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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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.