Sunday, December 28, 2008

LESSON 46: Poor Winter Hives

Hello Friend, from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms!

We are David & Sheri Burns helping you discover and enjoy being a beekeeper! In today's lesson, I'll be giving you information on how to improve your chances of pulling your bees through the winter, and I'll show you some new inventions I'm working on to remove winter moisture from the hive. Before we get into today's lesson, let me encourage you to get ready for spring by ordering your hive and bees!

Call now to order: 217-427-2678.

LESSON 44: Poor Winter Hives

Now that most of the USA is facing exceptionally cold temperatures beekeepers start to worry about bees and they should! Many beekeepers make the mistake of trying to winter weak and questionable hives. We all do it at times. As a result, many hives fail during the winter months, primarily during the months of February and March. Those that do survive are so weak, they are not very impressive during the following year.

Right now, in most hives, there is excess and dangerous moisture. Moisture develops from the bees themselves and from the stark difference in temperature between the cluster's 90 (f) to the very cold temperature outside the hive. Condensation develops on the inside of the hive and collects on the top cover and drips back down on the bees. Bees can be cold and stay warm effectively, but not with cold water dripping on them.

I've been conducting moisture tests on my hives this winter and already the findings are alarming. The amount of accumulated top cover moisture dripping down was much worse than I thought.

I've been opening my hives and observing how much moisture is on the underside of the top covers.

This photo was taken from my experiments conducted on December 17th at 6:00 p.m. with an outside temperature of 43 degrees (f)
Ventilation can help, but still the threat of cold water dripping on the bees requires more attention than just a few extra points of ventilation.

My brothers is the engineer of the family and we had a discussion the other day on the problem with moisture in the hive. He recommended that I build a particular device to attract the moisture and cause it to drip outside the hive. I took his ideals, headed for my shop and came up with several devices that I am experimenting with.

The first one is a bit more complex than the others. Two pvc pipes 1 1/2 run through the top cover at an angle. The pvc pipes are vented on the top. Metal pipes run through the middle of the pvc pipes and extend 4-5 inches outside. The idea is that the cold air turns the metal pipes cold and that cold is transferred on to the pipe as it runs through the pvc above the brood nest are where the heat is and draws the condensation onto the metal pipes and drips into the pvc pipes and runs out of the hive.

The next one that I am trying is a device that holds an angled piece of metal above the cluster. The air is cold above the metal and the warmth of the cluster is under the metal, thus forming condensation on the bottom of the metal. Since it is angled, the water run out side the hive.

The metal extends outward beyond the back of the hive so that water runs along the angled metal and drips outside the hive.

Another approach to reducing condensation in the hive is to insulate the inside of the top cover. A glass of ice tea condensates on a warm summer day because the water temperature is much colder than the air around the outside of the glass. By wrapping the glass in a thin layer of insulation, the stark contrasts of cold and warm is eliminated and no condensation will form.

By merely insulating the inside of the top cover, much condensation will be eliminated. Here's how you can do it. Go to your local sign shop and ask for scrap pieces of plastic corrugated sign material. I call it plastic cardboard. Politician signs are made from this material.

You can also find this material at most office stores and sometimes at Wal-mart.

Then, go to you local home improvement store and buy a role of floor padding that goes beneath laminated floors. Some call it floor sound barrier material. It is very thin, about 1/8 of an inch, slick on one side and textured on the other.

Now, staple two layers of plastic cardboard on the inside of your top cover as shown in the photo. Then, staple in a piece of the floor covering with the textured side facing the bees. The two layers of corrugated plastic will help insulate the top of the hive where the heat rises. And the textured side of the floor covering will also serve as another layer of insulation but it will also help absorb moisture as well.

Here's what the final work looks like:
It is fine to leave this material on the hive all year long.

These are a few examples of what I'm experimenting with this winter in helping to remove moisture from the hive. Bees are the opposite of fish. Fish need water and cannot live long in the dry. Bees need a dry environment and cannot survive in a wet and moist environment. The modern day beekeeper must place more emphasis on keeping colonies dry and thus keeping them healthier.


It seems that many beekeepers fail to realize they must keep their hives extremely strong during the bee season. The hive must always have a good laying queen producing many frames of solid sealed brood. A poorly laying queen must be replaced immediately. DO NOT keep a poorly laying queen. Your hive might survive the summer, but it will not produce enough foragers to gather much honey, and it will probably not survive the winter. This image shows how a good queen will produce solid frames of sealed brood. Limited brood or spotty brood will make for a weak summer hive and a hive that is certain to die during the winter.

The larger the quantity of bees in the hive means the colony will be of better quality. Most people are prone to care for the sick or injured. Some try to nurture an injured bird back to health. We really can't afford to do this will honey bees. A weak hive only means that certain diseases and pests are merely days away.

What surprises most beekeepers is that two weeks ago the hive was strong, two weeks later the hive is weak. What happened? The loss of colony strength can be assessed by an experienced beekeeper. Is it mites? Is it a brood disease? Is it noseam or tracheal mites? Most of the time it is not. More often it has to do with the expansion of the hive being limited and the hive entering into swarm mode or queen replacement mode. If a colony is not satisfied with their queen, they may decided to keep her or replace her. Both are risky. While we believe colonies can successfully replace a failing queen, remember that they usually make more than one queen cell, and when several queens emerge they fight and sometimes they are both killed or injured. Now the hive cannot produce a queen because there are no one day old eggs left.

A lack of hive expansion is another problem why hives fail to survive the winter. They may build a honey dome above them as bees do. This dome can become a barrier. Therefore, the beekeeper must monitor the honey dome above the brood nest and continue to break up the honey dome by putting in frames of empty drawn comb, giving room for the brood nest expansion during the summer.
Poor winter hives are nothing more than poor summer hives. When beekeepers say winter killed off their hives, they really should say that the hive never prepared properly during the summer for the approaching winter. If water leaks through my roof during a rain storm, I can't blame the rain for penetrating my roof. It's my fault for not preparing my roof for a rainy day.

Winter is what it is, cold, snowy and long for those of us in northern states. For those of us losing hives in the winter, we must re-think how we keep bees. We must thing "strong hives". We must have heavily populated hives. When we remove our inner covers, we must have so many bees that we can barely see the tops of our frames because of the number of bees as in the photo below.

A beekeeper keeping ten weak hives would be much better off to combine the ten hives into five strong hives. We are so fearful of our hives swarming that we keep them running far below strong numbers, through divides and splits. We need to re-think this and allow our hives to be "boiling over" with bees like mine in the picture.

Strong hives have a better chance at controlling Small Hive Beetle, V. Mites, American Foul Brood, Chalk Brood, European Foul Brood, wax moths and other diseases and pests. We must remember that a honey bee colony is a single organism. The stronger the hive is in population, the better the organism functions.
So many times I watch beekeepers open up their hives and I am ashamed of how few bees I see in the hive! We must keep strong hives! We must learn to have more bees in a colony through better management practices of better laying queens and breaking up the honey dome to allow brood expansion.

Strong colonies know how to prepare for winter. The stronger they are the better they are at winter preparation. The weaker they are the less they will adequately prepare for winter.

Interview ten beekeepers and ask them how old their queen is and how well she was doing in the month of October, and probably more than half will tell you they do not even know if they have a queen for sure.

Not only do colonies need to be heavily populated, but they need ample stores of both honey and pollen. Most beekeepers only think of honey stores and not pollen stores. But, bees need both pollen and honey. Honey is the carbohydrate and pollen is the protein and bees need both even in the winter.

Winter-Bee-Kind For Winter Feed For Bees
In The summer of 2011 we introduced our Winter-Bee-Kind after several years of studying overwintering hives. We could barely keep up with production they were in such demand. We still make them right here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms but we've expanded our production methods to keep up with demand. So many beekeepers told us that these were the only thing that got their hives through the winter. This year, it's time for the 2014 production year. We even mix the sugar and pollen and right here and pour the candy into the Winter-Bee-Kinds. WHAT IS A WINTER-BEE-KIND? It is a one piece candy board that provides food, ventilation, upper insulation and an upper exit/entrance to help bees remain healthier during the winter. Someone said it insulates, ventilates and feed-i-lates. With the built in upper vent, you don't have to worry about snow covering up your hive's lower entrance. The bees can still go in and out through the top vent spacing. We avoid shipping Winter-Bee-Kinds in hot weather and start shipping each September-March. You can place our Winter-Bee-Kinds on your hive anytime, even in the winter. Because it goes on top of the hive in place of the inner cover, and you are NOT removing any frames, it can be placed on the hive in cold weather. Just do it fast. Open the top, remove the inner cover and place the candy side down and the vent slot toward the front of the hive and you're done. Click here to order your Winter-Bee-Kinds Some form of a candy board has been around for a long time. Beekeepers of long ago placed candy in their hives to provide enough food for their bees to survive the long months of winter. There are various mixtures and receipts for candy boards. Some are made with soft candy and some with hard candy. The end result is still the same. The bees will consume the sugar as they need it. We've always been concerned about the amount of condensation that can develop in the hive during the winter. The bees produce heat within their hive and as the temperature is very cold outside the hive, condensation will develop on the warm side, just above the bees on the inner cover or top cover. This condensation can accumulate and drop down onto the winter cluster of bees below. Bees can stay warm in the winter but they must remain dry. If this cold water drips down onto the bees, it can reduce their ability to keep their cluster warm. The insulation on our Winter-Bee-Kind helps reduce the excessive moisture and even puts some of that moisture to work, as it accumulates on the candy and makes it easy for the bees to consume the sugar. Thus, a Winter-Bee-Kind can help lessen two winter stresses, the lack of food and excessive moisture. We make our Winter-Bee-Kinds with sugar and a healthy amount of pollen powder. Many beekeepers make the mistake of only feeding their bees sugar in the winter, but the bees also need protein which they obtain from pollen. Our Winter-Bee-Kinds come with pollen mixed in with the sugar.. Click here to order your Winter-Bee-Kind today. We recommend that you place candy boards on your hive by December 22 (Winter Solstice). But anytime during the fall or winter is fine. Even if your bees run out of honey in February put a Winter-Bee-Kind on in February if you have too.

Commonly Asked Questions
Q: Which way does the candy face in the hive?
A: The candy faces down just above the winter cluster. Normally, this means that the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on the brood box that contains the cluster. For example, if you overwinter your bees in a single deep hive body, the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on this deep hive body with the candy facing down toward the cluster. If you are using two deep hive bodies to overwinter, then the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on the top deep hive body. It is best to disregard the use of an inner cover, and simply place your top cover over the Winter-Bee-Kind.

Q: What about winter moisture?
A: Moisture can develop in the winter from condensation, a contrast of the heat the bees produce in the hive and the extreme cold temperature outside the hive. Condensation accumulates on the warm side, which means moistures collects on the inner cover or top cover above the hive. This can drip down on the bees and chill them during the winter. A Winter-Bee-Kind takes the place of an inner cover and any moisture that develops from condensation aids the bees in consuming the candy.

Q: How long will a Winter-Bee-Kind last on a hive?
A: On average about 3 weeks. However, a colony that has ample stored honey may not consume the candy board as fast or not at all until they need it. A colony close to starvation may consume a Winter-Bee-Kind within a week or two.

Q: Since Winter-Bee-Kinds are placed or replaced on the hive in the winter, can I open the hive up on a cold day?
A: It is best to place the candy boards on a hive when the temperature is above freezing and try to place the candy board on and have the hive sealed back up within 1-2 minutes. It should not take over 1 minute. Do not remove any frames in cold temperatures, only place your Winter-Bee-Kind on and off quickly. If you can choose the warmest day during the winter, that would be best. Try to avoid very cold, windy or rainy days.

Q: How do I refill a candy board?
A: It is best to send back your candy board and we will refill it for $7 plus shipping. If you are a good candy maker, you can do it yourself.

Q: How do I get one with a pollen?
A: Our Winter-Bee-Kinds contain pollen as well.

Q: Can I make my own?
A: You can, but you must experiment, because you do not want the candy to be too hard or too runny. The exact mix depends on your altitude, heat source and other conditions so it will be different from one location to another.

Q: Why was some liquid sugar dripping out of my Winter-Bee-Kind when I received it?
A: It is the nature of candy boards to be a bit on the dripping side even though the top may be hard. Do not be concerned if you see liquid sugar dripping out of your boards when you receive it. It usually means it was left on end during shipment for a prolong period of time. The bees will clean everything up and enjoy this soft liquid.

Q: How much sugar is in one Winter-Bee-Kind?
A: Approximately 5 pounds

Q: When do I put a Winter-Bee-Kind on my hive?
A: Any time! Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb are good months to place on the boards.

Q How often should I check my Winter-Bee-Kind?
A: Every three weeks, take a peek.

Q: Do you make Winter-Bee-Kind for 5 frame nucs or 8 frame hives?
A: Yes, check out our website to order, but carefully read the description to make sure you are ordering the correct size and type.

Q: Can the candy break loose from the board on the hive?
A: It rarely happens, but during extreme winter weather, the candy and separate from the board while on the hive. This is not a problem. The bees will continue to consume the sugar.

Q: When I place it on the hive, do I use my inner cover. Just how does it go on?
A: Winter-Bee-Kind takes the place of your inner cover. Simply place the Winter-Bee-Kind on the top of your upper hive body or super with the candy facing down, then place your top cover on top of the Winter-Bee-Kind. Be sure to use a rock or brick to make sure the wind does not blow your top cover off. There is overwhelming enthusiasm about our Winter-Bee-Kinds. Click here to order now. 

Make sure, during the summer, that your bees are storing plenty of pollen in the lower brood chamber. This will help them have a jump on early spring brood production.

In our next lesson, I'll address insulating hives, whether it helps or hurts and I'll show you some experiments I'm conducting with winter wraps.

Check out Studio Bee Live at the upper right side of this blog or by logging on to:

See you next time and remember to Bee-Have yourself!

David and Sheri Burns



Friday, December 12, 2008

Lesson 45: Hygienic Honey Bees Are A Must

Today, I want to share with you about the importance of keeping hygienic honey bees. I will share why it is essential to only use queens that are hygienic and for those of you raising queens, I will give you step by step instructions on how to test your hives for strong hygienic behavior using the Liquid Nitrogen testing method. Before we jump into this informative lesson today, I want to share a few other things first.
Sheri and I have been having so much fun producing Studio Bee Live broadcasts, a daily audio podcast all about honeybees. Be sure and listen to our program. It is found on this blogspot lesson to the upper right or you can log in to:


Somewhat new to contemporary beekeeping is the phrase "hygienic bees". Now, typically we think of all honey bees as being hygienic. You know, honey bees rarely defecate in the hive. They fly out to void themselves, so we know that bees are somewhat hygienic. They keep a very clean hive.

However, over the last few years greater emphasis has been placed on hygienic behavior in how the bees monitor sealed brood. When we refer to hygienic honey bees, we mean more than just keeping a clean hive, we mean their are some honey bees that monitor sealed brood and if there is a problem, either disease or pest such as American Foul Brood or mites, they will open the cell up, and remove the larvae.

This is not as new as we might think. A notable work from the past on hygienic bees goes back to the 1930s. O.W. Park, in the early 1930s began this work and actually found that hygienic bees could cut American Foul Brood from 70% down to 10%. So for the last 80+ years, work continued off and on with developing a more hygienic progeny. The most prominent work and name associated with hygienic bees has been the work of Dr. Marla Spivak and her queens knows as the Minnesota Hygienic Queens. Dr. Spivak said that she thinks this hygienic behavior is found in about 10% of honey bees.

I heard Dr. Spivak's assistant speak last year, Gary Reuter, and he encouraged all queen rearers to consider testing for hygienic behavior in our hive selection programs. He showed pictures and gave examples of how easy it is to conduct these test. I will be interviewing Gary for Studio Bee Live next week.

I want to share how to perform the hygienic discovery test on a hive for those of you who are raising your own queens, but before I do, let me share with you how important I believe this really is.

I've traveled to some third world countries where my doctor warned me not to drink the water, eat the food or get a mosquito bite. Some of these countries have very poor hygiene. A lack of sanitation knowledge keeps some people believing that if you cannot see a germ, there is no germ. Thus, bacteria and diseases flourish.

A few times, I've caught the bug while traveling in these countries. As of late, I've tried really hard to be more hygienically aware because I don't like being sick far from home. But we do not have to travel to a third world country to get sick from germs. By not washing our hands, we can catch a cold after shaking hands with someone who is infected. Thus, the more hygienic we are, the healthier we stay. Same is true for honey bees too.

The less dust, mold and germs we have in our homes, the healthier we are and the same is true for bees. This is a MUST! We have to get off the medicine treadmill with our bees. We cannot continue to effectively keep honey bees by dumping medication in the hive. Try living your life the way you treat you bees, and any medical doctor would warn you that it is not a healthy lifestyle.

Producing queens that have a strong hygienic behavior, in my opinion, is the key to reducing mites, American Foul Brood and other issues related to cleanliness of the hive. Imagine having bees who are able to detect AFB or reproductive mites in a sealed brood cell, and then open up that cell and carry the contaminated elements out of the hive.

It is also my opinion that a large cause agent of CCD is the amount of chemicals beekeepers add to their hives that gets absorbed into the comb and becomes unlikeable to the bees or begins to affect the bees in negative ways. This may not be the only or major cause, but to me it has to be one of the components. Thus, by using hygienic queens, we can reduce the medications in the hives and achieve an equal success rate from this hygienic behavior.

As much sense that this makes, there are many queen providers who still make no effort to incorporate this hygienic characteristic into their stock. This testing does add another time consuming step to the equation of an already demanding process.

However, as more state queen rearing projects spread, and as more beekeepers seem interested in raising their own queens, I want to challenge all queen providers to sell only queens from known hygienic hives.

How do we determine this?

Gary Reuter was very helpful in the workshop I attended. He explained in detail how to perform this hygienic test. Anyone raising queens should and can do it. It is pretty simple. The test is performed using Liquid Nitrogen (N2), the cold stuff! I called around and the best place to purchase it is from a near by welding supply company, the ones that sell various welding gas. They will sell you Liquid Nitrogen. I decided to purchase a 5 liter canister made for (N2). The canister is pricey, between $400-$500, but it is the best and safest way. If you are not testing regularly, you could just put the (N2) in a cooler. But you have to be very careful, as it will immediately frost bite your skin. You have to wear proper protection, because an accidental spill or splash could cost you a limb. (N2) is cheap, at about $3-$4 a liter.

We will begin running our tests this spring by using metal cylinders that we make from 28 gauge galvanized metal, left over pieces from the metal we put on our top covers. These cylinders need to be at least 4" tall and 3" in diameter. The 28 gauge metal works best because it is thin enough to press into the sealed brood in the frame. 4" tall is important so that as the (N2) "boils over" as it freezes and kills the brood within the 3" circle, it will not boil over and out onto the rest of the frame.

It is important to pour in 10 ounces of (N2) on the section of brood within the metal cylinder. This is the sufficient amount to kill all brood cells. Be sure and make a note of any unsealed cells so that when you come back to count, you'll have a base number to work with. There are about 160 cells within a 3" diameter. It is recommended to pour in a couple of ounces first and wait for the edges to freeze or for the (N2) to evaporate then pour the remaining 8 ounces in.

So what you want to do with the (N2) is freeze kill a 3" diameter area of sealed brood. Then, you place that frame back into the hive for 48 hours. Be sure and mark the frame so that you can easily find your test frame in 48 hours. When you find it, now observe how much of the 3" area of dead larvae has been removed. If it has all been emptied, then you have a very hygienic hive to breed from. If not, keep testing other hives.

Like I said, pretty simple!!

Sunday, our temperature will rise to 52. I am planning to go into a few of our hives that have a large wind block as the wind will be strong from the South. When I go into these experimental hives, I will be observing the following:1) Amount of sealed brood or egg
2) Location of the cluster/queen
3) Amount of both stored pollen and honey
4) Evidence of excessive condensation in the hiveThree hives I am experimenting with are:
1) A series of 3 nucs with 5 frames, all stacked on top of each other. Each one has a 3" screened hole in the floor, allow one nuc to heat the one above it.

2) A hive that was compressed into a single deep, to observe how well a hive can overwinter in a single deep.

3) Two strong hives that were mere merged into one hive by placing two deeps from one hive on top of two deeps from another hive.Since we've already had several weeks of very cold weather and winds here in Illinois, it will be interesting to see where the bees are at in mid December. I'll keep you posted.We are getting closer to the end of the year, and as of January 1, 2009 we will raise our prices on our wooden ware. So you can save money by ordering your hives yet this year. Please get your hive order in as soon as possible for your 2009 beekeeping needs!Last year, our queens were in such demand, we were not able to fulfill all orders. Though we are vastly increasing our queen production for the spring, we are still looking at selling out. Therefore, we have decided to take orders for queens starting January 5th as well. These are our Illinois reared queens from our survival hives that have never been medicated and have proven to be winter hardy, good honey producers, gentle and hygienic. We hope to have queens ready to sell my the end of April or early May. First come first serve basis so secure your queen/s fast! We are planning on producing around 1,000 of these queens and probably about 500 - 750 will pass our criteria as sellable mated queens. These queens are held in their own nuc to demonstrate their laying ability for 14-21 days before they are sold.

We only ship our queens through express mail, 1-2 day delivery time.

Here's the number to call to order your hives, bees, nucs or queens:

We welcome your questions to Studio Bee Live. Call in an leave your question on our answering machine and we'll play your voice and our answer on an upcoming broadcast. We have a special number just for questions:
Check out our website at: and if you don't see what you need there, call us up and we'll make sure we take care of all your beekeeping needs!

See you next time and remember to BEE-have yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Lesson 44: Be A Kind Beekeeper

Hi, we're David and Sheri Burns owners and operators of Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. And we look alittle bit like this caricature drawing that was done of us at our last honey show that we did in Danville, Illinois. Those aren't devil horns sticking out of our heads, they are little bee antennas.

You'll see a widget to the right of this article where you can click on the file for Tuesday and hear it.
Sheri and I work hard at being kind, polite and cordial beekeepers. We try very hard to treat our customers as friends and family. We believe we should treat others as we would want to be treated.
Having said that, I feel it is time to write a lesson of a different nature. We talk alot about wanting gentle bees, but every now and again beekeepers need that same expectation placed on them. We should be gentle too!
I received a phone call last week from a nice gentleman from another state who is wanting to get started keeping bees in the spring. He spoke with a man in his area, a commercial beekeeper to get some advice. But the man was pretty negative and felt alittle intimidated by "another beekeeper" who he perceived could be cutting in on his business or territory.
For the most part, the beekeeping community is matchless when it comes to kindred spirits gleaming with encouragement, camaraderie, and cordiality. Yet, like with every group there can be competition, strife, jealously and fear. And some beekeepers have to prove they are the smartest at the meeting. Beekeepers are a bit proud of the knowledge that they have gain because most of us have gained that knowledge and wisdom at a great cost to our pocket books and our total hive count. Or we've paid hundreds of dollars for various beekeeping courses and conventions we've attended where we've gained our knowledge. We want a pat on the back for all that knowledge we've gained.
This is to be expected and is okay to a point. However, it can become prideful and greedy. I consider the knowledge I've gained so far to be public domain, shareware, free for others to know too! I share what I know not to seem or sound like a know-it-all but to help others avoid problems and to enjoy greater success. But some beekeepers, not a lot, but some are grouchy, resentful, territorial and negative! They are in every organization, so don't think that just beekeeping has its share of curmudgeons. That's right, curmudgeons. This best summarizes that elite segment of beekeepers who are no fun to be with. Look at the definition of a curmudgeon:

Sound like someone you know? Ill-tempered full of resentment and stubborn notions. Avoid these kinds of beekeepers. They are out there and they are ready to tell you how stupid you are for listening to some other beekeeper or for buying your equipment from one place and not the other. Some will tell you of all the insurance you have to have in case your bees should sting a customer and on goes the list of expressed fears.
Sometimes they don't even have to say a word, but they just give you that look, that makes you feel that what you've just said is stupid and ignorant. Behind your back they'll snicker and say things like, "That's the stupidest thing I've ever heard. His bees are going to die if he tries that..."
Almost every association has atleast one curmudgeon. And one is all it takes to silence the eager student from asking genuine questions. One is all it takes to cause an association to be poorly attended.
There's not much we can do for the few curmudgeons out there. You can requeen a mean hive but you can't requeen your association from the curmudgeons.
So let me give you 10 things for you to do not to become a beekeeping curmudgeon and to deal with those who are...
1) Be nice, friendly and encouraging to other beekeepers and to everyone for that matter.
2) Speak up at your association meetings. In a kind and nice way, try to refute the curmudgeons negative outlook. Share what is positive and what successes you are enjoying.
3) When a curmudgeon gossips about someone else, stop them right there. Do not listen. If you listen and say nothing, even your silence is taken as agreement with them, so don't be silent. Speak positively.
4) Perhaps in a humorous way, you can ask the curmudgeon if he or she might consider requeening their attitude. "Why do you keep bees if you are so down on things anyway. I think you need to get out of beekeeping or requeen your attitude".
5) Each association should give out an annual award for the most kind, helpful and encouraging beekeeper among us.
6) When negative things happen to you, like your hive dies, look at it from a positive point of view. Look at what you learned from the bees that you can apply next time and do better or try a different approach.
7) Contribute to your local association. Don't just show up with a chip on your shoulder because you have family or financial issues. Leave those behind and come with something encouraging and positive to share at your meetings.
8) Think back to when you first started keeping bees. You had to work hard to find answers. So look around and find those new to beekeeping and mentor them and help them along with positive and encouraging advice.
9) When you think you know it all, and you badly want to share it, bite your tongue and try to learn more. Mark Twain once said, "It is better to keep your mouth closed and let people think you are a fool than to open it and remove all doubt".
10) Keep learning. You'll never reach a point where you know everything about beekeeping, so remember that though you may know more than some, lots of folks know more than you. So keep learning.
So, remember to be positive and supportive of other beekeepers. Why not share some equipment or if a neighbor beekeeper loses some hives in the winter and you didn't, why not give him a hive or two. After all, you could have lost those hives anyway.
If your life is filled with hardships and negative happenings, perhaps you need to focus on something positive. Why not listen to our new Studio Bee Live Beekeeping Broadcasts! Sheri and I have fun sharing silly things and smart things that we do on our honey bee farm. We'll give you information on beekeeping as well as make you smile. Just log on to: or click on the player in the upper right side of this blog.

4)We love to answer your beekeeping questions and now we have a new line just for questions. 217-427-2430. Call that line if you have questions about beekeeping, but call our other line to place orders. The order line is 217-427-2678.
When you call in with your question, we'd love to play your question on our broadcast along with our answer. So, when you ask your question, and it's okay for us to use it on our broadcast, just say, "Hi I have a question for studio bee live..."
Or you can email us questions:
Finally, now that it is November, here is what you should be doing with your hive.
NOVEMBER AND THE BEES: The bees continue to cluster for winter. They may not yet go into a full winter cluster, and may actually develop two clusters. They may break cluster frequently on warm days and recluster at night. But they will begin to cluster for the winter. The days are getting much shorter. The queen will lay less and less.
NOVEMBER AND THE BEEKEEPER: Feed your light hives as long as the sugar water doesn't freeze. Finish up all winterizing of your hives. On a cold day when the bees are all inside, weed-eat around your hives. Enjoy Thanksgiving! Start purchasing next year's equipment.
That's all for now, from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, Sheri and I appreciate you and enjoy calling you our friends!!
Remember to Bee-Have yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
ORDER LINE: 217-427-2678
QUESTION LINE: 217-427-2430

Monday, November 10, 2008

Lesson 43: How To Make Whipped Honey

Hello From Long Lane Honey Bee Farms...

Sheri and I greet you from Central Illinois and from our family honey bee farm where now we do most of our work inside as we move closer to winter. Our bees have now clustered within their hives and they will be like that for the next few months. 

WARNING: There is a push to make beekeeping appear practically hands free. New beekeepers are failing to implement best management practices. I want to be your mentor. I am currently accepting positions to mentor a limited number of beekeepers. You'll have access to my personal cell phone and private email. And you can send me videos or pictures of your hive when it just doesn't seem right or you don't know what's going on. You'll also receive 4 new instructional videos from me and a weekly tip of what you should be doing. Click here to see if spots are still available.

Hi we are David and Sheri Burns at  Please visit our Main Website at:

Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we are committed to help you be a successful beekeeper. David is a certified master beekeeper. We offering many classes.
Check out our entire list of beekeeping classes we offer by clicking here.

Welcome to Long Lane Honey Bee Farms Online Lessons! Visit our MAIN WEBSITE AT: We have a complete line of hives that we build right here in Illinois. We offer classes, sell queens and much more. Give us a call at: 217-427-2678. Our hours are: M-Th 10am-4pm, Fri 10-Noon Central Time.


Last week, Sheri and I launched Studio Bee Live! We have produced our first 5 programs and they can be found at: We are producing one program each weekday, so this should prove to be an enjoyable past time for you as you twiddle your thumbs during winter in hopes of a great spring

Studio Bee Live invites you to call in and speak on our program. Please consider calling in and speaking to our answering machine, telling us your name and where you are calling from and ask a question or leave a comment and we'll play it and answer your comment or question on one of our upcoming programs. Our question line is: 217-427-2430 We had a great question which will air on Monday or Tuesday asking what is meant by checkerboarding. My oldest son, David, and I had a blast answering that good question. It will probably be answered in Monday's program. So do call in with your questions or comments! 217-427-2430. We live in the country so to put in this extra question and answer line, my phone company had to bury 1, 300 feet of new phone cable to my house, so let's put that to good work :)

Also, Studio Bee Live invites advertisers and sponsors. Give us a call to consider advertising on Studio Bee Live. You can also underwrite portions of our broadcasts in memory or in honor of someone special in your life. Call us at: 217-427-2678 if you'd like to know more.

You can download the files from the website: and right click on the MP3 file. Save it to your computer, then upload it to your favorite MP3 device. For those who are more computer advance our program is all rss friendly as well as a Widget if you run the Springbox.

Lesson 43: How To Make Whipped Honey

This week I have been experimenting with making whipped honey. I never know what to call it, whether to call it whipped honey, spun honey, creamed honey or spreadable honey. I looked at the National Honey Board website and they called it whipped honey. I like that definition the best.

Notice in this picture of some of my whipped honey how stiff it is. It will hang to a spoon at room temperature. Some people think that whipped honey is honey with something added to it, or that it has been spun. That is not the case. Whenever I describe what whipped honey is and how to make it, it seems that people are so surprised they almost don't believe me. See if you have the same reaction.

Whipped or spreadable honey is nothing more than honey that has crystallized. Surprised?

Almost all honey crystallizes over time. Remember, honey never spoils and it is best left out at room temperature. Even though honey doesn't spoil it often does crystallize or turns hard. Some honey is faster than others to crystallize base on the individual type of nectar the honey was made from by the bees . The more sugar within the honey, the greater the chance is that it will eventually crystallized. However, it is very easy to liquefy crystallized honey by placing it in hot water or in a very warm room or in a window where the sun can warm it up. Remember, all honey crystallizes and this does not hurt the quality of honey.

Now if your honey does crystallize, you will notice that it is not the same as whipped honey, even though both are crystallized. The reason is that natural crystallization of honey has larger crystals than whipped honey, crystals close to what we find in table sugar size. However, what we do to make whipped honey is to grind up the crystals into much, much smaller crystals, so tiny that the honey feels whipped, smooth, creamy and spreadable.

Before I complicate the matter, about grinding crystals, let me tell you the easy way to make whipped honey.

1. Take a jar of liquid honey
2. Buy some spreadable or whipped honey
3. Remove 1/10 of a jar of honey and replace it with the whipped honey
4. Stir it up and let it stand in a room around 56 degrees (F) for a week.

What happens is that the whipped honey you placed in the jar, duplicates itself and keeps the original size of the crystals that were introduced. That's how you keep the crystals small.

It is really fun to make and what a great family activity on a cold winter day. My basement remains 56 degrees all year long and is the ideal location to allow the crystallization process to be complete. This thermometer is GREAT! I buy these at Wal-mart for around $9. This particular model is every beekeeper's friend. I like it because it only has two readings: Temperature and humidity. These are the two bits of information beekeepers need the most. It is made by Acurite and I think I have given the model number in previous lessons. I use these in my queen incubator, honey processing room and now for making sure my whipped honey area is around 56 degrees (F). This one also records the high and low temperatures and high and low humidity level. Can't beat the price for what you get.

Here's an example of a quart jar filled with whipped honey. This was a regular jar of liquid honey and I removed 1/10 of the honey to make room for the starter, which is just already whipped honey, sometimes called "seed". I added the seed starter, and placed it in my basement for 1 week. It worked perfectly. If you are having trouble selling your honey, then diversify and make whipped honey. People really love it.

The process of making whipped honey was developed and patented by Elton J. Dyce in 1935. He provides us with much more details on how to make a perfect batch, but my batches have been perfect as followed above. Dyce suggested heating the honey first to destroy any previously formed crystals.
Enjoy! It is so good.
It's time to order your hive boxes, known as wooden ware. Call today and get your order in! 217-427-2678. Or order from our website at:
Remember to BEE-Have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Check Out Studio Bee Live. Here's How!

We now have our first program online. Most operating programs will be able to play our program today. If not, you'll need Windows Media Player. We are still working out the MP3 edition and podcasts, so be patient. Let us know what you think, and remember, we need for you to call in with beekeeping questions and we really need some underwriters.

Give us a call at 217-427-2678

Here's the link to our Studio Bee Live:

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Friday, October 31, 2008

LESSON 42: Protective Clothing

Hello from David & Sheri Burns!
In our blog/lesson today we'll take a look at the following:
1. An update on Studio Bee LIVE! Going online this Saturday.
a. We'd love to have sponsors.
b. We'd like to answer some of your email questions or call in
question for our first show.
2. A personal note about our family. Get to know us!
3. Lesson 42 on Protective Clothing
STUDIO BEE LIVE coming online this Saturday. I love to listen to beekeeping audio files when I'm traveling or working, but there just isn't that much available. That's why we decided to start Studio Bee Live, to be a place where you can listen, be entertained and learn more and more about keeping bees. We will have these broadcast available to listen to online or you can download them in MP3 format to enjoy in your MP3 player or as podcasts.
Each day we will produce a one hour broadcast on beekeeping, Monday through Friday. Each broadcast will have one main segment as the main topic of the day along with six daily smaller segments: Honey & Honey Receipts, Equipment, Bee Trivia, Bees In The News, A Look Back At Beekeepers and a Question & Answer segment.
We need your help. We are looking for sponsors or advertisers who want to underwrite these six smaller segments. "An now for today's Bee Trivia, brought to you by Clue's Cheverolet..." Each of these spots are available for $20 and does not have to be bee related. In addition, your company or business will be posted for that day on our web site with a link to your business as well. Call us if you'd like to be an underwriter in our first show this Saturday! 217-427-2678
You can even underwrite a segment in memory or in honor of someone special. Maybe Grandpa used to be a beekeeper and you want to dedicate a segment in memory of him. Give us a call. 217-427-2678. We are allowing our answering machine to pick up today to receive questions, but we'll call you back if you leave your name and number
We also need your voice in our shows. We need you to send in your beekeeping questions via E-mail or call in your questions. Just give us a call today and our answering machine will record your question and then we'll play it with our answer on our show. For example, "Hi this is Chad from Ohio and I have a hive that did good this year, but I'm wondering if they have enough honey for the winter. How I can be sure and is it too late to open them up and look and see?" Questions like that.
We will play your question and answer your question on the show. When you call in with your question, our answer will not only help you but so many others who were wondering the same thing. So call in today, Friday, day or night 217-427-2678. And, if you just want to call in and say, "Hi David & Sheri, love your website and good luck on your new bee program", that will be fun too! You can email us your question, but it would be so much better to have your voice on our show. But if you would rather email your question than call, out email is:
A Personal Note:
We operated Long Lane Honey Bee Farms from our home in Central Illinois. Here's what we do: We keep bees, sell honey, sell bees (both packages & nucs), raise and sell queens, make and sell hive wooden ware, sell all kinds of beekeeping equipment and accessories, give beekeeping courses from our farm. Bees have become our business, our family business. Today let me fill you in on protective beekeeping gear. But before I do, I want to give you a personal note about our family (after all this is a blog you know)

Sheri is my high school sweet heart. I met her when I was 16 and she was 14. On that day in 1976 I knew that Sheri was the girl for me! Her dad was very protective of his only daughter, and though I don't remember the exact details of a rule that he had, it was something like if I went to church on Sunday, then I was able to spend a little time with his daughter.

Needless to say I became a Christian about a year later, not to win the pretty girl, but to repent and trust in Jesus. But then I did get the pretty girl. God is kinda like that. Sheri and I dated four years before we were married on August 3, 1980. Over the next 28 years we would both receive our college degrees from Lincoln Christian College, and find time to have 6 children (and now we have 4 grandchildren and another one on the way).
I began pastoring my first church, and living in the parsonage when I was 21. We already had our oldest daughter, Jennifer then and had Jill 16 months later. Then we had our first son, David in 1985, our third daughter, Karee in 1991, Seth in 1993 and our newest edition to our family, Christian in 2007. We had our last two sons at home. Over the last 28 years of our marriage I have pastored churches in Illinois, Missouri, Ohio and for the last 13 years, back in Illinois.
I have preached the gospel in the Dominican Republic, Mexico, India, Africa and on 5 teaching trips to Israel. The church I have pastored for the last 13 years now meets each Sunday on our honey bee farm, in our honey store. We are a home church that simply goes by the Bible. I preach each Sunday from our honey bee farm, and you are welcome to join us any Sunday at 10:30am Central Time.
I share all of that with you so that you can get to know us a bit more, but also to let you know that it is a good feeling to have traveled the world and yet find the greatest joy in working on our family farm with honey bees. I guess you might say we are just good ole, down home country folks. Right now, Karee, Seth and Christian are our only Children living at home with us, and they are a huge help with our honey bee business.
Seth started building frames in our business back in 2005 at just twelve years old. Now he's 15 and along with me builds every component in the hives we make. He exclusively builds all of the bottom boards, inner covers, top covers and frames. Seth holds the farm record for the fastest to build frames. He holds the record at assembling a frame (8 staples) in 16 seconds. In a pinch, Karee steps in and builds inner covers, frames and top covers. Last spring, during our busy season Karee really put in some long hours. Now, we have found a way to free up Karee so that she can continue to work only in the queen rearing operation on our farm. She knows the inside of a hive better than anyone! She can find young nurse bees to be used as a queen attendants quicker than anyone! Almost every day this summer she was out in hives picking out queens and young nurse bees and loading them up in their little shipping containers. She rarely was stung and a few times I fussed at her for not wearing a hat and veil. She is great!
Sheri, my high school sweet heart, does it all, but mostly the paper work, online orders, phone calls, and usually single-handedly is the shipping department. Most days she is the one packing the boxes and labeling them too. When it is really busy, we all stop and become the shipping department around 3 p.m. and work feverishly to try and beat the arrival of the UPS truck around 4 p.m. Sheri also feeds my kids, feeds me, my dogs, my helpers and she feeds my bees when they need it. She's a wonderful cook!
Dustin, my son-in-law, (Jennifer's husband) now helps us with our web site and data entry. The poor guy...I sorta dump a bunch on him at once, kinda like numbering books in a full library. But we are trying to get our data base updated so when you call, we can easily look you up. Finally, there's Callie and April, our two hound dogs. They are our long lane alarm system. As soon as anyone turns into our 1/4 mile drive, they bark and let us know we have a customer. They are respectful of all the hives on our property. That's us...On now to protective clothing.
No one likes to get stung. It hurts. By the way, the odds of dying from a bee sting are almost equal to dying from a lightning strike, according to the US National Safety Council:

Odds Of Dying From lightning 81,949/1
Odds Of Dying From A Bee/Wasp sting 72,494/1

Even though bee stings aren't as deadly as some think, it still hurts and you'll turn red, itch and swell up. This happens to almost everyone. Wearing protective gear can prevent most stings. The first defense against being stung is to always use a smoker! Blowing cool smoke into a hive and onto the bees prior to working them is your best protection. I can work bees without any protective clothing if I smoke them first, but not if I do not.

The second defense against being stung is to keep gentle bees. There is no reason to keep a hive that is aggressive. Re-queen a hive that is mean with a more gentle queen and in 30 days the eggs that she lays will emerge to be gentle too! Near the end of this year's bee season, I had requeened all of my hives and because we raise our own queens, I was working my bees with limited protection and no aggressive tendencies from my bees.

But let's say you don't want to worry about requeening and you just want to wear some protective gear to keep from being stung.

Sometimes, especially when removing hives from homes, more protection is necessary.

We always recommend you wear a hat and veil. A hat and veil together will run you between 30-40 bucks. But, it is a very wise investment. No one wants to get stung on the face or head. Most beekeepers use the cheap plastic pith helmet with a veil. The helmets are pretty common but the veils can be different. Some have square screens in the front, as in this picture, while others don't. Some veils only come down just to the neck, while others come all the way down to the chest. The style that you choose for the hat and veil is up to you.

The next level of protection is a jacket with the hat and veil built in. These are nice, and are often referred to as an inspector's jacket. They look kinda like a parka jacket. You can unzip your veil and the hat/veil drops behind you and stays attached, as in the picture. I've unzipped the hat and veil and have laid them back out of the way.

The next level of protection is a complete bee suit. Generally it is like the jacket but includes the pants. Bee suits are not totally sting proof. Though it is very rare, it is possible to be stung through a bee suit. Again, it is almost impossible, but can happen and did happen to my son once when we were removing a hive from a house.
So whether you wear a hat and veil, a jacket or a suit, you'll probably change what you wear after you work your bees a few weeks.
Suits and jackets are very hot in mid summer, so do keep that in mind. It is best to choose a fabric blend such as cotton/polyester blend that is cool. You may want to get one size larger than you normally wear because suits and jackets go over your regular clothes. In this picture, you can see that among a group of beekeepers, there are many different configurations.
A low budget idea is to buy a real inexpensive painter's suit from Menards or Lowes. These are made of material that does not last for every, but probably at least one bee season. I've used them. They can tear easily, but they are white, very thin painter's suits. They do not have a hat or veil, and a bee could sting through it, but they are white and bees just do not like to land on white. I always wear a very light colored shirt and bees stay off. Bees have an instinct to attack black.
To make sure queens are gentle, breeders wave a black cloth over the top of a hive and then counts the stingers on that cloth. The hive with the fewest stings are the more gentle hive. Bees are "wired" to defend their hive against black bears so wearing a white painter's suit can be a low budget solution.
If you are afraid of being stung on your hands, there are many different types of bee gloves with longer sleeves to tuck beneath your suit. Most are sting resistant, meaning a bee might be able to sting through the glove, and others are sting proof which means a stinger cannot penetrate your gloves. But, as you would imagine, the gloves that are sting proof are not the easiest gloves to work a hive with. They are big and clumsy and you look like a Haz-Mat worker. When gloves this awkward, you accidently smash more bees and that makes them more aggressive. When I have to wear gloves I wear a pair of leather work gloves and duct tape the space between my gloves and my suit. I've never taken a sting through a leather work glove.
We sell hats, veils, jackets, suits and gloves so feel free to give us a call.
It was nice to be with you today, and thank you for checking in.
Bee-have yourselves!
David & Sheri Burns

Saturday, October 18, 2008

LESSON 41: Honey-B-Healthy

Sheri and I greet you from our honey bee farm, Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in Central Illinois. Thank you for checking out our blog and beekeeping lessons. Please tell others about what you have found here! There are links at the bottom to "send to a friend" and we would appreciate it if you pass this on to friends that are beekeepers or folks you'd think might be interested.

I've been watching a new product for honey bees called Honey-B-Healthy. I've read some outstanding testimonies and reviews. But what really sold me on this product was inspecting some hives of a couple in our local association. She uses this product in her hives and I have never seen such a healthy hive. Her hive matched the testimonies I have been reading about Honey-B-Healthy. So, I called and spoke with the creator of this product, Robert Noel. He graciously took my call and gave me the details as to why this feeding stimulant works so well. So I tried it, and I was even more impressed! Wow, do my bees love it!Of course, I can only give you my opinion and how this product has help my hives, but let me tell you I am in love with it and so are my bees. I've read testimonies of hives that were almost entirely destroyed from pesticide sprays but Honey-B-Healthy brought them back to full strength again.

We pretty much are off of the medication treadmill, but we do not consider this a medication. It is essential oils, largely spearmint oil, and lemongrass oil. Fall is a great time to feed Honey-B-Healthy to your bees. Many people use it in a spray bottle instead of a smoker to calm the bees. This is commonly referred to as a spritz spray. It is also used on new plastic foundation to help encourage the bees to draw comb on plastic frames. A small 16 ounce bottle goes a long way. You simply add 1 teaspoon to one quart of 1:1 sugar water. As a spray, use 4 teaspoons per quart.

Honey-B-Healthy is great when introducing a new queen too.These essential oils have long been used by beekeepers and found to be very good for bees. Many claim that these essential oils seem to stimulate the immune system of the honey bee.

We are selling the 16 ounce bottle for $28. The 16 ounce bottle is enough for 24 one gallon feedings of sugar syrup. Call us today and we'll send your bottle right out: 217-427-2678. We seldom endorse these types of products, but I sincerely believe this is a great benefit to keeping healthy bees, drawing comb and introducing queens. Give it a try. Use it now to prepare your bees for winter and to have some on hand for late winter and early spring feeding. You can also order online with a credit card. Log on to our beekeeping store at and order this product from our main page.

Now, let me highlight the need for you to provide ventilation in your hive during the winter. Wrapping your hive can actually cause more internal moisture due to condensation. We've worked for a couple of years to modify our inner cover to accomplish several things. We've listened to beekeepers, and have made some changes based on our own beekeeping operation as well.

First, many larger beekeeping companies make their inner covers out of a very thin piece of Masonite. Beekeepers complain that when they place a large jar of sugar water over the inner cover whole during cold months, the thin Masonite will not support the weight. So we make our inner covers from 1/2 inch plywood which will not sag when a large jar of sugar water is placed on top. And get this! We also make a special inner cover that has the regular mouth jar whole already in the inner cover. All you have to do is drop your jar in the hole. And to keep it sealed when you are not feeding, just leave the lid in without the jar. Or for extra ventilation during the winter or during a nectar flow when the bees need the ventilation to cure the nectar into honey, leave both holes open. Take a look at this new inner cover design. Larger side rails with ventilation notches on all four sides. Just in time for a rough winter, why not give your hive another advantage for late fall feeding and better ventilation. And, we have added a special riser that can is attached to the inner cover and can be placed down so the top cover sits flat or raised up to provide maximum ventilation. No more looking around for a rock or a stick to raise the top cover.

Answers to abbreviations and questions above:
DCA - Drone Congregation Area
SHB - Small Hive Beetle
AFB - American Foul Brood
DWV - Deformed Wing Virus
SBB - Solid Bottom Board
AHB - Africanized Honey Bees

What is festooning? It is when the bees hold on to each other's legs, linking themselves together usually when building comb.
What is the age of a nurse bee? A nurse bee describes a bee between the ages of 2-10 days old caring for brood.
That's all for now. Next time we'll take a detailed look at various protective clothing, hats and gloves.
Be sure and check out:Studio-B-Live
Purchase Honey-B-Healthy
Purchase An Inner Cover

See you next time, and remember to Bee-Have yourself!
David & Sheri BurnsLong Lane Honey Bee Farms14556 N. 1020 East RoadFairmount, Il 61841217-427-2678


Monday, September 29, 2008

LESSON 40: The Beekeeping Year Starts In The Fall

Today, I want to offer another lesson in beekeeping focusing on how to prepare our hives to make it through the winter. Before I get into today’s lesson, let me remind you that we do have our beekeeping class coming up October 11th here at our apiary. If you are interested, we might be able to squeeze in a couple more people, so give us a call at the number at the bottom of this lesson. Also, we are still producing queens, though it is getting late in the year, now is still a good time to requeen.
By the way, here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we are a family business working hard to help more people discover and enjoy keeping honey bees. We manufacture beehives and sell everything related to beekeeping. Our busiest season is from November-July. So if you are planning on purchasing hives from us, and you don’t mind getting them early before next year, then now would help relieve the spring demand and we always raise our prices the first of January.

We have a reputation, a particular way of keeping bees. Here are a few fundamentals about beekeeping that we have settled on and have become known for:
1. No harsh chemicals. (We do not use any chemicals in our hives)
2. Use locally produced queens. (We raise and sell from our own survival stock).
3. Screen bottom board.
4. Hive inspection every 2 weeks, especially for monitoring the queen.
5. Yearly requeening is a must!

I was not very fond of requeening yearly until this summer. I did a little test. I requeened about half of my hives and the other half I allowed the 2-3 year old queens to carry on. Each half consisted of approximately 25 hives. By far, hands down the requeened hives way out performed the hives with the older queens. It was not even close. The hives with the older queens had lower population of bees, weaker foraging power, less honey, less everything.

I immediately became a firm believer of requeening a hive every year. September proves to be the most strategic month so that the queen is laying strong going into and coming out of winter, and the new queen can lay well in the fall to produce lots of young bees who should overwinter better than older bees.

Okay, so those are a handful of our particular philosophy of beekeeping.

Now, let’s talk about getting your hives ready for another winter. What should you do?
Winter is a nervous time for beekeepers. With every snow, and blast of cold, north wind, we wonder and worry how our bees are doing. Months of cold, winds, snow, rain, fog and clouds causes us to fret over our bees well-being.

In December, most of us place our ear against the outside of the hive and give a gentle tap to see if they are still buzzing, and usually they are. It is rare for a hive to die in December or even in January. The fact is, most hives that die do not even die in February. They die in March, when they have exhausted their food supply and have few to forage the early nectar on the occasional warm days.

So what can we do to help our bees make it through winter? There is no plan that ensure 100% survival. Bees are livestock. Things can just go bad. But a few things can help.

Typically, most consider winter preparations consists of the following:
1) Put on a mouse guard at the entrance.
2) Lift the hive and see if it has enough stored honey by how heavy it is.
3) Wrap the hive with some sort of insulation or roofing paper.
4) We build a wind break.
5) We treat for mites and nosema.

These might be good measures to take. However, they are not fail proof. In fact, here are three concerns that probably cause our hives to die during the winter that many overlook:

1) Queenlessness. Your hive is most certain to die if your queen is weak or gone going into winter.
2) Winter Condensation. If you seal up your hive too tight, you might increase the overall condensation within the hive and cause this cold water to constantly drip onto the cluster and eventually kill your hive.
3) Keeping stored honey next to the winter cluster. How many times do we hear that a hive died even though there was plenty of honey.

So, here’s my checklist for what you should be doing to your hives now to prepare for a great hive in the spring:

1) Remove queen excluders.
2) Remove honey supers.
3) Examine the amount of stored honey and be sure your bees have plenty. Most beekeepers in the north lift the back of the hive and hope it feels like there is 70 pounds of stored honey. 70 pounds is the approximate equivalent of 1 medium super full of honey.
4) If your hive is short on stored honey, FEED! Feed 2:1 sugar water. Use an internal or top feeder if robbing is a problem. Robbing is more of a problem during the fall dearth.
5) Make sure that your hive has some sort of upper ventilation. It does not have to be much but something. We now make our inner covers with ventilation slots. And we leave our screen bottom boards open all winter.
6) Use good mouse guards, either metal or wooden entrance cleats to keep mice out.
7) Treat the hives 3 weeks in a row with powdered sugar for mite control. This is best started in August.
8) If wrapping hives, be sure to allow upper ventilation.
9) Combine weak hives with strong ones. Most of the small swarms you caught are not going to winter well unless you caught them in May. Do not feel like a failure if you’ve worked hard to build up your numbers, but now you have to slice your hive count in half by combining hives. Combining ten hives into 5 which survive the winter is better than having 8 out of 10 die out.

Much can be said about preparing a hive for winter, but the hive that has the best chance of surviving the winter will be the hive that was very strong all year and has a young queen. Remember, a strong hive is more apt to be pest and disease free, thus overwintering much better because it does not have viruses caused by mites.

No matter how much you wrap your hive, medicate your bees and build a wind break, nothing will do much to improve a weak hive overwintering well. Only strong hives overwinter well enough to explode in the spring. Weak hives that do survive the winter usually are not impressive the following year, unless requeened soon in the spring.

This year, I will expand my overwintering experiments. I will be overwintering a variety of configurations to see which hive does best. I will be overwintering 5 frame nucs, single hive bodies and a hive that is made up of 1 deep hive body and 3 medium super boxes.

We also have one hive going into winter that we are now feeding pollen and heavy nectar to stimulate the queen to keep laying deep into fall to see if this is better or worse of winter survival.

Please put it on your calendar to peak in your hive in January on a decent day when the temperature rises to atleast 40 degrees. Then, make a plan to quickly open your hive on a calm day and in 1 minute or less, pull up a frame of honey, scratch it open and place it next to the cluster. If they have no honey left, then feed!

I have a lesson that explains several feeding methods. The lesson can be found at:

I hope this lesson will motivate you to take advantage of the last few weeks of decent weather and tighten up your hives, feed them and make sure they are ready for winter. We are excited about the 2009 beekeeping year. The crises of the decline in honey bees is still with us. Last year, we helped so many jump into beekeeping for the first time. This is exciting to us because bees play such an important role in our food supply.

2009 = 1,000

For 2009 we have set a goal of encouraging 1,000 people to become first time beekeepers. We will be putting up a special web page with a goal chart anonymously reflecting each new beekeeper.

We only want to count those who we have directly inspired to keep bees for the first time. So here's the criteria for you to be counted as one of the 1,000:

1) Educated by us through our online lessons or you attended one of our on site classes as a new beekeeper.

2) Bought wooden ware or package bees from us as a new beekeeper.

3) Our website introduced you and encouraged you to start keeping bees.

Our website with our goal chart will be a frame from a hive showing 1,000 cells. Every time another person becomes a 1st time beekeeper we will seal off that cell. Eventually we hope to see all 1,000 cells completely sealed off, as all beekeepers know the joy of seeing a complete frame of sealed brood! So, get the word out. Our next blog post will reveal more of the details and the website to watch the goal expand. So get the word out, and help us reach this very lofty goal.

Sheri and I would like to thank you again for being a part of our lives, and enjoying the great experience of keeping bees. Have a great day and we'll see you soon!

Remember, BEE-have yourselves!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms