Thursday, January 30, 2014

LESSON 149: What’s Hurting Bees? Chemicals Or Varroa Mites? 217-427-2678


Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Hello long time friends and a warm welcome to those who have just found us on the web! We are all counting down the days until spring with only 49 days to go. Still hard to get excited with recent frigid temperatures.

As usual more and  more people are calling us and stopping in getting started in beekeeping for the very first time. 2014 will be the very first year of beekeeping for so many people. We are excited to be a catalyst and source of training for new beekeepers and experienced beekeepers. Stop in and see us or call us at: 217-427-2678

As a certified master beekeeper I review the latest findings, attend conferences, review journals and speak with friends doing research so that I can continue to teach and mentor beekeepers with facts not myths. Our beekeeping classes are filling up fast. Some of our spring classes only have several seats left. If you are considering taking one of our beginner, advance, queen rearing or bee institute classes, do so soon. Beekeeping Classes. 


NS15 As predicted last fall and early winter, package bees are being sold at an unusual rate. Never before in our history have we sold out of bees in January. But we have sold out for the year. There is a small chance that we might be able to shake more, but it is too early to tell. If we do, we will be able to tell more around March. Please keep an eye on these lessons and our website and we’ll post more information as soon as we know.  Please do not ask to be placed on a waiting list. Instead if we can obtain more we will give a week’s notice before we place them online so you can be ready to order as soon as they go live.


NYPhoto4 For those of you taking our classes or anticipating signing up for a class, we have reserved some packages for students. However, we may not have enough packages for all students. This is on a first come, first serve basis. You must sign up for a class first and then purchase a package. These will run out soon too! Here’s  a list of our classes:

Feb. 8 Basic Beekeeping - SOLD OUT
Feb. 15 Basic Beekeeping
March 8 Basic Beekeeping
April 12 Basic Beekeeping
May 23-24 Advance Beekeeping
June 9-13 Beekeeping Institute
June 27-28 Queen Rearing Course
October 3-4 Basic Beekeeping
October 25 Basic Beekeeping

LESSON 149: What’s Hurting Bees? Chemicals Or Varroa Mites?

A common question from new beekeepers often has to do with farm fields close to where they want to place their hives. Those of us in the Midwest are surrounded by farm fields. Data is flowing in from many different reliable sources as bees, pollen and wax are examine to see how much these farm chemicals could be effecting honey bees.

Most of us watch aerial sprayers in the summer and wonder if this will hurt our bees. However, if we removed all chemicals from our world our bees would still face their greatest foe, the varroa mite. I think we would all agree that far more hives are lost to varroa than all chemicals combined.  I attend many meetings and conferences and I hear from beekeepers who do nothing against mites are quick to blame chemicals. That, to me, is unfair. In no way am I defending chemicals that kill bees. But, the reality is we need to invest our concerns first into defeating mites because we have absolute proof that varroa kill bees and contribute to the greatest loss of honey bees.

Varroa mites came to our country shortly after I started keeping bees. I’ve written an article on the history, lifecycle and how to break the brood cycle of varroa mites in the hive.

There are very effective chemicals to use in the hive to reduce mites. Whether to use chemicals in the hive or not, is a personal opinion that you will have to consider. However, if you want to avoid chemicals we recommend a 4 part method to greatly reduce varroa mites in the hive. We teach in detail these 4 methods in our basic and advance classes because for you to be a successful beekeeper you must stay on top of varroa mites.

Four Steps: 1) Use screen bottom boards 2) Dusting with powdered sugar 3) Green drone comb and 4) Breaking the queen’s brood cycle.

I am always surprised at the number of experienced beekeepers who have never heard about Green Drone Comb Trapping of varroa mites.

drone foundation We strongly suggest using drone foundation to lure the mites. We explain this method in more detail in our classes how mites prefer drone cells because the foundress (adult female) mites have a full 24 days to develop their prodigy since the drone honey bee is the longest in the cell. So, you can lure the mites off of your workers by placing drone foundation on the outside edges of your brood hive bodies. We sell a one piece drone foundation plastic frame as seen here in the picture. The cell size is for drone cells so the queen knows to lay only unfertilized eggs which produces only drones. Then, mites run to these cells to reproduce. After they are capped, you pull the frames out, put them in a plastic trash bag, freeze them overnight and your mites are dead. Scratch open the cells and place it back in the hive for the bees to clean out, and they will! They get rid of all the mites and dead drones on the green drone comb and you can repeat this method over and over  These frames are a bright lime green so you can easily identify your drone frames in the hive. We sell these frames for $4.99 each, much cheaper than chemicals. These can be purchased from our website at: under tools, smoker category. By scratching the cells open after freezing, it allows you to keep the drawn comb intact, but encourages the bees to clean out the dead mites and drones from the cells. If you scrap the wax completely off, then it just takes more time for the bees to build the comb out again.

NS14 Do not let varroa mites discourage you. But work all season with our 4 suggested methods to greatly reduce the negative impact mites can have on your hive.  No matter where you purchase your bees from, your hive will quickly have varroa mites. Mites crawl from bee to bee even when bees are out foraging on flowers. Bees sometimes drift into other hives and drones are carriers of mites to other hives. You may never have chemicals hurt your hives, but you will always have mites hurting your hive. Be proactive.

Let me tell you about an awesome gathering of beekeepers in February. It’s called the Tri-County Beekeeper’s Association and meets in Wooster, Ohio. This thing is HUGE. It’s believed to be the largest gathering of beekeepers in the US. It’s over 35 years old and keeps getting bigger and better. This year, I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker and would love to see you there. The dates are Feb. 28- March 1.  Click here for more information and registration information.

Then in March I’ll be speaking for the Missouri State Beekeeper’s Association Spring Meeting. This will be held at the Country Club Hotel & Spa Lake Ozark, Missouri March 21st-22nd. I hope you can join me there too. Click here to register for this conference.

David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Friday, January 24, 2014

LESSON 148: Are You And Your Bees Prepared For Spring 217-427-2678


Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms where it is cold, cold and cold. The good news is that we are only 55 days from spring. If you are like us, you can’t be more ready.

We’ve been busy as a bee this winter, meeting so many new folks who are starting beekeeping this spring for the first time, and of course new customers who just found us on the internet. Welcome!

Today I want to encourage you to be sure you are prepared for spring, and I want to help our new beekeepers understand when to add hive bodies and supers as the year progresses.

Before our lesson today, take a peak at what’s been going on here at Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. Our son Seth is still deployed in Afghanistan and will be coming back this spring. He’s doing fine and we look forward to seeing him again. After returning home he’ll get a short leave and will marry Leah our newest addition to our staff. Unfortunately, we’ll be losing Leah after the wedding as they will be moving out to Twenty-nine Palms, CA where Seth is stationed. They will be getting married this summer so we’ll have Leah through the busy busy bee season. Yea!

I had a great birthday last week and all my children wrote me letters letting me know how much they love me. I’m keeping those! It was great for them to share with me how much I have influenced their lives. Then Sheri took me to a Japanese restaurant, the kind where you sit right next to the flat grill where the chef does amazing things with fire, knives and food. It was lots of fun.  

With Leah, Karee, Jennifer, Josh and Zach doing such a great job around here, we enjoyed a trip over to the Children’s Museum in Indianapolis. Our Christian is growing up so fast. He’s now six and he’s a sucker for a building full of fun stuff to do to break up the monotony of winter. Yes, winter seems long and boring this time of the year for those of us in the north. We have to do something fun to keep our sanity.

Let me tell you about an awesome gathering of beekeepers in February. It’s called the Tri-County Beekeeper’s Association and meets in Wooster, Ohio. This thing is HUGE. It’s believed to be the largest gathering of beekeepers in the US. It’s over 35 years old and keeps getting bigger and better. This year, I’ve been asked to be the keynote speaker and would love to see you there. The dates are Feb. 28- March 1.  Click here for more information and registration information.

Then in March I’ll be speaking for the Missouri State Beekeeper’s Association Spring Meeting. This will be held at the Country Club Hotel & Spa Lake Ozark, Missouri March 21st-22nd. I hope you can join me there too. Click here to register for this conference.

LESSON 148: Are You And Your Bees Prepared For Spring?

Whether this will be your first year to keep bees or you have years of experience there is always so much to know and do in preparation for spring.

Rainbowhive If you live in the cold north like we do you might find that winter seems like it will never end. However, as of today there is only 55 days left until spring.  Whether you are new to beekeeping or experienced, do not let this cold weather fool you into thinking spring is a long time away.  Start preparing now. Let me give you several tips on how to prepare for the new beekeeping year:

1. Purchase your equipment and bees in advance. I cannot stress this enough. Bees always run out fast for all providers across the US. Do not put off buying your packages of bees. If you haven't purchased your hive kits yet, do not delay. You do not want your bees to arrive before your equipment and have nothing to put your bees into. Get your equipment early so you can become familiar with the pieces and even place it out where it goes. If you cannot decide whether to start with one hive or two, read my article on, “How Many Hives Should I Start With”? We are selling bees very fast and may only have several week’s supply left. If you still need a 3 pound package, click here.

2. Increase your knowledge of beekeeping. Now is the time to take a beekeeping class. A thorough beekeeping class can make all the difference on how you can keep varroa mites under control, install a package, harvest honey,  trap small hive beetle and much more. It's a different beekeeping world now. So much has changed so keep up with it all by taking a class.

3. Be prepared to know when to add hive bodies and supers to your expanding colony. I have a complete article and video for you to study so you will not make rookie mistakes.

4. For new beginners, brush up on how to install a package of bees. It's really enjoyable. But watch my video first so you do it right.

winterbkind 5. Even though spring is close, do not let your bees starve to death now. Remember, bees need food and most colonies starve in late winter and early spring just before flowers bloom. Be sure to put on one of our Winter-Bee-Kinds to help your bees get that added nutrition to hit spring running. Be sure to select either 8 frame or 10 frame when ordering.


For those of you who have hives enduring the winter you need to have a plan ready as soon as spring arrives. I have some suggestions on how you can prepare yourself and your hive for spring:

1. First, DO NOT pull out a frame unless the temperature is above 60 degrees (f). Otherwise the cold can damage the brood. Warmer is better, but you can do a quick inspection if it is 60 degrees (f).

2. Once you can perform your first inspection you need to look for the following:
     a. Brood in various stages such as eggs, larva and sealed brood.
     b. Identify the queen.
     c. Assess the amount of pollen/honey. Add pollen patties or our Winter-Bee-Kind if low on food.
     d. Clean debris from bottom board.
     e. Determine how well the hive came out of winter in population. Are they low in numbers of bees are very strong?

NS8 3. Once you have performed your first inspection in the spring you will need to plan what to do to help your hive grow well. Questions to ask are:

    a. Is the queen laying well or does she need replaced?
    b. Is the colony so strong in population that splitting the hive is necessary to prevent swarming?
    c. Do I have mites? Place green drone comb in each deep hive body to begin capturing varroa mites.
    d. Do I have small hive beetles? Insert small hive beetle traps, one in each deep between the frames.
    e. Determine if you need to place a honey super on for the spring flows.

These are important ideas and questions to encourage you to think now what you will do in the spring. For example, if you find your hive is very populated and you need to split the colony but you do not have another hive, then half of your colony may swarm. Be sure to have adequate beekeeping supplies before you desperately need them. Now is the time, while you are bored of winter, to prepare for spring.

See you next time.
David & Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

Sunday, January 5, 2014

LESSON 147: What Will Winter Storm Ion Do To Honey Bee Hives? 217-427-2678

DavidSheri Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms. We are David and Sheri Burns and we operate a family owned beekeeping business. We make all our hives by hand. We DO NOT buy other hives and assemble them. We start with large pine boards and build hives. And as an EAS certified master beekeeper we offer beginner and advance beekeeping courses, as well as queen rearing classes in our education center here on our farm. Visit for a full list of our 2014 class schedule. We sell everything to do with bees, even the bees. So we appreciate your business.

We are a one stop place where you can get everything you need to get started in beekeeping. You’ve thought about it, and now it’s time to get started in the exciting world of beekeeping.


Hive2 Years ago we started making our own hives. They meet traditional Langstroth’s measurements but we’ve tweaked our hives because we are beekeepers and we knew what improvements we could make to improve our hives. Our complete hive was one of the first hives to be completely painted and assembled and we still build and paint them the same way. If you need a hive for spring, check our hives.

Winter weather certainly brings concern to most beekeepers. Although healthy colonies can withstand brutal winter weather, colonies that are low in numbers or food supply can fall victim to such storms as we are witnessing across the Midwest and northeast. The low temperature in Chicago tonight will be minus 13 below zero (-13 f). The high temperature in Chicago tomorrow is predicted only to reach a negative 10 below zero…that’s the high temperature!

Winterhives When blasts of cold, brutal winter weather threatens colonies around the US we get questions from beekeepers asking whether their bees will survive. Colonies that were already in trouble will probably fail. Small colonies with less that 40,000 bees will likely freeze and die. Larger colonies that are healthy will likely be unaffected by winter storm Ion.

The winter colony of honey bees does not hibernate, rather bees cluster together and generate heat to keep work. The queen will be in the center of the cluster as well as possible small amounts of brood. Remember, developing pupa needs to be kept around 92 (f) degrees. Bees will work hard to generate the heat needed around the brood area and in support of the winter cluster. The greater the number of bees, the more heat can be generated. This is why it is so important to start preparing for winter in the spring, making sure your bees are developing into strong colonies all year long in preparation for winter.

Tomorrow we will receive lots of calls from beekeepers in a panic over winter storm Ion, asking us what they can do to help their bees make it through winter. When Sheri and I were discussing how to answer these questions I jokingly told her she should answer, “buy more packages”.  The tricky part of winter beekeeping is packages have to be ordered in January and February when you really don’t know yet how your existing hives will do coming out of winter. Will they make it or not? If you wait until March to find out, it’s practically impossible to buy packages this late in the year if you need replacement packages of bees.

wraphive Most people wonder if they should wrap their hive, or cover the hive with something to hold in the heat. A blanket may help your bees if they have no wind block and are in a very windy area. I would only use the blanket for short durations, taking it off when temperatures reach back into the 30s. Many insects survive winter by burring down under brush, leaves or dirt to avoid drastically cold temperatures. Of course, a blanket is feasible if you only have one or two hives but is impractical the more hives you have. A blanket on a cold night still may not help an unhealthy hive or a hive with inadequate numbers of bees. But, since you do not know how many bees are in your colony, it may be something worth trying. The reason you do not want to leave it on a hive is because it could become moist and hold too much moisture and stale air within the hive.

Should you put a heating pad or light around the hive? Again, this is a lot of work and excessive or unnatural heat can adversely affect the colony. Again, if you have a hive or two and it’s going to be –10 (f) for a night, some beekeepers claim this is helpful. Ideally, we want strong colonies going into winter so these attempts are not necessary with strong and healthy hives.

What about moving the colony into a barn or garage? Certainly this could be helpful if the hive does not have a wind block. But, a healthy hive is going to be very heavy to move. What if you move it and spill it and separate the boxes and break the propolis seal? Not good! What if you hurt your back? And if you do move them into a building, be sure to screen the front so no bees can fly out to investigate what all the shaking and groaning is about. Then, you’ll need to move them back out on a day of 50 (f) degrees or above so they can fly out from their old location. So again, this could be helpful but requires a lot of work and risk.

So what’s the best thing to do? Stay warm in your house and hope for the best. That’s really all we can do. Of course we believe in our Winter-Bee-Kind upper insulation/candy and protein board with an upper entrance/exit.  Watch my video on how it works:

It’s never too cold or late in the winter to put the WBK boards on your hives. When ordering, be sure to specify whether you have an 8 frame hive or 10 frame. Look closely to order the proper size for  your hive. Click here to order. In summary, there is very little left to do at this point. Winter preparation has to be completed during warm weather, now we sit and wait keeping our fingers crossed and saying our prayers.

Before I go, here’s some items and classes you need to know about:

busybee1BUSY BEE SPECIAL 1 Hive and one package of bees with mated queen. The hives are custom made by hand right here in Central Illinois. The packages of bees are shipped to you from Gardners Apiary in Georgia, who have agreed to help us help you fulfill your dreams of becoming a beekeeper in the spring 2014. Your hive will ship first from Illinois, then bees will ship approximately in May of 2014. CLICK HERE to read more about our BUSY BEE SPECIAL. VERY LIMITED NUMBERS.




Freedomekit Two complete hives. Each hive includes the following: CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION AND TO ORDER
1 screen bottom board with two different entrance cleats. One cleat is for use with the included entrance feeder. The other is used without an entrance feeder.
1 entrance feeder. Just add your small mouth glass jar and feed your bees sugar water if needed.
2 Deep Hive Bodies. This is the area where the bees live. Each deep hive body comes complete with 10 wooden frames with full 3/8 side bars, and are glued and stapled. Plus each frame is already assembled with plastic beeswax coated foundation. This is a total of 20 deep hive body frames.
1 Medium Honey Super. This is where the bees store their excess honey that you can
remove. This super comes with 10 wooden frames, glued and stapled, fully assembled
with plastic beeswax coated foundation.
1 Inner cover. This goes on top of the boxes, but beneath the final top cover. This inner
cover allows for upper ventilation and an vapor barrier.
1 Telescoping Top Cover. This is the final top cover with nice white aluminum metal to
help protect it from the weather.
1 Plastic Pith Beekeeping Hat.
1 Veil that goes around the hat to protect the face and neck.
1 hive tool. 1 Beekeeping Stainless Steel smoker with heat guard
1 Package of smoker fuel, though you can also use pine needles or other natural items.
1 Book, "First Lessons In Beekeeping" by Keith Delaplane.
2 Queen Excluder, used to keep the queen from entering into the upper super.
These hives are built right here at our honey bee farm in Central Illinois.

Classroom Plug in to one of our upcoming beekeeping classes:

Jan. 24-25 Basic Beekeeping

Feb. 8 Basic Beekeeping

Feb. 15 Basic Beekeeping

March 7-8 Basic Beekeeping

March 22 Basic Beekeeping

April 12 Basic Beekeeping

May 23-24 Advance Beekeeping

June 9-13 Beekeeping Institute

June 27-28 Queen Rearing Course

October 3-4 Basic Beekeeping

October 25 Basic Beekeeping

Stay warm and thanks for joining us for another beekeeping lesson.
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms

217-427-2678 M-Thu 10am-4pm central time. Friday 10am-Noon