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McGill University Apiary, Montreal 2012

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A VISIT AND CHAT WITH BRANISLAV - HOW and WHAT THE CANADIANS DO

Part 1

Klausesbees contacted McGill University back in February 2012 to see if the apiary might be interested in a visit from some California beekeepers July 2nd of same year. We were met with enthusiasm by Branislav, beekeeper in charge of the Apriary. Being a Montrealer myself, it was exciting to see what the 'home town ladies' were up to.

The McGill Apicultural Association's (MAA) Apiary was established in the Spring of 2008. The Apiary is located on McGill University's Macdonald campus at the back of the Avian Science and Conservation Center, just behind the Parasitology building.

 

Branislav McGill Apiary Apiary Campus With Defense Entrance Apiary hives Checking for Mite Fall-off Close Up and Personal
Hive 16 Hive 19 Over Top Downward Look Russian Bees Klaus and Branislav in Exchange Close Up
Extractor interior 2-4 frames With Defense Entrance Top Line Extractor Hive Boxes Assembled and Painted Veil smoker Side Hole Entrance vs our Top

 

The Apiary consists mostly of Langstroth hives kept in various brood super configurations (two deep supers, deep and medium, or two medium supers), while we use mostly medium supers for honey collection. In accordance with the goals of The Apiary to examine the suitability of other types of bee hives that are in use worldwide, The Apiary is slowly introducing to the MAA Apiary different types of hives that will represent the richness of world beekeeping practices and techniques, thereby giving an opportunity to evaluate them for suitability of in use in their particular climate and keeping the needs of small scale beekeepers in mind as well.

 

Erika trekking to bees Hive 20 Top Bar Style Hive 20 Top Hang Branislav Erika and Branislav Feeder Top
Spacer to allow lift Top Feeder - Sugar Syrup either side Sugar syrup passes under center box Hive Box with Feeder Hive Top Off Exposing Top of Frames Gliding Frame Out for Examination
Examining Frame Dark Russian Bees on Frame Branislav and the Ladies

 

1. The MAA is exclusively Russian (Primorsky) bee oriented, and no other bee race is welcomed in our apiaries. That is because we produce some of the queens ourselves, and we wish to avoid hybridization with the other races (especially with the Italian bees). The Russians, being the continental bee race is more suited for the Canadian climate than, for example the Italian (a Mediterranean race), which greatly facilitates the upkeep of the colonies. They form tighter and smaller winter clusters, which results in much lower food consumption during winter months, which again significantly reduces the humidity in the hive rendering the need for any kind of additional ventilation unnecessary. This, of course, means that they can overwinter well on honey only, as they burden their guts less by decreased consumption of food. The Russians are also varroa resistant/tolerant so we don't need to treat the bees so often. They are mild tempered and forgiving for the beginners and hobbyists, as they respond better to the changing environmental conditions than, for example Italians, so for example they will never starve themselves to death when the nectar dries up, as they will simply decrease their brood production to conserve the food until the next nectar flow. I can say that the Russians under the Canadian climate conditions can take care of themselves pretty well without too much of the beekeeper's intervention.

2. We do have varroa mites (the Russians have no issues with the tracheal mites), but their numbers remain relatively low. As of the August 10th, in our control hives (three of them that have screened bottom boards) I found only two dead mites after seven days, and only in one of the hives. Since our last varroa treatment was in November 2011, it is not so bad at all. This year we haven't seen any of the living mites on the bees and not even in the capped drone cells, which, honestly, I find a bit weird.

3. The Russians, similarly to the other dark bees have a somewhat increased innate resistance to the brood diseases, but they are also highly hygienic. Combination of those two traits makes the outbreak of the AFB, or EFB in Russian colonies less likely to happen, as the bees of this race can clean up the dead larvae (if the disease hits them by a chance) at the early stage of the disease development. We haven't seen any signs of AFB, or EFB in our apiaries since we established them (the MAA Apiary was established in 2008). We keep our bees stationary, so that has also helped not to have any AFB, or EFB exposure. We had three cases of chalk brood so far, two in the year we obtained first of our colonies (two of five showed the signs as we placed them on the apiary), and one last year after we introduced a newly bought queen (from the same source as before) in a weak nucleus. In all cases the symptom disappeared on their own shortly after the first signs, and this year we haven't seen any of those.

4. We feed our bees white sugar (on form of syrup), but only if needed to fill the winter stores. We prefer to winter them on honey.

5 and 6. We only had what we previously attributed to winter losses. The losses were constantly from 30-50%, with last winter's loss in our Community Apiary of 75%. Last year we did a series of different treatments that we exposed our bees to, partially in order to identify the reason for such high losses year after year. We had the situations where the strongest, and most productive colonies didn't even reach winter, and the weaker, and ones newly formed as nucs survived. Absence of the bees in lost colonies, presence of capped brood left behind, no difference in treatments, and winter preparations, leads us to believe with a high certainty that we have the problem with neonicotinoids from the nearby corn fields. The above mentioned Community Apiary had a huge field of corn nearby in summer 2011 after which the losses occurred, while in 2010, when the same field was occupied by soy the only loss there was one colony that died of starvation.

7. Yes, the honey is made, but it is difficult to tell the amounts, as the honey is not our primary goal. We produce nucs to supply our Community Apiary (and bounce back from losses), so depending on the number of nucs we make we extract more or less honey. Last year we had less than 20 kg per colony over what we left to the bees for winter, and this year it will be somewhere around 40 kg. The capacity of our environment is much more than that, as this year we were running out of boxes to accept all the nectar that was coming in.

Part 2

The MAA Community Apiary (MAACA) was established in 2010 in an effort to provide a conflict-free space for urban dwellers wishing to take care of their own bee colonies. It is located near the Morgan Arboretum in Ste. Anne de Bellevue, on McGill's Macdonald campus.

 

Apiary Community Hives Following into thr Brush Interesting Top Bar Community Hives Opening Hive Side View
Inside Side View Side Construction Classy Hives Raised Hives Single/Double Hives
Bees Begining To Work Branislav and Klausin Discussion Foliage High Foliage Delight Russian Bees Foliage
Foliage Branislav Last Shot of Community Hybrid Bees Open Hive New hive set-up
Heading Back Through Tall Foliage Bee Heaven

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