Archives for posts with tag: ontario

 

Missing Bees CCD Poster

Yesterday it was announced that Ontario will begin phasing out the use of Neonicotinoid (neonics) in farm settings in the province. This decision in the first of its kind in North America and is part of Ontario’s plan to ban neonics.

Under the new law, which takes effect July 1:

  • Starting in the 2016 season, farmers may only use neonic treated seeds on 50% of their corn and soybean fields.
  • In order to plant more than 50%, farmers must prove to the government that they have a pest problem and take a pest-management course.
  • In 2016, all farmers wanting to buy neonic-treated seeds will need to take the course and prove the existence of a pest problem.
  • Starting in August, all seed sellers must apply for new licensing to sell neonic-treated seeds and collect documentation from farmers when selling the seeds in the future.

The province of Ontario hopes to reduce the use of Neonicotinoid laden crops by 80% in 2017.

For more information, visit these news stories at Global News and CTV News.

I’m happy to report that my single hive from the end of 2014 has survived the winter into 2015. Last week the weather was nice enough – above 15°C – that I could open the hive and see how the bees were doing. I’ve posted a few pictures below, and here is a general report on the hive’s health:

My hive is 2 deep boxes with both a bottom and top entrance. This colony was a swarm that I captured last year, which was from a swarm captured the previous year. So this lineage has proven itself over a couple winters. I did not wrap or insulate this hive. It was left for the winter as you see it in the first picture below.

When I approached the hive, I could see a few bees using the bottom entrance, but most were using the top entrance/ventilation that I had put in place last fall. After I opened up the hive, I could see the reason why the top entrance was more popular. The bottom board of this hive was covered with about 2 inches of dead bees (pictured below). The moisture levels in the hive were quite high and there was some mould on the bottom board as well. I scraped off all the dead bees into the forest nearby. I left the top ventilation in place to help control any moisture that was present in the hive.

There were still plenty of bees within the hive, and the top box was still quite heavy with honey. I may swap the boxes in a few weeks if I go back and things are still looking good.

I was quite happy to see that there were a few bees bringing pollen into the hive. This is a great sign of spring and it means that the bees have found flowers and food!

I will be keeping a close eye on this hive for the next few weeks. A couple years ago, excessive moisture in my hives led to chalkbrood, which I didn’t catch early on. I want to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen this year. Hopefully this colony will build up its numbers and perhaps I can split it and start a new colony. I will also be on the lookout for swarms around me this spring. I’m aiming to have 3 healthy hives going into winter this year.

Hive 2 deeps Top entrance on bee hive Bees in Ontario 2015 Honeybee survival 2015 Dead bees 2015 Ontario Bee survival rate 2015 Winter entrance bee hive

credit to borianag (Flickr) Licensed under Creative Commons license.

I like to envision the bees in my hives embracing and high-fiving each other following the news from the Government of Ontario yesterday. The province is committed to reducing neonicotinoid usage by 80% by the year 2017 and aim to reduce winter honeybee mortality rates to 15% by 2020!

In a news release put out yesterday by the Government of Ontario, three points are clearly outlined. The province’s approach will help keep crops healthy and improve the environment by:

  • Working towards a goal of 80 per cent reduction in the number of acres planted with neonicotinoid-treated corn and soybean seed by 2017
  • Reducing the over-winter honeybee mortality rate to 15 per cent by 2020
  • Establishing a comprehensive Pollinator Health Action Plan

To put this into perspective, the honeybee mortality rate over the 2013-2014 winter was 58%. We (collectively) lost more than half of Ontario’s honeybees last winter. Seeing that number reduced to 15% in the next 5 years would be astounding. Tibor Szabo, President of the Ontario Beekeepers’ Association, has this to say: “The OBA appreciates the government’s recognition that the prophylactic use of neonicotinoid-coated seed on Ontario’s corn and soy crops is unwarranted and unacceptable.

The news of this neonicotinoid reduction is great news for all beekeepers, but it’s also excellent news for anyone who eats food. I.e. everyone. Reducing neonics in our food means less systemic pesticide usage in foods that we all consume.

While it would be nice to see neonicotinoids banned completely, this is definitely a step in the right direction. I speak on behalf of all pollinators everywhere when I say: “Hip hip hooray!”

Top bar hive with cedar roof

Last weekend, I installed my first top bar hive. I have been planning and building the hive for a couple months so I was excited to move a recently captured swarm into this hive and see how they do. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as smoothly as I’d planned. I’ve included lots of pictures here to show off my hive, and then I’ll describe what happened.

My top bar hive

The roof of my hive was made with a bundle of cedar shingles that cost about $10 at my local lumber store. I made a ridge cap out of some old aluminum that I had lying around.

Cedar Singles

I decided to build a window on my hive so that I can open it up and see the bees without disrupting the colony. I built the window out of thick glass instead of plexiglas because it won’t warp in the heat and is much more natural of a product than plastic to have inside the hive.

Top Bar Hive Window

Top Bar Hive Window Open

Most of the hive was built using 1″ x 12″ pine material but the follower boards were made from plywood. The design roughly follows Phil Chandler’s top bar hive design, available for free. I also included a screened bottom on the hive using #8 screen that has 1/8″ openings.

Top Bar Hive Follower Board

As an added bonus on my screened bottom, I constructed a second bottom that sits roughly 1″ below the screen and has a removable tray that pulls out easily to discard Varroa and other debris from the hive.

Side of Top Bar Hive

Removable tray on top bar hive

The entrance to the hive is a 1¼” hole that I drilled while I was on-site, after the hive was situated and set up properly. The bees had no problem finding and using this entrance immediately.

Entrance to top bar hive

I used some small flagstones to keep the legs of the hive off the ground.

Leg of a Top Bar Hive

Disaster strikes

After setting up my top bar hive, I started moving bars of drawn comb from my top bar swarm trap to the full size hive. The first few bars were perfectly drawn and completely straight, but by about the 7th bar, I noticed that the drawn comb was beginning to curve a tiny bit off the bars. By the 11th bar, the comb started on one bar and then curved onto the adjacent bar, making it nearly impossible to pull out the bars cleanly, without ruining comb.

I initially solved this problem by simply separating the part of the comb that was curved from the bar, and then gently placing it in the hive, ensuring that the wax was straight under the bar. I had to trim more and more of the comb off the bar, and finally by the 14th bar, I had trimmed too much. The entire drawn comb of capped brood fell off into the hive! Oh no! Then as I was packing up the hive, two more combs fell off. And as I was trying to repair those, a fourth comb fell off! Complete disaster!

Fallen comb in a top bar hive

It was at this point that I took a breather, stepped away from the hive and tried to determine the best course of action. I had 4 fallen combs with brood and a lot of angry bees circling me. I didn’t have any tools to successfully repair the comb but I remembered a tip that I had just learned in my current beekeeping read. You can move fallen comb to the back of the top bar hive, separated by sticks to leave room for brood to hatch. After the brood hatches, you can remove the old wax. So that’s exactly what I did:

Comb separated with sticks

My first ever top bar hive installation could have gone a lot smoother, and I’m not sure if there was a better way to deal with the cross-combing within the hive. I’ve since researched some better solutions for preventing cross-comb in the first place, which I will be certain to start implementing right away. I’ve also read of ways to try and repair comb that falls off like this, so I may be adding a few more tools to my beekeeping kit for future visits.

This is counted as a strike against top bar beekeeping in my opinion. This was one of the harder things I’ve ever had to deal with while beekeeping. If this was my first time ever handling bees, it would have been overwhelming. But I walk away with another notch on my belt and I’m glad that I experienced this. I’ll now be better prepared for the future.

A picture of a Facebook web pageLike us on Facebook! (I never thought I’d ever write that. So it goes.)

I have just created a new page on Facebook devoted to Beekeeping in Ontario as a companion to this blog.

Post your photos, articles, questions and ideas on the facebook page and then share the page with your friends. I will continue to update the blog as well as Facebook and Twitter, so feel free to use whatever medium best suits your needs. I may even begin offering contests in the near future.

Also, I should note that most of my posts and articles are about beekeeping in general and not necessarily specific to Ontario. I simply live in Ontario and felt it appropriate to highlight this fact in the name of my blog. I hope to help beekeepers all over the world.

To find out more and to “Like” the page, please visit: www.facebook.com/BeekeepingInOntario