Florida Extension Beekeeping Newsletter
Apis--Apicultural Information and Issues (ISSN 0889-3764)
Volume 13, Number 5, May 1995
Copyright (c) 1995 M.T. Sanford "All Rights Reserved"
A FLORIDIAN WINNER
Sixth grader Audrey Powell, age twelve, of Havana, FL is the
third-place winner in this year's 4-H Essay Contest, sponsored by
the American Beekeeping Federation. Audrey's essay, "A Honey of
a Day," tells the story of seven-year-old Rosa Fleming, who tags
along with her father one day to gather honey from the bees.
Congratulations to Audrey, who wins the $50.00 third prize, as
well as a bee book for her efforts.
In the June 1994 issue of this newsletter, I said that
Florida has had very few entries in this contest over the last
several years. Well, that trend was reversed in 1994. A total
of fourteen essays were submitted. This renewed interest is
gratifying, and I hope it will continue.
It's not too early to begin thinking about the 1996 contest.
The title is "How Honey Bees Ensure Our Food Supply." This essay
should detail the range of crops that require bees for
pollination and what particular things (i.e. increase yield,
quality, cosmetics) bee pollination does for each. The
guidelines also state that this question be addressed: "If honey
bees are not native to the United States, why are they essential
to the cultivation of our food crops?" For a complete copy of
the rules, contact this office or the American Beekeeping
Federation, P.O. Box 1038, Jesup, GA 31545, ph 912/427-8447.
Every once in a while, I am told by beekeepers that they
find the addition of salt to the bees' diet to be beneficial.
Perhaps the beekeeper perceives this as true, but there is
evidence to the contrary. In the 1992 The Hive and the Honey
Bee, the chapter by E. Herbert on nutrition provides some
information. Unfortunately, the author says "Less is known about
the mineral requirement of honey bees than the other classes of
nutrients." He goes on to say that salt mixtures used in
vertebrate feeding often contain excessive amounts of calcium and
sodium and insufficient amounts of potassium. Studies using
Wesson's salts, for example, showed less diet consumed and less
brood reared when compared with those fortified with ash
(minerals) from pollen. The most striking feature was the sodium
level in Wesson's salts (3.3%) compared to pollen ash (.22%).
Recently, there was a discussion about the effects of iron
on honey bees across the Internet. Allen Dick, a Canadian
beekeeper, writes: "Our water system gives out rusty water
sometimes and this may be the only water convenient for diluting
syrup. Additionally barrels used for storing syrup tend to get
rusty after a few years of intermittent use. Is there a danger of
toxicity to bees from rust, or is it only elemental iron that is
Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk at the University of Montana replied
via the Bee-L Internet discussion list: "Like any element, bees,
mammals, people, have more or less fixed tolerance ranges.
Within the tolerance range, the body can probably regulate the
levels in tissues via a variety of mechanisms, such as excreting
excessive amounts. Elements like iron generally have to be
present at some minimal level for healthy bees, but too much is
not necessarily better or good."
Should one use rusty equipment? Dr. Bromenshenk says no,
not because there is evidence of harm, but because he is not in
favor of introducing high levels of any chemical into a food-
producing system. He knows no way to determine how much might
get into honey, most likely to happen if you are providing water
on hot days in rusty containers. The effects of high iron
content on colonies, if any, according to Dr. Bromenshenk, are
likely to be subtle and hard to identify, although they could be
economically costly. Dr. Bromenshenk concludes, therefore, that
unless you really dose them with iron, one won't see piles of
Even fluoride (F) poisoning rarely results in the typical
scenario described above for pesticide kills, according to Dr.
Bromenshenk. Fluoride accumulation is a hotly debated issue, he
says, but there is evidence in the older U.S. and European
literature that this element is not good for bees and
concentrates in their tissues.
Over the last 20 years, Dr. Bromenshenk has found that
beekeepers near aluminum smelters, oil refineries, phosphate
plants, or in areas where the water is high in fluoride (either
naturally, such as occurs in deep artesian wells in Montana or
fluoridated, as in city water supplies) have "elevated" levels of
F in their bees. On a dry weight basis, any with concentrations
of more than 40 (ppm) or parts per million (40/1,000,000=.000004
or .00004 percent), he says, is elevated. Bees near refineries
tend to range from 40-80 ppm; those close to phosphate plants may
show 120 ppm or more. On an island between Canada and New York,
with aluminum smelters on both sides, the F levels were found to
be over 200 ppm.
Bees appear to get most F from the air, according to Dr.
Bromenshenk, and levels will be about twice as high in forager
bees as in nurse bees, while not detectable in larvae or pupae.
He and his students have followed F dispersion for 60 to 90 miles
from a large industrial source. However, as noted above, high
levels could also come from an artesian spring or fluoridated
Dr. Bromenshenk's observations are based on commercial
beekeepers running several thousand colonies near smelters and
migratory beekeepers moving bees in and out of these regions.
The results are variable, he concludes, as bee kills occur every
few years, generally in the spring during buildup or during
periods of nectar dearth. The bees always die in the same yards,
usually downwind from the industrial source. There is almost
always a gradient, with bees at yards closest to the source
getting hit the hardest. Residue levels in these dead bees
normally exceed 120 ppm F.
In conclusion, according to Dr. Bromenshenk, one can have
bees even with 180-200 ppm F levels and no obvious toxicity, but
only if they are in good condition. This means not being heavily
stressed by other factors such as poor nutrition and mite
parasitization. Unfortunately, one cannot easily detect chronic
effects of F toxicity because losses may be not be expressed
directly, but only in reduced disease resistance and lowered
productivity. Would Dr. Bromenshenk put bees where either the
water or air had elevated F? NO! Does he think beekeepers
suffer losses from F? YES!
If sodium, iron and fluoride levels all bear reexamination
in beekeeping, this is probably true for other minerals as well.
High mineral levels may be the reason, Dr. Herbert says in The
Hive and the Honey Bee, bees winter poorly on honey dew honey
which contains about 0.73% ash as opposed to floral honey with
0.17% ash. He concludes, therefore, that "Excessive levels of
minerals can be toxic to honey bees..." And, as pointed out by
Dr. Bromenshenk, it may not take more than a minuscule amount to
make a big difference."
EAS YEAR OF THE HIVE
The beekeepers of Ohio welcome you to the "Year of the
Hive," in Wooster, OH July 30 through August 4, 1995. This is
the annual meeting of the Eastern Apicultural Society (EAS),
arguably one of the largest beekeeping events to be held each
year. This meeting promises to be the biggest and best yet. An
article on the event will even be featured in the June issue of
Modern Maturity Magazine. With a readership in excess of several
million persons, if only a few of these retired folks contemplate
becoming a beekeeper, this might result in the most attendance
ever. This attention translates into one thing. Register early
to avoid being left out. Money must be received by June 26 or a
late fee of $20.00 is imposed and no reservations will be taken
after July 5.
Monday, July 30 through Wednesday morning will be given over
to the annual EAS short course, limit 50 participants @ $95.00
each. Overlapping the last day of the short course will be a
workshop by the American Apitherapy Association ($30/person).
And on Thursday, the Master Beekeeper examination will be held.
For details, write Loretta Surprenant, Box 330A, County Home Rd.,
Essex, NY 12936.
The regular meeting will be held Wednesday a.m., all day
Thursday (lectures in the a.m. and seven concurrent clusters of
workshops in the p.m.) and Friday (lectures in the a.m and more
workshops in the p.m.). The event concludes with the annual
banquet Friday night. It is impossible to fully describe all the
scheduled events here. The summer 1995 issue of the Ohio State
Beekeepers Association News Digest is devoted to this program.
For a copy, write this office or Dr. J. Tew, OARDC/Dept. of
Entomology, 1680 Madison Ave., Wooster, OH 44691, ph 216/263-
3684; fax 216/262-2720. All the bee journals will also be
IS BEEKEEPING INTEREST ON THE UPSWING?
Dr. Robert Berthold writes in the May issue of The Speedy
Bee that his spring short course had the most attendance since
the 1970s. He says that the late Paul Cummings from his state of
Pennsylvania observed interest in the craft to be cyclical over
the 80 years of his life. I also have seen that enthusiasm for
beekeeping appears to be picking up in Florida. There have been
two successful yearly seminars in the panhandle, one in
Jacksonville and the first ever meeting of New York beekeepers at
Archbold Biological Station near Lake Placid, FL. The
Jacksonville meeting was unique because most of those attending
were not beekeepers yet, but were contemplating entering the
field. Several have since made the plunge.
Conventional wisdom and experience tells us that a "new"
kind of beekeeping will probably rise from the ashes of the
"old." It is comforting to know that in spite of Varroa mites,
African bees and a host of other problems, human fascination in
keeping this social insect does not easily die.
GEORGIA BEEKEEPING INSTITUTE
The Georgia Beekeeping Institute will be held at Young
Harris College in Young Harris, GA, June 16-17, 1995. Billed by
the informational brochure as the "perfect setting to study bees
and beekeeping," this educational event set in the north Georgia
mountains caters to both the beginner and advanced beekeeper. It
is informal and inexpensive. I am on the program this year along
with Drs. Mike Hood and John Harbo. To register and for more
information, contact Mrs. Tracy Coker, University of Georgia
Cooperative Extension Service, Athens, GA 30602, ph 706/542-8954;
early bird registration expires June 2, 1995.
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:
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Copyright (c) M.T. Sanford 1995 "All Rights Reserved"