Tart cherry pollination

The summer of 2017 is an exciting time for the Bee Informed Partnership as industry support and beekeeper interest has facilitated the expansion of a new BIP Tech Transfer Team based in Michigan. This expansion into a new territory means learning about the specifics of the local landscape, agricultural systems and beekeeping calendar in order to better serve the local beekeeping operations. Most Michigan-based beekeeping operations spend the winter in Florida or other warmer states and return to Michigan in the spring for fruit pollination and honey production through the summer and autumn… continue reading…

SourceL Dan Wyns (Bee Informed), June 21, 2017

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Honey I Love You

Earlier this month I received my first package of bees. A package refers to a box containing 3 pounds of bees, or roughly 12 thousand Apis Mellifera. And while introducing a new species of animal to your home seems like a hugely cathartic event, there was no ceremonious exchange of insect between myself and the store from which I ordered them, which was a bit of a let down. I accepted the humming box, placed it in the hatchback of the family car, and drove home. After donning my bee suit and gathering all my tools, it took me about 12 minutes to physically place the bees into the brood box, the part of the hive where the queen will lay her eggs and rear new drones and workers. And with that our family joined an ancient fraternity of bee keepers.

Humans have intricately intertwined their existence with bees for millennia. Interestingly, bee keeping and honey hunting have been largely ignored in the archaeological or ethnographic records, and we have to be satisfied with minor glimpses into such activities. One of the earliest recorded instances of humans interacting with bee products comes from a modest spear point found in a Spanish cave, which was attached to its shaft with the aid of bee’s wax 40,000 years ago… continue reading…

Source: Holly Norton (The Guardian), May 24, 2017

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A Year in the Life of a Beekeeper – My personal view

While visiting a CENLA Beekeeper Club member in early February, he made a recommendation that I send out monthly, a notice of what we as beekeepers should/could be doing that month with our hives and what we should be expecting and planning for in the next month.  That sounded like a very good idea.  Some of this can be found within the chart we’ve passed out at several of our meetings over the last few years:  A year in the Life of a Beekeeper – An Annual Beekeeping Task and Management Calendar*.  {*Capital Area Beekeepers Association; Baton Rouge, LA publication}

What I’m presenting with these monthly exposes is directed at the hobby beekeeper, not the commercial, queen breeder or queen rearer, though they too would carry out much of what I’m stating.    In all cases, I document all my visits and what I do with a field book.  Never trust your memory and this documentation becomes especially useful over time. With that in mind, here is what I’m doing this February and what I’m expecting for March.

 

January

 

Check colony strength.  Check honey stores.  Repair or replace equipment.  Visit the apiaries/hives at least once a month.

February

 

 

By early February I am beginning to prepare for the hive build-up, especially if I’m using Italians or hives that I’ve created from captured swarms – these are prone to early population buildup and need food to do so.

It is this month that I move out of my winter mode of checking the hives once a month, to that of every 2 weeks.  Sometimes I get antsy and start looking at them every week. I check for honey stores and if lacking I initiate sugar water feeding (2:1 ratio).  Whether I have decent honey reserves or not, I begin feeding pollen concentrates (I use Bee Pro patties from Mann Lake).  Check for colony strength.  Are the numbers low, moderate or high?

I also do a sampling for Varroa mites, using the powdered sugar shake method but you can do a sampling use sticky boards, visual, drone brood sampling (see my talk from fall of 2016), ether roll alcohol wash.  If greater than 2% of the bees are infested, I fumigate with oxalic acid.  This spring all of my hives came through the winter with very low mite populations so I didn’t treat them.  [I’d recommend that you visit Randy Oliver’s website to become familiar with the treatment options and techniques regarding Varroa mite treatments.  {http://scientificbeekeeping.com/http://www.scientificbeekeeping.com/ }

Looking at my field book from last year, the earliest swarm capture I made was March 17.  With that in mind I believe that swarming season would begin March 1st and that would mean that drones were/are being produced as early as mid-February (it takes about 2 weeks after a drone pupates before it is sexually mature. That would mean that the queens would be pupating out in early March as well.  You should be looking for these things to be occurring.

How best to find these things out you might ask?  Plan on rotating your brood boxes before the first of March.  While doing that you can observe what’s going on inside the hive. It is this time of year that I monitor the presence and development of the drone brood and drones.  Through monitoring of them I will know when the queens will be produced.

If you are cognizant of queen rearing, then start preparing to do this.  Check for queen productivity.

 

 

Continue with your repair or replacement equipment.

March

 

 

I’m into that time of year when I visit the yards every week.

Continue to check honey stores and colony strength.  The bee populations will/are building and they will need plenty of pollen and honey/sugars to help create those large populations, good drones and queens.

If you are into swarm capture, then get ready now.  Call and leave your name with the LSU Ag system, local fire and police departments, etc.  Be ready to move quickly.  Have a container handy to place the swarm in, a ladder, pruning shears, clean water &/or sugar water spray bottle, mosquito netting, nuc box at home, etc.  However, before responding to calls ask a few things:   How long has the swarm been there? How high is it? What is its size? Get a contact person’s name and phone number and ask them to call you if the swarm leaves before you get there. If you can’t get to it for several hours, let the caller know that and if you can’t make it, tell them that and recommend someone else, if you know anyone. If you make an appointment to come, do so or call. My first swarm capture this season came on Wednesday, March 1st.  I captured about 30,000 bees and they are now in a hive with plenty of honey and a pollen patty.

Continue feeding up until the honey flow is on – I began placing patties in mid-February and by February 25th I’d placed a second patty as the first had been consumed.  You will know that the honey flow is on when the bees stop feeding on your sugar water and/or pollen patties and you see them bringing in lots of pollen and filling the hive with honey.  At that time stop feeding, remove the patties and store them in the freezer until later in the year or next spring.

Make colony increases and prepare and/or make hive splits, nucs and prepare for queen rearing.

Plan on adding honey supers as needed – when I have 7 out of 10 frames full of honey I add another.

Treat for ants and vegetation in the yards.

One thing I didn’t mention in the last newsletter but which I do whenever I find the queens, I make sure they are marked.  I do this for new or old, whether in established hives or swarms.  You are there, do it and be prepared at any visit to do it.  There are established color codes but use whatever suits you.

April

 

 

With April the honey flow in Central Louisiana is probably in full flow.  At this time of year natural hive production, queen replacements, swarming and the like are occurring.  If you value your bees it behooves you to create splits, capture queen cells, build nucs, and if you choose, to sell queens, nucs, and hives that you have created.

Many queens that overwintered and spent their best creating large populations of bees for this spring’s honey flow have become overextended and many die and/or need replacing.  This is where the nucs and/or queens you’ve been creating come in handy.  I usually replace the queens in those hives that look like the brood pattern is suffering with new queens.   Sometimes, I just replace the queens anyway, rather than wait for a possible failure – it can happen quickly and one week the hive looks great and the next it’s being overrun with wax moths.  Whenever you replace the queen(s) be sure to monitor that hive for the next few weeks to be sure she’s been accepted and brood production is coming on line.

Continue adding honey supers as needed. Treat for ants and vegetation in the yards.

May

 

 

In May I continue with weekly hive maintenance by treating for small hive beetles (I use SHB traps on the top frames and a West trap with powdered lime in the bottom, below a screen), ant and vegetation management, adding supers as needed and most importantly:  monitoring the individual hives for brood production and possible pest/diseases.  This latter point will entail breaking open the hives to look at the brood pattern/condition.  I don’t do this every week but I do it at least twice a month.  With strong hives that I’d checked once or twice in mid-March that are full of bees and putting on supers every week or so, I usually break into their brood chambers and check them once this month.  Back in February when I’d rotated the brood boxes I was able to examine my hives in depth.  Now I do a quick perusal of the frames looking for possible signs of swarming (queen cells), brood production, poor brood production, eggs, uncapped larvae, drone brood, etc.

Though all my hives came through the winter with low varroa mite populations, I have sampled for the mites and have treated all my hives with oxalic acid via fumigation.  I do this with all swarms and nucs – once I’ve got them established.  As the bee populations’ increase and the drones come on line, so the mite populations tend to increase.  Sample, monitor and treat as necessary.  This season, I chose not to use drone brood frames to control varroa mites, but if you choose to do so, be sure to pull them once the cells are capped.  It’s always a good idea to break open some of your drone brood and take an inventory as to how many mites you see.  I opened 20 random cells in three out of five hives in one yard and counted two mites.  That indicates a low count – in those hives. As stated above:  [I’d recommend that you visit Randy Oliver’s website to become familiar with the treatment options and techniques regarding Varroa mite treatments.  {http://scientificbeekeeping.com/http://www.scientificbeekeeping.com/}]

This last April I did lose some queens but was able to save all the hives’ bees by either requeening or hive combinations.  The nice thing about combining hives is that you can always come back and split those hives and add a new queen – if you have them (queen cells/nucs).  I never combine a hive with obvious disease or heavy mite issues with a strong colony.  As I treat for mites regularly and requeen often, I usually don’t see hives with major disease/mite issues.

 

 

As I do my spring honey harvesting the first week of June, I start documenting how many supers I’m going to pull in June, about two weeks prior to harvest.

June

 

 

Depending upon the weather, I usually harvest the first week of June.  During the harvest I pull those wooden-ware items that need repair or servicing and replace them.  I should mention that I try and utilize the efforts of new beekeepers during the season not only to train them but to assist with maintenance in the yards.  They often ask for that service and I enjoy their company and help.  It may take longer to complete a field check and sometimes they kill a queen or drop a box but that’s part of the journey to becoming a beekeeper (once a few summers back they managed to wipe out three queens and several queen cells – all in one visit!)  At honey harvest their assistance is greatly appreciated and I give each of them a gallon of honey when we finish.  I should make note here that I “really dislike harvesting and processing honey!”  Whenever I can get help and get this part of the business completed I never say “no thanks”.

June generally is the tail end of the honey flow for CENLA – though this season I’m not so sure.  The floral sources are changing with the weather heating up and the rains slacking off.  Weekly field checks and maintenance continue.  Supers are still added when needed.

Swarm season is or has come to an end by this month.  In your hives, a good indication of this is the lack of drone production.  When the bees stop making drones then they aren’t making queen cells either.  If you are trying to raise queens then you will need drones to mate with them.

July & August

 

 

Due to the frequent rains, I wasn’t able to harvest in early June, but rather in early July.  As such, we had a mix of spring honey (more yellowish) and some summer honey’s (amber colored) in our harvest.  When harvesting, I always take empty supers with me to place as needed on those hives where all the supers are pulled – which isn’t often.  Usually there is an uncapped and partially filled super on the top of any hive.

This season, I’m still seeing some drone brood in some brood boxes so there queen cells being produced in some hives out there.  For the most part however, swarm season is pretty much over.  The summer heat and humidity are in place by now with the respective floral sources at this time of the season.  For Louisiana, most honeys produced in the summer and fall months is ambercolored, versus the lighter more yellowish spring honey.

Weekly field checks and maintenance continue.  Supers are still added when needed.  This year I have started using Swishers in the tops of my hives for the control of SHB’s.  I’m still using the SHB traps and the West traps.  I use ½ of a 4” x 8” sheet and rotate them out every two weeks.  In one hive where I had an aggressive SHB population I placed two full-sized sheets.  Of note, though I usually look at the West traps every two weeks, due to the weekly rains, I look at them every week.  Reason:  often, after a heavy downpour, the trap gets water in it and the lime needs replacing.

 

I’m still sampling for varroa and have used oxalic acid fumigation twice over a two week period since May in each hive.  With the frequent rains we’ve been having it was hit or miss getting to the yards with my truck so at one time I used a battery on a small wagon and long battery cables to apply the charge needed to convert the crystalline oxalic acid to a gas.  I avoid using formic acid or MAQ strips in mid-summer due to the heat.

By mid-August I will begin counting the supers that will need harvesting in early September.  By so doing you can plan ahead for what you should be expecting at harvest time, both in space needed in/on the vehicle(s) during removal from the apiary and in materials needed in processing at the processing center.

September–October… to be continued…

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Honeybee Losses Improve from Horrible to Bad

“There’s a glimmer of hope for America’s ailing honeybees as winter losses were the lowest in more than a decade, according to a U.S. survey of beekeepers released Thursday. Beekeepers lost 21 percent of their colonies last winter, the annual Bee Informed Partnership survey found.  That’s the lowest winter loss level since the survey started in 2006 and an improvement from nearly 27 percent the winter before. The U.S. government has set a goal of keeping losses under 15 percent in the winter.

“It’s good news in that the numbers are down, but it’s certainly not a good picture,” said survey director Dennis vanEngelsdorp.  “It’s gone from horrible to bad.”

Reduction in varroa mites, a lethal parasite, is likely the main cause of the improvement, said vanEnglesdorp, a University of a Maryland entomologist.  He credited the reduction in the parasite to a new product to fight the mite and better weather for pesticide use.  The 10-year average for winter losses is 28.4 percent.

“We would, of course, all love it if the trend continues, but there are so many factors playing a role in colony health,” said bee expert Elina Lastro Nino at the University of California Davis, who wasn’t part of the survey.  “I am glad to see this, but wouldn’t celebrate too much yet.”

For more than a decade, bees and other pollinators have been rapidly declining with scientists blaming a mix of parasites, disease, pesticides and poor nutrition.  While usually hive losses are worst in the winter, they occur year round.  The survey found yearly losses also down.”

Source: SETH BORENSTEIN, Associated Press; May 26, 2017 

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Beekeeping becomes a growing hobby in Louisiana

About 10 years ago, Louisiana had about three or four beekeeping clubs. Now, according to the Louisiana Beekeepers Association website, the Bayou State has 17. The interest in honey bees is growing statewide, and southwest Louisiana is following the pattern, said Keith Hawkins, LSU AgCenter agent in Beauregard Parish.Since 2014, a few local beekeeping clubs have been providing training in Basic Beekeeping, and more than 160 people have completed the class, Hawkins said.

“Some extension staff at the LSU AgCenter in partnership with volunteer beekeepers developed the Basic Beekeeping program in 2013,” Hawkins said.

This group recommended “First Lessons in Beekeeping” by Keith Delaplane, apiary specialist at the University of Georgia and 1986 LSU master’s graduate in entomology. Then members of the Louisiana group developed a class outline and slide presentations based on Delaplane’s book. Topics in this bee class include: bee breeds, bee biology, bee hive and accessories, getting started, management for honey production and pollination, products of the hive, off-season management, honey bee disorders, and parasites and nest invaders, Hawkins said.

The group also added a unit on Louisiana rules and regulations to enable future beekeepers to comply with apiary practices. One slideshow covers “Louisiana Honey Plants.”… continue reading…

Source: Richard Bogren (LSU Ag Center), July 7, 2017

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Check out the newest edition of the BBB!

The latest edition of the BBB (Bayou Bee Bulletin) is now available on the newsletter page of our website. Keep reading for an update from Tim Haley, our newsletter editor…

For this beekeeper, your BBB editor, the 2017 spring honey flow was lackluster as well.  Some beekeepers in CENLA reported a good harvest but out of 17 hives I manage, I only saw three out of the bunch doing much.  In addition to the lackluster harvest, due to the weekly rains, I wasn’t able to drive to my hives and harvest until the first week of July – a month behind when I normally harvest.  The honey in the supers showed the change-over from spring to summer honeys as well:  our spring honey is more golden yellow while the summer and fall are more amber-colored.  The supers placed on the hives in June had the amber-colored honeys in them.

CENLA had rains every week and I’m sure there were some low areas that flooded.  The bees kept working however and I’ve received swarm calls right through June – a bit later than I expected.   Normally such calls taper off by June.

The Annual Convention Committee has also been busy planning the 2017 convention for this December and we are already making plans for 2018. This year’s convention is to be held in Pineville, Louisiana with the 2018 convention to be held in the Lake Charles area. I will present more on this following the Baton Rouge Field Day in October.

With this letter, I am continuing a section that talks to “A Year in the Life of a Beekeeper – My personal view”.  This BBB# 4 encompasses January – August.  In addition I am sharing articles regarding $ for LSU entomologist’s study on honeybee stress, national honeybee losses, man’s love with the bees going back 40,000 years, tart cherry pollination in the lake states and hobby beekeeping in Louisiana. Enjoy.

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Ramblings of a Bee Bumbler (July/August)

As I write this I am preparing for a trip to Cuba. I will be traveling with other agricultural leaders from our state visiting farming operations in Cuba. We will also learn about the countries culture and history. At my request, the tour will also include a visit to a beekeeping operation. Honey is one of the important agricultural products that the Cubans export. The day after I return from Cuba I will be off to El Salvador on a mission trip building houses for a family in need. Again I will try and visit a beekeeping operation like I did last year. It is really interesting to me to see how much bee keepers are alike around the world, the issues we all face and how those issues are addressed in other countries.
Hopefully everyone has their spring crop harvested and as they say “in the barrel”. From the reports I have seen this spring was a mixed harvest around the state.  The cool nights this spring and then all the rain affected a lot of our floral sources this year with little or no nectar flow. I know my harvest was about half of what I was hoping for due to the weather and also personal health issues. This brings me to my topic for the first part of this letter. In May of this year I was diagnosed with CLL, Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia. This type of leukemia is caused by contact with chemicals. I am a Viet Nam veteran and had possible exposure to Agent Orange. What I want to talk about though is your exposure to chemicals and possible side effects. As beekeepers we use pesticides in our hives, herbicides around our hives and a lot of chemicals around the house. Some of you may work around chemicals at your job. Are you following proper use of and wearing personal protective equipment while handling these chemicals? Are you disposing of the empty containers and varroa strips properly? My Agent Orange exposure was in 1968 and 1969 – 49 years ago. You never know how things that happened years ago might come back and bite. Bee aware, Bee prepared and Bee Careful.
The fall field day is planned for the 21st of October. There will be something for all levels of beekeepers and gives the public a chance to see just what types of research is going on there. As in the past, lunch will be included in the registration costs. The registration information has been posted on the new LBA website along with a lot of other helpful information. Our Facebook page has also had some revamping and we are doing all we can to keep you, the beekeepers of the state, informed.
The Executive Committee of the Louisiana Beekeepers Association is planning a fall meeting with the club presidents from around the state. The LBA board feels this will give the clubs an opportunity to express concerns and share ideas on how to make our state association work for you. We are still working on the date but the meeting will probably be in the Lafayette area. We will also be sharing with the club presidents a short write-up about what is covered in our quarterly board meetings. Again we hope this will open lines of communications between the state association and the local clubs. Your state association is only as good as the members make it and we want your input.

The LBA is your organization and the Board is here to serve you. If you have suggestions for us to make the organization better or ways to better serve our members, please feel free to contact us. Also, there are several bee clubs scattered throughout the state. Tables listing the LBA board members and the various bee clubs in the state are posted at the LBA website (www.labeekeepers.org).   Join your local club and get involved. Help us help our fellow beekeepers be the best stewards of this valuable resource and produce the best honey in the world.I know 2018 is still months away but it is never too late to start planning. Will you expand your operation? What about equipment upgrades? What about Queens? Running a successful beekeeping operation takes planning so start planning now. May your fall crop be plentiful and your colonies strong.

Randy Fair, LBA President

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Support the LBA when you shop!

Did you know you can help support the Louisiana Beekeepers Association when you shop online at Amazon? Simply visit smile.amazon.com and choose “Louisiana Beekeepers Association Incorporated” as your charity of choice. Then any time you start at smile.amazon.com, a portion of all eligible purchases will go to the LBA!

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River Region Beekeeping Club Workshop

Don’t miss the upcoming River Region Beekeeping Club Workshop being held on July 13 from 7 – 9:00 PM (doors open at 6 PM).

Location: AG Center, 1301 N Florida – Covington, LA (part of fair grounds green building)

Don’t open or work hives in July and August? Learn why you should not do late summer or fall splits.

Questions? Call (985) 635-1440 or (504) 853-3525 or visit www.riverregionclubofbeekeepers.weebly.com

 

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2018 American Beekeeping Federation Conference & Tradeshow

Celebrate the 75th Diamond Anniversary of the ABF at the 2018 American Beekeeping Federation Conference & Tradeshow, January 9-13, at the Grand Sierra Resort in Reno, Nevada. Discover the many facets of the ABF with four days of spectacular educational sessions, networking and fun.

  • Hear from experts, trendsetters & influencers.
  • Learn best practices.
  • Shop a tradeshow full of the latest beekeeping innovations.
  • Showcase your skills in the 2018 Honey Show.
  • Have next-generation fun at the Kids and Bees program.
  • Network with 900+ fellow beekeepers

Read more here.

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