Monthly Archives: May 2015

2015 Survey Q & A – Not for the Commercial or Semi-Commercial Beekeepers

Q-Tried to do this survey online and failed. Section4: the format did not allow to enter the necessary information and, short of making numbers up, the survey doesn’t let you continue to the next page. Very frustrating.
Section 3b: These numbers are a guess and can be misleading. All we know is that after combining, requeening with nucs, and equalizing colonies in Jan 2015 from what had been 64 overwintered “units”, we ended up with 55 queenright colonies (pollinating units for CA almonds).
Section 4 Origination: Because we sold the majority of our 2013 overwintered and 2014 split hives, these numbers are a guess (the rations not the total). It’s too time intensive to figure out form the records which of the surviving colonies originated in 2013 or as in 2014 as a split.
Section 7.1 Sorry but for me this survey looses in credibility when it uses “minimal hive inspection”, “Apiary colony configuration” and “Apiary site selection” are listed as options for mite control practices. If some people feel that way, why not let them write it in under “other”?

A-Response to Semi-Commercial Beekeeper
I appreciate your attempting to do an electronic survey on 2014-2015 bee losses. I am sorry you had such difficulties with the electronic site and had to send a paper copy. Your effort was commendable.
The survey is meant for backyarders – those with one to a couple of apiary sites – so it is not easy for operations such as —— to fit answers into the offerings (either of the electronic or paper versions).
You indicted on Section 2 – the section used to compute losses – that this was a difficult question to answer – but what you sent is exactly what we were looking for. You indicated of 64 fall colonies 55 were counted in the spring after all the management. Those with 1000’s of colonies have the same issue and round numbers to send back a survey – I realize they are only “estimating” overwintering losses – and likewise their numbers of summer losses. Our national BIP survey and this one Ramesh and I are doing for PNW is, in reality, a “snapshot” – we recognize and understand that it is not always possible to provide “real” numbers. This data is still very useful…..right now it is the “best” we can hope for with a survey instrument – we are also doing counting and surveying with “real” numbers – for example what Dan & Ellen are doing with the Tech Transfer sampling + our Tier 4 numbers (People need to pay for this survey assistance). Ramesh and students have other studies, some in conjunction with cooperators and others using OSU colonies, that are “real” numbers.
Under comment section you said the questions should be rephrased so it might be” easier/possible” to respond. In particular, you commented that survey “loses credibility when items like minimal hive inspections, apiary colony configuration and apiary site selection are listed as options for mite control practices“and you suggested that persons who feel that way should write have to include them under “other” In fact, that is the option for the paper survey sent to commercial and semi-commercial (your colony numbers would have us classify you as semi-commercial). As indicated, the electronic survey (and the paper copy you submitted) was never intended for commercial or semi-commercial beekeepers.
As for our checklist of items under sanitation – it makes sense to collect data to show what Oregon/Washington backyarders are NOT doing for proper sanitation or what COULD be done and then we see if it will make a difference – they do apparently make a difference for smaller colony numbers and may especially be effective under light mite population pressure (depending upon what we term “effective” or “success”. If basic sanitation means 10% fewer losses (about the same as some studies have shown for use of a screen bottom board for example) that could Be EFFECTVE or SUCCESSFUL by someone’s standards. Science does show that colonies in the sun (apiary site selection) have “reduced mite populations” and there is some evidence that if efforts are made to reduce drifting from one colony to the next, the mite populations of some colonies are within limits that suggest the colonies are holding their own when mite population pressures are lower – so is that “effective” or Success”?
The “kicker” is that viruses change the whole situation since it is mites + viruses that kill colonies so quickly. Also one colony generating mites in an apiary (I label them “mite bombs” in my talks) do share their mites with others in same apiary as they get weaker and under more stress. So does good sanitation make any sense? Well I don’t know – but I thought the survey could help provide some real answers – sorry you feel that by including such survey questions that the entire survey losses credibility.
Our survey – is designed to get some basic information. I am able (with 250 backyard respondents this spring) to run correlations between loss and these various options. If apiary site selection is ineffective the data should help to define this (correlation is not causation). I do appreciate your effort to be included.

2015 Survey Q & A – Hive Survival by its Origination

Q- One of the hives I had going into fall I did not expect to make it. It was a late structural – a way to account for this would be good.

A – Thank you for filling our a survey. Appreciate the input. You had comment regarding why your late colony start from a cut out survived. Just as we often can’t diagnose reason for a colony loss we may not be able to explain why another survives against what are surely great odds of it not having much chance to survive. It was a mild winter and that helped – our loss rate right now is running about 50% lower than last winter (i.e. double the survival rate of last winter). It was lucky I guess. Other than that I really don’t know. Sorry I can’t offer a better guess.

In our survey this year we do have a section on origination of colonies that are overwintered. You would be able to indicate it there and to record the survival

2015 Survey Q & A – Treating & Feeding

Q – I have had better luck when I do not treat my Bees, and I remember to feed them when it raining in the spring.

A – Untreated bees generally will not survive more than a couple of seasons. So non-treatment is just luck. For best results it is better to treat – but of course there is a large variation in treatment effectiveness – and no matter what treatment is used there are some negative effects (the more drastic the treatment and the more treatments the negative effects are likely to escalate. Feeding too can have negative effects but proper treatment (during rainy spring for example) can make a big difference in survival and in strength of colonies.

2015 Survey Q & A – Local vs. Foreign & Organic vs. Non Organic

Q – Please continue to differentiate local vs foreign, organic vs non organic practices.

A – Thank you for your comment. I am at a loss as to what is meant by local vs foreign practices. Beekeeping is all individual and all local – foreign beekeepers do essentially the same things we do here in US, sure the hive may have slightly difference dimensions, time of year varies and they might use miticides with different commercial names but the applied biology basics of beekeeping are the same here in US as in foreign regions. There are no “special” things a Portland or Medford or Oregon beekeeper might do that is different than what one might do in Delaware or a foreign country. There are so many possible variations that any beekeeper might elect to do anywhere they keep bees – that is the fascination (and for some frustration) of beekeeping.
Organic beekeeping has no accepted definition. What you might accept as organic might be very, very different than what another might accept. Problem comes in when we attempt to define organic in case of bees – is honey a plant product (which have specific organic licensing requirements) or an animal product (very different licensing practices) and on top of that honey bees may “trespass” miles away from their home. Additionally what one country might label as organic needs to be “accepted” by USDA under general trade agreements and foreign beekeepers have vastly differing rules on labelling their product as organic [I could speak specifically to “coffee” honey for example]. Relative to miticides, any chemical can be used and we can still call the honey organic if you apply the general rules of organic – which do permit use of even Apivar (the synthetic miticide) if the colony is in “imminent danger of dying” – and Varroa mites if unchecked can be expected to kill a colony in 2-3 years of establishment (that fits my definition of imminent). Certainly acids (MAQs, HopGuard, Oxalic (soon to be legal in OR) or essential oils (Apiguard and ApiLife Var) for varroa mite control are permitted and still call the care of the bee colony “organic”.
If this all sounds a little murky – then you get the picture. Natural, local, {specific] floral source, raw, organic – all words commonly seen on honey labels – all are only as good as the person who is using such a label for their [or their purchased] honey. Sorry to disappoint with this response some who may view local vs foreign, organic vs non-organic differently. You are all entitled to an opinion.

2015 Survey Q & A – Tracking a “colony” in your apairy over the year

Q – So hard to track what a “colony” is as I split and reunite several colonies per year, or unite overwintered colonies or divisions with swarms, etc.

A – Thank you for doing a survey. YES it is hard to track one colony as we do many manipulations – sometimes they do not fit into neat checked boxes. I am seeking in the survey how many boxes did you have going into winter (OCT) and how many boxes did you have this spring before dividing, adding swarms etc. It is a snapshot in time.
Sorry the survey did not really help you define what is going on into the easy to check boxes. We seek to make the survey more effective each year. Appreciate your comments.

2015 Survey Q & A – Vaporizing or dribbling oxalic acid?

Q-For future surveys ask when people are using oxalic acid are they vaporizing or dribbling. What were their results? Another semi-related question. Were their any ill effects on the beekeeper with either dribble or vaporizing?

A-Thanks for sending a  survey. Yes as Oxalic Acid is now going to be registered with both drizzle and fumigation techniques we will want to check how individuals are using it and key that to success overwintering. I am not able to include the medical consequences question you suggested – I am not a MD so I don’t know what I would do with the information. Thanks for suggesting however.