That will be the topic of honey bee guru Lawrence "Larry" Connor of Kalamazoo, Mich., when he presents a special short course during the Western Apicultural Society (WAS) conference, to take place Sept. 5-8 in the Activities and Recreation Center (ARC), University of California, Davis.
Connor will present the alternative short course, "Keeping Your Bees Alive and Growing," at 1 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 6 for a $50 extra fee, announced WAS president Eric Mussun, Extension apiculturist emeritus.
Said Connor: "We will start with the concepts in Two and a Half Hives: starting with two colonies of bees and making a nucleus the first season. We will show you how to harvest the bees and brood for a nucleus colony. The same system will for anti-swarm management after your first season. We will spend time looking at nucleus management to cycle new, mite-tolerant queens into your beekeeping, including when and how to establish these hives and prepare them for the winter."
He adds: "We will look at the general nature of bee population management—when to grow a hive and what to do when they fail to thrive. We will end with a discussion about establishing and maintaining a sustainable apiary—keeping your bees alive and thriving year to year. If we have time, we will work on your reading list in beekeeping."
A native of Kalamazoo, Connor holds a doctorate in entomology from Michigan State University, and worked as an Extension entomologist in apiculture at The Ohio State University from 1972 to 1976 before accepting a position in Labelle, Fla., to run a new bee breeding program, Genetic Systems, Inc., the world's first mass production facility for the instrumental inseminated queen honey bees.
Connor left Florida in 1980 and began writing books with Wicwas Press LLC, a company he helped found and now owns. He has published more than a dozen titles dealing with bees, beekeeping, queen rearing and pollination. He regularly contributes to Bee Culture and the American Bee Journal magazines, addressing queen and drone biology and management and beekeeper interviews. He is also an accomplished photographer, artist and actor.
Connor will be one of some 16 speakers, ranging from California to Canada, to address the WAS conference. WAS originated at UC Davis.
More information on the conference is available from the WAS website or by contacting Eric Mussen at email@example.com. WAS, open to all interested persons, is a non-profit educational organization, geared for small-scale beekeepers in the western United States.
It's about other projects, too, from "A" to "Z."
And "B." Don't forget the honey bees.
Solano County's Tremont 4-H Club, Dixon, has just launched a beekeeping project, led by adult leader Sarah Anenson. It's a first-year project that's small in numbers but big in enthusiasm.
Her son, Ryan Anenson, 15, serves as the teen leader. Other members are Isabel Martinez, 12, and Caitlin Miller, 17.
They're learning about bees and sharing the information. Ryan crafted an informational display board, "Queen Bee, Star of the Hive," for the Solano County 4-H Project Skills Day, held recently in Vallejo, and responded to questions from his evaluators. Solano County 4-H Program representative Valerie Williams described Project Skills Day as an opportunity for 4-H'ers to share what they've learned and to gain experience in presentation and interaction skills.
One of the evaluators praised Anenson's presentation with: "Excellent presentation. You're knowledgeable and passionate on your subject. You were pleasant to talk to. Your eye contact, speaking ability and overall conversation was engaging and informative. We look forward to seeing you and your board at Presentation Day and beyond."
Sarah Anenson decided to launch the 4-H beekeeping project after walking to a local vintage fair and noticing an observation beehive surrounded by children of all ages. "They were fascinated by the bees and were a captive audience for hours--even our teenagers were mesmerized," she said. "It was then that we realized that a 4-H honey bee project would be beneficial for our youth. To help give our project a kick-start, we received our beehive and hive tools from our good friend, Mr. Don Ritchey."
She added: "We are currently raising only one colony, though we hope to raise more in the near future. One of our hopes is that we will receive bee hive and honey bee donations from our community. Raising honey bees, although highly beneficial, is costly to new beekeepers."
The Tremont 4-H'ers acquired their first honey bee colony last April from Breanna Sieferman of California Queen Bees, Woodland. The bees are now in a Dixon almond grove for pollination, which is expected to start around Feb. 14. "We are glad that our honey bees will help with the pollination of the almonds, but we are not seeking compensation," Anenson said. "We are simply happy to learn what we can about the honey bees, and at some point reap the rewards in honey."
Meanwhile, Ryan Anenson is getting ready to share his beekeeping project at another countywide event, the Solano County 4-H Presentation, to be held Saturday, Feb. 25 at Tremont Elementary School, 355 Pheasant Run Drive, Dixon. The event begins at 10 a.m. and visitors are welcome.
The Solano County 4-H Youth Development Program, part of the UC Cooperative Extension Program of the UC Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources (UC ANR), follows the motto, “Making the best better.” 4-H, which stands for head, heart, health and hands, is open to youths ages 5 to 19. In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in projects ranging from arts and crafts, computers and leadership to dog care, poultry, rabbits and woodworking. They develop skills they would otherwise not attain at home or in public or private schools, said Williams, who may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org for further information on the program. Solano County has 11 4-H clubs: Dixon Ridge 4-H, Maine Prairie 4-H, Roving Clovers 4-H and Tremont, 4-H, all of Dixon; Elmira 4-H, Pleasants Valley 4-H and Vaca Valley 4-H, all of the Vacaville area; Westwind 4-H and Suisun Valley 4-H, both of Fairfield-Suisun; Rio Vista 4-H of Rio Vista; and Sherwood Forest 4-H, Vallejo.
Registration is now underway for the “Beekeeping Basics Workshop,” sponsored by the Highland Springs Resort and SuperOrganism, a non-profit, San Anselmo-based organization that books speakers and does bee projects.
The event, limited to 25 registrants, takes place from 9 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., Feb. 27 and from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m., Feb. 28 at the Highland Springs Resort.
Conference speakers will include Extension apiculturist Elina Niño and Bernardo Niño of the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology.
Elina Niño discuss how bees communicate and beekeeping basics and offer hands-on instruction. Bernardo Niño will cover beekeeping basics—from how to examine a colony to how to split a hive.
Other speakers include
- Megan Mahoney of the national Bee Informed Partnership Tech Transfer Team, who will discuss top bar beekeeping and what forage to plant.
- Mark Brandenburg, an agronomist whose topic is soil development for forage grasses.
- Jerry Draper of SuperOrganism and a 30-year beekeeper who will share his experiences on “what an inexpensive electronic hive can reveal.”
- M.E.A. McNeil of SuperOrganism and a master beekeeper and journalist writing for The American Bee Journal and Bee Culture who will provide insight into what's happening for bees nationally--on both a grassroots and national level.
- Ricardo Placienta, Highland Springs Resort beekeeper who will discuss his philosophy of beekeeping and provide a hands-on look at the bees.
- Tina Kummerle, beekeeper and manager of the Highland Springs Resort who will introduce the attendees to the history of the resort, its plantings and information on the bees
The Highland Springs Resort, located just west of Palm Springs, is an historic site that once served as a stage coach stop. Its 2400 organically maintained acres include hiking trails and large lavender beds that provide an ideal home for bees.
"I think this is a rare opportunity for people to have face time with these expert beekeepers, the Niño and Megan Mahoney," said McNeil, who as the co-founder of SuperOrganism, lined up the speakers.
Of the venue, she said: "It's a beautiful place with enormous organic acreage, hoping to promote beekeeping."
For more information, access the beekeeping conference on the Highland Springs Resort website. It includes information on conference fees, accommodations and meals. The conference fees will go toward travel expenses of the speakers.
She's the newly hired honey bee development officer, an Extension-like position, in the state of New South Wales.
Frost left the States last Sunday, Jan. 10. The government position involves working with the commercial beekeeping industry in New South Wales in "course development and training, policy making, and other projects, including the importation of honey bee semen to Australia, and oxytetracycline prescriptions for European Foulbrood treatment, etc." she related.
We first met Liz in 2008 when she joined the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Facility as the staff research associate for bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, then manager of the facility. Among her many duties, Frost maintained the apiaries and lab facilities, and aided in experiments and instruction in queen rearing and instrumental insemination.
We watched her lead tours with Cobey, now a geneticist-bee breeder at Washington State University; harvest honey; learn to drive the stick-shift bee truck; plant a pollinator garden in front of the Laidlaw facility; engage in a (private) bee bearding activity directed by Cobey; and even install pigeon-control devices on the eaves of the facility.
Frost also hosted the annual "Pi Day" every March 14 for faculty, staff and students at the Laidlaw facility. We all brought pies to celebrate the mathematical constant π (pi).
The Laidlaw facility buzzed with the enthusiasm, commitment and dedication of the Cobey/Frost team.
Frost, who holds a bachelor of arts degree in English and Italian from UC Davis with a minor in entomology, left the Laidlaw facility to join the Bee Informed Partnership, based in College Park, Md. (read her posts), and then headed off to Australia to become a honey bee development officer with the New South Wales government. From California to Australia...and now it's back to Australia...
As a honey bee development officer, she created educational tools for beekeepers in the form of an online Honey Bee Pest and Disease Course, a Queen Bee Breeding book in hard copy and online publication (iBook and EPUB), a bimonthly column (The Frost Report) in the New South Wales Apiarist Association magazine (Honey Bee News), face-to-face courses in queen breeding, and online fact sheets.
About the pest/disease course: "If a beekeeper with one or thousands of colonies wants to learn more about honey bee pests and diseases this course is a valuable, interactive tool with tutorials including videos to supplement the text, and short quizzes," she explained. "In Australia this is a nationally accredited course which awards participants units of competency upon successful completion of assessment tasks."
Her fact sheet on Hygienic Behavior Testing includes step- by-step instructions with illustrations. "Hygienic behavior is a honey bee trait which confers resistance to chalkbrood and American foulbrood (AFB), two serious brood diseases in Australia. AFB is especially serious in Australia considering it is illegal to treat AFB infected hives with oxytetracyline (OTC) as it only masks the symptoms and can contaminate honey. This fact sheet and others produced by New South Wales Dept. of Primary Industry Apiary Technical Officers are located on this site.
She also taught a course on queen bee breeding in Australia with co-worker Doug Somerville. The late Gretchen Wheen, a pioneer in instrumental insemination in Australia, played key roles in establishing two bee breeding programs in Western Australia and the Eastern States (Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria) and the Eastern Creek Quarantine Station which enabled safe, legal importation of new honey bee stock. (The course is listed on this site.)
"These products are educational tools for beekeepers worldwide, but are specifically geared toward the Australian beekeeping industry in regard to the subjects of relevant endemic and exotic pests and diseases and seasonal management and floral resources," Frost related. (She also appeared in this news media-produced video: "Frost Spreads the Beekeeping Gospel.")
When her VISA expired, Frost returned to the states and engaged in a number of projects, including a recent presentation to the California State Beekeepers' Association conference. She toyed with other apiculture opportunities in the States, but when the Australian opportunity surfaced, she made a beeline to return.
Liz Frost is excited to be back.
"Beekeeping in the Australian context is fascinating, not only because Varroa is absent in this country," she said. "The wealth of potential floral resources is astounding, giving beekeepers the opportunity to chase honey 12 months of the year. Around 70 to 80 percent of honey produced commercially is derived from eucalyptus and native forests. These stats shouldn't deceive the reader into thinking honey is easily had, however. The most successful honey producers in Australia know their country intimately. Part arborist, part meteorologist, and all beekeeper, they monitor buds on trees years in advance of a flowering event.
"Also to be considered is the fact that, while some native melliferous flora such as Yellow Box and Ironbark are profuse nectar producers in the right conditions, they can be seriously deficient as a pollen resource. This situation makes beekeeper management decisions before and after working such a honey crop vital to prevent colonies from working themselves to death in the absence of incoming and nutritious pollen."
A friend gave you some old bee boxes. So where do you start? What do you do?
Before you fill those boxes with bees, you should plan ahead, says Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen, whose career spanned 38 years before he retired last June. He continues to maintain an office in Briggs Hall, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, and is often asked these kinds of questions. We thought we'd share some of the advice he recently gave to a prospective beekeeper.
“The most difficult problem that you are likely to face in California is where your apiaries are going to be located for use during certain times of the year," Mussen said. "There are very few places in California where you can let honey bee colonies just sit there and they will do fine. If such spots exist, other beekeepers already have 'squatters' rights' on them and intrusions can lead to nasty activities. The best way to be certain of at least some locations is to buy out an old-time beekeeper who is ready to leave the business. By 'beekeepers' agreement' you get to use his or her bee yards. You also are likely to pick up the old beekeeper's almond contracts. You will need those, or new ones, to prosper."
"Next November the California State Beekeepers' Association is holding its annual convention in Sacramento the week before Thanksgiving. That is THE GATHERING of beekeepers in this state. It will provide your best opportunity to 'schmooze' with your peers and find out who might be ready to phase out of the business allowing you to phase in."
What about the using old bee boxes?
"There are two things important to you," Mussen says,"that you have to watch for:
- Combs containing 'scale' that formed following an American foulbrood disease problem. If you don't know what I am talking about, find someone nearby who does and talk it over with them.
- The outer dimensions of beehive boxes made by many manufacturers have identical outside dimensions. However, inside the boxes, each manufacturer uses its own method of producing the 'bee space' between the top bars and bottom bars of frames. When equipment form various companies are stacked together, some combs will touch and be glued together with propolis and some will have too large a gap which will be filled with beeswax comb sticking the combs together. Working with such a stuck-together mess is time consuming and frustrating. The bees will let you know that it bothers them, too!
"I believe that most beekeeping equipment manufacturers produce good products. You might want to consider which company has a large outlet closest to where you will be headquartered. You will be running to the supply company many more times than you can imagine."
"Your final decision is very important, because it impacts your beekeeping from just about the time you put your bees in the boxes. Are you going to try to keep bees with no chemical intervention to prevent or reduce commonly-occurring problems like American foulbrood and Varroa mites? Or are you going to first try 'soft' approaches, and then more rigorous approaches if the problem seems to persist? Yes, there are a few commercial beekeepers who do not treat their colonies very often, if at all, but they are using mite-resistant lines of bees and they tend not to stay in the heart of the agricultural production areas all season. Most of them pollinate almonds, then scoot off to try to produce a honey crop."
Of course, new beekeepers are encouraged to read beekeeping books; subscribe to bee publications such as American Bee Journal and Bee Culture; join a local beekeepers' association, join state and regional associations; and get to know bees and beekeepers. A regional beekeeping association, co-founded by Mussen, who is a five-term president, is the Western Apicultural Society.