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News from our State Apiarist, Andy Joseph Spring 2018


Spring feels like it’s finally around the corner as I’m writing this. From what I hear, this winter
has been pretty rough. I’ve gotten very mixed reports of winter survivorship. This wasn’t an
extreme winter by any measure, though we have had some serious cold from time to time. If
the bees were of compromised condition last fall, they probably aren’t around anymore, and it’s
time to try again. This seems to be truer each year. Maybe those who are having great winter
successes are just afraid to speak about it out loud for fear of jinxing their strong live clusters!
I’ve been asked a few times already what I might recommend as a spring mite treatment. This
is a common annual topic of conversation, and it’s a good subject to think about. Some of you
have dosed your hives a time or two over winter with oxalic acid, either in syrup or by
vaporization. If done while the bees were largely broodless, you ought to have had a great
mite kill, and hopefully may be able to avoid coping with springtime mite treatment stress. If
this is you … take a mite count in order to KNOW this, rather than assume anything. For the
rest of us, what’s the “best” option?

Right now, I’m recommending Formic Pro. Have you seen this yet? It’s the new version of
MiteAway Quick Strips. The biggest difference between Formic Pro and MAQS seems to be
its shelf life. If you’ve used MAQS, expect pretty much the same. The fiber pad material has
been “upgraded” while the formic acid active ingredient remains unchanged. The biggest
issue over years with a variety of formic acid treatments is the delivery. Too “flashy” and brood
is harmed, maybe queens too. Too slow / low of a dose and mites aren’t killed effectively. So,
we’re aiming for that sweet middle ground. MAQS has been a good product, though not
without problems – particularly if used in hotter weather, or if used beyond its short expiration
date. Hopefully this new version fixes at least one of those shortcomings.

Formic acid might be a good choice considering our short list of approved options. I’m not
convinced an oxalic treatment is effective in spring, since bee brood is its Achilles’ heel. I’m
not a fan of Apivar in spring, since the treatment takes five weeks or so followed by a “cool
down” period to avoid contaminating any honey for human consumption. Apiguard is far better
as a fall treatment, given its minimum required daytime temperatures and its month-long
treatment period. Hopguard 2 has been squirrelly, requiring multiple applications and
struggling to control mites when colonies are significantly brooded up. Apilife Var is very
similar to Apiguard, so I personally might save it as a late summer treatment option (and I
wouldn’t consider it to be a “rotation” opposite Apiguard). I don’t really like Checkmite or
Apistan due to both, resistance issues and chemistry. The list goes on … and basically brings
me to a formic acid product, either MAQS or Formic Pro.

Whatever you choose, give yourself a pat on the back / buy yourself a beer, because without
live bees coming through winter you wouldn’t get to make these fun decisions. Feed
them! Get them treated! Build them up! Split them! And get ready for another awesome

See you. Andy

News from our State Apiarist, Andy Joseph Winter 2017


Sunny but cold as I’m writing this. Time to get adapted to working indoors for the next couple months.

Thanks for a good year. I’ve enjoyed getting out on the road and working bees with a good number of you. I got to meet a ton of new beekeepers this year, which is among my favorite
parts of this work. This past decade has at least tripled the number of beekeepers in ours state.

The IHPA membership has quadrupled I believe. And today I realized that no less than 36 beekeeping courses are being offered this winter. By contrast, there were 8 courses
offered in ’08 and ’09. Amazing, right?

Most recently the inspection work has focused on the bees being moved out to the almonds. I
enjoy this work because of the great group of commercial beekeepers who live here in
Iowa. These inspections and the related paperwork allow me to have at least a quick point of
contact with these guys. I feel lucky to know them and I typically end up learning a thing or two
in our short conversations during this busy time of their year.

Here’s hoping your bees are tucked away nicely for the winter. There was plenty of
opportunity to get a good mite treatment accomplished and get them heavy with stores of
food. Hopefully things have come along well for each of you. On a warmer day, consider
checking them to be sure they haven’t eaten too much already. While the milder temperatures
over the past month allowed us ample opportunity to care for the bees, it also allowed the bees
to stay pretty active and burn right through their stores if you weren’t paying close enough
attention. On a 40+ degree sunny day you can pop a lid and check to be sure they’re
clustered low with plenty of food above them. I like to find a good day or two around the first of
the year to peek in on them. If they’re cluster high in the hive right under the lid and the box is
no longer as heavy as it was, I’ll give them some winter food. This supplemental feeding sure
is a lot cheaper than buying replacement bees. I’ve done a lot of “mountain camp” dry sugar
feeding in mid / late winter, and it works well but is messy and can be a bit wasteful. The
winter patties being sold now are great and aren’t too expensive especially if you have just a
handful of hives. I encourage you to throw a couple/few on at a time as needed.

For all the hype and excitement over oxalic acid use during the warm season, I’m still not
convinced at all that it’s worth your time. Hopefully I’ll eventually eat my hat, but I think while
brood is present, all OA provides is false confidence. Now we’ve come to the time of year
when OA could be just the ticket. Now that we’re more-or-less broodless, all we need is that
good window of a couple days in the mid-40s. A blast of vaporized OA or a dribble of OA in
syrup into loosely clustered bees could kill nearly all the mites remaining in the hive. No brood
= no hiding place, and great exposure.

Enjoy the cold and the indoors and the family time and the holidays and the plan-making for


News from our State Apiarist, Andy Joseph Fall 2017


Quite a season. Haven’t seen any major bee health issues for a little while. Bees seem to do
so well in years of a more wet spring followed by a hotter, dry summer. Lots of pollen still
coming in this late August. Must be at least a little nectar still coming as well. I’ve been pulling
honey and extracting in my “free time” this past week, and the bees have really been pretty
well behaved. No crazy robbing or fighting me yet. The crop is good – this is true for most
people I’ve talked to around the state. Boxes are full and heavy. Moisture content is fine to
fairly low. Frames of foundation were drawn into nice combs well through July. Nearly every
year, that last round of supers comes back in light or even empty, especially boxes without
drawn combs. Beekeepers’ optimism… this year most of that final round of supers got drawn
and filled. Very happy about this, though the greedy side of me wonders if I could’ve gotten
lucky with adding even another box to some.

The fair was great. Tons of fun. Glad it’s over. See you all back there in 11.5 months. Thank
you to everyone that worked there in the booth and to everyone who brought such quality
entries. I met a lot of “new” people there this year. Had the opportunity to meet and work with
several of the IHPA scholarship youth – impressive bunch all around. Thank you to Connie
and Heidi and Rhonda and Doyle and all the incredible Vannoys – Carly, Carole, Scott – and
the newly Mr.-and-Mrs. (congrats!) Foley and Maia and to the unstoppable Brandon
Raasch. These are people who seemingly never stopped working from before it started until
after it was over.

Many of you have heard that Arvin Foell (longtime beekeeper, IDALS Apiary Inspector, and
many years of service as CIBA President) was in a terrible auto accident. Pictures of his
smashed truck are horrific. Arvin is a lot tougher than he lets on. He hasn’t had an easy
couple of years, but just keeps charging on. I just heard today that he has escaped the
hospital and is at home to continue recovery. I’m ridiculously happy for this news. Hopefully
by the time you read this he’ll be back into his hobbies of pole vaulting and hot yoga. Get
healed Arvin. You have a state full of beekeepers thinking about you.

It’s getting late and I must get up and out early tomorrow to head over to Sioux City to meet
with a great group of beekeepers. Can’t quit yet though – I haven’t harped about mites. This
time last year, mite counts were awful for way too many beekeepers, including
myself. Numbers that seemed acceptable mid-season turned ugly by the time honey supers
were pulled. Colonies were crashing due to mite pressure and all the associated
viruses. Happy to report that, at least for the beekeepers I’ve recently visited, the mite counts
haven’t been quite so foul this year. They’re still too high – nearly all requiring treatment, but
generally not as bad as the numbers last year. Don’t get comfortable. Check your hives and
kill the mites. Make sure you have good, laying queens. Make sure they’re healthy by every
knowable measure. I encourage you to feed them pollen sub and syrup into the fall to help
boost their nutrition, extend healthy brood rearing, and ensure adequate food stores for

Take care everyone. See you!