Friday, November 27, 2009

Lesson 67: Woodenware Improvements, Pollen Patties, AFB & Mice

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, from David & Sheri at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms! Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that our family enjoys the most. All the women love to cook and all the men love to eat. Sheri and hope you find plenty of reasons to be thankful.
Today, I want to give a lesson on improvements we have made to the woodenware (hives) we sell and how I recommend pollen patties to be used in the hive and why mice are bad for hives during the winter. But first, alittle about what we’ve been doing.
We are enjoying an Indian summer, nice warm days. That should change soon, but we’ve taken advantage of these nice days to try and get our outdoor winter preparation projects finished.
This week , I’ll be moving a bunch of my hives into an area where we had walls of dirt brought in to act as a wind block. Then, I have large, and I do mean LARGE, canvas material that I am going to use to shield the hives. Again, this is somewhat experimental. I’ve never had any better winter survivability when I’ve wrapped in the past, but this time I’m adding more ventilation. So we still have lots of hives to move.
signs(Remember you can click on all pictures for a larger picture.) We had a new and larger sign made for our farm, and signs for the vehicles. I have been really surprised at how much business those signs have generated.
I was featured in another newspaper. It was a nice article, but the reporter got a few details incorrect on the timing of raising queens. That article really generated a lot of interest and phone calls. Here’s the link if you want to see the article. CLICK HERE

Woodenware is a term used in the beekeeping community to refer to the actual wooden bee hive, not the colony of bees. There are two commonly used hives today. The most common is the hive that pastor Langstroth designed back in 1851. Pastor L. L. Langstroth was pretty depressed over his ministry and found comfort in his bees. It’s hard to believe that a congregation could sting more than a hive of bees. During his work, he designed discovered bee space, a space measuring around 3/8” that bees would leave as a travel space. With that knowledge he designed a hive known as the removal frame hive. Before that, most bees were kept in skeps and logs.
Another common hive is known as a Top Bar Hive. TBHs are gaining popularity. They are shaped like an upside down triangle. Simply put, the only part of the actual frame used is the top bar. The bees add their comb to the top bar down toward the bottom. Langstroth’s hive is not the perfect design, nor is the TBH.
I’m often asked what I think about TBH. I’ve never operated one, so I may change my mind if I were to use one. But apply some basic beekeeping knowledge and comments I’ve heard TBH folks make, here’s what I think.

The TBH followers claim it is much more natural and usually they are referring to the cell size. Since bees are not using a pre-existing foundation pattern, and some conclude they make smaller cell size. Then, the small cell size proponents claim this helps reduce mites. However, in scientifically controlled assays the results did not show any advantage of small cells comb in controlling mites.
The disadvantages I see with TBH are:
1) In order to inspect a frame, the comb is often attached to the side of the hive and must be cut away to be lifted out.
2) Honey frames cannot not as easily extracted and is often crushed and allowed to drain.
3) Other components are not as available, such as feeders, supers etc.
4) Some state bee inspection rules state that frames must be removable and might not view TBH frames as easy to remove without having to cut the comb.
And I always suggest and encourage new beekeepers to become familiar with beekeeping by using the traditional Langstroth designed hive, and once they have the basic fundamentals under their belt, then they might try a TBH.
We’ll probably one day make and sell TBH but as for now, we are happy with the Langstroth’s hive.

The Langstroth hive has been slightly improved over the last 158 years, but is basically the typical white hives you find sprinkled throughout the countryside, and city backyards.
We enjoy the ease of the Langstroth hive. It is easy to use, compatible with various accessories such as pollen traps, top feeders, frame feeders, entrance feeders, supers, cloake boards, fume boards etc.
Since we are beekeepers, we keep improving upon the way we make our hives that we sell. I want to point out a few of these improvements.
Deep Hive
Here’s a picture of one of our deep hive bodies being built. We now place 9, 8 penny nails in one corner. That’s 36 nails in one deep hive box. Holes are predrilled. Also each corner receives a generous amount of exterior glue. Those of you who are wood workers know the strength is really in the glue. But those 9 nails give the box strength especially the 4 nails that are cross nailed.
Deep Hive2
Also, we’ve hunted and hunted until we’ve finally found the perfect wood we like for our hives. We use a high quality pine. It took us several years to finally locate the perfect wood source. We buy it through our local small town lumber yard. They actually get it out of Indiana. It is strong, dried to our perfection. Knots are small and kept to a minimum.
Deep Hive 3
Here’s a look from the inside of the deep hive. We make our own metal frame rests. Notice how we staple them in from the side not the top. When stapled in from the top, the staples catch the hive tool when scraping off propolis. So we staple the frames rests in from the side, leaving the top smooth. These frame rests allow the frames not to stick to the wood. In other words, a wood frame against a wood frame rest can become so glued together by the bee’s natural bee glue (propolis), that the frame’s ear can actually break. But the frames do not stick as much to a smooth metal surface.
Also, this picture shows the frame rest area that is cut into the front and back pieces just above the metal. Since the board is 3/4” thick, half way through is 3/8”. However, we have widened that cut so that the remaining piece is slightly thicker because historically that has been a weak spot.
TOP We’ve also improved out telescoping top cover in three ways. First, we’ve added a screw at the bottom of each corner. We noticed that beekeepers use their hive tools to prior open the tops when they are glued down by the bees. So we’ve stiffened up the corner with a screw. Secondly, we’ve started using screws to fasten our metal down. Thirdly, we are now using a high quality, painted aluminum for the metal top.
Frame1 Another improvement that we’ve have made to our hives is the frames. The frames that we now use in our hives are of the highest quality. No knots on the wood used for frames.
Frame2 Notice in these pictures that wide staples are used, connection points are glued, side bars are a full 3/8 inch, bottom bars are much thicker and ears are tapered up to assist in moving and freeing the frames if the bees use lots of propolis.
The final improvement we have made to our hive is our paint. We’ve always used a high quality Valspar exterior paint, but we’ve added a paint room to our operation. The controlled and consistent drying temperature and humidity has significantly improved the overall paint coverage.

Entrance Cleat We’ve also listened to our customers and they keep telling us they need an entrance reducing cleat that fits when they have their entrance feeders on in the spring. So we now include two entrance cleats, a large one and a smaller one for use with our entrance feeder.
These improvements require more time in producing your hives, but we feel quality is important. But do remember, that your bees really aren’t impressed at the quality of your hives. Bees are comfortable in old, nearly rotten trees. But the better quality your hive is, the longer it will last so that you can enjoy years of beekeeping.
PATTY We’ve been asked a lot of questions about pollen patties. I’m sure I’ve address the issue before, but rather than waste time trying to find out, it is faster just to address pollen patties here. WHEN, WHERE, WHAT and WHY?
It is my opinion that the major producers of pollen patties are good and reliable. We sell BROOD BUILDER pollen patties which are filled with pollen, and other minerals and nutrition that is good for bees. You’ll find some beekeepers like some brands better than others.
These are pre-made and come between two pieces of wax paper. Again, I can only share my opinion and experience, but I feel and have found that pollen patties are very beneficial to the overall improvement of nutrition in the hive. Of course, one would expect that the bees would bring in plenty of their own choice of pollen during nectar flows, and they do. So I only use pollen patties in late winter, early spring just prior to a good balance of natural pollen. However, if a beekeeper only has a few hives, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a pollen patty on the hive all year, just in case they need a boost. It will not get mixed into the honey because pollen is kept separate than honey in the hive.
Lay the pollen patties just on top of the frames above where the winter cluster is located. One is plenty, maybe even half of one is enough. Keep an eye on it and when it is almost consumed, add the other half. The bees can move up into the pollen patty on warm days. DO NOT remove the wax paper. The bees will consume it. If you remove it, you’ll find on warm days, the patty can become so soft that it can melt and fall between the frames, and be messy in the hive. So keep the paper on it.
POLLEN Here’s a friend of mine who has a pollen patty on now that it is fall. You can see they have not consumed much of the pollen patty. You might also notice the Ziploc bag full of sugar water with a few holes on top to help feed the bees. Wonder why they are not consuming the pollen patty?
I found out why. He called me in fear that he might have American Foul Brood. He saw a frame that appeared greasy and spotty. So, I ran out the next day and we examined his hive. Though I have never had AFB, I have examined several frames of it in study of my master beekeeper certification. Spending any extended time in the presence of a frame of AFB makes me nauseous because it smells so horrible.
AFBMy friend pulled out the frame under suspect and I’ll let you see it here too. What do you think? Click on the image for a full size picture and see if you know what is wrong with this frame? I’ll give you a minute and then I’ll tell you… His description was accurate. Looks greasy and wet and perforated.
Nothing is wrong! This is a beautiful frame, not of brood, but of bee-bread. Bee bread is a combination of pollen and honey. Take a look at this article on the discovery of what bees do with bee bread:
Scientist solves secret of bee bread from Science News, Nov 5, 1988 by Ingrid Wickelgren
A microbiologist has discovered the microbial ingredients honeybees embed in the nutrient-packed pollen derivative known as bee bread.
Martha A. Gilliam of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Ariz., identified 107 molds, 81 yeasts and 29 bacteria in the bread while she and co-workers sifted through the yellow granules for proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes.
Workers bees newly emerged from the comb must eat bee bread so their glands produce food for the queen and developing larvae, whereas older worker bees -- the foragers -- survive primarily on honey.
"We think bee bread is somewhat more nutritious than regular pollen, but until recently, we weren't sure what happened to it [after the bees collected it]," says Elton Herbert, a research entomologist at the Agriculture Department's Beneficial Insects Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.
Using standard chemical methods, Gilliam picked apart pollen on its path from plant to hive. She took samples from beeless almond trees, from the carrying basket on the bee's leg and from the combs in the hive.
"We found that as soon as bees touch the pollen on the plant, they are adding glandular secretions, microorganisms and either honey or nectar to make it sticky," Gilliam says. The added microbes produce enzymes that help release nutrients such as amino acids from pollen, and the organisms manufacture antibiotics and fatty acids that prevent spoilage. The bees also remove unwanted microbes from the pollen.
My friend was pleased and overjoyed that his hive did not have AFB, but rather had a good source of bee bread to take into winter and next spring!
A friend had this dripping out of the edge of his hive. Anyone want to venture a guess? Most beekeepers can quickly identify it as propolis. Indeed it is as I pinched and smelled it. But the real question is why would it run out of the hive and down onto the cement stand. Email us your answers and we’ll publish them in the next lesson. Email your guess to:
Mice like warm places to overwinter. When nightly temperatures drop and farmers harvest their crops, mice look for shelter. What better place than a warm and roomy bottom board of a bee hive. Dead bees are nicely dropped down for the mice to consume. Often, mice and bees coexists without harming the other. In the spring, mama runs out of the hive with her new family. However, usually what happens is the mouse gets greedy and wants more than just dead bees. They start eating live ones, honey, wax, pollen and begin to move up into the brood next of the hive where the heat and food is and by that time, the mouse will kill the hive. It’s challenging enough to overwinter bees, so don’t over winter mice in your hives.
Usually the entrance cleat is sufficient to deter mice from taking up residency in the hive. Do keep mice out! One year I overwintered a nice number of colonies along with huge families of spring mice. That crop of mice then raised me a nice crop of snakes who stayed curled under my hives waiting for mice. So, since I stopped raising mice in my hives, I no longer have snakes either.
That’s all for now and I do hope you’ve learned a thing or two new about beekeeping. Maybe it’s all new and maybe it all sounds Greek. Don’t despair. We beekeepers just like to rattle on and on about beekeeping. But you can be an excellent beekeeper just by keeping it simple. Bees existed fine before we tried to domesticate them, so rest assured your bees will be very forgiving of your learning curve.
Here’s our contact information
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 East Rd.
Fairmount, IL 61841

PHONE 217-427-2678
Until next time, remember to BEE-Have yourself!

Monday, November 2, 2009

LESSON 66: Become a Better Beekeeper Through Books, Conferences, Magazines & Mentorship

We are David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms located in Central Illinois and it is nice to join you for another lesson in beekeeping.

Before we get started today, we are happy to announce that we are now taking online orders for packaged bees!! That's right, interest was so strong, we jumped in a week early. CLICK HERE to order your packaged bees online now. Don't delay too long as last year many people called us too late and we could no longer supply bees.
You can click on all images and enlarge them. Have you ever wondered how we make up packages of bees. Here's a video I took in April outside of Orlando, Florida. We will do it all again in just 5 months. These packages are available for local pickup from our apiary here in Illinois but must be pre-ordered online or by phone.

L673 We spent the summer adding on a new build room to our operation, and it will be a very nice addition to our production of bee hives. L674
We are already having an unusual increase in orders, which leads me to believe that it will be another year of extraordinary interest in beekeeping.
In our next lesson, I want to share some special and unique touches we have incorporated into our beehives. I can't wait to share those things with you.

And we have a new edition of our Podcast, Studio Bee Live available, so check it out at:
One more thought before we jump into today's lesson. Feed your bees on these nice fall days. Use 2:1 sugar water with Honey-B-Healthy. Several days this week will be perfect days to feed bees here in our apiary, and so I've already mixed my syrup. I'm feeding them now with chicken waterers. L672 I do have to modify the opening by placing in a piece of 1/8 hardware cloth to keep the bees from going up into the jar. They will get up into the jar and then they drown. Every beekeeper needs to have a roll of 1/8 hardware cloth available to keep bees either in or out.
L671 As you can see in the picture, since the syrup mixture is so thick, I've started heating mine on the stove to dissolve the sugar. I also add several other spices and such that I've found to be helpful. I will not share my secret receipt, not because it is a secret, but because what I do has not been tested or written up about, but I believe it in. I add a natural mineral and spice along with Honey-B-Healthy.

L675 As you can see, the bees go crazy over it. I did review various scientific research that has been done on this particular mineral to help bees, so that gave me the idea to add it to my fall syrup.
In most parts winter is setting in, the bees have kicked out all the drones and soon the bees will form their winter cluster. The bees have done all they can do to prepare for winter and we hope as beekeepers we have done our part to help them make it through the winter. There is very little we can do now except wait for spring and see how well the bees go through, what many are saying, is going to be a harsh winter.
But, why waste your time worrying and wondering about your bees! You did a good job as a beekeeper, now relax and use this winter to become a better beekeeper by reading good beekeeping books, which I want to tell you about two books that are really good, and by attending conferences and association meetings where you will find those willing to mentor you along.
First, let's look at two books that I highly recommend. HONEY BEE BIOLOGY AND BEEKEEPING by Dr. Dewey M. Caron. This is an excellent book. With some books on beekeeping, they are either oversimplified or overcomplicated. But this book finds a good balance so that it is helpful to the new beekeeper and to the experienced beekeeper as well. Dr. Caron is Professor of Entomology at the University of Delaware where he was presented the University's Outstanding Teaching Award.
Here's what Dr. Caron says about this book. "My intent is to explain bee and beekeeping basics in a manner meaningful to a person who lacks an extensive background or knowledge of biology. Yet I have not oversimplified bee biology to the point where it is meaningless to the serous beekeeper or informed biologist."
I will suggest where you can purchase this book, but first let me tell you about another great book because you can purchase both books from the same place.
The second book is another book that I highly recommend. "What Do You Know" by Dr. Clarence H. Collison. I met Dr. Collison in August at the Eastern Apicultural Society conference in New York. Dr. Collison heads up the master beekeeping program. Dr. Collison is Professor of Entomology and Head of the Department of Entomology and Plant Pathology at Mississippi State University, Mississippi State, MS. He has also had a column in the magazine, BEE CULTURE, for over two decades.
This book is fun! It allows you to answer questions to see how much you really know about beekeeping, then the next chapter gives you the answers so you can see how well you did and learn the correct answer.
Both books are available at WICWAS PRESS. Dr. Lawrence Connor is WICWAS PRESS. He's an Entomologist and is always on the cutting edge of beekeeping and has a column in the magazine, AMERICAN BEE CULTURE. Contact Larry today and order these two books. You can email Larry at or call him at: 269-344-8027 or online at
These two books will greatly advance your beekeeping knowledge!
Most state beekeeping associations offer conferences and classes. Most areas have small affiliate beekeeping associations. To find one near you, you should contact either your state's Department of Agriculture or Department of Natural Services. You can also contact your local county extension office. Attending local bee clubs and state associations is a great way to meet other beekeepers, learn from knowledgeable and experienced beekeepers and develop friendships that can turn into mentorships. By subscribing to the beekeeping magazines, you can read all about the conferences, workshops and classes in your area.
I used to think that subscribing to beekeeping magazines were expensive. But, when you consider the information you gain and how much money that information can save you through better beekeeping practices, it is well worth the investment. There are two major and well known monthly magazines: AMERICAN BEE JOURNAL also know in conversation as ABJ. It's a product of Dadant & Sons in Hamilton, Illinois. The second magazine is BEE CULTURE. It's a product of the A.I. Root company. Both journals provide the latest discoveries. I highly recommend that the serious beekeeper invest in subscribing to both magazines. Click on the links below for more info on each:

Finally, let's talk about mentors. Every new beekeeper could benefit from having a more experienced beekeeper to lean on. Of course, not everyone who keeps bees is a beekeeper. Some are bee-havers, meaning they just have bees but they have not gained experienced through the above mentioned points of learning. So here's what to look for in a mentor:
1) Has kept bees for at least 5 consecutive years.
2) Attends regular club meetings or state association meetings, classes or conferences.
3) Is well read in beekeeping.
4) Lives near you or has email and you have the ability to email digital pictures of your hives when you have questions.
5) Is willing to help you.
It really is nice, when you first start keeping bees, to have someone that can answer what you might call "silly questions". I think that new beekeepers would enjoy beekeeping faster if they spent the first year being tutored by a seasoned and well informed beekeeper.
Thanks for stopping by for another lesson in beekeeping. Do keep us in mind for all your beekeeping needs.
Click here to order your hives today. Remember two hives are always better than one. If one hive begins to weaken or loses their queen, you can use bees and frames from your other hive to strengthen the weaker hive.
For those of you wishing to drive out and pick up your supplies but not sure of our location, the easiest way to find us is to go to and type Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, then click on MAPS
Here's our contact information:
PHONE: 217-427-2678
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 East Road
Fairmount, IL 61841
Until next time, BEE-Have yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms