The Classroom March 2014
by Jerry Hayes
Q Swollen Friend
Hi Jerry, I enjoy your column every month. Have you ever heard of someone who is not normally allergic to honey to have a reaction to one crop? I gave a pint of raw wildflower honey to a friend. When he had some on an English muffin, his eyes and lips swelled up. Could it be the honey?
Thanks for any insight you might have.
There are proteins in flower nectar/honey and pollen that a few people can be or may develop an allergy to or are simply toxic to that individual. The pollen grains found in unfiltered, unprocessed honey would be a source of concentrated proteins that could be an allergen to someone sensitive to them. So, I guess he does not swell up when he eats a plain English muffin? I hope he is OK now and that it has not gotten worse. If better, he needs to visit an allergy doctor and be desensitized or stay away from that particular honey and pollen if you can identify the floral source. Does your friend have seasonal sinus allergies to wind-blown pollen in the air? If so, this could have been a precursor to the unfortunate event. Sorry for the awkward moment with your honey. It is one in a million, unless it is you.
Jerry, I’m confused by something I think I heard you say. You indicate to not medicate unless needed so when would you use Fumagilin? You said if they have a nosema outbreak it’s too late to give them Fumagilin.
Dick in Duluth
The problem is that there are two life stages, if you will, for Nosema--the vegetative stage that infects a cell to make more Nosema and the spore stage that is designed to survive as it is spread around and through and out the gut. Fumagilin doesn’t affect the vegetative or the spore stage at all. It prevents the vegetative stage from commandeering the cell machinery to make more Nosema. Its actual activity is on the honey bee’s individual cells to make them temporarily resistant to Nosema using them to make more Nosema. As you can imagine, Fumagilin is a stressor on the bees themselves as cell machinery is not working normally. Everything is a tradeoff.
So, based on the above when should you treat? How do you know if and when there is a problem? Is it sampling and finding a million spores per bee or some other number or do you simply treat and hope it is at the right time? Fumagilin can work if used at the right time. I simply don’t know how to tell you when the right time is. And, if you use it at the wrong time, it affects honey bee health itself and costs you a lot of money for no value.
Q New Beekeeper and Diseases
I’m a beginning beekeeper near the Mississippi Gulf Coast. I have been trying to get enough hives to help out in my retirement and I obviously love a challenge, with the hive beetles, varroa mites and other pests.
Actually, I had a few hives back in the days when it was much easier to keep them, 1980. Back then I didn’t have time to devote to them, so they just took care of themselves. I took some honey from them and left them what they needed for the winter. No treating for mites twice a year and I didn’t know what a Small Hive Beetle was.
This spring, I had one strong hive, so I made two splits and I bought two nucs for a total of five. Right now I have the one strong hive that I had last year and one that is so weak I don’t think it will make it. Though I haven’t given up yet, I did mention that I like a challenge. I sugar dusted twice during the last year and did not find but a few varroa mites, but when I put the mite strips in, I found out that I had a serious problem with them. I think the weak hive has one of the viruses that are associated with Varroa. I’m currently feeding Tylan to them and the strong hive because I believe they may have American foulbrood (AFB).
Getting to my question, is there any way to sterilize the hive boxes and frames? What I’m thinking is high heat might kill the spores on the wood without burning everything. The bees can be replaced; I’ve been doing that for the last few years anyway. I could burn everything, but I have a lot of work involved in them. What I’m looking for is a temperature that will kill the spores and not burn up the wood.
If you can help with this question, I sure would appreciate it.
Just as an aside my wife is from Pascagoula, MS and we met at USM. I know exactly where Perk is:)
It is a challenge with honey bees much more than it was in the 80’s for sure—a different world. A short answer to your AFB and sterilization of equipment is don’t worry about woodenware (hive bodies, covers and bottom boards). All of the diseases of honey bees are generally associated with developing brood (larvae and pupae) which means beeswax comb is the reservoir, the sink, the garbage collector for pathogens. It is tough to totally sterilize combs unless you have access to a gamma radiation sterilization facility near you and the price is right. So, if you think you have a full blown AFB event, replace all the combs with new clean comb or foundation. If it is just a few frames, then taking them out and burning the comb and washing off the wooden frame with hot soapy water will be about the best you can do.
The key to healthy colonies is varroa control using as few chemical-based products as possible. Apiguard or Api-Life Var would be my first choices. Hang in there!
Q How to Submit Samples to USDA?
If my leaky memory serves me right, in a previous column you gave out information as to how and where to send a sample of bees for disease testing. Could you please repeat that information?
Thanks so much,
Your wish is my command, Joe.
Submission of Samples for Diagnosis:
• Beekeepers, bee businesses, and regultory officials may submit saples.
• Samples are accepted from U.S. states and territories, and from Canada; samples are NOT accepted from other countries. For samples originating from Canada go to http://www.ars.usda.gov/SP2UserFiles/Place/12453300/CA%20Diagnostic%20Samples.pdf
• Include a short description of the problem along with your name, address, phone number or e-mail address.
• There is no charge for this service.
• For additional information, contact Bart Smith by phone at (301) 504-8821 or e-mail: email@example.com
How to Send Adult Honey Bees
• Send at least 100 bees and if possible, select bees that are dying or that died recently. Decayed bees are not satisfactory for examination.
• Bees should be placed in and soaked with 70% ethyl, methyl, or isopropyl alcohol as soon as possible after collection and packed in leak-proof containers.
• USPS, UPS, and FedEx do not accept shipments containing alcohol. Just prior to mailing samples, pour off all excess alcohol to meet shipping requirements.
How to send brood samples
• A comb sample should be at least 2 x 2 inches and contain as much of the dead or discolored brood as possible. NO HONEY SHOULD BE PRESENT IN THE SAMPLE.
• The comb can be sent in a paper bag or loosely wrapped in a paper towel, newspaper, etc. and sent in a heavy cardboard box. AVOID wrappings such as plastic, aluminum foil, waxed paper, tin, glass, etc. because they promote decomposition and the growth of mold.
• If a comb cannot be sent, the probe used to examine a diseased larva in the cell may contain enough material for tests. The probe can be wrapped in paper and sent to the laboratory in an envelope.
Send samples to:
Bee Disease Diagnosis
Bee Research Laboratory
Bldg. 306 Room 316
Beltsville Agricultural Research Center
East Beltsville, MD 20705
Q Food Fight
As a third-year beekeeper and avid reader of the ABJ, I find your monthly column insightful and educational. Thank you. I have a question:
Late last year, I removed the honey supers from my two producing hives, and while I had the hives open, immediately applied Apiguard treatments—thinking that if the queens were going to stop laying during the treatment (as they did last year), it would give them all fall to make up for lost time. Unfortunately, this action precluded me from replacing the supers once the honey was extracted. I elected to expose the extracted supers in my garage and leave the garage doors open to allow the bees access. Mistake. Within a day, I had hundreds of dead bees all over the garage floor. Assuming the bees were battling each other for the spoils, I stacked the supers in such a way that the bees could no longer access them and stopped the carnage. A month later, I re-applied the supers to the hives.
Two weeks ago, after waiting as long as I felt I could into the fall, I removed the supers filled with goldenrod honey and immediately applied top feeders. Same issue. Extracted supers sitting in the garage and no way to allow the bees to clean them up. Again, I exposed them to the bees and again, hundreds of dead bees were all over the floor and driveway. I watched for signs of battle but saw none. I’m going to remove the feeders tomorrow and apply the supers to the hives for cleaning. But, any idea what’s killing all my girls? Guess I’m a slow learner! Appreciate your thoughts on the matter.
Good morning Tom from a meeting on the West Coast. Thank you for the Classroom compliment. It is fun. My experience has been the same Tom. I never put the supers in my garage for free-form cleaning. I always did it away from my house so it wasn’t so crazy. Having free honey, regardless of quantity available, with all its inherent attractive odors, scents and original colony pheromones, engages the competitive nature of all the honey bees in a wide area. Honey Bees are incredibly efficient foragers gauging calorie expenditure to fly someplace to gather low sugar nectar with calorie intake to be sure they are bringing more back than they are using. Provide the final product, honey, with huge concentrated energy reserves, and especially at this time of the year, you have provided a perfect ESPN sporting event called “Robbing”. Only this one allows death. Add in the rough and tumble of collecting/stealing, as several colonies compete for this valuable resource, and deaths occur. If yellow jackets and other wasps participated, deaths go up as they fight for food as well. It is part of the process with this type of outside clean-up.
Comment from Tom
Thank you so much for your timely and insightful response. I know it’s an over- used phrase, but you truly are a gentleman and a scholar! Your explanation makes complete sense. I’ve read of “Robbing” but haven’t witnessed it. It never occurred to me that my girls would attempt to defend it against all comers, even themselves.
I won’t make that mistake again! Thanks again, best wishes and good luck in your new endeavor.