Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Winter and Spring Feeding of Honey Bees www.honeybeesonline.com 217-427-2678


We are David and Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. I want to share some great things about feeding bees now and into spring. How is the best way to transition feeding bees from winter to spring?  Before I do, let me thank you for reading our blog about honey bees and beekeeping.

Since 2006 I have been writing these lessons in beekeeping. I enjoy sharing as much information as possible. It’s hard to believe I’ve published these teachings for a little over eight years. Some of you have been reading these from the beginning and though you may live too far away to visit us, you feel like part of the family. My first lesson was entitled, “I Can’t Figure Out Why Everyone Is Not A Beekeeper”. I start off saying, “For the life of me, I can't figure out why everyone doesn't keep bees. It is a blast! I suppose bees have been falsely portrayed as "killer bees" taking over homes and whole cities. That's Hollywood, not reality. Anyone can keep bees. It's easy. As you continue keeping bees over the years, you learn more and more…”  That was 8 years ago, and I feel more passionate about beekeeping now than I did then.

Christmas 2013 I want to thank you for being a part of our family and business over the past few years and we look forward to many more years to come. We know you can buy your beekeeping equipment from other places. Some even offer free shipping. We try never to use the word “free shipping”, because  you do know that it is NOT free, don’t you? With some of our hive kits we use words like, “Shipping is included.” If it comes down to you saving a buck because of “free shipping” and going somewhere else, I hope you’ll decide to buy from us, to support our family business so we can be here long into the future offering classes and all of these online lessons that I am sure have helped so many of you. Our bread and butter comes solely from you deciding to do business with us,  hard working, small family business. Thank you in advance. We have built a lot of hives in preparation of the 2015 bee season. They are ready to ship! Check out our hives at: www.honeybeesonline.com The more you purchase from us, the more resources we have to continue our research and inventing things like our Winter-Bee-Kind and our Burns Bees Feeding System.

Someone told us that if you have an Android smart phone (not an iPhone), you can say to Google Now, “How to start beekeeping” and she will recite back info from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. I tried it and it is cool. Speaking of the Internet, here is some important information about our website this week.

NOTICE: Our website is undergoing a refurbishing toward the end of this week. We are adding many new features. There may be intermittent downtimes during this revamp so please be patient. If you go to our website, www.honeybeesonline.com, but it is down, please feel free to call us (217-427-2678) during regular hours and place your orders with us over the phone. We will do everything we can to reduce downtime, but depending on where you live, it may be down only 10 minutes or up to 48 hours.  

beeinstitute We are getting ready for our first class for the 2015 beekeeping season. We’ve taught beekeeping classes for seven years now. Each year we add more classes and update materials to stay up to date on new findings and research about beekeeping. In preparation for our 2015 classes we are preparing our educational center. Some of you have been to our new facility for classes last year, and it is very nice. But we have slowly been finishing up the kitchen area and we hope to have it completed in a few weeks in time for our Feb. 7th class.

Our first class, Feb 7th, is sold out and our second class on Feb 28th has 2 openings left. We are excited about a full roster of classes we are offering throughout the year. Our Beekeeping Institute in June is completely filled up already. We are contemplating offering a second one this year. Several people were disappointed not to have registered in time before all seats were sold. If you were not able to sign up for the beekeeping institute, but are interested in attending our Beekeeping Institute, please call us to help us make this decision. Thank you. To see our entire list of beekeeping classes including, Advance Beekeeping, Queen Rearing, How To Get Bees Through The Winter and more, go to: www.honeybeesonline.com/classes.html

Winter and spring feeding of honey bees can be tricky especially for inexperienced beekeepers. The best winter option is or bees to live off of their own honey and stores of pollen. However, if a colony does not store up enough for winter, they die because they do not have enough food to generate heat. They starve and freeze to death. Our Winter-Bee-Kinds are an idea resource to place on a hive if they are out of winter food. But how do you make the transition from winter feeding to spring feeding?

I like to give my overwintered colonies liquid feed as soon as the weather permits it. In late winter and early spring, colonies need pollen and 1:1 sugar water. The tricky part is deciding when to go from hard candy to liquid candy. My rule of thumb is as soon as it is warm enough for bees to fly, it’s time to go liquid. I cannot feed them liquid now because not only would it freeze or crystallize, but it is not characteristic of the winter cluster to consume liquid feed.

As soon as I see that the forecast calls for low winds and mild temps so that bees will fly, I’ll start with 1:1 sugar water and patties. Sheri makes an unbelievable sugar/pollen patty for bees. Some of you purchased those last fall and  you know how well the bees loved them. We could not keep up with the demand of orders. I am trying to talk Sheri into making these available again in the spring because this is when bees need them, spring and fall. For now we include a recipe.

Burns Feeding System Now is the time to purchase your Burns Bees Feeding System. In some parts of the southern US, temps will be warming up enough to begin using this system real soon. It allows you to feed liquid and patties to your bees without needing spacers. Special screens hold the bees down so you can change out your feeder jars without bees flying up out of the holes. We now make them out of birch and have a better automated system to cut the perfect circle holes. In the central US we can start using these in about 6-8 weeks so don’t delay. Have them on hand when the weather provides the opportunity.

Here’s a video I made about this system. Man, don’t you wish we were back to short sleeves!

Feeding bees can really make a difference in how fast they build up in the spring. Sometimes bees survive the winter, but become so weak and hungry they never build up and eventually crash in the spring or summer. It is important to provide good nutrition to bees year round if they cannot obtain it on their own.

That’s all for now. See you next time!

David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
M-Thu  10am-4pm central time
Fri-       10am- Noon

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What Does Dead Bees In The Snow Mean? www.honeybeesonline.com 217-427-2678


During the last two weeks, winter has tortured us! Unseasonably cold temperatures with strong gusty winds pushed our wind chill near - 30 (F).  Be calm as healthy colonies with plenty of food are quite capable of sailing through the winter without any problems.

Hi, we are David and Sheri Burns of Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. We take our partnership with our bee students and customers very seriously. That’s why we are particular about the equipment we make and we sell only the best products. And if there isn’t one, we invent it! If you are interested in becoming a beekeeper, please check out our complete webpage on what to do next at: www.honeybeesonline.com/howtostart.html


We have an entire webpage dedicated to quickly answer questions beekeepers may have. www.honeybeesonline.com/honeybees.html


Freedom Sheri has informed me that we are getting low on the number of packages of bees that we can include in our Freedom Kits and Early Bird Specials. If you are wanting to start keeping bees or know someone who is thinking about it, the time is short to make plans. Act now or you will be disappointed in several weeks. See our complete line of products at www.honeybeesonline.com

In less than one month we will offer our first beginners class for 2015 bee season. We still have several seats open for Feb. 7th Beginning Beekeeping. It’s here at our honey bee farm and the nice thing about taking this early class is that you can return to any other beginner’s class during the year at no cost.  We offer this opportunity for those who need to hear it again as a refresher course. Check out all of our classes at: www.honeybeesonline.com/classes.html

temp As beekeepers we really keep an eye on the weather. A week ago I saw where the temperatures were going to drop fast and the wind was going to be brutal. Some of my hives had no wind protection, so I decided to implement several experiments. I address the pros and cons of wrapping hives in my classes on, “Getting bees Through The Winter” and wrapping can be a disadvantage if not monitored and adjusted according to the weather. But wind protection can go a long way. And, I believe it can also be an added bonus to keep the hive dry in the winter.  Of course, not doing anything sometimes works just fine too. But most beekeepers lost about 50% of their hives last winter, so I’m using this winter to observe the benefits of wind breaks. Already, I have made an interesting observation. My hives that had my experimental wind cover on them carried out house cleaning in temperatures well below freezing.


What I mean by house cleaning is that the colony removed dying or dead bees and dropped them away from the hive. Hives without this wind protection did not carry out house cleaning choirs. What house cleaning says to me is two things. 1) The bees are warm and healthy enough to work inside the hive. 2) If they can move around to clean up dead bees, then they can also move around and consume pollen, bee bread and honey. This week I’ll be receiving some additional monitoring equipment that will allow me to gather precise data to make better correlations.

Again this fall, we will be offering the same “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter” class on four different days. When we offer this class on September 26, this class will be removing most older bees from a colony and working to produce a colony that has minimal older bees that could potentially be carrying viruses from mites or be worn out from foraging. It will be an attempt to see how a colony overwinters with 80% new bees born in the fall into a colony with less than 3% mite infestation.

Dead Bees In The Snow

beepoop3The interesting thing about dead bees in the snow is that they always seem to be slightly down in the snow as if they were warm enough to melt a little bit of the snow when they were first dropped. This just means that no matter when these bees died (usually of natural causes) they were above freezing in the hive. What I am also observing is the amount of dead bees that are dropped. This is interesting to me because I worked hard all fall to reduce mites and specifically raise brood that was not parasitized by mites and did not forage at all. These bees were raised in three specific time periods by caging my queen, giving me the brood exactly when I wanted it. It worked flawlessly. The dead bees I’m seeing now I hope are the older bees that were alive prior to the fall bees that I raised.  This week, temperatures will be in the mid 30s (f). I plan to go out to change my Winter-Bee-Kinds candy boards.

winterbkind Just a reminder, do not remove frames from your hives in the winter. You can replace Winter-Bee-Kinds, and take a quick look down into the hive, but you cannot remove frames for inspection until the outside temperature reaches at least 60 degrees (f). Also, wear protective clothing when opening a hive in the winter. They are quite capable of  flying out and defending the colony.

Worry or Not Worry?

Should you be concerned about dead bees showing up in the snow around your hive? It is very benign during the winter. It can be a good sign as I noted above. However, excessive dead bees may indicate the hive is getting smaller in number and may be losing their ability to heat the colony’s cluster in extremely cold temperatures. In my drops last week, I counted 17 in the snow in front of one hive and 25 near another hive. That is benign. However if you count 200 or more, that may not be a problem if this was their first chance to clean house after a long winter. But if they are constantly dragging out hundreds a week, it could indicate the colony has a microsporidian or virus. If this is the case it is best not to worry, because there is nothing you can do in the winter anyway. However, if hundreds are dying a week from starvation, you can and MUST do something. Feed them with a Winter-Bee-Kind immediately to stop the starvation.

In the north, we experience a high number of bees dying in the winter, mainly because our winters are so long and so cold. It is not unusual for colonies to be reduced down to 20,000 or less in the spring as it starts to warm up. This is not always the case, but winters are hard.

Also, without snow on the ground, you might not ever notice or see dead bees because they blend in to the dirt or grass. A snowfall is when we notice them. However, they are being drop every day it is warm enough. You can build a board and place it in front of your hive. I’ve made them from OSB with 2x4 edges on the top edges to keep the bees from blowing off. Place it next to the hive about 4-5 feet out. You can count your bees daily and see if there is a correlation between cold snaps and number of dead bees.

If you have any questions this week or need to order hives or kits, please give us a call this week.  217-427-2678

David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Monday, January 5, 2015

Beekeepers’ Resolutions For 2015 www.honeybeesonline.com 217-427-2678

Happy New Years from all of us at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. It is 2015 and in just 3-4 months the bee season will be in full swing.  The Bible says, “You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new.” (Leviticus 26:10)  I hope this is true for you and we hope that all of our bees will still be alive in the spring and we’ll have to make room for more hives!

We had so much fun being with family and eating everyone’s best food and desserts. Some of you have followed this blog/lesson for several years before you finally dove into beekeeping. Some of you enjoy following this blog because over the years you have gotten to know us through this blog and you enjoy hearing how we are doing. Others read the blog only for vital beekeeping information only.  Whatever the reason, thanks or joining us today.

This is the time of year that we “re-tool” everything for the upcoming year. The weather is cold, snowy and we don’t like to work outside unless we have to. Those of you who live in the north know what cabin fever is all about. Once the holidays are over it’s a long haul until spring. We work hard all winter to be ready for spring.  In the winter our land is either frozen or muddy and messy. Since we are in the country, we have to sweep the snow off our satellite receivers to keep our internet working.

Route663 We spend a lot of time on the phone working with new beekeepers placing orders and helping them figure out what they need. My wife, Sheri, is so good on the phone.  She is personable, extremely knowledgeable about beekeeping, and is so good about keeping track of orders and the special needs of our customers. She’s manning the phones today until 4:00 p.m. central time if you need something.

Sometimes when all lines are busy I answer the phones to help out, but Sheri is your girl to talk to. If you cannot get through, just know that we are answer all lines and cannot get to your call. Just call back if you can’t get through. We want to talk with you. 217-427-2678


IMG_1161 When we are not working, we fall back and enjoy our hobbies. Sheri has taken up playing the violin so maybe I can talk her into playing something at the next beekeeping class.  I seem to have only summer hobbies, like riding my Harley. In the winter, I usually stay busy fixing up our 1876 farm house. There’s always another window to replace, or something that needs fixed or repaired. I have three drywall spots to keep mudding and sanding from some changes we made. I usually do all the work myself unless I get too busy.

The Bible says, “You will still be eating last year’s harvest when you will have to move it out to make room for the new.” (Leviticus 26:10)  I hope this is true for you and we hope that all of our bees will still be alive in the spring and we’ll have to make room for more hives!

71013 From iPhone 065Over the last month, there has been a surge in beekeeping interest. We’ve sold an unbelievable amount of  FREEDOM KITS (2 Hives) for this time of the year, to NEW BEEKEEPERS!! This excites us to see more and more people jumping into beekeeping.  And our beekeeping classes are filling up so fast too. Our Beekeeping Institute is over half full 5 months out. Speaking of selling out, we have sold out of packages of bees. However, we have reserved packages of bees to be sold with our hive kits and for students who take our beekeeping classes.

Over the last few years I’ve learned so much more about honey bees and beekeeping. That’s the neat thing about being a beekeeper, you just keep on learning year to year. My interaction with customers has truly taught me a lot too. Every time I talk with a customer, I hear what they have been trying and how well it has been working. Beekeeping is about educational growth.

class3 A common phone call is someone who has kept bees a few years but continues not to be successful. They call to sign up for a class because they know they need to be a better beekeeper. There are many challenges today facing honey bees and continued education gives us an edge to face these challenges more successfully. This might mean that  you need to now take what you’ve learned and make some resolutions for 2015 to be a better beekeeper.

I’ve thought of a few resolutions that would benefit most beekeepers.

1. Resolve To Plan Ahead. During the fall and winter, beekeepers ask me if it is too late to do anything about varroa mites. Sadly, I have to inform them it is too late. Once the temperature is below 60 degrees (f), we can no longer lift frames out of a hive in fear it will kill brood (developing pupae). This year, decide how you will aggressively keep your mites levels low. In our classes we give you a four part non-chemical approach. The longer you wait to purchase your bees, take a class or buy hives you risk having to wait or totally missing the boat.

BBFS1 Plan ahead in using the Burns Bees Feeding System. We sold a lot of these in the fall, but they cannot be used in the winter. So plan now to purchase these because you’ll want to start using them in Feb (for southern states) and March or April in the north. You can purchase them now and avoid back logged orders in the spring. We now make these from a higher quality wood which we are also using for our inner covers too. Click here to order now in planning ahead for spring feeding. Give your bees a boost in the spring. Works great on new packages, overwintered colonies or nucs.

2.  Resolve To Know As Much As You Can. Take all the classes you can. Attend seminars and conferences. Read books and magazines. For example, many of you watched my video on how to add additional wax to foundation to speed up the bees drawing out new foundation. This is something you can implement with your new hives this spring. Had you not read my lesson or watched my video you would not know to do this. So resolve to know as much as you can.

beepoop 3.  Monitor Your Hives Throughout The Winter. Keep Winter-Bee-Kind candy boards on your hives. Last year some beekeepers failed to replace empty WBKs on the hive and the bees starved out. So many hives were low on food going into winter. Resolve to monitor their winter stores of food. Keep mice out. Make sure your entrances are not allowing mice to enter. Mice can destroy your hives.  Provide a wind break. Keep something heavy on the top so winter winds do not blow the top off.

4. Resolve To Inspect Your Bees More Often In The Spring And Summer.  We recommend inspecting your hive briefly every two weeks in the spring and summer. This inspection is to take a quick look to be sure your queen is laying good. You do not have to find the queen, but just make sure you have plenty of brood of all stages, eggs, larvae and pupae. You can do a more thorough inspection every 6 weeks for pests and diseases.

L1538 5. Resolve To Deal With Issues. If  your queen is slacking off, replace her quickly. Prevent swarming. Trap small hive beetles. Keep your bees in their hives during pesticide applications nearby.

6. Resolve To Support Other Beekeepers. Often beekeepers can become territorial and threatened by other beekeepers. Resolve to encourage and support other beekeepers. Speak positively about associations, clubs and what other beekeepers are doing. Offer to help a struggling beekeeper. If a beekeeper suffers a loss, offer to take over a nuc to help them back into the game. We need to work together.

Class33 7. Resolve To Introduce More People Into Beekeeping. Are you coming to one of our beginner classes? If so, why not think of a friend nearby that you can inspire to become a beekeeper and join you for class too. It’s always fun tackling a new hobby with a buddy or a girlfriend. The more people start beekeeper, the closer we are to restoring the population of our much needed pollinator, the honey bee. Have them visit a special page we have just for beginners: www.honeybeesonline.com/howtostart.html

Thanks for joining us today. Check out some cool trivia we have on our main page at: www.honeybeesonline.com


See you next time,
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms