Honeybees at the COC

 

The Canadian Opera Company is delighted to be part of the ever-growing support of honeybees, Currently we host seven hives onthe roof of our opera house, the Four Seasons Centre for the Performing Arts. Follow the honeybees' progress on Parlando, with visits and posts from beekeeper Fred Davis!

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11/22/2010

Fred Preps the Honeybees for Winter

Beekeeper Fred Davis updates us on the honeybees' progress:

As the weather turns cooler and after all the honey has been removed, my attention turns to fighting the varrao mites that plague honeybees throughout North America. I applied the medication approved for use by OMAFRA (Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs) to combat varrao mites and have been feeding the bees a sugar-water solution which will supplement the honey I left on their hives.They will turn the solution into food and place it in the cells for use later.

I also applied two other types of medication. One to fight a dysentery honeybees sometime get called Nosema and another disease called American Foul brood. Both of these diseases can destroy an entire hive over the winter months when the bees are weakest.

The food they have now and the solution they take in and store over the coming week will be their food stores for the winter. I plan to wrap the hives using an insulated sheath and have already moved the hives close to the west wall. The wall will radiate some heat on warmer days throughout the winter and spring months and will serve to protect the hives against the wind. I want to add a wind break against the east winds. Today I went to a hardware store looking for some fencing. It's very windy up there so this should help.

I will continue to feed the bees with a sugar-water solution as long as I can. The mixture is two parts sugar to one part water. I place the solution in Ziploc baggies and lay them on top of the hive bars. Then I poke a few holes in the bag so the bees can suck up the sweet solution.

The varrao mites were extremely bad this year so I have decided to apply another medication recommended by OMAFRA next weekend. I will keep my fingers crossed until spring and hope that both hives make it through what is supposed to be a long, hard winter.

All the supers have been cleaned and placed in a cool room at the FSC. Keeping the wax frames dry and cold is important. It protects them against damage from wax moths that can lay eggs in the wax and destroy the wax cells the bees worked so hard to make throughout the summer months. Also we don't want the frames exposed to moisture. Moisture can result in mould, which requires additional effort by the bees to clean. The newest scientific papers believe that mould is a major player in colony collapse disorder. I am very happy we found a suitable location for our honey frames during the winter months. They will be ready for use next year and with that the bees will have a lot less work do before they store the honey. This means we should have more honey next season so long as our honeybees pull through.

Posted by Gianna Wichelow / in Update from Fred, Bees in winter / comments (11) / permalink

Katherine (11/29/2010 7:29:50 AM)
I have a few unusual questions (with all due repect). Are the bees free to roam or are they imprisoned in the hives? Are the queens killed? Is the honey they make for the baby bees, as breast milk is for the human babies? If the honey is for their babies, are we stealing from them by removing it? Do the bees swarm, and why do they do this? Do the medications you feed them, for mites, end up in the honey? I'm happy to read that you allow the bees to live over the winter since I've read that many beekeepers kill their bees so they don't have to care for them while they are not being productive. Anyway, as you've likely guessed, I am vegan (and sensitive to bee stings), and the honey issue has always been one I've pondered. Thank you kindly.
Gianna Wichelow (11/30/2010 12:00:00 AM)
(Hi Katherine! I asked Fred, our beekeeper to respond to your questions and they follow, in italics:)

Are the bees free to roam or are they imprisoned in the hives?
Bees are free to roam the world throughout the year.

Are the queens killed?
In order to maintain a healthy and clean hive many beekeepers replace their queens every one to two years. The Ministry of Agriculture (OMAFRA) supports this practise. I plan to replace the queens next spring.

Is the honey they make for the baby bees, as breast milk is for the human babies?
Baby bees (all bees) are fed a mixture of foods such as bee bread, nectar, honey and pollen. Together these form a balanced diet of carbohydrates (honey/nectar) and protein (pollen).

Do the bees swarm, and why do they do this?
Honeybees swarm. It's a natural event and the do this to ensure that the species grows. A beekeeper wants to prevent this from happening so that his/her "production facility" of honey makers stays where they can be managed. Once a hive swarms you are left with 50% of your bees and a queen that might not be as good as the one that got away.

Do the medications you feed them, for mites, end up in the honey?
I make sure to follow the Ministry's guidelines and timetables when to apply and remove the approved medications. Generally speaking the Fall medication is put on after I remove all the honey I plan to keep. For Spring medication I remove the medications and wait at least four weeks before I add the honey supers.

(Thank you Katherine, for your questions, and thank you Fred, for your speedy response!)
Gianna Wichelow (11/30/2010 1:48:45 PM)
(Hi Katherine! I asked Fred, our beekeeper to respond to your questions and they follow, in italics:) Are the bees free to roam or are they imprisoned in the hives? Bees are free to roam the world throughout the year. Are the queens killed? In order to maintain a healthy and clean hive many beekeepers replace their queens every one to two years. The Ministry of Agriculture (OMAFRA) supports this practise. I plan to replace the queens next spring. Is the honey they make for the baby bees, as breast milk is for the human babies? Baby bees (all bees) are fed a mixture of foods such as bee bread, nectar, honey and pollen. Together these form a balanced diet of carbohydrates (honey/nectar) and protein (pollen). Do the bees swarm, and why do they do this? Honeybees swarm. It's a natural event and the do this to ensure that the species grows. A beekeeper wants to prevent this from happening so that his/her "production facility" of honey makers stays where they can be managed. Once a hive swarms you are left with 50% of your bees and a queen that might not be as good as the one that got away. Do the medications you feed them, for mites, end up in the honey? I make sure to follow the Ministry's guidelines and timetables when to apply and remove the approved medications. Generally speaking the Fall medication is put on after I remove all the honey I plan to keep. For Spring medication I remove the medications and wait at least four weeks before I add the honey supers. (Thank you Katherine, for your questions, and thank you Fred, for your speedy response!)
Bee Tamer (12/1/2010 3:09:34 PM)
The bees will put priority in feeding their young, before storing excess honey (that the beekeeper can remove). If the beekeeper took away the bee's food, their would be no bees to bee-keep :0) Queen replacement varies from beekeeper to beekeeper. A healthy colony needs a young vital queen. Bees swarm because they outgrow their house and thus, when a beekeeper provides honey boxes, they are not only providing more room for the bees, but a place to store excess honey that the public can enjoy.
Rachelle (12/4/2010 11:53:40 AM)
Wow, I think it's great that the Four Seasons Centre has taken on beekeeping! I look forward to keeping track of how it all works via this blog. I just wanted to drop a link to a great documentary about colony collapse disorder that I saw recently, I highly recommend viewing it! http://www.vanishingbees.com/
Marta Hopkins (12/7/2010 6:29:02 PM)
I am keeping my fingers crossed that the bees will stay nice n' cosy by the west wall over the winter. Fabulous and romantic idea, similar to the bees on the roof of Royal York.
shivani (1/28/2011 10:15:19 AM)
my ambition is to become a beekeeper.i try to collect information as much as i can. i like to read experiences of real bee keepers in this blog.honey bees scientific name is genus apis.it is said that once the honey bees get extinct the whole world gets desrtoyed.
J Lynn Fraser (3/7/2011 5:37:31 PM)
It's great that you are helping to ensure the bees have a new home in the city. My questions: how far will the bees go to find pollen to feed from? The COC is in downtown environment, what effect does pollution in the air and in the soil have on the bees and the pollen they collect? Is the honey and the bee's health affected?
Gianna Wichelow (3/8/2011 2:07:25 PM)
thanks for all your comments! Colony Collapse Disorder continues to be a very worrying issue. It's true that honeybees are a vital part of our food-growth chain. It's important we do all we can to help our small friends do what they do so well. Marta: I sure hope they've kept warm too! J. Lynn: Thanks for your questions. Honeybees can apparently travel up to six miles from their hives. Fred told us that our honeybees would easily go a few kilometers in any direction, certainly as far south as Lake Ontario. If you know Toronto, you know that's the southern edge of our city. As for the health of bees in an urban environment, I quote here from a previous blog post, and it's fascinating: "Urban areas are an ideal environment for honeybees, as bees in agricultural and suburban areas are faced with the risk of being poisoned by pesticides, fungicides, and insecticides." Strange but true, that city bees tend to be healthier than country bees.
t.isgood.ca (4/6/2011 4:08:55 PM)
Seems like you're RSS link isn't working. Wish the bees luck, Shawn
Gianna Wichelow (5/25/2011 1:25:42 PM)
Shawn, it should be okay now... we checked it some time ago.