The Shoalhaven Beekeeper News Letter Prepared by Shoalhaven Beekeepers Association October Edition 2021 PRESIDENT’S REPORT Welcome to Spring; As we all should be aware the bees have started swarming and for those of us who have not prepared their hives for spring you may struggle to stop them swarming as the hives will already be preparing for a swarm. The only way to stop them swarming now is to make a split or artificial swarm and create an additional colony. We intend holding a session on splitting your hives shortly as the COVID 19 crisis seems to be abating however, please note we will be required to ensure all attendees are double vaccinated. Please be mindful that as bees swarm they go looking for a home or a hollow log but if they are unable to find such a thing then the next best position could be your neighbours wall cavity which in turn could lead to a phone call to Council hence placing pressure on suburban beekeeping. This problem will only get worse and this is why it is important to try to minimise the likelihood of your bees swarming and creating a colony in someone’s wall or roof. Our spring management course is to ensure you have the knowledge to manage your hive and that the queen has plenty of vacant comb to lay in for the spring build-up. Without saying too much this entails you going into the brood box in early spring or late winter and lifting two or three frames of capped brood or honey up to the super, and replacing it with comb, I and my colleges like to place in fresh frames with new foundation to ensure the queen has nice new cells to work with. This management needs to be repeated in three weeks’ time and again in a further three weeks, by this time the spring build-up will be over and the swarming urge will have passed (we hope). It is not uncommon for bees to swarm even with all this spring management completed to the letter. Re-queening in autumn is also a step that can help, as a young queen is less likely to swarm in her first year, but she still has to have plenty of room. If you have any issues with swarms please note that you can always contact Brian Warnestwho is the clubs swarm master. Regards and happy beekeeping. John Macdonald President SMALL HIVE BEETLE A MAJOR PROBLEM IN SHOALHAVEN By Mark Page, NSW DPI Bee Biosecurity Surveillance In SHB-infested areas it is important to ensure strong, healthy, well-populated honey bee colonies with a young productive queen. The space in the hives for the bees to manage should be limited so that bees occupy all sides of the frames. Any weak and queenless hives should be united with strong colonies. Weakened colonies due to splits or nucleus and rescued or rehomed hives (cut outs) are susceptible to SHB infestation. Major factors to consider in the control of SHB are temperature, humidity and beekeeper interaction. Often, when first entering a hive, we will disturb the bees and their corralling of beetles. We see beetles running with bees chasing them, examine any areas where the beetles may hide and the bees keep them pinned in, such as the metal surround of queen excluders and under the roof of the hive. Some points to think about when working hives
When removing lids full of burr comb, seeping honey can run over frames and brood combs. Before the bees are able to clean up, the beetles take the opportunity to lay eggs.
When doing brood inspections or manipulating frames, be sure to minimise bee mortality from rolling/squashing and damage to brood areas. This can create an area that the bees cannot clean up quickly enough and the beetles seize the opportunity to lay.
When inspecting brood frames, unless you are manipulating, ensure frames go back as they were. The bee space can be diminished if a frame goes back in, rolling the bees and creating an area with touching or almost-touching areas of honey brood and pollen on the faces of two frames. The bees cannot access this area to clean up quickly, but the beetle can, and will quickly lay her eggs.
When removing honey frames for extraction, try to extract ASAP after removal. Alternately freezing these for 24 hours will kill any beetle or eggs present. (It is not easy to find them at times.) Live beetles stored with the frames can quickly spoil your honey.
Store stickies (if not going back to bees straight away), in beetle-proof containers, such as sealed large clear plastic containers.
Beetles don’t like light and air movement. If storing sticky frames and supers in the open, allowing light and air ventilation, ensure they are in a bee-proof enclosure and are also vermin (rodent) proof.
If you end up with a slimed-out hive, consider this to be part of the beekeeping journey and learn from your experience. There are several factors to be aware of in cleaning up.
The yeast that the larvae produce (Kodamaeaohmeri) can cause health issues in humans, so please wear appropriate protective clothing (face mask especially).
It is important to contain any larvae until they can be dealt with. Any larvae that make it to the ground are more beetles to deal with in the future. So, seal up the hive if you cannot deal with it straight away.
Euthanizing the larvae and any beetles is important. Freezing is effective or wrap them in black plastic bin liners and leave in the hot sun. Pesticides may contaminate hiveware and make it unsuitable for use. Instead, empty the contents of your hive into a plastic tub and use the insecticide there.
Disposal, cut-out material and contents may be burned. Follow fire and council restrictions.
Don’t wash the bee gear on the grass, allowing the larvae to enter the ground – otherwise you have just started a SHB farm.
There are various control methods available for controlling SHB, including mesh bottom boards, bottom board trays, traps that go between frames, beetle gaols and so on. Apithor chemical harbourages are also available and contain the active ingredient Fipronil (these are approved for in-hive use). Always follow instructions for use and remove when wintering down your bees so that the beetle does not build resistance to chemical treatment. Chemical harbourages are not effective if you have ventilated or perforated bottom boards. Never transfer traps or harbourages between hives unless you are absolutely certain your hives are free of all pests, diseases and other problems.
Felt mats or Chux (dishwashing) cloths. (The felt and cloth will capture some bees.)
Some people have experimented with red Perspex lids that do not affect the bees, but the beetle avoid the light in the hive.
Keeping your bees in the chook yard may help – chooks love the larval stage.
Bandicoots love SHB larvae and will dig down 20cm to get a fat larva before pupation.
This will by no means cover all aspects of small hive beetle but should assist with your journey. Enjoy your beekeeping. What does a Queen Bee Look like ? This is a question that we get asked many times so I have photographed one for us to see the difference. Things that we need to note is that this is a mature queen who is working inside a hive hence your ability to fly is limited. When a hive decides to swarm the queen if you like is placed on a diet in readiness for flight hence her characteristics will vary slightly. There is a significant difference between a young virgin queen and a mature queen as seen in this photograph but I trust you get the idea. Also note the queen must have workers with her as she cannot feed herself this is due to her anatomy being designed to lay eggs I hope this help a little
ANAPHYLAXIS AND THE FAMILIES OF BEEKEEPERS Severe reactions to bee stings among beekeepers and their families is not uncommon. Among those affected are the family members of Auckland beekeeper Phil Brown. Two of Brown’s three children, as well as his wife, have suffered allergic reactions. Chris Northcott looks into how the Browns have responded to, and reduced, the risk of anaphylaxis in several of their family members, thus allowing their beekeeping business to continue. One day at school, the teenaged Josiah Brown was stung by a bee on his foot while playing sports during his lunch break. Thinking little of it, he dealt with the stinger and played on. Around twenty minutes later back in class, Josiah started to feel strange. His mind became fuzzy, his eyesight started to blur, and he was seeing unusual dots in his vision. As he went to the school nurse his face started to swell, he developed a cough, and heard cracking sounds when he swallowed. His throat was beginning to swell too. Things were heading south quickly for Josiah. Despite having undertaken desensitisation treatment, Josiah Brown is sure to cover up when helping his father in the apiary, having previously suffered severe allergic reactions to bee stings. Fortunately, the school’s first aid kit included an EpiPen ready-to-go emergency adrenalin injector, which helped suppress the symptoms until he could be ambulanced to the nearby hospital. His younger sister Annelise likewise stood on a bee and received the customary retaliation. Her symptoms were not as severe as her brother’s, but still serious enough for her to be taken to hospital as a precautionary measure. Phil Brown, their father, is a self-employed beekeeper from west Auckland with 16 years of experience in the industry. While his two eldest kids have serious allergies to stings, their younger sibling has so far managed to avoid being stung and has not volunteered to find out what happens if he is. Wife Rachel developed milder allergies to bee stings several years after he started out beekeeping and Brown himself suffers no adverse reactions to stings – apart of course from the usual pain! So, in the Brown family it is only the family that is allergic to bee stings, and not the beekeeper himself. This is not uncommon. According to the Auckland Hospital Immunology Clinic, someone dies in New Zealand from bee or wasp sting anaphylaxis about every two or three years. While the numbers aren’t high, it appears that beekeepers’ families are more likely to become part of that unfortunate statistic.
Research out of Switzerland in 2005 by Ulrich Muller confirmed the susceptibility of both beekeepers and their immediate family to severe sting anaphylaxis. Muller recommends three courses of action for those patients with bee venom allergies. Firstly, reduction of exposure to bees or hives is advised. Then self-medication and easy access to emergency treatment is endorsed, with adrenalin or self-injection Epipens highly recommended. Lastly, for patients with moderate to severe reactions, immunotherapy is promoted. The Browns aren’t sure what has caused the increased risk of anaphylaxis for their family. Amongst their acquaintances there is agreement that there is a definite correlation between beekeepers’ children and severe reactions, but little certainty about why. It is thought that very minor but regular exposure to bee venom causes the body to overreact to a real dose in a sting. Muller’s findings supported that hypothesis, with the Swiss researcher determining that a major risk factor towards developing an allergic reaction to be beekeepers who had reported less than 10 stings annually. Bee suits, or even clothes worn under bee suits, when washed with family laundry could be a source of venom transfer, but neither the Browns nor any of their acquaintances are sure of how their family members’ allergies have developed. Whatever the case, his family developing severe allergies has caused Brown to change some of his beekeeping practices. He is much more cautious about allowing trailing bees to follow him or his vehicle into public spaces and takes extra effort to ensure the bees remain calm throughout a site visit to minimise stings on his suit. He also keeps EpiPens on hand when out at his apiaries. They are a recurring expense, with most having an expiry date around 18 months after first purchase, but simpler to use than prescription vials of adrenaline and syringes. They are also an inconvenience, especially when their importance and use must regularly be explained to parents and teachers for visits to friends’ homes and for school trips. But they give peace of mind – when they are really needed, they buy time and save lives. Rachel, Josiah and Annelise have all had desensitisation treatment to reduce the risk of an anaphylactic reaction. Desensitisation is a process of carefully teaching the body to tolerate an allergen, such as bee venom, by introducing it by minute, but gradually increasing, amounts. The goal of the treatment is to have the patient’s immune system tolerate the injected equivalent of two bee stings’ worth of venom. Interestingly, the bee venom was imported all the way from France, and it does not necessarily hurt as much as a real bee sting! The treatment initially required multiple trips to the central Auckland hospital and Starship immunology department, but later the treatment was given at a monthly trip to their local GP. Josiah’s body had trouble tolerating some of the smaller initial doses, and so they had to delay his treatment and have the doses weakened even further to begin. But all three of them, after three to five years, have completed treatment and are now deemed at low risk of anaphylactic reaction to bee venom. Although they were not aware of the research carried out by Dr Muller in Europe, the Browns’ advice for beekeepers or families with severe bee sting allergies align with his recommendations . ‘Investigate getting desensitised’, they say. At the very least it gives peace of mind, and especially for the sake of kids who are often away on school camps, out on bushwalks, or at beaches a long way from a hospital or from cell phone reception. Article reproduced from: https://www.apiaristsadvocate.com/post/anaphylaxis-and-the-families-of-beekeepers Article reproduced from: https://www.apiaristsadvocate.com/post/anaphylaxis-and-the-families-of-beekeepers SWARMING PREVENTION (Please note the author lives in North Sydney) By Greg Deakin and Keith Pester Swarm control is about you, the beekeeper, making decisions – the default is that the bees will swarm if you do nothing! October is here and you need to make the decisions you need to make to determine how your hives will perform during the spring. It’s the time when bees are most likely to swarm or, if managed correctly, focus on collection of honey and pollen. All honey bees have a very strong instinct to swarm when the conditions are right. The swarming bees that leave home will set up somewhere else, while at the same time leaving enough bees behind to look after the brood and nurture a new virgin queen. What we as responsible beekeepers need to figure out is how to manage the swarming impulses, or perhaps learn how we can convince the hive that it has already swarmed or that conditions are not right for swarming this year. Disclaimer: I have learnt from my experiences that a certain number of hives will always swarm, no matter what you do or think you have done. It’s always rather alarming (mesmerising) to watch one of your hives swarming, and even more so when you turn around and see another hive doing the same. So, what are some of the simple basics that will lower the chance of swarming? Having a young queen is a very good start, and to evaluate the condition of the queen we should first inspect the brood pattern. The tell-tale sign of a strong young queen is a good solid brood pattern with healthy, well-fed brood. The bees will know that they have a strong, young and viable queen because she will be laying well and therefore keeping the hive busy, but importantly, she will have a strong queen pheromone that will spread throughout the hive. Needless to say, an old queen will be getting close to her ‘use-by date’. Keeping the swarm you caught last year, without replacing the old queen, is almost a guarantee that they will swarm again this year. If you have 10 years of experience you might be able to stop them swarming. Otherwise you will have trouble preventing uncontrolled swarming. If your beehive management does not include a re-queening program, then you are creating extra problems and more work for yourself. There is always something new to learn, something to discuss with fellow beekeepers.
Harvest all the capped honey One key action is reducing the amount of surplus honey in the hive and replacing the honey with stickies or foundation. Lots of bee books and videos recommend leaving honey over winter. That is good practice in cold locations, but the reality is that Northern Sydney is not a cold climate. On the Northern Beaches we actually get a strong winter and spring nectar flow. Leaving some uncapped nectar and also the honey around the brood will ensure that your bees have plenty of food. Give them some space Re-queening is only one aspect of swarm prevention. You must also ensure the queen has plenty of available space to lay her eggs as the brood nest expands. And this takes a bit of planning. The first thing you will discover is that a young queen lays a lot of eggs, so the solution is to give her some nice drawn-out comb and remove the old honey and pollen-clogged frames out of the brood area. Foundation can be used if no drawn comb is available, but in terms of swarm prevention, we must work proactively to keep ahead of the queen’s needs. You need to start early (mid-August) and repeat this every two to three weeks. It would be ideal if you could do it every 18 days, however the weather will influence how frequently and when. Adding fresh comb every two to three weeks means you need a supply of comb frames – this is why experienced beekeepers place such high value on keeping comb in the freezer. Another good source of fresh comb can be found by extracting any honey frames and rotating the stickies into the brood nest. You can also use foundation or, as I prefer, half a frame of foundation, and let them draw out the rest as natural comb. It’s good practice when working the brood area to remove any damaged frames from the brood box, including the old dark wax frames and those with excessive drone comb or pollen. These frames should be replaced with the fresh comb. Any frames with a useful amount of honey can be placed into the honey super, where the bees will continue to fill and cap the frames of honey and pollen. Anyone with a Flow Hive® can add an extra box above or below the flow® frames. This allows the bees to feed on their own honey and then later you can remove the frames and melt them down. Of equal importance to expanding the brood area is expanding the honey storage directly above the queen excluder. This will provide honey and nectar storage space well before the hive may need it. A spell of warm weather and a sudden spring nectar flow will catch you by surprise. If that spring nectar flow comes pouring into the hive, it doesn’t matter how much space we have provided in the brood area, the bees will start to offload and quickly go foraging for another load. The fresh nectar will most likely get stashed in the brood nest, restricting the queen’s laying pattern, which will undo all the work of expanding the brood area. You should be able to see this on your regular inspections. It actually does no harm for the bees to have that extra space as the weather warms and the days grow longer. Wax moth numbers are low in early spring. As well as all this, it’s important to disrupt the hive as little as possible, particularly when manipulating frames during any inspection of the brood nest in the colder weather. It’s best to ensure you always have a plan of what you are going to do on that inspection. Finally, if you have a classic Flow Hive®, with one brood box and the flow frames, it is extremely difficult to manage effective swarm control. I always recommend having two brood boxes on the Northern beaches, unless you have lots of experience. Make life easier for yourself and the bees and run two brood boxes. With two brood boxes, you will find that during September, October and November, the active brood will primarily be in the top brood box. So, you can swap brood frames from top brood box to brood box two and the reverse. I prefer to swap fully capped frames, if possible, particularly when the weather is cooler. Perhaps the essence of swarming is what makes beekeeping such a lifetime challenge and probably why most of us enjoy our beekeeping so much. If you want more details on exactly how to manage the spring swarming season and stop swarming – the club runs a one-day spring management course. This year it has been stopped due to COVID restrictions, however once the restrictions are lifted, we will resume our courses.