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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Wednesday, January 30, 2019

How is the cluster dealing with the cold

This is from beekeeper Paul's hive. He has a thermometer in the hive. Sometimes it can be a little deceiving on the internal hive temperature. If the cluster is near the temperature probe it can give an artificial warm internal hive temperature. Usually in the hive, once you get about nine inches away from the cluster, the internal hive temperature is about the same as the outside temperature. So right now, inside the lower box in a hive, it is about minus 20 degrees. In the upper box near the cluster, It will be warmer as the bees are eating more food and generating more heat to combat the cold. Plus heat rises and the upper part of the hive should be the warmest part of the hive right now.
 So beekeepers, if you think the bees heat the whole hive and keep it warm that is not the case.
Photo by P. Liedl

Warm this weekend

This weekend is a good time to check if your bees are alive. Go out in the warmest part of day. The bees may be going on cleansing flights so it may be obvious there is bee activity.
 You can also rap on the side of the hive and listen for the buzz of the cluster.
 If colonies were very heavy with honey going into winter. Sometimes the bees have not moved up yet. The bees in this situation may not go on cleansing flights if they are still deep in the hive. A beekeepers may think the colony is dead but they may be alive and well. If your hive fits this description, rap on the hive in the lower box as well and listen.
 Always wear a veil when out with the bees. They may be chilly, but they can still put the hurt on you.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Brrrrrrrrr - We are in the deep freeze

Oh, baby it's cold outside. The winter up to this point has been easy on the bees. Many beekeepers have been seeing their bees alive and doing ok. Now the bees will face the cold weather challenge for about for the next week or so. Healthy bees can survive the cold, if they have food, usually without much problems.
 I think the cold came at a good time. Most colonies should have the cluster of bees transitioning up into the top deep box right now.
 All beekeepers should have had their top box full of honey going into winter. So the bees should be on full frames of honey right now. The bees will be consuming honey and giving the cluster of bees the warmth they need to survive. This time of year bees eat about 12 lbs of honey per month. That is about a frame and a quarter of honey. The food consumption will increase when brood production starts.
 If we look at this historically, in the 60's and early 70's the upper Midwest had many more below zero days per winter than we have today. Without the scourge of mites in the 60's, winter loss of bees was around 10% - 15% of a beekeepers colonies. 20% loss was considered a major loss at that time.
 Now with mites, the parasites can weaken colonies, making harder for bees to overwinter. But, now is the payoff for good mite control. Healthy bees can make it through this cold snap if they are on food.
 The queen will start laying in a couple weeks, usually by mid February.
 When there is brood in the hive, that is the time of possible starvation when it gets cold. Anytime after Feb 1st, is a good time to put on winter patties, sugar, fondant for emergency food. The emergency food can prevent starvation on cold days, when brood is in the hive.
 We almost have January licked, February is just around the corner, days are getting longer, the sun is getting stronger, beekeeping is on the horizon.

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Super Super Sale

We are offering 10 frame assembled, painted deeps or painted supers with 10 assembled frames and foundation.
Deeps.......... $45.00 each (reg. price $58.00)
Supers ........ $40.00 each  10 or more $35.00 each (Reg price $53.00)
While supplies last.
or an Assembled Hive:
1 - Bottom Board
2 - Painted deeps with assembled frames and yellow foundation
2 - Painted medium supers assembled with frames and foundation
1 - Telescoping cover with inner cover.
In store sale only

Monday, January 14, 2019

2019 Bee Order Form

Package Bees Ready For Pickup
The 2019 order form is now available. It is in the upper right hand corner of this blog under links. or on our website.
Package Bees 2019 - We will be selling only 3 lb packages.
All packages include a mated queen
Your Choice of Carniolan, Italian or Saskatraz queen.
Cost per package
1 - 10..........  $142.00  Cash/Check
11 - 25........  $141.00 Cash/Check
26 - 99......... $139.00 Cash/Check
100+ or........ $138.00 Cash/Check
Bee Clubs

Price with credit cards is $146.00 per package
Saskatraz queen add $2.00 per package.
We will be getting two deliveries of bees.
The first delivery is early April, the second delivery is around mid April. Please specify which delivery when ordering.

Wednesday, January 9, 2019

Looking back on 2018

2018 has now past us by, so I think it is appropriate to go back and look how our beekeeping year was.
 January was not bad. Minus 13 to a high of 46. Average temperature was 17 degrees F. Hives were not stressed much this month.
 February was cold the first half of the month and warmer the second half. Really close to January with a average temperature of 17 degrees F. The second half of February was warm so starvation issues with brood now in the colony was not a huge problem in the metro area and points south. The northern part of MN/WI is always faced with stresses of cold weather at the time of brood rearing starting up. Which is usually around mid February. Sooner if the weather has been warm.
 March was a warmer month, average temperature was 32 degrees F. The last half of March had daily highs in the upper 30's and low 40's. Perfect weather for overwintered hives to start expanding their brood area. Pollen patties were being gobbled up at this point.
 April the weather tanked on the first day of April, cold for a few days then a glimmer of warmth then cold and snowy through the first half of the month. Below average temperatures and high winds. Beekeepers were caught off guard. Some colonies starved, when 10 days before they looked great. The bees could not move to their honey stores and some overwintered colonies did not survive. Package bees arrived in this same time frame. Beekeepers had to scramble to get their bees in. The installation while a little unorthodox, proved that beekeepers were up to the task. Most of my customers were able to save their bees and had a good beekeeping year. The weather finally turned around on the 17th of April and 40's started to show up. There was a steady uptick in the temperature from that point on with 60's being the common theme and the last day of April was 82 degrees F. I will say that in thirty years of keeping bees this was the worst weather I have ever seen. It had been cold at times, but in April, cold is usually a one to three day event, not two weeks. Average temperature was 37 degrees F. With a range from 11 degrees to 83 degrees,
 May was a warm month. It was great for colony build up. Package bees were increasing nicely. Overwintered colonies were up for divides. There was fallout from the cold spring with many overwintered colonies. Some had great populations while quite a few overwintered colonies came through the cold weaker than normal. Many beekeepers were not able to do divides, do to weak colonies. Some beekeepers did late splits in June but many beekeepers just ran their colonies the way they came out of winter. Dandelions were about a week late in the Stillwater area. The fruit bloom was delayed about a week also. Apple trees were blooming into the third week of May.
June, The Black Locust flow came a little late. This flow is usually in late May but it came in very early June. Some overwintered colonies with strong populations were able to put up a super or two of Black Locust honey. Package bees and nucs were increasing in populations. Swarming was not widespread. More than likely due to weaker than normal of some overwintered colonies. Mite levels were lower on the bees coming out of winter. The nectar flow started in late June and ended in early July. Beekeepers with strong overwintered colonies were getting great honey crops. Most package bees and nucs missed the show as their field force had not fully developed yet. By the time the package bees and nucs had good field force numbers, the nectar flow had really trailed off.
 I have been told that whenever their is a prolonged cold spring, the summers nectar flow is usually poor. For most of us that seemed to be the case.
 July and August hives looked good, populations were there, the only one that failed to show up for the party was available nectar. The plants were not giving it up. I looked at my colonies around the first of August and the supers were barren. Not a drop of honey in them. But mites were starting to rise and beekeepers turned to mite treatments because it was time to start to prepare colonies for winter. Most colonies did have some decent honey stores for winter  by mid August.
 There was a September surprise for me. most of my colonies did put up a super of Goldenrod honey. This is usually uncharacteristic of me to get Goldenrod honey. I usually get a good crop of Goldenrod honey about every ten years or so. I think the last time I got a super of Goldenrod honey was about, hmmmmm, ten years ago. Mites had built up by September, the beekeepers that treated in August and very early September were in good shape for winter. Beekeepers that waited until mid to late September may have winter survival challenges. Feeding bees was ongoing and the bees were taking it down very well.
 October was a colder than average month beekeepers who waited to feed found that it was difficult to get sufficient stores into light colonies. Oxalic acid treatments were being done starting in mid October. The weather was good for treatments. Oxalic acid treatments should have helped reduce any mite remaining high mite counts. The good thing of the cooler weather was there was not much of mite transmission from colony to colony. The cool weather had the bees staying at home. We did not have much of a fall. The weather cooled off in early October and never warmed up again.
 November and December while cool were good for bee survival. Not much winter stress on colonies. Beekeepers covered their colonies and wished there hives good luck and see you in February.
 The weather up until now has been very good for the bees. We have not had much severe weather. There has been no deep freeze. At the moment, if the colonies have sufficient food stores, mite treatments were applied at the right time and mite loads were low going into winter, the odds are very good that there will be good survival of colonies around the upper Midwest this winter.

Monday, January 7, 2019

MN Hobby Beekeepers Annual Banquet and Auction

 Annual Banquet & Auction

February 2, 4:30 pm - 10:00 pm CST 


$25 per person
Held at: Keller Golf Course, 2166 Maplewood Drive, Maplewood, MN 55109
The auction is a lot of fun. I encourage everyone to attend. This is a fundraiser so bring your checkbook. If you have an item to donate for the auction please bring it. Besides bee equipment, beekeepers have donated Twins and other sports tickets, air plane rides, personal chef dinners, weekend resort stay, be creative.  All great items, that really helped out the Basil Furgala Fund from the Univ of MN. 

Download Registration Form
This event is a great opportunity to spend time with other members, and also raise money for the the Furgala Scholarship Fund.
Social hour is at 4:30 - 5:30 pm, and a buffet dinner will be served at 6:00 pm. Auction for the Furgala Scholarship Fund begins at 7:15 pm. Cash bar will serve beer and wine.
• Something interesting to share—a honey and mead tasting table will be available.
• Items for the auction, including home crafts, baked goods, honey or bee-related things or equipment.
• Anything you think someone will bid on in the auction.
• Photographic prints of your favorite bee-related subjects for the photo contest. A $25 prize will be awarded based on the members’ choice.
Dress is business casual, or whatever you are comfortable in—we’re not very formal!
 This year the meal will be buffet style, offering a mixed fruit bowl, garden salad, chef-carved London broil, herb-crusted sautéed chicken, Yukon gold mashed potatoes, wild mushroom rice pilaf, market-fresh vegetable sauté and fresh baked bread/sweet butter.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

The warm weather

Wintering hives. The hives with cardboard covers are alive. Bees are covering the top entrance holes.
Warm weather coming. The bees will be taking cleansing flights over the next few days. This is a good opportunity to make sure your colonies are alive. Watching the bees take their cleansing flight will help confirm this.
 It is normal to see dead bees in front of the hive. The warm weather will also help the bees reposition in the hive if they need to move on to new frames of honey. The bees may have not moved up into the top box in mass yet. They may be starting this transition now and should have the bulk of their population in the top box in the next two to three weeks.