Getting an August Honey Bee Nuc

Honey bees at the entrance of one of my late summer nucs. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Honey bees at the entrance of one of my late summer nucs. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

“Hi, I’m getting my first bee colony this August, it’s a nuc and I am SO EXCITED! What advice do you have for getting them ready for winter?” — Sammy

Getting an August Honey Bee Nuc

Hi Sammy, congratulations and welcome to the adventure that is beekeeping!

Your first goal is going to be to grow this colony so they can fend for themselves over winter:

  1. If not all of the frames have wax pulled and bees working on them, that will be your first goal to get them expanded enough so they can move into larger accommodations.

    To get them to pull wax, feed them 2 parts water to one part sugar with a dab of food grade lemongrass. That will simulate plant nectar that triggers their wax glands to pull wax.

  2. Once they have wax pulled on all 5 frames, move them to a larger box, which is usually either an 8-frame or 10-frame hive. In mid-Missouri many beekeepers have the brood box in deep boxes topped with a medium or three mediums. The smaller sizes are easier on the beekeeper’s back.

  3. Once in the larger hive, feed them a second sugar mixture of 2 parts sugar to one part water with a product like Honey Bee Healthy, which provides additional vitamins.

  4. Since you are starting so late in the season, monitor the colony growth. If we have a good fall nectar flow they may be able to collect, store and dehydrate enough nectar to have winter food. If not, sugar patties will come in handy to help supplement feed them.

  5. Starting a nuc this late in the growing season will mean you may have to feed them through winter but then come spring, the little colony should rapidly grow.

    To make any of the sugar syrups, mix sugar cane sugar with hot water, stir and allow to stand until the sugar dissolves. Add the lemongrass or Honey Bee Healthy and allow to cool before pouring into jars or feeders.

    I use glass jars on Boardman feeders inside the hive to cut down on robbing.

    Good luck and let me know how you’re doing with your new tenants!

Charlotte

How to Entice Bees to Move Up

Placing frames of empty wax comb on top box may encourage bees to move up. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

Placing frames of empty wax comb on top box may encourage bees to move up. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

“Hi Charlotte! I acquired my bees last spring and they are thriving right now. They have filled the bottom portion of the hive with comb and honey. I have placed a new super on the hive several weeks ago and they don't seem interested in building in it. Is there something that I can do to encourage them to move into it?” - Shayne

How to Entice Bees to Move Up

Hi Shaye, where are you located?

In mid-Missouri where I am, the nectar flow is over so the bees wax glands are not being stimulated to pull wax or do much storing. If you want to encourage them to pull wax, feed them 2 parts sugar to one part water in jars/feeders inside the hive to reduce robbing.

You can also check the bottom box and move the outside frames, which should have drawn wax comb, bee bread and honey, and move those to the top box to encourage bees to move up. However, without drawn wax, they probably won't be very interested unless you feed them to get their wax glands going.

If you feed, remember you can't harvest the stored sugar water for your use, you want honey made from dehydrated flower nectar.

Hope this helps. Let me know what works for you.
Yours, in bees,

Charlotte

 

When is the best time to make a split?

One of my honeybee hives building up the colony this spring. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One of my honeybee hives building up the colony this spring. (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

“I want to split two of my honeybee hives this year but I don’t know when I should do it. I still would like to get some honey so when is a best time to make a split?” — Lily

When Is The Best Time to Make A Split

Hi Lily,

The answer to your question is actually in your question. You said you want to split two of your honeybee hives but you also want to get honey this year so the best time for you to split is after the nectar flow.

If you want honey this year, you want your bee colonies to be strong so they can collect enough flower nectar to dehydrated into honey for their winter use as well as extra for you. To do that, they need lots of foragers taking advantage of temperatures between 75F and 85F, when flowers produce nectar to attract pollinators.

If you split now during the nectar flow, your bee colonies will have less bees to forage for flower nectar, which means you will need to monitor them to make sure they have enough honey stored to make it through winter. Usually split colonies do not have enough bees to make extra honey.

Once the nectar flow is over, you can then split the colonies and continue feeding them a nectar-like sugar water mixture. The sugar water mixture will keep their wax glands stimulated so they build wax on the new frames and also have ready sugar water they can dehydrate and store for winter. You don’t want to harvest this stored sugar water for your use because it is not honey.

Hope this helps you as you decide how to manage your honeybees!

Charlotte

When Are You a "Beekeeper"

One way to celebrate officially becoming a beekeeper! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

One way to celebrate officially becoming a beekeeper! (Photo by Charlotte Ekker Wiggins)

“…I took one of your beekeeping classes a couple of years but still can’t keep a hive alive….don’t call myself a beekeeper but my friends do…When is someone a beekeeper???” — Name Withheld by request

When Are You a Beekeeper

Hi, at your request I am withholding your name. Your question is an important one and deserves some context.

First, this may be one of the more challenging times in beekeeping history to keep bees. Pathogens spread by the varroa mite, loss of habitat and poor nutrition challenge honeybees as well as our native pollinators. The good news is that if we do something for one group we will help the rest.

Secondly, no two years of beekeeping are alike so learning to be a beekeeper is constantly evolving and challenging. A good beekeeper is amateur biologist tinkering in genetics; a gardener; a pet owner and in larger quantities, a farmer specializing in animal husbandry practices. If one is running a business from the bees, then add all of those specialties associated with a business. It’s no wonder keeping honeybees is not for everyone.

That’s why you will find Missouri now has 45 local bee clubs, up from the 5 local bee clubs that were around 10 years ago. Attending bee club meetings is a good way to learn the terminology, pick up on suggestions, meet other beekeepers and, if you look closely enough, find a bee buddy who will share the adventure with you.

There’s also a new tool for those beginning to keep bees. Kim Flotum, senior editor with Bee Culture Magazine, has also started a quarterly magazine designed to help beginning beekeepers. BEEkeeping is $20/year and covers those initial overwhelming topics.

Back to your original question. Rolla Bee Club has a simple answer to that question, we say you can call yourself a beekeeper after you pull a colony through winter. It can take beginning beekeepers a couple of years to do that since the learning curve can be steep but we are not governing the bees, we are working with them to support them. That means we have to learn their world and their way of doing things.

I know you well enough to say don’t give up, you have a lovely garden and a caring spirit. Learn from your mistakes. Ask questions about what went wrong, what you can do differently and try again.

In my humble opinion after 9 years of lessons with my bees, they are more than worth it!

Charlotte

"Would you bring your hives to my property...."

One of my hives, this one at the end of the vegetable garden before I fixed the concrete blocks.

One of my hives, this one at the end of the vegetable garden before I fixed the concrete blocks.

"Would you bring your hives to my property?"

Periodically I am asked to either bring my honeybee hives to someone's property or to find beekeepers who would be willing to bring their hives to someone's property to pollinate their - blueberry, elderberry or whatever crops - for free. In a couple of emails, the property owners wanted to charge the beekeepers for rent to bring the hives to their land so let's go over a few basics here.

First, beekeepers have invested tens of thousands of dollars in equipment, bees, education and time by the time they have sustainable bee colonies. Yes, beekeeping is expensive, even if you build your own hives and catch swarms.

Secondly, beekeepers that do provide pollination services do have bees they can bring but they also charge for those services, sometimes a monthly fee or a charge per crop being pollinated. Most crops that require pollination have short windows where they need pollination services, which is why the major beekeeping companies spend 6 months on the road moving colonies all around the country. The pollination services season starts with pollinating almond fields in February, one if not the largest movement of bee colonies nationwide with a good 60% of North American bees going west.

A recent study February 2019 found that bees in California almond fields were dying not only because the blooming almond trees were sprayed when in bloom but they were mixing herbicides and fungicides that impacted the bees.

In addition to the stress of moving, honeybees can also get exposed to toxic chemicals applied within a 5 mile radius of where the hives are located. There is no antidote to pesticide, herbicide and fungicide exposure. The beekeeper takes that risk when they move a colony into a new area, not the property owner.

That's not to say there aren't beekeepers who would be willing to bring hives onto someone's property but the property has to have excellent bee forage plants to make it worthwhile, and those lands are few and far between. Most Missouri land has been overgrazed and over-farmed so unless the property owner is working to restore the soil conditions and planting crops to provide a continuous flower source through the growing season, most property doesn't provide bees with nutritious pollen.

A friend of mine has moved several of his hives to friend’s property only to have them die out for lack of food.

In some areas, like St. Louis, there are now "Adopt a Hive" programs where beekeepers either bring in a hive to someone's property for a fee, and then provide some honey at the end of the season provided there is extra honey. I understand there are some issues with this program because some of the hives are not properly maintained, bees disappear and property owners end up without honey even if bees pull through the season. It's not uncommon for a colony not to have extra honey after the first year at a new site but non-beekeepers still expect to get honey out of a hive.

The best arrangement was one I heard about a couple of years ago where the property owner and beekeeper split the cost of the hives and bees. The beekeeper set up the hives on the property and managed them, then at the end of the season the property owner and the beekeeper worked together to extract and split the honey. The arrangement worked so well the bees were left on the property to winter over until the next year.

So would I bring my hives to someone's property? Sorry no, I like having my girls close by where I can keep an eye on them. I started keeping bees for pollination myself and I enjoy seeing my bees visiting my flowers throughout the season. It also gives me a great excuse to keep planting and developing my one-acre hillside garden, not that I need another reason to buy flowers on sale!

Have you been asked to bring hives to someone's property for free?

Charlotte

Christmas Beekeeping Book

Two of Sue Hubbell books that would make wonderful Christmas gifts.

Two of Sue Hubbell books that would make wonderful Christmas gifts.

"...love your stories about beekeeping, you remind me of Sue Hubbell. Have you read her books? Would you recommend them? Looking for a Christmas gift idea for my wife, she's a beekeeper...." - Paul

Christmas Beekeeping Book

Hi Paul, 

What a lovely compliment, thank you, you've made my day. A friend introduced me to Sue Hubbell before I was a beekeeper. She was first a librarian, which explains her rich literary references but it's her willingness to be honest about life's challenges that appealed to me in her writing.

Hubbell has authored a number of books but the one I would recommend as a Christmas gift for a beekeeper is her "A Book of Bees." This book describes her caring for 300 hives in "the Ozarks," a place yet to be identified although some say it was around the Doniphan, Missouri area.

Some of the information is out of date but her description of spending days in bee yards having her lunch on a sunny hillside listening to the hives humming is something every beekeeper will related to, regardless.

Another book, if you want to give a second one, is "A Country Year," which covers her living in the Ozarks and the lessons she learned trying to be self-sustaining. There are life lessons in this one, too that have little to do with actually farming the land.

Amazon offered these books in "used" condition the last time I checked, and if you can't get them here by Christmas you can give a card that says these books are on their way.

One of the few illustrations in Sue Hubbell's "A Book of Bees"

One of the few illustrations in Sue Hubbell's "A Book of Bees"

My grandmother gave us books at Christmas growing up and to this day I like having a special book to enjoy for Christmas. No surprise then that I think your idea of giving her one, or both of these books, is a lovely idea.

Merry Christmas, Paul!

Charlotte

Bee Gift Ideas

These three bee-related gifts have one thing in common: they all appear to be made out of glass.

These three bee-related gifts have one thing in common: they all appear to be made out of glass.

"..enjoy your columns. My wife is a beekeeper and I'm starting to get nervous about Christmas shopping, all she wants is real bees. Any suggestions besides telling me it's ok for bees to bite me?" -- Matt

Bee Gift Ideas

Hi Matt, 

The good news is bees don't bite, they sting, and only if you do something to threaten them. If you run into bees away from a hive stay calm and move slowly, they should not bother you. If you spend any time in your garden, the bees will learn to recognize you but as soon as I say that, you will run into a cranky colony so, just stay away from the hives until you get more comfortable understanding how they live and how you can stay safe around them.

In terms of gift ideas, I do understand your wife's excitement about getting real bees, it's a very exciting thought. If you want to present her with some, you can give them to her with a little imagination. Real bees are not available for delivery in Missouri until April at the earliest, more likely May. If you want to give her bees, put a note in a bee-themed container like this glass skep that says you will pay for a "nuc", a nucleus or starter colony. They run from $125 or more, depending on where you purchase them.

This little glass skep was a gift from a friend, she found it at an antique mall off I-70 near Columbia, Mo. She said they were available in different colors.

This is a new glass version of a bee skep available at an antique mall of I-70 from Columbia, Mo.

This is a new glass version of a bee skep available at an antique mall of I-70 from Columbia, Mo.

In the meantime, you may want to give your wife something more personal, such as a pair of bee earrings or a necklace. I am partial to pins because I can easily move them from a sweater to a jacket or a hat but you know your wife's preferences better. 

These bee-themed earrings include clear bodies, probably a clear plastic or polymer.

These bee-themed earrings include clear bodies, probably a clear plastic or polymer.

Bee earrings can be added to a Chrismtas stocking or placed inside the glass skep for an extra surprise. I would be tempted to box them separately and leave the real bees purchase card in the skep. If you don't want to buy real bees, you could select the bee jewelry by itself, or add it to the inside of the skep as an extra surprise.

The little glass version of a skep, which is a woven basket where bees used to be kept, works quite nicely as a little jewelry container.

Another possible gift idea is a vintage piece of beekeeping equipment. Old smokers are popping up in antique malls where I live, as well as some ceramic honey pots with bears.

This old glass honey jar with the stamped comb pattern on the side and the original lid was a great find, the glass jar is interesting all on its own.

This is a vintage glass jar for honey with the old original lid, love the comb pattern on the side.

This is a vintage glass jar for honey with the old original lid, love the comb pattern on the side.

You could package each separately or group them together for a one-time gift.

I can attest to how well a beekeeper would like them, these were gifts a friend gave me for my birthday and I love them!

Charlotte

Keeping Drinks Safe From Bees

Bees will follow sweet drinks, here raiding a hummingbird feeder in my garden.

Bees will follow sweet drinks, here raiding a hummingbird feeder in my garden.

Keeping Drinks Safe from Bees

"I have bees getting into my drinks by the pool....Is there something I can do to keep them out? -- Mary.

Hi Mary,

I'm guessing you see more bees around your swimming pool late summer, say July-September? That's when my bees start raiding hummingbird feeders at my house and start checking my water glasses.

Bees, like all animals, need water. They tend to look for water with minerals they need at different times of the year. They also raid hummingbird feeders and swimming pools late summer because the colony numbers are at their highest and they need help keeping the colony cool with an easy access to water.

Water glass top 2.jpg

To keep bees out of my water glass, I use an old peanut butter jar lid to keep bees out of my water glass.

When I have something I want to save, like earrings or plant seeds, I turn the jar lid over.

When I have something I want to save, like earrings or plant seeds, I turn the jar lid over.

I turn the peanut butter jar lid over to hold something I don't want to loose, like a ring.

Give that a try and let me know how that works for you, thanks!

Charlotte

Why Is Honey in Bear Jars?

Hyvee packages honey in bear-shaped jars with a label that helps explain the jar shape.

Hyvee packages honey in bear-shaped jars with a label that helps explain the jar shape.

Why is Honey Bottled in Bear-Shaped Jars?

"...out of curiosity, why is honey sometimes bottled in bear-shaped jars? Doesn't make sense to me..." - Harold

Hi Harold, I used to wonder about that myself. As a fan of Winnie the Pooh, I did understand there is a special affinity between bears and honey. Well, at least one particular bear and his special honey jar.

According to Citizendium, the practice started in 1957 when Ralph Gamber, future president of the Dutch Gold Honey company, was looking for a unique honey container and reasoned that a bear likes honey, why not a bear of honey. 

That's not set in stone, though. Edward Rachins applied for a patent of a bear-shaped bottle several years before Gamber. It was Gamber's company, however, that popularized the honeybear-shaped jar.

Apparently a successful packaging idea. A survey conducted in 1995 showed that some 15.5 percent of the honey sold was packaged in such bottles.

Honey bears showed up at one of our state beekeeping association meetings.

Honey bears showed up at one of our state beekeeping association meetings.

And did you know the honeybear jar has a name? In the fall of 2007, Dutch Gold held a naming contest for the honeybear and the Gamber family selected "Nugget" from among the entries!

Charlotte

 

Chemicals & Bees Get Along?

A colony of Italian honeybees at the entrance of one of my Bluebird Gardens bee hives.

A colony of Italian honeybees at the entrance of one of my Bluebird Gardens bee hives.

Do Chemicals and Bees Get Along

 “I have been using chemicals on my garden plants for years. Can I add honeybees?” – Jordan

Overuse of chemicals in home gardens is one of the leading causes of bee decline in North America, along with loss of plant diversity and pests and diseases, the main culprit being the vampire-like varroa destructor mite.

You don’t want to get honeybees only to have them die from chemical exposure so if I had to give you a direct answer, I would not recommend it.

Depending on what chemicals you have been using, residue will remain in your plants and soil and affect whatever bees you bring in.

Have you seen any other pollinators, such as butterflies and native bees in your garden? If not, then that should tell you once and for all the conditions are not safe for honeybees.

Charlotte

Gift Suggestion for Beekeeping Girlfriend

An electric un-capping knife makes harvesting honey a breeze.

An electric un-capping knife makes harvesting honey a breeze.

"My girlfriend is a beekeeper so she has the hives and uniform and all of the basic equipment. Is there something special I can get her for Christmas she would appreciate?" -- Jack

Gift Suggestion for Beekeeper Girlfriend

Hi Jack,

Do you happen to know if she has something that looks like the knife in the photo? That's an electric un-capping knife that makes harvesting honey easier and would make a very nice gift idea for your beekeeping friend. 

It's the kind of piece of equipment beekeepers tend to skip buying but once they have it, they wonder how they ever did without it. 

If you can't get it shipped in time, copy a picture of the item and add it to a card with a note that says you will help her carry the hive bodies when she's ready to extract. She will love having you help her, I guarantee.

Merry Christmas!

Charlotte

 

Top Beekeeping Gift Idea

Leather gloves are important beekeeping safety equipment, these have been well worn.

Leather gloves are important beekeeping safety equipment, these have been well worn.

"If you had one beekeeping gift idea, what would it be?" -- Cheryl

Top Beekeeping Gift Idea

Hi Cheryl, my top beekeeping gift idea is a good pair of goat leather beekeeping gloves. You can find them at most farm and home centers that carry basic beekeeping equipment. If they don't have goat skin, then cow leather will work, the idea is you want gloves made from something that will make it hard for a bee to sting through it.

You certainly can give bee hives and tools but a pair of gloves is not only special but personal. Every beekeeper should have a pair of these heavy duty leather beekeeping gloves as part of their safety equipment. Not all beekeepers use them all of the time but when they are needed, there is no other substitute.

Local Honey Jar

If you want to add a little something more, or looking for something for a stocking, how about a jar of honey from one of your local beekeepers. 

A hive tool is another basic beekeeper's tool, no beekeeper ever has too many.

A hive tool is another basic beekeeper's tool, no beekeeper ever has too many.

Beekeeper Hive Tool

Another gift option is to add a beekeeper's "hive tool," the basic metal shaped tool to open hives and move frames. Every beekeeper needs at least 2 because inevitably one is left in the garden, or worse yet, inside a hive, and we really can't do much without one.

If you are buying for someone starting out, you can't go wrong with picking one that fits your gift budget. 

Ship Overnight after December 10

Some suppliers may also be able to get you a pair shipped in time for Christmas. After December 10, I recommend shipping overnight since shipping carriers are very busy with orders and they can't guarantee delivery by Christmas after December 10.

And no, a good pair of gardening gloves will not work well for beekeeping, trust me.

Merry Christmas!

Charlotte

Can She Give Her Brother Bees for Christmas?

One way to give your brother bees for Christmas is to put a gift certificate in a package with bees on it.

"Hi, my brother wants to keep bees. Can I give my brother bees for Christmas?" -- Cynthia

Can She Give Her Brother Bees for Christmas

Hi Cynthia, 

If you are asking if you can give your brother real live bees this time of year, sorry, the honeybees are inside their hives clustering to stay warm and shouldn't be opened or moved. The only possible way I could imagine you getting live bees for your brother is if you knew a beekeeper who was selling bees and was willing to try to move them for you. I don't know of anyone and don't recommend it.

One Option Is to Order Bees For Delivery Next Year

One option to give your brother real bees is you could order them and give your brother a gift card in the shape of a bee with your ordering information. Since you live in Missouri, try Tim Moore at Honey Hive Farms, they should still have a package of bees you can order for around $100. They will be delivered mid-spring next year so you can pick the bees up at one of their many drop-off points around the state. 

There are other places you can order bees, I suggest Honey Hive Farms because I have purchased from them in the past and was very happy with their bees. Whatever you do, only order from Missouri beekeepers, you want to get local bees.

Give Your Brother a Class in Basic Beekeeping

Another way to give your brother bees for Christmas is to give him a class in beginning beekeeping. As a beekeeper, there are things he will need to know to successfully keep bees. you You will find a consolidated list of upcoming classes on the Missouri State Beekeepers Association website. Eastern Missouri Beekeepers are offering a beginning beekeepers class February 11, 2017 in Fenton, Missouri, you will find more details on their website.

Chocolate Hershey Hug Bees

You can also give your brother some chocolate bees made out of Hershey Hugs. I developed these a few years back as a gift for my beekeeping friends. They are easy to make and fun to give.. Try not to sample too many as you're making them! :)

Good luck and Merry Christmas!

Charlotte

 

Can You Help Me Identify This Plant?

Can You Help Me Identify This Plant?

"My bees and butterflies are all over this plant. We almost pulled it up as a weed. Can you help me identify what it is?" -- Dave

Serrated leaf edges help with this plant identification.

Serrated leaf edges help with this plant identification.

One more photo of the flowers:

A native Missouri wildflower, the compass flower.

A native Missouri wildflower, the compass flower.

That's a compass plant, a Missouri wildflower that grows 8 feet tall.

According to Missouri Botanical Garden, compass plant is a Missouri native perennial which occurs in prairies and glades throughout most of the State. It is a tall, sturdy, rough, bristly plant that grows on stiff, hairy, resinous stems to 9' tall. Compass plants feature sunflower-like flowers to 5" wide with yellow rays and yellow center disks.

Flowers bloom in loose spikes on the upper parts of the plant in summer. Very large, deeply pinnatifid cut close to the midrib basal leaves to 18" long are reminiscent of pin oak leaves. Upper leaves are smaller. Basal leaves usually orient themselves on a north-south axis so as to minimize intense overhead sun exposure, thus giving rise to the common name.

Split or broken stems exude a gummy, fragrant-but-bitter resin which was used by Native Americans as a mouth-cleansing chewing gum. Many of the silphiums are commonly called rosinweed.

A gardening friend is giving me a number of starts for my bee garden. Bees love this native!

Charlotte

Keeping Birds & Bees Apart

This homemade bee feeder is keeping bees out of a friend's hummingbird feeder.

This homemade bee feeder is keeping bees out of a friend's hummingbird feeder.

My friend Margaret asked me how to keep bees out of her hummingbird feeder. She took my advice and here is her followup:

"The bees were hanging out at my hummingbird feeder and my hummers couldn't feed. My beekeeping friend, Charlotte Ekker Wiggins, showed me the sugar water saucer in one of her bee hives, saying the bees need the sugar to make their honeycombs. So, I put out a saucer of sugar water to attract the bees away from the hummer feeder. It worked, now the hummingbirds can feed and i have a swarm of bees at the saucer. Man, the bees eat faster than the birds. Enjoying dining al fresco with my birds and my bees!" -- Margaret

Do you have bees getting into your hummingbird feeders?

Charlotte

 

Bees in Hummingbird Feeders

Honeybees in hummingbird feeder at Bluebird Gardens.

Bees in Hummingbird Feeders

"Bees are keeping my hummingbirds from their feeders. Can you come over and get your bees?" -- Linda

Between  calls and emails, you would have thought bees were taking over the world, or at least mid-Missouri. I don’t blame the callers for being concerned, more and more honeybees are becoming prominent backyard visitors.

At this point in the season, honeybee colonies are at their highest population levels. Bees will fly between 2-4 miles from their home hive looking for food. With record hot temperatures over 90F for several days, plants shut down pollen production leaving bees scrounging for food. Although many colonies have a nice stash of saved honey by now, some will turn to eating their stores if they can’t find other food sources.

Usually this dearth hits Missouri in August. his year, it has been a good month early.

There is a bit of a respite when we have rain. Some rains give plants a boost and plants start producing pollen again. Several days of record hot temperatures once again shuts plants pollen production down. Because we have had an extended hot streak, bees are looking for food in all of the wrong places – hummingbird feeders in particular. They are also reportedly visiting bird baths and swimming pools.

One of the recommendations I have read is to make sure your feeders don’t have anything yellow. The yellow color attracts bees and wasps. If you have hummingbird feeders with yellow flowers, gently pop them out for now. Hummingbirds can still get to the syrup with their long tongues.

Feed Bees Thicker Sugar Water

Of all of the techniques people have suggested, the only one I know that works is feeding bees away from hummingbird feeders. To do, take a plant saucer, or use a bird bath; add rocks and twigs, then sugar syrup made of two parts water to one part sugar. This is twice the concentration of hummingbird syrup, which is four parts water to one part sugar.

Use hot water to dissolve the sugar; then allow to cool before feeding for both bees and hummingbirds.

Place Bee Feeders Away From Hummingbird Feeders

Place the bee feeder away from the hummingbird feeders. You may need to initially place it close to the hummingbird feeders to get the bees attention but once you have buzzing visitors, move it away from bird feeders. Bees will share the new location with their sisters and stay away from the hummingbird feeders as long as you keep the thicker sugar syrup served.

Frankly this active bee stage doesn’t last long. Worker bees only live for six weeks over summer, dying after they wear their wings to shreds. Hot weather tends to shut down the queen laying so colony numbers will soon start to decline getting ready for winter.

Hummingbirds traditionally migrate back to central and south America by mid-September so by the beginning of fall, all we have left to contend with are yellow jackets. These wasp cousins of honeybees are the same size but are ground nesters and repeatedly sting when provoked. Honeybees only sting once and then die.

And sorry, even if the bees bothering your hummingbirds were from my hives, there is little I can do to encourage them to stay home. 

Charlotte

 

 

How to Save Remaining Hive from Small Hive Beetles

Frozen frame of wax brings out small hive beetles.

Frozen frame of wax brings out small hive beetles.

"My 2nd year in buzzing and the small hive beetle has wiped out 3 of my 4 hives, please help!" -- Wayne

Charlotte: I am SO sorry, small hive beetles can be devastating. These invasives are originally from sub-Sahara Africa and seem to be thriving this year in mid-Missouri in our record hot summer temperatures. What do you have left in the remaining hive?

Things to Have on Hand as You Inspect

Plastic garbage bags; newspapers or dark sheet; plastic gloves; extra super or nuc box; phone to photograph frames for future reference; small hive beetle traps and mineral oil or swiffer cloths; access to another hive for brood and stores.

If you have plastic gloves from hair products, use those. Gardening gloves may be more flexible than your leather beekeeping gloves.

If you don't have them in your beekeeping arsenal, plan on buying a box of plastic surgery gloves from Dollar stores. They come in handy when you need more finger dexterity. 

Distinct Hive Smell

Whenever you inspect your colonies, the first thing you should always check is the smell of your hive. Does it smell clean or, better yet, like honey?

When looking for small hive beetles, when you open the lid, does it smell like dirty socks? If so, you have small hive beetle larvae in and sliming your frames. They need to be removed as quickly as you can. 

Unlike wax moths, which take over a weak hive, small hive beetles can take over a strong hive within days.

Preparing to Inspect Colony for Small Hive Beetles

First, cover the ground around your hive with cardboard, newspaper, a dark sheet - you want to prevent small hive beetle larvae from falling off frames into soil to pulpate.

Be Prepared to Strike Quickly

Once you have the area around your hive covered, remove your leather gloves and pull on the plastic ones. If you have gentle bees, these gloves will work. The gloves will give you more flexibility as you go after small hive beetles to kill them.

Open your hive back up and be prepared to quickly kill every small black bug you see. They gravitate to dark areas, such as under the telescoping cover, so be prepared to strike as soon as you lift off the cover. Use your hive tool, your gloved hand, whatever is handy and don't be merciful, you need to kill every small hive beetle you come across. 

If you are feeding, also check under your feeder, they also like to congregate there.

I also tend to find small hive beetles themselves in end frames so remove the second frame from the outside, inspect, then be prepared to quickly kill small hive beetles quickly moving around those end frames.

Safeguard Your Queen

Now that you have a little room to move around the hive, find your queen and set her in a nuc or a super box so she's safe while you inspect the rest of your frames. 

Small hive beetles like dark comb to lay eggs. Larvae will crawl out when exposed to sun. This is a frame of brood that had to be frozen to kill small hive beetle larvae.

Small hive beetles like dark comb to lay eggs. Larvae will crawl out when exposed to sun. This is a frame of brood that had to be frozen to kill small hive beetle larvae.

Checking for Small Hive Beetle Larvae

Most people watch only for the black, ladybug-like bugs but those are the ones laying larvae eggs so you need to be merciless looking for, and removing, the larvae.

As you pull out a frame, hold it up to the sun and wait a few seconds. Small hive beetle larvae will start to crawl around outside the wax comb because they don't like the sun exposure. 

If they don't start to show up as you expose the frame to sun, take your hive tool and gently slide the comb aside and see if a bunch of little white worms emerge, that's the larvae. And whatever you do, keep them away from soil. If you happen to drop a few, literally stomp on them and grind them to death or you will just have more small hive beetles next year.

Gently remove bees, then wrap each frame individually in plastic and place in a container with a bottom to prevent small hive beetle larvae from getting away, and check the next frame.

You can stack frames inside a large garbage bag to store before freezing, the frames will help keep comb from globbing together but make sure there is no wax touching to give small hive beetle larvae a place to  hide.

Even if you end up with just a couple frames of brood and a queen, you can start again.

If you have no frames un-infested, borrow a frame of brood and stores from another hive, add the queen and treat the colony as a new start.

Small hive beetle-infested frames in my refrigerator freezer in garbage bag.   

Small hive beetle-infested frames in my refrigerator freezer in garbage bag.

 

Freeze Small Hive Beetle-Infested Frames

What to do with those plastic-wrapped, small hive beetle-infested frames? Freeze frames for 2-3 days. I have a top freezer in my refrigerator. Six deep frames will fit at once, or 12 medium frames.

Don't forget to tell your family members what's in the freezer.

Working with Remaining Live Frames

Keep the remaining frames in a nuc and close the entrance to one bee width so small hive beetles can't fly in. You also need to help protect the little colony from robbers. 

Add small hive beetle trap filled 1/3 with mineral oil to opposite corners of the hive body, even if in a nuc.

If you don't have traps, cut a Swiffer duster cloth into 3 inch x 3 inch strips, roll and place between hive corners diagonal to each other. A few bees will get caught in the cloth but more small hive beetles will stick there and die.

Inspect Daily

No, it's not over, now you have to diligently inspect daily. Twice a day if you are a worry wart like me. If you see small hive beetle larvae on some frames to start, chances are you have them in all frames, they just haven't hatched yet.

As you find yet more frames with small hive beetle larvae, remove and replace with frames from another one of your colonies. This is why we recommend starting with two hives, if one is struggling then you can borrow from the other. Don't forget to inspect your other colony or colonies, small hive beetles can fly up to 7 miles in one flight.

What To Do With Frozen Frames

Once larvae has been killed through freezing, frames can be reused in most cases. I tend to clean off the frames of the old dark comb but other beekeepers I know use them as is, it's your call and what your bees will use.

Frames of honey infested with small hive beetle larvae have been slimed so if you plan to harvest, wash off first, then let dry to make sure you have removed the slime.

I also wash off any honey frames of slime before giving back to bees. 

Signs of wax moths include white filament channels in wax comb and on frames.

Signs of wax moths include white filament channels in wax comb and on frames.

Small Hive Beetles or Wax Moths

Signs of wax moths are distinctly different than small hive beetles. When inspecting your frames, look for roads of white filament through the comb. That's where the wax moth eggs have been laid and where you will find the larvae.

Find a Local Mentor

Where are you located? There are 38 bee clubs in Missouri, find one close to where you live and hopefully find a mentor to help you.

Charlotte