This is an article that I think I might have to struggle with. When I attend an EAS meeting, much of my time is devoted to teaching in the short course. Then I try to catch up on how all my friends are doing. The EAS meetings for me are as much a social event as one of learning. Did I learn things at EAS this last August? Yep, I believe I did.
I learned that the diseases and pests are still out there bothering those of us who are not medicating. American Foulbrood is becoming increasingly resistant to Terramycin, but Tylan is very effective especially if the AFB is detected early. I learned that the Nosema Cerana that had us all up-in-arms last year is not all it was cracked up to be, and that Fumagillan is doing a good job of controlling that. I learned that Small Hive Beetles are still plaguing the South but most likely will not be a Maine problem, though I am sure as we continue to get package bees out of the South, a few Small Hive Beetles will show up from time to time. I also learned that the cause of Colony Collapse Disorder is still in question and seems to be raising more questions than we can get answers for. At times I wish beekeeping was like the chemical industry in having unlimited resources for research. Oh! Yeah, I also learned that the new formic acid delivery system might be as far away as 18 months, so there might not be formic acid for mite treatments next fall. However, I believe that Api Guard and Api Life Var will still be available and will continue to do an excellent job of controlling Varroa Mites.
I have been to EAS many times, and every program on raising your own queens draws a good crowd. I took some time over the last couple of years to notice that many of the people looking on in the queen-rearing classes are the same ones I saw last year and indeed many years ago. Queen rearing is not rocket science, and with a little help from the books and some daring on your part, you can raise your own queens. We already have several people in Maine raising queens and you can do it, too. The strange thing about it all was that I had heard all of these things long before I arrived in North Carolina. So was EAS a wasted trip for me? I think not.
There was a talk given twice that held a lot of interest for me. Billy Davis from Virginia gave the talk and it was about local people getting together and learning how to become self-sufficient in keeping bees in their home area. I would need to hear the talk again to figure it all out, but it sounded very good to me.
Maine beekeepers working together to raise more bees from their own local bees rather than being dependant on getting bees from the South every season is a place many of us in Maine would like to go.
The real question still revolves around our short summer and how to keep the bees well-wintered until they can expand again in the spring. Billy Davis is selling fall nucs; I do not believe we can do that in Maine and have them survive. I know there is a lot of activity in Maine right now to establish nucs in the spring and winter them on top of existing full-sized colonies. Can we replace the 800 nucs that come up from Florida and Georgia and the 600 packages of bees from Georgia every year with Maine-raised bees? That is a question for which I don’t have the answer.
Maybe Billy Davis will be a presenter at the MSBA meeting one year and we can pick apart the things he does and adapt them to the Maine environment. In the meantime, I think we will have to continue to rely on getting our bees from where we can and we will have to watch for Small Hive Beetles and keep re-queening any colony that shows aggressive behavior.
by Rick Cooper, Master Beekeeper