Archive for the ‘Newsletter’ Category

  • April 2017 – Paul’s Newsletter

    Date: 2017.05.01 | Category: Newsletter | Response: 0

    It’s been a very busy month. As of our last meeting, I was beginning to wonder if we were going
    to have a swarm season this year. At that time, I had only seen a couple of swarms. In past
    years, March 1st usually begins my swarm season. Well, not to worry! Beginning a couple of
    weeks ago, I have averaged more than one swarm a day. I had problems with two of the first
    three swarms I caught and I know some of you have had the same problem. The first and third
    swarms I caught, did not like the new home I gave them because they both declined to stay and
    moved out into another swarm. I caught each a second time and offered all new hive bodies in
    different locations and each declined to stay again. I was not successful at finding either one a
    third time.
    Those two swarms were unusual for me but I know some of you have had the same problem
    with losing caught swarms. Last year and, except for those two, this year, I have not had a
    problem at all. Last year, I almost felt like I could just point and say “go” and they would go to
    the new home I prepared for them. I’ll discuss different ways to catch swarms in a minute, but
    here’s what I do to prepare a new home for them.
    I put a 10 frame deep hive body on a solid bottom board (they seem to initially like a dark home
    which screened bottom boards cannot provide). In the hive body, I put two frames of drawn
    comb with 8 frames of new foundation. You can definitely overdo the drawn comb. My guess
    is it makes the hive seem too small for them if you use too much drawn comb. (I have no
    science to back that up). I put an inner cover and an outer cover with a feeder jar hole in it
    close by. I take 2 or 3 outer frames of the new foundation out (depending on the size of the
    swarm) and spread the two drawn comb frames apart. Now you’ve created a hole in the
    middle, bordered by the drawn foundation (Don’t use the nasty old stuff. Save that for your
    swarm traps. Use good fairly clean drawn frames).
    I usually spray some 1 to 1 sugar water on the comb and foundation just to add an additional
    attractant. When you pour, dump, drop the bees from your swarm into the hole, gently and
    slowly push the frames together and put the frames you took out back in. Once the frames
    have settled down and the bees have made room for them, put the inner cover on, then the
    outer cover and add a jar of 1 to 1 sugar water to the feeder hole and leave them alone for a
    few days. With any luck, you’re done.
    You should ALWAYS put up swarm traps, as many as you can. They seem to work better if they
    are 100 yards or so away from the bee hives, but I have caught swarms in them sitting on the
    back fender of my bucket truck, parked in the middle of my beeyard. Despite what the books
    say, I never put a swarm trap higher than I can comfortably reach while standing on the ground.
    That means 5 or 6 feet from the ground. I prefer to use wooden NUC boxes. I screw a scrap
    piece of 1 by 4 about 14 inches long to the side of the box with a 1 inch hole drilled in the top so
    I can hang it on a nail.
    Inside the NUC box I put two fames of nasty old drawn comb, one on either side, and smear
    some swarm lure (see our website) on the inside back of the box. I leave the middle empty to
    create the impression of space. Doing that is a little dangerous because you’ll need to discover
    that it has been occupied pretty quickly. If a swarm moves in, they will construct comb from
    the top, thus creating a mess for you if you don’t open it and add three more frames of new
    foundation within a day of occupancy. You’ll have no choice but to remove that comb to add
    the new frames. And that really, really pisses them off.
    Here’s something very important to remember. A swarm caught hanging from a tree limb or
    elsewhere, can be put into a hive body sitting next to the hive they swarmed from or anywhere
    else in your bee yard. They will not have imprinted on a location at that point. Bees caught in a
    swarm trap, however are a very different story. If you remove that occupied trap and put it 20
    feet away, the bees will all go back to where it was and cannot find it where it is. You must
    move that occupied swarm trap 2 miles away, at dusk or later, leave them for 2 weeks, then
    you can bring them back and put them where you want them.
    It can be a pain so why use swarm traps? It’s for those swarms you didn’t see or for those who
    swarmed too high to reach. It doesn’t always work but it does more often than you’d think. As
    I sit here typing this, I’ve got a swarm in a trap in my beeyard. They came yesterday and I
    added the extra frames this morning and still had to remove a fair amount of comb they had
    built. Now that I’ve done that, I can actually leave them there for a week or two before I move
    them to my second yard two miles away.
    Now to catching swarms. Where the swarm has landed and formed has EVERYTHING to do
    with how to catch them. I caught a swarm at West Central Hospital two days ago that had
    formed in a pile on the ground. I put a NUC box with 1 frame of drawn comb and 4 frames of
    new foundation on the ground with the entrance touching the outer edge of the swarm. They
    immediately started marching in. I left it there and came back at dusk. All the bees, even the
    scout bees were inside so I just closed the entrance, took them home and reopened the
    entrance. They’re doing just great.
    I did something similar once when faced with a swarm that was so wrapped around a bush and
    chain link fence I simply couldn’t get to them any other way. I put a couple of concrete blocks
    on the ground to prop the NUC box up high enough to let the front edge touch the outer edge
    of the swarm. They marched right in. Once they start, you can use sticks to create bridges from
    the swarm to the entrance and they will use them.
    Wrapped around a big thick limb or the trunk of a tree. First of all, get their new home ready
    with a filled feeder jar close by. I like using a Styrofoam cooler with a screened over hole in the
    top (Jim Ellis showed me how to do this years ago). Spray the swarm with 1 to 1 sugar water.
    Don’t drown them but spray then all over pretty heavily. You’ll see them scrunch up when you
    do this. The sugar water keeps them from flying as much and also makes them heavy so when
    you start brushing them (the only useful function I’ve ever found for a bee brush) into your
    catch box, they fall to the bottom. Go around the limb or tree trunk, brushing them into the
    box. You won’t get them all but get as many as you can and put the lid on the box. Carry them
    to the hive you’ve prepared and dump them in, gently at first but tapping the box on top of the
    hive to get them into the hive. Close the hive and start feeding. Now go back to the swarm and
    repeat. Carry them to the hive and dump them on and around the entrance. Do that as often
    as you like but know you will have to leave some behind. Just leave as few as possible and (for
    your peace of mind) assume the stragglers will go back to the mother hive.
    My favorite swarm is one hanging like a tear-drop on a small limb. Don’t spray them. You don’t
    want them falling off. Grasp the limb above the bees and as gently as you can, clip it off above
    your hand. Now you can gently lay them into your catch box or, if it’s in your beeyard, lay them
    on top of the frames of the hive you prepared. They’ll work their way down off the limb into
    the hive. Shake any stragglers off when you’ve run out of patience.
    On a medium sized limb, spray them good, hold your box under the swarm and shake the limb
    as hard as you can to drop them into your catch box.
    You’ll encounter swarms in many different configurations if you do this long enough, but one of
    the methods of capture I’ve described can usually be modified to work, understanding we are
    discussing swarm capture and NOT bee removal. Once a swarm has moved into the wall of
    your house, it is no longer a swarm and none of the above applies.
    I added honey supers to all of my hives, except one, about 3 weeks ago. Every hive I opened
    had bees boiling out and I could see beautiful white wax comb on the majority of the frames in
    the top brood box. The one hive I did not super only had two frames in the top brood box
    drawn. Probably the result of a swarm but I’ll watch them more closely. I may have to requeen
    or combine it with another hive. Check your honey supers every couple of weeks and be
    prepared to add another in a timely manner.
    I had a call from one of our members today that made me sad. He had scrupulously saved his
    drawn comb after harvesting last year and opened his containers today only to find massive
    wax moth damage. He had stored his frames in plastic containers with moth crystals and
    sealed them with duct tape. Unknowingly he had created the perfect environment for breeding
    wax moths. Moth crystals (paradichlorobenzene) evaporate in about 3 to 4 weeks. If all the
    larvae have not been killed by the crystals, the warm moist environment allows the moth
    population to explode. It’s happened to me on occasion so, as Bill Clinton would say, I feel his
    pain.
    What I do now is freeze the frames for a few days after the bees have cleaned them up. I then
    stack them in supers about 6 or 7 high and put moth crystals generously in a paper bowl on top
    of the stack and cover the top. I try to remember to unstack and check every 4 weeks or so,
    and add new crystals. It’s a lot of work, but if you don’t do it, you could lose your wax as did my
    friend.
    Although this one is more like a rambling dialogue than a newsletter, I hope some of you find it
    useful. If you have questions or topics you’d like me to discuss, please email me and I’ll try to
    find out if I don’t know the answers.
    Be good to your bees
    Paul

  • March 2017 – Paul’s Newsletter

    Date: 2017.03.22 | Category: Newsletter | Response: 0

    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.

  • February 2017 – Paul’s Newsletter

    Date: 2017.03.01 | Category: Newsletter | Response: 0

    Greetings!
    It’s late February  and things are beginning to bloom all over.  Azalea’s and Red Buds are looking like they will bust out all over any day now.  The bees are foraging with a vengeance.  I left my shop door open Sunday with some old dead-outs stacked up near the entrance and the bees found them.  Hundreds, if not thousands of my girls were in my shop so thick there was no room for me.  I turned off all the lights and covered the windows with tarps so that the only light they could see was the open door.  That got most of them out, but I still had hundreds of dead bees on my shop floor yesterday and today.  Note to self:  don’t leave the shop door open again.
    All of you missed a wonderful Georgia Beekeepers Association meeting in Griffin last weekend.  I know all of you missed it because Jim Ellis and I were the only CVBA members there.  You missed a great chance to learn from the professors and chat with fellow beekeepers.  I encourage all of you to consider joining the GBA.  It is well worth your time and money.
    I finished inspecting the rest of my hives this past week (5 or 6 is all I can handle without a break).  While inspecting, I did my hive body reversals and continued to treat with the oxalic/glycerin shop towels I wrote about earlier (credit Randy Oliver from California).  I really like that method because it doesn’t seem to bother the bees at all.  No sooner do I lay the moist towel over the brood than bees begin to crawl all over the towel.  I had a few hives in which the bees had not moved up or were all scattered around the hive bodies (which I left alone), but most were all in the top brood box, which I reversed to give them room to continue moving up in the hive.
    I found a few drone cells in a couple of my hives but I’m waiting now for warm sunny days to start at the beginning again, looking for drone and swarm cells.  Do remember it takes a drone 24 days to hatch (from egg to bee) and an additional 10 days for him to sexually mature.  It only takes a new queen 18 days to hatch (from egg to bee) and a few days after that to mature.  It is NOT too early to look for swarm cells.  Beekeepers in Savannah reported active swarms already and Jim Ellis told me Saturday he had already had a swarm call.
    Finding swarm cells really is a gift if you have any desire to split some hives (which also serves as a swarm deterrent).   When you find a swarm cell, locate the old queen and move her to a NUC box along with half the honey/pollen and brood, leaving the frame with the swarm cell(s) in the original hive along with half the honey/pollen and brood.  Move that NUC with half the bees/honey/pollen/brood and the old queen 2 miles away.  Fill up the old hive with frames and foundation and now you have two colonies of bees.  After a few weeks when the new queen has hatched and mated, you can move your NUC back to your yard and put them into a full size hive.  One hive is now two.  Couldn’t be easier.
    My hives were all full of honey and pollen, so I have stopped all feeding, but you need to make that determination for your own hives.  Inspect.  Try to lift them from behind.  If they’re heavy, you’re probably good but better to pop the top and inspect.  When I inspect my hives, I remove and inspect every frame in the top box, then move it aside and do the same with the bottom box.  You should be doing this now.
    If It seems light or if you do not see a good amount of food, keep feeding.  From now until the honey flow begins in earnest around April 1st, your bees are in danger of starving.  Two or three cold days or two or three rainy days and they can starve if they don’t have sufficient stores.
    A quick word about pesticides.  In our area of the state, we really don’t have heavy agriculture and that’s where the greatest danger from which pesticides come.   Pesticides can be a problem, but we are not at great risk from agricultural spraying.  Although I’ve read about and seen pictures of pesticide kills, I’ve never actually seen one in real life.  If you spray pesticides for any reason or can influence a neighbor who does, make sure to spray late in the afternoon around dusk and never, ever spray blooms the bees visit during the day.  Spray only after the blooms have dropped.
    As I listen to lectures and attend classes at state meetings, I have noticed the “experts” are now spending a lot of time on Varroa and less and less time on Neonicotinoids (a pesticide infused in seeds).  I’ve even seen a couple of studies that discount Neonics as a problem.  A real turn-around from a few years ago when everything from Colony Collapse Disorder to Global Warming was being blamed on neonics.  The jury is still out, I guess.
    INSPECT YOUR HIVES!  TREAT FOR VARROA!  FEED WHEN NECESSARY!
    – Paul Berry, member CVBA

  • January 2017 – Paul’s Newsletter

    Date: 2017.01.17 | Category: Newsletter | Response: 0

    Paul’s Newsletter

    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.

    Paul Berry

    paulbeekeeper@yahoo.com

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LOOKING AHEAD-MEETINGS IN 2017:
July 10 – Ga. Extension Service
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FYI:
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
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