Apis Newsletter, December 11, 2010 EZezine

Dear Subscribers,

We are the recipients of some cold weather at the moment in Gainesville, Florida with almost record lows in the low twenties (degrees F).  The temperature fell to 22 degrees early Wednesday morning. The old record for this date in Gainesville was 24 degrees, a record set in 1959, according to the National Weather Service. Now, you can expect more opportunities to set cold weather records over the next week or two.

According to the Weather Service, North Florida will continue to have hard freezes — except for Saturday night — for more than a week. Mostly cloudy skies and a 20 to 40 percent chance of rain will keep temperatures above freezing early Saturday. Then another cold front will descend on the region, bringing more freezing overnight lows. Fortunately, we are due for a warmup before the next cold front. We still remain in a prolonged dry spell due to a strong La Niña event.

The bees will hopefully be hunkered down for a "long winter's nap," and have enough food. Beekeepers need to also bee  sure that there is plenty of upward ventilation  in colonies so that warm, moisture-filled air is not trapped inside the colony, which might condense causing harm.

The Florida Honey Bee Technical Council met today and will be looking at surveying beekeepers about their concerns  with reference to beekeeping regulations.  There has been a spate of local government action to make beekeeping illegal in residential and even some agricultural areas. This will become more and more relevant as the Africanized honey bee continues to be found in south Florida and also now in south Georgia, although officials say this does not mean its established in the Peach State.

Another issue was to insert language into Florida statutes making beekeeping a part of farming and thus eligible as  part of agricultural law. There have been some examples of  confusion on the part of agricultural law enforcement as to what their role might  be when it comes to theft and other issues.  Turns out bees are left out by a kind of exclusionary principle; if your not mentioned in the law, you don't exist.

Finally, Dr. Jamie Ellis, IFAS, Unversity of Florida discussed the wide-ranging activities his lab is involved in.  The list is extensive and one can get a sense of it by visiting his Honey Bee Research and Extension Lab  Other things on this  site include the annual bee college and a listing of relevant publications put out through IFAS' Electronic Data Information Source (EDIS).

North American Beekeeping Conference and Trade Show:  Bee sure to check out this mega event scheduled January 4-8, 2011 in Galveston, Texas.  Both National Associations will be meeting together. Whether this marks the beginning of a trend is unknown.  A worrying sign is that The American Beekeeping Federation has its banquet on a different night that the American Honey Producers Association.  These outfits can't even share a common meal night, much  less political agenda.

This convention will also feature the roll out of the True Source Honey Initiative , a Certified True Source Honey Traceability Program designed to certify the origin, food safety and purity of the honey being distributed and consumed within North America.

Fumagillin Study: My first article in American Bee Journal covering the activities of Bee Alert Technology, inc. is published in the December, 2010 issue. I mention a visit to Dr. Robert Cramer in Bozeman, MT who is currently looking at  the use of fumagillin in Nosema control.  One of the things we discussed was the  quantity and quality of fumagillin in commercial products.  Over the years, several branded products have been sold, including Fumidil B, Fumagillin B, Nosem-X and perhaps others.  Dr. Cramer would like to look at these to determine their general characteristics.  

I discussed with him putting out the message asking for samples from beekeepers that might have some laying around unused and perhaps still functional.  He  says the sample size could be quite small, One (1) gram of the material would be sufficient, though more is always better.  Ideally he'd like to see at least five (5) representative samples of different aged products with distinct brand names. Essentially the question he'd be asking is how pure is the fumagillin in these products and what conclusions such an investigation might lead to. Please send samples in a leak proof container along with brand name and approximate age directly to: ATTN: Dr. Robert Cramer, 960 Technology Blvd., Bozeman, MT 59718. See: more at Robert Cramer Jr, Ph.D.

Winter Losses in Canada. The Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists (CAPA) has recently reported on winter losses. "Over the winter of 2009-10, losses in Canadian beekeeping were twenty-one percent of the number of colonies that were wintered. Though this represents 1.4x the long-term winter loss rate for Canada, this is a substantial improvement over the previous three-year period during which losses averaged 32.6%."

This report is put out in conjunction with a discussion of losses in the U.S. The colony collapse disorder (CCD) situation in Canada is different than the U.S. "The symptoms by which CCD is being characterized in the U.S. have not been routinely diagnosed by professional apiculturists in Canada. Though Canadian bees do not seem to be experiencing classic CCD-like symptoms, it is important to emphasize than higher levels of wintering and spring mortality in Canada may be related to the same casual factors as CCD losses in the U.S. Because longer winter conditions preclude the active brooding and flying of colonies found in early-season pollination areas of the U.S., colonies in Canada may not exhibit similar colony-level symptoms. Instead, it is conceivable that Canadian producers may simply see these effects as higher numbers of dead colonies following winter or those described as dwindling during early spring."

A few words about CAPA are in order. I was privileged to recently room in Turkey at the Second Pine Honey Congress  with one of the organization's most eminent members, Doug McRory, now retired as Ontario's Provincial Apiarist.  Doug is both an ex-commercial beekeeper in Manitoba and a regulator (educator) and has a lot of experience and institutional memory.  He was involved in the transformation of CAPA from an institution dominated by commercial beekeepers to one of professional regulators, researchers and educators in 1969.

Doug was also a guiding light in developing one of Canada's premier organizations, the Ontario Beekeepers Association, which has a host of programs.  Perhaps most recognized is that emphasizing technical transfer, resulting in a robust queen breeding program.  Started in the 1990s by Medhat Nasr, now Alberta Provincial Apiarist, this program to breed tracheal-mite resistant bees has now branched into other areas;

According to the web site, "The OBA Tech-Transfer Program is unique because it operates directly for the beekeepers of Ontario, focusing on issues which are of importance to them. Base funding is received from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The beekeepers also donate funds for research, however; additional funding is sought from agencies such as the Agricultural Adaptation Council. The focus is Integrated Pest Management. A large component of this is the breeding program. Tech-Transfer works individually with the bee breeders to assist them with their stock selection. They also test a variety of treatments for the control of Varroa mites. The goal is to be pro-active and to limit the number of treatments that must be applied to the bee hive each year."

Doug has many tales to tell about Canadian beekeeping from the history of the University of Guelph bee program to development of the Alberta honey bee.  He was also personally embroiled in many recent events, including introduction of Varroa (still not in all parts of Canada) and small hive beetle, Aethina tumida.  Let's hope he will write his experiences  one day giving us details of the rich history of Canadian beekeeping.

Microflora and honey bees: There's a discussion brewing about probiotics in human health   The same is true for honey bees it seems.  We can expect to see a lot of information on this topic in the future. For a peak, one can see the research of Diana Sammataro now at the U.S.D.A. Tucson laboratory.

Nature or Nurture: That's what Editor Flottum entitled his posting to Catch the Buzz   Authored by Alan Harman, "The research reveals for the first time the intricacies of the environmentally influenced chemical marking of DNA called DNA methylation, which has the capacity to alter gene expression without affecting the genetic code – a process referred to as ‘epigenetic’, or "above the genome." Read more about this area in an article I published in 2008 in Bee Culture.

Add another study to those so far finding no influence of cell size on Varroa mite populations:  "To ensure high varroa infestation levels, all colonies were infested with mites from a host colony prior to commencement. A total of 2229 sealed cells were opened and the varroa mite families recorded. While small-sized cells were more likely to be infested than the standard cells, mite intensity and abundance were similar in both cell sizes. Consequently, there is no evidence that small-cell foundation would help to contain the growth of the mite population in honeybee colonies and hence its use as a control method would not be proposed."

I mention this concept in my new book.  At the moment, there continues to be little experimental evidence for the small-cell thesis. Time will tell.

Check out the current links of interest, including a summary of what we know about CCD and Tom Seeley's take on what we might learn from bees.  These are also linked to my blog and the Apis Information Resource Center.


Gleanings from the December 2010 edition of Bee Culture:

Remember that Bee Culture continues to be available in a digital edition:

Dick Crawford, NY, writes about staying cool by wetting his clothing; bees don't sting through wet cloth as much.  David Birskovich, Niles, OH relates a typical horror story that converted him into a new beekeeper.  An "Old Beekeeper" from  the United Kingdom describes his observations on honey bees looking for locations to new nests prior to swarming.  Jerald Osier, Story City, IA provides an interesting list of smoker fuel he's used over the  years and confesses  he might have scorched a few wings with some. His mantra; keep  the smoke cool!

New publications this season include, Bee Conservation: The Evidence for the effects of interventions, David Heaf's The Friendly Beekeeper.  A Sustainable Approach and a book by Norman Gary, the bee wrangler  , entitled Honey Bee Hobbyist. Those of you not familiar with Dr. Gary are urged to see his other activities.  Two honey recipe books also round  out the list, Old Favorite  Honey Recipes (revised and updated) and Honey, I'm Homemade by Mae Berenbaum, who is another life is Swanlund Professor of Entomology at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champagne .

Editor Flottum looks at the recent interest in folks wondering where their food is coming from coupled with an increased activity in beekeeping.  He segues to bee removal as an enterprise. Bee Culture in fact is publishing a book on the topic by Cindy Bee and Bill Owens. He says more and more beekeepers might mean more and more swarms next season, a good opportunity to look into. 

Clarence Collison and Audey Sheridan take a closer look at pollen foraging.  Read about the factors influencing this important behavior.

"Dear Larry" letters concerning local queens and local nucs allow Dr. Connor to wax on a favorite subject, rearing local queens. He sees a big market opening up for these queens in the future, meaning more producers on the horizon.  Hmm! maybe somebody will get a burr under their saddle and do something about a bee breeders association.

Jim Agsten provides tips on caring for a dead out. Read his tips on this depressing topic.

Read Mat Redman's speech given at the dedication of the the Langstroth Birthplace Marker in Philadelphia.  Also see who has contributed to readers' knowledge of the man who revolutionized beekeeping  on his 200th birthday.

Jim Tew writes that everything changes. Certainly the case with the report last month of the Ohio State University bee storage facility, hit by a tornado. Read how this event stirred a reflection on change in the modern day triadic beekeeping industry.

This month rolls out Volume 2 of Science of Bee Culture.  Articles discuss genetic variability in Russian bees, thymol in sucrose dust to control Varroa, examing oxalic acid as a Varroa control and its effect on queens and analysis of bacterial pathogens in Virginia honeys.

Ross Conrad asks if we should have a relationship with our bees. It's time to fundamentally change this he believes. Read his ideas on this and how they will also carry through to the rest of our activities.  In a sense this might be a call to be more meditative and intentional while interacting with the bees.

Marina Marchese describes the tastes of honey week  (settimana del miele) in the town of Montalcino (Tuscany) Italy. Read about the climax of the week and why she's organizing a trip there next September e-mail: redbeehoney@gmail.com

Cindy Hodges reviews Georgia's Beekeeping institute at Young Harris College and the Associated Master Beekeeper Program.  This is the harbinger to Florida's  Bee College and similar master beekeeper program.

Joe Traynor cries "Let the games begin." the official beginning of Almond Pollination 2011.  Read about this "high stakes poker game" in the beekeeping world and what it means.

Ann Harman writes a letter to Santa about what she wants for her beekeeping Christmas.  No mention of reindeer, but her smoker is really old.

Neil Shelton advises getting the right truck to haul bees.  Read about buying a tool not a toy and why a standard transmission is a must, assuming you can use one in these days and times. 

Comb though this year's index of the magazine and then all the news that fits, including honey production in Vietnam and the BBK's relationship with Bayer (no not aspirin).

Finally, Ed Colby in the bottom board explores using "senior discounts" on a sliding scale; he is clearly profiling folks at the farmers market. He concludes that advice he gave previously about not raising his honey prices during a recession didn't pan out.  He violated the rule this season,  sold less honey, but made the same income, even with senior discounts.


Malcolm T. Sanford

Bee sure to subscribe to Catch the Buzz, Bee Culture's latest releases of importance to beekeepers.  Also access the Apis Information Resource Center , which contains archived articles, listing of  posts on blogs, web sites, and links to related materials.  .