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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Sunday, July 5, 2020

The nectar flow

I have been having a great nectar flow. I have four supers on most of my hives and I may be putting on more.
 Right now I think we are at near peak nectar flow. More and more flowers are blooming. Perennial summer flowers are starting to bloom. The hot weather is also helping the nectar flow.
 Today a surprise thunderstorm gave us an 1-1/2" of rain. So moisture is not an issue in Washington County at the moment. But we have had ample moisture anyway, so moisture should not be an issue at the moment. I think they are still dry in the Harris/Pine City area.
 Aside from that, everyone should be experiencing a nectar flow right now. If the hive has a good population, the bees should be filling the top brood box and into the supers with nectar.
 If the bees are not putting nectar into the supers but are filling the brood area with nectar, and there is no brood, your bees may have swarmed and if you did not remove any capped queen cells in the last two to three weeks, there should be a new queen laying soon. You may have to move some frames to another hive to get some relatively empty frames, to give the queen some room to start laying.
 If your bees are still in one or two deeps and they are not drawing out much comb. You could have had some queen issues along the way. The hive may not have many foragers yet. You may have to feed the bees some sugar water right now for the bees to draw out comb.
 Some strategy's to use for supers:
  • If you are running out of supers, use a deep for a honey super
  • Hives getting too tall? Take full supers and put them on top of colonies that are not producing. Move the supers bees and all. This will give the weak hive an increase in bees. (Don't worry about fighting. Smoke the bees a little and they will be fine. House bees in supers are 12 - 17 days old and easily accept other bees.)  The bees will take care of the honey. Do not take off supers and store them off the hive somewhere. The honey will absorb the high humidity that we are experiencing and will cause the honey to eventually ferment. 
  • New supers and nothing happening? Remove the queen excluder until the bees start making some comb on a couple frames then put the excluder back in.
  • Put new undrawn supers on top of the top brood box, then drawn supers on top of them. Drawn supers can be just stacked on top of the hive as needed.
  • Supers go on two at a time during the early part of the nectar flow.
The nectar flow should stay on track for awhile. Nectar flows are unpredictable and beekeepers are never sure how much honey is going to come into the hive. But staying ahead of the bees with empty frames can kick in the bees hoarding instinct. When bees have space in front of them, the bees will try harder to fill that space. If the honey space is full, the bees may stop collecting. I always like to pull off a partially filled top super at the end of the nectar flow instead of one packed full. I know with the partially filled super, I got all the nectar that the hive could produce.
 Keep ahead of the bees, the nectar is flowing, it will be a great thing if every super gets honey in the frames.

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Solar Production for the month of June

 This is our solar production for the month of June. June is the month with the highest solar production of the year. This month was our highest monthly production since we put in our solar system. 2500 KWh (2.5 MWh) is almost three times what an average home in the U.S. uses per month (800 - 900 KWh). I publish this monthly solar update to prove to people that solar works.
 We have 50 solar panels for a 16.5 KWh system. So for an average, each panel made 50 KWh over the course of a month.
 If you ran a smaller system, with similar panels, you could figure out a possible solar output for the month of June using these numbers. But it all depends on how much sun per day and angle of the panels. The production of solar power can vary by many factors.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

My Nectar Flow and Adding Supers

 I am having a great nectar flow in my beeyard at my house. I checked my eight hives here today. Six of the eight needed supers. I have all the supers I own on the hives right now. I wanted to put two more supers on all the hives that needed them, but I need to get some more supers from Nature's Nectar LLC. The hives will get more supers later in the week.
 The hot weather will get the nectar flowing all this week. Keep ahead of the bees. It is still June, if the weather gives us some more rain, this nectar flow may turn into something big.
 I have stopped looking for swarm cells. When the supers start getting heavy, that is the limit. Usually the swarming behavior wanes during a good nectar flow. It never goes away, but neither does a sore back.
Good population of house bees storing nectar and making wax. New white comb is being built on all the frames. With the big population and warm weather, the bees are occupying all of the frames. Doing the business of bringing nectar from the field bees at the hive entrance. The house bees will bring the raw nectar and put it into the comb. The house bees will dehumidify the nectar ripening it into honey. Then cap the full cells of honey with beeswax. Quite a lot of work for bees that are 12 - 17 days old.

When adding new frames and foundation, always put the new box closest to the brood boxes or on top of the queen excluder
the new box of frames is on top of the queen excluder, the super which was quite heavy but not finished yet, goes on top.

Another strategy: Put new undrawn frames in the center of a box with drawn frames

Or, put one frame of drawn comb in the center of the new frames

The beeyard is getting taller. I ran out of supers. The hives should all have one more super on top.

Friday, June 26, 2020

hot weather

We will be having some hot days over the next five to seven days. The hot days are very beneficial for nectar production. Bees can forage earlier and longer during these days. Warm days and warm nights make the Basswood flow.
  Make sure you are checking your supers once a week. If there is a good nectar flow and your hive has a good population, the bees can draw out fill and cap a super in a week. A hive with supers with drawn comb can fill and cap 1-1/2 supers in a week. This is why we need to put supers on two at a time during the first three weeks of the main nectar flow.
 Stay ahead of the bees, this is how you get more honey. If the hive gets full of honey and the supers are not being put on ahead of the bees. The bees will stop collecting nectar.
 The next month is the payoff month. Everything beekeepers have done to manage their colonies is happening now.

Thursday, June 25, 2020

The Nectar Flow

Basswood tree in bloom. When the flowers open up, the pungent odor of the nectar fills the air.

Little white flowers on the Basswood tree. Notice the light lime colored leaves. When these light lime green leaves open that exposes the flower heads. My Basswood trees this year do not have any of these as of yet.

 I think most of us are experiencing a nectar flow. It may or may not be intense.
 I talked to a beekeeper that lives near me north of Stillwater, he has one super being capped and was adding another super that had foundation. He wanted to know the best way to put it on the hive. I suggested that the undrawn new foundation should go on top of the queen excluder and his box of honey that is being capped be put on top. He could also take one frame from the top super and switch it to the bottom box to bait the bees into the new box of frames.
 Basswood trees have been blooming in St Paul and in Stillwater that I have observed. My Basswood trees have not dropped any seed pods and at the time of this post, I do not believe that my Basswood trees are going to produce anything this year. I am not sure if this is just at my place or if this will be widespread. Basswood nectar is what usually gives beekeepers large crops of honey. Without a good Basswood flow our honey crops tend to be on the smaller amounts. Sometimes Basswood flows can be localized and sporadic. Too early to tell yet. 
 White Sweet Clover (WSC) is beginning to bloom. I did see some blooming WSC on the 694 freeway. Roadways and cities usually are area's that bloom first so soon WSC should be blooming everywhere.
 Don't fret yet. Sometimes the main nectar flow starts with a trickle, then turns to a torrent very quickly.
 I think another week should tell the tale of how this flow will develop. I am hoping to see the nectar gate will lift up fully.
 My supers in one yard were getting nectar into the boxes. I am going to check them in a day or two and give another report, so stay tuned.

Friday, June 19, 2020

Varroa on an untreated overwintered colony of bees UPDATED

 My friends overwintered bees died. He treated them but never did a mite check to see if the treatment worked. Possibly the bees came out of winter with a high mite count. Even though he treated for Varroa, the hive still died. The treatment  probably was too late to save the bees. He went to look at them a week ago and all of the bees were gone. This is a symptom of Varroa. One week the bees look great, the next week there are no bees in the hive. Sometimes there is a small cluster of bees with the queen left.
 If you have an overwintered hive and you have not done a mite check, I strongly urge  you to do so now. It might even be too late to save some of them. But by mid July, untreated overwintered colonies may be empty of bees.
 One of the only mite treatments that can be used during a nectar flow is Mite Away Quick Strips (MAQS) or Formic Pro. Both of these treatments are Formic Acid. They cannot be put on if the daily temperatures exceed 85 degrees F. during the first three days they are on. But the honey supers can be on when using this type of mite treatment. MAQS is a seven day treatment, Formic Pro is a fourteen day treatment. When you put formic on, you should not have messed with your bees for three days. Meaning, if you looked at your bees, pulled some frames, did a mite check etc. The hive should be closed up and the formic should be put on three days later. If you put the formic on immediately after you dug into the hive, jumbling up the bees, you can have a greater mortality to the bees.

Monday, June 15, 2020

What is happening now in the hive

We have now crossed mid June today. Flowering plants are starting to be seen in large numbers. Yellow Sweet Clover is blooming all around the metro area.
White Sweet Clover, this is one of our main nectar plants

Yellow Sweet Clover, this plant is not our main nectar plant. 

 Yellow Sweet Clover is not our best nectar plant in the eastern part of MN and WI. Yellow Sweet Clover seems to produce more nectar in drier environments, like western MN and the Dakota's, Nebraska, Wyoming and Montana.
 White sweet clover will be blooming soon. I do see it growing in the ditches.
I would think in the next 10 days the main nectar flow will be coming on strong.
 If your hive hasn't finished drawing out the last deep box, it probably will be too late to do a reversal. If your top box is very heavy with honey, DO NOT do a reversal. This box will be the hives winter stores. If the hive's top box is pretty much finished and the box is not full of honey you can do a reversal.
 Everyone should be putting on their honey supers now. If the honey supers are all foundation, I usually put the supers on without a queen excluder at first. Check the supers every four days, once there is some comb being built and some nectar in the cells, then put your queen excluder on.
 Supers go on two at a time. If you have drawn out supers, just set them on top of the queen excluder.
 As supers fill up, drawn out supers can just be stacked on top of the supers that are partially full or full. Stay ahead of the bees. When the second super is getting honey on a few frames, it is time to add two more supers. Stay ahead of the bees in the first half of the honey season. When it gets to be around July 21st or so, the honey may be slowing down a bit and the supers may not fill up as fast.
 When putting on supers with undrawn foundation, these new frames have to placed just above the queen excluder. If you place new frames on top of other already drawn supers, sometimes the bees won't touch them.
 The queen excluder debate: Some beekeepers call queen excluders honey excluders. Some beekeepers say when they put on queen excluders they never get any honey. The truth of the matter is, many times when this has happened to a beekeeper, the reason no honey goes into the supers is because their hive has swarmed and they don't realize this has happened. I know a commercial beekeeper who runs 5,000 hives. He has queen excluders on every hive. I can honestly say that if he would get more honey without queen excluders he would not use excluders. He has to clean the excluders every year, this costs him money to do this, so he does see value in using excluders.  So he does use them and has huge honey crops most years. This is his livelihood. So he will use whatever works best for him.  
 Get your supers on. Our hard work of starting the bees and doing all the management is about to pay off. The honey flow is about to start any time now. As Basil Furgala said, you can't make honey if your supers are in your garage.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Put my supers on

 Put my supers on everything today. Hot in the bee suit. The bees did appear to be bringing in some nectar.
 There are some nectar producing plants blooming right now. I saw Birds Foot Trefoil and Clover blooming in the ditches. Someone told me that they saw some yellow sweet clover just starting to open up.
 If everything keeps moving forward like this the main nectar flow should start in around 10 days. The cold spell coming after this heat may slow it down some. But I think 80's will be back in a week or so.
Super ready to put on
I keep the supers wet from last year. The bees get rocking right away. There is no hesitation moving up into the supers, unless the hive has swarmed.
Supers on the hives. I did mow down the grass after I took this pic.

The Yellow flower is Birds Foot Trefoil. The Reddish white flower is clover

Swarming and the weather

Huge swarm, close to the ground. Easy to catch

Swarm cells can be anywhere. Always look down on the top bars for swarm cells.

Capped and uncapped swarm cells
Swarming has really kicked into high gear. The warm weather, high bee populations and tomorrow will be in the 90's. All of these can lead to the production of swarm cells.
 The only way to beat swarming is by checking your bees weekly for swarm cells. If you aren't checking for swarm cells in all the boxes every seven days and the timing gets longer than that, a swarm can happen. All the boxes need to be checked. Any uncapped swarm cells should be removed. If you come across capped swarm cells you may have been too late and the hive has already swarmed. Don't remove capped swarm cells. That may be your new queen.
 The result of a hive that has swarmed is no eggs or young larvae. As older house bees come of age for foraging, it is very common that the brood box will be packed with nectar. A swarm hive queen won't start laying eggs for about three weeks. In that time the bees may fill the open cells. Now the beekeeper may have a dilemma of a honey bound hive. The only way to fix this is to spread nectar bound frames to other colonies or to extract the nectar to give the queen a whole deep brood box for laying eggs into.
 Everyone should be removing their entrance reducers by now. The bees need ventilation with the increased hive populations.
  Supers should be on all overwintered colonies.
 Package colonies, once the bees have finished drawing out their brood boxes, the beekeeper should do a full reversal. Top box to the bottom, bottom box to top. The reason for this last reversal is to bring frames with pollen to the top. The bees will fill these pollen frames and empty brood cells with honey for their winter stores. Next February when the queen starts laying, as the bees consume honey in the top box, the bees will expose pollen. This pollen will be used for feeding larvae. If the bees don't have this pollen, production of brood may be delayed.
 If the new hive finishes their top box more towards the end of June it may be too late to do the reversal. If the top box is very heavy with honey, do not do a reversal. It is too late, the bees have filled the box with honey and that is the bees winter honey. To supplement pollen on these colonies, pollen patties should be put on these colonies around the third week of February. Normally pollen patties are put on colonies around the first of March.
 The nectar flow is right around the corner, keep the bees from swarming and there should be some honey in the supers.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Solar power generated in the month of May

It was a good solar month. 2300 kilowatts. More than twice what we would normally use. The excess power was sold back to the grid and Xcel energy.
 The best day was 115 kilowatts. The worst day was 12 kilowatts.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Hot humid weather coming

This hive is hot. The bees are bearding under the bottom board. This is normal.
This hive is overcrowded. The hive needed a second brood box two weeks before this pic was taken. This is a swarm waiting to happen.
I noticed hot and humid weather coming this week. So I went out on Sunday to work my hives. I removed all of my entrance reducers on all my colonies except two colonies that were still a little weak in population.
 Several package colonies needed food, so I fed ProSweet. All of my hives are two deep right now.
 All of my package colonies needed pollen patties. The fruit bloom is pretty much over. In some areas the available pollen has dropped considerably. There may be a dearth of pollen for a couple weeks. Making sure hives have pollen right now will keep the hives moving forward. Package bees, while their  population is increasing, many of these hives still do not have a strong field force. There may not be sufficient foragers to supply the pollen needs of the hive.
 Having entrance reducers in right now, in hot humid weather, can get swarming behavior to start up. The entrance reducers prevent the hive from properly cooling their hive. A hot hive is the same as overcrowded conditions.
 It is normal on hot days that bees will be hanging outside the hive. Sometimes the bees hang in a clump under the entrance of the hive or the bees can be covering the front of the hive. This does not mean that the bees are swarming. The bees are just hot.
 Adding a box of drawn comb either a deep or a medium honey super is a way to add room for the bees. A box that is filled with all undrawn foundation is not room. The bees will not occupy the boxes very well. A box of undrawn foundation will not solve overcrowding.
 Switching colonies works great for preventing swarming and helping overcrowding. I show how to switch colonies in the previous post video.
 Keep up weekly hive inspections. Remove uncapped swarm cells.
 The main nectar flow is less than a month away. Keep the bees from swarming and the benefit will be a nice crop of honey.

Friday, May 29, 2020

Making a weak hive into a powerhouse hive

I had queen issues with one of my package bee hives. I caught the problem a little late. The hive did get depleted with bees, but I requeened anyways. On later inspection I noticed it only had two frames or so of bees. I knew the hive was too weak and would never build up unless it had an intervention of more bees. This video shows what I did to:
  • Make a weak hive strong
  • Make a strong hive a little weaker to prevent swarming
  • Some different methods explained i.e. newspaper method
  • Switching colonies
  • Moving a divide to another colony
Tom from Nature's Nectar LLC assisted me in doing all these moves. This is advanced beekeeping. Seeing a couple problems and making moves to address the problems with positive outcomes on all of the issues presented. This all comes from experience and the confidence in knowing what is happening in the hives and problem solving. As time goes on beekeepers never stop learning. I hope my moves are something that you can put into your bag of tricks.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A Tractor Carryall For Hauling Material

I saw this carryall on a YouTube channel. The two part series made making the carryall was very easy to build. The video series described all the steps of making the carryall.  There are links to the carryall build in the description of the video on YouTube. The carryall cost less than $500.00 to build.
 I was looking for a way to haul materials such as bee equipment with my tractor. I have used pallets on my pallet forks, but on uneven terrain, sometimes the load will fall off the pallet.
 This carryall brings a multi use attachment that is easy to take on and off. You can see in the video all of the yard debris being hauled in the carryall and the attached trailer. Side doors that open and close can support stacked bee boxes so they don't tip over.  
 The carryall can easily haul what my tractor can lift. That is around 2000 lbs. I will be able to pull my honey and carry 16 supers without any difficulty. Also. when I go back to my beeyard  I can bring more supplies with me whether I know I need them or not. This will save me trips back to the barn.
 My tractor is a John Deere 3046R. I can't say enough about the work this tractor has saved me.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

What's happening now

Swarm cells can be anywhere. This was a queenrite colony. This swarm cell is on the side of a frame. It is not a supercedure cell.

Remove the queen cells before they are capped. When the swarm cells are capped, that is usually the time when the hive will swarm.

Swarm cells can be built on the top bars. Don't forget to smoke the bees down and look for swarm cells.
The fruit bloom is still going on around my place. Apple trees still have a good amount of blossoms. But the fruit bloom should start waning soon. I think we are 7-10 days behind our normal growing season.
 Bees are still able to find ample amounts of pollen. This may change after the fruit bloom is done. There is usually a dearth in pollen for a couple weeks after the fruit bloom. I usually put pollen patties back on around the last week of May. I give each one of my hives a 1/2 a patty. Pollen is usually widely available again by around June 10 - 15th.
 Package bees should be ready for a second box by now if you haven't put one on yet. When the bees are working on eight of the ten frames, it is time to add a second box. If you are drawing foundation, you need to keep feeding syrup until the bees have finished drawing out the comb. It takes the bees a month to finish their first box, about another month to finish their second box, if you are doing three deeps, the bees will finish the third box in about ten days.
 Populations in beehives continue to grow. But so does mite populations. If you have an overwintered colony and have not treated for mites. You really need to do a mite count. Mites build up in populous hives over time. Failure to do this will have a negative outcome on the colony. Hives that have high mite counts now, will usually be dead by mid July, or so damaged that they will not survive.
 Swarming is an issue that is affecting strong colonies. This humid weather and scattered storms keeping bees in the hive, is an incubator for swarming behavior to take hold. Beekeepers need to be going through their hives weekly looking for swarm cells. Removal of swarm cells is critical or your honey flow will be up in a tree. Switching strong colonies with weaker colonies is a great strategy to employ, like I did to my colonies in a previous post.
 We are about a month away from the start of the nectar flow. Keep the bees from swarming and give them all of the resources they need. The payoff for our hard work is coming soon.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

What I did in my beeyard today

My beeyard at my house.
I went out to my beeyard to manage my five package bee colonies and three overwintered colonies. I had no one to run the camera so I will try to explain without being too confusing.
Hive 2, 5,6,7,8 were package colonies. All of the package hives were ready and received their second box. All of my equipment is drawn comb. I did have to feed hive 5.
Now the tricky stuff.
Hives 1 and 3 were overwintered colonies and were quite strong. Hive 3 had some capped swarm cells in the hive. So this is what I did.
  •  I took hive 1 that was crowded with bees and switched it with hive 2. I physically moved both hives. This will weaken the strong hive 1 and hive 2 will get stronger. By switching the hives, the field bees on both hives will fly to go forage. Even though they left from a different locale, they will fly back to where they thought they lived. So hive 2 will get hive 1's field bees which were more than hive 2's field bees. Hive 1 gets weaker but hive 2 gets stronger. Now with more bees, the queen in hive 2 can expand her brood laying area. Hive 1 gets weaker and probably has lost all desire to swarm because the number of field bees in hive 2 was much less. By moving the two hives I addressed possible swarming and helped a package of bees increase their numbers. Both hives will build up nicely for the nectar flow that starts around June 21st.
  • Hives 3 and 4. Hive 3 was a strong overwintered colony that I found some capped swarm cells in it. Hive 4 was a weak overwintered colony, that may have been weaker than some of my package bee colonies. I did the same thing as before, I switched hive 3 with hive 4. Moved the entire boxes, hive 3 boxes went to hive 4 location and hive 4 boxes went to hive 3 location. Also, hive 3 was very strong, I did take four frames of capped brood out of hive 3. I looked for a queen, not seeing one, I shook the bees off the frames of capped brood. I put one frame of capped brood in package hives 5,6,7,and 8. Now hive 3 gets weaker from loosing the four frames of brood. Plus with moving to the new location should have lost all desire to swarm, if they haven't done so already. I did mark the hive to look for signs of a queen on my next visit. The package hives 5,6,7,and 8 will now get stronger when the capped brood emerges soon.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Solar on a cloudy day

Even on a cloudy day there is solar power being generated. Yesterday it was cloudy all day long. The solar radiation is strong as we get into summer. The solar radiation penetrates the clouds and is used by the solar panels. Granted if it was December, the solar radiation is weak at that time of year and the power generated on a cloudy day is low. On sunny days this time of year, our system that is 16.5 KWH will generate 100 to 117 kilowatts per day, The average U.S. home uses about 30 kilowatts per day. So I am sure I sold some of this excess power to Xcel.
The solar panels yesterday started generating power at about 6 am. Solar power usually peaks between  10 am and 2 pm. Then the power decreases as the sun gets lower in the sky. Power generation is over by 8 pm. As the days get longer, the power will start generation earlier and maintain it later into the evening.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

How to speed up the drawing out of wax on frames on a package of bees

This video is how I manipulate frames on package bees with new foundation. This also works for any hive that is making comb on new foundation.
I have seen hives draw out frames slowly and won't do other frames in the box. It is like the hive is stuck and can't move forward. By moving the outside frames near the brood nest, either turning a frame around or moving a new frame next to the brood area, helps a hive move forward and it is little easier on the bees. I was working with Tom from Nature's Nectar LLC, my voice is muffled due to my mask that I was wearing.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

The warm weather is coming, look out

Warm weather will be moving into the upper Midwest by Friday. Seventies will be the norm for highs for the foreseeable future. Long term temperatures according to my favorite weather forecaster, has upper eighties possibly for Memorial Day weekend.
 It looks like spring will come roaring back. For farmers and gardeners the warm weather will bring planting and new growth coming up through the soil. For beekeepers, LOOK OUT overwintered colonies will be swarming.
For overwintered colonies divides should be happening if you have eight frames of brood and bees.
 Also, Mites are also a concern on overwintered colonies. Mite checks should be done NOW, on all overwintered colonies. Mites counts will start creeping as we move towards June. Failure to check or treat for mites soon, may result in your hive going south by July.
 If you want to treat for mites right now, it is a good time for Formic Acid. If the formic can be put on soon, before it gets too warm. Using MiteAway quick strips would work well on strong colonies. The treatment period for Miteaway is seven days. Formic Pro, the treatment schedule is two weeks. With the Miteaway, the hive could be treated and a divide done right after the treatment is done. But swarm control should be in effect on all strong colonies.
 The fruit bloom has slowed down with the of cold weather that we have been experiencing. New colonies have also been slowed because of the cold. Bees have been having a hard time expanding their brood nests. But now with the warmer weather, new colonies should pick up the pace of their spring development. With the warmer weather, nectar and pollen should be coming into the hive at a much greater rate.
 Watch your hive population, keep up swarm control, watch the mite count, divide as needed. The cold weather is in the rear view mirror now, moving forward with a big colony, the main nectar flow is a little over a month away.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

The Fruit Bloom and Spring Divides

Wild Plums in bloom. I love to stand out in the thicket of Plum trees and smell the fragrant flowers and listen and watch the bees work the blooms. A simple pleasure.
The fruit bloom has started around the Mpls and St Paul area. I was driving down Hwy 36 today and noticed Wild Plum trees in bloom. I have Wild Plums at my place and they have not started to bloom yet. The Wild Plum trees on Hwy 36 were south facing and in full sun. Perfect ingredients for an early bloom. This is the beginning of what I call Ice Cream time for the bees. There soon will be an explosion of flowering trees and bushes. This will last about three weeks, then there will be a dearth of pollen for about two weeks. So, pollen patties should go on the hives around May 21st.
 This is also the time when spring divides happen. Some beekeepers have been dividing their colonies already. But for most of us, spring divides usually happen during the fruit bloom. The timing is perfect if your hive is ready to split. Ample pollen coming in and a nectar flow from all of the flowering plants.
 If you are unfamiliar or need a refresher on how to do a split, here is a great link to Gary's home page. He has a nice graphic and describes the divide process.
How to do a divide
Things to remember about doing a divide
  • Do not let the bees try to make their own queen. It is too early in the spring for honeybees to make a queen reliably. You can't make queens reliably in MN or WI until about June 10th. 
  • Do not do a walkaway split. All that is, is a waste of good brood this time of year.
  • Use the queen excluder method and wait four days to divide,  that is how Gary explains in his How to Do a Divide pdf. 
  • Shaking the bees off the frames and let them crawl up through the queen excluder would not be your best method this year. The weather may be too cold for this method. The bees may be clustered if it remains cool. The bees may not move to cover the brood quick enough. The brood may get chilled and die. 
Spring divides are necessary on strong overwintered colonies. If the bees are strong today, they will swarm in the near future and you can look at your surplus honey hanging in the tree. There are people that will buy divides if you have too many bees. Nature's Nectar LLC buys divides.
 If you have a strong overwintered colony and a spring package that you started. A great strategy is to do the divide, leave it by itself overnight. We want all the field bees to fly back to the parent hive.  Set a single sheet of newspaper across the top bars of the new package of bees. Put a 1/4" slit in the newspaper. Put the queenless divide on top of the newspaper. Put the covers on the hive. After a few days the hives will merge together and be one happy family. This new hive will become a powerhouse and swarm control will be needed in June. But if the nectar flow is strong, the hive will be a bin buster.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Cool Weather: Why Beekeepers May Need Pollen Patties

We are currently experiencing some unseasonable cold weather for the foreseeable future. Highs in the 50's to the low 60's at best. The cold weather will limit the amount of time colonies will be able to fly. Bees may not be able to get enough pollen through foraging to sustain a colony. It would be a good idea to make sure pollen patties are on all colonies right now.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Laying Workers

I got an email from someone concerned about laying workers in their hive. So here is the quick scoop on laying workers.
 A hive that has been queenless for a long time can turn into laying workers. Laying workers are workers (unfertilized females) that start to lay eggs. What's that you say "only the queen (mated female) can lay eggs".
 Here is how it all happens:
 In a queenrite hive, the queens pheromone that gets spread around the colony, the pheromone inhibits the development of ovaries in the worker bees. The pheromone is present around the hive and in the brood. When a queen dies, and there is still brood in the colony, the workers ovaries will still not develop. Once all the brood has hatched out, the queen pheromone will decline. This now can lead to the workers ovaries developing and the workers can now start to lay eggs. The symptom of laying workers is the beekeeper will see multiple eggs in cells. Maybe 5 to 8 eggs in a single cell. With several laying workers laying eggs there will be many cells looking like this. The eggs will be laid willy nilly in the cells. Having said this, don't be confused if you see this with a new queen. A new queen may lay multiple eggs in some cells. But she is new and needs a couple days to get her act together. She usually settles down and gets down to business laying eggs properly. One egg per cell attached to the back wall of the cell.
 To stop this laying worker development, measures need to be addressed.
 When doing a hive inspection and you don't see eggs and larvae in the cells on the frames, you may still see capped brood. This tells you a couple things, there maybe no laying queen present, either the hive has swarmed or for some reason the queen has perished.
 The first thing you do is grab a frame with eggs on it from another colony. This will do two things, delay the workers from starting to lay because there is still brood in the hive and also, by checking this frame after a few days to see if emergency queen cells are being built off of several egg cells, telling us that the hive needs a queen. (It is usually better to purchase a new queen in the spring, letting a hive try to make a queen in the month of May and early June is very unreliable because there usually is not very many age appropriate drones being produced yet). If no queen cells are being built on the frame, this can tells us that the hive may have swarmed and the bees, unbeknownst to the beekeeper, made a new queen already and is in the hive and will start laying in a couple weeks.
 If the beekeeper does come across laying workers in the hive and there is no brood present. A new queen is needed to save this colony. The way to requeen a laying worker colony is this:
 Do this on a warm afternoon. Take the hive and knock all the bees into the bottom box and leave it one deep, wait about a 1/2 hour. This gives the bees time to get back onto all the frames in the box. Now take the box of bees about 100 feet away. Shake all the bees off the frames and into the grass. Bring the box with the frames back and set it back on the bottom board that it came from. Now all the bees will fly back to the hive. The laying workers cannot fly and they will stay in the grass. I would give them an hour or so, then I would put in a frame of brood and the new queen with a candy plug for a slow release. This usually works, I have recommended this method and the beekeepers who did this, most had success.

Asian Hornets

Asian hornets were found in western Canada and the state of Washington last February or there about. Five Asian hornets can overcome a colony of 50,000 honeybees. Kill the bees then eat the larvae. How widespread they will become is unclear. I am not sure if they have climactic limits, such as cold weather. Here is a video of Japanese honeybees that have developed this resistance to the hornet.

Friday, May 1, 2020


Dandelions are starting to pop open around the metro area. They are about right on schedule for their normal bloom time. Which is usually around the first week of May.
 This is the first widespread nectar flow of the season. Strong colonies can put up a lot of dandelion nectar. Many commercial beekeepers try to time returning their colonies from Texas, California or other points south to right before the dandelions bloom. Returning their hives before the dandelions bloom can save commercial beekeepers thousands of dollars in feed costs. If the commercial beekeepers get back late, they may have to spend the money and feed their bees syrup.
 Strong overwintered colonies should have supers on their hives right now. A good Dandelion flow can put up a super or two of Dandelion honey. Personally I don't care for the flavor of Dandelion honey, but there is a market for it.
 New packages may cut back slightly on their syrup consumption when the Dandelions are out. But, beekeepers need to keep syrup on their hives if comb is being drawn out. New beekeepers with new equipment need to keep syrup on their hives until their boxes are finished being drawn out with wax. Sometimes that can mean feeding syrup until almost mid June.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Our solar ground mount build

Here is the video I promised about our solar ground mount. Finally got it up and running. If you are interested.
 In my opinion the tilting ground mount is the way to go with solar panels. You can always change the angle over the year to get the most solar out of your solar panels. Removing snow is a breeze. Some folks can only put solar panels on a roof system, and thats fine. The solar still works well.
 Some municipalities don't allow ground mount systems. Plus ground mount systems usually cost more than a roof mount. But, I have some construction friends that helped to make this all possible. I did call the solar company before I did anything, to see if they would put the panels on the ground mount if I built it. They were ok with it. Some companies may not do this because they would be afraid they may be assuming liability with the ground mount.
 The ground mount is from MT Solar. The ground mount is called a multi pole mount. It holds 28 - 60 cell solar panels.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Nature's Nectar Queen Update

Nature's Nectar is temporarily out of queens. They will be getting another shipment on Thursday April 30th.

Moved bees from Nucs to new equipment

Being the weather looks like it has stabilized and we seem to be into a more spring weather pattern, I have moved the package bees that I started in five frame nuc boxes into new 10 frame equipment.
I set the nucs in front of the hives they were going into. They have been there for several days. They are flying and bringing in pollen. The equipment they are sitting in front of is getting retired.

This is a pretty tough looking bottom board

I have set the new equipment in place. You can see that the nuc is not overcrowded and has ample space for a three pound package of bees 
The new hives are set and frames are on the outside edges of the hive. I have a frame of honey in the hive and I will add a new 1/2 patty of a pollen patty.

When you remove a frame from the nuc box, do so carefully. The queen could be on any frame. In this pic, I picked the outside frame with the least amount of bees on it. I was right, the queen was on a different frame. I then added the rest of the nuc frames to the 10 frame box.

This was one of my insulated boxes I made. I put the frames in the 10 frame box and fed the bees ProSweet. There was not a lot of food left in the nuc. So my interaction with the bees was well timed.
Here is the end result. I put bricks on the lids to hold them down. The third hive has a brick standing on end. This is my signal to check the queen on my next visit.
By having the nucs in close proximity to the hives that the bees will being moved into. The bees know where they live. So when the frames are moved into the 10 frame equipment, the nucs are taken away, and the bees quickly discover their new hive.

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

Queens available starting April 23rd

Nature's Nectar LLC will have queens available starting on April 23rd.  They will get a new shipment of Queens each week though May. Queen pickup is at the Oakdale store only.

QUEENS: This is CASH OR CHECK discounted pricing.  Using a Credit Card, add $1.50 per queen.

MARKED Carniolan, Italian and Saskatraz: (no unmarked queens this year)

$39 for Italian & Carniolan
$41 for Saskatraz

Friday, April 17, 2020

Nature's Nectar LLC will be getting some more package bees

Nature's Nectar LLC will be getting a few more package bees. Call Tom or Jessy if you are interested or for more information. 651-242-2233.

Reversals on overwintered colonies

Don't let your strong overwintered colony to get to this point. This beekeeper had the winter cover on too long. But in his defense, 2017 was a cold spring.
This time of year, strong overwintered colonies can be packed with bees. To the point, swarm cells can be seen in the hive. This is how to prevent this while we are waiting for queens to be available.
  • If you have eggs in the top box, do a reversal. Top box to the bottom, bottom box to the top. If you see swarm cells remove them before the cells are capped. If the bees cap the swarm cells they may have swarmed on you.
  • During your weekly visits to your overwintered hives, if you see eggs in the top box, do a reversal. You may do several reversals before you do a divide.
  • Doing reversals on strong overwintered colonies, gives the queen more open cells to lay eggs into.
  • If your colony is very strong and it is in two deep boxes and you have swarm concerns, add a third box to the hive. Having a third box on the hive makes doing the divide easier to do. When the divide happens, one of the boxes is removed. This leaves two deep boxes on the parent, which is where you want to be anyway. 
  • If you do add a third box and all you have is foundation, you will need to feed the colony syrup or the bees will not draw out the comb. A strong colony may draw out this box very quickly. If you start drawing a third box of foundation, that box has to stay on top while the bees are drawing out the comb. If you need to, the lower two boxes could be reversed with each other, during this process.
Dividing usually happens in May or when you have 8 frames of bees and brood. This means you have 8 frames covered with bees on both sides. Plus, the 8 frames will have brood on both sides. The brood could be eggs, open larvae and capped larvae.
 The days are warming up, pollen will be widely available this week. Keep pollen patties on the hive. Strong overwintered colonies demand for pollen sometimes in the spring is more than the colony can collect from nature. Especially when the daily high temperatures are in the low 60's. A pollen patty is cheap insurance that the hives protein demands are being met.

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Checking for Queen acceptance

If you started packages recently, a hive check for queen acceptance is mandatory. A week after hiving package, it is time to look for eggs in the comb. Seeing eggs is the easy way to know that you have a laying queen.
 If you don't check for this, you may end up not knowing that your hive is queenrite or not. If the queen was not accepted, a new queen must be purchased and introduced. It can take up to ten days for a new queen to start laying.
 Late this week the weather will be warming up, perfect time to check.

Different egg and larvae and capped brood stages

Different stages of larvae. You can see the Royal Jelly in the young small larvae stage.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Our Solar System Update

Being there is a slight break in the bee action, I wanted to give you a one year overview on our 16.5 kwh solar system. It consists of 50 - 330 watt Panasonic solar panels. They were located on our garage and pole barn roofs.
 We added up all of our Xcel energy bills from last year, January through December, gas and electric. We then subtracted all of our solar credits and our renewable energy credits we get from Xcel. Last year our total 2019 Xcel energy bill that we paid, was $156.00.
 So for me, I would have to say solar is worth it. There is a big up front cost, but our solar should have paid for itself after about 8 years. The Panasonic panels warranty is 25 years. Guaranteed  92% minimum of 16.5 kwh output or they will replace any panels for free, parts and labor included.
 We have recently finished our ground mount solar panel install. We moved 28 panels off of our pole barn onto the ground mount. This will make it easier to get the snow off the panels, plus the ground mount also tilts and we can change the solar panel angle with the current sun angle. Video to come soon.
 If you are interested and have never seen our YouTube video here is a link.
50 kwh Panasonic Solar Build
 If anyone is interested in solar, I would be happy to talk about it.

Sunday, April 12, 2020

Nuc's in the garage

I have been an advocate for installing package bees into five frame nucs for a long time. I saw this weather coming and I knew this was the way I will be starting my bees this year. Obviously if the current weather and for the foreseeable future would have been warm, I would have hived the bees in ten frame equipment.
 I put the bees in the nucs, they have a cap and ladder feeder and four frames of drawn comb. So there is syrup and a pollen patty on all of the nucs. The entrances are shut and the bees cannot get out. The garage is not heated, but it is dry with no wind blowing on the hive. The nuc's are a small box so the bees will not have any problems keeping themselves warm.
  My plan is to leave them in my garage until Friday. Then I will set them out in my beeyard right in front of the hive that I will move them into. The entrances will be opened, the bees will be able to forage as normal. The queen acceptance will be checked about an hour after I open the entrances. The bees will need to settle down before I go pulling frames. I will leave them in the nuc box until the weather is a little more stable. Whenever that happens, I will then move them into their 10 frame hive.

Friday, April 10, 2020

Feed your packages

Feed your package bees if you have not hived them yet. I noticed that the feeder cans were empty.  Spray the cages with sugar water to feed the bees. Get the cage wet where the bees are in the cage. Top and sides, don't drown them. Twice tonight and twice in the morning. Then again about an hour before you put the bees in.

Second delivery of Bees have arrived

The Second delivery of bees came in last night. They will be available for pick up today and tomorrow. Please follow the pick up schedule.

Pickup time will go by the first initial of your last name:  This year the alphabet will be spread out in TWO days.  This is due to Covid-19 as we will have fewer workers on site.

 SECOND Delivery PICK UP April 10th - Pick up Schedule:

L       7:30 – 8:30
M      8:30 – 9:30
N-O   9:30 – 10:30
P       10:30 – 11:30
CREW LUNCH 11:30-12:30
R      12:30 - 1:30
S       1:30 - 2:30
T-V   2:30 - 3:30
W-Z  3:30 – 4:30
Open Time (If the schedule is not possible) 4:30 – 7pm

SECOND Delivery PICK UP April 11th - Pick up Schedule:

A       7:30 – 8:30
B        8:30 – 9:30
C        9:30 – 10:30
D-E    10:30 – 11:30
CREW LUNCH 11:30-12:30
F-G    12:30 - 1:30
H      1:30 - 2:30
I-J     2:30 - 3:30
K      3:30 – 4:30
Open Time (If the schedule is not possible) 4:30 – 7pm

The OAKDALE Store is CLOSED during bee pick up.  If you need equipment, please plan ahead and get those items picked up before the store is closed.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The second delivery bees will be here a day early.

Bee Pick up Schedule April 10th & 11th: 

 April 10th - April 11th: Second Delivery.  Please note, these could be subject to change.  Check this blog every day because the date can still change.  

Check the blog before coming to pick up.  The bees are scheduled to arrive sometime tonight. The arrival time is not known so please watch the blog for an announcement that we are ready to distribute packages. No bees will be distributed prior to announcement on blog. Do not come here before it is announced that the bees are ready to pick up. You will be asked to leave.  You are not allowed to park on the road and wait.

ADHERE TO THE PICK-UP SCHEDULE.  Due to COVID-19 we will have fewer workers on site, so it is even more important to follow the pickup schedule.  Please do not call and request to come at another time frame.  I know this maybe inconvenient, but we all need to work together to keep each other safe and keep this as seamless as possible.  This schedule is to keep traffic at a minimum and in doing so, there will be less people on site. 

UPON PICK UP DO NOT GET OUT OF YOUR VEHICLE.  Give us your name, and we will place your bees in the vehicle for you.  This is for everyone’s safety.  Prepare ahead of time, legibly write the name of the person whose order is being picked up with black sharpie on a piece of paper and put it on your window.  This way, you can keep your window rolled up.  You can also write what additional items you are purchasing.  Do not hand cash or check to the people loading bees and product into your vehicle.  We have a separate crew designated to handle the money that will not be handling the product.  They will come to you.
The following will be items available for purchase when you pick up your bees.  These are cash and check only.  We will not accept credit cards.  If you use cash, BRING THE EXACT AMOUNT OF CASH so currency doesn’t need to be returned to you.  This is an additional safety measure so please comply.  These prices include sales tax so you can prepare prior to pick up.
$7.00 - 1 Gallon Feeder Pail
$6.00 – Feeder pail insulation
$5.00 – Queen Cage Holder
$9.00 – 2 pack pollen patties
$30.00 – 10 pack pollen patties
$80.00 – 40lb pollen patties
$35.00 – 2.5 gal Pro-Sweet
$55.00 – 5 gal Pro-Sweet

Pickup time will go by the first initial of your last name:  This year the alphabet will be spread out in TWO days.  This is due to Covid-19 as we will have fewer workers on site.

 SECOND Delivery PICK UP April 10th - Pick up Schedule:

L       7:30 – 8:30
M      8:30 – 9:30
N-O   9:30 – 10:30
P       10:30 – 11:30
CREW LUNCH 11:30-12:30
R      12:30 - 1:30
S       1:30 - 2:30
T-V   2:30 - 3:30
W-Z  3:30 – 4:30
Open Time (If the schedule is not possible) 4:30 – 7pm

SECOND Delivery PICK UP April 11th - Pick up Schedule:

A       7:30 – 8:30
B        8:30 – 9:30
C        9:30 – 10:30
D-E    10:30 – 11:30
CREW LUNCH 11:30-12:30
F-G    12:30 - 1:30
H      1:30 - 2:30
I-J     2:30 - 3:30
K      3:30 – 4:30
Open Time (If the schedule is not possible) 4:30 – 7pm

The OAKDALE Store is CLOSED during bee pick up.  If you need equipment, please plan ahead and get those items picked up before the store is closed.

Putting bees in a nuc hive, cold weather install

I put package bees in some nucs. This was done when it was cold, around 40 degrees. I did not spray the bees or the queen. When it is cold, you may not want to spray the bees. This can chill the bees and the bees may not get off the bottom board and they can die. Plus, when it is cold, you do not want to spray the queen, this can chill her. By using the rubber band as I demonstrate in the video works great.
 If you have drawn comb but no honey, take a spray bottle with 1:1 sugar syrup. Spray the syrup into the cells of a frame of drawn comb. Load the frame up with syrup. The bees will have plenty to eat when you put the bees in.

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

The 2nd delivery of bees may be early.

The second delivery of bees may be coming in a day early. Stay tuned for any changes to the pick up day. We should know more by tomorrow, Thursday morning.

The next day after installing a package of bees

After you put in your package bees, you need to check on them the next day. The grass needs to be removed from the entrance and the feeder pail needs to be checked.
 Take off the Telescoping cover, lift up the feeder pail, the weight will tell you that it is full of syrup. If it has leaked out, the pail needs to be filled up and there must be a reason the syrup leaked out.
 The pail should be filled with syrup, not a 1/2 a pail, a full pail. The hive has to be reasonably level or the syrup can leak out. You can level the pail instead of the hive to make it easy.
 Also, the beekeeper needs to make sure the bees main cluster is directly under the feeder pail. If a beekeeper does not check on this, there is a possibility the bees can starve if the bees are not under the feeder. It is going to cool off late in the week. The main cluster needs to be under the feeder pail.
 Bees sometime migrate to the outside frames of the hive when the sun is shining on the side of the hive. The bees move to the warmth. That is why putting bees in near dusk works better. There is no sun warming the hive.
 If the bees are on the outside frames of the hive,  and it gets cold, the bees will not be able to break cluster to go to the feeder pail which is four frames away from them, and the bees may starve.
 When you lift the pail, look to make sure there is a large cluster of bees under the pail. If you only see a few bees, there may be a problem. Light a smoker, remove the feeder pail. Lift up the inner cover, a couple puffs of smoke. Look at where the main cluster of bees are. If they have moved to the outside frames and are not underneath the feeder pail, you need to move the cluster. Pull out frames on the opposite side of the hive from the bees. Then, gently slide the frames with the bees on them to the center of the hive, under the feeder pail. Put the frames back into the hive box where the bees were. No you can close up the hive and the bees will stay there.
  If the bees are under the feeder pail, they should be fine.