Tuesday, August 25, 2009


DavidSheri Hi! We are David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in Central Illinois. We are a family owned beekeeping business and our niche is to provide a place where you can find everything you need to become a successful beekeeper, from equipment, hives, bees,queens and even a hands on beekeeping education!
Thanks for stopping by and reading today's lesson. In fact, in just a moment, I'll present LESSON 62 about the essential and well known beekeeping too, the smoker. But before I do, let me remind you of a few important things.
You can have these lessons sent directly to your email box each time a new lesson is published. We'd love for you to sign up to receive these lessons free, and sent directly to your email in box. Click here to sign up now! It's free and you can easily unsubscribe at anytime. Also at the end of each lesson, there is a link where you can click to forward a lesson on to a friend. Please take advantage of this feature as well, to help let others know of these lesson. We would appreciate it.

Also, remember we manufacture the woodenware and by that I mean the bee hive components. So, if you need a beehive kit, a complete hive or various hive components, we'd welcome your business. Our hives are hand made and are of the highest quality. We also sell everything else to do with beekeeping and more. So call us today and place your order. 217-427-2678. Thank you.
Sheri and I produce a podcast on beekeeping. We are working on our latest podcast and it should appear today. We'd love for you to stop in and hear our latest podcast at: www.honeybeesonline.com/studiobeelive.html
This fall and winter, I'm taking my Beekeeping Course and Queen Rearing course on the road. If your association would like to host a class in your area, I'll come and do all the teaching. Many people want to take our courses but live too far away. With the help of other associations in other states, I hope to come to those who can't drive over to Illinois. Talk to the members and presidents of your associations and see if this might work for you. It's a neat way to encourage new members, first time beekeepers and even boost the income for your local association. Give us a call at: 217-427-2678.
We are conducting a survey asking beekeepers what is the most important characteristic they want in a queen. Please take the survey by going to our blog www.basicbeekeeping.blogspot.com and you see the survey on the upper right hand side. Choose only one option. So far, disease resistance is the most sought out characteristic.
The invention of the modern day smoker is credited to Moses Quinby who was born the same year as L.L. Langstroth who discovered bee space and the removal frame hive. Blowing smoke on bees to calm them goes way back, but Quinby made the first handheld smoker with a bellow to keep the fire burning in a tin container.
Most beekeepers believe the smoke causes the bees to act as if their hive is on fire which forces them to eat honey to prepare to leave the burning hive. A honey bee that is full of honey has a more difficult time of stinging because they cannot curl their abdomen to inject the stinger.
A more modern day understanding is that the smoke masks alarm pheromones (isopentyl acetate)of the honey bees in the hive, disrupting their ability to communicate that there is an intruder in the hive.
To start your smoker, you'll need a source of fire and fuel. By fuel, I'm referring to your source of fire, not actual liquid fuel. Most beekeepers use fuel that is easily accessible, such as pine needles. Those of us who run wood shops use sawdust. I've found that very dense and powdery saw dust is not good. Instead we use the more stringy saw dust that comes more from dado blades. Others use burlap, hemp rope, clean 100% old cotton rags...anything that is not toxic and makes a cool dense smoke.
0063cStart your smoker by saving newspaper or an old phone book and tear a page out and place in the bottom of the smoker and light it. I keep a long grill lighter handy and here I'm lighting a used shop rag. Without burning your fingers and suffocating the fire, work the paper to the bottom of the smoker. Once the paper is burning well in the bottom of the smoker, start adding your fuel, such as pine needles or saw dust. Do not add so much that the fire is put out. Gently puff the bellows so that air accelerates the spread of the fine within the canister.
0063b Add the right amount of fuel that generates mostly smoke instead of fire. Never add flammable fuels. You can add a slightly wrinkled up piece of paper to fit into the inside tip of the lid to help prevent stray pieces of hot fuel from falling or blowing out onto the bees. Just be sure it fits lose enough to allow smoke to seep through.
Once your fuel is producing adequate smoke you can close the lid. Remember canister is very hot. Do not touch it. Every year I usually burn something with my smoker. One year I burned a nice circular hole in the bed liner of my wife's truck. Another year I burned a hole in a polystyrene hive lid. I have one polystyrene lid and so I'm used to placing my smoker on the top of my metal top lids when I'm inspecting a hive. And this year I burned three fingers on my smoker. So do be careful.
Approach the hive with your smoker producing a cool, dense smoke. It should not be shooting out flames or sparks. Remember your hive is made of wood and wax, all of which are very combustible.
A friend of mine told me that his wife accidentally caught the grass on fire in their apiary and over 80 hives went up in smoke in a matter of minutes.
Put a few puffs of smoke near the entrance of the hive to disarm the guard bees. Now, slightly lift the outer top telescoping lid and blow a few puffs of smoke under the lid and put the lid back down and allow the smoke to settle in the hive. Usually 30 seconds works well. Now, slowly lift off the top cover and smoke gently as you see the bees.
The bees will become more noisy as you smoke them, but they should. That's normal and does not mean that they are mad. It just means your smoke is working. They will settle down and you can begin your inspection. The smoke causes the bees to head for honey and put their heads in cells to eat. They generally run away from the smoke so if you smoke from the top, many bees will head to the lower boxes. If you smoke from the bottom they will all run up. And if you are looking for the queen, smoke causes her to run too, making it harder to find her.
You will need to keep your smoker handy as you inspect your hive. I've noticed after a few minutes, the effects of the smoke begins to wear off and the bees will start to inspect what's happening. Their little heads will look up at you between frames. When you see this, it's time for a few more gentle puffs of smoke across the tops of the frames.
0063z I used to empty my smoker out in a safe area, away from dry grass, like on a gravel road or concrete. But when I was taking my Master Beekeeper tests in New York, my field inspector showed me a trick I had never seen. Take a half sheet of regular paper and open your smoker and place the sheet over the top of the canister and close the lid. Wow! This works great.The lack of air suffocates the fire and the fuel that remains in the smoker will light more easily next time, and you can even use the paper as fuel.
Non toxic smoke used in moderation has been used for years to work beehives and there has been no associated problems.
It is my opinion that no one should work a hive without a smoker. The trade off of being able to inspect your hive regularly with the use of smoke to calm bees certainly out weighs not inspecting often because the bees are too aggressive.
I've tried using a spray instead of smoke and it does not work well for me. It is commonly called a spritz spray and is usually a sugar mixture with additives such as Honey-B-Healthy.
I see several problems in using a liquid spray to calm bees. It's a liquid and sticks to the bees causing them to need to be cleaned, and perhaps interfering with their movements and flights far more than smoke.
Liquid sprayed into open comb could effect the developing larvae. The water is also cool and if used when the bees are already cold, it could chill the bees and cause a change in their work and behavior until they re-heat.
The smell of sugar water on and around a hive could invite robber bees. Some people have found it to be better for them than smoke, but I prefer smoke.
The type of smoker used is based more on personal preference than anything else. I prefer the old traditional smoker without the protective heat cage. There is usually a smaller 7 inch smoker and a larger 10 inch smoker. Obviously, if you need your smoker to burn longer, then a larger smoker is what you need. For a hive or two, a smaller smoker is fine.
0063eBefore you get all excited about buying a stainless steel smoker, remember that when you heat stainless steel it changes properties. So, if you use your smoker often, say every other day, you might put a new smoker in your budget every few years. For me, smokers usually last about 2 years, then the billows rip and hinges break. I get some extra months out of mine with duct tape.
Thanks for joining me for today's lesson, and I hope you learned a few things about using your smoker today.
Remember to check out the lower portion of this Lesson (if it was Emailed to you and you can forward it to a friend. We'd appreciate you helping us let other beekeepers know about these free lessons.

If you wish to contact us, here's how:
PHONE: 217-427-2678
EMAIL: david@honeybeesonline.com
WEBSITE: www.honeybeesonline.com
BEE-Have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Sunday, August 16, 2009


We're David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois, where the weather is beautiful, the bees are working hard and we are enjoying life to the fullest!
Whenever I write a lesson/blog, I like to include some personal things to talk about. I know some people just want the nuts and bolts of the lesson. But others like the personal stories and events and not so much of the technical side of beekeeping. So I try to keep all personal information at the top of the lessons, even before the lesson. So, if you just want the lesson, you can always scroll down until you see the lesson title below. But if you find it enjoyable to hear what's going on with us (after all this is a blog) then enjoy the following.
0061j Sheri started out the year with 25 chickens, all layers. She has done great and is only down to 24. Something in the coop fell down and smashed one. They should start laying anytime, so we are looking forward to fresh farm eggs from free ranging chickens. The bees and chickens get along fine, and our two hound dogs leave the chickens alone too.
0061c Little Christian is always wanting to help his dad with the bees. He has stuck his finger into a mating nuc or two and managed to pull his finger out with a stinger but he hasn't lost his bravery. He's a typical farm boy for 2 years old (his birthday is September 13) as he always has a bug, rock, tool or a frog in his hand. As seen in the picture, he already knows what a California Mini Queen Cage is. He inspects our queens before we ship them out.
0061p Sheri really did a great job this year planting a garden and freezing and canning lots of fresh vegetables. We had good sweet corn, tons of green peppers, beans and tomatoes. She made jams and jelly, salsa, pies and she even grinds her own wheat to make bread.
We made friends with an Amish family who lives near Arthur, Illinois and while inspecting his hive he dug up a starter of mint, and I transplanted it to our garden and I've enjoyed mint tea all summer. We're just having fun in the country.
My oldest son, David, is getting married next month, so we're doing the wedding thing for the 3rd time :) That's a typical way of saying it from a man's point of view, isn't it!
My middle son, Seth, is almost 16, into drivers Ed. and has become the fastest woodworker in our shop. He is fast and very accurate at making hives.
0061q My youngest daughter is 18 and living at home helping with our bee business. She finally saved her money and bought her first car, a 1995 MX-6 Mazda sports coupe. Boy that sits low to the ground compared to my 1 ton pickup.
0061mWe love our family, home and the little bit of farming that we do with chickens, bees and our garden.
Our goal is to encourage more people to start keeping bees. It is so enjoyable, rewarding and educational. To help both the new beekeeper and the experienced beekeeper, we provide these free lessons through this blog. And, like many people, you can call us or email us too if you have beekeeping questions.
Before we get into today's lesson, let me tell you the three next lessons in the works: THAT BLAZIN' SMOKER. I'll tell you the history of the smoker, and the best ways to use it. FLORAL SOURCES THAT BEES LIKE. We'll look at some flowers that bees really gather the nectar from. CLOAKE BOARD QUEEN REARING. I've adopted the Cloake board into our queen rearing operation, and I want to explain it to you and tell you exactly how to use it, making queen rearing much more easy. So tell you friends, and pass these lessons on to others.
0061o Also, every couple of days we place a beekeeping tip on our main website: http://www.honeybeesonline.com You may have seen our recent tip saying to use grass as a bee brush instead of a real bee brush. Try it, you'll be surprised how calm the bees are toward the grass compared to the brush.
Here in Illinois, August is one of the hottest months of the year, a month when gardens are in full production, crops are solid green and grass needs mowed every few days. 0061k Here is one of Sheri's big green peppers. So it is very difficult to think "winter" while working bees. I've taught before that winter preparation begins when you first start working your bees in the spring. Everything we do to manipulate the hive is in hopes that they will build up and make it through the winter.
Now that we are in the middle of August, you really need to be seriously thinking about making winter preparations. Not so much externally but internally. It's too early to wrap a hive or to put in an entrance cleat (reducer), but it is not too early to start looking at the internal condition of your hive.
In the perfect scenario, a hive will store pollen and honey above the brood nest area. If you have two deeps on your colony, the lower should be filled with mostly brood in various stages and the upper deep should contain more honey and pollen, though there may be some brood as well.
As the colony heads into winter, they are able to slowly and gradually move upward, eating their way into the upper deep, using the consumption of honey to generate heat and honey and pollen to feed their winter brood. Finally when spring arrives, without missing a meal, they can begin foraging from the spring nectar flow. Remember, I did say this is the perfect scenario. It seldom works that way. But it can and should and perhaps you, as a beekeeper, can help that happen now that it is only August.
So to fully inform you on what to do about helping your bees survive winter, I need to give you some important pointers. First, let me give them to you as bullet points, then I will elaborate.
* Get Rid of Tracheal and Varroa Mites
* Get Rid of Nosema
* Evaluate Pollen & Honey Stores &
Strategically Configure Frames
* Feed as Necessary both Pollen & Syrup
* Configure frames Strategically
* Protect Hive from Harsh Wind
* Provide Adequate Ventilation
* Protect from Mice
* Requeen between June 21 - September 21
Obviously, most beekeepers do not do all of the above. I would say that most beekeepers only do one or two of the above. It's a gamble to do nothing. It might work. Many of us do have hives that we do absolutely nothing to and they do fine. I have two survival yards that get no attention and they do fine. But they are survival stock bees. Some people even believe hives that cannot survive on their own need to perish to be removed from the gene pool. There is some degree of truth to that too, unless that hive is your only hive.
Listen, I'm healthy, but I'm not going to do well stuck outside in a brutal winter. You can have all the right genetics you want, but if there is no honey available to keep the bees alive, they will perish. So let me talk more about the bullet points above.

TRACHEAL MITES (Acarapis woodi)
It is easy for us to assume tracheal mites are no longer a problem because you can't see them with the naked eye. They reproduce in the tracheae (breathing tubes) of the thorax in the bee. The mites feed on bee blood and damage the tracheae making it difficult for bees to breathe. Prior to 1980 there were no tracheal mites in the USA. Between 1980-1984 the tracheal mites moved in from Mexico and devastated hives throughout America.
A common sign that tracheal mites might be a problem is when a colony dies during the winter. Bees might be found crawling around instead of flying during early spring. Winter clusters may perish even with large supplies of honey. Another symptom is "K-wing" which is when the two wings can no longer be hooked, due to damage to the flight muscle. Keep in mind that these symptoms can also be unrelated to tracheal mites, and may be caused from another problem. So it is impossible to find one single symptom or sign short of putting the bee's trachea under a scope and seeing what's in there. Most beekeepers can't do that and don't want to do that.
1. Use Resistant Stock. Beekeepers do have a better line of defense against tracheal mites, such as using queens that have proven to be resistant toward tracheal mites. These lines include Buckfast, Russian and Carniolans.
2. If you are not oppose to medicating your colony, you can use many of the products on the market today such as Apiguard and Miteaway. Grease patties mixed with thymol proves effective as well.
VARROA MITES (Varroa destructor)
This mite was originally named Varroa jacobsoni but now more specifically it has been identified as Varroa destructor. It became a threat in the USA in the late 1980s. As an external parasite they feed on the blood of all stages and caste of bees. They reproduce in the sealed brood cell.
Because this mites reproduces in sealed brood, the emerging bee can be weakened or sick and have a shortened life. Deformed wing virus (DWV) is a result of high varroa destructor infestation. In the developing stage the mites feed upon the wing buds of the bees and the result is a deformed wing, appearing like it has been burned or shriveled up. Hives will not over winter well with high v. mite counts and may even perish during the winter. Get mites out of your hives before winter.
What To Do About Varroa Mites
1. Use a queen that shows mite resistance, such as VSH (Varroa Sensitive Hygienic). Buckfast, Russian and Carniolans show greater mite resistance.
2. Continue a IPM (Integrated Pest Management) approach by using:
a) Drone Comb. Freeze it after it is sealed, killing all the
mites that prefer the longer cycle of a sealed drone
cell. You can purchase "Green Drone Comb."
b) Powdered Sugar Treatment. Put 1-2 cups of
powdered sugar between the frames of each brood
box, once a week for 3-6 weeks after supers are off.
c) Use Screen Bottom Boards. Mites fall through and
cannot return easily.
3. If you use medication, Miteaway and formic acid pads
work well. When using any medication, follow the
directions especially getting honey off during treatment
and sealing up hive as stated and following temperature
requirements as well.
Nosema is a big concern for beekeepers. It is a disease that spreads in the midgut of the adult honey bee. It has been identified as a protozoan but now is being reclassified as a fungus. Beekeepers quickly became familiar with Nosema apis, usually watching for excessive bee feces on the outside of the hive, though bees can have Nosema apis without outward signs. Nosema spores are transmitted through bee feces when young bees clean contaminated comb. More noticeable symptoms are crawling bees with distended abdomens and dislocated wings. The disease weakens a colony and is all but certain death as the hive goes through winter. Fumagillin is an effective treatment especially as a fall treatment in sugar syrup. It is best to send samples into the Beltsville lab to determine if your bees are infested with Nosema. If not, no need to treat. CLICK HERE ON INFO ABOUT SENDING IN A SAMPLE OF BEES TO THE BELTSVILLE LAB. IT'S FREE
Nosema ceranae has recently been identified in the USA. The two Nosema diseases are similar except with N. ceranae a colony can perish within a week. Unlike with N. apis, there may be no diarrhea on the outside of the hive and few to no symptoms other than foraging bees seem to die outside the hive and the population dwindles. N. ceranae has, by some, been associated with CCD. Again, fumagillin seems to be the suggested treatment. Colonies with N. ceranae can function entirely normal without any signs of concern, until additional stressors are placed on the hive. Again, it is best to send samples into the Beltsville lab to determine if your bees are infested and if not, no need to treat.
0061e Time should be taken to review the content of the hive, not just honey stores, but pollen stores as well. Many beekeepers find their hives pollen bound in the spring, due to the enormous amount of pollen available. Beekeepers finding their hives "pollen bound" are forced to remove and disregard the pollen to make room for brood and honey. However, in the fall and winter, colonies suffer from not having enough pollen.
Now is a good time to begin reviewing your pollen and honey stores in the hive and positioning them for best winter survival. All food stores must be above the bees, not below them. If pollen is low, feed them pollen patties or dry pollen outside the hive on dry days. If honey stores are low, feed 2 parts sugar and 1 part water to increase the honey stores.
Beekeepers in the north need to provide some protection around the hive to block harsh winter winds. Keep in mind that the bees do not heat the total inside of their hives like we heat our homes. Instead, they only heat the cluster. Temperatures around the outside of the cluster can be very much the same as on the outside of the hive. Obviously, the bees do have to keep their cluster warm and if harsh winter winds blast the hive, the bees will have to consume more honey to generate heat, which means they could starve out.
Wrapping the hive with roofing paper has been shown to help, or building a berm around the hive or some sort of fence to block the wind can help as well.
You need to also provide top ventilation. DO NOT wrap your hive air tight. Moisture will develop on the inside of the hive top and rain down on the bees.
I usually wait until the coldest day of winter to put up my Christmas lights. Then, I wonder why I didn't put them up a week ago when it was warm! Same with wrapping your hive. Don't do it in the summer, but don't wait until it is so cold that you decide not to do it at all. But if you wrap or not, you need to allow for some top ventilation. Otherwise, excess moisture will develop in the hive as condensation on the inside of the top cover and rain down on the bees. I place a 1/2" thick stick under the telescoping top cover to allow for ventilation in the summer.
Mice like to use beehives as their winter home. Mice can destroy a healthy hive during the winter by eating through the comb and eating bees and honey. You must block them out! Usually the wooden entrance reducer is enough when set to the smallest opening. You can also purchase various styles of mouse guards, some are made from metal. If you have a left over queen excluder, you can put it between your bottom board and your deep hive body. But you must keep the mice out. Again, do not wait until the mice are in the hive and then seal them inside the hive. My rule of thumb is to place mouse guards on the hive a couple of weeks before the fields are harvested.
0061d Finally, requeen your hive between June 21 and September 21. The new queen will lay like it is spring, giving you lots of new "winter" bees, those that can live through the winter. A new queen also has strong pheromones which can reduce swarming in the spring. And a new queen will build the hive up faster in the spring as well. Do not think that this year's queen was so good, that she'll pull her hive through the winter and be great again next year. She can only lay so many eggs, then she will cause your hive to perish. Requeen!
0061a I hope today's lesson will help you get your hive through the winter.With the information I have given you, please do not become too overly concerned and worried about the health of your hive. But do be proactive, and make sure your hive is as healthy and as protected as they can be going into winter.
My next lesson will be on the smoker. I've had fun, researching and writing this lesson on the smoker, so watch for it soon.
Remember to contact us as we sell all beekeeping equipment include woodenware, protective clothing, packages, queens and nucs. We sure would appreciate our business. Thank you.
EMAIL: david@honeybeesonline.com
Until next time remember to BEE-have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
Central Illinois

Monday, August 10, 2009


THIS POSTED in 2009:

Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, and welcome to today's lesson in Beekeeping, as we look at the best way to start up a hive, whether it be package bees, a nuc or buying an existing hive. Don't know what a nuc is? Then read on. Today's Blog/Lesson will be a lot of fun. I'll show you some questions from the master beekeeper test and you can see how well you would have done. Plus, information on our upcoming class and photos from the EAS meeting in Ellicottville, NY.

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I made it home from a week in Ellicottville, New York attending the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS). Wow! What a jammed packed week of super lectures, demonstrations and new and helpful information on beekeeping.
Being able to attend workshops of the most well known entomologists in the country was very informative. Almost all of the speakers were more than approachable throughout the week, and needless to say, I picked a few brains. I was really impressed with the Holiday Valley Resort. It's really designed for golfers and skiers, but it quickly became home for over 400 beekeepers.
Here's Dave Tarpy giving an outdoor class on queen rearing and grafting. Dave is extremely intelligent and has an effective way to translate his knowledge down to the average beekeeper.
As I told you in my last communique, I've started my journey on becoming a master beekeeper. I studied long and hard and did the best I could. This master beekeepers certification used to be associated through Dr. Morse with Cornell University, but was taken over in 1981 by the Eastern Apiculture Society under the direction of Dr. Clarence Collison.
It is a very vigorous and thorough program. I tested in all four areas hoping to pass at least one my first year, and did better. I passed two! And only missed the third one by 6 points. This will give me 51 weeks to study up and try to pass the other two sections next year. (These are various pictures taken from the convention).

Let me give you a few questions from the written test to give you an example: "The retinue of attendants that form around a queen first occurs: (Multiple choice answer)
a) within the first 24 hours after a virgin queen emerges from her mating flight.
b) when the queen begins to lay eggs.
c) after the queen begins to lay eggs.
d) just before the queen is ready to take a mating flight.
e) when the queen is 3 weeks old

The answer is: D

"Individual cells and tissues within the honey bee receive oxygen directly from the:
a) Blood
b) Air Sacs
c) Tracheae
d) Spiracles
e) Tracheoles
The answer is: E

"The ovaries of worker honey bees have _______ovarioles.
a) 51-100
b) 2-12
c) 100-129
d) 28-50
e) 130-180
The answer is: B
Here's a picture of Gary Reuter who works with Marla Spivak on the Minnesota Hygienic Queen. Gary is a swell guy and always a lot of fun.
Here are a few of the True or False questions from the master beekeeper test. See how you might do:

Queens infected with nosema disease cease egg-laying and die within a few weeks of infection?

The answer is: TRUE

The principle component of the alarm pheromone associated with the mandibles is isopentyl acetate.

The answer is: FALSE (the correct answer is 2-heptanone)

The commercial production of apples requires cross-varietal pollination.

The answer is: TRUESacbrood infected larvae are unable to molt from the larval to the pupal stage.
The answer is: TRUE
One essay question asked to give a detailed explanation of how to use the "Demaree Technique."
The lab testing contained tables set up with various medicines, real infected frames of various diseases and tables with beekeeping equipment. The microscopes were set up with various pests in which we had to identify pests such as a male mite versus a female mite. So as you can see, it is a pretty thorough test.
I have the highest respect for EAS. I believe it is one of the best beekeeping organizations that I know of, and I would highly recommend that all beekeepers attend the EAS.
People are already calling us trying to reserve package bees. This year, everyone sold out faster than normal and left many beekeepers disappointed that they did not secure their orders earlier in the year. It happens every year. So let me give a brief run down on the proper way to make sure you purchase bees in time for a great spring.

There are three options: Packages, nucs or to purchase an existing live hive. Now, let me give you the pros and cons.
A) A Live Hive. This is probably the most difficult to purchase. Very few beekeepers want to sell a good, live hive. For example, one hive can earn me around $500 per year in producing nucs, queens and honey. So why would I want to sell it for half that price? So when a beekeeper wants to sell, the big question to ask is why? If the answer is understandable, like maybe the beekeeper is moving or has become allergic to bees or passed away, then that may be a good deal. However, when you purchase a live hive, you are also purchasing all the existing problems such as small hive beetles, tracheal mite, varroa mites, wax moths or diseases such as nosema, American Foul Brood or European Foul Brood or deformed wing virus, just to name a few.
Never purchase a live hive until it has been thoroughly inspected by a state apiary inspector and given a clean bill of health. This might be a good approach, but you have to find a beekeeper willing to sell a hive, and then make sure it is a clean hive. Remember, American Foul Brood can live on equipment for up to 80 years! Never buy used equipment if you are a new beekeeper!
B) Packages. Packages have been the way beekeepers in the North have received bees from the South for over 100 years. Southern beekeepers shake bees out of their hives and into screened cages. Sometimes it may take shaking bees out of three different hives to equal three pounds. Then, a new queen, in a separate cage, is placed in among the bees along with a can of either hard candy or sugar syrup. But there are some concerns. Let me list a few:
--Will the queen be healthy and properly mated.
--Since they are from the south, could there be a chance of Africanized genetics, making a
more aggressive hive?
--Shipping stresses, such as too much time in the package and excessive temperatures can weaken both
the bees and the queen.
--Some packages/queen cages are medicated with chemicals that has been shown to effect
both the reproductive ability of drones and queens.

So, while this is the "industry standard" and has been for a century, it is not risk free or fail safe.
C) NUC. What is a NUC? A nuc is a short expression referring to the nucleus of a live hive. The nucleus, or nuc, usually contains four or five frames from a complete hive. Those frame include brood in various stages and frames mixed with honey, pollen and brood. The queen has already been accepted and is the mother of all the bees including the brood in the frames. Below are two lists, the first will be the advantages of a nuc, and the last will be the disadvantages.
Advantages of a nuc:--The frames are from a proven, successful existing hive.
--The queen is released and has been laying among the frames for some time.
--You receive the existing frames of comb, honey, pollen and brood. You do not have to
wait for the bees to draw comb.
--Since nucs are picked up, there are no shipping stresses.
--It is easy to transfer the frames into your own equipment.

Disadvantages of a nuc:
--Are not usually available until June.
--You receive comb from another beekeeper that could contain pests or diseases.
--More expensive.

In conclusion, any of the three above options can work and work quite well. If you work through the pros and cons, then you can see which options is best for you. I'm not afraid of starting with a nuc or a package. But, I would be very nervous about buying someone else's live hive. I probably like the idea of packages better, because I can get a two month head start. Some say that time wise, a June nuc will be as far along as an April package in June. But that is not entirely true. An April package will be weeks ahead of a nuc by the same time in June.

In my opinion, there are as many chances to be taken by buying nucs as there are packages. Nuc providers are not above small hive beetles, mites or diseases. When we sold our nucs this year, they were inspected frame by frame by our state inspector. They passed with no problems. But state inspectors do not inspect for Nosema or Tracheal mites. So I'd say the playing field is pretty even as to which is better, a nuc or a package.

That's it for today's lesson and I hope you've enjoyed our time together. Our next lesson will be about how you should manage your hives now that summer is heading into fall. We'll talk about combining weak hives with strong ones, and how to treat for mites and how to feed hives that are low in stored honey for the winter.

Today I received many calls from folks thanking me for these informative lessons, and we do enjoy sharing our knowledge with you. We also want to thank you for your business. We realize you could purchase your beekeeping supplies from the "big-boys" so we appreciate you supporting a hard working family business.

Here's our contact info:
PHONE: 217-427-2678

EMAIL: david@honeybeesonline.com
WEBSITE: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/

Until next time remember to BEE-Have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farm
Fairmount, Illinois (Central Illinois)

Saturday, August 1, 2009


Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, and welcome to today's lesson in Beekeeping on hygienic behavior and testing for mites using a powder sugar roll.

As I have written nearly sixty lessons, I have never written a lesson on the bee dance. So today, as fascinating and complicated as it is, I want to teach on the way bees communicate through dance. Before I do, let me tell you about some things we are doing here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms.

It has been a great bee year for us. Our hives have all built up nicely and are very strong, honey production has been great and best of all, no problems with pests or diseases since we have been free of using chemicals for nearly 3 year now. Queen production has been very robust!

I removed another colony of bees from a home in Champaign, Illinois. The location of the bees was another first for us. This time, they were harder to located because they were going into a hole between the wall and the top step on the back porch.

After some investigation, I determined that the steps had a hollow cavity in the middle, and so after the owner rented a jack-hammer and after we busted open the porch, we were right. In 1954 when they poured the concrete they placed a wooden whisky or pickle barrel in the middle to lessen how much concrete it would take. The bees thought this would be a perfect place for a hive.

As you can see they build layers and layers of comb inside this nice size cavity. This was the first time I ever operated a jack-hammer, and I now have a greater respect for those who run these things all day long.

We always use our bee vac for removal jobs and without it we'd never get all the bees. This was a very challenge removal just because the concrete was so old and hard. But once we got through and found the barrel, then we were able to remove the comb and bees. The owner was very happy that we found the bees and took them away!Remember, we really appreciate your business. We are here to serve all beekeepers as beekeepers ourselves, and as our customers will affirm, we do our best to answer your questions. So, when you are considering purchasing packages, nucs, woodenware, protective clothing, extracting equipment, queens, etc., please be sure to give us a call: 217-427-2678.


We all probably remember in grade school that bees do a wagtail dance, sometimes referred to as the waggle dance. If we were paying attention in elementary school, we also learned this dance is performed by a foraging honey bee, a female bee that has discovered a great source of nectar and/or pollen from flowers and she returns to the hive and dances to tell the other bees how to get there. The dance communicates three things: 1) Directions to the source 2) A sample of the source and 3) How far away it is.

We have an observation hive at our honey bee farm and customers and students always love finding and watching bees doing the wagtail dance.

Dr. Karl Ritter von Frisch (1886-1982)receives the credit for spending his life working with bees and unraveling the dance mystery. As he continued to work with bees and other insects he eventually won the Nobel Peace Prize for his work. Others were, at first, skeptical as to the scientific merit behind his explanation of the bee dance.

Anyone can now study the bee dance with an observation hive, a bowl of sugar water and a few marked foraging bees. Foragers scouting around for nectar sources will land on a great find, maybe a large patch of flowers yielding much nectar and pollen. They fly back to their hive with a sample of pollen on their legs and nectar in the honey stomachs. Now, they must convince other foragers in the hive that it is worth the trip. They do so by giving the foragers in the hive a sample of the nectar and pollen. Then, with great vigor they dance in order to tell the other bees where the nectar is located and how far away.

Without becoming too technical, let me say that if the nectar source is less than 100 yards from the hive, then the foragers do what is called a round dance. They simply vibrate in a circle. This means that the nectar is out side near the hive, go and find it! We've also learned the difference races of bees have slight variations of dances, such as the Italians who use a sickle dance when the nectar is between 10 - 30 yards from the hive.

The dancer use the sun outside the hive to navigate to the nectar source, but inside the hive, she must translate the sun's location by gravity orientation on the comb.

The best example of how to explain this and see it at work is from North Carolina State University's website. You can actually interact with the location of nectar and see how the dance changes. I've used this site to locate where my bees are going based on their dance telemetry.
Click Here

The forager doing the dance communicates how much energy will be needed to fly to the nectar source. This helps the other foragers determine the distance. And somehow, the dance also takes into consideration the changing position of the sun as it gets later in the day. Even head wind is taken into consideration in the dance. The dancer also gives off pheromones and sounds to assist as well.

As a beekeeper, you'll enjoy watching the dance when you lift out a frame on a nice warm day during a heavy nectar flow. You might see many bees on one frame dancing like crazy. Isn't it amazing how bees communicate?

And a late breaking discovering now tells us that bees change their waggle dance if the flowers poses some sort of threat. It's found in the journal Animal Behavior. BBC Earth News, Mark Walker reports that "Scientists Kevin Abbott and Reuven Dukas of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. that these scientist "have found that honeybees use the waggle dance to do more than just encourage others in their colony to visit bountiful flowers...They trained honeybees to visit two artificial flowers containing the same amount and concentration of food. They left one flower untouched, making it a "safe" food source for the bees.
On the other flower, they placed the bodies of two dead bees, so they were visible to arriving insects, but would not interfere with their foraging. A crab spider kills a flower visiting wasp.
They then recorded whether and how the bees performed a waggle dance on their return to other members of the hive colony. On average, bees returning from safe flowers performed 20 to 30 times more waggle runs that bees returning from dangerous flowers.

That shows that the bees recognise that certain flowers carry a higher risk of being killed or eaten by predators, such as crab spiders or other spider species that ambush visiting bees.
What's more, they factor this risk into their waggle dances, tempering them to steer their colony mates away from flowers that might be dangerous."

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I'll update the blog from New York if I have time and until next time, remember to BEE-have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
Central Illinois