Thursday, November 8, 2012

Lesson 125: The Winter-Bee-Kind and Winter Preparations 217-427-2678

Hello from David and Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. It’s November!
We are a unique family business with a passion to help more and more people start keeping bees. We provide beekeeping classes, mentoring, equipment, hives and even the bees and queens.

Our 2013 Classes are online now!
February 9, 2013 Basic Beekeeping
February 23, 2013 Basic Beekeeping
March 9, 2013 Basic Beekeeping
March 23, 2013 Basic Beekeeping
June 17-21, 2013 The Beekeeping Institute
    Day 1- Basic Beekeeping
    Day 2- Practical Beekeeping
    Day 3 - Advance Beekeeping
    Day 4 - Queen Rearing
    Day 5 - Insect Photography
June 29, 2013 Queen Rearing Workshop
July 20, 2013 Advance Beekeeping
October 19, 2013 Basic Beekeeping
SethbluesThe big news for our family is that our son Seth is now a US Marine.  He’s built hives since he was 12 and now he’s grown into a Marine. We flew out to San Diego a few weeks ago and enjoyed participating in his graduation from Marine boot camp. Marines have 13 weeks of boot camp, the hardest of all ending with the infamous crucible, 54 hours of little food or sleep covering 40+ miles on foot while battling through many “battle” stations. We are proud of Seth for his service to protect our country! His platoon was awarded Honor Platoon and Seth earned and is wearing an EXPERT SHOOTER metal in the photo.
In just a few short weeks, the 2013 beekeeping year begins. Beekeepers and prospective beekeepers will begin purchasing equipment and securing bees for the spring. Before it all breaks loose again, we are fine tuning our production equipment, hiring help and modifying our systems for maximum quality production. Lots of work to still be done.
IMG_1807We are also staying busy removing honey bee colonies from buildings. Seems like we are usually pulling out one or two hives a week from homes. We’ve done this for several years, and with the help of our expert carpenter, Roger Faulkner, we’ve really perfected the skill of removing the bees and comb and repairing the structure. Our last job required the use of a lift and we removed the well established colony from the roof top while in a crane bucket.
IMG_1803Removing colonies during the fall can really be a challenge due to robber bees that will instantly attack the exposed combs of delicious honey. We’ve developed many skill sets perfecting the art of this type of removal.
I hope you enjoy today’s lesson, as it is written by my youngest daughter Karee that many of you have spoken to with your beekeeping questions. She is very knowledgeable of honey bees and today she’ll shed some light on winter preparations.
LESSON 125: The Winter-Bee-Kind and Winter Preparations
It’s now November and a lot of you beekeepers are already thinking of the necessary steps for overwintering your bees. It's getting cold! Good for you. Getting bees through the winter can sometimes be a task. This year’s Farmer’s Almanac says most of the US can expect much colder winter temperatures this year, so how can we intervene with our bees for their benefit?
kareeeeeHi, my name is Karee Marsh and I am the daughter of David and Sheri Burns and (co) General Manager at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. I was the one who eloped to Montana during one of the busiest times of the year (in March). Somehow the rest of the Long Lane employees all managed to steer the ship while we were away. When I was visiting Montana it made me think how a lot of new beekeepers who live in colder areas similar to Montana often worry their bees won’t make it through the winter. But while we were visiting Montana (my husband is a Montanan native), we concluded that bees probably do well in this part of the US during the cold months because its drier during the winter. Two big causes of colony deaths in winter is a lack of food, and condensation. Bees create condensation inside the hive, but a dry climate (like in Montana) is definitely an advantage to the bees.
But here in Illinois, our winters have more moisture. So we try to let our customers know that the cold is rarely what kills a strong overwintering colony. 
iceontopcoverA major contributing factor is excessive moisture in the hive and a lack of proper nutrition. In this photo, inside the hive during the winter, we found without proper upper ventilation, condensation freezes on the bottom side of the top cover, which drips down on the bees on a warmer winter day. This photo shows 1/4” of frost on the top cover inside the hive ready to fall on the colony.
Lesson112eHere in central Illinois, our spring was dry and our summer was extremely hot. We actually had a good number of nectar flows, but a lot of you told us that your bees weren’t producing much in the way of food this year. I noticed this in one of my hives as well. My husband Jesse and I live in Champaign, Illinois where we keep two hives in our backyard. One hive has done incredibly well. A quick peek every now and again at the queen, and maybe some beetle blasters here and there to lower the number of small hive beetles is all the tending this hive needs. We have 4 supers stacked on top and are waiting until the end of October to extract all the honey. Our other hive, however, did very poorly.
Bee in flight2The number of bees in this colony was very small. When referring to our hives, we call them the “big hive” and the “small hive.” Last year, these names were switched!  Our current “small hive” had the biggest numbers last year, but this year the numbers dwindled. As a queen rearer, I immediately suspected the queen. I was seeing little brood production. This hive has re-queened itself a couple times and it wasn’t long before I noticed the hive had produced two queens who had no problems cohabitating. While the queens looked great, I still saw very little brood production.
Pioneer QueensWhy is the queen laying such a small amount of eggs? I transferred honey frames as well as capped brood frames from the big hive, over to the little hive as I realized the small hive simply did not have enough resources to produce brood. I believe the queen was well-mated as she was large and had eggs literally falling out of her. She was laying; the bees were just eating the eggs!  “Um,” one of the nurse bees might say, “thanks for laying and everything, but yeah, we do not have enough food for us to eat, let alone try and raise more larvae to feed. If you don’t stop, we are just going to eat them.” Tough stuff! Contrary to popular belief, the queen bee does not rule the roost of a bee hive. The bees do! There is no dictatorship in the hive, it’s a democracy. The bees aren't going to desperately try to feed all of the eggs the queens lay. They know their demand for resources and will eat her eggs right out of the cell if need be.
If you are a new beekeeper and had a hive like I did this year, you’re probably asking yourself where you went wrong, and how you should overwinter this hive. I’ve been raising bees for 4 years and have been around them a lot longer than that. These things happen. The question is, what can I do now? If your bees have low honey stores, you need to feed them. They will die out if they can’t get enough food stored up to actually let brood progress to the egg stage. Feed them to get their numbers up! I don’t suggest using an entrance feeder in the fall because it’s robbing season. Your hive does not need that risk. An entrance feeder is fine in the spring and during nectar flows, but in the fall during a dearth it will attract robber bees and you could lose the entire hive. Use a top feeder or frame feeder as long as there are no freezing temperatures where you live.
winter2If you are experiencing freezing temperatures, try our Winter-Bee-Kind candy board! It contains sugar, pollen, insulation and an upper vent for moisture.

There is a difference between liquid candy that has frozen, and hard candy! Liquid sugar goes right through the bee. If you are feeding them liquid, make sure it’s warm enough for your bees to fly. They do not defecate in their hive and they can hold it for while, but if they hold it too long it can make them sick and can kill them. Hard candy, however, does not go through a bee nearly as fast. It’s thick consistency sticks in their gut better, making it possible for them to stay inside the hive longer without much issue.
So feed your bees! A lot of you have asked, “Should I just let them go?” That is up to you, but I’m going to do my best to get my bees through the winter.
olivehoneyThe other overwintering issue is condensation. A lot of beekeepers think their hive needs to be air tight in the winter, keeping the heat in, and the cold out. Don’t go through this winter thinking that! We have a few very old bee boxes at Long Lane. Some have huge holes in the sides. We’ve noticed that these hives go through winter the best! I’m not suggesting blowing a hole through your hive this winter, but I do suggest ventilation! Upper entrances are a great way to do this. Not to mention, in the winter it’s easier for bees to exit out of the top since it is closer to the cluster. Even if it’s 2 degrees outside, your bees need air circulation. A screen bottom board is also a great ventilator. Did I mention our Winter-Bee-Kind has an upper ventilation hole? It also has a piece of insulation on the top to prevent most condensation. What moisture may collect helps to break down the hard candy a little, too. The biggest problem with condensation is drops falling down onto the cluster of bees and chilling them. Imagine being out in the cold and having a bucket of water thrown on you. Air circulation prevents this from happening to your bees!
wrapWhen our customers ask us about wrapping the hives up with insulating paper (roofing paper), we tell them that a wind block is better. If your hive is sitting in the middle of a field in Nebraska with no tree or hill in sight, make your hive a wind block! The constant wind against the hive chills the bees more at 32 degrees than no wind does at 3 degrees. You could find anything to create a wind block. Stacked up hay bales, fencing, etc.
Thank you all so much for the huge number of orders for our Winter-Bee-Kinds! We officially started production on September 17th and are pumping out around 100 a week! So if you're on the waiting list, they are on their way! Please make sure when storing your board, that you keep it laying flat and not on its side (or upside down, for that matter). Also, if bugs or mice are an issue where you are storing the board, we suggest you freeze the Winter-Bee-Kind until you're ready to use it.
JesseExtractingMy husband and I plan on getting hundreds of pounds of honey off our one hive and selling it! We’re a little late, but we’ve been busy. Recently while checking this hive, we stacked the supers on top of each other on the ground. Somehow one super got completely flipped over on its top. If we had lifted the box, all the frames would have fallen out. Somehow, with the help of a shovel and an inner cover, my husband Jesse got it flipped right side up. Let’s just say we both got a good dose of apitherapy that day. What are some of your embarrassing bee stories? Ever did something silly while working a hive that made you ask yourself what you were thinking? Let us know and we may share your story in an upcoming podcast! E-mail me at
I hope you enjoyed this blog! Please go feed your bees (if they need it)!! That’s all for now and thank you for joining us for another beekeeping lesson! Please let others know about these lessons and our business. We appreciate you spreading the word! TipJarYour donations help us continue our work and research on the honey bee, such as our recent development of our Winter-Bee-Kind. These lessons are free and will provide you with as much if not more information than you would find in a $30 book. So consider making a $30 donation so that we might continue these lessons, CLICK HERE TO DONATE $30 or go to:

Thank you in advance.
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
217-427-2678 Website: facebooktwitter iconYoutube