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Vita Bee Health Global Honeybee Health Experts

Blog – bees, beekeeping & other sticky subjects

Waldo’s blog – first tiny steps into beekeeping

VPC0066-001After years of talking about it, I’ve finally taken my first tentative steps towards life as a beekeeper.

At times growing up felt like living in a petting zoo (mice, rats, rabbits, hamsters, ponies, sheep, donkeys and a beloved dog), but I don’t remember any training beyond perhaps a short book or a quick word with the pet shop owner. Bees seem different, though, so I’ve started an introduction to beekeeping course, comprising theory and practical sessions.

I hope that this semi-regular column of my journey will remind old hands of the joys and tribulations of starting out as a beekeeper and reassure new starters that you’re not alone.

So, to my experience. The first step was to find my local beekeeping association and sign up for a course. That wasn’t as easy as it sounds. Finding out information about my nearest local association was not straightforward. Despite advertising beginner courses on their website, and despite repeated emails and ‘phone calls, I failed completely to discover the dates or sign up to their putative course.

Back to the drawing board. Luckily I found another beekeeping group just a little further from home and have joined their course.

Speaking with the course tutors, it was clear that a common problem for local associations is a lack of younger beekeepers coming ‘through the ranks’. Any groups facing this problem (I suspect there are many) should take a good look at their website and communication strategy to ensure that wannabe beekeepers aren’t being missed due to a lack of information.

The first session was a fascinating overview of the honeybee and her importance in the ecosystem. This included mention of drone congregation areas, on which I considered myself an expert, having read about them on this website!

We were also shown the key equipment a beekeeper needs and discussed the importance of hygienic behaviour such as using disposable gloves and changing them between hives or (at least) between apiaries.

We covered a huge amount but the main lesson was how much more there remains to learn; it’s going to be a busy (and interesting) few months.

Stay tuned for more updates, especially from April, when we are let loose on real bees to show what we’ve learned!

The name of this column is inspired by Waldo McBurney who, in 2006, was recognised as America’s ‘oldest worker’. His profession: beekeeping.


Small Hive Beetle alert in Brazil

Small Hive Beetle

Photo courtesy of the UK Food and Environment Research Agency

Small Hive Beetle has been reported in Brazil.

In March 2015, a swarm of honey bees (Apis mellifera) was captured and held in the apiary of the Useful Insects Laboratory, at the University of São Paulo. Days later, 20 adult females of the small hive beetle (Aethina tumida Murray) were detected in the crate containing the swarm. No larva was found and no apparent damage was observed to the hive.

However, the incident was not reported to the veterinary service until December 2015. Confirmation that they were SHB was confirmed in February 2016. Fortunately, investigation of the original hives did not show the presence of the beetle.

An investigation in a 20 km radius of the original infested hive is underway. In an apiary in a neighboring area, adults of a similar beetle were detected.

It seems that there is a standstill order in place in the area and the investigation has been extended. Beekeepers and related industries are being notified.

Beetle Blaster, from Vita, can act as an early warning alert as well as a trap for the beasts!

Full Brazilian report here.

What pollinates the coffee blossom?

Coffee blossom

Coffee blossom

Have you ever wondered what pollinates your morning coffee?

The smell of coffee blossom in Coorg, the heart of the Mysore coffee area in India, is sublime. It wasn’t even the right season for blossom when I was there, but a few renegade flowers gave a hint of what it must be like in the real flowering season.

I was curious as to what might be the chief honeybee pollinators, but none of the locals could tell me at the time. Fortunately at one place I stayed, some pollination researchers just happened to be the next guests and, courtesy of the host, I now have answers.

“Bees species are indeed the main pollinators of coffee. In Coorg, Apis dorsata is the first pollinator (60% of the pollination), then comes Apis cerana (20%) and Trigona Irridipennis (stingless bee).

“Apis florea only rarely visit coffee and there is almost no Apis mellifera in Coorg. But this can vary in different regions in India.

“It is very difficult to find coffee honey, as bees are usually mixing nectar from different flowers. And the honey harvest is not done just after the end of the coffee flowering but a few months later, when other trees have flowered.”


Vita’s Guest Beekeeper Blogger


Resistance – a shorter term problem

Research shows that varroa mites resistant to pyrethroids (like Apistan) need not be a long-term problem. After a suitable time gap, pyrethroid treatments can be re-introduced and be very effective again as part of an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) regime.

Researchers at Rothamsted have discovered the mutation in varroa mites that gives resistance to pyrethroid treatments. They have also developed a test that quickly identifies it. The test works with mites that are dead or alive and has given an insight into the frequency of the occurrence of resistant mites.

Initial results show that the resistance mechanism is far less widespread than was previously thought. After withdrawal of pyrethroid treatments, the number of resistant mites quickly falls to such an extent that pyrethroid treatments can again be highly effective.

Dr Max Watkins, Technical Director of Vita (Europe) Ltd, said: “This research confirms what we have been seeing in the field in Italy. After varroa mites resistant to pyrethroids became a threat, Italian beekeepers stopped using Apistan for a few seasons. But recently they have been using it again to great effect when alternated with different types of varroa control  treatments, specifically Apiguard.

“We are very fortunate that resistance to pyrethroids can be so short-lived. We have not lost a key treatment as was once feared — with IPM regimes, beekeepers have their varroa control arsenal replenished with the reinstatement of an easily applied, highly effective first generation treatment.

“We congratulate Rothamsted on this important discovery which will have a very positive impact in the beekeeping world.”

Why do bees make different sounds in different languages?

VitalanguagesBees buzz in English-speaking countries, but make quite different noises in other languages. How come?


Here’s a video from www.mentalfloss.com that explains what’s happening — even though it doesn’t talk about bees.


And don’t forget that the core parts of Vita’s website are available in French, Russian, Spanish (see the drop-down menu at the top) and there’s an Italian website too.

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