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Preview: What Should I Be Doing With My Bees This Month?

What Should I Be Doing With My Bees This Month?

This blog is for beekeepers in Northern climates. I will be describing what I am doing with my bees on a monthly schedule. Copying any text or photos is forbidden except with written authorization of the author.

Updated: 2017-12-10T21:14:27.297-06:00


Winter Covers


We are out of winter covers until early next week.

Winter has arrived


After enjoying the warm late fall weather, reality hit this morning. Ice and snow. It looks like the snow may be here for the duration.
 I was able to vaporize and cover all my hives before this weather hit. If you did not get around to covering your hives, now is the time to do it.
 If winter patties have been on for longer than two weeks, it may be a good idea to go out and take a peek to see if the patties are still there.
 The warmer than normal temperatures had the bees spread throughout the hive. In some cases the bees have been eating the sugar patties. So, check it out, replace as necessary. Now with the colder weather, the bees should stay clustered below the winter patties. If the hive has enough food the bees should be in the box below the top box.
 The warm weather has been an easy time for the bees. Honey consumption over the last month has been very low. Normally bees eat about 12 lbs of honey per month in the winter months. Over the last month, the honey consumption has probably been around 7 lbs (depending on cluster size).
 Now beekeepers can take a break. The season is over, the hives are covered and treated for mites. All the bees are ready for the rigors of winter.

Creamed Honey


Made up 30 cases of creamed honey, cinnamon and clover honey. I give the creamed honey to my friends and relatives. This is about 200 lbs of honey. It will take about 10 days to set. So it should be ready to give away by Dec. 10th.
9 oz hex jars. The cinnamon jar is dark, clover is the light colored jar

Open Hours Changing and Random FYI


Starting Dec 1st we will be changing to our winter hours. We will be open Saturdays only, 10 - 2pm.
 Any other time is by appointment. We do not have a problem setting up a time that better fits your schedule, if Saturday doesn't work.
 Beekeepers right now are finishing covering their hives for winter.
The unexpected warm weather is still giving beekeepers a little extra time to treat with oxalic acid. Plus the warm weather is making the bees consume less honey. This may help beekeepers who have light colonies going into winter.
 Did you know that Nature's Nectar LLC sells 5 gallon pails of bulk honey. If you need some honey for holiday gifts, give us a call to reserve a pail. Also we sell bulk strained beeswax. We have a special beekeeper price of $7.50 lb. We do have an assortment of candle molds and wick.

Making Creamed Honey


This is my making creamed honey video. I post it every year just before Thanksgiving.
 Creamed honey is liquid honey that is processed by mixing warm liquid honey with a starter seed of creamed honey purchased from a grocery store.
 After the honey and seed are combined and bottled, it takes about two weeks to firm up. (The creamed honey needs to be bottled in a wide mouth jar, so the contents can be removed with a butter knife). So give yourself time for it to get ready before gifting it.
The creamed honey spreads like butter, but it is all honey.
 What happens is,  the seed  which is finely ground crystallized honey. Will start to replicate the fine crystals. Over the two week period, all the honey will crystallize by replicating the fine crystals. This leads to a nice smooth texture. Normally when honey crystallizes the texture is very course. But by mixing in the fine crystals of the seed, the process controls the replication to the fine crystals.
 Creamed honey is easy to do. It makes great holiday gifts. Your family and friends will be amazed at this wonderful treat.
 The honey used has to be liquid with no granulation crystals in it. Sometimes the honey needs to be warmed up before making creamed honey to make sure it is clear of crystals.
 If making a small batch, say 10 lbs or so. Honey can be put into a gallon pail and put in a water bath in a crock pot. Heating on low brings the temperature to around 125 degrees. This usually will clear up the crystals. Make sure it is clear by gently stirring a time or two to make sure no crystals are on the bottom of the pail. Remove it from the heat when it appears ready. Wait for it to cool down to about 95 degrees before adding the seed. Too hot and the seed may melt, it is granulated honey after all. Too cool and the seed will not be properly mixed into the honey.
 After the seed is mixed in and the honey is milky in color throughout the mixture. Set it outside for a quick cool down to keep the crystals from melting.
Here is the video:
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Last week for Oxalic Acid


 The weather is warming up. The upcoming week looks good for any Oxalic Acid treatment.  Oxalic acid is applied when it is 40 degrees. I have been harping a lot about the Oxalic Acid treatment. I firmly believe that this treatment can improve the odds of successfully overwintering your hives. Here is a re-post of the dribble method YouTube video.

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What are beekeepers doing right now


This has been a cold week for beekeepers. Many beekeepers wanted to do Oxalic Acid treatments but it has been a little to cold to do it. The next couple days will be also too cold.
It looks like next week some heat returns with highs in the 40's again. Several days look good for applying the Oxalic Acid.
The dribble method should be done at 40 degrees.
 Covering hives with winter covers is progressing. Many beekeepers are putting on winter patties or a candy board on when putting "the hives to bed".
 New beekeepers who are running hives next year and their hives are in bear country, still have time to put tee posts in the ground for a bear fence. Best to put the posts and ground rods in now, before the ground freezes. The rest of the fence can be installed at your leisure. Sometimes the ground is still frozen in early April. This can leave a hive unprotected at a time when bears are waking up from hibernation with an empty stomach.
 Cold weather is coming soon, another few days next week to finish mite treatments and then the bottom can fall out of the thermometer anytime after that.

Deer Pics


With deer hunting coming this weekend. I wanted to give the hunters something to shoot for. Most of these pics were near one of my beeyards. I don't hunt, but I like looking at wild things with a trail camera.Looking for loveA doe pic was one minute before when this pic was taken.The big bucks normally only travel at night. The rut brings out a more careless behavior. Looking for love.  Looks like a 10 point buck. Trophy size.This guy must have been fighting. One side of the antlers is gone[...]

This week, oxalic acid and covering hives


Looking at the weather in the future looks pretty much of the same. Highs in the 40's at best.
 Feeding colonies is pretty much over. When it gets cold like this, the bees are in a tighter cluster usually in the box below the feeder. This is too far away from the cluster, so feeders may go untouched. Hopefully everyone was able to get their hives heavy with feed before the weather turned south.
 If you go out and look at your hive when it is 40 degrees and look underneath the inner cover at the top box. There should not be any bees on the top bars. If there is a large cluster of bees on top under the inner cover, your hive may not have enough winter stores in the hive for the winter stores.
 This week is a good week for Oxalic Acid treatments. Try to pick a day when it is not real windy. The magic number for the temperature at time of treatment is 40 degrees. Oxalic acid treatments should be done soon. It looks like this week and next week look ok for temperatures. After that it may be too cold to do it.
 Free Oxalic Acid samples are available from Nature's Nectar LLC. The sample of Oxalic Acid, is enough to treat 5 colonies
 We do have Varrox Oxalic Acid Vaporizers on sale right now. Regularly $165.00 now $145.00. They are the best quality vaporizers on the the market.
 Hives can be covered anytime now. I don't think we will see anymore 60 degree weather. Winter patties can be put on also, when covering the bees.
 A little work left to do on the bee front, then it is time to relax and reflect on the year. New beekeepers started the season with a nervous amount of knowledge. The season progressed and so did the new beekeepers. From package bees to winter covers. A whole season of bees pretty much over.

Wintering a beehive in the upper midwest


These are two videos of different winter covers and how to install them on the hive.
 Winter covers can be put on anytime after November first.
I usually put my covers on around Thanksgiving. But I watch the weather also. If there is going to be several inches of snow, I will run out and cover the hives.
A top entrance is imperative for wintering. If you don't have one, drill a 1" hole like in my previous post.
Wintering a hive, needs at least 8 frames of bees. Meaning at around 45 degrees, the bees would be covering both sides of 8 frames. I say 45 degrees because at that temperature the bees are more concentrated in the hive to get a more accurate judgement on the population strength.
 The other winter parameters are a young queen that has not gone through a winter yet. The top box should have eight full frames of honey with the ninth frame partially full, locate this frame in the center of the box. Put two winter patties on the top bars of the top box for emergency late winter feed.
 If your honey is under the cluster of bees like in the bottom box. The bees will not go down in the winter. They will end up starving. Also, do not leave any partially filled boxes on top of the hive. The bees may move up into this box, remember what I just said? The bees will not move down. Many new beekeepers do leave partially filled boxes on top, not realizing they are making a potential bad situation.
 This is one of the last chores for winter. Then the bees are on their own. A properly prepared hive with a low mite count, has a good chance at winter survival.

Cardboard Snug Fit
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Bee Cozy
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Winter Patties
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Queenless hive?


I had a customer call me looking for a queen. She went through her hive and could not find any brood. In a panic she was looking for a queen.
 After a short conversation about queen types, I learned she had a Carniolan queen. Carniolans shut down brood rearing in early fall. Right now if you looked in a Carniolan hive you should be broodless.
 If a hive is being fed syrup, that is a nectar flow and there more than likely brood in a colony that is being fed or was fed in the last two weeks or so.
 Italian queens will have brood into November. Especially if they have been fed.
 I have gone into Italian hives on Thanksgiving weekend and have found brood in the hive.
 All of this ties together about mites. Feeding should be done early so a hive can be broodless for the Oxalic Acid treatment. This beekeeper with the broodless Carniolan hive, will be able to get an excellent treatment of Oxalic Acid and it should prove to be very effective.
 Late feeders, who will have brood in the colony ( I am still feeding three colonies myself) the Oxalic Acid treatment may be a little less effective because of capped brood in the hive. But the treatment is still of great value and is worth doing.

Trail Cam Pics


Here is a few September trail cam pics
Doe is getting her darker brown winter coat

Forkhorn buck

Fawn has almost lost its spots

Robbing this week


This coming week will be warm all week. Several days in the low 70's.
 This warm weather while very nice, can be a week of robbing. Now most of us that live north of the metro have had a killing frost. Most nectar plants have died from the frost. So the only nectar available is in a hive.
 Hard to say what has happened to the yellow jacket and hornet population. Did the freeze take them out? We will see if they are in the robbing mix.
 All beekeepers can do at the moment is to put in entrance reducers with the smallest opening.
 If mouse guards are on now, cover most of the holes with duct tape or a piece of wood. This will help the bees defend their hive and may minimize the robbing.
 After next week, cooler weather may be here for the duration of the fall. Robbing should become a non issue.

End of Season Chores


The bee season is winding down. Most beekeepers have extracted their honey, treated for mites and made sure their hives were heavy with honey. But what remains? If your hives are still light on feed, there is still time to feed some syrup. Next week the highs are in the 60's and even a couple 70's are forecast. The bees will take down syrup still.After next week, the weather looks like it will be cooling off. Feeding syrup gets much more difficult when the highs are in the low 50's and 40's. So if you have some feeding to do, get it done asap. Consider feeding ProSweet. The bees don't have to convert it to honey, so the feeding goes faster. Oxalic Acid treatments can be applied anytime when the temperature is 40 degrees. It can warm up later in the day, just at the time of treatment it should be 40 degrees. At this temperature the bees are in a tight cluster and the treatment works the best. If the dribble method of oxalic acid is done when it is warmer than 40 degrees, the treatment may be much less effective because the bees may be spread out more in the colony. Using a vaporizer is more forgiving. The vaporizer coats the bees and equipment with  Oxalic Acid. The vaporizer does a little better treatment than the dribble method, but the dribble method works well when applied properly.  Entrance reducers or mouseguards should be in place now. Vermin will be trying to get into the hives now as the temperature cools. Three deep hives are more susceptible to mice compared to a two deep hive when the temperatures initially starts cooling off. In a three deep hive, the bees will cluster in the middle box leaving the lower box mostly empty of bees. With no bees to challenge the mice, the mice set up shop for the winter. In a two deep hive, there are bees in the bottom box to challenge the mice. But as it gets colder, the mice can still sneak into the bottom box and start to take advantage of rent free housing. Winter Covers and moisture boards: It is too early to cover hives for winter right now. Winter covers can go on anytime starting in November, I usually cover my hives around Thanksgiving. I watch the weather up until late November. If we are going to get several inches of snow, I will run out and put the covers on early. Once there is several inches of snow on the ground the daily temperatures cool dramatically. Temperatures in the 30's are not stressful for a colony. But when high temperatures are sneaking into the low 20's a winter cover should be on the hive. Top boxes need to have a 1" hole drilled in the box for a winter exit. This gives the bees the ability to go on cleansing flights over the course of the winter. The reason for hole is this: As winter progresses and the bees move up into the top box, they would have to travel down to go out the lower entrance, the bees will fly out and poop, fly back into the lower entrance and travel back to the cluster.  The bees will get chilled and die attempting to do this. The top hole is right where the bees are in the cluster. They can leave the cluster fly out, poop, fly back into the hole and the warm cluster of bees. There are always dead bees all around the front of the hive in the snow. This is normal. Remember, the hive start winter with around 40,000 bees. The population may fall by 50% over the course of the winter. If on March 1st the bees are totally covering at least four frames in the top box, that is a good number of bees to build up to a May divide. Winter is coming, the time is short, get the work done. The bees that get saved may be your own.This is where I drill my holes in the hive bodies. One inch below the hand hold, center of the box.I[...]

Ted Talk


Cool photography in this Ted Talk
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Drones being thrown out of the hive


Don't be surprised to see dead bees in front of the hives.
This is the time of year when drones are thrown out of the hive in big numbers.
Look close at the dead bees. The big eyes of the drone is an easy way to tell it is a drone. The workers are getting their hive ready for winter and this is one of the last chores to do before winter hits.

Last Mite Treatment - Oxalic Acid


Soon it will be time for the last mite treatment of the year.
 Oxalic Acid is used for this treatment. Oxalic Acid is wood bleach. Oxalic Acid was discovered to have good properties for killing mites it comes in contact with.
 Beekeepers use this treatment in late October.
 The reasoning is this, in late October most hives have shut down brood rearing and is broodless in the hive or close to it. The Oxalic Acid mite treatment is only effective on mites that are on the bees.  These are called Phoretic mites. Phoretic mites ride on adult bees feeding on their blood such as a wood tick on humans. Being there is no brood in the hive, all mites are on the bees. This is a time when these mites are very easy to kill using Oxalic Acid. By treating at the right time, in a broodless colony, Oxalic Acid can kill 90% of the mites that are on the bees. If there is brood in the colony, the Oxalic mite treatment may not be as effective.
 The treatment:
 A beekeeper needs to pick a time when it is 40 degrees at the time of treatment. It can warm up during the day, but 40 degrees is an important factor, especially for the dribble method.  When it is 40 degrees, the bees are in a tight cluster. All the bees are usually present in the box under the top box on a hive. This concentration of bees makes the dribble method work the best.
 There is two treatment options. The Dribble method or the Vaporizer method.
 The dribble method takes a solution of Oxalic Acid and sugar water in a syringe and squirting the solution on the bees.
 The Vaporizer method takes Oxalic Acid powder on a vaporizer pan, plugging it on to a 12v battery and vaporizing the powder which floods the colony with Oxalic Acid vapor. This vapor coats the bees and the inside of the hive with Oxalic Acid.
 Both of these methods work. The vaporizer method may work a little better, but either way works.
Oxalic Acid Link: EPA Label with safety and directions for use
 Here are two videos on the Dribble and Vaporizer Oxalic Acid Application:
 Dribble Method
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Vaporizer Method:

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New Woodenware design


All of our box woodenware is a slightly new design. The narrow rabbet strip is now combined into a bigger piece of the end of the box. The pics show how the boxes are slightly different from old style and new style. I think the new style will be a little stronger than the old style.
Old Style on left - New style on right

An assembled box with the new larger rabbet style

Old style on top - New style on bottom. Notice the wider rabbet on the bottom box end. Both rabbets are on the right side. The top one is narrow, the bottom rabbet is wider and harder to break.

Last Flowers Of The Year


A beekeepers shared a couple pictures with me. He is still getting some nectar coming into his hives. Compliments of a huge field of Asters that are in full bloom. Asters and Goldenrod are usually the last fall forage that the bees can use. Early frosts can hurt these late flowers, but this year the flowers are still standing tall.
 I was doing some feeding today on a couple hives that were a little light on winter stores. The warm humid day was making it easy for the bees to forage.
 The bees were still bringing some creamy white pollen on their legs.
Photo by D. Strand

Photo by D. Strand

New Hours for October


These are our new October Hours:
Wed - Noon - 6 pm
Thursday Closed
Friday Noon - 6 pm
Sat 9 am - 3 pm
Or call for an appointment.
As the season slows down so do our open hours. We are closing now on Thursdays.

What do I do with my supers and unused equipment


Now the honey is extracted what should happen with the wet supers and how to store them?
 It works well to take wet supers and put them back on the hive. Put the supers on top of the inner cover. The bees will come up from below and clean up anything that is still sticky. Depending how warm it is outside, they should have them cleaned up in about five days. If you have a bee escape board, put that on before the supers are removed for good. The escape board is an easy way to get the bees out of the super. Or, remove the supers on a cold morning when most of the bees are clustered below the inner cover. You may have to brush off a few bees.
 Long term storage, supers can be stored in a shed or a garage for the winter. The supers need to be stacked so they are mouse tight. Any little crack or hole will be an opportunity for vermin to move in and wreck the drawn comb. I store mine on the little pallets I made with a telescoping cover on top with a brick on the lid.
 But there is one more thing to do before we commit the bees to long term storage. For equipment storage, cold weather is our friend. When it is going to be freezing temperatures, I wheel the stacks of supers I have outside and leave them there for a week. This freezing weather will kill any wax moth or hive beetle that may be in the equipment. I am then confident that the supers or deeps are good for winter storage.
 Storing woodenware in an attached garage is fine, but the garage area does not freeze for a long time. The hive pests can get started to ravage the comb if it is warm where the equipment is stored. Wax moths and hive beetle love brood comb. Brood comb is rich in protein. If you just have a few frames, the frames can be put in plastic bags and put in a freezer for three days. The freezing temperatures kill the beetle and wax moth in all stages. That is eggs, larvae, and the pest.
 Dead colonies can be left outside. Hives should be set up for bees for next year. Put your best comb in the bottom box, so when bees come, the hive is basically ready to go. The hive should be swept out and cleaned of any dead bees and debris. Close up all the holes and openings. Put in entrance reducer and screen off the entrance hole to keep out mice. Staple a stiff screen over the entrance reducer hole. Cut the screen a little big so it hits the box above. Then a mouse can't push the entrance reducer in and spend the winter in luxury.
 Taking care of your comb will help a beekeeper get a good start when it is time to use that good comb next year.

What the hive needs for winter food


I get asked this time of year what is the hive setup for honey in a hive. A hive going to winter needs the following honey stores.
Top box - the top box should be pretty much full of honey. Eight full frames of honey and one partially full frame. A partial frame of honey is important for this reason. In January when the bees need to transition between the lower box and the upper box, the bees need to move up. Bees don't like to move up onto cold honey frames. By having a partial frame, (located around the middle of the top box), the bees will easily move up on the few empty cells of the partial frame.
 The empty cells can easily be warmed by the bees to make the move up. As some of the bees move up, they will come in contact with the cold honey. They will be able to warm the honey for the bee clusters consumption. Soon more bees will join them and the bees will have more and more warm honey for their consumption.
 Middle or bottom box - In a perfect world this box should have about four frames of honey in the box. This amount of honey will give the bees enough food stores to last into January when the bees move up. If this box is light on honey, the bees may move up into the top box too soon and there is a possibility of hive starvation from premature consumption of their top box winter stores.
 Winter patties or candy boards can be added when the winter covers are put on the hive. These emergency food stores should not be added until the winter covers are put on the hive.

Robbed out hive


This pic shows one of a beekeepers hives being robbed. It was her strongest hive. For some reason robbing started and never stopped. The hot days we just experienced was a contributing factor. Hot days brought all kinds of bees, wasps and hornets to the table. The hive was overcome and died. There were not many dead bees inside but the combs inside were badly shredded from the robbers attacking the honey in the comb. This was a split with a new queen this year. The hive may have had a high mite count and the population was starting to crash, making it an easy target for robbing.
Hive being robbed

Time to finish pre winter work


This is a heads up. October first is one week away. For some of us, it was August just yesterday and now it is almost October. This fall is moving too fast.
 There is work to finish up now before it gets too cool.
Mite treatments. If mite treatments have not been done and a beekeepers wants to still do it, the miticide of choice should be ApiVar.
 Now with the cooler weather coming on, several mite treatments would not be effective. ApiVar is a contact strip. The strips are put in for 42 days and have to be removed after the treatment is finished. That would be removing the strips around mid November. The strips must be removed. The strips cannot be left in the hive.
 Feeding, as the weather gets cooler into the 40's, feeding can get more difficult. When syrup gets cold, the bees will not take the syrup very well. If feeding is still needed, feed now with 2:1 heavy syrup sugar water or ProSweet syrup.
 The advantage here is ProSweet. The bees will fill the frames with ProSweet and no other work is needed by the bees.
 The bees need to convert sugar water to honey. As it cools off, late feeding sugar syrup becomes tougher for the bees. The ability to have the time too convert the sugar water to honey becomes a greater challenge.
 Beekeepers are in the home stretch with their season. Time to get the chores done to help the bees survive the rigors of winter.



This is the time of year beekeepers need to get their feeding done as fast as possible.
 To get the feed in a hive quickly, a few different fall feeding methods can be used.
Beekeepers can use multiple pails on a hive. Three feeder pails can be put right on top of the top bars of the top box. It is warm now and there is 50,000 bees in the hive. So beekeepers can take advantage of this by feeding multiple feeders to get the feed in fast. The bees can empty three gallons from the feeder pails in three to four days.
 Using a hivetop feeder is another way to feed a large quantity of syrup to a hive. A hive top feeder holds four gallons of syrup. A larger of number of bees have access to the syrup and the bees can put the four gallon away in about three to four days.
 Feeding ProSweet is the best fall food. ProSweet is similar to honey and the bees take it down and put it into the frames. The do not have to do anything to the ProSweet. The bees put it into the cells in the frame and they are done.
 With 2:1 sugar water, the bees have to dehumidify the sugar water and convert it to honey. Which takes time and energy.
 To compare, a gallon of ProSweet is one gallon of food that the bees get. A gallon of sugar water is by my estimate about 75% of a gallon of food after the syrup is dehumidified and converted into honey.
 three feeder pails on the top bars for fall feeding 

empty box surrounding feeder pails

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