Newsletter of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association
February 6, 2012 Volume XII, Issue 2
Next Meeting: March 5, 2012, 7:00 pm
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA 91214
Topic for March Meeting:
Beekeeping 101 – building woodenware
Minutes from the February Meeting: Attendance: 69, 65 members, 4 guest
Contents in Brief:
Ariel Verayo, County Apiary Inspector – zombie flies
Beekeeping 101 classes
- Beekeeping 101 classes are scheduled 9am first Sunday of the month from April-October (except September) at Bill’s yard located at 12640 N Little Tujunga Road, Lake View Terrace – free for members
- American Bee Journal –subscription discount – grab a voucher from Stacy contact them at 1-888-922-1293 and tell them you’re a LACBA member to get a 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.
Ariel Verayo – Zombie flies – First, thank you for letting me speak here today. As a county employee, I am YOUR employee, I’m here to help YOU. My department and the state Food and Agriculture department thank you for what you do for the state, and greatly appreciate the work your bees do. Our legislature passed the California Apiary Protection Act because your bees are important to us – they are the only insect who makes food for humans. In fact, aside from honey, they are responsible for pollinating $15 billion worth of crops statewide.
Sadly, from 2006 to 2008, beekeepers nationwide saw a 30% decrease in colony numbers annually. Now we’re hearing about a parasitic fly that might be connected to those losses. There have been no confirmed infestations in Southern California, but there have been confirmed cases in Central and Northern California. The fly is native, and its usual host is the bumble bee. Unfortunately, low bumble bee populations mean the fly has adapted itself to the apis mellifera. The fly inserts its egg into the bee abdomen, the larvae produces disorientation in the bee (night flights, etc.), and the pupae emerges from the neck of the bee. All of this eventually results in the death of the bee.
So far they’re not sure how far the parasitic fly has spread. Just a few weeks ago loads of bees from Montana were inspected and showed no signs of infestation, so they know of no infestation there. They will continue to inspect specifically for this fly at border crossings to try and prevent the spread of the parasite.
Is there any way to sterilize the fly? Possibly, they’re currently working on finding solutions.
How infectious are they to nearby hives There is no evidence of the flies nearby infected colonies, so it appears the bees pick up the parasite while foraging.
How big is it? Tiny, very hard to see, about 1/3 or smaller the size of your typical housefly.
Quick reminder, by state law all beekeepers are required to register with the County every year. It’s only $10/yr/beekeeper regardless of the number of apiaries or counties you keep bees in. Just register in one county, and send copies of your registration to the other counties. The primary function of the program is to notify YOU when pesticide applications near your locations could endanger your bees. We only come to your place to inspect if your neighbor complains about the bees. We get almost 3000 complaints a year about aggressive bees, and it’s usually water issues. Make sure your bees have plenty of water available (preferably running, like a fountain).
How does registration help me if my neighbors complain? It all depends on the city ordinances where your bees are kept and what their requirements are. Sometimes there’s nothing we can do to help, sometimes being registered puts you in better graces with the city officials. When bees are considered a public nuisance, we have to issue an abatement notice (usually relocating the bees is all that’s required), but we try to work with the beekeeper whenever possible.
The county also keeps a list of beekeepers who want to be notified for live removals/swarm captures. There is no licensing required unless you plan to use pesticides. If you want to be put on that list, please contact me.
Honey sales – require packaging to list name and address of producer, net weight, and US Grade (ask Clyde for details on grading classifications).
A note from Clyde – when their County ag inspector shows up at farmer’s markets to inspect, their relationship is so good that no more than a casual glance and a quick “How’s it going?” are usually exchanged, because they have consistently followed the regulations and the inspector knows that when he checks, their product will meet guidelines. They WILL send vendors home for improper packaging, and so sales go better if you follow the rules and work with your inspectors. The ag inspectors also keep records on production in the county and state and report back to registered individuals annually so we know how the industry is doing as a whole. Producers are physically inspected annually as well, and Clyde’s personal experience is that the inspections have gotten more useful and more accurate over the past several years.
Raffle! – tonight’s raffle includes an enameled belt buckle with a bee design, a Swiss army knife, and a coffee mug. Congrats, everyone!!!
Grading Honey: – check the USDA website for details on the color and clarity requirements for honey grades.
“Raw” requires it never be heated higher than highest annual ambient temperature, be only gravity strained, and be 100% honey.
“Pure” is at least 51% honey
“Organic” refers only to the handling/packaging, realistically – you can not guarantee the cleanliness of your foraging region
Other classifications include “table”, “Grade A”, “Choice”, etc.
AGdayLA: This year it will be held on Thursday, May 17th, 9:30am-1pm at the Big Red Barn at the Pomona Fairplex. The event teaches 3rd and 4th grade kids in LA about where food comes from. They’ve found in past years that an observation hive is too distracting given how many people they try and educate, so we bring visual aids and describe for the kids how a hive works and how honey is made. If you want to help out, contact Karl Walker or Clyde Steese.
Beekeeping 101 Classes: Bill Lewis is holding classes at his yard in Lake View Terrace starting on Sunday February 19th, 9am – noon. Classes are free for members, and you can join at the class. The first class will be all about what need and DON’T need – show up BEFORE you spend money on equipment so you know what to buy, and what to leave aside. He’ll also discuss where to put your hives, how to deal with neighbors, etc. No suits are required for the first class, but later classes will require protective clothing.
The second class will be held during our March meeting, when Walt will demonstrate how to assemble your woodenware so that it lasts. Future classes will be held the first Sunday of the month, so the day before our regular meetings, at Bill’s yard. Every month will be a different topic pertinent to the timing/season.
Almond season: - this is the busy “summer” season for commercial beekeepers. Right now there are lots of late nights and full days of work. The crops aren’t blooming yet, but the beekeepers are putting in lots of time feeding their bees to keep them primed for hen those blooms start. Maintaining a hive for commercial pollination can cost $160-$200/year. Pollination contracts and honey sales can cover that expense, but the bees go through periods of getting starved and sprayed and jostled/moved while dealing with pollination events. Why don’t they just stay home and make a living off of honey? Our agricultural lands no longer offer enough year-round forage for the bees to survive, much less produce extra honey. So, if you’ve got one or two hives, what will you be doing come summer? The same thing the commercial guys are doing now (on warm days) – supering for honey flow and to keep space in the brood nest.
Where Can I Buy Bees: A common question this time of year is “Where can I buy bees? When should I buy them?” Right now the answer is “nowhere” – breeders are done for right now – their stock comes into play around April (and many of our beekeepers have found the earliest round of queens is poorly mated compared to later rounds). It’s more important to focus on what plans you’ve been making for acquiring proper equipment, setting up a good location, and preparing yourself with books/classes on what to look for when you have them in place.
If you’re splitting an existing hive, when is the best time? It’s highly recommended you wait until decent queens are available (again, usually April) and you have them IN HAND before you split. Until then, give your existing queens plenty of space in their brood boxes, especially if you have good drawn frames they can lay in. If they’re bringing in enough nectar to be making comb, add foundation between brood frames – they’ll draw nicer, straighter frames is there is a full drawn comb on either side. Placing new foundation between uncapped honey frames can result in weird, ripply new comb.
Issues from the floor:
Laura’s hives are doing SO WELL she’s got several boxes of honey and is thinking of extracting already. She checkerboarded her boxes over the weekend to give them more space, and is planning extraction in April. Should she split before or after? Keep some of the food in frames to help ease the splits (Bill usually uses 7 brood, 3 honey in a new split). Bill would probably extract most of it right now, and drop the empty supers back on top to let them keep producing. BUT!!! When asked what she had used to treat for mites, the answer was “Taktic and apiguard” – Taktic (amitraz) is currently not approved for use in hives, and is not considered safe for honey production. Under these circumstances, everyone recommends she mark her frames so she knows which were filled with Taktic in the hive, and use them only for feeding the bees. Generally speaking, good management practice requires extracting honey right BEFORE treating for mites, and leave any honey exposed to mite treatments in the boxes for the bees. Mite treatments often absorb into the wax in sublethal doses soothe entire frame should be considered a source of the contaminant.
Is amitraz safe for bees? Well, it was designed as sheep dip to kill other bugs, so it can’t ever be considered completely safe. Frankly, even veterinarians are having a hard time getting it lately. It used to be available as strips for hive management, but no longer. Other options (Check-Mite [coumaphos] and Apistan [fluvalinate]) are still available and seem to be easier on the bees than Taktic.
Bill will cover miticide strategies in the May beekeeping class.
Foundation wax – which is “safe”? Call your individual manufacturers to find out where they source their wax and what kinds of precautions they take to make sure it’s clean. Every supplier is different, and you need to talk to them directly to find out if they meet your criteria for “clean” wax. Wax cappings are usually cleanest, but obviously come in much lower quantities than full frames of wax.
Frames – wood or plastic? There are benefits to both. Most commercial guys are replacing frames rather than reusing because the labor costs are more than the cost of new frames. Plastic winds up with no holes all the way through from wax moth, though some folk find the bees are less inclined to draw comb on plastic. Wood takes longer to assemble. If Bill Lewis were merely a hobbyist he’d go for foundationless, but as a commercial guy he needs the advantage of cheaper jumpstarted (foundation) frames (wood ~$3, plastic ~$1). There was a trial of plastic frames comparing those with 1 coat of base wax, 2 coats, and 3 coats. The result was that all frames were drawn equally quickly – it made no difference, though the more heavily coated frames are more expensive. The black plastic frames often make it easier to see eggs.
Wax moth – will the bees clean a frame? It depends on how badly the frame is messed up. If it’s minor damage, toss it in a healthy colony and they should clean it up. Is it horribly mangled or multiple frames all mangled together? Probably just as easy to toss and start over. Freezing the frames over the winter to prevent infestation is the easiest way to keep them clean.
Does requeening Africanized hives help? If you split the hives far enough, it can. If you leave the colony too big, they’ll simply kill the new queen. Many beekeepers have luck splitting a colony down to no more than 3 frames worth of bees and adding a queen. Even so, it will likely have a lower acceptance rate than requeening European strains. The best advice is to kill off the queen, wait three days, split the colony, MOVE the boxes to a new location, and then requeen. Requeening large colonies has a VERY low acceptance/success rate.
Queen sources? Hawaii is starting to match Northern California for quality. Most commercial guys requeen annually and it costs $20-$30 per queen, depending on the breeder. BeeWeaver from Texas is getting some good reviews – Bill and Clyde are trying them for the first time this year.
How should we acquire bees in April? From fellow local beekeepers? Order direct? Klaus has been splitting and raising his own queens lately, but they are ALL Africanized (nasty to work with, but productive). DON’T do that if you have neighbors near your hives (the easiest way to distinguish Africanized from European bees is behavior/aggressiveness). Otherwise, several of the bigger guys in our group make large orders and will pick up queens/packages for you if you let them know in advance that you need them. Try calling Bill Lewis, Clyde Steese, or Russ Levine if you want to get added into an order of bees.