Monday, July 27, 2009


Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, and welcome to today's lesson in Beekeeping on hygienic behavior and testing for mites using a powder sugar roll.

But before we get started, let me say thank you to so many of you who email us or call in and offer kind words and thank us for providing these free online lessons. We hope our efforts are making a dent in the beekeeping community in helping more people get started keeping bees as well as beekeepers becoming more successful.

I recently removed a colony of honeybees from a home in Campaign, Illinois and the TV crew came out and put it on the news.
Click here to what the news video.
If you are so moved to help support these free online lessons with a donation, we would appreciate it. Think of the money would would have to pay to purchase books or CDs to receive the same information. So your donation, no matter how small, will go far to assist us in keeping these lessons going out. If you do wish to donate, we thank you in advance, and encourage you to send your check to: Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, 14556 N. 1020 E., Fairmount, IL 61841 or you can donate via paypal or credit card by clicking on the link below.

Sunday, our local beekeeping club, of which I am president of, met at our honey bee farm in the afternoon. Dr. Stu Jacobson was our guest speaker. Dr. Jacobson spoke on the importance of raising and providing beekeepers with hygienic queens, bees that can detect reproducing mites and some disease below sealed brood, and carry it outside the hive before it has time to spread and cause problems.
In Lesson 45, I explained more of the details and history behind using hygienic bees, but for today we will examine more about performing the test and evaluating the results.
I'll make comments under each picture below walking you through the process. The liquid nitrogen is very cold and therefore, must be handled with care. Protective clothing and eye wear is a must to against accidental spillage. Please be careful. Liquid nitrogen can be purchased from most welding supply shops.

First, select a frame of sealed brood from one of your hives that you want to test. Make sure to choose a frame where most cells are sealed. (Images in this lesson can be enlarged by clicking on the image)

Shake the bees off and push a 3 inch diameter can down into the comb until it reaches the middle of the comb. Keep track of how many cells are not sealed. In this case, there are 18 unsealed cells within the inside of the can area.
Pour in 2 ounces of LN to prime the area. Then, pour in about 7 ounces to freeze kill the brood within the can.

Here, Dr. Jacobson demonstrates how to pour the LN, using tongs and a paper cup.
Now that the brood is killed, place the frame back in the hive and wait 24 hours. Then, pull out the same frame. If they show hygienic behavior, the dead brood will all be removed.
As in this picture you can see the circle where the brood has been cleaned out. It is not a perfect circle at the bottom due to some of the LN spilling out on to the adjacent area. This is an hygienic hive.
If we are to move away from over medicating our hives, we must make these efforts to tap into the bee's own defense against pests and diseases.
Next, Dr. Jacobson demonstrated how to conduct a varrora mite test on your hive. This will be very helpful for those of you who are concerned about v. mites. Dr. Jacobson supports what I've said for years about how the mite drop count method may not give accurate readings. In other words, if bees are good at picking the mites off and dropping them, they may have less mites on the bees but the drop board might show alot.
A better method is to capture 200 bees in a small jar with a screen lid. Put in several spoonfuls of powder sugar and roll the bees around in the powder sugar. The mites can no longer cling to the bees due to the sugar and you then shake the jar so that the mites fall though the top screen.
In our test, we used a paper plate to shake out the mites. As a result of our study, about 3 mites were visible as noted in the photo below.

Some people use various chemicals to kill the bees and the mites stick to the side of the jar for counting. Chemicals like ether or starter fluid is often used. This works, but if you have accidentally shaken the queen into the jar, she will perish along with the bees. Therefore, powder sugar will not hurt the bees but allow the mites to drop off.

I want to take this time to encourage other local bee clubs to raise the educational bar higher within the meetings. Beekeepers will have greater success the more education on beekeeping they receive. Having guest speakers or well informed and experienced local beekeepers share at the meetings on predetermined topics can really help the beekeepers in your local club enjoy keeping bees.

In our club, we meet at a different member's home each time.

Also, be sensitive toward the new beekeeper who will feel intimidated by the more experienced beekeepers and their opinionated attitudes. We are opinionated. Try to encourage the more outspoken beekeepers to be more encouraging to the newer beekeepers.
Also, our club offers a list of mentor, a list of people who are willing to work along side new beekeepers.
That's it for today! We appreciate you joining us today!

Remember, register for our upcoming courses as soon as possible as these classes fill up fast!
BEE-have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
PHONE: 217-427-2678

Tuesday, July 21, 2009


Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, located in central Illinois! We are a husband and wife team operating a family beekeeping business and we love it! It is a blast not just because our hobby turned into a business, but because we enjoy being together and working together with our children. And, we enjoying helping the beekeeping community as well.


What's the real story about queen excluders? Do they work? Do I recommend them? Will they cut down on your amount of honey? Why are there different kinds of queen excluders.

A queen excluder is a metal or plastic device which looks much like a metal shelf in your refrigerator. The metal ones are made up of small metal rails close enough together so that the queen cannot squeeze through but the workers can. Beekeepers use them below a honey super to prevent the queen from going up into the honey super and laying eggs. There is now a plastic queen excluder on the market that works just as well.


PROS: The queen is excluded.

CONS: The queen is not always excluded. A small queen can sometimes squeeze. Drones get stuck. The bees often place stray comb between the openings. It does seem to slow down the progress of the bees filling the super above it. It's another high maintenance item.

TIP #1: Never use a queen excluder below a honey super that has undrawn comb. Make sure your comb is drawn out first. It is sometimes a challenge to get the frames drawn out by the bees on honey supers. A queen excluder can make it more restrictive and it can take longer. So do not place it on until the super frames are somewhat drawn out.
TIP #2: The metal queen excluder has support wire beneath the main row of wire. Those support cross bars should always face the brood nest area. This will prevent the queen from slipping through the wires.

So when you've placed it above the brood nest correctly, the wires will run the same direction as the frames below, and you can rub your hand across the queen excluder without feeling the cross bars. They will be on the bottom side of the queen excluder, running the opposite direction as the frames. We do this because when a queen tries to squeeze through she will slide along the wire, but when she hits a cross wire, she cannot continue to try to work through.

Some beekeepers are so opposed to queen excluders they call them "honey excluders". Indeed, they can restrict the passage of foraging and transport bees, and clogged with drones and wax, the passageway is even more restrictive.


For a new beekeeper, a queen excluder can be a big help. However, I do not use queen excluders. Instead, I monitor my queen and if I see her in the upper super, I pick her up and move her back down into the deep hive bodies.

The queen will not lay in a cell that has honey in it. So, my goal (and the bees) is to place honey in the super before she gets up there to lay, forming a honey barrier. So that is also why I like to "top super" which means I add empty supers on top of supers the bees are already filling. I don't have to worry about the queen going beyond the honey barrier.

I've noticed that if I give the queen plenty of room in her brood nest, the lower two deep hive bodies, then she rarely gets up into my supers. If she does, she lays just a small amount of eggs in the center frames and only toward the very lower bottom part of the frame. So I wait and let the brood hatch, then the bees clean up the cells and finish filling it with nectar and curing it into honey and sealing it off.

Thanks for joining us for today's lesson and I hope this has been helpful for you. Remember, we are here to help you succeed as a beekeeper. Please feel free to call us for supplies or equipment you might need. We also raise our own queens, so call us if you need to replace your queen.

Or call us for any beekeeping need you have: 217-427-2678
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Until next time, remember to Bee-Have Yourself!
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Saturday, July 18, 2009


Hello From Long Lane Honey Bee Farms! We are David & Sheri Burns and we are passionate about beekeeping. We started out keeping bees as a hobby and the hobby went wild.
For us, beekeeping is a blast. If you are not a beekeeper, we hope you'll peruse through our beekeeping lessons and consider becoming a beekeeper.

If you are considering becoming a beekeeper next year, then now is the time to prepare. It may seem like a ways off, but not really.  This will give plenty of time for first time beekeepers to study our lessons, purchase equipment and decide on the best location for the placement of your hives.

So, my nose is glue in books every spare moment I have. My head is spinning with bee knowledge.
We've added two new features to our web presence: So you can follow us as we tweet and we now are on facebook too.

LESSON 56: COMMON QUESTIONS ADDRESSED We receive so many questions from beekeepers around the world. I decided to use recent questions as this lesson. Hopefully my answers will help you as a beekeeper, afterall we all have the same kinds of questions, don't we.
And I've just thrown in random beekeeping pictures for your enjoyment.

Q... When I observed my queen moving around, I noticed she just walks around a lot and does not continuously lay eggs. Even when I think she lays an egg after looking into a cell, her abdomen does not fully immerse into the cell but she just places her abdomen at the top of the cell and she does a wiggle and goes away. I also thought that the queen measures the cell with her hind legs and then lays but I noticed she was going in head first. I do not understand what she is doing. Is this a common behavior?

A... Thanks for your questions. Let me correct you. Queens measure cells with the front legs, that's why we always hold the back legs when marking queens. If a front leg breaks off, then she will only be a drone layer. She does look head first into a cell and then moves slightly forward and rotates her abdomen into the cell to lay an egg. Sounds to me like you might have a virgin queen or a newly mated queen or a mated queen that has just been released from her cage. Give her a week and see if she doesn't work more efficiently.

Q... Hi Dave! What do you place your bottom boards on? I have mine on precast concrete patio 24” square pavers then one brick in each corner of the bottom board to allow for air flow. I have received advice from an old beekeeper that open bottom boards are bad for overwintering. Just curious. Thanks.-Herman

A... Hi Herman Hi Herman, I agree with the experienced beekeeper IF the screen bottom boards do not have some sort of shielding around them to break the wind. But, I have found the open bottom to be very helpful for getting rid of excessive winter condensation moisture from the hive.I just have mine sitting on pallets.

Q...Good afternoon, Mr. Burns - First, thanks for taking the time to write your lessons blog - you're doing more than anyone else I've seen out there on the Net to assist beginning beekeepers with their questions. It's also a great portal to your apiary website; hopefully, you're being rewarded with increased business. I had a quick question for you: I didn't see anywhere on your site a mention of which race(s) of bees you sell. I'm looking for a regular supplier of Carniolan queens (preferably Old World, but New World as well). Don't suppose you deal with these? Thanks, Mark

A... Thanks Mark for your kind comments. Carniolans are the bee of choice for us. However, we also concentrate more on characteristics than race. We open air mate our queens as well in a somewhat controlled area. So the queens that we raise do tend to show more Carniolan characteristics. We also purchase Carniolan breeder queens that we graft from.

Q... Hi David & Sheri my is Dan Richards i live in a small area called Rusagonis NB Canada I love your site yes we have a small Beekeepers Assn Keep up the great work I have passed your site to members of our assn. I am checking out the laws regarding getting Queens from USA . Thanks again. Dan

A... Thanks Dan! Nice to meet you!

Q... How do you mail queens? Have you had success in using the plastic cages with attendants included? It seems quite small and the access to candy limited. I was going to try to avoid the expense of the three-chambered wood cages. I bank queens in plastic and would like to find a way of mailing them that way. Larry

A... Hi Larry, I exclusively use the California Mini Cage that is made by Koehnen. I have the best all around success in the following areas with this cage: --Transportation --Protection against mandibles of bees that are initially unaccepting. --Ability for bees to feed queen through the cage. --Ease of inserting candy plug. --Smaller size fits easily between frames. We are rotating queens through about 50 mating stations. So I am able to produce about 15 acceptable queens per week. I try not to bank virgin or mated queens unless I have to. It is better to bank layers than virgins. Virgins banked longer than 3 weeks will be no good. Virgin queens are tough to be accepted, so we place capped queen cells into queenless mating stations, let them prove they can lay well for a few weeks, evaluate their daughters and sell.

Q... Hi David,
I have been beekeeping for 5 years and this year is the first year I have ever extracted honey from my bees. I'm so excited! Today I peeked in my 5 gallon bucket to see how the bubbles were rising and it smelled a little like beer. I'm concerned its fermenting. All the frames were capped, 100% of them, my equipment was dry too, is this aroma normal? and if not what do I do?

Thanks so much for your time,

A... It might be normal, but then again, normally honey doesn't smell as if it is fermenting. Sometimes, capped honey can still have too high of a moisture level. I recommend always using a refractometer to take samples. I keep my honey room below 39% humidity and I always air out my sealed honey for several days with a fan on it before I process it. If it tastes like it has fermented, then it has and is not fit to sell. A slight fermentation smell may just be that the bubbles have risen to the top and the honey below is fine. See if you can taste the honey atleast a few inches below the surface.

Q... Dear David,
I was wondering if your package bees are still available for shipment? I live in Arizona. Thank you for your help. Sincerely,Marcy

A... Sorry Marcy, all so out. Packages must be purchased very early in the year. Always call your package bee orders in as soon as you can in January or February, March at the very latest.

Q... Hi David, I'm just starting in beekeeping in New Zealand, purchased two occupied hives from retiring beekeeper and I've found your online lessons fantastic .. I really appreciate not just the what to do, but also the information about why to do it that you have put in them.
One thing I'm trying to work out is to do with inspections. It seems like I need a sunny, wind free day and a temperature really needs to be above 60F, and that ideally I should do this every couple of weeks.. but of course it is the middle of winter here, and that means the temperature typically won't get above 50F. I guess beekeepers are always having to compromise on this sort of thing. Do you have any recommendations on a winter inspection programme?
Thanks again for all the wonderful insights from your lessons.

But basically, wait until the warmest day possible, maybe upper 30s or 40s (f) or 50s is better, and just briefly open up the hive to peek and make sure there is plenty of stored honey next to the cluster. Do not lift out frames with bees. You can move frames of stored honey if you want to, but remember some bees might fly out and let you know they are not happy about you opening up their hive. They may also die from the cold as well. So work fast.
Q... Hey David
I just read your lesson on swarms and I have to say I am impressed. I am a new beekeeper this year and have only 3 hives (WBC because we are English). I attended a 3 month course before starting and I gained more from your lesson than on the course. Keep it up, the bees need you.

A... Thanks Gary

Q...Hello David,

I have really enjoyed your beekeeping lessons online. I was hoping you could give me an answer to two questions:

1. In one of your lessons you stated that a virgin queen may fly several miles to get mated or at least a long distance. If a queen breeder is advertising a certain breed of queens how can he tell for sure that the queen was mated like he thinks. Let’s say that a queen breeder was advertising in a Bee magazine that he was selling pure Russian queens. How does he know that his virgin queen was fertilized by a Russian male bee if down the road a mile was a bee yard full of Italian bees??
2. I noticed in your pictures that you use a lot of double brood chambers. Can you tell me what you are doing here?
Best Regards,

A...Hi Charlie, Good point. Lots of claims made that can really never be tested
by the buying beekeeper. You only want an open air mated queen,
as they do better and lay longer than inseminated queens. Only
through Instrumental Insemination can a queen breeder make
claims of purity of progeny.

Now, you can do a lot to control purity even in open air mating.
For example, there is not a large beekeeper near us, so we
can “flood” the area with the genes we want, and so we can
control it quite nicely, but we would never make a claim of purity.

We use two deeps so that the bees can over winter with plenty
of honey on board.

Q...David, Hope things are going well with you & your family. I know you are busy, but I have a question. I installed my package on 5/1/09 when they arrived. About how long should it take for a package to draw out enough comb to add a second deep? I check my bees every 2 weeks like you suggested, and they have drawn out about 5-6 frames. Is it normal for them to take this long? I am concerned that they may not have enough store to take them through the winter. Have any thoughts that may help me?

Thanks for all your help.


A...Hi Tim, this is every beekeeper's concern. A package of bees actually drops down a little in number after they are installed, but finally once the queen becomes adjusted to the bees, the hive takes off. How well they do depends on several factors outside the beekeeper's control such as the weather and the nectar flow. Typically we hope a package can fill up the bottom deep in about 6 weeks, and the same on the second deep. Sometimes it is faster, and usually slower. I like to "bait" the second deep, by pulling out a few frames from the lower deep hive body with brood and bees, and place them in the upper deep next to the undrawn comb. This lures the bees to move up into my second deep. Two frames is usually plenty. I have also noticed that we as beekeepers have much higher expectations from our bees than what is often practical. So be patient.

Well, I hope you've enjoyed alittle Q&A today. Our family hopes that your beekeeping season goes well. Please keep an eye on your queens. Remember to always operate your hives with a young, prolific queen. Don't take a chance and go into winter with an old or poor laying queen. Call us if you need to replace your queen. 217-427-2678.

Also, we continue to make improvement on our hive equipment that we build. If you are in need of additional hive or hive components, give us a call at 217-427-2678. We also sell all beekeeping equipment. And feel free to allow us to become your mentor in beekeeping!

Until next time remember to BEE-have yourself!

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms