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G Przybylski

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About G Przybylski

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    International Beekeeper


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    Oakland, Ca, USA

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  1. JamesC, A couple of questions and some thoughts about your unexpected marked queen. Was the hive always occupied by a colony, or is it possible your colony absconded or died out between the time you last looked, and when you discovered that marked queen? If the hive was empty or nearly empty, it's possible a swarm just moved into it. The marked queen would be the mother queen of the colony that produced the swarm, obviously. i.e. a primary swarm. They're glad to move into digs that smell good. I had three colonies move into vacant equipment in our back yard just last year. One built up beautifully, and gifted us some honey. One of them eventually died out. (it's "winter" in the bay area right now) If the colony wasn't particularly strong, and that marked queen and a "swarm" of bees absconded from someone else's yard, perhaps the swarm engineered a Usirpation of your colony. The Africanized bees in southern California are reported pulling off this usurpation stunt with annoying frequency. It goes like this: A small swarm clumps on the side of the target hive; some of the workers move into the target hive, and kill off the queen inside of it; then the swarm on the side moves their interloper queen in under the protection of her loyal workers until the colony gets used to her. So which scenario do you think it could have been? A couple of summers ago I spotted a small swarm on the side of a hive, so I tried to move them into some empty equipment. I think they absconded again rather than getting established. I didn't have time to check for a queen in the hive where I first saw that swarm. If I see something like that again, I'll treat it like a split opportunity -- I'll create a nuc for the swarm, and give them some brood and food. We learn from our mistakes if we can figure out what our mistakes are.
  2. Indeed, check the mother hive for additional swarm cells. Sometimes a colony will control the emergence of queens and send out several swarms with virgin queens after the initial swarm with the mother queen. Last spring a swarm we collected, within two months had produced a number of swarms with the consequence that all that was left was some honey, and just a hand full of bees without a queen. They left behind three frames with two, three, and two queen cells chewed out at the end as evidence of emerging virgins. (When a queen emerges and destroys other queens, the cells are chewed open mid way up the side) I'm GLAD that colony swarmed away. I don't want swarmy bees in our yard. Not good for the beekeeper, but perhaps useful for local adaptation in the neighborhood. If when inspecting, a colony has swarm cells on multiple frames, that's a crisis and an opportunity dumping many choices in the lap of the beekeeper. If the queen cells are in a frame with wax foundation, or foundationless frame, then each queen cell can be cut out and relocated to a hive that needs it for requeening, or to replace a faulty queen, or to a queenless hive to reboot it. (or pairs or threes if they can't be separated) Queen cells on plastic foundation leave you with two options. o Move a frame with a couple of queen cells to a nuc and give it a frame with food, another frame with larva and pupa, and a drawn frame. Give them plenty of house bees to cover the larva and pupa and move it across the yard or to another yard. Make sure none of those frames has a queen or virgin queen on it. Field bees will return to the mother hive, so after an hour, make sure the nuc still has enough bees. Add more if necessary but NOT a queen!!! o Sometimes the bees float the egg out from the foundation. Those cells can't be cut from the foundation. Queen cells that are built on the foundation and sealed at the back can be cut from the foundation and relocated into hives that need them. † Make sure the mother colony has two or three queen cells so it won't end up queenless. A colony with a faulty queen can be requeened by pinching the mother queen and placing a queen cell in the wax or trapping it between frames. Faulty might be drone layer or non-layer, or prone to chalkbrood, or just too many years old. DON'T FLIP FRAMES UPSIDE-DOWN IF THEY HAVE CAPPED QUEEN CELLS ON THEM. Between Day 11 and Day 14 the queen larva is SUPER fragile. Thumping the frame or flipping it over will damage the queen. They're pretty safe on day 10 and after day 14. Finally, Set up some empty equipment in or near the bee yard as a Bait-Hive/Swarm-Trap to attract swarms out of your yard. This is strong advice for the urban beekeeper. It'll save the neighborhood from some panic. It might even attract some free bees. We can learn a lot from Tom Seeley's book Honeybee Democracy. A single deep box with a frame of brood comb, and a lot of empty space makes a good bait hive. A small entrance makes it more attractive. Place the bait hive in shade or mostly shade. On a hive stand is OK but 2 to 3 meters off the ground may be a tad better. That's my 2¢ Jerry - Oakland ca
  3. Sad to hear you feel that way, yesbut from Nelson. The bees in our yard since we started keeping bees in 2011 have all been swarms, or cut-outs, or swarms that settled in our empty equipment. Eventually it sunk in that colonies were maintaining roughly level Varroa percentages through spring and summer as long as the nectar continued to flow. It also sunk in that there were "events" Varroa populations would climb at rates much higher than Varroa reproduction could account for. The scenario that best fit the evidence was that the colony discovered a Varroa infested feral or unmanaged or poorly managed colony, and were robbing it out, and in the process bringing back a LOT of hitchhiker Varroa. Eric Mussen, the state apiculturist at the time, said that a bee could bring back as many as a dozen Varroa with it per trip from the target hive. Those spikes mostly resulted in colonies suffering parasitic-mite-syndrome and tanking about 6 weeks later (with the handfull of bees that remained just absconding). The trend over the last few years has been that Varroa spikes that aren't as high as they were when we started, and that hives have generally lower Varroa percentages measured by sugar-rolls. We were also surprised that occasional a colony with a Varroa spike would actually recovers from it. So I have the feeling that our local bees actually are adapting to Varroa. (also note that we started keeping bees 24 years after Varroa arrived in the US) The evidence I read in our own bee history is that as long as there are not too many Varroa the colony keeps a lid on the population. Compare that to "naive" bee population where Varroa population (Varroa percentage) always grows, even through the spring and especially at the end of the season when bee populations decline. Randy Oliver's website has a lot to say about the conventional wisdom with respect to Varroa. Randy's recent epiphany recently resulted from discovering colonies in his yards that consistently keep Varroa populations low. He moved all the best hives to a single yard with the intention of tracking them more closely and getting them to interbreed. (the queen genetics are important and so are the drone's) Rather than being sad about it, look for the colonies that exhibit the best capacity to control Varroa on their own, and breed them with each other. If you're a small-timer or side-liner surrounded by similar size operations, where nobody has the resources or infrastructure to do anything alone, then band together. It's in your collective best interest to all put your very best colonies in a geographically isolated yard far away from the rat-butt bees. Try to saturate the DCAs with good drones, and Raise queens in that yard from those best queens. Share the queens around to everyone in your group. Share all the excess with neighbors, and backyard beekeepers who aren't participating in your coop. Inclusiveness will pay off in the long run. Three or four of you can get together and hatch a plan for your area. Then convince some of your friends to invest a little time and effort, or a lot. Success breeds success. When your evidence (did I forget to say "keep notes") shows that you are more successful than others, then others will join in. What's best? An altruistic perspective, or a self-serving perspective (that's inclusive). As for how the bees cope with Varroa, the most widely publicized trait is probably the "Hygienic trait" studied by students of Marla Spivack of u of Minnesota. In addition, there's the Grooming trait. There's the Ankle-biting trait where the bees bite the legs off of Varroa. There's the uncapping/recapping trait studied by the USDA lab in Baton Rouge Louisiana. There may be other traits that haven't been observed and named. When colonies express several of those traits they keep the Varroa population down to 3% or 2% or 1%, or lower. The pragmatic approach is, go with whatever works. Work with the bees to help them sort it out. I've done sugar rolls during the dearth and found zero Varroa in some colonies. I see less DWV these days too. IMO The mistake made in the US in the 90's was assuming the bees wouldn't be able to adapt to Varroa and that chemical treatments would work fine infinitely into the future.. Many millions of dollars were spent on Varroa control products. Instead, much earlier, a strategy for selecting and propagating the survivors should have been started. If organizing now is too much for you, then wait 20 years spending lots of time and effort on treatments, until you see that the feral hive density starts recovering to pre-Varroa levels, and then start integrating the ferals into your yards. There are models around the world, some passive, some proactive, for how to get to resistant/tolerant bee. mmm.... maybe it's easier to buy acaracides... Please excuse my ranting. It's presumptuous for someone from across the pond to tell beekeepers how to keep bees. +Everyone knows herding beekeepers is like herding cats. Please tell me how I'm full of it. (s*#!, I mean) Please tell me why this is too hard to do, and what obstacles are insurmountable, and where I'm misunderstanding my observations. Occam's razor says the simplest explanation that fits the observations is probably the right one answer (i paraphrase). For instance... a better explanation than robbing that fits the Varroa spikes during the dearth would be welcome. Thanks for your patience if you actually got to the end of this. Please count to ten. Pour a pint and ponder. Curse me if you must. Best regards and sincere wishes for your success.
  4. I'm retired from a technology job, so we're in a place where bees don't have to help pay our bills. I've only been at this game since 2011. All but a hand full of (most) club members are back-yard beekeepers. (vs. The delta club which has all commercial beekeepers) So my spouse an I can afford to try to make a small positive contribution to bee local selection and genetic diversity. (or tilt at windmills?) The Welsh beekeepers succeeded in selecting and propagating survivors to the point where they don't treat for Varroa any more. It took them 5 years. Randy Oliver published an article advocating that commercial beekeepers select for Varroa resistant/tolerant bees. It's in the American Bee Journal, and on his website scientificbeekeeping.org. He pointed out that queen breeders who don't start selecting for survivors, will loose all their business to their competitor who starts selling bees that don't need to be treated for Varroa. I forgot to mention earlier that someone in another bay-area club (San Mateo county) did a survey of survival of packages after one year. The numbers were worse than the national average. (maybe 60 or 80% failure) That sounds like a reason for us to make our own queens and splits. As to why so many packages are sold in the US... I assume it's because beekeepers find it difficult to keep their bees going through winter when winter means months of snow on the ground, temperatures below 10ºC. Some beekeepers take all the honey and let the bees die out in winter. :-(not my cup of tea) In our neighborhood half the nectar flow season is gone before packages are available, so it makes very little sense in the bay area to get packages. Some large scale beekeepers probably don't want to make a big investment in time and manpower and bee resources to do their own queen breeding. i.e. it doesn't pencil out. So even if local bees in our climate can win in the long run, there will still be a place in the US for packages and commercial queens. The books also tell new beekeepers that they should buy packages. I suppose many won't get past the first book, and on to splitting and queen rearing.
  5. John, Several things prompted a small group of us in the club to write the founding document for the LBI. There was the example of the "split-squad" that Cynthia Perry formed in Marin County for the non-treatment beekeepers. There was the list of Darwinian beekeeping practices that Tom Seeley formulated. Lastly it was about genetics. About a year and half ago Walter Sheppard (of Washington State Univ Pullman) showed a genetics graph at a symposium at UC Davis. Two regions of the graph stood out. One spot, he said, was the east-coast queens, and the other was the west-coast queens, all produced by large scale commercial queen breeders. He also said fewer than 350 mother queens are grafted to produce the millions of queens the industry sells in the US each year. The genetics of the feral bees were scattered randomly over the graph. Supply houses and clubs distribute 3 pound packages with caged queens from the big suppliers. The breeders send queens in the mail, and sell in bulk to the big operators. Those commercial genetics, which are mostly optimized for large scale beekeepers who need to push bees in winter to be ready for the early spring almond pollination, are not a particularly good fit for urban beekeepers. (imo) Until recent pushing by Randy Oliver, those breeders weren't particularly interested in Varroa tolerant/resistant lines. (BTW, the Almond Pollination requires about two million colonies, and only 400K are available from California beekeepers) Tom Seeley reports that the feral colony density in his reference forest south-west of Ithica recovered to what it was prior to 1987 when Varroa were introduced into the US, and all those colonies have Varroa. Feral colonies, bee trees, colonies in attics, building walls are quite common in the bay area; they produce swarms our club members collect. The feral colonies survive on their own over years without being treated for Varroa or other pathogens. Furthermore, they're coping with seasonal variations in forage in our Mediterranean climate. Our club's swarm hotline handled over 700 calls in the last 10 months. Over 200 of the calls were swarms. Over 150 were cut-outs and bee trees. Our club members bring those colonies to their yards. Historically a few of our members propagated colonies. The LBI provides an opportunity for our club members to advance their beekeeping skills by learning to graft queens, and get queens mated. I'm amazed at the energy, enthusiasm, and delight of our most active members this year. (The LBI is agnostic about treating for Varroa. Some of us believe that eventually the Varroa tolerant/resistant stock we select and propagate will squeeze out the bees that require treatment. (We haven't treated in our yard since 2011, and our survival rate is consistent with the national average, so I think local bees are just about there)) Yup. There is more variability in swarms. Not all of them make it. Some even swarm themselves into oblivion. A colony that doesn't swarm at all can't survive on its own. I don't think that trait can be good for bees in the long run. It's a big tent. Opinions vary on beekeeping practices, goals, attitudes, etc. We all have our own style. Regards
  6. Alastair, At a local bee club meeting, the state apiculturiist Eric Mussen said that an italian queen mating with 3/8 (e.g. 6 in 16) africanized drones produced a colony that is bad tempered but workable. More than 3/8 and the colony expressed full-on africanized traits. When an africanized queen is mated with 100% non-africanized drones the daughter colony still expressed 100% africanized traits. The same was true for her daughter. The colony of the granddaughter queen (mated with 100% non-africanized drone) was bad tempered but workable. So the africanized genes are strongly expressed. I've heard the africanized drones are better competers in the DCAs. (I couldn't give you a scholarly ref for that) Those are reasons why we don't want any africanized drones in our neighborhood. So it seems reasonable to drone cull on the mere suspicion of a problem. Of course, we can't drone cull from feral colonies. Transportation is a wonderful thing these days. But then, Truck trailers and train cars are a good way to transport africanized swarms from warmer more favorable climates into our neighborhood. Our swarm list had a call a couple of years ago to extract a colony from a freight yard in Oakland. The beek that did it said that colony was just the absolute worst swarm he'd ever had to deal with. Africanized perhaps The africanized bees tend to be vagabonds. They move on when forage runs out. When they do that in Northern California during the dearth, they probably don't have enough time to accumulate stores for the winter, so they tend to die out. In non urban areas the dearth is really severe in the fall. I've read reports that the africanized bees took over Puerto Rico, and subsequently lost their aggressiveness. There must be an interesting story in that.
  7. Here in our mild Mediterranean across the Bay from San Fransisco, aggressive bees are occasionally a problem. Skunks can make a hive angry in the daytime by bothering the entrance at night to eat the bees. Sometimes a forage source correlates with a period of greater aggressiveness. During our August through October dearth, colonies with wide-open entrances become excessively defensive due to robber pressure. (reducing entrances the width of a couple of fingers helps. robber screens help) There have been a few samplings of Africanized genes (not fully africanized colonies) north of Monterey, all the way into Napa County an hour north of here. Occasionally an Africanized colony gets taken to the Almond Pollination in the central valley in the northern half of the state. That's a real disaster when it happens because those drones can find their way into the DCAs of the many queen breeders with operations in the valley mostly north of Sacramento. Thank you, we really don't want those genes getting sold into our neighborhood. The bottom line: If the colony isn't being pushed into defensiveness by some local circumstance, then those genes should be replaced. Requeen AND DESTROY ALL THE DRONES FROM THAT COLONY TOO!! I concur with the advice for locating the queen. If the colony has great difficulty accepting a new queen, then get them to make one for themselves from a frame with eggs and young larva from a hive with good temperament. Cage the old queen in the hive for a week so there are none of her eggs left, and no young larva. Her presence will prevent the colony from trying to make a queen from any of her eggs and larva. Then pinch the bad queen and put in the frame with eggs AND larva from the good hive. (brood pheromone suppresses laying workers) Check for queen cells in 4 or 5 days. If there are no queen cells put in another frame with eggs and larva. (i learned this from Michael Bush's book) As for queen quality, I've heard that ovaries take many days of laying eggs to fully develop. Queen breeders cutting corners may be banking queens when they see the first eggs. Interrupted maturation may (probably does) prevent the ovaries from ever fully developing = crappy queen. Queens the bees make for themselves are generally better. So it seems to me we should work with nature when we can. Two years ago our club established a "Local Bee Initiative" to promote the propagation, buying, selling, trading of queens and colonies propagated from locally caught swarms and cutouts. The hope is to leverage off of local adaptation and help it by splitting or grafting from the best local queens. If you use non-screen bottom boards and need to reduce the entrance without obstructing air-flow, cut a 13" x 4" strip of #8 hardware cloth, and roll it into a long "U" that jams in between the bottom board and the box above. The bees can circulate air, and life is easier for the guard bees. That's my 2¢ jerry przybylski - east Oakland
  8. So... does anybody make up the oxalic-acid shop-towels according to a Randy Oliver recipe? Any success? Personally I'm a non-treatment beekeeper from Oakland, across the bay from San Fransisco. Our local club is organizing a Local Bee Initiative where members will split their hives this spring to supply bee-less members with local bees descended from locally collected swarms and cut-outs. Some of us see evidence that local bees control Varroa populations. We're trying to reduce the influx of inapt genetics from the high-volume queen producers outside our geographic area. If the Welsh beekeepers can do it, why not us?... Jerry Przybylski --- Oakland, Ca
  9. fwiw... University of California, Davis, in June, is having a 3-day pollinator conference. In recent years there has been a significant effort to educate growers, particularly Almond planters, on the negative affects of "tank-mixes" used to spray the trees, and on the practice of killing off all the weeds and native flowering plants in the orchard boundary, and between the trees. The variety of forage is a significant benefit to the bees. Care with the selection of tank-mixes can improve bee survival. Improved bee survival translates to lower pollination cost, we say... The growers worry about pests and fungus taking hold in the flowers. Tank mixes include insecticides, "adjuvants," surfactants, fungicides, growth-regulators, and god-knows-what. Some of the components enhance the affects of other components!! (some of the interactions are trade-secrets!!) It's very complicated. It's a challenge convincing growers to do the "right thing." A major factor is educating the "consultants" that specify the safer tank-mixes, and other ag. practices. So if you desire a get-away to sunny California during your winter, and can justify the $350us registration, plus lodging,... this might be an interesting adventure for you. In past years when it was a one-day "bee symposium" my spouse and I attended. (registration $75 or $85us) Changing the focus to pollination, and raising the high reg. fee kinda puts me off. (keeps out the riffraff?) The program last year was oriented toward small scale, backyard, and urban beekeepers. Darwinian beekeeping talk by Tom Seeley... Just for us... We keep a few hives in the city... Cheers Jerry Przybylski --Oakland, Ca
  10. Wax moth do eat through brood comb, particularly the darker stuff. They're consuming it for the protein. They're not very interested in the white wax from honeycomb because it doesn't have food value for them. Wax moth don't like moving air, and don't do well with exposure to light. Boxes of brood frames can be stored outside standing on end in a place where there is a lot of sun light, and where a draft blows through them. Then the challenge is keeping the mice and squirrels from going after that exposed food source. #2 or #4 wire-cloth screens over the box ends will keep the rodents out. Some beeks protect stacks of boxes of brood frames with clear plastic covers with solar powered vent fans installed in them. The kind of vent fan used for RVs and Boats... Again... screen the bottom of the stack to keep the rodents out... and keep the stack off the ground. If you produce nucs, you can sell off all your old frames. It's a way of cycling through the inventory. That's my 2¢ Jerry Przybylski -- Oakland, Ca
  11. FWIW... I live an hour's drive from the edge of the Almond Pollination in northern California. Hive thefts are a real problem... especially from staging yards. Beekeepers reduce risk by driving bees directly to their contracted orchards where they immediately get distributed into the orchard. They're a lot more trouble to steel when spread around a couple hundred acres. Some beekeepers install a lo-jack kind of product in some of their hives. If the hives move unexpectedly the Sheriff or state police, etc. can be called in to investigate. Yards have been discovered which are virtual chop-shops! Bee hives have their identifying burned-in "brands" or painted on ID info defaced or covered over. Boxes get reorganized and moved out to almond pollination customers who utilize the 'spot market' rather than nailing down contracts prior to the season. Some of these stolen hives become nucs sold to unsuspecting backyard beekeepers. (I was once contacted by someone, who in retrospect, seemed fishy.) RFID "tags" are pretty cheap these days. Battery powered RFID readers are in the marketplace too. The ID tags can be placed in hives in places where thieves will probably overlook them. Buy a large quantity of tags. Build a database of owners and tag-ranges distributed. Install tags in vulnerable hives. If suspicious hives are found, and have ID tags that weren't transferred from the original owner, you have some evidence of illegal activity. That's my 2¢ Jerry Przybylski -- Oakland, Ca
  12. FWIW... Some of the bee-removal-specialists in our community own a "passive infra-red camera." With it they see the heat image of the wall ceiling. The part of the wall with bees behind it is distinctly warmer than the rest of the building. (One brand is FLIR) There are IR cameras, and also camera "dongles" you can plug into your Amdroid or iPhone. They sure take the guess-work out of assessing the extent of "infestation." They also produce an interesting image of hives in the bee-yard. Best used early in the day before solar heat distorts the picture. Very interesting in Winter. Jerry -- Oakland, Ca
  13. The alcohol is the solvent that dissolves many of the components in the propolis, and makes it spreadable. As with paint and varnish, the solvent evaporates, leaving behind the bee-friendly surface. At our local building supply store, the denatured alcohol is labeled "Alcohol fuel." Frankly, I don't know if it's methanol CH3OH or ethanlol C2H5OH (same as CH3CH2OH). Methanol (AKA "Wood Alcohol") makes you blind and kills you. The ethanol just makes us drunk, which may sometimes kill us. If we let the boxes dry for a day after painting on the propolis solution, they're safe for the bees.
  14. After using some hand-me-down boxes and frames for a couple of years, I concluded they accounted for our bees doing poorly, so about 15 months ago I removed all the plastic foundations, scraped them and rendered the wax. We converted the frames to foundationless. Boxes were scraped, and painted inside with a propolis wash made by mixing alcohol with propolis scrapings plus a bit of gum turpentine. The bees have done much, much better for the past year. I agree with Alastair that if you don't buy the boxes someone else will, and the problem doesn't go away for beekeepers in your community. Buy and scrape the boxes clean. Singe/char the inside with a weed burning propane torch if you're really worried about AFB or anything else. Dip in hot wax & resin if available for a reasonable cost. That treatment stabilizes everything, and will increase the lifespan of the equipment... particularly the dipping. If you don't have the time to scrape all the frames and renew the foundation, just replace them with new ones. If you have the time to fiddle with the frames scrape the wax off and render it. That should purify it pretty well for sale or reuse. Apparently wax moth digest AFB spores. Box up the wax covered foundations in a way that allows wax moth to thrive. In a couple of months they will have cleaned the foundation including the residue in the waffle pattern of plastic foundation sheets. Then wax coat and reuse. (some sheets may require a bit of power washing). Restoring them the right way keeps a bit of CO2 out of the atmosphere, and save a couple of trees in exchange for labor. (labour) Work on the boxes and frames in clothes you're ready to throw away. Gloves too. That's my 2¢ Jerry -- Oakland
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