Mass Bee Field Day 2012

Mass Bee Field Day 2012

Every June the Mass Bee Association has a field day at the UMass Agronomy field.  It is a gathering of local beekeeping experts who share their knowledge for free. There is so much to learn, a smoker contest and raffles, plus it’s always fun meeting new beekeeping friends.  Last year was my first year going and I called it a “Carnival for Beekeepers” because they even have tents and prizes!  If you haven’t been I highly recommend attending next years soiree.  It’s a wonderful event for new and experienced beekeepers alike.  My only compliant is I can’t attend every single class they offer!

Some of the classes they had this year were Honeybee Diseases, Mead Making, Hive Inspections, Mite Treatments, Snelgrove Board, Taranov Board, Drone Trapping, Swarm Control, Queen Rearing and Grafting, Moving Honeybee Colonies and more. You can see the full list at the Mass Bee Website.

Ken Warchol – Hive Inspection 101

I attended Ken Warchol’s Hive Inspection Class.  Although I saw him last year, he is full of information and it’s amazing to watch how he works with the honeybees.  Ken has been a beekeeper since he was six years old and is known as the Bee Whisperer around here.  He works the bees without a veil or gloves and only uses a small amount of smoke.  Ken is also doing a honeybee study with Harvard and the USDA.  He is a wealth of knowledge.

Ken Warchol’s Hive Inspection Class At Mass Bee Field Day

Ken talked about how seeing deformed wings on your bees is a signal there is a large number of mites in your colony.  Then he mentioned that European Foulbrood was present in many hives in the area this spring.  He went on to demonstrate how he checks for swarms and suggests you check your hives once a week for queen cells between the supers from May to the end of June.  He mentioned that bees will often build burr comb on the bottom of the frames or “ladder comb” so they don’t have to fly up into the frames and can walk up to the frames instead.  He also showed us what a good queen looks like.

Ken said on a good day a strong hive can bring in 15 lbs of nectar and fill and entire honey super in a week if there is a good flow.  If you don’t have your hive ready for them they can get honey bound in the brood chambers.  He said new beekeepers should add a third deep instead of a honey super the first year so they can get extra comb to use in case this happens.   During the peak of the season your hive should have 8 frames of brood and 2 frames of honey on the outside.

Then Ken went on to state he hates plastic foundation.  The bees can take all summer to draw it out and if they chew the wax off of it they will never draw it out.  He advocates using wax foundation only.  The bees draw it out faster and do much better on it than the plastic.  He also demonstrated how to move the bees out of the way on a frame by gently touching them with the palm of your hand.  This is amazing to watch every time I see it! 

Here is a video of most of Ken’s presentation.  It is about 30 minutes long and the camera angles are not the best at times but it is well worth watching. Enjoy!

Here is another short clip about Ken going to visit a suspected pesticide kill and discovering it was actually starvation due to lack of nectar in June.  He said it only takes 3 days to kill an entire colony from lack of food (Jason this one is for you.)

Mite Treatment with Powdered Sugar and Drone Frame Trapping

The next class I attended was”Mite Control” by Alethea Morrison.  She explained how to trap mites using drone frames.  It is easy to do because mites prefer the drones and navigate to them.  To do it you need two drone frames per hive.  You just put the frame in and the queen lays drones there. Three weeks later you remove the drone filled frame and replace it with the second drone frame. Then you freeze the frame full of drone brood overnight.  You can either let the bees clean up the dead drones and mites or scrape them off and start over.

Alethea Morrison demonstrating a powdered sugar mite treatment at Mass Bee Field Day

She then demonstrated how to do a powdered sugar shake for mites.  She suggested dusting for mites twice a month to control varroa.  You use a 1/2 cup of powdered sugar for each deep on your hive.  First you remove the honey supers, then you make sure your frames are aligned, and using a flour sifter, sift the powdered sugar over the top bars.  Last you use a bee brush to brush it down into the frames.  You need a screen bottom board on the hive to do this treatment.  The mites will fall off the bees and out the bottom of the hive.  Some of the bees get covered in the sugar and  look like “ghost bees” but they are unharmed by this treatment.  She handed out an instruction sheet on how to do this and also one on Drone Frame Trapping.  If you email me at, I will be happy to email them to you.

Some of the bees are “Ghost” bees covered in powdered sugar after this mite treatment.

During lunch I coincidentally sat next to a fan of my blog (Hi Mary Lou).  It was a lot of fun talking with her.  I love hearing from blog readers!  Our lunch group had an amazing discussion on apitherapy and how honeybee stings can stop lyme disease in its tracks.  If you get bitten by a tick carrying lyme and sting yourself in the same spot the venom from the bee sting will completely stop the lyme disease from spreading.  It kills the lyme in its tracks.  Also if you have a scar from a tick bite and you sting yourself there it will disappear.  The lunch group members who had done this swore that it works. Do I have any volunteers in the audience willing to try it out?

The smoker contest is always a lot of fun to watch.  The same person who won last year also won this year.  His secret fuel is pieces of an old stump which he found in the woods.  The winner is in the yellow shirt (no hat) in this picture.  For more pictures of the winning fuel and the smoker contest see the picture gallery below.

Honeybee Diseases – Ed Karle

After lunch I went to a class on Honeybee Diseases by Bee Inspector Ed Karle.   This class was amazing!  Ed brought several diseased frames for us to look at and inspect.  I got to see European Foulbrood on a frame, Sacbrood and Chalkbrood.  He also brought a frame with him in an observation hive that was covered in hive beetle larvae.  The bees from this hive had died out and small hive beetle moved into the hive.  The SHB eggs had hatched on the way over to field day and now they were covering this frame.  Take a look, it’s pretty disgusting.

Small Hive Beetle Larvae on A Bee Frame.

Ed had some interesting tips for honeybee diseases.   First he talked about Sacbrood.  Sacbrood is a viral disease which affects the larvae. The larvae will straighten out inside the cell instead of remaining curved.  The very end will be slightly turned up like a slipper.  If you pull the larvae out with tweezers it will have a water balloon appearance.  This is not that serious of a disease and to treat.  All you do is remove the affected larvae with tweezers.

After Ed showed us pictures I think I recall seeing one or two of these Sacbrood larvae in Crocus hive earlier in the spring.  That may have been one reason the bees were doing so much brood removal Perhaps they were showing hygienic behavior after all!  Now I think their lack of springtime food weakened them and made them susceptible to this virus.

Ed went on to talk about Bald Faced Brood which is when the cells do not get capped.  The larvae moves forward in the cell toward the outside of the cell and the bees need to extend the cell to fit around the larvae.  They never end up capping these cells since they are not drone cells and the larvae dies.  When this is seen in a row or a zigzag pattern it is a sign you have wax moth in your hive.  The wax moth has eaten away behind the developing bees causing them to move forward in the hive.  The way you can tell the difference between wax moth and small hive beetle is wax moth larvae have legs running the entire length of the worm.  The small hive beetle only has 6 legs in the front and no legs on the back.  A strong hive is the easiest way to defend against wax moth and small hive beetle.

Chilled brood happens when the bees cannot keep the developing pupae warm enough.  It can still happen in the summer if the hive does not have enough bees to sustain the brood temperature.  The way you can tell chilled brood is the dead bees will have a wet appearance.  The head will be darker in color and then end will be a lighter color.

If you have European Foulbrood (EFB) or American Foulbrood (AFB) the larvae will look contorted.  Both of these diseases cause the hive to smell, with AFB having a more foul odor.   If you have EFB all is not lost.  You can treat the hive with Terramycin and replace the queen.  If you have EFB the queen must be replaced. 

To test for AFB take 1 ounce water and add 2 pinches of evaporated milk.  Take a scrapping of the affected larave and put it into this mixture.  If it’s AFB the mixture will turn clear and look like apple juice.  If you have AFB you need to call a bee inspector and most likely your equipment will need to be destroyed. Since AFB is spread by spores it is highly contagious and hard to get rid of once an infection breaks out.

Ed also talked about Chalkbrood which is when the pupae look like they are dried out mummies and you will usually find them on the doorstep to your hive. This can be managed and is sometimes caused by moisture in the hive.  If you have mold on the inside of your outer cover, you have too much moisture in the hive and need to increase ventilation.  You can get rid of the mold by scrubbing it with apple cider vinegar and a toothbrush. 

Ed talked about a voodoo bee treatment for Chalkbrood which was tested last year and worked for several local beekeepers.  You take a 1 1/2′ shim board and put it on your hive. Then you take a banana cut it in half and put it on the top bars inside the hive, skin down.  Leave your hive alone for one month.  Do not peak! One month later the banana will be dried up and the Chalkbrood will be gone.  Although this worked, there was speculation about if it was the banana that helped the Chalkbrood or the chemicals used on the banana, so if you try this with an organic banana and it works please let me know!

The 1/2 inch board Jane uses to help her bees get into the honey super.

Lastly, I attended a class on easy beekeeping taught by  Jane Sloboda.  She is only  a second year beekeeper but has done extensive studying and has come up with several gadgets to make beekeeping easier.  One of them is this rim board which is 1/2 inch tall  and has 3 entrances on the front.  She uses it to place above the queen excluder and below the honey super so the incoming bees will have an easier time getting directly to the honey super.  She also showed us an alternate way to wire frames which I will write a post on in the future.  She had several interesting gadgets.  You can see some of them in the gallery below.

If you missed Mass Bee Field Day this year it was a great time and you should try to attend next year if you can.  Nothing beats learning from local beekeepers and making new beekeeping friends.  There is so much to learn in beekeeping, every day you discover something new.  This is a great way to increase your bee knowledge!  Did you attend field day?  What classes did you see?  Tell me about them in the comments below.


Other Posts You May Enjoy:

  1. Mass Bee Field Day – A Carnival For Beekeepers
  2. One Honey Bound Hive And One Starving Hive
  3. Neonicotinoids Harm Native Bees + Techniques In Queen Rearing – Mass Bee Spring Meeting 2012
  4. Wax Moths Ate My Plastic Foundation
  5. Ahhh Mites! Treating For Varroa Destructor

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