Schools and Events
This 'n That
Helpful Advice From Jerry – An Experienced Beekeeper
Posted February 14th, 2010
This cold weather will be taking a big toll on your bees so you need to be sure they have enough food "WHERE THEY CAN GET TO IT". Just having food in the hive may not be enough.
The bees have to be able to get to it. When the weather is SOooooooooo cold, the bees cannot move around to get to food. Even if you have food in the hive, you can make sure they
don't starve by putting fondant (soft candy) right on top of the cluster which most likely will be in the top box. You WON'T kill the bees by lifting up the top cover and the INNER
cover just enough to put a cake of fondant over the cluster, but you WILL KILL them if you don't and they starve to death.
Remember the queen is now (still) laying and they need LOTS of food. Most bees starve this time of year and early spring for this and other reasons, but you can prevent starvation.
Go ahead and feed fondant NOW, even in the snow. Just prop the top up (and put a cake or patty on), don't take it off and let snow cover your bees.
As soon as the weather breaks, you should put on your pollen patties or substitute. Megabee is a good substitute. If you have not treated for mites last fall then you might consider
it now, if you are going to treat. Read instructions for the treatment you intend to use. You cannot have any treatment on the hive with honey supers on and some chemicals MUST be
removed two or more weeks BEFORE you put on supers. Supers need to be put on around the 1st to the 15th of March, weather dependent. This does not leave you much time. If you wait
too late, then you will be delayed in your swarm control and honey collection. We'll touch on hive reversal and supering at the next meeting as a management tool to be sure your bees
are building up for the spring honey flow. Again, read all instructions on treatments.
I will be going to Frankfort on business before the next meeting and will pick up any items for you at Dadant's (few miles from my meeting) if you let me know. If anyone is going to
Kelly's before the next meeting, please let me (and others) know. I may want some items there. We all need to be helping each other. What comes around goes around. I don't mind
chipping in for gas in lieu of shipping costs. We all win helping.
There is an Indiana State meeting in the northeast of IN that I will be going to next weekend if anybody would like to go. There will be classes on all kinds of things. Cost is $15.00
including lunch. You can go with me if you like. Let me know in time. Good luck! Hope everyone's bees make. Jerry
Posted February 15th, 2010
Here is a recipe that you can use to make fondant candy for emergency feeding. Almost any variation of this will do and Lorie you can add any you have and pass this on to others who
may not have gotten any from before. This is for "ONE" hive so just multiply it by however many you want to feed.
2 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons corn syrup
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 1/2 cup water
Combine ingredients, heat to 245 degrees stirring most of the time, then remove from heat and let cool to about 160 degrees then stir until starts to turn white and then pour very very
quickly into shallow mold or onto a cookie sheet to form a thin later of candy that can be placed on top of the top bars of your hives. You must pour the mixture out very rapidly when
it starts turning white or it will set up in the pan in which you heated it. Also, don't over heat it (stir while heating to prevent) when you are making it or you could caramelize it
and the bees won't eat it and if they did it would not be good for them. JERRY
Posted February 18th, 2010
If temperatures get much above what they were today you might see bees out eliminating. Be sure your hive entrance is not blocked by either snow that has not melted nor dead bees
blocking the entrance. If the bees can't get out they will die at the entrance. Everybody should have an upper entrance anyway and be sure it is open also. The upper entrance
severs two purposes, to allow ventilation to prevent moisture and for an upper entrance if the lower one does get blocked. If you do not have an upper entrance on your hives, go
do it NOW! Just put a stick or small wedge under the corner of your inner cover, preferably the corner opposite the direction the wind would be blowing against your hives. You do
not want cold air blowing directly into your hive. You should also have some insulating material between you inner cover and outer cover to prevent condensation from forming on
the under side of both your outer cover and your inner cover. I hope everyone has already done this, RIGHT - YOU DID!!! Last fall,huh! Now you know if you didn't. NOW is the time
to get it done as wet, damp and cold weather CAN and WILL cause you problems and we could have more bad weather before sunny spring days. JERRY
Posted February 20th, 2010
As far as insulating the top of your hives from the cold to prevent condensation, almost anything will do that does what we want it too. What you are trying to do is keep water or
heavy condensation from dripping on top of your bee cluster. They can take the cold air temperatures if it is not too drafty, which is the reason you also use wind breaks, but they
can't survive the cold if they are soaking wet. What you want is insulation BETWEEN the inner cover and the outer (or top) cover. Just the simple act of slapping a full size issue
of the "wall street" journal on top of the inner cover will do. Or you can use a piece of "blue" or "pink" styrofoam insulation. Any size will do if it stops the condensation.
One-half to 1" will work OK in most cases. Straw works good. Just don't use something that will conduct the cold rather than block it. Remember you are trying to stop the moisture
from transferring downward. Don't use any material that will be in such a form that small fibers or the like will fall down through the inner cover hole and get onto your bees.
Also be sure that you have some opening at the very top of your top hive box to allow for ventilation to prevent buildup of condensation on the underside of your inner cover.
A simple small stick under the corner of the inner cover, between the hive box and the inner cover will do. Just be sure you put it on the corner opposite the direction of wind flow
to prevent a wind draft in the hive. If you have holes drilled in your top hive body box as some do, then this will usually be OK also. You are covering up the hole in the inner
cover with your insulating material so you need the propped up corner or hive vent hole. If you don't like any of these ideas, then you can use the hole in the inner cover as your
vent hole ONLY if you prop the insulated top cover up enough to allow air to escape from the inside of the hive. But don't cause a draft. A small stick/wedge under the inner cover
works well and is simple. JERRY
Posted February 22th, 2010
I received a couple of e-mails with some questions that were a little different than norm. First was about a woodpecker who had pecked his/her way into the front of a hive and
managed a large enough hole to get inside and "gobble" up the bees. Huh!! Tough bird! There are all kind of hungry creatures out there, 12 or so days of snow and bitter cold
probably left a lot of critters fasting. They are looking for food and for some, bees look good enough. Some creatures are like some beekeepers, what's a sting compared to a
meal of honey (or brood)? Anyway, they wanted to know what to do or how to prevent it from happening to the rest of their hives. Good interesting question.
Next I received one about a hive sitting up off the ground and a "critter" of some kind managed to pull the screen from a screened bottom board out the bottom and get up inside
and have it's lunch. Keeping bees is far more exciting than most of you probable ever thought about, right? Another tough critter. Well as I said, where there is a meal - someone
will eat it. Oh! What do do? Skunks will scratch on the front of your hives to draw bees out. Once on the landing board the skunk will grab them and you guessed it - eat them.
You can tell by the ground in front of the hive. First the grass or dirt will be patted down or shuffled around. Next you will notice wads of dead bees stuck together that are
on the ground where the skunk "spit" a wad of them out. The skunk sucks the juices out of the bees and spits out the rest. Sometimes the skunks will also eliminate there and you
may find the remains of their feces. Skunks may be able to pull out a screen bottom but more than likely not. Skunks don't like to expose their undersides, which is soft, to the bees.
They can take a hundred stings to their tongue and face but not to their tender underside. For this reason as well as they are not that strong, a skunk probably did not pull out the
screen. WHO DID??? Raccoons are much stronger than skunks along with being more rambunctious. Raccoons will tear up a hive if they can do it. A pretty hungry coon will attempt
almost anything. Coons will knock tops off if they can get high enough and the top is not weighted down sufficiently. Coons will get inside anyway they can when they are hungry.
They can be like a bear but not as strong. A bear will make kindling where a coon will usually only knock things off or over. A coon does not like stings so an angry swarm of bees
can fix the problem. But when the weather is soooooooo cold and the bees can't move, the coon is free to work and do it's damage. Other critters, other than bears don't seem to be
a big problem. There are several ways you can prevent critters from messing with your hives. Even ants, roaches and spiders are a nuisance but most don't damage a hive and they can
be dealt with also. As far as skunks and raccoons, Putting some boards with carpet tack strips nailed to them and placed under and/or around the hives can send them to your neighbors
for dinner. If you are afraid of stepping on them while working your hives then you can use other deterrents such as putting a screen made out of 1/2", 3/4" or 1" hardware cloth or
chicken fence wire over the front of the entrance and landing board and wrapping it a little around the sides. Any approach like this will work. This will also keep the wood and other
"peckers" away. To protect the underside of the hive you could use the boards with carpet tack strips or put a few strips of 1/2" to 1" wide metal bars (available at Lowe's, Home
Dep. or hardware stores) across the bottom spaced apart so you don't defeat the open screened bottom board affect but enough to keep greedy paws out. Expanded metal screening can
also work. Screen or wood lattice sides around your hive stands to keep critters from crawling under will work, just be sure it is fixed good. Hope you get the idea. Come up with
your own solutions and share with all of us. We'll save other things for a regular meeting this summer or in one of my NEXT ISSUE newsletters. Jerry
Posted February 24th, 2010
I'm getting reports about hive losses and dead bees. Don't automatically think that they died by starvation, especially if they died on a frame of honey or right next to one. When
bees die of starvation they usually die with their heads down in the cells but this is not always the indication of why they died.
First, there has to be a critical mass or a certain number of bees in the winter cluster to maintain the heat for the cluster. If you do not have enough bees in your cluster then
they will die simply because they can not function nor move to utilize the food stores available. The colder the temperature, the more bees necessary to keep the temperature up.
During the winter the bees only keep the inside of the cluster warm and not the whole hive. Outside bees rotate with the inside bees so that they can all share in the warmth and food stores.
They only keep the temperature around 50 degrees or so when the queen is not laying. Once the queen starts laying, around the middle of January or so then the bees have to raise the inside
of the cluster temperature to around 92 degrees for the brood to develop.
The queen, once laying will continue to lay more and more eggs each day as the weather warms up. This puts a very high demand on food stores. The bees have to eat enough now to both feed
the developing brood and increase their own metabolism. As the temperature drops the cluster draws in closer or tighter, but in order for the bees to move around to feed the young they
need a loose cluster. In order to loosen up the cluster to allow movement inside, the bees need mega-tons of food. They require food to metabolize and raise their body temperatures,
thus raise the cluster temperature.
This is why bees who die of starvation don't die in the winter but in very very late winter or early spring. The higher requirements for food at this time is the reason for starvation
if in fact that was the cause.
However, if they died on a frame of honey or right next to food then this IS PROBABLY NOT the reason they died. You need to look at other causes.
There could be any number of causes, maybe only one or a combination. First, what was your varroa count going into winter? You checked, correct? I thought so. Those of you who had high
counts took care of the problem with timely treatments too, didn't you?
For those of you who didn't bother or would just like to know now, can check. Maybe it is tooooooo late for some but the rest of you take heed. If your bees are dead in the frame or
frames, bring them inside on the kitchen table (only if your wife is not behind you with a baseball bat, for wives - you decide where)and place them over a sheet of newspaper or a
white sheet is better. Then take a pair of tweezers and carefully pull the bees out of the comb. Try not to tear them apart if possible. Once you have them out, shake the frame over
the paper with the open side (where you just removed the bees) down. Now rummage through the mess on the paper and look for tiny reddish brown mites about the size of a pen head.
Got a few? Could be your problem, died by varroa mites. Got a bunch, Now your positive of the cause of death.
For those of you with some live bees left take heed of the prior letters about feeding and do these tests. Take your bottom board inserts and grease them up. Put them in under
your screen bottom boards, which all of you use - correct? If you already left them in all winter which you did not need to do and should be removing them by now if you did,
take them out and clean them up and do the above.
Now go back in about a week and pull the board out and check it for mites, same as above. There is not much brood now so you do not need to do it in 24 hours. If you have a lot of
mites then you need to treat. Too cold to treat? NO!! This is getting to be a tome now so I'll cover that in another letter or ask me at the meetings.
Without getting to much more lengthy, take a look at the dead bees from your hives. Are they misshaped in any way, deformed wings, K-winded. Black all over or much more than
normal? How about slick bodies with no hair on them? All these are signs of other problems, but I can't write a book on pests and diseases here although I almost have. NOTE:
I'll have to copy right this for a book, YA!!
One other thing and I'll quit for now, more later if you like and I'm not boring you with details. Take you tweezers and a DEAD bee (bee sure). Hold it in one hand by your
pinkies around its thorax and with your tweezers in your other hand (obvious) grab the LAST abdominal segment and very very carefully pull straight out. You should have pulled
out all of the midgut or intestines if you did it carefully. If not try again and do this on several bees. What did you see? A mess? Ya, not too pretty but informative.
If you saw a black or extremely dark brown midgut then your bee was probably normal. Just full of you know what. It would be extremely dark if your bees were not able to get
out to DUMP. A little lighter if they had gone out for their first sun tan of the season. If however their midgut was light or whitish and swollen like a balloon you may have
nosema in your hive. You need a microscope to tell which kind. Since you treated your bees with Fumidil last fall as recommended by the task force on CCD, I'm sure none of you
had this problem but I just wanted to take this extra space to show you a quick test - NOTE: not a Quick Fix!! These are just a few checks. Maybe we will cover more later. Jerry