Canada: Honeybee Deaths on Vancouver Island

Discussion in 'Celebrate Biodiversity' started by Junglekeeper, Mar 5, 2010.

  1. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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  2. bedixon

    bedixon Active Member

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    there's a big push to encourage hobbyist beekeeping, as the commercial number of apiaries fall. It's a good thing for the bee population that many people are interested in keeping bees as a hobby, and small backyard hives are being established. Varroa mites are the biggest concern and very difficult to control, especially in a large apiary. As a hobbyist I will avoid using chemicals, even the organic ones, unless it's a do or die situation... never say never. The difference between controlling mites in a large apiary and controlling mites in a backyard hive is that with one or two hives (or 5 or ten) you can check for mites every day and work to control them using minimally invasive methods, watching the count and acting only with more serious methods when it gets too high and the life of the hive is at stake. In a large apiary it only takes one hive to increase its mite count to take down the rest very quickly. It's unrealistic that every hive out of a hundred or more can be that closely monitored as often as necessary, so precautionary and more severe tactics are used. As I learn about bees I see the logic in this but can't help but feel that since the chemicals themselves, even organically approved ones, are stressful for the bees, they are part of the problem. I really hope I don't need to use them. knock on wood. I don't know a lot, and have already lost 2 hives... but I do know it's a scary thing and I feel for the apiarists.
     
  3. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    In these parts people are encouraged to support the mason bee population by providing habitat for them. It's too bad something similar can't done for the honeybee. I guess their hives would pose too great a potential hazard for city dwellers.
     
  4. bedixon

    bedixon Active Member

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    true, honey bees need to be placed carefully in open spaces. And orchard mason bees are important pollinators for the fruit trees. They pretty much finish up in a couple of months, though, so don't pollinate the later blooming plants. But they work mighty hard for the time they're around, and as solitary bees that don't sting are easy to have around. We often see them going into the little holes on the deck posts, looking for a good place to lay eggs.
     
  5. Margaret

    Margaret Active Member 10 Years

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    Can't remember the programme's name but recently I watched a documentary about the effect of moving hives numerous times during the flowering season to very large orchards as pollinators. The stress resulting from this certainly seems to impact their immune systems and general health. Another point raised was the size of some orchards which limits the bees in obtaining the balance of different nutrients they need to remain healthy. Sprays were also mentioned as being detremental. Suppose the message was that bees are complex creatures and not just polination machines!
    In the meantime I shall continue to plant a variety of bee friendly plants and rescue them when they come indoors!
    Margaret
     
  6. vitog

    vitog Rising Contributor 10 Years

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    I don't know if anyone else has noticed anything similar; but, at least in my area, NW Burnaby, BC, the honeybee population seems to be rebounding after being practically non-existent for at least 10 years. I noticed a few honeybees a couple of years ago, more last year, and quite a few this year. They were even buzzing around the heather blossoms in January. So, whatever is affecting bees on Vancouver Island doesn't seem to be bothering the local bees. Of course the local bees aren't from commercial colonies and experience a different environment.
     
  7. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    Local governments should encourage the establishment of hives on rooftops given there are plenty of them in a city. The Fairmont Waterfront hotel in Vancouver did just that: Honeybees create a rooftop buzz. Imagine the number of bees that could be supported by having a hive or two on each high-rise condominium or office tower.
     
  8. Just Curious

    Just Curious Active Member

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    Pitt Meadows has a great survival rate this year. I talked to a bee keeper last week who manages 20,000 hives. He said almost all his hives are very strong.
     
  9. 1950Greg

    1950Greg Active Member

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    More importantly would be what type of bee to establish in these hives. The preservation of indigenous species is important to the diversity of honey bee population world wide. The protection of local colonies from cross breeding with domesticated honey bees should be taken into account. Here is a link to a study done in Europe...http://web.uniud.it/eurbee/Proceedings/honeybee biodiversity.pdf
     
  10. bedixon

    bedixon Active Member

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    Our apis mellifera is the european bee brought over here in the 1600's - we don't have a native honey bee in north america, though we do have many other types of native bees, such as the orchard mason bee. Varroa mites were introduced to NA in the late 1980's to apis mellifera who were unable to cope with it; reminds me of the native indians and smallpox brought over by the explorers. Breeding with russian bees, apis cerana, is an attempt to adapt our bees to the russian's shorter larval time which reduces the opportunity for mites to get a foothold in the cell, so less are produced and the bee is "born" relatively unscathed. Apis cerana can withstand the varroa mite because of this more fortunate life cycle span. Mites are here to stay, but like a dog with fleas, a few isn't a big deal while an infestation can cause misery. Not only do the mites parasitize the hive, but they can introduce secondary diseases as well. Bees constantly groom themselves, and with help from the beekeeper using screened bottoms in the hives (mites fall through and lose contact with bees), they can keep a small mite population down. It's very exciting and hopeful that with help from the breeders the varroa mites may be actually manageable in the future.

    ... love the idea of rooftop hives in urban areas, living in lush rooftop gardens... wow!
     
  11. bob 2

    bob 2 Active Member

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    There is an hypothesis circulating now that perhaps the Varroa mite could be transmitting several viruses to the colonies severely weakening the immune response.
    Have you read any papers that are researching this?
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2010
  12. bedixon

    bedixon Active Member

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    I'm a novice beekeeper, don't know much, but it was mentioned at the workshop I recently went to that yes, varroa mites can introduce other disease, namely Kashmir Bee virus associated with the apis cerana, or russian bee...and there may be others. I was told this is not a huge worry in our area, but then we didn't have varroa either up until about 12 years ago, apparently. Stricter quarantine rules are now in place and we in the gulf islands cannot transport hives to/from the mainland without gov't approval. I must get my bees from within the Vancouver Island/gulf island area. Min of Ag BC and Alberta and I'm sure all provinces have good info on their websites about the various viral, bacterial and fungal enemies of bees.
     
  13. Tony Puddicombe

    Tony Puddicombe Active Member VCBF Cherry Scout

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    I live in Kitsilano in Vancouver BC on a 33 foot by 110 foot lot and have the legal number of hives -2. They are no problem to neighbours because I have the hives on the landing of my fire escape about 8 feet off the ground. The bees fly out and up to 20 feet very quickly.
    The problem of varroa mite infestation and CCD is complicated.I have reluctantly used pesticides such as apistan, and chumouphos in the past to control varroa mites. I was just in New Zealand and a supplier there is selling a completely organic plant based varroa treatment that he says has been working well in NZ for several years. I hope to try this as soon as it is available in Canada

    I recommend reading "Fruitless Fall" which goes into great detail about these problems. This book speculates ( and cites experiments) that very small doses of several different pesticides can affect the bees neurological system even though each dose by itself would not affect the bee.
    Scientists tell me that feeding beehives over the winter with white sugar syrup does not affect their health. However we know honey is a much different food and perhaps apiarists should always leave enough honey to last the hive for the winter.

    I have always supported organic food production because the complexity of the systems in nature are not always understood. Trying to kill one insect can easily affect another beneficial one.
     
  14. bedixon

    bedixon Active Member

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    thanks for the tip on the book, Tony, I'll look for that. Re the pesticide doses... sounds like you're describing commercial hives that are moved around to pollinate orchards which are sprayed with pesticides, which in turn have a residual affect on the bees... a suspected part of the whole CCD puzzle. Approved organic miticides in BC include fumigating with formic acid and oxalic acid, both which require a respirator mask for the human... they don't make them that small for the bees! As organic methods they don't harm the environment which is small consolation for the bees, cuz I can't believe this doesn't harm them. Let's face it, organic doesn't always mean agreeable; it sounds as drastic as chemotherapy, which none of us would choose for ourselves unless in dire straits. And of course these harsh controls can only be done at certain times of the year. But, I would use these before apistan or coumaphos, both which are serious insecticides that must be used with care, as they are not organic and can have residual effects. Apistan in some areas just doesn't work at all anymore because of overuse. I have found dusting with sugar to be amazingly effective, combined with using the bottom screen. This is more of a preventative measure when the mite count is not considered serious. I counted over 100 mites on the bottom board when I used the sugar the first day, and steadily less afterwards. However if the count stays high, sugar dusting may only help to get through until after the honey, and then more severe control has to be used. As for the sugar syrup feeding, I was taught to use this as a supplement only when they've run out of their honey stores, as with an extra long winter, or if the hive was robbed. A good beekeeper will always leave the hive with enough honey until spring, and harvesting only excess. Sugar is no substitute for the real thing, but can save the hive from starvation... which, I just learned, is the most common reason by far for hive death.
     
  15. Runningfarmer

    Runningfarmer Member

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    A thin strip of food grade mineral oil along the top of the frames can also be used to combat mites. Does anyone know of a good source for native bees of Vancouver (not the island)? I'm a local beekeeper and I'm trying to identify local native bees.
     
  16. Junglekeeper

    Junglekeeper Esteemed Contributor 10 Years

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    The Land Conservancy of BC’s Pollinator Enhancement Project may be able to provide you with some information. The contact at the bottom of the article could get you started.
     
  17. woodschmoe

    woodschmoe Active Member 10 Years

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    You could contact Dr. Mark Winston at SFU, who specializes in honey bees. Probably your best bet for an answer.
     

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