Newsletter of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association
April 7, 2014, Volume XIV, Issue 4
Next Meeting: May 5, 2014
Doors Open 6:45 pm. Start 7:00 pm.
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church
3561 Foothill Boulevard
La Crescenta, CA 91214
Topic for May Meeting: TBA
Minutes from the April Meeting: Attendance: 39, 39 members, guests
CONTENTS IN BRIEF
Presentation - Two this month!
- Beekeeping 101 classes April’s class is scheduled for 4/13, 9am (May is 5/11)
- 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 at email@example.com
Bill Lewis says those who have ordered packages through him can expect them to arrive around 5pm on Tuesday. He’ll send out an email to everyone as soon as he has a precise ETA.
Hiving Package Bees: El Rey offers us some insight into what to DO with those packages once we get them (presentation done first so we can gather outside while it’s still light).
Packages come with a big can of syrup installed. The can has a hole with a mesh cover on it to allow the bees to feed without it making a mess. The package also has a queen in a cage inside, usually hung from a metal wire so you can easily find it. First, take the can of syrup out. Then find the queen’s cage and slide the wire to the hole left by the can so you can pull the queen cage out. Hang the queen cage between two frames in the new hive. Keep bees on her/the cage if you can during the transition.
The old method of transferring the bees was to turn the box over, rap it a couple of times, and dump all the bees out. This results in a lot of bees in the air, and fairly cranky bees at that. A less disruptive method is to put the package with the rest of the bees in a deep box with about 4 frames (with the queen cage sandwiched between two of them) and an in-hive feeder. If you have a spacer handy you can use that to make room for a pollen patty on top of the frames under the lid. Take the empty box out a day or two later and replace with additional frames. Pull the queen cage cork out and fill the hole with some marshmallow or fondant. Don’t let the queen out or she may fly away!
Can you clip her wings? Sure, but it’s challenging – be careful/gentle.
Restrict the entrance of the hive to about 2” until the weather gets too warm or the colony gets strong enough to defend themselves with a more open entrance.
This time of year, when there’s a nectar flow, is the time to add new foundation to be drawn out. Don’t place the new foundation in the middle of the already drawn comb, though – the colony is too small to split like that straight out of a package.
El Rey brought a variety of other containers for us to see:
1. Battery box for large orders of queens – 50 or more – keeps queens in trays within the box, with sponges on the bottom to make sure they all have access to water during their trip.
2. Individual queen cages for smaller orders – these cages are a bit bigger than those in packages so that her attendants can be included. Often mailed in padded and ventilated envelopes by overnight mail, often glued in place so it won’t rattle around
Requeening an existing hive: Kill the old queen (if needed). Give them a day or four (depending on how irritable the hive is) before putting in the new queen. Cut out any emergency supercedure cells you find. Press the new queen’s cage into the comb (wire sides open to the bee space between frames) for 2-3 days. Pull the cork and leave the hive alone for a week Bill says he marks his box when he requeens and doesn’t touch it for 10 days.
El Rey also brought us an example of wax moth infested combs so we know what we’re looking for. Typically, you can cut the ugly bits off and let the bees clean the rest. Brood comb is more attractive to moth larvae than honey or virgin comb. Best defense is a strong colony that can keep the moths out, freezer storage of unused boxes/frames, or air-tight packed stacks of boxes/frames with some moth crystals (PDB).
Feeders & Things: Klaus Koepfli offers us some DIY suggestions around the apiary:
Hive-top feeders – get a food grade 1-2 gallon bucket (LA Honey, Mann Lake, etc. carry them). Place either a small hole in the lid or a large hole designed to fit a mesh screen, and seal the bucket full of syrup well. Invert the bucket over a hive lid with a hole in it to give the bees access. (You could also invert over the top frames in a hive and put an extra empty box around the bucket, but that eliminates the convenience of not having to open the hive to feed.) Keep the bucket weighted down in areas with high wind or they’ll blow away as the syrup level drops. If the seal is not sealing well, remove and clean it.
Wasp traps – take a plastic bottle (1 or 2 liter), cut the top off near where it reaches full diameter. Fill the bottom with protein – tuna fish, cat food, etc. Invert the top of the bottle inside the bottom portion. Hang with a piece of wire that goes through both layers of plastic bottle on both sides. The wasps will go down the top of the bottle to get at the protein, but won’t know how to get back out. When full of wasps, simply throw the full trap away and make another one – they’re cheap enough don’t bother trying to clean them out.
A quick word about mites – the only apiary where Klaus has found mites is the one adjacent to where he knows another beekeeper is keeping their bees “organically/naturally”. Klaus is tired of irresponsible beekeepers and their infestations. Take care of your pests!!!
- Organization Management Software.
The influx of new members is reaching the overwhelming point from an administration standpoint. We now have over 400 members in 235 households representing 245 emails. In order to make sure everyone receives a good level of service and I don’t burn out completely, I’ve been looking into the possibility of Organization Management Software to make my job easier and your experience more reliable. I’ve looped Eva in on this project because most of the software providers include web interface options in their packages.
I have researched several companies based on recommendations from friends and internet searches:
- Wild Apricot came highly recommended, but I quickly discovered they can’t accommodate a household membership structure like ours, and charge based on how many email addresses you have in your contact list ($50/mo for 500 emails).
- Memberclicks is a frequently mentioned provider, but their costs were very high.
- Membee seems to suit our needs best and coincidentally uses bees/hives/comb in all their marketing. I swear I didn’t select it based on that! Costs would be $55/mo/admin, they provide household membership structure capabilities, and allow for infinite number of email addresses in contact lists
Any system we employ would require contracting a payment processor if we want to allow collection of dues online. The top two options available were:
- Paypal - $0.30 + 2.9%/transaction => $0.59/membership paid as you go (the economic choice)
- Authorize.net - $99 setup fee, $20/mo service charge, 2.3%/transaction => breaks even at 80 memberships/month
If such a system were to be implemented all current service would remain intact, we’d only be ADDING options for those who prefer them. I will still mail hard copies to people who prefer them, I will still accept membership forms and dues by hand or mail, I will still print a membership directory if the membership wants a hard copy version. But the software could give you an option to sign up online, make it easier for me to provide reminder emails when it’s time to renew your memberships, let us set up events with RSVPs so Bill/Clyde have a clue how many people to expect, let you edit your own profile information and control what is viewable to others, set up business profiles for your companies in an online directory, keep records of your membership and payment history, etc. Eva and I spent 2 hours on the phone/online with a sales rep exploring the capabilities and it would be easy for her to implement these changes in our existing website.
There was a motion to initiate use of Membee and Paypal as recommended. Discussion ensued. I was so busy answering questions I wasn’t taking notes. Most questions were answered fairly easily and the answers found acceptable by the members. The one question I couldn’t answer definitively was “What happens to our data if the club terminates our account?” Based on the uncertainty on this issue, there was a motion to table the discussion until May’s meeting. The motion to table passed 21-18. It will be discussed as Old Business at the May meeting.
Questions from the Floor
- I have holes in the tops of my frames, about 3/8” deep, at an angle, about the thickness of a pencil lead. The phenomenon is happening in 2 out of 3 hives, brood boxes only. What could be causing it?
Powder post beetles, carpenter ants, possibly just poor quality wood with hole from the factory that had been plugged with sawdust later cleaned out by the bees…
Try swapping frames out and see if the holes appear in new frames.
- My bees are building out comb only on one side of the hive. Should I move them?
Naw, they’ll fill in when they need the space.
- There are a bunch of drones at the entrance to my hive – why?
Jim Lindsay – it’s a “man hater” hive!
El Rey Ensch – that’s a weird and mysterious situation this early in spring
Gregg Floor – they might be mite-damaged drones
Dave Williams – they could be getting sprayed while out looking for queens.
- I’ve seen 8 swarms in two weeks - why?
The hives must have empty space IN the brood nest, not on top of their honey stores – make sure they’re not “honey bound”.
If you didn’t see your own hives swarm they may be outsiders looking to take over because they smell your colonies.
- The colony is in a two box hive and staying only in the top – why aren’t they moving into the bottom?
Bees like to move up – simply swap the boxes and they’ll use both.
- If the hive swarms, how soon does the new queen mate/lay?
A new queen can take 3-4 days to emerge, up to a week to kill rivals and mature, weather can delay breeding – it can take anywhere from a week to several weeks before a new queen starts laying.
- How does a queen know/decide how many drones to lay?
If she has drone frames available she’ll fill them.
There are seasonal influences that will affect how many she lays.
This month I totally missed a batch of cookies and a travel entrance screen that had been left for the raffle. Replacement cookies and the entrance screen will be raffled at May’s meeting. – Ed.
Wine/Dishtowel – Bill Rathfelder
“Vanishing of the Bees” movie – went to a newbie in the audience
custom painted Teapot/Cup– Robin Finkelstein
Jewelry box – Mandy Abbot
- AGdayLA – Mary Landau is looking for volunteers
Wed & Th May 14 & 15, 8:30am – 1:30 pm, lunch included
Big Red Barn, Los Angeles County Fairgrounds
Help give 10 presentations/day, about 7 minutes long, to 3rd and 4th graders, about 18-40 at a time. Share examples of equipment/suit, discuss how to act around bees, discuss why we need bees, etc.
- Almonds – there were plenty of bees because so many almond growers have pulled up trees. There was good weather and good nut set. But there were unexpected bee losses. Something (it’s unclear what) affected about half of Bill’s bees. Colonies in almonds usually double in size, but this year many declined, especially near the end of the season. There was a lot of alfalfa spraying this season which might have affected them. There are always fungicides, which usually aren’t a major problem, but there may have been an unfortunate tank mixing of incompatible compounds.
There was a meeting with the EPA because of the large number of complaints from beekeepers this season. One of the big problems is that labeling on chemicals is often inadequate. The pest control managers on farms – we need to talk with them about their recommendations to growers. There is a meeting scheduled that beekeepers will attend.
There was a lot of theft this season as well – few have been found. Some thieves were taking the time to swap full frames for foundation rather than taking full boxes.
- Jim Lindsay met with the mayor of Los Angeles about the legalization issue. They discussed the importance of designing legislation to encourage “safe” hives rather than wild colonies. The mayor wants to meet again, and Jim will keep us posted on progress.
- Mann Lake has had significant price changes since their January catalog was issued – be aware
- El Rey wants to point out that while our Q&A sessions are good, the Bee Culture and American Bee Journal publications are both also worth reading to get even more of these questions answered.