Monday, December 31, 2007

Lesson 20: Different Types of Honey Bees

 Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we are committed to help you be a successful beekeeper. David is a certified master beekeeper. We are offering 2 days of Queen Rearing classes June 27-28, and two Basic Beekeeping courses Oct 4 and Oct 25. Click here for more information.

One thing that I have discovered is that we must learn to enjoy life, be good to others, reduce our stress and have something positive to look forward to and give back. My family encourages me and gives me joy. And our church family is encouraging to us. And as weird as this may sound, my bees give me a lot of joy! The more hives I have, the more stress is relieved. And to be honest with you my bees give me something to look forward to each year. I believe that if we stay busy, learn a hobby like beekeeping and keeping our minds on positive things, we are all around better off--at least I am.
I promised to share about the different types of honey bees in today's lesson.
Honey bees are not the same as bumble bees, wasps and yellow jackets. The scientific name for the honey bee that we have in America is Apis Mellifera. Apis Mellifera is actually one of eight species of honey bees. Apis Mellifera actually means "honey carrying bee". This is slightly incorrect in that a honey bee carries nectar not honey, but the name still stands.
Stay with me on this; I don't want to lose you. Apis Mellifera is a species of honey bee but within that species there are races. My favorite is the Italian honey bee, known as Apis Mellifera Ligustica, known to beekeepers as the Italian honey bee. This is the bee that most of us enjoy keeping the most. Then we have Apis Mellifera Carnica known as a Carniolan honey bee. Another popular honey bee is Apis Mellifera Caucasca, known as the Caucasian honey bee. These different races are unique because they were introduced into America from specific geographical regions from other parts of the world which gives them each unique characteristics.
Another species of honey bee that makes the press is Apis Mellifera Scutellata, the Africanized bee, imported into America from Brazil in the 1950s.
Now that we know about the Italian, Carniolan and Caucasian honey bee, let's look at other honey bees. Some have crossed these races of bees or have selected certain traits and have produced hybrid honey bees from within a species. This has given us Cordovans, Buckfast, Russian, Starline, Minnesota Hygenic and many other honey bees that have been bred for specific traits.
Which Honey Bee Is Best?
It is a matter of opinion, and my opinion is the Italian. But, let me give you some commonly accepted traits of each species and the common hybrids. Before I do, let me say that these claims of trait specific races and hybrids are claims. Certainly selected breeding has produced unique characteristics and I'm sure someone scientifically measured the results, but results can vary.
Russian bees, known for their resistance to mites, can die of mite infestations. Italians that are known for not swarming as much, can still swarm alot. Carniolan that are known for their rapid spring build up can fail and for some reason not build up fast in the spring. But again, let me give you what is commonly credited to the difference honey bees.
Italian- Apis Mellifera Ligustica
GOOD TRAITS: Very gentle, good brood pattern, isn't so prone to swarm as much, great honey producer, light on excess propolis and makes nice looking white comb honey. A great bee for someone new to beekeeping. POOR TRAITS: Can drift between hives and not find their home. Are prone to rob other hives during a dearth. A dearth is a lull in nectar flow.
Caucasian- Apis Mellifera Caucasca
GOOD TRAITS: They have a long proboscis or tongue. So they can work certain flowers other honey bees cannot. Very gentle. POOR TRAITS: They don't build up very fast in the spring and are very heavy on propolis, making the hive very sticky to work. Can rob more.
Carniolan- Apis Mellifera Carnica
GOOD TRAITS: Explosive spring build up, are not so prone to rob, are very, very gentle, and good comb producers. POOR TRAITS: Explosive build up means more swarms. Honey production is less than the Italian bee.
Russian- Hybrid
A product of the U.S. Dept. Of Agriculture's Honey Bee Breeding Genetics, and Physiology Lab of Baton Rouge, Louisiana by importing this bee from the Primorski region of the Sea of Japan because it had survived mites for 150 years. It is not a species but a hybrid.
GOOD TRAITS: Bred to be more resistant to mites and more winter Hardy. POOR TRAITS: Produces lots of propolis, always seems to have swarm cells in the hive, and moderate honey producer.
Buckfast- Hybrid

A product of Brother Adam (1898-1996). He spent his entire life perfecting the Buckfast honey bee hybrid. He claimed to have eaten a teaspoon of honey a day and in case you don't want to do the math, he lived to be 98!

GOOD TRAITS: Strong resistance to tracheal mites and good hygienic behavior.

POOR TRAITS: Can be defensive.

Minnesota Hygienic- Hybrid
A result of the work of Dr. Marla Spivak of the University of Minnesota. A few months ago, my wife and I traveled to a queen rearing conference in Ohio where Gary Reuter was one of the main speakers. Gary is a Research Technician at the University of Minnesota working with Dr. Marla Spivak. Dr. Spivak and her team were able to produce a trait within breeder queens, a trait where the bees are able to reduce disease by being exceptionally hygienic.
GOOD TRAITS: Good honey producers and more able to resist American Foul Brood disease. POOR TRAITS: Those mostly common to the Italian bee since this is an Italian bee.
Many other beekeepers and breeders have their special line of queens that they are breeding, making claims, that to them, are very true and founded. But to be honest, there is always the flip side. To gain a positive characteristic may mean you gain two negative characteristics.
In my opinion, beginning beekeepers should begin with an Italian bee. Then, as your apiary expands, you can experiment with a different bee, and see how it goes.

I've tried many different races, and have gone back to the Italian bee. My Russians were too aggressive, didn't make enough honey, and swarmed WAY TOO OFTEN.

Bee-Have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

LESSON 19: Requeening A Hive

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.


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.

As a beekeeper, you must understand several important factors regarding your queen. The queen is the most important bee in the entire colony. She lays the eggs. She determines the overall health and productivity of the colony. She even influences how hygienic her daughters are toward mites and disease. And though she may live four or five years, she will be at her best only for one to two years. After that, she needs replaced. Out of all the hives I have lost over the years, yearly requeening would have saved most of my hives.

The queen! You gotta love her. You know that when you go to bed at night, your queen is keeping order, giving directions and expanding your hive. She's in charge. You keep bees, but really the queen is the real bee keeper. The hive's success is kept under her watchful eye.
But here's another hard fact to face. Not all beekeepers replace their queens every year or two. Though requeening has so many positive benefits, it just takes time and it is expensive unless you raise your own queens. Therefore, many beekeepers don't bother, and yet they complain about how they didn't take off as much honey or how the hive has mites.

You should seriously consider requeening your hive once a year. You will have to determine where to buy your queen, from stock that you prefer. I don't like buying queens from others. Even though there are many impressive breeder queen suppliers, you just really never know the quality of your queen until she is released and goes to work in your hive.

I'll address queen stock in a moment, but for now, let's consider requeening a hive. Who? When? What? Where? and Why? These are questions surrounding requeening a hive. Beginners seem to be reluctant to requeen, because most beginners do not have the confidence yet to open a hive, maticulously search every frame until the queen is located, grab her in your hand, and put the hive back together quickly. But, it really isn't all that bad. Let me give you some tricks of the trade.

Simply put, here's how to requeen a hive. Find the old queen if the hive still has a queen, remove her and introduce the new queen. That's it. Sounds simple, and sometimes it is just that simple. However, more often than not, it takes a bit more work.

We've talked about why to requeen, not let's talk about when. September is often viewed as the best month to requeen because it allows your young queen time to become well established with her hive prior to winter. In fact, she may lay some good brood of winter bees. Winter bees live a month or two longer because they are not working much during their lifetime due to mainly riding out the winter in a cluster. And, when Spring arrives, a new queen will be ready to lay as the weather warms up. However, requeening in September is more difficult because during September there is not a heavy nectar flow and bees more readily accept a new queen during a heavy nectar flow.

I prefer September because it produces the most Spring benefits. However, it also carries with it the most liabilities. A liability might be that they bees will not accept her, and the weather may keep me from inspecting to insure she is accepted and laying well. Thus, there is a risk in removing an old laying queen for a new one, because the new one could be a dud, worse than the older one. No queen in September means no winter get the picture. It's worth the challenge, but it is a challenge.

Use marked queens. A marked queen helps you spot her, and lets you know if she has been replaced. For those of you living in the deep south and southwest, where there are reports of Africanized bees a marked queen ensures you that your queen has not been replaced by an Africanized queen.

Use a frame holder. Back in my early days of beekeeping, I had trouble finding my queens, because I could carefully search a frame, put it back in the hive, pull out another frame and never find her. Why not? Because I missed seeing her, or as soon as I started pulling a frame out, she would jump onto a frame that I had just inspected and placed back into the hive. The trick? Use a frame holder. We sell these simple frame holders that slip onto the top of the hive body so you can hang inspected frames outside the frame until your inspection is complete, preventing the queen from jumping back onto an inspected frame.
Learn to spot the queen by those around her.
Click on the picture to the left and see if you can spot the queen. The bees have formed a partial circle near her.
When looking at a frame full of bees, if you can't find the queen try looking over the entire frame and observe how the bees are behaving.
Two things signal a queen. First, she is often encircled by bees. Not always, but often enough that you should look for this circle of bees. Secondly, bees get out of her way. In addition to these two signals, I've even tracked her down by her occasional sound she sometimes makes. It's almost like a faint sound of a smoke detector only more rapid and with a slight buzz. This is called piping. It is most common when a queen is newly released and it not heard so much from mated, established queens unless there is a new queen being introduced in a hive that already has a queen and the two are politicking for followers.
Look for freshly laid eggs. Another trick that I use is to carefully examine the unsealed brood cells. I look for freshly laid eggs. Ah, then I know the queen was at that cell not too long ago. It's sort of a bread crumb trail. I rarely find queens on full combs of honey or pollen, but mainly only on opened cell comb, that's just right for laying eggs.
I Found Her And Want To Replace Her...Now What Do I Do?
Normally, a queen will not sting. Unlike the working bee, the queen does not lose her stinger but it is rare for her to sting the beekeeper. I've never been stung by a queen, even when holding them captive in my hand between bee yards. But it is possible.
Usually if you are removing a queen to requeen a hive you probably do not want to use that queen in a nuc or another hive. You are requeening her usually because she is too aged or substandard. Let me put it nicely. She's done. I’ll leave it to your creative thinking as to how you wish to end her life.
Timing is important. You need to have your replacement queen on hand before you kill the substandard queen. Once you remove the old queen, wait at least 24 hours before introducing the new queen. You may even wait up to 2 days. However, remember that your bees will know that they are queenless and will begin to resolve their problem by raising their own queen from a fertilized egg. This is one way to requeen a hive, just allow the bees to raise their own queen. In doing it this way, you have to wait three to four weeks before she will emerge, mate and begin laying. And remember that by raising your own queen she will have most of the characteristics of her mother. That may or may not be what you want.
So, after waiting a couple of days, you can now introduce your new queen. Before doing so, check the hive to be sure there are no queen cells. You can remove sealed queen cells and use them in other hives such as splits, nucs or queenless hives by gently pressing them into the comb of a queenless hive.
How Do I Introduce A New Queen?
There are many ways to introduce a queen. It boils down to two basic methods. Direct release and indirect release. Direct release is rarely a good idea as the bees will usually "ball" the queen and kill her. On rare occasions I have directly released queens into queenless hives successfully. Once I covered the queen with honey, and set her near the entrance. Bees will come out, clean the honey off the queen, and usually she will walk in once she is well groomed. Sometimes I have sprayed down the hive with sugar water with peppermint extract in the water. The smell seems to neutralize the bees from attacking the queen.

On the other hand, the indirect release method allows the bees a chance to get used to the queen before she is free to walk among them. However, prior to her release, she must be in the hive, but kept safely from the bees who may want to initially kill her.

Old time beekeepers used a method that is still very successful even today, though many people have either never heard of it, or don't use it. It's a queen cage made out of hardware cloth, shaped like a square, about 1/2 - 3/4 inch tall with the bottom missing. It is pressed down over sealed comb with the queen inside, holding the queen within the cage. Be sure that no other bees are in the cage, only the queen. This gives time for the queen to be accepted by the other bees.

What has almost replaced this method is that of indirectly releasing the queen in cage she was shipped it, the mailing cage. These shipping cages are the same that are included with packaged bees. However, some queen suppliers are using a combination of a mailing cage and a push it screen cage.
Click on the two videos below to see the cages in greater details.

When your queen arrives in her mailing cage, the cage will have a candy plug on one end. You will have to remove the cork to expose the candy plug. Now, take a very small nail or pin, and carefully poke a very small hole through the candy plug. Be careful not to make it too large. And when you poke it through, be careful not to injure the queen on the other side. This hole will encourage the bees to begin to eat their way through the candy. This usually takes a couple of days.

Place the cage between the frames. By placing the candy plug up, the queen can always climb up and out and the opening will never be blocked by her dead attendants. By the time the candy plug has been eaten through, the queen will have become accepted within the hive. It is very important to wait one week before opening your hive after installing the new queen.

In one week, inspect the hive to ensure the queen is out of her cage, alive and if you have drawn comb you can inspect to see if she is laying.

Now, let's go back to the old fashioned cage that is pressed into the comb over capped brood. I like it! It works well. Any emerging bees within the caged area immediately take to their new queen. Her pheromone has a chance to spread over comb and on to other near by bees. This is a good method to use in September to help the queen become accepted in the absence of a nectar flow.

We make and sell these cages. Our cages do come with a small opening where you can insert a mini marshmallow. This serves as a candy plug, giving time for the bees to accept the queen while they eat through the marshmallow.

How Do I Select New Queens And Where Do I Find Good Suppliers

Trial and error will lead you to a good queen provider, and the supplier may or may not be a well known and long established breeder. You may find that the best queens are raised by the beekeeper down the road who has 30 or 40 hives and is willing to sell you sealed queen cells. I have pursued the various ads boasting of a great queen only to find didn't live up to how she was advertised. However, there are some suppliers who go to great lengths to raise the best possible quality queens.
Personally, I am more successful in operating my hives with survivor stock queens, queens that I find in barns and trees, feral queens who have already demonstrated that they can survive cold winters, mites, disease and swarm very little. I keep track of the hives in my yards that continue to survive year after year and produce an above average amount of honey and from these hives I raise my own queens.
I use a new queen rearing system that allows me to never have to graft eggs with tools. This system works great and can produce hundreds of queens in several easy steps. We also sell these systems. They are expensive, but can pay for themselves after producing just 10 queens. It is worth the investment.
Which Race Of Queen Is Better?
There are many races of queens each claiming to have unique characteristics. Here's a few common ones:
Italian, Minnesota Hygienic, Cordovan, Caucasians, Carniolans, Russian, and Buckfast . We’ll look at the different characteristic of these queens in our next lessons.
Please keep in mind that the Spring beekeeping season is fast upon us. I will begin brief inspections and placing pollen patties in my hives in less than 60 days! I will place all my supers on my hives in 120 days. That means I must get everything ready and in order within the next 120 days. There’s lots for me and you to do to get all of our beekeeping equipment ready for Spring. Let’s not put that off.

Merry Christmas from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
David & Sheri Burns

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lesson Eighteen: How Many Hives Should You Start With?

Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we are committed to help you be a successful beekeeper. David is a certified master beekeeper. We are offering 2 days of Queen Rearing classes June 27-28, and two Basic Beekeeping courses Oct 4 and Oct 25. Click here for more information.

Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, and greetings from David & Sheri! This is the time of the year when our family celebrates the birth of Jesus, and enjoys time with relatives. Not to mention it's also the time of the year I eat too much homemade yummies! So Merry Christmas from our family to you.

Today, I thought I was going to talk about requeening a hive, but I want to answer some common questions surrounding the matter of how many hives to start with when keeping bees. I'll try and get to requeening next time. Before I share today's lesson, let me tell you a few other things. The kind of things friends chit-chat about when they first get together...

I haven't heard a peep out of my bees. In fact, their hives are all covered with snow. Take a look at the picture below of some of my hives. I took this picture Saturday. You can click on the picture to see a larger version. Isn't that pretty? I think you can right click on the picture and save it to your computer and make it your desktop background image!

You might be wondering about my entrances being glogged with snow. Normally, I would clear them after each snow. However, since I use screen bottom boards, I don't worry about ventilation through the entrance. But, I will need to clear it out before the next warm day when the bees will want to take a potty break.

I like it when it get's cold like this because it keeps my bees in a warm tight cluster, not eating much. If we have warm winters, they can get more active and eat more. I'm often guilty of taking off more honey than I should have, cutting the bees pretty close on winter reserves.

Now for today's lesson! How many hives should you start with?

When getting started in beekeeping, a common question is, "How many hives should I start with?"
Many people who are first starting out wonder if they can handle more than one hive. They rationalize that if beekeeping doesn't work out, then it is easier to get out of it with only one hive. Let me tell you what my opinion is on how many hives to begin beekeeping.
Keep in mind that colonies of honeybees can and do sometimes die out even after we do everything right. I call it a natural death.  If you have only one hive, and it goes wrong, then you don't have any hives left! With a few hives, two or more, you're always able to compare hives and keep going even though you might lose one along the way. Click here to see our two hive discount. I'm not ashamed to admit it that I've lost a few hives due to my own neglect or mismanagement. I'm just thankful I had a bunch of other hives to do it right with after I learned from my mistakes. This is why it is better to start with multiple hives than just one.

When people ask me how many should they start with, I usually tell them, "As many as you can afford". Many people who start with one or two usually call back and order more the next year. For those who truly enjoy beekeeping, they are always seeking ways to add more hives to their apiary. I realize that available space and time has to be considered. However, there is always a way to gain more places to place bees without having to buy land. Many farmers and land owners will gladly let you place your bees on their property for nothing more than a few jars of honey in return.
The average backyard hobbyist should always start with 2 or more. Why? With two hives, you can compare the hives to each other. Usually if both hives are acting the same way, it is a normal bee "thing". If one colony loses its queen, then you can place a frame of brood with 1-3 day old eggs from the other hive into your queenless hive and they will raise their own. And if one colony becomes weak, you can equalize the two hives by adding more bees to the weaker hive. With one hive these management practices are not possible.
Let me answer several questions that I am asked regarding the number of hives to begin with:

If I get more than one hive, will it require a lot of time?
How much time you dedicate to beekeeping is entirely up to you. The extemes are, you can do nothing more than install your package in the Spring and do nothing at all, to the other extreme of inspecting your hives every two weeks. A good management practice is to inspect you hives every two weeks. This should only take about 15 minutes per hive. So for two hives, that's only a hour a month. But, here's how it really works for a lot of folks just getting started in beekeeping. They love it so much, they are always in the hive, looking at it, pulling frames out and showing friends and realtives. I opened one hive 5 times in one day show interested people the inside of a hive. It does disrupt their activities, so it is best to limit your inspections to twice a month, but some new beekeepers can't stay out of the hive, because it is so much fun. And the distruption is worth the experience you get by opening up the hive. With the more hives you have, the more you can inspect different hives and enjoy your hobby more.
I once had a real nice motorcycle the kind you have to polished after every ride. I spent less time keeping 100 hives than keeping that motorcycle waxed! It really is manageable.

With several hives, will the bees from one hive be confused and not know which is their hive?Will the hives fight each other?
Bees keep to themselves pretty well. Each hive has a unique smell, to the bees, not to us. They will not bother other hives. As you can see by the snow picture above, I try to keep about 6-8 inches between my hives so that on windy days, they don't drift into the wrong box. Even if a few do, it is not a big deal.
Will they fight each other? No. They keep to their own business. In the fall, during a dearth of nectar, a very strong hive might try to rob a very weak hive. But through proper management this will not be an issue. Proper management means keeping hives equal and avoiding attracting bees to another hive by mishandling honey or honey supers in the weak hive. Don't work a weak hive for very long in late summer or early fall.

How close together can I place multiple hives?
I've had hives on pollination pallets which were only 3/4" a part from each other, 4 hives on a pallet. But I think 6 - 8 inches is a minimal. And if you have a bit more space, give them a foot or two. Don't place them too far a part or else you'll be walking too much to work them. I keep them close so I can go right down the line when I am working my hives. If you have more 4 or more, try to make a "U" shape bee yard, like a horseshoe shape apiary yard. This helps the bees identify their hive quickly and it provides a little wind break for landings and takeoffs.

Can too many hives in one area deplete the available nectar source?
I've heard people argue that too many hives in one area can cause a depletion in nectar in that area so that only the strong hives do well. That might be possible if you live in the middle of a desert with only a hand full of flowers within 12 miles.
Most of us live in areas where there is plenty of nectar sources. Bees are sharp when it comes to finding nectar. Just like we are sharp in finding food when we are hungry. You know where some good restraunts are and if you don't you know how to go out looking for that perfect steak house. Bees are even better than we are at finding food.
It is extremely important to remember that bees fly 2-3 miles out to gather nectar. I think some people think of bees as dogs, meaning that they think the bees will stay in their yard. Unless you have a huge yard, it aint' going to happen.
Now, let's say you live in town and you own a regular lot where beekeeping is permissible. Your bees will fly 2 to 3 miles around searching for nectar. One of my bee yards is located just on the edge of a city of 10,000 people. The bees fly straight up and out and late this summer they brought in a lot of alfalfa honey. They weren't getting this in town!
Within a 2 mile radious there are over 8,000 acres. A 3 mile radius includes over 12,000 acres of nectar to choose from! Wow!
Now, to better illustrate how much nectar is within a 3 mile radius, I've taken a satelite image of my home where I have about 30 hives. I have superimposed a circle that represents a 3 mile radius. Look at how much land that emcompasses.

Even though I'm about 4-5 miles away from some towns near me, it's only about 3 miles the way the bee flies. And if you notice near the top of the picture, there is a large river that runs through the 3 mile radius which means lots of river bottom flowers even in dry weather.
It just makes better practice to start with two or more hives. I started with one hive and through neglect it died off and since I had only one hive, I was out of beekeeping for several years.

Now don't let me discourage you if you can only start with one hive. You can start with one and do great! You can add more and more hives as the years go by. And, your one hive may never die. Instead, you might get many splits from your first hive. You just never know. But, your chances of success are increased by the more hives you have.
Thanks for dropping by and spending some time with me today, talking about beekeeping. It's lots of fun, isn't it! Feel free to email me some questions and I'll be happy to consider turning them into some future lessons! Together we're all learning so much!
Be sure to check out our website for all your bee hive needs at

You can order directly from us, at 217-427-2678!

See ya next time and remember to BEE-Have yourself!

David & Sheri

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The Beekeeper's Calendar Of Important Events

We are excited that our hives and beekeeping equipment are in such demand! Wow, and what excites us even more is that many of our new customers are new to beekeeping! Honeybees are going to make a come back as more and more people begin to keep bees!! Several of you have been sharing this blog with others...THANK YOU!! And, others have been sharing our prices with others, and sending more customers our way...THANK YOU!!

Today, my father-in-law broke his morning record and built 42 deep and medium supers. He hammered 1004 nails!
Sheri and I are ordinary folks, who started keeping bees as a hobby and eventually found it to be so enjoyable and rewarding that it turned into a business. However, to be honest with you, we are a mom and pop operation. So when you call in, you're either get mom or pop! We'll treat you like family and do our best to answer your questions and help you any way we can. If you ever stop by, you'll find me in a flannel shirt with old blue jeans spotted with wood glue and paint. We're just hard working folks. And we appreciate your business.

Although we are always learning more and more about beekeeping, we've learned a lot over the years. So, these lessons are FREE, a gift from us to you, so that you can avoid the mistakes that we made, and hopefully get off to a much easier start keeping bees. Back in 1994 when I started my first honeybee hive, I didn't know what I was doing and had no one to talk to much about it. I was lost and made huge mistakes. So, you've got a friend in us!

In today's lesson, we want to give you a yearly calendar of what we think you should be doing as a beekeeper each month and a summary of what your bees are doing. This may vary slightly due to the variation in climates, but you can make the adjustments accordingly.


JANUARY AND THE BEES: The bees are in a tight cluster staying warm and consuming very little food. On days when the wind is calm and the temperature rises above 40, you'll probably see a few bees flying out taking a cleansing flight. Since bees do not go to the bathroom inside their hive, they fly out on warm days and this is called a cleansing flight. Winter bees live a little longer than summer bees, but remember, bees live short lives. Many of your bees will die during the winter, just from old age. When bees die during the winter, they fall to the bottom of the hive. In the summer, die bees are immediately carried outside the hive by their sisters. But, in the winter, when the hive is clustered, the dead bees accumulate on the bottom board. On warm days, other bees might try and drag out their dead sisters. When snow covers the ground, you will noticed more dead bees around your hives. This is normal. Don't panic! It is a sign of a strong hive when they drags out dead bees. But, if you don't see anything don't panic either. It just means they will probably do this later on.

JANUARY AND THE BEEKEEPER: Monitor your hives to make sure winter winds have not disturbed the tops. Also, make sure that after it snows, that the openings are cleared of snow so that the bees can continue to get enough air, and move freely in and out of the entrance on warm days.

Many bees suppliers will completely sell out of package bees by the end of January. You must call and place your bee order as soon as you can during the first week of January. Otherwise, you may not be able to secure your bee purchases for the 2008 year. Those of you who will be ordering your bees from us, Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we will be prepared to take your orders for package bees and nucs beginning on Wednesday January 2nd and everyday thereafter until we run out. Call early!

Make sure you join and attend your local beekeeping club, read up on beekeeping, and clean up your smoker and hive tool.


FEBRUARY AND THE BEES: Sunlight is becoming slightly longer and a few more warm days triggers the queen to start laying a few more eggs. Their cluster has worked its way upward into the top deep brood chamber. They are basically behaving the same as it January.

FEBRUARY AND THE BEEKEEPER: On a warm day, 50 degrees or more, you can open the top briefly and look in on the hive. Do not remove any frames, as this will chill the bees and the brood. Upon inspection you can assess if the colony still has enough stored honey for food. If not, you may want to consider emergency feeding options.

Emergency feeding is just emergency. So do whatever it takes to get some sugar in the hive. Dry sugar will work but only if the bees have warm enough days to fly out for water. There may not be many days warm enough in northern states for dry sugar feedings or hard candy feedings. Sometimes I have soaked sponges in heavy sugar water and jammed the sponge between the frames near the cluster. You can also place a plastic zip-lock bag full of sugar water directly over the cluster and poke a few holes on the top of the bag or make a slit in the bag. Do anything you can think of...after all it is better than letting the hive starve to death. Of course, if you have frames of honey available, that's the best way to feed them, but most of us have sold all our honey by now.

You might also consider placing a pollen patty on top of the upper deep box. This will really work well if the end of winter is extremely mild and there are many warm days. Pollen patties stimulate the laying of more eggs. However, if the weather turns cold again, then the bees may not be able to keep this early brood warm and fed. So it is a gamble this early for northern states.

Finally, if you did not order your package bees in January, you must do it now! And if you did not order your new equipment, hurry! You want all of your hive equipment ready by March.

MARCH AND THE BEES: If the hive was low on honey going into winter, then March is the month they may starve out. They have probably moved all the way up in the hive and their overall population is very low due to normal die-outs throughout the winter. The bees are going to be flying more in March, and they will find pollen even in northern states. The queen will start laying much more in March. The entire hive will begin to return to an almost normal operation now that winter is almost over. There will be cold snaps, but the bees will do fine as they begin to expand.
MARCH AND THE BEEKEEPER: Continue emergency feeding if needed, and place entrance or top feeders on the hive and feed 1:1 sugar water, one part sugar and one part water. Continue with the pollen patty feedings.

Inspect your hive! March will provide you with a few days when the temperature will rise to 50 degrees or higher. At this temperature you can look in the hive and pull out a few frames. Keep in mind that since there is not a heavy nectar flow, and since it is cooler, the bees might be a bit more aggressive. I am stung more during these cold inspections than the rest of the year. So wear protective gear.
March is a great month to start feeding the pollen patties. If you don't make your own patties, we sell the pre-made pollen patties which can be placed right in the hive. Pollen patties truly do jump start the hive. I highly recommend that you place a pollen patties in your hives in March.
The bottom board will probably be filled with dead, winter bees. They did their job, so play "Taps", salute them, and toss them in the yard for the mice and birds to enjoy. Serve your mice an eviction notice.
You'll be able to assess how many of your colonies have died out over the winter. Clean out these boxes and freeze the comb if you can. This will prevent the spread of wax moths. This link provides information on how to freeze your combs and for how long.
March is our busiest month in hive equipment and bee sales. Everyone calls and wants their hive yesterday! Please do us a big favor and order your hives in January.

APRIL AND THE BEES: Now the bees are almost fully operational. There will still be a few cold snaps, especially in early April, but by the last two weeks, the weather is good for bees to rapidly expand and to even start bringing in more and more nectar and pollen. The queen is laying well now. The hive is expanding.
APRIL AND THE BEEKEEPING: Keep feeding! Feeding helps the bees build up. No supers are on your hive yet, so their intake of sugar is not going into your honey product. You are just feeding to help the hive off to a great start. Keep the pollen patties on top too. Remove entrance reducers.
April can be cold and wet which means that your bees may have limited opportunities to fly out for food. So you must continue to inspect the hive to be sure they have enough food stores. Also, inspect your hive for any abnormalities. You want to see a solid brood laying pattern from your queen. If not, consider replacing her now!
Reverse your brood chambers! This is extremely important as it gives more space for the queen to lay. Simply take the top deep brood chamber and place it on the bottom board and place the one that was on the bottom on top.
If your bees are no longer taking the sugar feeding, discontinue, put supers on, as the bees will now begin to collect dandelion nectar and nectar from Maple trees, Locust trees and other early Spring flowering plants and trees.
This is a great time to equalize your hives. You may have to combine weak hives with strong ones. Even though I know better, every year I seem to become too compassionate toward a struggling hive, and try to nurse them back to health. Last year, I successfully did just that with one hive, but another hive bit the dust in September after I nursed them along all year. It is usually not worth it. It is costly to spend too much time on a struggling hive. It takes money and time to requeen the hive and to continue to work it. It would be far better to combine it to another hive if it is disease and pest free. After all, a weak hive is an invitation for pests and disease. Strong hives chase away pests and disease. So, your weak hive could spread disease to all your other hives. Don't take the chance. Keep your hives strong.

MAY AND THE BEES: Bees are in full operation now that it is May. You can stop feeding strong hives now because they are bringing in lots of nectar and pollen. The hive is expanding rapidly. The brood chambers are filling up fast and becoming crowded and congested.
MAY AND THE BEEKEEPER: RED ALERT!! BEES SWARM IN MAYYou will have to implement a swarm control strategy. Keep in mind that bees swarm as a way of multiplying. It is not a sign of being a poor beekeeper. However, there are some important steps to implement to try to prevent swarming. Review the link above. Keep in mind that you must provide room for your hive to expand. And, you should put on honey supers in May. Put on as many as you'd like. I think it is good practice to have a minimum of two honey supers on all hives during the nectar season. Three or four supers are even better. Don't wait to add your supers or you may miss particular nectar flows. Get all supers on by May 1st!
Consider having an extra, empty hive on hand so you'll be able to capture a swarm. You will want to capture your own swarms or you will probably receive phone calls once your neighbors learn you are a beekeeper. We receive several calls each week all Spring and Summer.

JUNE AND THE BEES: The bees will be working hard filling supers. They can still swarm during June, so keep an eye out for swarms. There is no need to feed the bees. They are gathering plenty of nectar and pollen. You may see the bees hanging out on the front of the hive at night. This is normal. On hot and especially humid evenings, many bees will spend the night outside the hive, clinging to the front of the hive or they may form a beard on the ground in front of the hive. This phenomenon is called "bearding". This would be like you enjoying your cool porch on a hot evening.

Continue to monitor your hive. We suggest inspecting your hive every two weeks to ensure the queen is laying well. The bees will need water, so be sure to keep a water source near your hives. We fill bird baths with water so that our bees stay out of our dog's water bowl and our neighbor's pool.

Most beekeepers begin to consider the amount of mites within hives during June. Some even begin to treat. However, no treatments can be administered in a hive while supers are on. This could contaminate the honey with chemical residue. We do not use chemicals in our hives but we do treat for mites with powder sugar. However, we wait until the last summer nectar flow is over before treating with powder sugar. For Central Illinois, the summer nectar flow ends about the first week of August. If mites become a problem it will be during the summer and fall months. We do not like to disturb our bees during Summer nectar flows, nor do we want any traces of powder sugar to be added to the honey. So we wait until August or September to begin our powder sugar treatment program.


JULY AND THE BEES: The bees are behaving as they did in June.

JULY AND THE BEEKEEPER: Continue to check your supers! You'll now be removing and extracting your honey.


AUGUST AND THE BEES : Since the nectar flow will end this month, the bees will become much more flighty, searching for nectar which is now not as plentiful to find. The bees are making a final effort to store up for winter, searching for final nectar sources. Golden rod and Aster plants can provide an average nectar flow in the fall.

AUGUST AND THE BEEKEEPER: If you have multiple hives, you must be careful not to let a strong hive rob a weak hive. If nectar is still coming in, continue to place supers on the hive. Be careful not to open up the hive for extended periods as other hives may try and rob the hive while it is opened. I usually will place a 5 gallon bucket in my bee yards and fill it with 2:1 sugar water, 2 parts sugar and 1 part water. Then, I will fill it with clean sticks so the bees will not drown. After a few hours the bucket will be covered with thousands of bees. Don't put this close to your house. This is a great way to fed your bees and to prevent them from robbing other weaker hives. If you have just one or two hives, this will not be necessary.


SEPTEMBER AND THE BEES : The bees will still be working fall flowers but in most states, the amount of honey produced in September will be minimum. The days are still warm enough to allow the bees time to gather more last minute nectar prior to the first major hard freeze or frost which will kill the flowers.

SEPTEMBER AND THE BEEKEEPER: This is the start of the beekeeper's year! What you do in September will determine how well your bees do next year, and how well they overwinter. Here's your work list for September:

1) Consider requeening. You don't have to, if your queen has done well. But it is advisable to requeen in September. If you can afford to requeen your hive each year, it would be best to do so in September. A new queen means a much younger queen who has stronger pheromones and who will be more apt to lay eggs more efficiently in the Spring. In a future lesson I'll teach on how to requeen a hive.

2) Take off all your supers. There is no need for them now, and you will want to tighten up the hive by removing excess supers.

3) Weigh your hives. This is guess work unless you invest in a hive scale. Find something around the house that weighs around 70 pounds. Lift it up slightly with one hand. This will give you an idea what 70 pounds feels like. Now, go to your hives and with one hand, slightly lift the back. Only lift it an inch or two so that you can sense how heavy it feels. It needs to feel around 70 pounds. If not, you will want to start feeding the hive 2:1 sugar water.

Because robbing is a problem this time of the year, here's what I suggest. But first let me discuss my experience with feeders. My favorite feeder is the front feeder, the one that slips into the front of the hive opening at the bottom and a mason jar slips down into it. However, in the fall, bees from other hives can make their way to the front feeder, and eventually rob the hive. So I do not use this entrance feeders during the fall. By the way, this is called a Boardman feeder.

Top feeders are large resivors of sugar water above the hive, usually made of plastic and they have a small space where the bees can climb into a screened area and go down into the resivor to consume sugar water. Here's what I don't like about that. If the top cover does not cover it well, bees from other hives make their way into the top of the feeder and drown or rob the hive. If you make the top cover fit tight enough to keep robbing bees out, then the sugar water cab mildew and mold. And, once I had a top feeder break and leak 2 gallons of sugar water onto my hive, drowning and disrupting the hive for several days. There are some nice top feeders available, but I don't like to use top feeders.

Frame feeders are feeders that slip in between your frames, and actually take the place of a frame. Essentially it is a thin bucket that is about the size of a frame and the bees can eat from within their hive. These require going deep into the hive to load and they aren't perfect either.

So, what you should do duirng September is purchase our fall feeder system. Or you can make your own. Our system resembles a brood chamber size super but with a bottom. A round hole with a mason lid is placed in the bottom of the feeder. Now, you place your mason jar in the lid and place your inner cover and top cover on this feeder. These work great and the feeder winds up being right over the cluster, so you can even feed the bees long into the winter if needed.

Also, stay out of your hive as soon as you finish your hive work. Propolis is the glue that holds all the pieces of the hive together. Every time you open your hive, you break the propolis seal. If you do this late in the year, when warm days are over the propolis will never seal again, and your hives can be blown a part in the winter by bad winds. So plan to get out of your hives early enough so the proplois can reseal on a warm day.


OCTOBER AND THE BEES: There are less reasons for the bees to leave the hive. Flying is cut way down. The queen is laying very few eggs. They are now shifting to winter mode.

OCTOBER AND THE BEEKEEPER: Prepare your hives for winter. A wind break should be considered. Entrance cleats should be placed in the front opening to restrict mice from entering the hive. A word about bees and winter. A large hive will not die from cold weather. They stay warm by clustering in the hive. They keep each other warm. The temperature in the hive is only warm within the cluster. They do not warm the entire inside of their hive, only the cluster. They can survive extreme cold weather. But, moisture can develop within the hive as bees do give off moisture like we do. If this moisture gathers above them, it can drip onto the cluster. This is what can kill bees during the winter. They are much like us. We can be cold and get by. But, we cannot stay alive long if we become wet and cold. Bees can get wet in the summer and it is not a problem. But you must prevent your hive from becoming cold and wet from condesation developing within the hive.

Here's how we do it. We use screen bottom boards, fully opened. We do not restrict or cover our bottom boards for winter. Nor do we place any gaps near the top cover. The open screen bottom board allows enough ventilation within the hive to aleviate moisture build up. We do not wrap for winter, although many do. It has been shown to slightly help. Black roofing paper works great. We have too many hives to wrap. Keep in mind that by wrapping your hive, you might be increasing the chance for condensation to collect within the hive.

Winter winds can be strong, so place a heavy concrete blocks on your hives.


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.

NOVEMBER AND THE BEEKEEPER: Feed your light hives as long as the sugar water doesn't freeze. Finish up all winterization 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.


DECEMBER AND THE BEES : The bees are happily clustered in the hive keeping warm having fond memories of how well you took care of them during the season. They will only leave the hive to take cleansing flights on warm, sunny days. Naturally dieing bees will pile up at the door of your hive or in front of the hive if it warms up enough for other living bees to carry them outside.

DECEMBER AND THE BEEKEEPER: Relax and review our bee lessons for Spring! Order your equipment so that you can have it ready. Enjoy celebrating Christmas. Stay warm and keep the snow away from your hive entrance. Consider expanding your apiary.

Thanks again, everyone, for your compliments and phone calls about these beekeeping lessons. It's great to talk with you and we do appreciate your business! Even our youngest son and sixth child sends his greeting to you too! His name is Christian, and he was born September 13 and weighed 10 lbs and 1 oz.

Be sure and give us a call to order your bees and hive equipment. We'll help you get set up to keep bees, even if you don't have the slightest idea on what to do. That's why we are here. Our number is: 217-427-2678 or visit our website at:

In our next lesson, we'll look at how to requeen the hive.

Remember...BEE-HAVE yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lesson Seventeen: Selling Honey

Hello Folks! I'm Sheri Burns. David and I are happy to share a little bit about our beekeeping business with you. David asked me to share some things today about selling honey and what I enjoy about our bee business.

I work in the bee yard on occasion, when I'm needed. While the bees did bother me some in the beginning, I quickly got used to them and are not bothered by them at all now. I have never gotten stung by the bees while working with them, but have asked David to sting me at times to help with some occasional joint pain. After the first sting or two, you get used to it! I have learned not to fling my arms around them and never wear perfume or hairspray while working with them. Gentle, purposeful movements are key to working with the bees but no matter how careful you are, you may get stung. Just part of the business!
Regarding selling honey, you have to develop a clientele. There are many ways to develop a clientele, such as posters in area stores, ads in your newspapers, etc. Tell the groups you participate in (community groups, school groups, committees, etc.) that you have honey to sell. Email all your friends about your honey and have them pass it on! We, of course, always have a booth at area festivals and in addition to the honey we sell, we make sure we have magnets for people to put on their refrigerator so they can remember where they got that good honey! We also have small displays we put in some area stores, and most work places allow you to do the same as well. You can also try calling your local newspaper and seeing if they would like to do a newspaper article on your business or farming venture. This will generate a lot of interest.

Another idea is to let scout troops or classes come out for an educational project and make sure you send home literature with them for their folks! If you have teaching abilities, you may wish to consider putting on some "beekeeping" workshops and generate some business at the same time. And of course don't forget to put out a big sign in your yard to advertise so people can stop in and buy!

Mostly we sell our honey from our bee farm, but we do have some displays in area stores. You can also have booths at local fairs. By reading your newspapers, generally you will find articles announcing area events with vendor information. After you are at a festival or fair the first year, the organizing group will typically automatically send you information the following year for vending at their activity again.

It is important to have good presentation by attractively bottling your honey. Bottles can be purchased from any major beekeeping supply house. However, you must take into consideration the price, as well as shipping costs. In addition, many companies will not ship glassware to you but if they do, you will typically take that at your own risk (so in other words, if it breaks the company will not replace it). Plastic can be pricey, especially with the lids so a better idea may be to go with glass canning jars you can buy at your local hardware or Big Lots stores. You can get pint and quart jars which hold 1.5lb and 3lb respectively for sometimes half the cost of the jars you buy in the catalogs and you don't have to pay any shipping! Most customers seem to really like the canning jar look as well.

Labels can be bought from the local beekeeping companies. Make sure the labels will fit the jars you have purchased. And they should say "American Honey" or "made in the USA". You can also tell the company what you want printed on the label, such as the name of your company, your family name, address, phone and website (if applicable). Some companies now provide the ability to purchase a blank back label where you can add information on your business and some personable information about your operation. Labels usually run around ten cents each.

Other products can be made from the hive, such as beeswax and propolis by products. These other products can help to sell your honey as well and are good for customers who may not like honey but would enjoy a different honey product. Research how to make soap --it can be far too pricey to buy the materials to make decorative soap from the hobby store. But making the old fashioned lye soap can be pretty tricky, if not even dangerous thing to do if you don't know how to do it. Better yet, take a class on soap making. Watch your local newspaper or call your local museums and you can find someone teaching a class. Soap made with beeswax can help your honey sales too.

You should also read up and research candle making. There are many good books easily available at the library. You can make candles from either the wax foundation sheets (candles are then called "rolled") or you can melt beeswax to pour into a mold or glass votive for solid "pillar" candles. These projects can be easy and fun to do, but be careful! Hot beeswax can be tricky to handle.

Being part of a family bee business is interesting. It can be very rewarding having your own family business. We homeschool our children, and so our family is home together all day. We can enjoy the time together and also the ability to take off and do whatever else we want to do because we do own our own business. Watching the children learn new skills is a pleasure and I especially enjoy having my husband around during the day!
Be sure and visit our Ebay store and our website shown at the top right side of this blog! Or give us a call if you are interested in starting a beehive.  Our phone is: 217-427-2678

See you at the next lesson and remember...BEE-HAVE yourself!

Davd & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Monday, November 19, 2007

Lesson Sixteen: Honey Production

Hi, I'm David Burns, and thank you for joining me today for lesson sixteen of our online beekeeping lessons. Our family loves the bee business. My wife, Sheri, handles some of the administration details, produces parts for our frames and hives and oversees our honey bottling process. Our children all work in various areas of the operation too. It's a blast! My father-in-law, Bill Henness is retired and helps keeps our operation going smoothly too, by volunteering his time working the bees, building hives, building our bee-vacs and selling honey.

I've had a busy beekeeping week. Saturday I attended the Illinois State Beekeepers Association in Springfield, Illinois. A few days prior to that, on Thursday, I visited with Gene Killion. Anyone who has been in beekeeping for a while knows the name of Carl and Gene Killion. He holds the world record for the most comb honey produced from a single hive. In the glory days of his work, he had over 1,000 hives with 8 supers on each hive! The Killion family was recently featured in the American Bee Journal. The Killion's have had remarkable success in beekeeping!

While visiting with Gene, he showed me around his place where they processed comb honey and prepared their supers for the next year. Not only that, but he gave me one of his famous 8 frame comb honey supers that he and his dad made and used.
Lots of our customers request comb honey. Some customers are convinced that comb honey helps their arthritis, citing the Bible verse that says, "Pleasant words are a honeycomb, sweet to the soul and healing to the bones" (Proverbs 16:24). So this Spring, we are gearing up now to produce much more comb honey, which is almost a lost and dying art among beekeepers. It's not easy to do, and some have concluded it is not worth the bother. Liquid honey sells just fine, so many beekeepers no longer produce comb honey.
When I talk to other beekeepers, they too tell me that more and more people are turning to pure, raw honey including honey comb. We find it impossible to produce enough honey to keep up with the demand from our customers. Our comb honey sells out within a few weeks after we harvest it, and our honey sells out in the fall. So, we are constantly considering how to produce more honey.
It is a great joy to any beekeeper to place frames full of honey into the extractor and watch the honey start flowing out. Take a look at the video below and you'll hear our excitement!

Honey bees produce honey and in a good year, they produce lots of it, more than they will need, so the beekeeper can remove the excess. This is why most of us keep bees--for the honey. Although, truth be told, we just love keeping bees!
Let me share with you, two things: First, how to manage a new hive to produce the most honey, and secondly, how to manage established hives to produce the most honey. Also, let me say that sometimes, even after all the right management techniques are followed, bees are insects, and might disappoint you in doing something contrary to what you want them to do. However, bee management is effective for the most part.
If you are starting with a package of bees, then you should be happy if the bees only produce enough honey for themselves. This is good and par for the course. However, I always work my packages to produce honey for me my first year, and most do. My success comes from placing my packaged hives on drawn comb. In my opinion drawn comb is the beekeeper's third best friend! The hive tool is first, and a bee-vac is second.
Obviously, a new package or nuc will have to build up their hive. This means they will need to produce a huge amount of new comb on the frames. They need ample amounts of comb for the queen to lay eggs and for the workers to store nectar and pollen. Comb building requires a huge amount of consumed nectar. The bees need a large amount of incoming nectar for their glands to produce wax. In fact, it takes 8 pounds of nectar for the bees to produce 1 pound of wax.
Not only must they produce a significant amount of wax to build their new hive, they also need to increase their population. Typically a package contains 3 pounds of bees, which is roughly estimated to be about 10,000 bees. An established hive will usually have between 40,000-80,000 bees. The difficulty with packages and nucs is that before they develop a large number of foraging bees, some key nectar flows may have come and gone. This is why it can be difficult for a new hive to produce extra honey. They are using the incoming nectar to build comb and feed their growing population and they do not have enough bees of foraging age to get the job done.
To accelerate a package hive, drawn foundation is a huge push. Less wax production is needed and more nectar can be immediately stored. However, rarely does a beginning beekeeper have access to drawn comb. And special care must be taken to ensure that drawn comb is free of any disease, especially American Foul Brood. AFB spores can live in comb for more than 50 years. So, just because a retiring beekeeper gave you all of his equipment, including drawn comb, doesn't mean that you've got usable draw comb. If you have access to clean drawn comb, this is one way to help your package produce honey their first year.
Another way to produce honey from a new hive is to capture swarms and add the bees to the hive. Again, you must be sure that the bees you are adding are free of pests and disease. You will need to lay down newspaper between the two groups so that they can become familiar with one another and not fight. Many beekeepers capture swarms for the single purpose of using them to draw comb. Then, the drawn comb is placed into new hives. Swarms are geared to build comb.
If drawn comb isn't an option, and no one calls you to remove a swarm, what else can be done on a first year hive to produce excess honey to be taken off? Crowd! This is the opposite of what most people will tell you, because crowded and congested hives are more likely to swarm. And, if you are not an experienced beekeeper, purposely crowding a hive can backfire. In the Spring of 2006 I took a brand new 3 pound package of bees and installed them into a 10 frame deep hive body. Accidentally, I failed to monitor the hive as often as I should have--about every two weeks. A month later, I noticed some unusual signs that the hive was crowded, so I inspected. When I did, I noticed that all 10 frames were completely pulled out and excess comb was being built on the top of the inner cover, which is always a sign that you've waited too long. However, in my case, this seemed to work to my advantage. I placed a second deep with foundation on at this time, and it too was drawn out in record time, as if the bees were desperate for the extra space. I waited until the second deep was as packed as the first, then I started placing on supers. They began filling up supers.
Traditionally, and rightfully so, we are told to place the second deep on when about 5-7 frames are drawn out on the first deep. This does prevent overcrowding and swarming. Yet, I have found that if I can keep the hive VERY TIGHT, the bees seem to expand faster and work more productively. I'm not sure why. I suspect that since bees are social, that they are more efficient in tighter quarters. Perhaps the queen's presence and pheromone is more saturable. This was not just a one hive deal. As I practiced it this Spring again, I had the same results. Always better production by keeping the first deep hive packed before adding the second.
In doing this, I did have one package swarm on me, so again, there is a thin line between running at full capacity and for the congestion to produce a swarm.
It takes 40 days from when an egg is laid for that bee to emerge from her cell, serve in her housekeeping role and finally be old enough to fly out and forage for nectar. Just because you have lots of bees does not mean you have lots of foragers. To gather nectar you need to have a full squadron of foraging age bees PRIOR to the nectar flow. Therefore, beekeepers could produce more honey if they simply counted 40 days backward from when the nectar flow starts, and begin to prepare ahead of time for that flow. Most beekeepers do very little to prepare for the flow other than make sure their bees are alive.
Here in Central Illinois, weather permitting, I usually have a nectar flow as early as May 10th. This means that for me to take advantage of this early flow, I must have a huge number of foragers, 19 days or older, ready to fly out and bring in that flow. Therefore, I need lots of eggs to be laid before April 1st. This means that I need my queens to lay heavily in March. My challenge is that March is still a cold month for me, and my bees are still mostly clustering over very little brood that is being laid. The older workers decide how much the queen should be fed to stimulate her to lay eggs. If these older workers do not see enough nectar or pollen in the hive they hold the queen back from laying.
During the month of February, I will do two things. First, I place pollen patties just above the cluster, usually on the inner cover since the cluster is up high coming out of winter. And I place sugar water just above the cluster as well, one part water, one part sugar. These two food sources are just enough to prove to the older workers that a steady flow of nectar and pollen are available, so that they will stimulate the queen into laying more than she normally would at this time of the year. This helps the hive overall as well, because most hives that starve do so in February and March. The idea is to expand the population of nurse bees so that more eggs can be laid and cared for than what is normally found this time of the year, thus increasing the amount of foragers prior to May 10th.
This is a "common sense" technique. Farmers know when their crops will need harvested, and they prepare in advance to have all of their equipment and workers ready. Beekeepers do this very poorly. Beekeepers must prepare their workers (the foragers) to bring in the harvest! A terrible mistake beekeepers make is that they do not monitor the various ages of their bees. They view all of their bees as foragers. But they are not. Only one fifth of the bees in an entire hive are at foraging age.
You must also make sure your bees are healthy. They need nutrition. They need fattened up so they can remain strong and fight off various diseases. Mite control is essential in keeping healthy bees. The healthier the hive, the better the honey production.
Having a good queen is important as well. It is optimal to replace your queen every couple of years. You certainly don't have to, and often the hive will replace a faltering queen. However, for maximum honey production, you should replace your queen in September. Then, by the time you start stimulating the hive in February with sugar water and pollen patties, this new, young queen can really begin laying. You must see your honey production season as starting in September!

Finally, you need lots of supers! Research has shown that bees with plenty of supers on the hive at one time do better than supering a hive as needed. I always have at least 3 medium supers on all my hives prior to the nectar flow. If some of those supers have been saved from the previous year and have drawn comb, then you're that much closer to an excellent honey producing year.

One final note on honey production. Monitor the location of the queen. Keep the queen down. She moves up as she lays. Therefore, you may have to reverse your brood bodies many times in the Spring. However, be careful while it is still cold in the Spring not to divide the brood nest when rotating the bottom two deeps. But, they will need rotated. Get her down, so that she will see plenty of open cells to lay in. This will help prevent swarming as well.
In our next lesson, my wife Sheri will be sharing about selling honey. I can't wait for her to share her ideas with you. I'll see if I can have her share about the other products she makes from the hive too, such as soaps, candles, lip balm and more.
Be sure to get all of your equipment ready before Spring, and check out our website and our ebay store and auctions for great pricing on beekeeping equipment. You'll see links to our sites on the right hand side of this blog.

See you next time and BEE-Have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns

Friday, November 9, 2007

Lesson Fifteen: Making Spring Splits

Hi, Sheri and I would like to welcome all of our new subscribers and tell you just a bit about ourselves. We are David and Sheri Burns, sharing various aspects of our family beekeeping business with you, like these online beekeeping lessons. Many people just drive out to our bee farm here in central Illinois and visit, and many others call and ask questions. Many more email us. It is our passion to encourage others to become beekeepers. We're glad you could join us for today's lesson on making splits.

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.

Have you considered the importance of taking our one day Advance Beekeeping Course?  I'll be joined by my good friend and fellow certified master beekeeper Jon Zawislak. Jon and I have written a book on queen rearing and we recently authored a two part articled published in the American Bee Journal on the difference between Northern and Southern bees. Jon and I will be teaching our Advance Beekeeping course June 11, 2014 here in Fairmount, Illinois and we have around 6 seats available. You don't want to miss this opportunity to be around me and Jon and learn about bees for a whole day. Click here for more information.

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.

Once your hives become strong and good honey producers, and you begin to sell your honey, wax, pollen and propolis, you'll reason that if you had more hives, you could make more money. It really does work this way! If one hive makes $400 a year, then 10 hives will make $4,000 and 100 hives $40,000.00...that's in a near perfect world of course :) And, if you really want to make bees your business, there are other aspects of income from your hives such as raising and selling your own special line of queen bees or package bees, wax and wax products such as lip balm, pure beeswax candles, hand cream etc. You can also sell nucs from your hives. A nuc (short for nucleus) is when you pull out 4 or 5 frames from a strong hive and sell those frames for $100-$150. Queens sell for around $15-$25 and on up.

This sounds exciting and fun and it is and to make bees your business, you'll have to learn how to successfully split your hives. This is how you can multiply our hives without spending money on buying packages every year. Or you can do both, split some of your hives and buy a few packages too. It is the most cost effective way to add additional hives each year. Normally, a certain percentage of hives die each year. We expect a 20% loss over winter. Sometimes there is no loss, and sometimes more than 20%. I have around 40 hives going into winter, and I know that 10 are pretty small and light and will probably not make it. It's not the cold. Bees can survive cold weather just fine. It is because they never built up to be a full size hive before winter arrived; they didn't store up enough food for winter. Some of them were hives I removed from residential areas late in the year. I could replace these by purchasing new packages, and sometimes I do. However, at $50 a package, that gets expensive each year. Splitting a hive only cost time and maybe a new queen, unless you raise your own.

There are several advantages and reasons why you will want to split your hives:

To increase the number of you hives.
To prevent swarming.
To produce nucs.


It is important to realize that splits should only be made from overwintered hives, or what we refer to as second year hives. A first year hive usually will not expand enough to split.

Of course, how soon you start to split your hives will depend upon where you live. You will have to wait until the evening temperature is warm enough so that the transferred brood will not become chilled. It is a gamble for me, here in Central Illinois, to make splits prior to the month of May. A thoroughly populated hive can keep their brood warm on a cold night, but not a small split.

Although there are many variations in making splits, let me give you the simplest explanation, then I will expand upon the variations.

In its simplest form, a split is nothing more than several frames of brood, bees and food sources taken from a strong hive, and placed in an empty hive. You might think of it as a controlled swarm, although a natural swarm only consist of bees and not brood or comb. But, when making a split, we also add brood, nectar and pollen to the split. Thus, making a split can discourage swarming.

When I make splits, I simply pull our 4 or 5 frames of brood in various stages of development, along with the bees on those frames, and place them in an empty box. I also add a frame or two of nectar and pollen from the strong hive. And, I feed my new split 1:1 sugar water as well.

If you know that your transferred brood has eggs that are less than three days old, you do not have to add a queen as the split hive will realize they are queenless and begin to raise their own from the fertilized eggs in the brood. This is preferred when I wish to retain the qualities of the queen from the strong hive.

This is convenient for me, because it doesn't matter to me where the queen is, either in the old hive, or perhaps I moved her over to the new split. As long as both hives have 1-3 day old eggs, the queenless hive will raise their own queen.


Since I have lots of hives in small areas, I have found that my stronger hives have a tendency to rob my small splits of their honey. Therefore, if you find this to be a challenge, simply move the split at least 2 miles a way, keeping it there until it can become large enough to defend itself. Then you can bring it back and place it where you want.

Also, sometimes I fail to supply enough bees, especially nurse bees, to care for the amount of brood I have transferred into the new split. Therefore, it is helpful to shake frames of young bees into your split hive. It is best to shake them from the hive the split was made from to prevent fighting.

Another challenge may be that one of the hives may not raise their own queen. In this case, it is important to check within a few days to see if a queen cell is being formed. If not, you will need to call us up and order a queen.

Another slight variation is to add the variation of a screen. In this case, the split is on top of the established hive. The split is placed on top of the hive they were removed from, with only a screen to separate the old hive from the split on top. The heat from the old hive keeps the split warm above. This is successful but the entrance of the split on top should face the opposite direction than that of the hive below. Eventually, the split can be taken off the hive and moved to it's autonomous location.

Some beekeepers claim to make 16 splits from one hive each year. Generally you can always make one split but sometimes 2, 3 even 4!

Make you splits as early as you can, as the split will need time to prepare for winter. There are many who are practicing splits in the fall. This is possible, however, if you live in a region with hard winters, you will have to place the split on top of an established hive, divided by a screen, and the split must be fed or have plenty of nectar and pollen.

I have also made splits with just two frames of brood and bees. So, you'll have to experiment and see what number works for you.

Making splits is really pretty easy! And think of the savings of not having to buy a package or a new queen.

I have fun doing the math with splits, like this. Say you have 2 hives and in 2008 you make a conservative single split from each hive. Now you have 4 hives. In 2009 you get brave and split your 4 hives, but this time you make 2 splits from each hive. Now you have 12 hives.

12 split twice = 36 hives by 2010
36 split twice = 108 hives in 2011
108 split twice = 324 hives in 2012
324 split twice = 972 hives in 2013

In 5 years 2 hives could increase to nearly 1000!

In our next lesson, I'll be sharing how to get the most honey from you hives. Then, I'll share how to market your honey, such as bottling and labeling and were to go to sell your honey.

Remember, it is never too late to order your equipment for the 2008 bee season! You can place your hive order by giving us a call at 217-427-2678. This way, you can get all of your hives ready for Spring! Our prices will increase after the first of the year, so take advantage of this year's pricing!

Also, check out our website at:

See you next time and remember to BEE-have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns