PNW SURVEY OF BEE HEALTH & BEEKEEPING PRACTICES

Survivorship Survey - by Dewey M. Caron

Last year, 271 OR/WA backyarder beekeepers returned April surveys on overwintering colony losses/survivorship, and management such as colony feeding, sanitation and Varroa control efforts. The results for WA beekeepers are posted on the website: http://pnwhoneybeesurvey.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/2016-LeCBA-and-WA-Report.pdf

There were 52 WA respondents included in the WA report
Colony loss levels from all WA respondents were 40% for 8-frame and 59% for 10-frame Langstroth hive beekeepers, 100% for 5-frame nucs and 97% for top bar hives. For 5 Pierce Co respondents, overall losses were 75%, and 47% for 25 Lewis Co beekeepers; from the 52 total Washington beekeeper respondents, the loss level was 60%. With only 52 total responses I DO NOT think it is representative of the survivorship of Washington beekeepers.
The electronic survey will be open March 28th and continue through end of April. It should take no more than 5-7 minutes to complete. Information requested will be very similar so I can compare last year with the current one, but I have trimmed the survey so it is shorter with fewer questions. If you would like to review the inquiries in preparation for the survey, please locate the “2016 PNWals-prep” pdf download available on the website blog page or by simple Google search.
While the main emphasis of the survey revolves around reporting how many colonies you had last fall compared to this spring, which we assess through hive location, hive types and originations (meaning were they overwintered colonies, nucs or packages purchased, swarms or splits), other survey questions sometimes open up more questions than provide answers. Last year, for example, beekeepers doing several wintering preparations improved survival, but feeding or use of the sanitation alternatives we listed did not result in better survivorship, at least not directly. Those beekeepers using sugar shake or mite drop boards to monitor mite buildup had fewer overwintering losses, while beekeepers using other sampling methods did not. Non-chemical treatments did not, directly, improve survivorship, at least for our survey respondents; use of Apivar, essential oil or formic acid significantly improved survivorship
The BeeInformed survey is also conducted in April each year. I ask that you continue to participate in this national survey as well. Although funding is now in the last year of this effort, we are hoping to continue what is now a 10-year record of overwinter loss/survivorship. Our BIP report from last year is posted on the pnwhoneybeesurvey site and I include comparisons to losses in Canada and Europe. Access the BIP survey at: www.beeinformed.org (it is available in April only)
THANK YOU FOR SHARING THIS PAST SEASON. Please consider completing a survey for the 2016-2017 season this April. I am hopeful that there might be a larger County beekeeper response so I can provide additional Association reports.

Fortified Sugar Block Recipe

Lauri Miller Fortified Sugar Block Recipe

  • 25# cane sugar
  • one scant quart cider vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp of electrolytes
  • 1-2 Tbs citric acid (found in your canning dept)
  • Splash of Pro Health or other scented essential oil of choice

Mix together about 1/3 of the sugar and vinegar at a time in a five gallon bucket with a large drill and paint paddle mixer. If you try to mix it all at once, you will get uneven moisture distribution. Mixture will feel very soft, but not wet or sticky. I use a shallow aluminum baking sheet that fits right into my Cabelas food dehydrator. You can use any size pan you want, but be sure your bricks are no taller than your feeding shim under the lid.

Roll out and lightly compress in the pan. NOW sprinkle with BeePro or other dry protein mix if desired. I don't want to force them to eat protein , especially if they can't get out for cleansing flights regularly. If you live in a climate where regular cleansing flights are far and few between (a month or more) I might leave off the BeePro. You would need to experiment a bit to see what is the right mix for your hive's conditions.

Be SURE to cut the sugar into block size as soon as you make them. You'll NEVER do it after it's hard. The blocks will usually set up and harden in 1-2 days in the food dehydrator at about 130 degrees. It can take between 1 week and 3 weeks to dry and harden out in the open air. It depends on your room temp and humidity level.

Be sure NOT to cook this recipe or it will turn out differently, possibly a gooey mess.

Cheap insurance on hives with questionable stores, crucial for hives that have run out of stores.
This is what I am doing this year for hives that had eaten some of their stores, due to our warmer than normal fall and are now a bit on the light side. (I fed syrup earlier this fall until they no longer took it up). We are well into November and it is too late to feed syrup. Time to prepare for a dryer sugar mixture winter feed. They probably will not be needed for a few months, but I want to have them ready to install on a day the weather is decent and not raining. Note: do not feed sugar until they are winter clustered and actually are close to needing the extra feed. If they have much honey left they will haul the sugar out as trash.
Make sure you have an upper entrance and good air circulation.

Notes by Jim Rieck:

Because my operation is much smaller than that of Lauri Miller, I only make up this recipe using a ten pound bag of sugar with the following proportions:

  • 10# cane sugar (I use C&H or First Street - found at Cash & Carry or wherever)
  • 7 oz. apple cider vinegar (I use Four Monks found at Cash & Carry)
  • ¼ tsp. of electrolytes (Vitamins & Electrolytes “Plus” from www.ValleyVet.com or Del’s Farm Supply)
  • 1 tsp. of citric acid (Rocky Top Home Brew Supplies)
  • 1 tsp. of Honey B Healthy

After mixing well, I put it in similar aluminum sheet pans to those that Lauri uses, only they measure 13” X 9 ½” X ¾”. I picked mine up at Cash and Carry. What doesn’t fit into those I put in rectangular paper soup bowls that I found at Winco. They measure 8” X 8” X ¾”. I roll the mixture with a rolling pin and take a putty knife to chamfer the edges. For the aluminum sheets, I measure 6 ½” and bisect the sheet with a straight edge making two bricks per sheet. They fit nicely in my food dehydrator and are just the right size to put one or even two on the top bars right over the cluster. I don’t use the BeePro or any other protein powder like Lauri does. I probably overdry the blocks just to make sure I am not introducing any moisture into the hive. To prevent moisture absorption in storage keep each one in a Zip Lock. I normally don’t put the blocks on until late November. A fairly large healthy hive may only need one block to get through the winter. In warmer winters some of the hives have needed a second block. When the weather warms in March or early April, I will switch over to 1:1 syrup to stimulate brood rearing in preparation for the bigleaf maple and fruit tree honey flow.

Invitation to members: Washington State Fair Honey Show & Competition

All are invited to enter exhibits for the Washington State Fair Honey Show & Competition in Puyallup, WA.
Attached you will find the Honey Show Premium List showing you all the details and rules of the show.
Also attached is a flyer you can print and share with all beekeepers.
Our honey show is statewide.    If you have a honey item you want to enter, please bring it to the fair on August 30 or August 31.   Please remember to register online before you bring you exhibits into the fair.   There is no charge for entering exhibits.
For all those who would like to send in their exhibits, please register online and you can send the exhibits to me at the address below (please include all contact information).    Ribbons can be picked up at the fair during the fair.   If you are out of the area, I will send you your ribbons.   Checks for winners will be mailed out by the fair.   Please only send perishable items (honey, wax, pollen, etc.)--no baked goods or items that can not withstand mailing.   All items sent in through the mail will not be returned unless you pick them up at the fair on Sept 25th or Sept 26th or you make prior arrangements.
Judging will take place on Sept 1st.    The fair opens on Sept 2nd and runs through to Sept 25th(closed on Tuesdays).    Ribbons:   Best of Show (Open & Novice), 5 Best of Categories (see premium list for details).
If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or Bob Bennett, the Honey Show Coordinator (pse@oz.net).
Thank you
----
Louis Matej
Superintendent, Ag/Hort
Washington State Fair
445 S. 96th St.
Tacoma, WA  98444
PDF: WSF16_Honey_Flier

Finding That “First Read” Alternative Beekeeping Book

There are excellent books for Alternative bee keepers. The selection of Alternative books is smaller then the selection of mainstream bee keeping books. Even then it is difficult to pick a best one. Finding the perfect "first" how to keep bees book is somewhat like trying to find the perfect hive. Beekeeping is so complex and diverse that there just doesn’t seem to be one that can be considered the single perfect book. Even books narrowed down to a specific hive and management style differ in quality of helpful information for a first read. I have an extensive personal beekeeping library containing over 70 books and 12 videos. In the Alternative keeping category I have several books and videos that stand out as what I would consider-"first reads". I think most of these books can be found on Amazon, but I have included a website associated with the author and book. I am not attempting to do a "sales pitch" for any of the books or videos only to help anyone interested in them to local sources for them.

Top Bar Hive

"The Thinking Beekeeper" by Christy Hemenway.
I consider this book, not only the first read, but as the owner’s manual for Top Bar keepers. Ms Hemenway owns the Goldstar Honey Bee Company http://goldstarhoneybees.com/ . She has written this excellent book for bee keepers starting out with a Top Bar hive. The book is invaluable in that it covers situations and solutions directly affecting Top Bar keepers in our kind of temperate climate zone.
"Back Yard Hive, Alternative Beekeeping Using the Top Bar Hive and The Bee Guardian Methods" a video produced by Corwin Bell. I mention a video in a book review because of the level of information in this excellent video. This hour and half video stands alone- I have not found a Top Bar beekeeping video even close to the quality and professionalism of this one. The graphics showing and explaining the life cycle of a colony in a Top Bar hive is incredible.

Warre Hive

"Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive-A Manual", by Dr. David Heaf
Dr. Heaf is the man that started the modern Warre hive revolution. He translated Abbe’ Emile Warre’s book about the Warre hive-"Beekeeping for All" from French to English. After years of experience keeping Warre hives, Dr. Heaf wrote"Natural Beekeeping with the Warre Hive-A Manual" A modern how to book that stands alone as the state of the art in Warre Beekeeping. http://www.bee-friendly.co.uk/

Langstroth Hive

"Natural Beekeeping", by Ross Conrad.
For those of you that are considering Alternative keeping in a Langstroth or keeping a Langstroth along with your Alternative hive, this is the book to have in your personal library. In his book, Mr. Conrad has approached keeping bees in a Langstroth "naturally" as an alternative method of keeping bees. Mr. Conrad also has a video associated with this book which I have not reviewed- yet. Both book and video are available on Amazon.
"It’s all about the bees"
Ernie