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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Monday, October 30, 2017

This week, oxalic acid and covering hives

Looking at the weather in the future looks pretty much of the same. Highs in the 40's at best.
 Feeding colonies is pretty much over. When it gets cold like this, the bees are in a tighter cluster usually in the box below the feeder. This is too far away from the cluster, so feeders may go untouched. Hopefully everyone was able to get their hives heavy with feed before the weather turned south.
 If you go out and look at your hive when it is 40 degrees and look underneath the inner cover at the top box. There should not be any bees on the top bars. If there is a large cluster of bees on top under the inner cover, your hive may not have enough winter stores in the hive for the winter stores.
 This week is a good week for Oxalic Acid treatments. Try to pick a day when it is not real windy. The magic number for the temperature at time of treatment is 40 degrees. Oxalic acid treatments should be done soon. It looks like this week and next week look ok for temperatures. After that it may be too cold to do it.
 Free Oxalic Acid samples are available from Nature's Nectar LLC. The sample of Oxalic Acid, is enough to treat 5 colonies
 We do have Varrox Oxalic Acid Vaporizers on sale right now. Regularly $165.00 now $145.00. They are the best quality vaporizers on the the market.
 Hives can be covered anytime now. I don't think we will see anymore 60 degree weather. Winter patties can be put on also, when covering the bees.
 A little work left to do on the bee front, then it is time to relax and reflect on the year. New beekeepers started the season with a nervous amount of knowledge. The season progressed and so did the new beekeepers. From package bees to winter covers. A whole season of bees pretty much over.

Friday, October 20, 2017

Wintering a beehive in the upper midwest

These are two videos of different winter covers and how to install them on the hive.
 Winter covers can be put on anytime after November first.
I usually put my covers on around Thanksgiving. But I watch the weather also. If there is going to be several inches of snow, I will run out and cover the hives.
A top entrance is imperative for wintering. If you don't have one, drill a 1" hole like in my previous post.
Wintering a hive, needs at least 8 frames of bees. Meaning at around 45 degrees, the bees would be covering both sides of 8 frames. I say 45 degrees because at that temperature the bees are more concentrated in the hive to get a more accurate judgement on the population strength.
 The other winter parameters are a young queen that has not gone through a winter yet. The top box should have eight full frames of honey with the ninth frame partially full, locate this frame in the center of the box. Put two winter patties on the top bars of the top box for emergency late winter feed.
 If your honey is under the cluster of bees like in the bottom box. The bees will not go down in the winter. They will end up starving. Also, do not leave any partially filled boxes on top of the hive. The bees may move up into this box, remember what I just said? The bees will not move down. Many new beekeepers do leave partially filled boxes on top, not realizing they are making a potential bad situation.
 This is one of the last chores for winter. Then the bees are on their own. A properly prepared hive with a low mite count, has a good chance at winter survival.

Cardboard Snug Fit

Bee Cozy

Winter Patties

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Queenless hive?

I had a customer call me looking for a queen. She went through her hive and could not find any brood. In a panic she was looking for a queen.
 After a short conversation about queen types, I learned she had a Carniolan queen. Carniolans shut down brood rearing in early fall. Right now if you looked in a Carniolan hive you should be broodless.
 If a hive is being fed syrup, that is a nectar flow and there more than likely brood in a colony that is being fed or was fed in the last two weeks or so.
 Italian queens will have brood into November. Especially if they have been fed.
 I have gone into Italian hives on Thanksgiving weekend and have found brood in the hive.
 All of this ties together about mites. Feeding should be done early so a hive can be broodless for the Oxalic Acid treatment. This beekeeper with the broodless Carniolan hive, will be able to get an excellent treatment of Oxalic Acid and it should prove to be very effective.
 Late feeders, who will have brood in the colony ( I am still feeding three colonies myself) the Oxalic Acid treatment may be a little less effective because of capped brood in the hive. But the treatment is still of great value and is worth doing.

Monday, October 16, 2017

Trail Cam Pics

Here is a few September trail cam pics
Doe is getting her darker brown winter coat

Forkhorn buck

Fawn has almost lost its spots

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Robbing this week

This coming week will be warm all week. Several days in the low 70's.
 This warm weather while very nice, can be a week of robbing. Now most of us that live north of the metro have had a killing frost. Most nectar plants have died from the frost. So the only nectar available is in a hive.
 Hard to say what has happened to the yellow jacket and hornet population. Did the freeze take them out? We will see if they are in the robbing mix.
 All beekeepers can do at the moment is to put in entrance reducers with the smallest opening.
 If mouse guards are on now, cover most of the holes with duct tape or a piece of wood. This will help the bees defend their hive and may minimize the robbing.
 After next week, cooler weather may be here for the duration of the fall. Robbing should become a non issue.

Friday, October 13, 2017

End of Season Chores

The bee season is winding down. Most beekeepers have extracted their honey, treated for mites and made sure their hives were heavy with honey. But what remains?
 If your hives are still light on feed, there is still time to feed some syrup. Next week the highs are in the 60's and even a couple 70's are forecast. 
The bees will take down syrup still.
After next week, the weather looks like it will be cooling off. Feeding syrup gets much more difficult when the highs are in the low 50's and 40's.
 So if you have some feeding to do, get it done asap. Consider feeding ProSweet. The bees don't have to convert it to honey, so the feeding goes faster.
 Oxalic Acid treatments can be applied anytime when the temperature is 40 degrees. It can warm up later in the day, just at the time of treatment it should be 40 degrees. At this temperature the bees are in a tight cluster and the treatment works the best. If the dribble method of oxalic acid is done when it is warmer than 40 degrees, the treatment may be much less effective because the bees may be spread out more in the colony.
 Using a vaporizer is more forgiving. The vaporizer coats the bees and equipment with  Oxalic Acid. The vaporizer does a little better treatment than the dribble method, but the dribble method works well when applied properly. 
 Entrance reducers or mouseguards should be in place now. Vermin will be trying to get into the hives now as the temperature cools. Three deep hives are more susceptible to mice compared to a two deep hive when the temperatures initially starts cooling off. In a three deep hive, the bees will cluster in the middle box leaving the lower box mostly empty of bees. With no bees to challenge the mice, the mice set up shop for the winter. In a two deep hive, there are bees in the bottom box to challenge the mice. But as it gets colder, the mice can still sneak into the bottom box and start to take advantage of rent free housing.
 Winter Covers and moisture boards:
 It is too early to cover hives for winter right now. Winter covers can go on anytime starting in November, I usually cover my hives around Thanksgiving. I watch the weather up until late November. If we are going to get several inches of snow, I will run out and put the covers on early. Once there is several inches of snow on the ground the daily temperatures cool dramatically. Temperatures in the 30's are not stressful for a colony. But when high temperatures are sneaking into the low 20's a winter cover should be on the hive.
 Top boxes need to have a 1" hole drilled in the box for a winter exit. This gives the bees the ability to go on cleansing flights over the course of the winter. The reason for hole is this: As winter progresses and the bees move up into the top box, they would have to travel down to go out the lower entrance, the bees will fly out and poop, fly back into the lower entrance and travel back to the cluster.  The bees will get chilled and die attempting to do this.
 The top hole is right where the bees are in the cluster. They can leave the cluster fly out, poop, fly back into the hole and the warm cluster of bees. There are always dead bees all around the front of the hive in the snow. This is normal. Remember, the hive start winter with around 40,000 bees. The population may fall by 50% over the course of the winter. If on March 1st the bees are totally covering at least four frames in the top box, that is a good number of bees to build up to a May divide.
 Winter is coming, the time is short, get the work done. The bees that get saved may be your own.

This is where I drill my holes in the hive bodies. One inch below the hand hold, center of the box.

I use a one inch auger bit. This type of drill with a screw thread on the end that pulls the drill through the wood. When drilling larger holes like this, the drill motor should be on the slow speed.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Drones being thrown out of the hive

Don't be surprised to see dead bees in front of the hives.
This is the time of year when drones are thrown out of the hive in big numbers.
Look close at the dead bees. The big eyes of the drone is an easy way to tell it is a drone. The workers are getting their hive ready for winter and this is one of the last chores to do before winter hits.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Last Mite Treatment - Oxalic Acid

Soon it will be time for the last mite treatment of the year.
 Oxalic Acid is used for this treatment. Oxalic Acid is wood bleach. Oxalic Acid was discovered to have good properties for killing mites it comes in contact with.
 Beekeepers use this treatment in late October.
 The reasoning is this, in late October most hives have shut down brood rearing and is broodless in the hive or close to it. The Oxalic Acid mite treatment is only effective on mites that are on the bees.  These are called Phoretic mites. Phoretic mites ride on adult bees feeding on their blood such as a wood tick on humans. Being there is no brood in the hive, all mites are on the bees. This is a time when these mites are very easy to kill using Oxalic Acid. By treating at the right time, in a broodless colony, Oxalic Acid can kill 90% of the mites that are on the bees. If there is brood in the colony, the Oxalic mite treatment may not be as effective.
 The treatment:
 A beekeeper needs to pick a time when it is 40 degrees at the time of treatment. It can warm up during the day, but 40 degrees is an important factor, especially for the dribble method.  When it is 40 degrees, the bees are in a tight cluster. All the bees are usually present in the box under the top box on a hive. This concentration of bees makes the dribble method work the best.
 There is two treatment options. The Dribble method or the Vaporizer method.
 The dribble method takes a solution of Oxalic Acid and sugar water in a syringe and squirting the solution on the bees.
 The Vaporizer method takes Oxalic Acid powder on a vaporizer pan, plugging it on to a 12v battery and vaporizing the powder which floods the colony with Oxalic Acid vapor. This vapor coats the bees and the inside of the hive with Oxalic Acid.
 Both of these methods work. The vaporizer method may work a little better, but either way works.
Oxalic Acid Link: EPA Label with safety and directions for use
 Here are two videos on the Dribble and Vaporizer Oxalic Acid Application:
 Dribble Method

Vaporizer Method:

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

New Woodenware design

All of our box woodenware is a slightly new design. The narrow rabbet strip is now combined into a bigger piece of the end of the box. The pics show how the boxes are slightly different from old style and new style. I think the new style will be a little stronger than the old style.
Old Style on left - New style on right

An assembled box with the new larger rabbet style

Old style on top - New style on bottom. Notice the wider rabbet on the bottom box end. Both rabbets are on the right side. The top one is narrow, the bottom rabbet is wider and harder to break.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Last Flowers Of The Year

A beekeepers shared a couple pictures with me. He is still getting some nectar coming into his hives. Compliments of a huge field of Asters that are in full bloom. Asters and Goldenrod are usually the last fall forage that the bees can use. Early frosts can hurt these late flowers, but this year the flowers are still standing tall.
 I was doing some feeding today on a couple hives that were a little light on winter stores. The warm humid day was making it easy for the bees to forage.
 The bees were still bringing some creamy white pollen on their legs.
Photo by D. Strand

Photo by D. Strand

Sunday, October 1, 2017

New Hours for October

These are our new October Hours:
Wed - Noon - 6 pm
Thursday Closed
Friday Noon - 6 pm
Sat 9 am - 3 pm
Or call for an appointment.
As the season slows down so do our open hours. We are closing now on Thursdays.

What do I do with my supers and unused equipment

Now the honey is extracted what should happen with the wet supers and how to store them?
 It works well to take wet supers and put them back on the hive. Put the supers on top of the inner cover. The bees will come up from below and clean up anything that is still sticky. Depending how warm it is outside, they should have them cleaned up in about five days. If you have a bee escape board, put that on before the supers are removed for good. The escape board is an easy way to get the bees out of the super. Or, remove the supers on a cold morning when most of the bees are clustered below the inner cover. You may have to brush off a few bees.
 Long term storage, supers can be stored in a shed or a garage for the winter. The supers need to be stacked so they are mouse tight. Any little crack or hole will be an opportunity for vermin to move in and wreck the drawn comb. I store mine on the little pallets I made with a telescoping cover on top with a brick on the lid.
 But there is one more thing to do before we commit the bees to long term storage. For equipment storage, cold weather is our friend. When it is going to be freezing temperatures, I wheel the stacks of supers I have outside and leave them there for a week. This freezing weather will kill any wax moth or hive beetle that may be in the equipment. I am then confident that the supers or deeps are good for winter storage.
 Storing woodenware in an attached garage is fine, but the garage area does not freeze for a long time. The hive pests can get started to ravage the comb if it is warm where the equipment is stored. Wax moths and hive beetle love brood comb. Brood comb is rich in protein. If you just have a few frames, the frames can be put in plastic bags and put in a freezer for three days. The freezing temperatures kill the beetle and wax moth in all stages. That is eggs, larvae, and the pest.
 Dead colonies can be left outside. Hives should be set up for bees for next year. Put your best comb in the bottom box, so when bees come, the hive is basically ready to go. The hive should be swept out and cleaned of any dead bees and debris. Close up all the holes and openings. Put in entrance reducer and screen off the entrance hole to keep out mice. Staple a stiff screen over the entrance reducer hole. Cut the screen a little big so it hits the box above. Then a mouse can't push the entrance reducer in and spend the winter in luxury.
 Taking care of your comb will help a beekeeper get a good start when it is time to use that good comb next year.