East Central Iowa Beekeepers Association
Minutes from March 11, 2019
In attendance: 47
President Dave Irvin --The meeting was called to order at 6:30.
Dave began the meeting by recognizing a number of new attendees. We’re always glad to see fresh faces getting involved in beekeeping,
He acknowledged support from various members of the club in helping with the organization.
Paul Gardner—Paul is again selling package bees from Georgia. He will be making two deliveries, on April 20th and May 10th at his property near Homestead. Call Paul at 319-400-4228 to order bees ($120) or visit his facebook page, Preciousbees. Paul is also selling complete, assembled and painted hives (less bees) for $250.
Floyd Otdoerfer—Floyd recognized James Miller, who showed nuc boxes he has made from plans that will produce 4 boxes from a sheet of plywood. James also showed a swarm box, which is essentially a modified nuc box, only 18 inches deep. James pointed out that swarms prefer a location that has space where they can draw their own comb, so suggests using an empty frame with just a starter strip, coated with melted beeswax and even coat around inside the hive. James offered plans for people to take.
--Floyd gave information about the upcoming Field Day event, which will be held at the Iowa State Horticulture Research Center in Ames on June 15th. State apiarist Andy Joseph will perform an on-site hive inspection and a fair judge will be there talking about fair entries.
--Jim Davis mentioned an upcoming event at Terry Trueblood Recreation area called Earth Fest, April 27th. Our club will be represented there, doing bee related activities with kids.
Andy Joseph—Andy is the state apiarist, who works for the Dept. of Agriculture. Andy talked about two primary topics—European Foulbrood and Winter Loss.
He began his talk with discussion about attending a meeting in Mt. Pleasant where attendees talked about significant winter losses, except for one individual who had success overwintering bees. This person lives in a part of the state that was much drier last fall than most of the state. Andy summed up by referencing a Randy Oliver article (Scientific Beekeeping) about “fat bees”, which stressed the importance of going into winter with a couple generations of healthy bees, with good fat stores. He also talked about those who send bees to the almond groves in California, that some have done well while others have sustained as much as 60% loss. In the laboratory, Andy examined dead hives looking for answers to the losses. The outstanding indicator was an extremely high nosema spore count, as high as 42 times what would be considered an acceptable threshold. He pointed out that the nosema count by itself cannot be seen as the main culprit but that there could have been contributing stress factors that lead to the high incidence of nosema. A positive side of the tough winter we’ve experienced is that it may have brought a healthier group of bees through the bottleneck that the winter provided and the surviving bees may help create stronger strains. That remains to be seen.
European Foulbrood-- Historically, EFB, a bacterial infection, has been seen as a background concern for beekeepers. It has been present, but not anywhere near the concern as with nosema, American Foulbrood, or mites. The past 3 years has seen a big increase in EFB. Doing inspections for 11 years, most of the time Andy did not observe any cases of EFB though every year would see some cases of AFB. He has been seeing the disease appear in the latter part of May, about the time splits are being made and queens are being grafted. Dandelions are blooming and beekeepers are feeling things are going well. Then perhaps there has been a change in the weather, cool and rainy, and bees are more contained and the disease occurs. Management can help by making sure bees continue to have feed and nutrition in this early period when they are still vulnerable.
Identification: Unlike AFB, caps on pupa appear norm. The larva is attacked in EFB rather than the pupa. There will be a very spotty pattern of capped brood, almost a shotgun appearance. The larva may look shriveled, looking almost like a small, deflated mandarin orange slice. You may notice white lines on the larva, which are breathing tubes. Looking at very young larva, the normal, milky white fluid surrounding the larva may appear yellowish or off-color. The queen will continue to be laying, so you will notice a wide range of ages on a frame rather than the more typical evenness in a laying pattern. Once the larva survives to the capping stage, the bee will likely survive. The hive will not be booming in numbers, however, and will continue to struggle to grow. If you are noticing unusual brood patterns and condition late May/early June, management needs to be undertaken to help the hive. As you examine the hive, you need to be aware that there may be multiple things happening instead of just EFB, so a careful analysis of what you are seeing in the hive is important. Varroa infection at a high level can appear to be EFB, so continue to monitor for varroa and treat, treat, treat.
Andy recommends checking out https://beeinformed.org/ on the internet, where a lot of good information can be found. This organization does annual surveys, which can be quite long, but uses that data to make correlations about beekeeping management practices. From the data, one can discern information about many diseases and issues in many areas.
Treatment: Care and cleanliness are important. EFB is a bacterial disease and can be spread through contact, from gloves, hive tools, etc. Alcohol wash can be used to clean tools. If you notice problems with one hive, use extra caution with exposing healthy hives.
Brood break and re-queening can help the hive recover by removing the queen so nurse bees are not continuing to spread the infection within the hive. A week or so can make a big difference, and especially during a dry spell and a honey flow the hive can rebound. Take early steps so you don’t miss out on the main flow.
Antibiotic treatment can be an option for hives with a significant problem. Remember that now in Iowa you need to have a relationship with a vet to be able to purchase the antibiotic. Be sure you do not have honey supers on when using these chemicals.
Can freezing frames kill off the bacteria? Probably not, and if there are frames that are suspect it is probably best to destroy them. Andy stressed the importance of annually removing some of your frames. A rule of thumb is to cull out two frames from each brood box annually. This is a small cost for the beekeeper compared to the cost of replacing a colony.
Questions were asked about nosema and should we be expecting to see an increase this spring. More cases of nosema ceranae are being seen. Ceranae apis is the variety that has been seen for years, which produces the dysentary one sees on the frames and around the hive. The chemical Fumagilin B, which had been the default treatment for years, is no longer allowed. Andy feels a new product may be on the horizon. A USDA study found no significant difference in long ter Both forms of nosema can be treated on a frame by exposing it to sunlight on each side for a day. Sunlight will kill the spores. If you have a hive that is suspect, you can send Andy a sample of 25 bees to be examined for nosema.
Winter Loss: Some amount of loss is acceptable (20 to 25% annually) which can easily be made up. Winter losses are easy to identify. Summer losses can be much harder to identify, because we may combine weak hives, we split hives, etc. Those are harder to tally up but we may see as much as one-third of our losses in warm seasons.
Mite treatments are essential, especially going into winter. Cold can be an issue but cold and moisture is very deadly. Mold and mildew can indicate a moisture issue. Management that includes proper ventilation is important. Feeding to make sure hives have enough stores going into winter is also important. Monitoring throughout the winter for feed and hive weight is becoming increasingly important. Watch for late season starvation. Warm temps and brood explosion means a lot of energy is being generated and so bees will be using more feed. Make sure they continue to have enough food throughout the spring, especially if there is a late wet period when the bees are not able to be out flying. Natural beekeeping, deciding to not feed, in a manufactured landscape in which we have little diversity in many areas, is probably not the best practice. Queens may fail over winter, so look for a spotty brood pattern to see if the queen needs to be replaced.
Andy’s contact information is 515-725-1481, andrew.joseph@IowaAgriculture.gov. He enccourages people to contact him with questions and concerns. He is hopeful the state will soon be hiring another inspector.
Floyd: Floyd brought mixtures of a patty mix to share. He made several concluding points:
--once you begin feeding, continue.
--swarm control is important as we get into May
--once you start making splits, stagger them to if there is a weather problem you have splits are various stages and are less susceptible to large losses
--pull off old queens mid-April and put into a small colony. Ten days after pulling the queen, the original hive should have created numerous queen cells. These frames can be removed and put into nucs with two frames of brood and workers, with honey and pollen frames as well. Make sure not to crush the queen cells.
Thanks as always to the Stewards for providing refreshments and to Andy for sharing his knowledge and insights.
Our next meeting will be Monday, June 10th.