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, September 28, 2019

Whats happening on the bee front.

By now beekeepers should have treated their bees for mites and have fed any colonies that were light on food stores.
 The weather is changing, as it starts cooling off, feeding bees will get more difficult. Bees will not take cold syrup very well.
 Next week looks like highs in the 50's later in the week. A light frost is possible.
As the temperatures cool, mice will start moving into hives. So it is time to put in entrance reducer with the wide opening, or put on mouseguards.
Still to early to on winter covers.
Looking ahead, hives should be treated again for mites in late October using Oxalic Acid.
 Oxalic Acid is applied either with the dribble method or a vaporizer. Do not use a bug fogger. Oxalic Acid vapoizers for mites have been engineered for this purpose. Many do it yourself vaporizers give too much or too little of a treatment. In both cases you are injuring your bees, jeopardizing their survival.
 Oxalic acid is applied in late October, when the temperature is 40 degrees Fahrenheit, at the time of treatment. More on this in upcoming posts.

Monday, September 23, 2019

Feeding and how much honey to leave in the hive

As fall progresses the days will start turning cooler. As it cools off the bees are reluctant to take down syrup. Long range temperatures have highs in the 50's.
 A hive going into winter needs to have 8 full frames of honey and one partially filled frame in the top box. The lower box on a two deep hive or middle box if you are running three deeps, should have about four frames of honey.
 The partially filled frame should be in the middle of the top box. This partially filled frame is used to help the bees to transition from the lower box to the top box in late January. Bees don't like to crawl up on to frozen honey. The cluster can move up on the partially filled frame because the lower part of the frame is empty of honey. The bees can easily warm the empty beeswax cells. As the cluster moves up on the frame, the bees can begin to warm up honey on the adjacent frames at the same time.
 The upcoming week should be in the upper 60's to low 70's. Perfect weather for feeding bees. Try to get the feeding done as fast as possible. Feeding is a nectar flow, the nectar coming in will keep the queen laying. With the increased brood production there will be more mite production. What a vicious circle we beekeepers have to live with. For this reason, treating with Oxalic Acid in late October can counter the new brood/Varroa production. Try to get the feeding done as soon as possible, so we don't have brood in the hive for Thanksgiving.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Asters, the last hurrah for the bees

The flowers are going away. Goldenrod is in major decline. With the exception of  some late blooming perennial gardens, the last show in town for the bees are Asters.  Asters definition on Wikipedia
I was on my morning walks on the local state trails and have found Asters blooming everywhere. The are a small headed flower. The bees do work them.
 Don't expect much more nectar to come into your hive. If your top deep box is not full of honey, you need to feed now.
If your top box is not all drawn out and only partially full and if your hive setup is three deep, remove that top deep and winter the hive in two deep.
 A hive should never go into the winter with a partially filled top box. As winter progresses the bees move up from the lower box. If they move into the partially filled box, there will be insufficient stores for winter and they will starve. Once the bees move up, they will not move down to get honey in the winter. If the hive is a three deep hive and not drawn out, the odds are, the middle box may have more honey. Remove the top deep and take any frames of honey and put them in the middle box. Feed the bees if the hive still needs food. The weather will be cooling off soon and the bees will not take syrup very well when it starts getting into forties.
Asters come in a variety of colors

On the state trail near Stillwater

Near the St Croix river on the state trail

Monday, September 16, 2019

Feed for bees

There are many options for feeding bees. There is sugar water, High Fructose Corn Syrup and ProSweet. They all have pluses and minuses. Using the right feed at the right time can lead to better quality bees and increasing winter survival. Let's break them down.
  • Sugar, sugar has been the feed that beekeepers have used for the last one hundred years. Table sugar" or "granulated sugar" refers to sucrose. It is mixed with water and fed to the bees. The spring mixture of sugar and water is 1 part sugar to one part water. Fall mixture is heavy syrup, 2 parts sugar and one part water. The bees take this mixture of feed down into the hive and use the carbohydrate for their food and wax production. The bees need to turn this feed from sugar water to honey for long term storage. Sugar water will ferment with time. If the bees don't take it fast enough, sometime the syrup spoils and has to be thrown out.
  • High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). A fructose based sugar. There is two types of HFCS, HFCS 42 and HFCS 55. HFCS 42 granulates very quickly, about 2 weeks to granulate, not many commercial beekeepers use this. HFCS 55 is widely used by commercial beekeepers, it can granulate within a month. Heating HFCS can produce toxins for the bees, that is why with HFCS 55, only purchase what you need to use. HFCS will add weight quickly to a hives winter stores. HFCS is sold by Mann Lake and their dealer network. Mann Lake has the exclusive North American contract with Cargill to sell HFCS to beekeepers. A commercial beekeeper would order a half a semi truckload or full truckload of syrup for their operation. Hobby beekeepers sometimes struggle with the problem of granulation with HFCS.
  • ProSweet, ProSweet is a custom feed developed by Mann Lake. It is widely used by both hobbyists and commercial beekeepers. It is purchased in the semi truckload or in 2-1/2 gallon or 5 gallon containers. ProSweet is both sucrose and fructose. Honey is both glucose (which has the same general sweetness as sucrose) and fructose. Honey weighs 12 lbs per gallon, ProSweet weighs 11.55 lbs per gallon. ProSweet does not granulate or ferment. For spring feeding ProSweet gives the developing bees the proper nutrition for proper gland development, because of the providing both sucrose and fructose. ProSweet is available to use direct from the container it comes in. No mixing required. It lasts from one season to the next. Out of all the feeds out there, ProSweet is the most attractive for the bees in my opinion. For fall feeding the bees can take down ProSweet and do not have to dehumidify the syrup, like they have to do for sugar water. ProSweet is more concentrated than sugar water. If you feed a gallon of sugar water, after the bees work to dehumidify the syrup the net amount of syrup is less than a gallon that was started with. The net food after the fact may only be about 2/3rds of a gallon. With ProSweet, you feed a gallon and the net amount of food in the hive is one gallon. So a beekeeper has to feed more sugar water to get the same amount of feed as ProSweet. That leads to increased trips to the hive costing time and gas money. If a beekeeper needs to feed a lot of syrup to a hive, if it gets cool the bees may not be able to get enough sugar water into the hive. The bees may then starve from lack of food. Or the bees may not have enough time to convert sugar water to honey. This may cause the sugar water to ferment in the hive. Fermented syrup and honey can give the bees dysentery and cause the hives demise. By feeding sugar syrup for a long time in the fall can lead to more brood in the colony and higher mite counts. The higher mite counts can increase viruses in the bees. With ProSweet, beekeepers don't have these problems. Feeding is done quickly and the bees don't have to do anything extra for their feed to be ready for winter.


The next couple days will be very warm and muggy.
Robbing will be an issue. Every bee, wasp and hornet will want to get to your bees honey stores.
 It would be a good idea to put in entrance reducers on with the largest opening being used.
 There may be some bearding with the warm temperatures.
 If you have robbing screens, put them on.

Bees being used for new organic Pesticide application


Sunday, September 8, 2019

White Snakeroot

White Snake Root is blooming everywhere around me. The bees do gather pollen from this plant. The pollen is white.
White Snakeroot is not a good plant for domesticated animals.
Read all about it: White Snakeroot

Ground mount almost finished

We are almost done with the ground mount for our solar panels. Just waiting to get all the rails up. The rails hold the solar panels.
 The steel is all installed. It was not too difficult to put everything together. I had a couple people helping me because the steel beams do weigh over 75 lbs each. Everything bolted up fine, the company shorted me some special nuts in the two kits but, I was able to purchase them locally.
I have to finish putting up the rails. Then the solar company will come and put the panels on the rails and wire everything up.
I have about 16 silver rails that will be mounted to the steel. Once the solar panels are bolted down to the rails, I will lift the whole structure to the top of the black pole. There are two collars and a few bolts to tighten up at that point. Then the rigging can be removed, the last two solar panels will then go on where the poles are sticking through the steel. We will then be able to adjust the tilt angle with the handle you see at the back of the black pole. The buckets you see hold the pull chain of the chain fall, so the chains don't get full of sand.

Friday, September 6, 2019

Putting up a ground mount solar array

 We are tweaking our solar system. Don't get me wrong. our solar system has performed great. It has been almost a year and we have produced 15,000 kilowatts of electricity. Our solar has produced more electricity than we use. Even after running our air conditioning quite a bit in July. We haven't had an electric bill since February and have received rebate checks from Excel energy From March through August so far. The credit from Excel pays for both our gas and electric use.
 We have decided to put up a ground mount solar array. This ground mount is tilt adjustable. We will be able to change the angle of the solar panels to change with the season. This will result in higher solar panel output plus the snow can be removed much easier. I have the pipes in the ground and will begin assembly this weekend. I will post pics when we are done.
 Ground mount solar systems are not allowed in some municipalities, so some investigation is needed to see if your city allows them.
 If you have any questions about solar, I will be glad to answer them. 
8 inch Sch 40 pipe. The pipe is in the concrete 7 feet deep. I added the flanges to make it easier to manhandle the pipe. The pipe is 8 feet above the ground.

This is the kit for the solar panels to bolt on to. We have two kits for two pipes. There are several pieces of steel beams to bolt together in the white pallet. This will hold 28 solar panels.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

How Skunk Raids A Hive

This video shows how skunks raid a hive. Most of us have our hives on the ground. If a skunk starts coming around, they will eat the bees at the entrance. The author of the video is right on how the skunks scratch at the entrance and eat the bees as they come out of the hive.
 The front of the hive gives us clues that prove a skunk is coming at night. Trampled grass in front of the hive, mud or dirt at the entrance of the hive where the skunk is scratching. When you work the bees they can become very defensive from the skunk bothering the hive. Noticing the bees are defensive is a clue that something is setting them off. One note, bees in September and October are usually defensive, it is not from skunks, it is because there is no nectar flow and many field bees are home in the hive and they are not happy to see you.
 I do think a skunk can depopulate a hive with time and the hives population will suffer.
 The author of the video is not concerned of this loss of bees. But, for me I would react differently. Many of us have bear fences that usually keep out skunks and opossums. If you don't have a bear fence, carpet tack strips attached to a board located at the entrance of the hive works well for keeping the skunk away from the entrance. The tack strips have small nails sticking up and are like punji sticks. The skunks won't walk on them. Some beekeepers put chicken wire in front of the entrance. The bees can fly through the chicken wire while keeping the bees away from the entrance.
 Skunks are creatures of habit. They will usually come at the same time at night to raid your hive. A trail camera set up by the hive will also confirm that it is a skunk and when the skunk is visiting.

Monday, September 2, 2019

What is happening on the bee front

Beekeepers are finishing up getting their honey pulled off the hive. The nectar flow is over. It is time to get the honey off and prepare the hive for winter.
 Mite treatments need to be applied NOW. The bees are starting to make winter bees right now. It is the winter bees that overwinter in the hive. For a hive to overwinter, the winter bees need to be as mite free as possible.
 The queen is slowing down egg laying. The hive population is decreasing. With this decrease in population, leads to a massive increase in mite population. If you did a mite check in early August and found two mites, a mite check today may yield mite counts of five mites or higher.
Having a low mite count is the key to overwintering success. Keeping high mite counts through mid September can cause irreparable damage to your winter bees. Hives with damaged bees usually die by February. The hive usually dies from a virus. The Varroa mite is a vector for viruses. The parasite weakens the bees and brings out viruses that normally lie dormant in the bees. As time goes on more and more bees succumb to the virus.
 It is time to get your work done. Mite treatments, then finish feeding. The hive you save may be your own.