Saturday, April 19, 2014

LESSON 152: Tragic Mistakes Made In The Spring 217-427-2678


NOTE: For customers who have ordered and paid for pickup packages of bees, our package bee pickup date has been moved to Sat. May 3 from 9am-6pm. Thank you.

Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Today I want to share about the tragic mistakes beekeepers make now that it is spring. But before I do I want to share a bit about our family. Here’s some of our family eating supper. We are one large, hard working family. We work hard together and often we eat together. This week we have been so blessed by several customers who have called in just to tell us how much they appreciate us and enjoy our classes or our website on beekeeping.

This is a very stressful and busy time of the bee year so we always enjoy it when customers have encouraging things to say. One man from California even told my wife to give me a kiss on the cheek. If you got to know us more you’d really like us. Our family is fun and funny. Many families being featured in reality shows no longer do what the show depicts them doing. Much of it is a reflection of what they used to do before they became rich and famous.  But we are still living REAL life! See that table we are eating on? My Uncle Charlie in Stamps, Arkansas cut down those trees and dried out oak planks. My brother-n-law, Alan in Martin, Tennessee went down and got the wood and built me that table in 2002. It’s beautiful.

If you were to wake up and follow us throughout the day you’d agree we are the best reality family around. The stuff we do and run into is a hoot. We put together a bunch of video we took of some things that happen around here with our family, a glimpse into our reality, “American Beekeeper”.


L152aSheri is a sweetheart. Last weekend we had two bee classes back to back, all day Saturday then from noon to 6 on Sunday. But she still managed to make an awesome home cooked supper. She writes books, gardens, raises chickens, rides a Harley, talks all day to beekeepers on the phone and still has time to read a good book at the end of the day.


MotorcycleCA She has notebooks for each of our six children and almost everyday she’ll writes down what we did so that when we’re gone the kids can know what our days were like (as if they don’t already because they are usually here). She earned her college degree in Business Administration/HR, and is even a certified firearm instructor. She has traveled to Haiti, Mexico and Israel doing mission work. She has a real sense of compassion for people. She is the star of our reality show! She’s the queen bee of our lives and operation.  What’s also fun about having Sheri as a wife is she jumps in and enjoys whatever new endeavor I tackle. Every time I start a new hobby she involves herself with me in that hobby. Consequently we are best friends. Today I was driving through Danville, Illinois with pulling a 25’ trailer and she rode up beside me on her Harley. I yelled, “Nice bike! You married?”. She nodded that she was, and I said, “Lucky guy!”

Next year will be our 10th year as a bee business. And those first few years were really tough. We have put our time in trying to make things happen. If it had not been for Sheri, my daughter Karee and our oldest son David, our business could not have survived the rapid growth we’ve experienced. But unlike most reality families on TV, we are still doing it. We are still making hives, raising queens, removing hives from homes, teaching beekeeping classes because we love bees! Like a reality show, sometimes there is lots of drama! Sometimes there is lots of laughter. We’ve all cried at one point or another. But we are a family, making our living from your generosity as great customers and we appreciate that so much. Thank you. We know there are other places you can purchase your beekeeping supplies from so thank you for choosing Long Lane Honey Bee Farms.

When you call in you’ll either speak with Leah, Karee or Sheri. Usually they keep me too busy to take a break and talk on the phone. If you get Sheri you’ll know alittle more about her now. Remember Sheri loves to laugh, and know alittle more about you too.

Come and enjoy the reality of Long Lane Honey Bee Farm for a whole week at our 2nd Annual Beekeeping Institute, June 9th-13th, 2014.  Click here to sign up now. If you cannot stay the entire week, pick and choose which day or days you can come:

MON June 9th-Basic Beekeeping

Tues June 10th-Practical Beekeeping

Wed June 11th-Advance Beekeeping

Thur June 12th -Queen Rearing

Fri June 13th-Insect Photograph

Want to take an Advance Beekeeping Course with us?

  Join us for our Advance Beekeeping Course Saturday May 23-24, 2014. This class opens with our Friday night dinner buffet at 6pm on Friday. This is a two day Advance beekeeping course. Friday 6pm-9pm, then Sat. 9-noon.Some people have kept bees for years, but continue repeating the same mistakes and are not gaining beekeeping experience. Instead they are stuck in being a first year beekeeper year after year. Take the next step, and leap into becoming a better beekeeper! We'll take a more in depth look at swarm prevention, splits, overwintering hives, pests & disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention, increase honey yields and tricks of the trade. Join David Burns, EAS certified Master Beekeeper for a day of advance learning.  Please bring protective gear to examine hives. We have 4 seats left. Click here to register now.

LESSON 152: Tragic Mistakes Made In The Spring

WAIT! Before you jump into your hive now that it has warmed up, lets talk about some tragic mistakes beekeepers make in the spring.


Every year more and more beekeepers start packages too early only to lose them to cold nights. Every year we stress how important it is to wait until late April or early May to make splits and start packages. We are holding our packages back until May 3rd. But beekeepers in the north are calling us because their suppliers provided very early packages. Many have called and reported that their bees froze out when temperatures dipped into the 20s last week.

I know we all want to capitalize on early spring nectar flows but please be patient. A new package cannot build up fast until the nights are warm. If you are installing a new package on undrawn (new) foundation, the bees have no comb to store resources even if you do feed them. It will take a couple of weeks until the bees have drawn out substantial comb that can help them store resources and keep warm. Not to mention that in late March and early April there are very few days warm enough for bees to forage. When it does warm up, there really is no nectar sources yet.

It is very challenging for package bee providers to produce early queens that have been mated sufficiently. Later mated queens mate with more drones. You can roll the dice and try to beat the odds, but why not wait. A package resembles a swarm, and bees are not swarming in central or northern states yet. Install a package when swarm season starts, in May.


Colonies that survived the winter have moved up into their stored honey, usually up into the top brood box. A tragic mistake is to rotate the hive bodies too early or when there is brood in both boxes. By reversing the hive bodies I am referring to taking the more empty bottom brood box and placing it on top of the top brood box where most of the cluster resides coming out of winter.

Doing this too early places the cluster down, away from the upper part of the hive which can chill the brood as the heat rises up into the top empty brood box. And if there is brood in both the top and bottom box then the brood nest area is broken up. Here in Illinois I never rotate hive bodies until after May 1, and then only after I ensure that there is absolutely no brood in the bottom hive body box. If there is then I leave it as is. Take a look at our article on Reversing Hive Bodies


We are constantly asked if it is okay to use comb after bees have died during the winter. It is practically impossible to know why bees die in the winter. Usually we conclude that it was from varroa mites, starvation or the loss of the queen in the fall. Sometimes it is the result of the population being too small to stay warm. These are benign issues and comb can be reused. However, sometimes bees can die in the winter from nosema. Spores stay alive and can infect the new package of bees. It is very hard to clean nosema ( a microsporidian). Of course American foulbrood is always a concern too. Sometimes overwintered bees die from mice that overwintered in the hive too. In this case bees cannot stand the smell of mice and can abscond and entirely vacate the hive.  If you have any doubt start with new frames and foundation.


Spring management of an overwintered colony is so important. This overwintered colony may be fine, but it also might never fully recover from a hard winter without advance beekeeping skills. A basic beekeeping class can never fully prepare a beekeeper for everything they will encounter with their hive. Varroa mite control must start immediately in the spring. Green drone comb trapping should be started now! We are offering our Advance beekeeping class May 23rd-24th. This class opens with our Friday night dinner buffet at 6pm on Friday followed by advance beekeeping teaching, then more on Saturday. This is a two day Advance beekeeping course. Friday 6pm-9pm, then Sat. 9-noon.Some people have kept bees for years, but continue repeating the same mistakes and are not gaining beekeeping experience. Instead they are stuck in being a first year beekeeper year after year. Take the next step, and leap into becoming a better beekeeper! We'll take a more in depth look at swarm prevention, splits, overwintering hives, pests & disease diagnosis, treatment and prevention, increase honey yields and tricks of the trade. And we’ll be visiting the new Pollinatarium at the University of Illinois.  Join David Burns, EAS certified Master Beekeeper for a day of advance learning.  Please bring protective gear to examine hives.  We have 4 seats left. Click here to register now.

Thank you for reading our lesson today. We look forward to hearing from you soon. We apologize if you have difficulty reaching us by phone or email this time of the year. Remember we are on central time and our customer support hours are:

Mon-Thur  10am-4pm
Fri 10am-Noon

hivesmall Are you prepared to capture swarms in your area? It’s a great way to increase the number of hives without having to purchase bees. But swarms only hang around a few days and if you do not have a hive to put them in, they’ll be gone. Consider purchase an empty hive so it will be ready to catch that swarm! Click here for our fully assembled and painted hive.

And if you call in, we’ll ship anywhere in Illinois Free. This hive comes with two deep hive bodies with wood frames and foundation, 1 medium honey super with wood frames and foundation, a screen bottom board, inner cover and a telescoping top cover. Also comes with an entrance feeder and a queen excluder. Fully painted and assembled! Ready for your yard.

Thank you!
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Saturday, April 5, 2014

LESSON 151: Beekeeping Classes Are Paramount 217-427-2678

Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms.

Route663Finally, it seems for us that winter is letting up. We are officially into spring and we hope the weather finds that out too.  My circle of friends and acquaintances include brilliant people who spent their lives researching and raising honey bees. At conferences and during the week we often talk about new research that might be helpful. We also talk about the impact that new beekeepers may have on colony survival. Sometimes we express our concern over the number of beekeepers who start keeping bees with little to no real knowledge about the challenges facing bees today.  We talk about what is being taught in some beginner classes and whether it is enough to really help get a newbie off to a good start.   Today I want to share 4 lesson to be learned from not taking a beekeeping class and in so doing hopefully contribute to better winter survival for next winter. But first let me share some things that been going on around the farm.

Route661 Sheri and I traveled to California with Leah to see our son, Seth, return safely home from Afghanistan. We spent 4 days driving along Historic Route 66 toward Twenty-nine Palms, Ca. Last year Sheri and I studied a few books about Route 66 and planned a trip out west but our schedule never worked out.

route664 This was our first time to see the Grand Canyon. It was unbelievable and as breath taking as everyone says it is. We were following along Route 66 somewhere in Arizona through a tight and winding mountain road when we started wondering if we’d ever find another gas station. Then we rounded a corner and found a small town bustling with people, stores and donkeys. It was Oatman, Arizona. It’s a restored goldmine ghost town.

Route667 The town is mostly for tourist now and it was fun. There was a make believe gun fight out in the street and everywhere you walk there is a donkey in the way. Apparently when the gold mine closed they didn’t know what to do with the donkeys so the workers just let the donkeys free and now they simply roam the area and hang out in town. It also helps that you can buy small blocks of grass to feed the donkeys.

We finally made it out to the Marine Corps Air Ground Combat Center in Twenty-nine Palms, Ca. We got on base about 11:30pm California time and waited for the arrival of 3/7 India company which finally arrived around 3:30 a.m. They marched out and family and friends cheered, filled with joy that they were home after their 6 month deployment in Afghanistan.

We are thankful that Seth is back from the combat zone and on base. He will be back on the farm in May for a few weeks of post deployment leave. Then in August Seth and Leah will be married and move back out to California. He will deploy again in 2015 but hopefully not to a combat zone.

Route662 It was great to take a vacation especially in a warmer climate. All our family and friends did a great job covering for us while we were gone. Now it’s back to work!


This winter was one of the hardest winters on record. I believe for Illinois it was our third worst winter and the bees suffered. It will take a while for surveys to shed light about winter losses but it would be surprising if it is not much higher than usual.

The million dollar question is what could we have done differently. As I have said before, sometimes we can do everything right such as having low mite levels and a strong queen and a strong population of bees but viruses can simply overtake the bees in the winter. Varroa mites vector viruses. Those viruses can weaken and cause the colony to perish in the winter. Varroa mites can cut the life of bees in half. So  you can see how a long winter can take it’s toll on bees.

class3 There is a reality that many beekeepers start beekeeping without taking a solid beekeeping course or class. I did when I first started. And I lost my first hive after a few years because I made mistakes and didn’t really know up from down. Taking a class does not guarantee success but it certainly increases the chance. Of course it is still up to the beekeeper to put into practice what is learned.

I’ve noticed that when doctors and nurses take our classes their bees do really well because they care for their colony like a patient. It really does require careful and deliberate care to keep a colony healthy. I know there are plenty of YouTube videos on how to raise bees. I have some online. But there is nothing like spending a day with a knowledgeable beekeeper where you can ask questions, take notes and have it all come together.

Here’s a sure way for your colony to die. Pour in your package, put the boxes on and do nothing. Oh, occasionally a colony can survive and do well, but that is a rare exception. To keep that colony strong it takes a knowledge base and skill level that you are best able to grasp by taking a class.

Institute4 It may sound like I’m promoting our classes we offer. Of course I am! I’d be a fool  not to because I’ve worked hard over the last decade to learn everything about bees and become a certified master beekeeper. If you want to see what it takes to be a certified master beekeeper check this link out and you’ll see what I had to accomplish. In 2010 I became a master beekeeper so that our beekeeping classes would be spot on with solid teachings to help beekeepers learn as much as possible.

Take a look at our upcoming courses:

April 13 Basic Beekeeping - 2 Seats Left

May 23-24 Advance Beekeeping

Beekeeping Institute:

June 9-13 Beekeeping Institute – Sign Up For The Whole Week

If you cannot make it to all classes during the institute, sign up for a single day by clicking on the class below you wish to attend.
  June 9th-Basic Beekeeping, Tues June 10th-Practical Beekeeping, Wed June 11th-Advance Beekeeping, Thur June 12th -Queen Rearing and Fri June 13th-Insect Photograph

June 27-28 Queen Rearing Course

October 3-4 Basic Beekeeping

October 25 Basic Beekeeping

We are gearing up for the 2014 beekeeping year and as you can see from above there are plenty of classes to participate in. Please take advantage and learn as much as you can. So what did we learn from the winter of 2013-14? It might seem like the wrong time of the year to plan for winter, but actually, what you do now will lend to successful overwintering of your bees. You must start now controlling varroa mites, making sure you have a great laying queen, and make sure you colonies are very populated all year.

1. Winter Survival Begins With Controlling Varroa Mites

NS14 I simply cannot stress this enough. You might even be tired and bored of me repeating this time and time again, but if you choose not to do anything about mites, the colony will eventually perish. Maybe not the first or second year but eventually. We all love the occasional survival hives that have mites and yet still do great. These rare hives intrigue all of us who raise queens. We want to reproduce those traits. But even this is not a proven science. So we must fall back on some methods of reducing mites. Some of our links below will take you to a more descriptive lesson for the method.

a. Start now using green drone comb.

drone foundationUse drone foundation to lure the mites. Mites prefer drone cells because the foundress mites have a full 24 days to develop their prodigy since the drone is the longest in the cell. So, you can lure the mites from worker cells by placing drone foundation on the outside edges of your brood hive bodies. We sell a one piece drone foundation plastic frame. The cell size is for drone cells so the queen knows to lay only unfertilized eggs producing drones. Then, your mites run to these cells and after the comb is capped, you pull the frames out and freeze them overnight and your mites are dead. Scratch open the cells and place it back in hive for the bees to clean out, and they will! They get rid of all the mites and dead drones. These frames are a bright lime green so you can easily identify your drone frames. We sell these frames for $4.99 each, much cheaper than chemicals.

b. Powder sugar dust your bees. See

c. Use screen bottom boards to help mites fall out of the hive.

I used to be a staunch solid bottom board fan until I experimented with a screen bottom board. Wow! I immediately converted all of my solid bottom boards over to screen bottom boards. When mites fall to the bottom of a hive with a screen bottom board, they are gone, and cannot make it back in. On a solid bottom board, they simply wait for the next passing bee to get on and ride back up to infest the hive.

d. Break the colony’s brood cycle once the hive reaches a strong population. Review my lesson on breaking the queen’s brood cycle at:

2. Winter Survival Preparation Means Having A Strong Queen In The Fall

It is important that you know the health of your queen at all times, especially in late summer and early fall. She should be laying really well all the way into fall. Throughout the beekeeping year monitor your queen. If she is not laying lots of eggs, replace her immediately. It is certain failure to over-winter with a poor queen.

3. Winter Survival Means Having A Large Colony In The Fall

It seems that a strong colony has a much great chance at survival that a colony that is weak in numbers. Obviously for winter survival more bees means more heat that can be generated. If a colony is not strong in numbers going into winter it probably means that a problem already exists and that winter will be the final straw.

4. Winter Survival Means Trying Everything Else 

I think if we all knew that this winter was going to be this hard we might have tried a few extra methods and tricks. Even not knowing if they work, maybe they couldn’t have hurt? It’s hard to know for certain. But here’s some thoughts:  Wrapping is always a consideration. It doesn’t always help and hives still perish that have been wrapped. But it might be worth a try.

Winter-Bee-Kinds are viewed as emergency feed, top insulation to cut down on moisture developing at the top and an upper vent to provide a sooner opportunity for bees to defecate outside the colony during winter. Hives with viruses and other problems can still perish with a Winter-Bee-Kind. But it is certainly worth a try.

A wind break is always a good thing . Imagine yourself either in the cold wind or behind a wind block. It’s always better out of the wind.

In summary the key to winter survival is to keep mite levels down, strong numbers, a strong queen and plenty of honey and pollen in the hive prior to winter. So, start now to prepare your hive for next winter.

We appreciate you doing business with us! Take advantage of our many offers on hives. Here’s our best deal.

Two Full Size Hives, fully assembled and fully painted. He hive consists of a Screen Bottom Board, two deep hive bodies with wooden frames and foundation, one medium super with wooden frames and foundation, an inner cover, a top cover with metal covering and also comes with two entrance feeders and two different sized entrance reducers. One to accompany your entrance feeder, and one to stand alone. We recommend starting with two hives. Click for more information.

Swarm Are you ready to catch that swarm?  It’s swarm season. Have that extra hive ready when you get that call to collect a free swarm of bees. If you’re not ready to collect the swarm, they’ll fly away before you have something to put them in. Order an extra hive now.

Thanks for joining us for another lesson! See you next time!

David & Sheri Burns