Hello from David and Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in Illinois! How are you?Thank you for supporting our family business with your beekeeping needs. We know you can go elsewhere, so we value your loyalty. When you purchase from Long Lane, you are supporting a hard working, small family business. It’s harder to find small family businesses anymore but it’s what America was built on. We appreciate your business. Spring has sprung and we are off to a great start for another bee season. We’ve hit a milestone because last week was our package bee pickup weekend.
All year long we build up to that one big day when we distribute packages of bees. The day went very well. We had some of our past helpers here as well as our family and some new folks helping like Joe and Scott. We had several calls and emails thanking us for having a great staff to make the chaotic day go as well as possible. With hundreds of customers and over 6 million bees to keep straight, it really did go well.
This year we used a new package, a plastic cage system. Overall we really do prefer these cages. It provides better ventilation for the bees, finger grooves for easier candy can removal and we hope that people will be more likely to return them to us. Cages have always cost us alot and unlike some places we do not charge a deposit on our cages. But if you can bring back your cage, that’s one less we have to buy next year.
Now that the bees are installed and growing I want to provide a lesson on how to inspect your new bees, what to look for, what you can correct now, how to feed and how to use the Green Drone Comb Varroa Traps.
It’s not too late to start beekeeping! There’s still time to buy a hive from us and call my friend for a nuc. As of Friday, he had several nucs of bees still left. We recommend starting with two hives, and we sell our freedom kit which is two hives and all the supplies you need (bees not included). Call us first so we can make sure nucs are still available. We are on central time: M-Thu 10am- 4pm and Friday 10-Noon. Please call us after Tuesday because tomorrow is an exciting day for our family and we’ll be closed.
This Tuesday our Marine son Seth will be home for three weeks for his post-deployment leave from Afghanistan. We will be picking him up in Indy at 9am EST time and then meeting up at Lynch Rd Big Boy Restaurant just inside Illinois to be escorted into Catlin by the Patriot Guard Riders. We will then be meeting at the American Legion in Catlin for lunch. After I finish this lesson I’ll be poking some flags in the ground down our long lane. It is amazing the courage and sacrifice these young men and women have to serve our country. Welcome home Lance Corporal Seth Burns. Needless to say we’ll be closed on Tuesday.
We still have openings in our week long Beekeeping Institute. Click here to see all our upcoming classes. There are so many classes being offered everywhere. There are some very good teachers out there, but to really receive a thorough teaching it takes at least 6 hours. If you took a 1 or 2 hour class you still have so much your instructor did not have time to teach. All of our classes are 6 hour courses. Please consider taking one of our classes. I am an EAS certified master beekeeper and we have a strong focus on beekeeping education. Time and time again we receive calls from beekeepers who lost bees in the winter and we ask if they took a class. So many have not. Taking a class does not mean bees will not die in the winter, but it will give you greater strategies to prepare your bees for winter.
Our next class is an advance beekeeping course May 23-24. Friday night and then Saturday morning. Click here for more information. We still have a few spots open.
LESSON 153: How To Inspect Your Bee Hive
After you install your new package of bees or nuc, you’ll want to inspect your bees. Here’s what you are looking for:
1. Is the queen out of her cage (packages not nuc) ?
2. Is the queen laying eggs?
3. Are the bees drawing our new foundation and making comb on the frames?
4. Monitor the green drone comb trap.
5. Is there sufficient sugar water to assist the bees in drawing out comb?
6. Several things should be corrected if not noticed.
First, on new packages, you’ll need to inspect your hive about 5-7 days after you install your package to insure the queen is out of her cage. Notice that you’ll probably have worker bees playing in the queen cage so do not be alarmed if you see bees in the cage. It probably isn’t the queen. Start your inspection with the frame nearest the outside wall of the hive. Remove it slowly and set it aside.
Do the same on the next frame. Now you have enough room to slide the third frame against the wall because you’ve removed two frames. Slide frames gently until you create enough space to lift out the queen cage from between two frames. Set the queen cage aside on top of the other frames for a moment while you continue to inspect frames for the presence of your queen. Always manipulate frames in slow motion to keep the bees as calm as possible, avoiding sudden movements.
Once you find the queen on a frame, be extra careful to hold the frame with the queen over the hive should she fall off. Look for the presence of eggs on this frame. Once you spot your queen, please be very careful not to inadvertently kill her. Make sure she is near the center of a frame and not near the edge when you place the frame back into position or you may smash her. Place all frames back in the same order and position you took them out. Take a count of drawn comb so that you can evaluate the colony’s progress the next time you inspect.
We highly recommend you use green drone comb to trap varroa mites. Pull out your drone comb and monitor how much the bees have drawn out the comb and if the queen has laid in this special green comb. Keep an eye on it so you’ll know when to remove it to kill the mites.
The heavier you feed bees, the faster they will draw out their comb. The more sugar water they consume the more wax they produce. If they are not building much comb, feed more or check feeders to ensure the colony has access to the 1:1 sugar water. Perhaps a lid on an entrance feeder is clogged or a round pale feeder is empty. I add Honey-Bee-Healthy to my sugar water because it stimulates the bees to find and consume this food source.
Let’s go through some scenarios that could indicate a problem.
1. Funky comb being drawn out in columns rather than evenly. Now is a good time to fix this. These columns can be built on the foundation and if left will make the hive impossible to inspect in the future. I remove the columns, spray the foundation with sugar water, and ball up the wax I removed and rub it evenly across the undrawn frame to encourage the bees do draw out foundation evenly. This is a tough call when this may be the only frame with eggs. Sometimes I am forced to leave a funky drawn comb because it may contain my only brood. I wait until later to deal with it after the hive is more populated.
2. No presence of the queen. Don’t jump to conclusions just yet. Are there eggs in the cells? Maybe she is walking on the wall or floor of the hive, sometimes I’ve even seen her on the lid or inner cover. Check for eggs or larvae. If you see brood, assume you have a queen, and just look for her in two weeks when she will probably be back on a comb. If you do not see any eggs or larvae, purchase a new queen ASAP! Do not delay. If you can purchase a queen quickly, this would be more advantageous than waiting for a queen cell to emerge. Every moment your hive is not “queen-right” increases the chances that your hive will not make it through the winter. They need to be large in numbers before winter. Every day you go without a queen you are losing out on 1,000 plus new bees A DAY!!! Winter prep starts on your first inspection.
3. Watch out for cold nights! This week, here in Illinois we will have several nights in the low 40s which means these new packages will be clustering at night to stay warm. Even in Amarillo, Texas the low Wednesday night is 41. The low on Thursday night is 45 in Tennessee. I try not to just make this a “northern” lesson, so we’ll have some cold night around the country this week. In some places it will warm up enough for the bees to fly the next day, but some parts of the country bees will not be able to fly in the day due to rain. In this case the colony will rapidly run out of food stores. I strongly recommend you make sure all new colonies from packages be fed heavily during this cold, rainy snap. I make up protein and sugar patties and lay on top of frames. When colonies are clustered they will usually not be able to break cluster to go down and eat from the entrance feeders. Top feeders are good for cold nights, or my patty idea. I’m already placing my patties on my hives to get them use to eating them prior to this upcoming cold snap and rainy period. Remember if bees can’t fly out on a rainy day, they consume so much of what they have already gathered. This is only an issue for a new colony on undrawn foundation. Established colonies or nucs do not demand as much attention during brief cold snaps.
4. You have mites! Do not assume you do not have varroa mites and make the mistake of doing nothing. I will do my first powdered sugar dusting on my first inspection and in combination with my green drone comb and screen bottom board I will attempt to stay ahead of the mites. In one week my bees from a new package pulled out the comb on a green drone comb as seen in the photo.
If you ignore your mites, the chances of your colony dying in the winter is greatly increased. Bees bitten by mites only live half their life span, 22 days instead of 45 days in the summer.
To all our new beekeepers, relax and stop worrying. Do not fret over your bees. Enjoy the hobby. I’ll keep walking you through this and maybe you’ll pick up some wisdom you can apply to your hive.
6. Now that everyone knows you are a beekeeper have a spare hive so that you can respond to a swarm hive. This time of the year bees multiply by sending out half the colony with the old queen. This is rare with new packages, but is expected with healthy second year colonies. Having that extra hive for quick response can make all the difference on whether the swarm will stay or swarm again. Click here to order now.
Finally, are you prepared for a honey harvest in a few months? We have a new harvest kit that comes with some new and effective ways to harvest your honey. It is a plastic device that fits on top of the honey bucket with a valve at the bottom. Also comes with a strainer and lid and a cold uncapping knife. See all the details by clicking here.
Thank you for supporting our family business with your beekeeping needs. We value your loyalty. It’s harder to find small family business anymore but it’s what America was built on. We appreciate your business.
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms