New Colony-2018

Our new package of bees has been collected and installed in the new hive. A nucleus of bees traditionally contains four panels of bees, one of honey and three others mixed of eggs, larvae and brood. It also includes the newly mated queen. The fifth panel is empty but placed in the box so the panels are tight and do not roll around and crush the bees during transportation.

DSCF3142These panels were placed in our new horizontal hive yesterday evening with a full container of honey syrup. An evening installation is recommended in case they decide the hive is not to their liking and abscond. The entrance was closed with grass and upon inspection this morning the bees were busy pulling at the grass and taking observation and orientation flights. Everything looks good for this new hive to grow and expand.

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Our other hive was also opened and as suspected the population had expanded to maximum size. Although no queen cells were being built there were many cups constructed in preparation. These are often called play cups and are small with no depth but used for preparation at a later date. These play cups are not a sign of swarming by themselves but with such a large population in the hive, it won’t be long before they become charged or sealed queen cells. Once these are developed, there is very little you can do to stop a swarming instinct. So with these signs and an enormous population of bees, I went through searching for the queen so that I could make a split. As expected I never found her even after testing the bees patience and taking a second look over every panel. It was a warm humid 30 Celsius so I can understand their displeasure.

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I then decided to make a walk-away split. Not my first choice but the situation needed to be resolved. I proceeded to take out three bee covered panels of brood, larvae and the essential eggs. These panels are placed in a new hive. It is one or many of these day old eggs which are important and will be transformed into a new queen by the addition of royal jelly. An additional panel of honey was also transferred and two extra panels of bees shaken into this new hive. After shaking, the panels were returned to the original hive. This makes the new hive mostly made up of nurse bees. The original hive will still have ample numbers of bees to continue growing but at a more reasonable speed. Since they were bringing in a lot of nectar, the returning foraging bees may also resume duty as nurse bees to replace those I took. The priority for the bees is the brood and the constant required temperature for the pupae and eggs. A reduced job classification and responsibility of course but with the same pay level guaranteed for all participants. At this moment I do not know if the original queen is in the original hive or in the newly made one. But I do know she is in one of them. This is one of the disadvantages of a walk-away split. We will see in three weeks when we return to inspect each hive and see if a new queen has been made, mated and has started laying eggs. Another option would have been to introduce another queen but these are rare at the moment after the heavy losses incurred over the winter.

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Illustration credit: http://honeybee.drawwing.org/

A new queen will take sixteen days from an egg to an emerged adult virgin queen. Worker bees take 21 days and drones 24. However, within eight days, we should be able to see a capped queen cell which would emerge one week later. On this eighth day, the cell pupates before emerging as a queen. This split hive will also be fed honey syrup to stimulate the bees into making newly needed comb. If this new hive does not develop a new queen we may try again with one additional panel of eggs and larvae. If unsuccessful, we will return these bees to their original colony by the newspaper method of hive consolidation. There will always be next year…

We now have three hives of various degrees of size, population and potential.

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Spring inspection

I have just completed the second inspection of our only hive this morning. I am happy to report the bees are coming along very well. Although our Spring is late, the population is growing well. The queen (circled below) has been laying in a good pattern and the workers have even started filling the first honey box.

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Where they have been able to collect nectar is uncertain as there are very few flowers out as yet. The inspection was done to check for any signs of swarm preparation. Although there were a few queen cups no other queen cells were found. Cups are smaller and are built in case a new queen has to be made quickly. They should not be confused with queen cells which are shaped like an elongated peanut and are a sure sign of swarm intentions.

They now have ample room to spread around the hive as another honey box was added to keep them busy. What is an added pleasure this year is that the bees are a delight to take care of. There are no ill-tempered bees flying about or cantankerous attack bees making the hive yard unpleasant to work in. We will definitely continue buying stock from “Le petit rucher du Nord” just for this reason. We are currently waiting for another package of bees to arrive from them. They will be installed soon in the new horizontal hive, pictured below.

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On the left of the hive front (above), you will notice three wooden pegs placed into the bee entrances. On the right, is a small white square which can be opened up to start a second colony in the same box, if needed. Overall the hive has the capacity to hold more than thirty deep frames. The photo below shows the lid open, panels exposed and the frames awaiting the new nuc of bees. The three entrance holes can be seen on the right. On the lid and extreme lower corner is pink insulation for next winter. Once the bees are installed, additional panels will be inserted. From then on they will be fed with one container of sugar syrup and left alone until the end of Summer. We will see what happens…

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I always find it bewildering when looking at other bee yards. The hives are always neatly arranged, beautifully painted, surrounded by flowers in an almost dreamlike environment of bucolic countryside. Can you hear the birds singing? To top it off, the beekeeper’s suits are always impeccably white if they wear a suit at all!

I am certain the honey tastes better for it.

Our yard seems to have that “junkyard” characteristic with every weed that stings and all of them growing more abundantly as you approach the hives. We have at least two cracked Canadian Tire containers of old rusty equipment and piles of extra non-used but just-in-case paraphernalia scattered about that we lost in the weeds last month. The stuff trips you up every time, just because you lost it then and you now don’t need it now…

Perhaps the bees don’t care.

This year the bees are angelic but the beekeepers are still crotchety!

 

Les néonics

Les néonics par Luc Fortin

De nombreux développements ont eu lieu au cours des derniers mois en matière de protection des populations d’abeilles. Des décisions gouvernementales de restreindre l’épandage de certains pesticides devraient redonner espoir aux apiculteurs et à tous ceux préoccupés par le déclin de ces précieux pollinisateurs de plantes à fleurs dont plusieurs plantes alimentaires.

Dans l’immédiat, cependant, des apiculteurs québécois et ontariens font face à un important défi: au moment d’ouvrir leurs ruches ce printemps, plusieurs ont constaté de lourdes pertes d’abeilles.

La Presse rapportait que l’apiculteur et producteur de reines, Anicet Desrochers de Ferme Neuve, ne pourra répondre aux nombreuses demandes d’apiculteurs professionnels qui doivent rebâtir des ruches complètement décimées. La Fédération des apiculteurs du Québec confirme que ces pertes atypiques de colonies d’abeilles touchent presque toutes les régions.

Un sondage auprès de 900 apiculteurs ontariens révèle qu’ils ont subi des pertes majeures: presqu’un tiers d’entre eux rapportent des pertes de 70% ou plus de leurs abeilles.(#1)

À la fin février 2018, le Gouvernement du Québec annonçait des restrictions sur l’utilisation des trois néonicotinoïdes les plus couramment utilisés en agriculture – la clothianidine, l’imidaclopride et le thiaméthoxame – en plus de deux autres pesticides, l’atrazine et le chlorpryrifos. À compter de 2019, les semences enrobées de néonicotinoïdes ne pourront être utilisées sans l’approbation préalable d’un agronome.

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Le Devoir soulevait alors la question de l’indépendance des agronomes responsables d’approuver l’utilisation de ces pesticides: la plupart d’entre eux ont des liens avec l’industrie des pesticides. Le président de l’Ordre des agronomes du Québec reconnaît devoir trouver une façon d’éviter les conflits d’intérêts.

Le 27 avril, l’Union européenne (UE) décidait de bannir de toute culture en plein champ ces trois néonicotinoïdes, des pesticides jugés très dangereux pour les abeilles et la biodiversité dans son ensemble.

La décision de l’UE fait suite à une mise à jour que l’Autorité européenne de sécurité des aliments (AESA) rendit publique en février 2018 de son évaluation de 2013 des risques associés à ces trois néonicotinoïdes. L’évaluation scientifique de 2013 de l’AESA avait mené l’UE à restreindre l’utilisation des néonicotöides.

Plusieurs études ont démontré que les néonicotinoïdes contribuent non seulement à décimer les abeilles mellifères mais constituent également une menace pour plusieurs espèces terrestres et aquatiques à la base de notre biodiversité, dont les abeilles sauvages et autres insectes pollinisateurs ainsi que les grenouilles, les oiseaux et les poissons.

Notamment, le Groupe de travail sur les pesticides systémiques (GTPS) publiait un rapport où il affirmait que ce type de pesticides présente « une sérieuse menace mondiale » pour l’ensemble de la biodiversité. (Le Devoir 28/2/18) Ce groupe international de scientifiques fondait cette mise en garde sur plus de 500 études récentes.

« Tous les autres insectes qui ne font pas de miel – les bourdons, les abeilles sauvages, les coccinelles – mais qui ont la fonction de polliniser sont également exposés et donc ressentent les mêmes effets » a expliqué un des auteurs du rapport.(La semaine verte, R.C. 7/03/18)

En février 2018, le GTPS rapportait que les néonicotöides, qui s’attaquent au système nerveux des insectes, sont d’une efficacité limitée pour irradier les insectes ravageurs de récoltes car les ravageurs développent rapidement une résistance à ces substances.

En janvier 2017, l’Agence de réglementation de la lutte antiparasitaire (ARLA) a publié  une mise à jour des évaluations des risques pour les pollinisateurs de ces trois néonicotinoïdes. L’agence canadienne projetait terminer « ces évaluations d’ici décembre 2017 » et de consulter la population à la fin de 2017 ou au début de 2018. Des décisions définitives quant à l’utilisation future de l’imidaclopride sont prévues pour décembre 2018. Concernant la clothianidine et le thiaméthoxame, leur avenir ne sera scellé qu’en janvier 2020. (Mise à jour concernant les pesticides de la classe des néonicotinoïdes, ARLA ,19/1217) 

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Les néonicotöides se retrouvent dans l’ensemble des cours d’eau du Québec, comme dans les cours d’eau sur la planète où prévaut l’agriculture à l’échelle industrielle. On en retrouve sur des fleurs sauvages à distance des cultures traitées aux néonicotöides.

La chercheuse Valérie Fournier, du Centre de recherche en horticulture à l’Université Laval, explique: « Les abeilles s’intoxiquent au printemps, au moment de mettre en terre les grains de maïs. Les poussières du sol chargées de néonicotinoïdes se déposent sur les pissenlits. » En plus des fleurs et du sol, ces insecticides contaminent les flaques d’eau. (Le péril des abeilles, texte non-daté, La semaine verte, R.C.)  

L’abeille s’empoisonnerait à petites doses. « Des doses sous-létales de néonicotinoïdes peuvent causer d’importants problèmes d’apprentissage, d’orientation et de la ponte de la reine », précise Valérie Fournier. Les abeilles ouvrières se chargent alors d’éliminer les reines qui ne se reproduisent pas suffisamment, selon David Shulter de l’Université Acadia.

Mais les abeilles ouvrières subissent des changements physiologiques et comportementaux qui réduisent leur survie individuelle, leurs comportements sociaux et la pérennité de la ruche.

La disparition des abeilles est observée mondialement. Des pertes significatives sont observées depuis une quinzaine d’années particulièrement en Amérique du Nord. Historiquement, le taux de mortalité hivernale d’abeilles mellifiques était de 10 à 15 %; il s’élève maintenant à environ 35 %. (La semaine verte) 

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L’importance des abeilles pour la pollinisation des cultures d’aliments de la planète ne peut être sous-estimée. « Pas moins de 40 % des produits alimentaires contenus dans notre assiette proviennent indirectement ou directement du travail des abeilles par la pollinisation des fruits, légumes et autres plantes. » (Le péril des abeilles )

La production de 87 des 115 principales récoltes d’aliments dépend de la pollinisation animale. En tout, deux tiers des 3000 récoltes agricoles de la planète requièrent des agents de pollinisation. (Klein et al., 2007, cité par Thakur, M. 2018, Bees as Pollinators – Biodiversity and Conservation) (#2)

Les monocultures de maïs de fourrage, entre autres, réduisent considérablement les sources de nourriture des abeilles. Ces cultures à perte de vue produisent des fleurs à un moment précis durant la saison de croissance des plantes. Une fois leur floraison terminée, les abeilles – et autres insectes et oiseaux qui se nourrissent du pollen de fleurs – se retrouvent devant un garde-manger vide.

Auparavant, le chevauchement de la floraison de nombreuses cultures dans de plus petits champs souvent bordés d’arbustes et de boisés fournissait une nourriture florale constante et variée du printemps à l’automne.

Maintenant, les abeilles affaiblies deviennent plus vulnérables aux maladies et aux parasites, selon Nicolas Derome de l’Université Laval. « Les abeilles souffrent de malnutrition en raison de la montée des monocultures. Quand vous baissez leurs défenses immunitaires avec les néonicotinoïdes, vous avez tout ce qu’il faut pour décimer des colonies entières. » Ce serait donc une accumulation de facteurs qui affaiblirait les abeilles, au risque de les tuer. (Le péril des abeilles, La semaine verte)

En plus des abeilles mellifères, plusieurs abeilles sauvages – sans oublier d’autres insectes et certains oiseaux – contribuent à la pollinisation de plusieurs cultures tout en se nourrissant et en nourrissant leur progéniture. Ils décuplent ainsi le rendement des cultures.

Les bourdons, ces abeilles sociales sauvages plus grosses, plus colorées et plus velues que les abeilles mellifiques, sont parmi les pollinisateurs les plus efficaces. On en dénombre quelques 250 espèces dans le monde et une quarantaine au Canada. (Bourdons: le déclin des abeilles sauvages, La semaine verte, 7/3/18) Les populations de bourdons déclinent également de façon inquiétante; certaines espèces sont en voie d’extinction.

Les scientifiques voient l’omniprésence de pesticides tels que les néonicotöides, l’agriculture industrielle portée vers les monocultures et les pertes d’habitats qui s’en suivent ainsi que les changements climatiques comme des causes probables du déclin de ces précieux pollinisateurs.

Les pertes records dans les colonies d’abeilles de l’hiver dernier sont probablement attribuables davantage à des conditions climatiques spécifiques à cet hiver qu’aux néonicotinoïdes et à la monoculture avec lesquels les abeilles doivent composer depuis de nombreuses années.

Anicet Desrochers souligne le peu de neige et les forts vents qui auraient été défavorables à la survie des abeilles. Les automnes chauds des dernières années peuvent avoir incité les abeilles à modifier leurs comportements et entraîné l’épuisement de certaines abeilles. (La Presse, 16/0518)

(J’ai puisé de nombreux renseignements pour cet article des reportages de l’émission La semaine verte à Radio Canada et des reportages de Sara Champagne du Devoir. Les journalistes de ces deux médias suivent ce dossier et d’autres dossiers environnementaux avec attention, rigueur et constance. Le site Research and  Extension de la Division of Agriculture de l’University of Arkansas regorge de renseignements sur les abeilles mellifères et les pollinisateurs sauvages. )

#1 En 2014, l’Ontario avait subi une perte de 58% de sa population d’abeilles!

#2 Pour en savoir davantage sur les 19,000 espèces d’abeilles domestiques et sauvages,      voir Bees as Pollinators – Biodiversity and Conservation: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/264846564

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Spring – 2018

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Spring is nearly upon us and our one surviving hive is active and starting a new cycle. The photo above shows some fresh pollen (dandelion) being added to stores. A sign that the queen will be increasing her egg laying. Possibly in two weeks, with the arrival of newly hatched bees, we will have more than the four covered panels at present. The aim of this hive is to increase numbers sufficiently to make a split and double the colony. This with our ordered nuc of new bees will give us our required three colonies.

The following photo shows the interior of our remaining hive with most of the bees huddled close to the near wall over four panels. The white is left over sugar from our lazy winter feeding and the brown is some pollen food given some weeks ago as a supplement. The newspaper? We like to supply our bees with winter reading material, hence the back issue of The News Line, a good mainstream daily newspaper put out by the British Trotskyist group, the Workers Revolutionary Party. Our girls will be fully up to date once swarming season starts!

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Mark your calendar – Apimondia 2019

This notice will be a little early for many folks but worth it anyway. In September 2019 Montreal hosts the 46th Apimondia International Apicultural Congress. If you are interested in beekeeping at all this may be something to attend while it is so close to home. Previous venues have been held in Turkey, Brussels, France, Switzerland, Romania, Brazil, China etc. However, the last time Apimondia was held in Quebec was in 1924 for the 7th Congress (1999 in Vancouver) The festival will be full of speakers where beekeepers, scientists, honey-traders, agents for development, technicians, and legislators meet to listen, discuss and learn from one another. The scientific program will start on Monday, 9 September 2019 at 09:00 and will conclude on Thursday, 12 September 2019. There are technical tours advertised on Friday 13th. The Apimondia closing ceremony will take place Thursday evening.  More information can be found here:

Apimondia 2019

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Spring brings a new hive.

Last year I managed to start building a new horizontal hive. It is nearly finished and all we are waiting for is some good weather to melt the snow and ice that seems to drag on. Like most months of March, winter hangs around, coming and going in the imposed daylight saving schedule that has us anticipating Spring more than ever. But to keep you interested, here are a few pics of the hive to date. It’s a little rough around the edges and full of character, just like an early Willie Nelson song or a bottle of cheap Merlot. More photos will follow once installed and filled with new bees.

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As you can see this hive is horizontal in shape. They are not as productive as others of a vertical design but we are not into big production here at Cuisses. It is partly to try something new as well as to ease the heavy lifting of brood/honey boxes as we age. Something our backs will hopefully appreciate. Our hive will be at waist level and has the advantage that you only open small sections of the top panels when working with the bees. This disturbs them less, meaning happy bees are productive bees. By all reports, these designs require less intervention, perhaps twice a year at most. This is something I am very skeptical about but looking forward to being proven.

The architects hive

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Many, many years ago I studied photography in New Zealand. During one semester we were given the assignment to photo document a building of our choice. The goal was to get a better understanding of perspective and visual control. A view camera to make the appropriate adjustments to correct these images is a necessity. Unfortunately, I arrived late at the equipment room to obtain a view camera so I had to contend with a smaller medium-format Mamiya RB7 monstrosity to do my project. Perspective control was now out of the question so I had to come up with something to make an impression. What would be better than the Parliament building, locally known as the Beehive because of its shape? Surely this central city edifice housing the country’s top intellectual thinkers would be appropriate. Some quick phone calls (they were obviously needing any PR they could get!) and I was given unlimited access to the building from top to bottom. Many of those photos are now lost and thankfully forgotten but three black and white images did manage to survive my garbage bag editing process.

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Built over a period of ten years, the official opening occurred in 1977. Designed by Scottish architect Basil Spence, the building resembles an old style straw “skep” beehive. At ten stories above ground and four below the building is over constructed, perhaps because it sits on an earthquake fault line, as most of the capital city Wellington does. Most circular buildings I have seen have an enormous amount of wasted space. The Beehive is no exception. All the rooms are curved or asymmetrical with irregular shapes and tunnels. Perfect for my photo assignment! It was assumed that a government building housed a legion of workers, busily making decisions and constructing a community of like-minded individuals, not unlike the beehives in real life. Sadly, back then and much like today around the world, this has never been fulfilled. But we hope and cross our fingers as we vote…

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This has not been the first time architects have been inspired by the hive design if such a thing exists. Antoni Gaudi was known to keep bees during his lifetime. We should be able to see his Sagrada Familia (pictured below) scheduled for completion in 2026.

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But the perhaps the most devout believer of the beehive principle, ethic and design must go to Le Corbusier (Charles-Édouard Jeanneret). Not long after the end of WWII, he was commissioned to design “Unite d’habitation de grandeur conforme”or a housing unit of a standard size. This became the first of many in Marseille, France and other war-damaged cities throughout France. His buildings were pure in aesthetics and relied heavily on concrete, inside and out. From this point on his projects multiplied and success came to his career throughout the world.

Cité radieuse à Marseille

A brief description:

He gave the building the name of his pre-war theoretical project, the Cité Radieuse, and followed the principles that he had studied before the war, he proposed a giant reinforced concrete framework, into which modular apartments would be fit like bottles into a bottle rack. Like the Villa Savoye, the structure was poised on concrete pylons though, because of the shortage of steel to reinforce the concrete, the pylons were more massive than usual. The building contained 337 duplex apartment modules to house a total of 1,600 people. Each module was three stories high and contained two apartments, combined so each had two levels. The modules ran from one side of the building to the other, and each apartment had a small terrace at each end. They were ingeniously fitted together like pieces of a Chinese puzzle, with a corridor slotted through the space between the two apartments in each module. Residents had a choice of twenty-three different configurations for the units.(Credit: Wikipedia)

His life and career are too big for this little article but please check out his accomplishments further online. I am sure there are other designs from around the world that are based on the hive concept. If anyone wishes to contribute other architects to this posting, please do so by sending photos. We can display all photos, good and not so good here on the blog.