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, August 29, 2020

Changed the Solar Angle to Fall Position

 We changed our solar angle today on our MT Solar ground mount, from 17 degrees to 37 degrees. This new angle should be the optimum angle until late October. The days are getting shorter and the sun is getting lower in the sky. To get the strongest solar power, being able to change the solar angle gets the most out of your solar system. Changing the solar angle on this type of a ground mount takes about 45 seconds. It is almost effortless. A solar system that is fixed and does not tilt or adjust,  still works well and the solar panels are permanently set to around 37 degrees, depending on your latitude.

We started in late April at 17 degrees
We now have the solar panels at 37 degrees. I use an angle finder to set the solar angle. This time I put a mark with a paint stick. Red for Summer, Green for Spring and Fall, White for Winter. It will be easier to find the angle with the marks.
Even the Baldface Hornets want a solar system.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

Get the Identification First

A guy called me today about the honeybees coming in and out of his siding and wanted me to come and get them. These are Yellow Jackets.

Whenever I get a call like this, the first thing I do is tell the caller to text me a picture of the bee. I tell them I need a close picture of the insect. He did send me four pretty good pictures. Usually the majority of the calls I get are going to be yellow jackets or sometimes bumble bees when they are going into siding. Honeybees prefer a higher entry point like a roof fascia board or the top part of a column. Honeybees need a cavity of at least 15 liters of space or it is unlikely the honeybees will move into it. Yellowjackets and Bumble bees will move into smaller openings like an old mouse nest in the ground or a small void created by a rotting stump or decaying vegetation.

  • When you get the call because you are the bee expert. Have some simple rules of what you need to have before you go look at the "honeybee problem". 
  • Get a picture sent to you of the bees or the swarm. 
  • If it is bumble bees, I tell them that they are an endangered species and if they are not bothering them to let them be. When the first hard freeze happens the bumblebees are usually dead, then caulk the opening in the siding.
  • If it is not honeybees and you are not involved, don't give direct advise on what they should do. Be a little vague. Like, "I have heard some homeowners go out and get a can of wasp and hornet spray, then they follow the directions on the can". This keeps you out of the legal side that you told them a course of action. Always suggest to follow the manufacturers recommendations not the beekeepers.

I don't take bees out of buildings. I think a beekeepers could get sucked up into a building controversy if the homeowner feels you did damage to the structure and will want you to fix the structure at your expense. Short of a swarm in a tree or bush, that is the limit to my desire to get involved.


Sunday, August 23, 2020

We know Goldenrod nectar is coming in, the sniff test


Goldenrod is coming in right now. One of my friends is in the Northwest Metro and the other lives near Forest Lake. They both could smell the Goldenrod nectar odor of wet sweat socks in the bee yard. The odor goes away when the Goldenrod nectar ripens into honey.

I have been texting with my beekeeper friends, our comments:

 Ooooo, the goldenrod nectar is arriving in my bee yard! Smells like my socks out here!


You got me curious Dan. I just went out and walked around my hives and oh, yeah definitely golden rod coming in.

I will have to do my sniff test in my bee yard.

Goldenrod nectar is coming in and may be in your bee hive right now. During a good goldenrod flow, a hive can put up a super or two of Goldenrod honey. 


Saturday, August 22, 2020

Getting ready for winter

 OK beekeepers, winter preparations are under way. This is the to do list.

  • Pull and Extract honey
  • Treat for mites ASAP
  • Feed your bees
  •  Entrance reducers go in if robbing is a problem or if the temperatures start cooling off. 

This is a list of what not to do

  • Do not feed pollen to the bees
  • Do not feed late
  • Do not wait to treat for mites

 Mite treatments need to get done as soon as possible. If you are doing mite counts and only seeing one or two mites in a sample, you need to treat. If you don't treat, your next mite sample in mid September will have 10 mites in the sample. The hive population falls this time of year, but the mite population explodes. Get in front of the mites not behind. Damage to your bees will be happening soon and the hive may not be able to recover.

 Do not feed pollen to your bees. Bees this time of year will start to shift gears and start to make Winter Bees. Winter Bees have a different physiology than summer bees. Winter Bees have the ability to store more fat. It is this phenomena that helps the bees survive the rigors of winter. It is the scarcity of pollen that makes the bees shift to producing Winter Bees. If you feed pollen to your bees, there will no dearth in pollen. Maybe there will be no winter bees in your hive and the bees set to winter will not be prepared for the onslaught of cold weather. Plus with pollen on the hive, the bees may make too many bees and the bees will starve by eating all their winter stores too quickly.

 Feeding, I like having a hive heavy with honey going into winter. I think it helps the bees get through winter with less stress on the hive. But with fall feeding, you do not want to feed for a month. The feeding should be done quickly. Longer and later feeding leads to more mites in the hive. Longer feeding keeps brood in the hive longer. Late brood in the hive, makes for ineffective Oxalic Acid treatments in late October. Get the hive topped off and filled with honey. To do this, multiple feeders should be employed. If you fed your bees with jars with holes in the lids, don't use them. Fall feeding is like feeding the Conehead family. Give the bee family mass quantities of syrup. My favorite feeder for fall feeding is a hive top feeder. It holds four gallons of syrup. The bees can empty if in about four days. The other way to feed is multiple feeder pails placed directly on the frames top bars. This is three gallons of syrup and the bees will empty the pails in about three days. In the fall I like using ProSweet bee syrup. ProSweet is similar to honey, the bees do not have to dehumidify it. The bees take down the ProSweet and put the syrup in the comb and they are done. 2:1 Sugar syrup on the other hand, the bees take it down, then have to turn it to honey and lower the humidity. More work on their part. With ProSweet if you give the bees four gallons of syrup, that will be the equivalent of about 45 lbs of honey. Now if you give the bees four gallons for 2:1 sugar syrup, after the bees dehumidify the sugar syrup and turn it to honey, you may end up with 36 lbs of honey. Quite a difference and more work for the beekeeper. 

 The bee season is changing quickly, beekeepers need to get after it to get the hives ready for winter.


Friday, August 21, 2020

Pulling honey using a couple different methods

 This is a couple ways to pull your honey off the hive. Using a brush and Honey Robber.

Friday, August 14, 2020

Extractor Rental and cheap extractors

 Nature's Nectar LLC does rent extractors. Rented by the day. Call them for more info. 

New beekeepers who buy cheap extractors find out that the cheap extractors break very easy. Spare parts are not easy to obtain. Buying local from a local bee supply dealer is something to think about. Warranty issues are done locally. If you need to send your extractor to get it fixed, the shipping costs add up quickly.

Extracting Honey, the basics


Sunday, August 9, 2020

My nectar flow and mite treatments

 I still have a nectar flow going in my area. It may not be much, but the bees are still bring it in. Usually this time of year the nectar flow has ended and the bees start robbing. When robbing starts, bees usually start flying into my barn and garage. The bees are drawn to odors of my nucs or any frames that have had beeswax on them. I will try to get out to my beeyard for an odor test to see if there is Golderod nectar coming in.  

For many of us, the nectar flow is over with and may not start up again. Mite treatments should be on everyone's mind as we head into the latter part of August. If you did a mite check and saw you had only one or two mites, by the time early September comes around, the next test may show you a mite count of over 10. This time of year the hive population will get smaller. This will lead to the mite population getting bigger. So if you haven't treated for mites yet, it is time to figure out a plan. 

 There are a few options for mite treatments. Formic Acid (Formic Pro or Mite Away Quick Strips), ApiVar Strips or ApiGuard. Oxalic Acid is ineffective this time of year. Oxalic acid is a late October treatment. You can purchase these mite treatments at your local bee supply store. The local supplier can explain how to use the products.

Here are some YouTube manufacturers links for these products:

Formic Pro: https://youtu.be/mImTswyYGfE 

Mite Away Quick Strips: https://youtu.be/upagtCH8rvc

ApiVar Strips: https://youtu.be/slmtDdgc-OI

ApiGuard:  https://youtu.be/3RGSp3VEeAg 


Sunday, August 2, 2020

New Solar System + Solar Update For July

A fellow beekeeper put up a new 14.5 KWH solar system at their home. It consists of 42 panels. They originally wanted 48 panels, but Xcel told them that may exceed their feed wiring capacity to their house. This is because the main wire near their house was  installed in 1937 and never has been upgraded by the utility.
 Their new system is just coming online this week I think. Everything is done, they are just waiting for Xcel to set their meter. The 14.5 KWH solar system set them back $52,000.00. They will be getting a federal tax credit of about $13,500.00. So their out of pocket will be $38,500.00. They will probably have that all paid off in 10-12 years. Most solar panels have a life of 25 years minimum, with a performance of still over 90% after 25 years. The size of their system will probably cover 90% of their yearly utility bill (gas and electric). Any credit from Xcel can be used against the utility bill.
 They had All Energy Solar. install the solar system.They were very pleased with their contractor. Click on the pictures for full size.

They went with a ground mount solar system. This ground mount is fixed. It will not be able to change the panel angle. Usually fixed solar systems are set at about 37 degrees at our latitude. The advantage with the ground mount is that the solar panels are easy to remove snow and to keep clean. The panels are located in full sun so they will collect the maximum solar power available.
Our solar update for the month of July.
 So far this year it has been a very good year for solar. Our July solar was 2.42 megawatts or 2420 kilowatts. The average home in the U.S. uses about 900 kilowatts per month. So we made more than 2-1/2 times what a normal home would use. We will get a credit on our Xcel bill for July. Solar does work well in MN and WI.