Archive | February 2013

AgriNews: Honeybees and Agriculture

My friend, Wendy, sent me this great article from AgriNews this weekend about honeybees and their importance to agriculture.  It’s a good reminder about we have to protect the honeybees and get more people interested in beekeeping.

Here is the link to article online.

Honeybees and agriculture must co-exist, entomologist explains

INDIANAPOLIS — Honeybees and agriculture can coexist, explained an experienced beekeeper, entomologist and manager of the Bayer Bee Care Center.

Or rather, he stressed, they must.

“I’ve been a beekeeper a long time — crop protection and apiculture overlap,” said Richard Rogers at the Corn Belt Seed Conference. “Healthy honeybees are better pollinators, and efficient and effective pollination means more effective fertilization.”

He said it is very clear there is a honeybee health problem emerging from a variety of factors. He mentioned Colony Collapse Disorder, the name given to the sudden reduction in bees leading to the collapse of their colony.

Rogers said growers, scientists, seed companies and people involved in agriculture must look for multiple causes of CCD.

“In 2006, we began observing a specific set of symptoms that became known as CCD,” he said. “Colonies do collapse, and CCD is credited for many bee deaths, but CCD does not cause all the bee deaths.”

While honeybees themselves are not at risk of becoming extinct, commercial beekeepers are, Rogers warned.

Beekeepers, like other farmers, are pushing to survive in a tough economy that limits them from expanding their operation, he added.

Varroa mites and tracheal mites continue to plague commercial beehives and contribute to bee deaths, and entomologists are planning and monitoring for the incidence of the Tropilaelaps mite in bee populations, as well, Rogers said.

Last April, entomologists at Purdue University revealed the results of studies showing that the neonicotinoid insecticides used in popular seed coatings were present in the dead bodies of bees and that seed treatments that remain in the soil from one planting season to the next may be causing bee kills.

With planting season just around the corner, beekeepers and commercial crop growers likely are wondering what this year will bring in terms of planting conditions and crop protection products and strategies from Bayer.

Rogers said an integrated bee management plan is needed, similar to an integrated pest management plan. This option would include monitoring, management and control. “Beekeepers are at the mercy of the landowners, so one good thing growers can do is provide forage, access and security for honeybees to survive,” Rogers said.

Following the launch of its Bayer Bee Care Program last February, Bayer CropScience has established Bayer Bee Care Centers — one in Germany and another in North Carolina, the second of which will open this year, he said.

Scientists at the bee care centers will study management techniques for breaking the life cycle of the Varroa mite, Rogers said.

The Bayer Bee Care Center in Monheim, Germany, will have a full-time team of specialists, including two experienced beekeepers.

Additional activities will be rolled out by the Bayer Bee Care Program, which includes educational projects and bee health promotion schemes, including the planting of flowers and natural habitat essential for bees to thrive.

Rogers said integrated bee management will take good education, for one.

“There is no point in putting bees where nothing is growing,” he said. “Integration will take a while.”

“This will be a difficult year for beekeepers to recover from bee losses,” he added.

“I’ve seen bee kills from pesticides. We prefer that growers use seed treatments rather than foliar sprays since foliar sprays present a much higher level of chemical drift.”

The bee management strategy will include taking a hard look at the Varroa mite as an efficient vector of viruses and a harmful pest in the beekeeping industry, Rogers noted.

Beekeepers, like grain and specialty crop producers, also are aging, and a younger generation of beekeepers is needed to bring new perspectives to the industry, he said.

He also recommended that growers provide good forage and habitat for bees, citing the Xerces Society as a source of information for bee-friendly plants and seed mixes.

Beekeeping Association Meeting

The Iredell County Beekeepers Association monthly meeting was last night.  When Matt and I attended the New Beekeepers school last month, our fee for school also paid for our annual dues to the association.  It was the second meeting that we have attended and I am really glad that we went.

There was a record crowd (or so we were told) last night.  I overheard someone say that 73 people showed up.  I can confirm that it was SRO (that’s “Standing Room Only”) and that it was very, very warm.  We were sitting on top of each other with little elbow room.

I am going to take personal credit for the upsurge in popularity of beekeeping in Iredell County, NC.  I’m blogging about it (we’ll ignore my very limited audience), I’ve posted the awesome picture of me in my beekeeping suit on social network sites, and I talk about it to lots of people.  I mean, is really coincidence that so many people are getting into beekeeping just as I am getting into beekeeping?

Uh….yea.  Just a coincidence.  I’m 99.99% sure.

Matt and I are still waiting to get our bees, so we’re not actively working in any hives.  In fact, I feel like I’ve already forgotten a lot of the things we learned in Bee School.  Last night, one of the experienced beekeepers went over how to install a package of bees, giving tips and things to avoid.  He also showed a video that he found on YouTube (below):

Matt and I got tickled during this because it seemed like the speaker showed this video as more of a “what not to do” rather than a “what to do”.  Almost every time the guy in the video said, “And then you should do x, y, z”, you could hear all the beekeepers in the room start to murmur, “Oh, no, I would never do it that way.”  “That’s crazy.  You should never do that.”

One thing that Matt and I have already learned about keeping bees — everyone has an opinion on how to handle a situation.  And everyone has told us to find the way that works for us and use it.

The way to install a package that made the most sense to us was to take out 5 frames from one side of the hive, spray the bees in the package with sugar-water, remove the sugar-water and the queen cage from the package box, hang the queen cage between two of the remaining frames in the hive, shake a couple of handfuls of bees on top of the frames with the queen, then set the entire package box into the hive where the five frames were removed.  Leave alone for 7 days, come back and remove the box and replace the frames.

Now, Matt and I wish that we had bought at least one package to try this out, but we are starting our brand new colonies with nucs.  And with at least one of the nucs, we’ll take a hive box to the seller and he’ll install the five frames of brood, honey, pollen, and bees into the box and all we have to do is bring home the hive box and put in 4 more frames (we’re going to do 9 frames in a 10 frame hive).  So, for at least one nuc, we don’t even have to do the install.  😦

The veteran beekeepers also shared tips on splitting hives.  That was interesting, as well, but not as relevant to us at this stage.

The association has talked about creating a mentor program for newbies, especially to help them through the first couple of years.  I would LOVE it this would get up and running.  Several beekeepers offered to let us work with them when they were tending their hives.  Hope we get the chance.  I can’t wait to have my first bee on my finger!

Dreamzzzzz

I dreamed about bees last night.  I was at a place, like a resort, where everything was in bloom.  The drive to the resort was covered by a huge arbor that was in full bloom and bees were buzzing everywhere.  They were like a giant cloud.  While most people were driving under the arbor, safely in their cars, I walked down the drive, amidst the millions of bees and none of them stung me.

I dream I can fly in a lot of my dreams.  In this one, I dreamed I was flying with the bees.  Before you ask, NO, I didn’t have pollen sacks on my legs and I wasn’t doing any waggle dances.  I didn’t dream I WAS a bee.  I just dreamed that I was flying with bees.  Shut up, haters.  I’ll be going for therapy soon.