April 2014 Club Meeting:
As is usually the case, the club meeting was proceeded with informal discussion about the state of our bees and what we should/could expect in the near future. Club President Bill Hiss prompted brief introductions from attendees. He asked everyone who was interested to leave us with their names, email addresses and whether or not they wanted to be or needed a mentor for the upcoming bee keeping season.
It was great to see so many members of the Oxford Hills Honey Bee Club in attendance. There was the typical sense of good will between bee keepers which led to a discussion of future combined events for the two clubs. The OHHB club has a nice web site with some great information and a listing of upcoming events.
For those who missed Kenny Record speak at the ABC (or to see him speak again), you have another chance on May 11at the University of Maine Cooperative, 9 Olson Road in South Paris. Here’s the description from the OHHB club site:
Kenny Record generously shares his unequaled knowledge on bee – havior when it comes to splitting hives. Making your own nucs will also be discussed. Plan on an afternoon of learning, humor and a whole lot of good old common sense delivered in an
Vice President Pete Schlax noted that the Androscoggin beekeepers club website has a functional calendar indicating dates for club events, flower blooms and bee keeping activities. He asked members with suggestions for additional calendar items to pass them along (email@example.com).
Club treasurer Charlie Armstrong provided the Treasure’s report, indicating that our modest balance is sufficient to provide our speakers with a modest honorarium and to maintain our club website. Thanks to all our dues paying members!
Attendance for April 2014:
Attendance was 28 people including our speaker. Although this increase was definitely helped with the turnout from members of the Oxford Hills Honey Bee Club, our “spring increase” continues. As we move into open hive season, it would be great to stabilize at 30-40. That seems like a healthy and sustainable number for Androscoggin County. Tell your friends!
March 2014 Speaker Presentation:
The March 2014 ABC meeting presentation was given by Kenny Record. Interesting, informative and entertaining, Kenny began his talk with the story of how he started beekeeping.
Five year old Kenny had been bee-lining with his father. One day, while his father was at work, Kenny used a glass jar to trap a bee on a flower. He watched the bee sip nectar from the flower and, after a while, he released it and watched it fly up a bit and straight away. A few minutes later, the bee returned, took up nectar, and flew away again. The bee returned a third time, bringing a friend. Kenny told us he watched the bees coming and going from the flower for hours.
When his Dad came home from work, he asked Kenny whether he’d timed the bees. He hadn’t. So Kenny and his Dad used a small stick to dab a little bit of chalk, mixed with water, on the back of one of the bees for identification. They timed the bee’s round trip from the flower, away and back. Three and a half minutes. Kenny told us that it normally takes a bee about a minute and a half to unload at the hive, so it was about a minute flight each way to and from the “swarm” (as colonies were called at the time). The next day, his father took him to the swarm, and Kenny became a beekeeper.
When Kenny got a bit older, a friend needed some money so he sold Kenny his hives ( ~10) for $50. Kenny made his first splits from those hives and increased to ~93 nucleus colonies. These colonies were set to overwinter in Florida. Mid-winter, he got a call and learned his bees weren’t doing too well. They were starving. Kenny took his first commercial flight, in a jet, down to check on his hives to discover significant losses from starvation and wax moth infestation.
After this terrible winter, Kenny returned from Florida in the spring with about 45 hives. Using queens he grafted himself, he quickly increased his holdings to about 400 hives.
Kenny detailed a variety of activities, from raising queens and grafting, to different methods of splitting (even, uneven, and walk away splits), methods for Swarm control and general hive management.
Kenny brought a frame that he uses for queen raising and showed us queen cups that had been attacked by a queen that emerged before he had placed her in her own colony. He also brought some other pieces of equipment that he had used over the last few (50) years in his queen rearing toolkit.
Kenny’s informal talk was fun and very informative. His love of bees and teaching about them was obvious and appreciated. Some quick bits from Kenny’s talk:
- When possible, re-queen using your best swarm cells.
- Wait until you see drones before making splits, because any new queen will need to mate. If your hives have drones, your neighbor’s hives should too.
- Split your WORST HIVES. They won’t give you honey anyway. When splitting these hives, give them a nice, new queen.
- Kenny suggests overwintering bees on sugar water rather than honey…sugar water has fewer pathogens.
- Kenny leaves his entrance reducers on until the first nectar flow is on.
Follow Up Information:
- Lining Bees:
There is A LOT of information about bee-lining on the internet. Some of it can be very confusing. But there are several key assumptions that allow you to follow a group of bees back to their hive:
- For the most part, bees travel in a straight line between hive and food source.
- If the source is good enough to return to, a field bee will recruit others back to the source.
- The average flight speed for a bee is essentially constant.
- It takes a field bee about 1.5 minutes to unload their honey in the hive.
In the past, people would line bees to locate and capture feral hives the way Kenny did with his Dad. Unfortunately, pest and disease have wiped out most of the feral hives in the U.S and elsewhere. Sadly, it seems that a lot of modern bee lining is used to identify unwanted hives for eradication.
- Here is a good page from the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service describing the three most common ways used to line bees (LINK HERE).
- Here is a link to a paper reprinted from Bee Culture magazine (1993 Wenner, A.M. and R.W. Thorp. The honey bees of Santa Cruz Island. Bee Culture. 121 (5):272-275.) that describes a honey bee eradication project on Santa Cruz island off the coast of California (LINK HERE).
In fact, when conditions for bee lining were poor, members of the Santa Cruz Island project actually introduced Varroa mites to remove some of the feral colonies.
- This is described in paper “Biological Control and Eradication of Feral Honey Bee Colonies on Santa Cruz Island, California: A Summary“. It’s an article from a collection of conference proceedings, but still pretty readable (LINK HERE).
- “Biological Control and Eradication…” cites another paper called “Efficient Hunting of Feral Colonies“. You can access that paper describing bee lining here (LINK). (Unfortunately, this archived copy does not reproduce the figure from the paper).
- Here’s a quote from “Biological Control and Eradication…” describing the use of Varroa for colony removal:
From 1994 to 1997 we used biological control to eradicate honey bee colonies. In 1993, heavy rains in January washed out most roads, severely restricting travel around Santa Cruz Island. Fennel thickets had also become impenetrable in many areas following the removal of cattle from the island in 1989 (L. Laughrin, personal communication; A. Wenner, personal observation). Many colonies became inaccessible, rendering our bee hunt techniques (Wenner et al. 1992) ineffective. Therefore, in 1994 we implemented the use of varroa mites (Varroa destructor) as an alternative technique for eradicating colonies.
- Raising Queens:
Some Information About Raising Queens and Grafting is in this video:
An alternative, quick and dirty method, is shown in this video:
- Swarm Management:
- Kenny mentioned that the internet has a lot of great resources on Swarm Management. THIS LINK is particularly good.
- Some information about Hive Splitting (from Michael Bush ) is FOUND AT THIS LINK.
- During his presentation, Kenny made a quick reference to JP the Beeman. JP recovers bees from unusual places. Below you can see a typical video from his collection of more than 250. A quick search on YouTube will uncover the rest.