Sunday, December 26, 2010

Swarm Collectors: Beekeepers in London/Middlesex, Oxford and Elgin Counties who will Collect Bee Swarms

Below is a list of beekeepers in the Oxford, Middlesex and Elgin counties in southwestern Ontario who will collect honey bee swarms or do hive removals.

Before you contact them, please read this article on Swarms to be certain what you think might be honey bees are actually honey bees.... No sense wasting your time and theirs if they're not bees.

If calling a pest removal agency ask if they will collect the bees to put in a hive or terminate them.... I hope you opt for collection.

Many beekeepers will take a swarm because it's a great way for them to get free bees. Bees are under great stress these days so I hope you opt to put the can of Raid away and let someone take the bees.

There are many types of insects that may look like honey bees that can take up residence in an attic, garage, a backyard barbeque or bird house. These insects could be wasps, hornets or other kinds of bees.

Honey bees have gold and brown stripes and are furry. They also build a wax honeycombs that can hang down from a surface. The combs [pictured above] look like double-sided rounded waffles. Honey bees don't build nests in the ground and are more likely to select a sheltered location such as a hollow tree or attic of a home.

[This honey bee has pollen attached to her back leg].

Most beekeepers will have a service charge for attending a call which usually only covers the cost of their gas to get there. Often there will be a charge regardless if the insects are honey bees or not.

If in doubt, why not email them photos? Or simply observe the nest/swarm for a few minutes and compare with the photos on this page. Are they coming and going with pollen on their back legs? If so, they will be bees... but which kind? They could be honey bees, bumble bees or carpenter bees, etc.

Wasps, bumble bees and hornets do not make honeycombs. Their nests are made from various materials such as mud or wood scrapings (paper wasps). Wasps are not hairy and both hornets and wasps can sting multiple times whereas a honey bee dies when she stings.

One of the most common hornets is the Bald Faced Hornet [pictured at left] which is white and black and quite large. These wasps build paper nests that hang from an object. The nests start small but then grow quite large - bigger than a basketball. They do have a few hairs on their body but no where near as many as a honey bee.

Wasps and hornets do not collect pollen and bring it back to their hives attached to their back legs - only bees do that.

Yellow Jacket Wasps are about the same size as honey bees and are common pests at fairs and picnics. Wasps and hornets are omnivores and will eat both your tuna sandwich and your sugary pop. Yellow jackets primarily nest in the ground. In the fall they tend to become more aggressive as food becomes more scarce and they sting more frequently.

Bumble bees [pictured below next to a honey bee] are the gentle giant fuzzy bees. They are very docile and not inclined to sting.

They make small wax pots to store small quantities of nectar. They primarily nest under ground in old mole tunnels. I'm happy to have a nest of them under my dog house. They help to pollinate the flowers in my garden and have never been a problem.

Bumble bees collect pollen as well and will attach it to their back legs, just like honey bees.

If you see a bee Swarms you can just leave them alone. They have a plan and they know what they're doing--they're house hunting and they know what they're doing.

Once they find a new home they'll leave as a mass. They'll fly off in anywhere from a couple hours to a few days. The best thing to do is simply leave them alone. Watch an amazing swarm video for fascinating details about a honey bee swarm.

If you have bees or another insect in your residence that need to be removed, be aware that many pest companies will only come and terminate the current nest of insects. If the insects' entry way into your home isn't closed off, within a short period of time more insects will move in. Repairing or closing off the entrance is the only way to ensure they don't return.

Thank you for caring enough about bees to take the time to read about them. I hope you opt to have the bees collected by a beekeeper.

List of Beekeepers Who Collect Swarms in Ontario:

This is a list of beekeepers in southwestern Ontario who will collect swarms.

If you have bees in an attic, garage, etc., or have a swarm you can find beekeepers who will collect them by checking with the bee clubs/associations for that province or state. I have a few of them listed on my web site Associations page.

Sometimes people will sign up to the beekeeping Yahoo group and post a message for help as well. They're also listed on the Associations web page.

Friday, December 24, 2010

The Fascinating Honey Bee Swarm

Why do Bees Swarm?

Swarms are a normal part of a hive's life. They are actually planned ahead by the bees. Because it's an organized event they'll be very calm--they have a plan, and they know what they're doing. They're not angry or upset. Instead they're gathering together and searching for a new home.

Dr. Thomas Seeley has created about 10 short videos of a swarm in progress. Beekeepers will love to see the stages of a swarm broken down and explained. The videos are posted on the web site.

Bees swarm when their current home is too full. The hive decides it's time to divide. Half will stay behind in the current home and make themselves a new queen. The other half and the old queen will leave to find a new home.

A swarm is actually how honey bees reproduce. The best thing to do when you see a swarm is first, get a camera and second leave them alone. They know what they're doing and they won't hurt you. Their mission isn't to sting or hurt anyone--they're house hunting!

A swarm is actually a good thing. It's a sign of a healthy and growing hive. Swarms usually occur in the spring and summer months from May to August.

The old queen will leave the hive, taking about half the bees with her. She'll fly to a spot not too far away and half the hive will gather around her, forming a cluster. Usually they'll hang from a tree branch, but sometimes they'll choose a picnic table or another nearby object.

The Mechanics of a Swarm:

Before the bees swarm they eat lots of honey which they store in their honey stomach. This is like packing before a big trip.

While the swarm waits, they send out hundreds and hundreds of scouts. These scouts are tasked with finding a new home. They'll search in a five mile radius, for a suitable home. The scout will carefully examine a potential home. Once satisfied she's found a good spot, she'll return to the waiting swarm.

Then she dances. The dance tells the bees where the location is. The better the location, the better the dance she'll do to convince them. Soon other scouts will go to check it out. Then they'll return and dance convincingly too. The bees will decide which location to go to based on the best dances of the scouts.

Before long, they'll decide to move to the new home. That's when the scouts will make piping sounds. The piping tells all the bees, get ready and warm up your flight muscles because we're leaving soon.

When everyone is warmed up and ready to go the scout will do Buzz Runs.

Once the scout bee does the buzz run all the bees will fly off within a minute. If you watch the video you'll see it's actually timed--60 seconds.

Once at their new home, the workers will get to work immediately secreting wax so they can create honeycombs.

Then they'll regurgitate that extra honey that they ate earlier into those combs. That way they'll have some food on hand.

Back in the old hive, the remaining bees will create a new queen who will take over that hive.

It's a real sacrifice for the older and experienced mother queen to leave the hive and let her younger inexperienced daughter queen remain in the established hive.

[Pictured at left is a bumble bee who yellow and black and considerably larger than the golden honey bee].

Many beekeepers want to collect swarms. It's a way for them to get free bees.

Click here for a list of beekeepers in the Oxford, Middlesex and Elgin counties who are willing to collect swarms.

Note that most beekeepers will charge a service fee for the trip.

Before you call a beekeeper to come collect a swarm, please look over these photos below to be sure they actually are honey bees and not some other insect such as wasps, hornets or bumble bees.

[The yellow jacket wasp is pictured in the center along with several honey bees. The yellow jacket is hair-less and coloured yellow and black. Their size is similar to a honey bees. They are omnivores and are much more aggressive than bees].

This black and white bald faced hornet builds a paper nest. This hornet is quite large and can be seen protecting a ball shaped paper nest hanging from an object.

Its sting can hurt like a $#%^# too. I know that first hand.


This is a list of beekeepers in southwestern Ontario who will collect swarms.

If you have bees in an attic, garage, etc., or have a swarm you can find beekeepers who will collect them by checking with the bee clubs/associations for that province or state. I have a few of them listed on my web site Associations page.

Sometimes people will sign up to the beekeeping Yahoo group and post a message for help as well. They're also listed on the Associations web page.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Book Review: Fruitless Fall

My sister found this book at the local library and got it for me. I must say this book is a keeper... except that the library might want it back.

It's very well researched and the author expresses himself in a very lively and interesting style that reads like a novel. He inserts humour at appropriate moments that will make you chuckle out loud.

The scientific and biological aspects are very well described using everyday analogies that we'd all understand. Beekeepers will find this book riveting.

Non-beekeepers will get answers to their questions about what's happening to the bees. You don't need any prior knowledge or understanding of bees to enjoy this book. As a beekeeper, you'll find all the research and interviews with the commercial beekeepers, scientists, etc., has been done for you and neatly laid out in a chronological order.

The book starts with the beginnings of Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) in Florida. From there the author takes us back a little to review the history of bees around the world (briefly and not overdone) but necessary in order to understand how we got to where we are now. He covers some bee biology and life both inside and outside the hive to give the reader a perspective on the sociology of bees through time as well.

He covers the importation of bees, the spread of bee diseases around the world, transport bees to pollinate for the almond industry in California, the laundering of Chinese honey into North America, just to name a bit. Alongside the story of bees, the growth of agriculture is explained. The novel covers the rise-fall-rise of honey on the market and its affect on the beekeeping industry and the bees.

The list of reference material at the back of the book is substantial. I've been researching honey bees for a while now (for a children's novel I'm writing about honey bees) and the sources of information are so great that it's impossible to read them all or keep up.

This book is the finger on the pulse of the industry and condenses the whole story into one very readable book.

There are a few drawings showing the parts of the hive, parts of the bee, etc.

I'll be buying a copy for my personal library. I highly recommend this book as the best source of information on the whole story of what is happening to the honey bee and the beekeeping industry and our future in agriculture.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Tips for Group Presentations to Adults About Honey Bees (with Slideshow)

Adults learn in much the same way that children do. There are three basic learning styles which most people fall into. They are: Seeing, Hearing and Doing.
Everyone has a preferred style which feels more natural to them and makes it easier for them to learn. Most of us are able to learn with the other styles. The best lesson plan will try to work with a combination of all the styles to try to reach everyone.

Try to encompass slides or visual aids into your lecture for visual learners and get help from the audience, involving the doers. (Here's a free slideshow that you can use for your presentation: honeybees.pps).

Think about a time in your life when you learned something new--and this very well may not have happened in a classroom. What learning style was it? What do you prefer? My preferred styles are Monkey-See-Monkey-Do. (I have fond memories of grandpa teaching me how to feed calves this way).

And guess what is determined to be the least effective learning style? Lecture. So much for university. It's so difficult for a learner to stay in an active learning mode while someone is droning on and on. Soon our minds drift off to the grocery list, the fight with the spouse, bills to pay...

When doing a presentation about honey bees, most audience members will be happy to be there, which certainly helps put them in the right frame of mind.

My preference when doing presentations is to engage them and keep them listening. And not just listening, I want them to participate too. A simple solution is to do a Question/Answer Presentation with the audience.

Why? It puts the presentation into the audience's hands and lets them steer the info to the questions in burning most in their minds. I answer the question and give a bit more information as well.

For instance, when someone asks how many queens are in a hive I don't simply answer one. I briefly explain how a virgin queen goes on mating flights, mating with multiple drones. Then after that she returns to remain in the hive from then on.

One answer most often leads to another question. Pretty soon you'll notice a synergy will take place with the group and the questions come faster as the learning flows in a more organic and natural way. The audience will be awake and attentive during this time because they are driving the session. This is when you as a presenter will be feeling pretty effective. (As an instructor, this to me is the best natural high you can get).

This type of presentation can be a bit scary if you're new to it since it can take the control away from the presenter. But don't forget that as a beekeeper, you're chock full of facts, tidbits and information--probably more info than you realize and you can most likely answer 99% of questions.

With children, this type of presentation can be harder to control since children don't usually have their questions ready before their hands go up. And they can frequently break up into chatting groups which can be hard to control.

Another way to do the presentation is to Mix It Up. Take questions from the group and answer a few. Then go to the slide show and continue for a few slides. Then open the floor again for more questions. You can flip back and forth. I find this method works well with both adults and children and gives a little more control.

During Mix It Up, I keep an eye on my audience. Are they being attentive during the lecture? When I see signs of fatique or their attention start to wain that's when it's time to switch. The more you do this the more you'll learn to do a switch before they get tired to keep the energy of the group up.

With this method you can control the length of time you take questions and keep it in time to your own comfort level to answer them as well. If the questions are generating too much chatter with the group or you're losing control, switch back to your slides and your presentation.

A Few Questions Typical Adult Questions Received:

Remember that there's nothing wrong with saying you don't know the answer. No one is a know-it-all. You can always tell them you'll find the answer and get back to them, post it on your blog or web site later, etc. Don't forget in our world, information is being gathered and changed daily. No one can keep up with all of it.

Question: What are killer bees?
Answer: killer bees

Question: What is CCD/What is happening to the bees?
Answer: This one is much too huge to answer here, especially since they haven't concluded yet what CCD is, and exactly what elements are involved--although there's tons of opinions out there about it. Here's a link to a 2010 Report completed by our Provincial Apiarist which gives a run down globally on what each country is currently reporting from their studies.

Question: What are the Bee Diseases/Pests?
Answer: If you're a beekeeper you know there's a raft of them. Currently the most concerning disease is Nosema Ceranae but there are many more. Of course the worst pests are Varroa Mites and Hive Beetles.

Other questions:
How many queens are in a hive?
How much honey does a hive make?
What gives honey it's different colours?

The Ontario Bee Association has a Cool Bee Facts Sheet and Bee Facts which you might find helpful to review.

Let me know if this info has proven useful for when you do your presentations. I'd love to hear from you in the comment section.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Tips for Presenting to Classrooms (Children)

Here's some tips which I hope you will find useful when doing presentations to children.

Don't ask open ended questions to the group at large. For example, "Who has been stung by a bee?"

A question like that can work well with adults but with children it creates a bit too much free-for-all. Instead, instruct the students to "Put your hand up if....." This keeps more control in the classroom and stops them from shouting their answers all at once.

With children you will find you also have to tell them "put your hands down" or they'll keep their hands up through your whole presentation.

Don't forget to let them know right away that there are no live bees with you today. Many children are afraid of bees and so this reassurance right at the beginning will help set them at ease. If you have an observation hive you can explain that the bees can't get out.

Young children really love to help out, so don't hesitate to involve them. They can add sounds like buzzing bees or puffing ("puff-puff") to imitate the smoker in action. They can buzz louder when the hive first opens--I take an empty hive and act as if it's full of bees.

If you involve them with actions it's important to first explain what the start command and stop commands will be. For example, "Buzz" for buzzing like bees and "Stop Buzzing". Or snapping the fingers to give a stopping signal. If you don't do stopping signals the children will probably buzz or puff through your whole presentation.
In the grade 6 class we thought that we'd get only 1 volunteer to try on the bee gear (hat and veil). In fact, three quarters of the class wanted to try them on and about 3 boys even stayed back after the session to try on the gear because they didn't get chosen as volunteers. Always offer - there may be shy classes or less volunteers as the children get older. In this case, the kids were in their regular class so they were very comfortable.

Note - photos are great but don't run to post them on the Internet without first checking with the school. Most schools have signed parental forms to indicate whether it's okay to post their child's photo on the web. (And that's why there's limited photos showing here... sorry about that).

I printed colour photos of bees and taped them into frames. When held, they actually look like frames of real bees from a distance.

The fastest way to get interaction is to let the group control the direction of the presentation discussion by answering their questions. This works equally well for adults. Answer their bee related questions and add a little more information in a mini lecture style, but be brief. The replies will often generate another 10 or 15 questions almost immediately.

Remember, you can't know everything. It is not shameful or wrong to say that you don't know what the answer is or you're not 100% certain. Offer to look up the information later and get back to them with the answer.

Due to allergies and health concerns, you probably won't be permitted to let the children taste honey so the best you could do is have some samples or photos to show the different colours of honey. Instead I took advantage of smell and let the kids smell the beeswax, the wax foundation frames, the pollen and even the smoker.

Younger children have a hard time resisting touching honey combs and are likely to cause some damage. These would be best put in a clear plastic container so the temptation to touch when they've been asked to only look is taken away.

Both children and adults want to talk about stings because unfortunately it's usually their most common experience with bees... although wasps or hornets are more likely at fault for their bad experiences. This is a great opportunity to clarify the term "stung by a bee" and to talk about the differences in temperament and diet between honey bees and wasps/hornets.

After a presentation it's wonderful to hear children report that they're no longer afraid of bees.

Let me know how your presentations go. I hope these tips are useful to you.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Class Presentation... on Bees of course!

In October 2010, I took a day off to spend at a local public school. I was booked to talk to classes about honey bees and beekeeping.

Last year I attended for the day and I had six classes. This year, fourteen classes booked. Grin!

I took an empty hive and all my bee clothing: Veils, helmets and jacket. The children really love to put on the bee gear and those who didn't get picked will sometimes come back at recess to try it on then. So if you choose to do a presentation, take ALL your bee suits.

I also took a smoker and some sample honeycombs. I also took little containers with tiny wax flakes from wax glands and a container pollen.

As a caution, kids just can't seem to resist mishandling beeswax. They wreck it. They don't mean to, but they can't resist. Their little fingers just need to test its texture and so they squish it. I have successfully had wax go around in an open container. I specifically told them to look with their eyes only, but it works only if you stop presenting and watch them as it's passed from child to child.

I also handed around a paper wasps nest (empty of course) and they mashed it with their little fingers. Oh well. It won't be too hard to find another. Next time I'll be sure to put them in a clear plastic container.

I told them how honeycombs aren't too much different than soap bubbles and a test they can try at home to prove it. This one goes over well with adults too.

Due to school policy I was not permitted to let the kids taste raw unpasteurized honey. I had really hoped I could do a taste parade with them. That's where I have visitors try all the different flavours of honey. Many people are surprised at the differences. That's because most are only familiar with grocery store honey.

With adult groups it's great to explain how honey gets its distinct flavour from the flowers and that the supermarket honeys, although good, just don't compare because it's all the honeys blended together. That's a good plug to 'support your local beekeeper'.

Here's a slide show (honeybees.pps) which you may wish to use with your groups. You can view in Internet Explorer. It's on my web site: Feel free to download and use it for your presentations... and edit it to suit your style too if you want.

The slides work well for groups of adults and children. I don't stop always stop on every slide and I often just use it as a guide. Usually the presentation helps me to remember important facts I'd like to cover.

I just love telling kids about bees. We talk about bee poop, bee teeth and how nurse bees get to give Mom a bath with their tongue--they love that part. And the "eeews" are great when I tell them that nurse bees carry out the queen's poop (she doesn't leave the hive to defecate because she's too busy laying eggs). If you click these links you'll find they'll take you to my children's bee blog

Children really find the role change of child taking care of parent to be pretty funny. It's also a great opportunity to do a little correction--no thanks to Jerry Seinfield and his Bee Movie. He has male "pollen jocks" going out as field bees. Everyone is surprised to learn in the insect world it's the females that are the workers. The female teachers nod. They seemed to know that all along.

I like taking questions if time permits. We talk about stingers and the differences between omnivores like yellow jackets and honey bees. I'd just like to take away the term "stung by a bee"....
I was rewarded by one class with a song. I've posted the words below:

The Honey Bee Song

(Tune: Up on the Rooftop)

First, comes a honey bee and lays an egg,

Next, comes the larvae with many legs.

Oh, see the larvae build a cap,

A little pupa, a place for a nap.

Oh, Oh, Oh, Look and See (2 times)

Out of the pupa - See, See, See

Out comes a pretty honey bee!

I wish I could do this for a living. It's so much fun!

If you have a presentation to do and you have questions, let me know. You can email me from my web site or leave your comments below.

Soon I'll post some tips and tricks for doing presentations with children that should be helpful--my primary school teacher sister helped me with this one.

I'll also post bee questions that adults ask when doing presentations.

Monday, December 13, 2010

It's a Wrap

And so our beekeeping season comes to a close.

Fluffy aster seeds wait for a breeze to come and take them away to a new patch of ground.

The leaves had fallen from the trees. The temperature had been dropping. It was time to wear gloves in the morning to keep my fingers warm. A hat made waiting for the bus a little more comfortable.

And the bees weren't flying any more. They weren't taking the syrup either. It was too cold.

I held off putting my winter wraps on until a really cold day when I knew no bees would be flying.

Last year I made the mistake of putting the wraps on on a warmer fall day. Bees that returned to their hive that evening were confused at the change and couldn't find their way in.

Many perished from the cold and rain, their bodies littering the front stoop. It was a sorry sight.

I hate these mistakes--ones you don't think about because you haven't done it before. So, if you are new to putting wraps on I hope this advice helps you. Put them on when it's so cold the bees are all inside.

I went a step farther this year and put them on, not pulling them all the way down, just to give the bees a few days to adjust to the hive change. Then on a really cold day I came back and pulled them down snug.

The entrance reducers had been put on about two weeks earlier so the bees were already adjusted to returning to their smaller entrance in the corner.

I came to the yard one day to discover the reducer pulled out of place--raccoon activity--so I used duct tape to hold them in place.

The wraps are made by NOD Apiaries. They're made of strong black plastic that has polyester-like batting sealed inside, just like a quilt.

When using wraps, there's two things to do. One is to put a nail in your entrance reducer. This catches on the plastic and prevents it from slipping all the way down and closing the entrance completely.

The second is that there needs to be an upper entrance. It acts to release extra heat and prevents excessive moisture and condensation forming inside the hive.

The following weekend this happened. Snow. Tons of it. I'm in London, Ontario where we got 1 meter of snow in 2 days. Just north of the city a town of Lucan got 1.5 meters.

We all got a three days off work to spend at home shovelling out our driveways. Children were happy to have a "snow day" and stay home from school.

I haven't been to the bee yard yet to see how they fared. One thing about snow is that it acts as an insulating blanket.

I'm sure the bees are as snug as a bug in a rug.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Eating lots of Honey and our Words

Twenty hives, eh.

Oh yes, we're eating our words now... with spoonfuls of honey of course.

You see, last summer the weather was horrible. The bees worked their butts off like usual but it just rained and rained. When it didn't rain, it was cold and cloudy. The result was the poorest honey harvest in Ontario--ever.

That was our inaugural year and it was pretty easy going from our end. The hives built their numbers slowly. The honey harvest was very modest. Overall it wasn't too much work for Dad and I.

That's what got us into trouble.
We thought this year would be easy too. We talked about increasing to a bee yard of twenty hives. We figured we could manage that many.

In the spring of 2010 we bought two nucs which increased our bee yard to four hives.

Spring came quickly with hot weather and loads of sunshine. The bees loved it and they built up their numbers rapidly. The weather held too and didn't get cold again. The hives grew and grew in number.

They were bringing in tons of honey... and they were running out of room.

I was expecting a slow start like last year. I wasn't ready. I didn't have enough honey supers (no $$ saved to buy them). Then I had to nail them together and paint them.
All summer long I was painting honey supers. It seemed I was buying supers every week.

All my jeans got paint on them. Everyone knew what colours my hives were by looking at my jeans.
Even the beekeeping suppliers ran out of supers and there was one week when the honey was overflowing and I had no supers to give them.
When I did get them, they never got painted but instead were put on the hives straight away.
While we were brushing bees and stacking supers and extracting honey for hours and hours Dad said, "Are you sure you want twenty hives?"

"No," I said. "Right now we can't keep up with four."

The running joke in our family is to ask if we think we can manage twenty hives.
No, four hives is a nice number, one for each corner.
And lots of honey to spare.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

And Now for Something Simple

Have you ever reached into the small gap under the hive to try to pull out your sticky board and found that it's stuck in there?

I have.

I tried using the hive tool to catch it and pull it out but that didn't work.

I tried using scissors and all they did was push slashing cuts into the plastic board.

Check out the mite counts on the board pictured above. This is during a treatment so the mites are dropping. But there were tons of them.

2010 was a great honey year but the mites got a foot hold (literally) on the bees this summer too.

I use the corrugated plastic boards as sticky boards and I coat them with Crisco shortening to make them sticky.

Finally, after using pliers like tweezers I was able to get my sticky board out. That brought me to my simple solution: Poke a small hole in the board and run a cord through it. Tie the cord in a loop. Viola - a pull string.

And it works like a charm.