Wednesday, July 21, 2010

LESSON 77: Don’t Do That!

Here we are again, David & Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms with another fun lesson in beekeeping. In today’s lesson, I want to share some things that you should NOT DO! Why not learn from the mistakes of others? Before we get into today’s lesson, here’s an update from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms.
We had a lot of fun at our basic beekeeping course last Saturday. The students were great, the bees were cooperative and the weather was perfect. This coming Saturday is our Advance Beekeeping Course! We still have room for a couple more students to join us, so click here for more info. Stop repeating the same mistakes. Learn more and do better.

jar No one guessed our mystery photo on our last lesson. From left to right, a jar of sweet tea, a jar of honey with comb, and a jar of pickled eggs.
A few weeks ago I attended the Heartland Apicultural Society (HAS) meeting in Cookeville, Tennessee and it was great.  I met several of you who follow our online lessons, have bought supplies from us, etc. While I was on an elevator I met Joel who bought a queen from us a few years ago. He recognized my shirt and said the queen was doing good. Another lady from Ohio introduced herself at lunch and mentioned that she really enjoys our lessons and has shared them with other beekeepers. The HAS, of course, had great speakers, hands on apiary workshops and more. For me, the highlight was listening to Dr. Clarence Collison. No one I know of holds a match to his knowledge of beekeeping and the honey bee. He writes a monthly column in the BEE CULTURE.

eas Speaking of Dr. Collison, he heads up the Eastern Apicultural Society’s Master Beekeeper program which I will be attending next month in Boone, North Carolina to go through my second year of testing. Several from our family will be going over for the whole week for the EAS beekeeping conference. The master beekeeping program consumes the last two days of the conference. If you can afford the time away, I would strongly encourage you to come and enjoy the conference. Outstanding speakers and workshops.lesson54h It is absolutely the most superbly orchestrated beekeeping conference, ever! If you can’t come every day, you can chose the latter part of the week. It’s a blast. I hope to see you there. I’ll be wearing the yellow “Long Lane Honey Bee Farms” shirt like the one in the picture. For more information on the EAS conference Click Here.
Okay, so you are enjoying beekeeping, but you’ve already made a few mistakes. Don’t feel badly, we all do it. Just don’t repeat the same mistakes every year. To help you avoid repeating mistakes and to help you avoid them all together, let me give you a list of things I’m calling the “Don’t Do That” list. Let’s go…
1) Don’t put off beekeeping, thinking you’ll do it later. Make a determined effort to start keeping bees next Spring.
lesson77b 2) Do not leave a frame out of a hive. Always put the frames back! If you don’t, you are guilty of violating bee space. The bees will nicely fill the vacant frame space with comb that you’ll never be able to work with.

Lesson77 3) Do not use a bee vac in the afternoon when the foragers are returning from their flights. The suction will pull out the honey from their honey stomachs and drown all the other bees in the vac.
4) Don’t drip honey or throw comb near a hive. Sometimes we need to remove burr comb from a hive. Carry it away from the hive. If you throw it on the ground next to the hive, robbers will smell the honey and comb and may be enticed to go into the hive and start robbing it.
lesson77a 5) Don’t use old equipment. American Foul Brood spores can live dormant in abandon hives and stored equipment for nearly 80 years and activate once you start using the frames or boxes.
6) Don’t dump out your smoker in dry grass. Don’t set your hot smoker down on your truck’s plastic bed liner or store it in the garage before it’s cooled down. And don’t blow sparks or a flame into the hive when smoking.
Lesson74g 7) Don’t be caught without something to put a swarm in. Keep a spare hive on hand. As more people learn that you’re a beekeeper, you will receive calls to retrieve swarms. Be prepared.
8) Don’t assume your hive is doing well based on what you see at the entrance. Just because they are bringing in pollen does not guarantee they have a laying queen. Check your hive every 2 weeks and verify you have a laying queen by inspecting her brood pattern and checking for newly laid eggs.
9) Don’t forget your hat and veil. No matter how calm your bees may bee, anything may set them off. Always protect your head and face. (Especially if you have somewhere special to go that night!)
10) Don’t be an isolated beekeeper. You will benefit from joining your local association, attending conferences and classes and networking with other more experienced beekeepers.
11) Don’t place a queen excluder below a honey super with undrawn comb. Wait until the comb is starting to be drawn out, then check to be sure the queen is not in the super. Then you can place the queen excluder below the honey super.
12) Don’t allow your hive to become congested. While a crowded hive is a healthy hive, they may run out of empty cells for the queen to lay. Continue to monitor your hive to make sure the colony has room to expand.
13) Don’t cheat and harvest honey before it is completely sealed. If you harvest frames that are not sealed completely, your honey’s moisture level may be too high, causing the honey to eventually ferment, foam and taste like yeast.
14) Don’t be oblivious to pests and diseases in the hive. Know the most common pests and diseases and learn how to identify and treat your colonies if these show up.
15) Don’t force your bees to your neighbor’s swimming pool for water. Keep water around your property in the sun for bees to find. Bees can more easily detect polarized light so keep your water source in direction sun light because light is polarized once it reflects from the surface of water.
16) Don’t pull a frame out if it is really close to the frames beside it. You may “roll” your bees, even kill the queen. Remove a frame near the wall that is less tight, then slide the frames to allow room to freely lift each frame.
17) Don’t mix up your frames. When you pull out a frame, place it back in the same place and orientation.
18) Don’t work hives in poor weather. Bees are calmer on sunny days with higher barometric pressure.
Lesson74i 19) Don’t take your chances with an old queen. Requeen every year or two. A younger queen’s pheromones will reduce swarming and she will lay more prolific.

20) Don’t give up!  Beekeeping, for most, is an enjoyable hobby. Hobbyist become attached to their animals. When a hive dies, a beekeeper can become discourage and want to quit. This is understandable. But do not despair!  If your hive dies, consider the good news:
   1.  You have drawn comb for next year’s package to build up faster. 
   2.  You gained a wealth of skill and information for next year.
   3.  You have time to evaluate why your hive died and what you can do better next year.
Thanks for joining us for another beekeeping lesson from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We’ve given you 20 “don’ts” today, advice to help you avoid the most common mistakes.
We hope you enjoyed today’s lesson and if you want to leave a little tip on the table for the service you received from today’s lesson, we would appreciate any donation.  You can click on the link below to leave a donation of any amount.

Remember, we are selling queens through September and it’s always beneficial to requeen after June 21 so that you know you have a young queen going into winter. Also, we sell woodenware, beekeeping equipment and everything to do with honey bees. Check out our main website at:
Here’s our information and our summer hours:
Summer Hours:
Mon – Thur 8:30 am – 4 pm Central Time
FRI-SAT  visits & pickups by appointment only
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841
(217) 427-2678

Sunday, July 4, 2010

LESSON 75: The Dreaded Laying Worker

This is actually a previous lesson, lesson 75 about laying workers. Due to a technical glitch, we lost it from our list of lessons and will now have to send it out again in order for it to appear. Sorry for the second sending.
Hello from David & Sheri Burns at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms!

Beekeeping just keeps getting better and more fun. To the basic beekeeper, beekeeping can be seen as enjoyable but challenging at the same time. Some newbies become panicky and micromanage their hives, worried about every little things. Most of this fear comes from not being informed, lacking beekeeping experience and not having a reliable mentor who can answer your questions. That is why we offer these free lessons, to educate and encourage beekeepers to keep bees with confidence. We hope to be one of your mentors.

The more we know about bees the better we are at keeping bees. Let me give you an example. Some may think they have a poor queen because she is not laying well. Did you know that how well she lays is determined by how well she is fed? Prior to a hive swarming, the hive reduces feeding the queen and her laying slows down or stops. Perhaps during a dearth or a rainy spell if nectar and honey stores in the hive are low, the queen may not be fed well, and though she is a good queen, the weather is influencing her ability to lay.

There are some things to worry about, like a laying worker. I always hate to see a hive with a laying worker. Rarely is there just one laying worker. usually there are many. Workers do not have fully developed reproduction rights and they do not mate with drones which means if and when they do lay eggs, they are not fertile eggs and will become drones. Laying workers lay between 10-30 eggs a day compared to a queen who lays between 1,000-3,000 per day.
Since workers lay eggs that become drones, the hive will quickly crash because drones do not forage and cannot help the hive survive. Since there is no longer a queen, there are no workers coming down the line to expand and care for the hive. It’s very serious and difficult to revive. Many say the only thing to do is divide the comb up into other strong hives. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

First, you must realize why workers start laying. The queen’s pheromones and the pheromones of the open brood suppresses the underdeveloped reproduction of the workers from laying. So as long as you have a good laying queen, the laying workers will never be a problem. Most agree that all hives have some laying workers, even in a queenright hive, but that they can never get a foothold to cause any real issues.

So how do you prevent this from happening? Always make sure you have a strong, and young queen heading up the hive. The younger or newer she is, the stronger her pheromones and her brood pheromones are to suppress laying workers.

Once a queen is lost, laying workers will become a problem within 2-4 weeks. So by checking your hive every two weeks and carefully examine the frames for a good brood pattern and lots of eggs, you will avoid laying workers. If you see that you are queenless, order a new queen immediately. I’ve always suggested that beekeepers should have a few 5 frame nucs with a good queen in it just in case you need her in a hurry. Usually it takes time to order a queen and have it shipped.

Some say to dump the bees some 20 or so yards away and make them all fly back to the hive, assuming that the laying worker has never flown and therefore cannot find her way back to the hive. I would not trust this method. There is more than one laying worker, and I’m not convinced that she cannot fly back to the hive.
I have found a few useful techniques:


A colony with a laying worker will rarely accept a queen the traditional way. They will almost always kill the new queen. The laying worker is a fake queen, but she is good at deception. She emits pheromones which makes her followers follow her.

If you place a queen in a push in cage, a cage made of hardware cloth that pushes into the comb, then the new queen can lay and spread her pheromones in the hive without being accessible to the other bees trying to kill her. After her pheromones and the pheromones of her new open larva spreads, she can be released from her cage. This works well the larger the cage and place it over open cells and emerging brood.
A second method is to move over a frame of open larva with the queen on it. Make sure the frame is from a strong hive with plenty of bees on the frame. When you place this frame into a hive with a laying worker, be sure to place the new frame against the wall of the hive and with the queen on the side closest to the wall to give her protection from the laying worker and her followers. The hive that you removed the queen from is now queenless, but you can introduce a queen the traditional way.

Since drone cells are larger in diameter, when a laying worker lays none fertile eggs in a worker cell the emerging drones are smaller but sexually viable.

Why can’t we just find the laying worker and kill her? It’s a needle in a haystack. Besides, if you happen to find one in the act of laying, chances are high that there are several more.
Having a laying worker is always the result of a lack of timely inspections by the beekeeper.

Thanks for joining us today for lesson 75 and we hope today’s lesson will help you now understand how to avoid a laying worker and what to do if it happens to you.

Before I go, let me thank you for sharing these lessons with your friends and fellow beekeepers. We appreciate the exposure. And, don’t forget to check out our upcoming classes at our honey bee farm. We have lots of classes over the next three months. Click here for more info!

Here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, we raise our own Pioneer Queens, from survival stock and other proven stock. They are queens that are raised in the North, and from colonies that have never been treated with chemicals and have survived an Illinois winter. However, they are in big demand. The way we sell our queens is on a first come first serve basis. Early on every Monday, I go out and gather all the queens that are mated and laying a good brood pattern. Then, starting at 8:30 am Central Time we begin taking calls for those wanting to purchase our queens. We are usually sold out within the hour. We do not take advance orders. So it’s kinda like calling into a radio show trying to win a prize, just keep calling back in if you get a busy signal.

Here’s our information and our summer hours:

Summer Hours:
Mon – Thur 8:30 am – 4 pm Central Time
FRI-SAT visits & pickups by appointment only
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
14556 N. 1020 E. Rd
Fairmount, IL 61841
(217) 427-2678