Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms (www.honeybeesonline.com). We are David and Sheri Burns located in East Central Illinois. Today I have several things I want to share: 1) How hard is a spring cold snap on new packages? 2) Do you know what you need to know about being a good beekeeper? Like, what is Absconding? 3) Helpful hints about Package Bee Pickup Day. 4) Calling in for support. I’ll answer these concerns in today’s blog. But before I do…
Many of you have asked about our Marine Son, Seth. He is in the Middle East on his 2nd deployment. We hated to see him go. He’ll be back home in the fall so we are praying for a safe deployment. He’s on a rapid crisis response team so mom and dad can’t help but keep an eye on the news coming out of the Middle East.
We have less contact with him than when he was in Afghanistan. Internet connections are slow and not easily accessible. So we are having to write occasional messages and letters to stay connected. We sent a care package of goodies the other day. That’s got to be refreshing to get a box of stuff from home. This will be his last deployment and he will have completed in 4 years in the Marines the summer of 2016.
We are busy preparing for Package Bee Pickup Day and a full summer of playing with bees. We are still on schedule for the weekend of May 2nd, for packages of bees which is only 10 days. We’ve been mowing, burning yard debris, pressure washing outside walls, filling spring potholes, filling orders and trying to build up our inventory for that busy weekend. Karee and Zach have kept really busy shipping our more hives this year than ever before. Interest in beekeeping continues to soar!
A new line of hives that we are producing have become a hit! Last summer I produced a video showing how adding extra wax to undrawn foundation can really accelerate the growth of a new hive because they can make their comb faster. So we now sell David’s Wish List Hive. It is our full sized hive, painted and assembled. The difference is that it comes with extra wax on all 30 pieces of foundation. It also comes with 4 small hive beetle traps ( 2 for each deep hive body) and 2 Green Drone Comb Varroa Mite Traps ( 1 for each deep hive body). That’s not all! Studies have shown that scoring the wall of the inside of the hive can contribute to extra propolis being added to smooth the walls which is what bees do in their natural habitat, the tree. So we ruff up the inside walls of this hive to try and cause the bees to add more propolis to the walls. In one study , this increased survival of the hive by 30%. When you take one of our classes, we go into greater detail on using Green Drone Comb to trap varroa mites and trapping small hive beetles.
Zach scores the inside of the hives using a special tool, and he brushes on extra wax. This takes a lot of time and therefore these hives cost a bit more, but a pound of wax sells for $15 now. You can do it yourself, but usually new beekeepers don’t have wax or the tool to score the inside of a hive. By the way, Zach says he loves to read the comment section when you place online orders. So say hi to Zach when you place an order in the comment section. Zach will be the first person you will probably see on package bee pickup day as he will be helping to park cars.
How Hard Is A Spring Cold Snap On New Packages?
Spring came and went! It was so nice for several weeks but now it has turned cold. My bees have not flown since Saturday. It’s either been too cold or too windy. And for the next 8 nights we will be below freezing or slightly above it, in the low 40s. This is very hard no new packages on new foundation. A package of bees does not have drawn comb to aid in keeping the hive warm. And with minimal foraging, new packages do not have the resources stored for such a cold snap. It may not kill a colony, but it will retard their growth that could make the hive weak the rest of the year. I have learned this through studies and experience and this is why we prefer not to prepare our packages until the first of May. Please think logically with me for a moment. If you get a package the first of April, but the weather turns off cold, the bees are stuck inside your hive eating sugar water for a month. Bees need warm nights to grow. Had these bees been left in their warmer climate on natural forage during the month of April, they would be healthier eating a natural diet, then placed here in Illinois ( or the north) when there is a natural diet to thrive on. A decade ago I bought 40 packages the last week in March. I placed them in hives but that weekend the weather turned cold and 20 hives died two days after I installed them in foundationless hives. The 20 that survived were installed on drawn comb. Since then I prefer to play it safe. We all can gamble and sometimes do fine. But cold nights are hard on new packages on undrawn comb.
If you find yourself in this predicament it helps to feed bees. We stay warmer when we eat and so do bees. Place a Burns Bees Feeding System on top with sugar patties in the patty slot. This will allow the bees to consume food to stay warm. You can also add 1:1 sugar water in the jar slots as they will eat this even when clustered. This will keep the bees from weakening during a cold spell.
We make these for both 10 frame hives and 8 frame hives. All feeding ports are screened over to hold the bees down so you can change and add feed without bees flying out.
Do You Know What You Need To Know About Being a Good Beekeeper?
Armed with a few books, hours watching YouTube videos and a face lathered with anticipation newbies set out to start beekeeping. But are they really knowledgeable? When beekeepers tell me why their hives die, they always blame the winter. Occasionally some will take responsibility. I can ask two questions to determine if the beekeeper knew what they were doing. 1) What were your mite counts throughout the year and 2) Was the colony heavily populated going into winter. Newbies answer by saying, “I don’t think I had any mites because I didn’t see any.” And regarding heavy populations the answer is, “They had a lot of bees.” These answers tell me the new beekeeper did not possess the knowledge they needed going into winter.
Let me talk about not seeing mites. Don’t confuse mites with small hive. Mites are tiny. It’s easy to see them on this white drone larva but on the back of a honey bee which is the same color, it is very hard. So here’s how to know if you have mites. Say “Yes, I have mites.” It is not a matter of IF you have mites, but how many. All hives have mites. And remember, even if you don’t see the foundress mite walking on your bees, they reproduce under the pupae which is capped over. There can be up to 4-5 mites under each sealed brood cap. Mother mites spend most of their time under the sealed cell, 12 days, versus 4-5 days walking around on bees.
Regarding population of bees, most newbies misjudge the number of bees because they may fail to evaluate the brood and only visualize adult bees. Even then, can anyone really tell the difference between 20,000 bees and 40,000 bees scattered over 30 frames? Probably not. But 20,000 bees will not survive a northern winter.
It is very important for all beekeepers to take a thorough beekeeping class, one that spends time addressing varroa mites control, small hive beetle control and how to regularly inspect a hive and what to look for in addition to the other basic instructions. What you do over the next few months will determine if your bees will survive the winter. Keep your mite levels below 3% out of 100 bees and monitor your queen’s ability to build up the hive throughout the year in preparation for winter.
All of our classes sell out fast, but we still have openings in our June 11th Basic Beekeeping Class. Even if have already started this year, take this class! Also, we are offering our popular “Getting Your Bees Through The Winter” class in August and September.
Both of our Bee Institutes are filled up for this year. We have a growing waiting list should we decide to offer a 3rd one this year, but I’m still considering this possibility. The Bee Institute provides ample opportunity for field work as well as classroom lectures.
If you cannot take a class with us, try to find a beekeeping class near you. Become as knowledgeable as you can as a beekeeper. Don’t lose your bees due to newbie mistakes.
Absconding can be an issue with some packages. This is when all the bees leave the hive. Swarming is when a mature colony reproduces and half of the bees leave with the old queen. But Absconding is when the entire colony abandons the hive. The percentage is very low, but it does happen. And when it happens to you, you are no longer a beekeeper. The bees are gone, no one has any more packages to sell you because it is too late in the year. Several things you should know about absconding: There is no refund because we provided you with bees and a queen and it is beyond anyone’s control. If you call us, there is nothing we can do to help you find more bees. There is really no explanation as to why this happens. I have seen it happen more often when colonies are lined up very close together and packages are installed in all hives at the same time. It might (maybe) help if you put some distance between new installs. Maybe at least 20-40 feet. Place some sort of drawing on multiple hives, like a triangle drawing on one by their entrance, on the front, a large black circle on another one. These symbols are easier for bees to identify than colors. If you have some brood you can take from another hive, this can help cut down on absconding. Just be aware it happens occasionally. It is not because you did something wrong or because the location or equipment was wrong. Bees are livestock and sometimes they’ll run off. Once they are established after two weeks, all is good.
Helpful Hints About Package Bee Pickup Day T-Minus 10 Days
We are on schedule for the weekend of May 2nd. We will start the Saturday at 8:30 am central time. We can use a few experienced beekeepers to help us on this weekend, so give us a call if you are free. If this is your first time to pick up your bees from us, it will be quite an experience. Many people find the event to be “surreal.” There are beekeepers everywhere, loading up cars and trucks. Make this an enjoyable event. We are hoping for great weather. Here’s a handful of helpful tips:
1) Be patient. Sometimes checkout lines can be long. While we have several people running several lines, be patient.
2) Parking. In dry conditions there is plenty of parking. In wet conditions everything changes. Please follow the instructions of our parking attendants. They will help you find a spot.
3) We have loaded up our inventory, but obviously we cannot stock every single beekeeping item. But feel free to look around. If you know what you need, it is best to call in and pay for it in advance so you can dodge the lines.
4) Meeting David and Sheri. Some of you are driving a long way to get here and it will be your first time here. You may be looking forward to meeting us, and we want to meet you. But be aware that it is an extremely busy day. If you cannot find us or we seemed rushed please do not be offended. We are just trying to keep everything flowing smoothly and it takes alot.
5) Carry your bees home carefully. Keep them in cool shade, never in the sun. If you are traveling for several hours, spray sugar water on the outside of the cage every 4 hours to help feed and cool the bees. If you have to hold your bees in their cage for a few days, try to keep them in a dark, cool room. They will stay much quieter. If you let them get hot in a bright room they will become very active. Try to keep them so they stay clustered.
6) If you need help installing your bees please refer to these lessons and videos:
Calling Us For Support
If you are one of our customers we will go out of our way to answer your questions. Please call us (no emails please) during our business hours and we will be happy to help our customers. If you are not a customer, and have bought your bees or equipment from other suppliers we kindly ask that you call them so they can more accurately address your issues. Thank you.
See you next time!
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
M-Thur 10am – 4pm Central Time
Fri 10am- Noon
Closed Sat & Sun