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Your host---For Sale--Bee Talk---Days Gone By

For Sale 

FOR SALE:  New assembled & painted medium (honey) supers with frames & beeswax foundation: I am a member of the Lone Star Farms bee club. I have never used any chemicals in my hives and I have been raising bees continuously since 1977.  Supers-$35.00.  If you are interested or need further information, please email me at --------Costa Kouzounis




Bee Talk 

Hi Dennis,

 It’s still cold today but the sun came out and the bees came with it.  All my hives are buzzing and they appear to be in a mad search for water.  I have a water pan set up but they are also at every downspout and puddle around the apiary.  I popped the top off of one hive just to see the cluster.  To my surprise I had 10 full frames of energetic bees.  Since it’s still cold I didn’t want to check the bottom box and disrupt the hive further.  I checked incoming bees and didn’t see any pollen coming in.  I’m assuming they have stores and they must be using them to feed new larvae.  I want to do the swarm mitigation technique you taught us about moving several frames down but I’m afraid we have a couple more freezes ahead.


1.       Does the frenetic search for water indicate anything going on that I should be worrying about?  I don’t normally see this even in the summer.

 I wouldn't worry about the bees not finding water where you live. What you see is them stocking back up.

      2.       Since the bees are moving about so much would it be a problem to fully open the hive on a cool day (it’s 44 now but they are flying like it’s 70)?

      The brood nest needs to stay warm. (95 Degrees) I wouldn't open the hive until the temperature reaches 60-65 degrees.

3.       Some of my hives feel light in weight when I tip the back.  They all had stores going into winter but with so many mouths to feed I’m worried they will run out of honey.  When do you do emergency feeding?  Do I need to count frames of honey?  Feed dry sugar?  I’ve never worried about it before but I think this winter has been colder than most.

       I would never feed dry sugar. The bees will have to make too many trips for water. They would probably just dump it outside. Fix them up with the entrance feeder. The quail feeder on the top bars would be better, but because it is still cold at night, you don't want the heat from the bees cluster going up into the empty spacer box.

4.       Since there are so many bees in the hives is it OK to go ahead and move the frames down to relieve congestion.  I want to maximize my Yaupon flow and not run around chasing swarms.

       Because of the cold temperatures, I would wait until the first of March before breaking up the brood nest. Most of the bees will still follow the queen which may leave a lot of exposed brood that could get chilled.

5.       If I have a really big hive is there a way to split it now without waiting for a queen to be available or should I just add a brood box if both boxes are full (all my hives are double deeps)?  I will open them all this weekend when it will be warmer so I can equalize the weaker one(s)

      Instead of splitting, you should equalize your hive when the temperature is warmer. Besides, you probably don't have a new queen to introduce to the new split.


Hi Dennis,

Thanks.  I can’t remember where I read it but someone said to never feed liquid sugar as emergency feed, only dry sugar.  I think it was Kelley’s or Weaver’s newsletter.  I’ll wait until warmer temps to open everybody up.  I just want to get a jump on them this year because I had so many swarms last year.

 On question 5, I meant because I don’t have a queen ready, and I can’t buy one, is there a way to do a split where they will make a queen?  If all the hives are equalized and I still have one busting at the seams I would prefer to split it rather than chance a swarm.  Can you split the hive making sure there are new eggs in the split where they might create a queen cell?  I guess that would depend on the availability of drones to work but is that possible?  Would it be better to add a third brood box to encourage growth while waiting on a queen to be delivered?  What is the best course of action there?  David

Hello David,

In all my years, I've never heard not to feed sugar water. What do these folks think the bees can do with plain sugar? They have to add water in order to be able to drink it. I've always used sugar water to stimulate the bees and to give them extra stores. I wouldn't want to create more work for them.

If you let the bees produce their own queen, you may not get what you want. It will take about 41 days from the time the bees begin the process to create a queen. By that time, you could have purchased a known queen. Besides the drone pool is very limited and the virgin may not get fully mated. Then she will be superseded. You could split it and re-queen that hive when queens become available.


This web link was sent in by member Costa Kouzounis. The web link shows contamination of Texas lakes, rivers and the Gulf of Mexico. These areas are contaminated with pesticides and PCB’s. If you fish or swim in any of these waters you should read this. It’s sad what we’re doing to our planet.

 This article was sent in by member Costa Kouzouis.

Scientists discover what’s killing the bees and it’s worse than you thought.

As we’ve written before, the mysterious mass die-off of honey bees that pollinate $30 billion worth of crops in the US has so decimated America’s apis mellifera population that one bad winter could leave fields fallow. Now, a new study has pinpointed some of the probable causes of bee deaths and the rather scary results show that averting beemageddon will be much more difficult than previously thought.

Scientists had struggled to find the trigger for so-called Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD) that has wiped out an estimated 10 million beehives, worth $2 billion, over the past six years. Suspects have included pesticides, disease-bearing parasites and poor nutrition. But in a first-of-its-kind study published today in the journal PLOS ONE, scientists at the University of Maryland and the US Department of Agriculture have identified a witch’s brew of pesticides and fungicides contaminating pollen that bees collect to feed their hives. The findings break new ground on why large numbers of bees are dying though they do not identify the specific cause of CCD, where an entire beehive dies at once.

When researchers collected pollen from hives on the east coast pollinating cranberry, watermelon and other crops and fed it to healthy bees, those bees showed a significant decline in their ability to resist infection by a parasite called Nosema ceranae. The parasite has been implicated in Colony Collapse Disorder though scientists took pains to point out that their findings do not directly link the pesticides to CCD. The pollen was contaminated on average with nine different pesticides and fungicides though scientists discovered 21 agricultural chemicals in one sample. Scientists identified eight ag chemicals associated with increased risk of infection by the parasite.

Most disturbing, bees that ate pollen contaminated with fungicides were three times as likely to be infected by the parasite. Widely used, fungicides had been thought to be harmless for bees as they’re designed to kill fungus, not insects, on crops like apples.

“There’s growing evidence that fungicides may be affecting the bees on their own and I think what it highlights is a need to reassess how we label these agricultural chemicals,” Dennis vanEngelsdorp, the study’s lead author, told Quartz.

Labels on pesticides warn farmers not to spray when pollinating bees are in the vicinity but such precautions have not applied to fungicides.

Bee populations are so low in the US that it now takes 60% of the country’s surviving colonies just to pollinate one California crop, almonds. And that’s not just a west coast problem—California supplies 80% of the world’s almonds, a market worth $4 billion.

In recent years, a class of chemicals called neonicotinoids has been linked to bee deaths and in April regulators banned the use of the pesticide for two yearsin Europe where bee populations have also plummeted. But vanEngelsdorp, an assistant research scientist at the University of Maryland, says the new study shows that the interaction of multiple pesticides is affecting bee health.

“The pesticide issue in itself is much more complex than we have led to be believe,” he says. “It’s a lot more complicated than just one product, which means of course the solution does not lie in just banning one class of product.”

The study found another complication in efforts to save the bees: US honey bees, which are descendants of European bees, do not bring home pollen from native North American crops but collect bee chow from nearby weeds and wildflowers. That pollen, however, was also contaminated with pesticides even though those plants were not the target of spraying.

“It’s not clear whether the pesticides are drifting over to those plants but we need take a new look at agricultural spraying practices,” says vanEngelsdorp.


I figure it will take another ten to fifteen years before beekeepers actually come together and put their foot down on these chemical companies. By then, it will be almost too late because most of the farm land will have already been polluted with chemicals. It would take another twenty-five years after the farmer stops using chemicals before some of these chemicals in the field break down enough to not harm the bees.

And then there's the problem with 90% of the beekeepers themselves. None of the above could happen until the beekeepers stop polluting their own hives first. I just don't understand why beekeepers still pollute their hives after all these years. It makes no sense to me. After five years of running my website and telling everyone that it is not necessary to use chemicals, the chemical free membership is miniscule compared to the chemical users out there. It’s been twenty-seven years of dumping chemicals in the hive so far and still counting. The industry is literally at the brink right now. You and I lived in the good old days. (Prior to 1988) They'll come a day in the not so distant future that the beehive will only be found in a museum. (My grandchildren will see that day.) The human race will be sustaining itself on synthetic foods. I feel sorry for my grandchildren.

Thanks for sending in this article.


 Hi Dennis,

If you do not mind I would like your opinion on something.  I have two hives of Italians and should say I am about to have one hive.  I will not get into the reasoning but going into the winter I was low on stores so I have been supplementing with Dadant’s winter patties.  Initially hive “A” was consuming double hive “B” which made sense because hive “A” seem to have double the population.    Two weeks ago I went there and hive “A” had consumed less than “B” and when I did an inspection there was a lot less bees in hive “A”.  I found the queen and she was laying some but the pattern was not as uniform as normal.  Hive “B” on the other hand had a population increase and looked great.  The queen started laying with a good pattern.  I went there today and hive “B” looks awesome with good capped brood and well hive “A” has not that many bees on the frames and still good activity from the foragers.  But basically it is obvious hive “A” is dying or is essentially dead.  In hindsight I realize this probably will not help but I put a frame of capped brood in hive “A” from “B”.   I am assuming the issue is mites.  I was going to get an uncapping tool and check out some of the brood in the hive in a couple of weeks.

 With all this said I am thinking about my path forward and would love your insight on this.  I have a few options I can think of as noted below and welcome any suggestions you may have:

·          Complete a split with hive “B” once the time is right.  The only think I am unsure of and never asked the people in my bee club is what are the odds being in the Houston area I will have hot bees doing this.  There is an apiary within ½ mile of mine for what it’s worth.   Also I may not end up with the genetics I want and may have to re-queen.

·         I have two nucs of Russians ordered from the beekeeper you recommended.  I do not know if he has any other nuc’s available but if so that would be an option but would mean spending more money.  The one thing I was going to discuss with you at the class is Russian the silver bullet in terms of the type of bee to have the best change to be chemical free?  Are there any good bee supplier with treatment free Italian’s?  I have read B-Weaver claims to be treatment free.  My entire goal is to be treatment free and I realize along the way I will lose some hives.

·         Catch a swarm.  The thing I am uneasy about this one is one old timer told me he stopped doing this because he caught and introduced a swarm to his apiary that brought along with it all the issues those bees had in terms of their well-being and resulted in his losing his other hives. 

I was curious as to the route you would go?  Thanks,  Rick

Hello Rick,

First let me address the pollen patty. Typically we don't need to supplement pollen to our bees in the area in which you and I live in. There is pollen available eleven months out of the year. Most of the time when the beekeeper feeds a pollen substitute, comes back later and finds it gone, they automatically assume that the bees have placed it in the cells. Look in the cells to see if you can spot the substitute inside. Most of the time the bees will treat it as trash and haul it out. They much prefer natural pollen over any kind of substitute. Now, there are times when you need to feed sugar water at a rate of two sugars to one water to increase their liquid food supply.

That being said, the first thing I would do would be to take a mite count on both hives. Then check for any bee diseases. If hive A has a high mite count, you will need to re-queen that hive as soon as possible. The way you might keep the hive alive long enough to get a new queen would be to knock the hive down to one brood box and add another frame of uncapped brood. Then feed sugar water. If there are other diseases in the hive, then you need to take the appropriate action. If the mite count is not too high, I would suggest that you kill the queen and unite that hive with hive B. Remove any empty boxes. Then make a split when queens become available.

I don't recommend that you let the hive make their own queen because you never know what you'll get and it would take 41 days from egg to adult queen. By then you could get a queen of known origin. I have experimented over the years with many different races of bees and have never found an Italian queen (no matter what the breeder boast in the magazine) to produce a hygienic offspring. You will have to keep treating your hive with an Italian queen. Look on our club website link page for optional hygienic bees. B-Weaver sells Buckfast bees as well and theirs seem to be pretty hygienic. I've used some of theirs for years. Every once in a while I'll get one that is aggressive and have to re-queen.

Swarms are actually a good thing to have. They are free bees. It's not likely that a swarm will carry any diseases because most bee diseases are found in the honey comb and not on the bees. If you find that the hive has a high mite count or is aggressive, you can re-queen with a known queen.

It's so easy to become chemical free and I'm always amazed that there are only 10% of us who are. Of course, there are things you need to do to get to that point which would take too much time and space to notate here. I see that you have signed-up for next month’s (March) class; Chemical Free Beekeeping. You will learn exactly what to do and will have an opportunity to meet others in class who have been chemical free, some for months and others for years. Some of my students keep repeating each class because there is no way I can completely teach any one class in four hours. So, what I do is add some new information each time I teach a class. I have an entire chapter in my book; "Beekeeping A Personal Journey" covering how to become chemical free. You can purchase that book on Amazon (look on my book page on the website) or you can pick it up in class.

I hope this helps and I'll see you in class.


  Here’s the younger generations side of the Neonicotinoids. You can see that they are all smiling about their victory. I would like to see them in ten to twenty years when the food choices have dwindled by one-third and people are getting sicker.

Should the Agricultural Use of
Neonicotinoids Be Banned?

by Kathy Keatley Garvey
UC-Davis Dept. of Entomology and Nematology


A team of entomology graduate students from the University of California, Davis, successfully argued at the Entomological Society of America's recent student debates that a ban on the insecticides in agriculture “will not improve pollinator health or restore populations, based on current science. Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests. Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM tool.”

 UC Davis won the debate, defeating Auburn University, Alabama, and then went on to win the overall ESA student debate championship for the second consecutive year.

“Neonicotinoids are important for control of many significant agricultural and veterinary pests,” team captain Mohammad-Amir Aghaee said at the onset. “Part of the solution is to develop better regulations that will protect the health of pollinators and retain the use of an important IPM (integrated pest management) tool.” The team also argued successfully that neonicotinoids (also known as neonics) are not all “created equal.”

The insecticide, chemically similar to nicotine, is implicated in the mass die-off of pollinators.  The European Union recently 
adopted a proposal to restrict the use of three pesticides belonging to the nenicotinoid family (clothianidin, imidacloprid and thiametoxam) for a period of two years.  In addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that by January 2016, it will ban the use of seeds treated with neonicotinoid pesticides and the use of crops improved through biotechnology throughout the 150 million acres managed by the National Wildlife Refuge System.

ESA officials chose the debate topic and assigned UC Davis to debate the “con” side and Auburn University, the “pro” side. The Auburn team argued that neonicotinoids are causing the death of bees essential for pollinating our food crops, and that the use of neonicotinoids should end. The debates took place at the ESA's 62nd annual meeting, held in Portland, Ore. 

The UC Davis team included graduate students Mohammad-Amir Aghaee, Margaret "Rei" Scampavia, Ralph Washington Jr., and Daniel Klittich. Michael Parrella, professor and chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, served as their advisor.

The Auburn roster included captain Olufemi Ajayi, Adekunle Adesanya, Julian Golec, Matt Burrows, Scott Clem and alternate Zi Ye. Associate professor David Held served as their advisor.

ESA sponsors the lively, cross-examination-style student debates as an educational and entertaining component of its annual  meetings. The teams are given eight months to prepare. Team members must be enrolled in an entomology degree program (bachelor, masters or doctorate).   Each debate spans 45 minutes and includes a seven-minute statement by each team; cross-examinations; rebuttals; and questions from the judges and audience.
The UC Davis team cited three main points:

The UC Davis team agreed that acute and chronic studies "have shown that neonics are toxic to honey bees and bumble bees (Blacquiere et al. 2012)" but argued that “all neonics are not created equal (Brown et al. 2014). They cited “inconsistent results with field-realistic doses (Cresswell et al. 2012)" and noted that “many other factors have been documented as contributing to pollinator decline (Epstein et al. 2012).”

It's not just insecticides that are killing bees, the UC Davis entomologists said. They listed the varroa mite (Varroa destructor), considered by U.S. beekeepers as Public Enemy No. 1; vectored pathogens, acaricides, antibiotics and fungicides directly added to the colony; pathogens such as American foulbrood and Nosema bombi); inadequate honey bee nutrition; insufficient food substitute: habitat fragmentation; and land-use changes and the increasing demand for pollination changes.

The UC Davis entomologists recommended that

In its summary statement, the UC Davis team said: “There is NO definitive scientific evidence that neonicotinoids are the primary cause of pollinator declines. Neonicotinoids are important reduced risk pesticides for management of some of our most damaging pests. Neonicotinoids should be better regulated, not banned." They concluded: “Given the current state of knowledge, banning neonicotinoids is a premature and disproportionate response to a complex issue. This requires holistic scientific inquiry and interpretation, and cooperation among stakeholders. Any changes must be based on science rather than opinion, current trends, or fear.”

The Auburn team, or the pro-team, opened the debate with “Neonicotinoids are causing the death of bees essential for pollinating our food crops. The use of neonicotinoids should end.” 

Why? They outlined six key points:

  1. Critical time for pollinators in the United States
  2. Lethal and sub-lethal effects
  3. Prevalence and exposure
  4. Effects on other pollinators
  5. Risk-assessment
  6. Food Quality and Protection Act (FQPA) as a precedent

Expanding on the fact that this is “a critical time for pollinators in the United States,” the Auburn team pointed out:

The Auburn team keyed in on lethal and sublethal effects of neonics:  synergistic interactions with other pesticides, including DMI (demethylation inhibitor) fungicides; increased susceptibility to pathogens (Nosema spp.); decrease in foraging success; decrease in overwintering queen survival; learning impairment consequences; and reproductive inhibition.

The Alabama-based team also called attention to prevalence and exposure to neonicotinoids. They discussed the neonicotinoid residues found on bee-pollinated crops and plants by various means of exposure: seed coating; foliar spray, soil drench, trunk injections; length of residue (soil vs. foliage and length of bee exposure); and single exposures resulting in season-long impacts. They also said the multiple means of exposure due to application can lead to multiple routes of exposure within bees: via pollen, nectar, guttation fluid and extrafloral nectaries.

In addition, the Auburn entomologists argued that new and novel modes of action and classes of insecticides are emerging. leading to alternative options, and that the banning of neonics in agriculture won't destroy agriculture. They also discussed the restriction of organophosphate use with the adoption of FQPA in 1996. If neonics were banned, they said, this could open the door “for stronger and more reliable risk assessment” and potentially, "the adoption of integrated pest management (IPM) tactics."

In their concluding statement, the Auburn team said that current tools for risk assessment may not be adequate; and that limiting neonicotinoid use will not harm agriculture--"it will open the door for more sustainable agriculture and new insecticides." They emphasized that we must save our pollinators, especially in the United States. "The United States is a special case--globally there is an increase in bee colonies; however, the United States is at a critical point at which bee pollination services are being threatened irreversibly."

One of the several swaying arguments that led to UC Davis winning the debate was that not all neonics are created equal, and thus, they should not all be lumped together as "an equal" and all be banned.

The UC Davis team received a $500 cash award, a plaque and a perpetual trophy engraved with UC Davis. ESA president Frank Zalom, a distinguished professor and IPM specialist in the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, presented the awards. UC Davis team consultants included Extension apiculturist (emeritus) Eric Mussen and Extension entomologist Larry Godfrey, both of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology; and Dave Fujino, director of the California Center for Urban Horticulture at UC Davis.

Mussen, who retired in June after 38 years of service, met periodically with the UC Davis team at its practices. He’s frequently asked if neonics are the primary cause of CCD.  "Neonics are only one of the classes of pesticide residues that we frequently find in analyses of adult bees, beeswax and stored pollens.  We encounter CCD in colonies in which no neonicotinoid residues can be found, and we find colonies surviving year after year with measurable residues of neonicotinoids in the hives.  Obviously, neonicotinoids do not appear to be 'the primary' cause of CCD."

Prior to the meeting, each team submitted a draft summary of its position (600 words maximum), and no more than 15 references, to the Student Affairs Committee Chair. After the meeting, each team can revise its manuscript before it is submitted for publication to the ESA journal, American Entomologist.

 This is a pretty neat concept, but there are lots of unanswered question that need to be addressed before you run out there and purchase one. Let's see how things play-out for a while.  Dennis

Beekeepers in Australia invent 'revolutionary' hive - Telegraph

Two beekeepers in Australia have invented what is believed to be the world's first hive that allows fresh honey to be collected without having to disturb the bees and with no threat of stings.

Credited with "revolutionizing" beekeeping, Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart borrowed money from friends and family and spent a decade creating a contraption which they say is "easier on the beekeeper and on the bees".

Stuart and Cedar Anderson

The pair began selling their invention on a crowdsourcing siteand raised $1.7 million (£1.1 million) in the first 24 hours.

"It is incredible – I am shocked," Stuart Anderson, 60, a former social worker, told The Telegraph. "I didn't anticipate how many people must have been hovering, waiting for something like this."

The father and son team – both amateur inventors – come from a long line of backyard beekeepers near the popular surfing and tourist destination of Byron Bay in northern New South Wales.

Their contraption, called the Flow Hive, consists of plastic artificial honeycomb cells in which the bees leave honey before sealing the cells with wax. A lever then splits the wax and turns the cells to create zigzagging channels for the honey to flow out via a tap into a trough below.

Mr. Anderson said his grandfather would "rob" honey from hives in trees on neighboring properties and his father began keeping bees legally in the garden.

He and his son have long kept hives in their backyard – handing out honey to friends – and began searching for a better way to extract the honey.

Cedar Anderson, 34, a musician who describes himself as a "backyard engineer", said "it has gone totally nuts".

"About a decade ago, I started thinking there must be a better way than ripping the hive apart and getting stung and sweating out in your protective gear in the sun," he told The Telegraph.

"I thought it was ridiculous. It took a while but we got there."

The pair initially searched through global patents and discovered that no device existed. The closest was a device which someone applied for in the 1920s but it was never invented; in any case, according to Stuart Anderson, the plans were flawed and would not have worked.

"We looked up patents when we realized we were onto something," he said. "There was something from the 1920s but they put it in and went no further.

We were surprised there was nothing out there and we were surprised we could then keep it quiet for so long."

The honey flows out via a tap into a trough below

Cedar Anderson said the main stumbling block in developing the device had been finding a way to remove the honey from the cells – until he had a "eureka moment".

"For ages I was trying to get honey out of the hexagon cells but the problem was with the viscosity and surface tension of honey which means it stays in the shell if you tip it upside down," he said.

"One morning I had a brain wave. I realised that it could be a cell when the bees were filling it up but could turn into something else when you want to get the honey out."

This led to the inclusion of a lever which splits the full cells and creates channels down which the honey flows.

The next challenge for the duo will be to fulfil the incoming orders – more than 4,000 in the first 12 hours. They hope to begin sending out the first hives in June but will try to find larger overseas manufacturers, possibly in the United States.

"Our dream was that this would increase the bee population around the world and help people become engaged with bees," Stuart Anderson said. "Hopefully now people won't need to spend as much time harvesting."


This information was sent in by Fred Keefer.

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