Sunday, February 20, 2011

Lesson 97: Dead Bees In The Snow ( 217-427-2678

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ituneimageHello From David & Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. With a tremendous cold winter, we’ve finally experienced a few days of thawing out and the bees have taken advantage of the warm weather to take cleansing flights. Finally!
In today’s lesson we’ll take a look at some dead bees outside the hive and what it means in the winter.

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Lesson 97: Dead Bees In The Snow
Winter ClusterWhile bees are quite capable of surviving the winter, it can be a stressful time for colonies. During the winter when bees are closed up in their hives, they cannot do what bees need to do, fly, gather nectar, consume fresh pollen and nectar and defecate regularly outside the hive.
snowOn the first, not so cold winter day, the bees will break cluster, fly out and finally defecate outside the hive after holding it for weeks and sometimes months. These are called cleansing flights and are very important for the hive to remain healthy. The further north, the fewer days when cleansing flights can occur. Most hives will take these flights at temperatures much below foraging temperatures. The bees simply make a quick flight around and return to the hive.
Lesson97Often, the bees defecate on the hive near the entrance. Many new beekeepers become worried and believe their bees have dysentery or Nosema when they see the spotting on their hives.
defecation on outside of hiveHowever, though that may be a possible problem, usually it is a healthy sign that bees are finally able to take a cleansing flight.  In fact, it is not uncommon to see bees use any crack in the hive for a quick out door potting break.
deadsnowbeesDuring these cleansing flights, house cleaning bees may also take advantage of the nice day and begin carrying out the bees that have died during the winter months. Dead bees laying outside a winter hive often alarms new beekeepers. New beekeepers fear the worst when they spot dead bees and begin wondering if the whole hive is doomed. However, this is a normal activity that occurs throughout the winter and early part of spring. After a snow, it becomes more apparent, not because there are more dead bees, but because the snow make dead bees easier to see. That same number of bees would not be noticeable without the snow.
Why do bees die in the winter? First, bees are aging. Most spring and summer bees can live to be around 35 days old. However, bees born in the fall can live several months through the winter because they have more fat bodies and have not exhausted their glandular secretions, nor worn themselves out foraging like a bee during the summer. Yet, winter bees often still die of old age in late winter.
There are other maladies which can cause bees to die during the winter. The most common causes of individual bees dying in a colony are: starvation, disease, cold and pests.
Starvation. The winter cluster will move gradually to always be in the proximity of stored honey and pollen. Long, cold winters can result in the depletion of stored resources of food for the colony. It is not uncommon to examine a colony that died during the winter and discover the dead colony not too far away from stored honey. Yet, they still starved. It was too cold for the bees to move into stored honey.
winterdeathAlso, once the queen begins laying eggs in mid to late winter, the cluster will remain on the brood to keep it warm and will sometimes consume all food sources near the brood. The bees in this photo died trying to keep the brood warm in the winter with no nearby honey. They were faced with a choice to abandon the brood and move to stored food, or keep the brood warm. Usually the cluster will remain on the brood and starve to death if the weather fails to warm up above 30. If the weather had warmed up prior to the depletion of food, they could have sent other bees into the stored honey and carried it back down to the brood area.
beeswithheadsincellsHow do you know if a colony starved to death? Bees will be head first in cells, attempting to stay warm and eating the last drop of honey out of the bottom of cells such as these dead bees in the photo.
Disease. Nosema is hard on the winter cluster because Nosema is worse when bees are confined and cannot defecate. Nosema is a gut disease so it is most deadly during late winter. If the Nosema level was high in late fall, this can cause bees to perish during the winter and early spring. However, spring can quickly bring Nosema under control as the bees are able to fly, gather nectar and defecate regularly outside the hive.
DefecationBut do not jump to conclusion at the first sign of bees defecating on the outside of the hive box. This is pretty common on the first warm winter day after a long winter. Bees will mess up the outside of the hive, but it will clear up after several good flying days.
Cold. While the winter cluster moves gradually upward into the stored honey, some bees may drift too far within the hive, away from the heat of the cluster and freeze. Bees do not heat the entire inside of the hive, but only the area within the cluster of bees. This is especially true on warm winter days that suddenly turn cold. Inside the hive, the winter cluster breaks up on warmer days and bees begin to search for stored honey on other frames within the hives. But, at the sudden drop of temperature the colony sometimes cannot re- form into a tight cluster. Bees might be stranded to freeze to death outside of the cluster. Or the colony may become divided into several clusters, each too small to produce the heat needed to withstand the rapidly dropping temperature.
Lesson74hPests. Varrora and Trachea mites are extremely hard on the winter cluster and can lead to bees dying. These pests need to be controlled with grease patties during the summer and early fall to reduce the infestation level.
Even though starvation, disease, cold and pests can kill winter bees, do not assume that your bees have a problem just from dead bees in the snow. It is normal to see large amounts of dead bees throughout the winter. Dead bees accumulate on the bottom board and around the outside of the hive. Most hives will quickly clean out the dead bees once spring arrives, but if you want to speed up their work, you can clean out the dead bees from the bottom board. And, expect to see the bees defecating heavily around and even on the hive late winter and early spring. This will clear up once the bees have had several flying days.
Remember, there is nothing you can do to help your bees once they have clustered and it is cold. Feeding bees candy can help if they are starved, but you can only open the hive briefly and can never pull out a frame until it reaches 67 degrees (f) outside.
Here’s Our Contact Information Phone: 217-427-2678

Mailing Address: Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841

See you next time!
David & Sheri Burns

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

LESSON 96: Feed Your Bees in Late Winter ( 217-427-2678

Hello! We are David and Sheri Burns, beekeeper extraordinaires. Thinking about getting started in beekeeping, search no further. Wanting to become a better beekeeper and have less hives die each year, you’ve stopped at the right website! And thank you for visiting us today.
Before we get into today’s lesson, feel free to visit our main website at: or give us a call at 217-427-2678.

It's important for beekeepers to be well prepared to properly manage hives that have survived the winter. In our last installment we looked at how to inspect the productivity of the queen. Today we are looking at how to feed our bees in late winter just before spring. Use this acronym to help you remember how to prepare:
Stimulate For Rapid Foraging Force
Prevent Swarms
Rotate Hive Bodies
Inspect The Productivity Of The Queen
New Queen

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. our next article Dead Bees In The Snow
Here’s Our Contact Information
Phone: 217-427-2678
DavidSheriNew1Mailing Address: Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841

See you next time!
David & Sheri Burns

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Thursday, February 3, 2011

LESSON 95: When To Replace Your Queen In An Overwintered Hive ( 217-427-2678

DavidBarnHello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms and thanks for joining us for an important beekeeping lessons.
We’re David & Sheri Burns and we operate Long Lane Honey Bee Farms where we manufacture and sell beekeeping equipment, package bees, queens, honey and everything to do with bees! As an EAS certified Master Beekeeper I offer these lessons FREE on a weekly basis and I answer hundreds of beekeeping questions a week, FREE! But, if you want to help us pay bills and live, consider buying all your beekeeping supplies, packages and queens from us. We appreciate your business. We are a family business with a personal touch. Thank you in advance for your business.

In today’s lesson I want to share an important and timely lesson on how to determine when to replace your queen in your hive that survives the winter. We’ll also discuss just how to replace her for increased acceptance.
It's important for beekeepers to be well prepared to properly manage hives that have survived the winter. In our last installment we looked at how to inspect the productivity of the queen. Today we are looking at how to know when to replace the queen. Use this acronym to help you remember how to prepare:

Stimulate For Rapid Foraging Force
Prevent Swarms
Rotate Hive Bodies
Inspect The Productivity Of The Queen
New Queen
Give 1:1 Sugar Water & Pollen Patties

Beekeepers celebrate when they see that their hive survived the winter. However, to make this overwintered colony as productive and as healthy as
possible, the queen may need to be replaced.
As the queen ages, her pheromones are not as predominant and her laying can become insufficient.

beardingThe bees spend their entire working season preparing for winter. The beekeeper should do the same, monitoring the hive throughout the season to
ensure the colony will survive the winter. There are three essential factors that contribute to the success of the colony: 1) A young queen, 2) Strong population build up and 3) Sufficient stores of honey and pollen. If any of these factors are not present in a colony it is unlikely the
colony will do well during the summer and will have trouble surviving the winter.

caste2Without a strong, healthy queen, the colony will not build up in numbers and thus it will not be able to store up sufficient stores of pollen and honey. So the health of the hive is dependent on the queen. Therefore, it is important for beekeepers to keep good records of how well their hives are building up and how well the queen is laying. How is her brood pattern? At the first sign of the queen not performing up to par, she should be
replaced immediately. During the working season, one week with a substandard queen can make a difference on whether the hive builds up sufficiently to survive the winter, particularly if the queen fails during the time when the hive needs to build up their foraging force.

Bee 004In late winter or early spring, when the temperature reaches 67 degrees (f) or higher, inspect your frames of comb and determine how well your queen is doing. If you see several frames of sealed and unsealed brood, your queen is doing a good job. But you must learn not to trust your queen for more than two weeks at a time. She may be laying well now, but fail tomorrow. If you see the brood is lacking, or do not see any brood, you
will need to replace your queen as soon as possible.

Bees June 2 07 007It is believed that "early queens," such as queens purchased in April, may not be as prolific as May and summer queens. This is, of course, debatable and subject to many factors. The reason later queens are better is because as the season progresses the DCAs (Drone Congregation Areas) are better populated with drones than in early spring, therefore, mating is more sufficient.
DSC00030Replace your queen after she has failed your evaluation of her. Some beekeepers replace queens that are laying great, but have a defensive characteristic. Once a new queen is introduced with a more gentle disposition, her daughters will replace the defensive bees within 35 days and the hive will become gentle. But usually the queen is replaced because she is subpar.
Lesson74eFirst, order a new queen. Do not kill your current queen until you have your new queen on hand. When you have received your new queen, go into your hive, locate the queen and remove her from the hive. Kill her and remove her from the apiary. There is no need to place the dead queen back in her hive.
queeenThey will know within hours that their queen is gone. Feed the colony 1:1 sugar water. Queens are better accepted if there is strong nectar flow and feeding the hive can simulate a strong nectar flow. After removing your queen, wait 24 hours before introducing your new queen. Your new queen will come with either a cork or a plastic cap over the filled candy hole. Remove the plastic or cork plug. DO NOT pierce the candy or remove any of it.
Place the new queen cage between the frames at the top of the brood area. Some people believe the hole of the queen cage should face up to prevent any dead attendant bees in the cage from blocking the entrance. However, bees are more than able to remove dead sisters. It really will not matter how you place the queen cage in the hive as long as it is placed between the frames at the top.
Marking A QueenNEVER directly release a new queen. Sometimes they are accepted, but the risk is too high that the colony might kill the queen. In a week, return to the hive to ensure the queen is released and walking on frames. If she is not laying after one week, be patient. It might take a new queen more than a week to establish her presence and start the laying process.
DSC00122How often should you replace your queen? Certainly replacing the queen yearly has its benefits. The newer queen replaced after June 21 will lay eggs that will become the overwintering bees. Those bees will have fatter bodies, more gland enzymes, and will not be worn out from feeding brood and foraging.
This will aid in the colony overwintering well. Also, a young queen has a better distribution of pheromones which can help prevent swarming in the spring. You can replace your queen any time after June 21st all the way up until the first frost.
DSC00123If you choose not to replace your queen each year, certainly that is understandable and your queen might do well for 2 or 3 years. However, keep an eye on her every two weeks. At the first sign of substandard performance, replace her immediately. Once she fails, she will not improve. A $25 queen is a good investment if it means not losing the hive in the winter. Replacing the queen does not guarantee the colony's winter survival, but it's one step in the right direction.
May 24 2010 our next article When & How To Give A Colony Sugar Water & Pollen Patties
Here’s Our Contact Information
Phone: 217-427-2678

DavidSheriNew1Mailing Address: Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841

See you next time!
David & Sheri Burns

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms