Quarterly Update from Andy

Julia’s note: The Central Iowa Beekeepers Association asked the Iowa State Apiarist Andy Joseph to contribute a column to its quarterly newsletter. He gave permission to distribute to other clubs and their respective memberships.  I received this Andy’s first column on June 16, 2017, and present it to everyone below.


It’s June 5th as I’m writing.  It’s sunny and hot and the bees are flying.  The overwintered hives have already made quite a bit of honey around here.  And the new colonies are building up nicely.  Surprising how well a lot of the bees are doing, given the long wet cool spring.  Things are looking good overall now!

If you wind the clock back a few weeks, I was seeing a lot of EFB, mostly milder infections, but the bees mostly have gotten past it now.  Same for chalkbrood infections.  Right around the time a lot of us were making splits and others were receiving their packages, we went through a couple cold rainy snaps, and I think this is what stressed the bees & triggered the infections.  Even saw several dead packages, mostly due to not having access to food. These small colonies need that food right there where they are.  They should be able to be in cluster and still have access to a feeder.  This means a hive top syrup feeder of some sort and a pollen patty, and all should be well for the tiny new hives.  Access to antibiotics has become frustrating and annoying, so help the bees fend off some of these infections by making your splits good & strong, and providing lots of supplemental nutrition.

I’ve received calls and emails regarding small hive beetles (SHB).  We saw more last year than in past years, for sure.  Milder winter, very early warm up in spring and all the right conditions for them through the season = great reproductive success and extra generations of beetles developing in the season.  They’re all over Iowa.  I’m still not scared of them.  Keep your hives strong and healthy – get anything else taken care of ASAP.  Make the size of the hive reflect the size of the colony – not too many extra boxes stacked up.  Keep colonies in full sun.  Keep grass trimmed down around them.  Don’t leave empty equipment / deadouts in the bee yard.  You’ll be fine.  (Note that these guidelines mirror management against wax moths as well…)  All this said, most of the calls & emails I’ve received this year about SHB, have not been SHB!  There are several beetles commonly found in bee hives, and they don’t tend to be pests.  If you poke around in the debris on the bottom board, you’re likely to find at least one species of beetle.  They just scavenge around in the pollen, wax flakes, fungi, etc.  If you find some beetles down on your hive bottom board that sort of look like small hive beetles, but are maybe a bit more slender and not quite the right size, have no concern, they’re not hurting anything. Scroll through an image search for “sap beetles” and you’ll probably find a twin for your specimen.

Iowa State Fair! Oh my god, it’s coming up fast.  Please consider working a shift or two in the IHPA booth.  It’s a great time and really helps keep the IHPA rolling along!  We had a good turn out last year in the Apiary Contests, following a couple “down” years.  I exhibited in several classes for the first time last year, and now I can say with personal experience: It’s a bit of work to get quality exhibits prepared – and it’s definitely worth the effort!  Please consider showing at this year’s fair … an observation hive, creamed honey, beeswax art, a window display, photography, an extracted frame of comb, there are all sorts of classes of competition.  At the upcoming CIBA meeting, June 17 (if this note doesn’t reach you too late), there will be a panel discussion featuring Ginny Mitchell, our Apiary Judge.  Should be interesting, inspiring, and full of tips and tricks. If you think you may be interested in taking part, there is an upcoming deadline of July 14th – you must have ordered your entry tags by this date. You can do this online at www.iowastatefairentry.org .  Tags are still only $1 each for most exhibit classes.  Also, note that you don’t even need to declare what classes you’ll be entering, just the number of classes you hope to enter.  Hope to see you all there.  We had a great display last year – I’m hoping for even better this year!

Julia’s note: After creating an account, State Fair entrants will use the path: Iowa Family Living Entry > Apiary. There are also Open Classes for the Polk County Fair, which has photography and other fine art classes, but not apiary classes. Wouldn’t it be great to see the 4-H building dominated by honey bee images? To see a photo of honey judging, visit my personal blog: http://juliecache.com/2013/08/11/honey-is-an-agricultural-crop/.html

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