Friday, November 27, 2009

Lesson 67: Woodenware Improvements, Pollen Patties, AFB & Mice

Happy Thanksgiving everyone, from David & Sheri at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms! Thanksgiving is one of the holidays that our family enjoys the most. All the women love to cook and all the men love to eat. Sheri and hope you find plenty of reasons to be thankful.
Today, I want to give a lesson on improvements we have made to the woodenware (hives) we sell and how I recommend pollen patties to be used in the hive and why mice are bad for hives during the winter. But first, alittle about what we’ve been doing.
We are enjoying an Indian summer, nice warm days. That should change soon, but we’ve taken advantage of these nice days to try and get our outdoor winter preparation projects finished.
This week , I’ll be moving a bunch of my hives into an area where we had walls of dirt brought in to act as a wind block. Then, I have large, and I do mean LARGE, canvas material that I am going to use to shield the hives. Again, this is somewhat experimental. I’ve never had any better winter survivability when I’ve wrapped in the past, but this time I’m adding more ventilation. So we still have lots of hives to move.
signs(Remember you can click on all pictures for a larger picture.) We had a new and larger sign made for our farm, and signs for the vehicles. I have been really surprised at how much business those signs have generated.
I was featured in another newspaper. It was a nice article, but the reporter got a few details incorrect on the timing of raising queens. That article really generated a lot of interest and phone calls. Here’s the link if you want to see the article. CLICK HERE

Woodenware is a term used in the beekeeping community to refer to the actual wooden bee hive, not the colony of bees. There are two commonly used hives today. The most common is the hive that pastor Langstroth designed back in 1851. Pastor L. L. Langstroth was pretty depressed over his ministry and found comfort in his bees. It’s hard to believe that a congregation could sting more than a hive of bees. During his work, he designed discovered bee space, a space measuring around 3/8” that bees would leave as a travel space. With that knowledge he designed a hive known as the removal frame hive. Before that, most bees were kept in skeps and logs.
Another common hive is known as a Top Bar Hive. TBHs are gaining popularity. They are shaped like an upside down triangle. Simply put, the only part of the actual frame used is the top bar. The bees add their comb to the top bar down toward the bottom. Langstroth’s hive is not the perfect design, nor is the TBH.
I’m often asked what I think about TBH. I’ve never operated one, so I may change my mind if I were to use one. But apply some basic beekeeping knowledge and comments I’ve heard TBH folks make, here’s what I think.

The TBH followers claim it is much more natural and usually they are referring to the cell size. Since bees are not using a pre-existing foundation pattern, and some conclude they make smaller cell size. Then, the small cell size proponents claim this helps reduce mites. However, in scientifically controlled assays the results did not show any advantage of small cells comb in controlling mites.
The disadvantages I see with TBH are:
1) In order to inspect a frame, the comb is often attached to the side of the hive and must be cut away to be lifted out.
2) Honey frames cannot not as easily extracted and is often crushed and allowed to drain.
3) Other components are not as available, such as feeders, supers etc.
4) Some state bee inspection rules state that frames must be removable and might not view TBH frames as easy to remove without having to cut the comb.
And I always suggest and encourage new beekeepers to become familiar with beekeeping by using the traditional Langstroth designed hive, and once they have the basic fundamentals under their belt, then they might try a TBH.
We’ll probably one day make and sell TBH but as for now, we are happy with the Langstroth’s hive.

The Langstroth hive has been slightly improved over the last 158 years, but is basically the typical white hives you find sprinkled throughout the countryside, and city backyards.
We enjoy the ease of the Langstroth hive. It is easy to use, compatible with various accessories such as pollen traps, top feeders, frame feeders, entrance feeders, supers, cloake boards, fume boards etc.
Since we are beekeepers, we keep improving upon the way we make our hives that we sell. I want to point out a few of these improvements.
Deep Hive
Here’s a picture of one of our deep hive bodies being built. We now place 9, 8 penny nails in one corner. That’s 36 nails in one deep hive box. Holes are predrilled. Also each corner receives a generous amount of exterior glue. Those of you who are wood workers know the strength is really in the glue. But those 9 nails give the box strength especially the 4 nails that are cross nailed.
Deep Hive2
Also, we’ve hunted and hunted until we’ve finally found the perfect wood we like for our hives. We use a high quality pine. It took us several years to finally locate the perfect wood source. We buy it through our local small town lumber yard. They actually get it out of Indiana. It is strong, dried to our perfection. Knots are small and kept to a minimum.
Deep Hive 3
Here’s a look from the inside of the deep hive. We make our own metal frame rests. Notice how we staple them in from the side not the top. When stapled in from the top, the staples catch the hive tool when scraping off propolis. So we staple the frames rests in from the side, leaving the top smooth. These frame rests allow the frames not to stick to the wood. In other words, a wood frame against a wood frame rest can become so glued together by the bee’s natural bee glue (propolis), that the frame’s ear can actually break. But the frames do not stick as much to a smooth metal surface.
Also, this picture shows the frame rest area that is cut into the front and back pieces just above the metal. Since the board is 3/4” thick, half way through is 3/8”. However, we have widened that cut so that the remaining piece is slightly thicker because historically that has been a weak spot.
TOP We’ve also improved out telescoping top cover in three ways. First, we’ve added a screw at the bottom of each corner. We noticed that beekeepers use their hive tools to prior open the tops when they are glued down by the bees. So we’ve stiffened up the corner with a screw. Secondly, we’ve started using screws to fasten our metal down. Thirdly, we are now using a high quality, painted aluminum for the metal top.
Frame1 Another improvement that we’ve have made to our hives is the frames. The frames that we now use in our hives are of the highest quality. No knots on the wood used for frames.
Frame2 Notice in these pictures that wide staples are used, connection points are glued, side bars are a full 3/8 inch, bottom bars are much thicker and ears are tapered up to assist in moving and freeing the frames if the bees use lots of propolis.
The final improvement we have made to our hive is our paint. We’ve always used a high quality Valspar exterior paint, but we’ve added a paint room to our operation. The controlled and consistent drying temperature and humidity has significantly improved the overall paint coverage.

Entrance Cleat We’ve also listened to our customers and they keep telling us they need an entrance reducing cleat that fits when they have their entrance feeders on in the spring. So we now include two entrance cleats, a large one and a smaller one for use with our entrance feeder.
These improvements require more time in producing your hives, but we feel quality is important. But do remember, that your bees really aren’t impressed at the quality of your hives. Bees are comfortable in old, nearly rotten trees. But the better quality your hive is, the longer it will last so that you can enjoy years of beekeeping.
PATTY We’ve been asked a lot of questions about pollen patties. I’m sure I’ve address the issue before, but rather than waste time trying to find out, it is faster just to address pollen patties here. WHEN, WHERE, WHAT and WHY?
It is my opinion that the major producers of pollen patties are good and reliable. We sell BROOD BUILDER pollen patties which are filled with pollen, and other minerals and nutrition that is good for bees. You’ll find some beekeepers like some brands better than others.
These are pre-made and come between two pieces of wax paper. Again, I can only share my opinion and experience, but I feel and have found that pollen patties are very beneficial to the overall improvement of nutrition in the hive. Of course, one would expect that the bees would bring in plenty of their own choice of pollen during nectar flows, and they do. So I only use pollen patties in late winter, early spring just prior to a good balance of natural pollen. However, if a beekeeper only has a few hives, it wouldn’t hurt to keep a pollen patty on the hive all year, just in case they need a boost. It will not get mixed into the honey because pollen is kept separate than honey in the hive.
Lay the pollen patties just on top of the frames above where the winter cluster is located. One is plenty, maybe even half of one is enough. Keep an eye on it and when it is almost consumed, add the other half. The bees can move up into the pollen patty on warm days. DO NOT remove the wax paper. The bees will consume it. If you remove it, you’ll find on warm days, the patty can become so soft that it can melt and fall between the frames, and be messy in the hive. So keep the paper on it.
POLLEN Here’s a friend of mine who has a pollen patty on now that it is fall. You can see they have not consumed much of the pollen patty. You might also notice the Ziploc bag full of sugar water with a few holes on top to help feed the bees. Wonder why they are not consuming the pollen patty?
I found out why. He called me in fear that he might have American Foul Brood. He saw a frame that appeared greasy and spotty. So, I ran out the next day and we examined his hive. Though I have never had AFB, I have examined several frames of it in study of my master beekeeper certification. Spending any extended time in the presence of a frame of AFB makes me nauseous because it smells so horrible.
AFBMy friend pulled out the frame under suspect and I’ll let you see it here too. What do you think? Click on the image for a full size picture and see if you know what is wrong with this frame? I’ll give you a minute and then I’ll tell you… His description was accurate. Looks greasy and wet and perforated.
Nothing is wrong! This is a beautiful frame, not of brood, but of bee-bread. Bee bread is a combination of pollen and honey. Take a look at this article on the discovery of what bees do with bee bread:
Scientist solves secret of bee bread from Science News, Nov 5, 1988 by Ingrid Wickelgren
A microbiologist has discovered the microbial ingredients honeybees embed in the nutrient-packed pollen derivative known as bee bread.
Martha A. Gilliam of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Carl Hayden Bee Research Center in Tucson, Ariz., identified 107 molds, 81 yeasts and 29 bacteria in the bread while she and co-workers sifted through the yellow granules for proteins, lipids, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes.
Workers bees newly emerged from the comb must eat bee bread so their glands produce food for the queen and developing larvae, whereas older worker bees -- the foragers -- survive primarily on honey.
"We think bee bread is somewhat more nutritious than regular pollen, but until recently, we weren't sure what happened to it [after the bees collected it]," says Elton Herbert, a research entomologist at the Agriculture Department's Beneficial Insects Research Laboratory in Beltsville, Md.
Using standard chemical methods, Gilliam picked apart pollen on its path from plant to hive. She took samples from beeless almond trees, from the carrying basket on the bee's leg and from the combs in the hive.
"We found that as soon as bees touch the pollen on the plant, they are adding glandular secretions, microorganisms and either honey or nectar to make it sticky," Gilliam says. The added microbes produce enzymes that help release nutrients such as amino acids from pollen, and the organisms manufacture antibiotics and fatty acids that prevent spoilage. The bees also remove unwanted microbes from the pollen.
My friend was pleased and overjoyed that his hive did not have AFB, but rather had a good source of bee bread to take into winter and next spring!
A friend had this dripping out of the edge of his hive. Anyone want to venture a guess? Most beekeepers can quickly identify it as propolis. Indeed it is as I pinched and smelled it. But the real question is why would it run out of the hive and down onto the cement stand. Email us your answers and we’ll publish them in the next lesson. Email your guess to:
Mice like warm places to overwinter. When nightly temperatures drop and farmers harvest their crops, mice look for shelter. What better place than a warm and roomy bottom board of a bee hive. Dead bees are nicely dropped down for the mice to consume. Often, mice and bees coexists without harming the other. In the spring, mama runs out of the hive with her new family. However, usually what happens is the mouse gets greedy and wants more than just dead bees. They start eating live ones, honey, wax, pollen and begin to move up into the brood next of the hive where the heat and food is and by that time, the mouse will kill the hive. It’s challenging enough to overwinter bees, so don’t over winter mice in your hives.
Usually the entrance cleat is sufficient to deter mice from taking up residency in the hive. Do keep mice out! One year I overwintered a nice number of colonies along with huge families of spring mice. That crop of mice then raised me a nice crop of snakes who stayed curled under my hives waiting for mice. So, since I stopped raising mice in my hives, I no longer have snakes either.
That’s all for now and I do hope you’ve learned a thing or two new about beekeeping. Maybe it’s all new and maybe it all sounds Greek. Don’t despair. We beekeepers just like to rattle on and on about beekeeping. But you can be an excellent beekeeper just by keeping it simple. Bees existed fine before we tried to domesticate them, so rest assured your bees will be very forgiving of your learning curve.
Here’s our contact information
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 East Rd.
Fairmount, IL 61841

PHONE 217-427-2678
Until next time, remember to BEE-Have yourself!