Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's by Terry Martyn Jr. - HTML preview

PLEASE NOTE: This is an HTML preview only and some elements such as links or page numbers may be incorrect.
Download the book in PDF, ePub, Kindle for a complete version.

Turn the package over and pour the bees onto and around the queen cage in the gap between the two center frames.

When you have transferred all the bees, discard the package and replace the other frames in the hive. Do this carefully – you want to avoid injuring or killing the bees because this would alarm the other bees at a very traumatic time.

Place your wooden hive feeder on to the hive body containing the bees.

Add sugar syrup to the feeder.

Put the top cover over the feeder.

Set your entrance reducer to the minimum gap.

Your bees will feed on the sugar candy which blocks the hole in the queen cage and release their queen.

Leave your new colony to acclimatize and recover. Don’t inspect them for at least five days.

Package bees offer the opportunity to watch growth and development but they need to be undisturbed for that initial period at the start.

The harvest in the first year will probably be less from a package than from other sources.

Hiving a Swarm

Bee swarms should be left to experienced beekeepers. I include these

brief notes for completeness, but consult an experienced local

beekeeper before trying this yourself.

Bee swarms may be found hanging from a tree, parking meter, or in

similar places. Many swarms are searching for a new home and

probably are not very aggressive.

Use a small cardboard box with a screened hole about 3"x3" on one side for ventilation and air.

If the swarm is on a low-hanging branch of a tree, place the box under

the tree and shake the branch, firmly dislodging bees from swarm. If the branch is very Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 34 of 69

small, cut it and put it inside the box. Keep the box in the same place for around an hour, so any flying bees can also slowly gather into the box. You can collect the entire brood.

If you want to capture a swarm from the top branches of trees and you are comfortable with the climbing involved, cut off the branch and carefully lower it to the ground.

Remove hive covers and shake the branch firmly into the hive to dislodge bees over the combs and entrance of your hive. The bees will start moving into your hive.

Put the hive covers back when the swarm is all in the hive. Move the hive to its permanent location immediately as the bees will imprint their surrounding on their first flight from their new hive.

Swarms that are close to the ground are usually easy to hive. Put a cloth beneath the swarm and place the hive on it. Use your smoker to drive the bees from where the swarm has lodged down towards the hive entrance.

Use smooth weeds or leaves to brush any clustering bees towards the hive. Most bees will be thrown onto the cloth.

Some will start crawling up the board and start fanning at the entrance. Others will go into the hive. Allow bees some time to settle within the hive. Place inner and outer covers on your hive.

The cloth offers a good surface for bees. Otherwise, many would get lost in the grass and weeds or cluster elsewhere.

While hiving a swarm, place the hive in the place where you want it to remain permanently.

Fill the frames with foundation or extra combs, if they are available.

Carefully remove one or more combs from a swarm with a brood and place it in the center of the hive. The comb must not have a queen. Fill the hive with frames. Shake the swarm into the hive gently and allow the bees to settle within. As soon as a few bees have settled inside, let free the entire swarm within the hive. Push all the bees meandering around inside the hive. Make sure that the queen enters the hive or all the other bees will come out.

The swarm may spend the night on the foundation or combs you provide within the hive.

The natural instincts of the workers will prompt them to repair old combs or build fresh ones while the youngest bees begin cleaning the comb.

That is how they adjust to their new home.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 35 of 69

Helpful Tips

• Hiving a swarm in early spring or summer allows sufficient time for bees to build and gather a surplus.

• Keep feeding the swarm while hiving as this keeps bees busy and the workers will be able to build or repair combs faster.

• After hiving a swarm, move it to a shady location. If left in the sun, the hive could become so warm that the newly hived bees might dehydrate or leave.

• Provide bees with a few drawn combs to accelerate bee settlement within the hive.

• One or two frames of pollen and honey within the hive frames help bees.

• Brush away dead bees from the comb.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 36 of 69

Prevention of Bee Swarming

Swarms are great but not when it’s your bees leaving home!

So, here are some suggestions which will help you to keep your bees happy at home.

Swarming may be due to overcrowding. The interior of the hives could become hot and congested. Reduce the inclination to swarm by ensuring sufficient ventilation and additional space for the bees to be comfortable and have room to store more produce.

Add more hive bodies and frames. Extract honey more frequently to allow more space for future storage and brood rearing.

Inspect your beehives more frequently during swarming season. Weekly inspections can be a good idea.

If there are many queen cells along the frame bottoms, it may indicate an intention to swarm.

Cut off these queen cells and dispose of them or rear them elsewhere.

Re-queening with young queens early in the season can reduce the likelihood of swarming during the peak season.

Queen and drone traps can be placed at the hive entrance to stop them leaving but this is not foolproof. The traps may catch drones or queens but virgin queens would escape and then swarming would occur.

You should be more careful in bee management if the hive has a queen excluder which is designed to restrict the queen to laying eggs within the brood chamber.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 37 of 69

Combining Weak Hives

As a beekeeper, you may have strong and weak hives. It is not possible to save every hive. You could waste lot of time trying to make a weak hive stronger and not get results which repay your efforts.

It is usually better to combine a weak and a strong hive so that you produce one good bee colony with more bees.

It would not work to just replace the old queen of a colony that has deteriorated with a new good queen.

It is best not to combine two weak hives. They will probably not develop into a strong hive despite your most sincere efforts.

The strength of a beehive depends on the queen. If the queen bee is strong and good, the beehive will prosper. If the queen is failing, the colony will soon fail and wither off.

It is best to kill a failing queen in the fall and combine her brood with a stronger colony.

You should have a very strong colony by early spring. You can then split it into two healthy colonies.

Then you can bring in a new queen for the queen-less section of the split. Adding a queen to a split is just like buying a nuc. The new hive will have a good brood, healthy bees, and a new queen. Within eight weeks this hive will develop into a fully productive hive.

During the peak season, a hive may lose its queen. The hive may not be able to produce a new emergency queen.

You can combine two hives, a queen-less and a hive with a queen, with little more than some clean, perforated newspaper.

Place a perforated sheet of newspaper on a queen excluder over the hive with the queen.

Place the queen-less hive on the newspaper.

The bees from the strong hive would first eat away the newspaper. Bees of the queen-less hive would not become laying workers, as the pheromones from the bees moving freely between the sections would discourage ovary development and stop the worker bees in the queen-less part from becoming drone layers.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 38 of 69

Sometimes, bee colonies separated with a newspaper would adjust to the new environment and become a better colony, combining bees of both broods with the old queen.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 39 of 69

Feeding Your Bees

Beekeepers supplement the food which bees produce for themselves with sugar syrup, usually twice a year.

Sometimes, they feed some syrup with medicine to treat or prevent certain conditions.

Usually, it is sufficient to give them one feed of sugar syrup after you have harvested your honey and another feed of solution when they start to become active in the new season.

Boil the water you will use for the solution, but let it cool a little before adding the sugar or it may caramelize which will hurt your bees.

Most beekeepers use an equal volume of water and sugar.

If you leave sufficient honey in the beehive, bees can survive the cold winter months.

Some years honey production in beehives may be less due to lack of proper honey crop.

Bees then may not have sufficient honey to survive winter.

You need to feed those bee colonies until they are able to make fresh honey.

Brood rearing starts in late winter or early spring. This is a very critical period and a bee colony may need extra feed to continue rearing and feeding.

Bee Food

Bees can be fed sugar and honey.

Do not feed bees brown sugar, maple syrup, molasses or plain corn syrup. Sugars other than sucrose may harm bees. Avoid sugar products that contain starch.


This is the best and most natural feed for bees. It is also the costliest. Provide bee colonies with stored honey in frames of comb or dilute and feed like sugar water. Mix honey with one-fourth to one-half of warm water and feed.

Restrict the amount of honey mixed in the water during warm weather as the honey will ferment and get spoiled.

Honey fed in combs or frames can spread diseases through spores.

Do not feed purchased honey.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 40 of 69

Table Sugar

Feed bees cane sugar in a syrup solution. During Fall, some keepers feed bees sugar syrup with one part sugar and one part water.

During spring, they may change to one part sugar with two parts water.

Bees have to liquefy solid sugar and bring it to a honey consistency before use. Dry and granulated sugar is good as an emergency feed for bees. However, do not feed dry or granulated sugar if your bee colonies require immediate food for survival.

How to Feed Bees

There are many techniques and suitable equipment to feed syrup to bees.

Entrance Feeder

A quart jar feeder placed at the hive entrance is easy to use. In package colonies, tile syrup in a feeder becomes very cold. It is distant from the cluster. Place the feeder close to the side entrance near the brood nest. Chances of robbing are also minimized.

Tile division-board feeder

Hang this feeder within the hive in place of a frame. It can be easily refilled without removing from hive. This feeder is best suited to provide quick feed for strong colonies. If you want slow and stimulating feeding, do not use this feeder.

Friction Top Can

This is a very popular feeder that many keepers believe suitable for all types of bee colonies. Place it over the tile hole of an inner cover or directly on the frames. Fill unused paint calls, five or ten-pound honey cans, plastic jars, or a gallon glass with syrup and invert it over the cluster. Do not use recycled cans or jars!

If you want to feed an emergency feed to bee colonies, use combs filled with heavy sugar syrup.

Some keepers use a coffee can with a bottom full of nail holes, a sprinkling can, or a fresh garden sprayer to spray or sprinkle syrup over empty combs placed underneath.

A comb filled with syrup on both sides will hold many pounds of syrup. Place two or more such combs next to a cluster in the colony.

Hive Top Feeder

This is possibly the most popular feeder. There is a tray which is sited above the brood box and the bees enter from below through a screened access point.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 41 of 69

You can add more solution without disturbing the bees much.

If you have to give them medicated syrup solution, you can be confident that sunlight will not reduce the effectiveness of the medicine because the feeder is completely enclosed.

Pollen or Pollen Substitutes

Use pollen traps to take off fresh pollen pellets from the legs of incoming field bees. Fill combs with these pellets for immediate or later use.

These combs can suffice pollen requirements of small colonies.

If strong colonies are in need of pollen, pour a few fresh pollen pellets into cells on one side of an empty comb and place it in the colony overnight.

Repeat again the next day if there seems to be a need.

You can procure pollen substitutes from bee supply shops. Do not add purchased pollen to pollen substitutes as it can cause problems.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 42 of 69

Disease Management

As a beekeeper, you must recognize diseases of honeybees and learn the most effective treatment. It takes experience to spot diseased hives but you can get help from the Agricultural Department in your State or County and, of course, your Bee group.

Here is a brief description of some of the most common brood diseases.

American Foulbrood

B. larvae is the organism that causes American foulbrood. The disease spreads due to lax beekeepers.

The best solution is often to burn the hives and bees but preparations like TM25 can treat a mild affliction of foulbrood in the short-range. Check with your Advisor.

Foulbrood spreads when larvae ingest the bacteria from the nurse bees. The spores take root and multiply, causing death of the larva in the pupal stage.

The cleaning bees get the infection when clearing the larval debris. Then, they transmit the dormant spores to the other bees and the spores end up in the honey or again in the new larva. So, the infection spreads rapidly through the entire colony.

Bees from other hives who visit the infected hive for honey acquire the infection and foulbrood can spread to most colonies in the vicinity.

European Foulbrood

Decreased honey production may be an indication of European foulbrood. It affects mostly weak colonies in spring and summer. The larvae acquire the bacterial spores from nurse bees, but usually die before the cells are capped. The larvae coil up in a C

shape and it is possible to clear the soft scales unlike the debris of larvae in American foulbrood.

The treatment is similar to that of American foulbrood: it is best to burn the affected frame. Transferring the frame to another hive can infect the entire colony.


A virus infection results in Sacbrood where the larvae die before reaching the pupal stage. You can detect infection when there is a change in the color of the larvae from white to grayish white. In closed cells, a small opening could be a sign of the viral attack.

Check for the illness and burn the comb if more than twenty percent is infected. Disinfect the frame properly with formalin or another recommended treatment before re-using.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 43 of 69

The best treatment is to maintain cleanliness and to introduce a new queen in the colony.

If more than half the brood has the infection, kill all bees with an insect spray.

Parasitic Mite Syndrome (PMS)

Both mites and viruses result in the parasitic mite syndrome that distorts bees. It is advisable to look for signs before it is too late to treat the disease.

This disease is very serious but symptoms are similar to several other infections.

They may include the presence of Varroa mite, a reduced number of live bees, some adult bees crawling and, sometimes, some tracheal mite infestation in adult bees.

Your Brood may show signs of Varroa mite infestation and twisted, light-brown larva.

If you are unsure, you should submit a comb sample, at least two inches square to the nearest lab.

Prompt action is vital to protect healthy colonies in the area.


If you notice chalk-like mummies on the floor of the hive, it is a sign of chalkbrood, which is caused by fungus. It occurs mostly in stressed colonies, so good hygiene and management of the hive is the best protection for chalkbrood.

The ideal treatment is to supply ample food and to re-colonize with a new queen to produce a good stock of bees.

Remove the mummies and any frame which has a high number of chalkbrood cells.

The fungi spores are resistant and can take root in damp conditions so keep the hive area free from dampness to avoid recurrence of chalkbrood.

Diseases of Adult Bees


A protozoon named Nosema apis causes Nosema disease in adult bees. Most

beekeepers tend to ignore the disease but it may be the one which causes most bee deaths in winter.

The beekeeper may only start wondering when he notices a fall in honey collection.

Adult bees take in the Nosema spores that take root in the stomach to germinate and reproduce. The Nosema-affected cells break up on maturity and mix with the feces.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 44 of 69

Usually bees do not dirty the hive, but infected bees discharge a brownish liquid inside the hive by early spring. Some may discharge liquid on the outside of the hive.

Nosema destroys the gut lining in affected bees, hampering their ability to produce honey. Affected bees may have atrophied hypopharyngeal glands and may die.

Subsequently, brood production reduces in spring.

Reduce outbreaks of Nosema by:

• Improving ventilation and air circulation in the hive.

• Site the hives to avoid damp conditions and remove any trace of damp in the hives.

• Check that the all your bees have access to a reliable source of clean water.

• Ask your advisor about medications which are available.


Varroa and Tracheal mites are the most dangerous mites affecting bees in most states of the US. Tracheal mites first appeared in the US in the 1980's while the Varroa mites appeared only in 1987 in a Wisconsin apiary.

They spread rapidly affecting bee populations across North America.

Researchers at several American universities have come up with bees resistant to tracheal mites. Sugar and grease patties are claimed to be an effective way to treat tracheal mites.

There are also several other chemical and nonchemical ways to treat these mites.

Varroa mites may be present if you see:

Deformed bees

Spots, red or brown, on bee larvae.

The death of an entire colony in late autumn.

Mites on adult bees. This indicates very high numbers because the mites always target larvae in uncapped cells first.

Use a Varroa screen to remove a significant proportion of Varroa mites that get on to your bees.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 45 of 69


Apistan and other miticides are claimed to be effective against Varroa. They must be used strictly in accordance with directions (including the safety related ones) or you are wasting your time and money and will not help your bees.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 46 of 69

Pest Management

Bees have several enemies that can harm or destroy them, intentionally or otherwise.


Bears love honey and the brood. They destroy the frame and eat the combs. You will probably need an electric fence around the hives if bears are active in your area.


Some birds like sparrows, woodpeckers and Martyns eat adult bees. It is best to chase them away from the hives with scarecrows or other non-destructive methods as birds are a mostly protected species.


Ants do not hurt the bees but are a problem for the beekeeper. They may make a nest around the top cover and even inside the hive. Avoid chemical repellents for the ants as it can harm the bees. Set the frame on a stand with its legs in oil so that ants cannot reach the hive.


Cattle harm the hives by rubbing against the frames vigorously and toppling them in the process. You need a fence of some sort between the cattle and the bees.

Small Hive Beetle

The small hive beetle likes weak colonies, eats, brood, eggs and almost everything except adult bees. Its feces spoil the honey that it doesn’t eat. It’s bad news but may not appear in the cooler states as it is tropical in origin.

Contact your State Apiary Inspector to notify him that you think you have an infestation and get the most current information about possible treatments.

Some chemicals that have been approved for use on this pest have been heavily restricted in their use.


Frogs are an asset to any garden and will be present in damp patches around the hives.

Some frogs may consume bees but you can’t (and should not) do anything about them.

Fire Ants

Fire ants build nests on the ground close to beehives and pose a danger to the beekeeper. The bite results in a swelling that stings and gets scratchy.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 47 of 69

Keep your hives raised on bricks and wear clothes that cover your legs completely when working with the hives.


Rats and mice will nest in the hives, damage them, foul everything with their droppings and eat the honey.

Use metal guards around the stands and at the entrances. Poisons will do more harm to your bees and other harmless wildlife.


Raccoons remove the top of the hives unless you secure it with a rock or other heavy object. They also drink the honey and eat the brood. The best option is to catch them and remove them from the area.


Skunks shake the hive so that the bees fly out and then gobble them up. To avoid this menace, keep the hives at a height above the ground and put chicken netting on the ground to deter the skunks.


Wax moths lay their eggs on the comb before the supers are stored for winter.

Their larvae destroy the wax comb by tunnelling through it.

The best treatments are fumigation with an approved chemical or freezing the combs if you can get access to a suitably large freezing chamber for 24 hours.

After that, store the combs in tightly sealed heavy duty garbage bags until you need them.

Wasps like honey but they are also responsible for a lot of the stings which bees get blamed for.

Copyright © 2009 All Rights Reserved.

"Successful Beekeeping A-B-C's" by Terry Martyn Jr

Page 48 of 69

Beekeeping Management During Summer

Summer is the peak season when bees are most productive. They make lots of honey and increase their brood. They fly from their hives in search of nectar and pollen.

If a beehive is in a favorable location with many crops like yellow sweet clover, fruit trees, and flowerbeds available, honey production should be good.

Bees sustain themselves by consuming honey and pollen. It takes one frame of honey and pollen to produce one frame of bees. In summer, when bees collect more nectar, the surplus is stored in honey supers.

A good bee colony requires a productive queen which lays many eggs.

If your hive has just started on a new foundation, feed the hive some sugar solution to help the bees establish.

Initially, your bees have to build a new comb, raise the brood and store food which reduces their time and energy for nectar scouting.

Provide bees with sugar syrup to help build the hive. But, stop the sugar syrup supply when the bees are settled.

Honey made from sugar syrup is not pure honey.

Make the