The Fresno Experiment – Exponential hive increase by Estrada Farms LLC

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Out of curiosity I suppose, Steve asked how often you can split a beehive in one year. In other words, if you start with one beehive, what is the maximum amount of queen-right beehives that you can have by the end of the year? I answered that I didn’t know, as I’ve never tried it before and there are so many variables to consider. But it did leave me wondering how many hives a person could make if their only goal was to make more beehives (not honey production), and so the Fresno Experiment was born.

The premise of the experiment was to find out how many hives we could make that would be able to overwinter on their own stores of honey (or very limited feeding).

Read more here:  The Fresno Experiment – Exponential hive increase — Estrada Farms LLC

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Happy Birthday William Longgood

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Born September 12, 1917. William Frank Longgood was a Pulitzer Prize winning author, reporter, and teacher. Born in St. Louis, he lived much of his life in New York. More here

He came relatively late to beekeeping but shared a nicely written book titled, The Queen Must Die, and other affairs of bee and men. Not quite bee biology but a wonderful presentation of bee behavior and philosophical thoughts on same.

Here’s a nice review found here on WordPress by Bees with ebb:

https://beeswitheeb.wordpress.com/2016/02/21/the-queen-must-die/

 

 

Cup of Comfort by Graceful Glass Slipper

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Because of Hurricane Irma, my fall quarter has been postponed one week (if you are new to my blog, I go to the Savannah College of Art & Design down in Georgia, right on the coast in the beautiful historic downtown). Currently thinking about the city I treasure so much and my friends that I […]

Read more here: Cup of Comfort — Graceful Glass Slipper

Beekeeping Vocabulary – “O” is for…

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This week’s vocabulary term is:

“Orientation Flight”

Age related tasks of honey bees culminate in foraging, this being the final group of tasks they perform before death. Although the starting age for foraging is variable, it commonly peaks in bees over 20 days of age. Until this point the bees that were mainly nest bound leave the colony to collect nectar, pollen, water, and propolis so therefore need to familiarize themselves with the landscape and landmarks outside the nest and the position of the nest entrance. They do so by taking orientation flights in the days preceding their first foraging flights. Young bees walk out of the hive, fly a short distance in front, turn by 180 degrees so that they are facing the hive, then hover back and forth in arcs. After a few moments the orientation flight becomes characterized by the ever increasing circles around and above the hive and after a few minutes the bee returns to its hive without carrying any pollen or nectar (Capaldi and Dyer 1999). The orientation flights tend to take place on warm windless afternoons.  Interestingly, on these flights, ‘foragers to be’ take the opportunity to void their feces, as they had not had a chance to cleanse previously (Winston, 1987).

Source and for full article: http://www.arnia.co.nz/honey-bee-orientation/

 

Cherry Ricotta Bruschetta by keviniscooking.com

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Here’s a little something to nibble on as your dinner grills or smokes. This summer inspired appetizer is sure to be a hit. Who doesn’t like bruschetta? That wonderful antipasto from Italy made of grilled bread, rubbed with garlic and topped with tomatoes, basil and olive oil? So fresh and summery, but I decided to…

Read fully recipe here:  Cherry Ricotta Bruschetta — keviniscooking.com

Two Takeaways from the Eastern Apicultural Society’s Summer 2017 Conference

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Last month, upon returning from the Eastern Apicultural conference in Newark, Delaware, a friend of mine asked me what was the single most meaningful thing I learned. I sat there and a hundred things ran through my mind. I finally said, “Every day offered me new information and different ways to look at what I’m doing in the bee yard.” Now that I’ve had a couple weeks to process some of the material (I took about 75 pages of notes), I have two things that I’ll share here that I think are important for this time of year and going forward.

The first is the ever present focus on mites. Almost every lecture I attended, no matter what the title, mentioned the need to deal effectively with Varroa mites. It seemed like some of the speakers were somewhat apologetic regarding the historically cautious use of some methods used to kill mites. One speaker said the commercial beekeepers got it right by treating at select intervals between pollination contracts and honey flows to deliver 2 or 3 treatments a year to control Varroa levels. Hobbyists, instead, were told to monitor mites and treat accordingly. Add to that the sometimes cumbersome mite assessment methods and too many people simply did not treat at all leading to lost colonies and mite bombs for their other hives and their neighbor’s hives.

Another comment I heard more than once concerned mite assessment. Whereas in the past we assessed to determine the need to treat, now the focus is on assessment to determine if our treatments are effective. It’s now official, “You have mites.” The only thing in question is how many. Given that thresholds for treatment have been reduced over the past years, plus with unexpected mite bombs, it’s now prudent to periodically treat your bees for mites. The reason for doing mite counts now is to determine pre-treatment and post-treatment mite levels. And, you might ask, which is now considered the most important? The later, post-treatment mite level because if the treatment was not effective in lowering your mite level to an acceptable level then another treatment is in order. Without this post-treatment mite level you’re simply left scratching your head if your colony dies over winter. And if you’re pressed for time, as we sometimes are, and don’t have time for a pre-treatment mite count, treatment, and post-treatment count? Well, it’s not ideal and you won’t gather as much information, but the pre-treatment mite count is the first to omit if you must.

So, what did I hear mentioned regarding treatments? I was somewhat surprised at the number of speakers that said they were treating with Apivar (Amitraz), a hard chemical. Why were they using a hard chemical? The outstanding efficacy of 97 – 99% knockdown of mites along with no residual in wax seemed to be its primary selling points. It is a 42 day treatment and honey for human consumption should be removed. Additionally, speakers talked of rotating their use of treatments and not using the same treatment repeatedly. Oxalic acid is still a favorite and perhaps the cheapest if applied by drizzle during the broodless period. Randy Oliver and the University of Georgia are running trials on oxalic acid shop towels and if the results are favorable it is hoped EPA approval will follow. Other treatments are also considered and used based on the time of year, if honey supers are on or off, and dependent on temperature. Commercial operators also factor in the hive movements between crops, before or after spring splits, and other factors. It seems mite treatments are now a given and the only thing to consider is the time you can get one (or more) done between seasons, honey, broodlessness, the fall spike in mite populations, and pollination contracts. It’s a dance but a serious dance for those who make their living from bees and need to keep them alive and healthy.

The other thing I learned (remember I said I’d mention just two) is honey bee nutrition and its importance. When we think of feeding the bees we often think in terms of syrup and various concentrations of syrup. But pollen is where it’s at nutritionally. Poor quality pollen makes weak bees. Nutritious pollen from diverse sources makes lots of bees, healthy bees, and strong bees able to handle the many stressors bees face nowadays. Many years ago I sat in a nutrition class in college and my professor said in no uncertain terms that protein was the currency standard for nutrition. It seems that applies as well to bees.  Bees’ immune systems are compromised with poor nutrition. At the same time we see now, more than ever, they are faced with having to detox from man made and environmental chemicals. Only good nutrition provides them with the tools needed to keep themselves healthy, make strong future generations, and combat environmental stressors.  Of course, for the beekeeper, finding land with optimum forage is difficult but we must also do what we can to not overtax areas with too many hives while we seek out better environments for our bees or improve their current settings. While nutritional supplements were mentioned the jury is still out on some of these supplements. It seems good pollen is always a good choice. One solution is pollen harvesting during times of plentiful pollen. In response to the beekeeper trapping some pollen the bees will “assign” more pollen collectors to make up for the beekeeper’s trapping. The beekeeper can store the collected pollen for later use during those times when pollen is either of poor quality or during pollen dearth.  I’ll be placing pollen traps on some of my  hives this coming year. It should be interesting and if I have extra it will be yet another product of the hive for me to sell at market.

I really could go on for hours here. At EAS there are multiple workshops, lectures, and educational offerings going on simultaneously over the course of 5 full days and evenings. Often I would arrive at 7:00AM  for breakfast and not return to my dorm room until 8:00 or 9:00PM at night. It’s exhausting and exciting. I do recommend you attend one and here’s my surprise for those that have endured my article: EAS will be in South Carolina in 2019! The location in South Carolina is still to be decided. If you really want to experience a honey bee learning experience like never before make plans to be there. You won’t regret it.

For more information on EAS click here.

Buzzing Bees – Bees Like Caffeine by Supahome

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Study from Newcastle university has revealed that bees are more likely to remember, and therefore re-visit flowers whose pollen contains caffeine. Obviously, regular visits by bees are beneficial because they improve the chance of plant pollination.

Unsurprisingly, the caffeine acts like a mild drug which lures the bees back. Some species of plants are natural caffeine producers, like Grapefruits, Mandarins and of course Coffee Plants.

The levels of caffeine in these plants is strictly limited, probably due to the fact that too much caffeine would lead to a bitter tasting nectar which would deter the bees from visiting again.

Source: Buzzing Bees — Supahome

Beekeepers get ready for Spring in the Fall

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Get ready for Spring!

Lots of articles speak to the beekeeping year beginning in August or early Fall. Yikes, that’s now!

If you harvested in June then you probably fed your bees through the dearth. If you waited until now to harvest you probably got less honey but you saved the costs associated with feeding. Either way, now is the time to build the best bees you possibly can for the winter.

I know it’s still hot but get back in there on the next reasonably nice day and assess them. You don’t really have to take every frame out and make them upset but get an idea of what they have. Look for capped and uncapped brood, pollen, and honey stores. And start picking up the back of that hive and compare it to what you see inside so you learn what’s heavy and what’s not.

We’re on the cusp of the Fall flow and soon your hive will start to stink from goldenrod pollen. That smell should bring a smile to your face as they are making preparations for winter and raising fat winter bees. Some of you may have more honey than you need, others will see some empty comb. Read your hive and, like an artist, choose your tools to create the ideal hive for overwintering.

Most beekeepers assess and treat for Varroa after they pull honey whether that was a couple months ago or now. You want to do everything possible to increase the health of your bees now so they, in turn, raise strong winter bees over the next two generations. Sickly bees build sickly bees; strong bees build Arnold Schwartenegger bees. You want Arnold on your side when the temperatures are 20 degrees in January and the pantry is waning.

Beekeepers that started this year will reach the pinnacle of their beekeeping in March 2018. Then they will have bees-a-plenty and the race to stay ahead of the bees becomes an exciting and enjoyable problem. Using this year’s drawn comb they will explode. The bees will be saying, “Scotty, give me all you’ve got.” and you’ll be saying, “Captain, I don’t think she can take much more! She’s gonna swarm!” (pardon the paraphrase).

But, back to the topic at hand – building better winter bees. Time now to step up your game one more time before we enter the long dull days of winter. Although most days in the Midlands of South Carolina allow for the bees to fly they won’t be flying much because there won’t be anything out there. And you’ll be stuck inside wishing for Spring to come and waiting for that first Red Maple bloom, or with your ear to the side of the hive listening for their hum as they convert honey into heat.

So, assess them now and and get them flying towards a hive full of strong winter bees and a hive filled with lots of stores for the long winter ahead. Go for it! Build better bees!

Picture: Early Spring bees. Notice no leaves on the trees yet.