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

Your Host 

Here in the Bryan area, we received about 1.6 inches of rain so far in May. That is about what we received since February. Most of the beekeepers in Texas are hurting right now along with most of the farmers because of this prolonged drought situation. 

Since our “yaupon” honey flow was mostly a bust, we are looking towards the “tallow” honey flow which is just now beginning. The hope is that the tallow tree roots are able to reach a water source and provide some nectar to the flower tassels. Check your hives and make sure that your bees have enough to eat. A hive can go down in a hurry without adequate food stores. 

On the bright side, we are farmers and understand that “Mother Nature” is in control. All we can do is pray that everything will work out for the best in the end.

Bee Talk

 Good Afternoon Dennis, 

I looked into both my hives today.  For the first time I was more relaxed and took my time. Saw both queens for the first time. While one hive is definitely stronger than the other I think both are ok except for one thing.  I did see hive beetles in both hives. Not many, only about 3 in each hive but I looked closely and I don't think there were many more (and those ones did not survive the hive tool).  Unfortunately I left home on a business trip without my notes so I am uncertain if this is of great concern or if it is like varroa mites,,, a few is tolerable as long as the numbers don't increase.  If you get a minute I sure could use a tip on this one.  I got about 7 pounds of sugar + water on each hive.  I definitely have more bees than I did 3 weeks ago.  I'm still not sure about what I need to see when looking at the brood pattern.  It still looks kind of random to me but there were lots of capped brood cells, lots of open cells with pollen in them and lots of larva.  There were also a lot of cells with clear liquid, nectar?  Even a few new honey cells in the corners of the stronger hive.  The center 4 frames are very heavy which I'm pretty sure is a good thing. 

I can't thank you enough for sharing your knowledge and passion for this exciting new part of my life.  Best wishes,    Brian 

Hello Brian, 

I am happy that you are enjoying your new little girls. It is my pleasure to share my experience and knowledge with you. As a matter of interest, I am about 95% finished with my bee book. My book is different because it incorporates beekeeping mechanics along with the passion a beekeeper has towards his/her bees. I am hoping to have it printed and available in August. Fingers crossed. It has been a "loooong" time coming. I will have it available here on the club website. 

As your hive becomes stronger your bees will take care of those pesky beetles. To have 3 is not bad. The brood should be located in the center and towards the bottom of the frame. There should be a line of pollen across the top of the brood in a half moon shape and then above that, the honey stores.    Dennis


This might be of interest to the club.  My “girls” are tearing up my squash blossoms now! 

Things you can do to help bees. 

1.   Plant bee-friendly flowers and flowering herbs in your garden and yard.

Bees are losing habitat all around the world due to intensive monoculture-based farming practices, pristine green (but flower-barren) sprawling suburban lawns and from the destruction of native landscapes. Just planting flowers in your garden, yard, or in a planter will help provide bees with forage. Avoid chemically treating your flowers as chemicals can leach into pollen and negatively affect the bees systems. Plant plenty of the same type of bloom together, bees like volume of forage (a sq. yard is a good estimate).

Here are a few examples of good plant varieties: Spring – lilacs, penstemon, lavender, sage, verbena, and wisteria. Summer – Mint, cosmos, squash, tomatoes, pumpkins, sunflowers, oregano, rosemary, poppies, black-eyed Susan, passion flower vine, honeysuckle. Fall – Fuschia, mint, bush sunflower, sage, verbena, toadflax. For a great list of plants honeybees love click here. 

2.   Weeds can be a good thing.

Contrary to popular belief, a lawn full of clover and dandelions is not just a good thing—it’s a great thing! A haven for honeybees (and other native pollinators too). Don’t be so nervous about letting your lawn live a little. Wildflowers, many of which we might classify as weeds, are some of the most important food sources for native North American bees. If some of these are “weeds” you chose to get rid of (say you want to pull out that blackberry bush that’s taking over), let it bloom first for the bees and then before it goes to seed, pull it out or trim it back! 

3.   Don’t use chemicals and pesticides to treat your lawn or garden.

Yes, they make your lawn look pristine and pretty, but they’re actually doing the opposite to the life in your biosphere. The chemicals and pest treatments you put on your lawn and garden can cause damage to the honeybees systems. These treatments are especially damaging if applied while the flowers are in bloom as they will get into the pollen and nectar and be taken back to the bee hive where they also get into the honey—which in turn means they can get into us. Pesticides, specifically neo-nicotinoid varieties have been one of the major culprits in Colony Collapse Disorder. 

4.   Buy local, raw honey.

The honey you buy directly sends a message to beekeepers about how they should keep their bees. For this reason, and for your own personal health, strive to buy local, raw honey that is from hives that are not treated by chemicals. It can be hard to find out what is truly “local” and truly “raw”–and even harder yet to find out what is untreated. Here’s a few guidelines: If you find it in the grocery store and it’s imported from China, don’t buy it. There have been a number of cases recently of chemically contaminated honey coming from China. If it’s coming from the grocery store, but it doesn’t say the words “pure” or “raw” and you can’t read in the description that it’s untreated by chemicals, don’t buy it. If it’s untreated, the label will say, as this is an important selling point. We recommend a simple solution for most people. Go to your farmer’s market and shake hands with the beekeepers you meet. There are beekeepers at nearly every farmer’s market selling their honey and other products. Have a conversation with them, find out what they are doing to their hives, and how they are keeping their bees. If they are thoughtful, respectful beekeepers who keep their bees in a sustainable, natural way, then make a new friend and support them! 

5.   Bees are thirsty. Put a small basin of fresh water outside your home.

You may not have known this one—but it’s easy and it’s true! If you have a lot of bees starting to come to your new garden of native plants, wildflowers and flowering herbs, put a little water basin out (a bird bath with some stones in it for them to crawl on does a nice trick). They will appreciate it! 

1.   Buy local, organic food from a farmer that you know.

What’s true for honey generally holds true for the rest of our food. Buying local means eating seasonally as well, and buying local from a farmer that you know means you know if that food is coming from a monoculture or not. This is much easier in the summer when you can get your fresh produce from a local farmer’s market. Another option is to get your food from a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farm. Keep in mind, USDA Organic Certification can be expensive and you may find many great farmers and beekeepers with excellent food and honey that isn’t USDA certified simply because they don’t produce a high quantity or opt for the expense of certification. Don’t let this get in the way of supporting them and if you’re worried about their products—have a conversation with them. (Ed. Note – A huge challenge for beekeepers is to keep their bees in an area where there is no chemical spray within 3 miles, as this is really what is required to guarantee truly organic honey. All the more reason for us all to avoid the use of harsh chemicals.) 

2.   Learn how to be a beekeeper with sustainable practices.

Look up a local bee association that offers classes with natural approaches in your community and link up. Visit our resources & links page to start reading and exploring first steps! 

3.   Understand that honeybees aren’t out to get you.

Honeybees are vegetarians. They want to forage pollen and nectar from flowers up to three miles from their hive and bring that food back to provide food for themselves and the beehive. Contrary to what the media might have us believe, they are not out to sting us. Here are a few tips to avoid getting stung. 1. Stay still and calm if a bee is around you or lands on you. Many bees will land on you and sniff you out. They can smell the pheromones that come with fear and anger it can be a trigger for them to sting you. 2. Don’t stand in front of a hive opening, or a pathway to a concentration of flowers. Bees are busy running back and forth from the hive, and if you don’t get in their way, they won’t be in yours. 3. Learn to differentiate between honeybees and wasps. Honeybees die after they sting humans (but not after they sting other bees!), wasps do not. Wasps are carnivores, so they like your lunch-meats and soda. Honeybees are vegetarians. 

4.   Share solutions with others in your community.

There are so many fun ways to help and be a voice for the bees. Share about the importance of bees at local community meetings, at conferences, in schools and universities, and on on-line message boards and forums. Let them know about QUEEN OF THE SUN and other great media out there that is in support of the honeybee.

Invite your friends and family to attend a screening of QUEEN OF THE SUN in your area. Find screening locations.

Click here to inquire about hosting a community screening of QUEEN OF THE SUN during our home screening campaign in Summer 2011.

If you are part of an educational institution, ask your institution to purchase an Educational DVD of QUEEN OF THE SUN (available HERE).

Pre-Order a Home-DVD of QUEEN OF THE SUN (available Summer 2011). 

5.   Let congress know what you think.

Change has to happen from the top-down as well as from the bottom-up. Click here to visit our “Push for Policy Change” page where you can sign petitions and find the latest ways you can lend your voice and vote. Additionally, remember to join our newsletter and become a fan on Face book and Twitter to receive updates and petitions that will affect change on a national and global level.    David Blacklock

 Hey Dennis, 

How are you?  I’ve got a bee question for you.  

I picked up three (3) new packaged bees with queens from Bee-Weaver Friday afternoon.  I installed them Saturday morning.  I noticed that Sunday, there was very little activity from one of the hives.  I opened it up and the only bees inside were the bees tending the queen around her queen cage.  My theory is that they (Bee-Weaver) put a queen in the packaged box just hours before I picked up the package.  The worker bees did not have time to get used to her smell.  Does this make any sense?  

I could shake some bees out of my existing hive but would need to take the hive a distance from our house to probably make this work.  Any thoughts? 

The other two hives are doing well.  I had drawn out frames for all three new hives so the queen should begin laying immediately after being released from the cages.  

Hope all is well on your home front.   Wayne Woodall

Hello Wayne,

It is good to hear from you. I hope that you and the family are doing well.

The problem that you are experiencing is that the queens pheromones are not strong enough to attract the bees to stay with her. This can happen for several reasons. Maybe the queen was damaged somewhere along the way. Maybe the queen is not properly mated. (Most likely). There is no way at this point to save this queen. You can add more bees but they will not stay with her. The bees know that something is not right with her that is why they left for the other hives in the first place. Even if the bees were somehow forced to live with this queen, they will supersede her soon after they can produce another queen from any           available larva.

Your best option would be to forgo this queen. Contact the queen breeder and either get credit or another queen if you still want that increase.

Remember that these new bees are susceptible to being robbed out by the established hive. Make sure that you keep the entrances reduced down for  a while.

Keep me posted on your progress. Dennis


The real surprise for me is the number of bees in the corn.  Their behavior is not on the tassel or the silk.  They seem to like the junction of a leaf and the stalk.  I did not observe them chewing on stalk or leaf.  They seem to be licking the surface of the plant.  I feel that they may be gathering pollen from the surface of the corn plant.   Or, they may be gathering moisture.   I'll not be spraying the corn for pest!!     Steve k

Hello Steve,

Bees can gather an abundance of pollen from the corn tassels and on very rare occasions the stalk will produce honeydew. Some folks believe it to be honey but the truth is that it is honeydew.   Dennis


Thanks for the schooling.  I have not heard the words "honey dew" in years.  I'm glad that you have me on the right track.   Thanks again,    Steve k


  Does the following comment from American Bee Journal saying that the mites are becoming resistant to the poisons used to kill them in the hive present a really excellent reason to become chemical free. Why don’t we see this reasoning printed in publications like ABJ or even Mother Earth.  What can we “Lone Star Farms Bee Club” members do to let the bee world recognize how easy it “really” is?  I feel getting the word out might be “the formidable task” IF the task is left to just one person, but as a club I would think our statements would be recognized by many more people as a  credible statement worth considering.    Teddi 

“CCD research is proceeding on a number of fronts and a consensus is forming that one or more viruses is the root cause and that virus-spreading varroa mites must be controlled to minimize CCD. Trying to kill a bug on a bug without harming the host bug (honey bee) is a formidable task, made more difficult as mites quickly develop resistance to the few materials available for control.”


The resistance has been in the magazines many times in the last couple of years. The magazines also tell you to swap chemicals around to make sure the mite has a more difficult time developing a resistance. That is their answer instead of suggesting the use of a more hygienic bee.

I spread the word about not using chemicals in the hive to every beekeeper I meet. Sometimes I feel like a door to door insurance salesman. But like you stated, I can't do it alone. I can only ask for help, which I have on many occasions.   Dennis

Hello Dennis,

 I wanted to relay an event that happened to me last month. I have a friend that manages a ranch in the Three Rivers area. Mid March I set up 8 5 frame deep swarm traps scattered on this 2500 Acs ranch. I baited the traps with 3 drops of lemon grass oil,  1 frame of drawn comb with about a 1/4th cup honey the other four frames with plastic foundation. We had bees on us at each location before we could finish each set. I went back last week April 30th to check traps. To my amazement all 8 traps had swarms and they were so full of capped honey that the bees were all bearded outside the boxes. I transferred all that i could into 10 frame deeps. I was astonished that a swarm could occupy a trap, build comb, and cap honey in less that 45 days. All of the swarms seemed very docile, a couple had 2 or 3 bees bounce off of my veil. Do you think that they are AHB's, and can AHB's be docile under certain conditions? I eventually transferred all the swarms into 10 Frame deeps with a smoker, and quite frankly, a have a couple of feral  and commercially queened hives  in Huntsvillethat are much hotter. Do you have any experience with bees in South Texas? I also was wondering if I should re-queen or just sit back and let them go a while? I'm not sure whether the mesquite bloom, high producer Bees or a combination of the 2 resulted in full boxes.  Any thoughts would be appreciated.
Thanks,  Clay Nowlin

Hello Clay,

That was an interesting experiment. Thanks for sharing. Where is Three Rivers? If those were African or African hybrid bees, you would have been covered up with bees. Judging by the number of swarms that you captured and by the calmness of the bees, my guess would be that there is a commercial beekeeper in the area. It could be a local beekeeper or a migratory beekeeper.  Dennis

Good Morning Dennis, 

  Three Rivers is about 70 miles due South of San Antonio. This scenario seems to have repeated itself for a number of years. The manager has had to remove swarms out of deer stands frequently in late summer each year. I  and (The bees)were lucky to get this opportunity. The ranch hands always used a lethal means of removal in prior years.  This ranch is almost completely covered with mesquite 8' to 10' tall.

  I did observe a small group of  40 to 50 migratory hives about 3 or 4 miles from this ranch but, they were not placed until after the swarms had occurred. It is quite possible that there is commercial beekeeper in the area though. The brush is so thick that anything 50 feet off the road is not visible. Roads and pipeline right of ways are the only means of sight for any distance.

 Is it common for a swarm to build 4 deep frames of comb, fill 5 deep frames and cap in 3 or 4 weeks if the nectar flow is unlimited. The honey was very light colored and had a good flavor.

Thanks for your thoughts and comments.  Clay

Hello Clay,

It is absolutely possible for the bees to do that much work if there is a heavy honey flow going on. I think that if you could fly over that area, you would see lots of bee hives scattered around. I am sure that is where the swarms are coming from. Lucky you. Dennis

Days Gone By





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