Monday, March 30, 2015

Best Practices For Over Wintered Colonies 217-427-2678


Spring has sprung, and though winter keeps trying to hang on, spring keeps gaining ground. Hello everyone, and welcome to another beekeeping lesson from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms located in central Illinois. We are David and Sheri Burns and thanks for joining us.

We’ve reached the beekeeping season where “all hands on deck” is a requirement. As a small family business, we are working hard to fill orders, build, paint, feed bees and meet the demands of another exciting beekeeping year.

We’d like to say hello to hundreds of new beekeepers who will be keeping bees for the very first time. I know you are both excited and concerned. Stay calm, watch our videos and enjoy! Remember, we have a ton of beekeeping information available on every subject of beekeeping available. I have turned down book offers so as to make this information easily available to you so please take advantage of this FREE beekeeping content, from videos to detailed how to lessons on our website:

For those of you wondering what to do next with your hives that survived the winter, I want to share some best practices so you can help these colonies get a fast head start into spring. Before we begin, let me bring you up-to-date on what’s going on around the honey bee farm.

NYPhoto1 Our son, Seth, and his wife came home for his pre-deployment leave. It was great having them home for a few weeks. He’s on his way to the Middle East now for 7 months. We pray for all our men and women serving our country that they will come back safe.  Sheri and I have now taught lots of basic beekeeping classes and we have 20 more classes to teach throughout the year on queen rearing, getting your bees through the winter, advance beekeeping and our two Beekeeping Institutes. Check out all our classes at:  We still have a few spots in our second Beekeeping Institute on June 26-28. We’ve had people from all over the US attend our Institute, so consider joining us and learning everything you can about honeybees in 3 intensive days.

IMG_3039 Sheri and I cannot remember ever seeing this kind of interest in beekeeping. We are swamped with new beekeepers and all of our classes have bee sold out to capacity.  Every year beekeeping gains momentum. These are very exciting times to be a beekeeper. If you are still considering it, there is still time. Although we are sold out of bees, you can still purchase your hive and equipment from us and purchase your bees locally near you.

Things are looking good for package bee pick up weekend, May 2-3. Everyone who ordered packages of bees from us should have received a letter from us or will shortly with all the details. If not, please give us a call. If it is your first time to pick up bees from our farm, please be advised that there are a lot of people in one place at one time.

L1532 We have many people helping that day, from parking lot attendants to package bee handlers to check out people. But please bring your patience. We do our best to eliminate long lines but remember while you are just one person, there is a lot of logistics to work out to make it all happen so your patience is appreciated.

Now that it is spring and depending on where you live and how warm it is, it’s time to take a look at what to do next to get your bees as strong and as healthy as possible for spring and summer.


First, Feed, And Feed

And keep on feeding! Most people agree that bees should be eating 1:1 sugar water and pollen patties in the spring. All of us are attempting to “spark” our colonies to be ready for the first opportunity to harvest pollen and nectar, which is going on for our southern beekeepers, just about to start this week for our central US beekeepers and is a week or two away for our northern beekeepers. 

Some people become confused on how to feed bees in the spring. There are many different types of feeders and approaches to feeding spring colonies. There are top feeders, entrance (Boardman) feeders, frame feeders, and our new Burns Bees Feeding System. All work fine. Some have slight advantages over the others, but some have disadvantages too. It’s all about personal preference. An entrance feeders works fine. A disadvantage is that you have to reach to the front of the hive to change it and bees will be all over the top of the jar when you change it. Normally this is no big deal, but it can be intimidating to a new beginner. Top feeders occasionally malfunction and bees can drown in the reservoirs of sugar water. Frame feeders are labor intense because you have to open the hive up and fill the feeder while it is in the hive and bees can drown in the reservoir.

BBFS Our Feeding System has screen where the jars sit as well as well the patties are given to the hive so that no bees exit while adding patties or changing jars. The disadvantage is that you will need a spare deep box to put above the feeder giving you room to encase your jar and feeders below your top cover. I designed our feeder specifically to be used on new spring colonies because no matter how cold it may get on a spring night, the food is above the bees, not below them or outside of the hive. Our system provides an easy way to feed pollen patties rather than just smashing them between the boxes and frames. I just made a new video showing how to remove our Winter-Bee-Kinds and place our Burns Bees Feeding Systems on for spring. Watch my video below:


Aggressively Kill Mites

Even though it is spring and your bees made it through the winter, you must start immediately start your mite control program. I recommend all new packages are placed in hives with one Green Drone Comb in each deep hive body for mite trapping. We include instructions and timing on using your Green Drone Comb traps for mites. Our hives come with screen bottom boards and we have them separately if you want to replace your solid bottom board. Screen bottom boards help mites fall out of the hive. Powdered Sugar treatments can help dislodge mites from bees and later in the year we encourage beekeepers to break the queen’s brood cycle. These techniques are all taught extensively at our classes. If you choose to ignore mites in your hives, your colonies will most likely die a very premature death. There are “soft” chemicals such as organic acids. These include formic acid and oxalic acid. Oxalic was just recently approved in the US a few weeks ago for beekeepers to use in their hives. In our classes we teach how to do accurate mite counts. I recommend you do a mite count every 2-4 weeks to help you better decide on your level of treatment. It is a waste of time to evaluate why your bees died if you have not been tracking and treating for varroa mites.

You cannot pull out a frame of brood unless the temperature is warm outside, 60 degrees (f) or above. So you may not be able to begin your mite evaluations and treatments for several more weeks, but be prepared in advance.

Make Room For Rapid Growth. Have A Spare Hive For Swarms and Swarm Control

Busybee No one wants to see their hive swarm. If your hive does really well coming out of winter they will soon be congested and may reproduce into another hive through swarming. Over half of your colony will leave with your old queen to start a new colony. Your colony will stay behind and try to raise a new queen. For central Illinois this takes place in late April through May. It’s next to impossible to prevent swarming. However, I do my best to avoid it by creating the artificial swarm by splitting my congested colonies into additional hives. This, of course, means you need to have another hive to put your splits into, so think ahead and have a spare hive ready. What I find most effective is to pull out 4 or 5 frames from a strong colony in May and place them in a new hive. Since bees are ramped up in May to raise queens, I simply make sure both the old hive and new hive are given frames of eggs. That way I don’t even care which hive has the queen because the one who doesn’t will raise a queen from their fertilized eggs in the brood comb. I then give the congested colony 4 empty drawn comb to replace the 4 full frames I removed. This can help prevent a congested hive from swarming. If you were to carry the queen over with the new 4 frame hive, the old colony might be less apt to swarm due to the energy required to raise a new queen.

Reversing Hive Bodies

If the bees are all in the upper deep brood box and no brood is found in the lower deep brood box, it can help to swap the two boxes. But if brood is scattered through both boxes it is not a good idea to dislodge the configuration of the brood nest. And I only do this in Illinois after May 1 to avoid chilling the brood if the weather turns cold.

Well there you go. I’ve provided some good tools and techniques to help your over wintered colonies grow in the spring. Thank you for allowing Long Lane Honey Bee Farms to meet all your beekeeping needs. Give us a call today: 217-427-2678.

David and Sheri Burns

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Feed Bees Liquid In The Spring 217-427-2678


Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. We are David and Sheri Burns with another lesson in beekeeping. It is important to start feeding bees liquid as soon as possible. I watch the temperatures and in this lesson I will show you how I have calculated the way to feed bees liquid sugar water as soon as possible.

Once again it is MYSTERY PHOTO time!  It’s going to be a little more difficult this time, so put on your thinking caps.

We have posted the MYSTERY PHOTO on our main website at:

The winner will receive a nice pair of ventilated beekeeping gloves. Here are the questions that must be answered:

Mystery photo

1. What is this a picture of?
2. What is its purpose?
3. What is the scientific name?

Answers must be submitted on our Facebook page under the section where the black photo to the left appears on our Facebook page. The actual photo is only on our front page of our website,

Good luck, and study hard.

I Put Together My Dream Hive

I put together my dream hive, a hive that comes with extra things that can help the colony along.  I have only built a limited number of these, but here is what it is. Our typical completely assembled and painted bee hive with wooden frames and foundation. But it also comes with 1) 2 Green Drone Comb for mite control (and information on how to use them for varroa control) 2) 4 beetle blaster traps to trap small hive beetles, 3) I have painted on extra wax on all 30 frames and 4) I have scored the inside of the hive to help encourage the bees to add propolis inside on the walls of the hive which has been shown to improve colony health.

Certainly you can buy the green drone comb and beetle blasters and add them to our Completely Assembled and Painted Hive, but my dream hive has the extra wax that I’ve coated on my frames and the scored inside walls. This takes time and is why we only can sell a limited number of my dream hive.

You can do these things yourself and save a buck if you have the time and wax. Remember our Completely Assembled and Painted hives comes ready to go and shipping is included for $279.


We had another Basic Beekeeping Class last Saturday it was awesome. The students were so good and ask detailed questions and were very engaged. It was a nice day, but the threat of snow was looming over us for the evening. The storm held off until Sunday, but this is what it looked like one day after the class. Close one! We have another basic beekeeping class this Saturday 9am –3pm  with 2 openings still available. See a list of our classes for the year.


Now For Today’s Lesson

I want to get liquid sugar in my colonies as soon as possible to help clear their guts and to stimulate early spring build up of more brood. The earlier I can get my colonies strong in numbers the sooner I can split and make more hives, more nucs and queens in the spring. I’ve been watching the forecast and here in Illinois we are going to have several days where temperatures will rise above 50 degrees (f).  Here’s the temperature forecast for me:

Fri      High 26   Low  22
Sat     High 40   Low  24
Sun    High 41   Low  26
Mon   High 44   Low  28
Tue    High 52   Low  33
Wed  High 58   Low  38
Thu   High 48   Low  31
Fri      High 44   Low  32

So, after evaluating the temperatures, I plan to take off my winter wraps mid morning on Saturday so the sun can help warm the hives. Otherwise my wrap will work against the colony and prevent the warm sun from warming the hive. Insulation works both ways. On a cold day it can keep the cold out, but on a warm day, it can keep the warm out too.

Then,  I will take off my Winter-Bee-Kinds at noon on Monday and place on my Burns Bees Feeding System. I will feed my bees 1:1 sugar water and our patties. They probably will not fly much on Monday, but that’s fine because they will fly on Tuesday as highs will be in the low 50s. This will provide the needed cleansing flights after eating the patties and liquid sugar. I will stop feeding them this way on Wednesday until I can evaluate the forecast at that time. If it stays below 45 I will keep my Winter-Bee-Kinds on. But if it warms up I’ll keep feeding them with my feeding system. Again, my rule of thumb is the 50 degree (f) mark.

My strategy has a dual purpose. First, I want to feed my bees to stimulate early brood expansion. Secondly, I want to reduce the potential of the microsporidian, Nosema, by having the bees eat and take cleansing flights.

I realize this information varies depending on the temperatures where you live. My main trigger is sunny days above 50 degrees (f). I can feed my bees a day or two prior to a flight day. However, when I see that temperatures may drop to where bees cannot fly, I’ll stop feeding them a day or two prior to the cold snap. I don’t want to fill up the bees with sugar water and have the cold weather pin them in the hive for two weeks.I will not wrap my hives again unless lows drop below 10 degrees (f).

It is amazing what this approach will do to help strengthen the colony late in the winter. I will NOT remove any frames. It is still not warm enough to remove frames.

Now, let me give you a secret tip. It’s a little risky, so apply at your own risk. My bees will be used to going in and out of their Winter-Bee-Kind ventilation slot at the top of the hive. When I remove it and place on the Burns Feeding System, they will be forced to go in and out of the bottom opening as they do throughout the year. However, I will cut a slot in my Feeding System at the same location where the WBK slot was located. This will allow the bees to eat and fly without having to travel up and down so much. Why is this risky? In a warmer environment and where hives are not equal or not equally being fed, a starving colony might smell the slot on the Feeding System and rob out the hive with the upper opening, especially if you put Honey-Bee-Healthy in the sugar water. The smell could attract other colonies running low on food. I have never had this happen, but I want to warn that it could happen.

I can get by with doing this because I equally feed my colonies at the same time, thus reducing the need for them to go out and rob other hives. I could have feral hives in the area that might scout out the feeding slot, but I’ll keep an eye on it. If you want to play it safe, you should not worry about cutting a slot and make sure the Burns Bees Feeding System is sealed at the top, and your colony will soon use their lower entrance after removing the Winter-Bee-Kind.  This usually takes a couple of days for all the bees to orientate to the lower entrance.I will add additional pollen powder to my patties to help stimulate brood build up.

Thanks for joining us for another beekeeping lesson. Check out our website for all your beekeeping needs.  We have hive kits with bees still available.

David and Sheri Burns

Long Lane Honey Bee Farms