Lesson 124: How To Keep Healthy Bees www.honeybeesonline.com 217-427-2678


Hello from Long Lane Honey Bee Farms in east central Illinois. I’m so glad you found us so that you can learn more about the honey bee and how important honey bees are to our food supply through pollination.

If this is your first time to meet us, we are a beekeeping farm family and have been playing with bees since 1994. Our hobby went wild and became Long Lane Honey Bee Farms, first selling honey, then selling equipment that we manufacture.  Next we started adding to our business things like beginner classes, queen rearing classes, advance beekeeping. Finally we grew into becoming queen producers also. So anything to do with honey bees we do it!

FratHouseWe even remove bees from structures. This has kept us really busy this year. We remove one a week, sometimes two. Last week we removed a colony from a FRAT house at the University of Illinois. Click on this link to see us on the news.  It was in a large wooden column about 20 feet high. We have three  more scheduled to do right away.

Class111Our beekeeping classes continue to fill up. Our next open Basic Beekeeping Class is Saturday October 13th, 9am – 3pm.  We still have openings, click here for more information or go to: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/servlet/Detail?no=265
Our October 6th class filled up to capacity but you can still register for this class on October 13th.

Seth11For those of you who enjoy keeping up on what’s happening with our family, our son Seth is over half way through Marine boot camp. We’ve received a few letters from him. Marine boot camp is really tough but he’s doing fine. We’ll be going out to San Diego next month for his graduation. Almost all woodenware had Seth’s special touch added to them this year. We miss him, but other family members have jumped in to take over his carpentry work.

queen11We had another terrific queen production year. The excessive heat kept us on our toes, but we shipped out a record number of queens. We will probably be able to ship out queens through the month of September as our drone populations are still very high. If you need a queen, call us at 217-427-2678. We will know each Monday how many we can sell for the week.

familyFinally, before our lesson today, remember that Long Lane Honey Bee Farm is a working honey bee farm, queen yard and manufacturing facility of hive components. This means occasionally all of our employees are helping other customers, building or may all be outside working. You can always leave a voice mail if you cannot reach us by phone. Once you reach us, you’ll always find it was worth the wait or trouble. We have become the place to have your beekeeping questions answered. As a master beekeeper it’s important to me that our folks answering the phones are beekeepers. But if they cannot answer your questions, rest assured that I will. 217-427-2678

While we would love to give tours, since we are a working farm, it is not possible. Our classes are designed to let you come, learn and touch the farm. And if you are picking up orders, please call first to be sure your order is ready or if the item you need is in stock.

LESSON 124: How To Keep Healthy Colonies

easlogo_smallThe Eastern Apicultural Society was the best I’ve attended. It’s always great to listen to new findings and work that Tom Seeley, Marla Spivak and others are doing. Hearing experts speak about their recent discoveries either points me in a new way or confirms my own way of doing things. I’m amazed at how much information is coming forth on how to keep healthy colonies. I spend thousands of dollars each year attending conferences and subscribing to various journals to stay up to date so you don’t have to.


MitesStill the number one effort that we must all be focusing on is reducing varroa mites. We removed a colony from an apartment building in Hoopeston, Illinois and in this photo we tore the comb exposing a drone pupa with four varroa mites.  A carefree, oblivious approach to mites may eventually lead to a colony’s death. There are more and more chemical free methods to reduce mites. First there was powder sugar dustings, then came screen bottom boards, then came green drone comb, and then I wrote about a powerful blow to mites a few lessons ago by breaking the bee’s brood cycle.

Now new studies show that by keeping hives further away from each other there is less drifting of bees, thus reduces drifting of mites. Not everyone has the space to do this, but during the cold days of winter, you should consider moving your hives at least 30 feet apart.  This work was recently done by Tom Seeley.


swarm12During Tom’s presentation he showed a graph comparing mite infestations among colonies that did and did not swarm. Of the ones that swarmed the mite count was significantly lower. Again, this was probably due to a break in the brood cycle. When a colony swarms, the old queen leaves shortly after the new queen cells are sealed, producing a break in the colony’s brood cycle.  See my recent article on breaking the brood cycle.

I cannot stress enough that to keep healthy colonies long term, we must reduce the number of varroa mites in a hive. Varroa mites spread viruses and these viruses shorten the lives of bees.

Throw every non-chemical weapon you can at the varroa mite. Do not give up. Have your mite level as low as possible going in to winter!


Pioneer QueensSeptember is a good time to replace your queen. So many beekeepers mistakenly think all is well with their queen, but she may die during the winter. Unfortunately it is almost impossible to obtain a good, early queen in March or early April when you need her most to build up the over wintered colony. Why take that risk? Replacing your queen in September ensures you will have a strong laying queen for next spring.  To break the brood cycle, you can remove your old queen this week but be sure you can receive a new queen the second or third week in September. This will give you a 2-3 week break in the brood cycle to reduce varroa mites. Then introduce your new queen. This makes for a healthier colony going into winter.


Now that it is September there are several things you must do to keep a healthy hive. Once you’ve harvest your honey, you must remove your honey supers unless they are full and you have chosen to leave them on for the bees to enjoy over winter. That’s fine, but REMOVE THE QUEEN EXCLUDER!  Never leave a queen excluder on a hive during the winter.

5610 269Mouse proof your hive. Seal up broken corners and holes big enough for mice to enter. Restrict the opening of the hive with the entrance reducer or some sort of mouse guard. Mice can kill your colony during the winter. I  seal my colonies from mice no later than September 15.

Provide winter venting. The internal heat of the colony contrasts with the outside cold temperature and causes excessive condensation to accumulate inside the hive. This cold, dripping water can kill bees. Upper ventilation is essential for over wintering colonies. Our Winter-B-Kinds provide upper ventilation.

Check to see if your bees need fed during the fall or winter. You must make sure your bees have plenty of winter food, both pollen (protein) and honey or sugar (carbohydrate). Hopefully the bees have stored surplus amounts of honey and pollen within the hive. If you need to feed your bees DO NOT use an entrance feeder. Bees rob other hives during the fall, and an entrance feeder will usually attract robber bees. Use a top feeder or frame feeder and use 2 parts sugar to 1 part water. The heavier syrup can be store more quickly by the bees prior to cold weather. There is less water for the bees to dry out of the syrup as with a 1:1 mixture.

winter1If your bees have failed to store adequate amounts of pollen and honey to make it through the winter, you should consider placing one of our Winter-B-Kinds on your hive. Our Winter-B-Kinds provide needed upper ventilation as well as top insulation and sugar and pollen for winter food in one piece. Click here for more details on our Winter-B-Kinds or go to: http://www.honeybeesonline.com/servlet/Detail?no=145

Wind protection. Is wind protection necessary? Why not! Honey bees have much to contend with so let’s do all we can to give them a better fighting chance. Certainly it is not necessary for a large, healthy hive. But not every beekeeper’s hive is large and healthy so wrapping up a hive will not hurt. However, we strongly recommend upper ventilation because the added wrap may cause increased moisture in the hive in real cold weather.

Another way to block the wind is to place some sort of barrier around the hive. Do not place straw or hay  bales right against the hive. The bales will draw and retain moisture and could cause too much moisture near the hive. Place straw bales three feet away from the hive. But you can use any type of material to block the wind. Be creative.

Work carefully now to implement these important steps in keeping a healthy colony. Thanks for joining us today!

Check out some of our more popular lessons:
-How to harvest honey
-Wax moths

That’s all for now and thank you for joining us for another beekeeping lesson! Please let others know about these lessons and our business. We appreciate you spreading the word! TipJarYour donations helps us continue our work and research on the honey bee, such as our recent development of our Winter-Bee-Kind. These lessons are free and will provide you with as much if not more information than you would find in a $30 book. So consider making a $30 donation so that we might continue these lessons, CLICK HERE TO DONATE $30 or go to:


Thank you in advance.
David and Sheri Burns
Long Lane Honey Bee Farms
217-427-2678 Website: www.honeybeesonline.com facebooktwitter iconYoutube

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