Monday, October 29, 2007

Lesson Thirteen: Different Types of Frame Foundation

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.

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Remember that you can click on each image to enlarge them.

To refresh your memory, the frames hold the foundation within the deep hive body or honey super.

When starting out keeping bees, the beekeeper must decide what type of foundation is best to use. In the past, there was only one kind, plain beeswax formed into thin layers of foundation with embedded wire to hold them in the frame. This type of foundation is still widely used. An additional wire has to be added horizontally to give the foundation strength. Otherwise, the heat of the hive will cause the thin layer of wax to fall out of the frame.

A small strip of wood is nailed to the top of the frame, catching little hooks on the wax to help it hang. These are commonly referred to as split bottom and top wedge bar frames. This means that there is a top wedge bar of wood that must be nailed to hold the wax, and that the bottom of the frame has a split piece of wood in which the thin layer of wax fits into and then is nailed.

Additional side pins are used as well. Sound complex? It is.

For the hobbyist who has one or two hives, it can be fun, spending time putting together all the little frame pieces and embedding wire into your wax. But for many, this has become too time consuming.

In addition to the pure wax foundation, we now have various types of plastic foundations:

Duragilt, Plasticell, Pierco, Ritecell, Permacomb and the option of an empty frame with no foundation at all.

Duragilt is a sheet of very thin clear plastic that is coated with beeswax and has the hexagonal worker cells embedded in the wax. Some beekeepers enjoy using Duragilt and others do not like it. What's new :) I have tried Durgilt and it proved unsuccessful for me. The bees drew it out unevenly or in small pockets. Rarely can I get an even frame of comb off of Duragilt foundation.

I like pure wax foundation, but I don't like the complexity of the assembly and how venerable it is to mice and wax moths. So I've stopped using it. To reuse the frame means a lot of disassembly and cleaning, pulling out nails, and removing the wires.

Permacomb is fully drawn plastic foundation, not wax comb. In other words, it is a plastic version of a fully drawn wax comb. It sound great as it would allow a fresh package of bees the ability to immediately start storing honey. I've never tried it due to the fact that it is expensive.

Then, there is plastic foundation by various names: Ritecell, Pierco and Plasticell. This is my preference! This is a very thick piece of plastic, probably 1/8 inch think and has the hexagonal worker cells embedded in the plastic. I use only the beeswax coated sheets of plastic. I love plastic foundation in wooden frames. I'm not as impressed with the one piece plastic frame and foundation. But my bees like it just the same. In fact, my queens love deep frames that are solid one piece plastic.

Here are the reasons I have gone totally to plastic:

1) Bees love it and pull it fast. I often entice them by spraying each sheet with sugar water

2) It is VERY durable. You can scrap the comb off with a hive tool and never damage the cell.

3) Wax moths cannot destroy it.

4) Mice cannot destroy it.

5) It is very easy to spot eggs against the black brood sheets.

6) You can spin it in an extractor at any speed and never blow it out.

7) It doesn't droop in a hive or bow out.

8) It snaps into frames rather than having to use wire and nail in a wedge.

9) You can store it in any temperature.

10) It is much more cost effective than constantly replacing damaged foundation.

11) It can be shipped without damage in any temperature.

There can be challenges with plastic. When there is not a strong nectar flow, bees can be slow in drawing out the comb on plastic. However, this is true with all foundation. Bees need nectar to produce wax to draw comb. One side of a frame can be drawn out into the empty side of the frame next to it. However, I have also seen this with wax foundation and especially with Duragilt.

The plastic foundation that we sell is coated with real beeswax, helping the bees to take to it better.

Also, be aware that different foundation types require matching frames. You cannot use wax foundation in a frame built to hold plastic. A frame that holds plastic foundation is known as a 'top and bottom groove frame' with a solid bottom.

During heavy nectar flow, we take several strips of plastic foundation, usually about 2" wide and place two or three in a frame. The bees will use this as a guide, modeling the worker cell grid and quickly adding their own wax in the gaps. Last summer, my son cut plastic foundation in the shape of his girlfriend's name and placed it into a frame in the hive. The bees pulled out the entire sheet. When you hold that frame up to the sun, you can see the name because the plastic shades the sun. But if you look directly at it, it just looks like drawn comb.

Can you put empty frames in a hive? Yes, and during a heavy nectar flow, the bees will make their own comb in the frame. However, this is a bit risky, as they could make it into drone comb. In fact, they usually do this if you place it on the outside edges of the frames, next to the hive walls. Foundation already has the worker size cell embossed in the plastic, so they simply pull out that same size cell. You can experiment and see what you find. Also, it might take a few days longer, as they do have to engineer the perfect architectural design of the cells.

Drawing comb is so dependent upon the specific hive, the weather, and the nectar flow. So it is difficult to do a side by side test. But some claim that an empty frame is drawn out faster than a frame with foundation. I've never attempted a speed test.

A word or warning about intermixing frames. Don't mix plastic frames with wood frames within the same super. Keep all 10 frames the same.

Finally, regarding different types of foundation, we must consider the actual size of the individual cell. I like Plasticell because it has a 4.9mm cell size, which I believe gives me better mite control. It has been suggested that due to the smaller size, the brood cell is capped before the mite can get inside.

Natural cell size is between 4.6mm and 5.0mm. Pierco is 5.2mm. Ritecell is 5.4mm. PermaComb is 5.05. Bees from larger cells are larger bees and will keep building large cells. 'Regression' is a term referring to taking larger bees and regressing back to 4.9mm cell size. Below are three pictures each showing the different success I have with the different types of foundation. See you soon at the next lesson!

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Lesson Twelve: The Moisture Level Of Honey

When processing honey, the moisture level is important to consider. For most beekeepers, we simply let the bees tell us when the moisture level is around 17-18%. This is when the bees cap off the comb to prevent the honey from absorbing any moisture.

Some beekeepers get in too big of a hurry and take off the honey supers before the comb is completely sealed off. This means the honey can have a higher amount of moisture than 18%. Moisture above this level can cause some problems in the future, namely, allowing the honey to ferment. Of course, if you eat lots of honey, you'll consume it before it has a chance to ferment even when the moisture level is higher than it should be. But if customers buy it and keep it around for a while, then honey with a high moisture content can ferment.

If you pull off your honey after it has been capped then you know the moisture level is good to go. However, if you pull off the honey supers that are partially capped, the uncapped cells will begin to absorb any moisture in the air.
To safeguard my honey from drawing moisture while it is being processed, I monitor the humidity in my honey room. I keep it very dry by the use of a dehumidifier. I usually keep it around 45% in the room. If I cannot process my supers the same day I pull them off the hives, I will stack them in the honey room so that they are staggered. I leave the dehumidifier on maximum dry, and use a fan to circulate air in the room.

Honey from different nectar sources can have different moisture contents. Clover honey is around 23% and is perfectly good honey with this level of moisture. However, other honey will ferment at 23%. In fact, moisture levels higher than 21%, other than the honey where this is permissible, is not fit for sale. Honey is hygroscopic which means it can easily absorb moisture from the air around it. But, if the air is dry, then honey will lose moisture, thus improving its quality.

Some beekeepers use a refractormeter to check the moisture level in honey. We sell the Atago refractometer for $289.
The easiest way to ensure your honey is at the optimal moisture level is to wait until the bees seal off the comb. Then, try to process your honey in a dry room and bottle it as soon as possible.
Thanks for joining me today for another lesson in keeping bees.

David Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Lesson Eleven: Honey Production

We are David and Sheri Burns, sharing various aspects of our beekeeping business with you, like these online beekeeping lessons. So many people just drive out to our farm and visit, and many others call and ask questions. Many more email us. We are always happy to visit and to help others start keeping honeybees!
You can click on some of these pictures for a large size image.
Honey! Honey! Honey! This is why many people keep bees, to enjoy the honey. Winnie the Pooh said, "That buzzing-noise means something. If there's a buzzing noise, somebody's making a buzzing-noise, and the only reason for making a buzzing-noise that I know of is because you're a bee. .... And the only reason for being a bee that I know of is making honey....."

I'm asked all the time about honey! People ask me how the bees make it, how much honey can a hive produce and why honey can be a different color and have different tastes.

Here's the deal. Winnie was right...the only reason for being a bee is to make honey! Oh they do other things, but a beehive in general makes honey. It makes honey for its own existence. A hive stores honey for the present and for the future. Since bees are workers, they will store more honey than they need...lots more. This is the honey that we as beekeepers remove from the hive--the excess honey that they can spare.
After a couple of weeks of duties inside the hive, the female worker bee is recruited to begin foraging for nectar. We call her a forager. She waits until the first sign of daylight, then off she goes making many trips back and forth from the hive to the flower until it gets dark.

The nectar that she is gathering from flowers is high in water content. Nectar becomes honey once the bees bring it back to the hive and reduce the water content. When the foraging bee arrives at the hive, she often transfers her nectar load to another bee, called a house bee. A house bee is just a regular bee with household duties, but she too will one day earn her wings to gather nectar. The house bee will then transport the nectar to a cell where it will be placed so it can ripen.

Once the moisture level of nectar is reduced to 17% then it is called honey, and the bees will seal off each cell with a cap of wax. This is how we know the honey is complete and ready for harvest...the bees seal it off.

How do they reduce the moisture of the nectar? They fan their wings over the comb to dry out the moisture from the nectar. How do they know when it reaches 17%? I have no clue. I suppose they have a quality control bee that has the sole job of taste sampling the honey.

What makes honey different colors and gives it a different taste? The nectar source. My favorite honey is orange blossom honey. When I was in Israel in 2006, I bought some orange blossom honey and fell in love with it. I grew up on clover honey and I thought all honey tasted pretty much the same. But there is a big difference.

Here in Illinois, we have Spring honey and Fall honey. Spring honey is light in color and taste because our nectar source in the Spring is from flowers that produce light nectar, such as clover and locust trees. However, in the summer and early fall, our nectar source is darker and more robust in flavor as it comes from aster, golden rod and other summer and fall flowers.
An expensive and more difficult honey to produce is Tupelo honey, from the Tupelo tree, mainly found in Florida. There are many types of honey, from every nectar source you can image. This provides many different types of honey with different tastes and a different color.
Not only is there liquid honey, but there is also comb honey-honey that is sold still sealed in the beeswax comb. We have lots of customers who love comb honey. They love it so much we always sell out of comb honey early in the year.
Okay, so how does a beekeeper get honey from the hive into the bottle? Good question. Here's the simple way we do it. First, when the honey is ready, we head out to our bee yards to essentially steal all the extra honey the bees have made. We are able to drive our truck near the hives, and in the back of the truck are two important items. A generator and a 15 gallon air compressor. The air compressor is powered by the gas generator. We then stand a honey super on edge and with the air compressor we gently spray off all the bees. Then, we place the honey supers in the truck and drive them back to our honey room.

Once in the room, the individual frames are loaded into our automatic cowen uncapper which uncaps the sealed combs. Then, it is placed into our 33 frame extractor which spins at a high rate of speed, slinging the honey out of the comb. The honey then flows into a settling tank so that wax and other objects float to the top. A honey pump carries the honey from the bottom of the settling tank up to our 500 gallon holding tank.

To fill jars, we open up a value on the holding tank and the honey runs through micron filters. Normally we only run it through one 400 micron filter. Sometimes we use 200 micron filters.
Then, the honey is bottled after being filtered.

We never heat our honey. Honey never spoils and is the only food that has an indefinite shelf life. Most honey will become hard, known as crystallizing. This is normal and does not mean the honey is bad. It means it simply crystallized. This can be remedied simply by leaving a jar in warm water for a while.

If you are new to beekeeping, I recommend you start off processing your honey with one of our new hot knifes, that cuts the cappings off, opening up the comb so the honey can be drawn out. Then, it is best to use an extractor. You don't have to. You can let it drain out or press it out, but if you can afford to invest in a new hand crank extractor, it will make the job much easier.

We also sell micron filters that fit over a regular 5 gallon jug so that you can easily filter your honey, making a very nice product!

Then, it's off to the stand to sell your honey! I love getting out, selling the honey and meeting great people. Everyone always has great questions and are intrigued by bees. You'll love selling your honey too!

Well it has been good to be with you again, and I look forward to sharing the next lesson with you in the next few days.

Be sure to visit our website at:
Or give us a call and help us set you up in keeping bees! 217-427-2678

David & Sheri

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Lesson 10: Inspecting The Hive Part 2 ( Call Us: 217-427-2678

Hi! I'm David Burns with Long Lane Honey Bee Farms and it has been so fun putting together these lessons! And, wow! So many people have called, emailed, visited our shop and purchased hives and have told us they love these online lessons. Great! I welcome your questions, as it helps me know how to incorporate the answers in future lessons. So, feel free to email me your beekeeping questions.
Also, by all means, tell your friends and buddies about these lessons. Invite them to read them or subscribe to them, so that each time a new lesson is released you'll receive it in your Inbox in your mail program. Thanks so much!

In our last lesson, we approached the hive from the back, smoked it, and lifted off the outer cover and inner cover. Now, we are ready to inspect what is inside. Since this is a beginning lesson, we will assume that you have installed your bees, and now you are ready to inspect you hive.

How soon should you inspect your hive after installing your packaged bees? It is hard to wait, but you should wait 5 days. This will help the bees accept the queen. After 5 days, you'll want to open the hive and check to see if the queen has been released from her cage. To do this, the first thing you'll look for is the queen cage you installed between the frames. It is common for bees to be on the queen cage, and it is very common for the bees to build comb on the bottom of the cage too. When pulling up the queen cage be gentle as it is possible that your queen may be on the comb attached to the cage. Look to see if you see the queen, and if you do, brush her off onto a frame. Once there is no queen present on the cage or comb, shake off the bees and discard the queen cage and the comb. I save the comb that is attached to the queen cage and use it in my school talks. Kids love to hold bee comb and look at it up close.

Now, start by pulling out the frame that is closest to one of the sides. It is usually less populated with bees and has less honey, pollen and brood. Just set that frame temporarily on the ground, or you can purchase one of our frame holders that attaches to the side of your hive box where you can place your frames as you work. Once you pull out this frame, you now have more space to slide each frame back into that space. This helps you have the room you need to separate the frames that the bees have glued together with propolis. Using your hive tool, separate the frames and slide them apart.

Once the frames are free, you can choose which one to lift out and examine. It is best to start next to the wall of the hive body. If you start in the middle, you could risk injuring the queen or never finding her. Remember, GENTLE MOVEMENTS! No clanging and banging. Bees are alarmed by sudden vibration. Also, work with confidence. It is easy to lift out a frame with your hands, by loosening it first with your hive tool, then use your fingers to get a good grip on each end of the frame. DO NOT DROP A FRAME full of bees. Get a good grip. Then, slowly lift out the frame.
It might seem that you are smashing the bees or hurting them but they are used to being crowded together. You may also see them "holding hands," hanging on to each other and as you separate frames, it may appear that they will not let go of each other's legs. You might think you are going to hurt them, but they will finally let go. As you pull up the frame slowly, the bees will have time to move out of the way.
If you are uncomfortable using your hands to pull out a frame, you can also purchase frame pullers like the one in the picture. It is a spring loaded hand grip frame puller and does work well. The difference between a frame puller and using your bare hands is that with your bare hands you can feel the bees, so as not to smash any. With the frame puller, it is hard not to kill several. If I am not rushed, I use my bare hands. If I am in a hurry, I use frame pullers. These frame pullers that we sell are very durable and handy. You probably want to have a pair handy when you inspect your hives. Now here you are, holding a frame full of comb and bees! Good for you. If only your friends could see you now!

What do you do now. LOOK! Rely on what you see. You are actually looking to observe any abnormalities. Abnormalities are rare. Yet, most new beekeepers are a little suspicious of any and everything! Don't be. You're going to observe everything that is suppose to happen in a hive. It may look and appear unusual to you, but it will probably be a normal thing. Believe me, I answer beekeepers' questions everyday, and most of their concerns are no big deal. But, when I first started, I thought everything I saw was a problem.

On this frame, you are looking at sealed brood. This is what beekeepers call a "good brood pattern". It's pretty complete. We see a few dotted spots sprinkled throughout the frame, which could be caused from the queen not laying an egg in that spot or the bees have a strong hygienic trait, which caused them to pull out a larvae that has a mite inside the cell or maybe these bees recently hatched.
Some beekeepers ask how to tell the difference between brood and sealed honey comb. Color, texture and content. Color: Sealed brood is usually a tan brown color whereas sealed honey comb is light, sometimes very white or slightly yellow. The texture of sealed brood is more velvety while honey comb is more smooth. Finally, if you still can't tell the difference, you can open up a cell, and you immediately either see a developing bee and you'll know it is brood, or you will see honey, and you'll know it's honey comb.
Look for the queen. If you do not see her, do not panic. Many beekeepers have trouble finding the queen. She is much easier to find in a small hive, say within a week of installing your package. But, in two months, when there are 40,000 bees on 20 drawn comb, it is hard. You should have your queens marked with a dot of paint. Not only does this help you find her, but it also confirms the queen you are looking at is your original queen. Sometimes they replace her by raising their own.
If you cannot find your queen, look for eggs! Here's a picture of some larvae and a recently laid egg. When you find eggs, you know your queen is okay and was at least in your hive a couple of days ago. If you cannot find your queen, and see no eggs, then you must begin to see what is wrong. Either the queen is dead or she has stopped laying or is a defective queen and cannot lay.
When you are holding a frame for inspection, be sure to hold it over the hive. This is so that in case the queen should fall off, she would fall back into the hive rather than in your yard. If she falls into the grass away from her hive, she may not find her way back in. Also, when you have finished looking at a hive, place it back in the hive the same way you took it out.

In summary, here's what you are looking for when you inspect your hive:
*The presence of the queen, either seeing her or seeing evidence of her by observing freshly
laid eggs
*Sealed brood and honey
*Increase in bee population
*Ample supply of frames for the growing colony
*Any abnormalities

It is typical for a frame to have a rainbow shape of stored nectar, pollen and brood. Usually the brood will be toward the lower part of the rainbow, and next to the brood will be pollen, then the nectar will be stored on the outer or upper part of the rainbow shape. You can see this somewhat being started on this frame in the picture.
Pollen in a cell is usually orange or yellow in color but can be many different colors depending on the flower source. It can sometimes look like dry powder in a cell, but sometimes it seems moist.
Now that you've seen all that you need to see, place the hive back together and remember to place the inner cover and outer cover securely on the hive. Also, please place a heavy rock on top of the outer cover to help hold down the hive on windy and stormy days. Don't let your hive be blown over.
Thanks again for joining me for today's lesson. I've had a blast, and I hope you have learned a few things too!

Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we pride ourselves in making a high quality beehive and beekeeping equipment. Give us a call if you are ready to start keeping bees. We even supply the bees! Call us at 217-427-2678

See you next time!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Lesson Nine In Beekeeping: Inspecting The Hive: Part 1

Having your own beehive is a blast. You'll find yourself being entertained as the bees fly in and out for nectar. But what's even more amazing is to look inside and observe the bees in their own home. Your hive should be inspected approximately every two weeks. This allows proper timing to monitor the ongoing health of your queen. If she should die or become unproductive, then a two week interval inspection will give you enough time to order or raise a new queen. (The hives in the photo are in pollination field, and I had to place them in the shade to keep them out of the fields)

Let's talk about making an inspection and what to look for once inside the hive.
First, let's pick the right day to do the inspection. We are looking for a nice, sunny day between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. We choose this time so that during our inspection, a large amount of the foragers will be out gathering water, pollen and nector, thus reducing the amount of bees in the hive. Level to rising barometric pressure seems to help the bees have a less aggressive temperament. NEVER work bees on cloudy days, and especially if there is an approaching storm. And never work bees when it is cold outside. Wait for temperatures well into the 60s before working your hives.

Bees cannot hear, but they can sense vibrations extremely well. And they can smell extremely well too, so be sure you don't stink, but don't over perfume yourelf either. Always wear bright colored clothing, preferably white. Bees become more aggressive toward dark clothing, but will rarely land on white. Never eat bananas prior to working your hives. Some suggest the odor of a banana can mimic the smell of another queen and cause the hive to become alarmed.

You'll want to approach the hive with your appropriate gear which includes your hive tool, your lit smoker, your hat and veil and any other protective clothing which you feel necessary. As you approach your hive, remember never to stand directly in front of the hive. This is their flight zone. I've watched beekeepers work their hive from the front, never being taught otherwise and I am amazed that they do not see the thousands of bees that want to land, but are blocked and are gathered behind the beekeeper's back wondering what to do. Always work your hives from behind the hive.

Consideration must be given when placing you hive so that you can have enough room to stand and work behind your hives. STAY OUT OF THEIR FLIGHT PATH! Here's a video of the entrance during a heavy nectar flow...


Blow two or three gentle puffs of smoke into the front of the hive. This smoke will cover the guards at the door and allow the smoke to drift up into the hive thus calming the bees as they begin to eat honey. Wait 2-3 minutes so that the smoke can become effective within the hive.

Next, begin to remove the top cover. As soon as you pry it up just a little, smoke inside the top cover and set it back down and wait a minute or so. Then, remove the top cover and blow a couple of gentle puffs of smoke across the inner cover. Sometimes bees like to hang out between the inner cover and outer cover in crowded hives.

Next, gently pry up your inner cover using your hive tool and blow a few puffs of smoke inside the hive.

Set it back down for a minute then lift it off, gently puffing smoke once or twice as you remove the inner cover. Now, you are in the hive! And in our next lesson, we'll begin to get familiar with identifying the inside of the hive.
*Special Hint* Be sure and secure all your beekeeping equipment during the winter, so that you'll have all you need in the Spring!!

We are swamped from Jan.-Jul. trying to send hives out to desperate beekeepers that need it yesterday. ORDER EARLY!!!
See you next time! Please encourage others to join these lessons!

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Lesson Eight: Equipment Needed To Keep Bees

As you prepare to keep bees, several tools will make it much easier. Of course, you could do without the tools and probably get by, but these tools have become the best friend to the beekeeper.

Let me start by sharing what I feel is ABSOLUTELY essential, and then I'll talk about extras that just make the job easier.


1) Hive Tool
2) Smoker
3) Hat & Veil


When I first started keeping bees I really didn't understand what the big deal was regarding the hive tool. Beekeepers talked about it like a carpenter talks about a hammer or tape measure. Now, nearly a decade and a half later, my hive tool is my best friend in the apiary.

By the way, APIARY is a fancy word for where you keep your bees. It is pronounced like: a-pea-airy. Our actual business is called Long Lane Apiary, but since many people aren't familiar with what an apiary is, we go by Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Back to the hive tool.

A hive tool is between 9-10 inches long. I prefer the 9" hive tool. The 10" tool just seems too long and clumsy for me. It looks at first like a small carpenter's pry bar. But, it is a hive tool. You will not find them at the local hardware store or at the local home supply center. You may think you don't need one or that another shop tool will work, but take my advice, get a hive tool! One of my workers preferred to use a screw driver until I realized he was tearing up the hives. You'd better get two or three hive tools if you are like me, and lose them so quickly.

Here's what the hive tool looks like:

The shinny end is mostly used for separating the hive bodies and supers. Bees gather propolis and use it as glue to keep their boxes tightly together. When inspecting your hive, you will need to use this hive tool to separate stuck-together pieces.

The hooked end of the hive tool is used mostly for scraping off the propolis. It is important to scrap off as much excess propolis as you can to prevent build up and to keep a cleaner hive.
Notice the small hole in the hive tool. This is for pulling out nails if needed. Of course, you'll find many more helpful uses for your hive tool, but these are everyday uses.


I would not want to keep bees without a smoker. Some brag that they don't smoke their bees, but, to me, this is not practical. Okay, first, why blow smoke in a hive? We do it to calm the bees. The idea is that smoke causes the bees to gorge themselves on honey, which makes them less likely and almost unable to sting. For one, they are busy eating, and they become so full, they are unable to bend and sting. It really does work! Trust me, this is not a tool you'll want to be without.

We'll cover how to enter a hive in a future lesson, but for now, let me give a brief explanation on how to smoke your hive. Use pine needles, burlap or corn cobs as fuel for your smoker. Of course, you can use other items such as wood pellets, large saw dust, dried grass or mulch too. Make sure that whatever you burn has not been treated with chemicals as this could kill your bees. When approaching your hive to open it, blow a couple of puffs of smoke into the front opening and wait at least 3 minutes. Then, remove the top cover and gently blow a few puffs of smoke into the entrance hole on the inner cover. As you begin removing the inner cover, blow a few puffs of smoke under the inner cover and between the frames as you lift off the inner cover. It is a good idea to wait a few minutes after blowing smoke into the hive as this gives the bees time to eat and relax.

Smokers are hot! They are metal, and lots of beekeepers have a perfect impression of a smoker bottom melted into their truck bed liners. I have one! I use an army ammo can now to put my smoker in when I am finished using it. It prevents fires, and prevents me from burning up something like my truck.

When lighting your smoker, do not pack it full, then try to light it. Load it lightly, and add fuel as it starts burning good. Be careful that the flame coming out of the opened smoker does not burn your hand or burn a nice size hole in your protective gear (experience speaking here)!!

Also, do not squeeze the smoker billow hard when smoking your hive. Gentle!! If you squeeze too hard, you may send fire into your hive. This is not good for the bees, and could set your entire hive on fire. Smoke only please!

Smoke does not hurt the bees. And you'll get good enough to know how much to use after a few tries. The smoker is good too, in case you get stung, you should blow smoke around the area of the sting. Bees are attracted to the scent of a stinger as a target, so by smoking the sting area, you neutralize this scent. Don't waste your money on expensive smokers! You're only blowing smoke!! A $30 smoker is all you need and works well.

Okay, I admit, I have worked my bees without a hat or veil. And I also admit I have been stung on the face too. That's one place I don't like to get stung. And you could lose your sight if stung in the eye ball. And, if you get stung on the lip, you will look like Donald Duck for 2 days! Wear a hat and veil at all times.

Hats are usually plastic and are modeled after the popular pith hat. I like real pith hats from Vietnam, so I use real ones. They are a few bucks more than a cheap plastic one, but it is just my preference. Here at LONG LANE HONEY BEE FARMS we offer both plastic and real pith hats. Here's a picture of what we sell in our start up kits.

I wear my pith hat all day. When I'm not working bees, I remove the veil. The pith hat is a great sun blocker. Here I am after working my hives, cooling off in the front swing with my pith hat on.

Both the plastic and real pith hats provide total protection from the bees, not to mention they keep ticks out of your hair if your hives are beneath some trees. (Hives should be placed in direct sunlight at all times!)

An occasional stray bee can sneak in beneath your veil. I wear my veil without tying it off, so I do find a bee inside with me maybe twice a year. What do you do then? First, you do not panic. She is not in there to kill you. She wandered in by accident. I advise those who help me to never take off their veil in the field. The first instinct is to rip off the hat and veil to get the bee out. However, that sudden movement with a now exposed face and head in the middle of an apiary is not a good combination. Here's what I do. I face the sun, tilt my head back. She will move toward the sun on my inside veil, and I simply squeeze her between my fingers. The veil is flexible enough that I usually squeeze from the outside, but you can always slip your hand under your veil inside and squeeze her.


Spray bottle, frame puller, frame holders, gloves, boots, etc. I don't like to wear gloves. I get stung more with gloves than without, because a bee will innocently climb up into my glove and I'll not know it and pinch her enough to get stung. Without gloves, I can better feel the bee and know where they are so as not to pinch one. If I do wear gloves, I use a very thin leather glove. I prefer pig skin gloves. A stinger can get through, but it does provide a lot of protection.

Again, the plan is to work your bees in such a way as to never get stung. I'll cover that in a future lesson too.

Please tell your friends about these online FREE beekeeping lessons. They can easily subscribe and have these emailed to their inbox. Also, if you do subscribe, be sure and allow the pictures
to download in your mail program. Some security is set to disable picture downloads in Email. However, in Microsoft Outlook, you can simply RIGHT CLICK on where a picture is NOT showing, and tell it to allow the pictures to show.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Lesson Seven In Beekeeping: How To Install A New Package Of Bees

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To prepare for the arrival of your bees, you will want to purchase a new spray bottle and mix sugar water, one part water to one part sugar. Do not use old spray bottles that have been used with other chemicals as this could make the bees sick or kill them.
 Spray an ample supply of sugar water through the screen. Use the mist setting, not the stream. You CANNOT over spray your bees. They have been traveling for several days, and no doubt have been hot and not able to eat much, so the sugar water will really replenish their energy.

If you are traveling elsewhere with your bees, or after you pick them up from us, try to keep the package in a shaded or dark place in the car or truck. If you use a truck, try to avoid excessive wind damage that may occur if you place your bees in the bed of your truck. If you have to travel a long distance at interstate speed, and the bees are in the bed of your truck, place something around them, protecting them from the wind, while also providing sufficient air flow. Bees must have air to breathe just like us!

Sometimes, the weather might be too wet or cold to install your bees the same day they arrive. In this case, simply keep them in a cool basement or dark room and spray them with sugar water 3-4 times a day. They will usually be fine for a few days if you have to wait. Some dead bees on the bottom of their package is common. An inch or two of dead bees might be a problem, indicating they did not withstand the trip well. Call your supplier and report the findings.

If you see a few bees on the outside of your package, do not panic. It does not usually mean there is a leak. It usually means that a few bees have been clinging to the outside of the package for thousands of miles. But do check to make sure the box is sealed well.

Will the bees in the package sting you? Honeybees can always sting. However, you will find that by spraying them with sugar water, they are very calm. And, since they do not have any brood or honey to protect, they are not trying to defend their hive. Technically they don't have a queen either. Their morale is low, so they are not nearly as aggressive. When I install packages, I do not wear gloves or hat and veil. I would not recommend it to you, because you don't want a bad experience on your first installation, but you will find the bees to be very gentle. Work with confidence!
Now, here's how you can effectively install your bees in your new hive. Choose a good time of the day, when it is sunny, warm and not too windy. Mid to late afternoon works well. Be sure and take all your equipment to where you will install your package. You will need the following items:

1) Spray bottle with sugar water (1:1 ratio, one part water, one part sugar)
2) Hive tool
3) A wood screw (for removing queen cage cork)
4) A comfortable amount of protective clothing

Be sure your new hive equipment is where you want your hive to be. At this point, you will only need your bottom board, 1 deep hive body, 10 frames and foundation, inner and top cover. Remove 4 of the center frames from the new hive body. This is where you will shake your bees into. Spray all 10 frames, both sides, with the 1:1 sugar water mixture. This will attract the bees to the foundation and give them a warm welcome to their new home. Bees love sugar!

Also, before you install your package, you'll want to insert your entrance feeder or our new Burns Bees Feeding System. The BBF System is great for new packages. Comes with lids pre-drilled for your jar of 1:1 sugar water.

Bees need fed when first installed because they are not an operational hive just yet. They have no incoming food. So feed them for a couple of weeks the same mixture of 1:1 sugar water.

After 3-4 days, you can remove it entirely until fall. This step is important because occasionally packages can fly away (Abscond) after you install them. This restriction will help tremendously. While the chance of your new hive flying away is VERY RARE, but the possibility does exists. The reducer will help. They will stay put better than you would think. Do not fear that they are flying away because you see lots of bees flying around. This is normal. They need to stretch and go to the bathroom after traveling so far. Bees do not defecate inside their hive. They are very clean.
Now, spray the package thoroughly on both sides of the screen, front and back. This will calm the bees, keep them well nourished and keep them from flying about so much during the installation process. Remember, you cannot over spray. Be prepared for sticky hands and fingers.

Now, you will want to begin opening your package. Do not be afraid. Millions of bees are not going to rush out at you. Work with confidence and enjoy the activity.
To open the package, first remove the top panel. It is stapled on to the box. Staples are sharp, so don't cut yourself on the staples once the panel is removed. Use your hive tool to pry open the panel. But, be careful with your hive tool. The end is very sharp too, and if the tool should slip, it can poke or cut you.

Once you remove the top panel, NO bees will come out yet. This panel simply holds the feeding container in place as well as the white strap that has the queen cage on the opposite end, inside the package.

The bees may become noisy which is normal. Spray them again if you need to calm them. They are becoming loud not because you are making them mad, but simply because of the the sunlight and air. They are ready to do what bees do. Make a hive and gather nectar. Stay calm and confident!
Now you see the top of the tin can of sugar as well as the white queen cage strap. The queen cage strap is also stapled to the top of the box. Free this strap, but do not let it fall into the package of bees.

Gently tip the package of bees over the new hive, positioning it over the center where the 4 frames have been removed. Slide the sugar tin can out a little so you can get an easier grip on it. Sometimes the can comes out easily, and sometimes it is very tight and has to be wiggled out with considerable effort. It will come out.

Once you are ready, pull the can all the way out. At this point, the bees will have access to the great outdoors, specifically, their new hive. They will be attracted to the beeswax and sugar coated foundation awaiting them. Set the can of sugar water aside, holes facing up so it doesn't leak.
You will need to pull out the queen cage now, prior to shaking the bees or else it will fall into the hive. If it does, no problem. The queen is okay, just remove the cage and place it on top of the hive off to the side from where you'll be pouring your bees.

Now begin shaking your bees out of the package and into the new hive. Shake as hard as you want and you'll start seeing them pour into the new hive. You may also want to firmly strike the side of the package with the palm of your hand to free bees that are hanging on to the screen. However, be sure not to strike a bee when striking the side of the box or you might smash a bee just enough to get stung. Notice in the picture, I take advantage of the remaining sugar water in the tin can by placing if over the entrance feeder. I usually poke a few more holes with a nail so the bees will consume it more quickly. After it is finished, I replace it with a mason jar with holes in the lid.

Now you must install your queen. Slow release method is the best. These are not her bees, and she is not the queen they are used to YET! So, you must let them get to know her before she can roam freely among her new hive. Here's how. The queen cage has a screen on top and through the screen you can identify a white candy substance at one end. This is the end that you will HAVE TO remove the cork. DO NOT REMOVE THE CORK AT THE OPPOSITE END OF THE CANDY. Only remove the cork from the candy end of the cage. A hive tool doesn't work well, but screwing in a small screw then pulling it out works well. Once the cork is out, you will see that the hole is still plugged with the white candy. GOOD! Do not disturb that candy plug. As the bees eat through the candy, they will become familiar with their new queen. Then, once the candy has bee eaten, she will emerge from her cage as queen of the hive and be readily accepted by her new workers. After all, they are ready for a queen themselves!
Once you've removed the cork, you will want to place the cage between the frames in the center of the hives from the top. Notice how I use the pressure of the hive frames to hold the cage between the frames. I hang my queen cage with the candy side down. Some say to hang it with the candy up, in case her attendant bees within her cage die, they do not block her exit. However, bees are good about moving dead bees out of the way, and I want her to exit out onto the foundation.

PLAY CLOSE ATTENTION. YOU MUST REPLACE ALL 10 FRAMES!! If you don't, the bees will quickly make comb in place where your frames should have gone. This will be a mess. And they will attach their comb to your top cover and if you wait long enough, you will not be able to open your hive. SO YOU MUST REPLACE ALL 10 FRAMES before replacing the inner and top cover.
Do not place any other boxes on the hive just yet. You only need the one deep box. Let them draw out the comb, usually 6-8 frames, then you can place your second hive body on top. Once 6-8 frames of your second deep have been drawn out, you can start placing your supers on.

Great Job! You Did It!! Place the package box near the front of the hive because it will still have some bees that you were unable to shake out of it. These will find their way into the hive in a day or two.