Thank you to the Kellys for hosting our first group hive inspection of the 2021 season. We were able to see all stages of development, from egg to queen cel! It was very educational and hopefully we’re helping each other set the stage for a successful season.
Dr. Judy Wu-Smart from UNL and Randall Cass from ISU Extension are going to host a 1 hr online extension event on Fridays for people to chat about bees: HapBEE Hour! We will be doing it via Zoom with this link:
from indoors. As I write this, the Iowa Honey Bee Day event is planned for
tomorrow morning at the Capitol. Forecast of -6oF for the morning, I
believe the coldest of the year. Right now I just keep thinking, “I hope my
truck starts”! It always does… I’m looking forward to seeing several of you
there. It has been a good time these last couple years, and it creates a great
presence of our beekeeping industry down among the legislators.
thanks to Jamie and all involved! It’s been neat to see the IHPA Facebook
updates of cities across Iowa which have signed onto the proclamation in
celebration of Honey Bee Day as well.
don’t have any great insight into how our bees are wintering across the state,
but from what I’ve been hearing, things are going pretty well, overall, so far.
Losses seem relatively few. Deadouts I’ve seen personally seem to be
mite-related over anything else. These last couple winters have been fairly
rough. We still have a ways to go but even if our loss numbers double over the
next 6 weeks or so, I think we’ll still come out better than 2018 and 2019!
…That observation is both encouraging and depressing depending on your
perspective. It would be incredible to catch a decently early spring and open
boxes of well-wintered bees all ramping up nicely.
bee courses are coming along nicely. The amount of new interest in beekeeping
never ceases to amaze. Welcome to any new BEELINE readers! I’ve visited
several classes here and there and have been impressed with the enthusiasm and
interest in getting started off right. We have a lot of good course instructors
dedicated to helping new beekeepers succeed. There sure is a passion (and
obsession) in practicing beekeeping that goes beyond other industries and
winter meeting went really well – despite nature trying its hardest to squash
the event. I was sad to miss Larry Connor. I always enjoy what he has to share,
and I really like checking out everything new from Wicwas Press. His flight
plans were nothing but delays and cancellations but at least his books made it
to Dr. Wu-Smart and Sheldon Brummel for making the trip and presenting their
work. The Great Plains Master Beekeepers program sounds excellent, and I’d
certainly encourage anyone to check it out. Master Beekeeping Certification is
all about becoming a proficient, successful beekeeper regardless of scale, becoming
a leader in the local beekeeping community, and becoming a knowledgeable and
confident instructor, speaker and media contact. This program seems like a
really nice framework to develop these skills and talents. I’m excited to see
it take off.
a great Iowa Honey Bee Day and an early Spring!
EasterSeals serves the entire state of Iowa. Two programs in particular may be helpful to beekeepers who need accommodations — whether by accident, injury, aging, or disability; or lives in a community with less than 2,500 people — the Assistive Technology (AT) Program and Rural Solutions.
Assistive Technology Program consists of four components.
Demonstration Center @ Camp Sunnyside. For clients to see, feel, try things before an assistive technology is brought home. By appointment. Call 866-866-8782 or send email (click).
Lending Library. Trials on most items in the library help people make appropriate choices. Over 1000 items are available and free to use. Clients may try up to five items at a time for up to 30 days. Call 866-866-8782 or send email (click).
Iowa Assistive Technology Exchange. Classified ads, styled like Craig’s List, exclusively for AT. Staff will assist and qualify users and donors. View items at www.eastersealsia.at4all.com
Rural Solutions. This program consists of free site visits by a consultant (Kim) with ideas for accommodations, assessments, connections to resources, sustainable business planning, mental health that is customized to your particular situation. Additionally, the National Multiple Sclerosis Society will fully funded appropriate clients by referral only.
Beekeepers might find the following pesticide activity interesting, so I’ll share a couple things that I learned yesterday at the Statehouse. This week is funnel week, so subcommittees, and then committees, must approve bills in order for them to stay alive in their respective chambers. Today I’ll address SF601, SF2211, and HF2271.
Senate File 601 (SF601) addresses the Pesticide Bureau operation by establishing and funding administration and enforcement. A very common complaint from producers is the long response time when a drift incident is reported. Investigations can take longer than a growing season to close. This puts commercial operations in a bind for income. On top of that, the number of drift incident reports has tripled with increased use of dicamba (from 88 to 270), extending the response time even more. Lastly, specialty crop producers are further stung by the lack of crop insurance. While legislators can’t fix the insurance issue, they recognize that one way to shorten the Bureau’s lag time is by employing more investigators.
Currently, the fees from pesticide dealers, applicator certifications (such as licenses and renewals), fines, etc. are taken in by the Pesticide Bureau and a large portion of those moneys are put into the State’s general fund. This bill would change that — the Bureau would get the fees and keep most of the moneys; the general fund would still receive a portion, but it would be much smaller. The Bureau, which has frequently cited an underfunding issue, would have a sustainable funding source with annual renewals.
Two other pesticide bills began in a joint subcommittee, which is made of members of both House and Senate (joint). Once these bills pass out of subcommittee, members introduced the bill to their respective chamber’s committee. On the Senate side, SF2211 is a bill that creates electronic incident case management. Currently, reporting must be done by phone during Bureau business hours.
[If I could make a fancy sidebar graphic, it would read like this: The DALS Pesticide Bureau webpage mentions that reports can be sent via email, but on its print material, email is not listed as an option. See webpage and print brochure.]
Pesticide applicators who follow the Bee Rule are operating between 6 p.m. and 8 a.m., which is outside of Bureau office hours, making phone call reporting very problematic. It just adds to the length of an already long response time. (Look for Section 31 with this link for Bee Rule language: bee rule or jump to the document here: https://www.legis.iowa.gov/docs/iac/rule/02-11-2009.21.45.31.pdf)
By modernizing Bureau operations (using the internet), the
Bureau would have a paper trail (a long-time gripe with producers asking for investigation
case management records) and transparency would be achieved as the public could
access past investigations via the internet (24/7) and see recordkeeping
details that would keep the Bureau, applicators, and the drift incident reporters
Its companion bill on the House side is HF2177. The Government Oversight Committee chair, Mary Hanusa, has not brought the bill into consideration. This committee’s bills are not subject to the funnel. A lobbyist told me something along the lines of, “When one chamber unanimously passes a bill and sends it to the other chamber (Iowa is a bicameral state), it gets people’s attention.” That is the situation for HF2177/SF2211, so I’m staying tuned.
TOTAL TIME: Prep: 20 min. + chilling Bake: 15 min./batch
YIELD: 8 dozen.
1-1/2 cups shortening
2 cups packed brown sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup honey
1 teaspoon lemon extract
4-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1. In a large bowl, cream shortening and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in honey and extract. Combine remaining ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well.
2. Shape into two 12-in. rolls; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate 2 hours or until firm.
3. Preheat oven to 325°. Unwrap and cut into 1/4-in. slices. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets. Bake 12-14 minutes or until golden brown. Remove to wire racks to cool.
Quick cold fall, but a nicer, sunny day as I’m writing this. We never really got our indian summer did we? Lots of syrup feeding this fall for many of us. And pollen sub sure does help keep queens laying.
Mite treatment was a little sketchy this season. Many beekeepers treated their hives this fall using trusted products and good timing, but still had trouble making the mites die. It didn’t seem to be a resistance issue to any one particular product. Beekeepers who re-checked mite counts following treatment could at least give another dose or try again using a different product. And often these secondary treatments were more effective. Of course earlier is always better than later for killing mites, so we’ll all see how well wintering goes.
Nearly all the bees headed out of state have been moved to their warmer locations. More and more smaller-scale beekeepers are participating in the almond pollination gold rush each year. I saw a lot of great looking, strong hives in these “Exit checks”, I also saw a lot of still-struggling hives. Many hives just wanted to shrink. I had troubles with this in my own bees, more than I’ve ever experienced. A hive might look a little small and get put together with another, then a visit the following week might find it again to be on the small side, so another would be combined… If you had to deal with this dwindling, I hope your numbers have stabilized and your bees are beginning winter with both strength and weight.
It won’t be long til it will be a good idea to get out on that special sunny mid-40s degree day and pop some covers and heft some boxes. See if the bees have moved up to the top boxes. See if the boxes are still heavy or if they’ve burned through food stores. I believe these winter checks have become more important in recent years. If bees are upstairs and they’ve eaten quite a bit, you can always add more food. Feed “winter patties” or dry sugar or fondant or candy boards … just be sure they have access to good empty calories. With the cost of bees as high as it is, saving even just a hive or two from starvation will likely cover your cost of this emergency winter feeding.
Winter is also prime time to fix up that aging empty equipment. Spring comes fast. My boxes are as ratty as any of the worst of yours, so this is mostly a note to self. What I really should do is create a hive body burn pile and buy new … instead what I hope to do is scrape and paint anything solid enough to withstand another few seasons of handling. Frames can be scraped. Greasy old black combs melted down or discarded. These winter chores are so easy to procrastinate, but it really is rewarding to get good and cold now and then.
Enjoy the winter. Come on springtime. See you all soon.
Spring feels like it’s finally around the corner as I’m writing this. From what I hear, this winter has been pretty rough. I’ve gotten very mixed reports of winter survivorship. This wasn’t an extreme winter by any measure, though we have had some serious cold from time to time. If the bees were of compromised condition last fall, they probably aren’t around anymore, and it’s time to try again. This seems to be truer each year. Maybe those who are having great winter successes are just afraid to speak about it out loud for fear of jinxing their strong live clusters!
I’ve been asked a few times already what I might recommend as a spring mite treatment. This is a common annual topic of conversation, and it’s a good subject to think about. Some of you have dosed your hives a time or two over winter with oxalic acid, either in syrup or by vaporization. If done while the bees were largely broodless, you ought to have had a great mite kill, and hopefully may be able to avoid coping with springtime mite treatment stress. If this is you … take a mite count in order to KNOW this, rather than assume anything. For the rest of us, what’s the “best” option?
Right now, I’m recommending Formic Pro. Have you seen this yet? It’s the new version of MiteAway Quick Strips. The biggest difference between Formic Pro and MAQS seems to be its shelf life. If you’ve used MAQS, expect pretty much the same. The fiber pad material has been “upgraded” while the formic acid active ingredient remains unchanged. The biggest issue over years with a variety of formic acid treatments is the delivery. Too “flashy” and brood is harmed, maybe queens too. Too slow / low of a dose and mites aren’t killed effectively. So, we’re aiming for that sweet middle ground. MAQS has been a good product, though not without problems – particularly if used in hotter weather, or if used beyond its short expiration date. Hopefully this new version fixes at least one of those shortcomings.
Formic acid might be a good choice considering our short list of approved options. I’m not convinced an oxalic treatment is effective in spring, since bee brood is its Achilles’ heel. I’m not a fan of Apivar in spring, since the treatment takes five weeks or so followed by a “cool down” period to avoid contaminating any honey for human consumption. Apiguard is far better as a fall treatment, given its minimum required daytime temperatures and its month-long treatment period. Hopguard 2 has been squirrelly, requiring multiple applications and struggling to control mites when colonies are significantly brooded up. Apilife Var is very similar to Apiguard, so I personally might save it as a late summer treatment option (and I wouldn’t consider it to be a “rotation” opposite Apiguard). I don’t really like Checkmite or Apistan due to both, resistance issues and chemistry. The list goes on … and basically brings me to a formic acid product, either MAQS or Formic Pro.
Whatever you choose, give yourself a pat on the back / buy yourself a beer, because without live bees coming through winter you wouldn’t get to make these fun decisions. Feed them! Get them treated! Build them up! Split them! And get ready for another awesome season.
Sunny but cold as I’m writing this. Time to get adapted to working indoors for the next couple months.
Thanks for a good year. I’ve enjoyed getting out on the road and working bees with a good number of you. I got to meet a ton of new beekeepers this year, which is among my favorite parts of this work. This past decade has at least tripled the number of beekeepers in our state. The IHPA membership has quadrupled I believe. And today I realized that no less than 36 beekeeping courses are being offered this winter. By contrast, there were 8 courses offered in ’08 and ’09. Amazing, right?
Most recently the inspection work has focused on the bees being moved out to the almonds. I enjoy this work because of the great group of commercial beekeepers who live here in Iowa. These inspections and the related paperwork allow me to have at least a quick point of contact with these guys. I feel lucky to know them and I typically end up learning a thing or two in our short conversations during this busy time of their year.
Here’s hoping your bees are tucked away nicely for the winter. There was plenty opportunity to get a good mite treatment accomplished and get them heavy with stores of food. Hopefully things have come along well for each of you. On a warmer day, consider checking them to be sure they haven’t eaten too much already. While the milder temperatures over the past month allowed us ample opportunity to care for the bees, it also allowed the bees to stay pretty active and burn right through their stores if you weren’t paying close enough attention. On a 40+ degree sunny day you can pop a lid and check to be sure they’re clustered low with plenty of food above them. I like to find a good day or two around the first of the year to peek in on them. If they’re cluster high in the hive right under the lid and the box is no longer as heavy as it was, I’ll give them some winter food. This supplemental feeding sure is a lot cheaper than buying replacement bees. I’ve done a lot of “mountain camp” dry sugar feeding in mid / late winter, and it works well but is messy and can be a bit wasteful. The winter patties being sold now are great and aren’t too expensive especially if you have just a handful of hives. I encourage you to throw a couple/few on at a time as needed.
For all the hype and excitement over oxalic acid use during the warm season, I’m still not convinced at all that it’s worth your time. Hopefully I’ll eventually eat my hat, but I think while brood is present, all OA provides is false confidence. Now we’ve come to the time of year when OA could be just the ticket. Now that we’re more-or-less broodless, all we need is that good window of a couple days in the mid-40s. A blast of vaporized OA or a dribble of OA in syrup into loosely clustered bees could kill nearly all the mites remaining in the hive. No brood = no hiding place, and great exposure.
Enjoy the cold and the indoors and the familytime and the holidays and the plan-making for spring.
supporting honey bees and beekeepers in the metro Des Moines, Iowa, area