March 2011

Meeting was called to order by Jim Pickett, our esteemed Vice President, at 7pm.

Room is packed again with 129 people (at least!) in attendance.

Thanks to Tellita Bakker and Valerie Dawson for bringing snacks and drinks, it is greatly appreciated!

Jim welcomed people who hadn't been here before and urged everyone to look at the yahoo groups to find a person who lives nearby for help being a mentor. Mentors are very important and valuable for new beekeepers.

Reminder for packaged bee orderers. Jim will pick up the bees in 2 April in Memphis and will arrive in the parking lot of the extension office at around 2 or 3 pm to distribute the bees. YOU MUST BE READY WITH ALL OF YOUR EQUIPMENT BEFORE THAT DATE!!!

Queens: will arrive 1st week of May but they might arrive earlier. They will be marked Carniolans. Get in touch with Jim ( if you need queens (this is for established beekeepers who are splitting their hives this spring).

On Monday, April 11 at Horace Bryant's Hives (at 8213 East Brown Road in Lowell) around noon Ed Levi will inspect Horace's hives. Take a few hours off of work if you can, bring a veil and learn a lot! Ed will also talk to our club that night.

Jim showed a few youtube videos about installing package bees. You can find them at: and and some others that we might be able to link later......

Well the internet wasn't working on Jim's computer so we got "JimTube" instead. Luckily, we had an empty cage and Jim showed us what to expect, large cage of bees with tin can of feed. Additionally there will be a queen cage that is stuck in along the tin can. Over everything will be a cover. When you get home with your package, take 4 frames out of your deep box. Have a spray bottle of sugar water, spray the bees through the screen on both sides, the buzzing will almost stop. Then take you cage and bang the bees to the bottom....gently! Quickly take off the cover with your hive tool, dig the can out with your hive tool, grab the queen cage and take it out. cover the package back up to keep the bees controlled. Check the queen in the queen cage, make sure she's alive. 'Would you raise good bees' is the mnemonic device for knowing what year is designated by the color (white, yellow, red, green, blue). Years ending in 1/6, 2/7, 3/9, 4/8, 0/9 are the same. Last year (2010) is blue, this year (2011) is white. Make sure the attendants are alive. The queen cage will have a hole on each end. Both ends should be corked. One end will have candy, remove the cork from that end and some people will put a little hole in the candy to allow for quicker escape, but most people just let them eat the candy out on their own. Put the cage, candy side up, and fasten the cage (there should be a wire or something to hang it from) and put the cage between two frames. Queen is in. She will be released in a few days. Back to the package, bang it down again gently and uncover the hole, pull the can out if you had put it back in, and then flip the box over, shake them into the hive over the queen. You won't get them all out, just lay the box down in front of the hive, they will find their way inside if most of the bees are in there. Gently put the frames back in (you may need to leave one out if the queen cage takes up a lot of room) and cover the deep up. FEED YOUR BEES IMMEDIATELY a 1:1 sugar to water solution and keep feeding them until they stop. They can take a gallon a week in some cases. They will need lots of feed to draw their foundation out. If you have an entrance reducer, it's a good thing to put that in and reduce the entrance so that no robbing will occur. Jim says the biggest mistake people make is to bother the bees and keep checking if the queen was released. There's no danger if the queen spends 5 or 6 days in the cage. She will be fed. If she comes out, leaving the empty queen cage in is not a problem. So you need to give them a week or two to get situated. Jim doesn't use smoke when he installs package. They are usually gentle and you don't want to stress them out anymore. Do suit up and move slowly and you'll be fine. The first time installing can be daunting, but don't worry, many of us have been through it so you need to call your mentor and get them to help you if possible! If the queen comes out in 6 days, it should be another 6 days before she starts laying. You may have a hard time seeing eggs in new foundation and the eggs are 1/10 of the size of a grain of raw rice, so you really need to know what you're looking for but after 3-8 days you'll see the grub at the back of a cell. If you see eggs, or young or old larva, you know you have a queen so you don't have to go crazy looking for the queen. When 6-8 of the frames are drawn out then add your second brood chamber or a super.

Random questions and discussion:

A question asked was about opening up the box for more honey production. This has to do with honey supers. If you evenly space 9 frames in a 10 frame box, the bees will draw the cells out a little deeper. If you are putting an undrawn super out, DO use 10 frames to get it all drawn out evenly and then the second season, take a frame out. Many people will use 9 frames in their hive body AND their honey supers. You want to match the number of frames in the boxes so that all the spaces will be open for air. Again, not something you need to worry about right away.

Don't give them too much space at first. If you put both brood chambers on, you might get chimneying of the brood up between the two boxes. Keeping them in one box keeps them warmer at first, too.

Question about protein patties, Jim doesn't suggest them since they attract small hive beetles. We have a surplus of pollen here so don't worry about them!

Question about installing packages on the day of arrival: Yes, do it unless it's cold and rainy, then keep them inside in a dark place and spray the screen with sugar water every once in a while.

Question about queen excluder: Don't worry about them early on. Get the colony strong, get the brood chamber full, get the super drawn out. Queen excluders are also called 'honey excluders'.

Honey Bee Net is the site Jim goes to to manage his hives.

Practice willpower! Don't open that box too often! Every time you open a box, you disrupt the colony. You will inevitably kill bees when you move the boxes and at first you need all the workers you can get!!

Question: What happens when things don't go fine? They may not like the queen. They may kill her! But hopefully she'll have laid some eggs before that and they will raise their own queen. If you find only drone brood, you have an unmated queen. If you have a dead queen, you need to let Jim Pickett know because he'll have some extra queens.

Russell mentioned going through your hives very systematically and gently, he compared it to having someone going into your house and rearranging your rooms, not just your furniture, so you need to put everything back the way you found it.

Question about feeders, Boardman feeder is not good when there's robbing probability (lots of colonies in the same place or only one getting fed when others are not). Boardman feeders could fall prey to coons or skunks, too. Top feeders are recommended in these situations.

Question about supplements: Jim doesn't use supplements except for the sugar water.

Question about new boxes: You can put old frames in a new box without a problem. However, if the comb is black, you want to start replacing it with new foundation. Jim tries to replace 2 or 3 frames in each box each year to keep everything new and clean. Disease gets left behind in old wax. Also, the cells are smaller each time they are used. Also move messed up combs to the outside and when it becomes empty, it will be easier to replace them at this time in the year.

Question about rotating undrawn frames: yes, drop an undrawn one into the middle but don't break up the brood until it's warm out.

Question about reusing equipment from a dead colony on your other colonies. You need to check to see if you have American Foulbrood or CCD, if yes, burn all the equipment. If there's no disease, moving the equipment for another hive's use is okay.


Reasons for splitting: 1) wanting a second hive, 2) the hive is so booming it's going to swarm so you want to avoid that, 3) a hive that's limping along can be split into a few five frame nucs and raise them all up as 5 frame nucs through the winter.

Jim's Easy 5 minute split:

Choose a hive with good brood. Lid off, go through outside frames and look for queen (rarely there will be a queen on an outside frame). If he sees the queen, cordon her off into another box. Take brood frames, maybe 3 and a frame of honey/nectar and put them in a new box, either a full deep or a 5-frame nuc. Queen frame back in and then queen excluder on original box, spilt box on top of that and cover it back up. The bees will equalize in a day or two but the queen will only be in one box. When the new queen arrives, separate the boxes, take the new split 3 miles away to a friend's house (if they're left close to one another, the bees will be confused) and install new queen. If the queen is not seen in original split: take the 3 or 4 frames and clear them COMPLETELY of all bees and do the same stacking with excluder and put empty box on top and overnight the bees will equalize and queen will surely be on bottom. Same steps as before. (Sorry if this is not clear, please email Jim ( or Mel ( if you have questions.

Swarm talk.... too tired to keep up...... get with Jim Pickett if you want to go chase swarms or if you have a swarm. If he can't handle it, he will find someone else who will.

Question about the HEALTH of bee swarms. They must be healthy and have come from a healthy colony if they swarmed. They do it because they 'know' they'll survive. Jim thinks that if you catch a swarm, they are inherently strong, even if they're small!

Feeding with ziplocks: lay ziplock 3/4 gallon full on top bars, cut slit in it. Raise cover up with a ring so the bag isn't squished. Easy way to feed.

Swarm trap discussion... fingers falling off....

Average life of a queen: they live 5-8 years but they're not productive past 4 years. Most beekeepers will usually requeen every two years.


People started trickling out at 8:30 but questions kept coming.

Charity Lewis made an announcement about having a film festival this weekend at the OMNI center. Please check it out and consider going to see some of the films on Saturday! The website has some previews of the films so you can pick and choose what you want to go see.

Meeting officially adjourned at 8:47pm.....