Newsletter of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association
August 2011 Volume X1, Issue 8
Next Meeting: October 3, 2011 at 7:00 pm
Mt. Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA 91214
Topic for the November Meeting:
Fair recap, CSBA convention
Minutes from the August Meeting: Attendance:44, 43 members, 1 guests
Contents in Brief:
August hive tending
Bee vacs – Brian Scotti
- NO SEPTEMBER MEETING – we’ll be at the fair
- Seeking light wildflower honey for the fair – if you’re willing to sell to us at $2/lb to help supply our fundraising honey sales, bring your bulk bucket o’ honey (unfiltered is fine) to Bill/Clyde labeled with your name so we can credit/pay you
- American Bee Journal –subscription discount – 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.
- County Registration – they DO call you for swarm removal, so get on your list if you want to receive notifications in your area - Ariel Verayo (626)459-8894 AVerayo@acwm.lacounty.gov
- SUMMER HEAT – keep hydrated, or cool if possible. Be careful, heat stroke is serious stuff.
HoneyLove.org – there’s a new bee-related non-profit in town looking at legalizing beekeeping in Los Angeles. Chelsea MacFarland came to let us know what their efforts are – they’ve got a petition up at Change.org for legalizing beekeeping in Mar Vista. They’re trying to change legislation in one district at a time since Los Angeles is such a huge project. They’re starting with feasibility studies through the Mar Vista and Del Rey Neighborhood Councils. To raise awareness of their cause, they’re holding an event at the Mar Vista Library on August 20, including a screening of “Vanishing of the Bees” and a flash mob of people in bee suits – both the kind with yellow/black stripes and the kind that come with veils! There will be a Yellow Carpet rather than red, and they invite everyone to come in yellow if you don’t have a full bee suit to wear!
They’ve got another event coming up on October 8 in Venice.
The full results of the feasibility study and the petition will be submitted to the community councils October 11 and then published online at HoneyLove.org. In Mar Vista, October 11th is the big day that the MVCC will vote to approve or deny the pilot program. They are hoping to get as many people as possible to come out to the council meeting to show their support for that vote!
Summer Heat Precautions - Keith Roberts (and the new members’ name tags) missed our meeting tonight due to heat stroke at his day job. It’s hot out there! Be careful –
- stay hydrated (not just water, salts, too)
- work with a buddy system or at least let people know where you’re going and when to start worrying if you’re headed out alone
- drench your suit while you work if you need to.
- take breaks – lukewarm liquids are safer than ice cold for your system
LA County Fair – Russ Levine is once again heading up the coordination. The fair runs September 3 through October 2, W-Su, and we need volunteers 9am-9pm every day the fair is open to help sell honey and educate people about bees and beekeeping. BASC and LACBA run the booth jointly and all proceeds are split based on volunteer hours. Funds raised at the fair go to pay for sending folk to the convention and funding research. You don’t have to be an “experienced” beekeeper to volunteer – by the time you’re done helping out, you’ll know more about bees than when you started! Weekday mornings are largely school groups, and can be kind of hectic. Afternoons and weekends are lower key with more adults. We’d like people to sign up for shifts running 8:30am-1pm, noon-5pm, and 5pm-9pm if possible, but we’ll take you whenever we can get you.Volulnteers get complimentary passes (including parking) for the day – you can pick them up at Russ’ house in La Verne or at Will Call at Gate 1 – confirm with Russ in advance when you’ll need tickets and where you’d rather pick them up so he can make sure they’re waiting for you. If you’re not on the county Farmer’s Market list, let us know so we can make sure your info is available to pass out.
RAFFLE!!! – caramel iced coffee and gift card from Starbucks
Book reviews –
“Beekeeping a Practical Guide”, Richard E. Bonney – good!
“First Lessons in Beekeeping”, Keith Delaplane – meh
August hive tasks – This is the time to check your hives for varroa mites, and treat if necessary. A quick way to check is to use your capping fork to pull out some drone brood – mites will show up as dark rusty spots on the white larvae. Alternately, you can grab about a cup of bees in a jar with some powdered sugar, roll them around, sift the sugar back off the bees (put the bees back in the hive) and then dissolve the powdered sugar to check for mites left behind. If you find mites, here are some of your options:
- Apistan – one of the older miticides, varroa is now largely resistant
- Checkmite – one of the older miticides, varroa is now largely resistant
- Apiguard – use only AFTER honey harvest, and not in heat higher than 102F. Usually in stock at LA Honey. N need a Growers License (from County Ag Commissioner) if you want large quantities.
- Mite Away Quick Strips – can be used during honey flow (but be careful, it’s easy to get the stuff on too hot), DO NOT apply in high temperature conditions – it off-gasses too quickly and you don’t get any of the varroa in the brood killed off that way. Available through Dadant, need a Growers License (from County Ag Commissioner) if you want large quantities. Place the strips on outside bars of the box, above the brood nest. Keep them at arm’s length and downwind so you minimize inhalation. USE TONGS.
- Oxylic acid – in syrup or via sublimation (vaporizer), either technique is kind of labor intensive and neither kills varroa in the brood
- Powdered sugar dusting – only knocks off mature mites in hive, very labor intensive (must dust both sides of all frames for good coverage), does not interrupt varroa brood cycle, so weekly re-application is required
- Drone brood elimination – varroa prefer drone brood for their own brood rearing. Eliminating all of your drone brood can help cut down on varroa numbers, but will not eliminate the problem. Also, this time of year there are relatively few drone brood, so this method is even less effective now than it would be mid-summer.
Whatever option you go with, CHECK AGAIN after you treat to make sure you effected a mite kill. Heavy duty rubber gloves are good for any miticide application.
This is also time to consider feeding – the heat means fewer plants are blooming. Are your bees still bringing in nectar and pollen? Are their honey stores and pollen supplies stable, or decreasing? If they’re dropping, you may consider supplementing them with pollen patties and/or sugar syrup because right now is when they’re starting to raise “winter bees” which are designed for longevity as they survive several months in order to get through the winter. Poorly nourished infant winter bees put your colony at risk of collapse over the winter. Well nourished winter bee larvae are more likely to develop into strong, healthy bees who will make it through to spring. Syrup ratios are usually 2:1 sugar:water by weight in the winter, and 1:1 in the spring. DO NOT feed honey from other bees to your colonies – bacterial infections like American Foulbrood can be transmitted this way. Use sugar syrup or corn syrup (fresh, not anything that’s been sitting around and degrading in the heat). If you can leave a super full of honey on the hive, that’s the best food you could give them – at least one medium super is optimal.
Entrance feeders can encourage robbing – use interior feeders if possible. Entrance reducers can help minimize robbing as well. Robbing is often indicated by erratic flight patterns near the seams of the hive. Don’t work your hive during a robbing episode. Having more bees in the air encourages more combat, and you wind up with more dead bees. – keep the boxes closed if they start to show signs of robbing. Eric Mussen recently sent out a newsletter with plans for a robbing screen for your entrance – your bees train to go up and over to get out, and foreign bees get confused about the entrance requiring a steep drop down in behind the screen. http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/faculty/Mussen/beebriefs/robbingscreen.pdf
1/8” hardware cloth makes a good entrance reducer that won’t limit ventilation.
Speaking of ventilation, what are inner covers? Most locals don’t use them – they’re designed to prevent bees from propolising telescoping covers to the top box and most locals use a migratory lid. The space between inner cover and the lid provides insulation in the cold, allows better airflow for condensation, etc. Since condensation and insulation are such minor considerations in our climate, the easy-to-pry-off migratory lid is usually preferred, so the inner cover is superfluous. One of the BASC members uses an inner cover between extracted frames and the rest of the colony – he finds the bees will clean out those extracted frames and then not refill them. Bill Lewis has seen similar things with wax scrapings.
Another August task – check your boxes for dry rot. Swap out damaged boxes now before they seal up for the winter, and fix the damage/replace them during the winter season. The nectar flow is shutting down right now – it’s NOT the time to put on new frames.
Africanized Influence – There is a perpetual discussion about how hazardous Africanized bees are, and whether it is worthwhile to use feral bees. Dan Stradford uses only commercial queens in his hives, but recently one of his colonies picked up a feral queen. He lives on a ½ acre lot, and his bees have never bothered his neighbors, but these feral girls started coming at his face when he opened the hive, prohibited the dog from playing near the hives anymore, chased Dan to the other side of the house after a hive inspection. He tried to put them down with CO2 but they were coming out of the box so fast he couldn’t seal it. It took three days of dousing them with soapy water/using CO2/etc. for him to eliminate the colony. In the process, a neighbor and some tree trimming contractors got stung. Dan was repeatedly being stung through his suit. After this experience he considers feral bees just too potentially dangerous to be kept in residential areas.
There are a couple ways you can wind up with an Africanized queen – first, the Africanized colony invades and takes over your colony. Another way is through normal supercedure, where the new virgin queen mates with local Africanized males (they’ve been shown to be more successful than Europeans during mating flights) and the resultant offspring will be Africanized.
- Key signals that your hive may be Africanized:
- Brood frames – bees run off and scramble instead of calmly going about their business, no honey arc on the brood frame - just solid brood
- Trouble finding the queen (Africanized queens are more likely to run)
- Fly out of the box at you when you open them for inspections
- Guard bees ping you at 40’ rather than 10’
- Follow you farther/longer after an inspection
- Stay agitated longer after incidents/encounters
- Higher activity levels, more frantic, higher pitched
- Waving a dark ball/marking pen/etc. near the hive attracts a great deal of defensive/attacking behavior
There seems to be NO correlation between colony size and aggressiveness (though many colonies become more aggressive once they’ve established brood nests). It is highly recommended that you put any “hot” hives down at night when they’re all home and you’re less likely to be a nuisance to the neighbors – seal up the entrance and seams with duct tape, pop the lid to add an extra super and drop a bunch of CO2 in and then seal up the top ASAP.
Missing Queens – I can’t find my queen – what do I do?! If you see your brood numbers declining, check the hive for erupted queen cells (open at the bottom – open at the side means the queen was evicted/killed, not erupted/hatched). Erupted queen cells indicate you may have a new virgin who could be out on mating flights. If the colony is bringing in pollen/nectar, that usually means they’re queen right as they anticipate tending brood. DON’T introduce a purchased queen into a queen right hive – they’ll kill her. Try splitting the hive into two nucs, watch which one behaves queen right, introduce the new queen into the other nuc. Give the non-purchased queen a chance to prove her viability – if her laying patterns are inferior, or her offspring are undesirable, you can always eliminate her and recombine the nucs with the purchased queen when she’s well established. Finding virgin queens is HARD and often frustrating – don’t feel bad if you can’t find her!
RAFFLE!!!! – and the spoils go to our new visitors/members – welcome, and congratulations!
Bee Vaccuums – Brian Scotti
Brian had encountered a few swarms, and after the first one “got away” he decided he wanted to do his captures “right” so he could keep those bees! A bee vac seemed the way to go, but he wanted one that would be gentle and harm the bees as little as possible. He hit the internet to find out what his options were, and which seemed most likely to meet his needs. The most intriguing design he found was the Bushkill Bee Vac. It uses basic hive bodies with a custom base and lid to create an easy to use system for the hobbyist swarm catcher.
The bottom box is about 3” tall, solid on the bottom, open on the top, and has a hose inlet cut in the front with a door to swing closed over the inlet after the vacuuming is done. On top of this, you place a standard Langstroth box of whatever height you prefer to use. You may stack as many boxes as you think the bees will need. It is advised that the bottom box be empty (so the bees don’t slam into frames as they’re sucked into the box), but boxes with frames and even brood comb may be added above that. Between the bottom and upper boxes you can place a screened shim with a removable piece of 1/8” hardware cloth. This allows you to prevent them from getting sucked into frames/comb during the turbulence of vacuuming, but easily remove the screen barrier when you get them home and settled so they can colonize those frames. The top box has a screened bottom and two holes on the removable lid – one for the vacuum hose outlet and one to adjust air bypass so you can control the strength of suction going through the box. When you’ve finished vacuuming bees into the box, the top lid can be removed so they have a screened top for ventilation during transportation. All of the boxes are built to easily be strapped together for transport like a standard hive. When you get the hive home, simply add a standard lid over the top box, pull the removable screen from the shim, open the bottom inlet as their entrance, and let tem settle in. After they’ve established themselves you can give them a bottom board in lieu of the vacuum bottom box, remove the shim frame, and remove the top vacuum box leaving just a standard lid, as well as adding more frames or removing the empty box based on their needs.
Brian bought one – they run about $100 (though right now they are unavailable thanks to Hurricane Irene – sorry). The colony he was trying to remove was in a closet – a hot, dark closet at night. Thankfully, the vac worked great! He’s since relocated them to the roof on account of bears (several members HIGHLY advocate a serious staircase – hauling full supers on ladders is no fun).
Natural History Museum of LA County Pollinator Garden - El Rey read about a new garden being installed at the Museum and offered to consult. Michelle Sullivan is Sullivan, a landscape architect with Mia Lehrer + Associates, is the project manager for landscape architecture on the team developing the NHM’s North Campus gardens, and he gave her a tour of his apiaries to give her a better idea of what works in our area and what doesn’t.