Swarm season is right around the corner. Are you ready?

At least here in Western North Carolina, bees are in such high demand in the spring, it’s very difficult to get all you need from local sources.  This year, I’m determined to be ready for the swarm season when it comes around in early spring.  With any luck, I’ll be able to entice some feral colonies into a carefully placed box, from which I can then begin to rebuild the apiary’s winter losses–hopefully with regional genetics from feral colonies althoug these days, especially with the high concentration of bee keepers in Buncombe County where I live, there’s a good chance you may just be catching swarms from other beekeeper’s hives, which may or may not have locally tuned genes.

Here are some plans for relatively easy to make, and fairly light weight boxes that fit Langstroth frames or if you use top bar plans smart enough to match top bar length and height to Langstroth frames, top bars can fit as well.

http://www.horizontalhive.com/how-to-build/swarm-trap-free-plans.shtml

 

The February meeting of the Asheville Bee-Centric Alliance will focus on the topic of catching feral swarms in the hopes of increasing the population of hives with regionally tuned genetics.  We’ll also be talking about strategies to catch them, when and where to place your boxes, how often to check them, and what to do when you catch a swarm.

If there’s enough interest, we may even have a hand-on workshop  focused on building swarm-catcher boxes using the plans above.

 

If you’re a top bar bee keeper, I’ve built several two foot long hives with the express purpose of catching swarms using the plans from a previous post here:
http://www.psychochickenecofarm.com/2016/11/10/top-bar-hive-plans/

I just eliminated the viewing window and reduced the dimensions by two feet.  So far, this is the best set of plans I’ve found for top bar hives.  The combs that come out of these hives have a handsome look, the proportions just seem right.  And there are many smart touches, including insuring the top bars them selves fit inside a Langstroth box, so some level of ‘interchange’ is possible–an invaluable touch.  Whatever design you use for your top bar hive, keeping the bar lengths at 19 inches will serve you well in the long run.

 

2018 Buncombe County Bee School

I’m teaching a section in the Buncombe County Bee School again this year.  One notable difference is that the Buncombe County Bee Club has completely re-vamped the curriculum and format.  This year the beginner oriented school includes a significant hands on component with breakout sessions that give you direct, small group access to the instructors–most of whom are certified beekeepers at the State level.

If you or anyone you know is interested in learning more about bees, wants to take the first step in becoming a beekeeper, or wants to refine their techniques and gain new skills as a beginning bee-keeper, this is the class for you and a great way to get started learning about this fascinating insect which we rely so heavily on for our own survival.  All proceeds go to support the Buncombe County Bee Club (www.wncbees.org) educational activities.

 

When:
February 24 & 25, 2018

Where:
Martin Nesbitt Jr. Discovery Academy
175 Bingham Rd. Asheville, NC

How Much:
$75 per person

Price Includes:
* course book
* 1 year BCBC membership
* 1 year NC State Beekeepers Association membership
* other course materials

For all the details see:
https://wncbees.org/2018-bcbc-bee-school/

 

Hope to see you in class!

 

 

 

The Bee Informed Partnership is missing the mark by advocating Treatments

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Peter Brezny <[email protected]>
Date: Fri, Sep 1, 2017 at 3:49 PM
Subject: Re: Varroa Mite-A-Thon resources
To: “[email protected]” <[email protected]>

Dear Bee Informed Partnership.

While I applaud your efforts for ‘big data’ collection to help better understand and guide the resolutions of problems affecting the Honey Bee, I would suggest you’re asking the wrong question, and providing advice contrary to what is becoming the accepted practice–chemical free (not management free) bee keeping.

With every passing week a new peer-review, scientific article comes out in journals outlining just how complicated the problem of the introduced Varroa mite is, not to mention how we are compounding the problem by blindly using dangerous chemicals to attempt to put a band-aid on what is at its root, a genetic problem.
Instead, or perhaps in conjunction, you may very well be better served by making a call to track chemical free apiaries, the management techniques used, economic returns, and honey yields rather than following the mite.  Hopefully your survey has a category for chemical treatment free apiaries.

But to my primary complaint, statements on your website regarding treatment presented as fact are unreferenced, and much of the current literature contradicts them.

Specifically from (https://www.beelab.umn.edu/sites/beelab.umn.edu/files/varroa_brochure_final_print_2.23.17.pdf):

“Treating your bees keeps them healthy and also decreases the likelihood that neighboring colonies will become infested. Make sure you test again after treatment to monitor results. *Make sure your tub is dry before performing your next mite test.”

Like it or not, varroa mites are part of the global landscape (save Australia for now) and their chemical control is making them stronger, as evidenced by their resistance to chemical treatments, without significantly impacting their population, as evidenced by their ubiquitous presence around the globe.

It is becoming more and more widely accepted that chemical treatments are exactly the wrong way to approach the varroa mite problem.  I am yet to find a pro-treatment community willing to discuss what such treatments are doing to mites.

No treatment is 100% effective, and evolution works.  By providing environmental factors that kill off the weakest mites, mites with a dramatically shorter time frame between reproductive events that allows for genetic recombination, those who treat their bees are doing exactly the wrong thing for bees, but a great service to the mites by rapidly pushing their evolution to a stronger state (again as clearly evidenced by the now many synthetic chemicals that mites are resistant to and their continued success in our apiaries).

 There is increasing evidence also, that in-hive chemical treatments are detrimental to the honey bee. Once such article, referenced below with other articles showing the survival of feral colonies and their use as genetic sources in breeding programs.

This is a complex problem due to the introduced species, yet feral colonies exist with resistance to varroa, and many queen breeders across the globe in varied climates have demonstrated the ability to select for genetic traits that confers tolerance to mites.

It’s a reckless and disappointing approach to advocate for unproven, costly, dangerous, and failing mechanisms of mite control when so many other options exist.

Appropriate hive manipulations or queen exclusion to reduce mite loads until the colony can be re-queened with a mite tolerant queen are just a few examples.

I ask that you approach this topic with more care and recommend, rather than chemical treatments, you encourage appropriate management techniques which do not strengthen the genetics of mites and stagnate that of bees, but rather the opposite.

Treatment free apiaries are not a fring group ‘infecting’ the world with their mites.  Rather, as Kefuss observes, when robbers or drones bring mites into his treatment free colonies, the mites don’t come back out.  Varroa are a problem because of their introduced nature.  Apis Melifera never had the chance to co-evolve with them like Apis Cerana.

This is a genetic problem, and chemical ‘life support’ systems for bees that will never be able to survive on their own with this parasite is eliminating opportunities for evolution which we can’t afford to squander.

Coombs, LeCont, Webster, Harrell, Kefus, Crowdeer, Brother Adam, and so many more scientists and backyard keepers alike are not wrong in this.  We keep apiaries, without the hazardous (to ourselvs and the bees) chemicals you advocate.  Please adjust your rhetoric to align more fully with what the science is clearly bearing out and what is obviously the optimal path for long term survival of the species.

Strong genetics are the solution to the Varroa mite problem.
Thank you for your time and consideration.

Spongy Soils to the Rescue!

In a publication by the Union of Concerned Scientists, many papers were reviewed to come up with recommendations for  improving water retention, reducing the need for irrigation, slowing runoff, and improving soil fertility.

Continuous living Cover Crops in between commodity crops and no-till agriculture were among several methods to achieve these improvements.

The ‘Executive Summary’ linked from this page is a concise roundup of the UCS findings in this area:
http://www.ucsusa.org/food-agriculture/advance-sustainable-agriculture/turning-soils-sponges

Here’s a quote:

Between 2011 and 2016, flood- and drought-related
claims to the subsidized federal crop insurance program resulted in $38.5 billion
in payouts, approximately two-thirds of the total paid by the program. Such claims
could double as a result of climate change, costing taxpayers an additional $4 billion
to $9 billion annually by 2080.

 

We ask a lot from our soil.  It’s great to see that a small shift in practice can not only improve soil health and productivity, bur reduce the negative impacts of drought and flooding.

Links of note from the 100th anniversary NC State bee conference

There were many good speakers at the summer state beekeeper’s meeting here in North Carolina.  Here are a few links I became aware of as a result of the conference.

 

Jon Zawislak’s performance in this video isn’t nearly as good as his presentation in person, but this is a very good talk on bee genetics.

 

Dr. David Tarpy talking about the decline of honey bees:

 

Register your hives to get notified for regional pesticide applications.

www.fieldwatch.com

 

NC State’s Beekeeper Education and Engagement System (online classes for beekeepers!):
https://entomology.ces.ncsu.edu/apiculture/bees/

 

Honeybee Health Coalition:
http://honeybeehealthcoalition.org/

 

University of Arkansas ‘Raising Quality Queen’s’ publication:
https://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/MP518.pdf