Bees on Fire!

Bees on FIRE!!

Bee Equipment Burns!

Bee Equipment Burns!

American Foulbrood! The worst nightmare of a beekeeper to say the least.

Recently I had the unfortunate opportunity to witness the examination of a honeybee hive with active American Foulbrood spores. I was surprised at the smell of the disease. I felt the odor resembled something decaying while another beekeeper said it reminded him of dirty gym socks! Either way, it was a distinct smell and one that I will not forget.

There is no cure for American Foulbrood…one can contain the growth of the spores with antibiotic treatment but that avenue will be forever more in that hive. The course of cure for this hive on that day was burning the entire hive and its occupants. Spores cannot survive the high heat and this course of action is the only way to stop American Foulbrood from being spread to nearby hives by other bees. Click to watch the bees on fire video 

When the hive was being examined, the inspector immediately noticed the odor and alerted us to the possible find of AFB. Further investigation of the frames showed infected larva, holes in capped larva and roping of dead larva. Roping is when a small instrument is used to swirl the dead larva and pull back making the contents of the rope out while remaining attached to the instrument. We used a small twig to check the cells and when AFB was detected, the twig was placed in the hive to be destroyed later. We had to be extremely careful not to spread spores!

photo 3 bees on fire

Everything up in smoke!

The honeybees were killed with 2 buckets of soapy water at 5am in the morning while the entire hive was still clustered. We waited 2 hours and then put all the contents of the hive – bees, frames, inner cover and bottom board into a metal barrel and started all on fire.

Even the gloves I wore on the day of discovery were burnt. The smallest amount of spore can infect hundreds of colonies! I had to be super careful on cleaning my bee suit and hive tool so I wouldn’t contaminate anything! Scrubbing the hive tool with steel wool and alcohol and then scorching with flame did the trick for the hive tool and heavy duty laundry soap and extra rinse for the suit! I couldn’t be more careful!


photo 2 bees on fire

Fire Department on Hand

It was a sad day to see that hive destroyed but I knew that other bees would live spore-free now. American Foul Brood had one less hold in the bee world. Nothing was spread that day! Fire Dept. on handWe had two folks from the Fire Department on hand as there was quite a bit of flame. We had the metal barrel on wet grass and kept the area free of anything flammable. It took a bit of time to incinerate all of the contaminated equipment but I felt that no bees will be affected from this hive

bees and equipment on fire

Bees and equipment on fire

There Be Monarchs Here


After three summers without, Monarch adults have arrived again this season. Years gone by we had rabbles and swarms and kaleidoscopes of them arriving in our driveway each summer to visit the common milkweeds we nurtured there for just this purpose, and every late summer we had Monarch larvae by the score chomping away until little was left but the stems of the plants we grew. And by fall they emerged from their jeweled cases and knowingly headed southwest. Every year.

Then, nothing. For three long summers no Monarchs arrived. The Milkweeds grew and flourished uneaten, and, unchecked, they spread and expanded and increased and took up room to challenge the space for the car. The multitude of richly fragrant blossoms, a perfume only we enjoyed, were willing hosts to our bees and other butterflies. But no Monarchs came to dine, to roost, to reproduce.

So this year we thought we’d up the ante. We’ll seriously ramp up the milkweed attraction index, we thought, and introduce more and more and different varieties of milkweed morsels. Monarch Watch supplied us with all we needed so we could add dozens of common and dozens of swamp milkweeds to the mix and to the yard and we’ll see if that doesn’t work.

LO! It did. In July. Adults, in tens but not yet scores, flitting amongst the old and the new. Landing. Touching. And somewhere mating and leaving behind their next generation.

And now, there be Monarchs Here Again.

Apiary Update

It’s been a pretty hectic year so far as the bees are concerned. I don’t talk much about our bees, either here or in the magazine, not because I don’t do much with them, rather there always seems to be something more interesting to bring up. But this year has been different enough to bear mentioning.

Winter loss. Major winter loss this year. We left about 100 pounds on every hive but one and they still ran out of food. By Feb the cupboard was bare and getting food to them was problematic. We were either gone, and couldn’t get food out to them, or the cold kept them from breaking cluster and getting to the remaining honey or the fondant we supplied. But though the weather was extreme, our preparations and emergency care wasn’t enough. I just hate losing a hive. I just hate it, and when it’s me not doing the right thing I hate it even more.

the top bar had lots of honey left over

We also wrapped every hive, even the top bar. We use that thinly insulated plastic wrap tight on the boxes, then that collapsible heavy-duty, weather proof corrugated box over the top. With our 8 frame towers that box reaches down far enough to only leave the bottom two boxes exposed. We leave about a third of the screen bottom board open, with the space under the hive stand blocked from strong wind so we get good ventilation all winter.

The hive we didn’t leave 100 pounds on actually had about 130 pounds and lots and lots of bees. It did just fine thank you, and came out in April busting. We split in late April, and again in late May and both are going strong. They’ll be good overwinter for sure, and the earliest one may make a box extra before goldenrod. The second will have four boxes (8 frame mediums) of brood, bees and honey by fall plus at least 1 more of just honey. But the summer so far has been wet, and if it slows at all during goldenrod, that might be a bumper crop again this year so they both might make a couple of boxes so we’ll have some to share.

our friend Buzz worked for a day at Queenright Colonies Bee Supply near Medina marking the queens of the thousand or so packages they got. We got 4 of them.

Packages. Establishing packages that replace the fallen has been easy so far. We had all the drawn comb we needed, and enough honey that we only fed for about three weeks before they were gathering enough on their own. We keep protein patties on until the end of May though, just in case. And they kept eating them so it was a good investment.

Two of the four packages we got are strong enough to split now, and we’ll go ahead and do that and get those splits established on summer flow. They’ll store winter stores on the goldenrod…presuming there is that flow. Otherwise it’ll be feeding, or sharing from other hives…always the first choice. And it will be back to that 100 pounds again. We’ll try harder this winter.


Queen Rearing Class

OK, this is a commercial. I admit that. But it’s not about the books we sell or the magazine we publish. Rather, it’s about a project my local Medina County Beekeepers Association is having. If you read this blog on only an occasional basis you have already met Peggy Garnes. She’s the President of the group, and she works here with us at the magazine too. And she’s a pretty good beekeeper. She makes honey, and she raises queens for the nucs she sells. She’s a fussy beekeeper, which makes her a good beekeeper. That, and she’s always going to classes, attending meetings, or giving talks – always learning. She’s been doing some queen rearing classes on her own at her home yard for those in our group that want to learn the skills and she does a pretty good job. But her resources are limited and not designed for more than a couple people at a time. She wanted something bigger.

Jennifer Berry in one of her beeyards

Now, I’m the VP of the group. And like many groups, it’s the VP that ends up being the Program Director. That means finding speakers or planning events and making sure the educational responsibilities of our group keep getting met. We’ve had a pretty good year so far – Jim Tew, Dan O’Hanlon, Jeff Harris, Larry Connor, and later this year Vaughn Bryant and Ed Cobey. But in June, it’s Jennifer Berry, University Of Georgia Honey Bee Lab Research Coordinator, and columnist for Bee Culture magazine. I’d invited her a long time ago because her schedule fills early and fast every year, but just for a regular third Monday of the month meeting. We usually get over 100 folks at a meeting so she was pleased with a group that size.

But Peggy wanted more, so I asked Jennifer if she was available for the weekend and would she like to do a queen rearing short course for anybody who might want to come and watch and do. That would be June 13 – 15, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. She’s been running full speed all spring getting queens and nucs ready for a huge research project her lab is involved in, plus her own business of making and selling nucs and raising the queens she puts in them. She sells a good number every spring, and her business is growing because she produces a quality product, on time. Plus, she’s a good teacher.

For her, this is a vacation. So she said yes, she’d come in on Thursday night, teach a class on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, then give a talk to the group at our regular Monday night meeting and head back on Tuesday morning. You can find the class schedule here on our web page.

I realize traveling to Medina isn’t possible for many because of distance, but if you’re close enough you might want to think about this. Our beeyard has a boatload of colonies, and we’ll have starter/finishers, nucs and lots of bees to work with. You’ll get to see how these working colonies are manipulated to raise good queens, you’ll get to graft and you’ll even get to take home those that took. Plus a copy of Larry Connor’s Queen Rearing Essentials and your own grafting tool go  home with you too. Lunch is provided 2 of the 3 days, and there will be plenty of experienced teachers for good 1:1, hands on for all of this so you won’t get ignored.

Attend the class and learn to graft queen cells so you can raise your own queens

And, we’ll be able to do this rain or shine. We have ample room inside if we have to, and we’ll have a big tent outside too, so no matter where you’ll end up it’ll be dry and shady. If the weather just doesn’t want to work, we’ll do everything inside that we can, and do the rest in the tent, showing the colonies, and active demonstrations.

Plus, in preparation for our THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING event in October, we have 10 Pure Russian colonies to look at and peek inside, plus one of our members demonstrating with them. Add to that the several different kinds of hives that we have, and you’ll get a lot of beekeeping all in 3 days.

Unfortunately it’s not free, but it’s not a mortgage breaker either. It’s $125/person for the three days and two lunches. And Jennifer Berry, Kim Flottum, Peggy Garnes, John Grafton and Tracy Alarcon as able instructors.

So, like I said, this is a commercial for our 3 day Queen Rearing class with Jennifer Berry. To register, send a check for $125 made payable to MCBA to – Paul Kosmos, 6386 State Road, Sharon Center, OH 44281. The workshop is limited to the first 75 people. But don’t delay because it’s getting close.


Bees in the Air!

Check off another bucket list item – marking queens on a grand scale!

Queen Right Colonies had a delivery of packaged honey bees – 1800 boxes.  The event made the media come out and while they were there taking pictures and interviewing – employees and folks picking up their new charges!

About 800 queens needed to be marked with a green paint pen – green signifying the year the queen was born.  Beekeepers add the mark of paint to the thorax of the queen (which doesn’t hurt or hinder) and allow the mark to dry before introducing her to the hive.  By marking the queen, the beekeeper can quickly locate her in the sea of bees and immediately knows if she is the original queen introduced to that hive.

The day of marking was cold and raining – not a good day to be handling bees at all much less removing the queen cage from her package of bees.  I am sure after the bees’ long drive from California they only wanted to be left alone!  After a short amount of time, there were bees everywhere…in the air, on the ground and on us!

To retrieve the queen cage from a package of bees, a person firmly hits the cage to a solid surface to move all the bees to the bottom of the package.  Once the syrup can is removed, the queen cage tab is quickly slid to the opening and removed.  The cork is pried out and the queen allowed to  walk out into your fingers.  While gently but firmly gripping the queen by three legs on her one side, you quickly place the paint mark on her thorax and give a quick blow-dry.  Finally you gently guide her back into her cage, re-bang the package of bees to move everyone to the bottom of the package and remove the feed can again, insert the queen cage and all is well!  Sort of!  Every time you open the package of bees about 3-5 bees escape…

Sometimes the escapees are not too happy about the abrupt package movement and they let you know about – the sting!  Unfortunately   the honey bee gives up her life then as the sting left behind also takes a good part of her abdomen with it.  The queen on the other hand has a barbless stinger and is capable of multiple stings and my swollen fingers were witness to that process.  It took a couple of days before  I had full sensation back in my fingertips.

What a day!  8 hours of marking queens…I don’t think I ate enough donuts!



Bayer Bee Care Center

I recently returned from attending the grand opening of the Bayer Crop Science North American Bee Care Center located in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina.

Ribbon Cutting

This facility, along with the Bayer Bee Care Center in Germany, will provide research regarding the many factors affecting honey bee health.


The Center provides many interactive stations where the public could view a beekeepers working a live honey bee hive, taste honey samples from across the country and see the results of studies and research that are affecting honey bee survival.

Beekeeper working hive

The tour of the Center was fascinating along with the bee-friendly planted grounds.


After a light lunch and cake cutting, we had plenty of time to speak with Bayer Staff before getting back on the road for home!

Bayer Cake

This is truly a beautiful facility!

View of Center

My Boss Hits 60!

My Boss hit’s a Milestone!!!

Even though my boss, Kathy Summers (Assistant Editor, Design & Layout at Bee Culture Magazine), will be out of the office on her birthday – we couldn’t miss the opportunity to have some fun!  It was a pleasure to celebrate her milestone with the office staff.  Her giving nature often goes without any recognition.

Black balloons, RIP headstones, candelabras and other over the hill décor was the set for her office.

The staff wore black in her honor and even the birthday cake had black flowers! Kathy didn’t see this one coming!

Rule 7 Part 1

I’m jumping ahead this time but we’ll get back to Rule 3 soon. But this time I’m looking at something more timely…. The Seventh Rule is: Enough Good Food.

I am guilty of not following this rule this past winter. I’ve lost colonies during winters in the past…most recently to issues with queens, and especially longer ago to tracheal mites. But it’s been awhile since I’ve lost a colony to starvation. Actually, a long while. But this year three of the five out back flat ran out of food, and I haven’t had a chance to check the top bar yet. I have to take that apart to get to see, and taking it apart is both a lot of work – removing insulation mostly plus the skirt around the legs that goes over the top is quite disruptive to the bees. Plus, once down, getting it back up is iffy because it’s always a make-it-up-as-you-go kind of thing, and getting it back the way it was is … well, iffy. So I’ll wait.

Meanwhile, the three that starved, and the two that didn’t, all had at least 100 pounds of honey, and several frames of pollen stashed away on Oct 1 or so. That’s the way we do wintering. Plus, every colony has at least some wrapping…black plastic with a think layer of insulation on one side…covering it from head to foot. Some had that thick, weather-proof cardboard box over that even…I worry about my bees.

The primary reason colonies didn't get checked...too much snow

But 100 pounds gone by mid-February. Not unheard of certainly, and this winter not surprising I suppose, but what a waste and what a sad end to good colonies. Good queens, lots of bees, healthy otherwise…and lost because I wasn’t paying attention. I checked in December…all alive, and all still down quite a ways from the top of the stack of boxes.

Bees without honey, and the unused, and unneeded protein patty.

And it was simply running out of food. There wasn’t a frame of honey, not even a partial frame of honey left. One of the photos shows the top of one of the hives that starved. That’s a protein patty I put one when we checked in December…they never got to it, and when they reached the top and no honey…protein wasn’t on the menu. Carbs is what they needed…and there were none to be found.

I obviously didn’t follow the rule…Enough Good Food. But my bees paid the penalty of that infraction.


Nigerian Beekeeper

I met Daniel Oduntan, CEO of the Institute of Vocational Bee Craft at the Western Pennsylvania
Beekeepers Seminar on February 15, 2014

He had traveled to the United States to learn ways that we keep bees and how the differences could
possibly benefit his beekeeping schools back in Nigeria. He currently is involved in training, apitherapy
and honey production in Nigeria.

Daniel is spending 3 weeks here in the United States and is sharing his excitement of beekeeping and
methods of teaching with us. I attended a presentation given by Daniel to the A. I. Root Company where
he shared documents, pictures and his thoughts on how a relationship could be formed between our
two countries to benefit the bees.

Daniel will be heading off to Iowa to visit a colleague and will be returning for the Tri-County Beekeeping
Meeting in Wooster, Ohio on the 1st
of March.

Beekeeping is much different there with the type of bee they have, type of housing they use for the bee
and the methods of extracting honey from top bar and langstroth hives. The husbandry of the bees
isn’t the same either as we here in the states feed bees during a dearth and in Nigeria cost is a factor.

Much was learned from this gentle man and I hope his travels bring him the answers he seeks. Daniel
can be reached at

-Peggy Garnes

Bees in a Box

Buried in snow again!!!!


Monday evening  snow came again along with the wind.  At the house we probably got a good 8 to 10 inches.  Coupled with blowing and drifting – it was a mess!

Stayed home and worked on the laptop to stay current.  I took a lot of pictures to document this event.

Where is Spring?


Peggy Garnes