Tuesday, December 29, 2015

End of the year update

Well, both hives are alive and still buzzing - I listened with my stethoscope today.
I cleared the snow from in front of the mouse guards - the escape holes were open and that's where I listened.
I'm hopeful going into the New Year - we'll see where they're at come March!!

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

December 1, 2015 - corks out

It snowed yesterday then turned to freezing rain/sleet.
I removed the corks from the escape holes.
I meant to listen with my stethoscope, but I forgot, hopefully, both hives are alive.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

My how different things can be in 24 hours

I put all four walls up today, it's rainy and cold.
Let's hope they make it - just rainy, cool, breezy.
Will be in the 30's this weekend and this rain may change over to snow. But I'm ready!!!
Stay strong dear girls!
This is my strong hive (A):

 And my "weak" hive (B):

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Week 31 November 15, 2015 got the covers ready

I set up the insulated walls that I made for the hives, I put them in place with bungee cords.
It's going to be in the 30's next weekend though today it was 60!!

I went horseback riding in short sleeves!

There was a lot of bee activity at the entrances.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Week 29: Tuesday November 3, 2015 Hives doing fine

I checked the hives today - 2 full boxes of honey on Hive A with 3rd box getting honey, 4th box just white comb and they're starting a small piece of comb in the 5th box.

Hive B good bee population, top box full of honey, second box there are bees, working away.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Tuesday October 27, 2015 Feeders on Hive B off today

Today I opened Hive B, removed the feeders and the top cloth with the hole and replaced it with the top cloth which has no hole.

All went well.

The hive is back together.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sunday October 25 2015 - the anniversary of my Grandma Pieper's 113th birthday

I filled the feeders on Hive B on Friday morning , they are still taking down syrup and there is STILL pollen coming into that hive.

Jon and Rachel were out and we rode all four horses - ask Rachel about the "ravine incident" - had a lovely day.

A few days ago, I saw this bird just east of my hives:

If you can't tell, it's a ruffed grouse (Bonassa umbellus)

Monday, October 19, 2015

floors 1/2 way in, pollen still coming in

Monday October 19: 75 degrees out
Hive A the workers are dragging out drones in the morning not so much in the afternoon but they did attack and remove a wasp

Hive B: pollen still coming in, syrup still being taken down.

I put the bottom boards in 1/2 way.
The insulated walls are "curing" in the sun - hope they'll stay  but I might have to duct tape some more.

Here are videos of the entrances:
Hive A:

And Hive B:

Built insulated walls for winter

So on saturday october 17 I assembled some insulation to serve as winter protection, not sure how well it will work.

Redrilled the top hole on Hive A because they had blocked it with propolis/comb/honey.
Put the cork back in.

Sunday Oct 18: 68 degrees

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Tuesday October 13, 2015 Decided to keep feeders on

Sunday, 2 days ago, it was 85 degrees, a new record! The syrup was nearly empty so I decided to fill them again and will pull the feeders when they stop taking down the syrup.

There are less bees in Hive A but I think it is normal for overwintering preparations. Hive B is looking stronger from a number of bees standpoint but not sure they'll have enough honey to make it through winter.

Monday, October 5, 2015

October 5, 2015 Still feeding Hive B

I checked the feeders and they were nearly empty so one more round of syrup went in to Hive b today.
I plan to remove the feeders next week, at least that's what I'm thinking as of today.

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Twenty four hours later and the grass is gone

Thursday evening Sept 24, 2015: So I went to the hives with my flashlight of my iPhone at 7pm (yes it's getting darker earlier) and they had removed the grass from Hive A and there appeared to be mainly drones ~ a dozen lying about in the grass and on the landing board. They were alive but just hanging out - languid really.

Hive B had pulled most of the grass out.

Today, Saturday Sept 26, just checked them and Hive B will need more syrup this afternoon, I'll wait until it's warmer out.

Thursday, September 24, 2015


So the more I thought about the video of the tall/strong hive, the more I thought that might be robbing behavior so last night (Wednesday Sept 23) at 10pm, in the dark, in the drizzle, I went out and plugged the entrances to the hive with some grass just leaving 2 small openings in each to give the girls a better chance at defending their hives.

I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tuesday Sept 22, 2015 Put the empty box back under the hives

So after much intellectual teeth gnashing I went out this morning before the rain, and put the empty box below my weak or 2 box hive but WHOA was it heavy to lift those top two boxes!!  So that's a good sign of how much honey is in the two boxes, and still taking syrup down!

As you recall, I have 4 boxes on the "strong" hive and I decided to put one box back under - remember we removed 2 boxes three days ago. Anyway, no way could I lift those top 2 boxes, so Mark hefted them, which exposed some honey. YIKES.  Then I pulled the bottom 2 boxes (not as heavy) and then I replaced an empty box and stacked the other four back on.

Now there is LOTS of activity outside that hive - I hope I did not stimulate robbing behavior.

Here are the videos of the activity this afternoon:

Monday, September 21, 2015

Removed bottom boxes Week 23

The local beekeepers group from Hastings came out to see my hives. We opened the weaker hive but Tom says it has plenty of bees and the capped honey looks good, so we removed the bottom empty box and I will keep feeding them.

That was on Sept 19 and today Sept 21, the bees were bringing in lots of orange pollen.

We also removed the bottom two empty boxes on the stronger hive, so it is 4 boxes deep.

Here are photos from this weekend - bees still on the goldenrod:

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

September 15 2015 Week 22 Still feeding and a "pipping" queen

Over the weekend, I refilled the feeder jars and today they were ~1/2 full.
Two days ago, I watched workers remove larvae from the strong hive:

Here's the video of them:

I heard a pipping noise today in the weak hive and I think it was the queen!!
I can't believe I really heard it but I've never heard a noise like that before.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Feeding frenzy Sept 3, 2015 week 20 1/2

The feeders were nearly empty so I filled the jars completely today!
That's all for my update.

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Update September 1, 2015 week 20

Here's a picture of a cool spider in my raspberry patch - Argiope aurantia or Black and Yellow Garden Spider
And some videos: I checked the feeders on hive 2 and they were empty so I refilled them.

The bees are all over the golden rod which is EVERYWHERE on our land:

And here is a video link to the videos of each hive:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Article from the Rolling Stone Magazine re: neonics

What Is Killing America's Bees and What Does It Mean for Us?

Pollinators are vanishing, and a silent spring could become a horrifying reality. So why won't the EPA do more?

By  August 18, 2015

                  killersAmerica's vanishing bees may be the "canary in the coal mine" signaling the degradation of the natural world at the hands of man. Illustration by Jason HolleyThere was a moment last year when beekeeper Jim Doan was ready to concede defeat. He stood in the kitchen of his rural New York home, holding the phone to his ear. Through the window, he could see the frigid January evening settling on the 112-acre farm he'd just been forced to sell two weeks earlier. On the other end of the line, his wife's voice was matter-of-fact: "Jimmy, I just want to say I'm sorry, but the bees are dead."


Apocalypse Soon: 9 Terrifying Signs of Environmental Doom »By then, Doan was used to taking in bad news. After all, this was long after the summer of 2006, when he had first started noticing that his bees were acting oddly: not laying eggs or going queenless or inexplicably trying to make multiple queens. It was long after the day when he'd gone out to check his bee yard and discovered that of the 5,600 hives he kept at the time, all but 600 were empty. And it was long after he'd learned back in 2007 that he was not alone, that beekeepers all around the country, and even the world, were finding that their bees had not just died but had actually vanished, a phenomenon that was eventually named colony collapse disorder and heralded as proof of the fast-approaching End of Days by evangelicals and environmentalists alike. Theories abounded about what was causing CCD. Were bees, the most hardworking and selfless of creatures, being called up to heaven before the rest of us? Were they victims of a Russian plot? Of cellphone interference? Of UV light? Were they the "canary in the coal mine," as the Obama administration suggested, signaling the degradation of the natural world at the hands of man? Possibly. Probably. No one knew.
Even to Doan, at the epicenter of the crisis, none of it had made a lick of sense. As a third-generation beekeeper, he and his family had been running bees since the 1950s, and it had been good money; in the 1980s, a thousand hives could earn a beekeeper between $65,000 and $70,000 a year in honey sales alone, not to mention the cash coming in from leasing hives out to farmers to help pollinate their fields. But more than that, it was a way of life that suited Doan. He'd gotten his first hive in 1968, at the age of five, with $15 he'd borrowed from his parents. He paid his way through college with the 150 hives he owned by then, coming home to tend them on the weekends. He was fascinated by the industrious insects. "It's just that they are such interesting creatures to watch on a daily basis," he says. "If you spend any time with bees, you develop a passion for them."
In fact, humans have felt this way about honeybees for millennia. In ancient times, they were thought to be prophetic. Honey gathering is depicted in cave paintings that date back to the Paleolithic Age. The ancient Egyptians floated bees on rafts down the Nile to get them from one crop to another. While honeybees are not native to North America, they were deemed important enough to be packed up by the Pilgrims, and crossed the Atlantic around 1622 (according to Thomas Jefferson, the Native Americans referred to them as "white man's flies"). Today, bees are responsible for one out of every three bites of food you eat and are an agricultural commodity that's been valued at $15 billion annually in the U.S. alone. They are a major workforce with a dogged work ethic — bees from one hive can collect pollen from up to 100,000 flowering plants in a single day, pollinating many of them in the process. Americans wouldn't necessarily starve without them, but our diets would be a lot more bland and a lot less nutritious.
By the time Doan got that call from his wife in January 2014, his hives had dwindled from 5,600 in 2006 to 2,300 in 2008 to a mere 275, most of which he now feared were dead. Even the hives that did survive had to be coaxed and coddled. Rather than finding their own food, they needed to be fed. Instead of averaging 124 pounds of honey per hive, they averaged nine.


The Point of No Return: Climate Change Nightmares Are Here »At first, Doan blamed himself. "Before 2006, basically you couldn't do anything wrong," he says. "Very seldom did you lose bees unless you were a really bad beekeeper. If you lost one hive a yard, that was a lot." He racked his brain, trying to figure out what mistakes he might be making. He worried that he was letting his father and grandfather down, that he was letting his son down — even though he knew that other beekeepers were struggling too. Every time a major die-off happened, he tried to regroup, taking the remaining healthy hives, dividing them in two and buying new queens to stock them, but the constant splitting meant that the new colonies were weaker and less established than the ones before. Doan grew more and more depressed. "I was just mentally exhausted," he tells me. "I mean, you have to have bees to be a beekeeper. At that point, I truly thought, 'What's the point of living?' "
                  doanA third-generation beekeeper, Jim Doan has seen his hives dwindle from 5,600 to a mere 275. Rob Howard/CorbisDoan never really considered the possibility that the fault might not be his own until scientists at Penn State who had been testing his bees told him of news coming out of France that pointed the finger at a relatively new class of insecticides called neonicotinoids, or neonics. The first commercially successful neonicotinoid compound was synthesized by agrochemical giant Bayer CropScience in 1985, but it wasn't until the early 2000s that they began to be used extensively. Compared to older, more toxic insecticides, neonics certainly seemed to be a win-win: Though neurotoxins, they mess with insect brains far more than those of mammals, and their application is a breeze. All a farmer need do is sow a seed coated in neonics and the water-soluble chemicals get drawn back up into the plant as it grows. Referred to as systemic insecticides, they spread through the plant, making it resistant to predators. Neonics don't require repeated applications in a hazmat suit. Rain can't wash them away — but then again, neither can your kitchen faucet (unless you're eating strictly organic, you're eating neonicotinoids all the time).
Doan knew his hives had tested positive for the neonicotinoid clothianidin, but the results had seemed dubious because clothianidin wasn't even registered for use in New York state. That's when he learned that neonic-coated seeds weren't subject to the same regulations as sprayed pesticides, meaning that seeds couldn't be treated in New York, but they could be purchased elsewhere and then planted there, with no one the wiser. Furthermore, studies demonstrated that bees exposed to sublethal amounts of these neonicotinoids showed a loss in cognitive functions, including their ability to navigate home.
To Doan, this seemed like a breakthrough — a perfect explanation for why his bees hadn't just been dying, but disappearing altogether. He testified at the Environmental Protection Agency. He testified in front of Congress. He was interviewed for a Time magazine article on neonics in 2013, the very same year a report by the European Food Safety Authority showed "high acute risks" to bees from neonics and the European Union issued a ban on the three that are most widely used. Meanwhile, the Saving America's Pollinators Act, a congressional bill introduced in 2013 by Reps. John Conyers and Earl Blumenauer that would have taken neonics off the market until their safety was more definitively proven, never made it out of committee. (The bill was reintroduced this spring, but its fate remains uncertain.)
Doan waited expectantly for the EPA to step in and address the situation: "When I first started learning about this, I'm like, 'Well, the EPA's there to protect us. We don't have to worry about this, because the EPA's here to help.'"But as the years passed and the use of neonics spread, it started to seem that maybe the EPA wasn't there to help beekeepers after all. To Doan, the mystery of colony collapse disorder deepened. He no longer wondered what was killing his bees; he wondered why steps weren't being taken to save them.
In the past decade, neonicotinoid insecticides have gone from little-known chemical compounds to the most commonly used insecticides in the world. Virtually every genetically modified corn seed and at least a third of soybeans that are planted in this country are coated in these toxins. According to conservative estimates, neonics are used on 100 million acres of American farmland, though the real number is probably much higher. More than 90 percent of corn and soybeans grown in the U.S. are genetically modified; they cover an estimated 89 million and 85 million acres, respectively. A 2012 U.S. Department of Agriculture survey found neonics in 30 percent of cauliflower, 22 percent of cherry tomatoes and in more than a fourth of bell peppers. In 2011, the Food and Drug Administration found them in 29 percent of baby food.
Neonics may have come on the scene rapidly, but their adoption is due to forces that have been at play for decades, starting with the Dust Bowl, which cleared the Midwest of many small family farms and left massive tracts of land available to be bought up cheaply. For large farms and corporations, it made the most economic sense to plant huge expanses of only one crop and to maximize the space by clearing the land of any other vegetation, a system known as monoculture. While good for business, monoculture is disastrous for biodiversity, wiping out beneficial species that need more varied habitats and diets, and also creating a smorgasbord for pests that prey on a single crop. (If every plant for miles blooms only two weeks a year, bees have nothing to eat for the other 50.)
Some of these monocultural crops rely on migratory beekeeping, a system in which hives are trucked in to pollinate a crop as it blooms and then hauled over to the next crop when the blooms are gone. Of the roughly 2,000 American beekeepers who own 300 hives or more, about two-thirds are migratory. ("Everybody knows everybody, because there aren't a whole lot of us," Doan says.) It's not a perfect system — an 18-wheeler isn't exactly a bee's natural habitat, after all, and beekeepers expect to lose a handful of their hives due to the stress of all that travel — but it's a system that's been in place in this country for decades, long before colony collapse disorder struck. Up until recently, the bees were all right.
What weren't all right were the crops. Monoculture not only provides a feast for pests, necessitating the use of a whole lot of insecticide, but it is also a perfect petri dish for insects to grow resistance. Genetically modified crops were meant to be less harmful than chemical applications, changing the plant itself to ward off predators. But altering genes can only protect a plant so much. Where modifications were found to be inadequate, neonics were adopted to pick up the slack.
                  killersIn the face of mass die-offs, Doan waited for the EPA to step in and address the situation. When it didn't, he sued. Ropi/ZumaChemical companies have always faced a conundrum: How do you kill the plants you don't want without killing the ones you do, and how do you kill harmful insects without killing beneficial ones? That neonic insecticides can kill honeybees is not up for debate. If an unlucky bee flies into a cloud of dust kicked up when coated seeds are planted, she'll die on the spot. What is contested, however, is the severity of the effects that might arise from tiny, sublethal exposures to neonics over the course of a worker bee's six-week lifespan as she gathers pollen and nectar that is laced with trace amounts — and what happens when she brings this pollen and nectar back to the hive. A 2014 study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that 90 percent of honey tested positive for at least one neonic, and 50 percent contained at least two. It's true that honeybees can metabolize these toxins quickly, but that also makes them difficult to detect. According to a report released in April by the European Academies Science Advisory Council, the effects are cumulative. Like an allergy, the response could get worse with repeated exposure. "It's the perfect crime," says Jeff Anderson, a beekeeper who is on the board of directors of the Pollinator Stewardship Council. "Neonics don't necessarily kill on first exposure — they can kill many months later."
Which has been a hard concept for many beekeepers to wrap their heads around. Doan says that only about 30 percent agree with him that neonics are specifically to blame. "These beekeepers grew up with pesticides where you'd see the damage right away, and they still expect that sort of cause-and-effect relationship," Doan tells me. "People don't look at what happened two months ago as affecting them today."
And the truth of the matter is that the world right now isn't the friendliest place for bees, even with pesticides out of the picture. Since the 1980s, honeybees have been preyed on by a nasty little blood-sucking, disease-spreading mite known as the varroa destructor, and thus have to contend with the miticides beekeepers apply to hives (miticides, mind you, that have the tricky task of killing one bug that literally lives on another). Meanwhile, there's a plethora of new bee pathogens emerging at warp speed, plus ever-shrinking habitats and the aforementioned stresses of a migratory lifestyle. All of which is why entomologists like Dennis vanEngelsdorp, who was part of the group that gave colony collapse disorder its name, caution against assigning just one cause to what is no doubt a complex problem. Certainly, each of these issues exacerbates the others: A hungry, stressed-out bee will be more susceptible to toxins, and eating neonics has been shown to cause bees to eat less. (In fact, a recent study published in Nature showed that rather than avoiding neonics, as had been hypothesized, bees actually prefer them — they are related to nicotine, after all.)
"Bees are tanking, and this has all kinds of consequences for the ecosystem," says one advocate. "And we're doing more studies?"
Despite all these factors, Doan and many others feel strongly that neonicotinoids were the final stressor in a cascade of them, and the one that tipped the scales — and that discussion of other potential causes deflects attention away from neonics, which chemical companies are at pains to do. At the very least, the industry — particularly Bayer and Syngenta, the major manufacturers of neonics — doesn't dispel the confusion. They argue that there are more hives in America now than there were five years ago (which is true, but only because beekeepers constantly have to divide their colonies to make up for losses); that bees are thriving in a sea of neonic-infused canola in Canada ("If someone's pointing you to a study and saying, 'Look, it shows no harm,' you might want to see if it's a canola field," says Lori Ann Burd, the environmental health director at the Center for Biological Diversity. "For whatever reason, honeybees seem to experience significantly less harm in canola fields than in other fields"); and that any study that sees significant harm to bees after neonic dosing had methodological errors or used too high a dose. "The basic principle of toxicology and risk assessment is 'the dose makes the poison,'"says David Fischer, the chief bee researcher at Bayer CropScience. "Or to put it another way, all substances are toxic, but what differentiates a poison from a remedy is the dose."
Industry scientists emphasize that no one cause can explain the bee die-offs. "I don't think that we can deny that if a bee is exposed to a pesticide, there's not stress there," says Jay Overmyer, technical lead of Syngenta's Ecological Risk Assessment. "But it all goes back to the fact that there are multiple stressors, and they all have to be taken into consideration."
To assess how, or how much, neonics affect bees, many look to Europe, where the neonic ban has been in place for almost two years; yet the ban's outcome is still inconclusive, in part because of the persistence of the chemicals. Studies have shown that neonics can persist in the ground for years and that some neonic compounds break down into substances even more toxic than the parent product.
This past January, a task force of 29 independent scientists reported that they had reviewed more than 800 recent, peer-reviewed studies on systemic insecticides and determined that sublethal effects of neonics are very, very bad for bees indeed. But Fischer, the scientist at Bayer — which reportedly made $262 million in sales of the neonic clothianidin in 2009 alone — says that he doesn't see the study as being objective and that Bayer's research shows the opposite.
"This is an inherent problem because it's very easy to spin these things in a million directions," says Greg Loarie, a staff attorney for Earthjustice. "There are ways in which you can downplay the negative and prejudice the outcome." In fact, the greatest indication of what a study will find is often who is conducting or financing it. (A press contact at Syngenta sent me studies that ostensibly showed that neonics were not harming bees: The first was conducted by Syngenta employees; the second was funded by Bayer.)
Through it all, the loss of honeybees has continued apace, with an average of 30 percent of hives dying every year. Classic cases of CCD — in which the bees literally vanish — are now relatively uncommon. These days, beekeepers often find dead bees in or near the hive, implying that whatever is killing them is doing so acutely — or the colonies slowly dwindle until there is nothing left.
                  killers syngentaScientists studying the bee deaths point to a number of factors, but many agree that the rise of neonicotinoid-coated seeds, like the corn kernels above, has contributed to the steep decline in bee populations. Courtesy of SyngentaSupposedly standing guard between the tiny pollinators and the agrochemical giants is the EPA. It's the EPA's job to parse all this, and if not to fully protect the environment, per se, then at least to make sure that one particular industry doesn't ruin nature to such an extent that it too drastically hurts the bottom line of others. In 1972, revisions to the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act placed the responsibility on manufacturers to provide the safety data for the products they make, the idea being that American taxpayers should not cover the bill for tests done to products that financially benefit private companies. In practice, what this means is that the studies provided to the EPA when a product is up for approval are, by law, generated and submitted by the manufacturer of that product. Jim Jones, the assistant administrator for the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention at the EPA, maintains that compliance monitoring is designed to keep companies honest: "They have to generate the data according to good laboratory practices, and our scientists review this." Loarie, the attorney for Earthjustice, isn't so sure. "I think there are many, many opportunities for the data to be played with," he says.
Also of concern then is the fact that agrochemical companies are not only responsible for reporting how much environmental exposure a pesticide might have, they're likewise responsible for submitting to the EPA's review the lethal dose for non-target organisms — what amount it would take to kill 50 percent of a population. "It's the fox guarding the henhouse," says Ramon Seidler, a former senior research scientist in charge of the GMO Biosafety Research Program at the EPA. "And the fox is the one collecting the eggs and bringing them to the regulators."
Even if the EPA wanted to test a product itself, the agency isn't set up that way. EPA scientists are meant to review studies conducted by others (including independent research), not to conduct studies themselves. It can take the agency two to three years to do a full review of a commercial product. "And with 80,000-some-odd of these chemicals to do?" says Seidler. "My God, it's an impossible task."
For this reason, regulators mainly consider a compound's active ingredient, which, as the entomologist vanEngelsdorp explains, can be problematic. "There is data that the inert ingredients may be having a negative effect on colonies on their own," he says. "Or that in combination with the active ingredient, they're much more toxic than they were before." Nor are regulators generally considering the combinations of multiple insecticides and herbicides sometimes coated on a single seed or how any of this might interact with the other agrochemicals applied to crops, a chemical bath that the program director for the Pollinator Stewardship Council, Michele Colopy, calls "meth in the field."
"It's the fox guarding the henhouse," says a former EPA research scientist. "It's corporate greed over environmental safety."
"We do look for some obvious interactions, but you can't test for every possible combination of chemicals that might occur out in the real world," says Fischer. Yet it's unclear what the agrochemical companies are testing: Because they contain "proprietary information," the insecticides' nonactive ingredients are not publicly disclosed.
Despite these limitations, many feel that the body of evidence against neonics is strong enough that the EPA should be taking a stand. Which raises certain questions. "Why did the Europeans put a hold on the use of neonicotinoids?" Seidler asks. "And why did the EPA look at that and stare it right in the face and say, 'No'?" Why is the EPA not restricting neonics when another government agency, the Fish and Wildlife Service, announced that it would phase them out on national wildlife refuges by 2016?
In fact, just three days after the European ban was announced, the USDA/EPA National Stakeholders Conference on Honey Bee Health issued its report in which the potential harm posed by neonics was not mentioned at all in the executive summary. "That really got to me," says Dr. Eric Chivian, founder and former director of the Center for Health and the Global Environment at Harvard Medical School. "There was huge international press attention that the EU banned the most widely used insecticides in the world because of concern about honeybees, and the part of the report most people read doesn't even mention them?" At the EPA/USDA Pollinator Summit in March 2013, less than two months after the EU issued its initial neonic warnings, "Half the speakers were from industry," says Chivian. "It would be as if the Surgeon General held a conference on the dangers of smoking and half the speakers were from Big Tobacco."
No one is saying that what the EPA is tasked with comes easy. "Go after Congress," Seidler says. "They are the ones who are not providing a sufficient budget for the EPA and other regulatory scientists to stay up with industry discoveries." Indeed, the number of laboratories serving the office of the pesticide program at the EPA has dropped from a reported dozen in 1971 to two today, which means it's very difficult for the EPA to keep pace with industry. "It's always a challenge," says the EPA's Jones, who maintains that despite the difficulties, the agency is resourced and operating adequately. But according to Loarie, "They're using 20th-century methodologies to test 21st-century pesticides. The EPA still doesn't appreciate the extent to which systemic pesticides are different."
With their livelihoods in the balance, beekeepers have grown frustrated with the EPA's lack of action. "I've been going to Washington for years working on these issues, basically asking them to do their job, and my experience has been that generally the agencies don't understand, and their approach doesn't get to the heart of the problem," says Zac Browning, a fourth-generation Idaho beekeeper who lost 50 percent of his hives in 2009. "On the ground, we're not seeing results."
What beekeepers are seeing, however, is that chemical companies — and their lobbyists — seem effective at fighting off tougher standards. "The problem is that industry knocks on the door and walks in," says Doan. "Beekeepers knock on the door, and it's like, 'Hold on, we'll see you in a while.'  Industry has an open door into the EPA and beekeepers do not."
There has been some effort to address bee mortality. This past May, President Obama unveiled a strategy to promote honeybee health that did not call for a restriction on insecticides, but did request that pollinator habitat be improved by restoring 7 million acres of land and water. "The president is ordering specific action on a bug, you know? This is the first time anything like this has happened," says Burd of the Center for Biological Diversity.
                  killersAn Oregon State University bee researcher extracts hemolymph, or "bee blood," from a bee at a laboratory in Corvallis, Oregon, on August 5th, 2014. Natalie Behring/GettyAnd in April, the EPA announced that it would not approve new outdoor uses of neonicotinoids "until the data on pollinator health have been received and appropriate risk assessments completed." This data involves not just looking at how neonic exposure affects individual bees, but how it affects the whole hive. "To evaluate this, we had to create a completely new test," says Jones. "It just did not exist when these chemicals were first put on the market." But beekeepers and activists question why the agency would continue to allow any use at all if the data they have is, by their own admission, incomplete. "We wouldn't be doing the work if I knew what the answer was," Jones says of the new hive studies.
Then again, the EPA doesn't have to have all the answers. Through its process of "conditional registration," new chemicals can in certain circumstances enter the market before a company has submitted all the tests requested by the EPA. Jones maintains that a conditional approval would never be granted without "reasonable certainty of no harm." Unlike in Europe — which operates under the precautionary principle — chemicals in America are often given the benefit of the doubt. While Seidler is quick to say that the EPA scientists he worked with were "good people, hardworking, rigorous," he did not feel like the work they passed on to the regulatory arm of the agency was appropriately heeded. "They supported our research, they supported us within the agency, they made it very clear that we were doing the right kinds of things that would help the regulators," he says. "But although we provided a lot of documentation, I never became aware that our regulators ever required industry to do any of the things we thought would be relevant for them to do." As to why the industry seems to be running roughshod over regulators, he's more blunt: "It's corporate greed over environmental safety — and I have to live with this knowledge every day."
As Jim Doan delved deeper into the mystery of why his bees were dying, he wasn't surprised to learn of the lengths big conglomerates might go to protect their bottom line and manipulate the system; he was surprised to learn how easily it seemed that the system could be manipulated. After all, bees themselves are an important commodity. It takes 60 percent of all the commercial honeybees in this country just to pollinate the almond crop in California. Pesticides may cut down on losses, but it's pollination that increases yields. And without bees, crops would be devastated — in one province of China where wild bees were eradicated, farmers have been forced to hand-pollinate their apple orchards, a painstaking, highly labor-intensive process. The USDA reports that 10 million beehives have been lost since 2006, at a $2 billion cost to beekeepers (by contrast, in 2009 alone, the sale of neonics brought in $2.6 billion globally). In the past year's tally, hive losses were up to 42 percent, and for the first time ever, more losses were reported in the summer, when bees typically thrive, than the winter. No one knows exactly why.
What is known is that the prophylactic use of pesticides is leading to more insect resistance. Instead of applying insecticides periodically, systemics are present from the moment the plant starts to grow to the moment it's harvested. "It's no different than the repeated use of antibiotics," says Seidler, the former biosafety researcher at the EPA. "If you use the same antibiotic every time you sneeze, you are going to select for a population of antibiotic-resistant bacteria." GMO supporters may claim that fewer insecticides are being used, but seed coatings aren't included in that tally. "When you count that in, along with other pesticides sprayed at the time of planting, the industry is not using less insecticide," Seidler says. "It's using more. Industry is trying to make the point that our farmers would be in a crisis without using those neonic-coated seeds" — or that they would have to resort to using more toxic chemicals — but the EPA's own recent study showed that growing soybeans without neonics had little or no effect on yields. "Our farmers are paying for something that's not of any benefit," says Seidler.
It's not in the interest of agrochemical companies to modify crops so that they don't require insecticides: These companies make the GM seeds, and they make the chemicals to treat the GM plants once bugs and weeds develop resistance. "These are not purveyors of seeds, per se," says
Seidler. "They are chemical companies, and chemical companies get profits by selling chemicals. So they have an internal conflict of interest. Don't expect them to be using less and less chemicals — that does not fit their business plan."
Of course, any ideology, whether it's capitalism or environmentalism, has the potential to be biased, and when it comes to the plight of the bees, it's tempting to have someone or something to blame. It's possible that in time, neonics could prove to be a limited factor in bee die-offs, a single leak in a sinking ship, as entomologist May Berenbaum has put it. But right now, the best that can be said of these chemicals is that we are pumping toxins into our environment without understanding exactly what implications they have. "If you take your car to 10 mechanics, and eight tell you that you urgently need to replace your brakes, are you really going to wait for two more to call you back?" asks Burd. "Our pollinators are tanking, and this has all kinds of consequences for humans and the ecosystem. And we're going to do more studies?"
Indeed, bees are not the only stakeholders in determining the non-target effects of neonics. They are what's referred to as an "indicator species": They provide a glimpse into broader environmental impacts, and because commercial honeybees are economic commodities, we pay attention to them in a way we don't to other insects. Yet if honeybees are suffering, native pollinators are suffering too. In a study published in Nature this past April, honeybee populations exposed to field-realistic doses of neonics were not harmed in the short term, but wild-bee density was reduced by half, indicating that they are especially vulnerable. Other studies show that neonics are affecting earthworms, amphibians and a plethora of species at the bottom of the food chain. The chemicals have also shown up in water sources throughout the Midwest, and at levels known to be toxic to aquatic organisms if exposed over an extended time. A 2013 report done by the American Bird Conservancy found that a single neonic corn kernel can kill a songbird.
What harm, if any, they may pose to humans in the long term is unknown. "We don't have data on neonicotinoids in our bodies because they're not included in the panel of pesticides that the CDC's biomonitoring program evaluates," says Melissa Perry, president of the American College of Epidemiology and chair of the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health at the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University. "These compounds have come on the market so rapidly that they've outstripped scientific readiness."
Perry's research team recently completed a review of all the studies published in English globally on the health effects of neonics on humans and found, to its surprise, that there were only seven. Four looked at acute effects — poisonings — and only three at chronic exposure. Of those three, all of them found adverse effects on children. "There were cases of congenital abnormality, associations with suggestion of autism, associations with suggestion of heart defects, birth defects," says Perry. Nevertheless, she counsels against using three studies to draw any major conclusions. "The status of the literature is so deficient that we know practically nothing," she says. What we do know is that some neonics have been shown in rodents to cross the placenta, which has raised concerns that if a pregnant woman ingests the toxins, the developing fetus' brain could be exposed. "I certainly have spent well over 20 years of my career having to play catch-up on the next chemical," says Perry. "Do we have to allow decades to elapse before we come to the conclusion that this is the wrong decision?" And if it is, will it be too late to repair the damage? Destroy the bottom of the food chain, and what eventually happens at the top?
When Jim Doan got down to Florida, where his wife had taken their 275 hives to wait out the cold New York winter, he surveyed the colonies she had given up for dead and found that some of them could be salvaged. Sure, they were ailing, but there was enough life left in them that he thought he'd give beekeeping one last shot. He made a pact with himself that from that moment, his bees would never return home, that he'd keep them away from neonicotinoid pesticides no matter what. He researched places where he could put them, places away from corn and other major GM crops, places where his bees could roam freely and mainly encounter crops that were neonic-free or organic. He leased some land in Amish country, found some safe havens in Florida. "We're never going to get 100 percent away from chemicals, because they're out here. They're in the water," Doan says. "But we can at least reduce the amount of susceptibility." Since making this plan, he says, he has been able to grow his hives up to 1,100 and has not yet experienced a serious die-off.
In 2013, he joined a collection of beekeepers who are suing the EPA, not for money, but for regulation. "When you go to the EPA and talk to them, they say, 'Well, if you don't like our decisions, then sue us.' So you have to sue them," he says. In questioning the EPA's conditional registration of the neonic clothianidin, the suit not only alleges that the agency has not met its own criteria for granting approval, but also challenges its approval process overall. Two years in, it's still in its initial stages of litigation and may not be decided for years.
Meanwhile, plans are being made for a time when perhaps bees won't be around. Scientists at Harvard have tried to make a robotic bee, while agrochemical companies are trying to develop a GM one, resistant to pesticides in the same way GM crops are meant to be resistant to herbicides. They are also touting the benefits of flupyradifurone, a new systemic pesticide that's supposed to be safer for bees because it's even more toxic, the idea being that if it kills a bee on the spot, then that bee won't transport the toxin back to the hive. But, as Doan sees it, it's not bees that will go extinct first, it's commercial beekeepers.
"I didn't want to be the person that failed three generations of Doans keeping bees. I didn't want it to end with me," Doan says. But he knows that he may not have a choice in the matter. "I mean, we want something to pass on, but I'm not sure there's going to be anything to pass on in another year or two. Just empty boxes."

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Neonics" found in US streams


Sunday, August 16, 2015

Fall feeding of the weak hive - August 16, 2015 Week 18

My strong hive looks great so I've just left it alone.

I decided to start feeding the weak hive with 2:1 syrup (sugar:water) so even though it had started raining, I wanted to take advantage of the warm weather - 80's today.
It's going to be in the 70's all week so I wanted to get this done.

Mark went with me, I had a veil on, he did not.

We smoked the hive and I lifted the top 2 boxes off. The third box had the start of only one comb and it was about 3x4" so pretty small.

I moved that top bar to the bottom box (what was the fourth box is now the third box) because the bottom box has a window.

I put the top 2 boxes back on and changed the top bar cloth to the one with the hole and put the 2 feeder bottles on top of the feeder/screen then the feeder box went on.  The quilt went on then the roof.

I then shook out the bees from the box I had removed but left it outside on the porch so the girls can fly back to their hive overnight.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

August 3, 2015 Week 16 - One hive strong, one weak

Hive one is great - 3 full boxes of honey, 4th box is filling as well and I do not have windows on the 5th or 6th box so I cannot see inside.
Lots of bees going in and out.

Hive two is feeble - top box getting some honey, second box still filling with comb - it doesn't seem to have changed in the past month, for goodness sake!!  Very few bees going in and out compared to Hive one.

Here are photos and a video from mid-July of Hive 2 showing a swarm cell (that is a cell that contains the new queen - also called supercedure I believe) - it looks like a peanut:

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Week 12 and Wendy and Larry helped us!

So here are some random photos - I never realized how fragrant milkweed flowers are! 

 Here's a little tree frog hiding from me:
 And isn't this moth cool? It looks like Christ hanging on the cross or a man with his arms out. Its (the moth's) head is at the "feet" of the design/man:
 Here's Larry prior to helping Mark lift the hive so I could put another box on - now 6 boxes deep!!

Here is the link to the video of us adding a box

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Week 11 June 27, 2015 Adding a FIFTH box

Mark and I went out to add a fifth box to the bottom of the hive (nadiring).

I don't have a "hive lift" other than my husband so unfortunately, we had to lift off the top two boxes and then the bottom two.

But what happened, is that three of the bars from the third box were stuck to the comb of the second box (above them) so when he lifted the top two boxes, comb was hanging down and he couldn't set the boxes down (because it would have broken the combs which were now suspended in mid-air). So while he held those up (and it must have been ~45#) I gently pried away the bars (from the bottom of the combs of the second box) with their comb (and bees) and replaced them in the top of the third box. (though not until AFTER I had dropped a couple into the third box). LORD! I just hope the queen didn't get killed with all this rigamarole.

Anyway, then I set the 3rd and 4th box aside and we placed the 5th box and then the 8 top bars in that box. Then the 3rd and 4th went back on, (the 3rd had open comb on top of the top bars which had not fallen off with lifting the second box - see photo), then the top two. At which point, some nasty little worker bee stung my right hand. I brushed the embedded stinger out of the back of my  hand and continued working.

The quilt box went back on, then the roof and we were finished!!

Here are photos of my left and right hand:

 See the swelling on the back of my right hand? (below my  middle and ring fingers)
and a final video:

Here I am, ready to go the hive, with my new "bee" boots on!
 Here is the hive all put back together:

Friday, June 12, 2015

June 12 - week 9?

So I took off my feeder jars and boxes which held the feeders, took off the cloth which had the hole in the middle (so the bees could access the feeder jars) and replaced it with a top bar cloth which is intact from edge to edge and put the quilt box and roof back on.

There was some comb and honey on top attached to the screen of the feeders, which I quickly scraped into a tupperware to eat!

Top picture is Hive 1 (the stronger one with 4 boxes on):
 This is Hive 2, looking into top of hive before I put the cloth on and close it up:

Saturday, June 6, 2015

FOURTH box on hive 1! June 6, 2015

So not only is it the 71st anniversary of DDay today but American Pharoah won the Belmont Stakes and thus the Triple Crown!!! After 37 years, we have another Triple Crown winner.

I added a fourth box to hive one because they were building comb in 3rd box already. Hive 2 is way behind, still only 2 combs in bottom/second box.  But it still has 3 boxes "just in case it takes off"

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Week 7, Year 3 Sunday May 31, 2015 Last time I'm opening the hive until autumn

So I put pollen patties on the top of the 3rd box (bottom box) of each hive. The top picture is blurry however, but you can see the bees next to the pollen patty.

 I washed out the 4 one quart jars and then filled them with 1:1 sugar syrup. Here are the feeder jars in the feeder box:
 This is Hive#2, the southeast hive, the top box is full of comb and the second box has 2 combs in it:
 Here is my smoker puffing nicely toward my electric fence charger:
 Here I am with my bee jacket and my hive tool:
 This larva was visible through the window of the 3rd box or bottom box of Hive 2 and was laying on the floor. I chose not to open it all up again.
Here's a video of both hives after I had them put back together:

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Wednesday May 27, 2015 - comb building going like gangbusters

So now there are 5 combs in the second box of  my strong hive and 2 combs in the second box of my weaker hive.
Just an update!

I planted Bee Balm, Coneflower, and Hyssop today - all perennials which attract bees.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Memorial Day May 25, 2015

Mom and Dad came out after the Memorial Day Service in Hastings - we bbq'ed chicken drummies, had cheesy potatoes, fresh garden asparagus and rhubarb pie - pulled fresh this morning also!

Filled hive 1's syrup feeders.

Mom came down and looked through the windows at the bees!

All's well.

OH!!! And Tom and Megan Bigelow had a baby girl today - YAY!

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Week 6 - Day 42 of my 3rd year of beehives

Beautiful out! Well, not very sunny, but quite mild.
The top box of Hive 1 is jammed full with lovely comb and lots of bees. They have expanded into the second box and have 3-4 combs in there.
Hive 2 is full in the top box as well but there aren't as many bees. Only one comb in the second box with very little activity.

I added a 3rd  box to the bottom of each hive "nadired" - put pollen patties on the top bars of the second box and put them back together.

I will need to add syrup tomorrow but I didn't bring any with me and I was in a hurry since we had a "date night" for the St Paul Chamber Orchestra - I'm writing this after the concert and it was wonderful. Bach, Schoenberg and Schubert.

Anyway, there's the update....

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Saturday May 16, 2015 - Preakness Stakes

American Pharoah won the second leg of the Triple Crown
I put sugar syrup in the feeders, hive one was almost empty
Lots of activity!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Sunday May 10, 2015 Day 29 of new hives

It was glorious out yesterday when we returned from our trip to the Czech Republic - side note: we went with 6 of our family members, which included my parents: my dad ended the campaign in WWII under Patton's 3rd Army in Pilsen, Czechoslovakia and there are AMAZING celebrations of their liberators/our veterans annually but particularly on the "five" anniversaries. Of course, these veterans were all over 90, one will turn 100 in one month, so the chance of them returning across the ocean in 5 years, seems difficult to imagine.

We celebrated VE Day and the Liberation Festival in Pilsen from 1-6 May then we were in Prague for the last two days, including 8 May (official VE Day).

Anyway, there was too much laundry, mail, jet lag to check my hives other than I filled one of my syrup jars.

Today, it is cool, windy but I needed to check the pollen patties and replenish the remaining 3 (quart) jars of 1:1 sugar syrup. Of course, my iPhone battery died after my first video and photo, so that will be all you see today! Then it started to rain when I opened the second hive.

So the first hive, both pollen patties were mere remnants, so put more on the bars of the second box (not top box because it pulls the cloth too much and then they will get into my feeder box). The second hive, there was still almost a whole pollen patty left, but I replenished with two more anyway - it's supposed to be cool and rainy the next few days. Jim Kloek (Stillwater, MN) keeps pollen patties on until the first week of June. Marla Spivak's notes (from the U of MN beekeeping course) just show pollen patties for two weeks when one first hives the packages. Well, hopefully, it can't hurt. Too late anyway, they're on.

I was considering looking at a comb but due to the weather, decided against it - I gently pulled back an edge of the top box's cloth and it's so intriguing to feel the heat emanate out of the hive. Thus I sealed it up quickly and let them be.

This is the "first" hive with the two new patties on (see the old ones?):
We hired someone to do a "prescribed burn" of our land ~12 acres before we left for the Czech, so this photo was 10 days ago:

This is the brief video as I opened hive one

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Thursday April 29, 2015

today it is glorious outside and the bees are laden with pollen.
nevertheless, it can still freeze in Minnesota until June 1, so I put pollen patties on and filled the feeders.
the queen is laying in each hive and all is well.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Sunday April 26, 2015

I decided to take photos through the windows of the hives, so I would remember how far along they were at this point

The bees are very active today and LOADED with bright yellow, pale yellow and some almost white pollen.

The first one is the top box of the SE hive the last two are the top and bottom boxes, respectively, of the NW hive

I started the top boxes with comb from last year, that's why they are so far along in 2 wks!!

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Saturday April 25, 2015

After some very cool rainy days, it is sunny and 60 degrees today so the bees were loaded with pollen moving in and out of the hives.
Here they are:

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Friday April 17 (day 6) and Tuesday April 21 (day 10)

It was really warm during the first week of the hives - up to 70 degrees. I filled the feeders on day 6 (they were pretty low - but I had only filled them 1/3 full initially). I left for Boston and on day 8, it got cold, in fact, yesterday, April 21, it was SNOWING when I went to the hive. The wind was blowing hard and my hands were SO cold.

I filled the feeders but they were only down ~1/4 so not sure why they weren't taking down more syrup. I put some pollen patties on top of the top bars, under the cloth - and placed them above the clusters on each hive. I smoked the hives when I did it but honestly, it was so chilly, I probably didn't have to.

Closed up the hives and will wait for warm weather to check on them.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Day 3

The feeders (though only filled 1/4 when I put them in) were nearly empty so I filled all 4 quart jars completely.
I smoked the hives and opened them to remove the queen cages - it was sunny and 70 degrees out.
Put it all back together and will leave them "bee."
They were looking good, and all over the combs which were from last year.
Lots of activity!

Sunday, April 12, 2015

One final video of April 11, 2015 hiving the bees

Videos of the two 2# packages of bees

Videos of the packages

(Mark photobombs, of course)
(and by "don't want to kill anyone," I meant my worker bees
both of the corks in the queen cages were crooked, I'm surprised my queens did not escape!!

Getting ready to install the bee packages today

So I have readied the hives - it is Saturday April 11, 2015 and fortunately, a warm sunny day.
The sugar syrup (1:1) is mixed and in my feeder bottles as well as my spray bottle.
Here are photos and videos of the preparations!

My assembled hive with feeder box on top of 2 top bar boxes:

The inside of the feeder box - the inverter syrup jars go in those holes:
 A comb from the top box:
 The other side of the same comb - the capped cells on the upper left are honey comb:
These videos explain my hive boxes:

These two videos show how the bottom board is all chewed up:

Monday, January 5, 2015

The honey harvest!!

So this is the first bottle this morning, and the rest is still filtering, will likely get 5 pounds (or 80 ounces of honey). This bottle is 48 oz/3#!!

Even if the bees didn't make it, at least we have a lot of honey!

I emailed Marla Spivak and she was kind enough to promptly answer me. Via questions and answers, she feels the chance of mite infection is low and more likely, I just didn't have strong enough colonies going into the cold snap of November.

It is a learning process. Next year, I will get a tar paper wrap on, in addition to my straw bales.