Sunday, October 11, 2015

Comments Needed by Oct 21, 2015

North Star Solar is applying for a site permit in Chisago County.  This will be a 800+ acre area that is currently in corn/soybean agriculture use.  

This huge solar array will be underplanted with native plants in varying sizes to fit under the array.  I have seen the planting list and it is very appropriate and will provide high quality nectar and pollen.  This will be a huge boon to pollinators in an area that is currently devoid of pollinator habitat.

The last public hearing before the Public Utilities Commission is Wednesday October 7th in North Branch.  They are accepting verbal and written comments at that time.  The written comment period endsOct 21. Please show your support by writing a comment, it goes a long way.  

Attached is the PDF will the full docket information, and here is where you can go to submit comments: MN Public Utilities Commission - Speak Up!

(posted by ELW)

Saturday, September 19, 2015

How to get neonicotinoids out of the water

"...Center for Food Safety offers eleven policy recommendations, mostly directed to EPA:
  1. Suspend neonicotinoid insecticide registrations due to their unreasonable adverse effects in aquatic ecosystems.
  2. Adopt rigorous national aquatic contamination thresholds to avoid lasting effects on aquatic invertebrates specifically: 0.2 ppb for short-term acute exposures, and 0.035 ppb for long-term chronic exposures.
  3. Eliminate the “Coated Seeds” exemption from pesticide registration requirements.
  4. Stop classifying neonicotinoids as “reduced risk” pesticides and fast-tracking their registrations; also end Conditional Registrations for them.
  5. Use more representative aquatic test species and long-term mesocosm studies for determining biological risks.
  6. Comply with Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act in order to protect threatened and endangered aquatic-dependent species and their habitats.
  7. Drastically change neonicotinoid product labels for all uses that foreseeably will impact aquatic ecosystems.
  8. Conduct more systematic research and monitoring on the effects of aquatic contamination, including the human health implications.
  9. Marine protection campaigns should specifically address neonicotinoid contamination.
  10. Apply the Clean Water Act to initiate remedial actions.
  11. Take action at the State and local levels to protect affected waters.
The above is an excerpt from the following linked report:

How to contact our regional Enviromental Protection Agency office:

Region 5 (Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin)
77 W. Jackson Boulevard

Chicago, IL 60604
Phone: 800-621-8431 (Inside Region 5)
Phone: 312-353-2000 (Outside Region 5)

Neonicotinoid class of insecticides include:











Products containing these neonicotinoid chemicals:

Okay now its YOUR TURN to TAKE ACTION whether its by getting on the phone, writing an email, culling products from your aunt's garage, educating your church group, planting a buffer strip etc.

Thank you

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Beek to Beek Recap

A group of 45 or more creative thinking beekeepers got together on August 17, 2015. Attendees were receptive to new ideas and methods and enthusiastic about helping out a peer if they could. Here's some of the many member contributions. If you want more information about the technique or gizmo please come to a meeting and meet the beekeeper who will be happy to explain further.

Bob: showed a feed sack swarm catcher made with a thick telegraph wire rim hooked into top of long ½" electrical conduit pole, admits telegraph wire is no easy find.

Bob: brought a box feeder tray with different sized mesh openings sized for smushing in a pollen patty or setting on an upturned ball jar syrup feeder with holes poked in the lids. Hive body shell will contain all.

Bob: carries a portable hive stand to his out yards made of 2x4's mostly, with pivoting legs.

Mary: is willing to coordinate a bulk Russian order and intents to start a "What to do with my Russians this month" blog (says it'll be a lot of: "get your favorite beverage, sit back and put your feet up".)

Randy: uses a slow cooker to heat wax and paint over foundation. Ask your spouse first.

Rick: uses a beeswax candle or burr comb to rub over corners and edges of foundation where manufacturer missed waxing. Says "Bees will take care of the middle."

Jerry: does same but also adheres it with a sweep of a heat gun.

Lee: uses industrial heat gun to decap frame. When cappings melt off to cell wall, move on. Easy to decap even low spots this way. Honey stays cool. 

Eric: also uses this method. Says it takes 15 min to do a super and leaves virtually no wax in the honey. 

Eric: made a production style reusable queen releasing system. Its first a 3" +/- wood frame with side hole for queen cage. Frame is set over ideal area in brood nest. Push in cage slides inside frame. Once queen walks through wood hole, push in cage is set down. Wood frame is then removed to be used in next hive with new push in cage insert. If you make this as nice as Eric's you could also store jewelry in it off season.

Gary: made a low tech cappings extractor by cutting the bottom end off a gallon milk type jug. Simply use jar like a funnel over honey container, drop in cappings, they'll restrict the opening and honey will drain through the gaps. Brilliant!

Adrian: recommends Mann Lake's One Handed Queen Catcher because it allows marking or clipping with your other hand. Joe Myers agrees in absentia.

Adrian: found a helpful free Bee Health App. from the government in Alberta, Canada.

Adrian: also uses a programmable outlet thermostat for regulating the electric heater and dehumidifier fan where he stores honey supers. Its available through this link and at Home Depo.

Gary: uses a canvas portable ice shack with floor for his super conditioning room.

Bob: to melt a crystallized bucket of honey, uses a trouble light (sold in the auto departments as a cord, light socket and switch, all in one piece) and a 100 watt bulb. 

Lee or maybe Brady: described his use of a 60W bulb, thermometer and fan to condition their supers before extracting.

Bob and Lee: uses a heat sensing gun (optional to using a thermometer) to get a measurement of the honey temp to make sure all is warm enough for extracting or bottling.
If you go over 115 degrees you will degrade the taste of the honey and destroy some of the good enzymes. Said these cost around $29 bucks.

Bob: dries out high moisture content honey by stacking the supers alternately, running a heat fan, and dehumidifier, in an enclosed room for a few days before extracting.

Rick: says an indoor/outdoor remote thermometer is helpful in checking status of his super conditioning area.

Tom: got a used $40 commercial tower proofing oven for his supers. Works like a charm.

Bob: described his winter top cover moisture venting box with upper entrance. Joanne swears by them.

Dan: adds Bilt Rite on top for its heat conductive properties.

Bob: says Dan (Miller Manufacturing for Fleet Farm) now manufactures his top box.

Joanne: recommends metal screen not plastic as mice can chew through plastic screen.

Elizabeth: showed her version of the Ed Simon Winter Feeder Bramble box. If you use ½" hardware cloth in the center you can do baggie feeders or lay over a tighter mesh when you want the bees to stay contained below to feed through the screen for thicker slush/fondant or a pollen pattie.To buy new go to: WW-9909  Winter Top - Bramble 

David: said cappings, even several years old, are fine to feed bees if not fermented. Much easier than extracting them.

David: advised when using formic acid/MAQS keep screened bottom board open.

David: commented that Oxalic acid doesn't permeate cells so need to do again after brood emerges or wait for brood break.

Jerry: says you can also combine oxalic acid with sugar syrup and do the seam drizzle method but its less effective. Warns to check the label before buying wood bleach oxalic acid from a paint store to make sure its the same stuff.

Mike: filters wax by simmering and then letting it settle. Wax floats to top, impurities can be scraped off. Repeat as necessary.

Jerry: says the sun will bleach wax. 

Adrian: uses saran/plastic wrap or clingfilm (if you're from the other side of the pond) to take off the floating layer of wax on his honey settling buckets. 

Rick: cuts strips off political yard signs (of opposing candidates of course) across the grain/tubes and staples them to the deep side of his inner covers to add ventilation. This also gives height and ventilation for using the inner cover as a feeder tray for syrup baggies or flipped for fondant and eliminates the draft caused by a typical upper entrance hole. 

Rick: has found duck tape around top inner edge of boxes miraculously keeps bees from wanting to boil out and get squished.

Rick: recommends finding a woodworker to get a dense hardwood scrap to make into your entrance reducers. Mice can't chew though woods like Ipe and Purple Heart. 

Rick: uses duck tape to reduce an entrance reducer on the fly.

Rick: says a paint mixer wand attached to a cordless drill works great for syrup making.

Rick: uses feed stimulants like lemongrass, spearmint, wintergreen and a pinch of trace mineral salts (available from hunter supply shops) in his feeders.

Rick: uses a sign cutting bit to turn political signs (again opponents are best) into the disc style entrance reducers. Especially satisfying if your bees have nosema.

Adrian: said his North facing nucs were weaker than his South facing nucs.  He noticed at the first inspection that there was more ice in the North facing nucs than the South facing ones, and believes this inhibits the build-up.

Rick: says to get a lighted magnifying glass to help see eggs. No more struggling on overcast days.

Rick: recommends a galvanized pail for your smoker instead of melting up your car. He didn't say how he knew this.

Rick: uses a wood plug to snuff his smoker out. Reduces time and wasted smoker fuel.

Rick: uses a frame spacer in each hand for speed. Sounds like a good idea if you are a multi-armed Indian goddess. Not sure how he manages, but there may be stuff about him we don't know yet.

Rick: carries just-in-case supplies like a queen cage, shims and an extra hive tool. I carry a just-in-case beer.

Rick: revealed to many of us wondering --what the hidden properties of sumac berries are in smokers...He says the hairs on the berries exude a small amount of oxalic acid. When you smoke them you are giving a small vaporized dose to your mites. Those of us trying to raise bees and not mites should harvest Staghorn sumac berries when dry and not after rainy weather to get the most oxalic acid. Very cool.

Rick: carries a cappings scratcher to open capped honey cells if you want the bees to move it or to do drone brood removal. His tool box also includes a water mister bottle for quick clean-up of sticky honey hands and a frame hanger.

Tom: uses a section of a political sign to sheave his cappings scratcher. This guy is neat and  probably swears a lot less than the rest of us! 

Tom: has found the cheapest wood pellets do not contain glue and make good smoker starters. He also uses pine cones.

Tom: sprinkles cinnamon around the inner cover top to deter ants.

Tom: sprinkles moth balls around the ground outside of his hives to deter mice.

Tom: recommends a prybar sold by Woodcraft intended for removing trim as an inexpensive, quality hive tool. This might be it: 

Randy: brought in several jigs for making boxes and hand holds all of which allow him to make and assemble woodenware inexpensively and with a lot of precision. He plans to show us some videos in November as we were running out of time.


Thanks to everyone for their generous input and support of each other. It is very nice to be part of this club. You make the difficult job of keeping bees alive, a lot easier.

btw Margot Monson, MS Entomology, beekeeper is coming Sept 21st.  She says her "presentations have been emphasizing the less well known and appreciated native pollinators, that are often not recognized as beneficial, let alone as pollinators:  flies, beetles, moths, social wasps, solitary bees and wasps, etc.,  and how  important they are in creating  the balance necessary to a healthy garden,  that plant diversity will naturally establish insect diversity, eliminating for the most part serious pest problems." She will show her photos as a part of a power point presentation.


Friday, July 3, 2015

New Minnesota Laws Concerning Beekeepers and Pollinator Advocates

On June 15, 2015, Jamison Scholer from the Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) visited our club and gave us an overview of two new laws in Minnesota that concern beekeepers.  Jamison helped guide us through the murky and swirling waters of these confounding laws, all the while being peppered with questions from the lively audience.  A humongous thank you to Jamison Scholer!

The Bee Kill Compensation Law and the amended Pollinator Label Law were discussed.  Here is a summary and additional information that will hopefully clarify (or not!) these laws.

Bee Kill Compensation Law

In 2014, the legislature passed this law to compensate beekeepers at 'fair market value' for any losses obtained from 'acute pesticide poisoning'.  If a beekeeper suspects that his hive has been affected by pesticide through either drift or direct contact, the beekeeper can submit a complaint to the MDA.  The hives will be inspected and determination will be made as to whether the kill was from pesticides.  Further, the MDA will attempt to determine whether the pesticide was applied properly, and if misuse is found, then the pesticide applicator will be responsible for the compensation cost of affected bee hives.

Here are the specifications:
  • You must have your hives registered to be eligible for compensation.  The 2014 law was amended and as of Aug 1, 2015 specifies that the beekeeper must be registered with a yet to be determined registry.  In the meantime, beekeepers should register with
  • 1000 or more bees (about 1.5 cups of bees) are dead or twitching near the hive entrance in a single day. 
  • The compensation value of a colony and damaged equipment is currently $230, with the opportunity to adjust upward via the compensation claim form.  
Here are the steps to be taken by an affected beekeeper:
  • A complaint must be filed for the MDA to begin an investigation.  This can be made here:  Bee Kill Investigation
  • If a beekeeper suspects a bee kill due to pesticide exposure and has the 1000 or more dead bees at the hive entrance, a compensation claim can be made here:  Compensation Claim for Loss of Bees
  • The process will start quickly and will look something like this:

"Acute Pesticide Poisoning"

Currently, a beekeeper can only be compensated for losses due to "acute pesticide poisoning", and if the dead bees are present at the hive entrance area.  An 'acute pesticide poisoning' event can affect bees while they are out foraging, but we will never know if they came back.  The panel of experts who advised the MDA on implementation of this law determined that this was all too difficult to quantify.  To read about the panel and their notes, go here:  Expert Panel

What this law does not include:
  • This law does not take into account sublethal pesticide poisoning, which is more difficult to determine because the tell-tale signs (dead or twitching bees) of obvious acute poisoning are not present.  Sublethal pesticide poisoning will weaken the colony over time.  
  • This law relates only to honey-bees.  Those raising bumblebees or mason bees are not eligible.
  • This law does not protect other pollinators from pesticide poisoning.
  • This law does not put conditions on when and where a pesticide applicator can spray, whether or not a hive is registered in the area.  

The Pollinator Label Law

The 2014 Pollinator Label Law was a huge victory for pollinator advocates and passed with wide support.  In 2015, this law was changed through heavy lobbying of the nursery industry, particularly the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association.  The MNLA was not keen on the 2014 writing because of the inconvenience of labeling when much of the nursery stock sold here is from out of state.  Here is the law as written in 2014:  2014 Pollinator Label Law.

The specific "pollinator label" part of the 2014 bill stated that:  "A person may not label or advertise an annual plant, bedding plant, or other plant, plant material, or nursery stock as beneficial to pollinators if the annual plant, bedding plant, plant material, or nursery stock has been treated with and has a detectable level of systemic insecticide that: (1) has a pollinator protection box on the label; or (2) has a pollinator, bee, or honey bee precautionary statement in the environmental hazards section of the insecticide product label".  
The amended 2015 law: Amended Pollinator Label Law states (the underlined portions are additions, and the crossed out portions are deletions from the 2014 bill):  "A person selling at retail or providing to an end user may not label or advertise an annual plant, bedding plant, or other plant, plant material, or nursery stock as beneficial to pollinators if the annual plant, bedding plant, plant material, or nursery stock has: (1) been treated with and has a detectable level of systemic insecticide that: (1) (i) has a pollinator protection box on the label; or (2) (ii) has a pollinator, bee, or honey bee precautionary statement in the environmental hazards section of the insecticide product label; and (2) a concentration in its flowers greater than the no observed adverse effect level of a systemic insecticide. (f) For the purposes of paragraph (e): (1) "systemic insecticide" means an insecticide that is both absorbed by the plant and translocated through the plants' vascular system; and (2) "no observed adverse effect level" means the level established by the United States Environmental Protection Agency for acute oral toxicity for adult honeybees. " 

Major Problems 

It's important to remember that the MDA did not write this law, but it is up to them to enforce this law.  And this has to be a challenge for the MDA, because there are some REAL problems with this law.  

Just a little neonicotinoid, please!

The 'end user' is basically the customer of the garden center.  The garden center may now label a plant as "pollinator friendly" if it has been treated with neonicotinoids and has residues at or below a "no observed adverse effect level (NOAEL) for acute oral toxicity for honeybees that is acceptable to the EPA. The EPA NOAEL does not take into account the fact that even "a little" neonicotinoid harms pollinators through sublethal and chronic toxicity.  Nor do they take into account that the neonics travel through the soil affecting surrounding plants, and persist in the plant for months and in the soil for possibly years.  So, pollinator friendly this plant is NOT.  The well intentioned "end user" is led astray by this flawed and untruthful law.  

The problem the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) had with the original law, is that the law did not allow for any detectable neonicotinoids.  The MNLA says that this is difficult in an industry where plugs and seeds are from sources that apparently cannot verify the presence of neonics.  Perhaps some accountability and a paper trail of chemicals applied for all stages of the growing operation would provide some clarity to the final grower or garden center so that these plants can truly be labeled in such a way as to not dupe the "end user" and most importantly, to not kill pollinators.  Hopefully we can work with the MNLA to develop a program that will work better for all, but for now, the MNLA has decided that the EPA NOAEL for acute oral toxicity is good enough.  

The EPA is currently looking further into neonicotinoids, and is accepting public comments until July 29 of this year.  The European Union, Ontario, Canada, and other communities across the US, have banned or put restrictions on neonicotinoids.  Submit your comments to the EPA here:  Mitigating Exposure to Bees from Acutely Toxic Pesticide Products; Extension of Comment Period

Next month....beekeeping gadget day!  Come and see what other beeks are doing.  There will, as always, be great discussion for all levels of beekeeping.  

Aprils meeting re-cap will be coming.....sorry for the delay.


Note: July 20th We've got Bob Bystrom on Honey Bee Pests and Predators
at Stillwater Junior High Media Room: 523 Marsh St. W., Stillwater, MN