Monday, October 13, 2014

Vancouver Food Bank Honey Bees

One of our girls enjoying a Kale flower
     Last year we began raising honey bees for the Greater Vancouver Food Bank at our community garden (Cottonwood).  Before I became a beekeeper I thought like most that honey was a sweet treat that Winnie the Pooh loved, but to my amazement I discovered that honey possesses incredible health benefits that have been used since pre-Ancient Egyptian times to treat a variety of ailments.

Winnie the Pooh 
     However, it is only recently that the antiseptic and antibacterial properties of honey have been fully understood.  Scientists have revealed that honey has powerful anti-bacterial properties that work on at least sixty species of bacteria, and unlike antibiotics, which are often useless against certain types of bacteria, honey is non-toxic. The composition of honey includes sugars such as glucose and fructose and also minerals such as niacin, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium and zinc.  Depending on the quality of the nectar and pollen, the vitamins contained in honey are B1, B2, C, B6, B5 and B3.  Honey is used topically to treat wounds (including tumours), allergies, as an antioxidant (contains flavonoids, antioxidants which help reduce the risk of some cancers and heart disease), works to reduce ulcers and other gastrointestinal disorders and reduces cough and throat irritation.  All great reasons to provide honey to the Greater Vancouver Food Bank (For the Love of Bees).

     Last year we received a grant from the Vancouver Foundation to purchase the hive and bees for the Food Bank hive.  We were blessed to be a recipient of a grant from the Vancouver Foundation again this year to purchase a second beehive.   The Vancouver Foundation provides funding for community projects that help build a healthy, sustainable sense of community that is sometimes lacking in large urban areas.

"With over 1,600 funds and assets totaling $930 million, Vancouver Foundation is Canada’s largest community foundation. Each year, Vancouver Foundation and its donors make more than 5,300 grants, totaling approximately $50 million to registered charities across Canada. Since it was founded in 1943, Vancouver Foundation, in partnership with its donors, has distributed more than $1 billion to thousands of community projects and programs. Grant recipients range from social services to medical research groups, to organizations devoted to arts and culture, the environment, education, children and families, disability supports for employment, youth issues and animal welfare. To find out more please explore our website or connect with us on Facebook and Twitter."

     We are constantly bombarded by world news, mostly negative, that neglects to remind us of all the wonderful, small community projects going on around us.  Many of these projects are made possible by the Vancouver Foundation and help to make this world a little better place to live in.  For us, the Strathcona Beekeepers it has helped us continue to provide free beekeeping lessons and guidance to the community; free native and honey bee demonstrations; maintain our community bee and plant resource website; share our honey extractor with over 20 community beekeepers annually purchased with funds from the Vancouver Foundation; provide a place in Strathcona (Cottonwood Garden) for community, cooperative beekeeping; increase neighbourhood pollination and food crop yield; financially support Cottonwood Community Garden through the sale of honey and provide honey to the Vancouver Food Bank.

We raised $400 selling honey for Cottonwood Garden this year
     This year we were able to provide the Food Bank with over 50 kgs of honey to be distributed mostly to the downtown eastside soup kitchens.  A big thanks to the Vancouver Foundation for helping us continue our work. They have helped us create a permanent, positive addition to the Strathcona community.  Please consider the Vancouver Foundation among those you support with your charitable donations (Donate to the Vancouver Foundation).  Every little bit helps and you may just find a honey bee or mason bee in your backyard brought to you by your own financial support to the Vancouver Foundation.

4 year old Jack giving a bee lecture at Cottonwood Community Garden Open House
     For those who don't know the Food Bank or "The Greater Vancouver Food Bank Society" {GVFBS} is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing food and related assistance to those in need. The GVFBS collects and distributes food to nearly 27‚000 people weekly through 15 food depots and over 100 community agencies located in Vancouver‚ Burnaby‚ New Westminster and the North Shore. The GVFBS does not receive any government funding and relies solely on the generosity of individuals and organizations willing to donate funds‚ food and time like us.

Our beehives have been superbly painted by amazingly, artistic community children's groups.
     Last year we also started a food growing program at our community garden for the Vancouver Food Bank. Under the supervision of farmer Linda we have been able to provide a wide variety of fresh, local, organic produce to the Vancouver Food Bank.  I would also like to thank all the other gardeners who have and continue to work so hard at making this a viable project and by doing so making a positive difference in our community. As someone who has worked in traditional, rural farming I have discovered that urban farming is a totally different skill.  The main challenge being the optimal usage of the limited space. Farming practices like growing vine crops vertically on mesh fences and planting in July for your second late summer crop of peas.  Maximum usage of limited space.  The greatest example of urban farming that I know of is the "Urban Homestead" in Pasadena where they harvest 3 tons of organic food annually from their 1/10 acre garden while incorporating many back-to-basics practices, solar energy and biodiesel in order to reduce their footprint on the earth’s resources.  A wonderful inspiration.

Amy from the Food Bank receiving some of our fresh, organic produce.
     The bees are settling in for a long winter.  We have left them lots of honey with the hope that some sunny, March day next spring they come out to enjoy the nectar from the fruit trees and to begin once again another bountiful year in the community of Strathcona (Vancouver).

"Place a beehive on my grave
And let the honey soak through.
When I'm dead and gone,
That's what I want from you.
The streets of heaven are gold and sunny,
But I'll stick with my plot and my pot of honey.
Place a beehive on my grave
And let the honey soak through."
-Sue Monk Kidd

Friday, September 19, 2014

2013-2014 U.S. and Canadian Honey Bee National Management Surveys

     The 2013-14 Bee Informed U.S. National Management Survey has been released and has produced some interesting results.  First, it was a good year to be beekeeping in Hawaii (isn't it always) and not so for beekeepers in Indiana, Illinois and especially Michigan with winter mortality rates of 69% (Losses by State).
      Amitraz, the insecticide produced considerably better results than any other product at treating Varroa mites.  Organic and natural beekeepers would argue it also has sublethal accumulative detrimental effects on the colony.  Beekeepers who used powdered sugar, mineral oil, drone brood removal, sceened bottom board and small cell size did not report losing any more or less colonies than those who did not use these techniques.  
      Dry Sugar produced the best results of the carbohydrate feeds and beekeepers who fed their colonies protein saw 8% less colony loss.  Queen and Brood Comb replacement resulted in fewer colony losses and those using Fumgillin reported losing 7.5% fewer colonies.  While Tracheal mite controls did not seem to produce a benefit Antibiotic use did. 
     The survey also includes feed supplements, small hive beetle control, winter management, treatments of dead outs and colony replacement and honey bee stock management. 
     Although the results of this annual survey are not the definitive judgement on the use of a particular beekeeping practice the more beekeepers that participate in the survey the more helpful it will become.  I encourage all U.S. beekeepers to sign up and participate in the Bee Informed U.S. National Management Survey.
     In the 2013/14 Canadian Winter Loss Survey compiled by CAPA (Canadian Association of Professional Apiarists) the average level of wintering loss in Canada was 25% with Ontario suffering the greatest loss at 58% similar to nearby U.S. states (Michigan 69%).  Except for Ontario whose losses were attributed to a cold, long winter the overall average losses were down. 
     The CAPA survey indicated that weather, poor queens, weak colonies in fall, Nosema, Varroa and pesticides were possible causes of reported wintering losses (CAPA Survery). 
     Below is a survey of the Honey Bee Sting Pain by body location.  I noticed that penis shaft ranked third and was wondering how they came to that conclusion.  Did they do tests?  Were there volunteers? Is getting stung in the penis shaft a major problem for beekeepers?  Things that make you go hmmm....


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Beekeeping Webinar: Hive Monitoring for Pests

 Hive Monitoring: Measuring Primary and Secondary Pests of Your Hive 

     I have always used a sticky board under my screened bottom for mite testing but recently learned that this may not always be a good indication of hive mite population.  If your bees are not good groomers or non hygienic you may have a high number of mites that don't show up on your testing board.  I've used the test board on the basis that a 24hr count of 10 or below is insignificant and above 50 is a major problem.  When or how you treat depends on your beekeeping style.  The approximate number of adult mites would be the 24hr count times 60.  Of course it is not the mites themselves that are the problem but the diseases that they bring like the Deformed Wing or Kashmir Virus which friends have observed recently.  I will confirm my board counts with the "Sugar Roll" method of mite testing.
     While there are numerous methods of dealing with Varroa including treatment free (used by a few natural beekeeping friends of mine) I presently employ the annual split (brood break), screened bottom, alternating organic treatments (Formic and Oxalyic Acid) to prevent pest adaptation (only when a high mite count) and regular monitoring. Of course everyones' goal is to have hygienic bees capable of effectively managing mites.
     On June 18th at 9 AM (EDT=PFE pretty frigging early for us west coasters) Ohio State University will be presenting the free webinar "Hive Monitoring: Measuring Primary and Secondary Pests of your hive" featuring master beekeeping instructor Alex Zomchek with 40 years of beekeeping experience.

"Are you monitoring your hives for varroa and other key pests? Knowing what's there is the first step to successful pest management. Alex will explain the "whys, hows and whens" of hive monitoring for primary and secondary pests, just in time for summer monitoring of varroa."

     To join in this free webinar login as a guest at .  This webinar will be recorded and available at the OSU Bee Lab website and the webinar section of our Beekeepers' Library.

Angry stormy weather Bee

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