‘Neonics: everything you need to know’ infographic

GREAT INFOGRAPHIC.

Adventuresinbeeland's Blog

I’ve been in contact with an outdoor shelters company called Sun Leisure, who designed the infographic below and asked if I would share it. The graphic originally featured some US stats on honey bees – I gave feedback suggesting that stats on bumbles and other bee species should be included too.

To my surprise, they have been incredibly willing to listen to feedback and do further research, the outcome being that Chris at Sun Leisure updated the infographic stats. You can see an interactive version of the infographic at sun-leisure.com/blog/neonics-bees-infographic – I’m sure they would be interested to hear what you think. If you ask they might also reveal why an outdoor shelters company is creating bee themed infographics!

I also recommend reading Philip Strange’s recent blog post ‘Perfect poisons for pollinators‘, which highlights the results of Dave Goulson’s research into whether flowering plants sold in UK garden…

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Diseased bees

Let me start by saying this is NOT about my bees! But some of our club’s new members have received EFB and possible AFB infected nucs. It’s a rotten way to start their beekeeping adventure. Not only did they get sick bees, but the supplier has been “mum” and offered no support, refunds or responses AT ALL.

As you know, it’s been a crazy season of swarms from my hives. I caught 10 (kept 8) but with all of these swarms, I was facing a conundrum…I knew I needed to condense the apiary down to a more manageable size (4 hives with a nuc) but to do that the queens would need to go away somehow.

First I thought I would remove the poorly performing queens…but they’re all doing pretty dang well, some better than others but none are so bad that I need to “off” the queen. I’m not a good queen killer so what was I going to do with all of these colonies??  Then my plan morphed to offering queens to those in our club that found themselves queenless and work the remaining frames into the main colonies somehow (I’d figure it out along the way).

Problem is the swarm colonies keep growing…

Then we started getting reports of EFB and the poor new beekeepers sounded so overwhelmed and unhappy. With the first report, I immediately offered a swarm to the beekeeper. Then a second beekeeper reported similar symptoms and before the state apiarist arrived to do the inspection, the bees absconded. So I offered a swarm to this beekeeper too.

You can’t treat for AFB–that requires burning of all equipment. EFB is treatable in the sense that the disease can be suppressed with Terramycin. There are varying reports of a colony surviving without developing symptoms after treatment. But wouldn’t you always be nervous that the honey and frames were contaminated? Think about how many times you move frames from hive to hive….  Supposedly you put the bees on all new equipment and treat them. Personally, I wouldn’t do it. I would always be wondering and I stress enough about my bees.

So I reached out to the first beekeeper and she brought me all new equipment, which I worked into one of the swarms. Since I run deeps and she uses mediums, I spent a few days thinking about how I was going to do this. I had a few ideas in mind but knew I would make the final plan once I got in there and saw what the colony was up to. I ended up cobbling together this:

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So I pulled up 2 frames of open brood (deep frames) with the queen into the medium. But there needed to be space for the bottom of the frames to project, so I grabbed a large shim (I have several) and placed that over the deep. This of course leaves open spaces under her medium frames but there’s nothing for it. Did I mention she uses 8 frames and I use 10 frames? So I had to cover the open space on the side of my deep with a piece of wood and then place another piece on top to make sure it stayed put (to the left of her blue hive body). Talk about improvising.

Once her apiary is completely cleared of the infected hives and all equipment, I will give her these bees.

The orange colony above this “donation hive” is one of my swarms that built out 10 frames in one week so I gave it another box on top. This season has seriously strained my equipment.

My overall goal is to have 3 drawn supers for each strong colony when the nectar flow starts. I can tell you that the most eager comb builders are swarms…they need the comb for the queen to lay eggs and for food storage. Once I finish extracting, I’ll take an account of all my supers and see how much more needs to be drawn out.

 

 

June 2nd update

Finally a stretch of sunny days after prolonged rainy period. Concerned about virgins being able to mate.

Noticed the pink hive (scale hive) was losing weight and dumping drones. Scooped up a bunch of dead bees on the ground in front of the hive–of the 37 dead bees, 36 were drones. They do this when they’re trying to conserve resources. This colony has swarmed 3 x and has now made itself queenless. Added a frame of eggs from the chicken coop colony. Need to check for queen cells.

 

5 frame nuc stack is filled with drone brood–virgin failed (had a lot of rainy weather) didn’t see multiple eggs per cell (except last week found a queen cell with 7 eggs in it). Maybe a drone laying queen or laying workers. Leaving hive to die off (maybe it’ll fill the frames with honey that I can extract?)

Aqua hive-Two queen stack: top colony is queenright all frames are built out so I gave them a super of foundation. There are SO MANY bees (this was the Taranov colony) that the inner cover is completely covered by bees. It’s “boiling over” as they say. Hope they work that super. Bottom colony had been given a frame of eggs last week, no queen cells but I saw eggs, FINALLY! Didn’t spot the queen, will keep an eye out.

Orange hive–they started to draw out the supers! This hive has over 80 pounds of honey in the top deep, saw eggs in the bottom deep last week, couldn’t find her.

Deep colony between orange and purple hive–at first I thought she was not doing well…boy was I wrong, found several frames of solid brood there are 4 unused forms. Will be exploding soon…

The medium orange on top of this deep—all 10 frames are worked and being filled, added super.

Purple hive working the two supers.

Chicken coop colonies: top one has laying queen, working steadily on the frames. Space is adequate. Bottom colony (Taranov parent)–working 2 mediums and all 10 deep frames are in use. The queen is MASSIVE! I’ve never seen such a big queen, she looked like one and half queens…VERY long abdomen.

Queen castle with super: removed the queen excluder from the stronger side. We’ll see if they draw it out even a little.

Cardboard nuc has a queen, all frames are drawn or being worked. No eggs, but the frames looked as if they were preparing for her to lay. Saw the queen, top of her abdomen was larger than the bottom–ovaries developing?

I’m surprised they are putting up as much as they are considering there have been 10 swarms from the 4 colonies (3 swarms each from 2 colonies). As a collective apiary, they are working on 7 supers that were just foundation–I hope these frames are at least drawn out even if they aren’t filled. Drawn comb would be fantastic. Since our nectar flow is so short, getting supers drawn out here is a top priority/struggle every year.

That’s one thing I can say for swarms…even though they drive me mad, they are extremely eager to work that wax! Hopefully their eagerness will be my benefit.

 

Swarm season

Lots of swarms this year. I’ve only ever had one swarm (helps to mark your queens so you know this!!) which I was able to hive. But this year was different.

The bees had built up quickly, did not suffer from a late cold snap that came after a warm-up, they had food (I had to supplement because you would be AMAZED how quickly they can eat 3-4 lbs of food when brood rearing has begun).

I had located all of my marked queens during a mid-April apiary inspection.

The Taranov method was used for my so-called “little” hive when I saw swarm cells. Little did I know that the other colonies were making similar plans. The issue was the weather. Since I work and really only have weekends available for inspections (and that time can be restricted to because of family activities), I try to take advantage of nice days by checking one or two colonies after work. Unfortunately, it was either rainy, windy, or cold, or some combination of that on most days I’d have time to check them. But then we would have decent mornings, less pleasant afternoons. Seemed like I couldn’t win.

But the bees still collect their food, raise brood and if they get congested they make swarm prep regardless of spring weather. Two weeks before the swarms started was the last time I was able to go into brood chambers. All of the marked queens were found, I saw a couple of queen cells in the colonies that still had  2015 blue queens, and figured they were superseding and that was fine with me.

Notes for self:

To date there have been 8 swarms, majority with virgins. Unfortunately, we had quite a bit of rain and I worry that the virgins weren’t able to mate.

Swarm dates:

April 27, April 30 (orange hive), May 1, May 4, May 8 (landed on elderberry, from pink colony based on scale–saw eggs), May 9(two swarms–one from pink again, gave to Brad), May 14 (aqua hive-gave to Larry T.)

May 14:

Checked the colonies (all but the orange one) and cut out all swarm cells. Capped queen cells were given to the new swarm colonies if no eggs were found.

Pink (scale hive)–left one capped queen cell, did not see a queen or evidence of one.

Aqua hive- Two virgins, all capped queen cells removed

Taranov swarm on top of Aqua–laying yellow queen

White hive– no eggs, added queen cell (there was a queen here before, maybe out mating?)

10-frame nuc–no eggs, added queen cell

Purple hive–had marked this queen before saw eggs–she’s no longer there (bad move on my part?) –added capped queen cell.

Chicken coop–2 queen system, each with a laying yellow queen (woo hoo!)

2 cardboard nucs– no eggs, added queen cells, threw in a virgin into the nuc closest to chicken colony.

I have 3 laying queens: in the two queen system by the chicken coop and the Taranov swarm on top of the aqua hive.

PLAN: 1. Check orange hive

              2. Recheck of colonies with no laying queens and combine as needed next weekend.

Swarm control using the Taranov board

 

Rusty, over at honeybeesuite, posted about the Taranov board a few years ago. I was fascinated by the idea and made one which has been patiently awaiting its day of glory.

I normally can control swarming by being pretty aggressive with checkerboarding and stealing brood for weaker hives or for a new nuc. But sometimes, the bees’ plans don’t match mine and they get ahead of me…

I thought I could get away with using one deep brood box and then just super over it, but when I went into the two hives with that set-up, I found the entire deep loaded with brood and almost no more room for the queen to lay. And we know what happens when that happen…swarm prep! I didn’t have anymore deep frames so I found mediums with the small cell foundation (I had these to make up nucs in case I sold any) and placed those over the deep to expand the brood nest and hopefully forestall any swarm plans they may have.

Thankfully I decided to check the hives last week only to discover the so-called “nuc” (it was a nuc last year, not anymore!) had at least 12 queen cells filled with larvae and 2 of them were close to being capped. My strategy of adding the medium apparently worked for one hive but not the other.

So, what to do? Do I split them, giving each half queen cells? Let them swarm (I knew I couldn’t do that)? By this point in their swarm preparations, there was no stopping them. My only solution was to “fake” a swarm thereby decongesting the colony. I don’t know that you can “fool” the bees into thinking a swarm occurred, but they’ll certainly recognize that there are fewer bees and the old queen is gone.

As an aside, once I started the process of using the Taranov board, the sheer number of bees in that “little” hive was truly staggering.

The idea of the Taranov method is to mimic a swarm by removing the old queen and the nurse bees that would normally accompany the swarm. Since the nurse bees have never left the hive, they don’t know how to get back to it. Also, the queen is generally too heavy to fly back to the hive. (she hasn’t stopped laying yet in anticipation of swarming). The Taranov method essentially uses these factors to separate the bees by using a short gap…yes, just a small gap. This gap is surprisingly effective as you will see. So if it works as planned, the nurse bees and queen stay put while the foragers just skip over the gap and go back to the parent hive holding the queen cells. Really, really interesting to watch.

Here’s what I did–at 5 pm after work thank you very much–with the Taranov board:

The instructions tell you to set the board such that gap between the end of the board and the hive front is 4″ but mine was more like 12″. As I didn’t have a staple gun handy to staple the sheet to the top of the board (just behind the blue rag) I decided to drape it on the grass and set the ramp on it. The sheet prevents the bees from becoming entangled in the grass.

Then each frame was taken out of the hive, shaken or brushed (upwards!!) to clear the frames of bees. The frames with queen cells were definitely brushed, not shaken, to protect the queen larvae (click on each picture).

 

Once that was done, the frames were replaced in the parent hive and it quickly began to refill with the foragers as they made their way home:

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Watch the video–so cool!

They didn’t cluster under the blue cloth as they were supposed to. I believe that was a function of the sheet being under the ramp. In general, the queen is expected to find the dark place which in this case would be under the ramp, on the blue cloth. The nurse bees then move to her to cover her. But as you can see, the queen moved down to the bottom of the ramp, where it met the ground and formed a little dark haven for her:

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This video shows the bees moving toward her at normal speed.

So far it has been about 45 minutes since I shook the bees off the frames. I’ve got the new nuc ready for them and all I have to do is pick them up and dump them in. The image with the board in the nuc is after that large clump of bees you see above has fallen from its own weight:

Now for the fun part: watching the bees move to their new home.

Marching in…freaking LOVE this.

Exposing their Nasonov glands and beating their wings to spread the scent of home telling their sisters “This is home! She’s in here!”

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The whole process took about 1.5-2 hours before I moved the nuc to its new location. I counted about 12 dead bees at the end of it. I found none on the grass, the sheet helped tremendously.

This is a great technique if you can just wait for them to sort themselves out. One thing that surprised me was their calmness. I was fully veiled but I’d say only 3 bees ever came close to my head to investigate. They were remarkably peaceful considering what I did to them. I can’t decide if doing it late in the day helped me or not. Even though I was tired from working all day and then coming home to the stress of finding swarm preparation, I think it went surprisingly smoothly. Maybe the sun getting low on the horizon was an incentive for them to finish the job.

I gave the new nuc a jar of food and a pollen patty. I plan to go into one of the hives and still a frame of honey and pollen tomorrow.

Bee week

Wow, what a week. Let’s start with the mason bees. In the last few years I had noticed that areas under my deck were being used as nesting sites. It started with the pile of unfolded blue tarp which formed creases that ended up filled with pollen pellets and eggs. These fell out when I decided to clean up the space and finally FOLDED the tarp 😦  I felt so bad as I saw those pellets of planning and hope come tumbling out.

Then there was the folded top of a bag of peat moss–(crevices are popular apparently)—and then came the wheel wells of a garbage can holding firewood permanently parked by our back door. All nesting sites used by the mason bees.

Last week, as I entered and left the back patio, I noticed chubby bee activity (mason bees are easy for me to identify because their abdomens end in a blunted shape versus a honey bee which has an elongated abdomen) by the wheels. As I bent down to look there arrived a female carrying pollen on the underside of her abdomen and disappeared into a wheel well. The nests next to her showed chewed out holes indicating the previous brood had emerged and now the current generation was obviously working on the next….a never ending cycle (I hope!)

Hmmmm…what to do? Every day there were more bees in that area and though I had set out a pile of paper straws in a can, they were completely ignoring them. Were the straws too small? I didn’t know. When I saw a female entering and exiting my SMOKER (!!!) I knew I had to do something. She was leaving the little hole at the base of the bellows and there was NO WAY I was going to let her set-up house in there.

So I found an untreated block of wood, used a drill bit that was the same size as the straws but when drilling I twirled the drill to carve out a bit more wood. I was able to keep most holes from poking through the block of wood. I then set it by the back door and waited. And waited…and waited. While the females kept investigating the cardboard boxes, the ash bin, etc., I was crossing my fingers that they would settle on the block of wood. Check it out:

See the bee butt on the left? And a little head poking out to the right? And then they filled the holes!! YAY!

But it gets better!! They started to finally use the straws:

Nesting in straws

Mason bee buzzing

Those straws have been under the deck for a long time, I even moved them over next to the wheels to try and expand the bees’ options to no avail. But once that drilled wooden block was placed in the area, it’s as if their eyes were opened to the possibilities…and the straws became worthy as well. I am very thrilled.

As to the next neat bit of bee news…I had to do some rapid swarm prevention last night. I’ll leave a tantalizing picture for the next story I need to share:

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Garden chores

In an effort to stay on top of the garden and it’s various requirements, I’ve been out over the last few weeks cleaning up and pruning before spring. I started with the blueberry patch to rejuvenate and remove old wood.

I found an excellent video on youtube produced by the University of Maine. I have read various bulletins, books, instructional sheets about how to prune blueberries but this video finally helped put it all together for me. Pruning helps to keep the bushes productive and ensures a long life for the plants and lots of berries for us 🙂

The picture on the left is of an unpruned bush, the one on the right has just been pruned (different bushes but this gives you an idea of what it should look like). Six to eight canes are left and the branches with many leaves and buds starting are the ones that have been left. Any branch that was sparsely budding was removed. I find I have to go over the bush several times to catch any branches I’ve missed. The same with weeding, going back to an area several minutes later helps me see more weeds I missed the first time around.

Ever since I implemented advice I received from an employee at Glyndon Gardens the bushes have had excellent berry production: use cottonseed meal and cover with peat moss. This is advice for our area, not sure that the same would apply everywhere. So I sprinkle cottonseed meal, then peat moss, then Leaf Gro and cover with a straw mulch. This is the only place I use peat moss in my garden as it is not considered to be a renewable resource.

The weeds have had a fieldday over the last few weeks with some of these warm days and I’ve been out weeding the various beds. It’s been really nice to go out and EXPECT to weed a huge expanse, only to realize there’s just a very small patch because of previous weeding sessions.

The maples started blooming a couple of weeks ago and on those warm days the bees were working the flowers heavily. Since the trees are so tall, I don’t have a picture of the bees, but here’s a bloom:

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I put out my lemon tree to enjoy the warmth as well and within 45 seconds, the bees had found the flowers:

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This morning, the temperature said it felt like 9 degrees, I went out to keep weeding but ended up scraping the hive equipment [best to do this when it’s cold because the bees won’t be flying–they’re always interested in anything that smells like home] and surveying the garden (making plans in my head), cleaning up the asparagus bed, laying down more cardboard to kill the weeds between the raised beds.

I’ve started using my garden notebook more solicitously to keep track of what is planted where and using sturdy metal plant labels for the same reason. The plastic tags plants are sold with or the white labels you can buy have a tendency to become brittle either from the sun or from the cold and end up broken and useless. The best thing I have done for my sanity is to buy metal plant labels. I get these and I love them. I also think taking pictures of the garden bed in question, annotating the photograph (iPhone has a program where you can add text to a picture) and printing the picture would prove to be useful. I may invest in one of those iPhone photo printers as I suspect I would use it often. I can print a picture, paste it in the book and have a reference to use over the planning season. Even better, you can take pictures during various stages of growth to get a good idea of what the bed looks like at various times and purchase or move plants as needed.

Looking forward to productive growing season. Get ready for spring!

Robbing?

As I posted before, I purchased a Broodminder scale when the indiegogo campaign was occurring this summer. My favorite part is just uploading the data to my phone, no plates or balance arm needed. It’s low profile, sleek and light.

The scale provides data showing the humidity and temperature levels. As the electronic portion of the scale is well protected, I believe the humidity level is not super accurate. However, the Broodminder folk do have an in-hive temperature and humidity sensor that one can install if one is interested.

I just have the scale and I love it. I love seeing the bees leave the colony, come back and evaporate their stores. If I choose to, I can have real time data uploaded every second or two. But I have it set to an hourly reading and I think that’s enough.

It’s not perfectly calibrated (you do that by placing a known weight on the hive and adjusting the scale factor) but it’s pretty close. I’m hoping to play with that this weekend.

Here is what the data look like:

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This is what the screen looks like. I can move the bottom chart to see any part of the green line; I can also zoom in and out–just like with my phone, by moving my fingers together or apart. The increments are 6 hours apart, so you can see the weight of the colony drop as the foragers leave and then slowly increase as they bring stores back to the colony.

You may notice that the colony has put on 10 lbs of weight a day for the past few days…I suspect robbing and now need to check my other colonies to make sure they are not the victims. I’ve watched those bees and they do not appear to be going to one of my other hives. I suspect they are robbing someone’s weak colony.

I strongly, strongly recommend getting and using a scale. I can’t wait for spring.

Broodminder Hive Scale

I’ve been on the lookout periodically for a hive scale for some time. Craigslist is the best way to locate a farm scale which tends to be the standard hive scale back yard beekeepers use. What I don’t like about the grain scales is their bulk, lack of availability, need for weight plates and your physical presence to assess the hive weight.

My dream scale was low-profile, easy to use, digital and ideally, moveable from hive to hive. Digital scales cost ~$600, which was why I hadn’t bought one. Then Rusty posted about the Broodminder-w. A digital, low-profile, crowd-funded scale which uses an app for the data. And it cost $150. Brilliant! I ordered one and anxiously waited.

It arrived last week and was installed Sunday.

So simple and unobtrusive!

The metal part (lower part of screen) is the support for the scale, the green part is a plastic piece that goes between the metal base and the scale which serves to protect the bottom of the wooden scale. There is a clear plastic cover that covers the top of the wooden scale to protect it from the elements as well.

A 2×4 is placed at the opposing end, the app is downloaded and after zeroing the scale, the scale is installed, the app picks up the scale and after a few minutes, you have a weight! Since the scale is slightly thicker than a 2×4, another one can be placed behind the scale to allow easy transfer to another hive, just a simple lever against that 2×4 allows me to pull out the scale and put it under another hive.

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The best part is that while I’m on vacation (posting from Lisbon now!) the data continues to be collected and once I get back, I can just upload the data to the app. Nobody has to weigh it for me in my absence!