Fingers licked. Cookies out of the oven. On to Part 4! On this one, I had to try really hard to keep my mind open. Jerry Hayes recently went to work for Monsanto so my kneejerk reaction is to throw rotten GMO tomatoes at him. I’ll try to give an objective report of his presentation below. Don’t throw rotten GMO tomatoes at me since I’m just the messenger, okay? FYI: Dadant who put on this whole weekend — and whose staff I love and respect, is now in bed with Monsanto as well.
Jerry Hayes is a well known bee dude, authoring the “Classroom” in the American Bee Journal for oodles of years. Read his short article on his new job with Monsanto here.
The apiary industry is under siege from pests, disease, and CCD. Many of these are newly introduced and our bees are unadapted. Some stats on colony mortality rates in recent years:
- 2006-2007: 32%
- 2007-2008: 36%
- 2008-2009: 29%
- 2009-2010: 31%
- 2010-2011: 30%
- 2011-2012: 25%
And, while the final stats are not yet official, he said the 2012-2013 mortality rate is estimated to be at 40%. Wow.
We’ve now reached a tipping point: Ag-planted pollinator crops now outpace available pollinators.
Much is due to the globalization and homogenization of pests. Production ag and production beekeeping add to the problems. (Nutrition diversity used to be a given. Now big ag with its monocrops have taken much of that away.) Pesticides are misused by consumers. Productive hive locations are being eliminated. Entomophobia is a factor. Low honey prices and low pollination prices mean less beekeepers.
Parasitic varroa mites are 70-80% of the problem. They came to the U.S. 30 years ago. Varroas to bees are like fist-sized ticks to you. (Yikes!) Varroas are like the dirty needles of the bee world: The transmit diseases and leave open wounds to become infected, etc.
Before varroa mites, beekeepers were against using chemical on their hives. Once varroa arrived, the beekeepers began welcoming chemical treatments. However, using chemicals to treat the problem is “trying to kill a small bug on a big bug”. Beeswax is a big sponge and soaks up the beekeeper-introduced chemicals. That leads to the chemicals being not only in the wax but the honey and bee bread stored in the wax, as well as the brood raised in the wax. The bees are then exposed to the chemicals 24/7.
Bee Health Challenges
Primary stress (such as moving hives), varroa, secondary pathogens, management, pesticides, nutrition, nosema. Honeybee health is very complex, interrelated, and intertwined. When something gets out of balance, it all becomes a mess.
There is a complex relationship, all interconnected between soil, organisms, and water. If the system is healthy, it can rebalance itself as needed.
The bee ecosystem is not rebalancing itself now. It is very important that we help it do so because bees are valuable to everyone, not just beekeepers.
Jerry referred to this as “natural technology”, a product that will dive into DNA/RNA arena. “Remebee” works with the RNA to turn off/on disease — basically RNA interference to control expression of certain genes.
Monsanto is a Good Guy
Jerry told us that Monsanto has done great things. They’re just really bad about telling us about these wonderful things they’ve done for us. Jerry is the only honeybee guy at Monsanto. He joined up with them to help work for a way to get away from chemicals, supporting the use of RNAi instead, for a number of issues.
Project Apis m.
The almond crops out in California need the bees but the lack of nutritional diversity is doing them harm. The object of Project Apis m. is to increase that nutritional diversity, let the bees have at natural foods, by planting acreage in California. Why is this important to the beekeeping industry? Because bees are important, as are their losses. Monsanto supports the beekeeping industry.
30% of our bees have been lost in the last five years. By 2030, our human population will further increase and we will need more productivity, more efficiency. Why does this matter? Because people just assume that the food supply will be there. But it will not. 40% of veggies will be from non U.S. sources, according to a USDA projection. The U.S. will be a net food importer within 50 years. Food security, food independence, is a worthy goal.
Blech, Sorry. I had to spit that out quickly while holding my nose. Heh. Shall we cleanse our blog palates by looking at the giant piles of attendees?
To my right:
To my left:
And there were a gazillion more people behind me. At the pre-registered portion of the weekend alone, there were 800 attendees. I don’t even want to guess how many more attended the ope-for-all tours. And guess how much all of this cost us? Nothing! Dadant gave tours, goodies bags, door prizes, meals & snacks, and all of the other things that went along with the weekend — for free.
Okay, I have to put this last pic in. Leann’s going to kill me but I think it’s funny because I was there for the $64,000 conversation. (Inside joke, sorry.)
Okay, back to the next presentation?
Randy Olive hit the stage again with “Concepts in Practical Management of Varroa”.
Bees have the highest recombination rate of any organism so they evolve & adapt very quickly.
Varroa Management for the Long Haul
Understand the varroa population dynamics! The mite levels stay (relatively) static while the bee population waxes & wanes. The bee population peaks the first of July (in his location) and that means the bee:mite ratio is a good one. Once the bee population declines, the relative ratio explodes and problems set in.
Varroa are not the big problem themselves. It’s that they vector viruses. Our purpose, as beekeepers, should not be to control disease but to control the vectors. Once you get above 5 mites per 100 bees, viruses go epidemic. Less than 2 mites per 100 bees, and life is good in Bee Land. Then there’s that middle ground between 2 and 5 mites per 100 bees — the Danger Zone, if you will.
Do not limit yourself to just one “fix”. Use IPM (integrated pest management), using pesticides as a last resort.
Breed for resistance. Dr. Tom Rinderer now has two lines of bees bred that require no treatment. (Interesting article here on Randy’s website.) Feral and survivor bees hold hope, surviving with no treatments. Mite-resistant bees need little-to-no help with mites and need little virus help as well.
Varroa has an easily disturbed life cycle. Mess with its birth rate and/or death rate, any step of varroa reproduction, and you stay one step ahead of them & trouble.
You never have to kill all the mites. You shouldn’t. Some will always survive — survival of the fittest and that will breed resistance in the mites. You should knock them back little by little. He had some fancy charts here with pretty little numbers on viable offspring, reproductive success, and “safe zones”. I’ll have to see if he has those available on his website.
Produce locally-bred and -adapted queens. Breed from the healthiest colonies. Slowly drop those mite limits from year to year. That 2 mites/100 bees is good thing from before? He’s gotten it down to nearly zero after working on it for some time.
Cultural methods: Keeping hives in the sun and away from trees helps with many diseases. Use drone brood trapping — check for mites first and, if high numbers are seen, toss those drones to knock back the numbers. Powered sugar dusting that seems to be common these days? He says it works to some extent but not really that much.
Do splits to reduce mite loads. Splitting breaks that mite reproductive cycle, the bees take a break from drone rearing, and you have a new, vigorous queen. That means an explosion in bee population — which outpaces the mite population. Keep ahead of that curve. (Graph would be helpful here. Argh.)
Protein favors bees. Promote broodrearing in late summer. I assume this meant to supply pollen substitutes if necessary? My notes are not clear here. Must have been an interesting discussion at the table.
You may not see mites but you may see viruses. Dead/dying bees will be out of the hive but you might see DWV.
Monitor to prevent overpopulation of mites. Sticky boards are unreliable methods of monitoring mite numbers. Instead, use an alcohol wash. (Shake off bees into a tub. Older bees will fly off. Younger bees and the queen will remain. Take a 1/2 cup of bees (not the queen!) and pour rubbing alcohol over them. The mites will fall off and sink to the bottom. Use a clear jar to do this and you can count the mites you see. There should never be more than six mites per 1/2 cup of bees.)
Don’t let mite numbers get high. Prevent that before it gets too high. As few as 1 mite per 100 bees in the spring will suppress your honey production.
Times to monitor: In the spring — look at the drone comb. Look again before putting supers on. Monitor often while you’re harvesting honey.
Watch the weather. If you’re having a stretch of warmer weather, the mite population will increase. (Warm weather = brood rearing = more mites.) If it’s a cooler time of year, there will be less mites.
Be proactive. Figure out the timing and work with it.
For Randy, mid-August is the most critical time, the bees begin prepping for winter.
Use appropriate treatment when necessary. First, do no harm (such as persistent residues). Most treatments are hard on the bees. All miticides increase adult bee mortality & some larval mortality.
Beware the delayed “legacy” effect of mites –> viruses –> CCD.
Knock the mites back, don’t try to knock them out. Multiple, low-efficacy treatments are easier on the bees than fewer high-efficacy treatments. The high efficacty treatments breeds for resistant mites and the population bottlenecks –> you end up with super mites. A reasonable (mite) kill rate in this context is about 50%.
Treatment works best in the brood area where the mites are located and the temperatures are consistent.
Do not trust uproven concepts (“But the internet said…”). Synthetic miticides = smart pesticides for dumb beekeepers. Natural treatments = dumb pesticides for smart beekeepers. Essential oils (thymol most effective) and organic acids are natural treatments, according to Randy. Use a half dose of what is recommended. (Knock ‘em back, not down & out.)
Organic acids: Formic acid is vaporizing and can be used with supers on. Use a single strip between brood boxes. Oxalic acid (not registered in the U.S.) doesn’t vaporize. Hops beta acid is the third organic acid choice, called Hopguard. Works best when there is no brood, early Nov/Dec for Randy. It’s a byproduct of hops, works best when the colony is broodless, and needs three treatments to be effective.
Rotate treatment. Randy uses oxalic acid, then thymol, then formic acid. Choose the best treatment for conditions: Oxalic in winter, formic during the main flow, and thymol in fall.
Mites can migrate 1-2 miles so, even if your hives are clean, your neighbors’ mites may still find their way to your bees.
Make life miserable for the mites. Do spring splits, rotating natural treatments, and whatever it takes to break the mite and virus cycle.
Randy then went into treatment windows for nucs but I completely lost him here. This is another thing I’ll have to look for on his website to see what in the heck he meant with theses crazy numbers & words in my notes.
Honey Bee Healthy is not a good choice, in his opinion.
Then there were three other presentations:
Setting up a Honey House, by Kent Robertson
Honey & Hive Product Marketing, by Charles & Karen Lorence
Queen Rearing and Making Spring Splits, by Ray Latner
Those three presentations were pretty quick & basic and, by then, my brain was shot and my hand was cramped into a jagged fist. No more notes. Zzzz….