Posted on

Location and what to consider

Location, Location, Location!

There are many things to think about when finding a location for your bees. lets take a look.

  • If you live in a city or a neighborhood with restrictions you will need to check to see if your honey bees are even allowed. More and more city’s are allowing bees, but there are many still that don’t or they have limits. It’s your responsibility to know these before bringing in your bees.  Ideally, the closer you can have them to where you live the more successful you will be and the more you will enjoy it.  But that’s not always possible.
  • Someone else property? Always negotiate a head of time what you will give the owner in exchange for putting your bees on their property.  Be up front, if its a couple hives maybe a jar or two of honey. remember though that first year hives will not have extra honey.  I have heard story’s of the land owner wanting 10, then 50 jars and the final year they wanted 100 jars.  the beekeeper was doing all the work, paying for the jars and bottling.  (she removed the hives at this point). I have an agreement where I will teach the land owner how to become a beekeeper herself. That means taking a lot more time then just running out and dropping another super on a few hives. What would take 10 minutes to do turns into 1 or 2 hours.  A lot of it is just conversation and good P.R., but its part of being a good mentor also.  Let them ask questions and answer to the best of your ability. (I never run out of things to talk about when asked about honey bees.)
  • Never put your bees where another beekeeper already has bees. Find your own place. Two reasons: stop the spread of diseases. You can not check his hives and he cant check yours. What if AFB was in one of his hives, you would never know till you had to burn everything. and second, an area of land will only support so many hives. Placing more hives where the other beekeeper already has many just means your bees will not collect enough nectar or pollen and will make very little if any extra honey.
  • Make sure you have access to the bees. Do you need to call the land owner every time you go check your bees?Ideally you want year round access. A second location I work with is a queen rearing yard. It’s behind locked gates. Make sure you have a key in case of an emergency. And when talking access, how far from your truck will you have to carry full boxes of honey?  Make sure you can drive close enough that you can get equipment in and out easy. Is the road solid? what if it rains? You don’t want to carry 60 lb buckets or supers of honey up muddy roads.
  • A lot of land owners will offer you locations they don’t use such as next to a creek.  Beware of flooding.  your bees need water but a fast heavy rain will destroy hives and sweep them away.
  • A sunny location facing south is best. Get the hives up off the ground.  A few pallets or cement blocks work well. Don’t go to high or you will have a hard time getting heavy supers of honey off if you go above your head.
  • Don’t face bees onto the main walk way.  The hive entrance will get very, very busy with thousands of bees on their way out looking for flowers. Know in your heart that your dogs and children will sooner or later learn the hard way that bees can sting. Don’t place the hives where the kids play. Let them learn the joy of honey bees with a bee suit of there own.

The honey bees are quite adaptive and hopefully will enjoy the hive you have provided them. Rarely is a location “ideal” so work with what you have, and have fun.

Posted on

Successful Wintering

Successful Wintering

Three things needed for successful Wintering

As I have said before; "There are many things to learn and to know about when it comes to honey bees." These three tips will help insure you have a successful wintering.  Are you ready? 

This all starts with Fall Care.

  1. HAVING YOUNG BEES, and plenty of them when you go into winter. During the summer worker bees will work themselves to death in about 6 to 8 weeks.  Where as your winter bees will need to live for many many months during the coldest part of the year.  To do this the bees going into winter need to be young bees being raised in September and early October.  As the days get shorter and the flowers die back, the queen will slow or even stop her egg laying by November and December. Warmer areas might see a small amount of brood rearing continue, but not here in the mid-west.  To make sure you have young bees, you will need to make sure you have a good laying queen, honey stores, and pollen stores.
  2. If you find a lack of pollen or honey then it's TIME TO START FEEDING for successful wintering of your hive. You can feed a 1 part sugar to 1 part water mix if you are light on honey.  You can also make up for lack of pollen by feeding pollen substitutes such as AP23 pollen substitute.  Without good food stores no colony can build up for the winter, let alone make it till spring blooming season. A good strong colony will need about 80 lbs of honey to carry it till spring. About 30 lbs will be used just to get it past winter, and the rest will be needed when brood rearing starts again in January or February well before any flowers will be blooming. A caution about pollen patties.  Feed small amount that the bees can use in about a week before adding more.  In the past beekeepers would lay large patty's across the entire top of the frames, these are breeding grounds and food sources for the small hive beetles larva. Only feed small amounts at a time.
  3. And last, WINTER PROTECTION. This last class falls into a couple parts. Windbreaks/wraps and proper ventilation. If your hives are exposed to strong piercing winter winds then its a good idea to place a few straw bales to the north and west side to cut down on direct winds or snow.
    Two bee hives wrapped
    Bee Hives Wrapped for Winter Protection

    Wrapping the hives can add another layer of protection if you think you will need it. A good strong colony should be able to keep itself warm during most winters. One thing they can not protect against is moister in the hive. Ventilation in the fall while the bees are curing nectar into honey is essential.  At the same time we are wanting good ventilation for successful wintering we are also reducing the entrance to help keep out mice. A screened bottom board used for IPM is useful for improved ventilation.  Now is a good time to check that your hive is tilted slightly forward also. This helps any moister that collects on the inner cover run to the front of the board. We do not want moister dripping on the cluster of bees when its freezing outside.

You are becoming a beekeeper. Do your part. Plan for Successful Wintering to Keep the honey bees safe.   Read Spring/Winter tips here.

Have a Great Day!


Posted on

Movable Frames

Movable Frames

Movable Frames

In modern beekeeping, a Langstroth hive is any vertically modular bee hive that accepts frames that are locally referred to as "Langstroth" frames. The actual dimensions of so-called Langstroth frames differ slightly by manufacturer (try to always use the same manufacture so they will fit together when you move frames). The advantage of this hive is that the bees build honeycomb into frames, which can be moved with ease. The frames are designed to prevent bees from attaching honeycombs where they would either connect adjacent frames, or connect frames to the walls of the hive.

What about top bar hives? The fact is, many states have antiquated laws that require beekeepers to use "framed" hives. Personally I believe the wording should be changed to movable honeycombs, or something along that line. In the early part of the 20th century, many states recognized framed hives as being essential to keeping healthy bees, because they allowed the hive to be inspected more easily for disease (this was mostly in comparison to using skeps, not other alternative hive types). Therefore, many states at that time passed apiary laws requiring beekeepers to use hives with movable frames. In these states, any type of top bar hive is technically illegal, whether its top bars are fastened to the hive body or not. As I said... Antiquated laws. The main point is skeps have to be destroyed to get to the bees, and skeps are illegal to use (thought they are very attractive as decorations). We don't care how you choose to keep your bees so long as they're healthy, and it's likely that your state's apiary inspector won't care eitherHowever, he or she might. Just be prepared with a long blade to cut the honeycomb from the side of your top bar hives should the inspector visits your apiary.

Now you have choices,  What do I put inside the frames? Foundation? Plastic or wax? wired or unwired?  What is it your trying to do over all? Do you need strength to reinforce the honey comb during extraction, or do you want to sell comb honey? Do a little reading on each type of foundation and you will see that there is a different type of frame for each type. The term "plastic foundation" refers to plastic sheets embossed with the worker cell pattern. Bees add wax to the foundation to make a complete comb. Extracted honey can be produced in supers of any depth but they usually need wire reinforcement embedded into the wax to keep the comb from blowing out when spun at high speeds for extraction. The frame just holds the honeycomb and makes it easy to extract.

Movable frames in the brood box are also a big plus. There are times you will need to be able to move frames of brood around. If you have a hive that is just getting started it can be a big boost if you can add a frame or two of brood from another hive. This will give the new colony young bees that will be emerging in days instead of weeks. Even if you can only give empty drawn comb, it gives the queen a place that she can immediately start laying eggs.  

Next, if the colony becomes honey bound, you will need to move some of the frames with honey away from the brood and add new foundation or drawn comb.  If the queen runs out of space to lay eggs she will swarm. moving frames is one way to prevent that.

Moving frames can be done to create a artificial swarm. You will hear the term "splitting the hive" this is how beekeepers grow the numbers of bee hives they have, or to make up for winter losses. They take some of the frames out and place them into a new hive box. they will then either add a new queen or let the bees make their own.

And of course movable frames allow for the inspection of the honey bees and the brood.  There are a large number of diseases that can only be diagnosed by removing the frames and looking at the brood. American foul brood and European foul brood are two of the ones that come to mind most often, but there are others.

Beekeepers own bees, they do not just "have" bees.  To have bees you do nothing beside put them into a box and hope they live. Owning bees requires that you pay attention to them, know if they are honey bound, are they healthy, are they queen right, and to do this you need to be able to open a hive, move the frames and inspect them.  Especially if your going treatment free you need to know how the bees are doing. One hive that is diseased then dies out can affect every hive for miles around.  Don't be the one who killed every honey bee around just because you didn't want to look to see if you had American foul brood.

There are many things to learn and to know about when it comes to honey bees. The type of frame you use is just one little part. Are you ready? 

You are becoming a beekeeper. Do your part. Keep the honey bees safe. 

If you have already started I Hope Your Having fun with your honey bees. and If your looking to start this next year now is the time to read up on the type of bee hive you want, the type of frames you need and get ready to place your orders by January.  (it's not that far away)

Have a Great Day!


Posted on

Swarm Season

Swarm season is upon us.

Are you ready? What do you do if your hive swarms? Can you catch it? who owns the swarm? Do you have the equipment to hive it? These are all questions you need to be asking your self.

Are you ready if your colony swarms? Have You given it much thought? If you are a first year beekeeper than probably not. But you should.  When you first added your bees to your hive you where told to feed, feed, feed. But once the bees start bringing in their own pollen and nectar, if your not careful your hive will end up honey bound. This is what happens in nature when honey bees build in small cavity in hollow trees. The queen runs out of space and they throw a swarm off to find a new home. And it can happen to you if your not checking your hive routinely. New hives can and will swarm. It's natures way.  If you open the hive and see a peanut shaped cell hanging down from your frames, then the bees are getting ready to swarm. It's a new queen cell. Look close, if you see one, there are probably many more hidden under the bees on the frames.
Now you have choices, do you save them? cut them out? split them? That depends on your goals but I will get into that in a later blog. For now lets say you missed them and the hive swarms.

Many times you will not even know that it has happened till you go back into your hive looking for your marked queen and cant find her. You notice the bees aren't building up as well as you thought they should have, but the frames are full of honey. The truth is your bees built up very well and you lost over half of them. This swarm can contain thousands to tens of thousands of bees. Swarming is mainly a spring phenomenon, usually within a two- or three-week period depending on the locale, but occasional swarms can happen throughout the producing season. Secondary after-swarms may happen but are rare.  On the good fortune that you do see them swarming, you must follow them and stay with them as they land. 

If you are lucky they landed some place easy to get to and hopefully on your land. Beekeepers own bees, but there is a grey area on who owns then when they swarm. There are many thoughts on this but it's hard to find a definitive answer. If they land on some one else's yard that person can go collect them and hive them. but if you followed them most people, being afraid of honey bees, will be happy to see you showing up with a bee vale and a box and smoker. Always get permission to enter someone elses' yard.


Hiving a swarm takes a little know how. It's not hard unless they landed 80' up in the top of a tall tree. The big question is, do you have an extra box, bottom board, inner cover, top and frames? Some of these you can get around for a day or two, but you should have frames for a swarm right from the start. When honey bees swarm they eat honey and fill themselves so that they are ready to start building honey comb as soon as they get into their new nest site. If you box them with out frames they will start building wax cells right onto the lid of any box you put them into.  Consequentially that's a lot of wasted resources for the bees. They need that wax cell right away to start storing new nectar and to give the queen a place to lay her eggs. If they have to start over a couple days later they may be at a complete disadvantage, not build up as strong, or even not be able to build up at all unless given a feeding of sugar water.

There are many things to learn and to know about when it comes to swarms. Are you ready? Have you read a beekeeping book about it? Taken any beekeeping classes? You can learn a lot from the class instructors. How many varroa mites are you bringing home? Do you know how to check? How soon do you need to treat for mites? (hint...before the brood gets sealed).  

You are becoming a beekeeper. Do your part. Keep the honey bees safe. Learn every day about what you can do, what new treatments are out there, and be ready. Honey bees DO tell us when they want to swarm. Are you paying attention? 

I Hope Your Having a fun spring with your honey bees and hope your looking forward to a great honey harvest.

Have a Great Day!



Posted on

Honey bees post

Honey Bees, A world of wonder and enjoyment just waiting for you to explore!

I love honey bees!  WHAT?  You heard me.  I love honey bees!

Now I must admit that I was very nervous a few years back when I first took my future wife, on a date out to the country side, to a friends acreage just north of Excelsior Springs, MO.  We had only been dating a few months and she had already told me that she was afraid of bugs, but I wanted to share every thing with her.  You're on a honey bee web site so you know where this is going.  Yes, I took her out to see my bee hives that I had near by.

To my joy she was willing to at least get out of the car and walk down the hill to see the hives. Of course she stood 50 foot away and would not come any closer. But I gave her credit for trying.

My disappointment came when I found that the two hives I had both starved at the beginning of spring. It had been a mild winter and the honey bees had been more active and had eaten all the honey. I had just restarted beekeeping again, and had paid $130 for each 3 pound box of honey bees.  So you can imagine my disappointment in loosing two hives. Of course I believe that relief is what my future wife was feeling at the time.

Why am I telling you about dead honey bees?

Because it happens to the best of us. I'm not new to honey bees, I'm in my 50's and had first raised honey bees when I was in my teens. But I do want to let you know that yes, even with the best of intentions, we loose honey bees from all kinds of mistakes. My mistake was not feeding enough as they went into winter. In February I had seen them at the entrance of the hive. I didn't open the hive to check on the number of frames of honey left. I figured they had made it this far and the coldest part of winter was past. My mistake.

For the hobbyist beekeeper most would just give up at this point. And a lot do. Every year, around this time, bee clubs will hold new beekeepers class's. People will join the club. And they stay with their new hobby for a year or two. Then they are done. The bees died.

Don't let this stop You

Don't let this set back stop you. Try again!  You already have the equipment at this point, so try something new. Try baiting your empty hive and seeing if you can catch a swarm. Free honey bees may be better than the box of bees you purchased. These honey bees are survivors from local stock that made it through the winter.

Don't tell me that all the feral honey bees have died. I see way to many honey bees at the local gas stations trash cans looking for the sweet syrup of spilled soda pop. If you lost your honey bees don't give up.  I have been in and out of the beekeeping hobby/business for a number of reasons. Mainly because I would move across country or live in a town where honey bees are not allowed, but that's another story.

Just don't let it stop you from enjoying honey bees.

honey bees swarm
Honey Bee Swarm