DIY Sugar Block Recipe

I checked on my bees today and they are doing great. I’m not sure if my 1 Italian hive has any occupants anymore, I did not hear anything or see any bees near the entrances of the hive.  My 7 Carniolan hives are doing very well.  6 of the 7 are noisy when I listen to them using my stethoscope, but I have 1 hive that is very weak.  I made sure all hives had ample sugar stores, since it will be a couple of weeks before I will be able to take a peak.  We are due for about a week with lows near zero.

Here’s my recipe for making Sugar blocks.

Ingredients:

  • 4# of sugar
  • 6 oz of water
  • Few drops of essential oils
    • Lemon grass – mimics the Pheromone scent
    • Spearmint
    • Wintergreen – helps control tracheal mites
    • Tea tree oil

Directions:

  1. Measure water and mix in essential oils.
  2. Add water to sugar and mix until combined
  3. Using small aluminum pans, divide sugar and pat down.
  4. Place in 250 degrees F oven for 20 min or so.  You just want the sugar partially melted.  Since ovens vary, keep an eye on your sugar so it doesn’t brown.
  5. Remove and let cool.
  6. Use or store until use. – Keep in a sealed container, away from mice.

I place these blocks directly on top of the top frames, with a shim or upside down candy board sitting above to give it the space it needs to be able to close the top securely.

Do you have a recipe that works well for you?  I would love to hear about it.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places

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Have my bees run out of winter stores?

Being in northern Illinois/ southern Wisconsin, late January or early February is the time to start thinking about this.

I dislike the thought that my bees would make it into the new year only to die of starvation before spring arrives.

Here’s a frame showing what is left of bees that starved and the bottom board with all the bees that fell to the bottom of the hive.  This was a sad sight during my spring hive inspections last year.

Picture1

Pile of dead bees

A few weeks ago, on a warmish calm day, I took a peak into my hives.  Only lifting the top, a couple of inches along the back edge, to see if the bees had been eating the sugar blocks that I had placed on the top frames in late fall. I found one hive with a softball size area of bees, but sadly they were nowhere near the block of sugar.  I took my hive tool and gently moved the sugar block directly over the bees.

When we have a nice day in February, I will peak in again to see if they need more sugar. Knowing that as time moves closer into spring, prior to any nectar flow, more of my hives will be in need of a sugar block to survive.  Therefore, I am in the process of making a couple of sugar blocks a week.

Two blocks

There are many recipes out there for making sugar blocks where you stir 25# of hot, near boiling melted sugar on the stove.  This does not sound like a good idea to me, so I’ve been searching and experimenting with no cook recipes. However, the problem with recipes that instruct you to mix the water and essential oils into the sugar, pat down into a pan and let dry, is that if they do ever dry they don’t hold their shape.  Then, if you stack them, the ones at the bottom crumble.  At least this is my experience.

Crumbled

While making one of these recipes, I had placed the sugar blocks into my warm oven, which was at 170 degrees, to dry.  My oven must not be very accurate, since it partially melted the sugar in the pan.  (Sugar melts at 185 degrees F).

The partial melting of the sugar held the complete block together when the sugar block cooled. So far I have made 4 blocks with this method, and I have 3 more sitting in my oven now.

Four blocks

Check back later this week for the DIY Sugar Block recipe.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

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DIY hive stand

You can use almost anything as a bee hive stand, as long as it is stable and can handle the weight of multiple hives, such as a pallet, an old coffee table, cinder blocks or something homemade.

In the picture to the left above we are using cinder blocks with a pallet and an old coffee table. In the picture to the right is our DIY stand, from instructions we pulled off the Web. It was very easy to make and low cost.

Material List:

  • One 4″ x 4″ x 10‘ post (for a 18” high stand) or 4”x4”x6’ post (for a 12″ high stand)
  • Three 2″ x 6″ x 8′ boards OR two 2″ x 6″ x 8′ and one 2″ x 6″ x 10′ boards
  • Box of 16 penny nails

Step 1:

  • For an 18” high stand: From the 10’ 4”x4” post cut eight (8) 18-inch legs.
  • For a 12” high stand: From the 6’ 4”x4” post, measure and divide equally into 6 posts.

 

03

Step 2:

  • Take 2 of the 2″ x 6″ x 8‘ boards and measure them. Each board can be off by as much as one to two 8ths of an inch, therefore it is important to measure and trim if you deem necessary

Step 3:

  • Using the 16 penny nails, 3 for each leg, secure the 8’ board onto the legs.
  • Note: Picture to the right is what one side will look like when complete.

04

Step 4:

  • Cut two 20″ pieces from the remaining 2″ x 6″ board.
  • Set the 2 sides up with the legs facing inward and nail the end boards to the legs, using 3 nails per leg.
  • Note: You will now have a stand that is 8’ by 20” by 18” high.

05

Step 5:

  • Measure the distance between the middle legs. (should be ~17” long)
  • Using the remaining 2″ x 6″ board cut 2 center braces. If you purchased a 10’x2”x6” board then you should have enough to make 3 braces.
  • Attach the center braces using 6 nails per board as shown in the picture to the left.

06

Success!!

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Hive location

Where should I place my hives?

When I decided to get bees I thought of all the possibilities of where I could place them. I am very fortunate, I have 32 acres to choose from and I have no neighbors within spitting distance.  Not that I would spit at my neighbors.

Here’s is what the lay of the land looks like for me and a few of my thoughts:

Lay of the land2

My next step in the process was to research what bees prefer.  Keeping in mind that beekeepers don’t always agree, but when it comes to location it is pretty anonymous on what bees like.

First thing to keep in mind is any ordinances that might place restrictions on you, for instance:

Ordinances

Second, where will you have the best access to your bees?  Taking into account if it is easy to reach, distance wise, and if you have room to do inspections.

Easy access2

Third, is water. Your bees need access to water and preferably not to your neighbors swimming pool or their birdbath.  Some neighbors will not be happy when this happens, but hopeful you have neighbors that will work with you and not just complain about it.

There is a commercial beekeeper that has around 30 hives about 1/2 a mile from me.  They sit up on a hill looking over a large area with 3 ponds. My friend, who’s directly across the street from those hives, was having problems with the bees visiting his swimming pool, he would have hundreds of bees in his water a day.  He politely spoke to the beekeeper and the beekeeper waved his magic wand and convinced the bees to go elsewhere.  I’ve been think about how he might have done this, perhaps he placed some sweet sugar water close to the ponds and that trained them to go there for their water.

Here’s a picture of my hives and the stream they have access to. I liked this location for it is close to water, I have easy access to the hives and it’s in my orchard, but it is not good for my bees in the winter and I am in the process of moving these hives to a better location.

Water

The forth consideration is the sun.  Here is where beekeepers may disagree. Some think full sun is best, other partial shade.  I think you need to decide based on your climate.  If you live in the south where you get 100+ degrees F days for most of the summer, you might want your bees in partial sun.  The hotter it is in the hive, the more time they will spend attempting to cool the hive down.

Here I show hives in 2 different locations, the left is in full sun, the second is tucked into my grove of evergreens and provides a little shade for them, but mostly for me.  I use a full suit, since I’m slightly allergic to bee stings, and when I’m working in my full sun apiary I am way too hot. In my evergreen apiary I can just back up into the trees to get some shade.

Sun

Fifth, is the winter winds.  The only protection my hives, in the left picture above, have is the plastic that I placed on the fence.  The west winds shoot up the hill from the stream and strike my hives, all winter long.  The north side has no protection.  My hives on the right are protected  from the north and west by the evergreen trees.  Out of the 3 hives on the left, only 1 made it through winter last year.  So far, all 7 hives on the right are alive.

Sixth, is traffic pattern.  In which direction and at what altitude will your bees fly to forage for food?  Bees have a tendency to fly straight out of the hive and across your open area. Is this where you, your children and neighbors “play”? Placing the opening of your hives toward a fence or hedge will cause the bees to fly up and above the fence/hedge, hopefully keeping them out of the direct path of people. Bee also don’t care for loud, vibrating machines, like lawn mowers, if you are mowing directly in front of your hives, you are likely to get stung.

Traffic

Seventh, goes with number six, but is more difficult to predict, it has to do with bee spotting.  Bee spotting is when bee poop falls on your car, house, etc and leaves a spot of poop.  Worker bees (the female bees in the hive that do all the work), must go on cleansing flights, for they will  not go to the bathroom inside the hive.  The bees will leave the hive, follow a path and then come back into the hive. With a little warm water, and some soaking the spots will come right off.

If the hives are sick then the spotting will be even worse. Here’s bee spotting from a sick hive:

Bee spotting

As long as you have a variety of flowers in your area throughout the season, your bees should have everything they need.

Flowers

You can find a nice consolidated list of considerations here.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

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Bees for sale

Looking for honey bees in Northern Illinois/Southern Wisconsin?

Here are places, that I know of, which are within 60 miles of Beloit WI. I chose Beloit since it sits nicely on the border of IL and WI.

My honey bee farm is within 7 miles of Beloit WI.  I am currently not advertising the sale of bees, since I am not sure how many I will have in the spring to sell.  I plan to ramp up in the next few years to sell about a dozen Nucs each spring.  If you are interested in purchasing a Nuc, send me an email and when spring arrives, and I know how many Nucs are available, I can contact you to see if you are still interested.

This is NOT an endorsement for any of the businesses listed below… just a list.  If you know of others please comment on this post, with their URL, and I will add it to the list.

Clinton, Wisconsin  (10 miles)

  • Beez4life: offering packages, Nucs and complete overwintered hives with bees. Offers holistic and chemical free bees at a premium price.

Hampshire, IL (50 miles)

Big Bend, WI (55 miles)

  • Hemken Honey Co: offering packages. (Currently reported that he will not be getting bee packages this year.  His supplier in California is experiences bee loses and will not be able to provide him with bees.)

Sullivan, WI (50 miles)

 

Beyond 60:

Fond du Lac, WI (120 miles)

Appleton, WI (150 miles)

Appleton, WI (150 miles)

Stevens Point, WI (150 miles)

Algoma, WI (200 miles)

Fairmount, IL (230 miles)

Marengo, WI (330 miles)

  • Charlie and Patti’s Bees : offering Nucs
    • Charlie and Patti are beekeepers, in Zone 3 of Wisconsin, 15 miles south of Lake Superior. They are raising bees that can overwinter in Zone 3 and which are chemical free.  Visit their Facebook page for more information.

~May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

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Package vs Nuc

Bees are purchased either as a package or in a 3-5 frame Nuc. Package bees and Nucs sell out quickly and should be ordered early in the year, as soon as you decide on your source.

A package is a box with 2-4# of bees, a caged queen and a can of sugar water to feed them during their journey.

A 3-5 frame Nuc is a set of 3-5 frames in a box, with bees and an established queen that has been mated and is laying well.

PvN-Nuc

The next couple of charts will help you to compare a package of bees with a Nuc of bees:

Package vs Nuc snapshot2bPackage vs Nuc snapshot3

I have purchased both types.  My 1st year I purchased 2 packages and had a fun time learning how to install.  The 2nd year I purchased 2 Nucs, which were much easier to install and just a totally different experience the 1st couple of months.

When installing a package you are watching them closely the 1st month and feeding them aggressively.  When installing a Nuc you are easily place the frames into a hive that you have setup ready to go and then inspect every few weeks to assess progress.  There is no need to feed a Nuc since the Nuc should come with it’s own stores of food.

I hope this helps you decide between a bee package and a bee nuc.  If you have any questions, please leave a comment.

~ May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

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Equipment

It can be overwhelming trying to figure out what equipment, tools and clothing you need to get started in beekeeping.  Here is what I recommend for a Langstroth style hive, which is the type of hive that I am using.

Hive Components

The inner cover and frames are hidden within the above picture, but here is what they look like:

InnerCoverFrames

This is just the minimum you will need.  As the bees grow in population you will need to be adding an additional hive body. When the nectar begins to flow and the bees are ready to produce honey you will need to start adding honey supers.  Normally, a 1st year colony has not grown big enough to produce honey, but if they have, you will need to have honey supers at the ready.

Let’s now review what clothing and tools are needed:

Clothing and Equipment

This is a picture of my husband and me working one of our hives.  As you can see the hive on the right is strong enough to be adding honey supers where the hive on the left is not. The queen had stopped laying and the hive had to supersede her. During that process the bee population decreased significantly and they struggled to protect their hive, therefore we added a robber screen to stop other honey bees and wasps from robbing out the hive.

Here’s the recommended list of equipment for 1 hive:

Hive Component List2

If you have any questions, please comment below.

~May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

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Hello World!

I am the owner of a 1876 32-acre farm on the border of central Illinois and Wisconsin.

Farm

On my farm I raise honey bees, chickens for their eggs, and guinea hens for entertainment.  I have extensive gardens that I have been maintaining for over 22 years and sugar maple trees that are over 100 years old, that produce an abundance of sap for us to make maple syrup.

Come join me to learn all about beekeeping and the fun things we do on our farm.

~May all your wandering take you to many wonderful places.

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