Tag Archives: Beekeeping

New Beekeeper. What Are the Different Parts of a Hive?

The basic wooden pieces that comprise a honey bee hive. Typically called “wooden ware” we’ll discuss each piece with a goal of helping you to be a successful beekeeper.

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My Bees Want to Swarm, What Can I Do?

Swarms are the normal, natural and healthy reproduction of a honey bee colony.
They are colony-level reproduction vs individual honey bee. It’s an important part
of the colony life cycle and it’s how honey bees procreate.

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Sweet, Sweet Honey. How To Harvest and Extract.

It’s time to harvest and extract your honey. If you are a BCBA member you have the advantage of renting the club honey extraction equipment. The club has everything you need to get the job done: an extractor, a planer to uncap the honey, an uncapping tub, a straining set up, and 5-gallon food grade buckets. First things first, you will need to pull the honey which means getting the supers off the hives and the bees out of the supers = honey harvest. There are several ways to do this.

Honey Harvest Tools

  1. Beekeepers Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) – suit/ jacket/veil/ gloves
  2. Smoker/ Fuel/ Lighter
  3. Supers for transportation
  4. Hive tool
  5. Old Towel


  1. Light the smoker. Use the hive tool, open lid slowly and blow some smoke in the hive.
  2. Have empty supers ready to place capped honey frames in. A cloth cover is recommended to prevent robbing and to keep the frames bee free.
  3. Remove frames with capped honey from the hive and inspect the comb. Uncapped cells with some nectar in it should not be harvested – only capped honey.
  4. Remove bees from the frames by doing a quick snap of the frame similar to getting the bees off the frame when you do a mite check and then use a bee brush to gently remove any bees lingering on the
  5. Place the capped honey frames into the empty super and cover with cloth (old towel works great) and prepare to to transport to your honey extraction location.

Once you have pulled all of your supers you are ready to set up for honey extraction. You will want to select a place that you are able to keep the bees out of. If you decide to extract outside in the open, you will have unwanted visitor bees, and lots of them.

Extraction Tools

  1. Uncapping tools – heated knife / serrated knife/ planer/ uncapping fork, spiked roller
  2. Uncapping Tub for wax/honey
  3. Extractor 
  4. Food-grade bucket for honey
  5. Double screened strainer; catch wax and impurities as honey is poured from extractor
  6. Containers for honey
  7. Bucket of warm water and rags


  • Mount the frame above the tub being used to collect wax cappings and honey.
  • Use the heated knife or tool of choice to unseal the capped honey cells.
  • Lean the heated knife on the edges of the frame and move “fast” – don’t linger too long or the honey may burn.
  • Repeat for both sides of the frame. The heated knife takes off most of the caps. For the honey cells that did not get upcapped, use an uncapping fork and gently shave off the caps.
Using an uncapping plane to extract honey
  • Place the frames with both sides uncapped into the extractor as you uncap them.
  • Once the extractor is full of frames, close the lid and start spinning slowly increasing speed until the honey is spun out of the comb and is stuck to the bottom and sides of the extractor.
  • If using the club extractor you will need to flip the frames and repeat the spinning.
  • Remove the spun frames and return them to the super and spin the remainder of your frames.
  • Place your food grade bucket under the spigot of the extractor.
  • Use a double screened strainer to catch the wax and impurities as the honey pours out of the extractor.
  • Before bottling, letting the extracted honey sit for 48 hours allows air bubbles and sediment to settle out.
Using an extractor similar to the one the club owns and rents out to members

Clean Extractor and Tools

Bees love to help clean up the honey covered frames with the majority of the honey extracted. Take your extracted supers back to the hive, set an empty super on top of the inner cover and place the extracted supers on top of the empty box (thus leaving a space between the inner cover and the extracted frames). This extra space “fools” the bees into thinking they are leaving the hive, finding honey, and they will bring is down into to hive proper. Remove the cleaned up frames after a couple of days. If you leave them on the hive too long, the bees will sometimes start back filling them again.

Leaving the boxes with extracted frames randomly outside the hive can instigate robbing behaviors which should be avoided. Placing them on the hives ensures your bees have “first dibs” of the leftovers and minimizes robbing behaviors.

You will end up with a mix of wax cappings and honey in the uncapping tub when the extracting is completed. You can leave them in the tub for the honey to drain overnight then open the gate on the tub the following day and strain the honey. You’ll be pleasantly surprised at the amount of additional honey you will be able to harvest.

Once you have strained the honey from the uncapping tub and removed your left over
cappings (save them to use later or give to your favorite beekeeper) you can place the tubs and strainers outside FAR from your hives to let the bees clean up. If you decide to try your hand at cleaning the strainer be sure to use COLD water.


Extracted honey should have a moisture content at or below 18%. The club has a refractometer which is used to test moisture content. If the honey has too much moisture – 19% or greater, it may ferment. Often times when there is a high moisture content it comes from extracting frames containing uncapped honey. Some people have success reducing the moisture from the honey using a dehumidifier.

Wash containers the honey will go into and let air dry. Fill containers with honey, label and share with friends. 

Parasites, Diseases, and Viruses, Oh My! Now What?

Tracheal Mites live in the bee’s respiratory system and have become less of a problem with the use formic acid and thymol based treatments for control of Varroa Destructor Mite. These treatments are also effective in treating the tracheal mite, mostly eliminating them. Symptoms include: bees appearing to be disoriented, unable to fly and disjointed wings. Bees are unable to get out to forage, leading to a large number of bees found throughout the day at the hive.

Nosema weakens the immune system of the honeybee leading to increased colony death. It is a problem in winter because bees are not getting out of the hive often to defecate, increasing the risk of spread within the colony. You may see LOTS of bee poop all over your boxes. Don’t confuse normal cleaning flights with Nosema. To prevent Nosema keep your colony strong and healthy, replace old comb and make sure there is good drainage and ventilation in your bee yard. Find more information here.


American Foul Brood (AFB): AFB is extremely contagious. Spores contaminate a hives by drift, robbing, tainted equipment/ tools. They infect and destroy larvae and once the cells are capped larvae turn brown. You will note a rancid smell, spotty brood pattern and sunken perforated cappings; inside the cell you would find melted looking brown remains of the larvae. You can check for suspected AFB by sticking a toothpick into a cell and stir the larva and pull the toothpick out. If it has a ropey appearance, more than 2 cm there is a good chance it is AFB. Because of the infectious nature it is recommended that all equipment be burned or wooden ware be scorched to disinfect before using again. AFB must be reported to the state inspector. More in depth information can be found here.


Sacbrood Virus (SBV) can be seen and easier to identify. Capped brood will have pin sized holes in it. Pupae have underdeveloped heads. The infected larvae will die and become dark and brittle. It will be easy to remove from the cells. SBV is transmitted via contaminated food, feces or during mating. You can try removing infected larvae and re-queening but as of today there are no known treatments to get rid of SBV directly.

Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) can be seen as well and looks as the name describes. Adult bees infected with the virus show no visual signs. It is the most common virus found in a colony and is transmitted by the varroa mite. The bees are unable to perform hive duties or forage and the bees do not survive long. It is transmitted by contaminated food, feces or during mating. The queen can pass the virus to her offspring. Prevention and treatment is mite management.

Step by Step Guide to Powdered Sugar Roll and Alcohol Wash for Detecting Varroa Mites

Alcohol Wash

Supplies needed: Rubbing alcohol, mite jar, collection tub, ½ cup measure. Note: there are devices made specifically for this test. Here is one example from Let It Bee in Greenville WI.

  1. Prepare testing jar with ½ cup rubbing alcohol
  2. Select a frame with open and capped brood with many nurse bees – Make sure the
    QUEEN is NOT on the frame
  3. Shake frame over tub to collect a ½ cup sample (about 300 bees) add to testing jar cap
    and shake 20 secs then 20 secs more
  4. Once settled raise up test jar and count mites on the bottom of the jar

Advantages: accurate mite count each time, quick and easy
Disadvantages: loss of approximately 300 bees, alcohol is flammable – keep away from

Powdered Sugar Roll

Supplies needed: Powdered sugar, jar with screened lid (#8 hardware cloth), white collection tub or white disposable plate, ½ cup measure, spray bottle with water

  1. Select a frame with open and capped brood with many nurse bees – Make sure the
    QUEEN is NOT on the frame
  2. Shake frame over tub and collect a ½ cup sample (about 300 bees)
  3. Add the 1/2 cup of bees to the testing jar and screw the cap on
  4. Add powdered sugar – 2 Tablespoons
  5. Roll the jar to cover bees in sugar and let sit in the shade for 2 FULL MINUTES – this step is VERY important
  6. After 2 minutes, roll the jar again and then shake the jar upside down into the collection bin for 1 full minute. Mites will drop into the collection bin and the bees will stay in the jar.
  7. Remove the jar lid and pour the bees back into the hive.
  8. Spray the collection bin with water. The powdered sugar becomes translucent making it possible to count the mites.

Advantages: Bees are kept alive and can be returned for clean-up back in the hive.
Disadvantages: This method is more time intensive than the alcohol wash and not as
accurate due to variables including nectar on the frame and excessive humidity which has a tendency to clump the powdered sugar. When clumped the powered sugar does not remove as many mites.

So you want to install a package of honey bees?

What is a BEE NUC and what is a BEE PACKAGE?

A bee nuc (nuc is short for nucleus) is a small colony made up of bees taken from a larger colony. It’s normally sold in a box with five frames standing side by side. A couple of those frames usually already have honey stores.

A bee package is typically sold in wooden frame boxes with screens on two sides. They are sold by the pound, and it takes approximately 3,500 bees to make a pound. A three-pound package, therefore, contains about 10,000 bees.

Inside a bee package is a can full of a sugar syrup mixture. The bees feed from this during transport. Bee packages can be mailed to you via USPS.  Each package also contains its own small wooden box covered on one side by a screen. This tiny box holds the queen and a few worker bees to tend her.

The Differences

Bees in a package can come from different hives. The bees in a nuc are generally from the same colony. Bee packages also tend to be less expensive than nucs. However, with a package, you’ll need to build the colony by transitioning the bees into your existing hives. This requires a greater education in beekeeping. For that reason, using nucs is typically less stressful than using packages.

Which one should you get?

Beginners would do well to begin with a 5-frame nuc rather than a 3-pound package of bees.   If you are a beginner, starting with an already established colony is going to increase your success rate immediately.  Beekeeping has a huge learning curve. Starting with a 3-pound package introduces a whole new set of elements that you have to learn before you start keeping bees.

Not only are you new at this but now your package bees are starting from scratch too. They have no foundation, no comb, no brood, no nectar and no pollen. And although you have a mated queen in a cage, she’s technically not laying because she has nowhere to lay yet. A nuc already comes with all of those elements.

So you’ve got your honey bee package, now what?

A few things before talking about installing your bees.   

  • Make sure your bee yard is all set up and your equipment is ready to go.
  • Make sure you have prepared 1:1 sugar water.
  • Pick up your bees with your bee suit and gloves handy. Most likely thousands of bees will be flying around.
  • Install your bees on the same day as pickup, if at all possible. However, a couple day delay will not harm your bees.
  • Secure your bees before transport. Recommend placing a mesh bag around the bees and use duct tape to ensure the cover can’t come off during transport.  In the event you had an accident you don’t want bees to be flying around in a vehicle to make matters worse.

Installing a Package into the Hive

  • Place an entrance reducer on hive opening.
  • Remove 5-6 Frames from hive box where you will be installing the new bees.
  • Remove the cover over the hole in the top of the cage and place it to the side.
  • Spray the package with sugar water.
  • One shake to cause the bees to fall to the bottom of the cage.
  • Remove the syrup can from the package and queen cage, cover opening with the cover you just removed.
  • Check the queen cage to make sure your queen is alive and well.   
  • Remove the cork, cap, and/or metal cover from the end of the queen cage.  Do not remove the candy.
  • You will find white candy separating the queen from the hole.
  • Poke a hole in the candy (use a paperclip or small nail).   Make sure you don’t harm the queen.
  • Place the queen in a safe location out of the sun.  We often put her in our jacket or shirt pocket if it is cool.
  • Place the queen cage between two middle frames at the top of the frames.  We like to use a paperclip to hold the queen cage in place so she doesn’t fall to the bottom of the box. (The Candy side should up)
  • The bees must become acquainted with the queen before she is released (bees will eat through the candy in order to release her once she is accepted). This can take several days.
  • Remove cover from package.
  • Shake bees into the gap in brood box.
  • Replace the previously removed frames – Gently. The bees will move out of the way.
  • Place the mostly empty container in front of hive and the remaining bees will work themselves into the hive.
  • Feed the bees with a 1 x 1 sugar syrup.
  • Put on the inside cover and place the telescoping cover on top with extra weights if you use them.
  • Remember to come back in 2-3 days to make sure the queen is out of the cage. If she is still in the cage, release her.
  • If it is very cold when you get your bees you can use the No Shake Method as discussed in the video.