spotty around the area. Some beekeepers getting a super of it, other beekeepers not much. The moisture content of the Goldenrod honey seems a little on the high side. I did check some Goldenrod honey today, the super was fully capped but the moisture content was still 19%. US grade A is 18.6% or less.

Friday, August 31, 2012

State Fair Pics

Dave Schaff on right did a great job putting this all together. 

Steve Buck answering questions from civilians

High participation this year. Congratulations to all beekeepers who entered. They all helped promote the honey industry.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

State Fair Ice Cream Booth

The state fair ice cream booth has the best honey ice cream sundaes.
Honey ice cream with sunflower seeds topped with honey.
Staff ready for customers at 9 am

            mmmmmm honey ice cream sundae.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Fall Feeding

Three feeder pails on a hive. The empty deep surrounding them protects the hive from robbers. The inner and Tele covers are placed on top of this box. Feeding like this is only done in late summer.

Three feeder pails on a hive

Hive Top Feeder, The bees come up from below through the center openings. They travel down to the syrup level and feed. They then transfer it to the hive.

The inner and Tele covers are placed on top of the feeder.
I have a colony that is noticeably light on food stores. I can not depend that a nectar flow will come along and save my bacon. Now is the time to feed a colony that is not up to winter weight and needs quite a bit of food to get there.
 My options are sugar water or ProSweet®. Both will work but my option with ProSweet® is that the bees don't have to convert it to honey. The bees put it in the cells and they are done. Sugar water on the other hand, the bees have to convert it to honey and dehumidify it. Taking time and energy.
ProSweet® doesn't ferment and sugar water may.
 Feeders are another factor. I want to get as much food in the colony as fast as I can. If it cools off the bees won't take the feed as well as if the temperatures are in the 80's.
Putting on multiple feeder pails works. This time of year the pails can be put directly on top of the frames. I can fit 3 feeder pails on top of the hive this way.
 The other feeder I use only in the fall is a hive top feeder. This feeder holds 4 gallons of feed. It is placed on top of the top brood box. The inner cover and Tele cover go on top of the feeder.
 Hives this time of year have large populations and can drain a feeder in three to four days. So as I feed,  checking the feeder every four days helps keep the feeder full. This type of feeding can really put the weight on the colony to help assure proper hive food stores heading into winter.

Stinky bee yard

Dan of Elk River area says his beeyard stinks. He is getting some Goldenrod nectar. I have not had any in Stillwater yet. Adrian of Hudson, WI told me Friday that he is getting a trickle right now.  Maybe the warm weather has kicked in a nectar flow. 

Monday, August 20, 2012

City of Stillwater Bee Ordinance

There is a reading of the proposed bee ordinance Tues Aug 21st, 7 pm Stillwater City Hall. This is the first of two readings before the ordinance can be adopted. Several beekeepers have been moving this ordinance through the process since spring.
Currently beekeeping is pretty much banned in Stillwater. The new ordinance if approved will give residents the opportunity to keep bees in the city.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

pulling honey using honey robber

                               Double click on video for full screen

pulling honey using a brush

                       Double click on the video for full screen

Extracting Workshop

The extracting workshop went very well today. Master Beekeeper Bob Sitko and Beekeeper Mike Wybierala wowed the crowd with their knowledge of pulling honey, treating for mites and wintering bees. I had the novice beekeepers in my honey house using the hot knife, extracting honey, filtering honey and bottling honey. Everyone had a great time and hopefully will be able to put the information learned to help them extract their honey.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Api Guard gel pack

HopGuard cardboard strips are chewed up and disposed of by the bees

Mite Away Qwik Strips
Now that summer is coming to an end Varroa is starting to ramp up. Many beekeepers I have talked to have started seeing mites on the bees. Usually when the mites are visible on the bees there is a high mite load in the colony.
 Now is a good time to check the mite load on colonies. Here is a link to the Univ of MN. Poster 155 checking for Varroa with the powdered sugar method.
If the mite numbers are high and mite treatments are necessary, there are several options and some are considered food additives and very bee friendly.
 HopGuard is from the hops plant. Treatment is 2 strips per deep per week for a three week period. Strips can be put on at any time.
 MiteAway Quick Strips Formic Acid, they are a one week treatment. Strips can be put on at anytime it is 85 degrees or less. Works best in the 75 - 85 degree daytime temperatures.
 Apiguard, thymol gel - supers have to be off, fall treatment only. Two foil gel packs on top of colony. One month treatment, one foil pack, two weeks later add the second one. Daytime temperatures should be in the 70 - 85 degree range.
 All of these mite treatments need to applied according to the label. Always follow manufacturers guidelines when using any mite treatment.
Keeping mites low helps winter survival of the colony.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Commercial Beekeeping

Load of deep honey supers. Each box has about 90 lbs of honey if they are full.

 Supers are pulled and put on pallets in a criss cross pattern to help stabilize the pallet 

Bobcats are used to load and unload trucks. On the top of the pallets are canvas covers that strap down tightly on the supers to prevent robbing of the honey while the truck is being loaded and unloaded.

notice the criss cross pattern of the supers

55 gallon drums of beeswax that will be rendered down in the near future
I visited a commercial beekeeper last week. They are in the middle of extracting. Their truck goes out daily and pulls honey beeyard to beeyard. They use fume boards with honey robber. After a dismal year last year, the current year is a huge honey crop. All of their deep supers are heavy with honey. The honey is a very light in color with a low moisture content. In a good year many commercial beekeepers produce between 500,000 and 1,000,000,000 lbs of honey. Honey prices are up so they should fare well this year.


I have started to see Goldenrod blooming around the metro. The field across the street from my house has yellow color starting to open up. With any luck my hives should be stinking like wet sweat socks shortly. That will tell me the Goldenrod is producing nectar. The Goldenrod seems very abundant this year.
 My hives seem to be congregating at the front door. That tells me there may be not much nectar coming in at the moment.
 I was driving in western Wisconsin yesterday and noticed a farmer cutting his 3rd hay crop of the year. There is still time for the hay to grow and flower one more time. If the farmers don't cut it there may be some late clover for the bees to get the weight up for winter.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Corn and Sugar Commodity Prices

The drought that is gripping a large part of the nation will be seen by beekeepers starting late this year. The corn crop has taken a major hit. Even E-85 fuel will rise or possibly be curtailed in the short term so corn can be used as food. The smaller corn harvest will more than likely lead to higher sugar prices. Feeding bees will become more expensive. As corn prices go up so will the price of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). Many beekeepers feed their bees HFCS and will incur higher costs.
The price of sugar will also rise. Even though the sugar beet harvest to my knowledge hasn't been impacted by the drought, the higher HFCS prices will drag the price of sugar with it.
Many bee suppliers of HFCS buy contracts of thousands of lbs of HFCS for a set price. Once the contract is satisfied a new one is negotiated. This new contract will undoubtedly be a higher price.
As a hobby beekeeper buying some extra sugar is not a bad idea. Long term storage of sugar can make the sugar get hard and difficult to liquify. ProSweet does have an advantage that it will not granulate for at least a year and will store nicely.
 The silver lining in this all is that the price of honey will also rise. Hopefully the higher honey prices will more than offset the sugar shock that beekeepers may see down the road.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Extracting Workshop

When: Aug 19th - 2 pm - 4 pm
Where: Nature's Nectar LLC honey house
What: Discussion about methods of pulling honey, mite treatments, wintering bees with Master Beekeeper Bob Sitko and Mike Wybeirla.
Hands on workshop with Jim: you will uncap frames with hot knife and capping scratcher, extract honey with three frame hand crank extractor, and bottle honey.

 The workshop is limited to 50 people. Please call or email me to reserve a spot.
Due to limited space and bees in the honey house small children will be happier at home.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

The honey finish line

The honey season is on the home stretch. This is the time for beekeepers to pay attention to their supers. I always make sure there is an empty super on the hive. The bees will collect nectar as long as there is a place to put it. When I pull honey off the hive, if any colony has all the supers full I know I left some honey in the field. It is always best to pull off an empty super, then I know I was able to get all the honey the bees had the ability to collect. After the honey is pulled there will be some uncapped honey. But if the honey has been on the hive for a couple weeks the bees have usually ripened it. The only reason it isn't capped is because the cells were not full. As a precaution I always extract the frames of 50% or more uncapped honey separately and moisture check them to make sure the honey is 18.6% or below.


Goldenrod in bloom
I am working in the Chaska area for my day job. Driving home I have seen Goldenrod starting to bloom in that area.
 Goldenrod can be a great nectar source for bees. Last year the nectar flow in the upper midwest was very poor. On August 10th last year, many colonies of mine had not put up any excess honey. I left the supers on and came back a month later. All of my colonies had at least one super of Goldenrod honey, a few colonies had two supers. Then there was a frost and the nectar stopped coming in.
This year the Goldenrod is a little early. If the nectar is not flowing in large quantities it will be dark. But if the nectar flow is heavy the honey is a much lighter in color. When Goldenrod nectar is being collected, it is easy to tell by standing next to the hive. The hive will have a stench of wet dirty sweat socks.
As the honey ripens the rank odor leaves the hive and a pleasant tasting honey is left in the comb.
The early arrival of Goldenrod should eliminate any frost kill. Beekeepers will be able to get the full bloom and the golden nectar. I hope everyone's hives will be stinking up their beeyard in the near future.