Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Varroa Mites: Lesson 163 217-427-2678

DSWe all know that if you don’t see any mites, then you don’t have any right? WRONG! If you don’t see any varroa mites, it either means you need to visit your eye doctor or you do not know how to really find them.

Hello, and welcome to another beekeeping lesson from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We are David and Sheri Burns and we are here to help beekeepers become more successful. And we are also passionate about helping more people become new beekeepers. We need our honey bees to pollinate our fruits and vegetables and we need skilled and educated beekeepers to help make that happen. So thanks for joining us.

Winter Class Our weekend was extremely busy and great. Saturday we taught on “Getting Bees Through The Winter” and then we had the same class with different students on Sunday. We had students from Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio. This class will be held again on Oct. 5th, but it has filled up too, so now we are opening up another class on Monday Oct. 6th from 9am-3pm. For those of you who work weekends, now you can join us for a class on Monday. Or just take the day off from work and come learn some awesome ideas about getting bees through the winter. Click here for more information on the Oct. 6th class or go to:

One of the featured field events of our weekend beekeeping classes was to sample hives for varroa mites. It is paramount that all beekeepers take mite samples now while there is still time to do something. Most beekeepers have heard about sticky boards, and checking how many mites are on drone pupae. I’d like to share a simple way to assess your mite load. As I demonstrated to the class in the bee yard, I was pleasantly surprised how many of them commented on how easy it was and how they were looking forward to going home and testing their hives. I do realize that reading the description here is not as good as watching it demonstrated in class, but I’ll describe it in detail so you can start looking and evaluating your mite loads.


Why bother counting your mite load?  If you have a lots of mites it is unlikely that your hive will NOT survive the winter of 2014-2015. Mites parasitize bees and spread viruses which can cut the individual bee’s life in half. So, a bee born in October can make it through the winter into March if it is healthy. But, if it has been bitten by mites and contracted a virus, it may only live into January. 

Varroa Mite You might think that since you cannot see mites on your bees you do not have mites. I have people tell me they’ve never seen their queen either. If you can’t find your queen, you will not find mites either, but they are there! Mites are small but you can see them if you know where to look. They hide on the backs of bees in the first abdominal segment of the honey bee. It can be hard to see what is hiding. DO NOT ASSUME YOU DO NOT HAVE MITES SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOT SEEN ANY.

If you have a hive, you have varroa mites! I strongly believe it is the viruses which are weakening the colony’s health and causing overwintering deaths. The only way to limit viruses is to kill mites that are vectoring these viruses.  It is unfair for any beekeeper to blame chemicals and chemical companies without first monitoring their mite loads.

3 Mites Now that we are at the end of summer and entering fall mites are rapidly increasing. To survive a long cold winter beekeepers need lots and lots of brood now. But if this brood is parasitized by mites, the bees will not make it to spring. Do not trust a visual inspection of bees on comb to assess your mite loads. Here’s what I recommend to determine the percentage of mites in a hive. My personal level is not to exceed 3%, or 3 mites per 100 bees tested. 

Materials Needed

1.  A quart jar for canning, with the ring and separate lid which the ring holds securely. Disregard the lid but keep the ring. Now in place of the ring you’ll need to cut a piece of 1/8” hardware screen. It is small enough to keep bees in, but large enough to let mites pass through.

2.  Two tablespoons of powdered sugar

3.  A piece of cardboard or metal shaped like an L

4.  A measuring cup

5.  A plain white paper plate

Steps To Test For Mites

1.  Place two tablespoons of powdered sugar into your canning jar and keep the lid off.

2.  Open your hive and pull out a frame of bees.

3.  Shake the bees on your cardboard or bent metal so the bees land in the inside of the L shape piece. This will help them slide into your measuring cup.

4.  Pour bees into the measuring cup up to 1/2 cup which is approximately 400 bees. You may have to pour a little above the 1/2 cup mark as some may fly out while pouring them into the canning jar with the screen lid.

5.  Pour bees from the measuring cup into the canning jar and place the screen lid on securely.

6.  Dump excess bees from your L shape board back into the hive.You have to keep mite levels down. I hope you will embrace a 3-5% maximum tolerance for mites.

For the rest of the 14 steps to test for mites, visit my website: and go down to #24 on the front main home page.

Join me Monday Oct. 6th “Getting Bees Through The Winter” class and we’ll demonstrate mite counts and much, much more. Click now to register.

a1545 TIP OF THE MONTH:  The next few weeks are the most critical time to increase food stores for the bees to make it through the winter. I am finding wonderful success in our new Burns Bees Feeding System. It allows the beekeeper to feed syrup from the top of the hive, preventing robbing and allowing the bees to still eat during cold fall nights. Plus it provides special screened areas to feed our pollen/sugar patties without smashing bees between deep bodies. Watch our new video on this feeding system.

See you next time!

David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

M-Thu  10am – 4pm central time
Fri  10am – Noon

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Honey Bees Deserve Knowledgeable Beekeepers 217-427-2678

beeflyingHoney bees need our help. One way we as beekeepers can help is to know as much as we can about managing honey bees. Hi, we are David and Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. Beekeeping is awesome! It’s just a hoot. Not only are honey bees essential for the pollination of our fruits and vegetables, but the agricultural benefit of honey bees tops 9 billion a year. In other words, it would cost the United States 9 billion a year to do the work bees do to help us produce food.

While it is true that honey bees have more challenges today, it is not a time to abandon beekeeping. In fact, just the opposite. We need more and more people to start keeping honey bees so that we can restore the population of honey bees needed to support our food supply.

Honey bees deserve knowledgeable beekeepers. Some people don’t keep bees, they just have bees. They are called bee-havers, not beekeepers.  Keeping bees today is rewarding, enjoyable and beneficial. But it does require more knowledge and management skills than it did 30 years ago. That’s why we offer our Basic Beekeeping classes to all new beekeepers. We still have several openings for our October 25th Basic Beekeeping course.

How much do you know about honey bees? The more you know, the better you can care for your bees. I decided it would be fun, educational and revealing to offer a test on honey bees and beekeeping. Take the test and see how much you know. The answers to the questions are located on our website at: on the front page under number 21.  Looking at the answers will help you know more about the honey bee and beekeeping. Ready? Here’s 20 questions and good luck.

1. Over time, with continuous use, the diameter of brood cells become larger in size.   a.   True     b.  False

2. Canola honey crystallizes soon after being extracted.     a.  True   b.  False

3. Oxalic acid, used as a mite treatment, is legal in the United States.  a.  True    b.  False

4.  Mature small hive beetles, when fed well, are able to live:   a.  1 month   b.  3 months  c.  6 months   d.  9 months

5.  Beeswax melts at:   a. 120 (f)   b.  132 (f)   c. 145 (f)  d. 170 (f)

6.  The waggle dance in a colony is used to direct other bees to resources that are located in distances greater than _____ meters from the hive.   a.  25   b.  50.   c.  100   d.  200

7.  Honey is 1 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar?   a.   True   b.  False

8.  A colony preparing to swarm will reduce foraging _____ weeks prior to swarming.  a.  1 week   b.  2 weeks   c.  3 weeks

9.  Dark colored honey is generally higher in antioxidants and minerals than light colored honey.  a.  True   b.  False

10. In a healthy hive the following ration exists:  1 egg to 3 larvae to 6 worker pupae   a.   True     b.   False

11. When entering your honey in a honey show at what moisture level will it be disqualified?  a. 18.5    b.   18.6    c. 19    d.  19.6

12.  To determine whether to fertilize an egg or not, a  queen measures the size of a cell (drone or worker) with her:   a.  Antennae   b.  compound eyes   c.  Front legs

13.  As a virgin queen ages in the hive, the workers become increasingly more aggressive towards her.  a.  True   b.  False

14.  In the winter, a colony begins brood production before there is anything to go out and forage for.  a.  True   b.   False

15.  Varroa mites prefer to reproduce in old brood comb rather than new brood comb.  a.  True   b.   False

16.  How many subspecies of Apis mellifera ( European Honey Bees) are there in the world?  a.  16   b.  23   c.  26.   42

17.  It is easier to introduce a new queen during a nectar dearth than during a heavy nectar flow.  a.   True   b.   False

18.  European foulbrood spores remain viable in brood combs for many years.   a.  True   b.   False

19.  In a healthy colony about _____ of the total comb is drone comb.  a.  10%   b.  3-7%   c.  13-17%  d.  21%

20.  A worker honey bee has  ______ ovarioles in the ovaries.   a.  none    b.  2-12   c.  28-50   d.  100-115

The answers to the above questions are located on our website at: on the front page number 21.  Looking at the answers will help you know more about the honey bee and beekeeping.

burnsfeed Before I go, let me issue a warning that now is a VERY CRITICAL time to prepare your bees for winter. There is still time to deal with mites. There is still time to feed your bees.  If you are planning on doing nothing there is a good chance your bees will not survive winter. Our Burns Bees Feeding System is a great way to build up your colony for winter. My daughters, Karee and Jennifer make the protein/sugar patties and the bees absolutely love these!  You can purchase extra patties, because if your bees are like mine right now, they are very much in need of food. Our Burns Bees Feeding System allows you to feed your bees both patties and 2:1 sugar water. The lid is provided with the holes already punched. I’ve noticed it in some of my hives and other beekeepers are reporting that now bees are rapidly consuming their stored resources. Feed Your Bees!!

WBK2014 Look at this Winter-Bee-Kind test we ran last week to test our mixture. Wow!  Bees are loving it. We continue to receive calls daily from new customers and beekeepers re-ordering more of our Winter-Bee-Kind candy boards. These provide upper insulation, ventilation and the important upper exit and entrance.  For several years we have sold these and the impact these have on helping bees not starve in the winter is awesome. Click here to watch our video on how they work.

We look forward to hearing from you. Give us a call with all your beekeeping needs. Monday – Thursday 10am-4pm and on Friday 10am – Noon. 217-427-2678.

See you next time,

David & Sheri Burns