Newsletter of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association
June 6, 2013 Volume XIII, Issue 6
Next Meeting: July 1, 2013 Doors Open 6:45 pm. Start 7:00
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA 91214
Minutes from the May Meeting: Attendance: 57, 52, members, 5 guests
Both our President and VP were away due to family health issues, so our thanks go to President Emeritus Bill Lewis for stepping up to lead the meeting.
CONTENTS IN BRIEF:
- Beekeeping 101 classes 3rd Sunday of the month 9am-noon at Bill’s yard. Suits required. July’s is scheduled for 7/21
- 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 (email@example.com) 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Clyde recommends/makes a motion we start the meeting at 7 instead of 7:30 so we have less pressure and more time for info at our meetings. Seconds came from all over the room. The vote passed the motion.
- Bee film help requested – Zach Bainter is looking for volunteers to help him with a 10-15 minutes documentary film about beekeeping, focused on sustainable ways of keeping bees in light of our recent issues with population declines. He intends to screen it at film festivals. He actually dropped by our meeting to talk about his project and get to know people face to face. If you’d like to help him out, you can contact him at Zbainter@zachbainter.com.
- Second Annual Honey Harvest Festival & BBQ Contest in Fillmore, Sat/Sun June 15 & 16. It’s Father’s Day weekend – treat him to some tasty food, music, and perhaps even a train ride to learn about the local impact of bees on agriculture. (Yes, it sadly conflicts with the beekeeping class, but come to class and then carpool to the event!) We need volunteers to educate about bees and beekeeping on the train, and to man a booth hosted by our club in the park. There will be food, music, and a craft fair as well. Contact us or Bennett’s Honey Farm to volunteer on the train or to register a booth for the event.
- CSBA board meeting from May discussed multiple issues including:
- 2013 Convention in Lake Tahoe, November 19-21. Bill Lewis had a preliminary list of speakers to hand around just FYI. Sponsors for the convention are still wanted, so if you know of someone or a business that would like to support the convention, let Bill Lewis or Clyde Steese know.
- A new Pesticide Handbook is coming out from WSU/UCD soon.
- There is a European Foulbrood outbreak in CA breeding populations so keep your eyes open. This is NOT the smelly version of foulbrood – symptoms include shotgun brood patterns, and dead brood or yellow larae. It looks a lot like heavy mite infestations. Terramycin/Oxytetracycline-HCl (an antibiotic – this is a bacterial infection. AFB responds better to Tylan/Tylosin) clears it up – you may want to treat proactively, though not during nectar flow if you have one. Also, shake your bees into new boxes/frames and either burn/scorch or bag/seal/trash the old ones. Most beekeepers recommend brand new frames rather than trying to salvage them – woodenware harbors spores that can reinfect the colony if you try to reuse it.
- Next board meeting is 9/13, 9am at the Valencia Hyatt. All CSBA members are invited to attend, though they request you notify the CSBA that you’re coming so they can plan for adequate food at lunch.
- Water hyacinths – Walt brought some in case anyone needs them for their bee water supply. They bloom with a beautiful blue flower like an iris, prefer morning sun and some afternoon shade. It’s an invasive species, so try to keep it confined to containers. Bees like having fresh water, preferably with something in it to stand on to prevent drowning. Water Hyacinths are a popular choice, but corks, straw, or anything else that floats will work. Standing water also benefits from having some mosquito fish in it to keep the annoying bugs at bay – if you need some mosquito fish come by Bill’s yard during the beekeeping classes and you can scoop some out of his pond.
- LA County Fair – we need a chairman to coordinate the volunteer effort with Russ Levine. Cyndi Caldera had given us a preliminary commitment last year, and she reaffirmed it tonight, so she and Russ will be heading up the coordination. Clyde also said he’ll have Cyndi’s back and help show her the ropes. BASC is already getting their volunteers set up, and Russ will likely be setting up a Google Calendar schedule again to help with keeping everyone informed. The fair runs for five weeks from August 30 – September 29, and is our big fundraiser for the year to help raise money for donations to research programs across the country.
- The bees are HUNGRY this year – keep your hives guarded against robbing, and FEED if they need it. Even the birds are hungry – many people are seeing them hunt the bees for food. The local pros all started feeding their bees in June, very atypical as they usually waiting until after August.
- ABF (American Beekeeping Federation) report – Clyde Steese is our representative and went to the annual convention in January, where the focus (from speakers and attendees) was largely on finding the causes of CCD. On May 2, 2013 there was a document released by the USDA and EPA exploring the potential causes and describing areas of research that need more focus. The convention for 2014 will be in Baton Rouge and Clyde encourages folk to go and learn more about the difference in beekeeping across the different regions of the US.
- Apivar has been approved for use in all 50 states against the varroa mite. You still need an applicator’s license to use it, but it means we have one more option to help prevent resistance.
QUESTIONS FROM THE FLOOR
First – a word of praise. The Q&A is a new practice instituted by the current execs, and Bill Lewis thinks it is BRILLIANT. Audience response concurs.
- Hey Bill – what’s your honey flow like this year?
This is the worst year Bill has seen in his 20 years of beekeeping in the mountains. Even his Malibu locatiosn are low on honey flow this year. We’ve had sumac and toyon flows already, but they were pretty crappy. The higher elevations are a bit better. You need to start feeding now – both syrup and pollen – and don’t stop through the winter, most likely.
Walt is having his worst year in 40 years. He’s not even seeing his typical avocado flow. The pepper trees are giving some relief, as are the Golden Rain trees, but Smart&Final has 50 lb bags of sugar for $22 and it’s time to start buying – about 2 bags/hive plus pollen patties.
Being in irrigated regions like the city is really the only way to make honey this year.
- What are the benefits and pitfalls of top bar hives?
Tim Potter has done quite a bit of beekeeping with both top bar and Langstroth style hives, and he says they’re easy to build, and really easy to knock the combs off the top bars. It’s much harder to keep the bees building straight comb – you really have to keep on it to keep them straight. It’s very hard to extract off top bar combs, but they are great for producing comb honey. You do need to move them more gently than foundation combs – be especially careful with the newest comb, particularly in the heat. Foundationless frames are a little easier than plain top bars, especially in a Warre style hive. Top bar hives are also typically longer than a Langstroth box, so they can be more awkward to move. For a strictly hobbyist environment, the style that incorporates a window portal for watching the bees can be a lot of fun.
- What’s your drive for beekeeping?
Jeremy Jensen: we’re a little crazy, want to help save bees, and maybe make a little money
Bill Lewis – I learn more every day (though I find brand new beekeepers typically know the most ;P )
Stacy McKenna – I got into it for pollinating my vegetable garden at first. Lately I have no veggie garden but I still have bees due to a strong fascination and illogical level of stubborn.
Bill Rathfelder – they’ve always been fascinating from the standpoint of scientific investigation
They’re critical for 30% of our food production and many medicinal products as well.
- Why do they hang out on the porch at night?
It’s hot out! They’re ventilating the hive to keep the brood at the proper temperature and trying to keep cool themselves.
It’s crowded! Make sure they don’t need a new super to help prevent swarming.
It’s a dearth season and the workers have nothing out there to forage so they’re just sitting on the porch… unemployed.
- How do you recognize foulbrood?
Shotgun brood pattern, discolored brood (should be a pearly white), AFB smells foul. The brood caps are concave and shrunken in the advanced stages. We used to just bonfire everything to kill it – now most people bag the frames, seal, and landfill, then scorch the boxes with a propane torch.
Antibiotic resistant foulbrood has been found in the eastern part of the country – they suggest using Tylan/Tylosin as we don’t think they’re as resistant to that.
The matchstick test – stick a toothpick/matchstick into a brood cell and if you get a ropey, stringy goo coming out, you’ve got foulbrood. BURN the test stick after your test and avoid touching the hive with it to prevent spread of the contagion.
Send samples to USDA Beltsville lab for confirmation.
Honey from an infected hive is human-safe, but extracting it can cross-contaminate equipment and spread contamination to other hives.
Spores can live 60-70 years after being boiled. A lye boil can do it (1lb lye/10 gal water boiled for 20 minutes) but few have the patience to do that.
- With 6 hives I’ve only collected 2 lb of honey – is there a queen problem?
No – there’s a weather problem. There’s no nectar. No one is harvesting much this year. We can do 300 lb/hive with 30” of rain, but this season has been DRY. Feed your bees.
- What’s the easy way to remove bees from a crawl space?
[Laughter ensues - sympathetically] There is no easy way – you just have to crawl in there, cut them out, and wire them into new frames.
- Explain the honey harvesting process – how many white capped frames should we expect?
The last few years have been low yield honey years. You can harvest any frame as long as a good hard shake it doesn’t result in drips/spray of honey coming out. Capped is nice but not necessary. Always leave the bottom two boxes heavy with honey for the bees.
- Is the price of honey going to go up this year?
Absolutely. Last year orange blossom honey was less than $2/lb wholesale, this year it’s already $2.75. Other regions of the country are also doing poorly but for opposite regions – they’ve been too wet, which is also disrupting nectar flows. Imports are down this year as well – we’re even hearing reports of China looking to import from us this year.
- Drone cell frames – what’s your experience?
Only add drone frames if you’ve got a full box of drawn comb already. If the frames draw out too thick, pack them tighter in your box. There’s not enough flow for wax building this year unless you’re feeding heavily.
- What’s the proper procedure to report someone messing with your hives?
Catch as much as you can on video or photos, and call the police. Many people have good luck using game cameras sold for hunting. Violators can be prosecuted for property damage, grand theft, etc. The county apiary inspector, Aniko Pomjanek, is eager to hear about ANY issues we’re having from vandalism to new pests (save some in a jar of alcohol for identification/testing) – try calling first to make sure it’s not a field day before dropping things off. 626-459-8894.
- How do you address a formal complaint from a neighbor?
First, try to keep your bees fairly circumspect so they don’t bother the neighbors. Otherwise, comply EXACTLY with city and county ordinances and register with the appropriate agencies so there is less standing for neighbors to complain. Using corn cobs in your smoker an help avoid some of the ickier smelling smoke. If you are issued a move order, always have a fall back location to foster your hives.
- I have 4 or more frames of pollen – should I replace the frames? Can I extract the pollen?
Especially this year, LEAVE it for your bees – it’s a crucial asset for larval development. The pollen in your combs is actually bee bread – pollen mixed with enzymes from the bees and packed to ferment for future use. The pollen sold by beekeepers is actually harvested directly off the bees while coming into the hive before it’s processed in a pollen trap. You can find examples online for sale or to build yourself.
- What should you look for when deciding if you should replace foundation?
Can you see light through the comb? Keep it. If it’s too dark, toss it. Bill tosses the whole frame and replaces it, Walt takes the time to reinstall fresh foundation.
- Do you use fumagillin? How often?
Fumagillin is used against nosema fungus infections. Use it only when you need to! We don’t see much Nosema apis here – it’s too dry, but we do see Nosema ceranae. We treat in February for the almond season (when so many hives are getting together and could spread infection), and again in the fall before they hole up for the winter if they need it. Feed it in syrup, or if they aren’t taking it up that way, you can drench the bees so they lick it off each other.
- Has anyone used invert sugar (glucose and fructose rather than sucrose)?
Klaus has found the bees will drink it down faster than white sugar. El Rey says Eric Mussen says sucrose (white table sugar) is better than HFCS (short shelf life) or powdered (it has starches in it). The sucrose blends are getting more popular. Avoid brown sugars – they can’t handle the molasses.
Thanks to all the members who donate prizes and purchase tickets! We raised $78 this month.
Back yard eggs – won by Bill Rathfelder
Wine – won by Richard Strong
Homegrown avocados – won by one of our newest members/guests
Wine – won by won by one of our newest members/guests
ABF Tshirt – won by one of our newest members/guests
Back yard eggs – won by Merriane Bouchard
Wine – won by one of our newest members/guests