The information contained in these web pages has not been
verified for correctness. Some of the information contained herein is hearsay and may not
be correct. Use the information from these pages only at your own risk!
- Suggestion A: Exhibitors of honey samples extract without an extractor all the
time. They incline a warm (90 degrees F) comb with open cells -- either carefully
uncapped, or just beginning to be capped -- at 60 degrees to the horizontal with the
bottom end sitting on a (preferably glass) cookie sheet, and stroke the comb slowly and
forcefully with the smooth side of a spoon to force the honey out and down the comb unto
the perfectly clean sheet. This way no air or pollen or wax gets incorporated and the
sample, if run immediately into a jar that is also perfectly clean and free of odors
(check the cardboard on the underside of the lid for *any* odors) , one gets about as
perfect a sample as possible (after careful skimming). The comb can be replaced in the
hive and is quickly repaired and the remaining honey tidied up.
- Suggestion B: Don't boil or heat it. This will destroy your comb and will also
destroy the flavor of your honey. Wax melts at approximately 150 degrees F., My
understanding is that temperatures above approximately 120 degrees F. will damage honey
flavor (those in the know, does this have anything to do with the temperature at which
enzymes start breaking down?) Certainly, boiling it will damage it. As for letting it
trickle out, you might end up with an increase in the moisture in the honey. Remember, it
is a hydroscopic solution (tending to absorb moisture) and will pull in water from the air
surrounding it. The bees dehydrate the nectar-honey until it reaches around 17% water and
then they cap it - sealing it off from the air. If you left honey on a saucer in your
kitchen it would eventually (in a few days perhaps) reach about 25% water, at which point,
if there was any yeast about, it would begin to ferment. It's easy to see how mead-making
originated, isn't it?
- Suggestion C: We have two hives, and decided last year for first time to extract
honey. I used a large Rubbermaid tub where I placed a frame in vertically and then scraped
the comb down to the foundation with a stainless steel spatula-like the kind used for
burger flipping in restaurants. I would *heat* the spatula in a pot of boiling water. I
don't think it took more than a couple of minutes per frame, after I quit trying not to
damage the foundation. After two frames, I would pour the tub into a colander lined with
cheese cloth over another tub. After reading a remark about the best temperature for
extracting in one of the Dadant books, (with or without extractor), I turned up the heat
in my house to 90F, and the honey flowed like water. (Of course, I chose to extract in the
short time of cool weather Southern California has!) It wasted a lot of honey, but I had
more than enough to give for Christmas, and several holidays past that. (60+lb.) Last
time, I went to the honey-supplier's and bought a plastic Chinese-manufactured extractor.
It holds two frames, I cut down on the extracting time, but it skittered on the floor, so
it had to be held down with my feet braced on either side, on a damp towel. I also bought
an electric uncapping knife-cut myself real good-but between the sanitary conditions, the
*cauterization* and the healing power of the raw honey-I healed in a week! I found that
the temperature is still important for draining-yes, bought a stainless steel drainer
which was slow in cooler weather but not as messy as cheesecloth. It strained into a
plastic tub with a gate-beat using a 4-cup cheesecloth-lined funnel! It can be done
without the tools; it was amusing until the third day, when you can't quit but are quite
sick of wax caps and honey everywhere. As soon as you can, get a stainless steel
extractor! The American Bee Journal has ads in their classifieds where people sell used
- Suggestion D (tail end of a long story about an old beekeeper): He heated it just
hot enough to melt the wax, and then drew the honey off from the bottom. His tanks were
water jacked and heated with adjustable gas burners. His wax was very nice looking and he
turned it into hand dipped candles. To this day I would not criticize this bee man for his
method of extracting honey, it worked for him and my guess it worked for his dad and his
dad's dad. He had no trouble selling his honey and people would come to his home to pick
it up, and it sold well in the few stores he marketed it in.
- Suggestion E: Here in the UK a major crop is oil seed rape, much favored by the
bees. The honey produced from this crop granulates in a few weeks, or less! If it
granulates in the comb it is very hard to extract. In the past I have resorted to melting
the whole comb and letting the liquid cool. The wax can then be lifted off and the honey
poured. The secret is not to let the mixture get too hot otherwise the honey will be
damaged, but it does mean that you can at least get at the stuff. This method is not
really to be recommended as it destroys comb, thereby making more work for both bees and
beekeeper, and it risks damage to the honey. It also takes a very long time to do properly
as the heating rate is slow, it must NOT be boiled, 65C is high enough.
Normally only one queen is found in each colony of bees. This is because rival queens
do not tolerate each other and will generally fight to the death of one (usually the older
will be killed by the younger). Worker bees do not care how many queens they have
(although they will tend to kill a newly introduced queen as they would any other intruder
into the hive). The reason beekeepers may want to have an extra queen in the colony is to
increase the number of bees. Bees work more efficiently if their total number is
increased. 100,000 bees in one colony produce much more honey than two 50,000 bee
colonies. However, it is almost impossible to get that many bees from one queen - she can
only lay so many eggs per day, and during the summer months worker bees live only a few
Briefly, the way it is done is this: In early spring, the brood section of a strong
hive is separated by a screen into two parts - one with a queen and one without. Each part
has a separate entrance. A queen is purchased or raised by the beekeeper, and carefully
installed in the queenless part. The warmth, hive odors, etc., can circulate between the
two parts, but the screen prevents the queens from getting at each other. After a week or
so, the beekeeper checks to see if the new queen is accepted and laying eggs. If so, the
screen is taken away and replaced by a wire mesh device, the "queen excluder",
which allows worker bees to circulate through but the mesh openings are too small to allow
the queens to pass. Each queen now lays eggs in her own portion of the hive - one above
and one below the queen excluder. If all goes as planned, a rapid population explosion
ensues and much honey is produced by the hive! Later in the summer, when all those bees
are no longer necessary, the queen excluder is removed, and eventually the queens find
each other and settle their differences. Thus the hive is naturally returned to the single
queen state again.
Just like the queen, the drones are too big to pass through the queen excluder. Putting
one at the base of the hive would prevent the drones from escaping, thus interrupting the
Braula coeca is a member of the braulid family. They are sometimes called "bee
lice" and are about the size of a pinhead. They are basically a wingless fly and
apparently do little harm to the hive, other than eating some of the produce (from the
mouths of the bees).
This technique came off the net, and may be untried, so consider this experimental!
CAUTION: You may kill your bees using this
WARNING: Use of nicotine in this way may be unlawful in some
- Make the hive air-proof (except a small hole at the entrance).
- Put approximately 2 grams of tobacco in your smoker & light it.
- Put your smoker nozzle into the hole you left in the entrance and puff away until the
tobacco has been all used up.
- Seal the entrance and wait a couple of minutes.
- Open the entrance.
Some bees may be so affected by the smoke that they will fall to the floor. Some bees
The braula coeca in the hive should fall to the floor dead. If you have a removable
floor, you should remove it now and incinerate the debris.
- Suggestion A: I am a biologist working in a bee research institute in
the Netherlands. In the early eighties we did experiments with tobacco smoke and Varroa
mites in Greece. At that time we did not have any drugs registered in the Netherlands for
the diagnosis of Varroa. Waste tobacco is commonly used in the Netherlands as fuel for
smokers. About 50-70% of the mites were killed after smoking of about 3 grams of tobacco
into a hive. In 1983 we treated many colonies this way and this was how we detected the
first mites in our country. Later the same method was used in England (we had a short
publication in Bee World). After the introduction of better acaricides (Folbex VA,
Perizin, Apistan), tobacco smoke was not used anymore. Tobacco smoke is not effective
enough to use it as a control agent. Moreover as a non-smoker I did not like to be
surrounded by clouds of tobacco smoke.
A lot of research has been done with all kinds of essential oils like menthol and thymol,
but nobody has come up with a nice method to use these substances in Varroa control. The
best results came from Switzerland (Buehlman) with a mixture containing also eucalyptol
(Api-lifevar). We repeated the tests, but the hives (and the honey) keep smelling for
months after the treatment.
- Suggestion A: To the best of our knowledge, no one starts out allergic
to bee stings, that develops after one or more stings. Most people seem to go one way or
the other, either you get less sensitive or more sensitive. Lots of references will
explain this to you. The more interesting aspects to me are the differences seen in
individual responses and the work done by one of our Missoula allergists, Dr. Bell, who
has some evidence that allergies to bees tend to be more common in the family members of
beekeepers than in the general population (even if the family members do not work with the
In my own case, I am allergic to just about everything except bee stings. As a child
growing up on a farm, I couldn't drive past a green alfalfa field without wheezing. Took
five years of desensitizing shots (yep, I was one of the earliest test cases for this
procedure back in the 50's) before I became halfway functional. However, after 20 years of
bee stings, I rarely swell, even if stung on the wrists or eyelid - worst case is a
slightly tired looking eye. Most stings do not even hurt, pain ranges from a slight prick
to nothing (especially in my forearms), although a direct hit on a nerve ending still
hurts like heck.
On the other extreme is one of my students who I will call R.A. R.A. is a young woman who
has worked for me for three years. She is very gentle with the bees and likes to work with
them. After 3 or 4 stings spread across an entire summer, R.A. developed one of the worst
cases of sensitivity to bee stings that Dr. Bell had seen (at least as evidenced by the
skin test). She wanted to keep working bees, so last winter, she took the whole venom
de-sensitizing shots. This spring, she went back to work. She keeps an adrenaline kit
handy, but hasn't had to use it.
The reason I mention this is that many doctors and even Justin recommend not getting the
shots. Among my colleagues, one who does field work in remote areas also became
hypersensitive, took the shots, and is now okay, although he needs occasional booster
shots. On the other hand, one of our beekeepers has two teenagers, both became allergic,
both got the shots, one can work bees, the other can't.
The reason for this lengthy discourse is to comment on the people who are allergic but
work bees with an adrenaline kit close at hand. Personally, having seen what a severe
reaction can do and how fast (and I have experienced them personally, not from bee stings,
but from other allergies), I would not take the risk. I don't enjoy bees so much that I
would risk my life. On the other hand, I think anyone who wants to work around bees or to
enjoy the out-of-doors without fears of stinging insects and who is allergic should
seriously consider the de-sensitizing shots. For me, the peace of mind (and the lack of
allergy symptoms) is well worth the bother and the expense. And yes, they are expensive,
in part because so few people get them (the old supply and demand equation).
- Suggestion A: Yes!! Lots of stings, and not just externally, you can
find stingers in the mouth and throat and I suspect even farther down the G.I. tract.
Doesn't seem to bother them much. They come each night to the same hives, scratch at the
entrances, wait till the bees flood out, and start licking them up. Looks like when things
get really hot and heavy they move over to the next hive. But maybe they just decide to
try some other bees. Worst part is that every evening just about dusk you can count on
your skunk to repeat the process. If left unchecked, I have seen a skunk decimate strong
hives. You can always tell which are the favorites, scratches on the front of the hive,
generally digging in the dirt just in front of the hive, fecal pellets full of bees.
- Suggestion A: If you have not placed the Apistan Strips on top of each
brood hive body (for example if they are just placed on top of a second story which is
completely full of honey), is that the varroasis can proceed to the point where the queen
becomes a drone layer, and some small drones start appearing. You know you have problems
if any of these drones have deformed wings.
- Suggestion B: Generally you would expect drones to be gone by this time
of the year. However, in a hive that is apparently normal, I wouldn't worry about a few
drones. I have often seen this in my hives as well, and they over winter perfectly well.
If, on the other hand, the hive population is low, with lots of drones, then I would say
you might have a problem - probably a failing queen, or queenless and with laying workers.
In that case I would go in and check the brood (if any), and probably kill the hive off
now rather than let it die out in the winter and attract mice.
- Suggestion A: I sterilize my hives with a blow torch. I have a spare
set and so I can sterilize that with the torch while inspecting for damage etc. Keep a
bucket of water handy because any residual wax can burst into flames.
- Suggestion A: I use an experiment when selecting a wood preservative or
paint for my hive. I paint a small piece of wood and allow it to dry for 2-3 days. I place
it in a jar with about 10 fruit flies which I had captured (not as easy as it seems). In a
second jar I set up a control with no wood. I place some porridge (cooked) in each jar and
let them get on with it. I observe them every day for about a week after which time I
judge that it was safe to paint the spare hive, if the fruit flies were doing fine. Once I
paint the hive pieces, I allow about a week for the paint to dry and any fumes to
evaporate before putting the pieces into use.
I guess that the points to look out for are:
- Not to paint the hive while it is occupied, as they try to help and will get their feet
- To allow a week or so for the paint to dry
- Test the paint on some volunteers first, and a few fruit flies are cheaper than a hive
- Suggestion A: Lactic acid is available in powder form, not expensive,
and is applied to the bees during routine inspections. It is shaken on from a home made
pepper pot, a honey jar with small holes in the lid. The theory is that it caused the
mites to lose their grip and fall to the floor. They are not killed so must be trapped by
a sticky paper insert. I tape the paper to a stiff backing sheet to avoid buckling and
coat the paper with a thin film of cooking oil, cheap and non-toxic. When dusting hold the
combs at around forty five degrees, not horizontal, to avoid the dust falling into open
brood. This treatment only affects the mites on the adult bees but it is non-toxic so can
be applied when Apistan is not allowed. Used in conjunction with drone cell traps it helps
keep down mite numbers during the active season. It is time consuming so not practical on
a commercial basis, However, for the amateur with few stocks and time to spare it is an
- Suggestion A: I have personally seen the tremendous and rapid
devastation associated with the varroa mite. Dead bees carpet the surrounding area, up to
an inch and a half thick! The brood dies, looking suspiciously like AFB but without the
ropiness of the dead brood. Before that the queen rapidly fails, and very little new brood
is produced anyway. The colony is destroyed in about six weeks. How can the mite do this
alone? I remember reading an article in Apis, I believe it was one of the summer '94
issues, in which the possibility of viral transmission by varroa was discussed.
- Suggestion B: I think that virus infections carried by or triggered by
varroa is now pretty firmly established. Recent work in the UK has been plotting the rise
of virus mortality against mite infestation with interesting results. In the UK, the
researchers are seeing mortality due to Slow Paralysis Virus (which I understand was a
surprise). In the Europe mainland Acute Paralysis Virus is more usual. Other viruses are
also frequently observed. As I understand it, it is the virus that causes death of the
bees and hence demise of the colony, not the direct effects of varroa itself.
- Suggestion A: Pesticide disposal instructions are on the box/container.
Apistan is rather mild considering most others. "May be disposed of on site or at an
approved disposal facility". In other words, put it in with your normal trash.
- Suggestion A: My understanding is that reuse of Apistan is not an
approved practice, unless the strips have only been briefly used for testing for mite
presence. After use of the strips for mite treatment, the chemical content of the strips
is naturally reduced and reuse will kill only the most susceptible mites, leaving the more
resistant ones alive to reproduce and pass on fluvalinate resistance. Doing this will
hasten the day when Apistan will no longer be effective, a condition we are already
hearing about in Europe.
- Suggestion A: Get a wide uncapping fork from a bee supply house. Mine
is about 2 1/2 inches wide with tines every 1/8 inch or so. Scratch the cappings of the
comb with it before you extract. If you extract cool (70 degrees or so,) you get very
little wax off the combs, but it opens the cells enough to sling the honey out. If you
extract when it is warmer, (like Augusts are here,) the fork will take off a little more
wax, but the combs are definitely reusable.
I leave the emptied combs outside "away" from the hives, for the bees to clean
out the remainder and recycle it into the hive. Don't leave them open near the hives or
they will start robbing each other!
- Suggestion A: All you need to do is remove the dead bees from the hive.
Make sure not to mess up the comb. If there is bees in the comb leave them the new bees in
the spring will clean them out. Store the hive in a cool place and block off all passages
with a screen to allow air flow and to keep out unwanted pests (ants, other insets, and
mice). The new package in the spring will use the old comb. This will save them time from
building comb and will allow them to start producing honey quicker.
- Suggestion B: I'd clean it out now if you can get to it. If you leave
the dead bees on the combs until late spring, you might find that mother nature has not
only taken the lives of your bees, but also left you with quite a nice batch of mold in
their place. Carefully transport the supers to a place where you can break them
down (preferably warm!) gently brush off the dead bees, don't bother to try to remove any
that have died inside the cells, your package will do a much better job of that. I would
then put the complete colony back outside in a protected location, or store in an unheated
garage, carefully screening any opening greater than 1/4" to keep the furry four
footers out. If you store the supers inside without benefit of para-dichloro-benzine you
might find that the wax moth has vacationed in your colony for the winter. Storing outside
(using the magic word "assuming") assuming you live in the colder climes, will
postpone the arrival of the wax moth until you can re-populate with fresh package bees.
Remember; cold combs are as fragile as glass, handle with care, and let them warm up above
55 to 60F before trying to remove them from the supers. If you still have any honey or
pollen in the combs, you cannot use para-dichloro-benzine. The resulting odor will be
taken up by the honey and render it useless to your future bees.
- Suggestion A: I've got a single hive with mixed races. It's a colony I
transferred from somebody's squirrel-house last summer. The queen is Italian and about 75%
of the bees are Italian but the other 25% are dark grey (Carnolian?). They seem to behave
pretty much like my other Italian colonies. I figure the queen must have mated wild and
been pretty wild about her mating.
- Suggestion B: Not at all. Plus you will get to notice the differences
in behavior between them which can be interesting. I've been amazed at the work the
Buckfasts can do. (And they have been fairly consistent.) Caucasians tend to be very
gentle, but the ones I have tried used so much propolis the hives were hard to get apart.
Not all are so bad.
- Suggestion A: 'Mite Solution' is an herbal-mineral oil combination,
advertised in 'Bee culture', developed by Steve Tuttle, a bee keeper in Washington state.
I do not know for sure which oils are used, but I am assuming it is related to the
experiments for varroa control which use thymol and eucalyptus oils. I assume this just
because of having read, also in 'Bee culture' a short note about such research. I'd have
to look through back issues to give references. It is usually applied on a 1/4"
screen at the front entrance, but since I had rather severe varroa mite problems (lost 23
of 30 hives summer '94) I wanted to apply it a bit heavier. So, since in a phone
conversation, Steve said they had found no ill results from heavier applications, I mixed
it with my Crisco patties which I had been using for several years anyway, following
recommendations of Roger Morse and others.(reportedly good for tracheal mite control).
- Suggestion B: I began using it this past summer and fall, with positive
results so far. I mixed it in with Crisco-sugar patties, and placed it in the hive.
- Suggestion C: I tried this mite solution in six of my hives with sticky
paper in the bottom to detect mite fall. I found no mites on the paper after 24 hours. The
following week I inserted Apistan strips and found medium to heavy mite falls. I knew I
had mites but with the "mite solution" I could not even detect that I had mites.
I spread the solution along the entrance and across the top bars in the middle of the
cluster to make sure the bees came in contact with it. Maybe it just takes longer to work,
but one would think I'd have seen something in 24 hours. I am not going to trust my hives
to this "mite solution".
- Suggestion A: All of my hives have been started from package bees. I
have found that a large number of dead bees outside the hive isn't necessarily something
to be worried about; the bees seem to clean house and carry out the dead ones only when it
is warm enough. Since bees die naturally all winter long, it is not unusual for them to
carry out lots of dead ones which have been accumulating during cold weather as soon as it
Here is what has worked for me in wintering bees (Western Washington State):
- Enough surplus honey; two deep hive bodies, one with 10 full frames (top) and one with
at least four outside full frames, brood nest in center (bottom).
- Treatment for both kinds of mites (Apistan and menthol) in the fall.
- Proper ventilation (entrance reducer at the bottom for small opening), 3/4" hole in
the top box for moisture release through venting. Keep the bottom entrance clear of dead
bees, other debris, and snow. Check it every few days.
- Mouse guard at the bottom entrance.
- Hive wrapping temporarily (roofing paper) during spells of excessive cold. Some
beekeepers here add a third super on top full of fiberglass insulation and with a piece of
plywood nailed to the bottom to keep the glass away from the bees. Do this before cold
weather sets in; never open the hive in the cold.
- Treatment for nosema (fumidil) in fall and/or spring.
- Hive painted a dark color so that heat from natural light is absorbed into the hive.
This permits a looser cluster and allows the bees to reach honey on outside frames. They
gradually move up in the hive through the winter to reach more. If it is too cold inside
the hive, they will starve even though there is plenty of food, because the cluster is too
tight to reach it. Make sure the winter winds do not hit the hive directly.
- Young bees need plenty of pollen. Without it, their ability to produce wax is inhibited.
Brood rearing to gear up for spring starts early, late January or February depending on
your climate. Feeding a pollen substitute as soon as it is warm enough to safely open the
hive is a good bit of added insurance. Also, use an interior feeder during early spring if
honey reserves are running low.
- Use a metal outer cover to prevent moisture from entering the hive. I like the
telescoping variety with a masonite inner cover underneath.
- I never open my hives unless it is warm out; 60 degrees F is an absolute minimum for me;
65 or warmer is better. Bees and brood can get sick if chilled.
- My hives are slanted slightly forward, they are 1" lower at the front than at the
back. This causes any moisture which collects on the floor to run out instead of
evaporating in the hive. I also keep a cinder block on top so that the cover cannot blow
I hope this helps. I'm sorry it's not very well organized. One thing which really
helped me was a book by Mark Winston called the Biology of the Honeybee if memory serves.
There is a chapter which describes their wintering habits in great detail. The book as a
whole was very educational for me and provided much insight into making beekeeping
decisions. It really helps to have an idea of how the bees work when you are trying to
figure out what to do or what to not do.
- Suggestion A: Move the hive to a new location (at night when all
foragers are home). Make sure the location is say 3 or more miles away. Then another night
after a week or so move the colony to the preferred location. They will re-orient and not
return to the original site. It should be pretty easy to find a spot to put them
temporarily -- try a relative or friend's place. This method is easy and reliable.
- Suggestion A: Place a hive against the side of the greenhouse, with the
entrance facing outside. Turn one of the supers around so its entrance faces into the
greenhouse. Cut a hole in the plastic sheeting of the greenhouse to match up with the
second super entrance. Staple the plastic back on the box so it is tight and wait.
- Suggestion A: What is done is to trap several bees off the flowers,
then release one bee at a time, and track the bees back to the feral nest. You will need
some bee trapping boxes. You would be surprised at how elaborate the bee catching boxes
- BEE-L: Bee Biology Discussion List
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- Bees For Development (Magazine); Dr. Nicola Bradbear, ed.; Bees For Development, Troy,
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- Australasian Beekeeper, Pender Beekeeping Supplies Pty Ltd, P.M.B. Maitland, NSW 2320,
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- American Bee Journal, Hamilton Illinois, 62341, United States of America. price per
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This page was last updated on
December 09, 2007