Meeting of Eastern Iowa Beekeepers
This time, however, there was a lot of content, things moved right along and Kathy and I left with wanting more. Maybe it was just the cold, December night and not being able to do anything with the bees lately other than go out and see how many dead had been drug out, but it truly was an entertaining and informative meeting and we took some things away from it that I plan to pursue this coming season.
We arrived a bit late, and missed most of the first speaker who appeared to be talking about dangers associated with allergic reactions to bee stings. It took awhile to find chairs as all the seats were taken. Andy Joseph, a state apiarist, next gave a talk, with a power point presentation, on AFB. He had some great slides which showed what to look for when inspecting for American Foul Brood, including black scaling on the sides of the cells in the brood chamber which are the remnants of bee larva which decomposed, leaving a black, shiny deposit on the sides of the cell. These would be full of the spores of the bacteria that develops AFB. He also showed how to take a toothpick or small twig and open up a sunken cap on the pupa and if you see a stringy, "snotty" substance when you withdraw the stick then you have evidence of AFB. He confirmed my thinking in discontinuing the use of antibiotics as a preventative measure for AFB. However, I will need to really step up my inspections of the brood chambers both in frequency and thoroughness. Only if caught early enough can some effective measures be taken to prevent the loss of the entire hive and to reduce the possibility of the disease spreading to other hives. The other thing I plan to do is to begin to recycle old frames from the brood chambers annually. When I switch hive bodies in the spring, I will remove several frames from each hive and replace them with fresh frames for the bees to draw out. Since I use 3 medium supers, I will remove 9-10 frames each year. This is because the bacteria is almost always present in each hive, even if the hive looks healthy. By removing the old frames, which are most likely to be holding bacterial spores, I can reduce the possibility of the disease taking hold if there is stress on the hive.
I also learned about the importance of orienting the frames within the hive body. This is somewhat controversial, since there seems to be some disagreement in the beekeeping community over the necessity to do this in the first place and, if one chooses to follow this practice, the proper way to go about it. The process is called "housel orientation", based on observations by a Michael Housel in which he studied the ways bees orient the hexagonal cells they create in feral hives. Use "housel" as a search term in the Beesource.com website for more information. I have only begun to read about it but it is intriguing. One woman at the meeting said that if you follow the housel method, bridging between frames is almost eliminated as you create a much more natural environment for the bees.
There was other interesting discussion, but I must say we both felt very excited after the meeting and ready to read more and try some things out.