Thursday, April 19, 2012

Queenspotting after Brunch

We had a busy day at the apiary last Sunday. We had a visit from friend Hillary Price. We'd post a picture of her here, but everyone looks pretty much the same when their photo is take in a bee veil. We took her over to the yard and we poked around in some hives.

I cannot really imagine what it's like to look into a bee hive for the first time. They're so strange. Anyhow, we had a nice brunch with friends and then did some beekeeping.

Later on Rick Intres from Bear Meadow Apiary stopped by to help us beekeep. We know Rick from the Franklin County Beekeepers. He's very knowledgeable about bees and kindly offered to come by and show us a few tricks.

The early spring has lead to record large hives for this time of year. It's great for taking advantage of nectar, but can very easily lead to swarming, so we had to take action. We set about finding the queen bees in the hives. Can you spot her in the photo above?

It may seem easy there, but in a hive of 30,000 bees it's not easy. Rick showed us tricks that help him locate her. We then moved each queen we found to another part of the hive where she'd be less crowded and have more room to lay eggs. We spent about 6 hours in the hives. If things work out it could be a record year for us, but the swarm impulse will be intense.

This year we're inviting many experienced beekeepers to visit us in the hopes of learning a lot and sharing what we know. Nothing beats really seeing what others are doing that makes their practice special.

We also gave Rick a small colony with a queen from one of our best colonies. We're hoping he'll do well with her too. In this way we preserve and spread the best genetics to deal with the complex and harsh challenges bees face. Think of this practice as being a lot like seed sharing. Beekeepers can't compete and hope to survive; we cooperate.

Add to the list of challenges that bees face a newly emerging disease, Nosema Cerene. Most beekeepers know Nosema Apis pretty well as bee dysentery. This "new" nosema was formerly a bee disease from a social bee found in northern India. Now thanks to globalization it's here too. It's a likely contributor to Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), and we're trying a new fix against it. It's the extract from the bark of a tree found in Czechoslovakia. Nosema is a fungus, and trees have to fight off fungal infections all the time. The first line of defense is their bark. Make sense?

Lastly, there's been a lot of news lately about neonicitinoids killing off bees. Everyone is looking for the magic bullet that'll stop CCD but IMHO there is no magic bullet. CCD has many causes, not the least of which is how we live. Sure, neonics are probably not helping anything, but neiter is nosema cerene. I'm not sure what will stop it, or if anything ever will. In a small stand against it all we gave away a queen from our best colony to a friend.

She's been a strong girl that came to us through a swarm I captured in Florence. She was strong enough to fly away and try and make it on her own. She did this in a world with Nosema Cerene, neonics, varroa destructor and crazy weather.

Good luck with your queen Rick. She's the future, part of the one I want to live in anyhow.