Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Long Langstroth With Legs

Posted here are nine recent articles that were published primarily in American Bee Journal .......Tom O'Brien,

 June 2012  American Bee Journal

Quebec Researcher Reports on Small Hive Beetles & Bee Breeding  © Tom O'Brien

“The best method for combatting Small Hive Beetles in southern Quebec is using strong bee colonies in clean well maintained hives,” said Pierre Giovenazzo, the well known Apiculture Research Scientist from the Province of Quebec, Canada.

Monsieur Giovenazzo, who was born in Nova Scotia, was the principal speaker at the recently concluded spring meeting of the Ontario Beekeepers Association held at the Admiral Inn and Conference Center in Lindsay Ontario. Since 1987 he has taught

Biology and Physiology at Laval University in Quebec City. He is a Research Scientist in Apiculture at the Centre de Recherche en

Sciences Animales de Deschambeault. He obtained his M.Sc in Animal Physiology from the Laval University and has submitted his thesis to the Veterinary Sciences Faculty of University of Montreal for a Ph.D. His subject: Varroa destructor and its control using Integrated Pest Management strategies. Presently he is working on the Small Hive Beetle's invasion into southern Quebec. And if that doesn't keep him too too busy, he is active in setting up a Buckfast breeding and selection program.

Pierre Giovenazzo listens deeply to all questions and makes himself available to all when possible. He spoke on three different topics, about which he has researched in Southern Quebec, at the Spring meeting of the Ontario Beekeepers Association.  (Photo Tom O'Brien) 

In 2008 the Small Hive Beetle was first noticed to be a real threat and Pierre entered the fray to combat the foe. He and his colleagues observed the Beetles strength in multiplying rapidly in the ground, dirty hives, on wax, and in wooden supers. They studied its life cycle and how temperature was and will always be a determining factor. Both in the laboratory and in the field they noticed a phenomenal growth rate on the most bare of necessities such as a small chunk of comb with pollen and honey in a deserted frame beside a rotting super. They were surprised and amazed seeing three distinct life cycles per year giving it a huge growth acceleration rate. They noticed its ability to live turtle like and away from aggressive bees.

Doug McRory (R), retired Ontario Provincial Apiarist shares a laugh with Pierre Giovenazzo. Mr. McRory was featured in an American Bee Journal article in the May 2011 issue and it focused on how he "grew" 20 single brood chamber hives into 76 between March and September of that year. (Photo Tom O'Brien)

They used “Sentinel Hives,” owned by the research team and monitored different IPM control methods. The “enemy” thrived. Coumophos was found to be a deterrent but the use of chemicals was not their mandate.

As time stretched into 2009 and 2010 they observed temperature to be a major determining factor in SHB success. They saw SHB existing in hives where, as every beekeeper knows, the internal cluster temperature is close 91 F degrees, 33 C degrees. No SHB were observed in the springtime ground after it experienced winter sub zero temperatures. All the researchers soon believed the SHB's weakness was the heat factor in its life cycle.

 Albert Bauman (L) of Bauman Apiaries in Millbrook, Ontario listened while Pierre Giovenazzo and Paul Kozak, Ontario Provincial Apiarist, explained how Small Hive Beetles are affected by transportation of hives from various other yards.  (Photo Tom O'Brien)

Much of their work was done on the south shore counties of Montreal with the southern borders meeting Vermont and New York States. Beekeepers there experience the SHB and it is believed by many that such infestations are the result of migratory pollinators moving their hives from many distant parts of the USA where the SHB thrives. Pierre and his team concluded that the Quebec SHB problem was largely the result of transportation.

Researchers soon concluded SHB need ideal conditions in order to survive and are of the strong opinion that weak hives should be eliminated, that bee yards be kept clean and clutter free, and that supers not be left more than a couple days in bee houses after harvesting. They recognize the importance of pollinators who move their beehives many times a season, but caution against such practise as it is a means of too often picking up the nefarious SHB hitch-hiker.

Gord Slemin (L), past president of the Huronia Beekeepers Association in Orillia Ontario, accepts the Paul Monteux Award from Allan Sinton (C) and John Van Alten, President of the Ontario Beekeepers Association, at the Spring Meeting in Lindsay Ontario, March 24, 2012. Mr. Slemin, while Huronia President, worked very hard among Central Ontatio Beekeepers and saw membership and participation grow dramatically.  (Photo Tom O'Brien)  

Monsieur Giovenazzo also talked about his involvement with establishing a Quebec Buckfast bee presence and the studying of local hybrid honey bee queens.

In regards the latter, he said, “Many beekeepers came to me observing that queen bees in Quebec were not lasting more than one year. So, with the financial help of the Quebec Government we started a research project on Queen fertility.” He told of many large and small beekeeping concerns who offered their queens for analysis. The laboratory procedures meant the euthanizing of many queens of various ages and then doing spermatheca sperm count and counting ovarioles in ovaries. Each queen ovary was embedded in paraffin and sliced in cross cut and a stained histological slide was produced and with the use of a photomicroscope, the numbers of ovarioles (sections of an ovary) were counted. (One team member spent her time on a trans-Atlantic flight doing such counts!)

It was observed that a spermatheca with only two million sperm cells in her spermathecae was a spent queen and has no place in a well run hive. Six million sperm cells is the accepted limit today which means she is good for two years.

In 2008, four Quebec queen breeders offered their fourteen day old queens for analysis. They were studied as described above. It was discovered that the number of ovarioles in that population of queens in the study was 358.2 give or take 67.5. the next step was measuring abdominal length and width.

After all the measurements and observations were completed, four conclusions were made:

ONE: The more ovarioles, the better the queen and likewise the higher the sperm count which meant the longer she is a functional queen.

TWO: Sperm count varies directly with abdominal length and sperm count increases as season progresses.......early season queens have less sperm.

THREE: Highest number of ovarioles seen close to swarming season … the best quality queens are produced just before swarming.

FOUR: The lowest ovariole counts are seen during the early breeding season.

As for importing European Buckfast Queens into Quebec, he first spoke highly of the work done on the same subject by Paul Kelly who is the Official Beekeeper of Guelph University. Mr. Kelly runs the Guelph University hives under the direction of the Apiculture Research Scientists nearby.

Monsieur Giovenazzo spoke about the need for Quebec's beekeepers to stay ahead of the many and varied problems experienced by those running any number of hives and it was imperative to have a strain of bee that could survive the often harsh conditions of Quebec winters. “For that reason I helped initiate the importation of Buckfast Queens from Denmark which are famous for their resistance to mites, gentleness, and quick spring buildup.” He later included their low swarming tendency.

He noted that Quebec has only 12063 square miles of producing farm land and that nearly ten million pounds of chemicals were sold annually. “That,” he said with emphasis, “ is where we live with our bees! He also added that honey bees are known for their important contribution to our agricultural economy and that is the major reason the Government of Quebec has so generously invested money into the programs with which I am associated.”

During an interview after his concluding remarks Monsieur Giovenazzo said, “Speaking to Ontario Beekeepers over the last two days here in Lindsay Ontario about Quebec Apiculture Research has been a most rewarding experience for me and I hope they have learned something new about beekeeping, especially in regard to combatting Small Hive Beetles, Varroa destructor, and the keeping of strong hives.”

Afterward he raised his voice so that many near by could hear him. “And please don't forget all you beekeepers from Ontario, there is to be an Apimondia Symposium in Quebec City on November 15 to 18 with the theme, “Queen Breeding, Selection and Honey Bee Health.” He was given an enthusiastic applause. “SEE YOU THERE,” was the echo reply heard more than once.

Dr. Claude Boucher, MAPAQ, DSAIV, who is in charge of the bee health program for the Province of Quebec, later added with regards to Apimondia Quebec City, “Pierre is a wonderful guy and researcher. He is very dynamic and spends a lot of energy in doing research that will help beekeepers to have more success in their business and a better understanding of what they have to do to be successful. And as he is a great teacher ... he knows how to pass the message to beekeepers. This is a very important point.”

"Pierre Giovenazzo"

"Tom O'Brien"

“Ontario Beekeepers' Association”

 December 2011  American Bee Journal

Successful Ontario Bee Observatory and Forum © Tom O’Brien

Promptly at 10.45 AM on Saturday August 27, John Van Blyderveen rushed for the last time to his Bee Observatory and the assembled beekeepers who came to gain beekeeping information about various beekeeping topics. Some had attended all the previous one hour Saturday Forums during June, July, and August of 2011.

John’s Bee Observatory is beside his main bee yard near his business, Oxford Honey and Supplies, in Burgessville Ontario.

Beekeeping enthusiasts learn much in a bee-free observatory during a Forum at Oxford Honey and Supplies in Burgessville Ontario. Photo Tom O'Brien

The Observatory is a thirty-five foot long structure which is ten feet high and seven feet wide. It has screen doors at each end and it is cloaked entirely with black insect mesh. Outside the south facing side there are fourteen beehives with a space of twelve inches between each and large mirrors are placed at ground level in front of the hives. The viewers are able to see clearly each frame that John removes from a hive, and, at times, he holds a frame with a queen next to an observer’s face with the black mesh between.

John Van Blyderveen lost only 19 percent of his hives last winter while many in Ontario experienced a mortality rate of near fifty percent. Photo Tom O'Brien

The viewers, whether they be experienced professional beekeepers or neophyte students of “the sweet stinging art”, stand or sit inside the Observatory and watch and listen as Mr Van Blyderveen takes hives apart and shows various frame features. (Bees, angry or otherwise, are prevented from entering the Observatory and disrupting the attentive onlookers bent on learning more about beekeeping.) John speaks in very clear and simple terms and answers all questions during his running commentary.

Often the viewers used the mirror reflections to get a better view of what was going on in front of the hives.

His Forums, or running commentaries as he prefers to call them, last for an hour and he is amazed at the topics some children have asked. One little girl once asked if bees have skeletons. John looked again at the little girl and noticed it was his seven year old niece. In a calm and natural voice the assembled enthusiasts received a lecture about a bee’s exoskeleton and how it differs from an endoskeleton found in vertebrate animals.

Often he is seen without a veil with several bees flying around his head … which leads people to ask if he is not scared of angry and biting bees. He reminds viewers that he knows his bees and should he hear a loud buzz in any hive then he quickly leaves the scene and puts on protection.

Questions from the onlookers are usually answered in the last twenty minutes and some of the topics that people ask the most about include …

“Why are your supers painted brown,” is one enquiry that he has answered several times. His reply is always much the same. “The brown paint absorbs much heat from the sun and helps keep the cluster temperature inside the hive at ninety-eight-decimal-six degrees which is the optimum temperature for hived bees.”

Some brave beekeepers stood outside the observatory while others preferred the view from inside during the final summer beekeeping forum on August 27. They heard host John Van Blyderveen comment about his hive paint colour, which is part of his winter preparations, winter hive mortality, and comb honey production. Photo Tom O'Brien

“How many of your hives did not survive last winter,” is another often asked question. His response is always the same. “Well, last November I prepared one-hundred hives for the winter in fourteen yards not far from here in Burgessville. Each hive was composed of a deep and medium super brood area with a medium super on the top containing honey. I felt that each hive had between ninety and one-hundred lbs. of honey.”

He pauses each time he offers that information and notes how intently his audience waits for the next sentence. “Last March I had eighty-one surviving hives while the provincial hive mortality rate was forty-seven percent. I lost nineteen percent of my hives” Jaws dropped on hearing that and invariably an onlooker remarks that he does not cloak his hives with a corrugated black plastic outer covering. He replies that he once took control of fifty hives in early October one year and half were supplied with “black winter overcoats” while the other half were without. One half of each group survived and since that year he has not used any winter hive coats. His winter preparation program involves brown painted supers and enough honey for all clusters to survive.

A third question often asked involves comb honey production. He believes many are interested in it because it does not involve purchasing an expensive extractor by a beekeeper with only a few hives. His answer often feels very informative to many listeners. “Comb honey production is a specialized area of apiculture and is not hard to learn by a serious beekeeper with just a few hives. You must build up your hive populations early in the spring and follow a good swarm prevention practise before the many flowers bloom in May and June. During the main early summer honey flow you must harvest your capped comb early and often so that the bees do not leave too many of their foot prints on the cell caps.” He later adds that it’s easy for him to produce some comb honey every year because he can select a few of his one-hundred hives which have a “boiling over” bee population that is essential for comb honey production.

After the last members bid farewell, he was asked if operating one hundred hives and a retail bee and honey supply store was too much for him and his wife Karen to handle.

“Some days I feel the two enterprises are too much, but on the other hand, if I concentrated on one I’d still be over-tired some days.” He stopped. And scratched his head.

“What I’m really concerned about is the huge winter mortality rate that we are now experiencing. I thought for a long time that chemicals in the atmosphere were the prime cause for a weakened North American bee population resulting in close to fifty percent winter loss here in Ontario. Well, we’ve had all kinds of chemicals in our soils and plants for a long time and somehow bees survived. For sure, I believe beekeepers must build up their hive populations before winter sets in and leave them with more than enough honey to feed on throughout the winter.”

Mr. Van Blyderveen emigrated from Holland in 1961 when he was seven years young. The family settled on a farm close to Burgessville. From his father he learned beekeeping and also apple growing. After leaving school at fifteen he learned about the growing of cucumbers and pickle production. Before he was thirty he was manager of a cucumber grading station which soon experienced hard times and before long he was back to beekeeping. Full time.

He is active in two beekeeping associations. He is a member of the Middlesex-Oxford-Elgin Beekeeping Association which is centered in London Ontario as well as the Haldimand-Norfolk Association which is located in Simcoe Ontario. Also, he is a member of Tourism Oxford of Oxford County where he is active in promoting foods grown and processed within that County.

(Tom O’Brien is a retired Science Teacher living in Ingersoll Ontario where he keeps a few bee hives on a neighbouring farm. Writing apiculture news articles is his consuming passion. He tried using a “Long Langstroth” arrangement for his bees and experienced limited success, and is now converting back to benchmark Langstroth measurements. He is not a carpenter but his pieces of wood stay stuck!

Tom O’Brien -

Oxford Honey & Supplies 519-550-1096

 American Bee Journal      November 2011Les Eccles, new leader of OBA Technology Transfer Program                       Tom O'Brien,

After a long day inspecting hives owned by the Ontario Beekeepers Association in Guelph Ontario, Les Eccles, the new leader of that group’s Technology Transfer Program, travelled to London where he addressed  members of the Middlesex, Elgin, and Oxford Beekeepers Association at their monthly meeting on April 28, 2011. What he had to say no doubt attracted the overflowing crowd which included a young boy not more than ten years as well as new women members in their early twenties and thirties.

According to the TTP website, Les Eccles started his agricultural career on a dairy and beef operation, managing a 125 head dairy and beef herd, which included crop management, nutrition, and  genetics. His educational background includes both a Diploma in Agriculture and a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture, both from the University of Guelph. He developed his interest in beekeeping and research at the Research Centre with Paul Kelly and Professor Ernesto Guzman.

He recently returned to Ontario after spending two years in Mexico where he worked with beekeepers and endeavoured to transfer beekeeping technology to the field personnel. He also helped to make sure honey exports to foreign markets met proper standards.

He spent most of his time in Estrada de Mexico and Tlaxcala  where he helped beekeepers solve problems which is now his occupation in Ontario. The  Technology Transfer Program telephones of the OBA never seems to stop ringing some days and they are ready to help anyone. In 2010 program members worked on hives in New York State where they investigated Small Hive Beetles. 
In his speech to the audience he outlined many of the problems that face Mexican beekeepers. Such as the overwhelming number of hives with Africanized Bees and their swarming tendencies when faced with minor changes in their environment. With concern in his voice he mentioned the wild changes in climate between two abutting sections of Mexico making it imperative to feed sugar syrup in large quantities.

Soon after arriving in Mexico he discovered the low level of confidence in some Mexican beekeepers and their employees. Their acceptance of new methods in some cases was dismally low while at the same time they were still using methods of Varroa control that had already been proved worthless. The importing of foreign Queens was made a nightmare by government regulations.

People who wished to study beekeeping had to attend classes in Mexico City where they soon found other interests and did not return to the bee yards owned by anxious employers. The honey season could have long weeks of rain, early and late cold snaps, and overwhelming numbers of grasshoppers that quickly reduced flowering plants to dried hay.

Wild temperature differences are seen over short distances.

The government of Mexico is very intent on building up the export of honey. It is investing much money in new technology. However some of their purchases proved disastrous and one wonders if enough inspections were carried out before delivery.. A large stainless steel silo was full of mixed honey and destined for an influential European buyer who wanted a blended mixture. Suddenly the honey crystallized and the heating elements failed to work. Government officials soon developed a program to build honey processing and packing equipment if for no other reason than to have spare parts available.

He was surrounded by many after he finished his presentation. Like a real professional which he is, he answered all inquiries taking time to understand their concerns. Some were anxious about when the Technology Transfer Program would visit their neighbourhood. (“We will go when and where we are invited,” he answered.”)

After Les helped load the van for the trip back to Guelph he was cornered by this interviewer and with fatigue written deeply in his face he answered questions with enthusiasm.
“What challenges are facing beekeepers in the near future?”

Without hesitation he replied, “Viruses. Beekeepers today must make themselves aware of viral enemies that are more than ready to invade their bee populations which include Acute Israeli Virus, Acute Bee Paralysis Virus (ABPV) or (APV), and Twisted Wing Virus. All of these, and more, have a tendency to follow Varroa Mites which weaken the natural defences of bees and send them to an early grave.”

“Will the technology Transfer Program work on problems in different areas of Ontario in which they have not visited before,” was the next inquiry.

His reply was swift. “We will work on specific problems wherever we are invited.”
“Do you see a specific cause for Colony Collapse Disorder.”

His answer was startling to say the least. “We here in Ontario do not have CCD.” He paused, then added, “We have a high over-winter mortality due to high Varroa and Virus infestations still under study.”

“Are you studying any new remedies or combinations of existing medications to combat those causes?”

“Thymovar,” he said with emphasis, “We are presently working on Thymovar and Formic Acid treatments and we are in close contact with the Ontario Queen Breeders Association to improve Queen genetics.”

He stopped and chose his words carefully using some that were in his speech given earlier. “Lets face it,” he said looking directly into the eyes of his questioner, “Varroa mites will be with us and bees for a long time. Beekeepers must build strong bee populations which can withstand many parasitic problems that would otherwise kill off weak hives.”

“Does the winter over-kill problem need a massive study involving many scientists and technicians in order to rebuild the honey industry?”

“The public is very much aware of the enormous importance of pollinating bees in the food chain and governments are responding with more money that is used to bolster the present resources. The Government of Ontario has given us more money recently allowing us to improve our services.”

(Tom O’Brien is a retired Science Teacher living in Ingersoll Ontario where he keeps a few bee hives on a neighbouring farm. Writing apiculture news articles is his consuming passion. He tried using a “Long Langstroth” arrangement for his bees and experienced limited success, and is now converting back to benchmark Langstroth measurements. He is not a carpenter but his pieces of wood stay stuck!)

Technology Transfer Program
519 836-3609

 American Bee Journal      October 2011

New Bee Disease Research Laboratory Opens in Montreal © Tom O’Brien

Before this interviewer had a chance to ask a question after the initial meeting and handshake, Dr. Ann-Michele Francoeur, PhD, Microbiologist and President of Honey Bee Research Inc. (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), staked her claim to the discussion that followed. "I am happy to help all beekeepers, whether they are big city urban beekeepers with just one balcony hive or those living beyond the suburbs with thousands of hives."

We talked about the looming threat of CCD, honey bee extinction and its potential impact on the world’s food supply. She was asked, "How can research scientists around the world best help beekeepers?"
Dr. Ann-Michelle Francoeur, PhD Microbiology, smiles after seeing some revealing results in her microscope in the laboratory of her recently opened venture, Honey Bee Research Inc in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.That is an every day camera that recorded the observation.

Her eyes lit up with the opportunity to reply. "I am a scientist and my first job is to help make the world a better place. Fortunately, the new generation of beekeepers are keen to collaborate on our university-industry research projects that are focused on developing new methods for beekeeping. These include the introduction of Quality Control Microbiology Testing (QCMT) for common bee infectious disease agents, using traditional methods (plating on agar plates for Paenibacillus larvae, spore counting using a microscope for P. larvae and the Nosemas (apis and ceranea), and visual inspection with mite icing sugar rolls for the mites, V. destructor).

What can be QC tested by beekeepers Dr. Ann was asked?

"Everything can be QCM tested, such as the bee brood (larvae, pupae), adult bees), as well as pollen, propolis, wax, hive debris on the bottom board, and honey, and we teach beekeepers to do this themselves. QCMT can be confirmed by the more sensitive and specific new Molecular Diagnostic Testing (MDT) methods that we do in our lab, which is based on the detection of the molecules of life (called "nucleic acids"), which are either DNA for most of the common pathogens, or RNA for the bee viruses."

With the help of local university professors and Novatek International (a Montreal information technology company), her company is developing automated hive scanning software for early disease detection and innovative methods for getting rid of mites and sterilizing hive "woodenware" and beekeeping equipment.

Dr. Ann, as she is known by many, was asked to explain Molecular Diagnostic testing (MDT). "MDT is state-of-the-art testing based on extracting the DNA of the pathogenic microorganism being tested and is very specific (based on specific DNA sequences of the organism) and very sensitive. This method is used in research labs and also in forensic medicine to do DNA fingerprinting based on finding DNA from even 1 cell of a criminal or in anthropology, or using the DNA of one cell from a mummy or a mammoth, etc.

The interview was interrupted by a shopping trip to a building supply depot where it became evident that Dr. Ann is investing much of her own money into the new venture.

After lunch in a west Montreal Greek Restaurant the interviewer said, "You only mention parasitic organisms being responsible for colony kill and you have not included chemical agents such as the effects of the nicotinoid pesticides playing havoc with bee kill."

Dr. Ann replied, "Nicotinoids may affect bee behaviour, their nervous systems, and their bee GPS systems that help them navigate back home. However, at the same time, scientific evidence suggests that low levels of many different pesticides may be poisoning bees and also they may have poorer nutrition due to habitat destruction and widespread monoculture farming." Later, she added that pesticides and poor nutrition may act additively or hand in hand with the many infectious diseases spread by mites and cross-contamination from transporting bees to new areas for pollination. All these factors, she added, affect the bee immune system and bee gene expression in ways that are not understand and that need more study.

Dr. Ann, as she is known by her students, swabs a plate of Agar with a solution of honey sample before determining specific problems that might be residing in the hive from which the honey was taken.

Dr. Francoeur examines two samples of honey that were delivered to Honey Bee Research Inc. from a bee yard owner in Vermont who wished to discover the severity of Varroa in her hives.   Pictures Tom O'Brien

Dr. Ann was asked what she and her new company can do for beekeepers.

"The best thing that we can do for beekeepers is to work closely with them and listen to their needs. The beekeepers that I have worked with in Quebec this past year are very innovative and are ready to try anything that is cost effective and that will help save their bees. For example, one beekeeper worked with us last summer to set up a microbiology field lab in his farm house basement. We trained a university microbiology graduate to work in that small lab, and taught her how to test for American Foul Brood (P. larvae) by taking samples of young larvae and honey and streaking them onto blood agar plates, and also how to test for Nosemosis (N. apis and N. ceranea) by spore-counting using a microscope, similar to what is done in government testing labs. These techniques are very simple (Microbiology 101) and quite effective, and we can confirm the results of these tests by doing molecular diagnostic testing for the DNA of these infectious agents in our lab. This approach, together with better insulation and closer monitoring of their bee hives over the winter, gave excellent results and the Quebec beekeeper had only 8% hive losses this winter compared to the 25%-90% reported losses by other Canadian beekeepers."

Dr. Ann said that the laboratory and field work is done under her supervision by Biology and Microbiology students from Concordia and McGill Universities, and future work will include engineering students from Université de Montréal who will work on a novel system to get rid of mites. "As well," she added, "we have a wonderful first year Environmental Science student from McGill who is working as our research secretary/technician this summer."

She spoke highly of the support that she has received to date. "The beekeepers, although very busy and stressed out due to high colony losses, have welcomed us to their bee yards with all of our sampling gear and student researchers. The local universities and several scientific supply companies, notably Fisher Scientific, Becton Dickinson (they make the brood sampling swabs), and Oxoid (they make the microbiology agar plates) have been great and have actively supported our research efforts to help the beekeepers, by donating used or new lab equipment, and also microbiology research supplies at cost. Our dream is to have a fully equipped mobile molecular microbiology and honey analysis field lab so that we can help a larger number of beekeepers at their location."

A private individual provided funds to help pay the salaries of the three university students who are working with Dr. Ann this summer. Her plan is to do fundraising this winter in order to hire six summer students next year. "Bee research offers a wonderful opportunity for students to learn biology, microbiology, molecular biology and field work," she said. A list of her research collaborators can be found on her company website: All donations are gratefully accepted and managed by her non-profit organization, Honey Bee Disease Research Foundation, and much is used to help beekeepers setup field labs so that they can benefit through technology transfer from Dr. Ann’s laboratory.

Dr. Ann teaches urban beekeeping courses and speaks highly of the McGill University Student Apiculture Association ( which welcomes all individuals interested in becoming members. As such they learn beekeeping through participation in ongoing activities.

She also is positive about the film, Vanishing of the Bees, which was directed by George Langworthy and Maryam Henein of Montreal. Dr Francoeur has been assisted by the Quebec Provincial Apiarist, Claude Boucher, DVM, in regards urban beekeeping and the Quebec organic beekeeper Alain Picard who organizes Montreal "beekeeping events" which introduce the local population to beekeeping. Dr Ann would not let the interview end with out paying heed to one of that Provinces leading beekeepers. "Nicolas Tremblay," she said with a touch of awe in her voice, "pioneered the use of the mite screen bottom board that is used on hives internationally to reduce mite infections."

As the interview ended and while a messenger delivered some honey samples to be tested, she said, "In research, everyone can have good ideas and contribute significantly to the team effort, no matter what their profession or educational background. The trick is to try multiple approaches, to be very persistent and determined and not to give up until the problem is solved."

(Tom O’Brien is a retired Science Teacher living in Ingersoll Ontario where he keeps a few bee hives on a neighbouring farm. Writing apiculture news articles is his consuming passion. He tried using a "Long Langstroth" arrangement for his bees and experienced limited success, and is now converting back to benchmark Langstroth measurements. He is not a carpenter but his pieces of wood stay stuck!

Novatek International,
Honey Bee Research Inc.
Honey Bee Disease Research Foundation. (website being setup)

American Bee Journal       May 2011       McRory and Spring Build Up ©      Tom O’Brien

Members of the Middlesex, Oxford, and Elgin Beekeepers Association leaned forward and increased their concentration after Doug McRory, the recently retired Ontario Provincial Apiarist, began his concluding remarks. The audience forgot about the ugly winter storm outside and a frigid wind blowing sleet against the windows. They had come to listen and learn from the MAN everyone calls DOUG who was hooked on beekeeping back in his teens after his brother suffered a broken arm. (Mr. McRory quickly mastered those two colonies and extracted one-hundred-and-eighty-four lbs. of honey from each.) Most already knew that Doug McRory was appointed the Manitoba Provincial Apiarist in 1967 BEFORE he graduated from the Ontario Agricultural College, now known as the University of Guelph. His primary undergraduate subjects were Apiculture and Entomology. (Sometimes he describes himself as a college trained beekeeper followed by another word with one more syllable than bugologist.)

“I was appointed Ontario Provincial Apiarist on January 1 1985 and retired in March 2009 and in early 2010 I bought ten single brood chamber beehives. By the end of September I increased them to seventy-six,” is what he said that shall remain etched in the minds of his listeners that stormy night in London Ontario. After he finished his speech an eager crowd surrounded him who were eager to learn his crafts.

Doug McRory

During an interview the next morning in his Guelph home with Norma, his wife of 43years, he spoke with a soft and firm delivery with all words easily understood. As the get-together progressed it became obvious that listeners, whether opposite him in his living room or sitting in a college lecture hall, soon realize he knows what he’s talking about and all desire to profit from his messages.

“I know you wish to ask about Spring Build Up but before you can increase your hives you must have a good source of queens,” he said making sure that it is his story and not someone else’s without his imprint. “A beekeeper must either raise good queens and/or queen cells or purchase them from a reputable breeder. One must remember that queen breeding is somewhat a crap shoot with each queen you raise. The queen’s eggs are individually fertilized (as she lays them) with the sperm from up to twenty different drones. Thus there are as many sub-families of bees in a colony as there were drones that mated with the queen on her mating flights.” He paused to make sure the scribbler had copied all his thoughts. He added, “The good queen breeder will select larva to raise into queens from only the best of hives and hopefully the virgin queens will mate with drones from selected superior hives in a drone flooded area controlled by the breeder.”

Doug says, "Before you can increase your hives, you must have a source of good queens." (Photo by Tech-Transfer Program, OBA)

“Now, last year I increased my hives using many of the same methods I used when operating forty-two-hundred hives in Benito Manitoba from 1971 to 1984.” A slow smile appeared on his face while adding, “You see, from ’67-’71, I was the Manitoba Provincial Apiarist and built up 250 colonies - I was really a beekeeper at heart!”

“So last year I set up ten nucleus boxes beside my ten double deep hives and in early May. I took four frames from each: one of brood, one of honey and pollen, another drawn comb, and the fourth was just foundation and in each nuc, I inserted a queen cell purchased from Alison Van Alten, the former Bee Girl in the Technology Transfer Team which is operated by the Ontario Beekeepers Association.” He stopped and waited for a question from his visitor. Without any, he continued.

“I then purchased forty three frames of brood for twenty-five dollars each from the very reputable beekeeper Henry Kornelsen here in Harriston, Ontario and set them up in single frame nucs for a total of sixty-three hives.” Again he paused. “Then I harvested twenty frames of brood from the first ten hives and put them up in single-frame hives.”

“That makes for eighty-three hives,” said the interviewer.

Mr. McRory appeared pleased and leaned forward in his chair seeing that he was about to reveal a significant issue. “You are right. I do not believe in putting bees into winter that do not have a high probability of survival. I doubled up any with queen problems or if they were weak. Now please understand, that was early June of 2010 and I also had to prevent swarming as much as possible.” He remained silent for a good ten seconds and then added. “From those eighty-three hives I initiated the process of adding and subtracting frames of brood so that by the end of the summer I had twenty double brood hives and fifty-six single brood hives that I over wintered indoors”

After quiet reflection the interviewer asked, “Did those first year hives produce any honey.”

“Yes, four-hundred-and-eighty-five lbs were extracted from the original ten colonies,” he answered before adding, “In beekeeping, you are either in the honey business or the bee production business. One must decide early in the year which route to follow. With thirty percent average die off per year a beekeeper must increase hive numbers each summer so that he or she is in business the following year. That thirty percent figure has been with us over the last four years and much of the cause is related to the use of chemicals to combat infestations of Varroa mites. The mites have become resistant to the easy strip formulations that beekeepers have been repeatedly using. Formic Acid, though effective, requires more thinking to hit the proper windows of opportunity to control the mites. Oxalic Acid cannot be used when brood is present but it is an excellent clean up insurance policy just as the bees are packed away. It would be nice to be able to treat for the Mites in the summer in order to give more time to get to the main fall treatment. It will be great if the new Nod “Mite-Away Quick Strips” can be applied in the summer as advertised.”

He paused and asked the interviewer if he wanted lunch. The reply was a simple yes but Mr. McRory was not finished.

“One of the best means for controlling mites is with Integrated Pest Management (IPM) using a break in the brood cycle. The beekeeper uses a queen cell in new splits instead of a mated queen. You add a queen cell to a nucleus with at least one frame of brood (more frames if you can spare them). The time for the virgin to get mated interrupts the mite reproduction process. This process offsets the mite reproduction so that you do not have to treat these new splits until later in September.”

After answering a phone call, he continued, “By treating young and older hives during the summer with Formic Acid pads you have a good chance of having large populations to begin the winter with a high proportion of forager bees that were born in the last week of August and the first three weeks of September.”

He stopped and looked at his watch. “Come on, let’s go for lunch,” he half snapped with mock anger. He enjoys talking about bees … so that others learn … said the interviewer to himself.

“Just one more question please … What do you do in the spring after the temperature is close to 55F (12C)?

He looked as if that was the only question he dearly wished to answer. “If I am going to stimulate my bees early, I start about the middle of March and feed sugar syrup and put on at least two pollen paddies. I keep putting on pollen until the bees quit using it. I only do this if I plan to make up early nucs in May. If you do stimulate the bees early and leave them alone without taking out brood they will no doubt swarm by the end of May and you will be worse off than leaving them on their own.”

He got up from his chair and put on his winter coat. The interviewer did the same and later in the restaurant he continued. “Normally I start checking the bees the last week of March. I remove the winter wrap (mine are individual sleeves from Ben Hogan at Bath Ontario), I check for feed by hefting the hive and add feed made from two to one sugar syrup if needed. (He never uses one to one syrup because “it ferments.”) I treat with Oxytetraclycine and then I re-wrap the colony until mid April. “I split the double hives to check how strong they are in the bottom box and add syrup where needed. Dead outs are closed up so no bees can rob them.”

While waiting for fresh coffee he concluded, “On the second check in April, I clean off the bottom boards, scrape all of the frames clean of wax and propolis, and treat bees with Oxytetraclycine for European and American Foulbrood. I give one more treatment of Oxytetraclycine before the end of April. I build up weak colonies with frames of brood from the strong. At the end of April I make new nucs from strong hives.”

Tech Transfer Team
(519) 836-3609

Tom O'Brien
 American Bee Journal        January 2011

Beekeeper Extraordinaire: Jim Coneybeare © Tom O’Brien

Come in, and please don’t mind the “bee house” cluttered floor,” said Jim Coneybeare while uncapping the last of his 2010 honey. He then added, “Please remember, my bees are my first and only concern.”

                           Coneybeare Honey is located in Fergus Ontario with 700 hives in 21 locations throughout Western Ontario. The crop for the present year is estimated at forty tons which is sold mostly to bakeries, health food stores, and soap or food manufacturers. All of his stainless steel equipment and procedures were recently inspected by a Rabbi and Coneybeare Honey is now Kosher.


Jim and Tracy have three children, Amber 18, Amanda 14, and Elijah 9. They operate 700 bee hives in 21 Western Ontario yards and harvested 40 tons of honey in 2010.

The slender and well tanned beekeeper of forty-eight years glided easily through mountains of boxes in the “bee house” which was once a one room school. He talked quickly with his wife Tracy who was filling jars and “bears” for a Health Food store, before showing the “home” bee yard to his visitor. He is a third generation beekeeper having inherited his father’s hives in 1996. He has been a full time beekeeper since 1998. His father learned from his maternal grandfather. Jim and Tracy have been married sixteen years and have three children, Amber 18, Amanda 14 and Elijah 9.

Mr. Coneybeare gently peeled hive tops and inner covers from many of his hives. Each contained a boiling over population. “To me, bees are constantly changing. I think always of better ways to help them and I’m always ready to change for the sake of the bees.” He appeared excited and eager while inspecting his many miniature nuc hives. In each he identified a healthy queen. He was asked how much honey a first year hive might produce. Without thinking he replied, “Well some have given me up to one-hundred-and-fifty lbs.”
                   His excitement grew as he demonstrated how to apply a black winter “overcoat” which was manufactured in a nearby factory. “These are built to release water vapour and maintain hive heat in cold winter winds. I firmly believe they help relieve winter stresses and save hives from winter-kill.”
                     He drove the visitor to a nearby coffee shop and appeared eager to tell his story.
                    After tasting the coffee and nodding approval towards the waiter he was asked, “What changes have you initiated in your bee yard over the last number of years?”
                    Without hesitating he replied, “In 1998 I had double deep hives and thought there had to be a better way, so in 2000 I changed over to a one-and-a-half brood nest layout meaning a deep nine and five-eighths inch super with a medium size six-and-five-eighths on top. They were lighter to lift for pollination and the bees would hopefully put a bit more honey up in the supers.” He paused while thinking of what to add. “Swarming and Varroa mite control were still a concern with this brood chamber layout although it was reasonably successful in my yards.”
                       He continued, “This past year, 2010, I have 100 single medium brood nest hives out of a total of 700.” After thinking more he added, “I’m converting to a single deep brood nest arrangement because, for me at least, it is easier to control mites and swarming. The shallower 6 5/8” brood chambers will become single brood chamber hives as well. They winter well and it is easier to control varroa in a single brood chamber. In the spring when it is time to super, a double brood chamber hive may tend to swarm easier if it fills the upper brood chamber with honey. The upper brood chamber becomes a honey wall or barrier and the bees don’t like to push past it into the supers.” He added later that many bees will migrate upwards more quickly from single brood chambers and with the 6 5/8” they push into the super almost immediately. He hastened to add, “When honey is pulled in the fall though, a beekeeper has to have feed because singles can starve in days with no honey flow.”
                        Regarding his wintering procedures, Mr. Coneybeare described his very simple plan. "My single hive body supers, which are either 9 5/8 inches deep or 6 5/8 inches, are equipped with deep rim inner covers and hold either a layer of shavings or a ¾ inch sheet of high density Styrofoam. Often the inner cover will have an opening to provide a top entrance for the bees if snow "piles" up. I place a paper sugar sack or some newspaper on the insulating material to absorb any condensation. I place a reducer on the front entrance to prevent rodents from taking up residence in the hive. He waived at a friend who had just entered the coffee shop and then added, "We then wrap the hive with a black corrugated plastic "overcoat."
                            In order to prevent winter starvation he aims to have a minimum of 50 lbs of honey and/or feed (sugar syrup)in each hive during late autumn. Jim feels hives will fill their feed stores better by barrel feeding than hive top feeding if fed in Sept. His hives experience a foot or two of snow from January to March in most winters and daily average temperature for January is 18F (-7.4C).
                            In silence, the visitor wrote more notes and then said, “You and Diane Krout, who is Secretary of the Wellington County Beekeepers Association, have developed a black corrugated winter wrap for bee hives with all of the profits given to the Tech Transfer Team of the Ontario Beekeepers Association.” In haste he replied while not waiting for a question. “Mrs. Krout and I have done just that and many of our friends in many beekeeper associations in Ontario have made the winter wrap project an overwhelming success.” He paused while excitement grew in his eyes. “The Tech Transfer Team, sometimes called “The Bee Girls,” is a great source of information for beekeepers not only in Ontario but elsewhere as well. They answer all kinds of questions to help beekeepers improve their operations and they put on seminars about beekeeping in Ontario, Quebec, and in New York State.”
                     Signalling for more coffee, he looked at the visitor who was about to ask another question. “You don’t have to ask THAT QUESTION,” he said with a mock sneer before adding, “the winter wrap operation. which is run by the Wellington County Beekeepers Association, has transferred $11,000 to the OBA Tech Transfer Team, and by the way, the Bee Girls are now fully liberated … they added two lads last Spring who are not just water-boys!”
                       “What did you learn being President of the Wellington County Beekeepers Association over the last two years?” His eyes narrowed before he spoke. “I became more of a people-person. I learned to listen first to what others were saying before speaking. Before that I was a task oriented gung ho type always ready to impress others with my plans and solutions to their problems.” He chose his words carefully before adding, “One of my main goals was to help others gain more knowledge in getting their bees to survive our sometimes harsh winters.”
                        He was asked about major problems that face beekeepers today. He showed a blunt side to his normally quiet and reserved personality. “Canadian honey packers are not using as much questionable off shore honey as they once did,” he said while one finger drummed the table. “I believe the packers are concerned about legal issues that they could be liable for should their mixtures contain cancer causing impurities.”
                         Bee health was another area that piqued his interests. “Too many beekeepers,” he said with emphasis, “are losing too many hives over the winter and they must learn that a healthy population of bees in the autumn of each year is the first step to staying in business.” He added that his winter losses during the winter of 2007 and 2008 totalled twenty-one percent. Previous to and since then his losses are often a miserly five or six percent in some years and he credits his careful IPM (Implemented Pest Management). Mr. Coneybeare uses Formic and Oxalic acids for controlling Varroa mites which have had a crippling effect on bee hive populations all over North America. If Mite levels climb too high, harder chemicals may be used in controlling varroa. “In my mind it’s about the bees and not having them overwhelmed with “blood sucking” parasites. A honey bee with a Varroa is similar to a human having a parasite the size of a house cat.”
                        In the past he has thought about producing queens for Ontario Beekeepers and was asked about 2011 availability. “Right now I’m producing enough queens for my own operation and should that be successful then I’ll make some available. They will be hybrid Ontario Queens from my own yards and not a pure strain,” he said, and then added, “Hopefully those Queens will produce honey and hold their own with Varroa.”
                        As we drove away from the coffee shop, he snapped his fingers. “Oh, by the way, I forgot to tell you regarding problems facing beekeepers today. They must learn to network amongst honey buyers and not just sit back and grab sales by undercutting other beekeepers.” He stopped and chose his words carefully before he continued. “The buyer will soon forget the supplier who undercuts others. The same buyers remember the purchasers “who stay in touch!” He told how he and Tracy are in the process of developing an internet site which “will inform ALL of our many contacts about our product and will always be up to date with new and interesting news about our operation.”
                             Before the visitor started his car for the trip home, he removed a package from the dashboard and opened it. Inside was a stainless steel covered coffee mug with heavy black handle. In classic gold coloured lettering there is a simple message, CONEYBEARE HONEY.

(Tom O’Brien is a retired Science Teacher living with his wife Kathryn in Norwich Ontario where he keeps a few bee hives on a neighbouring farm. Writing apiculture news articles is his consuming passion. He tried using a “Long Langstroth” arrangement for his bees and experienced limited success, and is now converting back to benchmark Langstroth measurements. He is not a carpenter but his pieces of wood stay stuck!)

Wellington County Beekeepers Association
Jim Coneybeare
Tom O’Brien
Ontario Beekeepers Association Tech Transfer Team
Ontario Beekeepers Association

May 2010 Canadian Bee Research Tom O’Brien

The busy Dr. Ernesto Guzman, DVM, UNAM (Mexico), MSc, PhD, California (Davis) was found by the visitor in his tidy office at the University of Guelph, Guelph, Ontario, Canada. Dr. Guzman had just completed a lecture to over one hundred and fifty students of Introductory Beekeeping. His easy to understand sentences and mellow voice makes him an interviewers delight.

“Apiculture is popular with students in various streams and disciplines at the Guelph University,” he said with assuring eyes. The listener relaxed as he spoke in deliberate and confident tones. Dr. Guzman continued, “Some have relatives who keep bees and find the subject interesting, if not fascinating … the University of Guelph is unique in having all these many full time students studying Apiculture.”

He has worked at several institutions including Purdue University. He studied for and received an MSc and PhD from the University of California (Davis) after graduating from UNAM Mexico with a DVM degree. His many Apiculture research projects have been funded by numerous agencies in Canada, Mexico, and the United States and along the way has received several honors and awards. He is presently researching honeybee breeding, genetics and behavior, and honeybee pathology at the University of Guelph.

Asked about artificial insemination in bees, Dr. Guzman said, “AI is not popular with beekeepers because it is very difficult to accomplish and frozen sperm is not available. The queen bee will run out of viable sperm sooner than naturally mated queens using the AI techniques.” He added, “Suzanne Cobey of the U of California, (Davis), is one of the best in the business as she was the developer of the New World Carniolan Bee using the AI process.”

At the moment he is engaged in an organic treatment of Varroa mites. “It is a two pronged study using organic compounds in a biocontrol method.”

More than twenty compounds were tested. Thymol was selected for further study to discover its toxicity to mites and whether it is harmless to bees. Thymol in dust form was mixed with confectionary sugar and placed above the brood chambers. Ninety-five percent of all Varroa mites were killed and the numbers of bees were not significantly reduced. Such was studied at U of Guelph in 2007, 2008, and 2009 as well as Alberta in 2009.
He leaned forward with a small ripple of enthusiasm in his voice. “I feel very excited,” he said, “and at the same time very cautious … because it is being proven that organic compounds are varying in efficacy from season to season, bee yard to bee yard and year to year… much depends on climate, colony strength, method of application, and strain of bees.”

After catching his breath, he added, “We need to repeat the work for at least another year to feel confident that the results are continuous over time and that we can recommend Thymol formulations that we are developing.”

He was asked if there was anything new about Nosema research that may have piqued his interest. Without hesitation, he answered. “We are developing new lab techniques to identify and quantify Nosema infections caused by Nosema apis and Nosema ceranae … these two are fungi that reproduce in the mid guts of bees, thrive, and thereby shorten the life span of bees making them unproductive.”

After the visitor replaced a worn out pen, he continued, “It is very difficult to identify the exact species of N apis from N ceranae under a microscope in a laboratory … each fungus spore needs a specific remedy … we must learn more about N ceranae … much is already known about N apis.” Dr. Guzman said that Fumagalline works well against N apis but more research is needed to find out if it successful in the fight against N ceranae.

As for the present Nosema study, he said, “We are studying the hygienic behavior of bees, especially the mode of inheritance of hygienic behavior … and we found that this behavior is mainly expressed through maternal inheritance … queens raised from a hygienic colony would produce hygienic workers that are more hygienic relative to those in other colonies.”

Dr Guzman produced an article published November 4, 2009 in the Journal of Heredity from which the following is taken:
Maternal Effects on the Hygienic Behavior of Russian X Ontario Hybrid Honeybees.

Only a few studies have been conducted on the genetic basis of hygienic behavior of honeybees and it is well known that such behavior is influenced by the genes carried by the bees. It was established previously that resistance to American Foulbrood was and is due to a bees genetics.

With that in mind, Dr. Ernesto Guzman and Peter Unger researched Hygienic Behavior in Russian and Ontario bees with subsequent hybrids. They used the laboratories and hives at the University of Guelph, Guelph Ontario.

Strains and hybrids of Russian and Ontario honeybees were evaluated for hygienic behavior at both colony and individual levels. It is a well known fact that Russian honeybees are a very hygienic race of bees that score exceptionally high on the ability to detect and remove diseased larvae from brood chambers.

The objectives of the exercise were to determine the phenotypic and genotypic variability and to study the inheritance of this behavior.

At the colony level, Russian bees uncapped and removed significantly more freeze killed diseased brood than Ontario bees. (Such is not surprising as breeders of Russian bees have often observed this same phenomena.) The next step for Dr. Guzman and his colleague Peter Unger, was to study the hygienic effect in the reciprocal crosses involving selected Russian queens that scored highest and the Ontario queens that were lowest. Bees from the hybrid colonies as well as those from the parentals were tagged and introduced into observation hives, where hygienic behavior was directly observed on a piece of frozen brood comb.

Russian and hybrid bees of Russian mother had the highest percentages of workers uncapping cells and removing diseased brood. At the same time it was observed that Ontario bees and their daughters had the lowest scores. Amongst the four hybrids, those with Russian blood had high scores while once again those with Ontario blood had the lowest.

The results demonstrate that hygienic behavior is a trait passed on to worker bees mainly from the maternal parent.
**Three Methods of Application … Thymol and Oxalic Acid … Varroa destructor … Northern Climate: Collaborators; Berna Emsen, Ataturk University, Turkey: Ernesto Guzman, and Paul G. Kelly of the University of Guelph, Canada. **from an article in American Bee Journal, (Apicultural Research section in that journal.)

The use of hard chemicals for the control of Varroa destructor have been used successfully. However, there has been a steep cost. They leave residues in the honey and wax which many believe have lead to worse results. Some believe that the residues have left the bees with a depleted ability to defend themselves against other ills (an immune deficiency). There is also a strong possibility that the residues have a harmful effect on those that eat the honey from those hives so treated.

Dr. Guzman and Paul Kelly from Guelph University and Berna Emsen, of Ataturk University in Turkey researched the use of Thymol and Oxalic Acid, alone and in tandem, in the fight against Varroa. (Thymol may leave residues in honey but they are not considered harmful.)

Thymol and Oxalic Acid were each used alone, and together, and delivered to the hives in three different methods: 1) In dust mixed with confectionary sugar, 2) dissolved in sugar syrup and trickled into the hives, and 3) diluted in 96% ethanol and impregnated in vermiculate blocks. Treatments were applied between September 19 and October 13, 2005.

Simply stated, the results using the Thymol dust and Thymol vermiculite were superior to that of Oxalic Acid dust and Oxalic Acid vermiculite. The Thymol with Oxalic Acid in dust form scored well along with the same two in vermiculite.

From the Media Information Center it was learned the University of Guelph receives one-hundred-and-forty-two million dollars annually for all of its research projects. (The equivalent of U.S. $135,000,000.) The sources are various corporations and individuals, as well as Government Agencies such as The Canada Council, The Canada Foundation for Innovation, The Agricultural Adaptation Council, and The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council. The Ontario Beekeepers Association have helped fund Apiculture Research Projects.

The Alberta Beekeepers recently honored Dr. Medhat Nasr for his Apiculture Research achievements using Oxalic acid, Formic acid, and Thymol products as alternative treatments for Varroa mites.
Dr Nasr, who previously worked at the university of Guelph in Ontario, has worked hard to insure the sustainability of the Alberta Beekeeping Industry. Setbacks have not deterred him from gaining necessary funding for Apiculture projects and programs.
He has been Alberta Provincial Apiarist since 2002 and transformed the office from a regulatory agency into one that includes research and extension. He has long been a champion of making sure Alberta Beekeepers have access to effective miticides and has done extensive testing on Apivar and Checkmite in regards the efficacy of each under Alberta climatic conditions.

Dr. Nasr is well known for his educating and informing Alberta Beekeepers about different systems of beekeeping and management practices. His February Pest Management Workshops include prominent scientists. He produces an annual “Beeginners” Beekeeping course that concentrates on management techniques akin to Alberta conditions.

Dr. Nasr’s work has resulted in international acclaim. He has headed a research project with Alberta Food Safety Division that studied antibiotic residues in Alberta honey to make sure there is no misuse of treatments. It is believed that the resulting consumer confidence has lead to an increase of exported honey to the U.S., Japan, and European countries.

Dr. Nasr serves as a chair of the bee imports committee with the Canadian Association of Professional Apiculturists and is a liaison with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency. He serves as a member of the Honey Bee Health committee - Canadian Honey Council and as a director for Canada with Apiary Inspectors of
America, a regulatory and enforcement group in the U.S. He also works closely with other apiculture research institutes, commercial and hobby beekeepers in Canada and the U.S. The Alberta beekeeping industry is crucial to Alberta's $350 million
Canola and Forage industries. In addition, the direct farm cash receipts from Apiculture (honey, beeswax, pollen and pollination rental fees) are valued at about $50 million per year. Alberta keeps 250,000 bee colonies that account for 40 per cent of the nation's bee colonies.


The Canadian Bee Research Fund announces three projects funded for the current year.
2009 Dr. Steve Pernal, Adony Melathopoulos, Dr. Jeff Pettis, T. Thompson;
Integrated Management of Nosema & Detection of Antibiotic Residues $6,957
2009 Albert J. Robertson, John Gruszka, Tim Wendell, John Pederson; The
Saskatraz Project: Selection of Productive Honey Bee Genotypes with
Tolerance to Varroa and Tracheal Mites and Development of Molecular
Markers - $5,143
2009 Dr. Rob Currie; Cultural and chemical treatments to synergize honey
bee resistance mechanisms against the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor,
and the diseases it vectors- $6,000.
The following are some of the projects previously funded.
2008 Dr. Rob Currie, University of Manitoba, $3,000 "Cultural and chemical treatments to synergize honey bee resistance mechanisms against the parasitic mite, Varroa destructor, and the diseases it vectors."
2008 Dr. Steve Pernal, Agriculture Agri-Food Canada, $8,000 “Integrated Management of Nosema & Detection of Antibiotic Residues”
2008 Albert J Robertson, Saskatchewan Beekeepers Association, $3,000 “Mite Tolerance in Selected Honeybee Lines and Attempted Correlation of Tolerance or Sensitivity with DNA and Viral Markers associated with CCD"
2008 Dr. Leonard Foster, CHIBI, University British Columbia, $3,000
"Apis mellifera Proteomics of Innate Resistance (APIS)"
2008 Dr. Karen Burgher-MacLellan, AAFC Kentville, $3,000 “The use of real time PCR to identify the microsporidian Nosema spp. and other pathogens in honey bee Apis mellifera) colonies in Nova Scotia.”

February 2010 "Bee Girls of Ontario … aka … The Tech Transfer Team" Tom O’Brien

The Bee Girls of Ontario is the synonym of the Technology Transfer Team (TTT) that is operated by the Ontario Beekeepers Association.

Throughout beekeeping associations in the Province they are held in high esteem. As an example, early last Spring a newcomer to beekeeping pestered his Hive Inspector with all kinds of questions. The short tempered inspector had had enough and wheeled around and faced the rookie. “Look,” he said to the startled one, “just get in touch with the Bee Girls of the Tech Transfer Team and they will answer all your questions. OK?”

                                            Janet Tam, Melanie Kempers, and Alison Van Alten

The TTT, operating under the Technology Transfer Program, was established in the early 1990s and has the unconditional support of beekeepers throughout Ontario. Dr. Medhat Nasr was its earliest “big name” collaborator. He is renowned for his Apiculture research work while at the University of Guelph and continues researching now for the Government of Alberta. The program today operates under the watchful and encouraging presence of Dr. Ernesto Guzman-Novoa of U. Guelph.

Alison Van Alten, Technology Transfer Specialist who holds a Masters Degree in Biology (1996) from the nearby University of Guelph, is the Team Leader, was asked to describe the team’s work in her own words. “We are a unique hands-on team working for and with the Beekeepers of Ontario, Canada. We respond to current issues in the industry and we are contract employees of the Ontario Beekeepers Association.”

It is not uncommon for Ms Van Alten and her mates to answer questions (no charge) from beekeepers, via phone or email, from various parts of Canada and The United States. (A Trachael Mite Resistance study was performed last year in the bee yard of Mike Potozak which is south of Buffalo, New York.)

The Team maintains three yards of beehives near Guelph Ontario with a total of 80 hives. (Somehow Ms Van Alten finds the time to maintain 10 hives of her own and said, with tongue in cheek, “Yes, I too am a hobby beekeeper!”)

All three team members were asked what their greatest satisfaction had been so far while being a Bee Girl of Ontario. Without hesitation, M’s Van Alten replied, “Just seeing the satisfaction on the faces of so many beekeepers is a great thrill to all of us,” and as Janet Tam and Melanie Kempers nodded their approval, Ms Van Alten added, “We have a good working environment here and our team is very professional.”

The Bee Girls’ work falls under three principal categories.


The treatments involving chemical compounds for disease control are those that are approved by the Ontario Government.
The issue that is now currently under their intense study is, of course, the Varroa Mite. Said Ms Van Alten while taking a mid afternoon break, “We look at potential treatment options and always study for efficacy (how well a treatment works) along with the side effect(s) the treatment has on the bees. Also, we are quite concerned for the safety of the honey producer along with those who buy the product.”

The year 2006 marked the last time any of the team saw an infestation of Trachael Mites.

Their disease control recommendations are found at


Janet Tam is a Tech Transfer Technician and has devoted countless hours and weeks into improving the breeding stock of Ontario queens. Ms Tam has been a Team member since 1998 and related much of the following. Two-thousand-and-nine marked the eighteenth year that the Queen Breeding Program was helping breeders with their stock. The breeders, usually 12 or more per year with some from outside Ontario, choose the stock and team members analyse samples in the various breeder yards. The breeder always chooses the queen and drone lines. Samples are diagnosed for disease resistance as well as over wintering abilities, honey production, gentleness, and spring build-up. As a result of such tests, team members inform the breeders of any diseases that they perhaps discover in the samples. Most participants, who pay a total of two hundred dollars in participation fees, use the scoop method of capturing worker embryos for future queen development.


Melanie Kempers milked many cows on her family’s dairy farm before studying Biology at the University of Guelph. In 2006, Apiculture took hold of her and after a short apprenticeship Ms Kempers became a full time Bee Girl with the rank of Tech Transfer Technician.

“We Bee Girls travel to various points in Ontario where we produce Educational workshops involving Introductory Beekeeping or Integrated Pest Management or Introductory Queen Rearing. Such meetings usually involve Beekeeper Associations and there are more than twenty which are active in the Province,” she said while adding later that more than nine such workshops were given during nine weekends in May and June of 2009. There must be at least twenty “beekers” attending each to pay the expenses.
One of their spring time presentations occurred on Prince Edward Island. Beekeeper organizations in Western New York have shown some interest in hosting them. The cost is $110 for non members of the Ontario Beekeepers Association and each participant receives either an IPM or Queen Rearing manual.

A Mite Scouting Program was recently introduced whereby the beekeeper pays the Bee Girls to take samples of bees from various hives in order to test for various diseases including AFB, EFB, and Nosema. The individual hive costs are $2.00 forV Mites, $2.50 for Tr Mites, and $8.00 for Nosema.


Executive members of the Ontario Beekeepers Association were reluctant, for any number of their own reasons, to reveal the exact figure needed to run the Tech Transfer Team. Tim Greer, OBA President did admit that the team received $85,000 in 2009 from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food, and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). Mr Greer also said that the Agricultural Adaptation Council of the Ontario Government was and is a source of funds. The third source was a yearly donation of twenty to twenty-three thousand dollars from members of the Ontario Beekeepers Association. It was not made clear whether that money was “out of pocket” donations from individual members or from membership dues that range upwards from $85 per year for non-voting members. One might estimate that salary costs for the three full time team members must be somewhere close to one hundred and eighty thousand dollars each year. The team is head-quartered in Orchard Park on a six hundred acre estate owned by the Jesuit Fathers on the outskirts of Guelph Ontario.

Bee Girl calendars hang in the kitchens and offices of many Ontario beekeepers. The 2010 model, which is loaded with pictures and beekeeping information, may be ordered using

November 2009

"A Long Hive"
Tom O'Brien

A Season Review*
I have dropped this method of beekeeping as I found it unprofitable and is contrary to the science of heat ... heat rises to the top and it don't go sideways! A bee cluster needs sufficient heat to survive most winters. I am now a convert to conventional Langstroth measurements.

The idea of a long Langstroth on legs (LL, long lang) came as a result of studying Top Bar Hives (TBH). It came to me eventually that such hives are not really my idea of trying to make beekeeping pay for itself. (For a long time I have toyed with the idea of making our 100 acre farm a profit making enterprise. Go ahead, wish me luck!)

From studying TBHs I saw that hives on legs with plywood bottoms meant no mice and no skunks to bother the bees. I read too that TBHs allow for more space and very little swarming and queen-cell building. (Just the idea of NOT having to lift full and heavy supers appeals muchly to this out of shape retired Chemistry Teacher.) While inspecting hives, the “long lang” allows the beekeeper to stack frames and supers temporarily above the ground.

My “long langs” are forty-two inches long and “rabbeted.” The lumber is nine and five-eighths inches wide. Twenty-seven deep Dadant frames hang comfortably from one end to another when using self spacing frames. To me, that means the equivalent of three deep Langstroth supers that rest thirty-two inches from the ground and are easily inspected with the removal of the plywood roof. There is less disruption by only removing the long roof and not wrestling with supers loaded with brood and pollen and honey.

It took valuable time for me to “learn the bees” during May, June, and July. Too often I was timid and not thinking properly as evidenced the long time it took for me to add more deep frames with foundation when there was bearding around the front entrance. I tried using sugar water in a spray bottle in place of a smoker before I learned to use smoke properly. I also saw that the long sides had to be rabbeted in order to keep the bees inside the hive and working. Taking the hives apart for a day for the necessary wood work was a costly interruption. For a bee veil I used a seven dollar mosquito net with a four dollar wide brimmed straw hat. The veil and hat worked well until a cigarette singed it near my nose and mouth. One should use one type of smoke only when working with bees!

Too much space was allowed between the frames which allowed the bees to produce much brace comb. That was corrected late in the honey flow but the damage was done. The bees eventually filled all frames which again showed they will work laterally

The front entrance is a pair of drilled out side by side three-quarter inch holes four inches from the top. The plywood roof is slid back one and a half inches. This has provided the bees with plenty of space and air circulation.

The first frame is not next to the front end “plate” and that space is a vestibule that allows the bees to enter and leave as they wish. A landing board was attached to the front plate which helped the bees enter and leave the hive. Frame one is close to the entrance at the hive front and frame twenty-seven is at the rear. The rear end plate has one drilled three-quarter inch hole four inches below the top. During winter, the tar-papered roofs will cover all frames and the entrance-exit holes will be reduced to allow for air circulation and the removal of water vapour.

Eighteen frames of Italian bees, with queen, were installed on May 15 and came from a beekeeper-hive inspector two hours east. (There are no hives within fifty miles.) The bees took to their new long Langstroth hive without any problems except for the tell tale too little space problem and bearding which was rectified by filling the hive to maximum with deep Dadant frames loaded with foundation.

The queen laid eggs and the workers deposited pollen and honey up to and including frame twenty-one which means the bees moved laterally. Frames twenty-two to twenty-seven were full of honey by September one.

Honey production in July was hindered with too much rain and chilly days. However the red and white clover with some alfalfa and alsike was plentiful in the five acre goat pasture. Plenty of brood and larvae were seen in the three July inspections.

July nine was the day a slice of plywood was cut from the roof and a medium super was placed above frames one to ten which were loaded with brood.

We had at least twenty-five days of hot and sunny days beginning August one. Ten full medium frames of honey were harvested on August twenty-eight.

Absolutely no swarming and no queen cell production are the two primary observations. There was good queen and bee lateral movement observed. All twenty-seven frames were covered with bees on September one.

The building of long langs was not all that difficult for this non carpenter. The rabbets were cut out by a local cabinet maker. He made sure both long boards were the same length. Nine inch pieces of two inch strapping were nailed three quarters of an inch from the end of each twenty inch end board. Using the strapping as a guide, straight and square corners were achieved at all four corners. Twenty-eight inch legs were attached to the end boards at all four corners … which put the top bars of the Dadant frames about thirty inches above ground.

The roofs were moulded by temporarily attaching one by three inch strapping level with the tops of each long board. Three-eighths inch plywood was then attached to the strapping. The roofs fit well and none blew off.

Next years Long Langs will be five feet long as I believe putting more bees in the hives will result in more honey in the supers stacked above the brood on frames one to ten. A partition board will be used to compress the bees into a smaller space below the added supers. That idea is common in producing comb honey.