Monthly Archives: March 2011

March 2011

March 27, 2011

March 2011

Still have not gotten the pictures up!  Soon! Soon! Soon!

Springs a coming!!  Getting the trucks, trailers, and skidder up and ready.  Usually I make my decision within a day or so when I start emptying the shed.  I can hardly wait! But then again, I cant wait til its all done,…

Posted by Ian Steppler at 09:07 PM | Permalink

March 23, 2011

March 2011

This time of year seems to be the hardest to wait through.  In just a short few weeks the bees will be flying freely once again.  Patience until then.  This March has been a cool one, kind of like much of this winter.  Steady cold, with little breaks.  For the bees inside, that works just fine, as I don’t have to worry about an overheated shed so much.  Now my thought turn to setting the bees out, and all my yards have mounds of snow in them.  Next week Ill have to start clearing spots for the sun to work on.  I like to have some bare ground for the bees to fly over on their first flight of spring.  I think it creates a heat sink and helps the bees make it back to the hive alive.  Once they land on the snow its game over for them.

Very little spotting on the hive fronts.  That’s encouraging to see.

I finally got some picture together and will have them set into a gallery.  I dont have time to organize them yet, and I will be adding as we go from now on.  So I will figure some kind of organizing structure to make viewing easy.

I have had alot of requests for pictures.  Just keep a few things in mind.  I dont run a high budget operation.  I keep things simple but try to be progressive.  You will notice my operation in a continual state of maintenance.

I herd a good quote on a movie I was watching the other night, it was fryer Tuck on the movie Robin Hood. “I keep bees, the bees keep me”

Posted by Ian Steppler at 05:14 PM | Permalink

March 07, 2011

March 2011

I swept the bees in the shed yesterday, 3 1/3 barrels so far.  Pretty good comparison to other years.  The bees are still humming inside.  I was given advice to check my humidity to see if its dry inside.  Perhaps tossing snow in the shed would help moisten the air.

I walked around with a stethoscope and listened to my hives.  I assessed them loud, mild, or quiet as I quietly tapped them.  Most all my hives assisted loud or mild except for one particular grouping that tested half as quiet.  Not to worry, only 100 or so hives in that grouping.  It was this grouping I opened up earlier along the top rows and assessed a 50%.

So, why was this particular grouping showing soo much loss, and the rest of my yards showing excellent results so far.  Looking back at my records I notice a trend.  All of these hives come from split yards.  All of these hives came from my first splits made.  I also noticed DWV comments with these yard notes.

What happened was a treatment mistake.  I treat my hives with Apivar in the spring and try to get the treatment mostly completed before my hive split rounds.  That way I dont have to medicate my splits going out and disturb my queens acceptance rate.  This past spring I put my medication in a bit late and my first split was done a bit early.  Im thinking my treatment time wasn’t long enough and mites survived the treatment in my first round splits.  By my records my treatment time was shortened by 2 weeks on my first round splits.  Lesson learned! I have to ensuring full treatment time line is followed with Apivar.  It must need the whole treatment time to kill off the mites.

Last fall I was disappointed with my singles going into the shed.  They looked small to me at the time.  Now I look at them and they actually all look pretty good.  I guess maybe I was use to seeing large bursting hives of bees in my doubles, and the singles looked small accordingly.  I haven’t quite given up on singles yet, they continue to interest me.  I am experimenting with them further this coming year becasue maybe they might just provide me with the management options Im actually looking for.  It amazes me how much different managing doubles is to singles.  Its like managing two completely different operations.  As time passes, I might be able to manage singles, as I am able to spend more time with the honey enterprise and the farm is able to hire in help to help with the work load.

Posted by Ian Steppler at 05:55 PM | Permalink

March 06, 2011

March 2011 MBA Convention

Attended the Manitoba Beekeepers Association convention Friday March 4th and Saturday March 5th. Seemed to be lots in attendance, and lots presented! I really dont know what conventions were like before Varroa, viruses, and nosema. Seems like both days were basically disease themed. I’m not complaining, it just re enforces the state of our industry right now. A few of the presenters I sat in on were Stephen Pernel, Rob Currie, Pierre Giovenozzo, Rod Scarlet, and the famous Randy Oliver.

Stephen Pernel talked on the biological nature and control of Nosema Ceranae. Nosema Ceranae is now described as a highly specialized fungi, attacking the bees mid gut, and is said to out compete its relative Nosema Apis. Previous study on Ceranae over seas in Spain was that this fungi was the end all of beekeeping as we know it.  Apparently the Spain study showed the bees inability to adapt to its infection and showed treatment to only slow down its infection and death of the hives. After arrival in North America our own study has shown its lethal effect to be less virulent and actually exhibit much exact the same symptoms as its cousin Apis. In fact, the whole issue of Ceranae out competing Apis in North America is in question, which in turn raises more questions. Researchers have also found Nosema ceranae to survive poorly in cold temperatures unlike Nosema Apis and they also found honey bees can manage infection much the same they do with Apis. It looks like Ceranae infections in Spain exhibit different characteristics than here in North America, in Spain the bees cant shake ceranae like they do with apis. Fumagillin has been proven to be an effective control option for both Apis and Ceranae. Soooo, business like usual on the Nosema front, for now, I think,

Rob Currie spoke on many things, but the take home I got from his presentation is the difference between indoor and outdoor wintering results. It was briefly discussed, but the gist of it was indoor hives start winter smaller than outdoor hives, but in spring their surviving populations are nearly the same. Many comments were jousted around, but Rob claimed many differing management techniques or colony age (queen age) made little difference in his conclusions. He figured the hives are better able to handle viral infections (DWV) indoors, where as more outdoors hives weaken or die from viral infections. The reason it caught my attention is that his conclusion proves I’m heading in the right direction in the whole indoor wintering plan.

Pierre Giovenozzo came to speak to us from Quebec. A very well spoken man, and brought alot of real practical information to us. His take home point was during his talk on mated queens and overall performance comparing early season imports to later mated locals. It was shown queen ovarioles size and stored seamen was directly related to later season mated queens. The reason likely due to nourishment during development and weather conditions during mating. The findings are not really a surprise, but reinforces the whole notion of incorporating more local stock into my yearly management plan. Maybe try to bring these queens into my operation later in season when quality will be better and at a time of less beekeeper demand.

Randy Oliver Spoke on Friday, and boy I enjoy listening to his presentations. He can be described as a beekeeper/scientist, searching for the “answer” we are all looking for, performing his own in yard studies and incorporating much of what he finds into his own operation. His seems to be able to present all the science around everything that’s going on in the industry in a fashion we all can relate to, while expressing everything in an unbiased position. He truly is a man that’s bettering the industry world wide.

So, his take home thought,….

He talked a bit about Nosema Ceranae, and expressed much the same thoughts as Stephen Pernel presented. But he dug deeper into Ceranae and commented on having a viral infection also in the hive. Bad news. This causes a much lower bee life span and increased stress on the hive. Infected bees (older foragers) tend to fly out by a natural instinct to help cleanse the hive of infection. So, the whole worker division load changes and younger workers have to move to forager roles sooner. Now add another stress, nutritional stress from either a lack of forage, OR a lack of foragers to bring in nourishment. This stress allows the virus to express itself further, and POW, more bees leave becasue they feel sick. Before you know it, the hive is left without any bees in the box.  It has been documented to happen within days. CCD. Proven bottom up science.

He also talked on the “king pin” of the problem. Varroa. Apparently the Varroa mite injects some kind of an anti healing compound into the bee to keep its feeding wound open. Its this open wound that provides the point of entry for other pathogens to enter the bees systems, like virus infections. If we can control the varroa mite, we can greatly reduce all viral infections. Alot of his talk focused around varroa treatment timing and products he preferred to use. He presented varroa control in practical terms along with his own experience with these treatments. There are very interesting products available, but I am still having trouble bringing alot of his management practices into Manitoba terms. It has given me alot to think about.

Probably the most hard hitting point he made was the importance in providing proper nutrition to the hives. Protein stress is one factor we can easily artificially control. By preventing a protein stressed hive, we may be able to ultimately divert viral infections. Three main points to consider when trying to avoid viral infections; 1 immunocompetence, 2 varroa treatment timing, 3 colony growth and maintenance. Nutrition is KEY. He hammered many times we must feed protein to help rejuvenate young bees. Even in our pollen abundant short seasoned environment, we have to be able to distinguish flow and derth, and anticipate them to be able to react effectively in avoiding a nutritional stress. In general its just a matter of watching whats happening in our hives and reacting progressively.

He talked about much more, but that’s the gist. Thats my take home.

These conventions are really useful. I tend to be on the busy side with work and family and have thought many time about simply just skipping the convention. This is my lively hood. What ever work or activity that is going on can wait, becasue the information that I gather over these two days is priceless. Not only from the speakers, but the fellow beekeepers I sit beside. Limitless opinions and advice which help make most all of my beekeeping decisions easier. Maybe alot of beekeepers are born into a “beekeeping family” and already have all the input they can stand or tolerate. I dont have that. I make my decision with the best information at hand, and frankly right now there seems to be more questions than answers in this industry.

I talk to beekeepers at the convention and every time I’m overwhelmed with intimidation. From what I am experiencing with my bees, and what I am hearing from these beekeepers sometimes seem totally different, most seem to have the whole situation figured out. And rightfully so. I might be too hard on the performance of my hives, yet my winter losses and summer honey yields are always comparable to provincial averages. But I’m looking for a level of anticipated response and performance from my hives that I’m not seeing right now. Im looking for stability and sustainability. Starting this season, I’m going to try different techniques to find it. Lots of ideas out there, I just have to make them work within my expectations.  Who knows, maybe my experiments will lead me right back to where I’m at now.  If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it , right?

Posted by Ian Steppler at 09:03 AM | Permalink