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

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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…..)

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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.

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Jul 24

Honey Stick Machine Update

With a change of jobs and being in the middle of bee season, I haven’t had much time to devote to much else, including working on the honey stick machine.

I have noticed however that Dunbar Honey Farm is now advertizing their honey stick machine in the American Bee Journal for $1900  (Phone 586-770-9953).  I suspect this is the same machine he had a year ago when my wife talked to him.  If so, it is a relatively manual system  that uses a specially made pump, a holder for a dozen or so straws and an impulse sealer.  It certainly beats filling them individually with a syringe, but isn’t yet the automated machine I’m hoping for (though I’m sure it’s far cheaper).  If anyone finds out differently please let me know.

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Jun 19

I quit, sort of…

I quit my job.  I never really thought that after 12 years at Kohli & Kaliher Associates I’d be doing anything else unless I could afford to do beekeeping full time.  But I had a good offer from a company I did some freelance programming work for over the past several years and could refuse.  It can be a little big unnerving to leave a good stable job and take a chance in a different line of work.  But the money is there and it lets me work from home and have a bit more flexibility with my schedule.  Will take a while to really get into the groove of things at Data Business Systems, but I’m sure in a few weeks I’ll be in the swing of things.   So it’s not beekeeping full time, and it is a full time job, but I think I’ll like it and it will give me more flexibility to answer phones, and beat the 4:00pm storm front to keep the grafting schedule.  It also got me one thing I’ve wanted for some time, an office where I can keep my records, do shipping, insemination, etc.

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Jun 05

Beekeeping Goals for 2007

I suppose this should be something that is traditionally done around the near year, but everything seems to be running late.  Poor weather and lack of time with my wife staring her new real estate office, my day job, and other things that came up during the spring and summer that kept me from accomplishing what I had intended to do with the bees last year.  However, this year, since I’ve been forced to significantly reduce my commercial queen rearing, I should have time to complete my goals in regards to my bees. 

I’ve mentioned a few goals already, but though I should write them down more formally:

  • Build back to 100-120 hives.   – The winter (and summer/fall preceeding it) was hard on most of Ohio.  Losses here were significant and it will take some work to get back to the number we had.  On the plus side, we can see now which queens were really superior.
  • Requeen most of my hives.  Most hives will be requeend with the next generation of queens.  I’ve always found it hard to get rid of old queens, but for a successfull program I need to make room for truely superior queens.
  • Have 50% (or more) of my hives headed by II queens.  This goal is two fold.  First simply to take the best stock available and build a good base of pure stock to evaluate for next years queens.  And 2nd, to simply practice and perfect my instrumental insemination skills.
  • Stock improvement. – We can’t maintain a stagnant gene pool.  Bees thrive on diversity.  To that end I need to evaluate and bring in new stock and this year I’ll hopefully be adding stock from both Sue Cobey’s program and Joe Latshaw.
  • Harvest in early August.  – Havesting earlier will give more time for inpections, treatments (if necessary) and fall requeening of any hive that is no up to par.  Plus harvesting earlier may while the flow isn’t completely dried up may help avoid the severe robbing of the honey house I experience last year.
  • Try overwintering Nucs/10 frame hives.  – Another beekeeper locally had good success overwintering single deeps above full sized colonies separated by a double screen board.  I’d like to give it a try and possibly use it to make up losses in the spring or for expanding next year.
  • Inspect hives earlier in August and address mites and other issues earlier.  It may make little difference if we have a good fall.  But if the fall is cut short like last year, inspecting, requeening and treating earlier will give them the time they need to build up with young healthy bees before the weather forces them to shut down.
  • Feed pollen patties in the fall.  It may be questionable, but shouldn’t hurt.  In many years it probably wouldn’t make a difference, but with last fall it may have made a huge difference in overwintering success.  In any case I have the patties ready in the freezer so it won’t take much extra effort.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/beekeeping-goals-for-2007/

May 25

Unintentional 2 Queen Hives

2 Queens in one hiveOne of my goals this year, among others, is to have all my queens marked.  So in the course of routine inspections I’ve been making an attempt to find the queen and mark her, because it is much easier to find them now than later in the season when their population is much higher. (or at least it was easier a couple weeks ago when this picture was taken).  I’ve also started the habit of always having my marking pen handy, especially when I go to an outyard just in case I run into an unmarked queen.

So during inspection of one week hive, I found the queen, pulled out the pen and was ready to mark her.  Then I looked down and noticed a white dot moving around on the adjacent frame (last year’s queen).  This apparently was one of those cases where mother and daughter live side by side happily.  So I marked the ‘new’ queen and put her back in the hive to let the sort it out.  This picture was taken a week later and both queens were found near each other on the same frame.  And just last week I found yet a 3rd queen in the same hive.

In another hive in the same yard I found one of my breeder queens I thought had been superceeded last fall.  But I was happy to find both queens doing fine, having co-existed for nearly 9 months now.  It’s not somthing you see often, but it would be interesting if you could breed in the desire to maintain multiple queens on a regular basis.

Permanent link to this article: http://www.honeyrunapiaries.com/blog/beekeeping/2-queens/

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