Monday, February 25, 2008

Lesson 28: Varroa Mites ( 217-427-2678

sherichristian When you call us here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, there are two people who will probably be answering the phone. My wife, Sheri and our youngest son Christian. Christian likes to get his two cents in on the phone conversations too, so you might hear him in the background. I hope little Christian, who is now 5 months old, will one day become a beekeeper. If he does, I'll have to teach him how to keep bees from being destroyed by varroa mites. But, while we wait for him to grow up, how 'bout I teach you...
A bear devouring a hive is an attention getter! A flood or hurricane washing hundreds of hives down stream is terrifying. These are huge calamities which beekeepers go to great lengths to prevent. We'll put up electric fences or put our hives on poles to protect them from bears. We'll elevate our hives to tower above flood plains. However, many beekeepers do very little to protect their hives from what might be their biggest threat. We seem not to take small things very seriously...small things like the tiny Varroa mite. The Bible says it is the little foxes that ruin the vineyard (Song of Solomon 2:15).
Mites are visible with the naked eye, but they are small. I wanted to put a picture of a mite on a bee in here, but fortunately for me, I didn't see any mites on the bees I tried to examine. But if you google "varrora mites" you'll see plenty of pictures. Older mites become dark and are easier to see than young mites which are almost clear at first.
In 1987 mites were introduced into the US probably as the result of imported bees. Within the next few years mites nearly destroyed all feral hives. A feral hive is a natural hive not kept by a beekeeper, like a wild hive in a tree. But the mites did not stop at feral hives but reached deep within the bee yards of all beekeepers, driving many commercial beekeepers out of business, and hobbyist out of a hobby.
I remember in the early 90s a friend of mine said he was done keeping bees because it was cheaper to buy honey than produce it. Mites drove him out of the hobby. They shouldn't have!
All hives will have some mites. Mites are found in a bee hive feeding on pupae and on adult bees. It is important for the beekeeper to understand the basic reproduction cycle of the varroa mite which takes place within the honey bee capped brood cell. An adult mated female mite is called a foundress. The female mite enters the brood cell just before it is capped. She then lays her eggs in the cell while munching on the pupae. First she lays an unfertilized egg and it develops into a male mite. Then her other eggs are fertilized and develop into females. Mites mate with siblings. After the bee emerges from the cell, so do the adult female mites, looking for a new cell. Mites are carried from one hive to another by hitching a ride on the bees.
Good news: We can successfully keep bees even though we have mites!
Okay, to be fair, I must tell you what you will be told by most entomologist and bee inspectors and what you'll read in most beekeeping books and magazines. They give you a standard approach for dealing with mites. So, I'll give you what they say, then, I'll give you my thoughts on the subject. For the record, their way is not bad, wrong or unwise. It is sound advice. And keep in mind that I am not a scientist nor an entomologist anyway, right? I just don't like to use chemicals in my hive. That's where we differ.
Most will tell you to do a mite count to determine if you are over the "economic threshold". This is a fancy way of saying there comes a point where too many mites can be bad for your hive. However, that's like someone telling us there is an economic threshold for rattle snakes in your house. One is too many right? So it is with mites. They can carry viruses and when they bite our bees, viruses are spread. So one is too many, but it is practically impossible not to have some mites.
This economic threshold is determined by placing a sticky board under your screen bottom board for 24 hours and then counting the mites that are stuck to the board. Don't buy those expensive sticky bottom board. Make your own. I'll write a future lesson on how to make a lot of these cool things. Based on your number, you determine whether you are over or under the economic threshold which basically means either you treat with chemicals or you don't. At least this is what is commonly suggested. If you have more than 50 mites within a 24 hour drop period, then it is recommend that you treat your bees for mites.
Of course, I have my opinion right? First, the sticky board count method concerns me. Here's why. If I have a very hygienic hive, they may be cleaning out the mites and the mites might naturally fall onto my sticky board. So, I might see a count of 50 mites, but it may not mean I have a problem, but just the opposite. On the other hand, if I only have 5 mites on my sticky board it may cause me to think I do not have a problem, but in reality, my brood cells could be full of mites and mites might be all over my bees and just hanging on exceptionally well.

So I do not trust the sticky board drop test. Let me tell you how I determine my mite levels and then what I do with that information.

1) Digital photography. I photograph several frames, take the photo back to my pc, and zoom in on my drones and worker bees and look for mites.
2) Open drone brood cells and some worker cells. I actually will pull out purple eye pupae and examine the number of mites on the pupae. Mites love drones because queens emerge from their cells in 16 days, workers in 21 days but drones not until day 24, giving the foundress more time to reproduce before the drone merges.
These two methods give me a much better read on my mite levels.
Mites will be in your hives. They are impossible to avoid entirely, but they can be kept to a level that will not disrupt the hive as much.
While it is true that for many years the answer was to treat with chemicals, this is not a good management practice in my opinion. With all our chemicals we seemed to have developed a super mite that is now resistant to our chemicals while at the same time, some of these chemicals have made our queens and drones weaker. Some of the approved chemicals can be absorbed in the comb for 5 years or longer.
Within agriculture, there has long been an approach called IPM for Integrated Pest Management. IPM is an integration of several approaches to keep mites below the economic threshold. While treating with chemicals is part of IPM, that is a step we try to leave out.


WHEN HONEY SUPERS ARE ON: Screen bottom board, small cell foundation, drone brood foundation freezing, hygienic queens and strong colonies.

First, if you are just starting out with a new package this year, it will be vary rare to have a mite problem within your package of bees. It is possible, but I typically never see mites that much in the spring or early summer. I just don't care about mites until July and August. Mites become more aggressive and spread more rapidly in late summer around August.
You see, I want my bees to produce honey from April through the second week of August. And they do. I try to stay out of my hives as much as possible during heavy nectar flows so as not to disrupt their bringing in all that honey that my customers are lined up in my driveway waiting on! And, you can't use chemicals any way when you have honey supers on the hive. If you do, your customer's honey will be contaminated with chemicals that can harm humans. You DON'T WANT THAT!!
But, there are some things I can do when my honey supers are on to cut down on mites. First, I use screen bottom boards. I used to be a staunch solid bottom board fan until I experimented with a screen bottom board. Wow! I immediately converted all of my solid bottom boards over to screen bottom boards. When mites fall to the bottom of a hive with a screen bottom board, they are gone, and cannot make it back in. On a solid bottom board, they simply wait for the next passing bee to get on and ride back up to infest the hive.
A screen bottom board also provides ventilation and a cleaner hive allowing colony debris to fall on through. Here in Central Illinois winters are harsh, sometimes getting well below 0 and windy. I do not cover my screen bottom boards. I leave them open all winter to allow ventilation to evaporate the moisture out of my hives. It is not the cold that kills bees, but being cold and wet from their own condensation within the hive from poor ventilation. Screen bottom boards will not get rid of all the mites, but it is one of several approaches that contributes toward keeping mites below the economic threshold.
drone foundation Secondly, I use drone foundation to lure the mites. You see, as I said earlier, mites like drone cells because the foundress mites have a full 24 days to develop their prodigy since the drone is the longest in the cell. So, you can lure the mites off of your worker cells by placing drone foundation on the outside edges of your brood hive bodies. We sell a one piece drone foundation plastic frame. The cell size is for drone cells so the queen knows to lay only unfertilized eggs producing drones. Then, your mites run to these cells and after they are capped, you pull the frames out, put them in a plastic trash bag, freeze them overnight and your mites are dead. Scratch open the cells and place it back in hive for the bees to clean out, and they will! They get rid of all the mites and dead drones. These frames are a bright lime green so you can easily identify your drone frames. We sell these frames for $4.99 each, much cheaper than chemicals. These can be purchased from our website at: under frames and foundation. By scratching the cells open after freezing, it allows you to keep the drawn comb intact, but encourages the bees to clean out the dead mites and drones from the cells. If you scrap the wax completely off, then it just takes more time for the bees to draw it out again.
Thirdly, small cell foundation. I'll skip small cell foundation, because it is not a for sure thing and it should be tried only by very experienced beekeepers. It has to do with bee regression and let's just say that's a whole different lesson. But many claim that by using 4.9 mm cell size foundation, the cells are capped a day sooner, throwing off the mite's cycle and not allowing them to get in on time. Some studies have shown this not to be effective, while other studies show it helps control mites.
Fourthly, work is underway to produce a queen that is so hygienic that her daughters might have the characteristic of detecting a foundress mite, opening the cell and dragging the pupae and mites out before they reproduce. I have attended a conference where this was discussed and the results were shared. It is promising! We may not have to wait, as some suggest that bees are now becoming more aware of mites and are actually taking them out of the hive.
Again, if you find you have a queen and her daughters are keeping mites out of the hive, then that is good queen stock to breed from!
Finally, the answer to all colony problems in my opinion is to keep strong colonies. A strong colony avoids most diseases and pests.
When your supers are off of your hive, powdered sugar dropped in the deep hive bodies can be very effective at controlling mites. For a complete lesson on how to apply the powdered sugar drop, check out our lesson at the link below:
When using powdered sugar, the bees actually clean each other off, and mites go too. And mites get the sugar in their suction cups and can't hang on any more and fall out too! It is impressive.
There you have it! Some natural ways and IPM ways to manage your hives and keep mites from destroying your hive.
I've been working on several more lessons at the same time I've written this one. The next one will be on record keeping. A failure to keep beekeeping logs can result in the failure of your hives.
Remember, call in your hive orders as soon as possible so you can get your equipment on hand soon. So call us for your hive order or bee order. Call us between 9am - 5pm Central Time. We'll be happy to help you get what you need to start keeping bees.

We have lots of hives listed at our main website at: We'd love to earn your business.

Remember... BEE-HAVE Yourself!!

David & Sheri Burns

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Lesson 27: Help Save The Honey Bee

I am working on a lesson, probably the one after this one, where I will address varroa mites and some natural ways to keep mites under control. But prior to that lesson, I want to put out one more clarion cry for people to help save the bees!
The decline of the honey bee population is alarming. CCD hysteria aside, the decline of honey bees in the US is disturbing. Not only because of the recent concern of Colony Collapse Disorder, but because less and less people are keeping bees. Even before the concern of CCD I was already frightened at the reduction in bee colonies simply due to urbanization and the decline in beekeepers. An absence of honey bees has sent farmers running to the phones begging beekeepers to bring some honey bees to pollinate their crops. I received two such calls last week.
Without the honey bee we face a severe food crises. One third of every bite of food we enjoy is the result of a honey bee. You see, honey bees pollinate. And without adequate pollination, our food supply is in serious trouble unless you want to live on a diet of beans, corn and rice.
Without the honey bee America would have to pay 93 billion dollars A YEAR to do what the honey bee does, if that was even possible. And in reality, no efforts can replace the honey bee. We receive many calls from orchards and melon farmers begging us to bring bees to help them produce a crop. The need for honey bees is tremendous. At times, and in some places, the beekeeper can name any price to rent their hives and the grower will pay it. One grower in Maine pays over $900,000.00 for bees for his blueberries!
Bee Talk In my opinion, the only way we can protect the honey bee from becoming extinct or declining even further is to encourage more and more people to start keeping bees.
One October 28th, 2007, PBS aired a NATURE broadcast entitled, Silence Of The Bee. Several things are worth noting about that broadcast. May Berenbaum, PhD, Entomologist, Univ. of Illinois at U.C. said, "Estimates are that about 600,000 of America's 2.6 million honey bee colonies may have just disappeared". Another interesting observation was that during the broadcast a line came across the screen that encouraged people to go to the PBS website to find out what they could do to help save the honey bee. After the broadcast I followed that link and it basically said that to help save the honey bee more people should become beekeepers. We totally agree! This is our passion.
I am often asked exactly, "What is needed to start my first hive?" My wife might answer you differently than I would. I would encourage you to buy everything at once, all the things you'll need throughout the full year of beekeeping. My wife certainly agrees with me on this, but if she were starting out she would probably buy just enough to get started, and then add to it as the hobby expands. That's because my wife is very frugal with money, spending as little as necessary. I'm a guy. I like to buy big things and everything at once. Why not, I'm going to need it anyway!
To help more people keep bees, our family owned business has developed into 4 areas:
1) Manufacturing of the woodenware, the actual hives.
2) Educating the general public, FREE, on how to keep bees. Of course we educate by offering free mentoring to everyone who purchases a hive from us too.
3) Selling package bees, nucs and queens.
4) And selling honey and other products our hives produce.

People often call and ask what they need to get started. So, we have put together the perfect kit, containing just what you need to start your efforts in helping to save the honey bee.
This complete startup kit is on our website under startup kits, and it's called the "Starter Kit" and it costs $249 plus shipping. If you add in the cost of a 3 lb package of bees with an Italian queen which includes shipping of the bees, the price is $345 plus the cost of shipping the hives. Even this is still a small price to pay to start keeping a hive. Don't forget that I strongly suggest, however, that you start with two hives! This is very important, though not essential if finances are tight. For more information on why you should start with two hives, click on this link to lesson Eighteen, "How Many Hives Should I Start With"?

This will probably be my last opportunity to hit the subject of declining bees so hard within these bee lessons. From here on out, the beekeeping season jumps into full speed and gains speed all the way through November so the lessons will be more hands on, dealing with day to day beekeeping preparation and operations of your hives. So may I challenge you to consider beekeeping! And if you already are keeping bees, then please do your part to encourage others to get on board and start keeping more hives. Bees die, and when they do, don't despair. Replace your dieouts and keep going!

We are here to help you enjoy the wonderful honey bee and the natural products we gather from the hive.
Also, we'd like to post some of the positive comments that you might be willing to share about these beekeeping lessons. So, if you have a positive comment to share about how these lessons have helped you, please send them to: and we'll sprinkle them throughout our upcoming lessons. Please include your state and first name.
I can't wait to share my thoughts in our next lesson about varroa mites. I've got a few radical ideas to share, and I think after hearing some of my ideas, you'll agree!
We are still selling 3 lb packaged bees! And we sell at $96, for pick up at our facility only.

Remember, BEE-Have Yourself!

David & Sheri Burns


Saturday, February 9, 2008

The Hard Work Of Being A Beekeeper

I want to take a break today from our beekeeping lessons and share some thought with you today.

Ask any beekeeper and he or she will quickly tell you that  beekeeping is a wonderful hobby, but it can be hard work. A hive or two in the backyard is certainly different that having several hundred hives. I currently operate around 40 hives and I do consider it hard work, but not the kind of hard work that is unenjoyable.

Bees are our business. On our way to buy groceries, we talk about bees. At supper, we often talk about beekeeping techniques, or the health of our hives or the orders that we need to get out. We do this not because we are overwhelmed, but because we love beekeeping that much! 

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms has four legs to our family operated business: Hive Woodenware Production 2) Honey Production 3) Package Bee & Queen Production and 4) Beekeeping Education. All of these together indeed make for hard but very enjoyable and rewarding work. I enjoy hard work.

Solomon in all his wisdom wrote, "Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work--this is a gift of God" (Ecclesiastes 5:19).

hardwork We can work hard and be happy in our hard work as long as we are enjoying it. I've had many jobs! I walked crops as a teenager, worked in a factory, worked hard to obtain my college degree, worked as a salesman and worked for a radio station. Some of those jobs I liked others I didn't enjoy much. But working the bee business is a blast. It has become a passion, a wonderful blessing to my family and me.

Hey, let me be up front. Plenty of large companies sell hives. They have beautiful catalogs, a bank of 800 number sales people ready to take your calls and certainly they can meet your beekeeping needs. If that's what you are looking for, then you should probably deal with the big boys. I would never run them down to promote ourselves. That's not good business.

We are building our business on the idea and belief that there are still some folks who appreciate the small family operated business, where loyalties are established and respected. Jay's Lucky Food I grew up in Memphis, Tennessee back in the 60s, and down the street from me was a family owned grocery store called "Jay's Lucky Foods". That's where I traded in my empty coke bottles for candy money and rotted my teeth out on bubble gum and a ten cent coke.  My parents were loyal to Jay and his store, always buying everything from his store. They didn't have to, but something about loyalty and trust...

We appreciate our loyal customers and friends of our business. The communities that we live near have been so generous and kind toward our business. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging. bee farm signFor example, in the picture to the left, you can see our first sign. It was handed painted and made by my wife's parents and friends from their church. They did that just for us! Sheri's mom, Virginia Henness, is at the far left standing next to me.  I believe most people see our hard work and tremendous effort we place in our honey, our hives and our woodenware products we make and want to support our efforts. We appreciate it so much.

But we are much more than just a business trying to make a buck. Don't get me wrong...we have to make a profit. But it's not only about the bottom line with us. To us, it's about seeing people grasp our love and appreciation for one of God's creation, the honey bee. It's about us doing what we can to help people catch our vision and passion of enjoying keeping bees. It's about bridging the gap between a wonderful hobby and the skeptical beginner. It's about meeting wonderful people who need to ask some questions about bees.

Last year, we spent hundreds of hours on the phone answering questions, giving advice and encouragement to new beekeepers. One man needed a bee-vac but couldn't pay for it all at once. I sent it to him and just asked him to pay me as he could. We're just kinda that way, I guess.

We believe that if we work hard and share our trials and successes with you, that you'll understand that we are everyday folks you can feel comfortable dealing with. We're kind of like your corner grocery market. Huge mega stores have gobbled up mom and pop operations. To me, that is sad. I had an offer to buy wood for our hives $200 cheaper than my local lumber yard. I turned down the offer because my lumber yard is a family owned business that treats us like gold. Sure, $200 bucks a month is a huge savings, but loyalty and trust is priceless.

Call me weird, but I still believe in America, and people pursing their dreams.  That's what you have helped my family do. I was raised by hard working parents who trusted in Jesus and survived the great depression and World War II. My dad taught me how to treat people right, how to be honest and to work hard. I'm not perfect, but I am doing my best to make our bee business something we can do to feed our family and a place where you can rely on for all your beekeeping needs.  I just want to say that I appreciate your business and interest in our beekeeping hobby gone wild! We'll keep working hard to earn and keep your business. So, when you call us, either my wife or I will take your call. When you place your order with us, you are helping us accomplish our dreams!

We are able to meet all of your product needs, including package bees, queens, hives, nucs, honey, wax, beekeeping tools, frames, foundation, protective clothing, extractors, bee medicines, and everything else!

Feel free to give us a call Mon. - Fri. 9am - 5pm at 217-427-2678 or email us at:

When you visit our website you may not see what you need listed on our site. We are slow in getting all products listed. So just call us up and tell us what you'll need. We can take a credit card order over the phone and ship out your order.

See you next time, and remember...BEE-Have Yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms  Davidsheriborder

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Lesson 26: Luring Hives From Structures

Here's my family throwing me a 48th birthday party at a local steak house. We had a great time. My wife and I are the ones next to our newest baby in the seat, little Christian. At one time or another, I've talked everyone in the picture into helping me out with the bee business :)

Now for today's lesson...

We all like to save a buck and many people want to get started keeping bees by luring a hive out of a wall of their home, barn, garage or from a tree. It is a frequently asked question, "Can I lure the bees out of the wall by placing an empty hive next to the wall?" It is a good question.

Last November I received a call from a couple who noticed bees flying around the bushes in front of their home. They thought they had a swarm. This was November 13, when there are NO SWARMS. I expected to find a handful of yellow jackets that must have survived the killer frosts. Upon inspection, sure enough, I noticed honey bees flying in and out of the north wall of their home, going in just below the siding. The owners really wanted me to place an empty hive next to the house to see if the bees would leave the wall and take up residence in the hive I placed next to the wall. I tried to convince them, that it would never happen, but I obliged them. That was in November and so you'll have to stay tuned to these lessons because in the spring, I'll go back and give you an update. However, I can pretty much guess now that the bees did not leave their nice warm hive inside the wall. Here is a video of the empty hive I placed next to their wall.

Does this work? Well, I've learned to never say never, but I am really tempted here to say never, but as soon as I do, someone will do it! So let me explain why it is nearly impossible and why it would rarely happen.
An established hive in a wall of a structure has a combination of brood in various stages, stored pollen, nectar and stored honey. They have worked very hard to build drawn comb. The queen's pheromone is prominent in the hive. Why would they leave? There is too much to take care of. They are busy feeding young baby bees and storing honey. They would never abandon their hive short of some disease such as CCD, and then you would not want the bees anyway. Remember, that a colony of bees is actually scientifically considered a single organism. 60,000 bees acting as one single organism. They are dependent upon each other, working together to make their hive function. This is why it is nearly impossible to lure it out of a safe home.

Don't be fooled. If you place an empty hive next to the wall where the bees live, you might see lots of bees going into your empty hive. But more than likely they are merely searching it for resources such as any beeswax on frames, or honey.
The only way, as far as I am concerned, to remove a hive from a structure is to remove every last bit of comb and remove the queen as well. If you leave the queen, but take a considerable number of bees, the hive has not bee removed and will rebuild.

Some try to place a funnel made of screen over the entrance hole on the house with the large end of the screen funnel against the house and the smaller end toward the open sky. The theory is that the bees can get out, but they will not try to enter back into the small opening on the screen funnel. This is not effect as the queen WILL NEVER come out and the hive could die within the wall because the foragers cannot bring back food. You, or people who call you to remove a hive, do not want a bee hive to die in a wall. I'll tell you why in just a moment.

Also, for those who choose to spray poison in the hole in the house, let me warn you that this is not effective. First, it is very difficult to saturate the hive enough to kill it entirely due to the way the comb is large and layered. Secondly, if you were to kill it, then you will have a larger problem. Now you have unprotected honey which, without bees to tend to it, will run, ooze, and drip attracting such other pests as roaches, mice and even black mold. This can happen too, if you lure out the bees through a screen funnel but the queen is left inside with the young bees. It is critical to have a beekeeper remove the hive entirely from the home. Take a look at this hive I removed. It was huge and took a full day to remove. You can click on the image to download the full size image.


You'll receive calls from friend and neighbors asking you to remove hives from various kinds of structures and if you notice in the image above, you see very few bees. That's because we manufacture a specially made bee-vac that vacuums the bees safely into a cage. Otherwise, there would be thousands upon thousands of bees flying around protecting and defending the brood and honey in the picture. The brood is toward the center of the pictures, toward the lower left. It is a bit lighter in color, a leather brown color. Sealed honey can be noticed at the top of the picture. If you'd like to inquire about one of our bee-vacs click here
Why would you leave your house and move into an empty garage? Bees will not either!
Swarm lures are different in that when using a swarm lure, you are not trying to lure a hive out of a dwelling, but you are trying to invite a swarm into you hive or trap. In other words, a swarm is a natural split from a larger hive. They leave with a queen and send scouts out to find a nice new home. This is how bee colonies multiply, kind of like having children. The scouts can be attracted to your hive or swarm lure because of the scent. For that matter the whole hive can be drawn to your swarm lure. The scouts can go back then, and inform the swarm that they have found a home and lead them to your box. Now a couple of things have to happen for this to be successful.

1) An existing hive has to produce a swarm very close to where you live and this usually only occurs in May-June.
2) Scouts bees have to happen on to your lure scent or hive. It's a big world out there and such a small bee to find your box.

Last summer I had hundreds of bee boxes with drawn comb stored in a friend's barn. One day, I received a call that thousands of bees were in his barn. Great! I concluded that a swarm was moving into some of those boxes. But, he was right and I was wrong. There were thousands of bees, but it was not a swarm. They were just smelling out some dried honey smells and looking around. But imagine thousands of bees knowing how great of a home those boxes with drawn comb would have made. You would have thought that if any hives in the area were to swarm, this is where they would go. They never did.


How do you remove a hive from a structure? Saws, hammers, pry bars, ladders, lights, extension cords, drills and all the other tools you need to build a house :) It is pretty intensive. I actually have a long check list of tools and supplies I need to do the job, and I load the truck the day before.

You have to decide where the hive is located by using a stethoscope. Then you have to decide, along with the home owner if you should enter the wall from the outside by removing siding or the inside by removing drywall. To me, it is much easier to remove dry wall, and less work to repair. But it just depends on the siding and backer board.

You should also sign a contract with the home owner specifying that you are NOT a bonded contractor and that you will not be responsible for damages. In a perfect world it is best for the home owner to have their favorite handy man there to open up the wall and close up too. But do have it in writing. By the way, most home owners pay between $200 - $1000 to have bees removed.

I only open enough of the structure to begin using my bee vac to vacuum the exposed bees. Then, I remove more of the structure and vacuum more bees. I continue this until I have all the bees removed. On a large hive this takes several hours. Once all the bees are removed, I begin to tear out the comb.

I then take the bee vac full of bees and dump them into an empty hive, queen and all, then I process all the honey from the hive and process the good wax. It can be a profitable venture in that the home owner may pay you $500, you can then sell the honey and bees wax for another $300 if the hive is large, and you obtained a free full size hive, worth at least $150. Do the math, not bad for a day's work. But it is work! I wear a full suit, duct tape every hole and wear boots and heavy gloves. You must, because unlike working your hives at home, you are tearing up and attacking a hive.

We've spent a long time perfecting our version of the bee-vac, adjusting the air suction so it does not injure the bees and adding padding in the right places so the bees are not knocked against walls when drawn into the cage. These bee vacs are great to use on swarms too, especially swarms that are too high to shake out of a tree or hanging on the side of a building. Here's what our bee vac looks like.

Bee Vac Nov 15 2007 010

Every beekeeper who is interested in retrieving swarms or hives would benefit greatly in owning a bee-vac, and beekeeping associations could have one on hand to lend to its members!

Finally today, let me remind you of the check list for what you need now that spring is almost here.
[] Hives wooden ware
[] Plenty of honey supers, at least 3 per hive
[] Protective clothing such as hat/veil, suit
[] Smoker and hive tool
[] Place your 3 lb package bee order
[] Sugar water spray bottle
[] Pallets or blocks to place your hives on
[] Review all lessons so that you can hit the ground running!

We provide one year of free mentoring when you purchase your hives and bees from us. That means that you can call us and get advise on your problems or general beekeeping questions.
We are still providing packaged bees, 3 lb packages with Italian queen for pick up. Give us a call at the number below if you need bees for your hives.
If you still need to purchase items for your beekeeping needs, go to:
Until next time, remember to Bee-have yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
217-427-2678 (Mon. - Fri. 9am - 5pm)
Email us at:


Sunday, February 3, 2008

Lesson 25: Queen Excluders? Pros & Cons

Hello everyone, from Long Lane Honey Bee Farm in Central Illinois! Today, I want to share some thoughts on QUEEN EXCLUDERS, but before I do, take a look at these pictures.

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

ADVANCE BEEKEEPING COURSE JUNE 11, 2014 9am-3pm Central Illinois!!

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.

rainbowhivesmallA few summers ago, I took this beautiful picture after a brief rain. We became known on Ebay with this picture! Someone even suggested we should make this picture into a poster and sell it. During the winter, this picture gives us all hope of spring rains, flowers, bees, nectar and rainbows! I can't wait. lesson 24
But back to reality, it's February and here's what my hives looked like on the first day of February. I believe in removing the snow off the top of the hives ASAP, because on a warm day, the melting snow can drip and run into the hive in places that rain would not. In the picture above you can see the difference between the two hives with snow on the left, and the hives on the right that have been cleared of snow.
Lesson24cI also clear out the bottom board occasionally. It's so much work for the bees to do, that I feel like I can help them out some. Plus, to me, it seems the less dead bees in the hive, the healthier it is. The picture above, taken Feb. 1, 2008, shows dead bees that I have raked off the bottom board with a stick. This is a normal amount of dead bees during the winter.
What is a queen excluder. A queen excluder is a metal or plastic material that looks somewhat like a grill which is sized so that worker bees can pass through, but the queen and most drones are too big and therefore are excluded from passing through. Thus the name Queen Excluder.
When & Why To Use A Queen Excluder
The most common use of a queen excluder is to place it directly above your top brood box. Then, all honey supers are placed above the excluder. The excluder then is able to keep the queen in the brood chambers and excludes her from getting into the honey super and laying eggs. Excluders are also used in hives where the beekeeper is operating a two queen hive.
I generally do not use queen excluders on my hives for several reasons. 1) To me, they are high maintenance. The bees often attach comb to the excluder thus reducing the passageway, 2) Drones can become stuck and reduce the passageway, 3) I want my bees to be able to easily go in and out of the honey super, so I fear that the excluder discourages the bees from filling a super if they have to work their way through an excluder.
I am often asked whether a new beekeeper should use a queen excluder. For the most part, I would say yes. However, when that same new beekeeper calls me up and tells me his bees are not going up into the top super, I would recommend removing the excluder. This is why I am reluctant to recommend queen excluders. Some beekeepers call them honey excluders.
You're probably wanting to know what I do to keep the queen out of my supers if I do not use queen excluders, right?
I monitor the location of my queens. This is why, in early spring, I rotate my two deep hive bodies. I want to work the queen down to the bottom of the hive as she typically will work her way up. Coming out of winter the bottom deep brood hive body is usually empty, and so by placing the queen below 10 frames of empty drawn comb, she can begin laying with plenty of room and this will slow her movement to the upper honey super. RotationSo, an experience beekeeper can keep an eye on the queen and move her back down as he see fit. Here's an illustration I drew up to help you see how to rotate your hive bodies in the spring.

On the other hand, a new beekeeper may not want to monitor and reposition the queen, or rotate the hive bodies so in this case, a queen excluder is a good practice.
If you'd like to purchase a queen excluder, you can do so by clicking here to go to our website: or give us a call at 217-427-2678

We are still selling 3 lb packages of bees with an Italian queens (pick up only or we will ship upon the purchase of a hive) and we are also offering nucs but on a first come first serve basis. And if you have not purchased your beekeeping hives or equipment, we are here to take your order Mon. - Fri. 9am - 5pm at 217-427-2678
If you'd like to email us our address is
And check out our website for great deals:
Our next lesson will address trying to lure hives from structures or trees. Do swarm lures work?
See you next time, and remember,
Bee-Have Yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms