Bee Ready Vol. 71 March 2005

Dale K. Pollet  |  4/24/2005 7:04:03 PM


Beekeepers around the state are under heavy pressure from the weather conditions of the last two months. The fluctuation in rain and temperature has caused serious problems for beekeepers. Bee populations, normally in full swing now with several frames of brood, are at one or two if that. Reports made by beekeepers over the winter show anywhere from a 20% to 50% loss in hives. Losses from mites, disease and changing weather have even caused some beekeepers to pack up and try something else.

Even the flowering plants are in a state of confusion. The flowers start to move and the cold returns, setting them back for days or weeks. Normally by this time the willow is in full bloom in south Louisiana, but so far only scattered trees have blooms. This could be frightening with the lack of bee populations and the forced delayed bloom. Many nectar sources could bloom at the same time, thus reducing the ability of the bees to gather necessary stocks in support of themselves and the beekeepers.

These unusual conditions can also cause the bees to be temperamental and not the calm nectar gatherers they should be. This situation can make working the bees a chore, and several thousand angry females can be awful. It is bad enough when you have to work them on cloudy and windy days.

The price of honey ranges from about $0.67 to $1.00, with extra white in some cases getting $1.25. The local markets seem to be in full swing and people seem to have found the taste of fresh local honeys to their liking. Sales are going through the roof, and it is encouraging to help put a smile on the face of the beekeeper. The worry for the beekeeper is the weather situation and wondering if honey will be available to meet the local market needs.


Remember that using of unregistered products can cause you serious losses and risk your being monitored by both the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry (LDAF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Not only will this hurt your business, but those around you can suffer by association. Always check on any material used to control problems in the hive before purchasing. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) and state departments of agriculture have recently been alerted that some beekeepers have been using sodium cyanide compound to control pests in their honey bee colonies/hives.

Specifically, apiarists have been purchasing and using a sodium cyanide compound as a fumigant in beehives to destroy or mitigate greater wax moth, Galleria mellonella, and lesser wax moth, Achroia grissella, as well as to cull out weaker hives. These practices are illegal and can cause serious harm to human health and the environment. Currently, no sodium cyanide or similar cyanide compound products are registered by the USEPA for pest control in honey bee colonies/hives.

Also, there is no established residue for any cyanide compound in honey or beeswax. Honey analyzed and found to contain any cyanide compound residue would be considered adulterated under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and could be seized. The seizure of honey is detrimental to the entire apiary industry. Further, use of sodium cyanide in an apiary setting can be extremely dangerous. The compound is highly toxic to humans and other warm-blooded animals, and it is a Toxicity Category I compound-EPA's highest toxicity level for pesticides. This rating indicates the greatest degree of acute toxicity for oral, dermal and inhalation effects. It is highly corrosive to the skin and eyes. Cyanide can be absorbed through the skin, and its vapor is absorbed extremely rapidly via the respiratory tract.

Any individual selling or distributing sodium cyanide compound for mitigating any pest, including the wax moth, caterpillar and larvae, or any other pest for use in beehives or colonies is selling and distributing an unregistered pesticide and subject to penalties of up to $6,500 per violation under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). Beekeepers who are currently in possession of the highly toxic, unregistered sodium cyanide compound or related products should contact their state department of agriculture for instructions on proper storage and disposal of the product.

Extension can also provide information on registered pesticides, such as paradichlorobenzene and aluminum phosphide products, that are legal to use to mitigate pests in honey bee colonies/hives.


Let us try to remember to register our hives. This inexpensive process helps to serve the beekeeping industry in Louisiana. Registration assists the beekeepers when problems occur in an area and gives LDAF a listing of the hive locations to check the movement of a problem and to help isolate the problem before it gets out of control. To register your hives, contact your local LDAF office and request the forms. This will help LDAF to recognize hives and determine who to contact about the hives. When registered, you will receive a sign to place on a hive in the apiary for recognition.


If you are interested in collecting swarms or removing colonies from walls, contact your local county agent’s office. Swarm and removal calls have already started to come in; there is a need for beekeepers who perform this service.

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