I Like What He Said!

I am featuring an article from the Kelly Beekeeping April Newsletter.  It is good advice!

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KellyArticle

“A•Bee•Cs Beginning Beekeeping                           

Blind Leading the Blind

Recently I met an individual who is quite new to the world of beekeeping but blessed with rather good fortune in the financial realm. His more than adequate monetary resources have opened many doors for his new business, which revolves around keeping bees.

This particular person and I were having a bee-related discussion at my office when I brought up something he didn’t agree with. Suddenly his demeanor sharply changed as he told me, “I’ve read all the books and I’ve never heard that before. Are you sure?” I stared him straight in the eyes as we closed our conversation stating that having read ‘All the books’ doesn’t mean a thing when you arrive in the bee yard, because the honey bees have their own library.

Anybody can start a business or beekeeping in their backyard or in their town while reading ‘all the books’. Is that enough? The trick is to associate with reliable, trustworthy, knowledgeable sources; those capable of relating the subtle nuances honey bees display regardless of what is written about them. Learn from these individuals! Whether you’ve visited an apiary one time or several thousand times, there is always information to glean from our honey bearing friends and experienced beekeepers with their hive tools in hand. Their boots on the ground and years and years of seasonal experience out-knowledge any beekeeping book on the shelf.

For example: one of my students said he had been reading and reading – but now, after opening hives and listening to my explanations – he finally got it! It is one thing to read about bees, it is another to experience them and hear about them from a qualified beekeeper, capable of pointing out the differences of a particular beehive as the bees are flying around your veil… and comparing one beehive to another: a totally different venture than any book describes.

This is the verbiage of a beekeeping club whose comments I monitor: We are desperate for mentors! Anyone with at least a year or more of beekeeping experience is welcome to sign up to help new beekeepers.

To me, this is the blind leading the blind and is something to be acutely aware of IF you want to be more than a backyard ‘bee-haver

Beekeeping is detailed. It can throw you a curve ball or two, or three. In a yard of five hives each colony may present totally different problems. Your book related one or two of those issues. Guess what? Bees are not predictable, nor are the weather, water, forage, pests, pesticides or predators. Your book may not tell you all the subtleties that differentiate each hive – or how to address it. Books are books. Knowledgeable beekeepers have the experience to lead, teach and guide you through most of the variances that any hive can offer up.

Read a book? I highly suggest reading all you can! Is that all you need to do to be a good beekeeper? NO! Is a mentor who has only had one more season of experience than you what you need as a guide? I’m sure you can answer that by now.

A Stinging Rebuke

IF, and notice that I use the word ‘IF’ you want to be more than a bee-haver, you must not only read as much as you can, but align yourself with a proven, long-term, experienced beekeeper as a mentor and teacher. There is NO substitute for experience…and one season/new beekeepers just don’t have it.

Check out your ‘mentor.’ What is their experience? How many colonies have they kept? Is it one season of beekeeping or is 15-30 years of beekeeping? Have they taught before? How many people have they taught? Do they teach beginning, intermediate and advanced? Can they supply on-site hive management and analysis of any problems you may have? Or…are they just guessing?

If you ‘wing it’…your bees may die. If you decide to become a long-term, serious beekeeper, then you need to invest in a series of classes taught by an expert—not beekeepers that have only one or two seasons more experience than you do. A new beekeeper may want the notoriety of teaching a class, but their lack of long-term experience will not pay for your loss of hives.

Investigate who you align yourselves with. There is the time-worn but accurate expression, “You get what you pay for.” You can get second-hand or even new books and try to teach yourself. You can buddy up with another newbie and together guess at what you are doing. Or, you can get years of beekeeping experience over the phone and even personal visits to your own apiary by an expert. You get what you pay for. Classes and years of experience are worth every penny if it gives you the first-hand, on-site experience that will help you to become the long-term beekeeper that can make a difference to the honey bees existence.

Phill Remick is a former commercial beekeeperwho teaches beekeeping classes, offers year round apiary troubleshooting, hive management and sells beekeeping supplies near Albuquerque, NM. Contact him at www. NewBeeRescue.com”

Line_of_bees

I agree and encourage the notion of finding an experienced beekeeping mentor.  Personally, I enjoy attending my local beekeeping club.  We spend out monthly meetings sharing and discussing issues, accomplishments, ideas and solution options.  Here is a brief description of the group that meets in Southern Indiana.

Ten O’clock Beeline Beekeeping Group

 The 10 O’clock Bee Line Beekeepers Club is a group of bee enthusiasts in South Central Indiana. We meet in Nashville, Indiana, but our members come from Morgan and Monroe counties, as well as Brown county. We welcome beekeepers throughout Southern Indiana.

Our name comes from a historical land treaty between the Miami Indians and Governor William Henry Harrison. This treaty line runs through the counties that our members call home.

In 1809 the Miami Native American Indians sold some of their prized land, to the U.S. Government. This treaty with the Indians created the boundary line which came to be known as the Ten O’Clock Line, so-called because it was explained to the Indians as following a shadow cast at 10:00 o’clock each September 30th. The so-called “Ten O’clock Treaty” opened three million acres to settlement, the boundary being a line running from Raccoon Creek on the Wabash River near Montezuma to Seymour.]

We meet at 7:00pm on the second Monday of each month, at the Brown County Public Library in Nashville, IN. “

“Stop that mowing! Plant those “Weeds”!

Happy Spring+ish Time!

An important  campaign that I plan to be devoted to this summer at my farmers’ markets is to plant more bee-friendly wildflowers and give up some of your manicured lawn!  I plan to have large organic seed packets available at my bee booths.

I am including an article from Mother Earth Living March 2015 edition that again…. talks about helping to increase bee population and garden production.  We all want that?  Right?!!

(You shout YES! at this point of your read)

I have included this article in the blog so that some areas can be highlighted.  I know it’s a long read, but please take note of the highlighted areas.

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Gardening for Bees

The pollinating work that bees do is crucial to our food supply. Learn how to help our fuzzy friends by creating a bee-friendly garden.

By Margaret A. Haapoja
March/April 2015

Bees are particularly attracted to purple, blue, white and yellow blooms.

Photo by iStockbeeonflower

It’s hard to open a newspaper or magazine these days without seeing an article about the decline of bees and the subsequent effect on our food crops. The ecological service that pollinators provide is necessary for the reproduction of more than 85 percent of the world’s plants, including more than two-thirds of the world’s crop species. Some crops, including blueberries and cherries, are 90 percent dependent on bee pollination.

Several factors contribute to declining bee numbers. For one, the U.S. has seen a major decline in the practice of keeping bees. “Since 1945, we have seen about a 50 percent decline in the number of managed honeybees in the United States,” says Eric Mader, national pollinator outreach coordinator at the Xerces Society. (If you have an interest in beekeeping, join Mother Earth’s beekeeping community at Keeping Backyard Bees.) Meanwhile, the number of planted crops that require pollination has nearly doubled during the same time period.

Pesticides pose another problem. “Beekeepers are reporting massive die-offs in their hives or situations where bees simply don’t return,” says Brian DeVore, communications director of the Land Stewardship Project. “In addition, many species of native pollinators, such as various types of bumblebees, are endangered,” he says.

The class of pesticides known as neonicotinoids is suspected to be one of the major causes of bee die-offs. The pesticides, nicknamed “neonics,” were introduced in the 1990s and have become the most widely used insecticide in the world—so ubiquitous that they are now found in 80 percent of the world’s crops. They come coated on virtually every seed planted in every major crop across the country—sunflowers, canola, cotton, soybeans and corn, for example. Neonics are systemic; they are taken up and move freely through the entire plant making every part of it toxic. When ingested, the compounds can cripple a bee’s navigational skills and its ability to find its way home after foraging. They may also interfere with a honeybee’s intricate “waggle dance” that tells other bees where to find flowers. Neonics can also undermine bees’ immune systems.

Note from Longlimbs: (As home gardeners, please don’t purchase any seeds coated with a colored substances.  They are treated with chemicals!)

A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health demonstrated that neonics are likely responsible for triggering colony collapse disorder (CCD) in honeybee hives that were healthy prior to the arrival of winter. Last year, Europe adopted a three-year moratorium on neonicotinoids. Cities in the states of Washington and Oregon have enacted similar bans. Last fall, Home Depot announced it would require labels on plants containing neonics, and the Minnesota Legislature recently passed a law forbidding nurseries to put “bee-friendly” labels on plants containing the pesticide. The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service announced that neonics will be banned in the 150-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System by January 2016.

And there are still more reasons for the decline in bee populations: loss of floral diversity and habitat due to urbanization; expansion of intensive agriculture; invasive plants; climate change; disease; and parasites. The changing face of agriculture results in a flowerless monoculture of cash crops.

Farmers once grew sweet clover and alfalfa to add fertilizer to the soil. Now much of the Midwestern landscape is an agricultural desert of corn and soybeans—plants that don’t feed bees. Synthetic fertilizers have replaced natural ones, and the widespread use of herbicides has virtually wiped out the *milkweed, clover and wildflowers that once grew in farming regions. In suburban areas, millions of acres of grass offer no nutrition for bees. Bees are left to forage in smaller and smaller areas—wildlife preserves, state parks and strips of untended land between roads and fields.

*(Note from Longlimbs: Contact your farm supply stores for red, white clover, buckwheat, alfalfa etc… to add in areas of your yard.)

Various Bees

Honeybees aren’t alone in pollinating crops. In North America, the 4,000 types of native bees are in many ways superior pollinators to honeybees. For example, unlike honeybees, bumblebees will fly in bad weather. To pollinate an acre of apples requires 40,000 honeybees—or 250 orchard mason bees. “Seventy percent of our native bees nest in the ground,” Mader says, “and crop tillage—cultivating fields for weed control—has a devastating effect on these native bees.”

Mader sees the most striking declines in native bees among bumblebees. Bumblebees have a unique ability to perform “buzz pollination” where they grab a flower and literally shake pollen loose from the flower. This is the only way tomatoes can be pollinated. “Bumblebees are significantly more efficient pollinators than honeybees, particularly for things like cranberries, blueberries and tomatoes,” Mader says. “When Europeans settled North America, there were about 45 bumblebee species on the continent, and in the past decade or so, we’ve seen dramatic declines in those bumblebees. At present, about 30 percent of North America’s 45 bumblebee species are at risk of extinction.”

What Can We Do?

So what can we do to help the bees? First, we can completely eliminate our use of pesticides such as neonics. Although many pesticides’ and herbicides’ labels say nothing about their toxicity to bees, all insecticides can kill bees. Even some products such as rotenone and spinosad, approved for organic gardening, are a danger to bees. Consider using floating row covers or planting pest-resistant varieties instead of using pesticides. Don’t buy any plants, including houseplants, treated with neonicotinoids—ask nurseries and look for those that grow their own organic plants without pesticides.

Bee-Friendly Tips

  • Plant in clumps of four to six plants, not just singletons.
  • Bees seem to prefer blue, purple, white and yellow blossoms, so plant anise hyssop, annual lobelia, flax, heliotrope, lavender and lupine. Choose flowers of various shapes and heights for bees of different sizes and body shapes. Single flowers have more pollen and nectar than double flowers, so consider black-eyed Susans, California poppies, coneflowers, cosmos, sunflowers and zinnias.
  • Bees need reliable water sources. Somewhere in your garden, provide a shallow bee bath. Add flat stones so bees can drink without drowning.
  • Researchers at North Carolina State University have discovered pollinators prefer visiting plants grown in soil where compost, rather than commercial fertilizer, has been used.
  • If you live in corn country, plant tall shrubs or other borders around the garden to keep pesticide drift at bay.
  • Rethink your idea of a perfect, tidy garden so there’s room for bees to make their homes. Leave a little corner of your yard undisturbed for a bee nesting habitat. Seventy percent of bees nest in the ground rather than a hive, and a small area of open dirt in a sunny location is ideal for these ground-dwelling bees’ nests.
  • Plant native flowers or heirloom varieties. Modern cultivated hybrids have less pollen and nectar.
  • Give up a manicured turf lawn. Instead include dandelions and clover, both excellent nectar and pollen plants for bees that also make nitrogen available for other plants. Plant flowering cover crops such as buckwheat early and late in the season to provide food for bees when they need it. If you can’t provide a natural nesting site .

Despite all the bad news about bees, Marla Spivak, director of the University of Minnesota Bee Lab, says she is optimistic. “The word is out that our pollinators are in trouble, and from where I sit people are engaging to help bees, monarchs and other pollinators,” she says. “Five years ago these issues were not on anyone’s radar. Minnesota is leading the nation in legislative initiatives to help pollinators, and the White House released their national strategy to help pollinators this summer.”

Flowers Pollinators Love

Anise hyssop
Asters
Beard tongue
Bee balm
Catmint
Chrysanthemum
Columbine
Coneflowers
Cosmos
Fireweed
French marigolds
Gayfeather
Goldenrod
Ironweed
Joe Pye weed
Lavender
Lobelia
Lupine
Milkweed
Mint
Obedient plant
Pincushion flowers
Poppies
Prairie clover
Purple coneflower
Russian sage
Siberian squill
Spiderwort
Sunflower
Thyme
Tickseed
Wild indigo
Willow
Zinnias

Ask a Beekeeper

Does buying organic food benefit bees?
Organic agriculture ensures plants are not treated with synthetic pesticides, which can be toxic to bees. Some organic pesticides can also be harmful, but generally organic farmers use fewer pesticides and organic farmers tend to grow a diversity of crops, rather than monocrops. Crop diversity means the habitat will have more ground space for nesting native bees, more flowering plants and better landscapes to support bee biodiversity.

What about supporting local beekeepers—would that help?
The best way to support beekeepers is to plant more flowers for bees, and to keep those flowers free of pesticide contamination. We all want clean food, and so do bees.

“Come on Girls! Let’s Go!”

Last weekend, the weather brought a brief 50+ degree window to my bee-yard.  My two hives that I thought/think are queen-less were out and about!

A fact that non-beekeepers usually don’t know is that bees will not go potty while in the hive. They will wait for a break in the cold weather to take a cleansing flight as well as remove any dead bees from the hive.  And ordinarily, 50+ degrees is the signal to “go”.

It is also a great way for the beekeeper to find out how the hives are doing.  By taking a quick peek under the cover, I could check on the candy board and pollen patty that I supplied for them.  The candy board is a combination of sugar and water prepared on a screen board as a “solid block” to set as the top layer on the hive.  It provides the bees a spare resource in the winter in case the honey supply is low. The pollen patty is pretty self explanatory and is provided as a resource as well.

Here is a video showing a candy board process.

http://youtu.be/jmS8zWdnzPs

The sun has been shining in Brown County, Indiana.  The temperature is even back up to 20 degrees!  It makes this soul happy.  Here is a pic from my window as I write todays notes.  Have a great day!

"The Birds & The Bees"

“The Birds & The Bees”

“Baby, It’s Cold Outside”

Yes, I know, it’s been a long span of silence on my blog.  Fall and winter of 2014 have flown past.  A friend and I spent all of October replacing the roof on my barn.  I needed a safe structure to store all of my empty hive boxes.

Barn with new Roof 2014

Why did I have plenty of empty hive boxes?  First off, a fellow beekeeper wasn’t using 8 frame hives anymore (which are the type that I use).   Secondly, a few of my splits this summer did not produce much honey, therefore no need for extra supers on top.  Lastly,  I had three hives have their queens disappear in September/October.

Did the queens fly off,

did they die and removed from the hive,

do I really know??? No.

It was too late to re-queen, but the hive seemed to stay active until the deep freeze came on.  I’ve heard that a queenless colony can sometimes survive a winter and be re-queened in the spring.  Crossing my fingers!

Information from http://www.friendsofthehoneybee.com/    

“The typical life of a honey bee
istock image 3 CpdWhile life inside a beehive is literally a “hive of activity”, it is surprising just how short the lifespan of a bee actually is – but also how long, depending on the type of bee and when it is born. In the summer a worker bee only lives for about 40 days. As no young are raised over the winter months, the workers born in the autumn will live until the following spring. A queen can live up to 5 years although for the beekeeper a queen is past her prime in her third year.”

Topic for next blog…

What’s all this info in the news about Legislation to Save the Bees??

“Plan Bee”

I am attaching an interesting article out of Michigan State U.  Just last weekend, I helped in presenting  hands-on projects at a local church regarding native plants http://www.inpaws.org, invasive plants http://www.bcnwp.org and pollinators  http://www.pollinator.org  The camp staff from Waycross Camp helped out with many service projects and they did a great job!  We built bee homes for solitary bees.

 ImageImage

Check out the article regarding alternative pollinators for large orchard situations.

http://msutoday.msu.edu/feature/2014/plan-bee/

Quote

“Nobody around …

“Nobody around here had ever seen a lady beekeeper till her. She liked to tell everybody that women made the best beekeepers, ’cause they have a special ability built into them to love creatures that sting. It comes from years of loving children and husbands…

I hadn’t been out to the hives before, so to start off she gave me a lesson in what she called ‘bee yard etiquette’. She reminded me that the world was really one bee yard, and the same rules work fine in both places. Don’t be afraid, as no life-loving bee wants to sting you. Still, don’t be an idiot; wear long sleeves and pants. Don’t swat. Don’t even think about swatting. If you feel angry, whistle. Anger agitates while whistling melts a bee’s temper. Act like you know what you’re doing, even if you don’t. Above all, send the bees love. Every little thing wants to be loved….

Bees have a secret life we don’t know about.”

~ Sue Monk Kidd, The Secret Life of Bees

Don’t be Afraid.

The fact that I haven’t written a new blog lately, is a prime example of what beekeepers are doing during this precious part of the year.  We (I) have been working the hives.  New bee packages and queens are arriving, inspections of the hives are frequent and it’s time to split the very busy and full hives before they swarm away.

A few weeks ago, I was working in one hive that I have renamed Godzilla.  Godzilla is one of my hives that lived through the summer with gusto.  Nevertheless, I judged that it had too much gusto and needed to be split into two hives before the living conditions became too crowded.  As the quote states, no life-loving bee wants to sting you…..

Long story short, it was all my fault.  One should only “bother” the privacy of a beehive for 10 to 15 minutes at the most.  Well I didn’t.  I had so much to get done, that I spent too much time and they revolted.  My full bee-suit was secure but I had worn socks and shoes, not my wellies.  Well, they figured this out and stung me repeatedly on my ankles.  Here’s the stupid part, I ignored them and kept working. Within the hour I began to swell up.  My friend drove me to the hospital emergency and I was treated for an overdose of bee stings.  The doctor insisted that I now carry an Epi-pen at all times.  This was an extreme reaction by my body due to extreme stupidity.  I may never have this reaction again, but I might.

Several weeks have passed now and I have been tending to my hives as usual.  Godzilla has been split into two hives and a new queen introduced to the half that is now queen-less in hopes that her new brood will not be as aggressive.  I am back to wearing full bee-suit, rubber boots (wellies) and gloves.  Geeeesh…