[Science] Bee Informed Surveys

If you're a beekeeper and you haven't participated, get out and get it done.  The Bee Informed Partnership does annual surveys of beekeepers and their successes and failures, then crunch the numbers to see what they say about beekeeping techniques.  The more people that participate, the better their results.  The current survey is underway and you can respond until April 30th - if you haven't already.

Last years results were VERY interesting.  HEREhttp://beeinformed.org/2012/03/bee-informed-national-management-survey-2010-2011/

None of it is conclusive of course, it's not that kind of survey and study, and they're the first to admit it.  But there are some takeaways that may challenge many of the popular beekeeping memes.  (I hate that word)  The one I noticed most was that much of the IPM programs don't seem to indicate any real gains for the costs and effort.  Screened bottom board, relatively ineffective.  Comb rotation - new combs seem to cost more bee lives; advice was given to only engage in moderate comb rotation.  Mite treated hives survive more often.  And the big surprise for me - providing a top entrance for over-wintering hives seems to have a noticeable survival effect.  I think I'll make sure I have a spacer with a hole, on top, before tucking the girls away for winter.

If you haven't seen their explanation videos, go check them out on the BeeInformed YouTube Channel.  I'm surprised how few views they have on these videos.  I think understanding the data and their analysis is key to making good hive management decisions.  Everyone should be reviewing what they're doing here!

Here's the videos I found most interesting.

General Explanation of the survey results (how to understand the context of their results):

Varroa Control:

Brood Comb Management:

Winter Preperations:

Make sure you participate and keep an eye on the results from year to year.  It will be interesting once there is enough time and data, to see trends come out of it.

[Science] Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus (CBPV)

As a Queen Breeder I tend to be a little tough on my breeding stock.  I like them to show me they have the right stuff to survive in this tough world.  That's not to say I won't save a failing hive, but that means a reset of that hive and a new queen for them.  I just want to save the bee mass and not waste it, when I treat a hive.

Last Fall some of my hives had moderate Nosema counts and I even ended up treating a few of them and replacing their queens.  But the long cold winter incubated Nosema in many of the rest.  Many didn't make it through the winter.  I've been disinfecting and sterilizing equipment as best I can all Spring.  It's been a terrible mess.  Hives and combs covered with feces.  But I had one hive that when I opened it a few weeks ago, gave me a bit of a scare.

I'm not very familiar with Chronic Bee Paralysis Virus (CBPV).  I have heard, but never seen, that there can be a "shaking" of the bees and that almost seemed to be what this colony was doing, to my untrained and mildly panic'd eye.  I've subsequently been looking more closely into CBPV and thought I'd share some highlights.

A brief description, but EXCELLENT video of the "shaking" symptoms.  Make sure you watch them and also take note of the hairless "shiny" bees.

Here's a good paper of CBPV and it's transmission via fecal matter.  I think it's important for beekeepers to note that not all fecal stains are Nosema.  Sometimes it can even just be having to hold it too long.  This paper is really about the transmission vector of the virus to other bees in the colony, via feces, but still it's worth observing that fecak stauning can be a symptom.

BTW, my hive that that gave me a fright is fine.  It must have been the cold air, unexpected popping of the lid, and my mind trying to deal with my losses this year.  I've checked them several times since then to be sure.  No more shaking.  No staining.  And no "bald and shiny" bees.  I am glad they stimulated me into reading more about CBPV however.  I think I'll be more aware of it and able to spot it better now.  A dark part of me wants to actually see it in the wild sometime...

Very special thanks to BeeBase for the video of CBPV.

[Science] Article: What happened to the Bees this Spring

I hesitate to publish this one under a Science title, but Randy Oliver is injecting some of his own research (unpublished and not peer-reviewed) and not all science is technically done under the peer-review process.  Not having created another title header for it just yet, I'm going to go ahead and use it anyway.

I noticed an interesting article today (April 19th, 2013) authored by Randy Oliver, a noted Biologist and Beekeeper.  Here's the link as it's published on Oliver's Scientific Beekeeping site:


There has been a lot of hype about the recent bee colony losses of this last winter and here Oliver loads up all the bullets in his revolver and takes aim at it.  The document is made up in two parts, and in the second part he seems to take a short aside to set the record straight on Neonicotinoids and a few other "Myths", after which he makes the case for cold weather and drought to be the main and likely culprits.

Like everyone else, I suffered with great losses this winter as well.  My honey flows weren't great but they weren't terrible and all hives went into winter with plenty of honey and still have plenty of honey leftover in them.  But in my particular area the cold never let up once it set in.  Usually we get a short week or two of an "Indian Summer", around January, and the bees can get out for cleansing flights.  That didn't happen this year.  Colonies were locked inside their hives due to very fridged arctic cold conditions nearly all winter.  When I was able to finally take a peek under the lids, it was a disaster.  Feces everywhere in the deadouts.  I pulled out my microsope and tested my remaining colonies and all of them had very high Nosema counts.

For me the conclusions were simple this year.  What was everyone elses experience?

The Dan Rather report, "Buzzkill", which is referenced by Oliver, can be watched here:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJ5riRX1_3w

:Craft: DIY Langstroth

I've been following this guy on YouTube for a long time.  I really like his jigs and plans he comes up with for making Langstroth equipment.  Looks like he must have recently linked his G+ account into YouTube and goes by +Ryan Bekke  - he used to go by CarpFish.  His videos are here:  http://www.youtube.com/user/Carpfish29

I noticed that he has recently launched a small venture selling his hive plans on CD/DVD, so I ordered one.  Seemed reasonable at $7.95 and I've been a fan for a while, so it was worth supporting him.

I hope it comes with all the plans for his jigs etc - the most valuable part of what he does in my humble opinion.  I'll post back when it comes and give a quick review then.