I posted this last year and, with the start of our season coming soon, I can’t help but repost. I few years ago I assessed my colonies preseason and found they needed a mite cleaning. The difference in their appearance and performance was notable. They were the prettiest bees that spring – vigorous and prolific. Since then I make a point of getting my bees off to a good start early in the spring buildup. Enjoy.
To a carpenter with a hammer everything is a nail. And so it is with me. Registered Nurse with close to 30 years of inpatient hospital unit management, a few graduate level Public Health courses, and 60 years of observation. And so everything looks like a health care management problem (well not everything). Anyway, I thought I’d preface the following comments with a warning that this is just my perspective.
There is a beekeeping saying, “Take your losses in the Fall.” That doesn’t necessarily mean let them die. It typically means combine hives as needed. The economist in us tries to take the least hit possible and combine all of the weaker hives thus at least salvaging one hive out of the mess. My limited experience has been that combining 2 or even 3 weak colonies in the fall still results in a loss. Better to add each of them to a strong hive and take the hive numbers hit right then in the fall. But from a public health or infectious disease standpoint how can we do this safely? If the queen is simply weak that’s one thing, but if an infectious agent or Varroa is the issue you may be causing yourself more anguish by combining an infected hive with a good strong colony. For example, if you were in a hospital room how would you like it if the person in the next bed was being admitted because he/she was weak with a highly infectious disease? Hey, anyone want to share a room with a TB patient? Back to beekeeping… My beekeeping answer is to treat first, pinch the queen, then combine them and even then only if I suspected they were not sick. If they appeared to have succumbed to an infection and are in steep decline then I wouldn’t add those sick bees to another hive, period.
I got to the point of cringing with every Varroa lecture at conferences. But somewhere along the way after looking at the evidence left in my own combs, hives, and other symptoms, I became convinced of a few things. Varroa explains most of the unexplainable. I think successful beekeepers treat early and often. Nowadays, if a hive crashes, I suspect Varroa first. Yeah, maybe they absconded but it was probably secondary to Varroa infestation. Maybe they were robbed but it was probably after they became weak and crashed due to Varroa. I believe Varroa to be the primary cause in most cases. The other events are secondary but that’s what we can see so that’s what we believe happened. We humans are visually oriented to a fault.
But how does it happen so fast you may ask? Ever worked on a hospital ward or lived in a dormitory type housing situation where a flu outbreak occurred? How many sick individuals did you see prior to the epidemic putting everyone in the bed with symptoms? Probably just a few. That’s how it happens. A few sick individuals carrying a potent virus and BAM! Overnight everyone is vomiting with fever and diarrhea. The viri take over and, in the case of bees, a seemingly healthy colony crashes suddenly and we find ourselves perplexed. But why are we perplexed, have we not seen the flu virus in humans close schools? Or cruise ships turn around to return to port after a sudden virus puts all of the occupants in their cabins too sick to continue. Have we been too long without a world plague to have forgotten the infectious disease process?
If you’ve ever read a death certificate it states cause of death. It also allows the physician to state medical factors affecting death. So, cause of death may say “esophageal hemorrhage” but the medical factors might state, “chronic alcoholism.” And so it is with Varroa. Cause of death is “robbing” or “abscond” while the chronic illness would be listed as “Parasitic Mite Syndrome with high virus loading.”
Moving on, so when a colony crashes and robbers come in to clean up the honey guess who takes home something they didn’t ask for? Your other colonies, that’s who. Once the robbing starts the Varroa get distributed among the other hives.
First, in my opinion, you may not want to get into beekeeping if you’re not willing to treat for Varroa and use IPM methods – it’s just too difficult. But then, that’s me. I also take my kids to the doctor when they are sick and don’t let my dogs walk around with ticks in the hope they build a resistance. If you want to be treatment free at least give the bees a chance and buy property 5 miles away from the next closest beekeeper, get clean survivor bees to start, aggressively utilize IPM methods such as screen bottom boards, splits, queen caging, small cell, sugar shakes, and artificial swarms. You’ll be extremely busy but I do believe it can work for some people. For others it becomes an exercise in frustration and disappointment.
Me? I’m going to treat them early and often after a preseason mite level assessment to establish a baseline. I also monitor mite counts post treatment to ensure the treatment was effective. As a primary offense to prevent outbreaks, I treat every spring before honey supers go on the hives. Then, typically, I do a series of 3 weekly OA treatments in June after pulling supers. During the long hot summer, if a colony starts to weaken I treat that single hive after assessment. If a hive collapses and gets robbed everyone gets a treatment. During December broodlessness everyone gets a single vaporization or dribble. I primarily use OA but I may replace one of the seasonal treatments above with a different method. That’s the two pronged plan of 1) Primary preventative treatment and 2) Aggressive Secondary post infection treatments. That’s what you do when you visit your health care provider – expect preventative measures first, and predictable, effective treatment when you get sick.
Hey, look at your hands right now. How many bacteria and viri do you see? Count them. You can’t but if you get sick you may have wished you had washed your hands a little more frequently. Prevention first, but if you get sick take your medicine!
It’s viri spread by Varroa killing our bees. You don’t see the viri, rarely see the mites that spread the viri, and frequently don’t see the symptoms until it’s too late. Good luck managing your bees’ health.
Trained as a nuclear physicist, world renowned bee expert Eva Crane is easily one of the most intriguing and accomplished figures who have found their way onto the Land Library’s shelves. Her sudden shift from quantums to bees came on the occasion of her wedding in 1942. Among the wedding presents that day was a […]
Below is a nice enticement to appreciating the art in The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlink and illustrated by E.J. Detmold. The text can be read online here: The Life of the Bee by Maurice Maeterlink. And more on the illustrator at: Edward Julius Detmold
The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck
(Translated by Alfred Sutro)
Illustrated by E J Detmold
George Allen & Co Ltd
Illustrated edition 1911
The Life of The Bee by Maurice Maeterlinck is a wonderfully eccentric book written in a variety of genres. It is informed by the author’s years of experience studying the complex behaviour of bees. Yet this intricate factual account is suffused with epic drama and wildly poetic philosophical digressions.
Maeterlinck, in telling the story of the bee, explores the subjects of life, death, truth, nature, humanity, and everything in between.
The story of the bee becomes almost a mystic parable to describe all human experience. It has the added charm of being one of the most beautifully illustrated books in our collection. Edward Detmold’s paintings perfectly reflect the sentiment and beauty of the writing.
Below I have gathered together some of Detmold’s illustrations and selected a few memorable passages from the chapter entitled, ‘ The Nuptial Flight’ which presents the tragic sex life of the heroic male bee. I hope you enjoy them.
‘Most creatures have a vague belief that a very precarious hazard, a kind of transparent membrane, divides death from love and that the profound idea of Nature demands that the giver of life should die at the point of giving. Here this idea, whose memory lingers still over the kisses of man, is realised in its primal simplicity. No sooner has the union been accomplished than the male’s abdomen opens, the organ detaches itself, dragging with it the mass of the entrail, the wings relax, and, as though struck by lightning , the emptied body turns on itself and sinks into the abyss.’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 87 –page 166)
‘Nor does the new bride , indeed, show more concern than her people, (for the poor male Bee ) there being no room for many emotions in her narrow, barbarous, practical brain. She has but one thought, which is to rid herself of as quickly as possible of the embarrassing souveniers her consort has left her,…She seats herself on the threshold, and carefully strips off the useless organs…’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 89 –page 173)
‘Prodigious nuptials these, the most fairy-like that can be conceived, azure and tragic , raised high above life by the impetus of desire; imperishable and terrible, unique and bewildering, solitary and infinite. An admirable ecstasy, wherein death, supervening in all that our sphere has of most limpid and loveliest, in virginal, limitless space, stamps the instant of happiness on the sublime transparence of the great sky;…’
(Part V THE NUPTIAL FLIGHT 90 –page 174)
An interesting article which helps explain the science of honey and cooking with honey. Enjoy this article by A.V. Walters at tworockchronicles blog.
Honey is a foodstuff of almost mythical proportions. It is one of a handful of foods that, left in its original form, never spoils. Honey has been known to last literally thousands of years—and still be edible and sweet. Honey will crystalize—a condition that may put off the uninformed consumer—but crystalized honey is still good. If it offends, you can simply warm it gently and it will resume its liquid amber loveliness.
Read more of this interesting article here: Honey, Cooking, and The Science Behind The Sweet — tworockchronicles
Both my son and daughter have inherited my sense of re-purposing and conservation. My son continues to get a kick out of the fact that nothing in the bee operation goes unused – it all gets recycled in some way at some time.
Pictured is a melting block of beeswax. From nectar or sugar the bees create wax which is used to build comb. The comb is used to rear brood or store honey. Wax cappings are removed and saved when honey is harvested. Even the brood frames are eventually removed, scraped, and the wax melted down. The block in the picture made the above trip from bee to comb to wax cappings and eventually into a block of wax, to the SC State Fair and back to the barn. Now, it’s being melted down for application to foundation for use by the bees this coming spring. The cycle is complete.
There is no good reason to open your hive during periods of extreme cold. None. Even if you suspect they have died, for whatever reason, opening the hive can typically wait.
Honey bees will form a protective spherical cluster, the outermost bees rotating with the inner bees, to warm themselves. The bees shiver to generate heat and the outer bees form an insulative layer. Being cold blooded, all bees exhibit some degree of slowing down when they are unable to warm themselves sufficiently. As the temperature continues to drop a protective physiological mechanism called torpor begins: a semi-hibernation, reaction to the cold, that reduces their metabolism and allows them to conserve energy and survive by significantly slowing down their physiological processes. Dependent on cluster size this may affect a larger percentage of the bees surrounding the core of the cluster. The role of the beekeeper is to allow the colony to conserve what heat is available by not opening the hive. In a case where it is known the colony is running out of food wait until the hive and bees have warmed enough to move about and only then briefly open the hive enough to insert frames of honey or other food. During extended periods of cold weather it may take a few days for the bees to warm up and begin to move about freely.
Honey bees’ ability to survive winter temperatures is related to both the formation of a winter cluster as well as physiological mechanisms. Another physiological mechanism involves a sugar within honey bee hemolymph called trehalose. Trehalose acts as a protection to cells and enables the bees to come very close to freezing yet recover without ill effects after warming.
…monosaccharides in honey bee diets are fructose and glucose but the most common circulating sugar in hemolymph is trehalose which is a disaccharide consisting of two glucose molecules.
…organisms, can survive freezing at low temperatures by replacing most of their internal water with the sugar trehalose, preventing the crystallization that otherwise damages cell membranes.
…”), microscopic multicellular organisms, can survive freezing by replacing most of their internal water with the sugar trehalose, preventing it from crystallization that otherwise damages cell membranes.
Yesterday some of my colonies were flying – some seem more cold tolerant than others and fly when the temps get to the upper 40s. Anyway, there was a fair number of bees hitting the dry pollen substitute from about noon to 4pm. I went out to do some work just before dark and while out decided to replenish the pollen feeders. I found a couple dozen bees inside that had missed the last opportunity to return to their hives and were in a state of torpor inside the feeders. Wanting to refill the feeders I dumped them and the leftover pollen substitute onto a baking pan before refilling the feeders. My thinking was I’d place them somewhere protected until it warmed up today. Most of the bees looked like popcorn after I dumped them – covered with pollen sub.
So after I refilled the feeders and placed them back on their poles I went to retrieve the baking pans to separate the pollen sub from the bees. They were gone. Everything was gone.
Then I spotted the culprit slinking off. My dog Buster had eaten the pollen sub and the bees. I wonder if he found them tasty? He’s still here his morning and seems no worse for it.
Have you ever wondered what solitary bees do if they emerge from overwintering into an environment without flowers? We often worry about how flowering plants would fare without local bees to pollinate them, but what about the other way around? – = ? Here’s another question you might not have considered: […]
Bee Time: Lessons From the Hive is more or less officially out. Hard copies have arrived in most bookstores and can be found for sale on the usual websites; the e-book will be available 6 October from Amazon and Harvard Press.
Read full article here: The Book is Out! — Mark L. Winston
This summer, I became immersed in the world of honey. It began with my reporting on a magazine story about backyard beekeepers, which then led to lessons in how honey is made and why it’s been a treasured food for millennia. Did you know there are more than 300 documented varieties of honey in the US alone? Or that the University of California, Davis developed a tasting wheel to categorize the hundreds of flavors that can be detected in these many hues of honey? All this research, of course, ended up with me back in my kitchen, testing recipe after recipe. I write today to share this, my favorite new honey recipe. Think of these fritters as tasty, hearty hush puppies, good enough to make into a meal. The honey flavor is subtle, yet a perfect complement to the corn and pork.
Read entire article with recipe here: Corn Fritters with Honey-Bacon Drizzle —
My WordPress friend Erik recently posted the blog post below, which I believe fully explains and illustrates much of what beekeeping entails. Set goals, make plans, assess your progress, and above all, “Bee… or bee not, there is no try.”
If one is to take up the avocation of beekeeping one should devote the effort required to succeed, and by doing so, expect success. There are a few shortcuts which may make you more efficient but many which will cause failure. Above all, do all of what needs doing and in a manner which leads you to expect success.
It has been bitterly cold the last two weeks (at least by Virginia standards), often below 10 F (-12 C) overnight, and that is without the wind. As a young beekeeper, I worry that my hives will not handle the cold well. One or two may already have died out, for all I know. Unfortunately it is still January so we must wait. Nothing to do but publish my beekeeping goals for 2018.
Setting goals can be tricky, especially short term ones. You want something achievable, yet interesting. New, but building on past success. Perhaps a stretch goal as well to challenge yourself.
Read the full article by visiting Bees with eeb here: Bee… or bee not, there is no try — Bees with eeb
It was The Bee’s Knees yesterday. Today, it’s honey. To get you into the mood, have a listen to this racy little number
Now, let’s reach for the honey.
Honey just never goes bad. That’s because when those busy little bees are flapping their wings to turn the nectar into honey, excess moisture is drawn out. That, and a bee enzyme, creates a substance in which bacteria and other bugs don’t grow. Which is why they found edible honey in some of the ancient Egyptian tombs.
Read full article at: Echoes of Honey — soulgifts – Telling Tales
‘Bees During Prohibition’ 1920 to 1933.
Celebrating the Anniversary of the Repeal of Prohibition – Dec. 5th. 1933
1931- ‘Bootleggers Destroy Apiary’
Image: Beekeepers across America frequently found themselves keeping bees in the same remote locations where moonshine stills were hidden. This still is located in Southern Georgia where beekeepers set up apiaries to collect Tupelo Honey.
Moonshiners needed to place their stills in remote areas near a reliable source of water. Beekeepers also needed to situate apiaries near water and in remote areas where forage was abundant. This occasionally placed beekeepers in direct conflict with moonshiners. In 1931, revenue officers destroyed three whiskey making outfits in the swamp behind an apiary of 85 colonies owned by Mr. Scott of North Carolina. Although Mr. Scott did not know the stills were there, the bootleggers piled up thirty- seven of his colonies and burned them and turned most of the other hives over on their sides. All this was done because the bootleggers suspicions that Mr. Scott had given information as to the location of the stills. -Raleigh, North Carolina -Bee Culture Magazine, 1931.
(click to enlarge to full size) The British Black Bee (Apis mellifera mellifera), or European Dark Honeybee, was common until the beginning of the 20th Century. Fully adapted for the cooler climate she was responsible for the pollination of the wild flowers you see in the British Isles today. Sadly a virus practically wiped the […]
Sassafrasbeefarm: Listening to a Randy Oliver lecture he mentions the book, The Rambunctious Garden. It speaks to our ever changing environment and one way of looking at it as we become more and more global. I did end up purchasing the book for my daughter for Christmas. I can’t wait until she’s finish and I can borrow it. 🙂 Enjoy the review.
Last month in a post entitled Making the Case for Saving Species, I reviewed an article written by Emma Marris about doing all we can to prevent species from going extinct, even when the approach is not a popular one – like introducing rust resistant genes into native whitebark pine populations. Intrigued by Marris’ words, I decided to finally read her book, Rambunctious Garden: Saving Nature in a Post-Wild Word, which had been sitting on my bookshelf for several months and had been on my list of books to read for at least a couple of years before that. At only 171 pages, Marris’ book is a quick read and comes across as an introduction to some sort of revolution. Its brevity demands future volumes, which are hopefully on their way.
Read entire review at awkwardbotany: Book Review: Rambunctious Garden
2 1/2 cups of flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinn.
1 cup sugar
1 cup honey
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons orange zest
1 cup orange juice
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Grease and flour a 9 x 13 pan. Sift flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinn.
3. In a large bowl (separate), combine sugar, honey, oil, eggs, & orange zest
4. Beat in the flour mixture alternately with orange juice, mixing just until incorporated
5. Pour batter into prepared pan
6. Bake 40-50 minutes or until cooked through.
Read more and entire recipe here: Honey Cake — Farm, Garden and Beyond
IS there a connection between how a honey bee collects its nectar on a summer’s day, and the performance of your investment portfolio?
Bees make investment decisions every day, expending much time and effort searching for returns, which in their case is nectar from flowers. The link between investment and bees was explored by ecologist Leslie Real of Indiana University back in 1991 in a study that monitored honey bees’ behaviour to better understand attitudes to risk. This study will be unknown to most investors but offers some valuable insights.
During the experiment bees were given their own investment choice to make: Either feed from blue flowers which always contained 2ml of nectar without fail, or gorge on yellow flowers, which were randomly mixed so that one in three contained a triple payoff with 6ml nectar.
Read full article here: Bees teach investors handy lessons
The turkey’s been stuffed. The first snow has hit the pavement. Ambitious merry folk in white-trimmed red-felt hats are already weighing down conifers in their living rooms with glass globes and tinsel. Yes, ’tis the season when one naturally begins to wonder, “Hey, where do all the bees go in winter?” Good question! After all, […]
If you’re itchy for signs of life over the winter, lord knows you can’t open the hive! But given the right “ear”, you might be able to hear the crunching sounds of life within those four wooden walls. This week, during Albuquerque’s wicked cold snap, I borrowed a “mechanic’s” stethoscope from a local computer hardware […]