“Newbee Questions, Expert Answers” Column

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“Newbee Questions, Expert Answers” Column

We've all been there!

You have a fascination with bees, have felt the call of beekeeping and decided to take the plunge - and then the confusion starts!
  • What hive should I purchase?
  • Where should I install it?
  • What feeder is best?
  • When should I check the queen is out of her cage?
Of course, that's a tiny selection of many, many questions you will have. PerfectBee is proud to offer a wide range of articles and blog posts that will help you answer these questions.But, as a "newbee" (beginner beekeeper" you will have more? And so we decided to create this unique series as way to walk in the shoes of said newbee! Here's how we do that...

One Newbee + One Expert = One Series

This series captures the real-world, actual questions of a new beekeeper as he obtains his bees, installs them and starts out as a beekeeper. We include the type of questions you won't always find asked else where - like "When I bring my package bees home, will they make a mess in my car?!".Through a Q&A style, we hope you will find this series both fun and educational?

Who Is the Newbee and Who Is the Expert?

So we needed a newbee and we needed an expert. Enter... Mark and Ron.
  • Mark Williams is the founder of PerfectBee. He launched PerfectBee in November 2015 and by working with expert beekeeper contributors helped introduce many new beekeepers to this fascinating hobby. Mark took the plunge and has recently installed his first beehive. He's excited about where this leads - and has some questions. Lots of them! Mark.... is our resident newbee.
  • Ron Lane has years of experience as a beekeeper and regularly teaches beekeeping classes. With a light, enjoyable but thorough style, Ron responds to Mark's questions using common sense and real-world experience of the issues facing new beekeepers. Ron...is our beekeeping expert.
We do hope you enjoy this series.

About Ron Lane

Ron Lane is a beekeeper in the beautiful state of Oregon. He has many years of experience, regularly teaches beekeeping classes and has an "Outside the Swarm" mentality to life, as well as beekeeping.

11 thoughts on ““Newbee Questions, Expert Answers” Column

  1. I have a new hive. I got a nuc on April 15 and set up my hive. It has been cold and rainy here so I haven’t had a chance to open the hive and check on the bees. I have been feeding them sugar water and noticed bees coming and going out of the hive. Today, I found 4 dead bees at the entrance of the hive. It has literally rained here everyday this past week and it is cold. Should I be concerned? I don’t want to open the hive in this nasty weather and get the bees chilled. Is there anything I should do?


    • Suzanne,

      You are wise not open the hive in the cold and wet weather. Unless you saw something abnormal, the dead bees at the entrance is a sign the colony is functioning normally. In other words, the bees are doing their jobs and one of those jobs is to remove dead bees from the hive. So I would not be concerned based upon finding just four dead bees at the entrance.

      When the weather improves and you can look inside the hive for an inspection, be sure there is plenty of room for the queen to lay her eggs. With the cool wet weather the bees may not be drawing out new comb very fast or at all, depending how cold its been. Sometimes when feeding a colony the bees fill the drawn comb with sugar water, leaving little room for the queen to lay. That said, if its as cold as you say, the bees are not likely taking much feed anyway. Hopefully the nuc came with a frame of stores for the bees.

      So for now I believe you are doing the best for the colony by leaving them alone and waiting for better weather. As long as they have enough food in the hive they should be fine.

      Keep up on your mite counts and good luck with your bees this season.

  2. We left a crocheted afghan on our deck rail and the next day it had a dozen or more of what appeared to be drone honey bees on it?? Why? And what should we do?? I don’t want to interfere with any process

    • If they are drones they wont be there very long. Drones can only stay out of the hive for about 4 hours. (That is time flying so probably longer if they are not flying.) Then they must return to the hive to feed. Check at night or early morning and all the bees should be gone. It wont hurt to remove the afghan then.

  3. Just checked hives for Varroa Mites using a powder sugar shake (used white sugar milled in a blender to avoid corn starch found in powdered sugar) and found the mite population quite high, 36/300. What would you suggest to knock down the mites. I’m worried if nothing is done until the fall the mites will do huge damage and the hives die.

  4. Liz your analysis is correct. You need to deal with the mites right away. A couple of good organic options are available to you if you want to go that route. Apiguard or Api Life Var are made from the Thyme plant and Thymol is the active ingredient. Mite Away Quick Strips (formic acid) are also very effective. I don’t know where you live, but pay very close attention to the directions regarding temperature. Especially the Mite Away Quick Strips. I would not use them in temps above the low 80’s. Pay close attention to the directions for both products,

    After your treatment you will want to do another mite count to determine effectiveness. If you got the mite count knocked down then you should be good to go until fall (Aug/Sept). To have healthy winter bees you want mites under control by late summer or early fall. Try to use two different treatments. You might try the Thymol product now and then use the formic acid in the fall. Different treatments helps keep the mites from becoming resistant.

    Good luck with your bees and keep an eye out for an article here in the weeks to come about how to prepare your hive for winter.

  5. I purchased a used Langstroth hive, consisting of 2-10 frame deeps and 1-10 frame medium. my question is could I install mediums in the deeps without any issues or is there something else I need to do? My bee guy only sells mediums so I need to know if I need to find someone else.

  6. Michael, good question and one the bees would gladly answer for you though you probably would not like how they taught the lesson. Medium frames placed in a deep hive box will almost certainly result in cross comb being built all over the place in the empty space that remains below the bottom of the medium frames. This would make it nearly impossible to remove the frames without destroying comb. One way to avoid the cross comb would be to place a deep frame on each side of the medium frame so the bees are “guided” in building straight comb. Eventually the medium frames will function as deeps because the bees will build the comb down to the depth of the adjacent deep frames.

    Something you may want to consider is moving in the direction of medium hive boxes. They are easier to lift and handle and the bees do fine with them. I have been moving in that direction myself and find it makes life much easier when working my colonies. Since I also have deep hive bodies from when I began beekeeping, I still use them, but I place them on the bottom and then add mediums on top. This has worked very well, with one consideration. Using two size hive boxes can, at times, present issues you must work around because all the equipment is not of one uniform size. I don’t know what part of the country you are in and how your winters are, so maybe deep hive boxes are what you need to use. We have cold winters where I’m at in Oregon but they are not as long as some of the other northern parts of the country. So keep in mind what the demands are of your local climate to make sure your bees are capable of wintering in the home you provide them.

    I hope that helps and thanks for your question.

  7. George,
    Honeybees are much like other wild creatures that spend the summer months preparing, in one way or another, for the coming winter. Honeybees spend the summer months collecting nectar which they store in the colony as honey. When the honey is used up in one area the entire cluster of bees moves to a new area of stored honey. They feed on the honey throughout the winter to stay alive. In my area in Oregon the bees need approximately 70 pounds of honey to see them through the winter. Other parts of the country with longer winters require more.

    Over the course of the winter the bees cluster together in a tight ball to stay warm. If they have brood (young) in the colony they will maintain a temperature of approximately 93 or more degrees to keep the brood alive. They do this by shivering their wing muscles. If there is no brood (a broodless period of about 6 weeks is normal) they will often maintain a temperature within the cluster in the low 80’s. This is the temperature in the very core of the cluster. The bees on the outside edges of the cluster sometimes become so cold they cannot move until there is a sun break and a warm enough day for them to move. This happens at about 45 to 50 degrees outside on a windless day.

    In late winter the bees begin to raise increasing amounts of new young bees. These new bees feed on pollen stored within the hive. Pollen is a source of protein and honey is a source of carbohydrates. The bees that maintained the colony through the cold winter months will live just long enough to bring a new generation of worker bees into the colony before dying.

    Honeybee colonies should not be disturbed in the winter and one of the things that helps them through the winter is for the hive be protected from wind.

    Thank you for the question and I hope this helps with your understanding about winter bees.

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