Letters to the Editor archive
Letters to the Editor - October 2014
Colony Collapse 20 Years Ago
During rainy days this summer, I’ve been sorting through 31 years of files, reports and correspondence in order to recycle the paper and/or save and scan documents for historical records. Much of the content in the file cabinets consists of letters and reports that were written before the computer age. In one of the drawers I found a forgotten and significant letter written to Dr. Hachiro Shimanuki, Lab Leader at the USDA-ARS Beltsville Bee Lab.
The letter was written in part to thank both him and Dave Knox, Bee Lab entomologist for processing brood and adult bee samples for viral analysis. The letter also described a phenomenon that I had never seen before among beekeeping operations and a situation update regarding the operation the samples originated from. Unrelated to the issue, the correspondence also included data comparing tracheal mite infestations of Yugo, Buckfast and Italian honey bee stocks.
Following are excerpts from the letter to Shim written on Oct. 17, 1994:
“September 14, 1994 - 2 apiary locations (40 and 24 hives) with 1,000’s of bees on the ground resembling a pesticide kill, however, not all of the colonies were affected (approximately ¼). Many young “hive bees” observed walking from affected colonies unable to fly…The affected hives were still actively foraging with field bees bringing in pollen from goldenrod and aster. The young bees walking from the hives had ‘tremors’ or a ‘shaky’, ‘shivering’ behavior. In general, the majority of the bees died just in front or within 10 feet of hives. The crawling bees often weakly fluttered their wings resembling symptoms of what was observed during the late 1980’s when many tracheal mite infested hives were dying off during winter and early spring in Maine. The hives had large populations with 6 plus frames of brood and a super of honey when this behavior began. Varroa was found within worker and drone cells. When this ‘colony collapse’ was first observed, about 6 of 40 apiary locations were affected.”
“October 14, 1994- Revisited apiaries with die-off. The crawling behavior nearly stopped…Live colonies are now down to about 2-3 frames of bees and brood, lots of honey and frames of dead brood (chilled or otherwise)…During the last month, 20 additional colonies died out in the two apiary locations….About four apiaries were moved to a staging yard during the last month. These hives have dwindled far worse than the hives not moved. Of the 200 colonies staged, I think mortality will exceed 50% by the time they reach Georgia (Thanksgiving)….Things look pretty grim….Since our initial conversation concerning this matter, Roy has reported a similar situation with his last load in northern Maine….During the week of October 3rd I visited a southern Maine operation of 100+/- colonies. Colony collapse was evident (i.e. empty hives, spotty brood, lots of honey) but no dead or dying adults in front of hives. These hives appeared to have absconded.”
Within the letter to Dr. Shimanuki, I used the term “colony collapse”, first in parenthesis since I had no other way to describe what I was observing. We now know that the symptoms described in the September 14th and October 14th narratives concerning Norm and Roy’s operations were due to acute paralysis virus and Kashmir bee virus activated and vectored by Varroa (ABJ-May & Oct issues 1995). However, the symptoms concerning the colony collapse within the southern Maine apiary checked on October 3rd were very different. No bees (dead or alive) were present. Sound familiar?
For the record, the neonicotinoid Admire (imidacloprid) was registered in Maine for use on potatoes in 1994 in lieu of GMO (Bt) potatoes due to market pressure. It was applied to potato acreage in 1995. The letter to Dr. Shimanuki in 1994 accurately describes the existence of the CCD syndrome formerly called parasitic mite syndrome (PMS) before wide-spread use of the neonic insecticide class.
Maine State Apiarist
About Cell Size, Varroa Control and a “Fatal Error”
More than 20 years ago, Erickson et al.1,2 suggested that reducing the size of the brood cells of the European honey bee could help in controlling the development of varroa mite populations. This claim was developed and discussed among beekeepers, including in the American Bee Journal.3,4,5 As cornerstones of their approach, the proponents invoke two major arguments. Firstly they postulate that cell size was smaller before the general use of wax foundation and, secondly, that a “fatal” error occurred around 1930 when a new method (the square approach used by Baudoux, a Belgian researcher) replaced the traditional “rhombus” approach for estimating comb cell density. As a consequence, they suggest that beekeepers should undertake “regression” programs in order to keep their bees under, according to them, more natural conditions. They embed their ideas in the tempting view that honeybee colonies become more efficient at detecting mites, more rigorous in their hygienic behavior and, if not resistant, at least tolerant to varroa infestations. Their arguments were convincing enough to persuade the beekeeping equipment industry to produce and market wax foundation and artificial comb with a smaller cell size, as well as to convince scientists to conduct their own controlled studies in order to assess the effectiveness of cell size in mite control programs.
When I first heard of this theory in the fall of 2012, I was also taken in by it and rapidly became convinced that I had found a way to overcome colony losses. I then contacted our beekeeping authorities (who are deeply involved in developing organic control methods) and asked them why they were not supporting the small cell approach. They answered that the scientific evidence was not yet convincing enough to steer beekeepers in that direction. They also shared their collection of publications on the subject. I therefore read in detail the methods developed by the proponents of small cells, as well as the publications of the scientific community on the topic. At the same time, I prepared to undertake my own “regression” program for the following spring.
But over and over again, I came up against the “fatal error” argument. I could not understand how two measuring methods based on plane geometrical figures could yield different cell densities. I then started to make my own measurements: as theory predicts, I found identical results with either the square or the rhombus approach! In the meantime, I also discovered that some authors6,7 challenged the view that cell sizes had been smaller in the past. In addition, evidence from scientific studies was far from sustaining the small cell theory.8
Finally, I understood that the “fatal error” was an act of the proponents of the small cell theory themselves: when they transformed cell densities, allegedly measured using the rhombic approach, into modern figures using the square method, they considered that a rhombus of basis 1dm had the same area as a square of basis 1dm (cf. Figure 1). I also found that the rhombus approach has never been used as a standard in the past and that most historical data were reported as cell widths and not as cell densities. There was therefore no need to transform historical data in order to compare them with modern cell width measurements. In addition, an extensive review of historical data clearly confirms that cell densities were not smaller before the introduction of wax foundation.
Ironically, an opposite controversy on cell size arose around 1935, with the claim that bees became smaller following the introduction of wax foundation! According to Honegger10, Mehring, who invented wax foundation around 1857, designed his first wax mill on the basis of his own measurement, namely 18 cells/dm, i.e. a cell size of 5.55 mm and a density of 750 cells/dm2. Later on, some European producers of wax foundation turned to smaller cells and much higher cell densities (e.g. 920 cells/dm2, corresponding to a cell width of 5.0 mm, in Belgium before Baudoux’s work). This might explain why wax mills from the beginning of the 20th century correspond to small
In conclusion, the findings of this study, published in greater detail in a recent issue of the Journal of Apicultural Research11, clearly show that two major arguments of the proponents of the small cell approach are not supported by the facts. Firstly, historical data indicate that cells were not smaller before the introduction of wax foundation. Secondly, if any “fatal error” occurred, it was rather at...
Letters to the Editor - September 2014
National Honey Board Announces Availability of 2014 National Honey Month Press Kits
Firestone, Colo., July 16, 2014 –The National Honey Board (NHB) is pleased to announce that again this year, they will be providing press kits to the honey industry in order to promote September as National Honey Month. September has been recognized as National Honey Month in an effort to celebrate this all-natural wonder and its many benefits. The press kit, intended for delivery to local media, will be available at no cost to beekeepers throughout the United States.
The 2014 press kit features information on the benefits of honey, a variety of honey recipes, a 30 Days of Honey one-page handout which encourages consumption of honey throughout the month, as well as the NHB’s newest and most popular honey brochures that showcase honey’s versatility. All the resources included in the press kit are perfect for use by editors and journalists preparing honey features and news stories.
The press kits will be made available in early August and may be requested by calling Andrea Brening at the NHB office (800-553-7162), or by sending an email to Andrea@nhb.org.
The National Honey Board is an industry-funded agriculture promotion group that works to educate consumers about the benefits and uses for honey and honey products through research, marketing and promotional programs.
National Honey Board
September Cover Painting
I do have prints of all my bee images. Most of them are in my eBay store. I didn’t post them all to my website because they are very small and not Limited Edition Prints. They are signed though. Please do refer readers to my website (www.robys.com); there is a menu button on the main page on the left side that they can choose that is my eBay store link. My website has only the Limited Edition Prints listed there. I’ll give you the link to my “bee” page on my eBay store so you can see what I’m talking about: http://stores.ebay.com/Roby-Baers-Fine-Art-And-Prints/Bees-/_i.html?_fsub=294869219&_sid=4807169&_trksid=p4634.c0.m322
Roby & Rich Baer
Why would you want to print a free advertisement for Bayer?
The article in News Notes by Bayer Project Manager, Becky Langer, (July 2014) may as well be a Bayer commercial. The beekeeper has wonderful success on space provided by a grower of corn, soybeans, mums and hay. We all get the implication that the bees are doing well among crops coated with Bayer systemic poison. You have allowed this commercial to share space with truly important news from USDA and NCSU. Do you really think that Bayer propaganda should share space with our research authorities?
If you are willing to print private advertisement as news, I would like to start providing you with articles to advertise my beekeeping business. I’m sure I can create a “feel good” article to promote my products and services on a monthly basis for you.
Donald P. Studinski
Letters to the Editor - August 2014
I was so pleased to see the June issue of American Bee Journal with a beautifully painted hive on the cover. When I travel in Europe I like to visit other beekeepers and I noticed that so many of their hives were painted in pretty pastel colors or designed to look like small houses or had interesting hive roofs. I thought this was a good idea. I decided to create a beautiful beehive roof that looked like ones I had seen in Paris. But how?
I remembered an old friend who was the metals conservator for the Park Service. He was immediately interested in the challenge of designing and building a cover. Because he is a beekeeper, he knew the best way to build a roof that worked. The photo attached is our version of a beautiful beehive. It complements our urban perennial garden. It has a copper roof handmade by Bart Rogers, who is shown in the second photo building the skeleton for the hexagonal hive cover.
I think decorating their beehives is starting to be a trend with urban American beekeepers. In addition to being aesthetically pleasing to us, we think it helps the neighbors accept our bees by making the hives beautiful to look at.
If other beekeepers are interested in having one or more of our hive covers, my website is: beautifulbeehives.com
For the Birds!
In early May, I placed a bait hive under one of my trees, the same location where I had scout bees checking it out two years ago.
The bait hive is on top of a six foot ladder. It is a medium hive box with enclosed top, and bottom with a one-inch entrance hole. I baited it with three old drawn out combs, and a cotton ball with a few drops of lemongrass oil (a honey bee attractant that simulates the Nasonov pheromone).
I check the bait hive periodically to see if there are interested scout bees. Today, June 8, I noticed a bird flying away from the bait hive. Curious, I put my ear to the box, and heard baby birds chirping inside. Fortunately, my hives have not swarmed, and found another home since my bait hive was already occupied.
Letters to the Editor - July 2014
July Cover Picture
This is the first in a series of 6 paintings depicting beekeeping work in the apiary. This will also be made into a limited edition 40x24 inch signed poster. A poster will be sent to every state agriculture department helping to highlight the importance of beekeepers and their diminishing numbers.
Mirald Cake, the artist, is the son of a beekeeper. He came to this country at age 13 in 2000 with his family from Albania. His father, a beekeeper in Albania, wanted a better life for his children and was granted a visa to immigrate to the US. As you know, beekeeping is a family business. Mirald spent many days as a young boy assisting his father in the fields. His art is influenced by that environment.
Not speaking English, his father, Behar Cake, supported the family by taking maintenance & cleaning jobs around Clearwater Florida. His mother, Luisa, a nurse in Albania, worked here as a hotel maid. The children learned English within a year and became straight A students. They all became US citizens.
My wife, then the executive housekeeper at the Adams Mark Hotel in Clearwater, became friends of the family during Luisa’s time there as a hotel maid. My wife helped her to learn English and took an interest in Mirald’s drawing abilities and gave him a painting kit as a Christmas present. Six years later my wife drove Mirald to the prestigious Ringling College of Art & Design in Sarasota for an interview. Four years ago he graduated. His father’s secondary income as a beekeeper helped Mirald through college.
Mirald sees his father as his hero and beekeeping is his father’s passion. This series of six paintings will depict the beekeeper in that mode. I have added some links about Mirald and his art.
Please consider his art for a cover of your Journal. And a story about his family’s beekeeping journeys in life in the same issue.
Links about Mirald Cake:
A google on his name will bring up more results
I would like to respond to the recent “Letters to the Editor/Bee Forage Network Developed, May, 2014.” First, I would like to acknowledge that using various websites for beekeeping endeavors are extremely valuable, and there are hundreds if not thousands of good ones out there. Furthermore, I would encourage new and old beekeepers alike to take advantage of them. However, now I must get to my point. This article seemed to suggest that all new beekeepers need to do is just run to their computer, type in the website, and determine which day to start putting on supers for their bees to fill up. This computer-dependent mentality is detrimental to learning about honeybees and their habits. We need to use computers and websites as tools to help us, but rely on working with the bees after opening up the colony for observations in order to make decisions as to what the colony needs.
At the risk of getting too elementary for many of the ABJ readers, I think somebody needs to point out that we need to get back to the basics. During my first year of working with bees, I learned that the way to determine when to super a colony was to open up the colony and remove one of the brood frames. You could look at it to see if the workers were putting in nectar into the cells right after the new workers emerged and before the queen had a chance to lay more eggs in the cells. This process is called “plugging out the brood nest with honey.” Then, turn this frame 90 degrees from its original position and lightly move the frame up and down without shaking the frame too hard. If drops of nectar fell out onto the tops of the other frames, then the honey flow (actually nectar flow in which the nectar is changed to honey by the bees) was on. If you wanted further proof, you could taste one of these drops. If it was sweet (which is practically always the case), then it is nectar. Thick honey will never fall out of the frames during this check. At this point, you can add honey supers. There are other ways to check for a honey flow: past years – even though there are differences in different years, bee flight, and white wax either seen as burr comb on the top bars or as the comb surface as it is capped. However, as anyone can surmise, most of these activities actually involve opening the hive and inspecting the bees, not sitting behind a computer. Furthermore, if your hive swarmed, then this would have a great effect on how much honey your hive could collect and how many supers a beekeeper would need to add.
I think that all beekeepers, especially new ones, need to understand that the way to learn about bees is through experience in front of an open hive. Sure I have heard, and it does have merit, that opening a hive does disturb the bees. But to be successful, you need to learn firsthand. Open the hive and make each time a learning experience. As my teacher and major professor, Dr. Alfred Dietz, told me on many occasions. “Don’t worry about it; if you do something wrong the bees will let you know.”
by Les Crowder
I, too, have been a beekeeper for 40 years, a state bee inspector, etc. etc. I have watched beekeeping and agriculture go through many changes. One of these is IPM, integrated pest management. IPM has adopted many of the practices of organic farming, inasmuch as many pests can be controlled with mechanical and biological means. When these methods are successful, one need not resort to chemicals.
However, IPM is a continuum, which responds directly to pest levels. If the method used is not working, one goes to the next level. For example, if you have mice in your house, IPM would start with mechanical and biological methods like mouse traps and cats. If that doesn’t work, you might go to rat bait. If that failed, you may have to tent the house. What you would not do is give up and live with a rodent infestation, or abandon the house.
Many of the treatment-free advocates are idealists. Idealism too exists on a continuum. At it simplest, it is the belief in a better world. But often it slides toward ideology. Fervent ideologies tend to attract people who want simple answers to hard problems. Just as IPM aims to be flexible and responsive to real world situations, one also can have an integrated attitude toward knowledge which is flexible, responsive and avoids ideology. Because ideology slides toward fanaticism.
Peter Loring Borst
Beers Settlement, NY
Playing with the Winter Sun — Solarizing Hives to Reduce Winter Losses
The following information may be of interest to beekeepers living in zone 6 or colder, where the rate of winter kill is high.
We know honeybee colonies can take the cold weather as long as they have a good population, plenty of food inside the hive, are free of serious disease and have a dry cavity. However, we see colonies entering winter in apparently good condition, dwindling or even dying in late winter. The long conﬁned life during winter may favor the development of health problems and the queen may fail or die of age or illness, when supersedure cannot take place. But a dead colony, with food inside the hive, in late winter, may also be the consequence of insufficient natural warming breaks during the long cold periods, when the colony turned weak. This further explains why the rate of winter losses gets higher with the latitude. Let me make this point clearer:
We know the bees adapt to cold weather by ....
Letters to the Editor - June 2014
June Cover Picture
I thought you might like to use these pictures in your magazine. I am a loyal reader. The artist’s name is Jill Sanders. She lives in Knoxville, TN.
I’ve attached a full sized picture of the hive that is 4MB. If you use it for the cover, I thought this might have the higher resolution you would need/want.
I own the hive, but Jill painted it for me. She is a great artist, and I’m sure she would be thrilled to see the picture on the cover.
Jill’s website is jsandersart.com. Her Facebook page is Jill Sanders Art. It would be great if you would mention these in the magazine so she could get some traffic from it.
I went to school from kindergarten through 12th grade with Jill. She is a class act. I got the idea to have her paint one of my beehives when I saw what an excellent job she did painting a rain barrel for a local charity.
I suddenly became aware recently of how the honey bee stores pollen.
As one can see, there are two different positions shown. For the pellets lying on the sides, the different layers can be identified and one can count the number of trips required to make one pellet. When the end view is shown, one can observe the hexagonal shape.
Perhaps others have made these observations, but I have never seen such pictures before.
Lawrence A. DuBose
Carol Stream, Illinois
Change Management - Save Bees
The exact number of people who have bees in Iowa, and other states, is unknown but maybe Iowa’s State Apiarist, Andy Joseph may have an estimated figure.
Within that number are a few that are qualified beekeepers. They have earned that distinction by managing honey bee colonies to survive Iowa’s rigorous winters with a minimum of loss. It is being proved even with more difficulties in beekeeping.
After the initial start of getting colonies organized, which requires the feeding of sugar syrup, they managed colonies to produce their own food and eliminated the feeding of syrup. Most colonies are provided two brood chambers for producing bees and storing honey for the months of dearth when no source of nectar or pollen is available.
Even though queen excluders are used above the two brood chambers, 99 percent of colonies will need additional full combs of honey for winter. Those surplus combs of honey can be produced by allowing some colonies to fill the full depth hive body with honey that can be reserved for the purpose of bringing all colonies designed to winter up to weight.
There will be some smaller amounts of honey to process and sold, BUT it will eliminate the need to make arrangements, work and expense of feeding sugar syrup.
Fair colonies can be produced by feeding sugar syrup, BUT not the healthiest of bees. Honey is a perfect diet for bees. It produces healthy bees which can better stand the environment of today’s contamination.
Now about finding the proper balance of stores for the colonies to be wintered with a quick view of the combs from the top, it appears they are full of honey. Upon closer examination, it is found that some of the combs are only partly filled. Counting each comb would help, but would be a lot of work and time consuming. The hefting of each hive is quite inadequate. A completely filled upper chamber with honey would assure that there was enough honey. But, three combs of open cells need to be placed in the upper chamber in September. That is where bees prefer to cluster on the open cell combs.
The only way to make sure there is the right amount of honey stores is the use of a scale. This doesn’t mean placing every hive on a platform scale needlessly. The scale pictured is the only sure way to make sure that there is the correct amount of stores, not too much or too little.
All hives should be placed on 2” X 4” pieces, 42 inches long. Either the flat way or made into H frames. This allows the scale hook to fit firmly under the side of the
Lift each side of each hive and add the total. That gives you the near exact weight of the hive. If the total weight is 100 pounds, then three combs may be needed to bring the hive up to needed weight. In Central Iowa it was found we needed each hive to weigh 115 to 120 pounds. After a couple of years, you will have determined the wieght needed to last until some sources of nectar and pollen are available in the late April.
Colonies having the proper amount of stores and given all other provisions for winter, including Styrofoam fit in the inner cover and wrapped in black asphalt paper will be in condition that brood equalization can provide extra combs of brood and bees for making up a few lost colonies OR increasing numbers. We found that during the daylight hours it was 30 degrees warmer under the asphalt paper than the outside temperature.
Enough of this done throughout the Midwest would eliminate the need to import the thousands of packaged bees that are now being used for replacements. Maybe the day will return when queens would again be available from California or the South in early April—the desirable time to make up additional colonies. There should be enough honey left for all single brood chamber colonies after equalizing the brood.
Now for a scale: All that is needed is two pieces of 1” X 8” board for a base. Cross the grains to prevent splitting. Two pieces of 2” X 2”: One 24” the other 32” Fasten the 24” upright to the base with 4 pieces of metal strap 12” long. Bend down 2” to bolt onto the base using all 1/4 inch bolts. Four 1/4 inch bolts hold the strap to the upright piece. Cut the top of the upright piece at a 45 degree angle. Fasten the lever to the upright about 8 inches from the end with a 5 inch strap hinge. At the end of the lever place an eye bolt which will hold the swivel snap attached to the scale. The scale is the expensive part, but well worth it. It takes only about 30 seconds to weigh each hive which tells you a lot. One that weighs 160 pounds has too much honey and upon checking, you will find too little brood in September and will be short of bees that will be needed to survive the winter.
Beekeepers fashion all kinds of reasons, or excuses, for extreme losses of colonies, especially during the winter. The latest has been the extremely cold winter. Cold has little or no effect on bees as long as they have plenty of honey. The major problem is neglect and mismanagement. A little special attention paid each colony takes very little time, but pays big dividends.
Iowa State Apiarist, emeritus
908 N. Highway 69
Huxley, IA 50124
Hive Boxes Make Handy Tool Shelves
I’ve been busy building bee equipment this spring, and like many other beekeepers, I have been using hive boxes for shelves and worktables, among other things. I have photos of several examples. When using tools, I dislike keeping them on the ground. Mostly because I am over six feet tall, and am too lazy to continually bend over. Hive boxes can be arranged to almost any height, and are readily available. When my younger daughter Michelle headed off to college, she packed along several hive boxes, and used them as shelves and a TV stand. They make a nice worktable in the beeyards, and with careful placement, can be used as a step to get up to the truck bed. Although not OSHA approved, I have heard that they could be used to reach a light bulb for changing, or to see inside the top of the honey settling tank. I thought that this could help other beekeepers with ideas for making life easier.
Andy Hemken, Beekeeper
Big Bend, Wisconsin
Letters to the Editor - May 2014
I’ve attached two versions of a photograph that I took today while working in our backyard apiary in Oak Ridge, TN. I’ve been feeding our bees a little extra carbohydrate in the form of a semi-solid sugar candy that I refer to as semi-fondant. While inspecting the hives I noted the workers in this hive busily siphoning up the semi-fondant while shredding the paper plate it was placed on as they go. Notice the shredded plate to the left, but especially to the right of center of the banner formatted image.
Buzzy Bee Apiary
Oak Ridge, TN
Beekeepers Must Move Bees
Last fall the EPA published a new pesticide label originally for the foliar application of four neonicotinoid pesticides. By December, the EPA stated this new pesticide label language would be “harmonized” across all chemistries. The label was meant to protect pollinators.
The Pollinator Stewardship Council with the Bee Industry, sought a response from EPA’s Assistant Administrator clarifying our concerns with the new label. The Pollinator Stewardship Council received an answer from EPA, and Mr. Dave Hackenberg, representing the National Honey Bee Advisory Board, received a different letter from EPA (even though both groups along with AHPA and ABF signed the original letter).
The Office of Investigations for EPA stated in a letter to the Pollinator Stewardship Council, they will review our concerns and “a determination will be made as to the most appropriate course of action.” In the response to Mr. Hackenberg, Assistant Administrator Jones clarifies that contrary to the December EPA webinar this new label language is for the “four products formulated with the four nitroguanidine neonicotinoid chemicals (clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, and thiamethoxam) as well as two recently registered as active ingredients: tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole.” These last two pesticides are an addition to the original label adjustments presented August 15, 2013 by EPA for foliar applied neonics only. As to the concerns beekeepers expressed about the five conditions listed on the label past the “do not apply statement:” EPA stated to Mr. Hackenberg, “Both of the foregoing prohibitions, however, are subject to the exception listed in the “unless . . .” clause.” “. . . application would be legal if one of the five conditions is met . . .”
The bee industry has its answer: any harm that comes to a beekeeper’s managed colonies due to a foliar application of clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, tolfenpyrad, and cyantraniliprole is the responsibility of the beekeeper. If bees are damaged or die due to a foliar application of a those products during bloom, and the application was made based on one of the five conditions, the fault of bee deaths lies with the beekeeper. Beekeepers must move their bees. No clarification was provided by EPA on what constitutes notifying a beekeeper to move their bees, if a State has a voluntary apiary registry program, or for the loss of a honey crop or crop pollination if bees are to be moved. The cost of time, labor, and loss of honey crop will be shouldered by the beekeeper.
The Pollinator Stewardship Council has attached an analysis of the new pesticide label. While EPA has clarified the “conditions” will supercede the “do not apply” statement, the label still has undefined terms, features an icon that defies culturally accepted warnings, and native pollinators will continue to be harmed and killed. Again, the EPA now states the new label will only be required for foliar applications of clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, and the two new products tolfenpyrad and cyantraniliprole.
The Pollinator Stewardship Council encourages beekeepers to document their costs due to moving bees in relation to this new label language for foliar applications of clothianidin, dinotefuran, imidacloprid, thiamethoxam, tolfenpyrad, and cyantraniliprole. Also, document if and when you are notified to move your bees.
The Pollinator Stewardship Council is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to defend managed and native pollinators vital to a sustainable and affordable food supply from the adverse impact of pesticides. For more information about the Pollinator Stewardship Council visit www.pollinator
Note: From the EPA’s EFED Risk Assessment of 2013, page 4, Cyantraniliprole, IRAC group 28, “is a systemic, broad-spectrum insecticide that belongs to the diamide class of chemistry.”
Tolfenpyrad, IRAC group 21 “is a broad-spectrum pyrazole insecticide/miticide. It acts by impairing energy metabolism in the target pest . . . including cessation of movement, lack of fecundity, and eventual death of the pest.” (Page 3, EPA’s unconditional registration document for tolfenpyrad)
Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc.
P.O. Box 304
Perkinston, MS 39573
Bee Forage Network Developed
As a beekeeper for the past five years in Vermont, one of the most frequent questions I’ve been asked is “When do I super my hives?” Over the past several weeks I’ve been playing with a reporting tool that might help beekeepers, especially new beekeepers, learn when the time is right to super their hives.
The Bee Forage Network is a free service for Vermont beekeepers that graphically presents local blooming conditions of bee-friendly plants based on reports submitted by volunteer observers.
The site, available at BeeForage.com presents local forage conditions in a manner similar to pollen reports. Local observers - like weather spotters - can report flora in bloom and update the site from their smartphones or tablets in real time using a simple app that allows for the selection of regional forage plants. Reports can include photos and video to assist beekeepers in identifying plants in bloom. The mapped data is available for viewing online as it is entered. Participants can then elect to receive email or text alerts so they will know when certain plants are blooming in their area. Reports can be submitted anonymously or users can create a free site account which offers greater management control.
The Bee Forage Network was created in response to a question as to when beekeepers should place honey supers on their hives in the spring. The site aims to assist new beekeepers who have difficulty identifying when plants bloom during the course of the season. It is helpful to know when this occurs because beekeepers use this information to manage their hives.
The site was developed using the Open Source Ushahidi interactive crisis-mapping platform. “Ushahidi”, which means “testimony” in Swahili, was a website initially developed to map reports of violence in Kenya after the post-election fallout at the beginning of 2008. The Ushahidi platform is now being used worldwide in support of a variety of political and environmental issues.
While currently available for Vermont beekeepers, the site can easily be expanded to include data from other states if there is interest. Future plans call for weather overlays and integration with hive scales. In addition to being a teaching tool the Bee Forage Network could serve the historical record as a possible indicator of changing climate as the reporting database grows. It could also help promote the importance of maintaining forage for pollinators.
4740 Route 30
Cornwall, VT 05753
Hive Box Decorating Contest
Looking to add a touch of fun to your local beekeeping meetings? The Fort Bend County Beekeepers in Texas held a [bee] box decorating contest with great success. Kids, Teens and Adults all had a category and 23 entries were submitted. The club gave place ribbons, ‘Lil-Smoker” Trophies and gift certificates from Dadant and Brushy-Mountain to the Champions. Member Jack Richardson spearheaded the competition exclaiming, “There is so much talent and imagination in our club.” Beekeepers from age 7 to 70 participated and every member got one vote per category. “We gave everyone a red, a white and a blue poker chip to vote for their favorite in each of the three age divisions. You dropped your chip in the bag sitting inside the box you liked best”, said Jack. “Participation was terrific and everyone was wearing a smile!”
Fort Bend Beekeepers
Bee Venom Therapy Clinical Trials
We will be recruiting patients until July 2014. Future news will likely come from our Chief Medical Officer, Anna Jakubowska M.D., MBA
Robert Brooks PhD, COO, Apimeds
Apimeds Launches a Phase III Clinical Trial for Osteoarthritis and Its Standardized Honeybee Venom
On January 6th Apimeds began screening US patients at 15 clinical sites for osteoarthritis of the knee with its standardized honeybee venom Apitox. The clinical trial excludes beekeepers, but if you know someone interested, the sites that are actively recruiting patients can be found on www.clinicaltrials.gov/Apitox.All contact information about Apimeds, Inc and its vendors can be found on the government website. The study will also enroll patients at sites in India for this clinical trial.
Apimeds is preparing a clinical trial with ...
Letters to the Editor - April 2014
April Cover Painting
I’ve titled the painting Golden Days. The painting is done on an old inner cover. My husband keeps bees and I’m a self taught artist. I love anything vintage, especially old trucks. My husband acquired that specific inner cover from an old beekeeper who had recently gotten out of it. When I saw it, I knew I wanted to paint a bee scene on it (that included an old Ford). The painting is available for sale for $100.
I do custom work at an affordable price and anyone can reach me at this email. My work can be viewed on my etsy shop at https://www.etsy.com/shop/Payntstar or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/Payntstar.
For prices on prints, you can contact my business email: email@example.com.
Port Allegany, PA
Starving Bee Sponges, Bee Aware of Triclosan!
Reference: Starving Bees!, pages 149-152, February, 2014 ABJ article.
Common kitchen sponges labeled “antibacterial” are likely to be impregnated with Triclosan, an antibacterial-antifungal ingredient with a known toxicity to fish, frogs and test mice. These antibacterial cellulose sponges should not be used in baggies for feeding sugar syrup to your bees as it is unknown whether or not it is toxic to them. Currently, the FDA believes it is safe for humans in its current use in cosmetics, hand soaps, household cleaning products, etc. to combat bacteria. However, it is reviewing new information on Triclosan and possible toxicity to humans.
A trip to any grocery store, (not a health food store), found it impossible for me to find sponges not labeled “antibacterial” although Triclosan was not listed on the label. I must assume it is Triclosan, as it is the cheapest and most commonly used antibacterial in such products.
So . . . a simple inexpensive solution to the antibacterial sponge problem is to use “grout” sponges found at any home improvement store near the masonry supplies. These are small celled usually polyester sponges that hold twice as much liquid as common kitchen sponges, (a plus for the feeding project). Use a utility knife to cut the super large sponge into smaller sizes to fit the baggie and continue on as I have instructed.
Thanks to Michael Jaross of Mt. Baker Beekeepers Association for bringing this to my attention.
Mississippi Bee Stewardship Program
I wanted to share with you the quick status of an ongoing effort here in Mississippi concerning the pollinator/pesticide issue.
Many of you may know that Andy Whittington, our MFBF Environmental Programs Coordinator, has recently been appointed to serve on EPA’s Pesticide Policy Dialogue Committee. Andy is representing the American Farm Bureau Federation in this position.
In an effort to be proactive on this issue, Mississippi Farm Bureau® arranged several meetings with the Mississippi Beekeepers Association, the Mississippi Agricultural Aviation Association, the Mississippi Agricultural Consultants Association, the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi State University Extension Service, and row crop farmers to develop a plan where all parties recognize the need to coexist together and outline some basic standards on how to achieve a cooperative relationship that minimizes any adverse effects to beekeepers and at the same time does not put a producer at risk of yield loss. An additional component of the program is the creation of the “Bee Aware” flag (see attached image). Our goal is for it to become so common place that you will never pass one on a turn row of a grower field where you don’t think about bees and producers will take precautions if preforming any activity that might be detrimental to hives.
Recently, a document and plan was adopted by all parties and will create a very important foundation for problem solving at the local level through education and stewardship. Our next steps in this program are to develop a brochure/flyer/communication piece that we will promote to our beekeepers, row crop producers, and other stakeholders and begin this communication effort.
Again, we simply wanted to make you aware of this effort. We will need your support in working with producers and industry to emphasize the importance of this program. Hopefully this will be a successful effort that we can provide to EPA as a great example of the cooperation that can exist between beekeepers and farmers to better protect our bee population.
If you have any questions, feel free to contact us.
Commodity Coord.- Cotton, Rice, & Soybeans
Regional Manager-Region One
MS Farm Bureau Federation
As part of a biology class from Carroll University in nearby Waukesha, Wisconsin, I have been conducting a two-hour lecture on beekeeping biology, followed by an hour out in my backyard beeyard of around 70 beehives. I teach the students about honeybee biology and behavior, and give them an up-close look at the honeybees in the hive. I demonstrate the sting response of the honeybees, outlining the mechanism and the specifics. At the point of the sting on my forearm, the instructor snapped this photograph of her students, and the reaction is priceless. After two years of bringing her classes out to our operation, the instructor, Danielle Greer, and her husband, Andy, are now set to start two beehives of their own.
Andy Hemken the Bee Guy
Big Bend, Wisconsin
Beekeeper in Training
At four years old, Tommy Dotterweich is already a beekeeper in training. He often joins his mom at Marshy Point Nature Center in Baltimore MD, where she works as a naturalist. Together they care for the bees in the nature center’s apiary. Children and families visit Marshy Point to learn about honey bees and the important role they play in pollination. Tommy is eager to share his love of bees with visitors.
Letters to the Editor - March 2014
Wrapped for Winter
North Liberty, Ind.-The thousands of honey bees in each of these hives can snuggle up thanks partly to warmth inducing black tar-paper wrappings on each hive helping them also to survive the winter.
Wrapping is just one action taken to sustain some 90% survival of my colonies the past two winters.
Here is a check-list of some other actions taken:
- Insulating inside over the inner cover flush with 2” Styrofoam, cutting an air channel from the inner cover hole to the 3/8” x 3/4” opening at front of inner cover for ventilation.
- Leaving ample stores of honey, using the three-deep hive body system (*) for food and early spring population build-up. No nutrition-short corn syrup or sugar water is necessary.
- Breeding from our area’s survival stock. No imported stock from out of our area.
- Avoiding use of chemicals.
- Assuring in-hive water availability during the flight season.
Benefits of these efforts include far above average honey crops and hive survival, both exceptions to media horror stories of colony collapse.
(*)The year around three-deep hive body system, although expensive initially due to cost of 10-frame hive bodies and giving up a first time investment in honey not taken, is a practice perfected by Tim Ives, North Liberty beekeeper.
North Liberty, IN
Beekeeping Among the Redwoods
I read with interest the article entitled “Beekeeping in the Shadow of the Redwoods” in the January issue of American Bee Journal. I lived for ten years in the Central Valley of California and the coast redwoods was my favorite place to go on short vacations. The redwood trees are awe-inspiring and one of God’s greatest creations. My wife loves the ocean so there was something there for both of us.
I worked for Wenner Honey Farm during package season in 1979 to 1981. Clarence Wenner still had some queens from a race of bees obtained in the coast redwood country. These bees were very black, somewhat ill tempered, very nervous and ran when you opened the hive, and prone to American foulbrood. That was their bad qualities. These hives would shrink to an extremely small population for overwintering, but would grow explosively in the spring. They would regularly have a mother and daughter queen in the same hive. I can recall having a mother queen on one side of a frame and a daughter queen on the other side of the same frame. Clarence sold some of these queens and he said that they performed fantastically up in Alaska.
Four years ago, I was visited by a hobby beekeeper who lives in the Eureka area. He told me that he had caught some swarms that were much the same as the bees that Clarence Wenner had. He also said that he killed the queens because the overwintering population was so small that he thought that they were weak queens. So, probably these bees still exist. Though there was no mention of these bees in the article about Mr. Oostra, I thought that this information might be interesting. Perhaps Kees Oostra may run across these bees. They may be worth propagating and have something to contribute to the gene pool of bees in North America.
David Ellingson, Ortonville, Minnesota, shows off his 2013 Harley Street Glide, with a paint job designed by himself. The front and sides reflect a honey and beekeeping theme. Dave parked his motorcycle in the exhibit hall at the January American Beekeeping Federation convention in Baton Rouge.
How are the Bees Doing?
I, like many other new beekeepers, for some unknown reason during the winter months (here in Ohio) have an insatiable curiosity to know if the bees are still alive or if they have enough food to make it through the long, cold winter (it is -13F, as I write this letter). As a result, we often “crack” the hives to take a peek - often at the detriment of the bees - assuming, of course, they are still alive.
My son suggested we assess the bees’ health using his Infrared (IR) camera using the logic that if the bees are alive, they would be clumped together producing heat which would show up on a thermal scan. The picture below showing our two hives (a rock atop each) clearly shows a clump of bees, which are producing heat (i.e., they are alive!) in each hive. No need to sneak a peek!
The other apiary photo shows the six hives of our beekeeping instructor and mentor, Mike Pittman (and a thermal picture of Mike, as well). Unfortunately, only one of Mike’s six hives shows any sign of heat being generated by a living clump of bees. There is a slim chance that some of the five remaining “dark” hives may still have a clump of bees, whose heat did not register on the thermal camera, which may re-emerge in the spring, but the chances are slim indeed.
Letters to the Editor - February 2014
“Plant These to Help Save Bees”
My name is Hannah Rosengren and I am writing to submit my illustration, “Plant These to Help Save Bees” for consideration to be printed in your upcoming February issue.
I am a recent graduate of Maine College of Art and am still residing and working on the coast of Casco Bay here in Maine. Reflecting back on my college work and deciding what to make since graduation, I realized I wanted to focus on pieces that were not just aesthetically appealing but also meaningful to me personally. My growing understanding of Colony Collapse Disorder, a love of botanical illustration and an interest in horticulture inspired this piece.
Originally I posted the piece on tumblr with little response, but was suddenly overwhelmed by a surge of thousands and thousands of shares along with requests for prints and even an email from Spain sending thanks and admiration. I’m very pleased that this issue is important to so many. I have since been making prints (in multiple languages) and have been looking for publications and venues to spread the word to. I found American Bee Journal and was fascinated by your history and knowledge base. I would love to be part of your next issue.
Survivor Stock from Feral Colonies?
I was reading through your December issue of ABJ when I came across the Letter to the Editor entitled “Test Yourself - Raising Queens from Survivor Stock.” The letter threw me back a little. Its main point (to keep track of the age of your queens, and don’t believe everything you hear about others saying they have the longest living queens), is well taken. However, you do have to realize the irony in the fact that the article enforced that others be skeptical when someone says they have the longest living queens . . . and then proceeds to tell others about how HE has the longest living queens. A little “pot and kettle” going on, all be it probably unintentional.
The main reason why I was taken back by the article, however, was because it talked about the use of “survivor stock” and “feral colonies.” I find this topic to be fraught with inaccuracies, in general, this article included. Survivor stock is not a defined term. All it means is that you have stock that has survived. All stock has survived, or it wouldn’t be there anymore. To say that it survived treatment free, or management free, maybe. But that’s not what Survivor stock indicates. Just that it has survived. It’s very misleading to represent your stock that way, at least when you are trying to promote your stock or your method of beekeeping. It’s about the same as calling a company “green.” Sure it’s green, probably greener than the neighboring company. But how green is it? Who knows. It’s promotional anyway.
Apart from the use of the term “survivor”, the author also appears to incorrectly, at least in my opinion, define feral colonies. The article, while it doesn’t directly say so, indicates that the source of his colonies are from cut outs and swarms that existed for “years” without any treatments or interventions from man. Not really true. Most studies that have been done on feral colonies have found they only live in one location for a year, sometimes a few, before they die out. A study in New Zealand watched, I believe, 12 feral colonies over the course of a year, that were identified by locals to have been at their location for over 10 years. One year after beginning to watch them, all 12 colonies had died. Seeley also tracked feral colonies in the forest outside Cornell University over an admittedly longer period of time, and found that between two observations, no colony occupied the same location more than once. Meaning every location that Seeley first recorded a colony at, was no longer alive when he returned.
And yet the myths of feral colonies living in trees for “decades” lives on. Why? It’s simple. Someone sees a bee colony living in a tree (usually with activity in the spring). If the colony dies that winter, that local wouldn’t know it until they didn’t see activity the next spring. By then, another swarm could easily move in. To the onlooker, it appears to be the same colony, so must still be alive, when in actuality that colony came from a newly issued swarm (i.e. not new). If a swarm doesn’t move into that tree one spring, and remains empty, would the person notice? Probably not, unless they were recording or doing a study on the tree (which I have yet to have found a non-beekeeper do).
So most of the time these feral colonies haven’t been “chemical free” or “treatment free” or “management free” for _____ years. They haven’t been anything free for _____ years as they haven’t existed that long (or worse, they keep dying in that location, showing they can’t “survive” anything). And where did those “feral” colonies come from? The managed hives right down the street. So why spend the time finding the “feral” colonies? Why not just cut out the middle man and split your own hives from current stock? Makes sense to me.
In the end, the author’s queens lived longer than the person he was comparing them to. Why? No one knows. Not you, not me, not the author. He can speculate as to the reason, and give (at least what I believe to be) an inaccurate cause and effect relationship for it. But in the end no one knows.
Streams of Gold
As an experiment, I snapped this picture with my extractor running at full speed. I was very pleased to get this shot of strands of honey flying across the gap between the frame’s top bars and the extractor wall. I thought some readers might like to see it too.
Letters to the Editor - January 2014
Build Your Own Label Holder
I have spent years positioning my rolls of labels on any surface that is handy, while bottling honey. Time spent orienting the labels the best I can, and constantly moving the rolls to keep them in the right position. No more.
Using materials that are readily available, I built a label holder over the course of several months. Sometimes things move slower when a project is not in the “front burner”.
Most of our label stock comes on 3'' rolls. I used 2'' PVC pipe to form the upright and the rack itself. I put the upright in the vice and used a 2-3/8'' hole saw to better cut the curved cradle. The rack piece is about 10'' long, and holds several rolls of labels at a time. The rack is solvent welded to the upright. I cut several 2'' disks out of some scrap plastic in the workshop, and solvent welded them on each end. I raised these up about ¼'', so that the label rolls are easy to load and unload, but would stay on during use.
For the base, I picked up some scrap ¾'' PVC plate from our local plastic supply house. I cut this to a 10'' x 12'' size, rounded the corners, and routed a nice radius on the upper edge. I then used my 2-3/8'' hole saw to cut a hole in the center. The upright can then be solvent welded in place. This can be painted to dress it up.
The label rack can be washed, and is very stable. We can pull off labels, and the unit doesn’t move. This can be built out of painted wood, but I wanted mine to be more food safe. I hope that this helps with your bottling efforts, and may give you some ideas on how you can do things in your operation.
Andy Hemken, Bee Guy
Since 1977 I have subscribed to the American Bee Journal without having missed a single issue. What has kept me such a steady subscriber is the quality of articles in your publication. Clearly the best of the articles is the series contributed by Randy Oliver. And some of his articles are worthy of regular reprinting in the ABJ, particularly the three-part Fat Bees which appeared six years ago. Mr Oliver should be encouraged to continue his contributions. This will help keep the ABJ truly “The Beekeeper’s Companion.”
Daddy’s Little Beekeeper
While out of town on business this fall I asked my wife to have my 7-year old feed the bees. He suited up in my jacket and veil and went to work. My wife captured this image. Pretty cute; we thought we’d share.
Sustainability in Beekeeping
I really enjoyed the article “Sustainability in Beekeeping” by Lawrence Connor in the November, 2013 issue of the “American Bee Journal”, as I do all of Mr. Connor’s articles.
I have a question specially for Mr. Connor and generally for all the other beekeeping experts out their in the fields, “How does a small beekeeper who depends on package bees, usually from California, get survivor stock for their local area(s) so they can practice sustainable beekeeping?” It seems to me that my biggest challenge is getting that package through their first winter, that is not in sunny California!
I get most of the sustainable practices, but I struggle to get my packages to survive their first winter.
Is there a better way of doing this?
Thank you. I really enjoy the ABJ and its great articles.
Frank D Gunseor
Dr. Connor responds
Mr. Gunseor raises a question many beekeepers have been forced to address over the past few decades, since the introduction of parasitic mites and the widespread use of miticides to control them. While there have been programs that produce mite-tolerant stocks, they have not been the total answer for all beekeepers.
Regardless of where you obtain package bee colonies in the spring, you face the same facts of life of package bee production in the United States. First, there is an enormous demand for package bees each season, with tens of thousands of package bees going to individual states from a small number of producers. It seems the number of package bee producers is shrinking, while the demand is growing with the new flood of new beekeepers that have appeared over the past six or seven years.
Second, this demand is for packages early in the year, putting the producers under tremendous pressure to produce early queens. It is my opinion that most queen producers know how to produce a well-raised queen, but they fail to produce an adequate supply of vigorous drones containing a large number of viable sperm. The reasons for this are many: First, I do not think that these queen producers supply enough drones within the mating areas of the queen yards, either through lack of knowledge of how many drones it takes to mate with a queen, or their inability to produce early drones and sustain drone production throughout the season. This problem of a general drone shortage is increased by the absence of a large feral population of colonies, poor drone rearing conditions (cold weather in the South, rainy weather in California) and the pressure on these colonies to produce large numbers of worker bees for the packages. You cannot shake a colony for bees and expect drone production to be a maximum level. Nor can you expect two or three colonies at the end of a thousand-colony mating yard to produce adequate drones for mating.
Miticides are a fact of life of commercial beekeepers, yet there is very clear data showing the negative impact on drone production and viable sperm production. USDA and University studies show that certain miticides are hard on queen production, drone production and viable sperm production in hives. Drone larvae must be well fed with carbohydrates and pollen in order to form sperm. They cannot be exposed to many common miticides during this formative stage. Then, when the drone emerges from the cell, he must feed on pollen for the sperm to move from the testes to the seminal vesicles. High levels of high nutrient pollen are essential for good drone production.
To address Mr. Gunseor’s key question: “How does a small beekeeper who depends on package bees, usually from California get survivor stock for their local area(s) so they can practice sustainable beekeeping.”
First, stop using package bees if you are able. While nucleus colonies (nucs) are not without their own set of problems, starting colonies with nuclei increases your success in getting at least one through the winter. Many beekeeping clubs address this concern head on by providing pairing of new beekeepers with existing members who are able to provide bees for a nucleus or two in the spring. They also are setting up local queen rearing operations. Unfortunately, these efforts are only successful in providing thousands of colonies per year, not the tens of thousands that are needed.
Second, as I outlined in my book Bee-sentials: A Field Guide (Connor and Muir, www.wicwas.com), keeping two hives provides a safety net for queen or bee failure in the other colony. This past summer I worked with a group of Western Michigan University undergraduates and we set up six nuclei colonies that quickly grew into booming colonies able to produce six nucleus colonies in the early summer. While not all were successful, the nuclei provided queens for two of the initial colonies when they experienced a queen loss (natural or human cause). This case for two and a half hives for every new beekeeper makes a great deal of sense, and I suggest new beekeepers let the bees keep most or all of the honey they produce their first season, although the WMU students harvested about 180 pounds from the six colonies. Beekeepers who used package bees in the area did not have this success. One could argue that the key difference was my role as an advisor-mentor to these students, but I would reply that we started out with very good nuclei colonies and that made all the difference. No amount of experience will undue the damage of a group of low-quality queens from a package bee producer.
Finding large numbers of mite-tolerant bees is a challenge. They are out there. Start with the USDA supported programs with the VSH and Russian queen programs. I plan to add Russian stock to my bees in 2014 and will buy these queens to make nuclei. I have used VSH and stock from Sue Cobey in the past, and with good results. Look at various hygienic stocks available to you in your area. I have all but given up on southern raised Italian stocks that have not been selected for mite resistance. They built the US beekeeping industry in the last century, but they are not the best bee for the 21st Century.
In year 2014 we will reach the 27 year mark of having Varroa destructor in the United States. We know the use of miticides has delayed the development of natural resistance in the largest group of managed colonies in the country—the commercial and semi-commercial beekeeping operations that must use the chemicals to keep their colonies alive so they can pollinate almonds and other crops. As I travel around North America I notice that in those areas where there are no commercial beekeepers and migratory pollination requirements, there seems to be an increase in the survival of bee colonies and less reliance on miticides.
This gives me hope that Nature will eventually solve some of our problems if we as an industry cannot. Yet there are methods commercial and semi-commercial beekeepers can employ to increase mite tolerance, starting with the use of only stocks with documented mite tolerance. Yet the dominant view in the country seems to be to use chemicals but keep switching from molecule to molecule to avoid resistance developing in the mites. We would all be better off if we concentrated on developing resistance in the bees themselves.
The beekeeping industry has a dependence on miticides. We have a drug problem and we need to rehabilitate. Like all drug treatment programs, it will not be easy.
Larry Connor, Ph.D
Letters to the Editor - December 2013
Raising Queens from Survivor Stock
As the founder of many beekeeping clubs and the North Central Florida Beekeepers Association (www.floridabees.org), I mentor many new beekeepers who are just joining our ranks. This is a good thing and I encourage others to start new clubs in their area to help build up the numbers of beekeepers who are helping to maintain our precious honey bee populations.
Mentoring is a fun thing to do and it comes with many rewards and many more challenges. There are the unending repetitive questions that will always be asked by new beekeepers such as: when do I feed my bees; where should I place the hives, full sun or shade, high on a hill or in a valley? On and on it goes and it never will end as long as we can encourage new beekeepers to take up the craft and help us save our pollinators.
I try to steer new beekeepers away from blogs and internet sites where the beekeeper who has read a book is now an expert and will post some of the most ridiculous things about bees on their sites. Watching some of the videos with new beekeepers dressed in hazmat gear and using lots of smoke professing to be a pro makes me laugh. Watching them smash bees with their gloves or frame grippers is funny and sad at the same time. I guess many of them are embarrassed a few years later when they find out that what they wrote or posted was pure nonsense and his/her “opinion” may not have helped other beekeepers.
I teach new beekeepers that when they hear the “experts” state that if you have 5 beekeepers in a room you will get 20 opinions on any subject, run. This speaker is about to give you their opinion and it is worth what you want to give it.
We need to rely on facts and what has been proven to really work for our bees. For example: look at all the research that was produced in the last few years that told us how great chemicals were to place into our hives (bees) to get rid of pests, diseases, whatever ails you. Now the same researchers are admitting that they were wrong and all we have done is build stronger pests that have become more resistant to the chemicals. So now they say to change up your chemical cocktails until they can find out another “miracle cure”. It won’t
It also fascinates me how many will “invent” a special breed of bees or come up with a “special” bee that will take care of itself and you will never have problems with mites or disease again.
Yes, we have these pseudoscientists in just about every club I am associated with and it amazes me how they can really believe what they say. Some advertise they have the best bees anywhere and they usually try to get a high price for their “special” queens or bees.
Many years ago a new beekeeper told me she had developed queens that would live longer than any others she knew about. She offered to sell me some at a very high price and told me that if I used her queens my hives would flourish for many years. Having heard that from so many others, I challenged her to a test and I challenge you all to do this test yourself. It may save you some embarrassment down the line.
I asked her to let me mark five of her best queens and photograph them. Then, I invited her to mark five of my queens and photograph them. Now we kept track of the queens by emailing photos back and forth with the photos that could be enlarged to see that we had the same marked queens. (It is almost impossible to make two identical marks on a bee). I use whiteout as I can’t justify spending money on a marking pen that will dry out before I could ever use all the paint. They are good for clubs to buy so all the members can share it.
As the years went along, her queens died one at one year, two at two years, and two at three years.
Mine died one at two years, one at three years and two at five years, and the last one died just last year at five and a half years. And this old girl was one that I had used many times over the years in an observation hive doing public schools and other events. She really earned her keep.
Now why did my bees outlive hers? There is no way of really knowing, but managing hives has a lot to do with queen longevity and so does genetics and environment.
My bees come from chemical-free environments (as much as is possible these days) and I use no chemicals in my hives. These queens came from cut outs, trap outs, swarms from who knows where, but they have survived without man putting chemicals into the trees or buildings trying to control pests or disease. I believe my bees have become stronger because they had to survive on their own without anyone trying to help them. The daughter queens of two of the original queens were used in this experiment and they lived the longest.
Scientific research? No, but I cannot argue with the results.
So my challenge to you is to mark your queens and any that you raise and take photos of them. Now you can blow up the picture on your computer and track the ages of your queens and you may be surprised like so many new beekeepers that your “store bought” queens may only last a year or less.
My advice is to find a bee tree where you can get bees for free every year by using a bee vac. You don’t take the queen “usually” and the bees rebound very quickly. The bees you collect can be used to build up weak hives and save you from buying more bees.
When you can collect a swarm or do a cut out or trap out, you may find you have the best queen stock available for your area and now you can start your own research in how long you can keep your queens alive.
Raising queens from survivor stock can help you build up a strong apiary if you are willing to put in the work.
And, yes, you have to consider that you may bring in weak, diseased, or distressed bees into your apiary when you collect feral bees, but having an out yard to quarantine them is the way to go.
I hope you all have success with your bees and please let me know if you can keep a queen alive for more than five years. I am still trying.
PO Box 1895
Alachua, Florida 32616
Promoting Beekeeping Among FFA Members
I think I have something that we can all support and encourage in our own locales, regions, states and world…at least I hope so. One of my goals here is to see if we can get the strong primary educational outreach organization of traditional agriculture the National FFA Organization, previously known as the Future Farmers of America, to recognize more formally managed honey bees as a foundational part of food production and environmental health. In order to do that and make honey bees a recognizable and real part of their world, I have been asked by the FFA to see if “we” can encourage students to actively consider honey bees in their SAE (Supervised Agricultural Experience) projects. There are FFA Grants and resources available to encourage FFA students in SAE projects. I have been able to judge SAE projects in the past and the majority are not with honey bees. Last year, as one of many SAE judges, I judged only two.
I have been working to promote honey bee SAE’s in as many places as possible and I’ve personally sent the info to some chapters that I know are specifically involved with honey bees. However, the FFA would welcome any support in getting the word out. As background, the 2013 SAE Grant application was open until November 15. This year it is a web-based form through FFA’s Agricultural Career Network (accessed at www.ffa.org). All grant applications will be submitted electronically. More information can be found here: https://www.ffa.org/programs/grantsandscholarships/SAEGrants/Pages/default.aspx.
Could you find time to share this information with your organizations, peers and collaborators to contact any of your local regional or State FFA chapters and get the word out that Honey Bees are actually part of agriculture? Beekeeping is a large vital industry that is built around honey bees for pollination, honey production, queen production, equipment manufacturing and distributing, research and government. By doing this, you may be encouraging some of the next leaders and strengthening the world we love.
Letters to the Editor - November 2013
Good Practical Beekeeping Information
I’m writing to thank you for finding room in the ABJ for two articles by Randy Oliver. His article on overwintering is the sort of practical thing I appreciate reading, since it is based on real data, rather than anecdote. His long series on Sick Bees is also valuable to me, because of his factual, balanced and reasoned approach to the subject, as opposed to the rhetoric and shouting of other parties. Randy doesn’t settle for the quick and easy answer, but investigates the issue to its core.
I would also like to thank you for the recent couple of articles by T’Lee Sollenberger. She is another one who gives concrete, detailed information about the bees and beekeeping that can be applied or adapted by me, and gives me an actual picture of what it is to keep bees way across the country from me. I hope she is able to think up some other topics to write about.
Keep up the good work!
Big Agriculture, Love It or Leave It
Beekeepers are fond of calling themselves the angels of agriculture. Maybe more fitting would be the stepchildren. Early on, bee hives were seen as part of the farm, but by the late 1800s they began to get a bit too numerous. Some keepers in New York State had as many as 500 hives on their property. Fruit growers actually wanted the bees out of the orchards. First, there was the notion that bees damaged and even ate the fruit. While wasps will do this, domesticated honey bees prefer nectar from flowers and will only visit fruit that is already exposed.
Beyond that, orchardists were starting to get into trouble with the beekeeping organizations over poisoning due to sprays such as arsenic. It was easier to send them packing than to take the heat over being characterized as bee killers. Meanwhile, the great success of honey production in the late 1800s led to a crash in prices. Beekeepers got too good at what they did. Add to this adulteration and rumors of adulteration, and the business became far less profitable.
Things picked back up during the World Wars due to scarcity of food and especially sweets. But by the end of WWII, the honey business was right back where it was: vastly overproducing. The number of bee colonies in the US fell from approximately 6 million to 4 million in a decade – back to the number before the war. This changed when very large acreages of fruit and nuts became the rule in the western states. Bee hives were in demand for pollination, now recognized to be essential when vast areas of arid lands are converted to crops; pollination became a way to earn a living.
Beekeepers could now offset the vagaries of getting a honey crop, which depends largely on weather and crop rotations, things out of their control. Pollination provided a steady contracted source of income, since the farmers paid to have the hives in place before the bloom period. However, the contracts stipulated the hives be pulled out at petal drop, because the spray regimen had to recommence.
As agriculture boomed, so did crop protection chemicals. With the hue and cry over environmentally damaging pesticides, newer formulations were developed, some with unintended consequences. For example, microencapsulated chemicals seemed safer at first until it was discovered that bees would collect the pellets as if they were pollen and transport them back to the hive, where they would poison the nest. Rather than tackle the issue directly, a new approach was worked out: pay beekeepers for losses. Soon beekeepers were receiving large checks for dead hives, in some cases hives that had not had bees in them for years.
After this program was killed due to widespread fraud, beekeepers began to take advantage of the honey price support program. The US government would loan money based upon what honey “should” be worth, and then take the honey when the beekeepers “defaulted” on the loan. Some of that honey is probably still in warehouses somewhere. Beekeeping fell on hard times again in the 1990s. Price support ended and the number of beehives declined precipitously as a result of the invasive varroa mite. Add to this the importation of cheap honey from Third World countries and beekeepers began to go belly up. Fortunes changed again when the acreage of almonds in California grew so large that it necessitates almost all the migratory beekeepers in the US -- with their hives -- to be there in February.
However, this process of moving hives all over the country has not been without its toll. Beekeepers began to be aware of the very bad state of honey bee health, not only in the US but in Europe as well. The French were the first to blame it on pesticides, but beekeepers all over the world soon jumped on that bandwagon. Despite evidence that the health of honey bees has been severely damaged by parasites and pathogens, as well as the endless transcontinental trucking of hives, there is a renewed demand to ban insecticides. Either that, or provide subsidies again -- for dead hives. Beekeepers should stop and reconsider as they bite the hands that feed them.
Peter Loring Borst
Homemade Bee Blower Nozzle Hook
A number of beekeepers use a bee blower for evacuating the honeybees out of the honey supers, as well as blowing leaves off of the drive, and cleaning the workbench. As an ergonomics engineer, my job has been to identify problems, and to come up with preferably low-cost solutions. I noted that the nozzle on the blower whips around a lot when I set it down. Some years ago I bent up a small piece of strap iron, and fastened it to the nozzle with a hose clamp. Worked! I can now hook it on my pocket or belt, or hook it over the side of the hive body and it stays where I left it.
In carrying the blower, I could hook the nozzle on the carry handle, but that always places the plastic hose near the hot muffler exhaust. Sometimes against it. I normally loop the hose around the blower twice, so that it lays on the small plywood base. Another piece of strap iron made a loop, and used a longer bolt on the blower body to attach. Now I can carry the blower more easily, and the plastic blower hose rests away from the muffler. If you might have had these issues with your blower, you might try these tricks. Now off to the beeyard to take off honey.
Andy the Bee Guy
Wisconsin County Fair Beekeeping Exhibit
For the last six years we have volunteered to place a beekeeping exhibit at the kid’s barnyard at the Walworth County Fair in Elkhorn, Wisconsin. This occurs for six days over the Labor Day weekend, and the children’s area wins national awards for county fair exhibits. George Mrok is the organizer.
I set up a three-frame observation hive with one frame of honey, and two frames of emerging brood. This allows the hive to be self-sustaining for at least a week. The display is monitored, but generally stays for the whole fair. It was somewhat embarrassing the first year, when a little patch of small hive beetle larvae made an appearance.
We also collected a variety of honey products for use in a separate display. Honey, comb, beverages, fruit drinks, mead, beeswax and candles, powdered honey, honey candy and taffy, and some honey novelties. We also put out association brochures, beekeeping information and National Honey Board recipes. Members of the Walworth County Beekeeping Club manned a booth next to the display. This is a good way to inform the general public about beekeeping issues, and to recruit new beekeepers.
Andy the Bee Guy
Big Saskatchewan Crop
I’m sending you a picture of some of our beehives at the end of July. It will be close to a 350 lb average this year. The last extraction will be in the second week of September. We live 100 miles north off the U.S. border, in Midwest Saskatchewan, Canada.
Let me tell you ‘bout the Bears and the Bees (and the flowers and the trees)
Way back in the 70’s I lived in the Ozark National Forest like Mr. Natural. Outhouse, wood stove, water running into the kitchen sink from a spring up the hill. Lots of time, little money, and enough natural beauty to make your heart tremble. My wife and I, four kids, and a permanent guest from the rainbow family who showed up and never left. And Bees. Lots of bees.
It was a fine life, providing you loved hard work, low pay, and the forest. Being younger, the first didn’t bother me. Being idealistic, no money wasn’t a big problem. I mean, Jesus had no cash, right? And the forest...ahhh. The forest was right up there at the feet of God in my book. My temple.
Unfortunately, the temple had a few full time residents which at first seemed merely unique and colorful, but turned out to be a real hassle. One of these was Black Bears.To be fair, it wasn’t the bear’s fault that they were such a pain. Bears had been all but eradicated from the Ozarks in the past. Why? Because the people found them to be, as I said, a pain. But not just an ache, or a brief twinge of discomfort. No, we are not talking any downstream pain here, but rather a fullblown, raging, agonizing pain. How, you ask? What could be more innocent than a black bear in the woods? Ask that after he rips off your screen door, destroys the kitchen and all edibles, opens the fridge, and drinks all your beer. Pretty funny, eh? Ha. Oh, and did I mention? Bears like honey.
So, the people in the past 80 years or so got rid of most of the bears. Enter the U.S. Forest Service. To the USFS, not having lots of bears was somehow painful in itself. So, they introduced lots of bears to the forest.
At first Mr. Natural thought bears were really pretty cool, man. Like they do their thing in the woods, and it’s all cool. Our brothers. Then one day about 20 beehives, loaded with honey, got methodically WASTED, I mean trashed, dude. Stunned disbelief. Confusion. My brother? Did This? Let’s smoke one and think this out, man.
So the very next day I was wandering down the path to the outhouse, thinking this out, when this huge black hairy bulk came to my attention, right in front of the outhouse. WAAAAAH! It took about 2 seconds for disbelief to morph into indignation, which grew with amazing speed into anger, which manifested into me running back to the house yelling “get the shotgun!”
How quickly the fall from grace.
Well, the gun in question was an old single-shot shotgun. I stuffed a shell into it, ran back to the outhouse, and was met by the bear, who had apparently had enough of this nonsense and reared up on his hind legs at me. In a rage over my bees, I aimed the gun in his general direction and fired. He lunged at me as I tried in vain to eject the shell, which was stuck. I can remember my exact thoughts as he came at me. They were “Oh ****”. Then, just a few feet from me, he spun around and ran the other way! I think we are to be thankful for whatever comes our way, and suddenly my thoughts reflected this belief as I said, “Thank you Lord!” most fervently. Isn’t it funny how circumstances can alter our beliefs and actions? Anyway, the question was, What Happened?
We tracked the bear into a deep thicket a few hundred yards away. He lay dead. To make a long story short, we ate him. He was very large, maybe 600 pounds. I don’t really know exactly, but I do know we used a tractor to hoist him up to clean him and he was HEAVY. And when we cleaned him, we saw that the slug had passed directly through his heart. To this day I consider that if not for that lucky un-aimed shot, the one being eaten that day would have been me. I am not a hunter, and I hated the whole affair. But I will say that Brutus there fed a family of 7 people for one entire winter.
Letters to the Editor - October 2013
Keeping Mice Out of Stored Honey Supers with Queen Excluders
In the August Classroom issue there was a question on mice damage. The question was how to control or keep “mice” out of stored supers - honey or otherwise. May I add or clarify, that keeping mice out of stored combs is as simple as putting supers on queen excluders or flat surfaces, plus an excluder or weighted hive lid, commercial or plywood cut to size.
I thought this worthy for comment as mice can wreck a super of combs fast. d-Con Mouse Bait placed in storage room corners where mice may travel; or a mouser cat in some cases are also deterrents.
Wax moths can be controlled with 2 oz paradichlorobenzene crystals per 4 supers.
In response to your August 2013 American Bee Journal regarding the story of the Poling’s from West Virginia. I had to write. Being from Delaware, a beekeeper, and we grow melons, I want to tell Poling’s and other beekeepers that spray planes do NOT fly at night and all the melons and pumpkins are in bloom for three months and are sprayed several times. They are sprayed between 7 am and 10 am.
If sprayed in the evening or early morning, the chemical would be diluted by the heavy dew. At night it would be too dangerous to fly.
If your bees are in the woods in Delaware, they will get sprayed also. We (my children, chickens, ducks, bees & I) have been sprayed in our own backyard. When I complained to the person at the Dept. of Ag., who is in charge of pesticide licenses, he told me “everybody makes mistakes.” He also told me that he tells the spray planes to fly over the trees. In Delaware, that’s where our honey is made. I will also tell you, a spray plane always goes home empty, dumping the rest on trees.
I do not put my bees on melons, cukes, or pumpkins. I’ve found that those hives don’t make it through the winter.
Some Tips for Successful Beekeeping
I have had bees for 75 years, and I have learned a lot, both good and bad.
I put package bees in the hive different to what the sellers tell you. They say to release the queen cage and shake the bees into the hive. I get my hives ready before the bees come. Then, I place an empty hive body on top of the hives. I then take the package box and spray it with sugar water, take the queen cage out, and pull the cork out and put it in a corner of the hive. I have already put a jar of sugar water in one corner on the frames. I then take the package box and lay it on its side, take the can out, and put the lid on the hive. No lost bees in the air, and they have to go down through the hive to get outside. I leave the feeder jar on for four or five days, and then I go back and remove the jar, queen cage and top hive body and put the lid on. No lost bees in the air, and they are all in the hive. This is transferring the bees from one box without losing any bees.
I had a skunk problem in one of my bee yards. I didn’t want to trap them. So, I tried something else. I have run skunks out from under houses with mothballs. I put a handful of mothballs under the hives in this yard. Don’t put them in the hives. I watched these hives to see if the bees left the hives, but they stayed. I have no skunk damage and no wax moth damage. I have never had any problems with hive beetles either.
I had a hive that was being robbed out. So I got an entrance guard and cut a slot in the top board about two inches long and one half inch deep. Then, I cut screen wire to cover the queen excluder part and stapled it up on both sides. I put it on the hive and the robbing stopped in about an hour. You can put it in backward, and you will have them closed up so you can move them.
I don’t use smoke on my bees anymore. I use sugar water and spray the frames when I take the lid off. If the inspector came to my home and opened the door and started blowing black smoke on me, I would run him off. I think the bees feel the same way. If he opened my door and gave me a big bag of candy, I would say, “Help yourself.”
When I catch a swarm, I spray them with sugar water. Then, I rub the spot where they were with Honey Robber, and they won’t go back and will go into the hive.
If I have ants getting in the hives, I go get some fresh grown peppermint and put two sprigs on the top of the frames. The ants will leave and won’t come back. It will work in the kitchen too.
This last tip is the best one because it deals with me. About 12 years ago I bought a little book titled, “Honey: The Gourmet Medicine” by Joe Traynor. It said beekeeper’s honey will remove cataracts and improve your vision. It said to put a drop of honey on your forefinger and put it in your lower eyelids at night before going to bed. I did this for three weeks and my vision came back. I can see
to read and drive at night, and I can see the queen’s eggs in the cells. It has really brought my vision back. It is worth a lot to me.
If I can help anyone with their questions, give me a call.
1347 Granby Miners Rd
Granby, MO 64844
I’ve been keeping bees and selling honey for about 35 years. In ABJ Volume 146, number 2, the Classroom answer to a question about liquefying honey leaves out the easiest, cheapest, and safest way to liquefy honey that is already bottled. I wanted to pass this tip on because I’m convinced that beekeepers are typically devoted to frugality and saving energy.
All you need to do is place the jars in the sun on a mostly clear day. If you have a flat surface in a vehicle, you can also park it in the sun on a mostly clear day, close all windows, and leave the honey in there for awhile. The glass captures the solar energy like a greenhouse and the honey will be quickly liquefied. I prefer this method with glass, as plastic under any kind of heating can leach BPA and/or other toxins into the contents, in this case, our precious honey.
For periods of extreme cold, consider solar ovens which, of course, have wonderful advantages for cooking our food as well. Various styles can be found through an online search or one can build something themselves. Just be careful if it is very sunny, even in winter, since the honey can overheat.
Providing Water For Bees
North Liberty, Ind. - “Why did the bees stop visiting my bird bath?” was the question from my neighbor Karen.
My answer: My bees who visited her bird bath in the past no longer had to leave their hives to get water because I was supplying each hive so it would have water on a 24/7 basis.
The need to supply bees with water became apparent last year when I saw many of my bees desperately visiting truck ruts filled with run-off water likely containing unknown pollutants.
Providing tested water from my family’s well would certainly fill the bees’ needs for water. The challenge was to find a way to do it.
I decided to provide each hive with its own source, using a five-pound glass jar with small lid perforations mounted on a Boardman feeder at the entrance of each hive. The bees took to it immediately. It has become necessary to refill each jar about every 10 days (only water…no added chemicals, medications or sweeteners, please!).
Once set-up, refilling the empty jars for a limited number of hives is fairly simple. Fill a five gallon container with water and take it to the bee yard along with an extra five pound jar. Fill it and go to the first hive in the yard, shake a bit of water on bees at the entrance, and replace the empty jar with the full one. Refill the empty jar and proceed on to the remaining hives in the same sequence. The bucket should contain enough water to re-supply at least five hives.
Jim Baerwald, a scientist/commercial beekeeper from Eau Claire, Michigan, when told of my experience with watering bees, said, “They need water in the breeding season. The water allows the nurse bees to feed larvae a liquid food rather than a solid. Also, an added benefit is that fewer bees need to shift from nectar collection to water collection.” For further information about bees’ needs for water refer to Dadants’ The Hive and the Honey Bee.
I think my neighbor misses seeing my bees line up, shoulder-to-shoulder at her bird bath, but is glad my bees are not part of the bad news all around about bee losses.
North Liberty, IN
EAS Photography Contest Winner
I just attended EAS 2013 in West Chester, PA. I submitted several Photos in the show. Well I was surprised to find out that I won the American Bee Journal Best In Show award! My Picture is called, “Thirsty Bee.”
Letters to the Editor - September 2013
Memorial Fund Fosters Young Beekeepers
Most teenagers would not choose to spend a Saturday afternoon surrounded by bees and dense smoke. Yet Katie Neighbors, 18, explains her fondness for bees with a cheerful flash of teeth and braces as she tends to her hives.
“I’m really not afraid of them,” Katie says. “As a kid I always liked bugs.”
She started beekeeping a year ago, when she received her first hive through funding provided by the Brent Bridwell Young Beekeeper project.
Brent Bridwell was a member of the Indiana Beekeepers Association for many years. He died in December 2011, and family and friends contributed to a fund in his name to finance the Young Beekeeper project. this is the second year of the program.
Katie’s mom, Kyra, found the announcement for a beekeeper training session in the newspaper. Kyra thought her daughter would enjoy learning about bees, not only because of Katie’s affinity for insects, but also because she welcomed new challenges. While the two were at the session, Kyra saw some information on the Brent Bridwell project. She encouraged Katie to apply.
I thought it would be best to get a mentor,” Kyra says. “Get someone to teach us how to do this.”
Each year, the fund provides a hive for eight aspiring beekeepers from ages 12 to 20. The hives are numbered based on the date of distribution. Katie’s hive is number five.
Each new beekeeper is also paired with a mentor. Katie’s mentor is Rob Dennison, a board member of the Indiana Beekeepers Association. Rob agreed to sponsor the young beekeeper who lives only 10 miles from his house and hives.
This spring, the pair looked at Katie’s hive for the first time after winter.
Katie’s hive was doing quite well, but Rob’s was sick and full of dead bees. According to Katie, this is due to Ron’s sacrifice of time and materials to ensure that her hive was healthy.
“My mentor Rob made sure my hive was going to make it, with all his might,” says Katie. “Which is why some of his hives ended up failing.”
Rob believes the real test for Katie’s hive will be this winter. As the bees age, they may be more susceptible to the varroa mite and other diseases found in Rob’s own hives.
“If she can make it through two winters, then we’ve accomplished something.” he says.
Katie recently graduated from high school in Morgantown, Indiana. This fall, Katie will attend Purdue University and major in environmental science. She hopes to work at the school’s apiaries and meet up with bee researchers on campus.
Brent Bridwell Young Beekeeper Project
Brent C. Bridwell, Herald Bulletin
A Beehive in a Jacuzzi
Some friends of mine complained that there are a “lot of bees” around their Jacuzzi. When I investigated, I indeed found a “lot” of bees. Apparently, they had entered the inside of the Jacuzzi casing through a drainage pipe. After appropriately dressing myself with protective gear, I removed a couple of wooden panels from the spa casing. There was a whole beehive inside it and more.
I enticed the bees, along with their queen, to one of my bee-holders. In the meantime, I removed the core and the honey to a couple of pails which I took to my house for processing. Hundreds of outside “bandit” bees congregated to feast on the honey. A battle ensued between the old and the new bees. Hundreds were killed. but in the meantime my friends were happy that the bees are gone and they can again safely enjoy their spa.
Los Angeles, CA
Love at First Brush, The Joy of Encaustic Painting
Once upon a time (actually 11 years ago), I met some friends who kept honey bees. At the time I thought it was exotic, a bit intriguing. Now, a little over a decade later, I am helping them with their hives and hope to have a few of my own by this time next year. So how did I go from curious bystander to committed bee lover? Through encaustic painting - a medium I began to work with approximately four years ago. As an artist I had worked in many mediums, including photography and various mixed media, but when I was introduced to encaustic painting it was love at first brush. Was it the lovely transparency, the rich colors or the luscious texture? Maybe all three. Whatever it was, I was hooked.
Painting in encaustic dates to ancient times and involves the use of both encaustic medium and encaustic paint. Encaustic medium consists of beeswax mixed with a proportionally smaller amount of damar resin. Encaustic paint consists of medium mixed with pigment. When painting with encaustics the artist heats the medium and the paint to a temperature between 180 and 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Both are applied in liquid form to a ridged support - usually a wooden panel. The artist fuses each subsequent layer to the proceeding layer by applying heat to the painting. There are a variety of ways to apply the necessary heat. An artist can use a heat gun, an iron, a light bulb, a torch or even the sun. The translucent beeswax allows the artist to build up many transparent layers of color. The final surface of the painting can be anywhere from super smooth to roughly textured, buffed to a high shine or left as a soft luster.
Not long after I started painting with encaustic paint another artist asked me if I had heard about Colony Collapse Disorder (“CCD”). I hadn’t. I did a little research and then I did a little more. Soon my head was spinning. Foulbrood? Viruses? Nosema? Mites? IAPV? CCD? Exhaustion? Neonicotinoids? The existence of the honey bee imperiled? Yikes! No honey bee, no beeswax. No beeswax, no more encaustic painting. Unthinkable! An outrage!
Of course, I realize the loss of beeswax is not the major loss threatened by the loss of the honey bee. I understand how important the pollination service performed by the honey bee is to our food supply. Providing the service keeps commercial beekeepers in business and provides us with at least 1/3 of the food we eat. But, as an encaustic artist, the possible loss of beeswax really hit home. The more I thought about the threat to the honey bee, the more I felt I wanted to do something to let people know what was going on. It occurred to me that the encaustic medium was the perfect vehicle for spreading awareness of the honey bee’s plight. For the last year and a half I have been creating encaustic paintings and mixed media works focused on the honey bee.
In general, my work is informed by world events and inspired by inner exploration. Utilizing a variety of techniques, such as the combining of lush, bright color with its opposite rich, black darkness, I seek to encourage that second look which draws the viewer deeper into the artwork. In a world in which information is fed to us at rapidly increasing rates, I hope to slow the viewer down and provide the opportunity for compassionate contemplation by mixing the beautiful with the disconcerting. Through my recent bee-themed work I hope to spread awareness of the honey bee’s importance, the threats to its existence and what we can do to make the world a healthier place for the Apis mellifera.
This September my work will be exhibited at the Fountain Street Fine Art Gallery in Framingham, Massachusetts in a show titled “Bee Buzz”. In addition to my artwork, I intend to provide viewers with basic information regarding the honey bee, the threats to its existence, and what individuals can do to help. The show opens September 1st and runs through October 6th. A reception is planned for Saturday, September 7th from 5-7 p.m.
Scout K. Austin
Letters to the Editor - August 2013
“... Just Lookin’ for a Home ...”
The nice surprise I’m going to tell you about wasn’t as much of a surprise as it would have been except that my son, the apprentice beekeeper, had an intuition. In the evening we would often share a cup of coffee and sit and watch the bees. They are usually just going in and out; there’s not a lot to watch. Last year, partly because I didn’t watch well enough, four nucs were robbed out. Big hives and small ones in the same location can make this happen.
We were sensitive to the investigations of small numbers of bees, lest they were operating from the dark side. Of course, the usual thing for bees is to investigate everything, especially in a drought. After all, they need to find things like the first lonely skunk cabbage in the snow that may be the turning point of the colony year.
Anyway. It began with our evening bee watch two days before. “I smell something funny about these bees.” This, from my son, was a statement to make me pay attention because the home hives have that pesky history of robbing. It was early days yet, and we had only hived one package at this location. Later, we’d added a tiny nuc, as a place to keep an extra queen. Two bees couldn’t fit in the wee entrance of that experiment. Knowing the little colony could be easily overwhelmed, we were diligent about keeping an eye on it.
So, 15 or so bees, casting about in their exploratory manner, caught our attention. Robbers fly back and forth in almost the same way. Still, it was the wrong season for that and there weren’t enough of them. A glance at the other hives reassured me that larceny was not in the air. If it were, the front porch of each hive would be full of guard bees and they were not on alert.
The only other clue was what this dozen bees found interesting. It was the stack of empty supers that were waiting for use or repair. They had been waiting all winter and had been investigated by other bees. These bees were slowly circling in a most hypnotic way. The enigma of smelling “something funny” about them would finish the day without a solution. I went to bed and I assume they did too.
They returned the next day and brought friends; there were even more on the third day. At points there would be 50 bees in the air and many more running in and out of the entrance. After an hour, there were none coming out but the incoming groups kept moving in. A peek inside told us that there were a few hundred inside the hive. They gave no clue as to their intentions. The frames were of drawn comb, but had been cleaned out long before. There were no stores to interest them. The answer seemed to be that 200 bees had moved in.
To be clear, this was not as continuous as telling the story makes it seem. There were a few times when all activity stopped for 15 minutes, and began again. The stack of boxes held 5 frames each; there were 3 of them. The entrance at the bottom was a scant 3/8 high by about an inch wide. This reducer was a relic of last year’s robbing spree.
Finally, at 3PM the last interested bee seemed to have gone in. With nothing to watch, I went in to make a sandwich.
How long does it take to make a sandwich?
I came back out a few minutes later to find a really nice swarm clinging happily to the outside of the box. In a trice, all was right in the world. They weren’t robbers…they were scouts. They were on a mission for someone clever enough to notice. (or smell something different). The first day was for gathering intelligence. I didn’t know that would be followed by reconnaissance in force. Best of all it wasn’t my bees that were swarming.
As in an old Boll-Weevil song, they were: “….just, lookin’ for a home…”
Dick and Paul Marron
Honey Bees Not in Decline
There is much talk in the press about honey bees being in decline worldwide. This is clearly contradicted by the actual statistics. There are around 11.5 million colonies in Europe whereas the estimate of the number of wild colonies in Africa is 310 million. African bees are not plagued by any of the pathogens that damage European honey bees. Additionally, it was estimated in 1992 that Africanized bees made up 50 to 200 million colonies in Latin America. Mexico reportedly has 2.1 million colonies of honey bees, most of these are Africanized by now.
There is a very large thriving beekeeping industry in Asia. Turkey has approximately 5 million colonies. According to National Bee Board of India (2006–2007), there are about 1.4 million colonies in the country and honey production is about 52,000 tonnes a year. It has been estimated that the Himalayan region has over six million colonies and nests of indigenous and exotic (European) honeybees. Honey production from approximately 1.6 million colonies owned by about 199,000 Korean beekeepers was almost 23,000 metric tons in 2009.
One report states there are 540,000 managed colonies of honey bees in Australia and an unknown number of feral colonies. As of March 2011 there were 3,251 registered beekeepers, 23,395 apiaries and 388,369 beehives in New Zealand. These beekeeping industries have not suffered widespread losses, although New Zealand now has the varroa mite. Australia still does not. Sanford (1996) reported that the winter kill of managed honey bee colonies by Varroa mite was estimated at 13 million colonies worldwide.
According to the USDA, there were 5.9 million colonies in the US in 1947. FAO reports show 5.5 million in 1961. In the spring of 2013, the US may be down to approximately 2 million colonies. The situation is reversed in China: the number of colonies grew from 3 million in 1960 to 9 million in 2011. This indicates a different trend in the managed honey bee population in China compared with North American and European trends, and there has been no massive loss of bees reported.
Based on FAO data, it is reported that honey bee hives have globally increased by about 45% during the last 50 years, though this has probably been driven by economic globalization (such as the increasing demand for agricultural pollination services) rather than any biological factor. Given the concurrent declines in Europe and the USA, yet overall global increase, this suggests that increases in managed honey bees outside of Europe and the USA must be even greater than 45%, highlighting the stark contrast in trends from different regions of the globe.
FAO Stats for 2011 indicated the following countries had numbers over one million bee hives
1,400,000 Central African Republic
3,049,320 Russian Federation
Peter Loring Borst
National Swarm Removal Directory
Earlier in the year we started a National Honey Bee Swarm Removal Directory and we are trying to get the word out. This is a free list intended to help homeowners and others find beekeepers in their area who remove swarms. Please help us get the word out. www.honeybeeswarmremoval.com
Carson City, NV
Bees at Smith State Prison in Glennville, GA
Finally, exciting and good things are happening at Smith State Prison. I am an inmate at Smith. A little over a year ago, I met a fellow inmate who previously raised bees. We read an article in Bee Culture magazine where the Florida Department of Correction, with cooperation from the Florida Dept. of Agriculture, University of Florida and several other entities, introduced a beekeeping program in the prison system.
We discussed the article and thought it was a good idea, so we approached the warden here at Smith to start a similar program. It would be an OJT or reentry program to benefit the bee industry with experienced help, creating a new marketable job skill for released inmates looking for employment, as well as promoting beekeeping. But unlike the State of Florida’s program, we currently do not have the cooperation from Georgia Dept. of Agriculture.
We also approached several universities, as well as local apiaries for assistants to no avail, although we are hoping they will eventually come onboard to make this program a bigger success. With months of planning and putting a course curriculum together, we received an okay to start a class.
In August we started with a package of bees. Things were going well and the hive grew fairly quickly. By December we had a story and a half hive and were looking forward to an early spring split. January came and our facility was under lock down for the entire month with very limited movement and we were unable to attend to our bees. Mid January came and we had a warm spell and the hive swarmed. A week later we experienced a hard freeze, and that was the end of our bees.
A call was made to a local package seller and they told us that they had experienced similar swarming in their hives, and it would be early March before any packages would be available. Mid March came and the prison purchased another package. Using the old comb from the hive, by the first week in May, we have already made our first split and installed a new super.
We have graduated one class so far, and our current class will be done soon. We have room for about 12-15 students and enough people have signed up for the next 4 classes. With one hive and a nuc we can’t offer very much hands-on as we would like, but as we grow, things should get better. I am the co-instructor and have really enjoyed all the excitement and positive attitudes this program has made from both staff and inmates alike.
There was a follow up article in my March issue of the American Bee Journal about how well the program in Florida is going after a year. I am glad to see their program is doing so well. We have made a lot of progress in our program here at Smith State, though there has been some growing pains and setbacks. If we had a little outside influence, we would expect similar results as the State of Florida’s program has achieved, and would be able to spread this program to other facilities, knowing what this entire program has to offer and the positive impact it has on the inmates and staff alike, in fact many of the staff have talked about attending the class.
As I have become more knowledgeable about beekeeping, I have been able to help my sister in Southwest Virginia, to raise bees. She has four hives, and is still a little nervous about going through them. She still lacks some confidence, but is doing a great job.
Smith State Prison
Letters to the Editor - July 2013
Music In The Key of Bee”
I enjoyed September’s article “Music in the Key of Bee,” but you missed out on my favorite song about bees! The album Share This Place by Mirah and the Spectratone International is all about insects and arachnids and has a song about bees (and/or ants) called Community. It is one of the most beautiful songs this amateur beekeeper/musician has heard-- about bees or otherwise.
Here are the lyrics:
You have but two, we have six.
We can use them to such great accomplishment.
The sum of all, all of us all
outweighs humanities obstinance.
You argue much, don’t get along,
you seem to try to do everything alone.
But who needs to speak in our society?
We take advantage of our pheromones.
We communicate with chemicals,
but this is not, as you might think, just mechanical.
It’s an expressive art, instinctually smart.
Secretion’s quiet and dependable.
Altruism is our way.
Each alone, we do not have so much to say.
We’re individuals in a community.
140 million years we’ve been this way.
With wisdom and ingeniuty,
we outwit so much larger adversaries.
We symbolize this treasured prize,
buried deep within the human psyche.
Between order and instability,
we thrive on this beautiful complexity.
We regulate our density,
emerge in the social biology.
We get things done.
Matthew Francis Byrnes
I’m in Lanesboro, MN preparing a new apiary for the Sweet Bend Farm. When I set out these hive bodies it was 80 and sunny. This is what it looks like this morning [May 2, 2013].
Our schedule is to install the nucs on May 5th. Frankly, I’m hesitant to install them without better temperatures and conditions. I fear chilling/killing brood and stressing the bees by breaking their cluster. It seems that we should have temps in the 50’s before we transfer the combs and bees. The forecast high is for 55, so we may be OK. Amazing, eh?
“Pollen Party-On Can”
I made this “Pollen Party-On Can” as per the instructions by T’Lee Sollenberger in the February 2012 American Bee Journal. The can is made of PVC pipe and rain gutter fittings. My friend Lynda Hunt (pictured) decorated the outside of the Party-On Can with mosaic tiles. Not only do the bees love the pollen substitute, but the can looks great hanging from the oak tree outside my living room window!
Economical Smoker Fuel That Works
I would like to share with other ABJ readers about a smoker fuel that is cost effective and also produces a long-lasting smoke. I have found wood shavings to work very well. I prefer hardwoods, especially oak. It might take longer to light, but it burns a lot longer. Other wood shavings work as well.
This is my method for lighting my smoker. First, I crumple up a sheet of newspper and light it. When the paper is burning well, I place it in the smoker and press it down with my hive tool as I slowly pump the bellows. Then, I begin to sprinkle shavings slowly on top of the burning paper. When the shavings are burning well, I fill the smoker nearly full and pack them down slightly. It is very important to be working the bellows as you fill the smoker, and sometimes if you fill the smoker full before it’s burning hot enough, you can suffocate the fire. The key is to be sure you have a hot fire before you finish filling it.
Future florida Beekeeper
When Ray Gaspard and his wife, Tanya, of Arabi, Louisiana were looking for a small-sized bee suit for their daughter, Grace, they found it was not easy to find one to fit a six-year-old.
Ray called the Dadant beekeeping supply company in High Springs, Florida and spoke with Anne Dowda and asked if they had a suit small enough for his daughter. Ann told him they were out of stock, but would find him one as soon as possible.
When Ray explained that his daughter was helping him catch swarms and would go close to the hives without the proper gear, Anne took further action and ordered a suit from the home office in Hamilton, Illinois that day.
Soon Grace had her new bee suit and feels so much more comfortable and safe working with her dad catching swarms now.
Customer service always comes first at Dadants and great folks like Anne go the extra mile to help the customers find what they need.
When she found out Grace had a class visiting the zoo, Anne sent up a case of the two-ounce bears so everyone would receive a sweet gift of honey.
We are building the future of beekeeping one young child at a time and the future looks bright!
Letters to the Editor - June 2013
“Hives and Smokers, Trims and Shaves”
This month’s ABJ cover combines history and nostalgia with beekeepers. I call it “Hives and Smokers, Trims and Shaves”. In the late 1890’s during our country’s Westward movement, saloons were the first buildings to be built in the hastily erected towns. A saloon also served as courthouse, church, post office, barbershop, and meeting place for various clubs. Beekeepers would have met in saloons and later in barbershops where they could share information on beehives, smokers, and honey-gathering, while at the same time pay 10 cents for a shave and a haircut.
In Iola, Wisconsin, the Waupaca County Beekeepers club president, “Jake” Jakubek, has been president for 47 years. The members like him and keep electing him into office. At monthly meetings, he lets everyone tell their beekeeping stories before he moves into club business. And -- he’s their barber!
Prints of the original painting in the size of 16 x 12” are available for $45.00 (includes tax and postage) from the artist at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Package Bee Delivery in Wisconsin
We’ve been busy with the bees. I brought in 600 packages this year, 200 for myself. They came in on Friday night, and I was able to put mine in on Sunday and Monday. It was snowing when we put the first ones in, then windy. It was better the second day. I had some very good friends helping me, including some new beekeepers.
My grandson stopped by to inspect the packages. He will be starting to walk by this summer, and already has a beesuit and smoker.
The Bee Guy
Saved By the Bees In World War II Austria
Coos Bay, OR
Letters to the Editor - May 2013
Future Georgia Beekeeper
Thought I would share some photos from yesterday. We split off our colonies and my daughter Rylee Maxwell (8 yrs old) was in the middle helping us locate the old queens and queen cells. Doesn’t she look cute in her weebee suit! She has been an active part of our bee efforts for 4 years now and is a natural beekeeper.
Altamaha Plantation Apiary
Bee Venom Article
Thank you for the thorough and thought-provoking coverage on Bee Venom by Larry Connor in the March 2013 issue of the American Bee Journal. One point that was not made in the article with regarding the use of Bee Venom Therapy to help alleviate the symtoms of disease, is that it is extremely important for apitherapists to always administer a test sting if the person receiving stings has not been stung in over two weeks.
Test stings are administered by removing the stinger immediately after a bee sting is applied so that the stinger is imbedded in the skin for only a slit second. Allow a period of 15-20 minutes to pass in order to see if the patient is exhibiting any adverse hypersensitive reactions before proceeding with stings that administer a full dose of venom.
By proceeding with a test sting first, the life-threatening reaction that Cathy experienced would have been greatly diminished due to the decreased level of venom that is injected into the sting site and would have been much easier to overcome when using anti-histamines or an Epipen. Luckily, Cathy survived her ordeal, but her experience serves as a great reminder to anyone who practices apitherapy, always apply a test sting first just to be on the safe side.
Dancing Bee Gardens
“What I Love Most About Beekeeping”
I am the Education Teacher at Liberty Correctional Institution in Bristol, Florida. I have an inmate who would like to submit an article concerning “What I Love Most about Beekeeping”. I thought it was a good article and am submitting it for him.
Jack Hal Summers, MEd.
ITA Education Teacher
Florida Department of Correction
Liberty Correctional Institution
11064 NW Dempsey Barron Road
Bristol, Florida 32321
WHAT I LOVE MOST ABOUT BEEKEEPING
I am a prison inmate in Florida and I receive the American Bee Journal. When I was a child I got to spend a few summers working bee hives in South Florida and this was one of my dearest memories in life. I can still recall the smell of wax and honey during the extraction process. The salt built up on my T-shirt from the hot Florida Sun, as a young man working in the hives. As I looked into the hives for the first time and being excited and scared at the same time, I remember not wanting to do anything else after that summer. When I returned home, I searched online for everything I could find about beekeeping and its history. I loved it! I have given you this background to tell you what I love most about beekeeping. Sometime right after that summer I took the wrong path in life and ended up in prison. I am still in prison and each month, as I look through the pages of the magazine, I am still captivated by this wonderful profession, time and time again. Beekeeping pulls at my heart and sparks my mind. I find daily, as I read this magazine, being transformed onto the wings of the honeybee, if only for a moment as I leave my imprisonment behind. I hope upon release from prison that I can continue this profession which pulled very early at my heart strings.
Kourtney Terrill B05730
Liberty Correctional Institution
Beekeeper Welcome Sign
I had some time in between getting bee equipment ready for spring, and put together this decorative entry sign for a beekeeper’s house. It is hive sized, and I milled out some lumber to resemble a working beehive front. My wife Cheryl actually let me put it out next to our door! Thought you might enjoy it.
The Bee Guy
Small Hive Beetle Control?
By my second year as a new beekeeper, I was battling with “the worst case of small hive beetles” my mentor had ever seen. I tried every beetle trap on the market, but still was plagued terribly, losing two hives to those pesky creatures. Then, I read in a Letter to the Editor in the American Bee Journal that some guy had made Lexan plastic lids to replace his solid metal / wood lids and he was thinking it would work to get rid of small hive beetles.
So I tried it. A greenhouse project left scraps I could use, for free. The plastic is double-sided with baffles between the two layers. My thinking was that it might provide extra insulation as well as light to keep the hive beetles away.
I cut the tops out of my regular Langstroth hive lids and replaced them with the plastic. A little caulking, a couple of screws and the see-through lids were ready to try on the last two hives I owned. I was really desperate.
After one week, there were no more hive beetles. But, wait! I must give it time to see if it works in the long run.
Oh, the comments from other beekeepers... “That will never work because the bees do not like light!” “That will not be warm enough.” “You are merely making a solar melter.” Etc.
Well, my thoughts were that the bees didn’t like the beetles, either, and the sun provides a lot of warmth, even in snow. And I will only use them in late fall, winter and early spring.
So, now two winters later, my two beehives are cramped full of so many bees that I have double brood boxes on each. The bees are happy and thriving and I can check them in cold weather without taking off the lid! Just look down through the plastic. And when I do open them to check, guess what! Not a single small hive beetle, for the past two years. I do feel a little like Attila the Hun as I have conquered this enemy in my beeyard.
Coby was my right hand man when working and extracting the honey, and you wouldn’t believe the interest the bees stirred up in his mind. Luckily for him and especially for me, he was here when the sourwood honey was ready for harvest. Although our apiary is quite small compared to what we had in Florida, Coby was big time help to his Papa and made him so proud.
I understand that you can’t print everything you have been sent, but I thought it was very important to promote beekeeping, especially to the young folks. He realizes that it is hard work, the money isn’t all that great compared to some, but there are so many other rewards to understand why God put the honey bee on this earth and how we take care of them. Thank you in advance for sharing our story with other readers of “the Journal.” Maybe we can stir up some interest in some other younger “to be” beekeepers!
Letters to the Editor - April 2013
Congratulations on your 150th anniversary. Attached are pictures of a club member by the name of Cherry Dias beside her bee mansion, which she made. I’d think any colony would be tickled to call it their home, don’t you? We thought this might fit well in the ABJ.
Doug Lively, President
Western Arkansas Eastern Oklahoma Beekeepers Association
NY Bee Wellness Workshops
Beekeeping is a challenging occupation. While honey bees seem to be sturdy insects, they can be susceptible to various factors. On average, about 30% of bee colonies do not make it through the winter; much of this loss can be attributed to disease. New and inexperienced beekeepers may have a much higher rate of loss.
Currently, each year hundreds of new beekeepers enter the field of apiculture in New York State alone, but honeybee disease recognition and treatment skills are not well established in this group. So, how is it possible to reach out and teach these new beekeepers? New York is a large state with thousands of beekeepers located from the eastern end of Long Island to the areas bordering the Great Lake and Canada. There are simply not enough instructors to go around.
The USDA-NIFA announced award opportunities through the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program, which funds programs that address the needs of farmers (beekeepers included) with less than 10 years of experience. A grant proposal was written for this competitive program and was successfully awarded to the state beekeeping organization of New York, the Empire State Honey Producers Association (ESHPA.org), which also provided matching funds.
In 2012, Pat Bono, 3rd Vice President of the NY state organization, initiated the NY Bee Wellness Workshops (NYBeeWellness.org). The goal was to reach as many beekeepers as possible by training key people as a team, from the local beekeeping clubs, how to identify and treat honeybee disease and then have them return to their clubs and train members of their clubs. The primary instructors are experts in the field of apiculture and possess excellent teaching skills.
Workshops were held at different locations in New York State to teach beekeepers by offering intensive 2-day, skills oriented, hands-on workshops. Twelve established, local New York beekeeper clubs, and a club from Connecticut, were represented during these workshops, for a total of 60 participants. The beekeepers were required to perform skills using a check list, since they needed to prove proficiency before they could teach others the same skill. Motivation was very high and survey results show a rating of the workshops as very good to excellent with improved skills in disease recognition and teaching by all the participants.
The first, inaugural workshop was held in western New York during a beautiful spring weekend. We set up the microscopes at the Ontario County CCE and carpooled to a local apiary.
The 2nd workshop at historic Stone Barns in Tarrytown, presented a few challenges: sweltering heat and threat of rain, but beekeepers know how to sweat! Security was tight for one apiary visit in preparation for First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to Stone Barns for an event, but we were able to complete our inspections at the Stone Barns beeyard and return to the Pocantico Hills Fire Hall before her event started.
At the 3rd workshop, north of Albany, tents were set up over the beehives at a beeyard in case the rolling thunderstorms interfered with our field work, but we were lucky- the downpour started after we got into our cars to return to the Saratoga County CCE.
The workshops were also a great group effort! We were very fortunate to have some of the best instructors in the bee world: Diana Sammataro USDA-ARS, Al Avitabile, Larry Connor (Wicwas Press), Doug McRory (Ontario), the Ontario Tech Transfer Team from Canada (Melanie Kempers, Les Eccles, Devan Rawn, Brian Lacey), and Christina Wahl of Wells College
Many of the beekeeping clubs have already implemented their training of beekeepers in their region of New York, and will also hold additional workshops this year as part of their monthly meetings and beginner beekeeper programs. Inspired by the NY Bee Wellness Workshops, clubs have written protocol, produced power points and even YouTube videos.
An educational website was established to provide required, prerequisite reading material to prepare the participants for the lab and field work. NYBeeWellness.com is now available to all beekeepers (particularly in New York) as a guide to identifying honey bee disease.
- The Field Guide to Honey Bees and Their Maladies (PDF)
- Ontario Tech Transfer powerpoints and pdf’s
- Bees at eXtension.org
- Lab testing resources
- Catskill Mountain Beekeepers Youtube on sugar dusting for mites
- Ontario Finger Lakes Beekeepers power point on Bee Disease
- Jamie Ellis videos on bee diseases
- Microscope power point
While this was the first year of the 3-year project, some see this program as a beginning to a permanent outreach training program for New York State beekeepers.
These workshops are made possible through funding from the USDA NIFA Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program, Grant # 2011-494400-30631, and with matching funds from the Empire State Honey Producers Association.
Ideas and suggestions are always welcome. Please contact Pat@eshpa.org
Pat Bono, Project Director,
NY Bee Wellness Workshops
3rd Vice President, Empire
State Honey Producers Association
French Queen Breeders Association
Our association “Anercea” was founded 35 years ago and currently more than 500 beekeepers have joined us to exchange ideas on any subjects regarding queen breeding. Twice a year we have our two-day conventions with speakers, scientists or beekeepers coming from all over the world to share their vision, their knowledge or their research, quite often coming from United States.
We also give classroom instruction to beekeepers and beginners and it takes place in the apiary. For our readers, we also publish a quarterly bee journal named “Info-Reines” and I am glad to take this opportunity to announce our last special issue, our number 100. Our activities can be seen on our website : www.anercea.fr
Thierry Fedon, President
Domaine du Magneraud
Letters to the Editor - March 2013
Florida’s Successful Inmate Beekeeping Program
Attached you will find 3 JPG photos from our program, as well as 1 about recidivism and why it matters. We currently have 37 graduates at RMC, and there are over 50 graduates from across the State of Florida. The program has now expanded to 5 institutions, Lowell Reception Center, (females), Jefferson CI, Lancaster CI, (youthful offender), and Big Pine Key Road prison, as well as the original at RMC. One of our graduates is working as a hobbyist beekeeper in St. Augustine with 18 hives and another is using his skills on a small farm in Georgia. This program was started to try and reduce the recidivism rate, (currently 33%), among inmates in the State in an effort to reduce the burden on everyday taxpayers.
This has been a cooperative effort between the Department of Corrections, The University of Florida, The Department of Agriculture, as well as private enterprise. People like Dr. Jamie Ellis, David Westervelt, Dave Mendes, and Jerry Hayes have made this possible.
Department of Corrections
State of Florida
Whales and dolphins (cetaceans) are about 2 to 20 million times larger than a honey bee. Because cetaceans are so huge (tons), humans often see them after they become disoriented, swim onto a shore and become beached. Honey bees are so small (100 mg, 1.5 cm) that when they become disoriented and fly off, they are never seen again. Unlike beached Cetaceans, which appear on a narrow rocky shore or beach, bees do not appear in any specific location. A bees foraging area can cover about 20 million square feet. Since a lone forager’s life-span is only 8 to 12 hours -- while in the absence of their colony -- they die in the field after becoming disoriented and lost. Hence, unlike cetaceans, it is unlikely they would be found on the ground in any specific location or in appreciable numbers.
What cetaceans and honey bees do have in common is that both possess a magnetoreception sense which they use for orientation purposes. Behavioral scientists have accumulated decades of experimental data on animals’ ability to perceive and align themselves in magnetic fields. In fact, research has demonstrated that many animals can be trained to respond to changes in local magnetic fields (Gould et al., 1980; Hsu et al., 2010), and their magnetic sense can be altered by modifications to magnetic fields (Gould et al., 1978; Frier et al., 1996; Gould, 1998; Frankel, 2009; Johnson and Lohmann, 2008; Wajnberg et al., 2010). Such findings provide a novel theory as to a cause for the cetacean beaching disorder (CBD): it involves a sixth sense, termed magnetoreception.
Whales and dolphins use their internal “compass” to detect Earth’s magnetosphere and they use it when migrating in the absence of visual cues. Other aquatic animals also possess a magnetoreceptive sense. When they become disoriented, they too become noticed, usually near or on a narrow stretch of beach. This extra sense opens the possibility that an environmental stress -- involving severe fluctuations in Earth’s magnetosphere -- can affect a cetaceans’ or bees’ homing ability and thereby lead, respectively, to beachings and adult bee losses. It’s been known for over a century that coronal eruptions on our Sun create solar storms which cause disturbances to Earth’s magnetosphere. Now it’s time to put recent evidence for a magnetoreception disorder (MRD) into perspective.
Like hearing and eyesight in most organisms, a magnetoreception sense can malfunction, which renders it untrustworthy. My research indicated that magnets, magnetic field oscillations and major disturbances to Earth’s magnetosphere (geomagnetic storms), cause foragers to become disoriented and unable to return to their hive. Thus, the role of a magnetoreception disorder is strongly implicated in the sudden losses of adult bees from a colony (CCD). Similarly, a group of researchers from the University of Kiel, Germany, compared records of sperm whale stranding in the North Sea between 1712 and 2003 with solar activity (sunspots) (Heinrich and Ricklefs, 2005). A chi-square statistical test of their data indicated only a 1% error probability that sperm whale stranding depend on solar activity. A 1998 to 2012 survey of worldwide cetacean strandings at Pollen Bank indicated that 98% of beachings happened on days when major geomagnetic storms occurred. Likewise, in the case of honey bees, winter colony losses in the northeast USA from 2000 to 2006 was strongly correlated (R2=0.989) with major geomagnetic storms here on earth. The strong correlations of sunspots and geomagnetic storms with beachings and colony losses are indicative of a MRD for both cetaceans and honey bees.
There are other similarities involving CCD and CBD (besides the abbreviations). (1) In cases of CCD, the surviving colony can recover and grow, suggesting the cause was not a contagion or a pest. In many CBD cases, whales and dolphins can often be turned around and “shuttled” back to sea and they survive, also indicating a contagion or pest is not involved. (2) Necropsies of beached cetaceans often reveal no evidence of a common disease or organ disorder. In many cases investigators indicated the animals appeared healthy! Likewise, examination of remaining bees in a CCD-afflicted hive reveal no consistent pest or pathogen which might cause identical symptoms of the disorder. The queen, brood and young workers appear healthy! (3) As with lost bees, beachings are more frequent when long distances (migrations) are considered. Evidence for a MRD is far more conclusive than data obtained in search for a biotic cause.
There is relief in sight for honey bees, whales and dolphins in the next 6 to 10 years. The current sunspot cycle appears to have crested (2012/13) and it was the lowest peak since 1910. For comparison, about half as many sunspots happened in 2013 (n=65) as occurred in 2000 (n=120) when beachings and colony collapse were widespread. Remember, geomagnetic storms can occur at any time, they will just be less frequent in the next few years.
Frankel, R. B. (2009). Magnetotaxis in bacteria. www.calpoly.edu/~rfrankel/magbac101.html
Frier, H., Edwards, E., Smith, C., Neale, S. and Collett, T. (1996). Magnetic compass cues and visual pattern learning in honey bees. J. Exp. Biol. 199, 1353-1361.
Gould, J. L., Kirschvink, J. L. and Deffeyes, K. S. (1978). Bees have magnetic remanence. Science 201, 1026-1028.
Gould, J. L., Kirschvink, J. L., Deffeyes, K. S. and Brines, M. L. (1980). Orientation of demagnetized bees. J. Exp. Biol. 86, 1-8.
Gould, J. L. (1998). Sensory bases of navigation. Current Biol. 8, 731-738.
Heinrich, K. and K. Ricklefs, 2009. Are solar activity and sperm whale Physeter macrocephalus strandings around the North Sea related? J. Sea Res. 2005, 53: 319-327.
Hsu, C. Y., Ko, F. Y., Li, C. W., Fann, K. and Lue, J. T. (2010). Magnetoreception system in honey bees (Apis mellifera). www.plosone.org/article/info:doi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0000395
Johnson, S. and Lohmann, K. J. (2008). Magnetoreception in animals. Phys. Today 61, 29-35.
Wajnberg, E., Acosta-Avalos, D., Alves, O. C., De Oliveira, J. F., Srygley, R. C. and Esqivel, D. M. S. (2010). Magnetoreception in eusocial insects: an update. J. R. Soc. Interface. http://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/7/Suppl_2/S207.full
Thomas E. Ferrari MSc, PhD
Botany & Horticulture
Pollen Bank, P.O. Box 6697,
Bakersfield, CA 93386
Web Site: thepollenbank.com
E-mail: the email@example.com
Bee Poem — The Venom of the Bee
I wonder if you would be interested in publishing the attached poem, The Venom of the Bee? After having a discussion with a friend about bee versus wasp venom, I was inspired to write this verse, tongue-in-cheek, but also to instruct.
Costa Mesa, CA
The Venom of the Bee
by Robin Theron
Millions of years ago
Wasp said, “You Bee’s must go
Evolving on your track,
Go on, no looking back!”
Paper wasps now eat meats,
Sipping nectar for treats,
Honey bees are vegan
’Cause they preferred pollen.
The stinger of the bee,
Unlike wasp’s cutlery,
Is barbed, she can’t retract;
Stinging’s her final act!
Their venom’s not the same,
(If you compare the twain,)
Bee’s acid all the time,
Wasp’s always alkaline.
Ruptures cell walls, always,
To pump in melittin;
You’ll know you’ve been smitten!
A little injection -
A huge reaction.
A bee just does it once,
The wasp can pounce and pounce.
Bee venom’s just a jot
That sears skin flaming hot;
Our bodies fight it off
Yet hurt us in their wrath.
So, quickly, scratch it out
To minimize its clout:
“You soothe it with some ice,”
Is medic’s sage advice.
But beekeepers are dumb
So we keep coming on,
Interfering, then hope
We can calm them with smoke.
There’s always some mistake
We wish we didn’t make:
We squash an errant bee
And make the rest angry.
Or, we go too early;
And there is no honey;
Or, maybe, find too late,
Their dumb queen didn’t mate!
Just one sting too many
(I never want any!)
And you might have to block
Has that hazard we face;
To counter their poison
You take epinephrine.
But, isn’t it funny?
We still like the money
That keeps us going on
And don’t forget honey,
Which also brings money,
And wax and propolis –
I’ll keep it up, I guess!
WHEN is ENOUGH - ENOUGH?
The November, 2012 issue of the American Bee Journal, on page 1020, headlines: PESTICIDES NOT YET PROVEN GUILTY OF CAUSING HONEY BEE DECLINES and quotes a paper in Science that dispute previous accusations about the role played by pesticides in killing bees.
The lead author, Dr. James Cresswell, admits that neonicotinoids do affect honey bees, but claims there is no evidence they would cause a colony to collapse.
One might question what is the importance of this hypothesis - a bee hive dies quickly or a bee hive dies slowly when the same factors are responsible? Or is this another paper intended to deflect criticism of the chemical industry for killing bees.
My Uncle Ellie sprayed his cotton crop for boll weevils in 1934 and soon had several dozen dead and/or dying hives of bees. All colonies did not die immediately, but were soon invaded by wax moths because of their weakened condition. None of the hives ever produced any more surplus honey. Dr. Cresswell would have had a problem explaining to Uncle Ellie that pesticides did not kill bees.
My beekeeping experience began about 1932 and a few years later I took two hives to another uncle’s farm in anticipation of having some clover honey. However, Uncle Richard sprayed a crop and I had two boxes of dead bees. I have always associated the loss of those two hives to the spraying of a crop with chemicals.
Chemicals have been killing bees for many years - long before anyone had ever heard of neonicotinoids!
When the chemical industry was kept busy preparing for World War II and during the war, few agricultural chemicals were being produced and the number of bee colonies in the United States reached an all time high of six million. But when the war ended more agricultural chemicals were produced and by the early 1980’s the bee population was about four million and today it has dropped to a little over two million.
Countless references can be quoted relating bee kills to pesticides.
Larry Connor, in the July, 1981 issue of American Bee Journal urged beekeepers to report their losses and, in discussing why bees were disappearing, said: “But many more die because of pesticide use in many parts of the country.” Mr. Connor wrote again in the August, 1981 ABJ: “Now in the middle of 1981, we have seen a number of major problems facing the bee industry.” First mentioned was “the increasing damage of insecticides to honey bees.”
Now 30 years later, Dr. Cresswell infers that perhaps we may be overreacting in blaming pesticides for bee losses. Perhaps his busy schedule has not permitted a search of what has been written in previous years such as:
American Bee Journal, December, 1976, tells of a major bee kill of more than 2500 colonies from insecticides and pesticides near Lewiston, Idaho. Another ABJ article in May, 1977 has an article about five thousand colonies being lost in Kerr County, California as a result of aerial spraying of crops.
Then, my conclusion is how is such a title as PESTICIDES NOT YET PROVEN GUILTY OF CAUSING HONEY BEE DECLINES justified when the obvious answer has been with us for many decades?
Carol Stream, IL
Letters to the Editor - February 2013
Smoker Shortage in Kenya
We know that beekeeping involves an outlay of capital and most of us - hobbyists for whom selling honey is a side benefit rather than a matter of personal survival - are able to purchase a reliable smoker and experiment with varying types of fuel and different techniques to keep it burning.
This is not the case for many of our beekeeper friends across the world for whom such a purchase is a considerable expense. In Kenya for example, which is where I have a little practical experience, 75 % of the population exist on subsistence farming, more than half of whom live below the poverty level. To supplement their meager income and to provide a little much needed cash, these rural farmers have several options. One is charcoal, the production of which unfortunately destroys much needed vegetation (the winner of the 2004 Nobel Peace Prize was the late Wangari Maathai who was recognized for her environmental activism in Kenya, not least the planting of millions of trees to replace those that had been destroyed.) Another is beekeeping, in the course of which not so much as a leaf is destroyed; indeed through the act of pollination the cycle of life is continued.
Clearly the latter is the preferred alternative, but it is not widely practiced as a cash crop for several reasons, one of which is the capital outlay needed to produce honey of a marketable quality.
The challenge became clear on the long drive from Nairobi to Mombassa in July of 2011, when our two vehicles stopped several times at roadside stalls where invariably there was one or more beekeepers seated behind a table with honey bottled in a variety of containers, selling for what we would regard as low prices; e.g. the equivalent of $2 for a wine bottle full honey. And when we arrived at our destination on the coast of the Indian Ocean, a delightful hotel that attracted Europeans in particular, we were welcomed by a beautiful display of South African wines at exotic prices. South African wines? My first question was why not display Kenyan honey in attractive jars with appealing labels and provide a much needed source of income for local beekeepers?
The reason was not one I had anticipated. Smoking a hive is vital for a Kenyan beekeeper because of the well known traits of African bees. Indeed as often as not there were two smokers going when we worked colonies in Nairobi and along the east African coast. But because they cannot afford a smoker as we envision it, local beekeepers use basic alternatives, most often a simple brush torch. It works in terms of calming the bees but, and it’s a big but, ash that is blown into the hive ends up in the honey.
Thus, local honey also contains residues of local ash - black specks that float in the container - which make it difficult to sell to a more sophisticated (ie. tourist or international) market.
There are several solutions to this. One is to improve the quality of straining during extraction because, once again, the inhibitive cost of say a radial extractor leaves only basic means of extraction. A second is for us to collect and send smokers to these beekeepers, but besides the expense it smacks of paternalism and is not a global solution. The third is to see if we could design an alternative smoker that could be made from inexpensive local materials by beekeepers in Africa, Asia and South America, if not even further afield.
Africans have shown ingenuity in their need to produce much from little. For example, only 2% of hives in Kenya are Langstroth in design; 3% are top bar hives and the remainder are log hives. Why? Because despite their limitations in terms of working the bees, log hives are inexpensive and can be made quickly and locally. One beekeeper we met estimated that she could make three log hives per day at a cost of US$3 each, whereas a top bar hive and a Langstroth deep cost her US$55 and US$70 respectively, not to mention that the dimensions of the Langstroth hive bodies we did see were irregular and a log hive does not need the additional expense of frames and foundation.
The above refers to Kenya in particular, but is equally applicable to most developing countries worldwide.
“Every time you have a problem,” according to David Feld of Geese Peace, “you have energy.” Scattered across the USA we have a wide range of expertise in a broad range of fields related to beekeeping, as well as a concern for our fellow apiarists across the globe, as articles in this journal and others confirm. The challenge is, can we harness that energy to change the paradigm of the conventional smoker and come up with something that can be made of local materials by beekeepers who have limited access to the tools and resources we take for granted?
Famously, it has been asserted that a butterfly flapping its wings over Thailand can affect the weather patterns over New York city. Small beginnings can have huge consequences. Can we do something big in thought but small in effort that which might significantly impact the quality of life of millions of people across the globe?
If this intrigues you and you would like further information or somewhere to share ideas, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Marwin Despain -The Gentle Beekeeper
Marwin Despain passed away Aug. 28, 2012. He was a beekeeper for 60 years. His Dad had 2 hives and gave them to him as a teen. He didn’t know much about it. But, he got a thrill out of chasing down bee trees and putting the bees in a box, if the property owner gave permission.
After marriage, with three kids, Delmar Smith (original owner of Crater Rock Museum, Central Point, OR.) offered to teach him beekeeping from the ground up--making boxes and frames, queen cages, wax melting, extracting, tending the bees, etc. So Marwin took the job, this was in 1959, for $1.25 an hour. His family nearly starved. But he learned and loved every minute of it. He did this for two years. Then, since he had been a surveyor, he continued to do that full time and beekeeping also. A few years later he bought out Vic Pointdexter’s outfit of 700 colonies and equipment and trucks, moved to an acre of ground and built a honey house, and a nice shop.
He sold honey to all the fruit stands in the valley, truckloads to Heinz up North, sold pollen (which his wife cleaned and packaged), took bees by the truck load to the Almonds in California, put some in the alfalfa, pollinated cranberrys at Bandon, OR, sold comb honey, and had bees for pollination in nearly every pear orchard in the Rogue Valley. Some orchardists in the 1960’s and 70’s did not think they needed pollination, so he would tell them, “I will put 10 colonies in one section, of your pears, and if you don’t enlarge your harvest, you don’t need to pay me.” The next year they would ask for pollination for the entire orchard. Even Bear Creek Orchards ordered pollination. He also raised queens.
One year Farm Home Administration, where he had financed the outfit, told him he couldn’t get containers, so he put an ad in the paper to sell honey in customers’ containers. It went for .25 cents @ lb. then. People came all day and his wife filled, and weighed their containers. It was a good thing he still had lots of 5 gallon cans on hand, for the big orders.
He loved to get swarms people called in. Crowds sometimes gathered to watch from a distance. They thought it was magic when he tapped the box with his hive tool, and the rest of the swarm would march in. He also enjoyed giving demonstrations on honey bees in school classrooms.
The main problems back then for the bees were wax moth and Varroa Mite. It took a lot to keep these pests out, but it was nothing like all the problems bees have today. One night, long before cell phones, he was putting bees in an orchard on a hillside and hit a tree, breaking the radiator. He walked out several miles to an all-night market and called his wife at 2:30 AM. She took the little kids out of bed and went across the valley to get him. Another night his wife woke up about 3:00 AM, and he was not home. He had gone about 7:00 PM to check some bees in some alfalfa and said he’d be back in an hour. She called the police and the officer said, “wait just a minute, I have another call ... Does he have a white flat bed truck?” “Yes.” “Well, another officer is talking to him, listen in.” “You get home, and don’t you ever scare your wife, like this again.” When beekeepers get in a yard, they lose all track of time, and all else in the world. It is a very emotional addiction to some of them.
The last few years he was too old to lift the 15 hives he had left. We didn’t use our pasture anymore and vetch grew up in it. So, he just left them home for the first time, and they made beautiful honey, and no moving them or lifting was required.
I (his wife) always said I wanted life without bees, at least for awhile. NO more bottling honey, no more conventions, no more time without him. Then he passed away, after a fall, and a stroke. I went to a mill to talk about selling his lumber and materials. They said the manager was at a National Bee Convention. On the way home, I wanted to go to that meeting. No more beekeeping? The tears rolled down my cheeks. But, what a journey we had.
Eloise M. Despain
Central Point, Oregon
Another Poem from
Sent in by Margie Smith of
Good or Bad?
One man’s trash is another man’s treasure,
Some wise man once said,
And one man’s disaster is another man’s pleasure,
When by it he is fed,
And a noxious weed to an ecologist,
Is a beautiful plant to me,
When it’s blooming at its loveliest,
Producing honey for a bee,
It thrills my soul when I behold,
Fields of Purple Loosestrife blooming,
And I love to see bees up in the trees,
Of Chinese Tallow looming,
Brazilian Pepper is a pepper upper,
A good fall crop of honey,
A beekeeper knows it will mean his supper,
For to him, Pepper is money,
Melaleuca trees in groves so thick,
Are a beautiful sight in bloom,
And though they make ecologists sick,
To a beekeeper they’re a boon,
Good things come and good things go,
On that you can bet your money,
So call them bad if it’ll help them grow,
And bees can still make honey.
Retired Florida Apiary Inspector
I have enjoyed William Blomstedt`s articles on Organic honey and beekeeping. I believe that the subject is an important one and I hope that time will determine what actually constitutes organic honey and the beekeeping practices it requires.
I would like to relate a curious incident that occurred in one of my apiaries perhaps ten years ago, that might lend some insight into the way we might eventually determine what is organic honey and what are organic beekeeping practices.
The hives in question, managed organically according to the then European standard for organic management of honeybee colonies, were situated on an organic avocado and mango grove and placed there for spring pollination purposes. The grove was situated in an area that on one side was bordered by a large citrus plantation that was cultivated conventionally and that required periodic spraying from the air to control the Mediterranean Fruit Fly.
Although I had had an ongoing pollination agreement with the grower for years and had never had any real problem with the pesticide spraying in the neighboring area, on this particular spring my hives were devastated by the pesticide spray. This occurred at the end of the citrus honey flow, which had been particularly strong that year and the hives were full of honey. Piles of dead and dying bees in front of every hives attested to the severity of the poisoning.
Examining the hives, I found them considerably depopulated, although there were, at least, a core number of house bees, along with the queens, to maintain life in the hive.
I had rarely seen in my apiary such devastation from pesticide poisoning and I feared that the honey had been contaminated irrevocably and so I sent honey samples to an accredited laboratory along with a sampling of the dead bees. The results were more than interesting. The bees revealed extremely high pesticide poisoning (parathion), which obviously accounted for their death, yet in the honey samples there were absolutely no residues of the pesticide or for that matter, of any synthetic contaminant.
I leave the reader to draw his own conclusions, but mine were that in this imperfect world the organic management of hives is the basis for, and probably the only realistic parameter for the production of organic honey.
Letters to the Editor - January 2013
Adaptable Bees Living in a Natural Pollen Trap
Rolf, a non-beekeeper colleague of mine, had been enjoying observing a bee colony that had graced his back yard by making a home in his outdoor fireplace. He used the fireplace infrequently, so for about 3-4 years all were happy. After a lapse of some time he looked into the fireplace in preparation for a fire. This time he heard a serious buzz and started to retreat. The buzz followed him and before he could get back inside the house, about two dozen bees had stung him. After this, he thought that, being in Tucson, Arizona where all the feral bees are Africanized, he should protect himself and the neighbors by sending the bees on their way. I was called to help and several weeks later found a rather testy colony that “greeted” me as soon as I opened the back door. This was obviously time for a bee suit.
Careful scrutiny of the fireplace (Figure 1) failed to reveal the colony or its entrance. I was being bombarded by a constant stream of bees bouncing off my veil, making further progress difficult. Time for my secret tool to eliminate bees – the insect net. Insect nets are not really secret (www.BioQuip.com), but I have been amazed how little they are used as a element in bee removal situations. In fact, I am unaware of any other report of use of nets to police up most of the remaining bees quickly after a removal, or at an attack scene. I am not sure just why, as I have found insect nets to be an excellent and efficient way to get rid of flying bees. One simply swings the net in front of your face, the place where the bees are targeting (Schmidt and Boyer-Hassem, 1996) collecting attackers until the net gets too heavy for efficient swinging. A good spraying of the net with detergent water and inverting the net readies it for use again. After about 10 minutes and five nets full of bees eliminated, the fireplace could be climbed. Lo-and-behold, there was the entrance just below the very top of the chimney. The fireplace consisted of cinder blocks with a facade in front and the bees were nesting inside the block hollows with their entrance through a small gap in a mortar joint. About a gallon of soapy water was sprayed into the entrance and all bee activity stopped. The entrance was then plugged with steel wool. Job done.
Never underestimate the abilities of bees, however. Little colony activity was noticed for about 10 days, but then regular activity resumed. What was the story? Upon return one noticeable difference was a large number of pollen pellets and dead bees on the floor of the fireplace (Figure 2). The dead bees were there because a large population of spiders had made webs in the fireplace and were cutting bees out of the web and dropping them. But why the pollen pellets? Could it be that the bees were rejecting some of the abundant pollen, mainly from desert broom (Baccharis sarothroides), a known poor quality pollen (Schmidt et al. 1987)? In 30 years of bee research I had never noted fresh pollen being rejected at the entrance in quantity. This pollen appeared pristine and looked just like what we collect in pollen traps. It was not old pollen that was being carted out of the colony as we sometimes see in Tucson in the case of cottonwood pollen.
With net in hand, I quickly removed the attacking bees again, allowing the fireplace to be scaled and inspected. The bees had found another entrance one block joint away that was about the diameter of a pencil. It was so small that only one bee could enter or depart at a time. The colony was living inside a natural pollen trap! The entrance was so tight that often, as the pollen-laden foragers entered, one of their corbicular pollen loads was brushed off and fell to the floor, just as happens with a beekeeper’s pollen trap. Who says bees are not amazingly adaptable? They were still thriving even given some of the worst conditions imaginable.
Postscript Comment. In figure 1 notice that I am wearing blue nitrile gloves. These are gloves originally designed for surgeons because they are very tough, flexible and resistant to piercing by sharp instruments. Honey bee stings are biological hypodermic syringes. They rarely can penetrate nitrile gloves (I did not receive a single sting through my gloves) and the gloves provide excellent feel, dexterity and grip, just as needed by surgeons. These properties allowed me to swing the net without difficulty and to block the entrance by pushing in steel wool. Even two or three layers of latex gloves do not provide equal protection.
Schmidt, JO and LV Boyer-Hassen. 1996. When Africanized bees attack: what you and your clients should know. Vet. Med. 91: 923-28.
Schmidt, JO, SC Thoenes and MD Levin. 1987. Survival of honey bees, Apis mellifera, (Hymenoptera: Apidae), fed various pollen sources. Ann. Entomol. Soc. Am. 80: 176-83.
Justin O. Schmidt
Southwestern Biological Institute
1961 W. Brichta Dr.
Tucson, AZ 85745
What is Travel Stress?
Mr. Jerry Hayes, in his The Classroom column in the October 2012 issue of the American Bee Journal, explains his eight reasons for the decline of bee colonies in the United States. Number one on the list is travel stress. Perhaps he did not mean that “travel stress” was the most important factor, but is the number one on his list of reasons.
By coincidence, the obituary of Mr. Dave Emde also appears in the same issue of the American Bee Journal. The obituary describes Mr. Emde’s involvement with migratory beekeeping as far back as 1966. I quote from the article: “Migratory beekeeping was Dave’s first love. When it came to moving bees, he was an innovator.”
I was a migratory beekeeper in 1937 when I transported two of my six hives to an uncle’s farm in anticipation of harvesting clover honey. Unfortunately, my uncle sprayed one of his crops with pesticides, and I had two boxes of dead bees. My opinion has always been that the bees died from chemicals and not from travel stress.
At one time most of the packages of bees were shipped by the United States Postal Service - a practice which began well over one hundred years ago. Starting less than 30 years ago, there were problems with the postal service shipments. The main reason was probably due to the fact that a few bees would “hitch-hike” on the outside of the shipping cages. Once inside a mail sorting room, these bees would decide to fly around, looking for an outlet, and this upset the mail personnel. Some packages might be taken outside in a cold and wet environment and other packages were deliberately turned on their side. In this position the feeder cans would leak and wet bees would soon become dead bees. There were other examples of truck loads of packages becoming over-heated in the postal service trucks and dying.
The above are not examples of travel stress, but examples of abuse, which in some examples was not accidental. Then transporting the bees by truck eliminated most of the problems. Today a person can usually expect to receive live bees by using over night delivery and placing orders for bees to be shipped early in the week; thus eliminating the packages sitting in a hot room over the weekend.
Again, were bees being lost because of travel stress or because of callous treatment?
However, I believe that Mr. Hayes was referring to bees being transported across the country by trucks. If we can now safely truck packages of bees in small wire cages, why can we not do the same with bees shipped in their homes - the beehive? In the hive, the bees are with their sisters, their mother, and hopefully with a food supply. They have not gone through the trauma of being shaken into a small wire cage and are not accompanied by an unrelated queen. Considering the large quantity of bees that are being moved several times during the year by the commercial pollinators, travel stress as a number one reason for population decline in bees seems to be less important.
Some readers may recall that travel stress began to receive publicity after there were large die-offs of bees AFTER the new neonicotinoids became widely used and also AFTER seed treatments were increased from 0.25 mg/kernel to 1.25 mg/kernel.
Certainly, some bees do die as a result of careless treatment or unexpected weather conditions, but my opinion is that too many articles have been ignoring all true facts and avoid pointing a strong finger at the real cause of many of the die-offs - the chemicals.
Mr. Gilles ratia, president of Apimondia (International Beekeeper’s Organization spoke at the January, 2012 meeting of the North American Beekeeping Conference and Trade Show on the subject of Possible Factors of Colony Losses. The Number One of his possible list of factors was pesticides - not travel stress.
Other than the organic beekeepers, who else really blames chemicals for causing so many of the die-offs?
Dr. Lawrence DuBose, Ph.D. Retired
Regarding Wyatt Mangum’s article on mice in beehives, Nov. 2012, I thought it might be interesting to show how resilient the bees are in coping with small furry intruders. The first photo shows a dead (stung?) mouse being “cleaned up” by the bees, with anything that can be eliminated from the hive (hair, skin) being removed by the bees. The second photo shows the propolized remains of another mouse, effectively mummified to seal away any pathogens on the carcass.
Letters to the Editor -December 2012
Because beekeepers are not directly working with bees in the winter, they can (in addition to repairing and painting hives) spend some time in quieter moments, such as sweeping away snow from their hives or taking a young family member to the hives to see if bees buzz in winter. The Honey Bee Barn Quilt in the background is a nod to the now-popular activity of painting barn quilts. Why not let the honey bee get in on the fun?
I've been painting and teaching art for 30 years on high school and college levels. My work is represented in four Wisconsin art galleries, as well as in my own gallery in Stevens Point, WI. I am drawn to the art of beekeeping because of its importance in the agricultural arena, and have been painting one bee-themed painting each year. The local beekeepers' club members in my county always end up buying them.
16"x12" prints are available for $45 from the artist (email@example.com).
820 Water St.
Ogdensburg, WI 54962
Publicizing Deceptive Marketing May Increase Honey Consumption, Raise Honey Prices
Many processed foods labels and advertisements that prominently claim 'honey' as an ingredient are deceptive and possibly illegal. Despite insignificant honey content in their formulas, numerous food dry mixes, confections, snack foods, baked goods and cereals feature 'honey' in their advertisements and on product labels.
Protests by the honey industry have not persuaded violators to observe USA 'truth in advertising' laws. Offenders simply ignore the protestors.
A deceptive example: Quaker 'Honey Graham Crackers' has NO honey content.
A deceptive example: Pillsbury 'Refrigerated Biscuit Dough' features 'Honey Butter' on the front label plus a vignette of honey pouring onto an open biscuit, but the ingredient statement lists neither honey nor butter in the contents.
A detailed, extensive list of food products with deceptive claims for honey content is published by 'Bee-Good' on website 'Shame' @ http://bee-quick.com/wall.
But despite documentations of deception, violations continue.
The most frequent deception is 'Angel Dusting'; formulating a processed food whereby an ingredient which would be beneficial in a reasonable quantity is instead added in an insignificant quantity which will have no consumer benefit, so the vendor can claim that it contains that ingredient, thereby misleading consumers into expecting that they will gain the benefit. 'Angel Dusting' benefits disingenuous vendors and cheats gullible consumers.
Some industry offenders may claim that the USA Food & Drug Administration's failure to establish a 'Standard of Identity for Honey' relieves processed food marketers from including significant honey- content in food products that feature 'honey'. Lacking a legal standard for honey, how can honey dealers prove that the food processor, and therefore the food vendor, violated 'truth in advertising' laws by deceptively featuring honey as a significant ingredient in their products?
Such defense is unsupportable because USA PDA requires honey vendors to accurately identify the contents on honey labels. Documents of sourcing, processing and sales must specify, identify and quantify 'honey' transactions. Despite the inability of USA laboratory tests to determine honey content, the food industry knows and identifies real honey. To claim that honey content cannot be determined by laboratory tests may not defend violators of food label laws.
'Ingredient deception' by food processors and retailers does not cheat only the consumer. The entire honey industry is harmed by the deception: insignificant honey content in processed foods that claim substantial honey content reduce honey consumption and depress wholesale honey prices.
To compensate for their losses, beekeepers, honey packers and dealers may be entitled to collect monetary damages from the violators: food processors and food vendors.
Suits for recovery of financial losses may be initiated by any wholesale honey vendor who can establish that he/she sold honey at depressed market prices during the years in which deceptive practices of the defendants are claimed. Federal statutes-of-limitations specify the number of prior years for which damages may be collected.
A qualified law firm may pursue a class action lawsuit on behalf of USA beekeepers, honey packers and dealers; legal fees and lawyer's compensation to be deducted from future punitive awards.
My plan, to publicize current deceptive marketing of the violators, is a Win-Win strategy for the plaintiffs. Financial benefits to the wholesale honey industry may precede court actions. Risks of an adverse court ruling may prompt some prospective defendants to correct deceptive labels. To preempt litigation, other potential defendants may increase the honey content of their products whose marketing features "honey".
Honest representation of processed foods is critical for the entire industry: beekeepers, honey dealers and vendors, food processors and food marketers.
Every participant in processed foods formulating, processing and marketing must observe 'truth-in-advertising' to maintain the confidence of the industry's most important member, the lady who decides what goes into her shopping cart.
Great Foods Inc
Vernon Hills, IL
Letters to the Editor - November 2012
I was just reading Roy Henderson’s thoughts about mite sampling.
I take exception to his suggestion that we should just treat for mites no matter what. I consider all treatments as being somewhat harmful to really harmful, that are applied to the bees. I am trying to raise bees without treating them for mites. The only way for me to know if I have succeeded is to sample the bees for mites. I like the sugar roll because the bees are still alive when I get through. I personally believe all beehives should be sampled many times each year, but I have a hard time just doing it in August.
What Are the Answers?
Several years ago I was careless in failing to protect our brood comb (I winter hives using two brood chambers) in hives that did not survive the winter. When I did examine the hive boxes, all of the brood comb was completely riddled by wax moth larvae and their webs. Only the wood frames could be salvaged.
Then, about two years ago I observed that a frame of brood comb that was being used in lectures on beekeeping was not being bothered by wax moths. I believed this to be strange and, out of curiosity, I intentially left more frames of old brood comb exposed to the environment. (A container of Para-moth had been purchased, but was only opened to show an interested beekeeper what the crystals looked like).
After observing for over two years that brood comb, left unprotected, was not being bothered by wax moths, I decided to have some of the comb tested.
Several laboratories in the Chicago area were contacted and none “would” or “could” do the testing. The same was true for a university laboratory and another laboratory suggested by Mr. Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine.
To the rescue was Intertek Food Service in Bremen, Germany. Their report is in the Addendum.
The summary sheet for the Intertek report shows DEET present as 0.041 mg/kg and coumaphos present as 0.353 mg/kg. With the exception of about half a dozen of over 150 pesticides, including clothianidin, the other pesticides were listed as 0.01 mg/kg. - meaning almost nothing.
Based on the data from “other pesticides” the logical conclusion would be that the wax moths were being repelled by DEET and/or coumaphos. However, when there was a severe wax moth problem a few years ago, the hives were being treated for the Varroa using coumaphos. Based on this fact, it now appears the problem is DEET.
If my hypotheses are correct, the following questions deserve answers:
● - How did DEET get into the bee hive?
● - Does DEET pose adverse effects in any way? For every day the life of a worker bee is shortened, the bee’s potential for producing honey is reduced by a minimum of five percent.
Perhaps, all of my questions and concerns have been explained in some research study that I am not aware of. I do find it strange that when a few years ago wax moths really destroyed brood comb and now they do not.
Dr. Lawrence DuBose, PhD. Retired
Monsanto Employees Learning About Honey Bees
We are so glad to have Jerry Hayes here at Monsanto teaching and showing us how important honey bees really are. I, like many others, always knew how important they are, but now I am really noticing and being more honey bee and flower aware. I took the attached photo while I was simply in my yard looking around and saw this great relationship between a bee and a flower. I am excited about honey bees now like I never was before.
St. Louis, MO
Glenn Apiaries OwnerS to Retire
This is to announce that Tom and Suki Glenn of Glenn Apiaries are retiring at the end of this year. We'd like to thank all of our customers for their support over the last 35 years.
Due to some family health issues this year we are now giving priority to caring for loved ones.
We will be finished selling queens at the end of the 2012 season. We won't be able to provide any breeder queens next year. However, our website has lists of people who can help you with your queen needs. www.glenn-apiaries.com
At some time in the future we plan on using our skills to work on bee development projects.
We've been proud to have worked with so many wonderful beekeepers. Thank you for 35 great years.
Tom and Suki Glenn