[Science] Thymol for Almonds

I saw a post by the USDA Agricultural Research Service (ARS) yesterday about using Thymol to enhance fungicide treatments on Almond trees.  http://www.ars.usda.gov/is/pr/2011/110428.htm  Thymol is an extract from the plant Thyme and is used commonly by Beekeepers to treat for the mite, Varroa Destructor.  Now the idea with the Thymol and Almond tree treatments is that the two can be combined for a stronger effect.  Some initial research seems to indicate that it may help in reducing the fungicide required by about 1/2.

I see this as having two potential benefits to Beekeepers, one real and one imaginary.  If the Thymol enhancement is successful and truly reduces the amount of fungicide treatment an Almond tree needs, this is EXCELLENT news for Beekeepers because it will reduce, by 1/2, the amount of exposure to those fungicides that the bees may currently be getting.  I don't know when the fungicide treatment happens for Almond trees and how much residual is around when the bees go to California for pollination, but whatever it may be (and it may not be much at all) it will be potentially 1/2 as much as before.  It's possible that this enhancement may work for fungicide treatment on other trees and plants as well.

Imagine if the Almond pollinators are additionally exposed to Thymol on the Almond trees now.  Maybe Beekeepers will save themselves a lot of mite treatment costs if every tree is a mite killing machine!  ;-)

[Science] La Nina Weather

I feel bad that I'm just getting to this post, since I thought about doing it in early April.  Back on April 9th, before all the tornadoes starting touching down, I was monitoring Dr. Anthony Watts climate blog and noticed a repost from another blog, by Joseph D'Aleo from ICECAP.  The title on Dr. Watt's blog was "Uh, oh…the clash of ice and warmth brings storms."  It's a prediction of severe storms across the Midwest and Southern areas of the United States, the kind that often include tornadoes as well, due to the ongoing (but weaker) La Nina event in the Pacific and a warming, in the Gulf Coast, due to a ridge that was blocking the Gulf for about six weeks, allowing it to warm up fast.

The Pacific La Nina event makes for very cold and long North American winters and beekeepers are noticing that everywhere.  The classic weather symptoms of a La Nina event, on the mainland, are a cold and wet North Pacific and Northern Rockies, while our friends in the Four Corners and south through Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas suffer from drought.  So far I've only heard of Texas struggling with the drought, but those other areas can expect it as well.

Now typically the South can expect pretty dry conditions as well, but with the warm gulf and cold north, where those two start to bump into each other, could be critical.  There will certainly be many and very severe thunderstorms and tornado events there and I would say hurricanes are likely to be numerous this year as well (My prediction).  We haven't had a hurricane hit the Conitinental U.S. for five or six years now, but colder weather ALWAYS creates more storms than warmer weather.

For those who were hoping for a return to a bit of "normalcy", I don't want to burst your bubble, but over at NOAA some are saying that according to the data, strong La Nina events are often followed by a second year of La Nina, albeit a weaker one.  La Nina events always fade in the Summer, but can resurge for a second time and the prediction is for about a 50% chance of that happening this time.  http://www.esrl.noaa.gov/psd/people/klaus.wolter/MEI/

So what this may mean for beekeepers this year and next?  Well, with a delayed Spring still mostly in effect you are already facing it in most areas.  Here in Northern Utah things have been wet and cold still.  Night temperatures still often hitting freezing.  Daytime highs in the mid fourties on good "partly cloudy" days.  Package bees delayed everywhere due to troubles getting good days for queens to take mating flights.  Feeding having to continue a bit longer than normal since many necture and pollen sources are still dormant or hard to get to with the weather "misbehaving".

Due to NOAA's predictions of a possible resurgence of La Nina this next winter I would prepare for an early winter, with more cold and snow.  This will likely interrupt next Spring's beekeeping processes and schedules as well.  If you have a number of hives that would be detrimental to you financially to lose, make sure you have insurance coverage on them.  And if you live in the Midwest or South, be safe out there and alert to the storm conditions, please.

:Craft: Beginning Beekeeping

This time of year I get lots of questions about how to start a hive.  I have found many good instructional videos on the internet and so there really is no need for me to create a new set of instructions here on this blog.  I may do so at some time, but it will just be to create something that satisfies my particular tastes in the video production realm.  The content is already out there in abundance.

I'm going to start with a listing on YouTube, by a survivalist group calling themselves delta69alpha and then later switching over to another location on YouTube called "The Survival Report."  It's amazing to me, sometimes, how much survivalists have in common with Mennonites.  Trying to be as self-sufficient as possible, but with AK's and AR's.  Well there is no end of the world material in their videos here, just very good demonstration on how to start a brand new Langstroth style hive.

Here's a playlist that will go through them in sequence, or you can click on them one by one below:  http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=B7AC159256F8D0C0

Part 1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PxJv6zuf-DE
Part 2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zI8q3JOiruo
Part 3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J0b5moDaOLI
Part 4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lfHDShghtnA
Part 5: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xNxVMnLDMrQ
Part 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xhy841gHgIg
Part 7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnPs-9FDAIA
Part 8: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L7vFpAc2q-0
Part 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kHompowLpQk
Part 10:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dtwG2C2kKug

Another video demonstration comes from the University of Georgia, called "A year in the life of an apiary," and is hosted by entomologist, Keith Delaplane, PhD.  It's an EXCELLENT look into beginning beekeeping, but what I really hope you'll come away with is a better understanding of beekeeper fashion.

Here's a playlist that will go through them in sequence, or you can click on them one by one below: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=F838DA0F92666667

Section 1 - History, Building Equipment, Preparing medications
  1.1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UjrdwXXEtLo
  1.2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkRo1ddHdWk
  1.3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yK64y0CtsU
Section 2 - Installing Bees, Medication, Releasing Queens
  2.1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=psx6sVUWxUc
  2.2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ivqCYOud0ME
  2.3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hy5UmSosQ3Q
  2.4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oudYBjbmD58
Section 3 - Maturing Hives, Migrating Hives
  3.1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HgHUgNbgnc0
  3.2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uNxT6E3whU4
  3.3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qh7OdZUZTOY
  3.4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogVmNxuZnC4
Section 4 - Housekeeping (requeening), Package Bees, Bee Associations, Periodicals
  4.1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Db8ncLeytZQ
  4.2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TmukiN_btGw
  4.3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qZ9-yzm4Hlc
Section 5 - Diseases & Pests
  5.1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jd5FUJ1qDAo
  5.2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lqq4W3WfKK0
  5.3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yVcbvV86-Sk
Section 6 - Harvesting, Packaging
  6.1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VePfPNsWkUg
  6.2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mCmuj9J0qdw
  6.3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TgRmlyOzKCA
  6.4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rhm4uvkcUs
Section 7 - Overwintering Hives, Second Spring Management
  7.1: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YPh70tTZVuc
  7.2: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hoSs-NwHoV0
  7.3: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=so1ovlNWQGQ
  7.4: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FL9uPmRfL5E

Another kind of hive that has become common is a Kenyan style Top Bar Hive. (TBH)  They are very cheap to make and the idea is basically to have a cavity over which you hang bars of wood that the bees can build honey comb down from.  There's a bit more science to it than that, but it can be as simple as that too, if you're daring enough.  My backyard garden hives are made out of a split wine barrel.  I'll post pictures and a video sometime, but they have some problems, I'll detail then, that a standard TBH doesn't have to deal with; they just look good in the garden is the reason I built them from wine barrels.

Dave's Bees on Vimeo has produced some detailed instructions for building a standard TBH.  There are also free instructions and drawings, that Dave uses, at biobees.com

1: Top Bars - http://vimeo.com/9481171
2: Follower Boards - http://vimeo.com/9773858
3: Legs and Ends - http://vimeo.com/10191861
4: Finish the hive - http://vimeo.com/10367007
5: The Lid - http://vimeo.com/13369237

The Lazy Beekeeper has some discussion on creating TBH as well.  Keep in mind that he is in the south of Texas and makes his hives a bit smaller to avoid comb collapse from hot weather, and his open (screened) bottom may not work as well if left open year round in far northern areas.

Playlist: http://www.youtube.com/view_play_list?p=8FF4D8EA1389B04B

1: Building TBH - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQIf_sw1DsY
2: Top Bars Pt 1 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnLpk5hM8SM
3: Top Bars Pt 2 - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3f8A_6N96CE

Inaugural Post

Just a post to launch this Blog.  The main goal here is to be a video blog.  I am planning several Bee-Lines across the U.S., and hopefully Mexico and Canada as well, on my motorcycle, with my cameras, to interview beekeepers and film bee related stories.  I want to see it all.  If it buzzes and is interesting, I want to catch it on tape.

If you know someone who has an interesting philosophy, practice, equipment, approach, or is doing research in beekeeping, let me know and I'll see if I can get them lined up on one of my trips - which start this summer.

My first Bee-Line is heading south through the wilds of the Southwest.  I am located near the Bee Research Lab in Logan, UT, a source I hope to exploit for interviews, and my line will take me south along the Utah/Colorado boarder (maybe Moab-Monticello-Durango or perhaps Grand Junction-Durango) on down through the Los Alamos area of New Mexico (hoping to secure and interview with a queen breeder in the area) then on down to Austin, Texas to meet some researchers and a favorite YouTube beekeeper of mine (also if he'll agree to it).  I'll make a drop to Laredo, Texas, to visit some family very quickly, then more or less follow the US-Mexican boarder up to Arizona into Tucson.  No where to go but up, from there, and I'll probably come back along the eastern side of AZ and UT.

A second Bee-Line will have me going to the deep South, probably via Oklahoma, through Louisianna, on to Dothan Alabama.  From their I'll curl back across the northern route, through the plains of the midwest.

A third Bee-Line adventure will be through northern Nevada, via Reno, to the San Francisco area, specifically Hughson, CA (near Modesto) and then on down through the Central Valley, maybe as far as L.A.  Depending on how far south things go, I'll go back north through Las Vegas, NV, or if I don't go as far south as L.A., I may cut across the middle of Nevada somewhere that looks interesting and point towards Ely, NV.  I would LOVE to make this trip in February, during the Almond bloom, but the weather for motorcycle riding across most of those northern areas and passes is very questionable at that time of year.  We'll have to see how things go.

So if you know of anyone or anything bee related along those areas that would be interesting to bee enthusiasts, or maybe you're in one of those areas, let me know and let's get something lined up!

 Email me here!

All of that will take time to get up and going, so in the meantime I'll be posting on things I think are interesting or worthy.  To start with I will put up links and create a menu section for Beginning Beekeepers to get instruction, as it's that time of year again.  I know I field lots of NewBee questions in the spring, so I'm organizing some instructional videos I have found to be pretty good in the next couple of posts.

Bee Lining
  - http://www.beehunting.com/
  -Excellent reproduction of a Bee Lining tool at the Bee Hive Journal, blog.  This tool I first saw in a book by George Harold Edgell, "The Bee Hunter", Cambridge, Harvard Univ. Press - 1949, which has been reprinted more recently.
   - Another description of Bee Lining can be watched on YouTube, from McCartnee Taylor, aka The Lazy Beekeeper, here.