Friday, March 30, 2018

African Outreach

Bob Wolff, a longtime member of ECIBA, is planning a May trip to Ghana, Africa, to work with a local community there  to instruct beekeepers in methods of developing value-added products related to bees.  The date is rapidly approaching, and one of the members of the team, a young woman from Cedar Rapids, Emma Kieckhaefer, is trying to raise the money to be able to go.  She has set up a GoFundMe page to help raise enough money to pay for her visa, passage, board, etc.  Any help would be appreciated!  Bob plans to report back to our club at the June meeting and it would be great if we can help this young person share in this experience. 
The link to her page is here: Gofundme

Thanks for any support you can give.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Minutes from March 12, 2018

Minutes March 12, 2018

The meeting was called to order after social time and dues collected. Members also checked and updated the membership list.

Speakers Special thanks to Tim and Adam for providing terrific information from their perspective as professionals in the field.

Tim Willbanks (Kalona Honey Company):  Tim talked primarily about the business of preparing and purchasing package bees.  Highlights are listed below:

March through the end of May is a very busy time. One aspect of beekeeping he stressed was the variability of keeping bees. Three hives, started equally at the same time with fresh queens, can vary greatly in how they succeed. He said it’s the Property of Thirds, in which one third will be a weak hive, one third will be average and the other third will produce above average. The queen will mate with a number of drones, as many as 12 to 15 or more,so while all queens may have the same start, the fact that they mate with a number of different drones can produce varying results.
Currently, in California, the almond trees are winding up their blooming phase. Hives placed in the groves are building up large numbers of bees. After working in the groves, the bees will be placed in a holding area waiting to be shipped and sold as packages. Georgia and California are among the prime locations for packages. They produce a lot of bees early. In California last year, producers had to deal with extremes of weather, from record drought to record rains, followed by dry, fire prone conditions. Georgia dealt with two hurricanes, which knocked down a lot of the pollen and food sources. Tim uses daily weather summaries to help monitor how his bees are doing on a daily basis.
Tim talked about the importance of good conditions for raising queens, which includes good weather during early development of the queen and good weather after her emergence so she can have successful mating. If conditions are not adequate, California suppliers will not have an abundant quantity of quality queens to ship. One way to tell a good queen—what is the response to the worker bees to the queen. If there is an abundance of bees attending the queen, they are responding positively to her pheremone and she likely is a quality queen.
--When purchasing package bees, ask for the origin of the bees you are buying. If fantastic claims are being made about the bees, ask for more information. The seller should be transparent and provide sufficient information about their source. What is the reliability of the seller—what is their past record of providing a good product. Can you follow up with the seller if you have questions or problems after the sale? What is the longevity of the supplier—are they doing this on a short term basis or are they in it for the long run?
--To keep bees successful, you need to have good location. Variable food sources, availability of water, and reliable weather (a problem in Iowa!) Does the food source vary from year to year, depending on what is being planted? Pick a location that can be more predicable for food.

--The Southern District meeting of the Wisconsin Honey Producers will be held March 17th at Milton, Wisconsin. Dr. Marla Spivak of the Universiity of Minnesota will be one of the main speakers. Tim is the District Chair.

Tim gave personal account of his son’s experience with having a severe reaction to a bee sting. His son survived a frightening reaction to a sting, and is currently receiving treatment to alleviate his sensitivity to bee stings. He wanted to point out that one should never assume that our children/grandchildren and other family members may be immune to such serious reactions.

Adam Ebert (Ebert Honey): Adam gave a summary of the family business, which is primarily located in two places (near Grinnell and around Mt. Vernon).
--Winter checking: they will open their hives in winter if it is at least in the 20’s to take a quick check, and supplement with patties or liquid syrup if needed. A smaller cluster would not do well with liquid feed but a stronger hive will take down warm syrup quickly. This would be a look from the top, not taking the hive apart. Continue checking in March, feeding if necessary, and start looking to split by mid-April through early May. Adam notes that he has seen more European foulbrood the past several years than in the past. This would be something to look for in the spring. Terramycin has shown to be pretty effective in treating this disease.
--When hives have tremendous buildup in the spring, swarming is always a possibility. You need to decide whether to split, add supers, or just watch and hope for the best. If there is not a good nectar flow going on, just adding supers to give the bees more space won't guarantee they will not swarm.
--Adam indicated his bee survival rate from winter was pretty good, with probably better than 70% survival rate, though his father's operation in central Iowa sustained greater losses. He uses a rule of thumb of 50% allows you to build back without having to purchase packages and/or nucs. His guess as to why some of his hives died was due to smaller clusters and the extreme cold temperatures this winter. Some of his dead-outs had sufficient food, had begun breeding and when they are doing this they tend to stay in one place and die rather than move to more food. Don' worry about removing all the dead bees. Knock out what you can and don't let the frame sit and mold in the spring and the bees will clean it up when you put it in a new hive.
--A strong hive can easily be split two to four times. Two good frames of brood will be enough to get a strong hive going by early June. Giving liquid supplement can help the bees grow until there is enough natural nectar. Mix in some old honey if you have some.
--Trees are a very large source of early pollen, rather than flowers. Maples and willows are particularly good early flowering trees, as are fruit trees such as apple. As for flowers, dandilions are great.
--Adam's method of splitting hives: a. take 2 or 3 frames with brood. b. shake the bees off those frames into a brood box, then fill that box with drawn frames c. Put a queen excluder on the box, then set another box on top with the brood frames in it. d. the workers will move up to cover the brood and you can check the lower box in a few days to see if the queen is present there and laying.
--To attempt to get a successful queen, you have approximately 4 days if you have eggs on the frame or two days with young larva. Try not to check for queen cells until at least two weeks have passed or you may risk damaging the queen cells while manipulating the frames. It's ideally best to move the new split hive to a different location but it can be done in the same area. Having several rainy days after the split can be helpful in keeping the bees from migrating back to the parent hive.
--Put honey supers on when the black locust begin to bloom. The main flow typically occurs through July.

Iowa Honey Bee Day will be held March 14 (this Wednesday) from 7 to 9 am in conference room 116 at the Iowa State Capital. This is an opportunity to meet with Iowa legislators to discuss the importance of honey bees to Iowa.

Special note: Ed and Rita Porter of Central City, former members of ECIBA, have “retired” from beekeeping and are donating their beekeeping equipment to help new beekeepers get a good start. The equipment will be distributed to new members, including extracting equipment that will be shared. For more information, email Jim Davis (

Our club web presence is:

Please let me know if you no longer with to receive minutes. Thanks.
Jim Davis, Secretary