Dordt College Update
Last month in “the Buzz” we reprinted
an article about a grant Dordt College had received from the National
Science Foundation. The following e-mail was sent to me by Dr,
Edward Geels outlining the project. The basic project is to treat
bees on small cell foundation with copper gluconate and monitor
the effect on Varroa mite development. At the AHPA meeting in
Houston, I met the salesman from Jost Chemical Company who handles
copper gluconate. He provided me with a study done in France using
copper gluconate for mite control. I’ll report on the study
Here is the e-mail which is being reprinted
with Dr Geels permission.
This should be a 5 year project if I keep teaching that long.
I will be 66 in a couple weeks and have been teaching at Dordt
College for 41 years now. I'm familiar with the Lusbys (and Allan)
from their postings on the Organic Beekeepers list but they are
not the only ones going to small cell. There is a fairly large
group of people doing it including several commercial honey producers.
The demand is large enough that Dadants are now going to offer
not only 4.9 wax foundation but I've heard that they now also
have the wired version available. The present commercial cell
size is actually an artificial size which began with U. Baudoux
in Belgium who proposed in 1891 to increase the size of cells
so as to increase the size of the bees reared in these cells.
His theory was that these larger bees would be healthier, have
more capacity to carry nectar and also because of increased tongue
length would be able also to forage on flowers whose nectar was
out of reach of the shorter tongue of the smaller bees. Professor
Baudoux documents these changes in both bee size and cell size
with a paper on the influence of cell size in 1933 [Baudoux, U.
(1933) The influence of cell size. Bee World, XIV, 37-41.] I also
have other references in my research proposal to the increase
in cell size which began in Europe about 1900 and spread to the
U.S. by the 30's to 50's. Feral bees which have been isolated
from commercial beekeepers can still be found in remote areas
with this small cell size and they also survive of course without
any chemical treatments even though there are some of the varroa
mites present in their hives. I will try to keep in touch and
let you know how its going.
P.S. The copper ion seems to be a systemic
poison which doesn't affect the bees as several of my references
suggest (I'm not completely convinced about that however which
is why I'm trying the research on that aspect) but does have a
negative biological effect on the metabolism of the mites. Several
bee suppliers sell a product called "Bee Healthy" which
contains copper as well as other ingredients. I'm sure Dee Lusby
wouldn't approve of that however. I've notice that when I treat
new supers with the wood preservative copper naphthenate it does
seem to keep the mites down for a while but the bees cover up
the wood on the inside with propolis and the effect soon diminishes.
Copper gluconate is also available in pharmacies as a human food
supplement so in small amounts apparently it is not harmful and
as a biochemist I know that the copper ion is present as a co-factor
for several enzymes.
Dr. Edwin J. Geels
Professor of Chemistry
Submitted by Phil Ebert
IT'S TIME TO DO WHAT?
Just because it's winter don't think you can
sit back and hibernate waiting for spring and the bees and flowers
to take off. You need to be making preparations for the new honey
NOW, is the time to be melting all those frames
you took out of your hives last summer/fall and need to get cleaned
up/repaired. It's also time to get new frames made, hive bodies
made or repaired and painted, ready to go when needed. It's still
too early to get foundation shipped, but you can make a note of
what you nedd when it warms up. It's not time to install foundation
yet, but get everything located so you don't have to spend time
hunting when that time comes. Foundation or drawn comb will shatter
if handled and moved at winter temps.
NOW is the time to get out and check the weight
of your colonies and get food on them if they need it. Wait for
an above freezing day when the bees are out on a cleansing flight
and go check to see how many are alive and how many need more
stores to survive till something blooms. Actually last month was
perfect temps for that, but many of the colonies that were heavy
enough last month now need fed. More colonies starve to death
between now and dandelion bloom than die from other causes all
NOW is the time to get feed to your colonies
if they need it. Sugar/water in a 1 to 1 ratio or high fructose
corn syrup in a 4 to 1 ratio with water is even better (cheaper).
If you have honey to feed the bees, DO NOT dilute it with any
water. It will cause dysentary in the bees. You can throw the
undisolved sugar on the top bars in the hives if necessary. It's
not the best way, but it will help them survive.
NOW is the time to order packages or queens if
you need them for this coming summer. Don't wait till April/May
to think about this as it will be TOO late to get anything soon
enough to help you.
March is when you can order foundation and start
installing it when it's warm. Most bee supply places won't ship
till it's warm enough, but you can certainly contact them in March
and place your order.
Make a friend of another beekeeper and call them
when you have questions. I did. It helps.
Submitted by Margaret Hala