Sunday, April 13, 2008

Lesson 32: Package Bees & Bad Weather...What To Do

Davidsheriborder Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms! We are having a great spring and Sheri and I hope you are too. Sheri has been very busy taking orders and I've been busy working our hives and overseeing the production of our hive and equipment. I am a blessed man to have such a wonderful wife to work so hard along side of me. She's great over the phone. When you call you'll hear here say, "Hi this is Sheri..."

Flight Chamber 3Saturday, I was asked to serve as the equipment vendor of at the University of Illinois beekeeping Short Course in Champaign/Urbana, Illinois. Here's our equipment being displayed. The University Bee Lab is led by Prof. Gene Robinson and it was very enjoyable spending time with Gene and his team.

Flight Chamber Bee LabHere students are in the flight chamber and learned how to operate a smoker, inspect individual frames and became familiar with the basic fundamentals of working a hive.

When package bees arrive, it is ESSENTIAL that you spray your package with 1:1 sugar water, that is one part sugar and one part water. Your package of bees actually only carries enough on board sugar water to last 4 days after being packaged. That means if your bees are packaged on Monday, by Friday they will be out of sugar water.

I experimented with two packages last week. The packages were shipped to me from Georgia on Tuesday and I received a call from the post office Thursday morning they were in. My wife picked them up around 4pm that afternoon. I then kept them in their packages the full 4 days that they are expected to live. I sprayed them with sugar water regularly once I received them. There were normal amounts of dead bees on the bottom of the cage, and I assure you, it is not at all unusually to see a layer or two of dead bees on the bottom. They are packaged to allow for this amount of dying bees. These dead bees may have been injured when shaken from their hive into the box, or they may have simply died of old age. Remember a bee only lives around 30 days.

In my experiment I found that sure enough, the can of sugar water was empty at the end of day four. Yet, the weather had turned cold, damp and very windy. There would be no way I could install these packages for another three days. This may also happen to you. So if it does, let me explain what I did and what you can do to keep your bees alive until the next warm day.

The first good day to install the bees would be in three days. If I continued to spray them with sugar water, they may have made it. However, I did not want to take this chance. This may also happen to you. So if it does, let me explain what I did and what you can do to keep your bees alive until the next warm day.

This scenario may happen to you too because spring weather is very unpredictable. So, what do you do when you can't install your package of bees due to adverse weather conditions but they have been in the package for over 4 days?

First, spray them with sugar water, 1:1 at lease 3 times a day. Breakfast, lunch and supper. You eat three meals a day, so should your bees. This should give them several more days to survive. However, it is the queen that you must also be concerned about. She is in a separate cage and her attendants in that cage will soon die and be unable to feed her.

If you find that you cannot install your package due to a week long of cold rainy days, here is a last resort effort. I did it Saturday and it worked fine. Choose a room that can be made completely dark and kept around 50 degrees. Anything warmer may cause the bees to fly around the room too much. This room should not be inside a house or building where people live in case the bees should escape. An outside garage or shed would be the preferred building.

Next, with the lights on, take your package into that room along with the hive you wish to install it into. Just before you install your package, spray it with sugar water again. Always where your protective gear. Now, shake your package into their new hive.
After you have installed your package removed the queen plug place your queen cage between the frames in the middle of the box. Replace all 10 frames and place the lid on the hive. Turn off all lights and wait a couple of hours. Then, go back and place a screen over the entrance so no bees can leave the hive.

Now your package is installed and sealed in their new hive. This works better if you are using a screen bottom board because bees need air. If you do not have a screen bottom board, then you may want to use only your inner cover as the lid, and place a piece of screen securely over the inner cover oval shaped hole. Now, place an entrance feeder in the entrance with 1:1 sugar water. But be sure the screen securely blocks the entrance, even next to the entrance feeder. This will give them the sugar intake they need to produce wax for comb building.

This has gained you some valuable time. Your bees are installed, they cannot fly out, the queen will be released by the bees in a few days and this room provides them extra warmth from the below freezing temperature outside. If you keep the room completely dark very few bees will attempt to fly out of the hive. You could even drop the temperature down to around 40 degrees now, and the bees would cluster together and be happy.

As long as the temperature is not below freezing at night outdoors, you can place the hive where you want it outdoors and remove the screen from the entrance. So, if tomorrow night's low is 38, you can go ahead in the morning or afternoon and carry your hive to its permanent location. Just be sure all hive pieces are securely fastened to each other. I place a tie-down strap around the entire hive and tighten so the hive becomes one solid hive as the strap holds all pieces securely together. You DO NOT want the hive to fall a part while you are moving it!!

If the temperature outside is still cold, you can keep them in this dark room several more days until the nightly low temperature is above freezing.

If light leaks into the room or someone accidentally turns on the lights, then it will cause the bees to fly out of the hive up to the light. Turn off the light and they should return to the hive if the room is kept cool.

Here's a video of one of our customers installing their package of bees. This was a job well done for a first timer! Though it was 80 degrees the day before in Georgia, this package is installed when the temperature drop to around 50. And we strongly recommend that you wear protective clothing while installing your bees.

Five days later he goes back to inspect to be sure the queen is released from her cage. Watch the video to see if she has or hasn't bee released.

It's finally here...package bee time, nectar time, honey bee time...this is what we've waited all winter for!!!

Also, we are still cranking out tons of hives!! If you still need to purchase your hives, give us a call at the above number. Please keep in mind that it will take 2 full weeks for your hive to be shipped after payment is received. We also carry every beekeeping item you need. Just give us a call.

This year has been unbelievable with the amount of new beekeepers, hive and equipment sales and general interest in beekeeping.

Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms we are here to help you get started keeping bees. We are down to earth, ordinary folks, a family business that turned a hobby into a business. We take great pride in our work and do all we can to keep our customers satisfied. I was born and raised in Tennessee, a hard work family that believes honesty and hard work is rewarding. Indeed it is. I want to thank all of our loyal customers who have treated us so kindly and also welcome all new customers as well. Thank you.

If you call us and you receive our voice mail feel free to call back or to leave a message. We are busy working our own bee yards, coordinating package bees, raising my own special queens, building hives and enjoying the spring. But we will get back to you.

aboutus6 Finally, please let others know about our business. Our website is:

Until next time, remember to BEE-have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
FAX: 217-427-2678

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Lesson 31: Spring Management of Over Winter Colonies: Part II

Liberia2It is wonderful to be home from Liberia, Africa. So much was accomplished, more than we would have imagined. It's a 33 hour trip into Liberia counting the layovers and to and from the airports. Nearly 20 hours in the air.
LiberiaoceanYou can click on the pictures to enlarge. In this picture I'm with my Liberian friends. We avoided any travelers sickness, accidents or incidents! Malaria is very present in Liberia, but this time I refused preventative medication and I didn't use a mosquito net and did fine! In addition to preaching the Good News of Jesus in the city, market places and bush, I did everything I could to locate beekeepers in Liberia and came up with nothing. I was told that occasionally someone may cut down a tree with bees in it and harvest the honey, but no one keeps bees in boxes. That's too bad because I think it could be a real advantage. I realize that they would probably become 0016liberiaAfricanized, but many people have learned to deal with Africanized hives.
Getting back home is great, but trying to get back in the saddle is tough. And retuning phone messages and emails is a huge task along with keeping up with hive production.
I want to continue my previous lesson about spring management of over wintered hives. In my last lesson, I spoke to late winter techniques to help the hive survive. Now, what should we do once the weather warms up. Ready your bees for incoming nectar stores by a) Rotating deep brood boxes and or b) making splits.
All beekeepers want their hives to survive and most beekeepers want to split their hives so they can add more hives to their operations. And all beekeepers will experience their hives swarming. So if our hives are going to swarm any way, and since we also want to split our hives to make additional hives, then we should produce a split, which is basically a controlled swarm. I addressed making splits in lesson 15. But I'll elaborate a bit more here, now that it is almost time to make splits. But first, here are some spring management items you need to tend to.
Clean house! Your bees will do the work for you, but you can help them out by cleaning your bottom boards of dead moldy bees. Clean out any lingering mouse nests. Replace any damaged frames or comb.
Next, you've got to move the brood area down to the bottom of the hive. This is easily done by rotating the two brood boxes as shown below. This is very important as the extra space above the brood area will allow the hive to build up faster in the spring.
Depending on the climate where you live a split should not be made until the nights will not drop below 50 degrees. I usually am okay with 40 degree nights, but remember a small split does not have the population needed to keep warm in case of a cold snap in April.

Next, choose a hive that is large in population. If your hive is too small, splitting it will simply make two really small hives and may cause both to die. Here's a check list for a hive that qualifies to be split:
1) Make sure your hive has a queen that has been laying good brood and that 1-2 day old eggs are present throughout the brood frames.
2) Make sure the hive you are wanting to split has almost become congested with bees.
In other words, chose a strong and healthy hive to split.
Now, remove 4-5 frames that contain bees, stored pollen, eggs, larvae, sealed brood and honey. Place these frames in either a deep hive body or a nuc size hive body. An entrance reducer cleat should be used on the new split. This is to prevent robber bees from attacking the smaller hive and stealing honey.
Next, it will help if you can move your new split a considerable distance from their old hive. 3 miles would be perfect, but usually is not an option. So if you must keep it on a smaller piece of property, then move it as far as possible from the original hive, and place something in front of the hive so that as soon as the bees fly out, they will have to take a new reading of their location. A fallen branch works nicely or a lawn chair. But try to place it close enough so that the bees must fly through the obstruction. Leave it there for 2 days. After two days you can remove the obstruction and the bees will have re-orientated to their new location.
Either the old hive or the new split will have the original queen. But, it doesn't matter as long as both have 1-2 day old eggs. The split without a queen will realize they need a queen and should raise their own queen from the fertilized eggs. This is usually not a problem in the month of May.
In 1 week, check both hives to be sure the queen is in one, and a queen cell is being built in the other.
If you moved your hive 3 miles away, after a week or two you can move it back anywhere on your property. They will take a new reading and find their hive just fine.
Feed your split sugar water and pollen substitute for 2 weeks.
Finally, your next task will be supering your hives. WARNING!!!! Do not get caught off guard. You will be shocked when you see how fast the bees can fill up one honey super. Do not wait and try to get supers during your nectar flow. You must have all honey supers on hand in April so that you can place them on the hive prior to the first major nectar flow. You cannot err by putting on supers too early. And remember, all your supers should be on the hive by the 4th of July.


Click on the image to enlarge.
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.
Our hives are in high demand and while we are very happy to have so much business, we are working hard to fill the orders. Please be patient with us.

And it is not to late to place your hive order! We also carry a full line of beekeeping suits, extractors, medicines...and most everything else related to beekeeping. Just give us a call for all your beekeeping needs.
Check us out on the web at:
Or, call us at 217-427-2678 or Email us at:
See ya next time and remember, BEE-Have Yourself!

David & Sheri Burns, Long Lane
Honey Bee Farms