Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Lesson 90: Winter Tips

Hello friends, we’re David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee dnsFarms in central Illinois. Our bees are tucked away for winter, nothing more can be done except to replace candy boards as needed.
In less than 100 days, in Illinois the bee season begins and bees will be working early spring plants gearing up for another beekeeping season.
Over the next few days we’ll be welcoming in another year. I’m excited. Good things are going to get better for all of us.
christmasSheri and I have 3 girls and 3 boys, and over the Christmas Holiday I enjoyed taking my three daughters out to eat and it was so fun just listening to them talk and share their life experiences.

And let me encourage you to follow along my wife’s blog. She enjoys telling about what’s going on around the honey bee farm and at home. We have lots of fun, and Sheri recently shared about some exciting things coming up for 2011. Sheri’s Sweet Life
In today’s lesson I want to share about what bees do in the winter and what you can do to add to your bees’ survival. And I’ll be sharing a series of lessons on top bar hives (TBH) starting in Lesson 91, our lesson after this one.
LESSSON 90: What Bees Do In The Winter
Depending on how cold it gets where you live, bees form a tight cluster to survive the winter. Here in Illinois it gets really cold. And this time of the year, it’s too cold to inspect our colonies. We can open them just for a minute to replace candy boards but for the most part the bees are on their own until late February.
Cold does not kill a healthy, populous colony. Usually beekeepers lose colonies during the winter from varroa mites, tracheal mites, nosema, pesticide build up in stored pollen or starvation.
So many beekeepers ask me what they can do to help their bees survive the winter. I’ve worked up an easy to remember acronym WINTERS:
Wipe out pest & diseases
Initiate protection against extreme climate conditions
New queen
Top Ventilation
Excluders and empty combs off
Restrict Opening to keep out mice
Sufficient Pollen & Honey
Winter Cluster DrawingHow does the typical hive overwinter?  Bees make no effort to heat the inside of their hive like we heat our homes. We like every room to be warm. Bees, however, only produce heat from within the cluster. The cluster consumes honey and shiver to produce heat.
Bees begin to cluster when the outside temperature reaches 57 (f). Temperature of the outer surface of the winter cluster is just over 40 (f).
Within the center of the winter cluster the temperature is around 93 (f).
Never inspect a frame outside the hive until the temperature reaches 65 (f).
Colonies in the Midwest and north need around 4 frames of pollen for the winter, along with 60 pounds of honey.
Typically in northern climates the queen will stop laying in November through December but will start laying again shortly after winter solstice (December 21 or 22).
Winter bees have larger hypopharyngeal glands and more fat body reserves.
Bees can die in the winter if they become too filled with waste and cannot fly out and defecate.
Bees keep their humidity level at 40-50% in the summer hive and in the winter cluster.
The diameter of the winter cluster is around 14 inches at 57 (f) degrees, but 10 inches at -14 (f)
An outside temperature of 45 (f) degrees is most optimal for efficient use of stored resources.
A winter cluster is made up of an outside shell of bees around 3 inches thick that is very compressed. The bees heads are facing inward.
Within the center of the winter cluster, bees are less compressed and move around caring for brood.
Bees vibrate their flight muscles to generate heat for the winter cluster.
Normally a colony forms a winter cluster below their stored honey and gradually move up near the available honey as winter progresses.
Smaller winter clusters consume more resources per bee than larger clusters.
Bees can identify temperature differences as small as 0.45 (f).
Very small clusters cannot survive temperatures 45 (f) and below.
The winter cluster prefers dark comb and usually avoids new comb.
Varroa mites, small hive beetles and trachea mites also survive within the warmth of the winter cluster.

Here’s some winter tips:
Never remove frames for inspection unless the temperature is at least 65 degrees.
Aster is not a good overwintering honey because it crystalizes fast and the bees rarely ripen it prior to winter. Crystallized honey in the winter can give the bees dysentery because it produces liquid as it separates and the bees are unable to take the cleansing flights they need.
Never give bees molasses, brown sugar or corn syrup as these contain complex carbohydrates and other compounds which the bees are unable to digest.
Bees prefer to overwinter on foundation that has been used in brood rearing and will rarely move onto new comb.
Here in the Midwest colonies need between 60-80 pounds of stored honey. Here are the weights of frames filled with honey:
DEEP FRAME         6 lbs
MEDIUM FRAME     3 lbs

Colonies need 4 frames of pollen for winter.

If your bees need emergency feed, consider our Winter-Bee-Kind.

In The summer of 2011 we introduced our Winter-Bee-Kind after several years of studying overwintering hives. We could barely keep up with production they were in such demand. We still make them right here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms but we've expanded our production methods to keep up with demand. So many beekeepers told us that these were the only thing that got their hives through the winter. This year, it's time for the 2014 production year. We even mix the sugar and pollen and right here and pour the candy into the Winter-Bee-Kinds. WHAT IS A WINTER-BEE-KIND? It is a one piece candy board that provides food, ventilation, upper insulation and an upper exit/entrance to help bees remain healthier during the winter. Someone said it insulates, ventilates and feed-i-lates. With the built in upper vent, you don't have to worry about snow covering up your hive's lower entrance. The bees can still go in and out through the top vent spacing. We avoid shipping Winter-Bee-Kinds in hot weather and start shipping each September-March. You can place our Winter-Bee-Kinds on your hive anytime, even in the winter. Because it goes on top of the hive in place of the inner cover, and you are NOT removing any frames, it can be placed on the hive in cold weather. Just do it fast. Open the top, remove the inner cover and place the candy side down and the vent slot toward the front of the hive and you're done. Click here to order your Winter-Bee-Kinds Some form of a candy board has been around for a long time. Beekeepers of long ago placed candy in their hives to provide enough food for their bees to survive the long months of winter. There are various mixtures and receipts for candy boards. Some are made with soft candy and some with hard candy. The end result is still the same. The bees will consume the sugar as they need it. We've always been concerned about the amount of condensation that can develop in the hive during the winter. The bees produce heat within their hive and as the temperature is very cold outside the hive, condensation will develop on the warm side, just above the bees on the inner cover or top cover. This condensation can accumulate and drop down onto the winter cluster of bees below. Bees can stay warm in the winter but they must remain dry. If this cold water drips down onto the bees, it can reduce their ability to keep their cluster warm. The insulation on our Winter-Bee-Kind helps reduce the excessive moisture and even puts some of that moisture to work, as it accumulates on the candy and makes it easy for the bees to consume the sugar. Thus, a Winter-Bee-Kind can help lessen two winter stresses, the lack of food and excessive moisture. We make our Winter-Bee-Kinds with sugar and a healthy amount of pollen powder. Many beekeepers make the mistake of only feeding their bees sugar in the winter, but the bees also need protein which they obtain from pollen. Our Winter-Bee-Kinds come with pollen mixed in with the sugar.. Click here to order your Winter-Bee-Kind today. We recommend that you place candy boards on your hive any time between Oct-March.

Commonly Asked Questions
Q: Which way does the candy face in the hive?
A: The candy faces down just above the winter cluster. Normally, this means that the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on the brood box that contains the cluster. For example, if you overwinter your bees in a single deep hive body, the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on this deep hive body with the candy facing down toward the cluster. If you are using two deep hive bodies to overwinter, then the Winter-Bee-Kind would be placed on the top deep hive body. It is best to disregard the use of an inner cover, and simply place your top cover over the Winter-Bee-Kind.

Q: What about winter moisture?
A: Moisture can develop in the winter from condensation, a contrast of the heat the bees produce in the hive and the extreme cold temperature outside the hive. Condensation accumulates on the warm side, which means moistures collects on the inner cover or top cover above the hive. This can drip down on the bees and chill them during the winter. A Winter-Bee-Kind takes the place of an inner cover and any moisture that develops from condensation aids the bees in consuming the candy.

Q: How long will a Winter-Bee-Kind last on a hive?
A: On average about 3 weeks. However, a colony that has ample stored honey may not consume the candy board as fast or not at all until they need it. A colony close to starvation may consume a Winter-Bee-Kind within a week or two.

Q: Since Winter-Bee-Kinds are placed or replaced on the hive in the winter, can I open the hive up on a cold day?
A: It is best to place the candy boards on a hive when the temperature is above freezing and try to place the candy board on and have the hive sealed back up within 1-2 minutes. It should not take over 1 minute. Do not remove any frames in cold temperatures, only place your Winter-Bee-Kind on and off quickly. If you can choose the warmest day during the winter, that would be best. Try to avoid very cold, windy or rainy days.

Q: How do I refill a candy board?
A: It is best to send back your candy board and we will refill it for $7 plus shipping. If you are a good candy maker, you can do it yourself.

Q: How do I get one with a pollen?
A: Our Winter-Bee-Kinds contain pollen as well.

Q: Can I make my own?
A: You can, but you must experiment, because you do not want the candy to be too hard or too runny. The exact mix depends on your altitude, heat source and other conditions so it will be different from one location to another.

Q: Why was some liquid sugar dripping out of my Winter-Bee-Kind when I received it?
A: It is the nature of candy boards to be a bit on the dripping side even though the top may be hard. Do not be concerned if you see liquid sugar dripping out of your boards when you receive it. It usually means it was left on end during shipment for a prolong period of time. The bees will clean everything up and enjoy this soft liquid.

Q: How much sugar is in one Winter-Bee-Kind?
A: Approximately 5 pounds

Q: When do I put a Winter-Bee-Kind on my hive?
A: Any time! Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb are good months to place on the boards.

Q How often should I check my Winter-Bee-Kind?
A: Every three weeks, take a peek.

Q: Do you make Winter-Bee-Kind for 5 frame nucs or 8 frame hives?
A: Yes, check out our website to order, but carefully read the description to make sure you are ordering the correct size and type.

Q: Can the candy break loose from the board on the hive?
A: It rarely happens, but during extreme winter weather, the candy and separate from the board while on the hive. This is not a problem. The bees will continue to consume the sugar.

Q: When I place it on the hive, do I use my inner cover. Just how does it go on?
A: Winter-Bee-Kind takes the place of your inner cover. Simply place the Winter-Bee-Kind on the top of your upper hive body or super with the candy facing down, then place your top cover on top of the Winter-Bee-Kind. Be sure to use a rock or brick to make sure the wind does not blow your top cover off. There is overwhelming enthusiasm about our Winter-Bee-Kinds. Click here to order now.
In our next lesson, we will be rolling out a lesson on Top Bar Hives and we’ll be rolling out our own design for the Top Bar Hives that we are not producing in addition to our regular traditional Langstroth hives.
Here’s our contact info:
14556 N 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841

EMAIL: david@honeybeesonline.com
Follow us on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/longlanehoney
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Or listen online at: www.honeybeesonline.com/studiobeelive.html
Until next time, BEE-Have Yourself!

Happy New Year,
David & Sheri Burns

Saturday, December 11, 2010

LESSON 89: The Importance Of Using A Refractometer To Make Sure Your Honey Is Ready For Harvest

Hello Friend, we are David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. Thanks for joining us for another lesson in beekeeping. I’ve been posting beekeeping lessons for over 3 years now. I hope you enjoy them. Today, I want to examine the importance of using a refractometer! A refractometer is used to measure the moisture level in honey. Beekeepers need to become more aware of what the moisture content is in the honey they are harvesting. Harvest it too soon, and the excess moisture content will cause the honey to go bad or ferment, and when it does, you’ll be seeing customers bringing your honey back wanting a refund and spreading around bad news about your honey to others. You don’t want that.
Lesson89aBefore we start today’s lesson, let me share some fun we’ve been having here at the bee farm. We had our first ever 2 hour short course and we reached our maximum number of students. It was a great evening. We had Christmas decorations up, Christmas lights up outside and it was snowing…just beautiful. We had warm apple cider made with honey at the door to warm up the travelers as they arrived.

Lesson89aSheri demonstrated how to cook with honey and took us through breakfast, lunch and supper. Of course, someone had to eat all that food she made so I helped myself. All her dishes included honey.
Many beekeepers might spread some honey on their toast in the morning, but few cook with honey in other meals. Sheri demonstrated just how fun and easy it really is. Also, for more on Sheri’s cooking she would love for you to visit her blog at:
Lesson89dAfter the cooking with honey demonstration, I had a table with 10 varieties of honey to taste sample. These were not flavored honey, but pure honey made from specific floral sources. Some of the different types of honey included were: Buckwheat, Acacia, Eucalyptus, Blueberry, Orange Blossom, Kentucky Mountain, and North Carolina Mountain Honey.
lesson89iAfter the honey sampling, Angela Faulkner gave an excellent presentation on Candle Making. She demonstrated how to melt wax, select the proper wick, dipping candles and more.

lesson89fAngela revealed some tips and tricks to make candles like using soda cans and placing tension on the wick by drilling a hole in the can and using plumbers putty. She also stressed how important it is to be safe and never overheat the wax or leave a candle burning unattended.
lesson89gAfter her demonstration, students were invited to make their own candles. Candle making is such an enjoyable aspect of beekeeping and an excellent way to make some more profit from the hive and make good use of left over beeswax.
lesson89eIt is so rewarding to make your own candles. Many claim that pure beeswax candles burn cleaner and can even purify the air. No one can argue that beeswax candles have a delightful fragrance that is therapeutic!

LESSON 89: The Importance Of Using A Refractometer To Make Sure Your Honey Is Ready For Harvest
Lesson89jAt our last short course, I demonstrated how to use the Refractometer. Most students had never used a refractometer and were amazed at how simple it is to use.

So in today’s lesson I want to discuss: 1) How using a refractometer can increase your honey production, 2) How a refractometer works, 3) How to use a refractometer, and 4) How to invest in the right model.
lesson89kFirst, how can a refractometer increase your honey yields? I took this picture by holding my camera up to the view finder on the refractometer. It reads 18%. Typically, we always say that you should not harvest honey from the hive until all the frames are capped over, meaning all of the cells in the honey frames are sealed with the bee’s wax cappings. But, often the bees fill up the honey cells but do not seal them over. This means that the bees cannot store any additional nectar because there is no room. This is especially the case in certain types of climates where the bees may never completely seal the honey comb. Meanwhile, you could have been giving them more frames to fill. So, what you can do is remove the frames that may still not be completely sealed and give them drawn comb to continue to store incoming nectar. Then, place your filled, but unsealed frames in a room with a dehumidifier and a fan, and use your refractometer to measure and dry the honey to around 17.5% moisture. By removing your frames earlier than normal and drying them, you can place empty frames in the hive to be filled. This is how a refractometer can help increase your honey yields.
lesson89lSecondly, just how does a refractometer work? Prisms bend light. A refractometer operates in much the same way, but instead light reacts differently depending on the amount of sugar as the light passes through the honey (sugar) and the daylight plate and the main prism assembly.
How to Use a Refractometer
lesson89nFirst, open the light plate and expose the light blue area. Now take a couple drops of honey so that the honey will cover the blue area completely. If you use too much honey, it will just be messy. You just need enough to cover the blue plate.
lesson89oNow, close the light gate firmly to spread the honey evenly over the blue plate.  Now, simply look into the view finder and take your reading.
To clean your refractometer after use, simply use a damp cloth and remove the honey from all areas.
How To Invest In The Right  Model

While refractometers are very easy to use, I would strongly urge all bee keepers not to purchase the inexpensive refractometers for under $100. These might be accurate, but as many beekeepers have found they are plagued with problems. In my opinion, save up your money and invest in the model we are showing in this lesson. It is not the most expensive model, but it is made by Atago, a superior and well established refractometer company and this model is designed especially for honey. It is perfect every time, durable, handheld and affordable. We sell these for $289. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE YOURS TODAY maybe in time for an outstanding Christmas gift for the one you love.
Many beekeepers have told me how frustrated they were with the cheaper models. So invest in a life long instrument that you’ll be very happy with.
Refractometers are designed for measuring moisture in various materials. This model we are showing and selling is specifically manufactured for measuring honey.
Before I close today, let me tell you about a new item we are offering. We are offering a unique 3-way queen rearing hive. It is specifically designed to hold 3 queens by keeping them separated by inserts in the deep hive body. These inserts slide into grooves that even travel down into the bottom board so queens cannot travel between sections. What is unique with our design is that when you are finished raising queens, you can pull out the panels, plug the two small openings in the side of the bottom board and all equipment then turns back into usable Langstroth sized equipment.

We encourage you to listen or call in and ask questions.  The easiest way for you to call in during the beekeeping show is to call: (724) 444-7444 and enter call ID 16456 when prompted. We’d love for you to call in with a comment or question. I know there are over 1,000 of you who receive this via your Email, so set your timer for Thursday night, 7pm central time.
Here’s another link showing what the podcast is all about and additional ways to join in.
Your overwhelming support of Long Lane Honey Bee Farms would be greatly appreciated during these beekeeping podcasts that I am now hosting each third Thursday of the month.
As always we appreciate your business. So many of you have made us your home for all your beekeeping equipment, package bees, nucs and education. Your loyal business keeps us paying the bills so we can continue doing what we do.
Be sure to order all your packages, nucs, queens and beekeeping equipment from us. We appreciate your business.
Here’s our contact info:
EMAIL: david@honeybeesonline.com
ORDER LINE: 217-427-2678
Until next time, BEE-HAVE yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Sunday, November 28, 2010



Sheri and I would like to extend a warm greeting to you and your family! And a very Happy Thanksgiving weekend! We hope you enjoyed family, friends, some good food, and some restful days from work.

I know our family enjoyed being together and sharing some great food and wonderful fellowship together.

CandleSpeaking of getting together, we still have some openings for those who are interested in attending our first 2-hour beekeeping short course. Register ASAP by clicking here. This course is December 3rd, this coming Friday night at our honey bee farm. Angela Faulkner will be presenting candle making and my wife Sheri will be demonstrating how to cook with honey. We’ll also have many different types of honey to taste sample. Join us for an enjoyable evening, this Friday night!

Today’s lesson may not seem like a lesson, but actually I believe it is a powerful life lesson indeed. I want to speak about the importance beekeeping can have in helping to make our lives complete. Then I want to speak about the importance of beekeepers working together in unity and kindness to help support the beekeeping community.

Bees greatly enrich our lives. As a pastor, most of my life has been spent helping people through many challenges in life. People who have struggled with life’s most challenging blows, poor health, family issues, unemployment, marital issues, and the list goes on.

When life throws us a curve, we may fall into despair and hopelessness. Life is good, but life can be hard at times, sometimes more than we can bear. During these times of struggle we can become overly engrossed in our woes. During these moments of heartache and depression, beekeeping can be very therapeutic.

Lorenzo_LangstrothThe current hive that is standard throughout the beekeeping community was designed by Rev. Lorenzo Lorraine Langstroth (1810-1895). His books and writings appear as if written by the lead entomologist of our day. Without the modern day University labs, Langstroth made life-changing discoveries about the bee and the construction of our current bee hive. Yet, Langstroth had bouts with depression, and when life drove him into some deep moments of despair and hopelessness, he poured himself into his bees. The entrances to his hives were the doorways into comfort and peace.

IsraelI’ve traveled to Israel 5 different times and remember listening on the news to Israel’s former Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, giving a speech to the UN General Assembly in September, 2005. Part of his speech really left an impression on me. “I was born in the Land of Israel, the son of pioneers - people who tilled the land and sought no fights - who did not come to Israel to dispossess its residents. If the circumstances had not demanded it, I would not have become a soldier, but rather a farmer and agriculturist. My first love was, and remains, manual labor; sowing and harvesting, the pastures, the flock and the cattle.”

For most of us, there is a desire to return to the land, to enjoy fresh air, feel the fertile soil between our fingers, to sow and harvest…manual labor. But life’s circumstances have demanded we do other things.

ChristianStill, there is something in us that is restored and healed by the wind blowing through our hair, the sun in our face and the pleasant sounds of nature. Our soul is replenished by the smell of fresh flowers, freshly cut grass or newly plowed soil. Beekeeping is an outlet. An escape from our demands, problems and troubles and a return to that which can truly enrich our lives, nature at its best.

beeflyingI cannot imagine my life without my bees. Some people watch TV and some attend sporting events for entertainment. But for me, nothing is as entertaining as watching my bees navigate the skies with their payloads hour after hour. Nothing keeps my mind sharp and expanding like learning about the honey bee.

Whether you ever make a profit from your bees or not, beekeeping brings about a completeness; a satisfaction that few things can offer.


Lesson88Ask ten beekeepers the same question and you’ll get eleven different answers. There has always been a distinct individuality about beekeepers. Perhaps it’s the long hours we spend in solitude working our bees. Maybe it’s because the general public can’t understand why anyone would mess with stinging insects. For whatever reason, we are unlike the social insects we keep.

It’s time we take a hint from the bees and learn to work together as a beekeeping community. We need each other. The old saying, “divide and conquer” is certainly true. But a united community of beekeepers is a powerful force.

Like all groups of people, there can be competition, a drive to be better or smarter, and personality clashes can divide. However, as beekeepers we must remember what is at stake…the honey bees. Could our bees be showing us that we must work together?

I want to give 5 important tips to help us work together as a beekeeping community.

1. Avoid being the “know-it-all” that has to show off in front of new beekeepers or less experienced beekeepers. There is a temptation once a beekeepers learns about bees, to show off, to try to appear like the big kid on the block. Instead, just be glad that you are learning and remember that you still have much more to learn. Be humble, not prideful.

glands2. Respect the recent, reliable studies. Pass up the opportunity to discredit  proven scientific studies. I regularly find beekeepers who have nothing good to say about University Entomologists and their findings. They accuse these bee specialists of being unable to relate to the real experiences of beekeepers; people who sit in ivory towers and never experience beekeeping like the rest of us. That’s not always true. And as a result of this poor view, some beekeepers will reject all studies and miss out on new discoveries. Be open minded and appreciate what our entomologists are doing.

Lesson84b3. Speak positively and have a positive outlook when speaking to the public or with beginner beekeepers. Those interested in beekeeping often will seek out an experienced beekeeper and ask many questions. Sometimes the experienced beekeeper will discourage the newbie and tell them it isn’t worth it. Instead, be positive and encouraging. Offer to help mentor and spur them on.

4. Be kind and gentle when other beekeepers do things differently than you. When someone is doing different things, don’t automatically assume their ways and techniques are dumb. Respect their exploration and new trials. Who knows, maybe something will be discovered serendipitously!

lesson88a5. Become involved in local and state meetings. Fight the urge to be a lone beekeeper! Branch out and mill around with other beekeepers. You still have much to learn! So take opportunities to hear new ideas and opinions from others who love bees just as much as you.

After our last in depth lesson on Varroa mites, I hope you’ve enjoyed this lesson…some food for thought.

Candyboard4Do not forget to put candy boards on your hives around December 22. Less than a month to go. If you need to order your candy boards, click here.

Spacer77We also are offering a winter wrap kit that is essentially an upper vent/spacer, and a sheet of felt paper to wrap around your hive. Your candy board can be placed on top of the winter vent spacer which allows moisture to still be reduced while the candy board is on. Click here for more info on this winter wrap kit.

Thanks for joining us today and I hope to see some of you this Friday!

Meanwhile Bee-Have Yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N 1020 E Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841


Website: www.honeybeesonline.com

EMAIL: david@honeybeesonline.com

ONLINE STORE: www.honeybeesonline.com

Friday, November 19, 2010


smalldavidatbarnHello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. We’re David and Sheri Burns and now the 2011 bee season preparation has started. Package bee orders are pouring in. Orders for woodenware and bee supplies all point to the bee season is underway. in 5 days we sold 1/4 of our available packages. Unbelievable! I so much enjoy answering the phone and meeting other beekeepers or beekeepers-to-be.
family1Here’s a picture of our family. Sheri and I have six children ranging in age from 28 years old to 3 years old. Three girls and three boys. Almost everyone in the picture has helped us in our bee business, even Grandma and Grandpa in the back row. We’ve worked hard to establish Long Lane Honey Bee Farms and we want to thank all of you who have blessed us with your business.
Throughout most of the US beekeepers have put their bees to bed for winter. That is merely a figure of speech because bees do not hibernate during the winter. Instead, they cluster, remain calm and eat small amounts of honey and pollen to make it through the cold winter months.
nucWe have heard back from so many customers who love our queens, nucs, packages and woodenware, and we appreciate that. So many people are requesting our 4-frame nucs for spring.
These are little colonies that we make up in the spring with our queens on 4 frames of honey, pollen, brood and bees. A day does not go by without someone wanting to order nucs in advance.
Today I want to educate you on the varroa mite, but I do not want you to become discouraged or defeated by this honey bee parasite. We can keep bees even with varroa mites. Mites are everywhere in our world. You’ve probably got a few in your house and probably on you at one time or another, such as chiggers or dust mites. So do not become a hypochondriac about your bees having mites. Do not freak out or overreact. There are many approaches to dealing with mites. But, for  you to be a successful beekeeper, you need to be well informed about Varroa destructor.
The varroa mite was first introduced into our country in 1987, although the literature identifies the spotting of one varroa mite in Maryland in 1979. Since 1987 mites have spread rapidly throughout the US.
The mite was first identified as Varroa Jacobsoni but later correctly identified as Varroa destructor (Anderson and Trueman 2000). It is the number one killer of honey bees in the US. As an ectoparasite  (lives outside of the honey bee) it is one of the largest parasite on the planet compare to its host.
It is not a natural parasite to our honey bee, Apis mellifera. It’s original host was Apis cerana. But, like many pests, it jumped species and Apis mellifera was not able to cope well and most feral colonies, wild hives, were destroyed by the mites in the early 1990s.
Miteondrone1Varroa mites are tiny but visible with the naked eye. In this photo, I pulled out a drone pupa and you can see the tiny mite on the lower abdomen of the drone. The mites that we see on our bees are the adult, female mites also called the foundress mite. These adult females are dark, reddish brown in color. Male mites are never seen outside the cells and they never turn dark but remain white or a light color. Mites only reproduce in the sealed cells of a bee hive, never outside the hive.
The varroa mite enters a hive through the front entrance, riding on other bees. Drones are allowed to enter any hive and drones are common carriers of mites, transferring them from hive to hive. Once in the hive, the adult, foundress mite will look for a young nurse bee and climb on her back and will latch on to the thorax where the wings attach or just behind the head. Mites feed on bee blood, known as hemolymph.
Because the bee is exoskeleton, the mite cannot penetrate the outer plates of the bee so it moves to the overlapping segments of the abdomen to the soft tissues and pierces through with its mouth parts. These areas on the honey bee are known as the innersegmental membranes.
When the bee larva is 8 days old it gives off distinct pheromone signal to adult bees who begin to seal the cells. However, that same pheromone signal is picked up by the varroa mite as an indication that it is time to enter the cell.
The mite makes her way into the bottom of the cell and buries herself beneath the royal jelly in the base of a cell.  Mites have a snorkel like apparatus that they use to breathe while hiding under the royal jelly. These specialized tubes are called peritremes and are thin, pale-colored tubes located just between the last two pairs of legs.
Once the cell is capped and the bee larva has spun its cocoon the mite will feed on the larva and will begin laying eggs about 3 days after the cell is capped. Most female mites lay between 4-6 eggs, the first being a male mite, and the remaining 4 being females that mate with their one brother in the cell.
Unlike bees, mites do not go through larva and pupa stages, instead they go through 4 developmental stages: egg, protonymph and deutonymph stages and finally adult. From egg to adult takes 6-7 days for females and 5-6 for males.
Mites will pierce an opening in the prepupa honey bee larva and the whole family of mites will feed from that one wound. As the family grows and the bee emerges, the foundress mite will leave the cell with one or more new female daughters. The males die and never leave the cell and the bees clean them out. The adult females will then attach to adult bees for an average of 7 days before finding a new cell to enter and reproduce again. During her lifetime the foundress mite will go through 3 reproductive cycles.
The impact of varroa mites on a colony varies depending on the level of infestation and the level of diseases the mites may carry. Several mites in one cell can seriously cripple the developing bee, through the loss of blood, injury or spread of disease. Mites can also negatively impact adult bee. An adult bee can have trouble flying and Deformed Wing Viruscarrying out normal work when they have more than 2 mites on them at one time. Mites vector several diseases as they feed on bee hemolymph. A common disease that is spread is Deformed Wing Virus (DWV).  Bees with deformed wing virus are easy to identify and gives evidence to the high level of mite infestation in the hive. The wings appear burnt or deformed.
liquidnitrogenWe prefer not to use chemicals in treating for mites. Instead our first line of defense is raising queens that are VSH, Varroa Sensitive Hygienic. These bees detect mites below the sealed brood and remove the pupae and mites, taking them outside the hive. In the photo,  Liquid Nitrogen is used to kill a circle of brood and then it is measured in 24 hours to see how much of the dead brood was removed. This identifies a VSH trait in a colony.
GreendronecombThe next natural line of defense is trapping. Green drone comb can be placed in the hive. Since drones are the longest to develop, 24 days before they emerge, mites prefer drone cells so they have longer to try and reproduce more female mites. Once the drone comb frame is sealed, it can be removed and frozen for 24 hours killing all the mites, and drones too of course. Then, the comb can be placed back in the hive to be cleaned out by the bees and the process repeated.
The third level of natural defense against mites is the use of a screen bottom board. Since mites are parasites, they do lose their grip. Sometimes they are groomed off of bees by other bees and when they fall, they fall through the screen bottom board. It is effective, just observe the number of mites that fall through the screen. Once out of the hive, they do not move and therefore cannot feed and die below the hive. Not all mites will fall out of the hive, but those that do will decrease the colony’s mite load.
A fourth plan of attack is to treat the hive with powdered sugar or confectionery sugar. Shake one cup of powdered sugar per deep hive body. Let it fall between the frames. The powdered sugar causes the bees to groom mites off and some mites just lose their grip and fall. This should be repeated once a week for at least 3 weeks.
A final natural defense against mites is to break their own brood cycle. By pulling out the queen for 2 weeks, the mites cannot reproduce and are greatly reduced. The lack of bee brood removes the mite’s hosts.
More and more chemicals are available. Some chemicals in the past have show to have negative effects on the drones and queens reproductive organs. However, newer chemicals have shown to be more effective with less side effects. We recommend that you carefully research each chemical that is available and make your own decisions about using chemicals in your hives.
Now you probably know more about mites than you ever wanted to know, but keep this teaching handy because it can give you greater knowledge to help your bees not succumb to the mites.
These Words Might Be New To You…
Hemolymph  -  Bee blood
Exoskeleton – Bees have a hard outer covering rather than an internal
Ectoparasite – A parasite that lives on the outer surface.
Phoretic stage  -  Adult Varroa mite
Protonymph – A newly hatched mite
Deutonymph – The last stage prior to the adult stage.
Foundress – Female egg laying mite

Some suggest placing a mite collection sheet, sticky board, beneath the screen bottom board for 1 day and then counting to see if more that 25 mites can be counted, exceeding the economic threshold requiring additional action or treatment.
However, I have found visually inspecting phoretic mites on adult bees and inspecting mites on drone purpae gives a better picture as to the extent of mite infestation. Obviously, we must also inspect the bees for mite damage or vectored diseases from mites that show up in the colony.

Thanks for joining us today and please check out our contact information and contact us soon! We’d love to hear from you:
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N 1020 E Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841

Until next time, Bee-Have Yourself!
David & Sheri Burns

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Lesson 86: Package Bees, How To Winter Wrap A Hive & DEC 3rd Class Candle Making & Cooking With Honey & Honey Sampling

dnsHello everyone! And welcome to another beekeeping lesson from David & Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We’re glad that you have landed on our site. Where else will you receive such detailed and fun information on keeping bees?
In today’s lesson, I’ll teach about package bees, and share a detailed teaching on wrapping hives for winter along with a video of how to do it.

Tens of thousands of packages of bees are shipped to beekeepers throughout the US every year. Bees have been shipped through the postal service for over 100 years and is very successful. Some speak poorly about the stressed placed on bees shipped through packages and suggest that local nucs are better. I’ve addressed this in previous lessons. Our great country provides us with various climates. The southern climate allows us to get a jump on raising bees and queens for northern beekeepers. This has always been the motivation for providing packages, and northern beekeepers have always been grateful. Packages can be produced in early April in the southern states, but nucs aren’t available in northern states until May-June.
All of the southern package producers that I know work hard to make winter hardy stock queens. I’m also a nuc provider so I understand why some people prefer nucs. However, I love packages! I remember when I received my first 2 packages in the mail. Wow! What an exciting time. I thought it was the coolest thing that the post office delivered my bees to me, and they did great.

Typically, bees do not need to be wrapped for winter. We are in central Illinois and our hives get along fine with open bottom boards and no wrap. Bees do not heat the inside of their hives like we do our homes. Instead, bees do not heat the inside of their hive, they only keep their cluster warm. Parts of the hive away from the cluster are as cold as it is outside.
Even with your best winter preparations, it will not be enough if your bees have a mite infestation or are lacking stored honey. Make sure your colony is disease free and is not infested with varroa or tracheal mites. Then, make sure your hive has an ample supply of stored honey and pollen. A winter hive wrap is useless if these important things go unchecked.
Something negative happens when a hive is wrapped. The extra wrap can allow the bees to warm the inside of their hive so much that on a very cold day, excessive moisture will accumulate on the inner cover or top cover. This cold water will drip down on the bees, causing them to become too cold and wet, and eventually perish. The excessive moisture in the hive can also cause the growth of mold and bacteria.
Two precautions must be taken when wrapping a hive for winter: 1) The hive must be given an upper entrance. This is especially necessary in regions that receive several feet of snow per year. The upper entrance will allow the bees to take cleansing flights even if the hive is buried in a snow drift. 2) The hive must have upper ventilation. Upper ventilation will help deplete away excess moisture condensation from the top of the hive.
Spacer77We now make a special spacer that has the upper ventilation and upper entrance all in one. We are selling the winter spacer with black wrap paper for $10 and what is neat is that they also accommodate our winter candy boards. CLICK HERE TO ORDER. In the video below, I will demonstrate how the candy board sits directly on top of the upper vent/entrance spacer. And this spacer can also be used so provide space for pollen patty feedings or bags of sugar water as well. It can also be used when medicating your hives. These spacers have lots of uses! Enjoy the video on wrapping hives.

Winter Wrapping A Hive
For those who may not have been able to play the video, let me walk you through the steps in the pictures below or CLICK HERE to watch the video from our website:
spacer2I’ve chosen to use a very common material known as roofing paper or black tar paper available at most home improvement stores. A common width is 36”. I like 36 inches because most hives are two hive bodies deep which means the hive is approximately 22” tall. However if the hive has a super, it makes it about 28 inches tall, and two supers puts it right at about 36 inches tall. So for the purpose of this hive, 36” width is perfect.
Next, cut your piece of roofing paper at around 80-85” long. This will allow you to wrap it around your hive and overlap. Overlapping a few inches is critical, especially in windy places. If the wind starts to pull the paper, it could rip it off over the course of a windy winter.
spacer5It is important to insert your front entrance reducer, your top entrance spacer and place your candy board on for added food.
spacer4Your bottom entrance reducer should be on its smallest setting. The entrance on the upper spacer can face the front or the back. I place it in the front so that I can work my bees from the back.
spacer6Now we are ready to wrap. Start on one side and use a hand stapler to fasten the paper to the hive. If you are concerned about staple holes, you can use duct tape or gorilla glue. Wrap the paper along the side, and around the back, stapling as you go, along the other side and across the front. If the bees are flying, you will disrupt their landing and take off and they might let you know about it. You can also wait until a much colder day when the bees are inside and clustered.
You’ll notice I had to notch a small cutout for the opening in the front, both at the bottom and at the top. Once the paper is stapled or taped down, you can put your top on. It might fit tight, but just make sure you get the paper under the lid to help hold it down tightly in high winds.
spacer7You’ll notice the top entrance is just below the lip of the top cover minimizing rain and snow from going directly in. However, small amounts of weather will not bother the bees in this upper placement.
You did it, and it looks nice. You’ve given your bees an upper entrance/exit and you’ve given them a nice upper vent. And you’ve wrapped your hive to help keep out excessive winds that might leak through cracked and broken boxes.
Although we rarely wrap out hives, we do enjoy experimenting to see if wrapping does make a difference. So the hive in the picture/video is one that we’ll follow along all winter to see how it does. The queen in this hive has some very unique characteristics in storing honey and pollen, and so we are anxious to observe her overwintering skills. This hive is a 5 year old survival hive that has not been treated with any medication for the last 5 years. It had mites all year, but no signs of infestation and no apparent negative effect. It does not have tracheal mites going into winter. Currently the cluster is very low in the hive with about 60 pounds of honey on board.

Thanks for joining us for another lesson in beekeeping. Our next lesson will be an extensive lesson on Varroa Mites. See you then.
Here’s our contact information:
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841
(217) 427-2678
CHECK OUT OUR PODCAST: www.honeybeesonline.com/studiobeelive.html

See ya next time,
David Burns
EAS Certified Master Beekeeper

2010 Package Bee Work