Sunday, March 28, 2010

Lesson 72: The Antenna of the Bee & Overwintering Success

Hello from David & Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. 

Today, we’ll continue our look into the biology of the honey bee as we examine the bee’s antenna and we’ll talk about how another harsh winter has taught us more about successfully overwintering hives. Remember, if  you have trouble viewing photos or videos in this message sent to your Email, you can always go to our actual posting of these lessons and view them there:
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Before we begin, let me tell you what we’ve been up to. This is the time of year when everything is running at full speed. In the winter April seems so far away. Then, suddenly we wonder where the time went, because we are only three weeks away from package bee pickups! And only 4 weeks away from when our first shipment of packages ship out.
For my 50th birthday, all my children went together and bought me an HD video camera and I’ve had a blast video taping bees! And it takes beautiful close ups too.
Pollen Here’s a bee working hard to bring in pollen. She’s flying in hovering for a good spot to land. If you click on the photo for a larger view you can see the pollen in her back legs. Here in central Illinois the bees started bringing in pollen around the middle of March. Maple trees and other trees are starting to produce for the bees.
I placed a video on YOUTUBE of bees collecting nectar and pollen from my maple trees. Which brings me to a point I’d like to make. I need your help. We are always seeking ways to promote beekeeping and one of the ways we are doing this is through YOUTUBE videos. Here’s how you can help. Sign up for our YOUTUBE Beekeeping channel. Just go to and sign up for our video subscriptions. It’s free. But more importantly, if you can view our videos then give them a high rating, it will push our videos higher up on the search engines on YouTube. That would be  a big help and you’ll benefit from learning through our videos. Thanks!
Here’s an example of our Beekeeping Video channel. Our most recent video demonstrates how to check your hive for sealed brood, eggs and larva.
Eggs2 And I also want to include a picture below to help you identify eggs in the cell. Click on the image to see the larger image. When you inspect a hive, you do not have to see the queen as long as you see 1 day old eggs. Here’s what they look like. You may need reading glasses or a magnifying glass to see them, but most people can see them with the naked eye. Notice the eggs, pollen, larva and sealed brood. I took this photo to help you become familiar with what to look for in the hive.
Gardenhive Before we get into our lesson today, I want to show you a beautiful hive that we are now carrying. Customers have always made special request and a frequent special order is for 8 frame hives, instead of 10. Everything is the same, but the hive is a bit more narrow, and of course each box contains two less frames. Recent studies show that 8 frame hives do slightly better than 10 frames. Probably not enough to switch over, but a slight advantage because bees prefer to build up and down over sideways.  So now we are making 8-Frame equipment regularly. Here’s a beautiful 8 frame set up we are selling with a pure copper top. It’s called a Copper Top Garden Hive. We have two of these available, so you must call in to purchase. 217-427-2678.
LESSON 72: The Antenna of the Honey Bee and Overwintering Success

Winter-Bee-Kind For Winter Feed For Bees
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.

First, let’s address overwintering of bees. Let’s face it…it ain’t easy getting bees through the winter. Get this into your head. Bees laugh at cold! Healthy bees have no trouble at all in the coldest of climates. They can and do survive the cold. But, if they have other stressors, like thracheal or varroa mites or a disease or lack of nutrition, they will struggle or perish in the winter.
Our approach, here in Central Illinois, is simple. 1) Adequate ventilation (open screen bottom boards) 2) Good food storage going into winter 3) Our proven queens that are winter hardy, 4) Reduce front entrance to keep mice out and 5) Some sort of wind block that is a couple feet away from the hive. To make my point, here’s one of our customers/students giving a play by play report of how he followed our advice and got his hives through a Kansas winter. Before I share his testimony, I want to make an observation about his photo. Notice how the grass is green around the black paper under his hive? Grass greens up faster the warmer it is.  I suspect the black paper under and around the hive assisted the overall “heat” of the hive and probably was a good thing. I’ll let Brian tell you the rest because his approach proves that it works!
Brian Brian says… “Last fall I knew that I did not know what I should do to help my bee’s make it through the winter.  This is my first hive and was the first winter that I was going to try to take my bees through as a beekeeper.  Dave and Sheri both were very helpful with any questions that I had, plus I read and re-read all the lessons that they most graciously provide us for free.  I also went to my local book store and bought three bee books to increase my knowledge of my new found bee hobby. 
What I did to prepare my bee hive to support my bees as best as I could, was to put up a small wind break with a cheap tarp a couple of feet away on the north side of the hive to block the north wind.  I left the screened bottom board installed on the hive, as recommended by Dave and Sheri.  Then I took two wooden pencils and broke them in half.  I put one piece of the pencils in each corner on top of the inner cover, as I learned from one of the books that about one quarter to three eights of an inch between the inner and outer covers would help prevent condensation by improved ventilation.  I then placed the outer cover back in-place on top of the inner cover.  I installed the metal entrance reducer to keep mice out of the hive.  Walla, my winter preparation was complete.  What I learned through reading Dave and Sheri’s lessons, and confirmed through the books that I bought, was make sure that the bees had proper ventilation to prevent condensation within the hive, because condensation is a bee killer when it builds up and drips onto the colony, and is one of the major reasons a healthy hive will die out during the winter. 
Brian2 I left one honey super installed, that was probably 70 to 80 percent full of honey for the bees just incase.  I also did not take any honey from them last summer since it was their first year, and I was afraid that they would need the food during the winter to remain strong.  I did not try to arrange frames in any order within the hive, since I do not understand that process.  When the bees were no longer foraging for food because there was nothing for them to forage, I put the feeder out for them with 2 parts sugar to1 part water on the warm days.  Basically any day that the weather forecast said a high of about 50 degrees.  What I found out from trial was that my bees did not eat the sugar water unless the temp hit 45 to 50 degrees with calm winds, and they were more active when it was sunny.  We, as most, had a pretty wet and snowy winter.  I have lived in Kansas for the last 25 years and this was the most snow that I can remember having.  Each time it snowed, I would go out to the hive and brush the snow away from the bottom of the hive on all sides.  I also removed the snow from around the pallet that my hive sits on to help increase the airflow through the bottom board.  I also made sure the entrance reducer was cleared of snow so the bees could come and go through the bottom of the hive.  At the end of January I opened my hive for the first time since early November, to see how the bees were doing.  To my surprise, I found they were doing fine and had moved up into the top brood box, I could not see any moisture in the hive, and I was happily surprised at the amount of bees I could see, however initially I was concerned at the amount of dead bees I cleaned out from the bottom board with a stick.  I have since opened my hive briefly two other times, once to put a pollen patty on and once to see if they had eaten the pollen patty.  So far they have not touched the pollen patty and I don’t if that’s because they don’t need it or it they just don’t like processed foods. 
In conclusion, with a little help from me and some great lessons from Dave and Sheri I have to give 90 percent of the credit to my lovely queen and her worker bee lineage, provided to me by Lone Lane Honey Bee Farms, because lets face it, I stayed inside where it was warm.
Thank you Dave and Sheri, I think I’m hooked.
Way to go Brian! Brian’s insight I know will help so many others in the fall as we prepare for winter. But remember what I say…Winter preparation starts in the spring by keeping your bees healthy all year!
When I was young, back in the 60s, my parents bought me a set of Radio Shack walkie-talkies for Christmas. My brother and I had a blast with those. We pretended we were astronauts, spies, and soldiers. Back then, they barely carried across the street even with an antenna that I remember being about 4 feet long. I remember I was terribly heartbroken when I went to retract my antenna in a hurry and it bent and broke. We tried to tape it and solder it, but it was done. That was my first experience with an antenna.
We still use antennas for communication. Even the satellite dish for our t.v. is technically receiving a signal from outer space.
Les72a Bees also use their antennae to communicate and gather data about their environment around them.
Where do honey bees spend a large amount of their time? In the hive, in a dark hive. Therefore they use their antennae for taste, smell and touch. They have one antenna on each side of their head. It is connected to the brain through a large nerve, a double nerve that transfers all data received. The antenna moves freely as it is set in a socket. This allows the bees to manipulate their antennae freely. Each antenna is full of tiny hairs, nodules and other sensory organs. While it is true that bees do not have ears like we do to hear, they use their antennae to hear. Actually tiny hairs on the antennae can detect tiny movements in the air caused by vibration. As you can see in the photo above (click for a larger image) the antenna is made up of segments, 12 in worker bees and 13 on drones.
It is not uncommon to see bees rubbing their antennae together to communicate, feed and share information. Honey bees are known to trap and encase other invaders in the hive, such as the small hive beetle. They will build a propolis jail house around a small hive beetle. However, the beetle uses its antennae to trick the bee into feeding it.Here’s a bee on my finger cleaning her legs and antenna.
Okay, for all of you who are waiting for a chance to receive something free…who doesn’t like free!  Call in on Monday morning starting at 9am sharp Central Time. for two free Beetle Blasters. These are neat little traps for small hive beetles. First 3 callers are winners.
beetle Every beekeeper should have one or two of these in their hive just in case that beetle shows up. You fill it have full with vegetable oil and place it in the deep hive body between two frames. The beetle likes dark places and will run down into the oil and die. First three callers get two each. Call 217-427-2678. 9am sharp Central Time. Good luck.
Thanks for joining us today for another informative and entertaining talk about honey bees. Be sure to check out our Studio Bee Live Podcasts too:
And remember to please view and rate our Beekeeping videos.
We are looking for someone who is somewhat musically talented to work up a little song that we can play when you log on to our website, something to do with bees of course. If you’ve got a band or group, give it a shot!
Here’s our contact information:
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 North 1020 East Rd.
Fairmount, IL 61841
This is David & Sheri Burns reminding you to BEE-have yourself!