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.

Survivor Queen Producers

The Association is often asked for sources of queens. Here is a partial list. You can always ask if someone in the association is breeding any too.

Sam Comfort  -  Northern NY

Randy Oliver – Northwest District Beekeepers Association

The Northwest District Beekeepers Association is proud to announce that Randy Oliver of scientificbeekeeping.com will be speaking in Everett, WA on Saturday September 9th 2017. Randy is a commercial beekeeper in California, a careful researcher, and the author of a monthly column in American Bee Journal.  It has been a long standing goal of NWDBA to bring Randy Oliver here for a speaking engagement and to make it available to as many beekeepers as possible. Doors will open at 12:30 PM and the talk will run from 1-5 PM, with a couple of intermissions.  We have a limit of 300 seats and anticipate selling out, so please buy your tickets early.

The topics to be covered will be "Reading the combs to understand colony conditions over the season" and also Randy's recent research on varroa mite management including the most current information on his experiments using oxalic acid applied dissolved in glycerin.  Definitely bring your note pads and an extra pen in case you run out of ink!

Location: Everett PUD Auditorium, 2320 California St, Everett, WA 98201

Date and Time: Sept 9th, 2017.  Doors open at 12:30PM and the talk runs from 1PM - 5PM

Price: $25 (tickets are available through www.brownpapertickets.com by searching for Randy Oliver)

Tickets for Non NWDBA members go on sale April 15th

Alternative Varroa Mite Control

In my mind Alternative Varroa Mite control encompasses anything not involving commercial treatments or ignoring the problem. I am not marginalizing the value of chemical miticides I’m just discussing alternative methods of dealing with the mite. The concept of the Alternative methods involves empowering the bees to control the mites themselves. We as keepers provide the tools and conditions for the bees to control their mites. Find out how the bees work and let them do the work. Trust me- no one wants to control the mites more then the bees do, their lives depend on it.
The first thing to understand in managing mites in general is a Integrated Pest Management method, or IPM. Simply put, it is using more then one method of mite control, at the same time or consecutively. A single method alone may not be highly effective in controlling mites but in combination with other methods will make a difference.
For all of the following methods to work well the colony must sit on a correctly designed Screen Bottom Board. The SBB is literally and figuratively the foundation of a healthy colony. In a solid bottom board hive when a mite falls to the floor, it simply waits for a bee to come near, latches on to it and returns back up into the colony. In a SBB hive you don’t have to particularly kill the mites, just make them fall off the bees. The SBB separates the little bugs from the big bugs. Once a mite falls from the colony, for any reason and lands on the sliding board under the screen, it will die waiting for a bee that will never come. Depending on the study you read, anywhere from 5 to 40% of the mites in a colony fall naturally without any kind of treatment. Add the natural fall rate with any or all of the following methods and a keeper can give a colony a fighting chance of surviving Varroa mites.
Genetics:
Regionally bred queens and queens bred for mite resistance. Literally- the farther away from the genetics of commercially bred southern queens that you can get, the better.
Agitating the mites:
What we are trying to do with these next methods is “agitate” the mites on the bees. An agitated mite starts squirming, jumping and moving from one bee to another trying to escape the agitation. Then during the confusion and chaos, being knocked off and falling the screen floor.
Smoking the hive. When working with the bees add green Cedar sprigs to the smoker. The smudge has been found to significantly irritate mites.
Powdered sugar- pouring powdered sugar into the hive. Purportedly the fine powder agitates the mites and affects their ability to grip onto the bees.
Thyme plant shredded leaves and tiny twigs. Strip a large handful of leaves and sprigs off a living Thyme plant and spread it out on the tops of the frames in the top box on the hive. The bees will pull the Thyme through the hive to remove it, spreading Thyme oil throughout the hive. The oil of the Thyme plant is not only effective on Varroa mites is also active against both tracheal mite and chalkbrood. The most important weapon one can have in their Varroa mite arsenal is the Screen Bottom Board. Within seconds of sliding the bottom board out from under the screen the keeper can assess the level of mites in the hive. Quickly and easily monitoring the mite population and the effect of any treatment on them. I paint my sliding boards white to make counting the mites easier or one can use sticky paper on the sliding board.
It’s all about the bees- Ernie