Category Archives: Guest posts

Posts not by Phil, but by his friends.

Winter Preparation, Guest Post from Kent Williams

Below is another guest post from Kent Williams, president of the Lake Barkley State Beekeepers Association in Western Kentucky, and of the Eastern Apiculture Society Master Beekeepers. A good beekeeper, all around nice guy, and good friend of mine. Kent always offers up good down to earth beekeeping advice. More posts by Kent.

Hello again, and welcome to the November edition of the LBBA newsletter. It does not seem possible that the holiday season is upon us, but it is. By now, the bees should be prepared for winter with ample food stores, majority of the bees (cluster) in the bottom box(es), supers of stored food above the cluster, and no supers full of empty comb above the cluster. For colonies that are low on food stores, the best option at this time of year is to feed solid feed, such as a patty or candy-board. If preparing solid feed for a colony, it is advisable to employ a philosophy of over-kill. Even for relatively small colonies, feed a patty or candy board the size of the top of the hive. Continue reading

Spring IS here – right??

Another guest post from Kent Williams. For more about Kent and to view his post from last month, see his February post.

Hello again, and welcome to the March edition of the LBBA newsletter. Spring IS here – right?? This year reminds me a lot of a spring four or five years ago. I remember very well counting yet-to-be-hatched chicks, thinking the year would be a banner year for honey and bee production. Corn was planted early that year, during the third week of March, and some fields were nearly 6 inches tall the week of Easter. The weather was near perfect for an early bloom, and some colonies had already worked into the first honey super by Easter. The subsequent change of events has since become known locally as the “Easter freeze.” Continue reading

Kent’s patty recipe and some fondant recipes

In his article on the clustering behavior of honey bees, Kent mentioned making “patties”. Below is his patty recipe. Patties this time of year are intended as an emergency feeding for the bees. The recipe’s main ingredients are granulated sugar, some sugar syrup and a protein supplement such as Mega-bee, Feed Bee or Brood Builder .  Other ingredients mentioned role is to help attract the bees to the patties and add cost (Phil’s cheap). the companies that make the  protein supplements have recipes for use with their products at their webpages. Kent also warns about small hive beetles, any time you feed sugar syrup and protein or pollen you risk stimulating the laying of eggs by small hive beetles even in cold weather. You can also make bee candy and place over the top bars of the hives as emergency winter feeding of hives. Below Kent’s patty recipe are a couple of fondant recipes. For those you will need a candy thermometer.  You can find more fondant recipes on the internet; just put winter feeding of honey bees and fondant into a search engine. Be aware that bees will not break their cluster to take advantage of any winter emergency weather until it gets up into the 40s (F), but will go more quickly to food placed directly over the frames.

Kent Williams’ patty recipe
“The patties I use are made with 7 parts granulated sugar, 3 parts pollen sub, (I use Mega-Bee, but any powdered protein honey bee supplement will work) and one part syrup. The syrup is made by mixing 1 pint Honeybee healthy with 5 gallons of 1-1 sugar syrup, or straight hfcs (high fructose corn syrup – as sold by beekeeping supply companies) 55 or 42. For smaller amounts, this figures to around 3 tablespoons per quart, Honeybee Healthy to syrup. When I make the patties, I use a small cement mixer and mix 25 lb. sugar with 3 quarts mega-bee and one quart syrup. If beetles are an issue, I replace the HBH with a homemade mix containing wintergreen and lemongrass oils, but the same results can probably be reached by just adding a half dozen drops of wintergreen to each patty when placing it on the colony. Beetles may be attracted to the patties, but won’t be a real problem until the weather warms up, usually around mid-March in Western KY. (You can get too much wintergreen oil on the patties, which will result in the bees either evacuating the hive or being driven away from the patty.)

A small-batch fondant recipe
Mix 2 cups granulated sugar, 1.5 cups of water, 2 tablespoons corn syrup, and 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar. Stir until sugar dissolves and continue to heat without stirring until the mixture reaches 238 degrees F. (Use a candy thermometer.) If you use bottled corn syrup from the grocery store, make sure it is “light” corn syrup, not “dark”. Dark corn syrup has molasses in it, which should not be fed to bees. Pour the mixture onto a cool surface and let it sit until cool enough to touch. Then beat the candy until it is thick and pour it into a thin container or mold, like a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, to harden. The candy can be broken up and placed over the inner cover. Alternatively, an empty honey super can be placed on top of the brood chamber and the candy placed on stick supports on the top of the brood bars. Some beekeepers will make a special small fondant feeder similar to an inner cover, but deeper (1 inch or more). The candy can be poured into this feeder and placed over the brood box upside down. Another recipe for larger batches calls for 15 lbs. sugar, 3 lbs. corn syrup, 4 cups water, and ½ tsp. cream of tartar. Make the candy in the same manner as the small-batch recipe. Cooking and beating are the keys.

The winter cluster of a honey bee colony, guest post from Kent Williams

A few days ago I received the most recent issue of Kent Williams’ Lake Barkley Beekeepers Association newsletter. This issue contained a very informative and well written account of the dynamics of the winter cluster of a honey bee colony. We’re almost to the time of year when I start getting the annual round of “why did my bees die” questions, and the answer always includes a discussion of the complexities of the winter cluster. Kent has graciously agreed to allow me to reprint his article in my column. We’ll jump right into his article here, but you can read more about Kent at the end of the column.

Hello again, and welcome to the February edition of the LBBA newsletter. The calendar may indicate winter, but the maple trees on our place – and the honeybees that are working the maple blooms – believe spring has arrived. Our weather in western KY sometimes seems to mimic Forrest Gump’s box of chocolates – you never know what you’re going to get. Having lived here virtually all of my 52 years, my advice to bees and beekeepers alike is to not put the long-handles into storage just yet. The warm weather we have enjoyed for much of January and the beginning of February has allowed the bees to keep a loose cluster and both move within the hive to access food-stores and take advantage of any efforts made by beekeepers to provide supplemental feed for the colony. The (supposedly) ideal temperature for an overwintering colony is 45 degrees f. At this temperature, the bees will remain in a loose, but solid cluster, which will move throughout the hive to access food stores. As temperatures drop, there is a corresponding constriction, or compaction of the cluster. Continue reading