Dec 16

Australia off the hook for IAPV?

The Agricultural Research Service (ARS), part of the USDA , has released results of their research of their detailed genetic screening of honey bee samples dating back to 2002.    They have found the Israeli acute paralysis virus (IAPV) has been in the US since at least 2002.  So it appears as though Australia off the hook and the suggestion from the original research suggesting IAPV was a cause of Colony Colapse Disorder is wrong.

Of course the argument was that IAPV didn’t come in with the Australian imports in 2005-2007 because bees have been imported into Canada for many years prior to that with no CCD issues.  So what do we know now?  Other than IAPV itself didn’t arrive by way of the imports into the States initially and that IAPV can exist without CCD, not much.   IAPV quite likely still has a connection to CCD, and IAPV still may have come from Australia, just by a different route, though on this second point I don’t think anyone has the samples to find out with any certainty and I really don’t think it matters.    Research on IAPV now is focusing on "understanding differences in virulence across different strains of IAPV and interactions with other stress factors".

I know everyone is in a rush for answers and solutions, but it really isn’t helping when the scientific community starts jumping to answers based on tidbits of information.

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Dec 12

Honey Stick Machine – Part 4b – 4 to 8 decoder

4 to 8 Decoder for the Phidgets controllerOne of the challenges in the circuit design that I was worried about was obtaining the additional outputs I expect to need for the honey stick machine.  The Phidgets USB controller only has 8 outputs and while I could simply add a 2nd Phidgets module, I’d really rather avoid the extra expense in the final model.  I had proposed using a 4 to 8 decoder previously to add the extra outputs.  The good news is that the 74259 addressable 8 bit latch works quite well and replaces the entire circuit proposed.  The bad news is that the 4 outputs from the USB controller aren’t guaranteed to update at the same time.  This means that random signals can be generated on the output.  Not a good thing.

The solution? An edge detection circuit on all 4 inputs to generate a pulse any time the input changes, a delay timer to debounce the multiple pulses sent when the inputs change at different times and a 2nd timer to send the all clear to the 8 bit latch signaling that it’s ok to look at the input signals now that they are stable.  The Phidgets controller updates the output signals approximately every 8mS, so it’s quite possible that when multiple inputs are changed that the change will occur over two consecutive updates.  So if you wait and look at what signals changed over 12mS (1 1/2 update cycles), you should catch any output that occurs over two cycles.  Or at least that is the theory.

It’s been about 12 years since college and since I’ve done any circuit design and I really don’t have access to the oscilloscopes , etc. needed to see really what is happening with the signals in the circuit.  Though I’m  happy to say that something must have stuck after 4 years of college, the circuit works flawlessly.  As long as I limit the software to sending out signals every 16mS , I can selectively turn on and off each individual output using just 4 outputs from the Phidgets controller.  This does have the downside that it will be slower and only one  output can be addressed at a time,  but many of the outputs needed are not  so time sensitive  so this should work well for them.  Those that are time sensitive can be driven by the remaining 4 outputs of the Phidgets controller directly.

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Dec 10

Honey Stick Machine – Part 4a – DC Driver

Solinoid control board

Given the unknowns  developing a machine such as this, I’ve opted to build much of it in smaller functional blocks.  This certainly won’t be a cost effective way to produce machines if we end up marketing it, due to the increased cost of parts.  And assembling circuits on these generic prototype boards is quite time consuming.  But it is just about ideal for this stage of development.  I’m happy to say the DC Solenoid driver board is completed and working.  It’s basically just 8 of the mosfet driver circuits wired on a single board.  It is fairly simple but should be much more reliable than mechanical relays, and it’s one step closer.

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Dec 06

Honey Stick Machine – Part 4 – Circuits

Mosfet control circuit

It’s winter again, or at least it looks like it out the window.  We had several inches of snowfall Tuesday night and it looks like it’s going to stick around for awhile.  So it’s time to get back to the honey stick machine.  It’s been over a year now since I designed the simple MOSFET solenoid driver circuit, and I’ve finally constructed it on the prototype board and tested it. I’m happy to say it worked flawlessly.  It’s probably overkill for the lower power solenoids, but keeping them all the same (the project calls for 7 drivers) will allow significant flexibility.  This is good since I don’t know what I’ll get into once I get into the mechanical side of things.

The picture, from left to right, shows the power supply, Phidgets USB interface, and the prototype board with solenoid on the right side of it.

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Nov 29

Last Mowing of the Season

It’s getting quite late in the year for mowing lawns, but I’ve been putting it off for several weeks waiting for the leaves to fall so they would be mulched up.  Of course most have fallen a fe weeks ago and I couldn’t even use the ‘bee work’ excuse as to why it hasn’t been done.   So this past weekend I finally got around to it.  Pumped up the now completely flat tire on the tractor (another item on the needs-fixed list).  The day was cool in the low 40’s and overcast, promising rain later in the day.  So the bees were all tucked in quite nicely and weren’t likely to get stirred up by the exhaust from the tractor that blows out the side of the engine cover.   A good time to mow the bee yards.

Not a good time, however, to zip though the bee yards not paying attention where the ends of the landscaping timbers the hives were sitting on are.  The bees quickly let me know that they were less than happy with the new orientation of their hive, flat on it’s back.  Fortunately the hive boxes were firmly stick together with propolis so it was a quick matter of setting the hive upright  as hundreds of bees pored out the front entrance.  Given the temperature few took to the air and were back in the hive as nothing had happened a few minutes later.  Sorry, no pictures.  It’s just not the kind of thing you run back to the house to get a camera in the middle of.

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Nov 26

The Sticky Machine Makes Another Appearance.

The Original Sticky MachineNow you can own your own ‘non working’ orignal Sticky Machine.  Only $430 right now on ebay, a fraction of the original $3000 price tag.  Unfortunately it sounds like the seller had as many problems with the machine as others I’ve talked to about it. 

Having filled quite a few honey sticks by hand, it’s not really surprising there are some problems with it.  The viscosity of the honey can vary significantly from jar to jar, at least enough to throw off any sort of timing for filling and sealing.  Temperature of the heating elements plays a big part in sealing time.  Too cool and it seals slowly, too hot and it may melt though the plastic breaking the seal.  It’s really a pretty tricky operation to get right, even by hand.  So with apparently little or no feedback in the system I’m not sure how one would get it to consistently work.

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Nov 20

Rothenbuler Bee Lab to be Destroyed

Simply closing the bee lab in Columbus was apparently not enough for the Ohio State University.  The University has now decided to destroy the Historic Rothenbuler Lab located on the Ohio State University property in Columbus.

Dana Stahlman from the Ohio State Beekeepers Association is organizing a " Save the Building" project.  Dr Tew is checking to see if he can place the building near the bee lab in Wooster.   Meanwhile, a group of volunteers are organizing to remove the building from the OSU property to a location for safe keeping until a "New" home is found.

Funding is needed for this project and some clubs have already made their pledges.  The purpose of the building relocation in Wooster will be to house the OSBA Queen Project activities. 

Any monies donated and not used in the moving will be earmarked for the queen project from which we all benefit.  All donations should be sent to OSBA Treasurer, Bob Hooker,  100 Pyle Rd, Oberlin, OH  44074, email,  ask Bob to "earmark" this for the bee lab relocation.


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Nov 08

Photo Gallery

I have a fair number of beekeeping photos taken over the past several years but only have posted a small handful of them on the website because it’s generally been a pain to do so because they were static pages. Not easy to change, add to or search. So this past weekend I added a feature that’s been long missing from this site, a Photo Gallery.

It is a fairly basic photo gallery, but integrated fairly well with the site. Currently I only have pictures from this year’s queen rearing class posted, but I\’ll add more periodically now that it\’s fairly easy to do. You can view it here:

I should also note, the queen rearing class pictured was done in conjunction with the Ohio State Beekeepers Association‘s queen program. As part of the program, classes on queen rearing were given by 8 of the regional coordinators at various times thought the summer throughout the state. I believe they intend to hold these classes again in 2008 and if you think you may be interesting in attending one of them, and I\’ll make sure you get on the announcement list for the classes.

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Nov 02

October is Here!

Bees at the hive entranceFrost has been on the ground the past couple of mornings and the trees are turning from green to gold and red.  Not a hard freeze yet, but enough to kill the more delicate plants and some trees have only just started changing color.  At least it looks and feels like the the beginning to middle of October.  By the calendar its November 2nd.

As of just a few days ago, the hives were still bringing in a fair amount of pollen and were collecting propolis from any unoccupied equipment they could get to.  The hives are looking much better than this time last year and most are very heavy with honey.  If anything they may be too heavy and I’ll have to pay special attention to the amount of empty area they have for brood this spring.

I’m hoping this is a good sign for this coming winter and spring.  The hives still are quite populous and busy once it gets warm.  The picture to the right is from 1 1/2 weeks ago, but they were still just as busy mid afternoon today.  It’s a big change from their condition this time last year.

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Nov 01

CCD, What can we do Now?

So we don’t have many answers yet when it comes to CCD.  We know several things it is not (cell phones, power towers, aliens…), and know a few things that may be a symptom or part of the cause (most notably IAPV and nosema).  But at the end, the only thing that we really know for certain is the name assigned to it, CCD, and that it has brought more media attention to beekeeping that I think we’ve ever seen before.

But what can we do to prevent CCD from making our hives disappear now?  The 10+ step lists published in newsletters and beekeeping magazines should leave most beekeepers asking ‘is that all?’.  In short it’s simply ‘Be a better beekeeper‘.  The slightly longer version is minimize stress, monitor and treat disease, re-queen frequently, and keep strong healthy hives.  Isn’t that what we were trying to do already?  Of course the bee-havers out there are probably staring at the list in disbelief wondering how they could possibly start doing even a 4th of what’s on the list.  I shouldn’t be to harsh.  These people make good regular customers for package bees.

The only thing possibly new is that given the possible connection with nosema, treatment for Nosema (with Fumadil-B) is considered important.  Personally I’ve never treated for it and have not had a problem with it.  The samples our bee inspector sent in to Beltsville found no nosema this past spring and I really don’t expect to see any difference this winter. So for now I’m taking my chances.  This is about the time it started being noticed last year and so far no disappearing bees here.

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