Newsletter of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association
April 1, 2013 Volume XIII, Issue 4
Next Meeting: May 6, 2013 Doors Open 7:00 pm. Start 7:30
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA 91214
Topic for April Meeting: Kodua’s Israel trip – including bees!
Minutes from the May Meeting: Attendance: 60, 54 members, 6 guests
Contents in Brief:
Selecting equipment - El Rey Ensch
- Beekeeping 101 classes 3rd Sunday of the month 9am-noon at Bill’s yard. Suits required.
- Bee questions – if you have one, write it on a card at the back of the room when you get to meeting, and we’ll do our best to answer them all during our meeting.
- American Bee Journal –subscription discount – grab a voucher from Stacy or contact them at 1-888-922-1293 and tell them you’re a LACBA member to get 25% off
- Bee Culture subscription discounts – simply contact them at 1-800-289-7668 and let them know you’re a LACBA member to get a discounted subscription
- Buzzings – if you’re not getting a copy, let Stacy McKenna know (firstname.lastname@example.org) so we can update your information
- Don’t forget to grab your nametag and keep it in your glove compartment or such so you have it handy for meetings.
- If you want to be listed on our website for honey sales or bee removals, contact Eva Andrews email@example.com
- AGdayLA – From 8:30-1:30 (lunch included) on Thursday May 16 at the Pomona Fairplex Big Red Barn – help teach 3rd and 4th graders about agriculture and its importance in our daily lives, from food to textiles. If you’re interested in helping out, please contact Karl Walker or Mary Landau.
- Mentor/beekeeping buddy wanted – Greg Trahkman is looking for a mentor or beekeeping buddy in the West Hollywood area. He’s fluent in Russian, Romanian and English.
- Bee awareness/music Kickstarter project - Kristin Center is a pianist, vocalist, and composer, as well as being a docent for the Natural Resources Defense Council. She is looking to further awareness of the issue of CCD and the importance of bees through her music, and brought a copy of her Kickstarter video for our comments and feedback. She’s looking to raise about $4K to help pay for a new laptop for music editing, and will be distributing the music primarily electronically. You can see the video at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MBA1vgkB5kM
Questions from the Floor:
- How do I strengthen a weak hive?
If you have access to one or more strong hive, share frames of brood/nurse bees with the weak colony (don’t accidentally transfer the queen!). Share one frame from each strong hive. If you don’t’ have any other hives, check your queen – replace her if needed, otherwise… pray. Queen cells are a good indicator of a weak queen.
- Mites – can you treat right now without affecting the honey?
Powdered sugar is labor intensive but won’t adversely affect the honey and can help some against mites.
Mite Away Quick Strips can be used, but the formic acid can leave an aftertaste. To avoid that, you can remove honey supers, treat the hive, remove the treatment, and then replace the supers. Be sure to keep the supers safe from ants/wax moth/etc. while treating the hive. Placing them on other hives not being treated can be an easy way to do that.
Alternatively, wait until after the honey flow to treat for mites.
- What do you do when they build across frames?
Cut the combs out, align any surviving comb properly in the frames, replace for later, and hope they follow the new alignment. Curvy comb is tougher than straight comb. Try using foundation in the future to encourage proper alignment. If it’s just in the honey supers, you can cut it all out and crush to harvest if you want.
- How do you split a hive?
It’s highly recommended that you buy a new queen (breeding your own locally can result in Africanized behaviors like increased aggression), split the frames of the strong hive between two boxes, and place the new queen in the box that doesn’t have a queen (leave her in her cage for a few days so they can get used to her).
- Mites – is there any effective treatment that doesn’t use chemicals? What attracts mites?
Nothing, chemical or otherwise, is universally effective. And BEES attract mites – the mites depend on bee brood for their reproduction.
- I have a new hive – should I be feeding it?
This time of year there should be plenty of local forage for your bees, so you don’t need to be feeding.
- Feeder options?
Frame feeders are often considered the best (they’re also great as a watering station), even if getting into the hive sounds like more work.
Bucket feeders easily result in getting syrup everywhere, tend to attract ants, and encourage more robbing.
Porch feeders with syrup jars – they attract ants and can leak or attract robbing. You can put them inside a spare deep on top of the hive to alleviate the drawbacks.
Water sources – bees will often home in on a more distant source, so make sure any nearby source is reliably full and clean to encourage them to not harass the neighbors.
- Bees purchased from Bill – do they need a hive top feeder/feeding?
There should be plenty of worker bees in the colony to be doing their own foraging this time of year.
- Is it better to order a new queen? Why?
For safety, it’s better to get guaranteed genetics rather than risking Africanization with a locally bred queen.
- What size will box/bees be from Bill’s? Do we need to be ready with more deeps/supers??
A nuc from Bill will have 5 deep or 6 medium frames of brood/bees. Spare boxes are always good – buy what you feel like lifting (a full deep is about 80 lbs, a full medium about 50 lb.)
- How can you sanitize bee equipment after storage?
Fire. No, really, fire. Take a blowtorch to the woodenware (NOT the comb!!!) to scorch it, because foulbrood can spore and last seemingly FOREVER. Most beekeepers will scorch boxes only, and just buy new frames. Take old frames, seal in trash bags taped shut, and send them to the nearest landfill.
- How do you maintain hives at a specified size?
That’s not how bees work. They naturally will increase in number/colony size every spring, and reduce in size every winter. If you wanted, you could give away frames of bees to fellow beekeepers who needed help with weak colonies. You could also cage your queen for a while to interrupt the production of workers, thereby limiting colony size.
- When do you put an excluder on a hive?
When you know there’s a honey flow, and before you put on the honey supers. Bill uses them to force his bees to make comb honey – but only on strong colonies. Clyde and Klaus don’t like them – they often are called “honey excluders” because bees will sometimes fill in the excluders cutting off all access to the supers.
- Robbed frames – how do you clean for re-use?
If there’s no disease and the wax was reasonably fresh, just put them back on the hive and the bees will fix them up.
Selecting Equipment – El Rey Ensch
There are often questions about the nails required for assembling woodenware – El Rey often finds 7 penny (aka 7d or 2-1/4”) or 8 penny (8d or 2-1/2”) electrogalvanized work best. The electrogalvanizing leaves a smooth surface. You want a “box” nail (narrower, for fine woodworking), not a “common” nail. Pro tip – blunt the tip of the nail so it crushed the wood fibers as it’s driven – this will help prevent splitting.
If you’re going to nail your bottom board to your brood box, nail it on good and strong. There’s nothing more disconcerting than picking up a hive and having the bottom drop off.
Frame lifters – they’re just one more thing to buy and then juggle while you’re out in the apiary. They cost about $15, and once you’ve got propolis and wax on your frames, you might as well just use your hive tool because they’ll be too stuck for a lifter to manage.
El Rey recommends keeping two of them on hand so you can use them to help clean each other off, and always have one if the other gets lost. You can use them to lever frames free of wax and propolis. The Maxant hook helps pull them out, or the blade of the Kelley levered on the extreme end will help pop frames out.
Scraping propolis off your woodenware is a big task – sun warming often helps (though try not to get it hot enough to melt any comb/wax). A hairdryer on high or a heat gun can also be useful is there’s no comb to worry about.
Keep your hive tool well sharpened so it works effectively. A basic whetstone is completely adequate, or you can take it to any blade sharpener like you would your knives/scissors.
Keep your frame rest area well cleaned when you can to make moving frames easier.
Beekeeper’s toolkit – use a box, toolbox, bucket, whatever is most convenient. It MUST include duct tape! Other recommended items are a flashlight, sting swabs, Benadryl, a spare veil, extra hive tool(s), smoker fuel, etc.
Smokers – the itty bitty tiny ones burn out way too fast – you spend all your time feeding them. They come with or without a wire guard, with the guard being slightly more expensive. Most beekeepers highly recommend WITH to help protect you from burns. It even allows you to hold a smoker between your legs to free up both hands. A ¾” bolt in the nozzle will help close off the draft/chimney effect, essentially putting out your smoker fire. Laying it on its side can also work in a pinch. Or, an empty/spent 12 gauge shotgun hull is the right size, too.
Smoker fuel – people use everything from burlap to dried leaves, bark, pine needles, wood shavings… Hive scrapings are a mix of wax and proplis, and wrapping them in a chunk of heavy paper/burlap/etc. place ON TOP of the fire can result in a good, long lasting smoker fuel source. There’s a good page over at southcreekapiaries.com about how to light your smoker. Don’t use manure – it can introduce nosema or bacteria into the hive (including e coli). Always pump your bellows before addressing the hive to check for flames – you don’t want to burn your bees’ wings off.