Monthly Archives: September 2015

September 27 2015

glass of wineNow that the bee season has wound down and with harvest complete, typical fall work proceeds and I am again finding myself taking evenings off. I am able to remove myself from the farm to attend social events and with that I find myself in conversation with people about beekeeping. Quite flattering that people take a interest in my chosen profession but I am finding it really difficult to actually talk about the issues without seeing that glazed eye look and the silence after the conversation as they can’t follow the issues as I present them. I don’t know how to approach this practically. My opinions on these issues do not follow the typical ‘media’ type bee issue spin. I don’t talk about climate change, I don’t talk about CCD, I don’t talk about harmful chemicals like Neonic’s, Monsanto and GMO’s, and I don’t talk about modern day agriculture killing off my livelihood. These issues are all people actually really know about beekeeping…and that is sad.
When I talk about beekeeping to interested people I talk about actual beekeeping…colony health, nutrition, disease and pest, floral diversity and how the seasons weather influenced my nectar flow. All my beekeeping issues are directly link to actual beekeeping issues, not “those” newspaper headlines. This kind of conversation is beekeeping and is what I focus on every year to keep my business going. It is almost like when talking to people about beekeeping without using todays spin and hype I loose my audience and attention drifts.
beekeeperBeekeeping is boring, simple and basic and the perspective people have of beekeepers is as stewards of the environment. It is this perspective of the beekeeper that is being abused. There are countless special interest groups attacking Modern Agriculture and the Agribusiness Industry. They have efficiently launched a campaign linking colony loss issues with Agribusiness fronting the campaign with beekeeping issues and using beekeepers as their mules. Our image and our current hive health issues are being used to grab the attention of the world and demonstrate an attach on Agribusiness which is mostly hype and spin. Even within the beekeeping industry we see a huge difference in opinion as this counter argument I raise to our bee health issues has made me a very un popular beekeeper within discussion groups. Whether or not chemicals are negatively influencing our hives health, we have no way to actually understanding the issue as so much of the “studies” and information is tainted with opinion, agenda and out right lies. Let me provide an example of such;

I don’t need to explain who Randy Oliver is, and if so, familiar yourself with him from his homepage comments found here; scientificbeekeeping.com

Headlines all over the world captured a glimps of neonics and the consequence of using them in regards to honeybee health with Dr. Lu’s paper on neonics, Dr. Lu is an associate professor of environmental exposure biology in the Department of Environmental Health at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. His paper, Distributions of neonicotinoid insecticides in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts: a temporal and spatial variation analysis for pollen and honey samples.

Dr. Lu captivated headlines claiming neonic residues are causing honey bee colony collapse and killing other wildlife, the press publishing all his findings as facts.

Since then, Randy Oliver has reviewed his studdies and provided some comments in his review which can be found here; A Review of Dr. Lu’s paper on neonics in Massachusetts

To quote Randy Oliver in his review;

We still need watchdogs and activists to monitor our business and personal activities that may be contributing to environmental and health problems, and I applaud such watchdogs and activists for doing so.
But doing so also confers a responsibility not to exaggerate the facts, nor to unduly alarm the public, mislead the media, or to foment fear for fundraising purposes. Unfortunately, when I became involved in the politics of beekeeping I quickly learned how the media, in their quest for sensational stories, pander to activists and advocacy groups that are guilty of all the above. The public, which is unfortunately largely scientifically illiterate, then swallows these compelling false narratives hook, line, and sinker, leading well-intentioned folk to make poor judgments (such as going on low-fat diets, not vaccinating their kids, or worrying about the wrong things). Even worse, their misdirected activism subsequently leads to protests and public pressure on our representatives to “do something” about a problem that may be greatly exaggerated, and directs our energies away from more important environmental concerns.

Although I fault Dr. Lu for the above, the real responsibility lies with others. We trust the editors and referees of scientific papers to recognize errors and reject papers not suitable for publication. Every one of the egregious errors that I’ve pointed out in Lu’s papers should have been caught by his reviewers and been corrected, or been cause for the paper to be rejected for publication—this is their duty to the scientific community and the public. I’m appalled that a trusted institution such as Harvard allows its name to be associated with examples of science at its worst. And how about our media, who stoop to tabloid sensationalism by uncritically parroting this sort of unscientific nonsense upon an unsuspecting public?

Aug 28–I’ve now received a large amount of positive feedback for this review from other bee researchers; most of whom, out of professional courtesy, are hesitant to publicly criticize other scientists. I wrote the review as a call to action for scientists and editors to start cleaning up their act before the public loses all faith in the integrity of science. I hope that it makes a difference.”

end of Quote.

confusin questionHow are we the public to understand any part of these issues when we the public can not trust the information coming from editors and scrutineers of these scientific papers? Agendas cloud the issues with false narratives which the media swoops up and spins into tabloid sensational nonsense… which then becomes true public opinion. This lack of integrity has not only gotten me concerned but more dangerously skeptical of anything I now hear being published in our papers from environmental watchdogs and activists.  Our beekeeping issues are being redirected, actual problems are being ignored and because of this actual answers to our issues are being lost in all the hype.  And unfortunately when I brush on these issues during casual conversation with people about beekeeping and its current issues, I get that glazed eye look and silence at the end of the conversation.

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September 25 2015

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We are chipping away at cleaning up or wax stores. Actually honey house wax sales have been swift as it seems there is a strong demand from people are looking for wax to make candles and creams, ready for Christmas.

September 24 2015

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I got the word today that there will be a premium paid for clean yellow wax brought into BeeMaid. Mike said he will be fussy on cleanliness and colour of the wax paying up to $4.25 per lbs. We have just started sending our rough rendered wax through again to clean up for sale. A few days at that then onto some custom rendering.

September 20 2015

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The bees quit taking the syrup from the pail, yet the drip continues, so they clean the mess off the bottom board. This continues until they are completely full, then the drip continues to run out the front of the hive to feed the ants. That last pail is usually taken up as they clean it up.

September 18 2015

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And just like that 5500-6000 tonnes of silage sits in three giant stacks. We had a big corn crop this year averaging over 20 tonnes per acre. There were placed on this farm yielding over 25 tonnes per acre!! Monster crop for our farm! With this job done we are one step away from being completely done our harvest. The beans await, very soon.

September 16 2015

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Our custom Silage guys, Gilbraith Farm Services, arrived today and worked late into the night under the lights. There is a big corn crop out there this year which is keeping his trailers flying. We have our field tractor running the pile to help pack as it is coming in pretty fast. Another huge job underway, there is a buzz of excitement when these guys arrive, they put on quite the impressive show.

September 15 2015

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Full sized production hives

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Nucleus colonies

The hives sure are populous coming off summer production, over the next month I’ll start to see a well defined winter cluster as the summer bees die off. Typically my nucs do not change size from now till I move them out in the spring whereas these production hives will shed that massive summer growth throughout the fall and slowly throughout the winter. I get very little winter shed bee drop from my Nuc isles, whereas my production hives slowly shed bees all winter. I enjoy feeding hives this time of year. Harvest is done, honey is in, the season changes to a slower pace as we prepare for winter. Cool mornings and nice days, now that the hives are fed it’s time to find a seat on a field tractor and work the land.

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September 14 2015

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Two 50lbs fishing scales give me an approximate weight, not exact but close enough

“Ian, I saw your blog post and was wondering how much syrup you have to feed per hive to get them up to weight each year?
I understand that the way you run your hives means there is little honey in the brood nest at the end of the season.”

I don’t weigh all my hives but I do weigh random hives to help give me an idea of how much weight the feeding has put on. My target winter weight is 95-100 lbs per single box hive. The bees consumed all the syrup set out last week which brought the average hive weight to 75-85 lbs per hive. This week we are making another round feeding half pails to bulk the hives up to my target weight. Later through September and October I’ll fill one open feeder per yard every once and a while during nice days to backfill the nest on the larger hives. If I were feeding only through the pail I would probably weigh every hive and feed accordingly but I find all that fussy work determining the amount of feed needed to cap off the hive is best left to the bees and their will to gather needed syrup when I finish off the feed season with the open feeder. This get me completely away from hives that stall on the pail and waste syrup dripping through onto the ground. That first pail goes quick, the last is slow and messy. With my open fed yards I count the litres fed and top them off with the estimated amount of feed needed to bring the yard up to weight.