Beekeeping FAQ's

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2017 Catalog - Index Correction

There was a printing error in the 2017 catalog that caused the index to be incorrect. Click the link here for the corrected index. 

2017 Catalog Correct Index

What equipment do I need to get started?

We suggest our Deluxe Beekeeping Starter Kit (pages 8-9 of our catalog). This is the superior starter kit for the new beekeeper with everything you need to establish your first colony and the quality protective clothing and tools you will use as your apiary expands. Featuring one of the best all-around educational books The Back Yard Beekeeper, you'll be outfitted with the equipment and knowledge you will need to begin your fascinating adventure in the world of the honeybee. The kit contains two deep hive bodies with frames and foundation (the main living area for the bees where the queen lays her eggs), two supers with frames and foundation (where they will eventually store surplus honey), bottom board with entrance reducer and a telescoping cover with inner cover. This kit comes completely assembled and is available either painted or unpainted.  Also included in the kit is our Cotton/Poly Coverall with an attached veil, Mesh Helmet, Leather Gloves, Bee Brush, Queen Excluder, a stainless steel Smoker, Smoker Fuel, and a Hive Tool. The first year you probably won't take the honey from the hive, but leave it for the bees to consume over the winter months. 

How do I get started?

First, we suggest you take a class or find yourself a mentor who is willing to work with you. Knowledge is power and the more you know the more successful you will be. You will then need to order your bees and purchase your equipment. Click here to see our list of beekeeping groups located across the US. These local and regional groups often have monthly meetings that are full of good information and beekeepers with experience. 

Does Mann Lake sell bees?

Mann Lake offers bees for our local area once a year, to be picked up at our offices in Hackensack, MN and Wilkes-Barre, PA. We also have a network of Authorized Dealers, some of whom supply package bees. Suppliers of queens and packaged bees in the United States can be found by clicking here. It is best to make contact with your bee supplier during the early winter months to assure a place on the list. During some years, shortages occur and bees are supplied on a first come, first served basis.

I think there might be something wrong with my Bees. Where can I send them to be tested?

You can find a list of labs that can test your bees, sometimes at reduced cost due to support from Project Apis m (APm).  Click here for a list of labs, types of testing, and contact information.

What is the difference between a groove top frame and a wedge top frame?

The groove or wedge in the frame refers to the top bar. A grooved top bar has a groove for inserting your foundation. It is generally used with plastic foundation such as Rite-Cell®. Wedge top frames look similar, however, they have a piece of wood next to the groove that you would break off to install your pure beeswax foundation. The wedge piece is removed and your wax foundation is put in place. The wedge is then re-inserted and nailed in place. The purpose of the wedge is to give support to your wax foundation. Wax foundation will also need support from wire, support pins, or both. If you are using wired foundation with hook, the hook is placed so it goes around the wedge piece like a hanger on a rod.

What are the advantages of Rite-Cell® Foundation over other foundations?

Rite-Cell®  foundation is the plastic core foundation with the cell structure embedded into the plastic. It requires no pinning or reinforcement of any kind and can be easily inserted into an assembled frame with grooved top and bottom bars. The cell structure is deeper and has better acceptance rates than other brands. The cells of our foundation are more defined and textured, which we have found to be more appealing to the bees. Pure beeswax foundations require time-consuming reinforcement and are prone to wax moth damage and chew down by the bees. With Rite-Cell®, if wax moths enter and damage your hive, one would only need to scrape off the damage and reinsert the frames into the hive.

What advantage does Waxed Rite-Cell® have over Unwaxed Rite-Cell®?

The bees are attracted to the scent of the beeswax that is sprayed on the waxed Rite-Cell® and they tend to draw it out quicker than the unwaxed. Unwaxed is generally purchased by the commercial beekeepers because of the cost savings when buying in volume. Bees will draw out the unwaxed, it usually just takes a little longer.

What are the different grades of wood for hive bodies and supers?

Select - This grade is made of select lumber that has the least amount of imperfections allowed. This grade allows small tight knots on the outside of the box and small imperfections on the inside. No knots in the fingers, rabbets or hand holds are allowed.

Commercial -This is the most common grade requested by our customers and what is used in all of our kits. This grade is functionally sound with an allowance for tight solid knots, small pitch pockets and small tight cracks. Imperfections that interfere with the structure and functionality of the box are not accepted.

Budget - These boxes are highly functional while allowing for multiple solid or loose knots, pitch pockets, cracks and knots in the fingers or rabbets. Imperfections that interfere with the structure or functionality of the box are not acceptable. 

How many nails required to assemble a:
Hive Body 44 - 7D nails
Super 27 - 7D nails
Frame (Groove Top) 4 - 1 ¼" nails
4 - ¾" nails
Frame (Wedge) 4 - 1 ¼" nails
4 - ¾" nails
2 - ⅝" nails
What can be used as smoker fuel?

Today, the easiest way to go is our Smoker Fuel (HD-550). This great product is inexpensive and extremely easy to use. Made of raw, short cotton fibers and cottonseed husk, it is available in ½ pound packages and is easily started.

Our KwikStart Smoker Pellets (HD-554) are simple to use by lighting with a flame, blow it out and watch the smoke roll (if using to start your other smoker fuel, leave the flame going for fast fire starting action)! These can be used alone for checking a hive or two, or used as a starter for any other smoker fuel. Takes the work out of starting your smoker!

We have another option for those of you looking for a longer burning smoker fuel. Our clean burning Wood Pellet Smoker Fuel (HD-552) is especially handy for in the bee yard. Convenient to use, just take what you need for your trip to the bee yard with a spare handful in your pocket for replenishment if needed. It is a little harder to start but you will get a nice long burn with good smoke.

Other commonly used fuels are plain (untreated) burlap bags cut into strips, dried sumac heads, decayed wood, wood shavings, and dry pine needles. Some people use twine, however, the twine cannot have been treated with any preservative to prevent rotting. Newspaper should not be used as sole fuel because ash is too big and can burn the bees, use as a starter only. It is important to remember you want cool smoke, if your smoker is getting too hot put some green grass on top of the fuel to cool it down.

How do I mix sugar syrup?

The following proportions are mixed by volume depending on the season. 

• 1:1, sugar to water for spring feeding
• 2:1, sugar to water for fall feeding
• 1:2, to water to stimulate brood rearing (to simulate a light nectar flow, make only 2 holes in the lid of the entrance feeder so bees will only receive small amounts at a time).

When mixing to feed medication (Fumagillin B), the package directions on the medication container.

When do I need to feed my bees?

When you are installing a new package or hiving a swarm in new equipment, you will feed carbohydrates (sugar water or our pre-mixed Pro-Sweet syrup blend) to stimulate the bees wax glands to draw out the new foundation. Bees also benefit from being fed pollen substitutes such as Ultra Bee or Bee Pro®. Bees must have both carbohydrates (nectar, sugar water or Pro-Sweet) and protein (pollen or pollen substitutes) in order to rear brood so supplemental feeding very important in early spring and late fall after honey has been removed.  Feeding in early spring begins building the population of the hive. The goal of every beekeeper raising a honey crop is to have the largest number of bees possible in the hive when the nectar flow starts and early brood rearing is the key to achieving optimal numbers. Ultra Bee and Bee-Pro® can be fed in patty form if it is too cold to fly or if the weather is nice and the bees can be out flying it can be fed dry in the bee yard. For your convenience, we have several types of patties (catalog pages 48-53) available as a complete brood rearing food. Adding our Pro Health to your liquid feed will encourage consumption and keep your feed fresher longer.

Can I use mothballs instead of Para-Moth® for wax moth control?

Legally, no. Mothballs that can be purchased in many grocery and discount stores should not be used in storing beekeeping supplies because they may contain a substance called napthalene that leaves a residue on the equipment that will kill your bees. Para-Moth® (DC-131) does not contain napthalene, and is the only registered product for use against wax moths in beehives.  Para-Moth® should never be put into a hive when bees occupy it, and equipment stored with Para-Moth® should be completely aired out before being occupied by bees.

What is the average life span of a honeybee?

There are 3 different kinds of honeybees found in a hive. The queen, who is responsible for laying eggs and colony morale, has an average life span of 2- 3 years. Most queens however, live shorter spans of time due to the re-queening of hives by beekeepers. Drones are the male bees whose sole purpose is to mate with the queen. Drones are born throughout the active season of the hive so their life span depends on when they were born. If a drone successfully mates a queen, he will die in the act if he is unsuccessful and doesn't die from old age, he will be evicted from the hive at the end of the season to die of starvation. Worker bees have an average life span of 4- 5 weeks during the summer months when they are most active. Their life span depends on the amount of work done. She will actually work herself to death. In the fall and winter, workers will live for several months because they are less active.

How many honeybees are in a typical hive?

A strong, healthy hive would be home to approximately 40,000 - 45,000 bees.