Friday, September 11, 2015

How bees are saving elephants in Africa and India

Imagine how a little bit of knowledge can grow into an idea.  Then the idea grows into an incredible ingenious project.
It's called the Elephants and Bees Project.
(http:// and are the web sites).

It's the creation of Dr Lucy King.

She collaborated with Oxford University, Disney's Animal Kingdom and the farmers in Africa and India to help save the elephants.
But we have bees to thank for saving them.
Elephants are naturally afraid of bees.  With this little bit of knowledge the idea was born of creating "bee fences" around crops.  It keeps the elephants out of the crops.

Farmers don't loose their crops and so the conflict between farmers and elephants is removed.

Elephants aren't killed by angry farmers.  And it's all thanks to the little honey bee.
The farmers harvest the honey and have an increase in family income because of the honey they have for sale.

The project has also been used to put hives around trees to protect them from foraging elephants.
They accept donations to help with their funding.  What a worthy project!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Does your bee yard Stink? If so, that's a good sign

Relax.  It's okay.

It's not AFB that you're smelling in your yard.  My first year of beekeeping I got so worried when I smelled my hives.

If you've opened your hives at this time of year then the smell will be even stronger.

What is it?  It's the smell you'll have in your yard every fall - it's Goldenrod nectar being processed.

What does it smell like?  Stinky socks or stinky feet is the best description.

The cured honey doesn't smell.  It's only while the bees are processing it.

So inhale.  Relax.

And think about that amazing flavour of goldenrod honey - my favourite honey flavour.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Queens in hives...Finally

I haven't seen brood in a hive in so long it felt like I couldn't remember what they look like.

Of course the only hives I was inspecting at this time of year were the ones that I knew were queenless.

I believe that my hives had requeened at least two to three times through the summer and the failure rate was high.

At first I thought the problem was in the yard on the conservation land but after noticing population declines in my other yard and doing inspections I found the problem was persistent in both yards.

The big question is Why?  I don't know.  I certainly cannot blame mites since the brood cycle has been so disrupted that they've had periods of time with no brood so mite levels are low or non existent.  I live in the corn belt - southwestern Ontario so it's very likely that neonics are affecting the bees.

I purchased three queens and installed the cages last week.  I dug out a bit of the candy so they could release a little quicker.
A week later I returned.  Both queens were still not releasted (the candy was a bit hard) so I released the queens.  I closed up and left.
I let another week go by and today checked the two hives.  These were hives I absolutely knew had no queen before.  I saw eggs in both hives.  Thank God the queens were accepted.  One hive was very calm.  In the other hive the bees were antsy.  They had eggs in their cells but the bees weren't relaxed.  They weren't aggressive or stinging but they were giving off an anxious sounding buzz.

On examination of frames I could see they had wax moth catepillars and cocoons.  I scraped them out.  This hive was weak due to population decrease.  Also, they had been robbed out of their honey.  I believe they were anxious because they don't have food stores.  They did have pollen though.  I will be feeding them sugar syrup tomorrow.

I had put an entrance reducer in over a week ago when I saw what I considered to be too much activity on the hive - since they were queenless and had a population decrease.  I feel stupid for being so slow to realize they were being robbed out.

Advice:  Keep in mind that if a hive is queenless it might be a good idea to put in entrance reducers so that a declining hive population can better protect itself while waiting to resolve their queen issues.

The problem in July is that queen breeders have wait lists and even if you know you need a queen you can't get one!!!  The demand is too high.  If you want to purchase queens get your name on the list early in the game.

By August queen are available as most consider it too late in the year to do anything.
I seriously think I need to develop queen rearing skills for next year.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is a hive queenless? What to look for

Below is a list of things to watch for if trying to determine if a hive is queenless. 

Keep in mind there can be other circumstances which give the behaviours as well.

For example, bees can be antsy, aggressive and sting if they're upset from predation activity such as robbing, or skunks or racoon attacks.  And brood cells can be filled with nectar if the hive doesn't have enough supers.

No queen:
  • All the cells where brood should be are filled with nectar during the flow times and no brood in the hive
  • Antsy and aggressive behaviour with stinging when opening or inspecting the hive
  • Bees running and buzzing with anxiety when inner cover opened
  • No pollen going in
  • No eggs or young brood
  • Population decrease
  • Decrease in activity
  • No cleaning in the hive, removal of garbage
  • No guarding (when population is really low)
  • Put your ear on the hive and listen.  If there is anxious buzzing that can be a sign of queenlessness.

Have a queen:
  • Calm
  • Good hum - like a nice machine sound - rhythmic and relaxing sound.  You can put your ear on the hive and listen. The sound of a queenless have has notes of anxiety in the hum and doesn't sound relaxing,
  • Pollen going in
  • Population increasing
  • Good activity on the outside with bees coming and going
  • Guarding entrances and washboarding entrances
  • Cleaning and doing chores such as removal of dead bees and garbage

Friday, August 21, 2015

Problems with Queens

I'm seeing a repeat of last summer's problem.  The bees just can't keep their queens alive.

In spring they requeen as usual.  I do my best to do splits on the stronger hives to prevent swarming and losing precious bees.

Sometimes in spring the requeening fails and they make another.  I often give them a frame of eggs (with the nurse bees on the frame) to keep them going if they're running out of brood.

This summer, most of my hives have been constantly requeening all summer long.  Here I am in mid Aug and I have at least six of 16 hives that are in the middle of requeening.  The other remaining hives have successfully requeened.

Two of the hives have utterly failed.  They had queens hatch out, I even saw them in the hive, but then shortly after they no longer had a queen.  She either didn't make it back from going out to mate or she somehow failed in the hive.  They have no eggs or brood of any kind.  These bees are antsy.  They run, buzz loudly and are quick to sting.  They're upset and with good reason.
  They're doomed unless there's an intervention.

Normally since it's so late in the year these hives would be blended with other hives.  But I'm a hobby beekeeper and a rescuer so I bought some queens.  I've installed two on the worst hives.

One strong but queen and eggless hive I gave a frame of eggs, larvae and bees from their mother hive that they were originally split from a couple years back.  DNA seems important because the bees took two eggs and moved them and created two queen cells to put them in.

These cells are now capped and I'm counting the days to the hatching.  Now take note that when I gave this hive the frame of eggs from their mother, I transplanted two lovely not yet capped queen cells from another hive.  A week later I came back to find they had chewed out the introduced queen cells.  It seems this hive wants to use the DNA of their mother hive to create their own queen instead.  So I'm going to let this play out to see if they're successful.

At this stage I don't expect to take any more honey from the hive because once they're rolling again they'll need whatever honey they can store for winter.

Another hive has 5 capped queen cells and capped brood.  The capped brood tells me that sometime in the last 10 to 24 days there was a queen laying eggs in that hive.  She has obviously failed in some way and they are replacing her.  I'm watching these cells as well.  This has been my best hive that I've had for seven years.  I'd prefer to keep this gene going because it's a strong one for really good bees.

Last week while in the bee yard a person was there going for a nature walk.  She told me my bees had swarmed and there was a clump of them on the pine tree.  I asked her to call me if she ever saw that again and pointed to my phone number posted on a sign in my yard.  (Silently saying to myself damn it why didn't you call me!!!!)

The difficult part with giving frames of eggs and bees at this time of year is having to lift off honey boxes to dig down to the nest.  I hate doing that as ultimately bees get squished and the boxes are heavy.  I don't want to remove honey just yet and there's a reason why.

Last year in the fall when I went to take more honey off I found the bees had almost none.  They had been requeening all last summer, their numbers were low and so they were weak and couldn't bring in enough honey for themselves, let alone for me too.  I had to give boxes to them from other hives.  So this year I'm being very careful about how much honey I take.

It's a difficult balancing act.  None of us wants to see a hive fail.

Friday, July 17, 2015

A Smart Critter is an Annoying Critter

At the Pines there are some pretty smart Raccoons.

I had thought I outsmarted them.  But they have proved me wrong.  Again.

Originally I would occasionally leave an empty sticky honey pail on top of a hive for the bees to lick out.  This would be a hive that was stacked five supers high or more.

I'd come back to the yard days later to find the pails licked clean, but on the ground.  I had secured them with bricks.  Many other times I've found the bricks on my hives pushed to the ground.

Recently I left an empty deep on the platform weighted with many bricks on top.  I came back to find all its frames strewed on the ground.  The raccoon(s) had rolled the deep repeatedly until the frames spilled out of it and then they chewed up the combs.

That was frustrating.

So then I had the ingenious idea to use an old rabbit hutch.  It has a cage front and I'd put stuff inside and the bees would fly in and lick things dry.  Perfect!

A few weeks ago, dad cleaned out the cappings tank and because of a pail shortage the cappings were put in a garbage bag.  I then took the bag to the Pines for the bees to lick the wax clean.

I put the garbage bag inside the rabbit hutch--the one with the locked cage front.

Last week I discovered the entire bag had been torn to shreds with pieces strewn on the ground.  Not a single piece of wax remained.  The little beggars had somehow stuck their paws through the bars and pulled the bag to the edge where they were able to shred it.

They had eaten a whole season's worth of beeswax.

I could only hope it gave them indigestion.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Seven of Ten

When you first start off with your package or nuc of bees they'll be busy building combs in their frames.  You will most likely give them sugar water to help them build faster.

Without the sugar they'd have to do a lot of foraging to get the energy to produce the beeswax. 

The question will arise, when do I add the next box to the hive?  The general rule is 7 of 10.  This applies both to comb building and also to honey supering.

When seven frames are drawn with comb it's time for the next box of frames.  When seven frames are filled with honey/capping in progress, it's time to add the next box.

I read about this seven of ten rule in my favourite beekeeping book, Beekeeping for Dummies.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

My first queen graft

I took the queen rearing course offered by the OBA Tech Team a couple years ago.  They offer great courses and they're very patient teachers.

If you're in Ontario I highly recommend them.  Course info can be found on the Ontario Bee Association's web site at

It was a very worthwhile course and gave tons of hands on practise.  But that was two years ago.  I haven't done queen rearing since taking the course so I wasn't feeling very confident.

I have the manual which came with the course and I've started reading it.  But I'm a slow reader and time isn't on my side.

I've got queenless hives - my good, strong hives and I don't want to risk losing them.

The beeyard in question is Pines where I had 5 hives of 10 survive the winter.  I split one hive to make six.

Inspections to date and instinct proved me right that four of the six hives have queens.  Two need some extra help.

Three days ago I took a frame that had a small area with eggs and leaving the bees on the frame I popped it into the queenless hive.  Now they had eggs so they could make a queen cell.  Or move an egg into a cell (not sure if bees do that but I've heard that they do).

When I checked today there were no signs of queen cell development.  When examining the frame I noticed that larvae were newly hatched.  The top super had queen cups with nothing in them.

So I took my Chinese grafting tool (at the end of the course day they had draws and I won this).  There's a tiny pad of plastic at the bottom slides under the larvae and then the other end is the plunger to eject the larvae once placed in the bottom of a queen cup.

I put my magnifying headset on and set to work.  There was plenty of sunlight so I didn't need the headlamp to see.  I managed to pick up 4 and placed them into 4 cups.

I know that larvae can't be flipped over because they only have breathing holes on the up side of their body, so if inserting into a cup you flip them over they would drown in the royal jelly.

It took less than five minutes for the bees to notice the larvae in the cups.

It's very delicate work and I don't know if I did it well, being my first try.  But time will tell.  I'll check back in four or five days to see if the grafting took.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Questions to ask when the Swarm phone call comes

I got two swarm calls last year.

Last year was a slow year for swarms.  The year before that I was getting so many swarm calls that I was passing them on to other beekeeping friends.  I had collected about ten myself.  That was a fun spring.

This year has been super slow.  I guess I'm out of practise which explains how I goofed up on the call today.
The cell rang and a man said he had a small swarm of bees under a table on his deck.  He reported checking underneath and seeing their brown combs.

Well, that confirmed it for me.... see how out of practise I was with phone work regarding swarms.  People don't lie, they just don't know anything about bees or what combs should look like.  We need to question them to find out more.

The good news is that I asked him to send me a photo.  The photo above is what he sent.

So to help you when you get calls here are some questions that can help shorten the phone call.  Of course a photo is always best, either of the hive or the insect.

  1. Are they fuzzy, brown and black? (view photos on the web site - feel free to refer to mine at where there's photos of bumble bees, honey bees, yellow jackets and bald faced hornets)
  2. Have you seen them bringing pollen on their legs?
  3. Is the hive round and looks like brown paper with a hole at the bottom (paper wasp nest)?
  4. What size is the swarm on the tree?  Baseball, football, volleyball, baseketball sized?  How high off the ground is it?
  5. How large is the area they are coming and going from?  Honey bees need lots of space to build a nest.
If you have questions you like to ask, feel free to add them in the comments below.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Healing Properties of Honey

While at my bee supplier's we got to talking as usual about bees.  He showed me a picture of a horse's injured foreleg.
The owners were struggling to save the horse's badly injured and infected leg.  If it couldn't be saved the horse would have to be put down.  They tried antibiotics but they weren't working.  Thank goodness they heard about the power of honey to cure wounds.  They used honey on the wounds and the horse's leg healed and was saved.  The picture was of the horse's healed leg.
I'm sure you've heard about the antibacterial and antifungal power of honey.
The ancient Egyptians knew all about honey and now modern medicine is learning to turn back time and use ancient methods when modern ones fail.
I've seen documentaries in hospitals where leeches were used to keep blood flowing through reattached fingers.  If not for the leeches work to keep the blood flowing through the reattached limb, the person would lose their finger.
Now, back to honey.  I was watching one of my favourite shows on Animal Planet called Supervet.  There was a dog's paw that was badly crushed.  The vet had to take pieces of bone from the dog's hip to create new foot bones.  It was a really complicated surgery.  As often happens after an invasive surgery tht takes a long time to heal the dog's paw eventually became infected.  They were using antibiotics and they weren't working very well.
The Supervet (who really knows his stuff) used Manuka honey.  I watched as he poured the honey into and onto the wounds.  And I'm sure you know the outcome.  The dogs paw healed up beautifully.  The vet is using medical grade Manuka honey for his clients but all honeys have healing powers because of their antibacterial and antifungal properties.
Manuka plant (also called tea tree) is well known to be a powerful healing agent because of the properties of the manuka plant itself which is in the honey.
Manuka honey is often used by hospitals to put on foot ulcer's of diabetic patients.  These ulcers are hard to heal and often don't respond to antibiotics.  That's when honey steps in to save the day, and the patient's foot.
Manuka/Tea Tree honey is harvested in New Zealand and southeastern Australia.  Manuka honey is highly valued and sells at a premium to medical organizations.

Saturday, June 20, 2015


At the Pines yard last week I have 6 hives.  They're all slow right now as they're requeening.
During that time the number of foraging bees drops off as the whole population decreases while we wait for the new queen to hatch, mate and get back to the hive and start laying eggs.
Then we have to wait for the eggs to hatch.
It's about 30 days in all until the population starts to pick up again as new bees are hatching.
I find it a little concerning as the days go by and the population is low.  I worry whether they have been able to requeen successfully or not.
Now it's true you can open the hive and inspect, but how many times have you found that when pulling frames the queen cells get crushed or disturbed.
The bees put them close to the bottom of the frame, or hanging down in the spaces in the frames.  Too many times I've pulled frames (and I do it very carefully and I also heft and look underneath first) and I still damage cells.
Nothing is more frustrating than damaging a beautiful fully capped queen cell.  So instead I stay out of the hive for the 30 day count just to be sure I don't muck things up for the bees.
After the 30 days I check for brood and if there's none then I will go to another strong hive and steal a frame that has eggs so that the queenless hive can make another queen.  I'll steal one frame per week (to a max of 3 and often from different hives) until I see a queen cell started.
At the started stage a queen cell is like a button or a nub and not so easily damaged on inspection.
A couple years ago while doing a split I had three full size capped queen cells break open and the fully developed queens ran up into the hive.  One of the cells broke open and I put my hand under it and the queen dropped out right into my hand.  The good news was that I had another hive that was queenless so I just popped her into their front door.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

OBA Board members appointed to Ontario's Pesticide Advisory Committee

Below is an excerpt from our OBA newsletter.  If you're not a member of the Ontario Bee Association, you're missing out on info on what's going on in the beekeeping community.
The OBA is pleased to report that OBA President Tibor Szabo and board member Jim Wilson have both been appointed to the Ontario government's Pesticide Advisory Committee by the Lieutenant Governor. Tibor and Jim join the 17-member committee whose function is to review the content and operation of the Pesticides Act and its regulations, and recommend changes or amendments to the Minister of the Environment and Climate Change; review all Ontario government publications on pesticides and pest control; review and make recommendations on the classification of all new federally registered pest control products prior to their sale and use in Ontario; and advise the minister on matters relating to pesticides and pest management.

This is the first time that the beekeeping industry has been represented on this committee. "Beekeepers are significant stakeholders in these issues and we have relevant knowledge, experience and perspective to contribute," said Tibor Szabo. "Both Jim and I are pleased to be appointed and look forward to meeting and working with the other members to support responsible use of pesticides in Ontario."

The committee meets 12 times a year. Congratulations and thank you to both Tibor and Jim.

The Ontario Government Released Regulations on Neonics

Finally in June 2014 the Ontario government has released new regulations on the issue of neonics.

You can read the full article at this link: or the pasted article below:


Regulating Neonicotinoids

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that neonicotinoid insecticides are highly toxic to honey bees and other beneficial insects.

In addition, neonicotinoid insecticides are persistent, meaning they do not break down quickly in soil. They are water soluble and have the potential to easily run off into local watercourses where they can potentially harm aquatic insects. Neonicotinoid insecticides also make plants potentially harmful to the beneficial insects feeding on them.

In Ontario, there is widespread use of neonicotinoid-coated seeds, in some cases, without evidence of pest problems. Close to 100 per cent of corn seed and 60 per cent of soybean seed sold in the province are treated with neonicotinoid insecticides.

On July 1, 2015, new regulatory requirements for the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds in Ontario will come into effect and be phased in over a period of time. The requirements will support the province's target to reduce the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 80 per cent by 2017 and are focused on ensuring that neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds are used only when there is a demonstrated pest problem. Reducing neonicotinoid use in these two crops presents the greatest opportunity to decrease pollinator exposure to the neurotoxic insecticide.

Consultation Process

Ontario conducted a comprehensive, two-stage consultation process with the public and stakeholders to develop these new regulatory requirements. In the first stage, a pollinator health discussion paper was posted online in November 2014 for a 60 day public comment period.

Farmers, members of the public and other stakeholders were invited to attend in-person consultation meetings held across the province or submit comments online or by mail.

In stage two, Ontario released a draft regulation for public comment on March 23, 2015, inviting interested parties to submit feedback on the regulatory proposal. In addition, a series of technical briefings were held with key stakeholders.

A new class of pesticides created under the regulation

The province is responsible for classifying pesticides and regulating their sale, use, transportation, storage and disposal. Treated seeds are seeds that have been coated with a pesticide. The new regulatory requirements will create a new class of pesticides -- Class 12 -- for corn and soybean seeds treated with the following neonicotinoid insecticides:
  • imidacloprid
  • thiamethoxam
  • clothianidin

A new system for regulating neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds

Ontario is establishing a system for regulating neonicotinoid-treated seeds that:
  1. requires training on integrated pest management methods for farmers that will help to protect pollinators
  2. establishes methods that farmers can use to assess whether pest problems require the use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds
  3. sets out requirements for the sale and use of neonicotinoid-treated seeds
  4. tracks the sale of neonicotinoid-treated seeds
The new regulatory amendments will take effect on July 1, 2015, and be phased in over time.

New requirements for purchasing neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds: Integrated pest management training

Integrated pest management is an approach to managing pests that is environmentally and economically sustainable. Integrated pest management promotes the use of different methods to prevent and reduce the risk of pests and encourages beneficial insects, including pollinators. Under integrated pest management, pesticides are used as a last resort to control pest problems.
The new integrated pest management course will be available for farmers in fall 2015, and will run regularly thereafter. Following successful completion of the course, farmers will receive a certificate number, valid for five years. To encourage participation in the integrated pest management course, training will be offered free of charge for the first year, until September 2016.

As of August 31, 2016, any person (e.g., a farmer or a person that supervises the planting of neonicotinoid-treated seeds) who purchases neonicotinoid-treated seeds will be required to have been certified by completing the integrated pest management training course. The course includes training on the importance of pollinators for the ecosystem and how to protect them from pesticide exposure.
Individuals will also be trained in identifying pests and pest scouting methods, and using alternative methods to pesticides. Licensed treated-seed vendors will not be required to complete the integrated pest management certification.

New requirements for using neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds From August 31, 2015 to August 30, 2016

In preparation for the 2016 planting season, farmers will have the option to take one of two courses of action to purchase and use neonicotinoid-treated corn or soybean seed, depending on the amount they intend on planting.

As an incentive to achieve early reductions in the use of neonicotinoid-treated seed, farmers will not have to conduct a pest assessment if they plant neonicotinoid-treated seeds on 50 per cent or less of the total area of where their plant corn or soybeans. They will need to provide written confirmation to the sales representative or seed vendor from which they purchased the seeds.

If farmers want to buy and plant neonicotinoid-treated seeds on more than 50 per cent of the total area of their corn or soybean crop, they will need to complete a pest assessment report and provide it to the sales representative or seed vendor from which they purchased the seeds.

Starting August 31, 2016

In preparation for the 2017 planting season, if farmers want to buy and use any amount of neonicotinoid-treated seeds, they will be required to provide:
  1. Proof of certification of integrated pest management training
  2. A written declaration that integrated pest management principles were considered
  3. A pest assessment report
Farmers will need to submit these pieces of information to the sales representative or seed vendor, including direct-to-farm seed vendors.

Pest assessments assist in identifying pest problems above thresholds. Pest or stand loss thresholds must be met in order to determine that neonicotinoid-treated seed is allowed to be used.
The two pest assessment methods that can be used to determine pest problems are:
  • Soil pest scouting: a method that confirms the presence of an average of two or more grubs or one wireworm in soil at a farm property. A report must verify that these thresholds have been met or exceeded.
  • Crop damage assessment: a method that confirms:
    • at least a 15 per cent stand loss in corn caused by pests
    • at least a 30 per cent stand loss in soybean caused by pests
The pests and other details, including population thresholds and averaging for soil pest scouting, are set out in the Pest Assessment Guideline.

New requirements for selling neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seeds

In order to sell neonicotinoid-treated seed, seed companies -- vendors of neonicotinoid-treated seed -- will need to obtain a treated seed vendor's licence.

Other requirements for vendors include notifying purchasers that the seed is a neonicotinoid-treated seed, ensuring untreated seeds are available for purchase and reporting the sale of neonicotinoid-treated and untreated seeds to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change.

The regulation also includes requirements for treated-seed sales representatives (i.e. those that facilitate the purchase of neonicotinoid-treated seed), custom seed treaters and direct-to-farm vendors. Sales representatives and direct-to-farm vendors must ensure purchasers provide the required documentation to purchase neonicotinoid-treated seed. Sales representatives and direct-to-farm vendors then provide this documentation to seed vendors.

Those who plant neonicotinoid-treated seed will need to read and follow instructions that are required to be set out on the seed tag, such as avoiding equipment maintenance in areas that may affect bee colonies or where bees are foraging.

The regulation does not include requirements for the transport and storage of neonicotinoid-treated seeds.

Tracking the sale of neonicotinoid-treated seeds

Sales and seed treatment data will be submitted annually to the Ministry of the Environment and Climate Change and pest assessments are to be submitted to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. This will ensure an open and transparent system to track progress.

Changes from the draft regulation

Throughout the regulatory consultation process, Ontario received a number of comments on the regulatory discussion paper and the proposed draft regulation. As a result of these comments, a number of additional changes have been made to the regulation, including:
  • Allowing additional time for farmers to take integrated pest management training
  • Encouraging early participation in integrated pest management training by offering training free of charge for the first year of implementation, until September 2016
  • Committing to publicly reporting amalgamated sales and seed treatment data for neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed to the track the effectiveness of the regulation
  • Establishing more flexible licensing requirements for direct-to-farm vendors
  • Allowing vendors to continuously provide updates to the list of neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed to provide additional flexibility as new seeds could come to market
  • Extending the expiration date of a pest assessment report by two months
  • Allowing professional pest advisors to supervise other people in conducting pest assessments
  • Phasing in requirements for professional pest advisors on a geographic basis to best target regions with greatest pollinator mortality rates

Saturday, June 6, 2015

Primary School Presentation about Bees

One of the most fun and best ways to spread the word about bees is by educating primary school children about bees.
They have many questions and are eager to here about this fuzzy insect that makes honey.
If you're interested in presentations, I've already prepared a Powerpoint slideshow that you are more than welcome to use. 
You can even run it from my web site on the school's Smartboard so you don't even have to download it.  It's at: .
I use the same presentation for both adults and children.  I just change the amount of science that I explain and I also use simpler wording for the young children.
We also have a display that we can use in good weather to enclose a frame of bees.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Take Part in an Ontario Honey Bee Health Survey

This study is being conducted by Novometrix Research Inc. an independent contract research organization.  The study is led by President Dr. Jeff Wilson, a veterinarian and PhD Epidemiologist.

The study has been endorsed by the Ontario Bee Association and we'd like all beekeepers in Ontario to participate.

The purpose of the study is to determine how to keep Ontario bees healthy and they are asking questions about your 2014 season:

  • Hive Health and Production
  • Bee Yard Management
  • Nearby forage

  • Here's the link to the survey:

    Friday, May 29, 2015

    Natioanl Geographic video - A bee's metamorphasis

    This video by the National Geographic is short (60 seconds) but it is narrated and it's packed with visuals.  It shows in time lapse the stages of development of a bee from an egg to larvae to pupae and to a bee.

    It's amazing.  The magnification of the camera lets you see exquisite detail.

    You can see the larvae swimming in their puddle of royal jelly as they eat.

    Really well done.

    Monday, May 25, 2015

    A Warning for Beekeepers about Ticks and Lyme Disease

    Yesterday I learned of two people close to family members that are suffering from Lyme disease.  From what they were reporting, this disease can be life altering, and not in a good way.  Diagnosis if done right away and medication taken can have good results but if you contract Lyme disease from a deer tick bite and it goes undiagnosed you could experience a wide range of changing symptoms which make pinning down the diagnosis difficult.

    I was told that in Canada there is a test that can be done and it can give false negatives which is what happened in the case of this family member.  They finally had to go to the USA at their doctor's suggestion where a different test not yet approved in Canada could be done.  Turns out he does have Lyme disease.

    On the Mayclinic web site is a description of the symptoms.  It can start as a red bite that spreads out in a bull's eye pattern and then a rash.  This disease can progress to some pretty awful joint pain and neurological problems.

     This Ontario government health web site gives details on areas where the disease is more established as well as how to remove the tick, treatment, etc.  In Ontario if you find a tick and believe you have been bitten you can get the tick tested for Lyme disease free of charge.

    As beekeepers, we need to take this seriously.  Our bees are often kept in meadows and areas where deer travel.  Below is a note from the Ontario Bee Association to warn us to watch out for ticks in our hives.

    OBA members Sharon and George Overton write: "We were told years ago that the ticks' intermediary host is the good old deer mouse, so beekeepers unwrapping hives from the winter should be careful, not only of ticks from the ground, but also from any mouse nests in the hive tops as they are unwrapped and the straw or whatever was used to stop condensation in the hive is removed, as it is a spot the mice will have wintered. The immature ticks are virtually invisible, so watch for signs of infection, even without obvious tick bites."

    Let’s keep our socks over our pants to keep both the bees and the ticks out.

    Thursday, May 21, 2015

    Dead drones

    The last two trips to my Heeman's bee yard I noticed about a dozen or so drones dead out front on the stoop of two of the hives.
    [forgot my camera so photo from 2014]

    No workers were dead, just drones.  I'm not sure if the bees tossed out the drones because we had a sudden change in our weather.

    A week ago we had temps of 30 degrees Celsius and the bees were productive and flying.  Then we stepped back into winter - I mean no snow for us here in southwestern Ontario (although they did get some up north) but I had to flip the furnace back on after having the a/c running!

    I was deliberately slow to take my wraps off for this very reason.  Early spring can be unpredictable and our weather has been showing more sudden and dramatic changes.  (I had a tornado hit my home last summer.  It didn't ruin the house but the neighbour's tree took out my garage roof.  And sadly I lost all my big trees in the back yard.)

    I have now taken the wraps off all hives except one.  It had a very small number of bees, about the size of your fist.  But they did have a queen.  So I left the wrap on to help keep them warm.  I gave them a couple frames of capped brood with the bees on the frame from their sister hive.  I didn't want to give them any eggs or larvae because the the population would be too low and stressed to care for them.  But already capped brood just need to be kept warm until they hatch.

    I gave them a sugar syrup baggie laid out on the frames and protein patties.  So essentially all the food they'd need was in the hive.  It's always amazing to watch how after adding the frames how the bees get excited and greet each other.  You can almost see their relief at seeing the recruits coming aboard.  There's no aggression whatsoever.  Then within 30 minutes they had organized themselves and assigned guards at the upper and lower entrance (reduced to keep out cold and protect them from robbing).  Before adding the bees no one was protecting the entrance because there were no bees to spare to guard.

    I checked them today and the population has increased, so many of the capped brood have hatched.  The bees were chewing happily on the protein patties.  I gave them a  baggie with fresh warm syrup.  I was glad to feel heat in the hive when I lifted the inner cover.  They are keeping themselves warm and cozy.

    I'll keep an eye on the drone situation.  Our temperatures are swinging back up now to hot.  Hopefully it'll stay warm this time and give us a great spring and summer.

    Sunday, May 17, 2015

    Removing Winter Wraps - In stages

     Here's photos to show how I try not to confuse the bees by removing the wraps all at once.
    I've watched them when they come back and a lot of bees get confused with the sudden change from a black hive with a the wrap pulled low to a suddenly colourful hive.
    I can do this because I'm a hobby beekeeper and I know this isn't practical for commercial beekeepers.
    First I pull up the wrap and tuck it under to expose the entrance, often the entrance reducer is still in place.
    This year when doing the formic acid mite treatment I removed the entrance reducers but left the wraps on and pulled them up so it wasn't blocked.
    Then as the weather got warmer I came back to strip off the wraps.  Leaving them on longer won't hurt the bees and can help them to keep the brood warm.

    Wednesday, May 13, 2015

    Moving hives around in the bee yard

    The whole thing about moving hives is that you don't want to confuse and lose bees by moving the hive too far so they can't find the hive.
    In warmer weather if the bees returning are stuck outside trying to find their hive it might not be quite so bad but in early spring the temperatures can vary considerably and bees left outside at night can get too cold to fly quickly and give up searching.
    In my Pines bee yard I lost 5 of 10 hives.  I know the bees are experiencing a lot of stress with neonics, mites, climate change, etc.  So I think about all the things I can control to help.
    When setting up this yard I was so focused on making sure the bees had shade in the afternoon that I believe I put them into too much shade.  Too early in the day they're in shade, which in a hot summer would be okay.  But it would meant they're not as active.  It would also mean they wouldn't get as much winter sun on the black wraps to help give the hives heat.
    My feeling is that what didn't help the five weak hives was that they got too cold in their location.  So my decision has been to move the hives to give the more sun.  The theory being that being too hot is better than being too cold.  In a warmer or tropical climate of course the shade issue could be very different.
    So, how to move the hives about 15 to 20' without causing too much stress on the hives?  The answer is to shift them in degrees.  One foot per day is the suggestion distance.
    [photo - new location about 20 feet away to the east]
    Instead of setting up a platform next to the existing and sliding them over (very time consuming) I've put some wagons into use.
    [photo - breaking down the yard, removing dead hives and platforms]
    I've loaded a hive on a wagon and then I can move it each day until I get it into position.
    I've found it's much easier for the bees if their entrance orientation is the same direction.
    If changing the entrance orientation, do that much slower and in smaller increments.

    Saturday, May 9, 2015

    Knockdown or Knockout?

    It's a battle dealing with these Varroa Mites.

    I used formic acid last year but going into fall I wasn't happy that the mites were under under control.
    [A strong hive in spring - the old mite pad from fall still on the top bars].
    I've used Miteaway Quick Strips - called MAQ's.  These formic acid gel packs can be placed on a hive while honey supers are on.  This is such a relief to beekeeping.

    So I planned to treat the hives in mid July to try to get some control over them.

    The hard decision is whether to go gangbusters with 2 pads or to do a softer treatment with 1 pad.  One pad is called a knockdown and two is a knockout.
    The problem is that beekeepers find too much brood are killed and queen deaths occur a lot when using 2 pads.
    I've used just one but found the treatment too soft.  The best year I had is when I used 1 paid but did the treatment 3 times - spring, summer and fall.
    It's a 7 day treatment and the pad is biodegradable and will be chewed up by the bees so it doesn't have to be removed.  I usually remove it well after the 7 days.
    This year I did 1 1/2 pads in spring and plan to also treat mid summer and fall.  The goal is to get more serious to take down the mites.

    Wednesday, May 6, 2015

    Harsh Winter for Ladybugs

    While working on the hives on the weekend I removed the last of the wraps and added Mite Away Quick Strips, AFB & Nosema treatment.

    Every year the ladybugs tuck themselves into the lining on the hives or inside the inner cover if they can get in there. I don't mind them at all, especially since they're beneficial insects.

    I was really saddened to see that on every hive all the ladybugs were dead. It didn't matter where they had hunkered down, they were dead. Not sure if pesticides played a part here but our super cold winter of 2014 was deadly to these lovely little bugs.

    Friday, April 24, 2015

    Spring 2015 - Hive Losses

    I managed a peek at my beeyard on Sunday around dinner time. It was cold and windy. A winter day actually with temperatures around -4 Celcius. I know other beekeepers took advantage of a few sporadic warm days that we had to open their hives. Everyone that did reported some lost hives. It's hard to be patient in spring and sometimes the temptation can be to open hives a bit too soon. When it's still cold you can get some good info from looking at the outside of the hive, peeking in the upper entrance you may see bees converging there during the day time. Also, doing a heft of the hive to get an idea of the weight can let you know if the bees will be needing heavy spring feeding, or even emergency feeding. (They won't eat sugar water if it's cold anyway so only a candy board would help when temps are still too cold). When the weather warmed up I was able to check the hives. I didn't pull frames because I didn't want to break their seals since it was still cold. In the Pines bee yard I had 10 haves and 5 were dead. They were weak all last year after the move from the corn area. I think I had them in too much shade from the pines so in winter they didn't get enough sun to help keep the hives warm. I now plan to shift the 5 living hives more into the sun. At the Heeman's Garden Centre all 7 hives survived and are doing well. Two of them were weak but surviving. All the hives were bringing in a pale coloured pollen in a month ago and now are bringing in a yellow or deep gold pollen. I started medications last week but this week we've gone back into winter again.

    Wednesday, April 8, 2015

    Insect Mimicry

    The idea is really quite brilliant:  Take a scary insect and make yourself look just like it.  Then others will be scared of you too.

    The result is they'll leave you alone.

    There's a whole raft of insects from earwigs to flies that are stingless and harmless but they copy the bees stripes as a deterrent.

    It's like having a built in security system.

    I rescued these "bees".  While visiting friends outside London these fake bees were coming in the barn door and hanging around the window.

    [photo from Wikipedia - false bees]

    It was cool outside but the sun in the barn window was pleasant and warm.  These insects had the humans scared until I picked them up and showed them.

    They're actually flies - complete with fur and stripes the exact same colour as a honey bee.

    Their tongues are like a fly' with the round stopper at the end.

    One particular bee liked me and actually sat on my hand and arm for over an hour.

    The attraction was probably my great personality as a fake bee whisperer and not that I was warm or anything like that.

    Saturday, April 4, 2015

    Fueling Stations and Filling Station Bees

    When you're relaxing in the rec room do you have a bar fridge close by that you keep snacks in? 
    If you do then you're thinking like a bee.

    The bees use the center of a frame as the brood area.  But to make it easier for the nurse bees to feed the hungry brood the bees deliberately put food close by.

    They store honey and pollen in the top corners of every frame in the brood chamber.  As the bees work outwards from the center the frames will become full of just honey.

    After the brood box is filled they'll move up and put honey and pollen in the supers.
    Have you every noticed on a frame of fully capped cells that there's the odd cell here and there that the queen didn't lay in.  She didn't miss that cell.  It was done by design.  It's a fuel cell.
    The workers use these cells as fueling stations. As you can see in the photo the cells are very close at hand for hungry nurse bees.  Remember they feed the larvae royal jelly created by their bodies so they need to fuel up so they can put the fuel out.

    You can tell a fuel cell because it'll be full of nectar.

    A worker chore that I had not known about before is a filling station bee.  These bees are charged with the task of filling up the fuel cells for the nurse bees.

    Jurgen Tautz reported on these fueling cells in his fascinating book, The Buzz about Bees.  I highly recommend this book.  I learned so much about bee biology in this easy to read book.  See a review of it on Amazon at: The Buzz About Bees

    I don't think the bees will ever stop being amazing.