Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Varroa Mites: Lesson 163 217-427-2678

DSWe all know that if you don’t see any mites, then you don’t have any right? WRONG! If you don’t see any varroa mites, it either means you need to visit your eye doctor or you do not know how to really find them.

Hello, and welcome to another beekeeping lesson from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We are David and Sheri Burns and we are here to help beekeepers become more successful. And we are also passionate about helping more people become new beekeepers. We need our honey bees to pollinate our fruits and vegetables and we need skilled and educated beekeepers to help make that happen. So thanks for joining us.

Winter Class Our weekend was extremely busy and great. Saturday we taught on “Getting Bees Through The Winter” and then we had the same class with different students on Sunday. We had students from Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Indiana, Michigan, Iowa and Ohio. This class will be held again on Oct. 5th, but it has filled up too, so now we are opening up another class on Monday Oct. 6th from 9am-3pm. For those of you who work weekends, now you can join us for a class on Monday. Or just take the day off from work and come learn some awesome ideas about getting bees through the winter. Click here for more information on the Oct. 6th class or go to:

One of the featured field events of our weekend beekeeping classes was to sample hives for varroa mites. It is paramount that all beekeepers take mite samples now while there is still time to do something. Most beekeepers have heard about sticky boards, and checking how many mites are on drone pupae. I’d like to share a simple way to assess your mite load. As I demonstrated to the class in the bee yard, I was pleasantly surprised how many of them commented on how easy it was and how they were looking forward to going home and testing their hives. I do realize that reading the description here is not as good as watching it demonstrated in class, but I’ll describe it in detail so you can start looking and evaluating your mite loads.


Why bother counting your mite load?  If you have a lots of mites it is unlikely that your hive will NOT survive the winter of 2014-2015. Mites parasitize bees and spread viruses which can cut the individual bee’s life in half. So, a bee born in October can make it through the winter into March if it is healthy. But, if it has been bitten by mites and contracted a virus, it may only live into January. 

Varroa Mite You might think that since you cannot see mites on your bees you do not have mites. I have people tell me they’ve never seen their queen either. If you can’t find your queen, you will not find mites either, but they are there! Mites are small but you can see them if you know where to look. They hide on the backs of bees in the first abdominal segment of the honey bee. It can be hard to see what is hiding. DO NOT ASSUME YOU DO NOT HAVE MITES SIMPLY BECAUSE YOU HAVE NOT SEEN ANY.

If you have a hive, you have varroa mites! I strongly believe it is the viruses which are weakening the colony’s health and causing overwintering deaths. The only way to limit viruses is to kill mites that are vectoring these viruses.  It is unfair for any beekeeper to blame chemicals and chemical companies without first monitoring their mite loads.

3 Mites Now that we are at the end of summer and entering fall mites are rapidly increasing. To survive a long cold winter beekeepers need lots and lots of brood now. But if this brood is parasitized by mites, the bees will not make it to spring. Do not trust a visual inspection of bees on comb to assess your mite loads. Here’s what I recommend to determine the percentage of mites in a hive. My personal level is not to exceed 3%, or 3 mites per 100 bees tested. 

Materials Needed

1.  A quart jar for canning, with the ring and separate lid which the ring holds securely. Disregard the lid but keep the ring. Now in place of the ring you’ll need to cut a piece of 1/8” hardware screen. It is small enough to keep bees in, but large enough to let mites pass through.

2.  Two tablespoons of powdered sugar

3.  A piece of cardboard or metal shaped like an L

4.  A measuring cup

5.  A plain white paper plate

Steps To Test For Mites

1.  Place two tablespoons of powdered sugar into your canning jar and keep the lid off.

2.  Open your hive and pull out a frame of bees.

3.  Shake the bees on your cardboard or bent metal so the bees land in the inside of the L shape piece. This will help them slide into your measuring cup.

4.  Pour bees into the measuring cup up to 1/2 cup which is approximately 400 bees. You may have to pour a little above the 1/2 cup mark as some may fly out while pouring them into the canning jar with the screen lid.

5.  Pour bees from the measuring cup into the canning jar and place the screen lid on securely.

6.  Dump excess bees from your L shape board back into the hive.You have to keep mite levels down. I hope you will embrace a 3-5% maximum tolerance for mites.

For the rest of the 14 steps to test for mites, visit my website: and go down to #24 on the front main home page.

Join me Monday Oct. 6th “Getting Bees Through The Winter” class and we’ll demonstrate mite counts and much, much more. Click now to register.

a1545 TIP OF THE MONTH:  The next few weeks are the most critical time to increase food stores for the bees to make it through the winter. I am finding wonderful success in our new Burns Bees Feeding System. It allows the beekeeper to feed syrup from the top of the hive, preventing robbing and allowing the bees to still eat during cold fall nights. Plus it provides special screened areas to feed our pollen/sugar patties without smashing bees between deep bodies. Watch our new video on this feeding system.

See you next time!

David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

M-Thu  10am – 4pm central time
Fri  10am – Noon

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Honey Bees Deserve Knowledgeable Beekeepers 217-427-2678

beeflyingHoney bees need our help. One way we as beekeepers can help is to know as much as we can about managing honey bees. Hi, we are David and Sheri Burns from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in central Illinois. Beekeeping is awesome! It’s just a hoot. Not only are honey bees essential for the pollination of our fruits and vegetables, but the agricultural benefit of honey bees tops 9 billion a year. In other words, it would cost the United States 9 billion a year to do the work bees do to help us produce food.

While it is true that honey bees have more challenges today, it is not a time to abandon beekeeping. In fact, just the opposite. We need more and more people to start keeping honey bees so that we can restore the population of honey bees needed to support our food supply.

Honey bees deserve knowledgeable beekeepers. Some people don’t keep bees, they just have bees. They are called bee-havers, not beekeepers.  Keeping bees today is rewarding, enjoyable and beneficial. But it does require more knowledge and management skills than it did 30 years ago. That’s why we offer our Basic Beekeeping classes to all new beekeepers. We still have several openings for our October 25th Basic Beekeeping course.

How much do you know about honey bees? The more you know, the better you can care for your bees. I decided it would be fun, educational and revealing to offer a test on honey bees and beekeeping. Take the test and see how much you know. The answers to the questions are located on our website at: on the front page under number 21.  Looking at the answers will help you know more about the honey bee and beekeeping. Ready? Here’s 20 questions and good luck.

1. Over time, with continuous use, the diameter of brood cells become larger in size.   a.   True     b.  False

2. Canola honey crystallizes soon after being extracted.     a.  True   b.  False

3. Oxalic acid, used as a mite treatment, is legal in the United States.  a.  True    b.  False

4.  Mature small hive beetles, when fed well, are able to live:   a.  1 month   b.  3 months  c.  6 months   d.  9 months

5.  Beeswax melts at:   a. 120 (f)   b.  132 (f)   c. 145 (f)  d. 170 (f)

6.  The waggle dance in a colony is used to direct other bees to resources that are located in distances greater than _____ meters from the hive.   a.  25   b.  50.   c.  100   d.  200

7.  Honey is 1 to 1.5 times sweeter than sugar?   a.   True   b.  False

8.  A colony preparing to swarm will reduce foraging _____ weeks prior to swarming.  a.  1 week   b.  2 weeks   c.  3 weeks

9.  Dark colored honey is generally higher in antioxidants and minerals than light colored honey.  a.  True   b.  False

10. In a healthy hive the following ration exists:  1 egg to 3 larvae to 6 worker pupae   a.   True     b.   False

11. When entering your honey in a honey show at what moisture level will it be disqualified?  a. 18.5    b.   18.6    c. 19    d.  19.6

12.  To determine whether to fertilize an egg or not, a  queen measures the size of a cell (drone or worker) with her:   a.  Antennae   b.  compound eyes   c.  Front legs

13.  As a virgin queen ages in the hive, the workers become increasingly more aggressive towards her.  a.  True   b.  False

14.  In the winter, a colony begins brood production before there is anything to go out and forage for.  a.  True   b.   False

15.  Varroa mites prefer to reproduce in old brood comb rather than new brood comb.  a.  True   b.   False

16.  How many subspecies of Apis mellifera ( European Honey Bees) are there in the world?  a.  16   b.  23   c.  26.   42

17.  It is easier to introduce a new queen during a nectar dearth than during a heavy nectar flow.  a.   True   b.   False

18.  European foulbrood spores remain viable in brood combs for many years.   a.  True   b.   False

19.  In a healthy colony about _____ of the total comb is drone comb.  a.  10%   b.  3-7%   c.  13-17%  d.  21%

20.  A worker honey bee has  ______ ovarioles in the ovaries.   a.  none    b.  2-12   c.  28-50   d.  100-115

The answers to the above questions are located on our website at: on the front page number 21.  Looking at the answers will help you know more about the honey bee and beekeeping.

burnsfeed Before I go, let me issue a warning that now is a VERY CRITICAL time to prepare your bees for winter. There is still time to deal with mites. There is still time to feed your bees.  If you are planning on doing nothing there is a good chance your bees will not survive winter. Our Burns Bees Feeding System is a great way to build up your colony for winter. My daughters, Karee and Jennifer make the protein/sugar patties and the bees absolutely love these!  You can purchase extra patties, because if your bees are like mine right now, they are very much in need of food. Our Burns Bees Feeding System allows you to feed your bees both patties and 2:1 sugar water. The lid is provided with the holes already punched. I’ve noticed it in some of my hives and other beekeepers are reporting that now bees are rapidly consuming their stored resources. Feed Your Bees!!

WBK2014 Look at this Winter-Bee-Kind test we ran last week to test our mixture. Wow!  Bees are loving it. We continue to receive calls daily from new customers and beekeepers re-ordering more of our Winter-Bee-Kind candy boards. These provide upper insulation, ventilation and the important upper exit and entrance.  For several years we have sold these and the impact these have on helping bees not starve in the winter is awesome. Click here to watch our video on how they work.

We look forward to hearing from you. Give us a call with all your beekeeping needs. Monday – Thursday 10am-4pm and on Friday 10am – Noon. 217-427-2678.

See you next time,

David & Sheri Burns

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Honey Bees Are Telling Us Now What They Need To Survive The Winter 217-427-2678


I know ragweed has a bad reputation, but I like it. Or should I say my bees like it. Every morning they head out and pack in the pollen. The dust (pollen) from ragweed just falls from the flowers as the bees fly about it.

Hi, we are David and Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, and we want to thank you for joining us for another beekeeping lesson/article/blog, whatever you want to call it.

Popup thunderstorms have been the name of the game for the last two weeks. Hot and humid weather has put an end to our bees foraging for nectar. Now, they have only be gathering water to keep the hive cool. They deposit the droplets of water on the shallow parts of the brood comb and then fan it. This is called evaporative cooling. Around noon today it was so hot! I observed one hive in direct sunlight and the bees were pulling air through it as fast as they could. There was no wind and the sun was beating down on the hive; plus it was humid.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been pouring over studies, research, and scientific articles putting he final touches on our new class, “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter.”  I am PUMPED about teaching this class. Man, I cannot wait!  I’m two weeks full of awesome findings and now I can’t wait for winter to try and weaken my hives. Bring it on winter. We still have 8 seats left in our Oct. 5th class. Click here for more information. And we’ve been putting together more and more YouTube Beekeeping videos that we should be posting before long.

We still have a few spots left in our Basic Beekeeping Class on Oct. 25th. Click here for more info.

HiveTalk Our next Hive Talk will be August 28 (Wednesday) at 10 a.m. central time. We’ll be talking about honey. Join us and ask questions live on air or just listen in. The number to call is:


When you call in you'll be asked to enter our SHOW ID which is: 129777 followed by the # sign. Then the automated system will ask you for your Pin number which is 1 followed by the # sign. At that point, you'll be on the show with us so you can ask your questions. You will be muted unless you press * 8 on your phone and that will allow us to unmute you so you can ask your question. Call in around 10 minutes prior to broadcast, at 9:50 a.m. central time.  If you want to just listen from your computer, go to:

LESSON: 163 Honey Bees Are Telling Us Now What They Need To Survive The Winter

Today, I want to warn you that your bees are telling you NOW if they will survive the winter. All signs are visible. All surveys and polls are in. You can find out this week how well your bees will do this winter, and prognosticators are calling for another cold and long winter (Farmer’s Almanac). 

Here in Illinois we hit our summer dearth a week or so ago. There is now minimal foraging compared to a month ago. The honey flow is over. In fact, the bees are acting very hungry. The golden rod is starting to bloom, but I have not seen any bees on my .5 acre plot of golden rod. Maybe they have a bigger and better patch they are going to.

I will go over this more in our upcoming “Get Your Bees Through The Winter” class, but right now the colony must raise a lot of brood between now and December. The eggs being laid over the next few weeks will be the bees that will overwinter the colony. BUT, for there to be good brood production now, the hive must have a surplus of nectar and pollen coming in the front door. I’m not going to wait and gamble on a golden rod and aster flow. I am going to stimulate brood rearing starting tomorrow by feeding my bees 2:1 sugar water and my own sugar/pollen patties. Do not use the entrance feeder now or in the fall. That’s only for spring. If you use it now you will likely cause your hive to be robbed by another hive.  It’s time to break out the big guns and bulk up the colonies for winter. 

You may not think so, and you may prefer to wait to see how things go, but here in Illinois our first frost usually hits the end of September or the first of October. That means the bees only have 4 weeks tops to do much. I’ve gambled before on fall nectar flows and lost.

I’m bringing out the big guns and I want to share with you three things my bees are telling me now about winter. It’s all located on my website, and you’ll find it as #12 in my list of important beekeeping information on my main page. It’s your choice. You can ignore these early warning signs, but if you do, it will be a miracle if your bees survive the winter.

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

Mon-Thur  10am-4pm central time
Fri- 10-Noon

Call us today: 217-427-2678

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

LESSON 162: Coating The Inside Of Hives With Propolis 217-427-2678


Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we are David and Sheri Burns. We are located in east central Illinois. With a passion for beekeeping, we’ve dedicated a big part of our lives to promote beekeeping.

In December 2011 I wrote a lesson/article on propolis and in that lesson I said, “Many people are now recommending that we score or scratch the smooth surfaces of the insides of our hives, forcing the bees to add propolis as they would in a natural hive in a tree.” Since that time I have been evaluating more and more studies and the results are very promising. So today I want to share why coating the inside of a hive with propolis can make a difference and I’ll show you how to do it. Before I get into today’s lesson, here’s a few pre-lesson comments.

In 2010 I became a certified master beekeeper to insure our classes are accurate, informative and thorough. One such class is a new class we are offering this year, “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter.”  Our first class, coming up on Sept 6th,  quickly filled up. Then we offered the same class for Sept. 7th and that class quickly filled up. So now we are offering yet a third date for this upcoming class, “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter” on Sunday Oct. 5th from Noon-6pm. Click here to sign up now. It is a good feeling to come out of winter with strong colonies. Beekeepers are making many mistakes that can lead to colonies dying in the winter. In this one day class we’ll discuss the major causes for winter die-outs and what steps beekeepers can take to give their colonies a better chance to survive winter. Don’t wait until the first frost to get your hive ready for winter. Start now because the first day of winter is only 122 days away. Make an investment to be a better beekeeper.

Our Winter-Bee-Kind orders are pouring in! If you have not placed your order yet, please do so soon. We sell both 10 frame and 8 frame WBK, so be sure to order the correct size.  Click here for more information. Our video demonstrating our Winter-Bee-Kind has had nearly 9,000 views! Check it out below. If you cannot view it below go to:

We started harvesting honey from our hives this week and it was a great honey year. It’s always so rewarding to watch the honey pour out of the extractor. We have the footage, and will soon put together a video on how to extract honey. We’re also making a video for a step by step guide on how to break the queen’s brood cycle in order to help control varroa mites. We just completed footage and that video will be forthcoming soon.

Our recent video and experiment on adding additional wax to plastic foundation generated nearly 1,000 views in a week. I received a lot of emails asking for specifics, so I made another video on specifically how I add wax to frames. You can view it now by clicking here or go to:

LESSON 162: Coating The Inside Of Hives With Propolis

Propolis is more than just sticky stuff on frames. Actually more and more studies are showing that colonies with ample amounts of propolis do better by benefiting the bees immune defensive (Simone-Finstrom, et al, 2009). So the idea is to add something to the walls of the hive in order for the bees to coat them with propolis, like they do in a tree in nature. There are several ways to accomplish this:

1) Cut to size a plastic proplis trap screen and staple it onto the inside walls of your hives.

propolis162 2) Gather and save propolis and dilute it in alcohol then brush it on the inside walls of your hives. Ok! I’ll make a video of this too :) Meanwhile, I have posted a complete description on my website on how to do this, step by step. Visit for complete details. It is located as item number 39 on our main front page if you scroll down. This method has proven to be more controllable for me. It really isn’t hard to do. The first method may take more time for the bees to actually add propolis to the traps. This second method works great. I’m so impressed. Check out my website for the complete method.



Prop2 3)  Score or scratch the inside walls of your hive bodies causing the bees to add propolis to smooth it out. Notice what the bees have done to this rough area near a knot on the inside of the hive. The scoring does not have to be very excessive as shown in this photo.

It seems that bees will more readily forage for propolis during a dearth or a slow nectar flow period. So now would be the time to use a trap to gather propolis or staple traps or scratch the inside walls of your hive.

It is important to view propolis as part of the colony’s immune system. Last year Renata Borba , Entomology, University of Minnesota, St Paul, MN, spoke at the Entomological Society of America (November 2013) about this very subject. She’s been doing a lot of work on this very subject. She basically discovered that bees in hives with propolis treatments did not have to use their immune systems as much. Also her study found that colonies with more propolis had significantly more brood.

Marla Spivak, PhD, wrote an article on the value of adding propolis to hives and refers to the work of one of her previous graduate students, Mike Simone-Finstrom, “He found that bees exposed to a propolis envelope for just seven days had lower bacterial
loads in and on their bodies, and had ‘quieter’ immune systems compared with bees in a colony with no propolis envelope. In other words, the propolis in the colony was killing off microbes in the nest, so that the bees’ immune systems did not have to gear up and make peptides and cellular responses that fight off infection.”

In a day when everything seems to be working against the bees, why not throw one more thing in their favor.

Here’s my first lesson on propolis:  Or go to: 

Thanks for joining us for another beekeeping lesson. Tell your friends about us. See you next time.

David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
217-427-2678  M-Thu 10am-4pm CDT, Fri  10am-Noon

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

LESSON 161: Part 2 Adding Wax To Frames To Speed Up Drawing Out Plastic Foundation


Welcome from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms and

We just celebrated another wedding as our middle son, Seth married Leah on Saturday. I drove up to O’Hare in Chicago Saturday and picked up Seth at 6 a.m. It was a great wedding and now Leah and Seth are at Twenty-nine Palms, Ca. living in their home off base. Congratulations!


Beginners Class Saturday Oct 4 9am-3pm

Beginners Class Oct 25 Saturday 9am-3pm

Sept 7 “Getting Bees Through The Winter” Sunday Noon-6pm

June 12-14 “Annual Beekeeping Institute”

Taking a class is paramount in being successful at keeping bees. Come and enjoy a day with us. We always enjoy meeting beekeepers from around the US who take our classes. Winter is fast approaching so start thinking now about preparing for winter.

LESSON 161: Part 2 Adding Wax To Frames To Speed Up Drawing Out Plastic Foundation

wax test In my last lesson I demonstrated how to add extra wax to beeswax coated plastic foundation. I showed a picture of the shallow super I used for my experiment. After 7 days, it is now time for the results.

The results were amazingly impressive! The frames with extra wax were pulled out completely and filled with nectar and some were starting to be capped over in just 7 days!

I discovered that it did not help to over do it with excessive wax. The frames with excessive amounts of wax added were no different than ones with a small amount added. Both were pulled out the same.

The challenge is that most new beekeepers do not have extra wax. There is no need to worry. The wax that comes already on the frames is more than enough to get things started, especially in the brood nest area. However, if you are wanting honey in a hurry, it does pay to add a thin layer of wax to the honey super foundation.

I had one frame that I experimented with where I stapled in a 1” strip of worker plastic foundation. The bees added drone size comb below it and filled it with nectar since my bees are no longer raising drones this late in the year.To see the results of my experiment, watch the video below or go to: 


propolis162 The experiment I’m conducting now is to measure the health of a hive by coating the inside walls of the brood nest area with a thin coating of prepared propolis. I’m preparing my propolis now by making up my solution over the next two weeks. I’m making a propolis tincture by letting it “dissolve” in 190 Proof Grain Alcohol. 

Thanks for joining us again! Please visit our website at: as we have lots of supplies and we make our own beekeeping woodenware just for you!

And our Winter-Bee-Kinds orders have been phenomenal. Order now as orders will be shipped in the order in which they are received starting in Oct. Also, we appreciate word of mouth promotion of our Winter-Bee-Kinds as well.

David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Hours Mon- Thu  10am-4pm
Fri 10am-Noon
Sat by appointment

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

LESSON 160: Adding Wax To Frames To Speed Up Drawn Comb

(This entry is time sensitive, meaning  prices and items are subject to change. Visit our website for current items and prices:

MB Pin I want to share today about adding wax to foundation to help the bees draw the comb out faster. But before I do, let me tell you about the great time I had at the Eastern Apicultural Society in Richmond, Kentucky. The pin pictured here is what is awarded to those who pass the four tests to become a master beekeeper. The master beekeeper certification runs parallel with the EAS conference. 

Dr. Dewey Caron serves as the advisor to the MB program. Dr. Caron is the author of, Honey Bee Biology and Beekeeping. 7 more master beekeepers were certified and earned their MB pins. New bee research findings were revealed and the workshops were great. The best part for me is hanging out with people in the halls or at supper and talking bees.


Here I am (yellow shirt) field testing master beekeeper applicant Andrew Joseph, Iowa state bee inspector at the Eastern Apicultural Society conference. Andrew is now a newly certified EAS Master Beekeeper, along with 6 others tested this year. Congratulations to all! To find out more about becoming a master beekeeper go to:

Andrew was the first person I’ve ever tested who scored a 100 on the field test. It was a pleasure watching Andrew demonstrate a hive inspection. The master beekeeper certification consists of 4 areas of testing: Field, Lab, Written and Orals. This year the oral panel that I served on tested Louie from France. I was really impressed with his mastery of the English language in his short time in the US.

All the applicants were enjoyable to meet and talk with. It is encouraging to see so many people wanting to know as much as possible about keeping bees.


winterbeekindclick Our Winter-Bee-Kind winter feeding system is on sale now. Orders will start shipping in Oct once the weather becomes cooler. Orders will be shipped in the order they were received. We usually have several hundred orders placed prior to our shipping date, so order soon! We have a video online that you can view prior to purchase. Just click here. We sell both 10 frame and 8 frame Winter-Bee-Kinds, so BE SURE you are clicking on the correct size when you order. If you’ve never heard about this item it is a candy board with sugar and pollen substitute. It also has a 1” insulation for the top of your hive as well as an entrance/exit to help with winter condensation.


We almost post something daily on our Facebook page. Go to: and Like Us while you are there please and thank you.

My good friend Jon Zawislak and I produced another HiveTalk episode when we were at EAS. Take a listen as our guests were: Dr. Jeff Harris, Dr. Dianna Sammataro, Kent Williams, Steve Repasky, Erin MacGegor-Forbes, and Karessa Torgerson. Go to:

HiveTalk Our next Hive Talk will be August 28 at 10 a.m. central time. Join us and ask questions live on air or just listen in. The number to call is: 1-724-444-7444. When you call in you'll be asked to enter our SHOW ID which is: 129777 followed by the # sign. Then the automated system will ask you for your Pin number which is 1 followed by the # sign. At that point, you'll be on the show with us so you can ask your questions. You will be muted unless you press * 8 on your phone and that will allow us to unmute you so you can ask your question. Call in around 10 minutes prior to broadcast, at 9:50 a.m. central time.  If you want to just listen from your computer, go to:

NEW CLASS:  A Better Way To Get Your Bees Through The Winter

And while we are talking about winter survival of bees, why not take our over wintering class. Sunday Sept. 7th Noon-6pm. Get Your Bees Through The Winter Class.  The winter of 2013-2014 was very hard on colony survival and it was hard on beekeepers. Maybe you lost your hive last winter. It can be confusing trying to figure out why your bees died. They may have had plenty of stored honey and still died. Maybe they had a great queen and were very populated but still died. Join certified master beekeeper, David Burns, for an extensive 6 hour course on common reasons why bees die in the winter and what you can do to improve your bee's chances of survival. This class will cover topics such as: fall preparation, mouse protection, mite reduction, wind blocks, wrapping hives, heating lights, winter feeding, insulation, moving hives into buildings or shelters, the biology of fat bodies, the timing of a new fall queen, pros and cons of double walled hives, dynamics of both Langstroth and top bar hives in the winter, the winter cluster and more. Sunday Sept. 7th  2014  Noon-6pm. An email will be sent to all registered students with hotel information, directions and other important information. Click here for additional information. Our Sat. class filled up and we are offering this Sunday class, but only a few seats are still available.

LESSON 160: Adding Wax To Frames To Speed Up Drawing Out Comb

We are in that time of year when we want every last drop of nectar bees can carry in. But, this means we need supers on the hive with drawn comb. Beekeepers around the country are buying up supers like a gold rush in order to capture the honey stores for this summer.

Waxtest If the colony does not have drawn comb nectar gathering can be lost, and no honey harvested. Here’s what I do to help speed up my bees to draw out the comb. I clean my wax cappings gathered from when I harvested my honey supers. I melt it in a skillet, then I brush the wax on to my plastic foundation. It comes with wax, and usually that is fine. But to give my bees an extra edge it doesn’t hurt to add some wax if you have it.

When you add additional wax to plastic foundation it can greatly increase the chances that the bees will draw out the comb faster. They will use the extra wax you’ve given them along with making more of their own and drawing out the combs for faster use.

By using your own wax, you know the quality of your wax. Be careful not to brush on the wax if it is very hot or it will warp the plastic. Let the wax cool enough to where it is thicker and cooler.

If you do not want to heat your extra wax cappings you can ball it up and then rub it into the plastic foundation. As you rub the wax into the foundation small amounts will catch and adhere to the cells.

wax test There are several ways to place wax on plastic foundation and you can even add extra wax to wax foundation too. I’ve tried sponge brushes, paint brushes and they all work fine. I started using a drywall sander because it is spongy and it was all I could find one day. Currently I’m running an experiment to see how much faster it is to add additional amounts of wax to foundation. In my case, I took 7 frames and configured them with various degrees of wax and foundation and some with no wax. I started this experiment on our anniversary, Aug. 3rd. It might be too late in the season, but I’ll see how the bees will do. What I mean by too late is that it is more challenging to get drawn comb later in the summer. However, as long as there is a nectar flow, it works. The heavier the nectar flow the better.

Soon, summer nectar flows will stop until fall nectar flow starts. A good rule of thumb is try and get all the wax in your supers pulled out before fall. I have had some wax building in the fall, but bank on spring and summer.

Thanks for joining us again!
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

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Saturday, July 26, 2014

Lesson 159: Will Your Bees Die From You Being TOO “Natural”? 217-427-2678

Drawn Comb

Are you so “natural” in your beekeeping practices that you are actually killing bees? Hi, we are David and Sheri Burns. We operate Long Lane Honey Bee Farms located in east central Illinois. In today’s lesson, I want to discuss the dangers in how being too natural could be the cause of colonies dying in the winter.

There is the reality that the increased number of new and inexperienced beekeepers may be contributing to the increase in numbers of winter losses. This may be especially true with the number of new beekeepers who opt not to use chemicals against mites but also fail to use any non-chemical methods either. In other words, being so natural as to do nothing is not good.  For example, as humans we know that washing our hands can help prevent the transfer of viruses. We’d never tell our children to stop washing their hands before they eat so that they can be more natural. Let’s talk more…

Before I continue, let me share that I’m excited about our website revamp. We are making our website so that the main front page is filled with tons of practical beekeeping tips, tricks and other helpful information. If you need to quickly go to our online store, you’ll see our Quick Help links on the left hand side. You can jump right into our online store which is opened 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Here are a few examples from our website:

How to remove bees from the honey super so you can harvest the honey.

How to make creamed honey.

Which is better a nuc or a 3 lb package of bees?

How to prevent swarming.

You are currently reading our blog/lessons. Enjoy these lessons but be sure to go to: for more information and beekeeping supplies.

Lee We had great visit from Lee and Wei from the University of Illinois. Lellen Solter is an insect pathologist and is doing work on nosema, looking into competition between microsporidian species for host tissues, taxonomy of microsporidia, molecular relationships between closely related microsporidia, physiological effects of microsporidia on insect hosts, host specificity of microsporidia, disease in beneficial insects (bumble bees, honey bees, predators of hemlock woolly adelgid) and microbial control of the gypsy moth. Wei-Fone Huang is a Postdoctoral Research Scientist and recently published his work: Nosema Ceranae Escapes Fumagillin Control in Honey Bees.

Lee and her husband took one of our Beginning Beekeeping courses earlier in the year and started a few hives. It was great to chat with them about the negative effect that Fumagillin may be having on honey bees.

We have hive kits with 2015 packages available online now.

Finally, A Beekeeping Class Specifically Addressing How To Get Bees Through The Winter.

wraphive We have worked hard over the last 8 years to flood the internet with trusted, reliable and thorough beekeeping information. Beekeepers lose countless hives due to a lack of education. Specifically, many beekeepers are uninformed about best winter practices. The winter of 2013-2014 was very hard on honey bees. Thus, a lot of colonies perish in the north each winter.

We are working to curtail these loses by offering free online beekeeping information, on site classes and more. 

Maybe you lost some colonies. It can be confusing trying to figure out why your bees died. They may have had plenty of stored honey yet still died. Maybe they had a great queen and were very populated but still died. Join me for an extensive 6 hour course on common reasons why bees die in the winter and what you can do to improve your hive's chances of survival. This class will cover topics such as: fall preparation, mouse protection, mite reduction, wind blocks, wrapping hives, heating lamps, winter feeding, insulation, moving hives into buildings or shelters, the biology of fat bodies, the timing of a new queen, pros and cons of double walled hives, dynamics of both Langstroth and top bar hives in the winter, the winter cluster and more.

wraphive3 Our Saturday class (Sept. 6th 2014 9am-3pm) has only two seats remaining, BUT we have added an additional class the next day to accommodate the additional interest.

You need to do all you can to fortify your colonies to be ready for another long and hard winter. Even “natural” beekeepers must take the necessary steps to ensure honey bees kept in domesticated equipment (this includes top bar hives and traditional Langstroth hives) are in great shape going into winter.

The price of this class could possibly save you the cost of several packages next year. Click on the Saturday or Sunday class links below:

Getting Your Bees Through The Winter Saturday Sept 6, 9am-3pm central time (Two seats left)

Getting Your Bees Through The Winter Sunday Sept 7, Noon-6pm central time.(Just placed online with 15 seats available)

At these classes we will actually evaluate several hives and determine why they may or may not overwinter well. We will also show how to manipulate frames for maximum food distribution during the winter. We will also build wind breaks, wrap hives, place on Winter-Bee-Kinds and more. This is a “must take” class for the serious beekeeper who is tired of replacing bees every spring.

The Eastern Apicultural Society Conference will be held at Eastern Kentucky University in Richmond, Kentucky. I’ll be taking in the most recent scientific discoveries as well as assisting with certifying future master beekeepers. If you are a new beekeeper or very experienced this is a great conference to attend. Consider attending by clicking here. I’ll be there Monday through Friday. If we’ve never met, but you see me, please introduce yourself.

HiveTalk While I’m at EAS, Jon Zawislak and I will be doing a live HIVE TALK podcast. We will be broadcasting Thursday morning, July 31 at 11:00 a.m. Eastern Time. If you’d like to watch or be on the air with us, email me ( so I can let you know where we will be. Don’t worry, if you are not there, you can still join us and ask questions on air. The number to call is: 1-724-444-7444. When you call in you'll be asked to enter our SHOW ID which is: 129777 followed by the # sign. Then the automated system will ask you for your Pin number which is 1 followed by the # sign. At that point, you'll be on the show with us so you can ask your questions. You will be muted unless you press * 8 on your phone and that will allow us to unmute you so you can ask your question. Call in around 10 minutes prior to broadcast, at 10:50 a.m. eastern time.  If you want to just listen from your computer, go to:

If you use a smart phone you can add the Podcast App and have our shows sent to your mobile device every time we produce a new one. Just go to iTunes and search for Hive Talk, scroll down to podcast and you'll find us there.

Or listen to our past episodes by clicking here or by copying the link below and pasting it into  your internet browser.

Okay students, time for class. LESSON 159: Will Your Hive Die From You Being TOO Natural?

Generally most of us want to be as natural as possible. We don’t like the thought of pesticides on our fruit and vegetables. We don’t want antibiotics or growth hormones in our milk or meat. I even roast my own organic coffee beans. It just sounds better, even though I know that the bean is surrounded by the fleshly part of the seed which is thrown away. The bean is soaked in boiling water, fermented, dried, then I roast it at over 400 degrees (F). It’s hard to believe at that point that the bean would have any chemical residue. But, I still drink organic coffee.

Natural beekeeping is huge. The idea of dumping chemicals in a hive where honey is eventually harvested should concern us. We would all prefer honey from a colony that has never been exposed to any chemicals at all. Beekeepers raise justifiable concerns over farm chemicals such as neonicotinoids and imidacloprids. These are not just used by farmers but found in flea collars and yard sprays and many commonly used household pest control products. The impact that our chemical filled environment is having on the decline of honey bees is being pursued more aggressively, even by the White House.

Big chemical companies aside, what about going all natural as a beekeeper? Is this good for bees? If all natural means not using harsh chemicals in the hive, then natural sounds good to me. But if going natural means doing nothing at all and expecting the bees to flourish, then you might be surprised to find out that “natural” killed your bees. Doing nothing is harmful to bees. 

This approach might work if we did not have things like varroa mites, small hive beetles, nosema and viruses. Occasionally, we meet the human extraordinaire. You know, the person who never exercised, ate bad food, smoked and consumed too much alcohol, bacon and eggs every morning and lived healthy into their 90s. Same is true with colonies. Occasionally there is the extraordinary hive that we never do anything to and they are perfectly healthy in every way. This is not the norm.

Being “natural” should not be confused with being cheap and lazy. Sometimes we just don’t want to take time to inspect the hive again. So we conclude that we are going to let nature take its course. Sometimes we are being cheap. We don’t want to buy a new queen or a beetle trap or green drone comb to trap varroa mites. So we conclude that we are being natural.

treepropolis We need to realize that honey bees need our help. We have removed them from their natural habitat and placed them into our domesticated hive equipment. It’s not bad, but it’s just not a tree. Here’s a tree I removed bees from and as you can see it is sealed with propolis. Propolis acts as part of the colony’s immune system, killing dangerous pathogens such as viruses in the hive. The rough wall of the cavity inside a tree is covered with propolis by the colony.

I am currently experimenting with coating propolis inside hives like that of a tree to see if bees do better. If the inside of a colony was not so smooth, bees would smooth it out with propolis. My point is that when we remove bees from their natural habitat and place them into Langstroths or top bar hives we must still provide proper management techniques to simulate as much of their natural habitat as possible.

But even then, this is not enough because even hives in trees die from varroa mites transmitting viruses throughout the hive. We can talk about how cold and bad the winters are but wait! The reality is that not all colonies died. What did those surviving colonies have that the dead colonies didn’t have? If you had 10 colonies and 8 died but two didn’t, it begs the question, “What do those 2 surviving colonies have that the other 8 did not?”

It is nearly impossible to analyze a dead colony and discover what happen. But it is very possible to examine a surviving colony and draw some concrete conclusion. This is very important. If you kept detailed records of your hives that survived winter, then you can look back over your findings and discover answers as to what these hives had that the dead ones did not. Pollen, honey, mite loads (viruses), populations, age of queen, location, amount of propolis in the hive, etc., all can provide data to help us find keys to overwintering colonies more effectively.

But if all you are doing is nothing, being natural, then you really do not have any information. Minimally, you should be logging information about your natural approach to help you determine your level of success or failure. No one buys a new dog and refuses to feed it or water it and hopes it will naturally survive. If you pull ticks off your dog why wouldn’t you pull mites from your bees?  Even organic gardens are watered and weeds are pulled.

There is a difference between natural beekeeping and hands off beekeeping. The two are not the same. What should you do now?

1. Reduce you mite load! This is a must. If you do nothing, viruses will overtake your colony this winter.

2. Provide food for your bees. They need protein (pollen) and honey. Between now and fall, your bees need to be well fed. But many beekeepers do nothing and during the late summer and early fall bees weaken from a lack of nutrition. We re now entering into the period of dearth coupled with honey being harvested from hives. They go into winter hungry and weak. At the Heartland Apicultural Society conference someone told me that their friend had 10 hives and she put our Winter-Bee-Kind on 9 of her 10 colonies. The only one that perished was the one without the Winter-Bee-Kind. More than just food, our system provides top insulation to reduce excessive condensation and provides an upper vent for bees to defecate out side the hive more often during the winter. 

3. Re-queen. If your queen is more than 2 years old, she is likely to fail you during the winter. You cannot buy new queens next spring in time to save your colony. Re-queen within then next few months.

4. Simulate a colony’s natural habitat as much as possible. Coat the inside with propolis. Use screen bottom boards to simulate the distance between the bottom of the comb and the base of the tree cavity so that mites can fall out of the nest area.



Be a natural beekeeper but not at the neglect of meeting your bees’ needs.  Bees need your help in fighting off varroa mites and small hive beetles just to name a few. Rather than spend your time looking for a better queen or a better package or nuc provider, focus on becoming a better beekeeper. At our overwintering class we will talk in more detail about these things and more such as how to simulate the thicker wall of a tree in your Langstroth hive.

Also, Jon and I will be speak on the subject of this lesson on our next HIVE TALK at EAS next week.

That’s all for this week, enjoy your weekend and bee good to your bees,

David and Sheri Burns
M-Thu 10am-4pm central time
Fri 10am-Noon
Sat By appointment