Do you know what to do when you get a call/email/notice about a pesticide application in your area? Knowing how to cover, close, and move your hives is part of being a responsible beekeeper these days, as these skills will allow you to help protect your bees from pesticide exposure. If you do not know how to close, cover, or move your hives, please contact your mentor or a knowledgable beekeeper from your local club. Below are some of the factors you should consider and some pictures of options for closing off your hives. These suggestions do not guarantee your bees will be unaffected and you must use common sense regarding your specific situation.
Are you on a notification list?
Communication is key - please make sure you are on your local mosquito control notification list and the Clemson Bee Stewardship list. Both are free and voluntary. Scroll down for an ealier post with links.
When is the treatment going to occur?
The time of the treatment will affect what time you close or cover your hives. You will want to try to get most, if not all, of the bees in the hive but you will have to weigh your options depending when the treatment is going to occur.
What is temperature like?
You should always consider ventiliation for your hive but you should be especially considerate about closing/covering your hives when it is especially hot out. You can add additional boxes of frames to allow the bees more space to spread out in the hive, reducing the likelihood of overheating. If you have a screen bottom board, this can also help with ventilation.
Do you have supplemental feed available?
Many pesticides break down rapidly but if you are concerned about the residuals on floral resources, consider providing you hives with supplemental feed during and after the pesticide application to reduce the foraging need.
What do you need to close off a hive?
Like many things in beekeeping, there are several options and there is no single "right" way to protect your hives. You can use an entrance reducer to block the entrance (depending on the manufacturer, you may still need to close off a small opening), mesh screen (allowing for ventilation), a robbing screen, or even newspaper and duct tape!
*Please note, photos were taken during the middle of the day so the bees were actively foraging and many would have been shut out from their hive had I actually closed the hives. This is why it is best to close off hives when it gets dark or before it gets light, since most of the bees will be in the hives.
If the bees are bearding outisde the hive, you can smoke them to get most of them into the hive but remember that if they are bearding, they are likely a bit congested inside the hive, so you may want to add another box on top so they have more space to spread out.
The first photo above shows a ompletely open entrance while the second photo shows an entrance reducer (not put into place yet). The entrance reducer can limit the entrance size down to a small notch (towards the right end of the reducer) or a medium width (towards the left end of the reducer), depending on what side of you you have facing out.
The entrance reducer has been put into place and as you can see, is limiting the amount of space from which foragers exit and return, as well as the space that needs guarding. When closing off a hive, you can use a reducer and then plus the space with newspaper and put duct tape over the entire thing to secure it. In a pinch, you can also just wedge newspaper into the entrance and duct tape over it if they will not be closed off for too long of a period (they will start chewing through the newspaper).
You can also use #8 wire mesh. The advantage of this is that you can shove it into the entrance so that the hive is ventilated but the bees can not come to the edge of the entrance (where they could be more exposured to pesticides).
You can also buy plastic mesh; it is cheaper but does not hold a nice, rigid shape like the wire mesh so you may want to use multiple layers.
If you use robbing screens, you can also use them to close off the entrance. In the first photo in the set above, the upper left exit is opened and the entrance on the bottom right is reduced, but open. In the second photo, the upper exit is closed but the bottom is still reduced and open. In third photo the upper exit is closed and the bottom entrance is closed. One disadvantage is that many of the bees will fill in the screened area, in hopes of going to forage, so you could have some bees possibly exposed to a pesticide treatment, but it would likely be less than free-flying foragers. Hives can recover from some loss of bees but an overwhelming number of lost bees could be too large of a challenge to overcome.
In the first photo above, the hive is essentailly closed off - the upper entrance of the robbing screen is closed and the bottom entrance is blocked. But if you look closely, you can see a small gap on the left side between the super and the upper hive body (which is an extra box I placed on the hive so they would have room to spread out and reduce the chance of overheating). Equipment gets damaged over time and sometimes the assembled boxes are not perfect so you end up with little gaps. In the close up photo above, you can see that the bees have started to use propolis to seal that gap and you might be able to make out the head of a bee about 1/3 of the photo from the left. If the hive was closed off at the entrance and the bees were anxious to get out, they could start chewing through that propolis and leave the colony through that gap. So, even after you have closed of the entrance, inspect your equipment and see if you need to touch up any spots with some duct tape.
These are just some considerations and is not an all-inclusive list of options and does not provide any guarantees. Again, please consult with mentors and local beekeepers if you are in need of assistance before an application is to take place. Please protect your bees!
News Release on Clemson & UNCG Eclipse Study!
Damage Assessment Form for Agriculture & Animals
Please fill out THIS FORM to help SC assess the impact of Irma our agriculture and animals. This form is only for gathering information; it does not provide disaster-related assistance. Please see the earlier post on hurricane preparedness for information on the Farm Services Agency for diaster assistance.
Hurricane Preparedness for Beekeepers
Hurricane Irma will likely affect the coastal and outlying beekeeping communities in SC. Time is limited to take action - the situation exemplifies the importance of having an emergency plan (such as a secured location to move hives) set before the threat of an incident, just like with pesticide treatments. These suggestions do not guarantee your bees will be unaffected and you must use common sense regarding your specific situation.
Beekeepers with smaller operations can move hives to alternate locations that are further inland and on higher ground. If the storm passes through quickly and lightly, hives can even be closed off and moved into a garage or other protected structure for the duration of the storm if there are no other options. Moving hives against a building can help as well. Also be aware of structures and trees that pose a risk if they blow over.
Need to move your hives but do not have an alternate location? Please see Clemson Extension’s Sept 6th Facebook post about compassionate citizens who are willing to help out with providing shelter for livestock and pets that need to be evacuated from the region. You can also find posts regarding resources for coastal evacuation routes and disaster kits.
Those who can not move hives can do their best to secure them. While cinder blocks can work well against regular storms, the strong gusts of hurricanes may require more security. Ratchet straps can keep the hive together and securing hives to stands and posts may help. Hives can be placed next to one another to reduce the risk of blowing over. If you use solid bottom boards, make sure your hives are tilted forward to prevent water from entering the hive.
This storm itself is likely to be short-lived, however, it is important to remember that the weather will result in a reduction in foraging and forage so providing supplemental feed for bees following the storm (be cautious about feeding during the storm as feeders may blow over/away) might be needed.
After the storm, remember to remove standing water to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
Lastly, stay safe and protect yourself.
'Tis the Season for Mosquitoes and Varroa...
The increasing incidence of West Nile Virus (click here for WNV information) in SC (click here for DHEC maps as of 8/15/17) and recent health issues due to WNV will likely lead to some counties responding with mosquito abatement plans. Successful protection of human health along with pollinators will be increased with good communication and efforts to work together.
SC does not have a mandatory hive registry. As a result, it is imperative that beekeepers sign up for pesticide notifications and know how to close, cover and/or move hives (contact local beekeepers for assistance). Below are links to local mosquito control contacts and Clemson's voluntary Bee Stewardship Program.
*Homeowners, if you hire a private contractor, make sure they know if you or your neighbors have bees so the applicator can speak with the beekeeper.
Please also monitor your yard for breeding grounds for mosquitoes - eliminating locations for their development can limit the growth of the adult mosquito population. This can decrease the likelihood of mosquito control treatments, which can be harmful to pollinators!
Please make sure you are monitoring for Varroa mites and treating if necessary. Varroa (and associated viruses) are increasing in hives this time of year - to help ensure healthy winter bees that overwinter successfully, make sure you are doing something about your Varroa (which will also help with your viruses).
SC Farm Bureau Supports Honey Bees!
The South Carolina Farm Bureau understands the value of honey bees and has recently shown their support through forming an Apiculture Advisory Committee and new promotional items. Take a look at this great design and click here to learn more about the SCFB!
With the SCFB's support, we will work to increase awareness of the value and function of pollinators!
We will assume that two of the bee's legs are simply hiding behind the other legs since we all know insects have six legs, right? 😉 And bees have four wings but they often appear to be two due to hooks (hamuli) that connect the hindwing to the forewing.
Happy National Honey Bee Day (August 19th, 2017)!!!
Please remember how important honey bees are to your day-to-day life and a healthy diet (the produce they pollinate, not the bees themselves!)!
The Beltsville Bee Lab has updated their website once again and it looks like their diagnostic services are a go! Please realize that there is likely a backlog of samples that will need to be processed and tested so results from new samples may take longer than in the past.
Happy National Pollinator Week!
Celebrate and appreciate pollinators - they contribute to your everyday life through food and natural resources! While bees are awesome, please remember that there are many types of pollinators to thank - including butterflies, beetles, birds, bats, and even the wind! Click below for more information!
*Manage your apiaries to decrease the likelihood of drifting between colonies and robbing behavior - these behaviors can increase the transmission of mites as well as other pests & pathogens between colonies!
Varroa mites are a huge challenge for U.S. beekeepers but beekeepers in other parts of the world (mostly Asia) must also deal with Tropilaelaps, another parasitic mite. This mite has similarities to Varroa but are smaller, much faster crawlers, and need brood as a food resource (they do not feed on adult bees). Please be aware of this mite but do not panic - surveillence programs are in place and the regulation of international trade reduces the likelihood of spreading this mite. While there is still a lot to learn about this mite, THIS NICE REVIEW ARTICLE provides a lot of valuable information on Tropilaelaps and its management in other countries.
Clemson Extension Live - in case you missed it...
Dr. Bob Polomski and Dr. Jennifer Tsuruda talk plants and bees. We only scratched the surface so look forward to another event in the future!
*If you do not have time to watch the entire show, the last 6 minutes are great - Dr. Polomski quickly appreciates the awesomeness of bees!
Bees playing soccer?!
Check out this exciting and fun work by Dr. Lars Chittka, revealing the amazing learning abilities of bees!
If you have access to Science Magazine, you can click HERE for a link to the scientific paper.
Attention Small Hive Beetle Fans!
Here's some information on work being done in Australia to help trap our little friends!
New disease testing to be available soon...
Click here for Bee Culture's news release. Scroll down (or see Contact page) for information on the existing diagnostic testing performed by the USDA's Beltsville Bee Lab.
Hurricane Matthew may affect the coastal beekeeping community in SC. Time is limited to take action - the situation exemplifies the importance of having an emergency plan (such as a secured location to move hives) set before the threat of an incident, just like with pesticide treatments.
Smaller beekeepers can move hives to alternate locations that are further inland and on higher ground. If the storm passes through quickly, hives can even be closed off and moved into a garage or other protected structure for the duration of the storm. Moving hives against a building can help as well.
Those who can not move hives can do their best to secure them. While cinder blocks can work well against regular storms, the strong gusts of hurricanes may require more security. Ratchet straps can keep the hive together. Hives can be placed next to one another to reduce the risk of blowing over.
This storm is likely to be short-lived, however, it is important to remember that the weather will result in a reduction in foraging so providing supplemental feed for bees following the storm (and before, if time allows) might be needed.
University of California's Statewide Integrated Pest Management (IPM) Resources
Check out the Bee Precaution Pesticide Ratings - a resource that helps guide consumers on pesticides in relation to possible bee poisoning. Please note that the ratings are not the pollinator protection statements on the pesticide labels and not all pesticides are registered for legal use in SC.
For those interested in farming or pollination services, please check THIS RESOURCE for specific crops - many have information on the relative toxicity of pesticides used in those crops to natural enemies and honey bees. Again, please note that not all of the pesticides listed will be available for legal use in SC and there may be some options in SC that are not listed in UC IPM's resources - pesticides are registered on a state-by-state basis.
SC Bees in the News
You have likely seen or heard about the bee kill in SC. Mosquito control and pollinator protection can lead to conflict - communication break downs can be devastating. This is a complex issue and simple and easy answers are lacking. Complicating the human and pollinator health issues is that Aedes mosquitoes are active during the day so night time sprays are not as effective as those at dawn & dusk. Also, SC's climate is very suitable for these mosquitoes and can lead to exposure of bees thanks to warm and humid nights (bees beard on the outside of the hive, increasing ventilation in the hive).
One positive thing to note is that there are measures we can take to limit mosquito population growth. Eliminating standing water reduces breeding grounds for mosquitoes and the use of biological control methods, like Bti (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis), can reduce larvae with little risk to honey bees and other bee pollinators. By knocking down the larval population, we should have fewer adults, which lowers the likelihood of bites and Zika transmission (and therefore, sprays). We beekeepers should work to become advocates for bee-safe(r) mosquito control methods that can lead to reduced sprays (and risk for bees).
Please see and use the following resources to help prevent another bee kill incident. PLEASE COMMUNICATE with one another to protect pollinators and human health. Contact your local mosquito control agency to see if they keep a beekeeper notification list and be prepared to cover, close, or move your hives before a treatment is to take place.
Know who to contact - SC has several agencies that deal with honey bees, each with a different aspect. Please look over the chart below to make sure you contact the appropriate resource - time can be of the essence and contacting the wrong agency will likely lead to a delay.
*If you want to send samples for diagnostic testing without the assistance of DPI inspectors, please see the Beltsville USDA Bee Lab's website for information on what they test for and how to submit samples.
SC does not have a mandatory hive registry. As a result, it is imperative that beekeepers sign up for pesticide notifications. Below are links to local mosquito control contacts and Clemson's voluntary Bee Stewardship Program.
Protect pollinators by eliminating breeding grounds for MOSQUITOES! The better we control mosquitoes, the fewer bites, the smaller the population, and the lower the need for treatments (which can harm pollinators). Visit the DHEC website for more information about Zika virus in SC.