How To’s

How to feed bees

Feeding bees is important to ensure they do not starve during winter, or in the spring while our long winter prevents them from finding pollen and nectar even after the snow has melted.  Typical feeding options include High Fructose Corn Syrup in the fall after you pull your honey in late August, which should be done until they have enough stores left to last them in the winter.  In the spring, feed them a sugar water mixture (2:1) or honey from hives which did not survive.  Feed until there is food available for them to survive (they CAN starve in our cold climate season).  

Feed is delivered using special feed pails which can be purchased at our office.  Call us to order yours today.

how to check for mites

Using a shaker and methylene alcohol to test for mites.  Collect about 300 bees from a sample of several hives in a yard into the shaker.  Try to collect bees which are near or on brood as mites tend to exist in the brood.  Be sure to NOT get your queen (locate the queen before you collect the bees).  While holding the frame gently move the open shaker jar down across the bees and they will fall off into the fluid filled jar and immediately die.  Close the lid.  Once you have about 300 bees, tightly close the lid, and shake it vigourously.  Turn it upside down so the bees are on TOP, and look at the bottom.  If you have mites, you will see them.  Count them.  More than 9 is 3% of 300.  CAUTION:  Don’t accidentally spill your jar in your hive.  You will cause significant mortality!

how to create a split

During the spring you can split your bees to make new hives.  This is a very time sensitive process, and if done wrong will end up with both the split and the original hive dying.

To split your bees, you require a new hive, bottom board, and lid.  Depending on the size you are doing (4 frame nuc, 5 frame nuc, 9 frame single) you will need different frames with different types of bees on them.  On a minimum you require brood with young bees, mature bees, and feed. 

Once you take the frames of bees from your existing hives into the new hive during the split process, you must immediately move it to a location more than two miles away.  Otherwise the bees will simply fly home.  You will also need to either buy queens, or put in a queen cell.

Splitting can be done only on the strongest hives, and is very time sensitive.  Be sure to talk to a beekeeper who is experienced in this before undertaking a split.

how to insert/reinsert a queen

Queens can be purchased or bred for use as replacement for queenless hives or hives where a queen is no longer viable.  This can happen for many reasons including predators (birds, skunks), accidental death (oops by beekeepers), old age, disease, and more.  To insert a new queen into a hive you need to a) remove the old queen if she is still there and b) introduce the new queen in her cage for several days while the bees learn to accept her.  Introducing a queen involves:

Poke a tiny hole in the candy or marshmallow at the end of the cage through to the holding area of the cage (the hole is about 2 mm wide.  Your goal is to allow the bees to see a way to eat the candy through to the queen).  Place the queen cage in the middle of the hive, between frames, squished between two frames flush with the top.  The mesh should be facing DOWN, and the candy should be at the BOTTOM of the cage, not top.  Any water in the cage would drain out.  The bees must be able to feed the queen through the cage, and the bees must be able to release the queen after 4-5 days by eating the candy.

Check her in 7 days.  do NOT check her too soon, you will disturb the process.  If she is not released in 7 days, release her manually by removing the candy while holding the cage down in the hive.  Be careful, she may fly up and away!  She needs time to get used to her new home.

After release, check the hive in a week.  Look for new eggs being laid in the hive, a sure sign you have success!

how to check moisture content of honey

Using a refractometer put a dab of honey on the glass plate, close the glass top and squish the air out.  hold the refractometer up to the light and adjust the focus to see your humidity.  Lower than 18.5% is your goal.  Any higher and your honey will ferment over time.  Call us to order your refractometer today.

how to extract honey

Depending on your size, there are many different options for extraction.  Typical equipment involves radial extraction through centrifugal force.  Capped frames of honey are removed from a hive without bees on them, scratched to remove the wax cappings, placed in an extractor, and spun to release the honey into a food safe tank which has gate valves for either pumping honey to holding tanks or filling containers.

TLS sells several models of extractors for the smallest beekeepers to the largest commercial operations.  Call today for sizing your operation to an extractor which you can grow with.

How to winter your bees

Assuming you have finished feeding your bees it is time to winter them!

To winterize the bees make the following changes in October:

Remove feed pails, and make sure your yards are skunk free.  Put your entrance reducers back on (which you removed in the spring), with the tiny holes open still.  Do NOT totally block the bottom off.  If you have multiple hives, group them on a pallet in 4’s.  Wrap 4 together to give them extra warmth between themselves, and to use our winter wrap designed for 4 hives at a time.

Once the wrap goes on (it is like a giant sleeping bag with an insulated pillow), screw a face plate on the front of each top opening.  The bees need a tiny entrance still open on the top, to release condensation and allow cleansing flights.

Put the final piece of the wrap on top of the pillow to shed snow and water, and hook it to the pallet.  

Bees getting buried in deep snow is fine, in fact it is better as it helps keep them warm.

Do NOT unwrap them until May, when weather holds above zero consistently.  You can check them in late March on warm days and begin feeding them, but keep the winter wraps on them.

Do NOT disturb them at all during cold winter.  You will break the seal on the hive and they will die.

how to check for american foulbrood

AFB is highly contagious in bees, and very deadly.  Unchecked, it will destroy a bee operation.  You know you have AFB when you walk into a bee yard and can smell a horrible rotten smell immediately.  The smell test is a dead give away.  AFB infected frames display tiny holes in brood cappings, and sunken brood cappings.  This is from the brood dying, and bees opening it to look inside the cell.

To confirm, you can check for AFB using the “rope” test:

Using a small twig (1-2 mm) look at a frame which you believe to be infected.  You may see pinholes in the brood caps.  gently take the capping off the cell with the hole.  Using the stick, insert it into the cell and mix it into the brood.  If the white brood that is dead is mushy stretches like a string as you pull the stick out, or behaves like a piece of chewing gum or melted cheese on your pizza being pulled away from you, you have AFB.  Normally brood would be firmer and not stringy.

Contact Geoff Wilson to confirm your next action, as AFB hives may be destroyed by the provincial apiarist to prevent infection to other beehives.  Most beekeepers will burn them, but this has to be done carefully to not accidentally burn down your bee yard or start a grass fire.

Sanitize your equipment after, bleaching your hive tool and ensuring no spores have been transferred to other beehives through your gloves, vehicle, equipment, etc.

how to decide to add supers during honey draw

You have to stay ahead of the bees.  In nectar flow bees can add more than 10 lbs of honey a day to a hive.  Add supers when the nectar flow is on and your boxes start to feel heavy.  If in doubt, add 2.  The best thing is adding supers with at least 5 frames of drawn comb.  Adding a super with 9 frames of foundation and NO drawn comb will take the bees a lot of time to draw out and fill.  There are many opinions on the right way to add supers, be sure to do what works for you.  It is not unusual to see a beehive 8 boxes tall in early August.

Generally you will add supers until the 3rd week of July, then do a honey pull assuming the honey is capped or low enough moisture.  You need to replace the supers you pull, or add more if you do NOT pull.  Your next pull will be in early August, and weather permitting a final pull in late August or the 1st week of September. 

Weather and location affects all your timing immensely as it determines flowers available and the nectar flow.

Remember to feed the bees after your final pull before they get winterized, or they will risk starving.

how to capture a swarm

Depending on location, use  a five gallon pail or single hive with a bottom board.  Locate it under the tree branch where the bees are (they almost always find a nice branch within 20-50 meters of your bee yard).  Wear your full veil and suit and gloves.  Holding the pail under the bees, quickly jerk the branch and the clump of bees will fall into the pail.  Immediately pour it into the single hive, and add some frames into it very gently, letting the bees move out of the way of the frames as you slowly put them in.  Close the lid and observe…are bees flying back up?  or are they starting to crawl into the hive?  They will communicate very quickly as to where the queen is and their reaction will be evident in usually less than 2 minutes.  If you seem them doing a “bee line” into the hive, almost running, you have the queen.  If they fly back to the branch, you likely do NOT have the queen and need to reset and try again.

Swarms are usually an indication of poor bee management, as they got crowded, split, created a new queen, or decided to leave.  The swarm also takes most of the honey with it from the hive.  Look at trying to prevent swarms and you will have a more successful season.