MISCELLANEOUS TECHNIQUES IN BEEKEEPING

Caring for Extracting Combs

Good combs for producing extracted honey can be reused for many years. As a result, a given number of colonies can produce more extracted honey than comb honey because they are not held back by the need to make new comb during the nectar flow. After combs are extracted, they still contain some honey and are usually referred to as "wet" combs. Beekeepers do not agree on how such combs should be handled except that they must be fumigated. The combs can be returned to the colonies to be "dried," then taken off , fumigated, and stored. This involves a lot of work, especially when the bees cluster in the supers rather than going back down into the lower hive bodies. Placing the supers above an open inner cover will not always prevent such behavior. It is best to store the combs with the honey on them. The bees move into them quickly when they are placed on hives the following season, and the bees benefit slightly from the extra honey. The bees clean out and liquefy any granulated honey so that such combs will not induce granulation of the new crop any more than will combs freed of honey in the fall. If you prefer to clean the combs, do not do so by exposing them in or near the apiary. This may induce serious robbing that could damage your colonies and spread disease. In addition, the combs may be damaged by the frenzied activity of the bees as they clean them out.

Confining Bees

Bees can be confined to their hives for short periods to move them, to protect them from pesticides, or to keep them from bothering people or animals nearby. Whatever the method or material used to keep them from leaving the hive, action must be taken when the bees are not flying, either during the night or in cool or wet weather. The simplest closure is a V-shaped piece of window screen or hardware cloth pushed into the hive entrance (Fig. 49). Any other openings must also be screened or closed at the same time. This method of closing hives is suitable only for very short periods when the weather is not hot. With stronger colonies, or during hot weather, or for longer periods, the colony needs extra space in which to cluster. This can be provided by using an entrance screen and a top screen. These screens have wooden frames that give the bees space in which to cluster outside the hive (Fig. 50). A shallow super with one screened surface makes a good top screen that can be stapled or cleated to the hive.


Closing a hive with a V-shapeed piece of 8-mesh hardwire cloth (Fig. 49)


A hive with top and enterance screen in place for moving.  Bees can move into both screens to cluster and to ventilate the hive (Fig. 50)

Bees can also be confined by covering the hives with plastic sheeting, burlap, or other materials. The coverings are draped loosely over the hives and held down by soil around the edges. Black plastic sheeting is suitable for only a short period early in the day because it heats up rapidly in the sun. Burlap can be used to keep bees confined for a day or more. In hot weather it can be kept wet to cool the bees beneath it.

Dividing Colonies

Splitting a strong colony of bees into two or more separate units is an important technique in beekeeping. It provides new colonies to replace losses or to increase numbers of colonies. It is also a method of swarm control, and can be used to make up small colonies (nuclei) for rearing or holding queens. To divide a colony you must first find the queen as explained on page 62. If you are unable to find her in a large colony, put a queen excluder between the brood chambers and close the hive. Three or more days later examine the colony again. The queen will be in the brood chamber that has combs with eggs. She is easier to find in a single hive body.

Colonies may be divided initially within the same hive by using a double division screen as described on pages 95 to 96. Place the old queen with about half the combs of brood, mostly unsealed if possible, in the bottom brood chamber. Add an extra hive body with empty combs or combs with some honey if it is needed. Put the double division screen on top of the second body with the entrance facing the rear of the hive. Above it put the second brood chamber containing five or six frames of brood, mostly sealed, and two combs of pollen and honey on each side. This hive body initially should contain about twothirds of the bees. You must shake many extra bees into it from the combs of the bottom chamber (Fig. 51) because the older field bees will return to the bottom story leaving only the younger bees in the new colony on top. The new division may be too weak to keep the brood warm if an insufficient number of bees is present. A caged queen should be introduced into the top colony within 2 hours for best results but no later than 24 hours after making the division. After the queen is accepted and laying well, the new colony can be put on a bottom board within the same apiary. Fewer bees will be lost, however, if it is moved at night to a new location 2 or more miles away.


Shaking bees froma comb into the hive.  One or two sharp shakes remove most bees with little antagonism if the bees are smoked first. (Fig 51)

Divisions can also be made directly into a complete second hive. In this case, give the new colony more than half the bees and four to six frames of sealed brood. The hive may be placed near the parent colony. However, it is better to screen the entrance of the new hive while making up the colony and then to move it to another location at least 2 miles away to prevent bees from returning to, the original colony. Put the screened colony in the shade after you finish the division so that it will not be damaged by overheating. As soon as it is moved to the new location, smoke the entrance and take out the entrance screen.

The same general system of dividing can be used to make small nucleus colonies. For a three-frame nucleus, take one or two frames of brood and bees and a frame of honey from a strong colony. Pick mostly sealed or emerging brood that fills only a third or one-half the frame if possible. Before you put all the combs into the hive, shake two or three additional frames of bees into it. Introduce a queen or a queen cell as soon as possible but not later than 24 hours after making the nucleus. Although the nucleus can be left in the home apiary, it will do better if it is moved to another location.

New colonies of all sizes may be made from brood, bees, and combs from several colonies. Use the same general techniques as explained above and assemble the colony with sufficient bees and stored honey and pollen to get it started. In making divides and nuclei use small- to medium-sized brood patterns in preference to very large areas of brood. The new colony may not be able to care for a large amount of brood. By using sealed brood, you reduce the number of bees in the parent colony and rapidly increase the number in the new colony.

Feeding Bees

Honey and sugar. More honey bee colonies die from lack of honey than from any other cause. To prevent such losses the beekeeper must know the two periods when the colonies need additional food and the best way to give it to them. The late winter-early spring period, after brood rearing begins, is the most critical period. Feeding may also be needed in the fall if the summer nectar flow was a failure or if too much honey was taken from the hive for home use or for sale.

A comb of honey put into the hive beside the brood nest is the simplest feeder. Combs from hives with a surplus can be given to colonies short of food, so long as American foulbrood disease is not present. Extracted honey can be fed as a syrup by diluting it one-fourth to one-half with warm water; however, do not feed bees any purchased honey. The addition of Terramycin will not make such honey safe for your bees because the drug does not kill the spores of American foulbrood, and these spores can cause infection long after the drug has become inactive.

Feeding excites and stimulates the colonies being fed. This excitement can set off robbing in the apiary, particularly of those colonies receiving the food. To reduce or prevent robbing, and the possible loss of colonies, feed bees late in the day after most flight activity has ceased. Unless the weather is very warm and all colonies are strong, reduce the width of hive entrances with cleats so that colonies can better protect their entrances if robbing takes place.

Table sugar, either beet or cane, can be used in place of honey to feed bees. They will accept sugar in several different forms, including syrup, fondant, and dry granules. Any solid form of sugar must be liquefied by the bees before use and then reduced to the consistency of honey if it is stored. It takes moisture, sometimes body fluids, to liquefy fondant and dry sugar. Bees must also expend energy to remove water from syrup. It is estimated that they use 4 to 5 ounces of sugar to eliminate each extra pound of water in the syrup. If you want to provide the most stored food in relation to the amount of sugar fed, use a concentrated sugar syrup made from 16 pounds of sugar to each gallon of hot water. At this rate, 100 pounds of sugar will make 13 or 14 gallons of syrup. When fed in the fall, this concentrated syrup will provide up to 11 pounds of stores for each 10 pounds of sugar fed. The process is less efficient when bees are rearing brood in tile spring. You can make a similar syrup by using two volumes of sugar to one volume of hot water.

Dry, granulated sugar can be used for emergency feeding but is not suitable for colonies that must have food immediately to survive. Place it within the hive in an open container above the frames or on top of an inner cover around the open center hole. Brown sugar, molasses, plain corn syrup, and other similar materials containing sugar should not be used as feed, but high fructose corn syrup may be fed safely.

There are several methods and types of equipment used to feed syrup to honey bee colonies. The beginner often uses an entrance feeder that holds a quart jar. It is easy to use but has some serious disadvantages. For package colonies and other small colonies tile syrup in the feeder gets too cold and is too far from the cluster during cool weather. If you use one, put it on the side of the entrance nearest the brood nest and close part of the entrance beside the feeder to reduce the chance of robbing.

Tile division-board feeder hangs inside the hive in place of a frame (Fig. 52). It holds about 2 quarts and can be refilled without removing it from the hive. It provides food quickly to strong colonies but is not a good choice for slow, stimulative feeding.

The best all-purpose feeder is the friction top can or similar large containers. Five- and ten-pound honey cans, unused paint calls, and gallon glass or plastic jars can be filled with syrup and inverted above the cluster. The feeder can be set within an empty ]live body, either directly on the frames or over tile hole of an inner cover (Fig. 53). Leave part of the inner cover hole exposed so bees can get out. If tile feeder leaks, the bees may collect the syrup and keep it from running outside the hive where it will attract robber bees. For slow feeding and stimulation, punch 5 to 10 holes in the feeder lid with a threepenny nail. For winter or emergency feeding, use 20 to 30 holes. In place of nail holes, you can use 40-mesh metal screening to cover a 2-inch hole in a plastic feeder lid. Heat the screen and press it into the plastic.


A division-board feeder within a hive body.  A wooden float is needed inside the feeder for the bees to stand on when taking syrup. (Fig 52)


A plastic jar in use as a feeder over an inner cover.  An empty hive body and the cover enclose the feeder. (Fig. 53)

There are two emergency methods of feeding colonies quickly. One method requires an open tub or trough to hold sugar syrup and some kind of float on which the bees can land. A temporary cover will give protection from the rain. This is a poor method of feeding: the weaker colonies may not get the food they need to survive, any nearby colonies may take part, and the colonies may rob each other. A better emergency method makes use of combs filled with heavy sugar syrup. To fill them, use a sprinkling can, a coffee can with the bottom full of nail holes, or a garden sprayer free of insecticide residues. Hold the empty combs over a tub or large pan and sprinkle or spray the syrup into the cells of the comb. With both sides filled, a comb will hold several pounds of syrup. Place two or more filled combs next to the cluster of any colony that needs food.

Pollen, pollen supplements, and substitutes. Pollen for feeding bees is obtained by the use of pollen traps that remove fresh pollen pellets from the legs of incoming field bees. (See pages 47 and 129.) For only a few colonies, combs can be filled with the pellets and used immediately or stored for later use. For larger numbers of colonies this method is impractical. To fill a comb, pour fresh pellets from a pollen trap into the cells on one side of an empty comb, tap the comb several times to settle the pellets, and put it into a strong colony overnight. The bees will pack the pollen into place and the process can be repeated the next day for the other side of the comb. The pellets from the trap also may be dried or frozen for later use.

Pollen substitutes are protein materials, used alone or in mixtures, that bees can use temporarily for rearing brood. Among them are several kinds of soy flour, brewers' yeast, casein, and dried milk. When the materials are mixed with natural pollen they are called pollen supplements. Bees eat the supplements much more readily than they do the substitutes because they are attracted by the pollen. Pollen substitutes are available from beekeeping supply companies and from feed companies. You must add your own pollen to make a supplement. Do not use purchased pollen because it may carry bee disease organisms.

These foods can be given to bees as a dry mix in open feeders in the apiary or as a moist cake or patty on top of the frames in the hive directly above the brood nest (Fig. 54). For open feeding, a pan or dish of the mixture can be placed in any open-front box with an overhanging cover to keep out rain and dew (Fig. 55). Large-mesh chicken wire over the opening lets bees in but keeps out other animals.

There are many different formulas for pollen mixtures; they may be purchased ready to use or mixed as follows:


* = combined these elements make sugar syrup


Pollen cake in the hve above the brood nest. (Fig. 54)


Bees visiting a box containing dry pollen mix.  The lid is hinged for ease of refilling the pan containing the mixture. (Fig. 55)

Add enough warm water to the pollen pellets to make a slurry, which you mix with the sugar syrup. Gradually add the mixture to the soy flour, kneading it into a dough. Add extra water or soy flour as needed. Put 112 to 3/4 pound of the dough between sheets of waxed raper and flatten to 3/8-inch thickness. If you have no pollen, use 20 pounds of soy flour or a pollen substitute mixture.

Begin feeding the dry mix or pollen cake in February or early March and make it available to the bees continually until natural pollen is available.

Protecting Stored Combs

Honey combs not protected by a strong colony of bees must be treated to prevent damage from the greater wax moth and other moth pests. A beekeeper must assume that any equipment removed from the hives during the bees' active season may be infested. Moth eggs and young larvae are difficult to see. The equipment must be treated to kill all stages of the moth (egg, larva, pupa, and adult). It must also be guarded against later infestation as long as it is in storage.

There are two fumigants approved for killing wax moths; carbon dioxide gas (CO2), and paradichlorobenzene (PDB).

Carbon dioxide is the only fumigant approved for comb honey. It must be used in a relatively airtight room or container in which you can hold a concentration of 98 percentC02 for 4 hours at a temperature of 100 degrees F. (38 degrees C.) and 50 percent relative humidity. Although carbon dioxide is not a toxic gas, it must be used with care as a fumigant. At a concentration far below that needed to kill wax moths it can suffocate and kill humans. Any chamber used for C02 fumigation should be designed to include an exhaust system capable of removing the gas in a known period of time. Do not enter the chamber until the system has been operated at least that long. Makeshift methods of fumigation with CO2 may also be dangerous if the heavier-than-air gas flows out of the container being used to hold the combs.

Carbon dioxide kills all stages of the wax moth and can be used on empty as well as full combs. Unless comb honey is treated to kill wax moths, it may become unfit for sale soon after being harvested if wax moth larvae begin to tunnel it as they grow and look for food. If you have a limited amount of comb honey or access to a large amount of freezer space, you can destroy any wax moth infestation in comb honey by freezing it. Temperatures of 20 degrees F. (- 7 degrees C.) will kill all stages in 4-1/2 hours. At 5 degrees F. ( - 1 5 degrees C.) only a 2-hour exposure is needed.

Paradichlorobenzene is a white crystalline material that vaporizes slowly in air. The gas is heavier than air, nonflammable, and nonexplosive. Place approximately 6 tablespoonfuls (3 ounces) of the crystals on a paper beneath the cover of a stack of not more than five full-depth supers. The supers should be tightly stacked, with any holes and large cracks covered with tape. PDB kills adult moths and larvae but not the eggs. It also repels moths and should be kept in the stacks at all times for best results. Do not use PDB on combs containing honey because it makes it toxic and inedible. After being treated with PDB, empty combs should be aired for 24 hours or more. After this time, they are ready for use.

In 1981 a new bacterial insecticide called Certan was approved for treatment of empty honey combs. Certan's unique biological formula contains natural bacterium that, when eaten by wax moth larvae, paralyzes and destroys the digestive tract, resulting in the moth's death. Certan does not affect bees, colony activity, or the taste of honey produced on treated combs. It is nontoxic to humans, pets, wild life and beneficial insects. It is a water- dispersible liquid concentrate, thus dangerous fumigant handling and storage is eliminated. Combs are treated by preparing a mixture of one part Certan to nineteen parts water. The mixture is sprayed on the combs with an applicator. Retreatment is necessary after the combs have been reused.

If you have only a few supers of stored combs, you should check them regularly during the warm season for any sign of wax moth and treat with Certan. For larger amounts of comb, it is better to fumigate routinely at about monthly intervals unless each stack is protected by PDB. Without such precautions you may find one or more stacks of valuable combs reduced to worthless webs and debris.

Handling Beeswax

Beeswax is an important byproduct of beekeeping and a valuable: ingredient of cosmetics, candles, polishes, and many specialty items. It is also used in the pure form to make comb foundation. The beekeeper has several sources of beeswax including cappings from honey combs, damaged combs, and the bits and pieces of comb scraped from hive bodies and frames. From 10 to 12 pounds of wax from cappings is obtained for each 1,000 pounds of honey, depending on the comb spacing and yield per colony. An additional 1/2 to 3/4 pound per year can be saved from each colony by collecting all the burr combs and scrapings. It is good business to routinely melt very old combs and those with large areas of drone cells, wax-moth damage, and mold. These should be replaced by new frames with foundation to maintain good combs throughout the entire beekeeping operation. A deep super of old combs will yield about 2-1/2 pounds of wax.


Placing a comb in a solar wax melter.  The wax pan is removed through the door in front.  A screen across the front of the pan for the combs holds back the slumgum while allowing melted wax to run into the lower container.  See construction details in Chapter 2.

Wax from cappings is light colored and of a high quality, and should not be mixed with darker wax. Cappings should be melted with a large volume of water in an aluminum, stainless steel, enameled, tinned, or galvanized container. Do not use copper or uncoated steel containers because they discolor the wax. Allow the wax to cool slowly, scrape any impurities from the bottom of the cake, and store it until you have enough to sell.

Large numbers of combs can be rendered in a steam chest or a hot water wax press. The combs can also be taken to a beekeeping supply company for rendering. There is a charge for the service based on the amount of wax recovered. The material called slunigum, which is the residue left when combs are melted in a solar melter or steam chest, is valuable because it contains up to 30 percent wax. It can be commercially rendered for a fee based on the amount of wax secured from the slumgum.

The solar wax melter is a handy piece of equipment for melting comb, cappings, and other sources of wax. It is a sloping pan within a black, insulated box with a glass top, often of double glass (Fig. 56). The heat of the sun melts wax quickly and it runs into a pan where it can be removed in a cake the next morning. The melter can be made any size to fit the needs of the beekeeper. However, it should be relatively shallow and large enough to expose several frames or excluders at a time. It also can be designed to accept cappings baskets made from expanded metal. You can uncap directly into such baskets, allow them to drain, and place them in the melter to render the wax. A plan for constructing a solar wax melter can be found on page 46.

Handling Queen Bees

The queen is all-important to the colony, and the techniques of handling and introducing queens are important to success in beekeeping. After learning to find the queen and to evaluate her quality, you must learn to handle her and replace her if necessary.

Marking and clipping. The best way to pick up a queen is to grasp both pairs of wings between your thumb and forefinger without pressing her body, especially her abdomen. After getting her up off the comb, hold her against the forefinger of the other hand and trap at least two of her legs with your thumb. Release her wings and you are ready to mark the queen or clip her wings (Fig. 57). Before handling a queen, you can practice the technique on drones.

In general, a laying queen cannot fly because of her distended abdomen, and she does not sting when. handled. Mated queens that are not laying, such as those purchased for requeening or in a pack-age of bees, can fly readily and will do so when released from their cages. Handle them only in a closed room or within a screened cage from which they cannot escape (Fig. 58), or lightly wet the queen with sugar syrup before opening her cage. Clipped queens cannot fly. Virgin queens fly readily and may also sting occasionally when handled.


Holding a queen be in preperation for marking her.  Her legs are heald gently but fimly between the thumb and forefinger.  (Fig. 57)

Queens are marked to make them easier to find in the hive and to indicate their ages. Queens of the dark-colored races (Caucasian and Carniolan) should always be marked because they are more difficult to find than Italian queens. Fast-drying enamel paint and hot-fuel-proof model airplane dope are satisfactory, inexpensive marking materials that come in a wide range of bright colors. Apply a dot of the material to the queen's thorax, being careful not to get it on her antennae, wings, or membranes. You can practice on drones before attempting to mark a queen. Use a fine brush or, better, a round-headed pin stuck in a cork. Hold the queen briefly after marking her to let the mark dry, and then release her on a comb. In Europe an international marking system of five colors is used to relate the queen's age to her marking. The colors and years represented are as follows: 1984 - green; 1985 - blue; 1986 - white; 1987 - yellow; 1988 - red; 1989 on - repeat sequence of colors. A German bee-supply company, listed in the section on equipment dealers, sells queen-marking sets with numbered plastic disks in the five different colors. They are of value if you wish to identify each queen individually. The company also sells marking tubes that can be used to hold worker bees for marking. (See Figure 59 for examples.)


Useing a screened cage to confine a queen and her attendants while handeling them. (Fig. 58)

Queens are clipped by cutting across one pair of wings to remove about one-third of the longer wing. A fine pair of scissors such as manicure scissors can be used. Clipping was once considered to be a method of swarm control because the first swarm will come back when the queen is unable to fly. It is actually of no help because the beekeeper usually does not see the swarm leave and return. Shortly thereafter it will leave for good with a virgin queen. Clipping may prevent tile escape of a queen being handled during introduction, but it is more often used as a way to indicate the queen's age. To use it for this purpose, clip the left wing in odd years, the right wing in even years. Clipping may lead to premature supersedure of the queen, particularly if tile wings are cut so short that the queen's balance is affected as she moves on the vertical combs.

Introducing. Queen introduction is an important part of bee management. A new queen introduced into a mean colony can change its temper in a few weeks and a young queen can more than pay for herself by the increased honey production of her colony. Poor queens should be replaced whenever they are found, and most colonies should be requeened at least every 2 years.


Bee-marking equipment.  Marking disks, in five colors, are used on queens or workers.  Worker bees held in the tube are marked through the netting.  Model airplane dope in the vials is applied with the head of a pin stuck in the cork. (Fig. 59)

The first step in replacing a queen is to obtain a young, mated queen from a bee breeder. The queen, together with 6 to 12 attendant bees and a supply of queen-cage candy for food, will arrive in a small wooden cage with a screen top (Fig. 60). Give the bees a few drops of water on the screen as soon as the cage arrives. If you cannot introduce the queen that day, give the bees water twice a day and keep them in a warm place out of the sun. There are holes in each end of the cage that are covered with cork, cardboard, or a piece of metal. In preparation for introducing the queen, remove the cover from the hole on the candy end to expose the candy.

The next step in introduction is to make certain that the colony that is to receive the queen is queenless and without queen cells. Remove and kill the old queen, if there is one, and crush any queen cells with a hive tool to kill the larvae in them. Within 2 hours, place the new, caged queen in the hive. Before that, however, the attendant bees (workers) in the queen cage should be removed. Many queens are introduced with the attendants present but, because the colony may be antagonistic towards them, the queen will have a better chance of introduction by herself. Remove the cork and let the bees and queen out on a window of a room in which the lights have been turned off. They will buzz and fan their wings but will rarely sting. As soon as they are all out, pick up the queen and put her, head first, into the hole in the cage. If you don't want to pick her up, hold the cage close to the queen and "herd" her into it with your fingers. She is then ready to be introduced to the colony just prepared. Wedge the cage, candy end up, between the top bars of two frames in the center of the brood nest (Fig. 61). Close the hive and do not disturb it for at least a week.

There are several other types of queen-introducing cages (Fig. 62). One of the most useful is the push-in cage shaped like an open-sided box, made of either metal or cardboard. Both kinds work on the same principle, but the metal cage requires the addition of queen-cage candy. Shake the bees off a comb of emerging brood from a colony ready for a new queen. Place the queen beneath the cage on an area with a few cells of honey and emerging bees. Press the cage at least 1/8 inch into the comb. Replace the comb in the brood nest and leave the hive alone for at least a week. The queen will be released when the bees eat the queencage candy in the tube or tear the cardboard cage to pieces.


Queens and attendants in two types of queen cages.  One compartment is filled with candy that serves as food for the bees when they are shipped by mail. (Fig. 60)


Introducing a caged queen between the combos of a queenless colony. (Fig. 61)

You can improve your chances of success in introducing a queen if you take into consideration the conditions that favor acceptance. Queens are most readily accepted by small colonies and during a nectar flow. I For this reason, you will have the best results by inroducing queen first to a nucleus or small colony and by feeding the colony a light syrup for several days before and after introducing the queen if there is no nectar available to the colony. If you do not have a small, queenless colony, prepare one following the directions in the section on dividing colonies, page 101. Then introduce the queen to this colony as just explained. When she is laying well, unite her colony with the larger one that needs requeening, after first being sure that it is queenless and without queen cells. You may unite it by the paper method or by just setting the nucleus in the colony brood chamber after removing an equal number of frames. If you have a large colony that needs a queen immediately, you have no choice but to introduce her directly into that colony. Use the system outlined above for colonies being requeened routinely, when timing is not so critical.

If all conditions are favorable for queen acceptance, old and new queens sometimes can be exchanged directly without the use of queen cages. But this is a risky procedure except under ideal conditions and, therefore, rarely attempted by careful beekeepers. The chance of getting a queen accepted is best if she is held in a cage within the colony long enough to acquire the colony odor and to be fed through the screen by the workers. You can improve the chances of acceptance by replacing the original screen on the queen cage with 8-mesh hardware cloth when you remove the attendant workers. This larger mesh allows the bees to feed the queen properly, a job that is difficult or impossible through the small mesh of the screen provided on commercial queen cages. Your percentage of queen acceptance will also be improved if you leave the candy hole of the cage covered for two or three days before removing the cover or cork on a second visit to the colony. Obviously, if you are requeening large numbers of colonies, or if they are located too far away for repeated visits, this procedure is not practical. In such cases, be sure that there is plenty of candy in the cages and do not punch a hole through the candy to hasten the queen's release. She is much more liable to be killed if released too soon than if she comes out after a delay.


Different types of queen-introducing cages.  The two at the top are commercial, dual-purpose introducing and shipping cages.  The bottom two are homemade introducing cages (Fig. 62)


Extra queens stored over the super (Fig. 63)

You can make your own queen cage candy to use for introducing queens. Stir powdered sugar into a small quantity of good-quality honey that you know came from disease-free colonies. You will need about three volumes of sugar to one of honey. When the mixture becomes too thick to stir, knead additional powdered sugar into it with your hands. Form it into a firm ball and let it sit for several hours or overnight. If the ball slumps and becomes softer, add more powdered sugar, then store the finished candy in a sealed plastic bag or other airtight container. Because honey is a possible source of disease, it may not be used in queen cage candy except for home use. Candy for queens sold locally or shipped must be made with commercial invert sugar, such as Nulomoline or "queen cage syrup," in place of honey. This invert syrup is mixed with powdered sugar in the same way as described above.

Storing queens. Queens are stored regularly by queen breeders, who must have large numbers available for sale during a short period of time. Beekeepers may also need to store queens when weather is unfavorable for working with bees and when they receive more queens than they can introduce at one time.

The simplest storage method for holding queens as long as one to two weeks is to leave them in their shipping cages together with the attendant workers. When the queens are received, the cages should be separated and placed, screen side up, in a warm place, preferably 85' to 93 degrees F. (290 to 34 degrees C.). However, the cages may be held at a somewhat lower temperature if necessary. Do not store the cages where they receive direct sunlight. Place a drop or two of water on the screen of each cage every day, but be careful that it does not drip onto the candy within the cage. Cover the cages with a sheet of cardboard except when giving water to the bees.

For longer periods of storage, or when you have no warm place in which to keep them, queens can be held within a honey bee colony. Remove all attendant bees from the cages leaving only the queens. If there is candy in the cage, be sure that the hole on that end of the cage is closed by a cork or by some other material the bees cannot remove easily. The queens can be placed in a colony with a queen as long as she is beneath an excluder. Place the queen cages, screen side down, over the center frames of the first super above the excluder. Make sure that the bees have access to the screened area where the queen is located in each cage (Fig. 63). Naturally the colony must be strong enough so that all hive bodies are well filled with worker bees. Put a cloth over the cages to hold in the heat and add an empty super before putting on the lid. Larger numbers of queen cages should be placed in a frame modified to hold them within the colony above the excluder. Put a frame of unsealed brood next to the screened sides of the cages.

In strong, queenless colonies, queens may be stored in the center of the brood nest in a frame next to one containing unsealed brood The colony must be given additional, sealed and unsealed brood if the queens are to be stored in it for more than a week. Do not allow the colony to raise a queen of its own until the stored queens are removed In well-maintained, queenless colonies, stored queens can be kept in good condition for periods of one to two months if necessary. It is better, however, to put them into nucleus colonies of their own for such extended periods. They are available at any time to replace lost or failing queens in large colonies. Unless there is a good nectar flow when queens are being stored in a colony, you should feed the colony with sugar syrup.

Queen rearing. Queen rearing is one of the most fascinating parts of beekeeping but is beyond the scope of this circular. When you have mastered keeping bees for honey production, try queen rearing. Books on the subject are available at libraries and from beekeeping supply companies.

Hiving Swarms

Swarms are a problem to the beekeeper and to people who are confronted with them in their yards or some other location. The beginning beekeeper can use them to gain additional colonies or to strengthen established ones. However, the time and expense of obtaining them is often more than the small value of the bees themselves. Experienced beekeepers should consider swarm catching a service and charge accordingly for their time and expenses. In some states a license is needed to perform this service.

Swarms are not always gentle and you should wear a veil and use a smoker while working with them. Prepare a single-story hive with nine combs, either empty or partially filled with honey. Foundation is less suitable but can be used if you have no empty combs available. If the swarm is close to the ground, or clustered on a branch that can be cut off, smoke the bees and shake them into the open hive or in front of it. In some cases you may have to shake the bees into a pan, burlap bag, or other container in order to carry them to a hive. If you are successful in getting the queen with the rest of the swarm, the bees will enter the hive and make themselves at home. They should be moved that night to a permanent location. The swarm colony can be allowed to develop, or can be used to strengthen another colony. If you know from which colon), a swarm came, you may put it back after correcting the conditions that caused swarming to develop.

Swarms sometimes come from colonies infected with American foulbrood disease. The honey carried by the bees can infect the brood of the new colony. This serious threat, although not a common occurrence, can be reduced by hiving all swarms on foundation and immediately feeding them 1 gallon of sugar syrup containing Terramycin (see page 137 for dosage). Swarms hived on comb can also be fed in the same way, but the protection from disease is less certain. Whether or not you feed the medicated syrup, carefully inspect the colony for disease at least twice before adding another hive body with combs or foundation.

Identifying Apiaries and Equipment

Hives and apiaries located away from the beekeeper's home should be marked to show ownership. Such identification helps to prevent vandalism and theft because it indicates that someone owns the bees. Otherwise people frequently believe that bees have been abandoned because they do not see anyone visit the apiary. Identification is also essential if beekeepers are to be notified of pesticide applications or other farm operations affecting their colonies.

One form of identification is the owner's name and address stencilled in large letters on the hives or on a prominent sign beside the apiary. The letters should be at least 1 inch high so that a person who is afraid of the bees can read the sign at a distance.

Frames and other wooden hive parts can be identified by names or symbols stencilled, stamped, or branded on the wood (Fig. 64).


A branding iron and propane torch used to identify frmes and otjer wooden equipment. (Fig. 64)

Keeping Records

Beekeeping records are of two general types - management and financial. Management records include all the details of the work and observations related to keeping bees. If the information is recorded regularly, it will soon be valuable for planning work, for increasing your knowledge of the biology of honey bees, and for relating management to expenses and income. Even a simple diary kept up to date can be a worthwhile and enjoyable part of keeping bees. Some of the things to record are local weather data, dates on which nectar and pollen plants bloom, colony losses, colony weight records, and the dates of doing such jobs as spring inspection, supering, removing honey, and extracting.

Financial records are essential for anyone who keeps enough colonies to sell honey. They should be detailed enough to make a financial summary each year for your own information and for computing income taxes and other reports required for business. Farm record books are available from extension service publication offices. Although they are designed for general farming, they can be modified for keeping detailed records of a beekeeping business. Apiary record booklets are also available from several sources in the Midwest. Check with your extension beekeeping specialist or entomologist for details.

Bank-operated recordkeeping services can be adapted for beekeeping enterprises as well as for farm businesses. They simplify recordkeeping for tax purposes and may prove helpful in making short- or long-term loans. Lending institutions need net worth statements and cash flow records in support of loan applications.

Killing Bees

Honey bee colonies are commonly killed when they become infected with American foulbrood disease, when they are living in the walls of a building or in some other unsuitable location, and when they are not going to be allowed to live over the winter. Other management practices also may require that bees be killed.

The insecticide resmethrin is approved for killing diseased colonies of bees whose frames and combs will be destroyed. The insecticide cannot be applied to combs to be reused because treated combs may remain toxic for 7 months or more. Aerosol dispensers containing resmethrin are available from some beekeeping supply companies. Kill the bees when they are not flying, either in the evening or early morning. Close the entrance to confine the bees- the resmethrin causes frenzied activity among the bees when it is applied.

At present, there is no material approved for killing bees as a routine management practice, Cyanide dust and the fumes from burning sulfur have previously been used for this purpose. Because of its extreme toxicity, cyanide is generally not available. The sulfur dioxide gas from burning sulfur is also toxic to humans and does not kill bees as rapidly as does cyanide.

Colonies in buildings should be killed only with an insecticide such as carbaryl, diazinon, malathion, or resmethrin. Fumigants are too dangerous for this purpose. It is important to first locate the brood nest in the wall to learn whether it can be reached by insecticide sprayed or dusted into the flight hole. Sometimes the brood nest is a long distance from the entrance. By tapping and listening you can locate the main group of bees on a cold day or at night when the bees are not flying. Apply dust or spray at the entrance or through a hole drilled close to the brood nest. Use the material at the concentration recommended on the label for the control of bees and wasps. After the bees have been killed, the dead bees and comb should be removed from the wall and burned or buried. The location will be attractive to other swarms because of the odors present. Filling the cavity with insulation or some other nonflammable material will prevent bees from nesting in the same location again.

Moving Bees

Midwest beekeeping is gradually becoming more migratory as more colonies are moved to sources of nectar and are used for pollination. Even those beekeepers who don't regularly move their hives must some- times move them short or long distances.

The field bees from hives moved short distances -a few feet to as much as a mile or more - tend to return to the original hive location. As they fly out into familiar territory they use the landmarks and flight paths that bring them back to the old hive location. If one hive of a group is moved a short distance, its returning field bees will join hives beside the old location. It is better, if possible, to move all the hives together, a few yards at a time, when relocating them a short distance. Move the bees in the evening or early morning after thoroughly smoking the entrance and any other openings. You may leave the entrance open or screen it closed with a folded piece of window screen or 8- mesh hardware cloth. (See Figure 49.) Careful handling usually makes it unnecessary to fasten the hive parts together to move colonies within an apiary or close to it. However, if you want to fasten them together, do so at least 4 hours before moving the bees.

Most bee moving involves distances great enough to put the field bees into territory unfamiliar to them. No exact minimum distance can be given because it varies with each area and with the foraging distances of the field bees. In some areas a 1-mile move is sufficient, but a good average distance is 2 miles. Naturally, the farther you move the bees the less likely is the chance that some foragers will return to the old location.

The best time to move colonies is about dusk when most of the bees are no longer flying. Early morning is less suitable because the increasing light intensity and rising temperature make the bees eager to leave the hive. If you have difficulties, it is better to have the extra time available at night. A cool, rainy day is also a good time to move bees at any hour so long as the bees are not flying.

The beginning beekeeper who moves bees by truck or trailer should make preparations to complete the job without accidents. Prepare the colonies a day or more ahead of the move by fastening the hive parts together. Use hive staples, lath, or steel or plastic strapping. If you use staples don't put more than four between any two hive parts. Drive them in so they make an angle of about 45 degrees with the crack where the hive parts meet. Lath cleats are placed on opposite sides of the colony and nailed in place with two or more threepenny or fourpenny nails in each hive part. Be sure to smoke the hive well before you hit it with the hammer. Steel strapping is easy to use and holds the hives tightly but it requires special, fairly expensive equipment. Plastic tapes are equally good and are easier to fasten with simple equipment. In hot weather, especially with strong colonies, moving screens should be used in place of the regular hive cover. Cover an empty shallow super or similar wooden frame with window screen or 8-mesh hardware cloth and place it, screen side up, over the hive (Fig. 65). The bees can cluster in the space and ventilate the colony through the screen. Fasten the hive together with the screen in place. Cut an entrance screen for each hive the exact length of the entrance and about 4 inches wide. Fold it into a loose V that will slip into the entrance and stay in place. Seal or plug all other holes in the hive.


Top ventilating screen in place with hives being strapped. (Fig. 65)

When you are ready to load the hives, put on a veil and light a smoker. Smoke the hive entrance well and wait a minute or two before slipping in the entrance screens. If bees are clustered on the front of the hive you may have to smoke them more than once and wait several minutes before they all go into the hive. Place the hives in a truck or trailer with the entrances facing forward. Arrange the hives as close together as possible in order to reduce bouncing and shifting while en route and tie them in place if possible. At the new location put all the hives in place, smoke the entrances well, and remove the entrance screens immediately. You may remove the top screens at this time or leave them in place with a cover over them until you have time to remove them.

The advanced amateur or the commercial beekeeper usually moves bees without entrance or top screens except on occasions when special precautions are needed. Hives moved regularly should have the bottom boards nailed in place and should be equipped with covers that are the same width as the hive bodies. Proper hive equipment and a flat-bed truck with hooks on which to tie the ropes reduce problems in moving bees (Fig. 66). A typical move by a commercial beekeeper may take place as follows. At dusk the beekeeper drives into the bee yard and prepares to load the hives onto the truck with its headlights off but with the running lights on and engine running. The running lights provide some light to see by, and the vibration of the engine helps to calm the bees after they are loaded onto the truck. With the help of another person, or with a hive loader, the beekeeper quickly places the hives, one to three tiers deep, in rows of five across the truck. Each colony is smoked before it is loaded, and the bees on the truck are smoked peri- odically if they show signs of unrest. As soon as the load is in place, the beekeeper ties each row using a trucker's hitch and a good-quality, 3/8-inch hemp or polypropylene rope. At the new location, the lights are turned off, the engine is left running, and the smoker is lighted. After the entire load is smoked, the ropes are untied and the hives unloaded. The beekeeper is ready to leave the apiary as soon as the smoker is out and the ropes are coiled.

Hive loaders make bee moving a one-man task. They are also useful for handling honey supers and other equipment. (See Figures 66 and 67.) Heavy- duty loaders can handle two hives on a pallet or one above the other for loading two tiers at a time. A tractor with a fork lift can be used for loading pallets with six or more hives. Such palletized hives are preferred by apple growers for use in hilly orchards where a tractor must move the bees to their locations among the trees. The hives are strapped to the pallets and tied with ropes to the truck.

In most states, colonies must be inspected and a permit must be obtained before bees can be moved into the state. These procedures may also be required for movement between counties. Before moving your bees, inquire about the regulations at your state Department of Agriculture or other responsible agency.

Moving bees with an electric hive loader. (Fig 66)
Cradle of hive loader with control buttons. Spring loaded clamps fit into the hive handholds to support the hive.  (Fig. 67)

Repelling Bees

When robbing gets started in an apiary, it may be necessary to repel robber bees from weak colonies, open hives, and any equipment stacked in the apiary. The first thing to do is reduce the size of entrances of all weak colonies or nuclei. For extended periods, place a cleat over all but an inch or two of the entrance. As a temporary measure, stuff grass, leaves, or similar materials into the entrance so that only a small open area is left to be defended by the bees. To make it easier for the bees to remove the material later, do not push it in too tightly. If you must continue to work, expose as little of the hive as possible. Set supers flat on the inverted cover and put wet cloths over the top of them. Do not set any frames outside the hive or expose honey, syrup, or bits of comb to the robber bees. Under severe robbing conditions cover the open top of the hive with wet cloths, leaving only enough space to examine one comb.

There are no effective repellents available for use on crop plants to reduce insecticide damage to bees. It is also difficult to repel bees from their accustomed watering places such as bird baths and other places where they are not wanted. Solutions containing pine tar, or having the odor of phenol, are slightly repellent to honey bees and may be useful.

Saving Queenless Colonies and Helping Weak Ones

When you are certain that a colony is without a queen, there are several things you can do for it, depending on the type of colony involved and the time of year. The queen lost from a new package colony must be replaced very quickly if the colony is to survive and be productive. Get a queen locally if possible. In some localities, such as the Chicago area, queens are available from bee supply dealers. Unfortunately, by the time you are sure a package colony is queenless, it may be too late to get either another queen or a replacement package. As a last resort in such cases, you may want to put a swarm into your equipment. By giving your name to the police department you can be notified of the location of swarms.

Even small, queenless colonies can usually produce a queen if they have eggs and young larvae or are given a comb containing them from another colony. Insert a comb with a small amount of brood, less than one-fourth of a frame, into the center of the cluster. Queens produced under the adverse conditions in small colonies are rarely very good and should be replaced later, but they can keep a colony alive and growing.

After a honey bee colony has been queenless for about two weeks, worker bees begin to lay eggs. They do not lay in a neat pattern as the queen does. They scatter eggs more randomly and put several eggs in each cell. The eggs are usually on the sides of the cell instead of at the base where they are placed by a queen. The presence of laying workers in a colony makes it difficult to introduce a new, laying queen. The best treatment is to remove the combs in which workers have laid and to replace them with one or more frames of unsealed worker brood with adhering bees. The added brood suppresses egg laying by the workers, and the young bees are more receptive to a new queen than are the older bees that make up a large part of the population of a queenless hive. As soon as you have added the brood and bees, you can introduce a new queen by placing her cage between the added frames. Do not try to get rid of laying workers by moving the hive or by "shaking out" the combs. Such methods are unsuccessful because laying workers can fly as well as their nonlaying sisters.

Colonies in an apiary are often of different strengths, or populations, especially in the spring. Even those with good queens may be slow in gaining size because of a heavy loss of bees during the winter. You can help the smaller colonies by adding frames of sealed or emerging brood and bees from the larger ones. Before making such a transfer, find the queen in the larger colony or make sure she is not on any comb being transferred. Add one or more frames with brood and bees, giving one for each four frames covered by bees in the smaller colony. On a nice, warm day when the bees are flying well, you can use another method to help the small colony. Shake the bees from several frames of brood directly in front of, and close to, the entrance of the weak colony. Select combs from a large colony after locating the queen. The young bees will enter the colony with little or no resistance. The older bees that have previously flown will return to their original colony.

A swarm can also be used to strengthen a weak colony rather than to start a new one. Collect the swarm in a container, such as a cardboard box, from which you can easily dump it. Place an excluder, with an empty deep super above it, over the frames of the weak colony. Smoke both the colony and the swarm and dump the swarm bees into the empty super. Continue to smoke the bees enough so that they move down through the excluder. Find and remove the swarm queen, remove the excluder and super, and replace the hive cover.

These methods of helping weaker colonies do two things for you. They reduce the size of the large colonies and aid in swarm prevention. They also produce colonies of more equal strength that can be manipulated more uniformly. Honey production can be improved by bringing the colonies into a nectar flow neither weak nor so big that they are ready to swarm. Brood added to package colonies will also help them to reach full strength much faster than colonies not given such help.

Transferring Bees

Many publications have been written about transferring bees from primitive hives, buildings, and trees to modern hives. They usually suggest tearing open the colony and fitting the combs into new frames. Another method uses a screen cone or bee escape over the flight hole so that bees can come out but not reenter the hole. The displaced bees are supposed to enter a hive located beside the entrance.

Transferring bees is no job for the beginner, and it is not worthwhile for the experienced who can obtain all the bees they need by dividing their colonies. Rather than risk the possibility of being seriously stung for little reward, you should resist the temptation to transfer a colony and, instead, should kill the bees or leave them alone. If you want to try removing bees from a building, do the job for a fee, not just for the bees and any honey in the colony. You might consider transferring bees as a sport or a form of recreation, but it is not a good way to begin beekeeping or to increase your number of colonies.

Trapping Pollen

Trapped pollen is of value for feeding bees. It will become increasingly important as natural sources of pollen become scarcer and as more colonies are used for spring pollination of crops such as apples. A market has developed for pollen for use by commercial beekeepers to feed their colonies.

Pollen traps vary in some features of design but all of the available models have a double screen of 5-mesh hardware cloth that scrapes some of the pollen pellets from the legs of incoming pollen-collecting bees (Fig. 68). The pollen falls through another screen into a box or tray where it is inaccessible to the colony and can be removed without disturbing the bees. The traps remove only part of the incoming pollen and they stimulate colonies to collect more. They probably reduce honey production if used on the same colony for more than a week or two at a time. However, the value of the pollen for supplemental feeding can easily offset the loss of part of the honey crop from a few colonies.

The pollen should be collected from the traps at least three times per week and dried or frozen for storage. If you wish to dry the pollen, use shallow layers exposed to the air or heated at moderate temperatures, not over 140 degrees F. (60 degrees C.), in an oven. Ants, wax-moth larvae, and small beetles are often found in the pollen. The ants can be discouraged by use of sticky barriers or pans of oil surrounding the supports for the hive (Fig. 68). Rain ruins pollen quickly and all traps seem to be vulnerable to it. In selecting a pollen trap, choose the design that will best keep rain out and provide the maximum area of ventilation for the hive. A plan for building a pollen trap is given on page 48.


Pollen trap and stand that fit beneath the hive.  Bees enter through the wide enterance and crawl upward into the hive through the double screen.  The pollen falls through the bottom screen and is removed on a tray from the rear of the hive. (Modified from an origonal design by the Ontario Agricultural College in Canada.) (Fig. 68)

Uniting Bees

Weak colonies are often liabilities instead of assets. This is especially true when they have poor queens or have been queenless so long that laying workers are present. Such colonies will not make any honey and are not good risks for wintering. They should be united with a moderately strong colony with a good queen. Uniting two weak colonies will not produce one strong colony.


Uniting a small colony with a larger one by the paper method (Fig. 69)

Kill any queen present in the weak colony and place the hive, with- out a bottom board, above a single sheet of newspaper over the open top of the stronger colony (Fig. 69). Punch a few small slits in the paper to make it easier for the bees to remove it. In hot weather wait until late afternoon so the heat and lack of ventilation will not damage the upper colony. The bees will remove the paper with little fighting and the colonies will be united. Any colonies united in the fall should be checked again before winter to be sure that the clusters are together and that the hive has sufficient stores for winter.

Although the newspaper method is the safest way to unite bees and causes few losses of bees, colonies may be united without the precau- tions mentioned above. You can unite bees from several hives in the same way as you can make divides and nuclei from frames of brood and bees from several colonies. If none of the queens are of special value, put all the bees together without finding or killing any queens. The youngest queen is most likely to survive and only rarely will all of the queens be killed. The united colony should be checked after a week or two for the presence of the queen and its general condition and arrangement. When colonies are united, the returning field bees from the relocated hives are disoriented briefly. They soon join the united colony and settle down with only minor problems.