Sunday, September 20, 2015

Fall Is The Most Dangerous And Challenging Season For Honey Bees 217-427-2678


Hello from David and Sheri Burns. Can you believe it will be fall on Wednesday. I believe fall is the most challenging and dangerous season for honey bees. In this lesson I’ll share what those dangers and challenges are and what you can do to better prepare your hives for fall.

Before we begin, let me remind you that our last “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter” class is this coming Saturday and we still have two spots opened. Register online, or call us between 10am-3pm central time and get those two spots. 217-427-2678

If you cannot attend our final class, be sure and get this class via our new ebook available on Amazon or from our website.

2014Class Fall is a great time to take a Beginners Beekeeping class and we have one coming up Saturday October 10th. This class is almost full but some spots are still available. If you are thinking about becoming a beekeeper or you are keeping bees but have never taken a formal class, this class is for you. Register online or call us. Taking a fall Beginners class will give you the tools you need to be better prepared and ahead of the game in the spring.

Recently someone asked me what are the 3 most important hive components to have as a beekeeper, besides the obvious smoker, hive tool and protective gear. That’s a good question, but I didn’t have to think twice.  1. A complete hive for when your hive has a growth explosion and needs to be split. Or to have a home to put the swarm in that you captured. 2.  A 5 frame nuc hive. It’s a 5 frame (deep size) box with a screen bottom board for ventilation, 5 frames and foundation and a top cover. These are great baby hives to have a stand-by queen available in case of an emergency queen event. They are also useful to support observation hives or to pull frames out to support weak colonies. It takes very little effort to have 4 or 5 nucs running to support your hives.  3. Medium supers.  This year I have seen so many beekeepers fail to place enough supers on their hives to capture the maximum amount of honey for the year. The hives here at our training center actually filled up 4 supers each. If I had only placed one or two on, I would have missed the chance to harvest more honey.

We continue to make improvements to our website. We work hard to provide our customers with an easy to navigate and very secure website. Shopping online is fun, easy and convenient. I love to do it. Security issues are at the forefront of our work. You’ll see a new image at the bottom of our website that says,  GeoTrust QuickSSL. Our site has always been secure but GeoTrust SSL certificate lets our customers know that our site provides the highest level of encryption and security possible.  This means you can rest assured that communications between your browser and our website is private and secure. We’ve got the certification to prove it.

Drones1 Every morning I walk around my hives and just see how the bees are flying. This morning, from a distance I noticed dead bees on the bottom board entrance. Sometimes you see this the day after you inspect a hive, but I did not open them this week due to the heavy nectar flow. As I approached the hive, my fears were relieved when I saw that those were drones. They are killing the drones! This is what a colony does this time of the year, in the fall in preparation for winter. Drones are useful during the spring and summer to mate with virgin queens. But now, queen rearing is over. It’s too late in the year to raise new queens so they are getting ride of their male population. Occasionally a few drones may overwinter, but usually a colony doesn’t overwinter with drones because drones are not workers and are heavy consumers of precious winter stores of food. A colony must be very protective of their winter pollen and honey or they might starve in March or sooner.

Drone3 You’ll start seeing dead bees around your entrance but don’t panic. Just double check to be sure they are drones. A drone has a larger body and their eyes are larger and touch in the middle.  Also, you may notice worker bees will pull out drone pupae. Before the drone can even mature, the house bees open up the cells and drag them out, making more room to store resources or for the queen to lay eggs for winter bees. Winter bees can live 6-9 months. A summer worker bee only lives about 40 days.


Pollen1 Again, we are getting a lot of phone calls about funny smells from the hive. This is the smell of aster honey being cured by the bees. Again, stay calm and enjoy this fall odor from the hive. Can you harvest golden rod honey? Yes, at first the taste may be noticeably different than clover, but as the honey sits in buckets or is mixed with clover the taste and smells is minimized.

If you are worried about harvesting funny tasting fall honey simply open up the hive, and poke your finger in a frame of sealed honey and evaluate the taste. If you can’t stand it, leave it for the bees. They’ll enjoy it. If you like it, make sure you leave 80 pounds of honey on the hive if you live in north and harvest the rest.

Now, can fall really be a dangerous and challenging time for your hives? Yes, here’s 6 reasons why:

1. Accidently killing the queen when harvesting honey frames.

In the fall, beekeepers are harvesting honey. The risk of killing the queen or accidently removing her in a super of honey is greatly increased. Before I harvest my supers, I find my queen and temporarily cage her so that I can work my hives fast in the fall to prevent robbing. Then I release her back into her hive after I’m finished working my hive. Remember, the drones are dead. So if you kill your queen they cannot raise a replacement queen because she cannot mate with drones. If you see a queen cell, it just means you’ll get stuck with a virgin queen all winter. She will never mate if she does not mate after she is 21 days old. She will not mate in the spring if she failed to take a mating flight late in the year.

2. Failure to keep mice out of the hive.

Mouse2 Mice are licking their chops, and their mouths are watering wanting to consume your bees. As soon as nights turn cold mice move in. We are already having nights in the mid 40s. Mice are looking for warm places and your hive is a perfect place. The warmth produced by the bees, fresh pollen and honey and bees to munch on is perfect for mice.  NOW IS THE TIME to take action. This week!! Don’t delay. Reduce your entrances. Our hives come complete with entrance reducers. Set it to the smallest opening.

3. Harvesting too much honey.  It’s so tempting to keep taking more and more honey off the hive. It looks so nice in your bottles with your fancy label. Your customers are throwing tens and twenties at you for that precious gold. But if you harvest too much,  your bees will not have enough to tied them over through late winter and early spring. I try and leave one full super on each hive for winter.

winterbkind But I also place extra insurance on my hive by placing our Winter-Bee-Kinds on my hives all winter. This ensures me that they will not run out of food. We will begin shipping these in November in the order that orders were placed.

You need to leave 60-80 pounds of honey on the hive for winter. Don’t be too greedy.



While golden rod keeps bees all covered with pollen, pollen baskets packed and honey stomachs full, it will soon stop.

4. Fall starvation. This is different than taking too much honey. Some falls have been proceeded by a long dearth. Bees eat through their winter stores during fall and have nothing in the winter. That’s why I feed my bees in the fall. Once I see that the nectar flow has ended I start feeding my bees sugar water and pollen patties. They will for sure need fed after the first frost kills all the flowers. I run our Burns Bees Feeding System that has two jar holes and one pollen patty hole. All holes are protected with screen so you can change your jars and patty without bees getting out. I place 2:1 in one jar to help the bees cure it into “honey.” The other jar has 1:1 so the bees can consume it and use it for brood stimulation to help me build up my brood of spring bees. Feed! Feed! Feed!

5. Mites are shifting from drones to workers and increasing in number, spreading viruses in your colony. If you think you do not have varroa mites, you are wrong. All colonies have mites. In our winter classes we actually teach you how to test for mites and calculate your hive’s percentage of infestation. Do not think you do not have mites simply because you do not see any. You have them! Get rid of them. Mites prefer drones, but now that drones are being killed, mites are now parasitizing your worker brood. And when mites have viruses, they spread them to worker bees which shortens the life of that winter bee from 6-9 months to 3-4.5 months. That means a bee born in October would have lived until May or June will now only live to January or February. Sound familiar? Do nothing to get rid of mites and your hive will probably not make it to see March or April.

6. Improper inspection can cause the hive to be robbed out. You go out to inspect your hive or remove honey supers. There’s no nectar flow. You separate your boxes stacking them around your hive. Pretty soon you seem engulfed by robber bees swarming around you hive. Those desperate fall bees have gotten a sniff of honey from your opened hive and they have plotted a course to rob it out.

I plan to make a video on how to make these inspections in the fall. The trick is to keep all boxes covered that are separate from the colony. Use extra top covers to encase open boxes while you inspect. Don’t keep your hive open in the fall, during a dearth for more than 10 minutes. Do NOT leave your queen excluder on for winter. Place your entrance reducer on the hive before you start your inspection.

Final fall tips:

Never use entrance feeders at the front of the hive in the fall. It will cause robbing.
If you break the top propolis seal after it turns cold use a heavy rock or brick to prevent the top from blowing off.
Prepare some sort of wind break for winter.
Combine weak hives with large ones. Kill the queen in the weak hive and place newspaper between the different combined boxes. The bees will eat through the paper and by that time they will get along.

Thank you for ordering from us here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We know you can go to the big box stores but we’d like to thank you for ordering from a small, family business.

Sheri has created a great sister website for women beekeepers called  She has colorful beekeeping suits, jewelry and more. Check it out.

David and Sheri Burns

Friday, September 4, 2015

Fall Inspections Can Be Rough

DSWelcome from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms located in central Illinois. Happy Labor Day Weekend!

This lesson will be timely because you might be inspecting your bees or taking off honey and it might be rough! We are harvesting and extracting honey and filling up jars. It’s been a fantastic year for honey production here in central Illinois. Colonies are healthy and strong and golden rod is full of nectar. Hives are smelling funky already. The nectar from golden rod and other asters cause the hive to have a unique and suspicious smell. Some beekeepers fear the smell might be American foulbrood, but rarely can you smell AFB several feet outside of the hive.

Hello everyone, we are David and Sheri Burns and today we want to bring you up to date on what’s going on at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms and also share about how a fall inspection can be rough. We’ll give you some pointers on how to make your final fall inspection easier.

We now have had 2 classes on how to get your bees through the winter. These have gone really well. Students have commented on how much they have learned. Remember the price of a class is cheaper than a new package of bees in the spring. So if this class helps your colony survive the winter, you are that much ahead. Our final class on How To Get Your Bees Through The Winter is Saturday Sept. 26. We have 5 spots left. If you cannot attend this class, it’s in an ebook on Amazon and on our website.

Of course our Winter-Bee-Kind is a primary winter survival tool. Check them out.

SheriBack To Work We are glad to have Sheri back in the saddle. She was out for a few weeks having a knee replacement. She’s really recovering well. Several people chipped in and covered for her but no one knows the ends and outs to this operation like Sheri does. Sheri loves to ride her Harley, but after her knee replacement she has decided to give that up.

So, I bought her the  next best thing, a Mustang convertible. She has enjoyed cruising around with the topconvertible down. To me, she looks better in a Mustang than a Harley.  In October we’ll be driving it out to see our Marine son, Seth, as he returns home from his second deployment in Kuwait. 

Sheri used her down time to create a new website/store just for women beekeepers. Check it out:

I’ve been watching my bees work an acre of golden rod and I’ve noticed that very few bees are on it much before 9 or 10 a.m. After 10 a.m. more and more bees begin to work it, gathering nectar and pollen. Last year, my bees were never on golden rod at all. It was very disappointing. I suspect the plant did not receive moisture at the right time and it had little to no nectar yields. But this year, bees are all over it.

Golden RodIt makes sense as it takes the heat of the day to draw out the nectar. All day long the bees are working the golden rod hard.  Also, I’ve notice how much more water the bees are consuming during the end of summer. Not so much because it is hotter, but because they require additional water to add to the honey for using it as food within the colony. If you have never seen golden rod  it is everywhere here in Illinois. Here’s one of my bees working it.

I have mowed a path so I can walk through my acre of golden rod because it will grow over six feet in height. While I was taking pictures of bees on it I saw a very interesting insect. It looked like a long colorful spotted beetle.

Spotted Moth Look what I found! It is the Ailanthus webworm moth. These moths are rare unless there are Ailanthus trees (Tree of Heaven) around. I don’t have any of these trees, but here is Atteva aurea, a member of the Family Yponomeutidae, the ermine moths. It’s really cool looking because when this moth lands it covers its body with its wings. The wings are spotted and resembles ermine fur that royalty uses to line their robes. That’s how this little bug got its name.

This is why beekeeping is fun. You learn so much more about plants, trees and other insects. I remember being in southern Illinois years ago and I walked past a tree that was just buzzing with honey bees and it was the tree of heaven. It is a short tree and very invasive. It’s called a tree of heaven because it grows quickly up to heaven.

Golden rod and other asters can be an excellent source of fall nectar for honey bees. The nectar will make the hive smell funny. The honey tastes different too. Most people leave it on the hive for the bees to use during the winter. Some people harvest it and mix it with clover honey and the taste is muddled.  I personally pull off all my honey supers before golden rod blooms. After that,  if the bees want it, they can have it.


Okay, let’s be honest. Most hives will behave differently in late summer and fall. Every fall new beekeepers call and ask us why their bees seem more defensive in the fall. Here’s why:

1)  It’s hotter and more humid.

2) There is usually a nectar dearth.

3) Because there is a dearth, more bees are robbing other hives, thus, hives are more protective against being robbed.

4) Your colonies are running at maximum populations. There are no longer 10,000 bees, but close to 60,000!

Here are a few tips on making inspections during late summer or fall.


bees in flight I try never to work a colony more than 10 minutes tops during late summer or fall! If you do, most colonies will begin to become more flighty, loud and protective. If you keep a hive open longer than 10 minutes during a dearth, other bees will quickly smell the honey and start landing to rob. Remember that not all the bees you see flying around the opened hive in the fall belongs to that hive. Many can be robber bees which makes your bees more defensive.


If you remove a super or the top deep, other bees will quickly find them and begin robbing. I place a top cover upside down, then I stack my boxes inside the inverted top cover. I take another top cover and place it over the top of those boxes. Now, no bees can fly in or out. You might think it will get hot in those boxes and it will. That’s why you need to inspect fast during this time of the year. You can use a screen bottom board if you want to provide more air, and just close it off. In other words, place the boxes you are removing on to another screen bottom board, but have the entrance closed, then place a top on those boxes while you inspect the final deep. This will greatly cut down on the amount of your own bees flying in the air and protect against robbing.


Pinksuit Be prepare to take a few more stings. It’s hotter, more humid, limited nectar sources and robber bees are everywhere.Your hive is finally huge in numbers.  In the spring your colony will be nice again, but for late summer and fall, suit up more than usual.

Sheri’s new website has several different colors of bees jackets and suits.

I know it is hot, and suits can be hot, but the better protected you are the more you will enjoy working your bees.


BBFS Our Burns Bees Feeding Systems can be used as a cooling system during a summer dearth too. Here’s what I’m doing this week. It’s in the high 90s each day this week and through next week. I’ve placed these feeding systems on some of my hives but instead of giving them sugar water, I am simply providing water in one of the jars. The other jar hole I am leaving opened as well as the pollen hole. I have a deep hive body surrounding this feeder on top so hot air can rise into this box away from the colony. I also add a small 1/8” wedge under the top cover to help exhaust heat. Plus the water is available on top of the cluster to help the bees cool the hive.


Smoke will always calm bees and you might need to use a bit more than normal. The funny thing is, in late summer and fall, you will start inspecting your hive and all will seem the same. But, after a few minutes you will see a rise in defensive behavior, something you are not used to seeing in the spring during a nectar flow.

In my new ebook “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter” I have a section on what to do during your last hive inspection of the year and when to do it.

If you are a hands of person and you don’t like to read, then come over and take our class, “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter.” We still have spots open for our class on Sept 26. Click here fore more information.

Enjoy Your Labor Day Weekend!
David and Sheri Burns