Girl Scout Visit

We had such a good time Saturday when we were visited by a girl scout troop wanting to learn about honey bees.  We borrowed suits from the YFS Farm project (Thank you Sharon!) so the girls could suit up and look in the hive if they wanted to.  I did not expect everyone to want to but I was wrong! Even the mothers suited up!  We sat on the patio and talked bees, then suited up and went to the back yard and opened a hive.  We saw lots of bees, honey, and larva.  We did not see the queen though.  The girls got an information and coloring packet and were going to earn a badge by teaching those who could not attend about the bees. What a great time!

Small Hive Beetles

Unfortunately we now have small hive beetles in our area.  On September 17th one of our fellow beekeepers called and informed me that they have “the beetle”. They brought a sample and showed me, we compared the beetle to the pictures on the web page, and it was indeed a small hive beetle.  This is a first for me to see beetles here in our area.  They are rather nasty insects and need to be treated right away to maintain control.  The apiary manager for the state of South Dakota was contacted and his advice is to:

  1. As soon as you see the beetles take off the honey supers.
  2. Extract the honey as soon as possible.
  3. Treat the hive with corrugated square w/check mite strip with one (1) strip per 5 frames.
  4. Remove the check mite strips after 42 – 45 days.
  5. Use a ground drench such as Gardstar*  around the hive approximately 24″ in front of hive every 2 – 4 months during warm weather.  Do not use Gardstar* in the hive.
  6. Most beetles will die off during cold weather but the beetle will over winter in the brood cluster.
  7. There are several beetle traps described in the article below, some can be purchased and some can be made by the beekeeper.  There are chemical solutions but there are also organic solutions that can be applied to maintain an acceptable level for beetle control.

A very informative article on small hive beetles can be found at:

ADR bees carry the above mentioned treatment products.

Its Time to Winterize!

This month’s club meeting will be all about winterizing our colonies. A very timely topic.  When getting ready to put our girls to bed, several things should be considered:

  • Honey harvesting–to take honey now or in the spring? There are two different schools of thought on this; both of them equally valid.  When you examine your hive and you have one or more supers full of honey, and the two brood boxes have honey, it is safe to take the honey from the supers. That is why most of us put them on in the first place. The honey in the brood boxes will, under normal circumstances, provide the bees with enough food for the winter. If circumstances change, steps can be taken to provide food for the bees in the winter. Some beekeepers prefer to leave one super, as well as the two brood boxes, just in case it is needed. They then harvest the honey in the spring.
  • Mite detection–Examination for mites is an important step in protecting the future of your hive.  There are several ways to do this and each method has its followers. One method is capturing about 100 bees (from the brood area) in a container with powdered sugar in it. Gently shake the container to cover the bees with the powdered sugar then pour them onto a white surface.  The bees will groom off any mites that may be on them. The mites then will appear as tiny black spots in the sugar.  Another method is to use a “sticky board”.  This board lays on the  top of the bottom board, leave in place for three days, remove and count the number of mites.  Yet another way is to use a frame with prearranged drone cells on it.  After the queen has laid eggs in the cells and the worker bees have capped the cells, remove the frame, freeze to kill the drones and the eggs of the mites contained in the drone cells
  • Mite control–If you detect a significant number of mites in your hive (> 10 mites per 100), you now have to decide what to do about it. Again, there are several options.  There are several manufactured medicines available which can be administered after honey harvest.  There are also some “home remedies” such as using the drone frames.
  • Weather protection–There are several steps you can take to “weatherize” your hive. In the past I have: done nothing; used straw bales and a top cover; used winter hive box covers; and insulation boards.  All of these have met with different degrees of success. If your hive is placed in a naturally protected area, nothing may be needed.  Straw bales with a cover provide protection from the wind which robs the hive of heat. This is also true of the insulation boards and winter hive box covers.  Each hive is different, each setting is different and each winter is different.  Bottom line is: you can’t go wrong giving the hive some protection to help them conserve heat during the winter.

One of the biggest hurdles for a hive surviving the winter in the Black Hills area is the wide fluctuation of temperatures during the winter. Often, after a hive has died, there is still honey in the hive but large numbers of dead bees throughout. This suggests that a warm spell developed, the bees came out of cluster (or at least partially), then the temperature quickly dropped and the bees were not able to get back into cluster.

A beekeeper cannot control everything. We can help our colonies by being vigilant, timely, and thoughtful in handling our girls during the year.


We missed a lot of the swarm activity this year since we were in Alaska for a month. However, we have been told that many people captured swarms–either their own or others–with good success. The Black Hills Wannabe Hobby Beekeepers club has a good network of people, both those who will capture and those who would like to receive a captured swarm.  This works well for everyone. We have received several calls recently from outlying areas about swarms.  Of course, not all calls turn out to be honey bees, especially this time of year.  Many are wasps and even bumble bees.  The good thing is: people are calling first before destroying.  Education is working!  Another good thing is that we have so many club members in so many areas that we can respond quickly.  This, too, is good for everyone and is excellent public relations.  So, in this regard, the club is serving a very important community service.  Thanks to all of you!

We’re Back!

So, we are home from our month-long visit to Alaska, seeing friends and relatives.  What a superb trip! All stars were aligned for this one!  The weather cooperated throughout the visit even giving us two full days of a perfect view of Mt McKinley, which is rare.  Jason and Katie even took a flight seeing trip around McKinley, Foraker, and Hunter, landed on a glacier for a 74 degree snow ball fight.  We made it to the cabin at Bear Island for about four days which was awesome.  Again, the weather cooperating by having the day breeze keep the mosquitos down. The loons, eagles, Steller Jay, otters and seals all came to say hello. We spent several more days in Homer catching up with friends and doing some fishing then moved on to Anchorage.  In Anchorage we stayed with our granddaughter Kassie , husband Nate, and new English Yellow Lab, Yuki,  which was delightful. Lots of good food, drink, laughter, and conversation


Mt. McKinley


Coming home to Homer

Coming home to Homer

Patty’s Wax Melter- Parts 1 and 2

Well I had a first the other day.  I made a solar wax melter.  It is still a work in progress but I am getting there.  I took an old cooler and painted the inside black. I then took two plastic strainers (of different sizes) and using a piece of window screen on the top one and a paint strainer on the bottom one. I cut some plexiglass to fit the top and  proceeded to add wax Jerry had collected in an old coffee can.  It would have worked well if several things didn’t happen:  First, I left the little flap for emptying water open, and there was a lot of honey in the wax jar as well that ran out of the cooler; second, it got so hot the bottom strainer collapsed; third, the strainer that collapsed got stuck in the pan I put in (the second run) to catch the honey. The bees will get to clean that up.   So today I trying again.  The same set up but with metal strainers.  More to follow on this experiment.

Patty's Wax Melter

Patty’s Wax Melter

Second Try

Second Try

Hobby Beekeeping in Rapid City

We have had a busy several weeks.  Rapid City is all a-buzz about hobby beekeepers within the city limits.  In the eleven years I have been keeping bees, this is the first complaint I have heard of.  Upon investigation it seems this was more of a personal issue than a beekeeping issue.  Basically a neighbor of a fellow hobby beekeeper saw bees around his grandchildren’s wading pool.  Instead of going two doors down and talking to the beekeeper, he called animal control.  Animal control interpreted the city ordinance to mean beekeeping was not allowed and notified our beekeeper he had two weeks to dispose of the bees or face a hefty fine accrued daily.  The interpretation was that bees were classified as wild animals.  The beekeeper and several past and present officers of the Wannabee Beekeepers Association met with the city committee that over sees animal control.  They were told they must comply as directed.  The next step was to go before the entire city council and speak to the issue.  A number of club members came to speak and to show support.  In addition, people who were not beekeepers came to speak and show support.  Between the committee meeting and the full council meeting there was much activity on the part of the beekeepers, researching other areas and other ordinances of cities that do allow beekeeping.  Of course there are many outstanding examples of such cities such as Paris, New York, Salt Lake City and numerous smaller cities. After the public input at the council meeting it was voted on to review the ordinance and the city attorney was to work with the beekeepers to come up with either a new or revised ordinance that would allow beekeeping within the city limits.  Later that week at the regularly scheduled club meeting, the assistant city attorney was present and heard comments from the club members.  We voted to have a committee consisting of Jerry Owens, Bill Clements, Tom Allen and John McDowell who would come up with language acceptable to the club and act as liaison with the city.  We have not won the war but it appears we might have won a battle and perhaps a war will not develop.