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Beekeeper Newsletter – March 21, 2002

Bee Gone
All bees have been released. We will notify counties to remove all remaining location pins (for spray calls) unless you tell us different.

March 13 Meeting
The Tulare bee meeting called by Norm Cary was a worthwhile one. Beekeepers, always eager to hear about rules and regulations, arrived early to be sure not to miss Tulare county’s presentation.

Featured speaker, Eric Mussen, gave another of his patented virtuoso performances. Several out-of-state beekeepers who had not witnessed a Mussen performance before were heard to remark after Eric left the building, “Who was that masked man?”

As many of you know, Eric did his Ph.D on nosema at Minnesota under Basil Furgala. Eric showed a number of nosema slides including one of an older survey showing that nosema incidence was high (over 60%) in California, esp. San Diego county and in most southern states, showing that nosema isn’t necessarily a cold-weather disease.

Eric also (re-)stressed the importance of going into fall with young, healthy, “fat” bees. Those that get Eric’s newsletter (see http://entomology.ucdavis.edu/faculty/mussenl news.cfm)* or have attended CA bee conventions, know that Eric has pushed this subject for years. He’s made believers out of a lot of beekeepers, the big question being what to do about it.

Getting bees on a fall pollen flow is the obvious answer, but is not possible for most beekeepers. The alternative, feeding pollen and/or pollen substitute in October has not been taken up by many beekeepers because of the expense; many beekeepers do supplemental feeding in January, but trying to stimulate weak, sickly bees doesn’t always cut it and can be a waste of time and money.

* there appears to be a competition between University and USDA personnel as to who can get the longest website; probably a carryover from longest address competitions.

Mobil Lab?
Mike Wells, successful beekeeper-cattleman, raised the possibility of establishing a Mobil Lab to test for tracheal and nosema. Farmers have access to a mobil lab that tests irrigation systems for efficiency so a mobil lab for beekeepers is certainly feasible. Alternatively, it would be good to have labs (or people) scattered throughout California that could do the needed analysis.

The 2002 Pollination Season
The “perfect” pollination weather this year reduced grower complaints about weak colonies. With numerous 70º+ days, bee activity was excellent and all live colonies were active. Beekeepers delivering weak colonies to almond growers hold their breath each year until petal fall, hoping they don’t get complaints from growers. With the fast bloom and excellent weather this year, it was not necessary for these beekeepers to hold their breath for long. In some years, these beekeepers must hold their breath for so long that they come close to passing out; the only discernable advantage they enjoy is a significant improvement in lung capacity over the years.

Get A Weigh from your Bees this Fall
Analyzing fall bee samples for fats and protein is expensive. Perhaps simply determining bee weights in the fall can give an indication of how well bees will survive the winter. Get about a quart of bees (that havn’t consumed nectar or syrup recently) weigh them (after anesthetizing them with cold) count the bees and determine the weight per bee in milligrams (1000 mg = 1 g; 28 g = 1 oz). Send the weight data to Eric (Entomology Dept., U.C. Davis, CA 95616) then send him a follow-up in February telling him how the bees wintered (if they collapse, explain to Eric that they represented only a small % of your bees; that most of them were great and that almond growers were very happy with them).

Alternatively, or along with getting bee weights, analyzing bee samples for total N (nitrogen), a major component of protein, could give good information. Send a sample to Eric for N analysis or send a sample to a local lab (cost, about $5-$7); we routinely send leaf samples to a Visalia lab (Growers Testing Service) and if you want to send some there we’ll pick up the tab for analysis.

Nosema and Fumadil-B
Fortunately, control of nosema with Fumadil-B is quick and effective. Fumadil-B has worked for years, and unlike other chemical controls, it still works. It must be added to syrup and bees must not store it (it is a contaminant of honey). Fall applications are best and Eric indicates that applications every other year are usually satisfactory.

Mid-Continent Agrimarketing is the manufacturer. Mid-Con put out a great looking sheet with color photos (you may have seen it as a full-page ad in the bee magazines). I called Mid-Con and asked if they’d send me copies that I could take to last week’s meeting and they did. They sent black-white xerox copies (copy enclosed) and forgot to take them to the meeting.

We performed the mid-gut ID test described on this flyer on some hives that had nosema (by lab test) and it held up – white mid-gut with no wrinkles. (At the 3/13 meeting, Eric mentioned that any mid-gut disorder will give the same symptoms, but the test still gives good information.)

Beekeepers complain about the cost of Fumadil but it works out to about $1/colony which would have been a very cheap treatment for beekeepers with nosema problems this year.

Microscopes
Frank Eischen recommended the following for re-conditioned microscopes: Arthur Wider, Connecticut Audio Visual Services, 76 Eddy Lane, Newington, CT 06111, (860)666-8660; e-mail:
ctaves@rcn.com; website:www.ctaves.com. John Goit got a good scope from Max Erb Instrument Co, 2114 W. Burbank Blvd., Burbank, CA 91506; (818)843-0775.

House Cleaning
You’re a housewife and you haven’t been eating well lately. You feel run down and you catch a nagging cold. Instead of getting better, it gets worse to the point where you have trouble breathing. You plop down in a chair and find you don’t have the energy to get up again and do your house work.

Perhaps malnourished honeybees with tracheal are affected in a similar manner and neglect their house-cleaning chores, thus allowing foul brood and other nasties to build up.

At the March 13 meeting, Eric Mussen related that malnourished bees lose their ability to produce royal jelly, which in turn will negatively effect the egg laying ability of queens.

The Sounds of Silence
Experienced beekeepers can immediately identify a queenless colony as soon as they pop the lid on a hive just by the tone of the hum (an irritable tone); some will tell you to the day, just how many days the colony has been queenless (probably knowing that you have no way of refuting them). In recent years, beekeepers have come to recognize (and dread) another ominous, sometimes eerie sound from colonies suffering from “disappearing disease”, caused mainly by tracheal mites.

Affected colonies will have plenty of honey on them, but bee populations will be low and the bees will make a muted hum when the hive is opened. The hum could be an attempt to sound mean in order to ward off an attack from an intruder (you) but the bees are unable to muster the energy to come out and sting you.

Formic acid for tracheal control
As you’ve probably heard, there’s a problem getting gel-paks of formic acid registered for tracheal mite control. A number of beekeepers are getting excellent (although illegal) tracheal control with sequential formic acid treatments where the acid is placed on an absorbant material and put in the hive. A formic acid distributor is Gallade Chemical, 1230 E. St. Gertrude Place, Santa Ana, CA 92707; (714)546-9901.

Good Website
Check out www.ontariobee.com. Dr. Medhat Nasr (formerly in Canada, now at Rutgers, NJ) and colleagues posted some great information on this site, esp. in regard to tracheal control (mainly with formic acid). Canadian beekeepers have tracheal well under control, even though their climate is more tracheal friendly than ours.

Old Recommendation more valid than ever
“In general it is recommended to replace 3 combs in the brood chamber every year with new foundation. This practice will help to reduce the levels of spores and miticide residues in bee colonies”

This quote was taken from the website mentioned above. Its easier said than done but it makes a lot of sense.

Straight Talk
From Kim Flottum in the current (March) Bee Culture:
“. . .a recent test found that 20%, that’s 20% of the queens, that’s queens they purchased were infested with tracheal mites. What does that tell you about resistant stock?

Bees resistant to tracheal mites exist. They are hard to find and lots more are supposed to be resistant than actually are I suspect. Last Winter supports that conclusion.

So, when you are ordering queens this year I urge you to ask the producer if they have taken advantage of the service Mr. Holcombe is performing.* Then ask what the results were. If they aren’t working to get mite resistance in their lines, find someone who is.

Selecting for mite resistance isn’t easy, but it isn’t terribly difficult either. And, it costs a bit to run a program that produces mite-resistant bees. But NOT having to treat, and NOT having to worry about tracheal mites is worth a bit, right?

This year, protect yourself from this tiny beast. Get bees that won’t succumb. That won’t die from tracheal mites. Start demanding a quality product. Or find someone who will sell you one.”

“Demanding a quality product” usually means paying a higher price, so expect to pay more for tracheal resistant queens. Queen breeders won’t go to the effort and expense to produce such queens unless they know they can recoup their costs. Beekeepers can relate to this, as who wants to go to the extra expense of supplying strong colonies for almond pollination unless the almond grower is willing to pay extra for such colonies.

*Ed Holcombe in Tennessee who works with USDA researcher Bob Danka (Baton Rouge) to test the tracheal resistance of stock sent to them by queen breeders; queen breeders pay $100 for this test. Dr. Danka explained this program at the CA beekeeper convention last November.

The Silver Gun
Grayish, actually. When tacking ID placards on your colonies, one of our workers left a staple gun on top of a hive. If you find it, please let me know. They don’t make this kind any more (Swingline, Tacker #101) and the “new” models aren’t as good. A tiny reward is offered.

Propolis
There’s a strong market for propolis – $6.00/lb for premium material down to $2.00 for poor quality material (paint chips, dirt, etc.). Contact Beehive Botanicals (800)233-4483 Website: www.beehivebotanicals.com

Rumor Mill
There’s word that Eric Mussen is contemplating retiring. Say it ain’t so, Eric.

Jo Traynor, Mgr.
SCIENTIFIC AG CO.

SCIENTIFIC AG CO.
P.O. Box 2144
Bakersfield, CA 93303

Toll-free number: (877) 356-5846
Office Located at:
1734 D Street, Suite #2
Bakersfield, California
24 Hr. Phone (661) 327-2631