Thursday, December 26, 2013

LESSON 146: Using Old Beekeeping Equipment vs. New Equipment

DavidSheriWe are David and Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We hope you had a Merry Christmas. The new year is around the corner and with the new year comes the hope of another great year for beekeeping. The early months of a new year makes us consider our beekeeping equipment. Do we have enough hives if we catch swarms or want to expand? Do some of our rotting bottom boards need replaced? 

Maybe you are just now getting into beekeeping and you are trying to round up used equipment from family or friends. Did you know that used equipment can present some serious problems for your bees? Today I want to share the difference between using old equipment and new equipment.

Christmas 2013 Before I do,  let me tell you what’s been going on around Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We manufacture beekeeping equipment. We make hives right here, paint them and ship them out to customers. We DO NOT buy kits or someone else’s hives and assemble them. Nope, we buy lumber and build the entire hive, hand made. That’s why our hives are completely assembled and painted when you buy from us. We really enjoy cranking out hives from our shop. We took Christmas week off to enjoy rest, family and the holidays. We’ll get back at it on Monday Dec. 30th.Truckwreck

So here’s what been going on. Sheri hit some black ice and totaled our business truck. She rolled it but Christian was strapped in good in the back so they were all fine. Sheri was sore for a few days and busted her lip, but minor injures only. Christian wasn’t sore and didn’t get a scratch. We were all worried until we found out they were okay. Because the truck was on it’s side firemen had to prop the truck up and work at getting them out the topside window. I thought maybe they could just push the truck back on all fours and I could drive it home…no! Accidents happen.

Yellowbelt Christian earned his yellow belt in Taekwondo. It’s fun watching him learn, exercise and excel. He broke a board in half at 6 years old. Though we have 6 children, for some reason, Christian is the first one to ever participate in Taekwondo. It looks like something I would enjoy.

SethAfgh Speaking of belt colors our middle son, Seth, will be in Afghanistan for another 3 months and he has earned his gray belt. He’s in the Helmand province where we’ve recently lost two marines in the last 10 days. So please keep those serving our county in your prayers. Seth is the one kneeling in the photo. Our men and women in service endure so much as do their families. You really do not realize the gravity of the sacrifice made until you have a loved one in a combat zone.


Class Our first Basic Beekeeping class for 2014 is coming up January 24-25, 2014. This class opens with our Friday night dinner buffet at 6pm and then the workshop continues on until 9 p.m. This is a two day beginning beekeeping course and continues on Sat. 9am-noon. This class will benefit those interested in keeping bees, as well as those who have been keeping bees for a couple of years. Topics include: basic bee biology and anatomy overview, package installation procedures, winter/spring/summer/fall management, integrated pest control, equipment and hive inspection techniques, registration/licensing/zoning requirements, and honey extraction. We teach you how to do it from start to finish. Click here for more information. Come spend some time with us learning about bees. Check out all our classes at:

Snow2013 As beekeepers we worry about our bees during the cold days of winter. I realize many of you live in warm climates, but in central Illinois bees face cold months and go weeks without ever being able to break cluster. We’ve already received our share of ice and snow. I rest a bit easier knowing our Winter-Bee-Kinds will help our bees should they run out of food. Remember it is NEVER too late to place our Winter-Bee-Kinds on your hive. You can do it quickly on the coldest of days. In fact, many people continue to purchase these candy boards/ventilation/insulation boards way into March. Click here to watch our video on our Winter-Bee-Kinds. We sell both 8 Frame and 10 Frame WBK so be sure to select the proper size for your hive.

busybee1 Finally, before today’s lesson, let me tell you about a special offer. While we are NOT shipping bees in 2014 (Pick up only), we do have a BUSY BEE SPECIAL where we ship you the hives and the bees are shipped to you. The hives are custom made by hand right here in Central Illinois. The packages of bees are shipped to you from Gardners Apiary in Georgia, who have agreed to help us help you fulfill your dreams of becoming a beekeeper in the spring 2014. Your hive will ship first from Illinois, then bees will ship approximately in May of 2014. CLICK HERE to read more about our BUSY BEE SPECIAL. VERY LIMITED NUMBERS.


BeewithPollen With spring only 84 days away, it’s time to get into swing of the 2014 beekeeping year. Our 3 lb packages of bees with mated queen are selling faster than ever. Please order your bees right away. Remember they are for pickup only. Click here. You MUST order your bees in the winter to ensure you’ll be able to pick them up in the spring. Every year some people make the mistake of ordering their bees, but they forget to order their hives. Big mistake. Once you receive your bees they should be placed in your hives as soon as possible. So now is the time to order your new hive equipment. But maybe you are someone who remembered that a friend or grandpa has a bunch of hive equipment in the barn that hasn’t been used for years. Think of all the money you could save by using old equipment.  Many people call and ask us about the risk of using old equipment. The only answer I can give is that it is a gamble. You really don’t know until your new bees get sick and die.

oldequip1 It seems so innocence using old equipment. Throw a new coat of paint on them and all is good, right? Maybe on the outside but it’s what lurking on the inside that could be a risk, especially on used frames and comb. What we all fear is American foulbrood. AFB spores are known to live a long time on infected, used equipment. If your bees are infected with AFB your only recourse, in many states, is to burn the bees and all the equipment. You have to burn everything from the bottom board all the way to the top cover. I called the bee lab in Beltsville, Maryland to see if they could detect AFB on old comb or equipment and they told me they could not. They can only detect it from comb containing fresh brood. Not only is AFB a concern in old equipment, but now we are also concerned about Nosema Ceranae spores in used equipment.

While all of us want to save a buck if we can, my advice is to decide your level of risk you are willing to take. Bees have enough to contend with without us starting them off on the wrong foot. New equipment at least will give our bees a chance to start strong without the risk of infected old equipment.

All beekeepers should keep this in mind even when buying live hives (hives with established bees inside) from retiring beekeepers. Always have prospective purchases of hives inspected thoroughly by your local bee inspector. Insist that samples of brood be sent to Maryland before you buy living hives. There is very little concern when buying packages because there is no brood in packages. However if you are buying nucs, be sure they come with a clean bill of health.

oldequip2 In my own operation, I am discovering that my bees prefer newer and fresh comb. Most brood diseases occur on old comb. It is a good idea to replace three frames a year from your deep, brood nest area. If you use two deep hive bodies on your hive, pull out 3 older frames from each hive body each year and replace with new ones. By doing so your comb will never be more than 4 years old and this will reduce the risk of AFB. Use a marker to date your frames. This means if this is your first year to keep bees and you buy new equipment that you do not need to worry about replacing your first three frames for 3 years. If you currently have a very old hive with dark, almost black comb that you cannot see light through, it is definitely time to replace frames and comb.

It is possible to obtain used equipment that has never had diseases, and you might successfully raise healthy bees. Again, this is a risk you will have to decide if you want to take. This is a risk I have decided is not worth taking. I regularly burn old frames and boxes because I just don’t want to provide and environment within my hives for future problems.

Thanks for joining us for another beekeeping lesson. We are closed for the holidays until Monday Dec. 30th. When calling us remember we are on CENTRAL TIME. Call us Mon-Thursday 10am-4pm, Friday 10am-Noon. 217-427-2678. Of course we’ll be closed for New Years Day. Orders can be made online at:

We prefer you call rather than email us. We are swamped with emails and with spam filters your email may not make it to us. So always call instead of email.

Bee-Hav Yourself!

David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841