It is not royal jelly that makes a queen

I am working on my next Bee Culture column, and ran across this interesting article in Wired magazine. Everyone wants to learn more about honey bees!

royal Jelly



Progress of new package hives, part 2

As I have discussed in my post of April 22nd I installed five packages of bees into hives on April 15th. See the April 22nd post for progress of the new hives up until that point. I looked at them this past Saturday, April 30th, and had also made observations the previous weekend, on April 23rd, which I had not written about. You also may wish to see my post of April 13th – “What to look for in your new hive”.

I will give general observations about their progress, comments are representative for most of the hives, except one, and I will comment on that hive in detail at the end of the post. A week after the installations I was seeing multiple frames with drawn comb, lots of nectar in the new cells, as well as eggs and larvae. Fresh pollen was also present in the cells.  On April 29nd, two weeks after the packages were installed, there was capped brood in four of the hives, and these hives are all approaching the “seven frames drawn” point at which I add another box of frames containing foundation. I have prepared the frames, and likely on Sunday, May 8th, I will add another box to these four hives. When to add the box is not extremely critical, I just do not wish to see the first box to get completely full of bees, and brood, without adding the second box. So Sunday will be fine. It would require a great number of new bees to emerge from brood for this to occur, and that will not happen for some time. Continue reading

Keeping records – most important!

Keeping written records of what you observe when looking in your hives is extremely important. There are many ways to accomplish this. Some beekeepers write on the lids, others write notes and put them under the inner cover, and some have a code system of bricks on the lids.

I prefer written records. I use a form which I photocopy, and keep in a ringed notebook. Each time I open a hive I use a fresh form, and place it over the form from the previous visit. Just as important, I review the previous record BEFORE I open a hive. Thus I know what I observed on the previous visit, and can tell if things look the same, better, or if there may be a problem that has developed. I note things like: how much brood is in the hive, if I saw the queen, number of frames covered with bees – hive strength, etc. I also make notes about what I need to do, such as adding honey supers, or replacing equipment – as in “replace a bad bottom board”. Feel free to download a PDF of my form,  use it, or re-type it, and adapt it for your own needs. There is no wrong way to keep records.

I will also share an example of a hive record example with notes from a hive visit. Sometimes I write a lot, more normally a lot of abbreviations. In a future post I will share more of the types of notes that I make, but wanted to let folks have the form now.



Progress of new package hives

This is a follow-up to my post of April 13, 2016 which describes what new beekeepers should observe in new hives started from packages, or nucs. A week ago today, on April 15th, I installed five packages of bees. I looked at them today, and wish to share what I observed. These packages were purchased from Clay Guthrie, the manager of the Dadant & Sons branch in Frankfort, Kentucky (Guthrie’s Naturals), and originated in Georgia.


I briefly opened the hives on July 20th, Tuesday to see if the queens had been released. They were all out of the queen cages, so I removed the queen cages, and also some burr comb from a some of the frames in the area of the cages. Continue reading

For new beekeepers – what to look for in your new hive

After a number of years of both teaching beginning beekeeping classes and sitting in on classes taught by others, I have come to the conclusion that many of us on the teaching side are giving new and would be beekeepers a false impression about how easy it is to become a beekeeper. It’s not. What is easy is getting started: buying equipment, ordering bees, installing them in a new hive. These steps are not much more complicated than spending some money and following a checklist. What is difficult is becoming a successful beekeeper as opposed to someone who has a hive or two.

Keep your goal in mind, and it is not to make honey – this year. In many parts of the country, including Kentucky, it is difficult to make honey the first year. If you do, it’s purely a bonus. Your goal is to aid that package or nuc to become a full sized colony, one which will have a good chance of surviving the winter and making you honey the second year. In order to help it, you have to know what is going on inside the hive. You MUST do regular inspections, which means removing and examining frames, and making a written record of what you see. I suggest getting into your hives about once a week through early June. Here is a list of a few things to look for, and what to do when you see them.

1.     New comb being drawn. In the first couple of days after you install your new nuc or package, you will see the bees drawing new comb. This is the foundation of the new colony, the framework on which they will rear new bees, and store food. Make a record in your notes of how many frames of comb have been drawn each time you look in the hive. Continue reading

NPR broadcast about freezing of honey bee embryos causes a buzz in Fargo

A National Public Radio broadcast recently discussed the freezing of honey bee embryos in North Dakota. The goal of projects like this is similar to seed banks, preserving genetic material for the long term. See:

There has been a lot of work in the freezing of honey bee semen (sperm) in recent years, they are going beyond that work in North Dakota. Why North Dakota? North Dakota is one of the biggest honey producing areas of the United States. I have attended beekeeper meetings in North Dakota that don’t attract a lot of beekeepers, maybe 40, but these beekeepers together own a quarter of a million hives. I once had a beekeeper from there tell me that he was just a small beekeeper, he only owned 2,000 hives!

A great deal of work in freezing honey bee semen has been done at Washington State University. See the below links for more about what they are up to at WSU.

Liquid Gold – Video about Manuka honey

Here is an interesting video,, about Manuka honey, which is produced in New Zealand, and Australia, from the Manuka tree, Leptospermum scoparium. The Manuka tree is also called a Tea Tree, and is a small tree, or bush. The honey produced from it is said to have superior antimicrobial properties, often used in the treatment of antibiotic resistant wounds, and as a result is in very high demand, and brings an extremely high price, as much as $125 per pound. However, in recent years there has been a problem with counterfeit Manuka honey. It has been said that there is two, or three, times the amount of Manuka honey sold, versus what is produced.

In Australia there is a another honey in Australia, Jellybush honey, that has similar properties. Here is a follow-up video about this crop,

Caffeinated honey bees

A beekeeper friend sent me a link about an experiment with honey bees, and caffeine spike sugar syrup.  I had seen this link before, but did not follow it, I guess I was just too busy at the time. However, I followed it today. More interesting than I had thought. I tried to find the scientific paper that was listed at the end of the video, but it is a subscriber only article, and all I could see was the abstract. I then looked around again, Googled I mean, and found this link to the video,, which includes more scientific info about the study. Interesting. I wonder what plants produce caffeine, besides teas and coffees? And which actually release caffeine via nectar? Or could other substances produced in nectar produce a similar reaction?

This is another reminder of how interesting these little insects are, and what new questions they can introduce us to.

Maybe it would help explain this behavior. Not completely serious here, but we do not know why they engage in this wash-boarding behavior. You never know.

Press release from the University of Kentucky Former State Apiarist Teaching Beekeeping Courses at UK’s EREC

LEXINGTON, Ky. (Sept. 22, 2015) — Retired Kentucky State Apiarist Phil Craft is bringing his professional beekeeping expertise and more than 15 years of experience to the University of Kentucky with two courses at the Ecological Research and Education Center (EREC).

The courses, open to members of the UK community and the public, are for those who may be just beginning — the “Beginning Beekeeping – Getting Started” course — or for those somewhat more experienced, but still needing some direction — the “Beyond Beginning Beekeeping” course. Both courses cost $40 each and will be held at the EREC at 1737 Russell Cave Road in Lexington. Continue reading

Helping our bees get ready for winter

As we remove our honey crop from our hives it is time to start thinking about assisting our bees prepare for winter.

We should start off with a good inspection of our hives. We do not need to look at every frame, but keep the following issues, and suggestions in mind as you look in your hives.

Is your hive “Queen – right”?

  • Concern: Queen issues, meaning queen not present – that she has disappeared. It’s nice to see the queen, but it’s not necessary in order to know that she is there. If you see eggs, larvae, or even capped brood. Then you can conclude the colony has a laying queen. You do not need to see the queen.

  Are you seeing “all stages” of brood?

  • Eggs
  • Larvae
  • Pupae
  • You should

Remember, our hives need to be strong to have the best chance for  winter survival Continue reading