Newsletter of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association
February 4, 2013 Volume XIII, Issue 2
Next Meeting: March 4, 2013 Doors Open 7:00 pm. Start 7:30
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA 91214
Topic for March Meeting:
Beekeepers Insurance issues
Walt McBride – woodenware assembly/construction
Minutes from the February Meeting: Attendance: 62, 61 members, 1 guests
Contents in Brief:
ABF Conference – Clyde Steese
- Beekeeping 101 classes February 17th 9am-noon at Bill’s yard. March’s class will be equipment assembly, and that class will be held at our March meeting, thanks to Walt McBride. April class TBA
- 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
- AGdayLA – we have three volunteers and need a few more. From 8:30-1:30 (lunch included) on Wednesday May 15 and 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, pleasecontact Karl Walker or Mary Landau.
- Committees - Since we have such a diversely talented group of members, Keith thought it would be a good idea to spread the work around a bit. He proposed three committees to help make our group more productive:
(1) Education/Outreach for organizing events at schools, fairs, markets, etc. to help educate people about bees and beekeeping,
(2) Science and Research to help translate the latest scientific results into layman’s terms and usable action items, and
(3) County Fair to help ease the burden on long-time volunteers like Clyde Steese and Russ Levine
We passed around sign up sheets for those interested in being on those committees. If you would like to be on any of those committees, please let Stacy McKenna or Keith Roberts know and we’ll get you linked in to those groups. Thanks to all of our volunteers for being willing to help out!
Questions from the Floor
- How serious an issue is organ failure from bee stings?
Much of it depends on how many times you’ve been stung. One or two stings, generally speaking, is not an issue (the primary exception being that 1% of the population who is allergic). For a great number of stings that hit simultaneously, the issue is more serious – several of our experienced beekeepers have ended up in the hospital from such incidents, and in those cases kidney failure is not uncommon, especially a few days after the incident when the body has finally processed the apitoxin and the treatments applied to counteract the apitoxin. If you are admitted to the hospital for a mass stinging event, please talk to your doctor about possible dialysis as a result of the event. For the occasional sting while working the hives, Benadryl or an epi-pen can be very useful depending upon the severity of the immune response to a sting. Speak to your general practitioner about acquiring an epi pen to have on hind in your apiary.
- I’ve heard a hive can become Africanized in 2-3 days – how can we prevent that?
Those cases are usually an instance of an Africanized colony attacking and taking over a European colony for the sake of their food stores and comb. During cooler weather/lower population seasons, keep entrances reduced to help your colony defend itself. Otherwise, keep your hive regularly requeened with purchased European queens rather than letting your hive requeen locally, and keep plenty of empty space in your hive during nectar flows so your colony is less likely to swarm.
- How do we get bees to move into the top box? Add honey frames up there?
Bees often don’t like to move up past a honey arch in the brood area. If your bees have formed a nice arch of honey along the top of all the brood frames in the bottom box, you can move a few brood frames up into another box above with empty frames filling gaps below and give them a “channel” upwards that way. Using already drawn comb rather than new foundation is the best bet for this mechanism. Make sure to alternate brood-filled frames with empty frames so the bees have an easier time keeping the brood warm than if you put several empty combs together in the middle of the box. If you have two or more boxes the bees are actively working in, you can insert a third box between them.
- My colony is about 3 frames worth of bees and it’s not increasing – what should I do? Add frames between them?
It’s still cold out – if you split your brood cluster right now, they might get overly chilled and you’d be killing off your brood. Wait until it warms up a bit before expecting your populations to increase. Also, check for mites. Right now is the time to treat for your spring interval before the nectar flows – mite infestations (and we all have them) will adversely affect your bee population numbers. Do a test according to the methods detailed on scientificbeekeeping.com to see how many mites you have.
- Is 30’ from my neighbor’s back door an appropriate spacing?
It depends on your bees, your neighbor, and your municipality. If your bees are docile and your neighbors are amenable (honey is a great bartering and political tool) it can be doable. But don’t let your bees become a nuisance! Keep fresh water available for your bees so they don’t go harassing the neighbors for it.
- Is there a license needed to keep bees?
No, but state law does require that you register with your county about where you’re keeping your bees. It’s only $10/yr per beekeeper no matter how many hives you have, and they can notify you about local pesticide applications so you can close up/move your hives if needed.
- Are there issues with making bee stands from treated lumber?
The green is usually a copper, and several people say they’ve used them with no adverse effects on the bees. Just don’t use treated lumber in your hives or the honey will wind up tasting like copper.
- What is the purpose of an inner cover?
When using a telescoping cover that wraps all the way around the top edge, the inner cover helps with circulation and prevents the bees from adhering the lid to the box with propolis. Telescoping covers are much more commonly used in colder and wetter climates – out here it’s usually much easier to just use the flat migratory covers.
- Is anyone heading north to pick up packages this year?
Bill and Clyde will be doing packages in early April. They’ll have packages available for $85 or 5-frame nucs for $130 using Koehnen queens. Check with the package supplier – some of them ship via UPS.
- Has anyone used Apivar?
It just got its Section 18 permit in CA. There are lots of hoops to jump through in order to use it – you need an applicator’s license from the county, you have to fill out reports every time you use it, etc. The active ingredient is Amitraz which is impregnated in strips you hang in the hive (much like Apistan which uses the active ingredient Fluvalinate). Many people use Amitraz off-label as Taktic, a formulation designed as sheep dip – not a legal use in CA.
- Hive beetle traps – which do you recommend?
Keith uses the disposable traps on the top bars. Walt recommends screened bottoms with oil trays beneath if you’ve only got a few hives. Sticky boards won’t help with beetles, they’re used primarily to monitor varroa mite levels in hives. Beetles like tropical conditions – moist soil, consistent humidity. Dry soil inhibits their reproductive cycle.
We had quite a few items this month. Thanks to everyone for supporting the club by donating items and buying tickets!!!
Bee suit – Dan Berger
Disney rubber stamps – Mary Williams
Wine – the Jensens
Glue Gun – Edik Honarchian
Bee earrings – Mary wins again!
Candles – Jim Gilmore
Hand knit wool hats – some of our new visitors!
American Beekeepers Federation 2013 Conference – Clyde Steese
First, thanks for helping subsidize the trip out to Pennsylvania. The whole shebang cost about $1,500 but it was well worth it! One of the most entertaining perks was that since it was hosted in the Hershey Lodge, there were bowls of chocolate everywhere you looked. The convention is designed for EVERYONE – from enthusiasts with no hives to pros with thousands of hives. The next convention will be in Baton Rouge and Clyde highly recommends it.
One of the best parts about the event is that there were beekeepers from EVERYWHERE. We see a lot of folk at the CSBA convention because of the almond crops and all the migratory beekeepers who come out, but at the ABF convention there were a lot more east coast and international beekeepers than I’ve ever met before. I met folk from Canada, the Bahamas, you name it. It turns out we’re very fortunate over here – east of the Mississippi everyone’s apiaries are infested with small hive beetle (SHB) from Pennsylvania to the Gulf. Most of them are using Checkmite to try and mitigate it. I asked about traps but they said they didn’t bother – they just used Checkmite (year-round use is against label recommendations – it leaves a taste in the honey).
Many of the folk from Canada let their hives die over winter and start new each spring, or overwinter in 5-frame nucs.
Folk form the non-Africanized areas routinely raise all their own queens. Many of them discourage people from buying bees out of Georgia because of their temperament.
The speakers were great, and there were so many workshops and things to attend.
Lobbying in DC is heavy and slow. The current farm bill includes a section for beekeepers to help beekeepers. Clyde requested more info and will forward it on when he gets it. As far as individual state regulations, Africanized bees are a big concern in Florida for the same reasons as they are here. Their state regulations are zero tolerance on Africanized bees being maintained in hives, and county inspectors will call an exterminator on site based on behavioral traits, wing size measurements, etc.
Kona Queens needs a beekeeper – they’re looking for someone with 5 years experience, US citizenship, and a clean driving record. Contact Kona for more info.
Eastern beekeeping has a different timeline than ours –
January – ABF conference
February – send out pollination contract letters (anyone with 10 or more hives)
April – check for strength, feed if necessary
May – super for honey flow
June – pull the honey
July – feed, split, and reduce for the winter
September – shut hives down for the winter
Greg Hannaford from OK did a great presentation on the costs of keeping a hive, and what you should be earning off of one:
60 lb of honey @ $5/lb => $300
3 lb of wax @ $5/lb => $15
10 lb of pollen @ $18/lb => $180
Propolis => $19.20
1 nuc for sale => $125
10 queens for sale => $180
$819.20 profit per year
Maintenance (treatments, woodenware)
Overhead (insurance, transportation, etc.)
Total profit per year $509.20
Obviously, we have more trouble making queens/nucs, but the rest of it is an interesting analysis of the ways to make money off a hive.
Blake Shook of TX had an interesting presentation on designing a honey house. By the time he was 18 years old he owned 3,000 hives with his partner and 2 employees. He’s grown the business incrementally and had some hard-knocks examples of what to do and what NOT to do:
DON’T use your mom/wife’s kitchen as a honey house – they typically don’t appreciate it.
keep things orderly
don’t overspend (he had an 8’x10’ to start, 4-frame extractor, 5 gallon buckets, etc.)
keep it clean – homeland security is now involved in honey sales because of international trafficking issues, so make sure all of your dealings are above-boar
set things up so you can wash walls/floors – honey gets EVERYWHERE
install a good power supply – avoid extension cords
drains in the floor for cleaning the honey house should be BIG – use 3”-4” round at LEAST. A floor heating system to keep wax fluid when it goes down the drain will save you thousands in excavation and plumbing costs…
David Tarpy of North Carolina State U did a presentation on Better Queens mean Better Colonies
A five year study of beekeepers in FL, GA, AL and KY resulted in the following reasons for colony losses:
Poor queens 31% (poor mating, etc.)
There may be several reasons for this. Eastern beekeepers don’t open their hives over the winter months, so they have to prep them with food, insulation, circulation correctly in September and they can run out of supplies during that time. Also, self-queen rearing results in poor drone selection/variety/numbers which leads to poorly mated queens.
Randy Oliver did a presentation on Bee Disease Identification
Let’s start with beekeeping 101 – do you know what a guard bee looks like? She’s usually standing on only 4 legs with her back end up. Do you know what a robber bee looks like? They’re usually clustered near an opening trying to get in. Can you tell if a bee is full of honey? Light on honey? Carrying pollen? What colors is it? All of these indicators of colony/hive strength can be observed from outside the hive.
Inside the hive, check for a pollen arch. Are the larvae small or fat? Are they wet or dry (underfed)? How is the honey supply? Are the bees active or apathetic?
Varroa numbers – 5 mites on 100 bees is a BIG problem and you need to catch it by the end of the nectar flow. You have to understand the varroa cycle to break it effectively. June – check for mites because this is when their population boom starts. It’s also when the bee population starts to drop, so the highest mite population coincides with the lowest bee population numbers (August is usually when the population curves intersect). Varroa passes on bee pathogens like nosema. Russian bees do well with mite treatments in COOL areas. Sunny apiaries do better than hives in shady areas. Try to get a lower mite count EARLY (NOW in SoCal). Treat before and after the honey flow. Don’t depend on Apistan or Checkmite – most of the mites are resistant and/or the products leave high residuals in the hive.
Only pull honey made AFTER treatments have been removed. Mark your hives with crayon when treated and remove honey from unmarked supers.
Can you use drone comb for varroa control? Sure, if you have only a few hives and the time to manage it.