The moment you have all waited for…a date has been decided for our first Beginning Beekeeper Workshop! The Central Mississippi Beekeepers Association will be hosting the workshop and field day on March 14th in Jackson, MS. The morning will be filled with informative lectures from seasoned beekeepers and guests such as Dr. Jeff Harris from Mississippi State University. After lunch we will have a “field day” with live colonies for you newcomers to try your hand at working our little fuzzy livestock. Check out the Events tab for details and the Resources tab for a downloadable registration form.
I have also posted information about an Intermediate Beekeeper Workshop, which will be held in April in McComb, MS. This will also be an all-day event, geared towards beekeepers in their second or third year of managing colonies. Again, live colonies will be featured, so bring your hats and veils!
In order to better serve the Mississippi Beekeeping Community, we have put together a questionnaire that will tell us about your current beekeeping practices and help to direct our research and education efforts. The survey applies to all Mississippi residents who keep bees within the state and/or proximate to the state, and also to out-of-state beekeepers that manage bees in Mississippi apiaries for at least part of the year. NOTE: If you are an out-of state participant, please enter the MS zip code where your apiary is located.
Please take the time to fill out the 20-question survey posted in the menu bar under “MS Beekeeper’s Survey”.Thank you!
Lois Connington, Joe MacGown and I were asked to “man” an entomology exhibit at the second annual Mississippi Food Summit and Agricultural Revival in Jackson, MS this Saturday.
The event was held at the Ag & Forestry Museum, and filled three days with a variety of learning (hands-on and seminars) and vending opportunities for the public. The weather was perfect on Saturday–blue sky, bright sun, mid 70’s–and our exhibits were well-attended by youth and adults, alike. Lois brought examples from our live Insect Zoo, as well as baked goods made with insects (mmmm!); Joe set out several drawers of beautiful pinned insects from all over the world; and I brought my beekeeping bag of tricks, which included everything but live bees (the Central Mississippi Beekeepers Association hosted a live beehive demonstration elsewhere on the Museum grounds).
I was amazed how interested and knowledgeable several of the children were about bees…and even more amazed that the vast majority of the visitors to my booth were girls–Hooray! When I wasn’t talking to kiddos, I got to walk around and meet some of the farmers and vendors attending the event, and every one of them had something to say about honey bees. Two beekeepers from Louisiana were raising “survivor bees” from feral colonies. One beekeeper integrates honey bees with his free-range chicken operation, claiming that the chickens control small hive beetles in his small apiary, and their presence does not upset the bees. There was an overall vibe of good health, community and genuine interest in the ideas and information presented at the Summit…and I found it indescribably refreshing to be in the midst of “bee friendly” farmers!
Those of you who are itching to register for the conference can now do so by going to our “Resources” tab and downloading the form. Make sure to pay your MBA dues if you have not already. An MBA application form is also available under “Resources”.
Hopefully, most beekeepers in Mississippi have almost finished extracting their major honey crop from the spring and mid-summer. Afterwards is the perfect time to sample your bees to determine your varroa mite loads. I suggest that you estimate the number of mites on your adult bee population by washing the mites from a sample of 300-500 bees that are taken from the broodnest of each colony. Many of you prefer the sugar shake method for sampling the mites, but the humidity during this time of year causes the powdered sugar to cake. The caked sugar is not very good at dislodging the mites because this depends on having a fine powdery texture that interferes with the ability of the mites to grab and hold bees. Therefore, use of the sugar method in the late summer can give a gross underestimate of the real mite load in your colony.
I will not give all of the details for sampling using the alcohol wash here, but consult the file entitled “Managing Varroa Mites” under our “Resources” heading. I strongly encourage everyone to sample their bees to make decisions about whether they need to treat them with chemicals to reduce harmful levels of the mites. The concept hinges on two principles:
First, one can never completely eliminate varroa mites from colonies, and the bees can tolerate mite levels below a certain threshold. A good threshold for late summer in Mississippi is a 5% mite load on bees. This means that when the mite population in a colony exceeds 5 varroa mites per hundred bees that your colony will very soon reach a mite population that harms the bees. If you treat when the mite population just exceeds or meets the threshold, you can save the bees from damage or economic loss in productivity.
Second, the use of a threshold to make treatment decisions is a better approach to managing varroa mites than to regimentally treat all of your colonies on a set calendar schedule. Regimental treatment with any drug can quickly lead to the development of mite populations that are resistant to that chemical. Additionally, using chemicals at a regular interval can lead to the use of drugs when they are not even needed. For example, mite population growth can vary year to year. In some years, growth will be slower than others, and the mite populations may not even reach the threshold level. If a chemical is used blindly, the beekeeper tends to waste time and money. Finally, the use of chemicals can lead to secondary problems in hives. Many treatment chemicals can contaminate wax, and these contaminants may have long term health effects on bees. Please see “Managing Varroa Mites” under the “Resources” heading for complete details.
We have begun sampling our colonies here at the Mississippi State University apiaries. In looking at the data for the first 25 colonies, we have two colonies with mite populations that are near the 5% threshold (3.8 and 4.2%). The remaining colonies are low with mite populations at 0 – 2%. We will continue sampling all of our remaining colonies (n=75) over the next week or so. If these numbers hold for the remainder of our hives, we will not likely need to treat any of the colonies.
Rearing queens in a well-stocked cell builder is a pretty straightforward operation: graft, feed, wait. However, I have found that strange things happen when you attempt to rear queens in a time frame outside of a colony’s normal operating schedule. For example, on June 25th I grafted 30 larvae (2 bars) into JZ-BZ cells with the intent of producing some queens for artificial insemination. The cell builder was bursting at the seams with young bees, and the Cloake board had been in place for 24 hours to create a queenless unit in the upper brood chamber. I placed my grafted frame in the centrally-located prepared slot in the upper and filled the syrup feeder to the brim. Carefully laying a protein patty on the top bars, I wished the bees well and shut up the hive. The next day, I checked the graft and the acceptance was good enough for summer queen production, though not as high as I would have liked. So far, the operation seemed to be running smoothly enough. But when I checked the graft at Day 11, this is what I found:
The queens cells had been completely entombed in burr comb like wax mummies! Fortunately, the escape hatch was not covered over on any of the cells, but I had to carefully and meticulously extricate the queen cells from the mess. Every one of the burr mummies emerged successfully, but I have to wonder how much deeper they would have been buried in comb had I left the cells in the cell builder another day or two. Has anyone else experienced this phenomenon during summer queen rearing?