Florida Extension Beekeeping Newsletter
Apis--Apicultural Information and Issues (ISSN 0889-3764)
Volume 12, Number 1, January 1994
MANAGING AHB COMPLEXITIES
As the African honey bee (AHB) becomes established in the
United States, information on the complexities of managing this
insect is becoming more available. In his November/December, 1993
issue of From the UC Apiaries, Dr. Eric Mussen reported how
southern Texas beekeeper Bill Vanderput summarized his experiences,
"...25 percent more stings, 25 percent more work and 25 percent
more sweat." Although 30 percent of supersedure queens appeared
mated to AHBs, only 10 percent were "noticeably Africanized."
Empty equipment is colonized by AHB swarms. Most noticeable about
AHB colonies: 1. nothing dramatic when cover removed; (2) lots of
festooning on frames; (3) increased stinging, but not really bad.
Honey must be removed or AHB swarms, but both African and European
seem to be adequate honey producers.
Meanwhile, in Mexico, Dr. Mussen reported that Dr. Ernesto
Guzman from that country said that 100,000 swarms per year were
being trapped. In spite of this, not all beekeepers are equally
affected. Some noticed little effect, while others went out of
business. On the other hand, free bees provided an impetus to go
into business for many. About 29 deaths per year are attributed to
AHB in the country. Beekeeping practices have changed; in
particular, colony number has been reduced to yards of 15-25.
Beekeepers are able to move colonies, but AHBs abscond when nectar
is in short supply. Management is genearally costing about 30
percent to 50 percent more than before.
Enrique Estrada and Sue Cobey reported on his methods to
maintain gentle bees in Mexico in the December, 1993 American Bee
Journal. Using technology he learned from Dr. Rich Hellmich,
formerly at the USDA Baton Rouge Bee Laboratory, Mr. Estrada
saturates his breeding area with drones. His queen breeding stock
is based on instrumental insemination. Mr. Estrada says his
expenses are more, but the breeding effort is paying off in keeping
valuable customers. He will present his findings at the annual
meeting of the American Beekeeping Federation in Orlando.
Into the fray comes Dr. William Ramirez, University of Costa
Rica. Writing in the January, 1994 issue of American Bee Journal,
Dr. Ramirez says many widely held views about AHB are not correct.
"Swarming and absconding do not occur. They produce abundant
honey..." Almost in the same breath, however, he says, "I have
found that the size of the hive must be reduced to the brood
chamber, and sugar feed must be provided during the wet season
(dearth period) to prevent absconding." He sees only two negative
aspects of AHB: greater defensive behavior and increased collection
of propolis. The competent beekeeper, Dr. Ramirez believes, can
handle any so-called "problems" posed by the AHB.
"Africanized Bees in the United States," Scientific American,
December, 1993, by Dr. Tom Rinderer and colleagues, Baton Rouge Bee
Laboratory, also examines the AHB in some detail. These
investigators suggest a pattern in the United States could develop
like that in Argentina. A "transition zone" has established itself
at about the latitude of Buenos Aires where a mixture of
Africanized and European bees exist. Thus, in the U.S., European-
like bees may be less competitive in the Deep South and African-
like in the North. They conclude: "It is inevitable that the
incursion of Africanized bees into the U.S. will increase the costs
of managing commercial colonies, at least temporarily. It is also
likely that some African genes will spread through feral and
managed bee colonies. Yet vigilance and coordination by
apiculturists have every chance of preserving the European behavior
of commercial honeybee stocks..."
The above information, along with other reports dribbling in
about AHB, indicates that definitive answers to questions about
management of this insect continue to be controversial. One thing
is abundantly clear, however. The coming of the African bee will
not be "business as usual" for U.S. beekeepers.
SHORTAGE OF BEES?
The January,1994 issue of FloridAgriculture suggests honey bee
numbers are dropping while demand increases in the state. There
are uncertain times ahead as beekeepers are faced with mite
problems, a depressed market price for honey and the coming of the
African bee. This may be particularly important in citrus. As new
varieties come on line, many require pollination for adequate seed
and fruit production. According to the article, those planting new
varieties have been disappointed by yields. It is estimated, for
example, that the new Sunburst tangerine variety needs a minimum of
one hive for every two acres.
The concern has produced a demand for commercial pollination
which could be good for beekeepers. According to Mr. Laurence
Cutts, Chief Apiary Inspector, Florida Department of Agriculture
and Consumer Services, common practice in groves has flip-flopped.
Growers are now seeking beekeepers to put hives on their plantings
instead of the reverse.
A warning included in the article, however, should be taken
seriously. Unscrupulous operators may take advantage of this
climate and rent substandard colonies. Again, according to Mr.
Cutts, "Fraudulent operators could bring weak hives--hives with
only a few bees--to a grove, duping the grower into thinking he was
getting full service."
The November, 1993 issue of Citrus Industry mirrors the
concern about bee shortages. According to Carol Teeter, "Declining
Honey Subsidies May Make Apiculturists Out of Specialty Growers,"
one cooperative, Haines City Citrus Growers Association, rented
pollination services for the first time last year.
Alternatives for commercial renting of honey bees by citrus
growers are not attractive, Ms. Teeter said. The use of chemicals
to set fruit (growth regulators like gibberellic acid) are not
dependable every year and wild honey bee populations have been
decimated by the introduced Varroa bee mite. Some growers are
considering becoming beekeepers themselves. The costs, however,
are not trivial. The article estimates a maintenance fee of
anywhere from $50 to $75 per year.
In summary, the article concludes, "...these developments hint
that citrus growers and honey producers are likely to be linked
even more in the future, bonded more than in the past by the
exchange of money; the latter hounded by limiting interventions of
government; the former challenged by new skills along with new
burdens of overhead expense. Market forces, as always, will seek
their own levels."
Every beekeeper is taught that strong colonies are the essence
of beekeeping. However, what does crowding of bees do to a colony?
Dr. John Harbo, USDA Baton Rouge Bee Laboratory, reports on this in
his study "Worker-Bee Crowding Affects Brood Production, Honey
Production, and Longevity of Honey Bees," Journal of Economic
Entomology, Vol. 86, No. 6, pp 1672-1678, December, 1993.
Through an elaborate set of experiments, using several hive
sizes and different initial populations, Dr. Harbo found that in
winter more crowded bees consumed less honey, but produced less
brood and lived shorter than less crowded colonies. In spring and
summer, more crowded bees produced more honey. They also produced
less brood, but the difference was not as marked as in winter.
With reference to how available space affected colonies during
honey producing times, the results are not clear cut. "Of three
treatments, colonies with five combs in a 25-liter hive produced
the most honey and colonies with additional space and comb (10
frames in a 47-liter hive) produced the least, while colonies of
five frames in a 47-liter hive were intermediate.
MORE ON FLUVALINATE
A report in the January, 1994 American Bee Journal, suggested
that Israeli beekeepers were experiencing some trouble with their
traditional method of treating for Varroa. Plywood strips dipped
in Maverik (R) were killing bees. The material is toxic when wet,
but after drying has previously not been hazardous. I posed
several questions about fluvalinate's use to Dr. Yaacov Lensky,
Triwaks Bee Research Facility, Faculty of Agriculture, Rehovot.
Here is his reply.
1. Has Mavrik (R) been reformulated? The answer is no. The local
dealer of Mavrik (R) uses a machine for distributing Maverik (R) in
small containers of one liter. The machine that was used for the
preparation of Mavrik (R) had been contaminated with another
insecticide, an organic phosphate, Dursban (R). This particular
batch has been used for the preparation of plywood inserts.
Beekeepers who used the inserts later found some poisoning of their
bee colonies. So Mavrik (R) had not been reformulated, but
contaminated, due to the carelessness of the dealer.
2. Are mites resistant to Fluvalinate? Until now there were no
indications. However, when beekeepers do not apply the Apistan
strips or inserts properly, mostly without leaving enough space for
a worker to walk upon the strip, then the control of the mite is
only partial. We had no problems with Mavrik (R) because we
deposit the inserts at hive entrances and not in the brood nest.
It seems that Apistan (R) strips or fluvalinate inserst that are
exposed to high ambient summer temperatures lose their acaricidal
effect and their use may result in only partial mortality of
3. What does this mean for use in the United States? If Maverik
(R) is not contaminated by another insecticide, you have no
problems. I feel that you may have problems by using Apistan (R)
strips for too long periods or at too high levels. They are useless
after three to four weeks. The recommended six weeks can only
contribute to a higher accumulation of fluvalinate in wax and
honey. The legal Apistan (R) strips contain higher levels of
fluvalinate than the inserts. The recommendation to use two
strips and not a single one does not seem to be justified based on
field trials in different climates. It is a pity that there are no
reports concerning Apistan (R) residues in wax and honey.
APIS IN GOPHERSPACE
In the last issue of APIS, I said somewhat whimsically that
APIS might soon be found either at an FTP site or GOPHER in the
future. I found out soon thereafter that the newsletter is already
available on two servers. Talk about being behind the
technological curve! For the initiated, back issues are indeed
available in Gopherspace. A Veronica search using the title as the
keyword quickly finds the sites. One is menu item #77 while doing
an APIS search at Nysernet.
Other electronic news comes from Andy Nachbaur, SYSOP of
Wildbees BBS in California. He now has an internet connection
(email@example.com). His latest message:
"The Wild Net that BeeNet is a conference of continues to grow with
400+- bbs's that could get the BeeNet. I am sure before the year is
out it will be available via satellite as a read only network
worldwide. It really boggles my mind; now, if just more beekeepers
would get interested I can see many good things in this age of
communications that beekeepers big and small could use to their
advantage. I have been able to use the internet highway to post
messages to Holland and they are working on a bbs connection in
If you are interested in electronic communication, I
recommend getting a copy of the latest paper by Tom Fasulo, Jane
Medley and myself published in BeeScience, "Electronic Delivery of
Apicultural Information," Vol. 3, No. 1, pp. 10-15, July, 1993. I
have reprints and will mail them in response to requests.
We still have copies of the beekeeping database available.
Since advertising it in October, we have sold a number of copies as
far away as Canada. It is featured in some detail in the
BeeScience article. The database sells for $50.00; 70 percent of
the income derived is donated to the Department of Entomology and
Nematology at the University of Florida for further development of
computer programs involving extension entomology. The package runs
on all IBM-compatible computers equipped with a hard drive, DOS 3.1
or higher, 640K memory and EGA, VGA or SVGA card and appropriate
monitor. Send a check with your order to Beekeeping Database, c/o
Dr. M.T. Sanford, Secretary-Treasurer AAPA, Bldg 970, Box 110620,
Gainesville, FL 32611-0620. Be sure to please specify 5.25 or 3.5
Malcolm T. Sanford
Bldg 970, Box 110620
University of Florida
Gainesville, FL 32611-0620
Phone (904) 392-1801, Ext. 143
BITNET Address: MTS@IFASGNV
INTERNET Address: MTS@GNV.IFAS.UFL.EDU