Friday, October 15, 2010

Fall Treatments for AFB, Nosema and Varroa Mites

My mite counts have been high. Really high. It was scary looking at the mite boards a few weeks ago.

Just about every round dot on the sticky board from the bottom of the hive was a mite.

The count would have been well over 300 in a week. Easily that many. Damn. Or I should say Damn Mites.

My poor hard working bees. I knew they needed some help.

I certainly prefer to use Formic Acid over other chemicals but for this fall treatment I opted to use Apivar strips.

The strips are made of plastic with a v-point cutout at the top of one end. They slide down vertically between the frames of the brood chamber. The v-point catches on the top of the frame which holds it in place.

The instructions advise to place the strips at a maximum of 2 frames apart and to put them in where the bees are clustering, where the brood are.

This pesticide works via contact, unlike Formic Acid which is a vapour. With Apivar, the bees brush past the strip and that's how the treatment is applied to the bees.

I recharged the sticky boards and have done a 'before' mite count so that I can compare the 'after' treatment mite count.

I also gave the bees an AFB treatment, mixed with fruit sugar and sprinkled on wax paper. A few weeks ago I also gave them baggies of sugar water, placed on top of the frames, with Fumagilin to combat Nosema.

I notice that my one hive (#1) takes down all the medications right away whereas the other three hives are slower to eat up theirs.

Of course, no honey supers are on the hive at this time while this chemical is in the hives.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Latest Reports on Cause of CCD (Colony Collapse Disorder)

You may have read these articles already or received them via email from beekeeping newsgroups.

Just in case you didn't here are links to the stories and information behind the latest research information available regarding Colony Collapse Disorder that were released last week.

This post is more for a historical record for this journal. I found it very useful to read both the scientific report and the news reports.

Here is a link for a story in NPR referencing the study:

Here is a link for a story in the New York Times referencing the study. This one is not so scientific in description and gives interesting background info.

This is the research paper on the discovery:

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fall Hive Visit

We were really blessed today with awesome weather. The whole long weekend--it's the Canadian Thanksgiving weekend--will be great weather. Temperatures from 19 to 22 Celsius.

At a glance you could tell the bees were pretty happy about it too. By 3:00 p.m. they were all busy flying, coming and going on their foraging trips.

I checked the hive top feeders. I'm giving them a strong mixture of sugar syrup right now, hoping they'll fill their combs up. I'd rather have them have too much honey than not enough.
Winter is only a few months away. It's hard to imagine winter after the exceptional summer we've had, combined with today's great weather.

Hive #1 with my specially bred hygienic queen always amazes me. They eat all the AFB medication. They eat all their Fumagilin B sugar water. They clean up everything that's put in the hive right away.
And these well behaved bees eat up all their sugar water. They're very progressive bees and great producers too.

Hive #2 I'm concerned about because of excessively high mite counts. I blame myself in part because without a queen excluder in place, the queen had laid some drone eggs in a foundationless frame I'd given them. It was meant for comb honey. I probably should have cut the drones out. Maybe that helped increase mite counts.

I had done an experimentation by not using an excluder, based on many comments from beekeepers that don't use them. My final conclusion: Next year I'll use them.
Hive #2 has been slow to eat their sugar syrup baggies, their AFB medication, etc. Now this hive has always done things a little differently than the booming Hive #1. But Hive #2 produced just as much honey as Hive #1--they just do it differently, slower. While Hive #1 had tons of bees up in the feeder and at the top of the hive, Hive #2 didn't appear so busy until the inner cover was removed. They were there all right.
The two Nuc hives are doing well and they've got lots of bees
They aren't taking back the syrup too much but I believe it's because they've got enough workers that they're bringing in nectar from the fields.

Our blooms right now are: Asters, Chrysanthemums, Golden Rod, and Sedums. Those are the main ones. The area the hives are in is very blessed with many wild flowers.

I got stung too. After finishing and doing several impromptu group education sessions (people coming by the purchase apples from the orchard come by to ask about the bees). But what stung me was a small yellow jacket. Figures.
I found my wrist where I was stung was swelling. I really find ice helps to take down the swelling as well as pain or irritation.
It was interesting to see how a small bit of water collected from rain on a container lid is used by the bees as a source of water. Why not? It's not far to fly--about two feet from the hive.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Ulster Observation hive

During the week long International Plowing Match, held in St. Thomas, Ontario, we had two observation hives available for public viewing.

It was very interesting to see the two different designs and to make comparisons between them.

One design stood out particularly as being superior and and that was the Ulster 5 frame observation hive.

This hive was made based on the design available for purchase from

This design houses 4 frames in the bottom section and then one frame rests on top as the observation frame.

The workers can move freely from the top to the bottom. There's feed in the bottom for the bees as well. The queen is forced to stay in the observation frame due to a queen excluder under the frame.

The other observation hive housed one deep and one medium frame. There was no feeder inside this frame so the bees would be required to eat their honey.

I think this two frame design is better suited to a one day event. I noticed that the bees wouldn't have access to water either.

The bees in both hives were still alive at the end of the week. The weather had been cooler all week which may have helped. At night both hives were covered with a blanket, leaving their ventilation holes open.

Observing both hives, the bees in the 2 frame hive were much more aggitated and they moved around under the glass like bees that wanted to just get out.

With the Ulster design, the bees were mostly quiet and slower moving, not so aggitated. Later in the day though the bees did tend to move around in waves, seeking a way out of the hive.

Michael Bush, a long time beekeeper, has posted comments on his experiences with observation hives. You can read them at

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

2010 Plowing Match in St. Thomas, Ontario

The Ontario Bee Association had a booth at the International Plowing Match in Sept 2010 at St. Thomas, Ontario. Over 80,000 visitors attended this one week event.

Our Bee Club was running the booth and we all signed up to do a stint (all the bee clubs in Ontario are umbrellaed under the Ontario Bee Association). Dad and I volunteered for all day Saturday, the last day of the event.

Years ago when I sold my art work I used to sell at the Plowing Match in the artist's tent. This time, as a volunteer, I found that we were so busy it was hard to get away to see all the other booths.

This event is HUGE. I'm not sure exactly how many acres of farm land were used for the event but it looked like between 400 and 600 acres.

Click here to see ariel shots of the event. It'll give you a perspective on the actual size of this event.

The committees and teams and groups that brought about this impressive event are to be commended, as well as our own bee club president.

I looked back as we were leaving and was amazed how hydro poles and running water were all installed in these fields to cover for a one week event.

There was "Tent City" where the booths were, farther back was the area where the actual plowing matches were held, and there was even a huge RV Park created for all the international travellers, complete with water and electricity.

Our booth was in the animal education tent and was very well attended. All week long thousands of children came through as school bus groups. This was a great opportunity to provide education to the general public and answer their questions about honey bees.

Of course, being an animal lover, this was my favourite tent. We were housed with pigs, sheep, chickens, cows and goats. There were demonstrations at the various events and children could see first hand cows and goats being milked.

The public is aware that bees are under stress and I found there was increased curiosity and tons of questions from them.

There were two excellent observation hives in our booth and we spent a lot of time showing people the differences between the Queen, the workers and drones. Many wanted to know how queens were made.

[This 5 frame observaton hive was made based on a design on the web site. I'll blog on that next time. The bees did survive longer than a week in this setup.

We weren't giving out or tasting honey but we had bottles of it to show them. This I think is important because it shows the different colours of honey. Many people are unaware that honey comes in different colours--and flavours.

If you're a beekeeper you probably know that. Too many people buy the blended honeys from supermarkets. While nice, they just don't give the same taste experience that single floral or wild flower bloom honeys give.

Many are surprised to learn that its the flowers that give the flavour to the honey. Along with a little bit of bee spit.

We had frames of capped honey to show, the uncapping knife, an extractor and of course beekeeper protective gear such as hat, veil, jacket and smoker. The kids love to put on the hat and veil.

We had empty hives to show all the components and many people interested in beekeeping wanted to see how they worked together.

Beekeepers coming back into the hobby wanted to knowabout setups to deal with Varroa Mites, such as screened bottom boards. Many people dropped by to view the observation hives and to tell us about a beekeeper that lived next door, down the road, etc. It was a very positive experience.

There were tons of exhibits with demonstrations.

[Photo - This man is from a raptor society and is talking about different kinds of predatory birds.]

If you decide to come next year, wear your most sturdy shoes. There's lots of walking, however, their are tractors that pull wagons to move people from one exhibit to another. They also had electric carts that you could rent so you could save your feet.

Next year, I'll book a day or two when I can go and be the tourist.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Our 2010 Fall Honey Harvest

A couple weeks ago Dad and I got out to the bee yard to harvest the fall honey.
We took off about 16 medium supers from the 4 hives. Dad is the main extractor man and he's been spending quite a bit of time uncapping, scratching and spinning our frames of honey.

[This isn't all the honey, but is a good portion of it.]

Some of the supers had been extracted in July and then put back on the hives for the bees to refill.

I did take a camera to the bee yard, but as I'm sure you can guess, we were plenty busy. I didn't take very many photos.
The bees behaved very well but I could see they were more aggitated about their honey being taken at this time of year than they were in the summer time.
After the supers were off I added the following treatments: Sugar powder to treat AFB, a sugar water baggie set on top of the frames with Fumagilin - this to treat for Nosema.
[My H#2 hive seems to have the worst mites. This is a closeup of the sticky board.]
Prior to the Apivar strip, a mite count over a week was about 300 - really high. During the first week with the Apivar strip, the count looked like a thousand. So many mites. I'm really concerned about this hive.
After harvesting the supers I added 2 Apivar strips to the deep box of each hive.
The hard chemical treatment wasn't my preference. My preference is to use Formic Acid.
I used the large pads of Formic last fall and I don't think they were as effective in treating against mites due to the unusally cool and wet weather. Formic is reliant on temperatures of 10+ Celsius to work.

The mites this summer were heavy and this fall when I looked a the sticky boards from under the screens I was shocked. Every dot was a mite. Literally hundreds of them. So I opted for the hard chemical this time out.
[Apivar comes as plastic strips that hang vertically between the frames. A small 'v' notch catches on the top of the frame to hold it in place.]

Our two nuc hives were booming with bees. They looked like our other two established hives looked in the summer time.

In fact, after removing their supers, it was almost like there wasn't enough room inside to house all those bees--at least on hot days. We probably don't have too many warm days left and they'll be able to cluster well and keep warm.
It's time to think about purchasing hive wraps for winter. Another season has come and gone so quickly.

We certainly learned a lot about what to do and what not too and throughout the quieter days of winter I'll blog from my notes.
How did your fall harvest go? How many pounds of honey did you take off?

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Don't Worry. Bee Happy.

I should have known.

It was our big summer event, the Bee Beard Competitions at Clovermead.

Dad had attended the previous year. But this year was different.

This year he was a beekeeper.

So it was special.

I had purchased several bee related t-shirts and I invited him over to look at them. He could select one to wear for the event at Clovermead.

My bright yellow shirt with "Beekeeper" across the middle was a bit too over sized for him but I could tell he liked that one.

He settled on the Don't Worry - Bee Happy t-shirt that I bought at Clovermead last year.

It was a really hot day and we all got pretty hot and sweaty. I left the shirt with Dad to launder and then return.

Except the shirt never got returned.

At the next event, the International Plowing Match (I'll blog on that next) Dad showed up wearing my shirt. We were volunteers at the Ontario Bee Association's booth.

Te took a short break to go visit some of the other booths at the event. He returned a while later carrying a toasted waffle covered in a dollop of whip cream and honey.

"When I went to the Clovermead booth and they saw I was wearing a Clovermead t-shirt, I got a waffle for free."

I gave him a dirty look. "That's my shirt you're wearing."

He showed his other hand. "Because I got one for free, I bought one as well. For you."

He was forgiven.

I never did get the shirt back.