Distractingly Sexy

I just got clued into the #distractinglysexy response to Tim Hunt’s sexist comments about women in science.

Here are a few of my distractingly sexy bee heroes:

GloriaDeGrandiHoffman
Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman

JenniferBerry
Jennifer Berry

Marla_Spivak
Marla Spivak

MaryannFrazier
Maryann Frazier

DianaCoxFoster
Diana Cox-Foster

SusanCobey
Sue Cobey

DianaSammataro
Diana Sammataro

And, of course, this list could go on and on. If you’re into honey bees / beekeeping and don’t recognize any of these names, look them up! None of these photos are my own… just stolen from the internet.

See you.
Andy

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An Explosive Spring

Hello dear readers, both of you.

Spring here has been explosive.  Hives that were well cared for last fall have overwintered beautifully.  I lost four of around 80 which were put into winter.  Of course, just once, it would be great to find them all alive & well in springtime – but I’m very happy with a 5% loss.  For the last 6 weeks or so, the beework has basically been feeding sugar syrup and pollen substitute.  They’ve responded well to this and built up well.  Our weather has been nearly perfect from a bees’ perspective as well.  In most of the hives there is a nearly overwhelming population bees.

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In the past couple weeks I’ve started making splits.  My numbers are up right around 100 hives now and the splitting has only just begun.  I’d like to have more accomplished, but it’s been a struggle to get queens for the nucs and splits.  I have 30 queens ordered and am currently wringing my hands in anticipation.  I am slightly more patient than the bees — the main concern is their urge for swarming.  I’ve been cutting out early swarm cells, and adding additional boxes to give larger hives more space, and rotating hive bodies, and equalizing stronger with weaker colonies, and I’ve made up several nucs with ripe queen cells tearing down the size of the hives that made them… I’m about all out of tricks; simply need the queens to arrive.

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Relatedly, I picked up this book at the Eastern Apicultural Society meeting last summer.  Very appropriate reading coming into this spring.  I met & got to know the author a tiny bit also at the meeting.  Stephen Repasky is a fellow EAS Master Beekeeper.  Strikes me as a good guy and knowledgeable beekeeper.  He did a great job covering this subject.  The book is interesting and practical and recommended.

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Despite the nearly perfect spring season we’ve shared here, I have run into a couple unfortunate cases of yuk.  I was contacted by a beekeeper nearby.  He described some observations of bee dysentery (read: shit stains) covering his hive entrances combined with numbers of crawling bees in front of a couple of his hives.   I went out and had a look.  Most beekeepers recognize that these could be a couple vague symptoms of a Nosema infection.  It was a relatively cold morning in the upper 40s, but we popped the hives open quickly.  The colonies seemed to be in great shape.  Beautiful frames of brood, lots of pollen stores in a variety of colors, some nectar, and lots & lots of bees.  They seemed just fine but we took some bee samples anyway (a couple vials of 40 or so older workers collected under alcohol), one sample of the crawlers and one sample off the inner cover.  I ran the samples that afternoon and found 4.7 million spores per bee — which is quite high.  I’d never have guessed this from the appearance and strength of the colonies.  Recommendation was a quick treatment of Fumagilin B in syrup.  Take your time with the bees and look for the subtleties.

Nosema spores at 400x:

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Another similar unfortunate experience happened in an apiary inspection just last week.  I was there to look through a bunch of nucs which had been purchased without receiving a health certificate.  Nucs looked good for the mostpart, then we went across the yard to look through some of his 100 or so hives which have recently come back from the almonds.  Immediately we found this:

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A couple cups of dead bees in front of every hive.  We called the Dept of Ag’s Pesticide Bureau and fortunately an inspector was available to come out that afternoon.  He collected a sizable sample of the dead & dying bees, and also a swab sample from a metal surface in the yard.  These will eventually be analyzed for pesticide residues – specifically, but not limited to, clothianidin and thiamethoxam, the common neonicotinoid seed treatments.  We’ll see what the lab finds, but this seems entirely “textbook” to me.  Off the record, and unprofessionally, it’s a “corn dust kill”, simple as that.  In the last couple days the fields surrounding the bee yard had been planted.  It’s all too common here each spring though it only rarely is properly reported.  The kill is likely relatively insignificant to the majority of these otherwise strong colonies in numbers of bees taken, but at least some of the hives have ejected their queens — making the losses very significant.  Again, take the time to carefully check your hives. The inspection begins even prior to taking the roof off.

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Spring work isn’t limited to the bees.  I’ve also logged a healthy number of hours underneath the vehicles.  This includes rebuilding the transmission of a 95 Civic with all new bearings and seals.  Thanks internet and Harlan … couldn’t have done this one on my own.  Went fine and didn’t even have any leftover parts.

A healthy number of relatively small pieces which H pressed off and replaced, with my assistance:

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And Lastly, Varroa.

I talk nearly nonstop to beekeeper groups about the importance of killing mites.  Still, I’m always disappointed by the number of beekeepers who actually take the time and effort to sample their colonies to get Varroa counts and then use those numbers as informed beekeepers to make educated treatment decisions.  Too often in inspections I stand with a beekeeper who believes innocently that they have no problem with mites, then we take a count only to find Varroa numbers well above injury.  Above, I’ve highlighted damages related to Nosema and (likely) pesticides.  Our Varroa mite damages overshadow everything else.  We need to know our numbers at any given time, and murderously murder the mites whenever their population is climbing too high.  Generally treatments tend to be made in springtime and/or late summer since many of the treatments shouldn’t be performed with honey supers placed on the hives.  It’s time to know your numbers.  Right now.  Don’t delay!

Here’s a video I made the other day demonstrating my preferred way to sample a hive for mites:

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I’m no movie star, but the point gets made.  The audio gets quite a bit better after the first several seconds; I call it good enough.  Hopefully, someone will find it helpful.

Thanks for reading.

Andy

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(Braggot)

HiFi

Hello to both of you.

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Seen a lot of the above this past month. We’ve had maybe the easiest / smoothest start to a bee season anyone could hope for. The bees built up and had been busy. Then came June. For the last three of four weeks, productivity has slowed to just a trickle of nectar coming in. It could definitely be worse. At least they’re not eating each other. Colonies are huge and brood looks good. The blooms are out there in number. We just need some dry, hot weather and supers should fill quickly again.

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For those of you who came by the Chichaqua bee yard a month ago, this is what it looks like now. I’m happy enough with this, I guess, but most of these boxes were stacked on and filled around Memorial Day.

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These little double nucs have come along really well. They were started with some of the queens reared out from a few posts ago. Each hive is divided down the center to allow two separate 4-frame colonies to exist in a standard ten frame sized box. They’re nothing new. I’ve been using these as a brood factory … stealing frames from them to create new nucs. Eventually, (pretty soon), I’ll stop robbing their resources and let them build up for wintering. There’re a couple beekeepers around here who are having success getting three storied (12 frames total) nucs like these through our winters. My turn to give it a try -but that’s for later…

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Here are a couple nucs being built from combs taking from those “factory” nucs. Each contains two brood frames, a honey frame, an empty comb or foundation frame. I always make sure they have plenty of pollen included in there somewhere as well. I don’t tend to feed them this season, but if our weather was any wetter, I’d be giving them pollen sub and probably some syrup too. The queens are pretty easy to find in the parent hives, so I just make sure they stay home rather than carrying them by accident into the new nucs. Waiting about three days between creating the nucs and adding the new caged queens ensures queenlessness – see no eggs, got no queen.

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These are the queens just prior to being placed. I didn’t rear these out. They’re Koehnen carniolans.

2014-07-02 10.50.37

July 3rd was a very good day. It’s my sister’s birthday. And there was this:
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And this:
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This is Rob Lelewski. He and Taylor Newton have some really cool stuff going on in Pella.

I’d been meaning to get down there all spring. Then he sent me this:
http://hivetool.org/db/hive_stats2.pl?back7=%3C7&new_hive_id=21&start_time=2014-7-1&end_time=2014-07-07&hive_id=21&number_of_days=7&weight_filter=Raw&ambient_filter_switch=Filtered&days=&begin=&end=&chart=Temperature
and I made it a priority.

Note the temperature spike to about 100 degrees F, followed immediately by about a 4 lb drop in weight. …that’s a swarm.
Note the recorded rainfall … every single day.

Here’s the backyard hive. Innocent enough…
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Here’s the guts:
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The whole thing floats on a scale. Also included are a couple temperature sensors (inside and outside the hive). Wifi! All these data are paired with more from a local weatherunderground weather station.

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This is the “raspberry pi” board Rob put together which connects it all.

Rob built this over the winter following the loss of the previous colony. He wanted to create a way to get some idea of the status of the colony without actually taking the lid off. The right combination of sensors could tell where the bees are clustered, how much honey is still stored in the hive, how long it’s been since they’ve been able to fly or move their cluster, and much more. half way through designing the system, he found the http://www.hivetool.net group already in existence, and merged his project with theirs.

The hivetool folks are located in South Carolina. Their website shows a great number of these hives in SC and a small number more here and there across the country. It would be great to see more hives located here. Obviously this only appeals to a certain beekeeper profile, but wouldn’t it be fascinating to have 16 or 20 of these sentinel colonies around Iowa. The flow of data from each hive combined would give a great picture of what’s going on in real time, and at the end of the season – an accurate picture of what we’ve been through.

People have put hives on platform scales for years, using the changes in weight of sentinel hives as part of their management of their greater numbers of colonies. This is taking a good-sized leap from there. Rob mentioned he recently checked to see if his hive was bringing in honey from his cell phone while on a plane. Future additions may include a audio and humidity sensors. Others have incorporated cameras and software which can track bees’ movement as they enter and exit the hive. There has been recent work which showed differences in frequencies given off by honey bees in response to various diseases and situations. Most beekeepers can hear the difference between a hopelessly queenless colony compared to a queenright colony … but apparently it goes much, much further. This is awesome, though it could put me out of a job…

Rob says his system was built for about $250 and a few headaches. His only problem with functionality through the first six months was when a tree limb fell in a storm and severed the power cord. He gave me permission to spread the word, and said he’d be happy to provide more details for anyone interested. Let me know… I know i’m excited about this.

That’s enough for now. Thanks to both of you if you’ve made it down this far.

Hope you had a good holiday.

The 4th was my dad’s birthday. I think this is the only photo I have of us.
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I think this is back on the road and hopefully in the bee yards again. Look out.
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queen-rearing field demo … tomorrow

Hi All.

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The cicadas are still at it. Good reason to get outside.

First off, for those of you relatively nearby: I plan to hold an informal field day tomorrow to demonstrate a bit on queen rearing. I have a cell-builder hive all set to go. We’ll talk about what characteristics I select for when choosing a breeder colony. We’ll pull a frame of proper-aged larvae and do a bit of grafting sitting on my tailgate. There are several ways to make queens on a small-scale (20 to 50 or so queens at a time); this is just how I’m doing it. It works. There are several good books on the subject. Check out Larry Connor’s Wicwas Press website for some of my favorites: http://www.wicwas.com . And this video is as good as they get: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R7tinVIuBJ8 Micheal Palmer has become something of a cult figure in northern beekeeping for his “sustainable” approach. He emphasizes the importance of getting off the treadmill of package colonies & commercially-produced queens from areas & operations dissimilar to what you have going on with your own bees. …For what it’s worth, I couldn’t agree more. Anyway, we’ll be meeting up in my yard adjacent to the Chichaqua Bottoms Greenbelt in Maxwell, IA tomorrow (June 26th) at 1:00. Contact me if you’re interested and need directions to get there.

Happy belated Father’s Day. I figure since this blog is being read now by at least 8 or 10 people, it’s possible I’m reaching at least 3 to 5 fathers out there.
Thanks to my family for the perfect gifts!:
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and
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We have more bee food out there now:

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Basswood is still going around here.

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I love to see the (butterfly) milkweed come on. …wish there was a whole lot more of it.

Also just starting to see some white sweet clover flowering. Seems very early. This can be huge if it’s gets hot and stays hot. Don’t yet have a good photo of it to share.

This spring has been so easy going for the bees. Once they found the end of winter, the spring buildup couldn’t have been more smooth. This has been reflected in their health. Decent temperatures, few days of rain (til recently), and plenty of consistent bloom have all played into proper nutrition and low stresses for them. Newly started colonies have expanded well and many now are collecting surplus honey already. Wintered colonies have become strong, been split (maybe more than once), and have already produced good amounts of surplus for us. Some areas of Iowa have had a bit too much rain in the last week or two, and I’m sure this has affected bees in those parts, but overall … wow. Last season, there was so much sickness – much of it related to poor seasonal conditions reducing foraging, building colony stresses, and compromising nutrition. European foul brood (typically a more minor bacterial brood disease) was everywhere. This year, disease has been minimal. Everyone’s bees are looking great.

I found some unfortunate exceptions to this yesterday, and wanted to share some photos. Lots of beekeepers pull out cell phone cameras and take pics of prize winning “wood to wood” perfect frames of brood when we pull them from our hives. It’s harder to snap photos when things aren’t so ideal. This condition was found across a yard of about 20 or 21 colonies yesterday in northern Story County:

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This first frame shows a pretty serious chalk brood problem. Chalkbrood is a fungal infection. It’s generally pretty common in low levels in wetter springs as the temperature starts to climb, especially in apiaries with tall grasses and weeds blocking hive entrances choking off ventilation, and in apiaries located in low lying areas where morning fogs might linger. As the fungus digests the larvae, it becomes hard and “chalky” typically white in color though sometimes grey to black (fruiting bodies, I’m told). The “mummies” are loose in the cells. The adult bees throw the mummies out in front of the hive as they try to clean out the frames. Sometimes you’ll find the mummies piled at the entrance or on the ground in front of the hive.

There’s another infection in there, better seen in these next two photos:
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In these, you’ll note the same shotty brood pattern, with more open cells than capped pupae. You see some chalkbrood, but there are a lot of orangey brown larvae sort of “melting” in their cells. I believe these are succumbing to European Foulbrood, or EFB, a bacterial infection. The larvae, normally fat and glistening white, turn and stretch lengthwise in their cells. Many begin to look like tiny mandarin orange slices as their body becomes orange highlighted by the white tracheal breathing tubes striping their sides. As they’re not being well-cared for by the few workers in these hives, they begin to dry out and shrink and become brownish. If you “twizzle” them with a small dry twig, they’re not at all ropey or gooey (as in AFB cases). I could just barely pick up a spoiled, sour milk, lactic acid sort of smell yesterday. Despite the considerable size of my nose, I’m not very good at smelling things… Sometimes though, the odor can be pretty strong.

These colonies were very weak, though some were faring better than others. They appeared to be splits made relatively recently. I think the main problem is an imbalance – too much brood to be tended to by way too few worker bees. Probably the real problem is just the weakness of the colonies in the first place. The larvae aren’t being properly fed and cared for by the nurses. Under stress, the infections are moving in on a “secondary” sort of level, but left untreated these problems could quickly take the colonies down. They are all queenright, but the queens’ best egg-laying efforts are being matched by the brood succumbing to the infections and dying. As the workers struggle to clean up the dead larvae, they spread the disease further, and new brood becomes exposed as it reaches a susceptible age. There’s no registered product for treatment of chalkbrood, but there are a couple antibiotics available for control of the bacterial infection. There weren’t enough adults in the hives for me to be comfortable with sacrificing some for Varroa samples. Sometimes with high mite populations, you’ll find very similar symptoms (often referred to as parasitic mite syndrome, or PMS). I didn’t completely rule that out here, but I don’t believe mites were a main causal factor for these. I’d guess the parent colonies these splits came from were properly treated for Varroa earlier this spring.

And abruptly switching topics to end on a more pleasant note, here’s some rattlesnake master getting pretty close:
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Very cool plant. One of my favorites. We don’t tend to focus much on the prairie natives in terms of a honey crop but it all adds up. Native plants are important to all sorts of pollinators here and it’d be great to see more of them incorporated back into our landscape.

See you.

happy emergence.

2014-06-06 15.02.35

Happy emergence everyone. Still not really even hearing the cicadas in town, but some areas are really screaming with them. Snapped this photo over south of Dallas Center on a really cool little farm tucked back off the corner of a gravel road. It’s a pretty wooded area and the cicadas and their shells are thick on about every stem and leaf. Mary, the beekeeper I’d been visiting, started up a lawnmower just as I was leaving — I think the bugs were louder than the mower.

I’m not sure if I’ve ever experienced a season when so much came into bloom for the bees all at once. For as harsh as the winter was, spring has been easy, almost fluid. Few springs are like this. Beekeepers probably tend to get tuned into spring weather occurrences & trends more than any other hobby or industry, possibly including the meteorologists. It’s been a pretty slow spring, but that’s OK as long as the colonies are being managed and fed when necessary. There weren’t any big freezes which took out early blooms. There weren’t any weeks of non-stop rain. The bees have simply built up and got themselves ready for exactly what’s happening right now. My fingers are crossed now for heat and dry weather. …Not an unreasonable request for an Iowa summer.

We had a huge dandelion showing this spring. The bees used the dandelion pollen and nectar to make more of themselves. This is one hive’s response:
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Seeing hives bursting like that, even after being split pretty heavily, I got busy: got the grass cut down and got the supers on. There was a bit of a dry period for a week or ten days following the dandelions, then right at Memorial day, the plants came alive.

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Yellow sweet clover.

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White dutch clover.

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Birdsfoot trefoil is starting to come on.

I really need to grab some photos of the Catalpas flowering this year. They’re pretty fantastic. And Basswoods are just thinking about getting going too.
All of this is a very good thing, in part because this represents the last of the 2013 crop:
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Let’s backtrack a bit. It’s been a month or so since the last post…

I left off last time with some photos of 19 young queen grafts. All of them completed, looking pretty large and solid.

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On day ten or so, they were split out into queenless nucs I’d made up two days prior. The queen cells went into little plastic protectors (which actually do seem to help, by the way), and were placed between the middle combs of these four- and five-frame nucs.

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Cells pushed into their protectors.

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A double nuc – two 4-frame nucs share a divided ten frame box. The dog food bag is a ghetto inner cover. It allows one side to remain closed while the other is exposed.

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A few of the queens didn’t make it through the mating process, but the rest are showing great looking brood patterns.
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Because seeing tall hives never gets old, some late-spring apiary porn:
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And, an interesting freak:
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Found this guy back in mid-May. I first learned about white-eyed drones years ago, but I think this is the first I’ve ever actually found in a hive. There’s a pretty interesting explanation for the blindness … but you’ll have to google it.

And, lastly, a nice swarm popped into some empty equipment I had stored behind the house:
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I didn’t have any bees here at the time, so all I can say is, Thanks neighbor!

See you all.

Happy Mother’s Day.

2014-05-08 19.10.52
Happy Mother’s Day dear reader(s?).

2014-05-06 17.38.36
Picking up where I left off last time: a pimp cup of Peace Tree’s Red Rambler to “celebrate” the first round of grafts of the season. Something happened to the bottom bar of ten cells … none of them took. Maybe it sat for too long between being grafted and being placed in the hive. They were covered with a damp paper towel while I worked through the other 20 grafts. Maybe it was too cold of an evening that first night and the bees clustered above it. There are a ton of bees in there, but who knows? Whatever the reason, the nurse bees just ignored it. Of the other two bars of grafted larvae, I had a 19 out of 20 acceptance.

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So 19 out of 30 grafts are looking really good. This picture was taken maybe 18 or 20 hours after they were started: just old enough to be able to easily tell which cells are being cared for vs. which are being neglected. A quick check yesterday evening showed the queen cells are nice & long which means they’ve been provided lots of royal jelly and are being well cared for. In a day or two, I need to get the mating nucs assembled and in place. Time flies.

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Rambling on about queens, note the tiny tragedy above. See the Varroa mite hitching a ride on that nice looking queen? Alex Ebert mentioned to me once maybe a year or so ago that he’d snapped a photo of the same thing. He takes some of the best honey bee photos I’ve ever seen, by the way. I found this one in an inspection in Ankeny. The mite may just be using the queen as quick & easy transportation, but even so … it’s just wrong. Tis the season to absolutely blast those things.

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Tis also the season for these things.

2014-05-10 06.18.19
Started the day early with a pot of coffee in the garage going over this beast. I have a weird sort of nostalgia for old Tecumseh engines. I think my Dad’s Dad had a thing for them – to be honest, I’m not sure. In any case, there’s a bit of a family resemblance to the old logo. Glen Stanley gave me this bee blower maybe five years ago already. Safe to say it’s had a few decades of use, and it’s still going strong. I’ve taken care of it, but it needs a little attention here over the next couple months.

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And spent the afternoon at a field day at Sheila & Jerry Weldon’s in Knoxville. They have a beautiful place. Great looking gardens, all sorts of fruit trees, and 16 or 20 colonies of bees. Very nice of them to let us pick through them.

Gratuitous Brood Porn:
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Doesn’t get any better than this one.

Alright. See you. I swear I feel ticks crawling on me. More to come. Thanks for reading.

2014-05-10 16.23.10

getting going.

We’ve had a nice couple weeks around here since last time I sat down to write something. Been running around a lot — mostly talking, not actually getting to do too much bee work … yet. I’m ready to go, as might be evidenced by this travel kit:
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Note the four most essential components: antacids, headache pills, iodine, and extra lighters.

A neat experience of last week was getting to work with some people from the local Izaak Walton League. They been working with some 4Hers to host some beekeeping educational sessions and establish a couple colonies back behind the range. Some tornado watches in the area kept some people from venturing out to the first bee class (which was fortunately indoors), but the hives are now up and going. Thanks to Vern Ramsey for donating one of the nucs and to Curt & Connie Bronnenberg for the two queens. Here’s a couple photos taken by Jen Anhalt of the installation on a cold and windy day.

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Unrelatedly, Science!
Had the task of collecting a few bees for the greater good.

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These bees will be used somehow by the IDALS Lab folks in equipment calibration or a control or a baseline or who-knows-what as part of the upcoming season’s pesticide residue analysis work.
I hope they like their new home:
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Meanwhile, my hives are building up pretty well. There’s a lot of pollen coming in, which does wonders for the bees’ general positive mental attitude. And mine, I guess.
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She’s a little shy.

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There she is.

And, finally, it’s time to make some queens. Yesterday I made up a strong cell starter colony. Here’s their hive … a little different from the typical but it works well. The temperature is a little cooler than what I’d like for this, but not too bad. I loaded them up with an extra pound or so of bees to overcompensate.

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Here’s the inside.
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Two halfway full division board feeders, pollen frames, frames of capped brood, and a pollen sub patty. Not shown in the photo is the frame of cell bars.
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It’s in there now being “polished” by the bees. Here this evening, I’ll graft 30 tiny larvae into the cups, and cross some fingers. Please stay tuned.

Southern Iowa ELAP Bee Inspection

I spent yesterday down in the southwestern part of the state counting boxes of dead bees. The USDA Emergency Livestock Assistance Program (ELAP) has been reinstated in the Farm Bill this year. It provides some help (money) to beekeepers who’ve lost hives due to certain qualifying factors. Our severe winter certainly qualifies. It looks like Iowa beekeepers who wintered their bees here in the state have lost about 65 or 70% of their colonies since last October. This isn’t all due to it just being cold, of course. …There’s a lot going on. But the stresses of the winter took out everything which wasn’t in great, strong, healthy shape. There was a lot of starvation too, especially in the larger colonies with more mouths to feed. Also still seeing examples of “CCD”, finding hives entirely empty of bees or just tiny clusters smaller than a fist.

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Workplace environs, not 1/2 bad.

Only a crappy beekeeper would blame winter entirely, without asking himself what could have been done differently or better or more timely to prepare the bees back in late summer or early fall. That said, in the yards I looked at yesterday, it was obvious the beekeepers had fed the bees last fall, they’d killed mites, and insulated, and reduced entrances, and provided extra ventilation up top. The yards provided windbreak, the grass was cut low, …all the basic tasks were done. Then came winter … followed by a sad and expensive springtime.

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Either no bees remaining at all …

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… or small clusters only inches away from remaining food stores. These bees likely got caught over to the side of the hive in a late winter cold snap and couldn’t reach the honey frames just across the box.

2014-04-15 11.05.22

It doesn’t take much “expertise” to perform these inspections. I pulled enough combs to see that there weren’t any obvious signs of disease. I got a feel for the amount of food stores the bees had as of fall. I saw evidence of mite treatments. Then I just counted the number of dead hives vs the number still going. This all gets reported along with a good pile of paper work, I’m sure, to the county Farm Service Agency office. For the two beekeepers and 13 yards we visited, the losses total out about 75% of the numbers they had in fall. It was pretty cold and the bees that remain weren’t flying much. I flinched a bit, startled, everytime I popped a cover off and bees actually hissed and came out after me. …these hives were the exception to the rule.

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Not much going on in there.

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We had an audience in most of the yards.

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Don’t see many of these “jumbos” at all. This one is empty. My guess is the upper box here is at least 50 years old. The combs are usually disturbingly old and black and thick, but I love coming across them.

willow pollen

Yesterday, I visited a hobby beekeeper just over in Dallas County. The bees were making good use of the sunny warm morning. We were happy to see them finding so much pollen. It’s only started coming in around here in the last couple days. Kind of a soft buttery white color, from willows. This willow pollen probably more than anything else signals the transition from winter to early spring for the bees, and is really nice to see. Any day now, the maple buds will pop and we’ll see lots of that pollen coming in — more of a dirty yellow color.

Hungry bees

lunch

Spring is just starting to set in. The bees are coming alive. I’ve visited everything a couple times now over the last few weeks. They’re going to need a lot of food. They seem to have eaten a good bit more than they do in an average winter. I’d given them each a bag of dry sugar back at the end of February. Many of the hives have gone through it all, and in some there’s just a thin ring of caked sugar left outlining the edges of the box.

It’s consistently warm enough now that they can take syrup, rather than dry sugar. As of now, they’ve each received two rounds of syrup. I keep division board feeders in each hive. They hold about a gallon. The bees have also been given pollen sub patties. Everyone got a 1 lb. patty a couple weeks ago. They got another one last week if I found the first one gone or nearly so.

1:1

mouths to feed

pollen sub & div feeders

They’re now starting to find some of the real stuff from willows around here just in the last couple days. The maples look like they’re ready to pop as well. These trees are good sources of some early pollen for them, but it’ll still be a good while before they start finding any nectar.

Things are pretty fragile this time of year, to say the least. The feeding and pollen foraging help get them stabilized, and many are starting to expand out the brood area a bit. I don’t enjoy spending money on syrup and pouring food into the hives, but the effects are undeniable. And once started, it seems important to “keep it coming” til nature sets in and takes over, else they can go backwards pretty quickly.

coming alive