Category Archives: Thoughts on beekeeping by Phil

Posts related to beekeeping and/or honey bees, but not necessarily biology or hive management.

Nine frames or ten in the brood box?

I am often asked whether to use nine or ten frames in brood boxes. The answer is up to you, but here are my thoughts.

Conventional beekeeping boxes are designed for ten frames, which allows for the bee space (about 1/4”) between the combs when they are drawn out. Bee space is the largest gap that bees will leave as open space without trying to fill it with unwanted comb. I have often seen hives where the bee space has been violated, and the bees built an extra comb, often attaching two adjacent frames. It is messing with Mother Nature when we push the envelope on bee space, but beekeepers love to be innovative (or sloppy – I’m a sloppy old stick in the mud myself), so we push this limit all the time.

Fortunately, there is some wiggle room in the bee space concept. If we only remove one frame in the brood box and go to nine, keeping the remaining frames evenly spaced, the violation of the bee space is so slight that we can get by with it most of the time. Some beekeepers prefer to use nine frames because it leaves more room between the combs, making it easier to remove and replace frames.

However, it is important to ALWAYS keep these nine frames evenly spaced and ALWAYS, when starting brood boxes with frames containing new foundation, start with ten frames. If you wish to use nine ultimately, remove one when the comb on nine or ten of them has been drawn out. If you start with nine, the bees will often build that layer of extraneous comb right away.

Brood comb – a result of too much space between frames

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I’ll be keeping an eye on the queens inside my hives

I’ll start this post by saying that this an unusual spring here in Kentucky, so my beekeeping is a little off kilter. In more typical years, I put honey supers on in early to mid-April and do not see substantial nectar and honey storage until late April. This year, due to the mild winter and a spring that appeared to start in February, I put honey supers (with drawn comb) on in mid-March. That was a little early but, as you know, I was headed to the far side of the world on March 15th,  and I knew the supers would be needed earlier than usual. When I returned in early April, these hives were overflowing with bees and were already storing large amounts of nectar. I promptly added every super I had onto the hives. By mid-April I had some supers full of honey and now have hives with two supers or more each, full and capped. Next week I’m pulling them and extracting honey. That gives you an idea of the nectar flow here, but the story I was leading up to is the swarming. Continue reading

Tonight’s episode of Kentucky Life on urban beekeeping in Louisville

My wife and I just finished watching tonight’s episode of KET’s Kentucky Life which included a segment on urban beekeeping. This episode was filmed last summer at the Louisville home of Lorie Jacobs and her husband Ted. I joined Ted and Lori, other members of the Kentuckiana Beekeepers Association (Lorie is president of this group), and Kentucky Life host Dave Suffett, for the filming.  If you missed tonight’s premier showing, it will replay tomorrow (Sunday, April 22nd) on KET at 3:30pm ET. You may view this episode online at the KET webpage.

Notice Dave’s demonstration of the gentleness of Laura & Ted’s bees with his bare hand – a close encounter of the first kind!

Recent beekeeping articles in the media – April 4, 2012

Bees and beekeeping have made the headlines in several newspaper articles recently. Below are links and some brief information about the articles. A more complete listing of beekeeping in the media can be found on this webpage. I encourage beekeepers to send me links to media articles concerning beekeeping so that I can let others know about them.

On Saturday, April 21st, at 8:00pm, Kentucky Educational Television  (KET), will feature Louisville beekeepers Lorie and Ted Jacobs in an episode of Kentucky Life. You can read more about the episode in a recent article in the Louisville Courier Journal.

Former State Apiarist Phil Craft, was the subject of an article in the Jessamine Journal . The article discusses beekeeping and Phil’s recent activities, including his participation in five regional beekeeping schools at which he was a speaker (not host, as the article erroneously stated).

Several publications discussed the recent confirmation of Africanized bees in Tennessee. This discovery was the subject of a recent post on this webpage. Links to three of these publications can be found there.

Kentucky Department of Agriculture  Commissioner James Comer continues to invite controversy with his handling of the state apiarist position as reported in a Lexington Herald Leader article this week.


A beekeeper asks: New hive, when to install a second box and honey super? Do I keep feeding? Medications?

I installed my package last week. I have just one deep hive with a top feeder. When do I put on more hive sections and supers? Do I keep feeding? Do I need to medicate?

Let them draw out about 7-8 frames in the first deep brood box, then add the 2nd brood box. After they draw out 7-8 frames in the second brood box you can add a honey super.

See my earlier posts on medicating & feeding. I do recommend the feeding of ½ gallon to 1 gallon of sugar syrup containing the antibiotic fumagillin. I recommend no other medications at this time. I’ll discuss other disease and pest issues in future posts.

Keep feeding as long as they will take syrup while drawing out the brood frames. However, I’m finding they are not taking syrup as readily as in past years due to the VERY strong nectar flow we are having.

But once you add a honey super you must stop feeding sugar syrup. You only want pure nectar in the honey super frames; sugar syrup does not become honey.

Article on honeybees and Kentucky’s forests

Since the early colonists first entered Kentucky, honeybees have been a part of the state’s forest ecosystem.  I recently authored an article, which has just been published, for Kentucky Woodlands Magazine entitled “Non- timber Forest Products: Beekeeping”. You may read in online at the Woodland Magazine webpage. Kentucky Woodlands Magazine is published under the direction of the University of Kentucky’s Department of Forestry Extension and the Kentucky Division of Forestry.

An early spring hive inspection. Here are my observations.

Though it is still the end of February, what with temperatures above 60°F and the sunny weather we have been experiencing this week here in Central Kentucky , I decided it was time to open my hives, remove frames, and actually see what was going on inside. What did I want to see on the frames and what were my concerns? I was looking for brood, food and bees.

First, I checked for brood, both larvae (uncapped brood) and pupae (capped brood). Due to the time of year, the nice weather, and the pollen I’ve been seeing  carried into the hive, I expected my colonies to be rearing brood. I was correct in this, and saw at least 2-3 frames of brood in all the hives (with one exception). This tells me that the spring buildup (increased population) is starting in my hives and progressing normally.

I was also concerned about food stores, both honey and pollen. This time of year I would like to see at least Continue reading

Kentucky sales tax on beekeeping equipment

House bill 136, a bill to remove Kentucky sales tax on beekeeping equipment, has been introduced in the Kentucky House of Representatives. For many years, Kentucky beekeepers have lamented that they must pay sales tax on beekeeping equipment, whereas other types of agricultural supplies are not taxed. HB136 is the latest of several attempts in recent years to gain a sales tax exemption for beekeepers. Leadership in the Kentucky State Beekeepers Association urges Kentucky beekeepers to contact their local state representatives and request that they support HB 136. However, the bill must first be approved by the Committee on Appropriations and Revenue. Thus, it is even more important to contact members of this committee, whether or not they represent your district, especially the chairman and vice-chairman. And time is short.

Exempting beekeeping equipment from sales tax is a bit more complicated than many believe. In Kentucky, there is no comprehensive tax exemption for agriculture. Rather, KRS 139.480, which is the Kentucky statute that authorizes exemptions to Kentucky sales taxes, is a hodgepodge of exemptions, only some of which are related to agriculture. Most of these exemptions have been added one by one, through legislation similar to HB 136. Beekeeping is not the only part of Kentucky agriculture not favored with an exemption; most equine related expenses are subject to Kentucky sales tax (though many sales of young horses are exempt). If you look at the bottom of KRS 139.480 you will see the numerous amendments and additions made over the years. Quite honestly, beekeepers have not been excluded from some favored tax status for agricultural supplies – they have just not successfully lobbied and pushed for a specific exemption. Unfortunately, this is the way the political game is played.

Beekeeping education

The need for continued beekeeping education cannot be over stressed. I always tell those interested in beekeeping that taking care of honey bees is an entirely different type of animal husbandry. If we really think about it -really think about it – keeping an insect as a domesticated animal – though they are not actually domesticated – is downright strange.

Other livestock, such as horses, cows, goats, and pigs, are mammals. With mammals, we can look for some of the same symptoms that we look for in ourselves or our children when ill. For example, I have an old dog who is always underfoot in our house. Even though she can’t speak to tell me when something is wrong, her behavior communicates a great deal. Does she have a good appetite, or is she suddenly leaving food in her bowl? Is she active (at least as active as a 17 year old dog can be), or does she seem uninterested when I say the magic word? (The magic word is outside.) My wife thinks it’s gross, but I note her bowel movements. Do the feces look normal? These symptomatic behaviors strike a familiar chord. Continue reading

Thoughts on Beekeeping from Phil Craft

My first webpage column
This is, what I plan to be, the first of many columns I will write for this webpage. As I said in the About PCHC link, the column will be mostly about beekeeping but, like many beekeepers, as I learn more about honey bees, my interest in other insects grows, especially insects in Hymenoptera, the order in which taxonomy places honey bees. I also have an interest in other science related subjects – especially natural history. Expect some diversions into other realms. Also, those who persevere will most likely have to tolerate my occasional musings about other interests of mine, like books (on non-beekeeping as well as beekeeping topics), fly fishing, or my travels to our national parks. I do promise you that I won’t discuss politics or sports, though I enjoy the latter. Well, maybe, a little baseball – after all there are so many great baseball quotes, such as Yoga Berra’s “”Baseball is 90% mental — the other half is physical.” So be forewarned; sometimes I just can‘t help myself.

Also in About PCHC, I promised written beekeeping information sheets on various subjects, which I will write or solicit from others, to be downloadable by anyone at no charge. The site is somewhat sparse of those now, but they will appear as I write, re-write, or collect them. I will probably produce the sheets to provide additional or more in depth information about specific topics which I address initially in this column. I have already placed some beginning beekeeping information on the site, and plan to very shortly add more for potential and new beekeepers. I consider the subject of beginning beekeeping a timely seasonal topic in winter, as new beekeepers Continue reading