Sunday, March 7, 2010

Essential Oil Stimulant, Base Mix

This is one of the most important recipes that I mix up and use for the season. Not only does it help to stimulate feeding and improve health of my Honey Bees, it's CHEAP! There are similar products on the "bee market" and very expensive too! I'm all for saving lots of money, and still yet accomplishing the same outcome. Aren't you? So here goes;

I'll walk you through the steps of how I mix this Essential Oil Stimulant Base Mix. First, understand, that this is a "base mix". From this 1 gallon jug of mix, I'll take 2 tsp's for each Quart jar of sugar water, to feed the bees. Get the idea? So, this 1 gallon of mix will last me for the entire bee season, and then some. Also, I use it in my spray bottle, when I enter hives, to calm the bees. A "liquid smoke" of sorts. In my spray bottle, I may put 4 to 6 tsp's of this mix. I think you get the idea.

Lets go through each ingredient and the amounts before we mix. The "what" and "why".

I'll add 1 tsp of Fumi-B to my recipe, simply to ward off Nozema. A bacterial tummy sickness that gives Honey Bees the poopy-runs. An easy visual indication of this, is if you see yellow streaks on the face of your brood box. Bees don't poop inside the house, so when they hit the air, they can't hold it any longer and let go! Leaving yellow poopy streaks on the face of the brood box. If you see this, you'll want to get some Fumi-B sugar water on them quick. For this recipe, I'll use it as an "aid", in hopes of preventing such sickness. I've had colonies die out quick, after I've seen these signs, and not gotten this med on them quick enough. So I take it rather seriously. This Essential Oil mix is primarily fed to Baby colonies, in Nucs, starter bees, and to full strength colonies in early Spring and late Fall. I DO NOT feed this to the "honey production" colonies during Nectar flow. If I did, I'd get a Lemony flavored honey. I don't think it would harm me, but not something that I'd want to sell. However, my first year I did this, not knowing exactly what I was doing, my kids LOVED the Lemony flavor! Great? LOL

To my dry mix, before I add warm water, I'll add 2 tsp's of Fruit Fresh (@ Wal-Mart), simply to keep this sugar mix as fresh as possible throughout the bee season. I don't feel it harms the bees in anyway, and can tell no negative side affects on the bees in using it. Remember, I'm mixing nearly a gallon of liquid and then only a few tsp's per Quart jar for feeding. So it's "cut" to such a degree, that I feel comfortable adding it to this Base Mix.

To key Essential Oils are added. These are 1 oz bottles of oil. On the left, is LemonGRASS oil, and on the right, is Spearmint Oil. DO NOT use "lemon oil", but "lemonGRASS oil". There's a difference. There are 2 types of Lemon oils, you'll want to use LemonGRASS oil. Note; these are CONCENTRATED oils. They'll go a VERY LONG ways. Even though they are small 1 oz bottles, I'll only use 1cc at a time. This "oil concentrate" goes a very long ways. These 2 little bottles, of only 1 oz each, will last me several seasons. The eye dropper you see, is "graduated", or marked. The top marking, is 1 mml, pretty close to 1cc. I'll suck up and use 1cc of each oil. But there is a certain way we add this oil. For now, just make note of the TYPE of oil, and respect the fact that it's a CONCENTRATED oil, and must remain in a GLASS bottle. It will certainly melt plastic, I know, I've tried. (story for another time. LOL) These types of oils can be found at or your local health food stores.

This item is called Lecithin. A natural Emulsion. Made from Soybean Meal powder. In pellet form. The purpose for this product, is to BREAK DOWN and DISPERSE the 2 oils used above. Oils tend to BALL UP in liquids, we don't want this. We want the oils to disperse among the entire mixture. On the left is a Half Pint jar. The day before I make my Base Mix, I'll fill this jar half full of water. With the lid off, I'll place jar in microwave to bring to a boil, which happens quickly. Use a hot pad, remove jar, and to this water add 1 tsp of Lecithin granules. Screw the lid on jar of water, and shake vigorously. Be sure to use a towel or hot pad. This jar is hot, but needs to be, in order to break down these Lecithin pellets. I'll shake this jar off and on throughout the evening, and also the next morning. Periodically I'll unscrew the lid, let the air in, equalize the pressure and screw it back down. It must be shaken, in order to break down these small pellets of Lecithin. You can find this natural Lecithin at most Health Food stores, a common item. ie, GNK, Health Foods, etc. Set this jar aside over nite. You'll make up your mix the next day. I simply left it out on the counter over nite.
My 1 gallon jug, which is shown empty here. This jug is from Apple Cider Vinegar. The bottle is made of a thicker plastic, versus a standard milk jug. I like this jug for the thicker plastic, and the pop-top lid. Of course, it's been washed and rinsed thoroughly before mixing.

This bucket contains 1/2 gallon of table sugar. I simply used 2 Quarts jars to measure out the sugar, and poured it in this "holding bucket", for later use.

A funnel. Why show a darn funnel? Well, this one fits nicely in the top of the jug above. It also has a wide mouth and a wide spout. You can find this funnel at Wal-Mart in the automotive section.

Here's the entire grouping of ingredients, so you'll have an idea of what you're about to mix. The most important part of this, is the ORDER OF MIXING. Pay close attention to "the order" of mixing these ingredients. There is a reason for doing so. Notice the half pint jar of Liquid Lecithin on the left. It was mixed the night before, and is now ready to be used. This is an Emulsion, and is key, in order to disperse the oils.

Here we go! To your 1 gallon jug, pour in your dry table sugar (half gallon of sugar).

To this DRY sugar, add 2 tsp's of Fruit Fresh.

Then add 1 tsp of Fumi-B, to the DRY mix.

Place jug in sink, turn on HOT water. Let this tap water come to full heat. When you feel the water is as hot as it's going to come out, add water to the jug. Let this level of hot water come up to about 2/3's full. Leave yourself some "shake room", for later on. Once it's 2/3's full of hot water, place cap on securely, hold the jug securely and shake aggressively in order to mix and melt the dry ingredients. Let stand, in a few minutes, shake again, repeat. Don't add anything else to this liquid until you feel it's all melted and mixed together. It shouldn't take too long.

This is what it should look like when finally mixed (1/2 gal sugar, 2 tsp's Fruit Fresh & 1 tsp Fumi-B, is all that's in this jug right now.)

Now, onto the half pint of Lecithin Emulsion. Add 1cc of Lemongrass oil, and then add 1cc of Spearmint oil. (Note; 1cc equals about 20-25 drops of oil.) This emulsion is at room temperature, since you left it on the counter the night before. I do not heat this up at this point, due to the fact that the HEAT tends to evaporate the oils too quickly and also, makes the smell rather strong. Add the oils, screw the lid on, and shake well. The emulsion will break down these oils droplets and disperse the oils. We don't want the oils to BALL UP on the top of the liquid.

Here, you see that I've added the oils and HAVE NOT shaken the jar yet. See the oil balls at the top of the liquid? This is what we DO NOT want to happen in our gallon jug of mix. The tsp is setting to the side only for size comparison.

Once again, screw the lid on the jar, shake well.

With these 2 liquids mixed and ready to go, you're half way there. Here comes the important part.

In the "holding bucket", that just contained your 1/2 gallon of dry sugar, POUR IN the jug of sugar water. We MUST mix the Emulsion a specific way, or the oils will tend to ball up at the top of the mix. We want this sugar water OUT of the jug, FIRST.

Sugar water OUT of the jug, waiting.

To this now EMPTY jug, we'll add our Emulsion mix.

The jug now has the Emulsion mix at the bottom. Place the jug in the sink. If you spill the sugar water, no worries. Place the bucket of sugar water next to the sink. Place the funnel in the top of the jug. With the same 1/2 pint jar, scoop out the sugar water in the bucket. Why? If I poured this entire bucket of liquid into the funnel, the bottle is sure to Rock-n-Roll. No hurries, no worries. Just scoop out the sugar water with the small jar you just used for the Emulsion.

Make certain your funnel is STRAIGHT up and down and won't fall out.

Scoop out all the sugar water.

As you scoop out the sugar water and add it to the Emulsion mix, something happens!! It changes colors to a more Lemony Yellow color, AND the Emulsion disperses the oils among the entire jug. If I didn't do it in this order, most likely the oils would just end up balling at the top of the mix. We want the oil held in SUSPENSION as much as possible. I can't explain the "chemical process" for this, only that experience with Emulsions has taught me that "order of mixing" with oils, is important. Emulsion goes in FIRST, and THEN add the Base Mix. Shake this jug thoroughly in order to mix the liquids. As you let it set over the months, you'll see a yellow film ring form on top, against the jug. Simply shake it again. It's all good.

Also, I use a smaller bottle, to pour my little tsp amounts. It's tough holding this big jug, and pouring into a tiny tsp for measuring. Therefore, use a smaller bottle, for the actual measuring and pouring. Much easier. Remember, this jug is your BASE MIX, from which you operate for specific measured amounts....a few tsp's at a time.

Now you're finished. The reason for showing this bucket, is simple. Take this entire bucket, as you see it, OUT TO YOUR BEES. Let them lick up the residual sugar water, etc. After a day, you can bring it back in for a proper washing.

And finally, the Beekeepers Tool Box. Here's a good idea. You'll end up having small pieces of beekeeping equipment, ie, oils, meds, droppers, etc. A simple $5 plastic tackle box from Wal-Mart works great.

Why go to the trouble to make this mix up? 1) Cost savings - products like this on the market are EXPENSIVE. 2) Feeding Stimulant - the mixture of Spearmint oil and Lemongrass oil, does certainly encourage the bees to forage more. 3) The Lemongrass oil settles the colony down upon inspection - the Queens tend to smell like Lemon, to the bees. When opening a colony, I'll use traditional smoke first, then once in, spritz them with my bottle which has 4-6 tsps of this Oil mix. Settles them right down. 4) The Spearmint & Lemongrass oil together tends to knock out some of the Varoa mites. (per Univ of West Virginia research and findings). I would agree.

I certainly wouldn't go to this amount of trouble if I didn't think it was well worth doing. The 4 reasons mentioned above, are certainly enough incentive for me to go to such efforts.

WARNING! DO NOT sell this product. I only make it for my own personal use, etc. I do not sell this item for fear of Copyright violations. Got the idea?

Suggestion; make this exact recipe up and GIVE AWAY several bottles to your beekeeping friends. It will certainly go a very long ways. We run 15 to 25 colonies of bees, and will likely have 1/4 of this jug left over at the end of the bee season.

Hope I've helped! Keep your bees healthy!!

Thanks, Ken

Friday, February 26, 2010

How to Catch A Swarm-N-A-Bucket!

When you see a swarm of bees like this, over 12 feet in a tree, what to do? I've lost several very large swarms of Honey Bees, only because they where so high up in a tree (15 to 22 feet), that I had no chance of getting them back. It's heart breaking to just stand there and look at them, knowing you aren't going to be able to catch them back. They might stay there for a day or two, but that's about it. Therefore, I came up with a serious plan for being able to catch them back. If you'll pay close attention to how we go about this, I'm certain you'll benefit from these tips.

Get your gear together, and setup. The pole and bucket that you see, is PRICELESS! The pole came from Atwoods, cost is about $15. It's a paint pole, that extends. The bucket on the end of the pole was bought from Brushy Mountain bee supply company, here's the link for the bucket,

cost is $35. Yes, you can figure out how to make your own if you'd like. I needed one, and quick, so I just bought my bucket.

You might need a helping hand in order to get this job done. Bees that have swarmed, are heavy with honey. Once the main swarm of bees hits the bottom of the bucket, you can't just TIP the pole over and dump it into the hive....the aluminum pole will just snap. After the bees hit the bottom of the bucket, one person holds the pole upright, while the other person screws the black handle lose, and let the pole slide down into itslef, and THEN you can dump them into a hive.

Get the bucket positioned under the swarm and give a solid push. Make certain that the swarm itself is even inside the bucket, before you thump them off the limb. You'll feel the weight hit the bottom of the bucket, and then it's up to you and your helper to get the pole upright, and keep it that way. Once the swarm hits the bottom of the bucket, pull the chord hard and close the lid on top of the bucket. Before I put the bucket up in the tree, I spritz inside with some sugar water.

Once the pole is under control, losen the handle and let the bucket come down to a managable level. Then you can walk over and dump them into a hive body. Be sure to take out several frames in order for the bees to have plenty of room to make it into the box.

You may even have to go back up with the bucket in order to get another shot at the remainder of the bees. You may do this several times, at least. The point here is; once the initial swarm has been in the bucket, that BEE SMELL from the Queen becomes your "bee lure". Use it to your advantage. The bees will come down into the bucket in order to find the Queen. You should have gotten the Queen in the first grab.

You might even leave the pole and bucket up against the tree for a few minutes, in order to the bees to settle in the bucket. You might even put in a few old, black brood frames if you have some extra. Bees love these black frames!

Have your helper take off the hive lid, and dump in more bees. This is repeated about 4 times, or more.

Notice on the hive above, the porch entrance is blocked with a towel. I have placed sugar water on them. I left the hole in the box OPEN. Once the bees get oriented inside this box, they'll start coming out for a look.

You can go back up for more bees.

Dump them in the box. Each time, you must COLLAPSE the pole.

Leave the pole against the tree for a few minutes. Bees that are flying around, will settle down, and find their way into the bucket to have a look around. You can close the lid again, and bring them down. They're a bit confused and lost. Help them find their new home!

Letting them settle into their new home.

Let the bucket lure in more bees.

Be patient. Let the smell in the bucket do it's magic. The bees will look for their Queen BY SMELL. They'll smell her in the bucket and go down to investigate.

Collapse the pole, bring down more bees.

Dump into hive body. Put the lid back on top of the hive body, but upside down...which makes it easier to remove and put back on. We want this lid to stay on while we work the bucket. I want the bees to come back out of the hole, and begin to fan. They'll "pooch and fan", telling their sisters to "Come home! Come home! The food is here, and the Queen is here! Come home!" This is what you're looking for, so watch the bees closely.

Once most all of the bees are in the box, put the lid back on properly.

Give the hole a squirt of sugar water. Let them get oriented to the front of this box.

When you bring your bucket back down, with more bees in it, just set the bucket facing the front of the hive, or tap the bucket off upside down in front of the hive. They'll quickly figure out where their new home is located.

All of these bees got up and made their way into their new home. After about an hour, these bees where all settled down in their new home. We left the hive in this wagon over night, giving the Scout bees a chance to make it back into their new home also. Later that night, well after sundown, I came out and plugged the hole with Cotton. Early the next morning, I gently moved this wagon to where I wanted to place them on my property. Sadly, within a week, we had a bad cold snap, and temps got well below freezing and we lost all of these bees. I was heart broken, after having done all that work. We fed them properly, but to no avail. They don't always grab food that is close by. On the flip side, this was our first big catch with our Pole & Bucket system. We learned a lot, and felt much more confident about our abilities to catch HIGH SWARMS. If there are swarms that are over 22 feet up in a tree, we'll just let them go. By doing so, I populate the surrounding area with "wild bees", in hopes of a KICK BACK swarm in the next few years.

Get you a pole at Atwoods and a make you up a bucket or buy one from Brushy Mountain. You're sure to need one, if you're going to keep bees!! Otherwise, you'll be standing there just like I did for 2 years, wondering what to do.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Why use Solar Powered Ventilators?

What am I looking at here? These are Solar Powered Ventilators, that I put on all of my Honey Production hives. There are many good reasons for doing this, which I'll cover a little later. Just get the basic idea here. The hive on the right, has the Queen Excluder turned sideways, because I was having an issue with the bees NOT WANTING to go up and through the excluder to work on the top boxes. Sometimes, they'll baulk at going up and through the excluder. If so, you can turn the queen excluder sideways for a week or so, until the girls get the idea. The Queen will likely stay below the excluder, on her brood. After the worker bees get the idea, you can turn the excluder back to it's normal position. An important tip, if your bees won't go up and work high. Anyway...back to the Solar Powered Ventilators (SPV's). You can go to and learn more about this product. I can personally attest to the value and benefit, in helping produce more honey, keeping the bees healthier, and generally getting more production out of my bees, versus NOT having a SPV on a hive.

The total cost to me, including UPS shipping to my door, was $133 each. A bit concerned about the cost, I tried only 1 the first year. After about 2 months, I could easily see a huge difference in the condition of the bees. I then bought 4 more. Since then, we currently run 12 SPV's and will be buying more. They'll pay for themselves the first year, no doubt about it. The rest is pure profit. (and I don't get paid by the company for advertisement either! darn!) Certainly worth the purchase!!

As you go through and look at these pictures, notice how many boxes of Honey I have on these hives. Here are some of the reasons I use the SPV's. Bees bring in lots of "moisture". Get the moisture OUT, and the bees do MUCH, MUCH better. They're healthier, produce more honey and have less issues with Varroa Mites. The mites thrive on the moisture.

Another reason, the honey cures faster. The bees won't stay inside the hive and fan, fan, fan. I get more bees out in the field, working harder for me. I get "more work" done, with more bees. I'll help them "fan", ...while they go out and do more work in the field for me.

Notice that this little hive is set close next to the trees. Not really the best spot for such a set up. The bees do SO MUCH BETTER in full sunlight. Sun up, to sun down...put them in full sun. And yet, this group of girls gave up 4 full boxes of great honey. When the shade hits solar panel, it begins to shut down, and the bees begin to stop working. Shade tends to PROMPT the bees to shut down for the day. If the hive is in full sun, even past sun down, the bees keep working well past sun down. I get much more honey, from the bees working LONGER into the evening.

Notice we have cattle panels around our hives. I took these panels down, and just let the cows eat the grass down. The bees tend to keep the cows from working the hives over. One bee flying into the ear of a cow, will soon send the cow packing. ha! It became too frustrating dealing with the weeds....and I didn't want to weed eat around the hives. These colonies are in full sun, and well past sun down. They produced some great honey for us.

Notice the Moth Trap bottles hanging on the fence? They work! Use them! Learn how to mix up your own Moth Trap mix. Just remember to top off the bottle with water so that the sun doesn't evaporate all the liquid out of the bottle. If you don't, you'll have a sweet slurry in the bottom of the bottle, and the bees DO LOVE this sweet slurry! They'll all pile into the bottle, and die! It's happened to me! Makes a grown man cry! Keep the bottle half full, top it off with clean water when it gets low.

There are 5 boxes on this STRONG colony. The SPV's get the bees really moving. In the future, I won't let them get this high. Reason being, the Small Hive Beetle will want to "go high" and stay high. The beetle will want to get away from the Wintergreen disc that I've placed down low on top of the brood box. Keep the boxes knocked back to 2 or 3. Harvest some of the honey.

Again, the colony is set up next to this line of trees. I've since moved the hives away from this tree line. The fan, inside this SPV box, will run, well past sun down. Inside this box, on top of the hive, is a small "computer fan", with a 70 degree thermal couple. When the colony heats up down low, the fan is tripped on when the temps get over 70 degrees AT THE TOP of the colony. The solar panel at the top, runs the fan. The fan is strong enough to suck up FRESH AIR from the bottom of the colony, THROUGH the screened bottom board. All of our colonies have screened bottom boards on them.

Fresh air coming up from the bottom of the colony, is a HUGE key in keeping your bees healthy and the Queen loves the fresh air! She really takes off and lays great! She loves the fresh air! And besides, 2 shallow boxes of honey, nets me 5 gallons. Count how many shallow boxes I have on the hive to the left, in the picture above. About 12 gallons of honey sitting there!

Again, these colonies are set up too close to the trees, in a corner, and have been since moved.

About once per week, I'll get some paper towels and use Windex to wipe off dirt, pollen and bird poop from the face of these solar panels. Keeping them clean, helps them run more efficiently.

Initially, I was a bit nervous about Oklahoma Hail hitting these front panels and busting them up. After a few nasty thunderstorms, my concerns where put to rest. They're tough. They've stood up to some serious storms, with no issues. The hard plastic pedestals that these panels are mounted on, have never been busted by strong winds. I've never had any break off, nor have I had hail break the panel face.

Here is a short list of basic benefits to running SPV's on your colonies;

1) It helps remove more harmful moisture, quicker.

2) More bees leave the colony to forage, with less bees staying inside to fan.

3) With less moisture, there is much less of a Varroa issue. Mites thrive on moisture.

4) The bees never pile out on the front porch and hang, on hot summer days.

5) The fresh air encourages the Queen to lay much better brood patterns!!!

6) The honey cures out quicker and capping seems to be quicker.

7) In full sun, the colony will work well past sun down, gaining you more production.

8) I certainly get more honey from each colony that has the SPV on top!!!! 4 boxes min.

9) The bees pay for the SPV the first year, the coming years are pure profit.

10) Since the bees are healthier, they're easier to care for, less medications.

11) No need for a long power cord, these units are self sufficient.

12) Hail & high winds haven't done any damage at all. They're tough.

If there is a draw-back, it's "the ants". The ants like to go up and lay eggs near the fan, and wiring inside. There seems to be a mild electrical pulse that attracts the ants. This is quickly taken care of by rubbing fresh, wild mint, inside the box and brushing out the ants. No big deal, when you consider all the benefits listed above. The bees aren't harmed in anyway, from this fan sitting on top of their hive. There is a thin plastic screen that is attached to each side of the fan, which will keep the bees away from the moving blades of the fan.

I've also made 1" spacers, with hardware cloth (screen) stapled to the spacer, to keep the bees off the bottom of the slotted fan & box. They seem to like to Propalize a part of this screen. If they think it's too much air on them, they like to "cut back" on the air flow. ha! But this only shows up during early Sept, as they want to close up all cracks and holes in preparation for winter. I DO NOT leave these SPV's on past Oct 1. By that time, they've been pulled off and are in the honey hut for storage. Every other year, I have to remove the fans for a good cleaning. The blades of the fan collect up pollen, dust and gunk and need to be cleaned up with some paper towels and Windex. If there is any propilis in the slots of the fan screen, you can soak these plastic screens in a bit of rubbing alcohol and will soften the propilis for removal.

All in all, the SPV's are well worth the investment and certainly worth keeping your bees healthier. They've allowed me to create a very large amount of honey, per colony. Certainly more than a hive without the SPV. I'm very pleased with my "new toys". ha! A good investment for the bees. And a great investment when it comes time to harvest 5 boxes of honey, or more.....PER HIVE!!