Saturday, October 30, 2010

Lesson 85: Special and Unusual Beekeeping Items

Lesson 85: Special & Unusual Beekeeping Items
For those just getting started in beekeeping there is a learning curve involved. How do you pronounce “propolis”? Is the first vowel long or short. What is a frame? Do you call a hive body a deep hive body, a brood box, a deep super or what? But, after you’ve been in beekeeping a while, it’s old hat after awhile. Soon you sound like a university entomologist. But just when you think you have a good handle on the fundamentals of beekeeping essentials, suddenly you realize there are many more pieces of equipment that you’ve never seen or heard of before.

That’s because beekeeping is that way, like most hobbies…there is always more to buy. Obviously, the back yard beekeeper doesn’t need all of these specialty items. Some are a waste of money and really aren’t useful, but others are a big help and can save money in the long run.  So my wife encouraged me to write a lesson highlighting some of these strange and unusual items in beekeeping that aren’t so common among most beekeepers, but it’s fun to know what they are and how they are used.

Top FeederMy first piece of equipment is a funny round shaped item. A fellow beekeeper donated a large amount of equipment and this was in the mix. It puzzled me when I first saw it. I spent a few minutes wondering if it was part of a larger item or not.  What do you think it is? It was purchased from a Canadian vendor at a bee conference. Look at the photo and try to guess.
Okay, click on the video below as we walk into my apiary and look inside the hive to see how this item is used.

Video of Top Feeder
I always enjoy learning something new about beekeeping. This item is a top feeder that fits over the winter cluster. Fill the reservoir with 2:1 sugar water, then put the plastic cup around the center and then the plastic lid on the top and sit it on top of the frames as shown in the video. Works great and you can probably feed your bees this way until it becomes so cold that the sugar freezes.   In real cold weather I would advise placing your inner cover on your hive, and then placing this top feeder over the oval shaped hole on the inner cover. The inner cover will prevent the warmth the cluster is producing from rising up and away, but he hole in the cover will still allow the bees to access the feeder.
capping scratcherOur second item should be easier for most beekeepers to identify. Take a look. Do you know what it is? Looks like a hair pick. It' is actually a capping scratcher.   Some beekeepers use this tool to open up cells on sealed honey comb. Others use it in places where the heated knife did not cut open all the comb cappings. This stiff pick will open up all the sealed honey comb for extraction.
Cell protectorHere’s a harder one. What is this? It’s orange and has lots of holes that hold little cups.  Any idea?  It is a queen cell protector used in shipping queen cells. Almost ripe queen cells are placed in the small cups and the plastic cups are then placed in the orange holder. The bar is then placed in a shipping box with air vents, bees, water and sugar to care for the cells during shipment.
Conical Bee EscapeWhat in the world is this? Have you ever seen anything like it before. Can’t believe it would be used in a bee hive? It is. In fact, many beekeepers like these a lot. Do you know what it is?
It is a conical bee escape board.  Place it under your supers and above the brood area and the bees will walk through the small, red, conical (cone shaped) pieces but will not walk back in due to the opening being small at the tip. This conical bee escape has two rows of conicals with 5 on each side. conical bottomHere’s a picture of the bottom and you can see how the bees can easily walk into the groove and out of the red conicals.  Keep in mind that the proper way to place this on the hive is with the red conicals down closest to the brood area.
It’s an effect way of clearing out the bees from honey supers before removing them from the hive.
Mouse GuardPut on your thinking caps for this one.  What do you think this piece of metal could be?  Notice it is L shaped and has holes in it. It is not a frame rest. Ready for the answer? It is a mouse guard. You place it in the entrance of a hive and the bees can fly out and in through the holes but not mice.
slatted rackNext item please. Look at this. All those little rails. What do you think about this piece of equipment. Some beekeepers love them. Some claim it prevents swarming. It’s called a slatted bottom rack or a slatted rack. It fits on the top of a bottom board just below the bottom deep hive body. Carl Killion used a similar idea to allow space for bees and extra ventilation. C. C. Miller believed in the idea but he simply made 2” bottom boards but found that the slatted rack2bees would build comb on the bottom of the frames to fill the extra space provided. But with a false bottom, the bees are tricked no to build comb.
People are always confused which way to place these on the hive because on one side the slats are close to the top and the other side they are a over an inch away. Place it on the hive with the slats as close as possible to the frames.
combcuttereFor our next strange and unusual item we have a metal item with a handle. If you’re good in the kitchen you may want to pick this up and use it like a cookie cutter. You are close, but it’s not a cookie cutter. Instead it is used to cut comb honey. It is sized just right to cut comb to fit into the plastic provided containers. It’s a comb cutter. Remember if you are going to make comb, use the then rib comb foundation or no foundation at all. Even most wax foundation has embedded wire. This will not be tasty for your customers to bit into a wire.
Bee EscapeHere’s one that is sure to stump the biggest beekeeping know-it-all. What is this? Looks confusing doesn’t it. Complicated. Hmmm… Do you know what it is?
It is another bee escape! It is called the Triangular Escape Board.
screenYou will not believe how it works. What I’m about to tell you is unbelievable, but it is true and tested.  Bees would not be able to be NASCAR drivers because they don’t like to go left when faced with a wall. I’m not kidding. The way this escape works is that bees will easily walk out by taking right turns, but will not go back in through the openings. It is another way to clear out a super of all bees before taking it off. Amazing!  Bees are amazing aren’t they. Place it on the hive hive with the screen facing the brood area.
queenmansionMy last item looks a lot like a regular deep hive body. But notice some things are different. There are three sections to this deep hive body. Why would a deep hive body have three sections? We started making these last year and it continues to be a popular item. It is a deep hive body that has been converted into three sections to either be a queen mansion where you can raise three queens in one box or you can have 3 separate 3 frame nucs in one box.
queen castleTake a look at the inside. Notice each section is completely sealed off from the other so the queens and bees cannot make contact. Their entrances are unique to their compartment around the sides and back so that each section has its own entrance. Also, it has a screen bottom board and this is important for small nucs in the summer heat.
queen castle nuc 2

We would like to hear from you!  We’d like for you to call us and speak to our answering machine on Saturday or Sunday and either ask a question or tell us why you appreciate what we do and then we’ll play it on our next podcast! 217-427-2678. Just call any Saturday or Sunday and leave your name (first name and state) and your message or feel free to ask a question. We’ll answer all questions on our next podcast.

Here’s our contact information:

Call us at 217-427-2678  (8:30-4:30 Central time Mon. – Fri.)

Recorded questions or comments for podcasts: Call Sat. or Sun. anytime and leave your message to be played on our podcasts
Email us at:
Mailing address: Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, 14556 N. 1020 E. Rd,
Fairmount, IL 61841

I no longer check my account so please only use if you need to email me.
Take care and until next time, bee-have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Thursday, October 21, 2010


Hello from David & Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. In today’s lesson, Sheri will be giving insights into cooking with honey. Now that it’s fall and the holidays are approaching and holiday meals to plan out, why not spice things up with some honey?
Then I’ll share some techniques to mouse proof your hives. Mice in the hive can be a real problem, so be sure to put up a good defense. You can have great bees that are healthy and ready for winter, but the mice can take them out.
We are in the news again. FULL ARTICLE

JeffHarris In this photo I’m talking with Dr. Jeff Harris of the USDA BEE LAB at Baton Rouge, La.  Dr. Stu Jacobson, Phil Raines and myself continue to lead the way for the Illinois Queen Initiative, a program designed to promote the development and adoption of disease and mite resistant honey bees and queens that survive well and are productive under Illinois conditions. We had our yearly meeting at the Grand Bear Lodge in northern Illinois over the weekend and we enjoyed Dr. Jeff Harris as our main speaker. Jeff first worked on the Suppress Mite Reproduction (SMR) honey bee along with Dr. Harbo, which are now called VSH, Varroa Sensitive Hygienic bees. These bees are able to detect mites under sealed brood and remove the mite infested pupa. Jeff continues to preserve and research the VSH queens.

Hi, it’s Sheri and I want to talk to you about cooking with honey.
Don’t you just love this time of year? The leaves are turning brilliant colors, pumpkins and colorful gourds adorn porches, the fields are being harvested and the sky is crystal blue and the air crisp. You, the beekeeper, have just finished extracting that liquid gold. You have gallons of it. What do you do with it now? Sure, you know it’s great in your coffee, tea, and toast, but what else?
October autumns are a great time to talk about cooking with honey. This time of year comes with lots of special treats like apple cider, pumpkin pie and caramel apples. Some of our most favorite foods for this season can easily be made with honey. Any recipe that calls for sugar can be substituted with honey. It isn’t an exact ratio, i.e.: if your recipe calls for ½ cup sugar, then you use ½ cup honey. But with a little tinkering, or a really good cookbook, you can make delicious fall-time foods.
UncapperHoney, in its unadulterated, raw, pure state is a superior food. It is all natural, loaded with great enzymes and antioxidants (as long as it’s not heated up), tastes sweeter, and makes foods more moist. Foods made with honey also last longer and freeze nicely.
Give the trick-or treating kiddies a treat with these popcorn balls:
¾ c sugarfamily picture2
1 tsp salt
½ c water
¾ c honey
3 quarts popcorn
Cook sugar, salt and water (stir until sugar is dissolved) to a very brittle stage of 300 degrees. Add honey slowly, stirring until blended. Cook again until thermometer registers 240 degrees. Pour over popcorn and form into balls. Wrap in heavy waxed paper.
Who doesn’t love pumpkin pie? Piled high with whipped cream, it is the symbol of autumn. Try this one at your next gathering:
½ c dry milk powderhoneysales
½ tsp ground ginger
1-1/2 c cooked pumpkin
1-1/4 c water
1 tsp vanilla
½ tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
3 eggs beaten
1/3 c honey
Mix dry ingredients. Add pumpkin, eggs, water, honey and vanilla. Pour into unbaked pie shell, bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Then reduce heat to 350 degrees and bake 30 – 35 minutes longer.
Baked Boneless turkey breast
Boneless Turkey breastbearding
½-1 c honey
breading of your choice
Pound turkey breast until thickness desired. Roll in honey. Coat with breading. Bake or fry as desired.
Turkey marinade
½ c honeyLesson84ee
½ c brown sugar
2 tbs mustard
½ c ketchup
Juice of 1 lemon, or orange
¼ c olive oil
Mix all ingredients. Feel free to add other ingredients as you wish, such as salt, pepper, parsley, onion flakes and chives. The more the merrier when it comes to marinade.
This is great grilled!!
Experiment with honey instead of sugar in your favorite wheat bread recipe. Chocolate chip cookies made with honey instead of sugar are moister and keep longer. Add it to Greek yogurt or drizzled over ice cream. Heat up a mug of spiced cider with honey. Experiment this winter with your fudge and candy recipes. Whatever you do, it’s good!
Thanks Sheri, and now you know why I have to run 3 miles a day to stay in shape. Sheri is certain one day to have her own cooking show.
While Sheri’s been cooking great fall treats, I’ve been working out in the bee yard getting the hives to bed for winter. One of my “must do” chores is to secure the hives against mice. Why do mice love hives so much? A hive is a cozy winter shelter and bees and honey makes for a nice snack on cold winter days.
Lesson84eOccasionally, mice co-exist and do not bother the winter cluster of bees. However, that usually is not the case. It is more common for mice to chew up comb, eat honey, bees, and pollen, then eventual kill the hive. Mice will urinate on the combs which will discourage the bees from using that comb again. Comb that has been chewed by mice is usually repaired by the bees, but made into drone sized cells.
Mice will use hives to raise their young, usually nesting on the bottom board and slightly up into the comb. If the bees remain healthy through the winter, they will take revenge on the mice in the spring and run the mice out of the hive. 10 – 20 stings will kill a mouse. But during the winter, bees are too cold to defend the hive against the mice. I’ve heard some say that in the spring if a hive cannot remove a dead mouse from the hive they will mummify the mouse with propolis, encasing it to prevent any bacterial growth in the hive.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. So now is the timeLesson84ff to keep the mice out. The most effective way to prevent mice from entering the hive is to restrict the entrance.  Entrance reducers (cleats) substantially reduce the entrance restricting mice from entering. Choose the smallest size opening on your entrance reducer. There are many different styles of mice guards for hives. Some are made of metal and have small round holes where the bees can go in and out, but the holes are too small for mice.
When do you restrict the entrance? When nights get cold and fields are harvested, mice seek new shelter, so here in Illinois we have to place our reducers on the hive late September or early October.
WARNING: Be sure a mouse is not already in your hive before you restrict the entrance. You may have to choose a warm day and lift up the hive from the bottom board and verify that no mice are in the hive. They will hide between frames.

So be disciplined. Protect your hives from mice and enjoy your honey crop in some good fall food.

Hope you can join us here on December 3rd for our 2 hour course mentioned above. We’d love to meet you.
Bee-have yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841

217-427-2678 or email us at: