This last Friday and Saturday, I was invited to attend the Northeast Oklahoma Beekeeper's Association's 'Big Bee Buzz' event in Tulsa OK. I was invited and hosted by NeilV (thanks again Neil) who is a member of NEOBA.
I brought my laptop and decided to take notes and post them here for your benefit. This wasn't a treatment free beekeeping get together, but as you'll see, there is a lot of information for TFBs to gather from the event.
Below in plain text, you will find my notes. These range from quotes to paraphrases to summaries. My personal thoughts and observations will appear in [brackets.] These are my interpretations of what was said, so don't take them as the words of the speakers. We all have biases and unique interpretive processes in our minds.
Here we go.
Blogging the Big Bee Buzz
Dr. Clarence Collison – Examining Combs
[The main point I learned from Dr. Collison’s presentation was the idea of population balance. It’s the concept that based on the number of days a bee spends in each stage, there should be a certain percentage of brood in each stage. So if you have a quantity of eggs, you should have double that quantity in open brood and quadruple the same quantity in capped brood. Any perturbation of this ratio can indicate a break in brood or other issue. It seems obvious when you think about it, but I had not previously though to use the concept in practice, nor had I done the math.]
Dr. Diana Sammataro – What’s Going on at the USDA Bee Lab in Tucson, AZ
HMF (hydroxymethylfurfural) is a chemical that forms in high fructose corn syrup when it gets too hot (100F+). It is poisonous to bees . Some samples bought fresh were above acceptable levels, many samples of HFCS stored by beekeepers had levels that were too high.
Bees make more wax and raise more brood on sucrose than on HFCS. Bees won’t rob HFCS as much.
Recommend not feeding HFCS.
A bacterium found in all bees’ honey stomachs (all apis species) kills yeasts keeping nectar from fermenting too quickly.
Antibiotics (Tylosin specifically) kills bacteria in the honey stomachs.
Many proteins in varroa mites also present in ticks.
Found 13 specific fungi living in bee bread (able to be cultured). Some bad (stonebrood), some good (penicillium spp.) Fungicides found in pollen even in organic orchard. Fungicides are wax soluble. Half the isolates in fungicide contaminated pollen verses uncontaminated. Kills fungus that combats chalkbrood.
Wax has PCBs in it. Nearly 100 pesticides as well.
Ed Levi – What Makes a Good Queen, and Why She Matters (Sustainable Beekeeping through Genetics)
Change out your comb as often as possible.
Need to move from mechanical, soft, and hard controls to survival of the fittest.
Genetic controls are the real and long term solution. Chemicals hurt in the long run, like a crutch. The more we use chemical controls, the less the bees are able to find their own controls.
Don Molnar – Oklahoma Apiary Inspector, Oklahoma Beekeeping Update
Nothing really of interest to me, I’m in Arkansas and not subject to the same laws or conditions.
Dr. Diana Sammataro – Honeybees: Sweetness and Mites
Interesting mite habitats, sea snake nose, sea lion lungs, snail slime, monkey lungs, hair follicles, mold, hay, koala fur, dust, soil, birds, canola seeds, cheese, flour, pet food, reptiles, mites everywhere.
Over 50 mites associated with Honey Bees. Most of them incidental, in pollen, bottom boards, etc.
Tracheal mites not really being seen anymore, discontinuing tests for them. Now found in Apis Cerana.
Tropilaelaps mites will be a problem, but require brood, cannot live on adult bees, so a broodless period is our best defense. Therefore a much bigger problem for warmer areas if (when) it gets here.
Varroa discovered in SE Asia in early 1900’s. Mostly spread by beekeepers moving bees around.
If you don’t know the lifecycle of the varroa mite, learn it. In the cycle of a drone, 3 new mites created, in workers 1 new mite created. [If small cell shortens the brood time, it may eliminate that one new mite giving the hive a better chance if the mites are unable to successfully reproduce in worker brood.]
Studying mites made more difficult because the mite cannot yet be cultured off-host.
The best way to combat varroa at this point in time is resistant bees.
Ed Levi – beeinformed.com survey. [Go to beeinformed.org and take the survey]
[Results show that using a treatment shows less than 10% results rather than using nothing. Even the best treatment shown showed only a 5-10% loss rate less than using nothing. That doesn’t seem like a great economical advantage if any at all to me. In other words, don’t treat your bees, 35% die. Treat your bees 25% die. I don’t see this as a solution. I suppose it's good to figure out the most effective treatment, but it's like choosing least ineffective option. Like going to Walmart and buying the most bulletproof tee-shirt. I don't know, maybe I'm bad with similes.]
Dr. Charles Abramson – Betty the Boozing Bee: Studies in How Safe Chemicals Affect Bee Behavior
Bees are not much attracted to non-sugar (diet) soda, but highly attracted to liquids containing more natural flavors, being most attracted to sucrose syrup.
Bees can’t learn until a day old
Kelthane, small but significant effect on learning.
Other chemicals as well, pesticides considered harmless to bees.
‘Harmless’ pesticides have major effects in discrimination behavior, ability to discriminate odor followed by food, vs. odor followed by no food.
Baytroid or Sevin, worst effects. Endosulfan okay with low numbers of trials, but increase the number of trials (more than have been done) a huge disparity develops so published studies are misleading (French Study). They’re not doing enough trials.
Some contains ethanol (alcohol), collect juice from fermented fruit, etc. Bees can drink equivalent of 11 liters of wine (very impressive). 20% alcohol severely inhibits activity, but lower percentages (found naturally) not nearly the effects, but still some effect.
If you give them more than ten percent, they won’t come back, get drunk essentially. 5% is the magic number.
No effect on sperm production.
Won’t drink bourbon, Hiram Walker Strawberry Schnapps preferred over all shown.
Increases aggression in AHBs.
Affects waggle dance (speech is slurred and inaccurate, fell off the comb, tremor, similar to pesticide results but can’t do certain tests with pesticides because don’t want to poison colonies.)
Queens will drink alcohol, lay less eggs, and then get killed by the other bees. Possibly same effect with pesticides.
[In summary, ‘harmless pesticides’ are not harmless.]
Dr. Clarence Collison – Honey Bee Management for Maximum Honey Production
Brood production peaks at a hive size of 40,000 bees.
[There wasn’t a whole lot useful for my beekeeping practices in this lecture. In fact, he essentially recommended all the standard methods, many of which I disagree with, don’t use, and discourage. There was a lot of good basic information, similar to his first lecture but it represents all the basic and standard stuff you’ll find in old literature. But he talks so confidently and matter of factly that he wouldn’t lead most people to the understanding that there are other ways to do things and that in fact there are those who disagree with these supposedly tried and true methods.]
It was kind of amazing how many people said that treatments are not the answer and that ultimately the only solution is resistant bees. Yet, it is the job of these very same people to discover the next great treatment and to get it on the market.
It was also kind of disheartening to hear the same old stuff being taught to the newbees. I'm coming more and more to believe that the best track for newbees to follow is to ignore swarming as an issue for the first year or two. Get in, look at the bees, see what's going on before you try to learn how to stop, control, or redirect it.