It must really be Spring time with the annual Michigan Beekeepers Conference here again. My friend Keith and I went on Saturday as usual. The keynote speaker was Gary Reuter from the University of Minnesota. He had two sessions and talked about what the general public think is wrong with bees (CCD) and what beekeepers think is wrong with bees (Varroa). The general theme I found throughout the conference was "test and know your mite levels" and "varroa are killing your bees".
Our first breakout session was on swarm traps done by Matt Tannana. He was a very good speaker and managed the class questions very well. He does Top Bar hives and his swarm traps were all Top Bar style. His information followed the book Honeybee Democracy by Tom Seeley and he referenced the book a few times. I've read it before and I highly recommend it.
Our last session was Pests and Pathogens by Dr. Megan Milbrath. This is the same person from the Northern Bee Network that I bought queens from this past summer. She is also a very good speaker, natural and funny. She tried to be upbeat about a subject that can really be a downer for sure! My biggest takeaway from her session was a new approach to Varroa control. I have always been against treating the bees with chemicals and instead using Integrated Pest Management tools and looking for a genetic solution to pest problems. Well, she opened my eyes to a bit more of a middle ground that seems acceptable. The approach: If a hive has out of control mite levels, treat and then re-queen. The benefit here is: the hive doesn't die, you cycle through genetic combinations quicker to find the ones that work and you aren't creating a "mite bomb" when your hive crashes. So the remaining question is, if I decide to treat a select hive, what do I use? I think one of the Organic Acids is probably the way to go. I need to do more research.
It seems like every year there is some new gadget that shows up for beekeeping. This year it was the package funnel. Basically a piece of corrugated plastic that folds out into a funnel of sorts and instead of roughly dumping a package of bees into a hive, you gently invert the open package on top of this funnel on the outside of the hive and the bees just move down into the hive on their own. I suppose that would work just fine but I guess I've never had an issue installing them with the shake method, so whatever floats your boat!
On another depressing note, since I became allergic to bee stings this past summer and recently had an issue/reaction to my allergy shot AND we may be moving in the near future, I will be getting rid of my bees this Spring. Originally I thought I'd just sell everything and quit but I think I may decide to just move the hives to some friend's houses that have bees and at least I could live vicariously through their beekeeping and see how they progress. Lots of changes coming up but I guess that is what happens in life!
As always, thanks for reading.