Getting your colonies ready for winter

By John A. Gaut

Winter is coming and it’s time to ready the colonies for the cold months.beesinsulate

Winterization Checklist

 Adequate Honey Stores, 60 pounds or more

 Good pollen reserves, 4 + frames of mostly pollen

 Large population of young healthy bees

 Low Mite levels

 Upper entrance

 Reduced and mouse guarded bottom entrance

 Minimize Air Infiltration

 Close Bottom Board on Screened Bottoms

 Tape any gaps in boxes

 Insulate the top of the hive between between the inner cover and the outer cover

 Insulate the hive sides

Click below to learn more about your bees and the winter months, and how to properly insulate the hives

Winter Biology and Insulation of Hives 2016

Smart and gentle does it when extracting

how to

By Frank Mortimer

1) Pulling honey frames:

A) Always Smoke Your Bees: This should be a no-brainer. Bees release a pheromone when they are afraid/fear the hive is under attack. Smoke blocks this pheromone from being detected by the bees. If bees can’t smell it, they don’t get defensive, therefore always use smoke.
B) Pull early morning and before the dearth. Bees are more protective of their honey when there is no nectar flow. It’s always best to pull your honey supers off in the morning, and never mid-day when every forager is out looking for food.
C) When pulling honey use bee escapes and fuming boards with bee gone (a bee friendly almond spray). Do not bang frames to remove the bees. Place the bee escapes two days in advance and block off inner cover entrance. When pulling the boxes use a fume board with the bee gone spray or just a dish rag sprayed with it. Let it sit for 5 minutes and remove the super.
D) Don’t pull frame by frame. Remove the entire super and immediately get into a covered box or wrap in a damp sheet. Always have hive covered with bee escape or inner cover. When you are pulling your honey supers, you want to always minimize how long your honey supers are exposed and out in the open. When there’s no other food available and you have frames of honey lying out in the open, you have created a recipe for a sure-fire disaster. When you pull your supers, get them out of your apiary and inside as quickly as you can.
E) Never have several hives opened at once, and never leave frames of honey sitting out where they will activate the bees’ instinct to start robbing everything in sight.
F) Spin indoors
G) Do not let bees clean up equipment. Wash all tools and extractor immediately following extraction.
H) If your colony gets defensive at any time close it up and call it a day.

2) If Your Hive Is Overly Defensive Tell Someone: If
something does not seem right with your bees, tell an officer of the club or your mentor. If your bees seem like they are always buzzing, or stinging you or others, then you need to speak with someone on how to find a solution. In this month’s Bee Culture Magazine, James Tew wrote about an overly defensive hive in his backyard apiary and how he moved it to a remote location for the sake of his neighbors. If you are keeping bees, then it is your responsibility to always be a good neighbor.
4) Be Careful Where You Get Your Queens: If you’re ordering queens through suppliers from other parts of the country, you need to make sure your source is not too far south where bees with Africanized traits are more common. It is important to always think about the likelihood of introducing bees that are overly defensive into our area, so always be diligent about where you are sourcing your bees.

3) Maintain a water source so your bees don’t seek out a neighbor’s pool or pond. Once they find another source it’s almost impossible to stop them from using it.

Do I have laying worker bees?


John A. Gaut
One topic that seems to be a concern to many beekeepers is laying workers in a colony that appears queenless. Basic Beekeeping classes teach that once a colony is queenless and broodless, laying workers will develop. Once laying workers develop, it is very difficult to requeen the colony and it becomes “hopelessly queenless.” The colony will raise drones from the unfertilized eggs of the laying workers as long as they have resources and the nurse bees. (This is the only way a queenless colony can pass along its genes to the next generation.) The colony will continue to dwindle until it dies. Beekeepers want to prevent this scenario!
If a colony swarms or supercedes the queen, the new queen must mature and mate before laying eggs. In the meantime any brood is maturing and emerging. The colony could be broodless for a few days to over a week until a new queen starts to lay. It is during this time a beekeeper may think the colony is queenless and believes they need to introduce a new queen. They should wait for a few days though. If a new laying queen (with her big abdomen) is introduced, the younger more agile queen will very likely kill her.
If the beekeeper has a “resource nuc” or another strong colony, they could take a frame of brood with eggs, larva and capped brood (but no queen!) and put it in the suspected queenless colony. If the colony is truly queenless, the colony will raise a queen from a young larva. Otherwise the frame of brood helps reinforce the colony population. Every beekeeper should have a nuc or two to support the honey producing colonies.
So how long can a colony be queenless and broodless before laying workers develop?
Actually, there are always a few (1 in 10,000) laying workers in a colony. There are other workers that “police” the egg laying of these laying workers by removing most of the eggs. (Some eggs do survive in queen right colonies in the drone cells!)
All workers have ovaries. Most are not developed or very underdeveloped. Workers cannot mate so any eggs they lay are unfertilized and will be male drones. Both the queen pheromones and the pheromones from the brood suppress the development of ovaries in the workers. (Based on my observations with queen rearing, the brood pheromone seems like it is the major factor in suppressing the ovary development.) As the brood pheromone decreases due to decreasing brood population, more young workers (4 to 8 days old) develop functional ovaries. Also, less policing occurs. Once a colony is queenless and broodless for a few weeks, there could be a hundred or more laying workers in a colony! They look like any other worker though. (Laying workers may have a slightly larger abdomen; so do workers with a large nectar load in the honey stomach.)
How do you deal with laying workers?
The method of shaking the bees off the frames over 100 feet from the hive has never worked for me (or many other beekeepers). All the bees including the laying workers seem to be able to fly back to the hive. (Most of the bees are back at the hive location before I can get back there with the empty frames!)
Another option is to put frames of brood in the colony. If the laying workers have not developed too much, frames of brood (3 or more) often “shuts down” the laying workers. The colony may raise a queen from young larva on the frame. Or a queen can be introduced a few days later in between these frames of brood; that is still risky for the new queen though. Laying workers produce pheromones similar to a queen, making the colony think they have a queen resulting in the death of any introduced queens.
Many beekeepers place the laying worker colony over a strong queen right colony with a queen excluder in between and maybe a sheet of newspaper too. The pheromones from the queen and brood below the queen excluder help shut down the laying workers and increase policing. After a week or two, the queen excluder can be removed and the combined colony can be inspected to verify it is still queen right. (There is a small risk to this queen too!)
Some beekeepers say the workers move eggs or larva! The beekeepers did not actually witness the event, they only observed eggs above a queen excluder for example. A much more likely explanation for eggs in an area of the hive where there is no queen is laying workers. Laying workers will lay in any cell; drone cells, worker cells and even queen cells. Typically, there are multiple eggs; extra larva is “culled” once the eggs hatch. All these eggs will develop into drones, including the eggs in worker cells and queen cells. The queen cells with drones will look small and not shaped like a normal queen cell.
Most colonies successfully requeen themselves and do not develop laying workers. The few days before the new queen begins laying can challenge the beekeeper’s skills to be patient! Once the new queen has been laying, evaluate the brood pattern. If the new queen is not laying well or the colony becomes too defensive with her new genetics (she may have mated with some very defensive drones), consider requeening. Requeening is much more successful in a colony that has brood and is queen right.

My hive swarmed; am I queenless?


By John Gaut

We had a lot of swarms again this year. I have had a lot of questions about “queenless” colonies. Often, I suggested the colony was not really queenless, the new queen just had not started laying yet.

Also, a colony that supercedes the queen will look queenless for several weeks.

I use an Excel spreadsheet to manage my queen rearing schedule. I simplified the Excel sheet so it could be used to predict the dates a new queen would begin laying eggs after a swarming or supercedure event. While the predicted dates may vary due to several factors, you can see it really takes about 3 to 4 weeks before the new queen starts laying! This means the colony will be broodless for a while; a few days or a week.

Here is an example: June 1 entered into the YELLOW area and the rest of the dates were calculated in the spreadsheet.

Download the spreadsheet from below and try it!

Queen Schedule After Swarming

Bee-ing a good neighbor

Looking at a frame of bees

Looking at a frame of bees

With the opening of beekeeping season, it’s important to follow some guidelines that will help you bee a good neighbor. You don’t want your bees to be seeking out your neighbor’s pool or pond for a water source and you want to avoid swarming if possible. Our bees should be noticed for their pollination, not bee-ing a nuisance.

Here are some tips:

Colony density
The state recommends no more than three colonies per one-quarter acre or less.

Colony Location
When a colony is located less than 10 feet from a property line, the beekeeper must establish a flyway barrier. This should be at least 6 feet tall and extend 10 feet beyond the colony on either side. It can be solid, vegetative or any combination of the two that forces the bees to cross the property line at a height of 6 feet. All colonies must be located at least 25 feet from a public sidewalk, alley, street or roads.

Colony Stewardship
Colony Inspection: All colonies shall be inspected by the beekeeper no less than three times between March 1 and October 1 of each year.

Water: Each beekeeper shall ensure that a convenient source (within 10 to 25 feet distant from the hive or hives) of water is available to the bees at any time during the year when temperatures are 50°F or warmer so that the bees are not encouraged to congregate at other water sources which may result in human or domestic pet contact. Without a water source, the bees will seek the nearest neighbor’s pool or pond.

Queens: Queens should be replaced if a colony exhibits unusual defensive behavior without due provocation.

Cleanup: Each beekeeper should ensure that no bee comb or other materials that might encourage robbing by honey bees or other stinging insects, are left
on the grounds of the apiary site.

Room to grow not swarm: Add supers in a timely manner when things start getting tight and the bees have drawn out the boxes. This will reduce swarming tendencies due to tight quarters. It requires frequent inspections during swarm season.

Happy beekeeping!

Mead recipe by Bob Slanzi


Mead maker Bob Slanzi presented mead making to the Northeast NJ Beekeepers at the October meeting. Here’s his recipe:
Basic Mead Recipe
Combine 15 lbs of honey with water (approximately 3 3/4 Gallons) to make 5 gallons of honey solution in a 6 gallon pail.
Add yeast
Add 1 teaspoon of Go-Ferm Yeast Nutrient
Mix and cover
Set in an area where the ambient temperature is about 65 F.

Combine 3 teaspoons of Go-Ferm and Ferm-K Yeast Nutrients.
Feed the yeast 1 teaspoon of mix for 3 days

Stir the batch every 12 hours for about 5 days.

Transfer batch to a carboy with an airlock and monitor for desired taste and alcohol content.

Stop fermentation with sulfite, optional.

Clarify with Bentonite Clay or “Super Clear”


Beekeeping in October


Beekeeping in October
By John A. Gaut
The bees have been working some remaining golden rod and the aster has been in full bloom in my area. But it has been dry so there is not much nectar. Most hive weights have been slowly increasing; I have had to add some sugar syrup to help. The colonies are organizing the hive for the winter, storing honey and pollen. (I continue to be amazed how consistently a colony arranges the honey to the top and outside, pollen in the bottom near the center and a brood nest in the center bottom part of the hive.) The field force will continue to bring in pollen and any nectar they can find this month. The colonies will reduce brood rearing as the days get shorter and cooler. The “winter bees” are emerging; winter survival will depend on their health and numbers.
To survive the winter, the colonies should be strong and have a vigorous queen. Three other important considerations are:
1. Adequate food reserves, both honey and pollen. The hive should have 60 pounds of honey and at least the equivalent to 4 frames of pollen (bee bread). The colony will consume the honey to maintain a cluster temperature and also need the protein from the pollen to stay well nourished. In the middle of winter, the colony will start consuming both honey and pollen when they start brood rearing.
2. Low mite parasitism; less than 1% is ideal. Mites suck the bee’s hemolymph (blood) and transmit viruses causing the colony to suffer a virus epidemic in the middle of winter. One last mite count now (after any treatment is removed) will let you know if your mite treatment program was successful. Treatments vary in effectiveness. You can NOT assume that your colonies are OK since you treated; you need to test and verify the treatment was successful!
3. A dry and wind protected hive. A small top entrance helps to ventilate moisture from the hive and provides an alternate entrance if the bottom entrance is covered in snow. A piece of insulation between the inner cover and outer cover can prevent condensation on the underside of the inner cover (condensation raining on the cluster can kill the colony). If a screened bottom board is used, the IPM board should be in place. Too much air moving through the hive will cause the colony to consume more honey to maintain the cluster temperature. Insulating the sides of the hive also helps reduce air infiltration and can reduce heat loss, especially on those windy, sub-freezing February nights.
Most of the colonies I have inspected during September and early October are doing well. There are many variables; the most important is mite counts. If the mite counts are low, the colonies are able to adjust to most of the other variables and pressures. I have found some colonies that have high mite counts though. Grrrr! These are typically the stronger colonies and mites were under control a month ago. They look very healthy now but the alcohol wash shows they will suffer if I do not treat for the mites. Why did the mite levels jump up in a month? Research is showing other colonies collapsing under heavy mite loads are the reason. Untreated colonies are the nuclear bomb of beekeeping. The strong colonies rob out the collapsing colonies bring back mites. And the bees in the collapsing hive will abscond and enter other hives in the area. I’ll reapply ApiVar to the colonies that have more than 1% mite levels. Check your colonies. Please don’t create a nuclear bomb for the other beekeepers!

Best Management Practices for Beekeepers

New Jersey Department of Agriculture’s Best Management Practices for Beekeepers in Populated areas


There are approximately 3,000 to 3,500 registered beekeepers in New Jersey. Of these, only about 5 percent can be considered commercial beekeepers having 20 or more colonies of bees. The majority of the registered beekeepers in the state manage only 1 to 10 colonies. It is possible to keep honey bees in crowded suburban areas, on tiny city lots or on rooftops in large or small cities without problems. However, keeping bees successfully in a populated area requires a good understanding of basic bee biology, property rights and human psychology. Beekeepers in suburbs and cities need to manage their bees so the y do not become a nuisance to their neighbors. By understanding the circumstances under which bees will bother people, beekeepers can take measures to alter circumstances so their bees do not create a problem.
Honey bees can be kept almost anywhere there are flowering plants that produce nectar and pollen. Choose a site for beehives that is discrete , sheltered from winds and partially shaded. Avoid low spots in a yard where cold, damp air accumulates in winter. Be considerate of non- beekeeping neighbors. Place hives so that bee flight paths do not cross sidewalks, playgrounds or other public areas. Provide your bees with a water source in your yard to prevent them from seeking out water at neighbors’ swimming pools or water spigots.
1. Hive Registration. All honey bee colonies wintering in the State of Ne w Jersey shall have their location registered annually with the New Jersey Department of Agriculture by the beekeeper in accord with Regulations established by the Department of Agriculture.
2. Hive Type. In accordance with N.J.S.A.4: 6-10, all honey bee colonies shall be kept in hives with removable frames, which shall be kept in sound and usable condition. Hives must be capable of being inspected by the Department of Agriculture.
3. Colony Density No more than three colonies of honey bees shall be kept on any tract of one-quarter acre or less in area. For every two colonies permitted on a Tract there may be maintained upon the same Tract one nucleus colony in a hive structure not exceeding one standard 9 5/8 inch depth 10–frame hive body with no supers attached as required from time to time for swarm management. Each such nucleus colony shall be moved to another Tract or combined with another colony on the subject Tract within thirty days after the date made or acquired.
4. Colony Location When a colony is located less than 10 feet from a property line, the beekeeper must establish a flyway barrier. This should be at least 6 feet tall and extend 10 feet beyond the colony on either side. It can be solid, vegetative or any combination of the two that forces the bees to cross the property line at a height of 6 feet. All colonies must be located at least 25 feet from a public sidewalk, alley, street or roads.
5. Fence A substantial barrier / fence must be erected to pr event animals and children from coming in close contact with the hives.
6.Colony Stewardship
(a).Colony Inspection. All colonies shall be inspected by the beekeeper or his delegate no less than three times between March 1 and October 1 of each year.
(b). Water. Each beekeeper shall ensure that a convenient source (within 10 to 25 feet distant from the hive or hives) of water is available to the bees at any time during the year when temperatures are 50°F or warmer so that t he bees are not encouraged to congregate at other water sources which may result in human or domestic pet contact. This water should be in a sunny location and be in a container which makes it easy for the bees to drink.
(c). Queens. Queens shall be selected from stock bred for gentle ness and non- swarming characteristics. All colonies shall be maintained with queens that shall be replaced if a colony exhibits unusual defensive behavior without due provocation or exhibits an unusual disposition toward swarming. It shall be the duty of the beekeeper to promptly requeen the colony when these conditions persist.
(d). General Maintenance. Each beekeeper shall ensure that no bee comb or other materials that might encourage robbing by honey bee s or other stinging insects, are left upon the grounds of the apiary site in suburban and urban environments.