Final Report for FNE11-707

Project Type: Farmer
Funds awarded in 2011: $15,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Northeast
State: Pennsylvania
Project Leader:
Craig Cella
Craig A. Cella
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Project Information

Summary:

The purpose of this project was to show that the same results can be obtained for the control of the incidence of empty cells in the comb by using new equipment (brood frames) as that with the treatment of gamma irradiated equipment at a much lower cost for a small operator. [See FNE10-681 Honey Bee Hive Equipment Sterilization]

Nine different beekeepers involving locations throughout Pennsylvania participated in this project. They were given new equipment and package bees for the treatment group and I used their overwintered hives as a control group. Even though we had the worst year I can remember for the bees I was still able to see a difference between new and old equipment very similar to what I found last year with gamma irradiation.

There were almost twice the average number of empty cells in the control as in the treatment, 57.4 verses 30.4,and a much lower mite count of 1.4 verses 8.7.

The end results show that using new equipment is as effective as using gamma radiation but the cost for a small producer is much less by replacing the equipment. The minimum order for Gamma Irradiation is $900.00 plus two trips to the facility – a total of 800 miles for me. I can replace all the brood frames in a deep super for $15.00 or $30.00 if you are using two deep supers per colony.

Introduction:

I asked eight other beekeepers to participate that had a background of beekeeping and know the problem we are having. These were spread out from the Delaware Valley to the Ohio line and from New York to the Maryland line so I would have a more accurate picture. Maryann Frazier from P.S.U. served as my advisor during the project.

Project Objectives:

Each beekeeper was sent 10 new deep supers with frames and foundation in March. These were set up in bee yards away from other hives and new package bees were installed the first week of April. The beekeeper then managed them the same as they would normally – adding a queen excluder and honey supers as needed until the end of August when data collection ended with a counting of empty cells out of a 400 count block and measurement of honey produced. After that time they could do anything they wanted with their hives they got to keep.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • James Bobb
  • Glen Crimbring
  • Maryann Frazier
  • Lee Miller
  • Richard Paine
  • Valentine Petersheim
  • William Schaeffer
  • Charles Vorisek

Research

Materials and methods:

#1. Beekeeper
New: queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average honey:
Average mite count:
Average empty cell count

Old queenbee
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average honey
Average mite count
Average empty cell count

This beekeeper lives in the area of Pa. hardest hit by very heavy rainfall and flooding in August and again 2 weeks later resulting in lost data. Removed from study.

#2 Beekeepers
New: queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded
Dead outs 4
Average honey 0
Average mite count 15
Average empty cell count 80

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen Hive superseded

Average honey 0
Average Mite count 9
Average empty cell count 50

All hives were stressed to the limit and beyond by lack of food coming in. A test hive on a scale (one of his best hives) lost an average of 1 lb. of weight per day during August.

#3 beekeeper

New: Queen less
Virgin queen
Hive Superseded 1
Dead out 1
Average honey 29.4
Average mite count 0
Average empty cell count 21

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded 1

Average honey 61.5
Average mite count 0
Average empty cell count 41.1

All of this beekeepers hives suffered like everyone else’s from a lack of nectar and pollen being brought into the hive during the summer.

#4 beekeeper

New: Queenless 1
Virgin queen
Hive superseded
Dead out 1
Weak 1
Average honey 39 lbs.
Average mite count 0
Average empty cell count 23

Old: Queenless 1
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average honey 58
Average Mite Count 8
Average empty cell count 60

All hives were very dry – many had all but shut down brood rearing to conserve food – The brood boxes were empty of any honey.

#5 Beekeeper

New: Queenless 0
Virgin queen 2
Hive superseded 2
Weak 1
Average honey 37.2
Average mite count 0
Average empty cell count 39

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average honey 39
Average mite count 6
Average empty cell count 55

Same problem of no food coming in and the brood production cut way back.

#6 Beekeeper

New: Queenless
Virgin Queen 2
Hive superseded 1
Weak
Average honey 33
Average mite count 0
Average empty cell count 33

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average honey 43
Average mite count 1.9
Average empty cell count 54

Again no open nectar and very little brood.

#7 Beekeeper

New: Queenless 1
Virgin Queen 1
Hive superseded 3
Weak 1
Average honey 42.4
Average mite count 0
Average empty cell count 51

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average honey 57.8
Average mite count 12
Average empty cell count 73

This was the first beekeeper I inspected and was not fully prepared for what I found. Scattered brood, empty cells and no open nectar or honey. One poor hive is to be expected but when each one has the same symptoms it sets you back to rethink what is going on.

#8 Beekeeper

New: Queenless 1
Virgin queen
Hive Superseded 2
Weak
Average honey 82.7
Average mite count 1
Average empty cell count 45

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average honey 69
Average mite count 24
Average empty cell count 68.7

Bees did excellent in the spring and early summer and then it turned dry and the bees shut down. I had to pull 5 or 6 frames in some hives before I could decide if they had a queen.

#9 P.P.L. Beekeeper

New: Queenless 1
Virgin Queen
Hive superseded 4
Weak Dead out 4
Average honey 0
Average mite count 0
Average empty cell count Scattered brood

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average Honey
Average mite count
Average empty cell count

#10 Kylertown beekeeper

New: Queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded
Weak
Average honey
Average mite count
Average empty cell count

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average honey
Average mite count
Average empty cell count

All of these hives got off to a very poor start because of a very wet and cold spring and then it turned hot and dry with record temperatures of 106 degrees. Then it appears to have had a pesticide problem in this yard which reduced the adult population. They did not have the typical C.C.D. symptoms so that was ruled out. However there were pounds of dead bees on the bottom board.

#11 Beekeeper Bald Eagle State Park

New: Queenless 3
Virgin queen 1
Hive superseded 4
Weak
Average honey 0
Average mite count 0
Average empty cell count 42

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen Hive superseded

Average honey
Average mite count
Average cell count

I couldn’t find enough good brood for a count so I used 200 cells instead of 400.

#12 Home beekeeper

New: Queenless
Virgin queen
Dead out 3
Weak
Average honey 0
Average mite count 0
Average empty cell count 30

Old: Queenless
Virgin queen
Hive superseded

Average honey
Average mite count
Average empty cell count

Some of these hives were used for pollination – others set at home – all were moved in August to Woolrich. All were bone dry at moving time except those I fed on August 8 – 2 gal. 1:1 syrup. They were the only ones with a good brood pattern.

Research results and discussion:

For several years I have felt that basic animal husbandry principals apply to beekeeping but I was the only one talking this way. Now almost every month there is something in one of the magazines that mentions infected equipment and transmission of disease thru equipment, honey, and pollen. I have heard several beekeepers say that they are getting rid of their older equipment that before they would keep using year after year. The next step is to try to convince the non believers. The common denominator among beekeepers is: “Beekeepers are cheap and they don’t change”. Those that don’t change their ways are doomed with today’s conditions.

Research conclusions:

This was a very disappointing study for me because of the weather. It takes three things to equal a good production: good weather, good pasture (flowers) and healthy bees. Remove any one from the equation and the colony’s production is doomed. I had participating beekeepers spread out over the entire state of Pennsylvania but the colony conditions remained the same. One location – S.W. part of the state did excellent in late spring and early summer and then fell on its face in July and Aug. I have never seen hives that were so consistently poor looking in regards to the brood pattern. Many hives appeared queenless at first only to find small patches of open brood on one or two frames because of a food shortage. The fall honey flow may turn these hives around and give brood rearing a jump start for fall brood rearing but if it doesn’t they will be going into winter with a high percentage of old bees and not many young bees. This could spell disaster for overwintering colonies.

It was very wet and cold in early spring and then in late May we had a break but by July we had record high temperature (106 degrees) day after day. Crops dried up and so did the nectar. My one location I count on for birdsfoot trefoil did nothing – last year they averaged 70 lbs. of honey in the summer. The goldenrod bloom was tremendous however we have had only a few days that could be considered good nectar harvesting weather. As of today, September 28, 2011, they are calling for 5 days of clear weather starting October 2 but it is so late and a freeze could end it all. The Knotweed that we depend on that does very well along the river bottom was flooded out so that is already a loss. Many of the hives had shut down to such a degree that I could not find enough brood to get a measurement and others I would use only half the area as normal for a sample. However I was still able to see a trend with the hive I could “read”.

Participation Summary

Education & Outreach Activities and Participation Summary

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:

Because of just finishing up the data I have only spoken at one location to date. However I am scheduled to speak at the Franklin County beekeepers annual supper in Chambersburg, Pa. on Oct. 4th. I was also asked to speak in West Virginia, Western New York state, Wexford, Pa. and New Jersey this coming winter. I also plan to write an article for the “American Bee Journal”.

Project Outcomes

Assessment of Project Approach and Areas of Further Study:

Potential Contributions

Last year I proved what was in one part of the hive was spread throughout the hive (virus problems). The popular idea today is to replace three frames each year. I feel this is like cleaning out just three quarters of the chicken house when replacing the flock because there wasn’t much dirt in the other quarter. My neighbor raises veal and between groups of calves he will spend days with a high pressure washer cleaning and disinfecting the building even though he didn’t have a problem with the last group. In the future I will not rotate 3 frames but instead I will keep established colonies in one location and new colonies in another even if it is only a few hundred feet apart. Just like cows: don’t leave them touch noses. The big control will be when I have a colony die out it (the frames) will be burned and if I find one that has above average infestation (empty cells) I will destroy it and burn it.

Future Recommendations

The purpose of this study was to compare replacing equipment cost to the cost of Gamma irradiation. The end results show both practices are effective but the cost for a small producer is much less by replacing the equipment. The minimum order for Gamma Irradiation is $900.00 plus two trips to the facility – a total of 800 miles for me. I can replace all the brood frames in a deep super for $15.00 or $30.00 if you are using two deep supers per colony.

Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.