Raising Honeybees in the Suburbs

After taking a few entomology classes at the University of Minnesota. I discovered with fascination the world of insects, especially honey bees. It will be my seventh year as a beekeeper and I am sure a new adventure as well.

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Treating fo Varroa Mites and Feeding!

Hives in Chanhassen

We harvested on Labor Day weekend. We extracted : 243 lb. and we kept 189 lb Jamison has brought his supers from St. Cloud, and collected about 54 lb.

I returned the wet supers on top of each hives, so the bees could clean them well before storage for the winter.

Now I am treating for Varroa mites, I am using Apiguard (50g) per hive. I am done with the first dose, and will place the second dose this week. I will also feed them a gallon each of sugar syrup (2 parts sugar: 1 part water).
Both hives are actually very heavy...good thing as we are entering winter soon!

Tuesday, August 04, 2015

Good Honey Production!

Ben replacing the ventilation box!

I needed help to look into the supers, to see how much nectar was capped. I wanted to know when  we will be able to harvest this year.
The weather has been perfect for the foragers to gather lots of surplus nectar! The bees are working very hard. When we opened the hives, they smelled very sweet...I love it!

Both Italian colonies have many supers on,  it is so tall that even with a step stool I cannot reach the top...and besides it is too heavy for me to lift way over my head! This is why I need a helper!

The first colony has 3 deep brood boxes, and 5 regular supers and one deep super. A regular super weighs about 40 pounds and a deep super 50-60 pounds!
The second colony has  also 3 deep brood boxes, and 3 regular supers and 2 deep supers!

When I put those deep supers on , frankly I was not thinking... I will not do that again!  Way too heavy to lift, and to carry around. See I do learn!

We are planning to  extract during Labor Day weekend, September 5, 6 and 7th.

Happy Beekeeping!

New : University of Minnesota Bee and Pollinator Research Lab

Dr. Marla Spivak thanking supporters

 August 3, 2015

At 3:00pm under a beautiful blue sky and gentle breeze the first step was taken to build a state of the art Bee and Pollinator Research Lab. It has been a dream of Dr. Marla Spivak for many many years, and it is finally happening.

Donors, supporters, faculty members, students and volunteers were assembled for this Ground Breaking Ceremony.

It will take about a year to build, so the Grand Opening should be around the same time next year...2017!

Congratulations to Marla, and Gary Reuter for their huge endeavor and wonderful vision! I which them good luck!

Ground Breaking with dignitaries

Varroa Mites: Natural Treatments

Colonies in lavender field , Southern France

Here are few natural treatments that beekeepers can use to treat against Varroa mites. No particular order.

1. Apiguard
2. Apilife Var
3. HopGuard
4. Mite Away II
5. Oxalic Acid


Thymol, temperature needs to be above 59F (15C). Need to remove honey supers before treating colony.

Apilife Var

Thymol, eucalyptol, menthol and camphor. Not temperature sensitive. Need to remove honey supers before treating colony.


Hop. Not temperature sensitive. Honey supers can stay on colony while treating.

Mite Away II

Formic acid. Use from mid-April to mid-June and again mid-August to mid-September,temperature has to be between 50F to 85F  ( 10-30 C). The honey supers can stay on colony during treatment.

Oxalic Acid

Also known as "wood bleach", can be used only when little amount of brood is present in the colony. Honey supers have to be remove before the treatment. NOT YET APPROVED TO USE IN MINNESOTA.


Friday, July 31, 2015

Test for Varroa Mites Now!

August is coming fast and it is time for a Varroa test! This will give you a base line, to see if you need to treat for Varroa mites this season.

One of the easiest way to test is to use what is called the Sugar Roll Method or Sugar Shake Method.

 Gather your supplies:

-Domino powder sugar ( no starch ) it is bad for the bees
-Mason jar with screen lid
-white paper plate
-water spray bottle
-1/2 cup measuring scoop (~300 bees sample)
-Plastic box--to put everything and use it too!

Method :

-Put 2 TBS powder sugar in jar
-Take a frame of bees, and shake it in the plastic box --Take a frame from the center of you brood box, where there are open and capped brood and LOTS of nurse bees.
-WATCH!!! make sure the Queen is NOT in the plastic box!
-Tap the frame into the plastic box
-Scoop the bees with the measuring cup, and put in jar with sugar
-Put the lid on, right away
-Give the jar a little toss, to cover the bees with sugar
-Put jar in the shade 1-1.30 minute ( the heat will help dislodge the mites)
-Spray the paper plate with water
-Shake the jar over the plate until there is no more sugar in the jar!
-Count the mites in the plate
-Return the "sugary" bees in the hive ( They will be cleaned up by their sisters!)

Mites on plate!

"Sugary" bees!

Recommendation of Mite Load from the University of MN:

It has been recommended that if there are MORE than 3 or 4 mites/100 bees you should treat your colony.

It is only a recommendation, obviously you can do whatever you want. But this is the pre-determined threshold where it is a good idea to keep the mites in check so the health of the colony is not jeopardized. 

My next blog post will talk about the option of treating for Varroa mites.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

My Tallest Hives Ever!

These 2 hives are really tall!
July 21, 2015

After just one week of my last visit, I had to add one more super on each of my Italian colony. It is so high that I needed to bring a step-stool so I could place the super on top. I was on my tippi toes, on the step stool and tried to balance the ventilation box and cover!

I made it but next time I would need a ladder! No Joke!
Those 2 hives have 3 brood boxes (bottom ones), he rest are honey supers...you can see that they both have one deep super! This weigh about 50-60 pounds.

Conclusion...we will extract and have some honey this season.

The Russian colony, is the same as last week: still small, but I saw eggs, larvae and pupae. The queen is not that great of a layer. I don't see how it can make it through next winter. It does not have enough foragers so they are not collecting much of anything. It is sad to see.

This is beekeeping, we do the best that we can to have healthy and prosperous bees but sometimes there is nothing more we can do to help them...this is nature.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Summer is Finally Here!

Look how tall those hives are?
July 14, 2015

Now that June is over, the swarming tendency is decreasing. Usually in July the weather is very warm, and honeybees are very happy. The nectar flow is on! It means, all foragers are fully deployed to gather as much nectar as their little wings can make them fly to wonderful floral sources.
I saw lots of flowers blooming in the past 10 days...white and yellow sweet clover, basswood, and birdsfoot trefoil. Fantastic food!

All we have to do right now is to keep ahead of the bees: Putting supers, as they are filling up quickly. Stack them, two at a time. Ours are so heavy (notice: we have deep boxes as supers!!!! It can weight as much as 80lb.! What were we thinking???) Soon I will need a crane to lift them up! Ben had to help lifting them last weekend. But still I need a step ladder to place the next 2 regular supers on. I guess it is a good thing... it means we will have plenty of honey!

As you can see my 2 Italian colonies are doing well. There have plenty of bees, eggs, larvae and pupae. They already have a huge collection of nectar, pollen and honey. Each queen is laying beautifully, textbook laying pattern.

My Russian hive was doing well, but now it is not anymore. The colony is very small, and the queen is not laying well...instead of depositing an egg per cell in an orderly fashion, the pattern seems very scattered, spotty. In addition, she does not seem to be very interested in laying eggs...she walks on the  frame without stopping, a bit strange.

She maybe injured, sick or has been poisoned. I do not feel that this colony will recover before winter. It is very unfortunate to see a queen not being well, especially one that has survive her first winter. I had so much hope.

I do think that we have a problem with having too little genetics available for prosperous, healthy  reproduction. The gene pool available has not being replenished with fresh "blood"yet.  The honeybees that we all have today are great-great-great grand daughters of the first bees and queens that came to America with the first European colonists! Give or take!

I will check the Russian queen soon and see what she has been up to in the last week or so.