Notes, Lessons Learned, Theories, etc

or “the transition from bee have-er to bee keeper”

Shortly after starting this page I realized some of the content that was starting to go here felt more blog-ish. So I’ve spun off an accompanying blog to recording point-in-time thoughts and notes. The distinction between what goes where could almost be arbitrary, but I hope this page will eventually feel more like a reference page, and the blog more like a notebook. Anyway…

Inspection Checklist

This is probably permanently under development. Using suggestions from various sources and ideas that have come from observation and mistake :) Without getting too detailed, I’ll try to specify what to look for and think about during a hive inspection.

  1. Queen Presence / Health
    • Find the queen?
    • Find eggs in worker cells?
    • Any larvae?
    • Any interesting queen cells on frames? ie. supercedure/emergency cells?
  2. Population density
  3. Use of space
  4. Temperament
  5. Pests
  6. What’s next? What steps might I take now or next inspection to help the hive?

As a brand new beekeeper nothing is routine yet, so having notes will help. Moreover, as the “check-up” steps become well practiced, the importance of the checklist really is for “huh, this seemed different or unusual”. Also, I really like the “what’s next?” item - this note should help add continuity from inspection to inspection especially as beekeeping becomes more routine and the individual experiences begin to blend together in my mind. I attribute the “What’s next?” note to Susan Harris, a fellow beekeeper who helped me with some hive inspection early on in this endeavor.

Bee Timeline Chart

Use Michael Bush’s web page called “Bee Math”. This has become useful for me as I try to understand what’s happening in my queenless hive as they attempt to raise a new queen.



Color - As a beginner I really like black foundation - it make finding eggs super easy. This is a very practical reason for black foundation.

Cell Size - On the more theoretical side (at least it’s still theoretical for me as a brand new beekeeper) I’m going with small cell foundation - I think the arguments for why it helps reduce varroa mite population make perfect sense (shorter brood cycle), especially as a compliment to the more mainstream accepted IPM practice of using frames of drone comb to attract varroa (longer brood cycle). Starting out I have a mixture of large cell (Dadant plasticell on wood frames) and small cell (Mann Lake PF-125 all plastic) because I got 5-frame nucs from a large cell beekeeper. I’ve read about the challenges are regressing large cell bees to small cell, but so far my large cell bees seem more than happy to draw the small cell comb and my large cell queen happily lays in the small cell.

Material - I’m still all plastic. Everything I’ve read says the bees prefer wax and/or foundationless. For now though I’m scared to move into wax foundation for two reasons. First of all, wax foundation seems like a lot more work for the beekeeper. Second, I’m in Florida and it get HOT here. I really worry about having a foundation that melts. I’ll eventually try out wax or foundationless (with some wires to support what the bees draw against the heat) once I’m more comfortable as a beekeeper overall.


Material - I have a combination of wood and plastic frames. I prefer the wood - if they’re well assembled I think they present little to no problems. However, I’ve been buying the Mann Lake PF-105, PF-120, and PF-125s all plastic frame/foundation because they provide the cell size I want on plastic foundation. The major drawback, though, is that the plastic frame has lots of space between inside and outside edges in which SHB can hide - this is annoying.


Making Syrup

For spring-time feeding a 1:1 sugar syrup solution can be fed. The 1:1 ratio is based on weight. I’ve found, using my handy kitchen scale, that to make 1qt of syrup it takes 1lb white table sugar and 1lb water. That is 2.5 cups sugar to 2 cups water. Warm (don’t boil) on the stove top until the sugar fully dissolves and the solution becomes clear.

Once the syrup is made, put it in the 1qt+ feeding jars and put a solid lid on (I keep the feeder lids in the tops of my hives and use ball jar lids to seal the syrup jars) . Let the syrup cool to room temp or thereabouts before administering.

Why feed in the spring?

I’m feeding in the spring on the advice of Jerry Latner, the long-time FL beekeeper and manager of the Dadant branch in High Springs FL. I bought four nucleus colonies from him and when he noticed I was putting them on all plastic frames (more on this elsewhere) he shook his head in dismay and suggested I be sure to feed them even though there’s a nectar flow on. His assertion is that the bees are less enthused about pulling comb on all plastic frames, so feeding will help encourage them to pull. I’m not sure of the mechanism at play here, but I have no reason to doubt his suggestion. I suppose the feed simply gives the bees an abundance of resources with which to make the wax - “have wax, will pull” or something of the sort.



The only pest I’ve had to deal with in my short beekeeping career is the Small Hive Beetle (SHB). So far I’ve only used beetle blaster traps, and here’s what I’ve learned:

  • Apple cider vinegar doesn’t work in warm weather - it evaporates rendering the trap useless.
  • Canola oil works as a trap fluid as it doesn’t evaporate and it keep the beetles IN. Though it’s not clear that it attracts them (my observations suggest it doesn’t). So I’ve noticed that in a well populated colony the bees will chase the beetles into the trap. In a struggling colony the beetles don’t find their way in…
  • Putting the traps on outside frames of a less populated hive is less than ideal - the bees aren’t out there to help trap the beetles. Perhaps with a good attractant in the trap this might work, but it’s better to locate the trap close in to where the bees are active. Though you probably don’t want to stick the trap in the middle of the brood nest.