Howard County Beekeepers Association Inc.
(A 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization)
Our purpose is to promote honey beekeeping in Howard County, Md by providing a forum in which current honey beekeepers may become more knowledgeable of best practices and the public can become more, and accurately, informed on the benefits of honey bees.
2013 — for beekeepers, there's nothing sweet about it
Parasites, weather, pesticides all taking a toll on pollinators
June 11, 2013|By Joan Cary, Special to the Tribune
Commercial beekeeper Tim May has worked 16-hour days, six or seven days a week for the past month to get more than a thousand hives with millions of honeybees settled in the countryside of northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.
Spring has not been easy for northern Illinois beekeepers like him who lost anywhere from 40 to more than 80 percent of their hives over the fall and winter. Now they struggle to rebuild.
It was "the perfect storm" that did them in, beekeepers say. And this season, which some call their worst ever, follows what was for many one of their best — 2011-12, when their bees were healthy and the honey abundant.
Problems exist throughout the country, where preliminary figures from the American Beekeeping Federation show that 31 percent of managed bee colonies were lost this season — more than 40 percent higher than a year ago.
"I have yet to talk to anybody who came out of this year (2012-13) and didn't have some losses, notable losses," said Jim Belli, a Wadsworth beekeeper and president of the Illinois State Beekeepers Association.
In northern Illinois, last summer's drought meant less nectar and pollen available for the bees, which left bee colonies weak as autumn arrived. Then came a long winter followed by a cold spring with late blooms. That was topped off with the usual assault of parasitic mites and viruses, exposure to crop pesticides, an increasing number of single-crop farms and the decrease of bee habitat — weeds, flowers and fence rows.
Habitat is important for bees to get the nourishment they need to produce honey and pollinate plants. About one-third of our foods and beverages are made possible through pollination, mainly by honeybees, according to the federal government.
May, a third-generation beekeeper in Marengo, estimates he lost 80 percent of his 1,400 hives in the fall and winter. He found in late fall that his bees were stressed and hurting.
After replenishing, he is working with 1,300 hives this year. He bought many new bees that come in 2- and 3-pound packages, and he split some of his stronger hives into two, moving half the bees and a new queen into a new box to form a colony.
Commercial beekeeper Phil Raines, of Davis, west of Rockford, had 150 of his 500 hives die at Raines Honey Farm. He estimated his financial loss at about $30,000.
And as the bees decline in number, the price for them goes up. Raines and others predict that honey and other food prices will follow.
"There are all these straws on the camel's back, and the poor bees can't take it anymore," Raines said. "It doesn't matter how small or how large your operation is. Your bees are dying. This year is worse than any year we've had."
May agrees. He owns and operates May's Honey Farms with his father, Phil, and son, Colin. They keep 30 to 40 hives at 44 locations, generally on parcels of rural land they call bee yards. In business since 1948, the Mays sell packaged Sunny Hill Honey through independent grocers and farmers markets.
"It's gotten more and more difficult to keep bees," he said. "We had it bad about 15 years ago, but this is the worst."
Not a simple job
Downstate beekeepers like Rich Ramsey in Rochester, east of Springfield, report minimal loss. Ramsey lost just one of his 25 hives and said he does not think beekeepers around him suffered any significant losses, but he points out that losses vary from year to year. It is not unusual, experts said, for a beekeeper to lose 5 to 25 percent of his hives each year.
But, Ramsey said, beekeeping even in the best years is not as simple as it used to be.
"I don't know much, but I do know that 30 years ago you could put bees in a hive, turn them loose and not have to worry about them," said Ramsey, vice president of the state beekeepers association. "It's a management issue now. You have to do things you didn't have to do before. It's more work."
Nationwide, the biggest news among beekeepers since 2006 has been colony collapse disorder, during which bees die and disappear. CCD is most widely recognized among large commercial operations that truck hives into California each spring to pollinate the almond groves, then move them on to orchards and crops around the country.
"We think (CCD) occurs more in large commercial operations," said Gene Robinson, entomologist and director of the Bee Research Facility at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. "However, they may be in a position to monitor more carefully and intensively than some hobby beekeepers … and those are the bees most stressed."
According to apiary inspection supervisor Steve Chard of the Illinois Department of Agriculture, there has been only one documented case of CCD in Illinois — last year in Boone County, near Rockford.
There are about 2,000 registered beekeepers statewide, managing 21,000 colonies, Chard said. Eighty-five percent are hobbyists.
A detailed video of a queen being mated.
MSBA 6th annual Maryland Honey Harvest Festival
6th annual Maryland Honey Harvest Festival is September 21, 9AM - 3PM, at the Patuxent Research Refuge National Wildlife Visitor Center* in Laurel. (see attached flyer)
Public outreach is a cornerstone of the MSBA mission statement** and this is our only annual outreach event. The bees need the public to understand and appreciate their value to our food supply and the environment and we need your support!
We are lucky to have the Friends of Patuxent jointly host this event with us. They provide the following for only a 10% fee:
•a beautiful, wheelchair-accessible facility (indoor & outdoor areas, auditorium)
•lovely grounds with hiking trails
•30-minute guided tram tours
•setup, cleanup, parking directors
•food for sale
BANV Queen Survival Survey Results
Here are the results of the BANV survey to assess Queen survival from different source (3 years, weighted average) - thanks to Jim Haskell.
1. Locally produced nucs with resistant queens (LNQr) 87%
2. Locally produced resistant queens (LQr) 70%
3. Bee raised queens – emergency, supercedure and swarm (BQ) 65%
4. Beekeeper produced queens, not selected for resistance (BkQ-nr) 60%
5. Queens from GA (Q-GA)35%
6. Locally produced nucs with GA queens (LNQ-GA) 25%
7. Packages with queen from GA (PkgQ-GA) 20%
A Comparison of Honey Bee Colony Strength and Survivability between Nucleus and Package Started Colonies
Our project explored the differences in strength and survival between three options for starting new honeybee colonies. Over the course of two years 54 new honey bee colonies were started, managed, monitored, and evaluated by Master Beekeeper Erin MacGregor-Forbes and experienced beekeeper Larry Peiffer. The purpose of the experiment was to determine whether survival rates between the groups of colonies would be measurably different, and whether beekeeper choices in colony starts could influence winter survival probability.
The project involved three colony groups: Two thirds of our colonies were started using commercially raised southern packages of bees, 3lbs of bees and a queen bee in a cage. (Packages) Packages are the most commonly purchased colony start option available to beekeepers in the United States, comprising roughly 80% of all new colonies started in New England.
The second colony group (1/3 of our project) was comprised of northern raised overwintered nucleus colonies, a northern raised queen and her offspring, 5 frames of bees, along with honey comb, pollen, and nectar stores (Nucs). Northern raised nucleus colonies are less commonly purchased because they are less available for sale – the demand for Northern Raised Nucs vastly outstrips the supply in New England.