January’s Ramblings of a Bee Bumbler, from your LBA President

I hope you all had a blessed Christmas and your New Year is off to a great start. This month’s ramblings will be rather brief, as I am currently traveling in Spain and Portugal with the LSU Ag Leadership Program Class XV. As an alumnus of the Ag Leadership Program, I have the opportunity to travel along with the class as they learn about agriculture in Spain and Portugal; you can follow our travels here. Our trip will include a visits and tours of a beef cattle farm, an avocado coop, Europe’s leading wild-caught freshwater crayfish processor, a cork factory, a fish processing farm, and many other farms and facilities. I’m most looking forward to visiting Cortesano Ranch, a cooperative dedicated to the production and marketing of beehive products, which manages approximately 2000 hives, grouped in 40 apiaries located in the Vega, Sierra and Montes of the province of Cádiz. We will also tour the apiaries and honey packing area. I look forward to sharing information on their facilities when I return, so stay tuned! As many of you know, I underwent triple bypass surgery at the end of December so I’m having to rest a bit more frequently that I’d usually do on this trip, but God is good and I am recovering well. Thanks to all who called, texted, and sent messages and prayers during my surgery and recovery.

Thanks also to all who helped make our last convention, which was held in Pineville, Louisiana November 30-December 2, 2017, such a great success. We had a wonderful lineup of educational programs and it was a great opportunity for beekeepers across the state to network and learn. This years’ annual conference will be held in Lake Charles, a first for the LBA – check our website for updated information as soon as it is available.

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.

Randy Fair, randy@beebumbler.com, 1-318-588-2899

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From your newsletter editor

Winter, for what it is worth, is now upon us.  Nothing like those I saw in Colorado and northern California many years ago.  I’m hopeful this year’s honey production will be better than any of the last three seasons.  Managing honeybees for pollination and honey production is a farming venture and very dependent upon the weather.  Louisiana has seen its share of “out-of-the-ordinary weather” these last years.  Between excess moisture, late freezes and the like it’s been difficult for many of our beekeepers to keep their heads above water – literally.  At this writing, it is December 8, 2017 and it snowed last night.  Here in CENLA we had about 3-4 inches but I heard that they received up to 8 inches in eastern LA.

With this letter,

 

Enjoy.

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Commercial Business Ads Information

The Louisiana Beekeepers Association would like to thank all of our sponsors for their business advertisements. We encourage our membership and visitors to our web site to consider the fine products and/or services they offer when selecting a vendor to fulfill their business and/or personal needs.

Over the past five years the number of our newsletter advertisers has steadily increased. In appreciation for their support the LBA has offered vendor booths to these advertisers at our annual State Convention free of charge. Vendor displays have also increased, providing our guests with a convenient venue for purchasing the beekeeping products they might need. These vendors in turn contribute door prizes and auction items to the LBA, making the event more enjoyable for our guests.  Those who pre-purchase supplies through the vendors can have them delivered and avoid shipping charges.

Advertising is an important marketing tool for beekeepers and your beekeeping business is important to the Louisiana Beekeepers Association. Give us an opportunity to provide a portion of your advertising needs in 2016.

Remember, for only $25.00 annually you can advertise your company products in six issues of the Bayou Bee Bulletin. Remit your advertising fee to LBA Treasurer, Ms. Beth Derr; Ph. 936-591-2399; Jefferson, TX 75657; beth@labeekeepers.org  and forward your company’s camera ready, 4 inch by 3 inch jpeg ad image to Mr. Tim Haley, LBA Newsletter Editor, at:  tamh212@suddenlink.net

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Internet Sites You Might Find Useful

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Help Contribute to the Beekeepers and Honeybees in Puerto Rico

Bee Informed Partnership support@beeinformed.org

We are pleased to have Val Dolcini, the President and CEO of Pollinator Partnership as our guest blogger.

As the US moves into winter with some beekeepers feeding heavily to make sure their bees have enough stores until spring, imagine trying to maintain active colonies with no forage – no nectar and no pollen in sight for months with no resources to bring in supplementary food for their colonies. Imagine viewing your apiary with boxes torn apart and bees swarming in open homes. This is what is happening to the beekeepers and honey bee colonies in Puerto Rico.

There are over 4,000 colonies on this US Territory and approximately 130 beekeepers trying to manage on an island where most of the plants were ripped out or mowed down by Hurricane Maria.

Much of the island has no basic necessities such as water, electricity and the infrastructure has been devastated making recovery that much worse. Nearly $780 million in crop losses have been recorded and these beekeepers provide pollination services that are critical to all fruits and vegetables in addition to coffee. These bees, more than ever, are vital to the recovery of Puerto Rican agriculture.

Click here to contribute.

Beekeepers are trying to keep them alive in the short term by providing sugar water; but without a floral resource to provide essential proteins through pollen, surviving colonies are at risk of collapsing. In the continental U.S., beekeepers have access to commercially produced protein sources, in powdered form and patties. These commercial sources have been critical to beekeepers in Florida and Texas. However, these sources are unavailable in Puerto Rico.

Hurricane Maria also destroyed many of the Langstroth wooden hives used by beekeepers to house their bees. Bees that survived the destruction of their hives have swarmed, taking up residence in people’s homes and other structures. The beekeepers have reached out to USDA, APHIS and the private sector seeking help.

Beekeepers in the U.S. Virgin Islands are facing similar challenges, and we are working to learn more about their situation.

Unless we take immediate action to help them recover, both honey bees and production agriculture in Puerto Rico will remain at risk. Please help by contributing here.

For additional information, contact Val Dolcini at vdolcini@pollinator.org or Tom Van Arsdall at tva@pollinator.org

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Winter-Blooming Plants Help Bees Survive the Season

Dean Fosdick,  Associated Press

Winter and early spring are lean times for honeybees as they emerge from their hives, where food supplies are dwindling, to forage.  Adding cluster of winter-blooming plants around the yard will give them much needed nourishment.

Bees take in carbohydrates from floral nectar and protein from floral pollen.  Being aware of bloom times and providing flowers that overlap the seasons are important for beekeepers who want to successfully over-winter their colonies.

Some bees, including many wild varieties, begin searching for food as early as January, when sunny days can push temperatures up to 55 degrees Fahrenheit or more.

Blooms on Big Leaf maple near Langley, Washington provide floral, nectar and pollen for early-season foraging bees. Trees are amongst the earliest pollinator plants to bloom in spring. People often overlook trees and their importance to pollinators desperate to find food in the early spring.

Redbud blooms near New Market, Virginia, about the times bees are about to emerge to forage for a new season of honey production. Winter and spring are the lean months for honeybees as they begin to emerge from their dwindling food supplies. People often overlook trees when planting for pollinators.

“In the early spring, bees are going to need food to get their engines started again,” said Andony Melathopoulos, a bee specialist with Oregon State University Extension Service. “You can’t simply start up your gardening routines (for pollinators) again in the spring. Solitary wild bees, honeybees and hummingbirds are just clinging to life.

“The preparation you do now is very important since early spring is a vulnerable time for pollinators.”

Pollinator plants like crocus, primrose and snowdrops will bloom even when snow is on the ground. Trees and shrubs also are effective choices for feeding early emerging honeybees.

“People often overlook trees,” Melathopoulos said. “But when it comes to late winter and early spring, it’s the trees that are important. Willows, maples, filberts and hazelnuts are some of the earliest sources of pollen you’ll find. They’re easy to establish and grow.”

He also suggests establishing the early blooming plants in clusters to make it easier for foraging honeybees to spot and access them.

“Bees are efficient pollinators,” Melathopoulos said. “They really appreciate patches of flowers. They can go from flower to flower easily. It’s hard for them to work on cool days, and if they don’t have to fly between clusters, they really appreciate it.”

Many winter-flowering plants grow in the wild, but pollinators generally don’t live near them, he said. That makes cultivating winter bloomers important when you’re planning your gardens.

Property owners also should leave suitable places for native bees to hibernate undisturbed. Let turf grass grow long over the winter. Avoid pesticides. Reduce lawn size and turn instead to protective shrubs.

Even a small amount of habitat will be enough to sustain bees, Melathopoulos said: “These are tiny creatures. Well-thought-out landscapes can provide all the food they need in winter. Gardeners can really help with that.”

Here are some additional bee-friendly plants that can provide a degree of brightness in winter while also nourishing pollinators:

  • Oregon grape, an evergreen shrub that produces yellow flowers blooming for weeks.
  • Heath and heather. “In shades of purple to copper to gold, these low-growing plants make a mat of color throughout the year, including winter,” Melathopoulos said.
  • Male willow plants, maples, apple, crabapple, native cherry. “I’d start with these shrubs,” said Mace Vaughan, pollinator program director for The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation in Portland, Ore.

“Native plants selected to feed bees are definitely part of the solution” to declining bee populations, Vaughan said.

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Why Human Behavior is Hurting Honey Bees

An article from Entomology Today (www.entomologytoday.org)

The Varroa destructor mite (shown at right attached to a bee) is a widespread parasite of European honey bees (Apis mellifera). Poor management practices have enabled the spread of V. destructor and other bee pathogens, an Australian bee researcher argues.

In the search for answers to the complex health problems and colony losses experienced by honey bees in recent years, it may be time for professionals and hobbyists in the beekeeping industry to look in the mirror.

In a research essay published recently in the Journal of Economic Entomology, Robert Owen argues that human activity is a key driver in the spread of pathogens affecting the European honey bee (Apis mellifera) and recommends a series of collective actions necessary to stem their spread. While some research seeks a “magic bullet” solution to honey bee maladies such as Colony Collapse Disorder, “many of the problems are caused by human action and can only be mitigated by changes in human behavior,” Owen says.

Owen is author of The Australian Beekeeping Handbook, owner of a beekeeping supply company, and a Ph.D. candidate at the Centre of Excellence for Biosecurity Analysis at the University of Melbourne. In his essay in the Journal of Economic Entomology, he outlines an array of human-driven factors that have enabled the spread of honey bee pathogens:

  • Regular, large-scale and loosely regulated movement of bee colonies for commercial pollination. (For instance, in February 2016 alone, of the 2.66 million managed bee colonies in the United States, 1.8 million were transported to California for almond crop pollination.)
  • Carelessness in the application of Integrated Pest Management principles leading to overuse of pesticides and antibiotics, resulting in increased resistance to them among honey bee parasites and pathogens such as the Varroa destructor mite and the American Foul Brood bacterium (Paenibacillus larvae).
  • The international trade in honey bees and honey bee products that has enabled the global spread of pathogens such as Varroa destructor, tracheal mite (Acarapis woodi), Nosema cerana, small hive beetle (Aethina tumida), and the fungal disease chalkbrood (Ascosphaera apis).
  • Lack of skill and dedication among hobbyist beekeepers to adequately inspect and manage colonies for disease.

Collecting semen from a drone honey bee that will be used to artificially inseminate a queen bee. Stephen Ausmus, USDA Agricultural Research Service, Bugwood.org

Owen offers several suggestions for changes in human behavior to improve honey bee health, including:

  • Stronger regulations both of global transport of honey bees and bee products and of migratory beekeeping practices within countries for commercial pollination.
  • Greater adherence to Integrated Pest Management practices among both commercial and hobbyist beekeepers.
  • Increased education of beekeepers on pathogen management (perhaps requiring such education for registration as a beekeeper).
  • Deeper support networks for hobby beekeepers, aided by scientists, beekeeping associations and government.

“The problems facing honey bees today are complex and will not be easy to mitigate,” says Owen. “The role of inappropriate human action in the spread of pathogens and the resulting high numbers of colony losses needs to be brought into the fore of management and policy decisions if we are to reduce colony losses to acceptable levels.”

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A letter to the editor, from Rachel Culotto

I am writing to pitch a stirring story about local beekeepers, Pamela Vosbein and Phil Villarubia of Bush, Louisiana. As you know, our honey bee population is declining, and they are so essential to our ecosystem. Honey bees are wonderful creatures and it would be a shame to see them go extinct. It is important to share local stories of beekeepers starting out so that others may be influenced to partake in keeping our honey bee population alive.

Pamela and Phil started out with a bare minimum of knowledge on beekeeping.  Pamela, over the last year, has become a mentor to several newer beekeepers, while Phil has been successfully ending his first year of harvesting honey.  They both, daily, share their experiences with co-workers and friends in the New Orleans area with hopes of encouraging more locals to take part in rejuvenating our honey bee population.

My story shares how both Pamela and Phil became interested in beekeeping, how Pamela handles being a mentor for those interested in this hobby, ways to make beekeeping affordable and fun, as well as, the importance of getting our community to participate in keeping honey bees alive and well.  Because both Pamela and Phil have been invested in beekeeping locally, each for over a year now, they both are impressionable people for our community to read about.  Their experiences are easily relatable to our community – those who are interested in this hobby, as well as, those who know nothing about beekeeping.

I firmly believe publishing this story will not only encourage those in our community to educate themselves on the importance of honey bees, but also inspire ordinary people in our community to step up, get involved, and start their own hives.  Pamela and Phil have both done their part in our community.  Let’s honor their hard work and dedication to our honey bee population in return!

————–

From the editor:  Thank you Rachel.  I rarely receive any comments and rarely a letter.  Yours is heartwarming and definitely worth posting.  Pamela and Phil, I hope you are able to read this and thence know that your devotion and efforts are being recognized!  I hope 2018 and the following years are filled with enlightenment and enjoyment, not only with beekeeping but also with the friends you are interacting with.   — Tim Haley

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Photos from the 56th Annual LBA Convention

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Annual Convention contest winners

Congratulations to all of the contest winners at our 2017 Annual Meeting & Convention!

4-H Essay Contest Winners

  1. Sarah Hammonds (Bossier Parish)
  2. Moriah Jackson (Lincoln Parish)
  3. Anna Vandeven (Tensas Parish)

Honey Contest Winners

  1. Mary Brasseaux
  2. Larry Kebodeaux
  3. Art Prell

Honey-baked Condiments Winners

  1. Margaret Prell – Honey Pecan Bars
  2. Stacy Blomquist – Honey Bun Cake
  3. Emily Winners – Honeyed Pecans

Brood Box Contest: Youth

  • Most Beautiful – Mackenzie Stanford
  • Most Unusual – Savannah Rose McReynolds
  • Most Creative – Lane Stenford

Brood Box Contest: Adult

  • Most Beautiful – Connie Kebodeaux
  • Most Unusual – Mackenzie Stanford
  • Most Creative – Stephen Harrell
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