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Your host---Bee Talk---Days Gone By

Your Host

The exceptional drought continues to march on. The farmers and the beekeepers are feeling the sting. With no end in sight, this year is shaping up to be another bust. Between last year and up until the end of April of this year we are 16 inches of rain short from our normal rain fall amount in the Bryan, Texas area. Don’t be surprised if you are asked to conserve water in your area. There is already a restriction of water use in the Galveston area. 

You should make sure that you have bee feeders and sugar on hand for the predicted dry summer we have in front of us. The bees may need to be fed before the winter season arrives. 

If you are a gardener, you might think about planting drought tolerant plants like lantana, moss roses, rock roses, verbena, Mexican heather, zinnias, periwinkles and succulents. Contact your local garden club for more information.  Dennis

Bee Talk

One of our active members, "Teddi Irwin" took the time to write about our field trip to B-Weaver's Queen yards last month. We all thank you "Teddi" for spending your time to contribute to our club.  Dennis

Hello Members, 

33 members from all over Texas converged on the Wrangler Steak House in Navasota before making the final trek up to B-Weavers. Either the food was good or everyone was really anxious to see the Weaver’s bee yards because the food was wolfed down in no time flat. Maybe it was both. 

When we got to B-Weaver’s (early) a lot of folks were greeted with nucs and packages sitting on the floor with their names on them, it was like Christmas. We all watch anxiously as a worker stapled queen cages to an orange plastic ribbon and dropped the cage down into the packages. 

Since these were the first bees some members were getting there was lots of nervousness. You could pick out the seasoned bee keepers just as cool as cucumbers. 

Danny Weaver finally made the grand announcement that we were all going about 3 miles up the road to see how they make their queens. This is a real low key operation and their hives are kept in the woods in double rows like any other apiary. What did I expect, a factory? Every day is a surprise to me in bee world. 

We all took turns in a little bitty country shack peering over Sue’s shoulder as she worked her magic tweezers pulling out larva that were only hours old from the brood cells and placing them in the queen cups. From there the cells were taken to a hive outside that was used as a starter hive. 

From that location we all piled back into our vehicles and moved down the road another 3 or 4 miles until we arrived at a queen mating yard. There was what appeared to be a couple thousand baby nucs scattered around the piney woods. Danny Weaver lifted the top off  one of the nuc boxes and showed all of us a virgin queen that had just hatched out of her queen cell and was preparing to take off on her mating flight in a day or two. Once the queen has mated and has been laying eggs for a week or so, these queens will be captured and placed into a queen cage and then sold. 

I'm sorry if you missed the trip it was one of those behind the scenes in raising bees that not many get to experience. I felt really fortunate that Dennis and Laura Weaver were able to put this together for us. 

Some of us had a lot of excitement getting our bees home or getting them into their new homes. Many of us had ongoing cell phone conversations riding home and again when we got home. Amy sent videos. Molly waited till the next day to get nailed in the forehead and ended up at the doctor’s office with what she described as looking like a unicorn. Byron Short told her it’s a great substitute for Botox. 

Carol and Lantz Pledger were kind enough to let me hitch a ride from Houston. The ride home was exciting to say the least. Carol got a nuc and a package and paid extra to have her queens marked. Somewhere after we had made friends with the 10 - 15 loose bees that were investigating the inside of the truck cab, Lantz asked carol, “How many queens did you get”? Carol said 2. He was holding 2 queen cages in his hands. I said, Wow Carol I think that man was stapling queen cages on the ends of those little orange ribbons like the one hanging out of the package you have there. Well after lots of cell phone calls and finally looking at her invoice we figured out she had 4 queens. What a nice surprise, especially since she only had 2 hives awaiting the arrival of 4 queens. More calls "anyone need a queen or 2"? Carol and Lantz let me off at 1960 and were off to buy another hive. Will Rainy came to the rescue and took 1 queen and when last I heard her 3 hives were doing well. It had to work because the last thing any of us wanted was to tell Dennis that we released 2 queens to the community.

Everyone had a great time and some of us finally were able to meet each other in person. See you at the “Stump the Chump” class on May 21. “Bee happy”.  Teddi Irwin 


I have questions.  As I stated before that I lost several bees last fall but most of the hives had some bees.  During the fall and winter I left at least one super on each hive with honey for the winter,  This spring as I have gone through my individual hives I still have bees but 2 of them have built brood in the super and all of the brood is drone. Both boxes had what appeared as queen cells and one had larvae last week but none today.  Also I always use queen excluders I removed the excluders last week but I don't think that there was any worthwhile amount of bees in the bottom.  Do you think it is too late to place a normal frame of brood in these hives just to save them?  I will keep watch for moths.      Robert Nelson 

Hello Robert, 

Was that brood above the queen excluder? Sounds like that you have a drone laying hive. They tried to make a queen but it did not work. The other possibility would be that they produced a queen but it was too early in the season for any drones to be available for the queen to mate with so she lays drone eggs only. I would look for a queen first and kill her if she is there and then I would find another hive that could use some extra bees and place a queen excluder on top first in case there is a queen that you missed and stack that hive on top using the newspaper method. The bees will kill a drone laying queen if she still exists. It is hard to get a drone laying hive to except a new queen. Use those bees in another hive and they will have a better chance to make you a honey surplus. Dennis 


Yes the new brood was above the excluder.  I will use the newspaper method.  Thanks, Robert


Can you tell me how I should move a large piece of tree trunk full of honey bees?
We have kept it near our garden for a few years but have now moved and want to move the bees with us.
Should we cover the opening with something and will the bees stay inside or will they all fly out during the move?  Thank you.   Ellen Henson 

Hello Ellen, 

The down side to owning a bee tree hive is that you cannot go into them to inspect for bee diseases. If those bees have a disease they could be spreading it to other bees in the area. As a matter of fact, the state prohibits the use of owning a tree trunk hive or any other type of hive that can not be inspected. 

Because I am a beekeeper with modern hives that I can inspect for diseases on a regular basis, I would recommend that you purchase a modern bee hive for you pollination needs. I can assure you that where ever you are wanting to move these bees to if there is another beekeeper in that area, they would prefer not to have a hive near them that can't be worked on a regular bases. 

I hope that I have shed some light on some things that you may not have thought about and that you end up doing the right thing after learning this information.    Dennis 

Thank you Dennis,

I guess in that case we will just leave the hive in the tree trunk and not try to move it.  Wouldn't want to be the bearer of bad bees to other keepers. Thanks again,  Ellen

Hi Dennis, 

Got my bees today, seem to be doing well I see them going in and out. How long should i be providing the sugar water?? Don’t remember!! Also just a thought, when we visited your bees, we had a mirror and could see under them, I am thinking you didn't have a bottom board? I don't know just wanting to do everything right. I can't see the bottom of mine for the bottom board. Did I build the thing wrong?? Thanks, Karen 

Hello Karen, 

Because you are starting a new hive using foundation, you should continue feeding the bees with a 2 parts sugar to 1 part water mix for as long as they will take it. You want them to draw out all the foundation and have room for the queen to lay and for them to have a place to store food. 

I am using the screen bottom board with the slide in screen and the slide in monitoring board from Kelley. You should be using the screen bottom board as well. You want those mites to be able to drop through, land on the ground and die.     Dennis


  Thanks for the class last weekend. As usual, I found it quite useful. I mentioned using 'neem oil' as a safe organic pesticide on fruit trees. Neem oil is not known to be harmful to mammals, birds, earthworms or most beneficial insects such as butterflies, honeybees and ladybugs. 

I also mentioned the bucket idea to water the bees during the drought. Cut either a square or round piece of wood or plywood wrapped in a towel, stapled or tacked and place in the bucket full of water. Allows a safe place for the bees to land and will supply water for a few days. The water will disappear much quicker than you'd think.  JB 


Good information. I will post it in the news letter. Dennis 


 About spraying neem oil on fruit tress. I waited till evening when the bees where in the hive. Covered the entrance and sprayed when the wind was blowing away from the hives. I allowed the oil to dry all night before removing the cover from the entrance.

Have seen no problems with my hives.       --jb--


Just a random thought, why not ask everybody from the club who went on the field trip today to send an update every so often on how their bees are doing, anecdotes related to hiving them, etc... 

I'll start by saying that we almost lost our queen.  My eyes are so bad that when we pulled the frames from the nuc that I missed her crawling around on the bottom of the box.  Fortunately, my wife spotted the little vixen and the day was saved.    Jerry 

Hello Jerry, 

That is a good idea. Those queens are foxy. You have to be on the look out for everything you do in beekeeping. Good save by your queen. Dennis


Made me a 5-gallon SW feeder. Used the design that someone else posted last week. But it didn't seem to work very well. Not enough area for the bees to feed. So I cut another round wood float from a piece of BB that I had cut out to make a SBB. 

Instead of 1/2" holes I drilled 3/4" holes. Instead of using treated lumber I used the 3/4" pine from the BB. I had some black nylon screen. Cut it to fit the bottom of the round float. This helps in stopping the bees from drowning. The buckets are 11" in diameter. I made the float around 10 1/2" in diameter. This allowed the bees to feed from the edges too. 

Bees really started coming and feeding on the SW. In fact, by night fall the float had dropped at least 4"!!! 

Made another float for another 5-gallon feeder that I plan on taking to the farm where I have some more hives. On this float I made one change. I brought the screen up around the sides and stapled it to the top creating a slight bulge all the way around the float. The bees will be able to feed and not fall in the SW. 

Here are some pictures. Most of them that you can see the float in the bucket was the first design with the treated lumber. The rest of them are of the bees feeding in the bucket with the second float. It was amazing how many bees can be in one place at the same time. And with so many places to feed there was basically no fighting. The flowers, bushes and the dogwood tree near the busket feeder were fully of bees that had fed and left the bucket. They are covered with SW so that go and lite long enough to groom themselves and then head back to their hives. 

To see the bees you will have to double click on the pictures to enlarge them. 

http://s146.photobucket.com/albums/r...cket%20Feeder/     Amy Hutto


Hello Amy, 

This is a great water dispenser. Thanks for sharing. I will post it in the next news letter. Thanks, Dennis

Hi Dennis, 

This "newbee" needs help!  I got a nuc last Saturday.  On Sunday, I opened it and looked for the queen without any gear.  I was not afraid.  They did not do anything to me.  They were very friendly.  I never saw the queen.  I called Laura to find out what color the queen was this year?  White.  Yesterday was a week since I got them and I thought I would check for the queen again.  I had a feeling that I should suit up this time.  All decked out, away I went.  I did not have a smoker since I was suited.  I opened the top and they got a little excited.  I removed the outside frame and all hell broke loose.  I was attacked.  I did not pay them any mind and went about my work looking for the queen.  It got worse.  I looked and did see some brood (I think), but still not queen sitting.  I gave up and put the box back together (under protest).  About 10 of them followed me back to my house.  I waited about 2 hours and went back to check their water (heavy drinkers), still suited up and they remembered me.  Please tell me why they did nothing to me without anything on and attack me with a suit on?     Webster 


I would say that you were just lucky the first time. You need to look for eggs. If there are eggs then there is a queen. Don't worry about seeing the queen. Also if there were no queen you would find queen cells being built.   Dennis


I did a check on my strong hive with the sticky (oil-coated) board and counted at least 32 mites on the board from a 24 hours observation.  I've never used any sort of mite treatment and the hive is a year old.  Suggestions?    Bobby Lane 


You have quite an infestation going on right now. I would recommend that you start dumping a cup of powdered sugar in each box once a week for 4 weeks. That is considered a treatment. I would perform this treatment a minimum of 3 times. Powdered sugar treatments are only putting a band aid on the real problem. It won't cure the problem but it will give you time to locate a more hygienic queen that will produce more hygienic bees. If you only keep doing the treatments without changing to a more hygienic bee, the mites will over run the treatments and the colony will perish in the end. 

I would re-queen as soon as possible at this point. Keep me posted.  Dennis 

OK, Thanks Dennis.  I'll see if I can find one.  I had purchased one from B. Weaver but sold it to a friend since I had lots of new brood with a year old queen.  I don't think they have any more available.  Meanwhile, should I use the sticky board under the bees when I do the powdered sugar treatment or just let the mites fall onto the ground under the screened bottom board? Bobby 


Let the mites fall to the ground and die. After you get the new queen in continue your treatment at least one more time. You need to have the hygienic brood hatch. The treatment will help that happen. Also, try to remember to throw some water under the hive to dissolve the powdered sugar. You don't want the bees walking around in the powder because the mite will attach themselves back on the bees and ride home.  Dennis

Hi Dennis, 

I live on the Big Island of Hawaii.  I enjoy the personal stories of other beekeepers too.  I'm sure we can all learn things from the experiences of others.

In the recent couple of weeks, I harvested some honey on a couple of colonies up-country off of Saddle Road.  There has been some good rain there since December and it has kicked in some honey flow.  I found that Mama had expanded her brood nest into three full depth boxes on both of the colonies.  The only other box was a Western on the top with the stores.

Is there a way to manage her and the nursery size w/out a queen excluder?  The way it looks I will have to split the colony to keep them from swarming.  It's in a high wind area too and I'm afraid of just stacking on more boxes and having a 'high rise'.  I've never used an excluder and I don't know if it's a good practice.

Do you have any advice?

Thanks w/ Big Island Regards,     Lyle 

Hello Lyle, 

That is an interesting situation. In most of the mainland states the hive would have swarmed before growing into 3 deep bodies with brood. Also the queen doesn't "usually" lay eggs above the second brood box so an excluder isn't needed above the second deep for honey surplus.

I run my hives in 2 deep boxes and then add supers on top of that. If the bees in your area are accustom to growing into 3 deeps before swarming, will the queen lay eggs in a fourth box without an excluder? If she will not usually moved up to the fourth box then I would suggest driving a short post down the back side of the hive for support. Strap the hive together with a quick release wench strap and tie the hive to the post. The post will not be in your way when you work the hive and the quick release strap is easy to re-strap.  

If your queens are that prolific, you may encourage your hive to swarm sooner by limiting the brood area with a queen excluder.

I will post your situation in the May newsletter and see if anyone else would like to add something. Thanks for your contribution.   Dennis

Hi Dennis,  

 I have only been a beekeeper for about 8 years and I noticed something interesting  last fall (November) I had several small swarms about the size of  a cantaloupe and I was wondering if the bees sensed that there was going to be a severe drought and sent swarms out in the fall instead of the normal spring time?  Also, I have had no swarms this spring which I expect during this exceptional drought!   Has anyone noticed this occurrence of fall swarms before?   Thanks    Stephen Magyar 

Hello Stephen, 

It is a little unusual to have our European bees to swarm in the fall time. However, it is not unusual to have African bee’s swarms that time on year. Their swarms are typically small like you explained. They really like to land on the outside of one of your hives and send in a few scouts to locate and kill your queen. Then they move in and take over the hive. 

Have you noticed any of your hives becoming more aggressive?    Dennis

Hi Dennis, 

I haven't noticed them becoming more aggressive yet and will keep a watch out for aggressiveness.  I haven't been working them because of the drought and don't plan on collecting honey from them this summer, honey sales are way down (high price of gas) and I still have all the honey I collected last summer.    I'll keep you posted on how they are doing.  Stephen Magyar

Days Gone By 






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