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READ: Brood diseases and lagging bees

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Spring is the time of year when bees go into high gear to get ready to do their instinctive reproductive act of procreation—swarming. A colony grows to fill its space, replacement queens are drawn and nurtured, and the final event is a leaving from the mother hive of about 50% of the workers and the old queen. These bees will attempt to found a new colony somewhere else and begin the cycle again. During this build up in Spring we urban beekeepers must watch carefully for the signs of swarm preparation and guide it so that a swarm is not the outcome—in the city such swarms are not appreciated by the general public living in close proximity to us.

I have now been keeping bees almost four years and am getting a better feel for the rhythm of the growth cycle in a colony. We have mild winters in Los Angeles, so the Spring brooding up period often begins in January. This means we will begin seeing drones and drone brood, new brood comb being drawn, and a general increase in the number of bees and activity of the queen.

However, early this year, two of my hives at the house were not showing these changes and I really began to notice by February. It seemed they were just staying in a holding pattern—no new comb was being drawn and, at first, this was the most noticeable issue. By the beginning of March, I was seeing sac brood, perforated cappings (small holes in the brood caps), lots of uncapped pupae in the purple eye stage, dried up “mummies” of brood in cells, and some cells of open brood with watery goop that may have been European Foul Brood.  There were also some adult bees with DWV, or deformed wing virus. The wings of the bee are twisted little stumps or thread-like and useless. The colonies had plenty of stored honey and many frames of bee bread. Together, these conditions and the different maladies of the larvae and pupae are sometimes lumped under the name “Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome”  which describes diseases vectored by the activities of the varroa mite.

Here is a website entry detailing what I was seeing—

Information compiled by Beekeeper Lonnie E. Campbell of The Loudoun Beekeepers Association.

Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome was first named by The Beltsville Bee Lab to explain why colonies infested with both varroa mites and tracheal mites were not thriving. BPMS was first reported by European beekeepers whose colonies were already stressed by varroa mites. Colonies that are apparently very healthy and productive suddenly experience a sudden decrease in adult population often resulting in the total loss of the colony. Plenty of food stores are often present, but very spotty and unhealthy brood are observed.

I began searching my readings and books to find out what I might do to help these two formerly thriving hives (one hive is 5 mediums, the other 2 deeps and 3 mediums). I wanted to support them before their population dropped too much that they would be weakened beyond recovery. I saw on inspection March 22 that very little open brood was present and no eggs. One queen was seen (in the biggest colony) but in the other I didn’t find the queen.

Michael Bush’s book offered the best information for this situation that I could find. A brood break, or a cessation of egg laying by the queen, is one of the best responses for breaking the cycle of the pests and diseases that may afflict a hive. By denying the pathogens a food source the disease cycle is automatically broken. One way of doing this is to find and kill the queen and then introduce a new queen. Another way is to dispatch the queen and let them raise another one. By the time the new queen is laying, the brood break will have cleansed the disease cycle.

But the method I thought I would settle on was the use of a push in cage. This is a small confinement cage made out of eighth inch hardware cloth that holds the queen on the face of a frame for a period of time to prevent her laying eggs in the normal pattern. It is just a shallow 3 sided box of wire, 5 X 10 inches, pushed into the face of the wax comb. You try to place it in a zone with some honey cells, some emerging brood, and some open cells—all of these to serve the needs of the confined queen.

On March 28, after preparing two cages and getting my mind clear about what I was going to do, I opened up the first hive to start my search for the queen. I had at hand a  good tool for safely catching a queen— a “hair clip” catcher.

However, I soon saw that something better than my plan had already occurred. The frames that had lacked any eggs or open brood were now completely filled with eggs! The queens had stopped laying eggs by their own accord and interrupted the brood cycle of the diseases and varroa that had been afflicting them. I was very excited that the queens and their workers seemed to have a inborn strategy to get over their problems. My notes to Michael Bush to report this were confirmed in his answer here:

         Yes, the bees often do a brood break to resolve the issues.  Sometimes it’s done by dispatching the old queen and sometimes she just shuts down. EFB usually clears up on it’s own when whatever stress was the cause is relieved.  Usually by a flow in a dearth.

And this one:

It doesn’t always work out well, but then interfering doesn’t always work out well either.

“Our attentions may be useful to them but are oftener noxious to them; thus far goes our interference.” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

“…without the foresight, or rather the astonishing presence of mind of the bees, who always do at the proper time what needs to be done…” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

So, there we have it. Another beek lesson learned!

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Urban beekeeping becomes therapy for at-risk communities

By North By Northwest, CBC News

Julia and Sarah Common started their urban beekeeping non-profit organization in 2012

Bees play an important role in the ecosystem, as they pollinate plants and produce honey, but it turns out they can also play a therapeutic role for humans.

Since 2012, Julia Common and her daughter Sarah have been engaging at-risk communities in urban beekeeping through their non-profit organization, Hives for Humanity.

Mother and daughter started by placing a colony of bees at a community garden on Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside.

“The community really quickly took ownership of that hive and responsibility for the protection and care of this living, breathing colony of working insects that are just this inspiration to everyone who sees them,” Sarah told North By Northwest‘s Sheryl MacKay.

The Commons say beekeeping is therapeutic because it brings people together and the responsibility gives them a sense of self worth and community pride.

“At the beginning, we thought it was the beekeeping, but then from beekeeping, other things come,” said Julia.

“The bees have wax, someone needs to [process] the wax. Other people come forward who want to help with equipment maintenance.”

Hives for Humanity now has almost a hundred hives placed in community gardens, the rooftops of single room occupancy hotels and people’s backyards.

“No matter where you are, people take great pride in taking care of the bees, keeping them safe,” said Julia.

“Everyone from kindergarten right up to somebody who is 92 realizes bees are threatened and they just feel wonderful that they’re playing their [part].”

To hear the full interview, listen to the audio labelled: Vancouver beekeeping program engages at-risk communities

Read full story · Posted in News

READ: Bees prefer the buzz of a town

Bees prefer the buzz of a town: Urban sites found to have more species than rural areas

By Fiona Macrae via dailymail.co.uk

  • Agriculture and mass crops blamed for decline of bee numbers 
  • Towns and cities have wider variety of plants and flowers in autumn
  • Pesticides, climate change and disease causing bee numbers to fall 

We think of them as thriving in wildflower meadows and rolling fields. But new research suggests Britain’s bees are happier near towns and cities.

A study of wildlife sites across four English counties has found that most are home to fewer species of bee today than they were in the past.

It found that the expansion of farmland has actually been more damaging to Britain’s bee population than the concreting over of the countryside for housing.

Reading University researcher Deepa Senapathi believes intensive agriculture is to blame.

While the gardens, parks and churchyards of towns and cities provide bees with a variety of plants to forage on and an extended flowering season, popular crops such as oilseed rape only bloom for a few weeks.

She said: ‘While concreting over the countryside may appear to be bad news for nature, we’ve found that progressive urbanisation may be much less damaging than intensive agriculture.

‘Urban areas may benefit bees more than farmland by providing a wide variety of flowering plants, providing a cosmopolitan menu for insects from spring through to autumn.

‘Over the past century rural landscapes in Britain have become increasingly dominated by large expanses of monoculture – the growing of a single type of plant, which has helped boost crop production.

‘But without a mixture of habitat and food sources, rural areas can sometimes be little better than green deserts for biodiversity.

Scientists around the country are trying to work out why populations of bees and other insects are plummeting.

Pesticides, climate change and disease may, like intensive farming, be playing a role.

[view full article here: dailymail.co.uk]

Read full story · Posted in News, Yay Bees

READ: Organic Beekeeping Conference in Oracle Arizona

Oracle_2015_2

By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

One of the most delightful and informative ways beeks can advance their understanding of bees and beekeeping is by attending conferences. The American Beekeeping Federation conference was held in Anaheim this year in January and I went to several presentations. This was a completely academic conference, combined with a large trade show—no live bees to work with. This group also reflects a strong conventional management and commercial pollinator representation. There are always things to be learned though, and I found the time well spent.

However, a number of smaller and more appropriate conferences for us treatment free folk also occur every year. The 8th Annual Organic Beekeeping conference at Oracle AZ, put on by Dee Lusby allows participants to visit the 9 bee yards kept by Dee in the remote Sonora desert near the Mexican border. These bees are never moved (no migratory pollination) are at least 4 deeps tall, are not re-queened or supported with any feeds, and are visited (on average) just 5 times a year. Dee’s honey is very dry and dark, reflecting the dry climate and mixed desert flora the bees have for forage. These flowers include many desert shrubs, cactus, wildflowers, and introduced weed species too numerous to mention. The Spring rains this year have been abundant and well spaced, so we saw lots of wildflower and cactus blooms. The desert smelled wonderful—fresh, sage-y scented with alternating bright blue skies and looming smokey thunderclouds.

Oracle_2015_1

Rob McFarland (Co-Founder of HoneyLove) and I drove to Oracle, which is in a very remote area. The conference is sited at the YMCA, with cabins and bunk beds for sleeping and 3 full cafeteria meals a day. Some of the best time is spent at meals in talking with other bee keepers from all over the US and even other parts of the world.

The conference lasts 3 days, with speakers on a range of subjects—apitherapy (using bee stings for health reasons), introduction of a new national on-line register for swarm calls to beekeepers, the beekeeping management calendar year from a extreme climate perspective, and new information on genetics and breeding of queens. Michael Bush and Sam Comfort, our great friends in treatment free beekeeping not only spoke individually, but on the last night gave us a melodious, heartfelt performance for almost a hour. Michael plays guitar and sings, Sam plays ukelele and banjo and a MEAN harmonica!! It was stupendous and had people’s roaring approval.

Our final day was devoted to driving on dirt roads to Dee’s remote beeyards—she has 700 hives. The day was a bit windy and cold, with threatening rain, but we went anyway, and the desert was glorious with color. The desert bees were very ferocious in defending their colonies, reflecting the weather and forage conditions they must deal with. We were fully suited and gloved to help restore some hives that were tipping wildly from the undermining of the bottom board by tunneling rodents. The hives had to be totally unstacked, the bottom board leveled and supported by fresh soil and the hives re-stacked—each at least 4 deeps.

I urge all that wish to really know beekeeping and infuse the relationship with new knowledge to attend these bee conferences.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Workshops, Yay Bees

READ: Commercial bees, the unsung heroes of the nut business

[HoneyLover] Bill Lewis is waiting for the sun to set, the time of day when his bees crawl back inside the short white boxes that house their colonies. As the sky turns pink behind the San Gabriel mountains, on the outskirts of Los Angeles, Lewis climbs into the seat of a forklift and starts moving the hives onto the back of a flatbed truck. These bees are on the move. “As soon as you get on the freeway and there’s air flowing past the entrances, all the bees run back inside,” says Lewis, of any stragglers. Lewis, who runs Bill’s Bees, is taking about 700 of his hives on a road trip to the California’s Central Valley, where he’ll unload them across acres of almond orchards, working until 1 or 2 a.m. under the light of full moon. All across the country, more than a million-and-a-half colonies are making a similar journey – traveling hundreds or even thousands of miles to pollinate California’s almonds. Farmers rent hives for few weeks because in order for almond trees to produce nuts, bees need to move pollen from one tree to another. No bees, no almonds. “This pollination season there will be [some] 800,000 acres of almonds that need to be pollinated,” says Eric Mussen, a honey bee specialist at the University of California Davis. He says more than 100 different kinds of crops need these rent-a-bees, but almonds are significant for the number of acres that require pollination all at the same time. About 85 percent of the commercial bees in United States – which Mussen calls “bees on wheels” – travel to California for almonds. The state supplies roughly 80 percent of the world’s almonds, worth $6.4 billion during the 2013-2014 season, according to the Almond Board of California. “It’s a matter of numbers,” he says. “You’re trying to provide enough bees to be moving the pollen around between the varieties and whatnot. It’s just a huge, huge number of bees. The only way we can get a huge number of bees in one place at one time is to bring them in on trucks.” In fact, bees are such an important part of the almond business that Paramount Farms, one of the biggest almond growers in the world, has decided they need to be in the bee business, too. The company just bought one of the largest beekeepers in the United States, based in Florida. “Bees are so essential for the process of growing almonds,” says Joe Joe MacIlvane, Paramount’s president. “If we don’t have a reliable supply of good strong colonies, we simply won’t be a viable almond grower, so that’s our primary motivation for getting into the business.” Renting bees is about 10 to 15 percent of Paramount’s production costs, but the motivation to keep their own bees isn’t simply economic. “Many bee keepers are individual or family business and many people are getting on in years and we don’t see a lot of young people coming into the business,” says MacIlvane. Additionally, bee populations are struggling. A significant number having been dying each year for the past decade or so, thanks to a mix of factors, from pesticides to lost habitat for feeding. Sometimes it’s difficult to know exactly what’s killing them. “We had a large problem last year with bees dying in the orchard because of something that was going on during bloom,” says Bill Lewis. He thinks a pesticide or fungicide may have been to blame. This year, Lewis and his bee broker are being pickier about the farms they’re working with, vetting them more carefully because those lost bees had big economic consequences – about $300,000 in lost income for Lewis.
Read full story · Posted in News

WATCH: Girl Next Door Honey

Girl Next Door Honey from kelsi dean on Vimeo.

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

LOS ANGELES LEGALIZATION UPDATE!!

Public Hearing Notice: Backyard Beekeeping Draft Ordinance

All interested persons are invited to attend a public hearing for a proposed City of Los Angeles Zoning Code amendment to allow backyard beekeeping in single-family residential zones. At the hearing, you may listen, speak, or submit written information related to the proposed ordinance. This is the first in a series of public hearings regarding this proposed ordinance as it moves on to the City Planning Commission, Planning and Land Use Management committee of the City Council, and City Council.

PLACE: Los Angeles City Hall, Room 1010, 10th Floor – 200 N. Spring St, Los Angeles, CA 90012
TIME: Thursday, March 19, 2015 at 2:00 pm

Please see the link below to the public hearing notice, Q&A and draft ordinance for more information.
http://goo.gl/gpZHWQ 

For more information, please contact staff:
Katie Peterson
KATHERINE.PETERSON@LACITY.ORG
213-978-1445

Read full story · Posted in News

Bee Informed Partnership Hive Scale Project

Susan BIP Scale
via HoneyLover Susan RudnickiHave you ever wondered how our local, LA Urban beekeeping differ from other areas of the country? I just read the other day that beekeepers in Wales expect about 25 pounds of honey per year on their hives—33 pounds is a bumper crop!   This does not seem like much. Our bees are active year ’round, making brood, honey and drones. This growth is very different from temperate climate bees and, as well, we are using Africanized hybrid ferals—a relatively rare population to survey. We now have a opportunity to participate in amassing data on our specific niche by the generosity of HoneyLove who purchased the SolutionBee Hive scale for me to monitor a hive in my backyard garden.

The project is managed by BIP (the Bee Informed Partnership)  and the hive data is automatically sent to their website as well as the SolutionBee team, the manufacturers of the hive scale (purchased from Brushy Mountain). The colony I selected came from a large swarm hived on April 27, 2014 which has proven to be super productive and nicely behaved. They now occupy 3 deep boxes and 2 mediums after seven months and have produced 60 pounds of honey.  I have also raided their brood nest for frames of brood for weak nuc hives. They are VERY strong bees and a pleasure to work.

The goal of the project is summarized below, as taken from the initial offering to participate sent out by BIP. I am having great fun with this, watching my bee’s growth graph going ever upward in weight gain. For the first time I am also having to learn how to use a cell phone—my son’s iphone—as the data recording and uploading device. Arghh!  —this is not my strong suit.

The Bee Informed Partnership is dedicated to helping beekeepers make informed data-based management decisions. Monitoring weight changes in colonies has huge potential to help us understand disease and parasite population growth, as well as the timing of management practices. We are seeking some innovative beekeepers who are willing to help us develop and beta test the hive scale tools’ ability to develop a system that will provide the best regionally specific management practices based on real time data. We are collaborating with NASA’s Honeybee Net, under the direction of Wayne Esaias, to test this exciting effort.

Why hive scales?

Hive scales weigh individual colonies at regular intervals, keeping track of strong nectar flows, swarming, and other conditions that affect management decisions.  Beekeepers may respond to rises in weight by putting supers on, inspecting colonies for swarm cells, and extracting full honey supers. Conversely, weight loss may indicate a need to feed colonies, robbing or indicate the colony has swarmed and is at increased risk of becoming queenless.

With new digital hive scales, beekeepers can track the weight of colonies without having to do a hive inspection. The scale we are using for our beta testing will utilizing Bluetooth with an Android device (e.g., Android phone or tablet), and a visit to the apiary is required to read the data. The data can be viewed on the device or be uploaded via cellular or WIFI communication. However, in the future these same scales when used with a data collector will allow for data to be automatically uploaded via cell phones or cell phone service data plans that allow for remote monitoring.

Armed with data from hive scales and other disease monitoring efforts, the Bee Informed Partnership hopes to make predictive models of honey flows and disease population growth. These models will help us develop an “alert system” that will make management recommendations based on real-time and regionally specific data.

As to my particular case,  I don’t expect the disease/pest monitoring aspect will be so relevant to my bee population. The varroa mite has not been a great destroyer of my bees in the past and they seem to manage the pest well on their own. When Spring comes, it will be interesting to observe the growth of the brood nest and respond with management techniques to overcome swarming tendencies.   One thing is sure—that time will be sooner than any other part of the country.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, Newsletter Articles

Honeybee Anatomy Lesson: Pollen-collecting

Pollen is the honeybee’s main source of protein, critical to brood production and development. Honeybees’ fuzzy, hairy bodies help foragers collect pollen. Some bees collect only nectar while other collect both nectar and pollen on the same trip.

Bees have several anatomical features that are uniquely devoted to efficient pollen-collecting.

Pollen combs are hairy parts on the inside of a bee’s hind legs that are used to remove pollen stuck on the body.

The bees then rub their rear legs together and rake the pollen into the pollen press on the opposite leg.

The pollen press is a joint that compresses pollen particles into a dense clump for more efficient storage while flying.

Pollen clumps are moved from the rake to the pollen baskets on the outside of a honeybee worker’s hind leg.

Pollen collected in the field is stored in the pollen basket until it is removed upon return to the hive. With all these body parts devoted to pollen, it must be pretty important stuff.

Read full story · Posted in Yay Bees

The Flowers of Winter

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki
Corymbia_ficifolia_1

Flower-nectar and pollen are the life’s blood of our bees and—even though we are in the month of November—much is in bloom in the city. Many plants from the Southern Hemisphere bloom in Winter and irrigation of city gardens blurs the droughty conditions naturally seen in the wild lands of California.

I’m often surprised by the relatively sparse knowledge beekeepers have about the plant resources that are so fundamental to bees’ health and prosperity. We must try to hone our observational skills on the plant life around us and what those blossoms are offering our bees. When we pay attention, we can easily conjecture what bees will be storing in their combs and how colonies may be growing. A LOT of beekeeping is taking a long view of a process and not so much a set of strict rules of what to expect.

Here are a few things in bloom I’m seeing now:

  • Melaleuca quinquenervia (Paperbark tree)—white, bottlebrush flowers and thick, squishy, peeling white bark.  There are several types of melaleucas.
  • Eucalyptus of various kinds—E. ficifolia (now called Corymbia ficifolia)—Huge trusses of flowers in shades of red, pink or orange. E. camaldulensis (Red River Gum)—white or pale yellow flowers. And E. globulus (Blue Gum)—white flowers.
  • Schinus terebinthifolius (Brazilian Pepper Tree)—Tiny but profuse white flowers.
  • Callistemon rigidus (Bottlebrush tree)—red, bottlebrush flowers.
  • Rosemary, Lavender and Basil—all have the small flowers bees seem to be most attracted to.
  • Citrus trees—lemon, orange, lime.

Take a look around and notice something new. What plants are attracting the bees’ attention in your neighborhood?

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles