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

Friday, May 31, 2019

Three of the four colonies of bees need another box ASAP

The hives are in one deep. The hot temperatures today show that the colonies need a second box. The hives need to be gone through looking for swarm cells then add another box right away.
 This is what a crowded hot hive looks like. A swarm in the making.

Filling supers on overwintered colonies

Overwintered colonies have been bringing in nectar from the dandelion and fruit bloom. A beekeeper asked me why are the bees not putting nectar in her supers. I asked some questions and here are my relies:
  • Did the hive swarm? If a colony swarms the nectar collection of a colony is diminished considerably. She says the hive did not swarm because she still has a marked queen and has been checking for swarm cells.
  • Is the hive strong? She said it was strong. So the capability to get nectar is there.
  • Was the top brood box heavy with honey? She said no, the top brood box was not heavy with honey before she put on the supers.
  • After our conversation this is what she observed: The bees had not put nectar up into the supers. But what she did notice that the top box was filling up with nectar.
  • The investigation of no nectar in the supers ended up being this: The bees were bringing in nectar. The bees will fill their top brood box with honey first before they put anything into the honey supers. The nectar being stored in the top box will be the hives winter honey. When the top box is filling up, at that time the bees will move up into the supers. Sometimes the bees may not fill supers until the main nectar flow in late June. But the colony will be ahead of the nectar collection. The top box is filled up so the only place to keep more honey is in the supers.
  • Now she has to practice swarm control until the main nectar flow is going.
  • The next nectar flow will be Black Locust trees. They normally bloom in late May. But the Black Locust blooms may be delayed a few days this year. It appears our area is behind from a normal spring. Bees can get a very good honey crop of these trees. So, if you have Black Locust trees near your hives, get your supers on any overwintered colonies.

Thursday, May 30, 2019

Caught a swarm last night

Swarming is happening right now. The warm weather is making colonies explode with bees. Colonies that two weeks ago looked a little weak, have increased their populations and have added to over crowding in the hive. This over crowding is made worse with the warm temperatures and has put swarming into high gear on overwintered colonies.
 Beekeepers should be looking for swarm cells. What do swarm cells look like? Click Here. Uncapped swarm cells should be removed. If capped swarm cells are found, the bees could have already swarmed, so capped cells should not be removed. That can be the hive's replacement queen.
 If you can get a new queen to purchase, the hive recovers much quickly by removing the swarm cells and installing a new queen. But, you need to make sure you are queenless first. No eggs in the hive can be an indicator plus much less activity at the entrance. This decrease activity usually means you have much less field bees in the hive. It is the field bees that leave in a swarm.
 If you find swarm cells in a hive, it also works well to move the frame with the a cell and adhering bees on the frame, into a five frame nuc box. The swarm cell will hatch and fly out to mate. You may have a new queen that you can use if needed, in about three weeks.
 My wife got a call last night of a swarm at a farm about a mile from us. She took a nuc box down and set it next to the swarm. The swarm was on a short pine tree about four feet tall. So it was right next to the nuc entrance. I got home an hour later and we both went down to see if the bees had moved in.
 The bees had not moved in and needed some encouragement. I put the open nuc box under the swarm, removed a couple frames. Bent the tree slightly and gave the tree a shake. About 80% of the swarm fell into the nuc box. I then put the frames and cover back in the hive. There were many bees on the ground. I put the nuc right next to the mass of bees on the ground. The bees on the ground just started to march right into the nuc. I will pick them up this morning by 6:30 am.
Easy swarm to catch

We started with a two high nuc, because bees usually will not move into a single nuc box on their own. The cavity size is too small. But they will move into two nuc boxes. In this case, I removed the second box and shook the bees into the single nuc. This worked great. I will move the hive to a new location and put a feeder pail on the hive. Hopefully they will stay. This nuc box worked great. I have a permanent entrance cleat closing the main entrance and the box is attached to the bottom board with hive staples.. I added a steel disc for the entrance. I drilled a 1-7/8" hole for the entrance. When I go get the nuc, I close the wheel to the ventilation setting and easily move the bees.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Bear in the hood

I got a trail camera pic of this bear. It was about 30 yards from my house. This is bear country.
 Bear fence is still working. About two weeks ago I did go and checked all my bear fences. They all needed maintenance.  They were all functioning properly after the check. Good thing, because the aftermath of a bear visit is usually not pretty.

Monday, May 27, 2019


If you need a queen from Nature's Nectar LLC , they can be purchased anytime, by appointment. 651-242-2233

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Bee Strategy

 I put some packages in five frame nuc boxes on bee pick up day. I knew I couldn't get them where I wanted them to go because of the road to my bee yard was too wet.
 For bee strategy, putting package bees in nucs works well if it is cold out or the hives will be moving to a new location.
 Some beekeepers from the northern Minnesota and Wisconsin. Can put package bees in nucs, leave the bees down in the southern part of the state. When the weather warms up, the beekeepers can retrieve the nucs and put them in 10 frame equipment at their northern beeyards.

What is happening in the hive right now

Package bees: The package bee populations are finally on the upswing. There has been new bees emerging and this will continue now everyday. With the added population, there will be more bodies for expanding the brood nest. Colonies with new foundation will be seeing a slight uptick in comb production.
 When the bees are working on eight of the ten frames it will be time to add a second box. When adding the second box, take a frame of honey and pollen that the bees are working on and move it up to the top box, do not move brood. Spread out the frames in the lower box evenly and run nine frames in the lower box. Move the feeder pail up on top of the second box. Continue to feed syrup. The bees will not draw out foundation without feeding them. If you do not feed, the hives population will not grow. Keep pollen patties on your hives.
 If package bees are on drawn comb, if you say to yourself, "boy there is a lot of bees in here", time to add your second box.
 Overwintered colonies:
overwintered colonies are building fast. Divides have been happening and beekeepers will continue to do divides over the next two weeks, if their hives are ready. Remember, to do a divide, you need eight frames of brood and bees. Sometimes, a colony comes out of winter with a low bee population. These weak colonies cannot be divided and may never be able to divide, but still should continue to build up. Right now an overwintered colony should have at least six frames of brood. If your colony is weak and you have another strong colony, there are two things you can do to help the weak colony.
 A beekeeper can add a frame of capped brood into the brood area of the weak colony. This will give the colony a boost in bees, to increase their numbers. As a hive gets more bees, the bees can cover more brood and the hive can expand their brood area. Maybe add another frame of capped brood in about 7-10 days.
 Another strategy a beekeeper can do if they have a strong overwintered colony and a weak colony. During the heat of the day, switch the two colonies. Break down the hives. Move the strong colony to the weak colonies location and move the weak colony to where the strong colony is. This will have an immediate impact. The field bees fly out to forage and come back to where they think they live. The weak colony gets a large increase in field bees. The strong colony gets weaker with much less field bees.
 This strategy also works for swarm control. If you see swarm cells in a colony. Go through the colony and remove all the swarm cells. Then switch the colony with the swarm cells with a weaker colony. Now the colony that wants to swarm has lost all their field bees and usually will give up their swarming desire. The weaker colony will get much stronger and may have to be monitored for swarm cells.
 Honey supers should be on all strong overwintered colonies right now.
 With the rainy weather we are having, pollen patties should be on all colonies right now. The rainy weather may limit a hives ability to forage. A colony can deplete their stored pollen after a few days. Brood can perish if there is no pollen in the hive. Pollen patties are cheap and is insurance to keep the colony moving forward.
 The fruit bloom is on right now and will continue for about another ten days or so, depending on your locale. After the fruit bloom is over, there will be a period of two to three weeks when there may be a dearth of pollen. So keep a half a pollen patty on your hive until around mid June.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

Busy day at the bird feeders

I received a monocular for Christmas this year. The monocular attaches to a cell phone. You line up the hole with your phone camera. While it is not a professional picture, they turn out ok. The birds were at the feeders today.
I also had Orioles and hummingbirds. The two Red Fox that came through while I was looking at the birds. Then a couple deer decided to walk on by. It was quite a day for being so cool and dreary.
Scarlet Tanager

Indigo Bunting

Rose Breasted Grosbeak

Two Red Fox - from about 40 yards with the monocular

Scarlet Tanager and Indigo Bunting. The closeup pics were with the monocular with the birds on these feeders. This pic was from my porch window with my phone.

Monocular with cell phone adapter

Wednesday, May 15, 2019

How to do a divide

 May is the time for divides. Strong overwintered colonies should be divided or they will more than likely swarm. If your bees swarm, the likelihood of getting any surplus honey off the colony that swarmed, is very low. Just because your colony overwintered does not mean you can divide it.
 Dividing a colony of bees can happen when you have eight frames of brood and bees in your hive. The definition of brood is frames of bees covered both sides with bees and each of the eight frames has eggs, open larvae, or capped brood. The eight frames of brood is the total needed to divide. The frames of brood will be spread out throughout the colony. Example, if you are in a two or three deep colony you may have five frames of brood in the top box, three frames of bees in the lower box. You equalize the brood out between two boxes. Because when the divide happens you never know where the queen is.
 This is a link to Gary's from the Univ of MN homepage. He describes how to divide.
How to do a divide

Sunday, May 12, 2019

Dandelion nectar flow

Beekeepers with strong overwintered colonies should be putting supers on their hives right now. A strong colony can possibly put up one to two supers of Dandelion nectar or nectar from the fruit bloom. If you don't put supers on, a strong hive can fill their brood boxes up with nectar and the queen will have no place to lay eggs. The hive will be honey bound.

What's happening in the hives

Here is is May 12th and in the outskirts of Stillwater, dandelions are just starting to make an appearance. Normally Dandelions appear here around May 1st. The spring has been cool and has held back the early flowers. Natural pollen has been later than normal. By now we should be seeing the fruit bloom, Flowering Crabs, Fruit trees and other spring flowering plants which have been currently delayed.
 I am sure if your locale is in the Twin Cities metro area and points south, dandelions and the fruit bloom has already started. The fruit bloom should be moving into high gear this week. The temperatures should be in the 70's.
 My colonies have been a little slow of building up. The cool weather has made it harder for the bees to expand their brood nest. Some colonies are coming along nicely, but some others are a little weak. Over the next week I will add some brood and/or switch colonies.
 Switching colonies and adding some brood is a great way to fix a weak colony.
Adding brood: I have a strong hive that I will be able to divide. I plan to make a divide. Leave the divide queenless overnight, then the next day, add the divide to the top of the weak colony using the newspaper method.
 The newspaper method works the best for combining colonies. I take one sheet of newspaper and lay it on top of the weak colony. I take my hive tool and push it into the newspaper creating a slit about and 1-1/2" long. Not a hole, just a slit. This gives the bees a starting place to chew open a hole and slowly get used to each other. I then add my queenless divide on top of the newspaper. It takes about a week for the bees to chew a big hole in the newspaper.
 You can take a frame of capped brood from a strong colony, shake the adhering bees off, be careful, look for the queen on that frame before you shake the bees off. Take the frame of brood and put it in the main cluster of bees in the weak colony, or new package of bees. Just add one frame of brood, a weak colony may not have enough bees to cover more than one frame. In about 10 days do it again. This influx of bees will quickly turn around a weak colony.
 Switching colonies: I have a couple colonies that just need some more bees to get rocking. This is a really easy may to equalize colony strength. Just take strong hive A and weak hive B. Move hive A to hive B location. Move hive B to hive A location. What happens is the field bees fly out to forage, then come back to where they think they live. Now, the weak hive gets more field bees and gets stronger. The strong hive gets weaker. This method can also be used for swarm control.
 Package bees are building up. Beekeepers should have inspected their package bee colonies for queen acceptance. If you see eggs, you are good. If you are drawing out new foundation, you need to keep feeding syrup. Syrup should be on these colonies until around mid June or until the foundation is finished.
 The second box is usually added when the colonies have been drawing foundation on eight of the 10 frames. That takes about a month from installation.

Friday, May 10, 2019

Treating for mites

If you did a mite check and found two or more mites, treatment with a miticide is on the agenda. The miticide of choice is formic acid. Either Formic Pro or Mite Away Qwik Strips (MAQS). They both use formic acid as their active ingredient. The applications are a little different from each other.
Follow the directions on the label. Don't use expired strips. Expired strips delivery system gets compromised from age and using expired strips may injure your colony,
 Best to treat a colony before doing a divide. Do not treat a weak colony with formic acid.

MAQS application video

Formic Pro Application video:

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Queens For Thursday May 9th - Delayed Until Noon

 Nature's Nectar LLC told me today that the queens that will be available on Thursday May 9th, will not be available until noon. Slight shipping delay from UPS.

Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Check for mites in overwintered colonies

Now is the time beekeepers with overwintered colonies should check for mites. There has been brood in the colonies since February and the mite numbers can be increasing. Checking for mites can give the beekeeper the ability to assess whether to treat the colonies or not.
 If you don't check for mites, and it turns out they are currently high numbers of mites right now in a colony, the colony can possibly perish by early July.
 It is easy to check for mites. The more times you do it, the easier it gets.
 Package bees should be checked for mites starting June 1st.
Mite checks should be performed once a month until October 1st.
 Mite test kits can be purchased at Nature's Nectar LLC.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

More Queens Coming On Thursday May 9th

Nature's Nectar LLC will be getting a fresh shipment of Queens on Thursday, May 9th.
 Carniolan, Italian, Saskatraz marked and unmarked.

Friday, May 3, 2019

Check for eggs now

Everyone that put in package bees, need to check their bees now for queen acceptance. If you do not see eggs or larvae on the frames your queen probably has not been accepted and you need a new queen. Right now the larvae should be easy to see because they will getting big. There should be eggs and larvae on a couple sides of frames by now. The first delivery beekeepers maybe even be starting to see some capped larvae. If you do not check for queen acceptance and your hive is queenless, the hive will die because they cannot make a new queen for themselves.

Not the greatest egg pics. The bottom pic does show a typical frame. Eggs in the lower two thirds of the frame. The dark multi colored muddy looking substance in the cells is stored pollen. You can also see glistening nectar in the top cells of the frame.

How do honeybees get their jobs

This is a good video on the breakdown of jobs that honeybees do at different times in their life.
See the Varroa mite on the back of a drone at 1:12 of the video.