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At our April 10th meeting, Jim Ellis, on behalf of the CVBA was very proud to accept a beautiful observation hive from Jerry Slaughter, who is a member of our bee club and also owns Cold Creek Bee Co. This is an Ulster observation hive and will be very useful whenever we do presentations. An observation hive is always a big hit and this type will make it quite easy to take the bees for demonstrations. Paul Berry submitted an application to Jerry for our club, and this resulted in our being granted this terrific piece of equipment. The CVBA works to promote sustainable beekeeping and encourage awareness and protection of the honey bee. Having an observation hive at our disposal is a terrific asset. Thank you Jerry!
Our speaker at this meeting was very informative. Bear Kelly gave a great presentation on “Honey, the Inside Story.” Among other things, he is currently taking a course to be an official honey judge. We would like to invite you to our annual picnic and our honey contest. Thank you Bear, for taking the time to speak to our group!
The recent confluence of events has been, is and will be deadly to our honeybees. I almost murdered a beautiful hive yesterday. Perhaps “murdered” is too strong a word, but perhaps not. Sometimes knowing what needs to be done and actually doing it are two very different things. Life has a way of getting in the way.
Our recent weather events are the culprit. Three weeks of warm, balmy days influence our flowering plants and trees to burst forth with pollen and nectar, trick our bees into believing spring is here. As a result, the queen starts laying “pedal to the metal”. She’s encouraged to do so by all the pollen coming into the hive. Baby bees (mouths to feed) begin hatching and demanding resources from the hive. The hives gets full to overflowing with mouths to feed.
Cold and rainy then comes crashing down on us. Three or four days of cold, followed by a couple of days of rainy, and what do you get? Too many mouths and not enough resources. To make matters worse, one night of 28 degrees knocked all but the most stubborn blooms off the plants and trees. Suddenly, even the forage that precipitated this huge population explosion is gone.
The end result was, is and will be your bees are going to starve to death if you don’t feed them. It almost happened to me as referenced above. Two weeks ago, it was probably the strongest, most populated hive in my apiary. I was feeding and inspecting my hives, one at a time, as I could get to them. This hive was near the end of my circuit of feed/inspect and I had not gotten to them yet. As I cruised my hives yesterday, as I do a couple of times a day, near the end of my circuit, my beautiful, healthy hive had dead and dying bees all over the front landing board and the ground in front. Immediately, I knew what was going on. Upon close inspection, there were thousands (I am not exaggerating) of dead bees on the ground. Thousands more struggled around the landing board.
I drove back to my shop as fast as I could, poured some 1 – 1 sugar syrup into a spray bottle and went back to my troubled hive. I sprayed all the visible bees with the syrup until it was dripping of them. Then, even without the benefit of protective clothing, I opened the hive and began spraying the dead and dying bees on the frames and even the pile of them on the bottom board. I began to see some of the struggling bees sucking up the droplets of spray and getting a little more active. Fortunately, there were still a lot of bees in the hive that had not yet succumbed. The more I sprayed, the more active they became. Of course, as a way of thanking me, they started stinging me so I had to back away.
Soon after, I got a feeder jar on top of the hive (once properly clothed) and immediately began putting feeder jars on top of the rest of those I had not yet gotten to. I’ll worry about inspecting them when I can. Whether or not I saved them is still in question. Today it looks back to normal except for the thousands of dead bees everywhere. They have cleaned off the bottom board and the landing board, which is a really good sign, but I won’t know for sure until I have gone into the hive and found the queen or recent brood.
Let my experience be a warning to you. Inspect your hives now. Feed if necessary. Don’t delay. Do as I say, not as I did.
Today is March 20th and I have seen no sign of swarming yet. A few drones, yes, but no queen cells. The scout bees are checking all my swarm traps. Last year, I had my first swarm on March 8th and the year before on March 1st. I don’t know what’s going on unless the weather has got all that screwed up too. A few members have reported having swarms, so stay cautious, but I have none to report. No sign at all.
By now you should have done your “end of winter” varroa treatment. If you haven’t, your only option now is to treat with formic acid (Mite-away Quick Strips). That’s the only treatment safe to do with honey supers on the hive. I just finished with the ox/gly shop towel treatment and will do the MAQS around June. My enthusiasm for treating for varroa comes from knowing for a fact that if you do not treat your hives, they will die.
Be good to your bees. They are in your charge just as surely as your dog or your cat. Treating for varroa is just as important as getting your dog/cat vaccinated for rabies or parvo or any other disease. It is preventative, and necessary.
Today is the middle of January. January 16 to be exact. So what should you be thinking about in regard to your bees? This time of year, you should be thinking about the health of your hives and what are you going to do when the bees begin to swarm around March 1st.
To prepare for certain events, it usually helps to count backwards. For example, if you want to know when to begin swarm prevention (such as it is), you should know that is takes a new queen 18 days to hatch. Counting backwards, you know the hive can swarm around March 1, so that new queen must have been laid around the middle of February, say, for ease of calculating, February 15. By February 15, the hive has already committed to swarm with the construction of queen cells. Once the hive commits, there’s not much you can do to discourage it.
Therefore, if you wish to “discourage” the hive from swarming, you should probably do your hive body reversals around the first of February on a warm, sunny day. Get the idea?
Let’s say you want to do some hive increases. Well, you could let them swarm and hope you can recover the swarm (i.e. one hive becomes two). Instead of taking the risk, you could initiate an “artificial” swarm. That’s a process we call “splitting” the hive. You open the hive and look for swarm cells. When you find one, take the existing queen from that hive, pull out 5 frames of bees (being sure NOT to take the frame with the queen cell on it), put them and the old queen into a NUC box and move it 2 miles or more away from the mother hive. Add 5 frames of foundation to the mother hive and the new queen will hatch, take over the mother hive and give you two hives from one. After a couple of weeks, you can bring the NUC back home and treat it just like you would a NUC you bought.
So when do we go into the hives to look for queen cells? After February 15. Actually, you can find queen cells anytime after February 15, all the way up to late August.
So that’s for February, what do we need to do NOW?
Your bees can die from a number of things, but for the most part, you will lose your hives for one of two reasons: Starvation or Varroa (mites). Starvation is the saddest because you will open your hive and find all your bees with their heads down in the empty honey cells, dead. They were licking the last of the honey from the cells. Lots of dead bees on your bottom board. Sad because it’s highly preventable. CHECK YOUR HIVES FOR FOOD STORES NOW. Also check them every week or so because now is the time bees can easily starve. Feed them with a 1 – 1 sugar syrup mixture if the hive seems light (I begin feeding all my hives on January 1st regardless).
I get phone calls all the time from beekeepers who have lost a hive or hives. I had a call last week from a beekeeper who lost 4 out of 6 hives practically overnight. Hives were full of honey but no bees and no brood. Obviously he discovered his dilemma before the other bees had a chance to rob all that honey. Wait a few more days and the hives would have had no honey, no brood and no bees. The answer is Varroa. My first question is always, did you treat for varroa? And the answer is usually “no”. The fact is, you must treat for Varroa. There’s no alternative. Want to keep your bees alive? Then you MUST treat.
My pattern of treatment is: Apivar in the fall after honey harvest, oxalic acid in the late winter/early spring (now) and Mite Away Quick Strips in the spring. Of the three, only MAQS can be used when honey supers are on the hive. Apivar and MAQS are pretty self explanatory. The directions are on the package (follow them to the letter).
Oxalic acid can be used in a number of ways, however only three methods have been approved for use in the USA. Some states have not yet approved it but Georgia and Alabama have. Those three methods of treatment are: vaporization (sublimation), spray and dribble. ANYTHING OTHER THAN THOSE THREE METHODS HAVE NOT BEEN APPROVED, and I would never encourage anyone to violate EPA rules.
There is, however, extensive work being done all over the world and one method, being tested by Randy Oliver in California interests me. He describes it in this month’s issue of American Bee Journal magazine. I’ll try to summarize it.
He takes common blue shop towels (similar to regular paper towels on a roll) and dips one towel in a solution of oxalic acid mixed with food grade glycerin, squeezes it out, then places that towel on top of the frames of the lower brood body. It takes the bees 4 to 6 weeks to chew up the towel and throw it out the front door. The timing is perfect to expose 3 generations of bees to the OA, thus getting the vast majority of the Varroa.
“Don’t try this at home”. Here’s the formula he uses. For each towel (1 per hive) measure 25 ml of food grade glycerin and heat it to the temperature of hot coffee (do not boil), weigh out 25 grams of oxalic acid, stir it into the hot glycerin until it fully dissolves (you can reheat, but don’t boil). This is enough for one towel, so multiply quantities for additional hives. Soak the towel in the warm solution to saturate it. Put it into a tray with a catch drain and squeeze or press until you have recovered about half the solution. It will be blue, but can still be used. The final squeezed towel will hold about 25 g of solution and will weigh about 31 g. He places this towel on top of the frames of the lower brood box in a double brood body hive.
You MUST USE NITRILE GLOVES. Avoid contact with bare skin. It is Acid. It will burn you. It washes off easily on warm water and can be neutralized with baking soda dissolved in water. The OA/Gly solution will stick to your fingers and to anything and everything you touch, so don’t.
Final cautions. It is illegal to use oxalic acid in any way not approved by the EPA and the individual states. It’s also illegal to use any Oxalic Acid that does not have the EPA label on it, even though it’s identical to common wood bleach you can find in any paint or hardware store for a fraction of the cost. Also it is worthy of being repeated: always use nitrile gloves when handling Oxalic Acid. Don’t touch it and don’t breathe it.
Last caution. If you don’t treat you hives for Varroa, they will die. Maybe not this year, but next for sure. Feed, Feed, Feed. And Treat, Treat, Treat.
The Chattahoochee Valley Beekeepers Association annual picnic was again held at the farm of Betty Beegle and her family. At their farm, they are ready for anything and luckily they were ready for rain. Yes, it rained on our picnic, but that just made it fun, interesting and memorable. At the Beegle Farm, they have a large framed roof over their picnic area, so all the food and guests were covered. You had to get a little rained on to get your dessert, but that didn’t stop anyone. It was well worth it too because all the food and all the desserts were terrific.
Before it rained, we did a little candle dipping and also saw a wax melter setup. Along with this, Jim Ellis and Freddie Beegle got into one of Freddie’s hives and did an inspection demonstration. This is always very informative and a great thing to see especially since we should all do hive inspections before winter to make sure the bees are putting up enough honey. The smoker contest and the honey tasting contest also took place. This year the smoker contest was divided into large smokers and smaller smokers with a prize for each category. The winner of the smaller smokers was Charlie Brown. The winner of the larger smokers was Duane Johnson again. Congratulations to you both! The winner of the honey tasting contest was William Ferris for the second year in a row. Congratulations! We also had a new attraction at the picnic this year. D. Dekeyser brought one of his parrots named Scooter. This extremely beautiful bird was quite entertaining and was a big hit with the kids as well as the adults.
Here is a group photo which we took just in the nick of time before it began to rain. Thank you to Doug Roberts for taking our group photo and also all of the photos on our photo page. Here is a quick link to see these photos… http://chattahoocheebeekeepers.com/?page_id=289
Our October meeting will be at the UGA Extension office on October 10, 6PM.
HELP! Swarms & Bee Rescue
BECOME A MEMBER!
PRINT out an APPLICATION HERE
Here is a handy link:
QUICK LINK TO SWARM LURE RECIPE!!!
SPRING is here, get those Honey Supers ready!
(see below for specifics about our alternating locations)
LOOKING AHEAD-MEETINGS IN 2017:
April 10 - Oxbow
May 8 - Ga. Extension Service
June 12 - Oxbow
July 10 - Ga. Extension Service
August 14 Oxbow
September 10 - CVBA Picnic at Betty Beegle's Farm
October 9 - Ga. Extension Service
November 13 - Oxbow
December 11 - CVBA Christmas Social at Ga. Extension Office
All dates except the picnic begin at 6PM and end (hopefully) before 8PM.
All of our meetings are on the second Monday of the month, except, of course, September's annual picnic. Now you can put us on your calendar early and plan out your entire year of beekeeping meetings. These meetings alternate locations between Oxbow Meadows Environmental Learning Center, 3535 South Lumpkin Rd., Columbus, GA and the UGA Cooperative Extension office - 420 10th Street in Columbus, GA. Time is 6:00 PM
Becoming a member of our Beekeepers Association is easy! CVBA-MEMBERSHIP APPLICATION
- Observation Hive Donated at Meeting
- Nucs at Night
- March 2017 – Paul’s Newsletter
- February 2017 – Paul’s Newsletter
- Beekeeping Spring Course Outline -2017
Nucs Arrive 2017
Varroa Mite Test
- April 2017
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