Oct 30

Rothenbuhler Bee Lab Closed?

The official word is that the scope of the beekeeping research on the Columbus (Ohio State) campus at the Rothenbuhler Bee Laboratory has been ‘reduced’ for the present.  While the OSU Entomology administration recognizes the importance and contributions of the lab, restricted funding is a fact within university systems across the US.

From those I’ve talked to, that’s short for: the Lab is closed until we can find someone who can bring in the grants to fund the lab.   The sad fact is much of beekeeping research and breeding programs simply don’t bring in the big corporate grants because there isn’t a product at the end of the research that can be sold to millions of people, directly at least.  While the high-tech science brings in the dollars with it’s promise for new drugs and treatments down the road (and only a few hives are needed for that).  Much of the research wanted by beekeepers involves the labor intensive and sometimes tedious task of running 100’s of hives.  All to develop a bee that doesn’t need treatment or inexpensive treatments that only 10,000s of people will buy.

It’s disappointing, but really not surprising.  The bee scientist position at the lab has been vacant for several years and Sue Cobey who ran the NWC program at Ohio State left for the Laidlaw Bee Laboratory at the University of California at Davis.  Sue will be a great asset there, and I have a feeling the Lab may still have closed eventually even if she had stayed.  The days when the university will do research for the public good even if a particular program can’t generate the direct income are gone.  Even with bee research in spite of the fact we all benefit every time we eat an apple, almond, blueberry, pear, or 100 other fruits and vegetables.

Now, if you could train bees to play football, then you would have a nearly endless stream of money.  The average coach in the BCS conference has a 1.4 million dollar salary.  Couldn’t we take just 10% of that and hire someone to do real research.  A fraction of the profits from football would fund the entire research program.  Are our priorities in the right place?

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/rothenbuhler-bee-lab-closed/

Oct 29

Breeding and CCD, the big IF.

Among the many interesting pieces of information the speakers talked about at the North Central Queen Assembly was a piece on the Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus or IAPV for short.  Recently scientists claim to  have found a significant connection between IAPV and Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD).  It is still a great matter of debate if IAPV causes CCD, is a contributing factor, a symptom, or something else. 

However, Greg Hunt of Purdue University, who does research on the genetics of bees stated that they have found that some honey bees have incorporated some of the DNA from IAPV into their own DNA.  More interestingly, these bees that have part of the IAPV genes copied into their DNA seem immune to IAPV.  Thus, IF IAPV causes or is a major contributor to CCD, and IF someone with the money , time and the expertise to run a real breeding program, and IF someone contributes the funding to test the DNA of bees in a breeding program with all the fancy new and expensive machines, then it would be possible to breed a line of bees resistant to CCD.  And that’s assuming CCD is even a concern a year or month from now (another matter of considerable debate).   And that’s an awful lot of IFs.  We’ll have to wait to see how the first big IF turns out.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/breeding-and-ccd-the-big-if/

Oct 27

More cures for CCD.

It didn’t take long after CCD hit the all the media outlets for the first person to try and take advantage of the hype.  Early this year, before anyone even had any evidence to suspect anything more concrete than little green men, someone was advertising CCD proof bees in one of the beekeeping magazines.  Amazing claims when no one knew the cause or even how to test for it. 

Now, there are another couple holistic tools to cure CCD (or to keep you amused on a cold winter day in case the snake oil salesman is fresh out):

Orgonite (as advertised on a few online forums).  It transmutes any negative, destructive electromagnetic fields into positive, life supporting energetic fields.   Confused?  Me too.  According to orgonite.info you can make your own.  Just fill a mold (an old muffin pan will do) with one crystal (doesn’t appear to mater what type), any shards of metal you have handy and resin.  Let it harden and you have a hard block you can smash the nasty CCD bugs with.  No metal shards handy?  I’m sure some scrapings from some recalled toys will have enough lead in them to do the trick.

theccdsolution.com (As advertised in the American Bee Journal)  The Add reads:

"Get the CCD Solution NOW!  Why wait?  $99 intro kit treats 100 hives and 1.5 acres.  Guaranteed to improve your hives.  No poisons, No chemicals.  No toxins.  Explains CCD.  From GW Agriculture: the inventors of Ultra High Technology for Agriculture"

Now call me skeptical, but a small agriculture company that does nothing with bees (at least on their primary web site gwagriculture.com) knows what CCD is and the cure?  So I looked up theccdsolution.com  and it’s just a parking page, no information at all.  You would think if they were advertising the site they would have at least something on the page.   Try to find out much about the company and you will turn up little.  "Ultra High Technology for Agriculture" turns up 0 hits in google.  Searching the company name and their old name Agri-Synthesis (agrisynthesis.com which redirects to gwagriculture.com) doesn’t turn up much, but does turn up an article in Wine Business Monthly where the founder is interviewed and he claims "We can cure any insect, disease, yield or quality problem on any crop, anywhere." 

Sorry if I remain skeptical after such claims.  Even all the trademarked names sprinkled liberally all over the website just isn’t that convincing to me.  That and the $99 is a bit out of my price range.  After all, if my bees only travel 2 miles from the hive (a low estimate), I’d only have to treat 8,000 acres per apiary at a cost of only $500,000.  Maybe they’ll give me a discount buying it by the truckload?  I guess I’ll have to try the Orgonite first, it’s nearly free in comparison.

(My chemist friend from college would get a kick out of it too.  "Chemical Free", it’s a vacuum in a can!)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/rants/more-cures-for-ccd/

Oct 26

A New Theme.

I thought it was time to update the look of this blog from the plain default theme that comes with WordPress.  Hope you like it.  I really can’t take much credit for it though, it was one of those free ones you can download from www.wpthemespot.com.  I did update the picture at the top to something a bit more appropriate.  It’s a photo of one of this year’s instrumentally inseminated queens.  If she does well until next year, she may be a breeder I use for next year.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/completely-off-topic/a-new-theme/

Oct 23

Small hive beetles.

Small hive beetles are another one of those pests imported into the US (discovered in 1998).  While they can be a serious problem  in the Southeastern US, making a fermenting mess of the comb in the hive, they have yet to cause serious problems for most here in Ohio.  No one I’ve talked to has had a serious infestation with most only seeing a few on the bottom board or under the inner cover.  I myself have never seen them in my hives, that is until this year.  In my year end inspections I did find 2, one each under an inner cover of two hives at different apiaries.  I did catch one and am nearly sure but not 100% positive it’s a small hive beetle as there are many similar beetles in appearance.  I did not get pictures until it was dead for some time, so it’s body has shrunk and it’s legs and clubbed antenna have folded in.  You can see the clubbed antenna from the bottom view, and wing covers shorter than the abdomen.

I did hear some disturbing news about beetles in the county.  Apparently one beekeeper who purchased packages that came from the south also got a lot of small hive beetles in the deal and has been unable to get rid of the infestation.  It does make me glad we opted for the more expensive packages from the west that haven’t had the problem.  But it looks like something we’ll have to start keeping a closer watch on.  If they get a good foothold, they could make a real mess of the weaker mating nucs in short order.
 Back side of the small hive beetle
Top of the small hive beetle
 Bottom of the small hive beetle
Bottom of the small hive beetle

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/small-hive-beetles/

Oct 22

North Central Queen Assembly

I had the opportunity last weekend to attend the North Central Queen Assembly held in Troy, Ohio.   It was entitled ‘Selecting and Rearing Your Own Queens’, which did make me think the information was going to be rather introductory and basic and that I wouldn’t get all that much out of it.  It’s the downside of beekeeping conventions after a while and you are really into bees, the conventions tend to target those at the beginner level and there just isn’t that much new information for some of us.

But the list of speakers included some very notable people such as Gary Reuter who works with Marla Spivak in Minnesota, Greg Hunt from Purdue University and John Harbo who worked at the USDA Honey bee lab and is responsible for the Harbo syring, SMR/VSH queens and much more.  Not to discount Larry Connor and Jim Tew, both entertaining speakers, and Joe Latshaw whom I blame for my queen rearing obsession.  So I had some high expectations.

It ended up being well worth attending, and if you have any interest in rearing queens (or even just buying a queen) you should be kicking yourself for not attending.  Enough basic information was presenting for the beginner, yet had plenty of good information for us that have been rearing queens for some time.  Even had good information for those just wanting to buy a queen and what they should look for in a breeder.  It was very interesting and very worthwhile.  I sincerely hope they hold it again next year.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/north-central-queen-assembly/

Oct 21

Another beautiful day.

Honeybee Collecting propolisStill incredibly good weather for this month.  There isn’t much left for the bees to work as the goldenrod has finished blooming and is going to seed, and just about everything else left is drying up.  Strangely, the bees don’t seem to be too interested in robbing as I would expect in such a dearth.  They also don’t seem to have any interest in open feed pollen substitute like they typically do this year. 

They are however very interested in any old equipment sitting around.  They are collecting propolis from anywhere they can get it, with preference for the easy pickings.  Of course ‘easy’ is a relative term.  While there is a good buildup on old equipment, and sometimes on external parts of the hive, it looks like a real struggle to chew off the sticky stuff and put it on their legs for transport back to the hive.  Watch for yourself in this video…

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/another-beautiful-day/

Oct 18

Is Fall Here Yet?

It’s hard to believe by looking outside that it’s well into Fall and bee season should basically be over.  But the temperatures are still in the upper 60’s and into the 70’s with no chance of frost yet in the 10 day forecast.  What a huge change from last year with it’s cool wet weather and early frost that virtually eliminated any fall flow from goldenrod or aster.  The bees have been packing away stores and are very heavy for winter, yet the queens are still laying in any available space they can find.  I’m hoping that is a very promising sign for this coming winter and spring.
We have been feeding some of the very late splits that were only a single deep just 6 weeks ago.  Most have taken the syrup quickly and built up population on the pollen flow from goldenrod and aster that we’ll be able to stop feeding before it gets cold.  It’s really been a great finish to a year that started off so poorly.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/is-fall-here-yet/

Sep 25

Found! The cause of CCD

This month every beekeeping magazine and newsletter is filled with the news.   The cause of CCD (Colony collapse disorder) has been found, or at least they think they have found it.  Researches have found that hives with the Israeli Acute Paralysis (IAP) virus has a strong correlation to hives affected by CCD.  Not a slam dunk, but a very likely culprit.   IAP was first identified in Israel (hence it’s name), but it originated from Australia.

When bees were first imported from Australia, some argued that this was a horribly bad thing to do because you don’t know what you may be bringing in.  After all, many of the major crises in the beekeeping industry were caused by importing bees (Varroa Mites, Tracheal mites and  Africanized bees to name the most well known problems).  But they did go ahead in import them, I believe on pressure of the Almond growers that were worried about having enough bees for pollination.  To my knowledge no test was done in an isolated area to see how they would do in our climate with our pests.  But the argument was that Australia’s bees didn’t have the pests we have, so it’s not a problem.  An argument that doesn’t make much sense since we aren’t worried about the pests we already have.

It looks like the doomsayers may have been right.  Australian bees were imported in for pollination, into the biggest melting pot of bees in the US, the almond groves.  Over 1 million hives moved into one state, sharing diseases, then moving back into nearly every state in the continental US (directly or indirectly though multiple movements and sale of bees) spreading everything picked up in California country wide within months.  The result, CCD reported from coast to coast..

So why isn’t Australia reporting CCD?  It’s what they don’t have that is keeping it from showing up there.  They don’t have Varroa that vector viruses.  Nosema seems to be another common thread, though I think it may be more a symptom than a cause, though robbing of hives weakened from Nosema could spread the virus (and Varroa) as well.

I should also note that an article in the most recent Bee Culture argues that the virus was not originally imported from Australia since it should have shown up in Canada and in the US (though imports from Canada) much earlier (perhaps as early as 1987).  It points to a possible source that infected both the US and Australia.  It claims that queen producers may have used infected royal jelly from China.  Of course this is conjecture as well and also likely occurred well before 2004, the year mass bees were imported in large numbers into the US and shortly before CCD started popping up.  Far to many Ifs to draw a strait line to the source, and it’s pretty much a moot point now.  The damage has been done.

So what does this mean for us?  Unless you have a lab you’re not going to detect it early.  And even if you did there is no treatment for it.  It does mean that control of  Varroa is even more important now so you must monitor your Varroa load and treat if necessary.  The jury is still out in my opinion on treating for noseama.  We don’t simply because it’s rarely a problem in more than a hive or two and I’m not sure it’s linked to the cause or is simply a symptom at this point.

But more importantly, have we learned anything else from this?  I seriously doubt it.   Bees and bee products are still being imported with whatever foreign disease they may have.  And I’m sure the same will be done with other bees in the future as it’s been done many times already.  Of course this artificial continental migration of species is a topic and problem in itself.

(Note.  The above is simply my take on the situation after reading the currently available literature in Bee Culture and other periodicals.  The research is not 100% certain these are the causes and really only suggest imported bees are at fault.  But until evidence to the contrary is brought forward, if it looks like a duck…..)

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/found-the-cause-of-ccd/

Aug 15

Harvesting Time

Over the past couple week the weather has been very hot an humid and generally very little wind.  It’s been unpleasant to do just about anything as you break out in a heavy sweat doing anything more than sitting still in front of the fan.  The bees thought so too and spent a great deal of time simply hanging out in front of the hives.  Even hives with screened bottom boards and upper ventilation were bearding heavily with the high heat and humidity at this time where their population is at it’s peak.

Fortunately the unbearably hot weather has abated and the past several nights have been rather cool.  Just in time since we are completely out of honey to sell and county fair is just a few days away.  So last night all the extracting tanks and equipment was cleaned, fresh cardboard was taped to the floor to make cleanup easier and this evening we hope to begin pulling honey off the hives and extracting it.  It can’t be soon enough because I have call from customers every day now wanting to know if we have honey yet, and I desperately need some empty drawn comb for later splits I had made.  In fact last week I resorted to giving the strongest ones boxes with new foundation because they simply could not go another day without some place to build.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/harvesting-time/

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