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Everything posted by Otto

  1. While I agree that it is a good idea for as many beekeepers as possible to have a DECA I think it wrong to suggest they should be like a license. I think there is still a pretty big difference between holding a DECA (having done the paperwork and sat an exam) and reliably identifying AFB in the field. I would rather have someone who cannot confidently identify AFB in their hive/s require that their hives be inspected by someone who can (and fill in a certificate of inspection) than have them be able to declare their hives AFB-free because they have a piece of paper saying they can. It should n
  2. Interesting that feral numbers might have been that high pre-Varroa. In terms of genetic diversity - this is possibly one of our biggest disadvantages in New Zealand. We do have a more limited gene pool in our bees than there is in many other countries for the simple reason that a limited number of beehives (and more recently bee semen) were introduced to New Zealand. Unfortunately the arrival of Varroa can only have had a negative effect on this. Feral populations had the potential to breed to a different set of constraints than those selected for by beekeepers (i.e. survival in the wild) and
  3. Just for the record - PSA = Pseudomonas syringae pv actinidiae. This is a bacterial disease and has nothing to do with a virus. One would never treat for a virus with antibiotics. The media getting fundamental basics like this wrong always annoys me. As for the antibiotic and how it might affect bees. The antibiotic of choice here is Streptomycin, which breaks down quite quickly in the environment. As long as it is applied outside of flowering time I doubt that it would be found in beehives used for pollination.
  4. Both honeybees and wool carder bees are natives of Europe so they have co-evolved. They are very used to each others company. Varroa is a very specific parasite (only two strains of one of the Varroa species that parasitise Apis cerana have managed to overcome the species barrier and parasitise Apis mellifera). These bees are very different in terms of their life cycle so no - Varroa will not have any effect on them at all (Varroa is also no problem for our native bees).
  5. I would also be interested in what constitutes 'natural beekeeping'. In my eyes I've just had my last season as a 'natural beekeeper' as I will need to start treating for varroa next season. I'm all for non-chemical treatments to try to keep varroa in check and will start experimenting with them as soon as varroa has settled in here in Dunedin. I struggle to think of these treatments as 'natural' though. An organic treatment such as formic acid, oxalic acid or thymol for me does not constitute natural beekeeping as the levels of these compounds in a hive to treat varroa is anything but natural
  6. Thanks for the information. Will be useful when we are looking to get kids involved in a school beehive in terms of sending home a permission slip with some questions for parents to answer.
  7. Great to hear. I'm looking forward to getting the kids much more hands on in Spring and seeing how it goes. If it all works well I will look into getting other schools going too (although it could get time consuming). Could look at getting more beekeepers involved...
  8. Below is the abstract from a 1990 paper in the Journal of Apicultural Research. Seems Melittiphis is a pollen mite. Article Title Investigation of the parasitic status of Melittiphis alvearius (Berlese) on honeybees, Apis mellifera l., by immunoassay Author(s) B. L. Gibbins and R. F. Van Toor Abstract The potential parasitism of Apis mellifera L. (Honeybee) by the colony co-habitant Melittiphis alvearius (Berlese) was investigated by analysing homogenates of the mite for bee-derived antigens with a sensitive indirect immuno-dot procedure. This method revealed that the
  9. Melittiphis alvearius is a small mite often found associated with beehives. I don't think a lot is known about it. I'd always thought of it as a pollen mite but according to the 'control of varroa' book: "Melittiphis is not a parasite of honey bees. It is thought to be either a scavenger of pollen and hive debris or a predator of tiny pollen mites that also live in beehives." I see it in hives quite often and the number of them in a hive varies greatly. Varroa treatments do kill these mites too and when I did my Varroa checks a few weeks ago I had one hive with lots of Melittiphis. I
  10. My son who is three also loves them. Last year he came with my Dad and me to look at the bees. I put him in my top half bee suit which was of course a million sizes too big but still did the job. He had a great time poking around in the hive with a hive tool. Towards the end of the session he had had enough and we'd taken the suit off him. He was quite comfortable in amongst the bees (I prefer to do my beekeeping without protective gear if the weather is nice). He did collect his first bee sting right at the end. It was a forager loaded with pollen that must have landed on his hand while waiti
  11. For those that are just dealing with trying to ID varroa for the first time here are a couple of photos of Varroa and Melittiphis. Main things to look at are: 1) Shape. Varroa are wider than they are long and have their legs in front. Melittiphis are longer than they are wide and tend to have their legs at the side when walking. 2) Size. As the side by side photo shows Varroa mites are much larger.
  12. Good to see that there are schools that are encouraging the keeping of and learning about bees. It will be an interesting experiment to see how the Primary School kids go with it. Certainly from the learning perspective I think it will work very well. I will find out about the kids handle the physical side of beekeeping next season. Looking forward to it.
  13. Sounds great. Beekeeping is not straight forward - lots to learn. An apprenticeship system has the potential to work very well. I guess it comes down to local beekeepers being prepared to take on those that are serious about it as a career option.
  14. The school had an enviroschool workshop this week and the bees were apparently of interest. The link below has a 2 min story from Dunedin's channel 9. My wife fielded a phone call today asking if cell phones were killing the bumblebees in her backyard (after a comment from one of the kids in the article). http://www.ch9.co.nz/content/observational-beehive-installed-classroom
  15. I'd agree on the old bees having more potent stings - make sense too as the older bees do more of the work that might require them to use their sting (guarding, foraging). For our research we collect newly emerged workers quite often and occasionally one of these manages to sting. These stings don't seem to have any venom in them at all and I often don't realise I have even been stung. Our assumption from this was that the amount of venom in the poison sac builds up as the bee ages.
  16. Hi Wayne, Are you the beekeeper that is in charge of the hive? If so, please let me know as I have a few questions I'd like to ask. Thanks, Otto
  17. Have it on good authority that there were a couple of hives in the town belt (Dunedin) that had very high varroa counts so the wee ######s have been here for a year or two. Not surprising given how widespread they seem to be. In total I found at least some mites in 17 of my 26 hives so they're probably in most hives around Dunedin now.
  18. I agree. I have made half a dozen splits into 5 frame nuc boxes from several hives each of the last two springs (Sept 2010, Oct 2011) as we tend to work with nuc colonies for our research. Each split gets 1-2 frames of brood and bees, 1 frame of honey and bees, one empty frame and a 1-frame feeder filled with sugar syrup. I am lucky to have access to some surplus mated queens from a local breeding programme as queens are the only potentially difficult bit this time of year. By the time the honey flow comes along in late Nov the hives I made the splits from are back to full strength. With a lit
  19. PS. The flower is a Masdevallia hybrid (orchid). In a greenhouse they grow very well down here with only a minimal amount of heating in winter to keep frost out.
  20. Hi Wayne, Awesome! Will forward this link to the teacher in charge of the enviroschool side of things here. Thanks for the links.
  21. Hi, I have just installed my observation hive in a classroom at my son's primary school. We will be starting a school hive in the spring (my intention was to do it during the NBA's 'bee week', 20-24 August). We want the kids to get as hands on as possible - get them putting frames together, going through the hive regularly to see how it's going, harvesting honey etc. Is anyone involved with a school beehive? I would love to hear what the major issues that might come up are, what works well and generally how positively such a project is received. Cheers, Otto
  22. And here's the paper... Honeybee kin recognition.pdf
  23. I agree - quite natural for some workers to start activating their ovaries while there is no queen in the hive. You might want to have a look at the attached paper from Nature, 1989 though. Shows that selection of larvae for making swarm cells shows some genetic bias, which in turn suggests that workers may have a mechanism for recognising kin (larvae with the same mum AND dad). This very topic came up in an informal chat with a couple of genetics researchers at a research symposium I was at late last year but after doing some reading found it had been looked at already.
  24. In turns out that I didn't have all the information before making the above comment as in both these cases the landowner was asked for permission before the hives were inspected - so apologies to the inspector.
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