Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Do You Need To Combine A Weak Hive That May Not Make It Through The Winter?

We are David and Sheri Burns and we've been promoting beekeeping online for over a decade at: www.honeybeesonline.com

We are located in central Illinois and boy has it been hot and humid. We've received 5.40 inches of rain for the month of August. The average for our area is 3.5 inches. The extra rain has not only given way for more mosquitoes but some pretty hot and humid days. In late afternoon our bees are hanging all over the top and bottom of the hive trying to remain cool.

We have a few queens still for sale this week. Call us today after 10am 217-427-2678.

In today's blog, I want to encourage you to consider combining a very small and weak colony with a stronger colony before winter. Late summer and early fall is a great time to combine hives that are just too small to make it through a cold, windy, long winter.

Can you feed a small colony and help them survive the winter? Maybe, but it just depends on how small they are. I encourage beekeepers to feed all their hives in late summer and fall. Feeding bees protein and sugar can make a huge difference in winter survival.

Dangers Of Combining

If a weak colony just never took off this year there is a reason. That reason could be that the queen didn't lay well enough. But, it could also mean that your hive has a contagious disease. If you combine a sick hive with a healthy hive guess what's likely to take place. They both become infected. So you have to know alittle bit about beekeeping and why that weak hive is weak before you combine it with your prize winning, best honey producing hive ever!

My best suggestion is to be sure you do not visually see evidence of American foulbrood or European foulbrood. Then, what might really be hard to know is nosema, a microsporidian. Send some samples of your bees to the Beltsville, Maryland bee lab and they will sample for nosema for you. If all looks good, combining a weak colony with a strong one is a good idea.

Benefits Of Combining

You can always make a spring split if the combined hive overwinters well. And before you combine you will have to do something with that extra queen. Maybe you need her in a strong hive that lost their queen. Or you might sell her to a beekeeper needing a queen. Sometimes the extra bees from the weak hive, combined with a strong hive, can give the strong hive more leverage for overwintering provided that the strong colony does not have a high viral load from varroa mites. Watch our video below on how to combine hives.

BeeTeam6, A Popular Beekeeping Mentorship Service

Beekeeping has a huge learning curve. Wouldn't it be nice to have a Certified Master Beekeeper you could contact when you don't know what's going on? Bees do not always do what's in the beekeeping books. Sign up now so you can call me, email or text me your questions, photos or videos about your hives. This is a monthly service and you can cancel at any time.  

Last Class Of 2016
We have one last class for the 2016 year, our Basic Beekeeping course. Each October we offer a beginners course and it always fills up fast! Sign up now. 

This year we taught more classes and educated more students than ever before. We offered beginner classes, advance class, queen rearing, the Bee Institute, several "A Day In The Apiary With David" classes, Spring Management classes, "Getting Your Bees Through The Winter" and more. We'll be posting our 2017 class schedule online in October.

Sign up now for our Basic Beekeeping Course, Saturday, October 15th, 8am-1pm. We have 6 spots remaining.Click here 

Watch Our Newest Video Showing Two Ways To Catch A Swarm

Catching swarms is a great way to add more colonies naturally and at basically little to no cost. But, there is a skill involved.

Make sure capturing the swarm does not put you in danger of falling out of trees or off of ladders. Trying to gather $100 worth of bees is not worth a broken leg or worse. Be smart.

Be aware that swarms can leave again after you have given them the perfect home on your property. This is especially true if you captured them within 3 miles of your home. The scout bees probably already had another place in mind. They are still close enough to fly to it.

Are You Afraid To Harvest?
Honey FrameYou did it! Well, we should say your bees did it. They made some honey! But, are you now afraid to remove the supers and harvest the honey? Do you know all about how to harvest the honey properly from the hive? Here's some tips to help you have a great time harvesting that liquid gold!


Winter-Bee-KindWinter is unpredictable.
If only we knew if it was going to be harsh or bad. Don't take a chance again! This time, be ready. Give your bees a chance. 

Our Popular Late Summer
& Fall Feeder 
Burns Bees Feeding SystemAre you prepared to feed your bees when the nectar flow ends in a few weeks?  Got a plan? Two years ago we introduced The Burns Bees Feeding System. No more smashing pollen patties between hive bodies frames. Protective screens means no more bees everywhere when you change your feeding jars. Available for 8 or 10 frame hives.  Click Here For More Info
This is our best deal, two completely assembled and painted hives with wooden frames and foundation. Click Here For More Info.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

It's Worse Than We Thought

It's worse than we thought! It's time to make a steady effort to test your bees. Start now and take action.

Hi, I'm David Burns. Sheri and I stay out in front of what's going on in beekeeping. We hear back from hundreds of beekeepers around the world who give us feedback as to what issues they are experiencing. So we constantly stay up on things like the rising prices of EpiPens, oxalic acid (OA) treatment, Taranov splitting etc. We do this to help you!  Thank you for your business because this enables us to stay up on the cutting edge of new information.

By listening to beekeepers across the country here's the conclusion I have reached about why bees are dying:

Death By Varroa Mites

Several talks at EAS this year made it clear to me that colonies dying from varroa mites is worse than we thought. Viruses, spread by mites, are causing colonies to weaken in the fall and to die in the winter. While many people are getting into beekeeping, not as many are diligently monitoring mites by performing monthly mite tests. This is resulting in an alarming number of colonies weakening in the summer and fall and dying in the winter. This may be the major contributing factor for summer colonies having queen related issues. Mite testing and control is essential for colonies to remain healthy. Watch my 60 Second Beekeeper video on how to test for mites.

Death By Protein Stress

With colonies consuming 3.5 pounds of protein a week beekeepers must start feeding their bees protein such as found in pollen patties. We've just produced a video on how to make your own pollen patties. Aug. - Oct. is a vital time to feed your bees protein as they raise new bees with winter physiology during this time. Without protein brood production will fall significantly. A 2:1 sugar ratio is only part of what bees are in desperate need of now! They also must have protein.

Death By Queen Issues

Colonies often suffer from queen issues. The queen herself is rarely the issue. Here's the issue. Beekeepers are reporting that they cannot find their queen and so they give up on monitoring her. Without keeping a close eye on her performance beekeepers are unaware of the colony's brood future. Most beekeepers know what a very strong colony looks like and they know what a very weak colony looks like. But, they cannot quickly diagnosis a strong colony that is starting to show signs of failing. This can be overcome by education. New beekeepers know very little about what to do if they see a failing queen, a virgin queen or queen cells. This often results in mismanagement and failing colonies. Monitoring the queen's brood production is essential in maintain a strong colony.

Death By Neglect

We all have busy and hectic lives. Few of us stay on top of our hive issues like we should. Life happens. Beekeepers are believing questionable information from the Internet and taking it as Gospel. For example, oxalic acid is now the "new trend." Yet, you practically have to be a chemist to mix/vaporize or tribble the corrosive acid in such a way as to not burn your lungs or kill your bees. Too much and your bees are dead. Too little and your mites are unharmed. While oxalic and be effective, it does not kill mites in the capped cells. Female mites that are being produced in your hive in September and October will live through the winter, living as long as 5 months. The winter cluster provides convenient access for mites to spread viruses into February finally crashing the hive in March. In my book on "Getting Your Bees Through The Winter" I lay out a method to reduce mite loads in August and September and then raising a large population of bees with winter physiology. This eBook is available on Amazon or from our website.

To purchase this eBook on Amazon, click here.

To purchase this eBook from our website, click here.

About four years ago I couldn't believe my eyes. I had very healthy and strong colonies but August and September resulted in these colonies starving from a lack of protein. Upon inspecting my hive, they had plenty of honey but young larvae was not being fed royal jelly or worker jelly. That's because young bees were under protein stress. Slapping pollen patties between deeps wasn't working and presented me with several challenges. I needed to find a way to rapidly feed 2:1 and 1:1 at the same time as I gave my colonies pollen patties. That's when I created theThe Burns' Bees Feeding System. 
Burns Bees Feeding SystemThis time of the year, many beekeepers fail to give enough food to the hive for maximum brood build up. Our feeding system places the food strategically over the brood nest area, keeping food where bees can always access it even on cold nights. August - October usually turns out to be a pollen and nectar dearth. Make sure your bees do not eat all their winter stores by November.  Feed you bees.

We'd Like To Feature You On Our Videos
You can have your moment in fame. Please make a small video and send it to us. We want to place these at the beginning of the "60 Second Beekeeper." Simply show yourself in your bee suit or by your hives and say, "Hi, I'm (Name) in (State) and here's the 60 Second Beekeeper in 3, 2, 1."  When using your cell phone make sure the phone is sideways. Email us the video and we'll plug you in to our new series. Send it to: beekeeper.burns@gmail.com


Don't let your bees starve this winter. Try our Winter-Bee-Kind winter feeding board. It contains carbohydrates, proteins, insulation and ventilation. The upper slot gives your bees the opportunity to take cleansing flights at much lower temperatures. Click here for more information. 

60 Second Beekeeper

I've started a new series of videos call the "60 Second Beekeeper." I address important beekeeping topics in 60 seconds. I'm creating episodes that you can watch when you are in a hurry, yet still get the insights you need to know what to do with your hive.

We now have over 8,000 subscribers and we hope to reach 10,000 by the end of September. Please visit our YouTube channel and subscribe. 

To make it easy for you, just click here to go to our channel now.

Once we make it to 10,000 with your help YouTube will open up additional opportunities affording us to make better videos! Thank you in advance.  Tell your friends and family to subscribe.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Why Are There So Many Queen Issues?

Why do so many hives have queen issues? Hi, we are David and Sheri Burns. I'm an EAS Certified Master Beekeeper and I spend my days and sometimes nights doing nothing but bee stuff. I love it. Here's our daughter Karee, a few years ago, finding queens. As a family business our children have always been involved in some aspect of beekeeping. We appreciate customers who have supported our family business over a decade now. We know you can go to big box store and buy bee supplies, but we appreciate you giving us your business.

I'm worried that beekeepers are not feeding their bees enough in preparation for winter. Late summer will put most of us into a nectar dearth and bees will consume a large portion of their winter stores. Be ready to feed your bees 1:1 and 2:1 and pollen patties!!  We invented an easy way to feed your bees in the fall for winter to help prepare your hives for winter.

The Burns' Bees Feeding System.  Finally a feeding system that overcomes many of the challenges of feeding bees during late winter, spring, summer and fall. This time of the year, many beekeepers fail to keep enough food in the strategic placement within the hive for maximum brood build up. For example, when temperatures reach 50 or below in the spring, say on a cool spring night, the cluster is no longer able to eat from the entrance feeder. And with the recent studies we know that bees need protein (pollen) as much, if not more than, just sugar or sugar water. The Burns Bees Feed System places the food strategically over the brood nest area, keeping food where bees can always access it even on cold nights. What about summer dearth, that period between summer and fall nectar flows? Bees often suffer from a lack of nutrition in the summer and fall. The Burns Bees Feed System keeps both liquid and patties on the hive for maximum preparation for winter. The Burns Bees Feed System includes 2 mason jar FEED CAPS. Does not include mason jars. Use board in place of inner cover. Our new design now has both circle holes in the center rather than side by side.

My week in New Jersey at the Eastern Apicultural Society conference was great. It was so fun seeing old friends and teaching new beekeepers. 18 new Master Beekeeper candidates were taking all four tests (written, lab, field and orals) for the first time. Of those 18, 5 passed all four tests and are now new MBs.  9 candidates were taking one or more tests again attempting to pass. Of those 9, 5 passed their necessary tests and are new MBs. I enjoyed testing new candidates and observing how hard they worked and prepared for three grueling days of testing. You can click on the image to the left for a larger view. The picture shows what the field test day was like. Several certified MBs are seen testing candidates. I'm in the yellow shirt testing a candidate along with MB Alan Hayes. This candidate was nervous but she did really good.

We were busy teaching our "Getting Your Bees Ready For Winter" class on Saturdays. We have one more winter class still open for registrations:    Aug. 20th 8:30-1pm  And we have one more Beginners Class that we are offering this year on Saturday Oct. 15, 8:00-1pm. It is filling up already, so sign up soon. Click Here For More Information.

Saturday's students were treated to some of Sheri's special honey bee cupcakes. Look closely and you'll see a small bee. Sheri has enjoyed taking some specialty candy and baking classes recently and they are paying off big time for the students in our classes as she tries out her new creations! Did I tell you she is now a certified chocolatier?

Before we talk about queen issues, let me tell you about a cool video series I started called "The 60 Second Beekeeper."  Don't you hate trying to find a good video to show you how to do something? When you finally find it, it's 45 minutes long and never gets to the point. You get so lost and bored you don't even finish watching it.  Ta Da!...The 60 Second Beekeeper!

I've got a goal of making 5 videos a week! I have some online already. Check them out below:

Beekeeping Success Depends On Your Queen. How to mark your queen. (in less than 60 seconds.)

Other Videos:

When Honey Bees Do The Washboarding Thing 

Yikes! What's In My Bee Hive?

I want to thank all of our YouTube subscribers who pushed us over the 7,000 YouTube subscriber mark last night. If you can help out, forward our videos to your friends and family and beg them to subscribe!  Someone said we should make a subscriber special video for reaching 7,000. But, we are going to wait until we reach 10,000 so help us out please. Once we reach 10,000, YouTube gives us more advanced options for producing videos which benefits you. So help us reach 10,000.

If you haven't heard, our Winter-Bee-Kinds are online and selling fast. Check them out at: Winter Feeding Solutions. Our son Seth has completed his stint in the marines serving 4 years in the Mojave Desert, deploying twice to Afghanistan and Kuwait. He understands hard work! He's back on the farm today helping to build our first round of Winter-Bee-Kinds. And Seth solved a challenge we've had building the winter-bee-kinds for the last 4 years and his solution increased production time by 25%!!


Why do queens leave, die, get killed, get superseded or suddenly fail to lay eggs? Nobody really knows. At best there can be many reasons and each queen issue seldom gives any early indicators. Most of us have an awesome hive one month but the next month the colony is broodless and going downhill fast. The typical solution is to purchase a newly mated queen, but even then she is not always accepted by the colony. The longer it takes to get the hive queenright the more lethargic it becomes. After trying for months we decide to combine it with a stronger hive. So let's dissect this problem and see if we can't shed some light on it.

First, the queen is only one of 50,000+ bees. She's the only one laying fertilized eggs. Therefore, her health is more quickly noticed than any other bee. The strength of the colony is up to her. But not exactly. Sometimes, during a heavy nectar flow, colonies have been known to get rid of their queen. To make more room for honey and less brood perhaps? Who knows? Is the colony breaking their own brood cycle for better colony health. Perhaps the colony swarmed and raised a new queen. But, during the time when virgin queens were fighting it out the last two severely injured each other and they both died. Now, there's no more young larvae to raise into a queen.

Beekeepers do accidentally kill their queens by smashing her between two frames that are too tight. Some die from old age, poor health, viruses, disease and the list goes on. We want exact answers as to why our queen died. But even with humans doctors cannot always identify the exact cause of death.

We might be tempted to blame poor genetics, too many queen breeders raising queens of the same genetic pool. But recent scientific studies show that's not the case. Queens are no worse off today than they were in the 20s or 40s or 90s.

Here's why I think it's a problem. There are more hobbyists entering the arena who are inexperienced and expect everything to go without a hitch. That's never been the case in raising any animal. There will always be issues that come up. A cow got out, the milk has a bacteria, chickens have mites, and the list goes on.

Having a queenright hive is a huge challenge in late summer and fall. Be patient. We aren't sure why they are replacing a queen, or why a new one didn't take. We aren't sure why brood rearing ebbs and flows. But, be patient and see if the bees will make it right. If not, then it's up to the beekeeper to help out. But don't try and micro manage your hive. Be careful not to over analysis your bees. Learn to watch and admire you colonies. Learn to read their behavior and help where needed. There are times they need you help to get rid of mites. There are times they need water or sugar or pollen. There are times they need more room or less room.

When you have a hive that seems like they do not want a queen, be patient. Will they raise their own? If not, consider introducing a new one. If that doesn't work after several tries, wait two weeks and see if they are raising a new one and you just didn't know it. Maybe the virgin queen was out mating when you inspected the hive.

We will soon face a season where most strong nectar sources are no longer available--a dearth. Our bees will begin relying on stored food, honey and pollen in frames around the brood nest area and maybe what's in the super above, what you had been hoping to "steal" from them.

Thanks for joining us today and being patient while we've been close for vacation the last two weeks. Business as normal this week!

David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
217-427-2678 Summer Office Hours M-Th 10am -3pm