Monday, August 2, 2010

LESSON 78: Hone Your Beekeeping Skills

Proverbs 16:24 “Pleasant words are as an honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones.”
Hello, we are David & Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms located in Central Illinois, not too far from Champaign, IL.
When I study my Bible and read the verse above about honey, I cannot help but believe honey sweetens our soul and is good for our health. Like Pastor Langstroth, who invented the current hive that beekeepers use, I too am a pastor/beekeeper. If you’d like to read our life testimony CLICK HERE.
We’re beekeepers helping others get into beekeeping too. We are a Christian family working hard to operate our family business, making beekeeping equipment, selling packages of bees, nucs, queens and everything else related to bees. We also offer these FREE online beekeeping lessons and personal classes from our beekeeping farm all year long.

Now for today’s lesson….
LESSON 78: Hone Your Beekeeping Skills
1. Know What To Look For In Your Hive
Many beekeepers call us to ask simple questions. We even find experienced beekeepers not knowing the basics. So here’s a few basic tips in knowing what to look for in your hive:
In this picture (click on the image to enlarge it) we’ve outlined exactly what you are seeing. Many cannot distinguish between sealed brood and sealed honey. Notice the difference here? If in doubt, poke a tooth pick in both and you’ll either see a pupa or honey. Also, take a close look at bee bread, a combination of nectar and pollen. Can you see the (uncaged) queen cell in the upper left? The queen has emerged and now it is just an empty, partially torn down queen cell. Finally, look at the two push-in queen cages. I placed those there as this hive has made their own queens. The current reigning queen in this hive is a virgin. Since these two caged queens have not emerged, nor has the virgin found them, I caged them in so that once they emerge they will be safe from the reigning queen and I can place them into another hive. Often the queen cells are destroyed when you try to cut them out of comb.
Part of knowing what to look for in a hive is knowing how to detect pests and disease early, before they get the upper hand. I’m going to leave that for our next lesson.
2. Know How To Spot Eggs & The Queen
Caste I know this isn’t easy when the hive is full, so work your hive when most foragers are out. Drones and foragers are out of the hive on a nice day between 11am – 4:30pm. The queen is almost always on a frame that has eggs. Rarely will you find her on a frame of nectar or sealed honey. Don’t confuse a drone for the queen. She’ll be offended and so will he. :)
Grafts Here’s a picture we use in our queen rearing class. We show students the proper age larvae to graft. The words in the image teach the students not to graft one that is too old or too large, but just right. In this image you can see how to train your eye to spot eggs and larvae in various stages.
3. How To Help Your Bees Draw Out Straight Comb

Notice how well the bees have drawn out the comb that I am using to graft larvae from. There are several things we do to accomplish nicely drawn comb:
     1. Keep the hive perfectly level, from front to back, left to right.
         Since we use screen bottom boards, we do not have to tilt
         our hives. 
     2. Spray 1:1 sugar water on undrawn foundation. 
     3. Keep all frames tightly together. The smallest of space will
         cause the bees to do weird things with the comb.
4. Inspect Your Hive Every 2 Weeks & Give Them Room To Expand
You must inspect your hives every 14 days to be sure you have a good laying queen. Also, monitor the frames to be sure they have all the room they need to expand. Do not give them too much room or pests such as wax moths and small hive beetles can take up residence in your hive rent free. Your bees need drawn comb to expand. PLEASE REMEMBER, giving your bees undrawn comb will not immediately help them. They need drawn out cells, not sheets of foundation.
image When you inspect your hive, you will want to look for eggs and a good brood pattern. Make sure you have a solid brood patter. And be sure the majority of the brood is smooth (worker) sealed brood and not (raised) drone brood. Time and time again beekeepers tell me they still cannot tell the difference between sealed honey and sealed brood. I tell them to take a tooth pick and poke into the capping. You’ll either see a pupa or honey. This will help you become familiar with knowing the difference. The picture above shows a good brood pattern. The empty cells on this frame are of such a low number that it does not concern us.
5. Know How To Identify Pests & Diseases  Coming up in Lesson 79
Queen Cage 6. How To Introduce A New Queen
I don’t know for the life of me why there is so much debate on introducing a queen. Some say remove the attendants from the queen cage first. Others say poke a hole in the candy plug with a nail. Others say open the screen and directly release the queen.
So how do you really introduce a queen? First, made double sure the hive is queenless and has no queen cells and does not have laying worker eggs. If any of these scenarios exist, you will lose your new queen within a few days or weeks or immediately. Just because you cannot find any eggs or larva does not mean you do not have a queen. It could mean that you have a virgin queen or your newly mated queen simply hasn’t begun laying actively yet. You must search all frames to ensure you are indeed queenless.
Then, place the queen cage (with the queen in it) in between two frames of brood with the candy plug/cork up. Keep the cork in the candy for 24-48 hours. After 24-48 hours remove the cork but not the candy. Leave the candy in tact and let the bees remove the candy.
NEVER directly release the queen. Let me rate how well the following are accepted by a hive:
   A new queen cell – Always accepted  99%
   A mated queen – Generally accepted  %80
   A virgin queen – Sometimes accepted %50
The percentage is my opinion, not scientific.
7. How To Combine Hives
As we prepare our hives for winter sometimes we have to combine a weak hive with a strong one. To do this, simply remove the queen from the weak hive, then lay newspaper on the top deep hive body of the strong colony. Poke several holes (10 or 15) with a pencil in the newspaper. In the weak hive, try to smoke all the bees into one hive body and then place it on the newspaper, above the hive body of the strong hive. Within a short time, the bees will eat through and consume the paper, and will not fight.
8. How To Feed Your Bees
Entrance Feeders, Top Feeders, Frame Feeders (Division Board Feeders), and Pail Feeders are the most common.
A common use of these feeders are determined by the season. Entrance feeds work well in the spring. Frame feeders work well in cold weather as do pail feeders. The sugar water in pail feeders generally won’t freeze because of the warmth of the cluster just below it. Top feeders can be used in warm weather only but they hold more sugar water than entrance feeders. In the upcoming Lesson 80, I’ll spend time teaching how to use each feeder and when to use the different ratio of sugar and water.
We realize that this will be the first lesson read by many of you because it’s the current first lesson on the list. But remember it is lesson 78 which means that if you are thinking about beginning beekeeping, drop over and start with lesson #1. Get familiar with beekeeping and start ordering for next year. Don’t wait until the bees are all sold out.
Until next time, bee-have yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
OUR ORDER LINE: 217-427-2678