Archive for December, 2013

Dead Bees By Jimmy Earl Cooley

Dead Bees By
Jimmy Earl Cooley

I opened my two bees hives for inspection on Wednesday, November 27, 2013 .  I found many dead bees.

I have two bee hives, one named Hebert (named after Richard Hebert) and one named Shirley (named after Charles Lee Shirley) located between my ½ acre pond and a 90 wide airplane runway.  The Hebert hive is three years old and the Shirley Hive is one year old.  The Shirley Hive consists of an screen bottom base with plastic insert in place and two brood boxes plus inner and outer cover. When I removed the outer and inner cover of the hive I saw many dead bees on top of the frames and little or no activity in the hive.

I removed several of the frames and there were dead bees on some of the foundations, sitting around areas of _ and honey.

I also saw dead bees between the frames of the lower brood box.  I heard some bee activity in the lower brood box.  I closed the hive and retreated to think about the problem and what to do.

I then opened the Hebert Hive and saw many dead bees.  The Hebert Hive consists of wooden base with two brood boxes and one top nook box with 1/2 inch spacers between the inner and top covers.  Again, there were dead bees on top of the nook frames and between the frames of the brood box.  The Hebert hive contains more overall bees so therefore more dead bodies.  I heard bee activity in the lower brood box. I replaced the frames, inner cover, and outer cover.

After researching the situation and discussing the situation with experienced beekeepers at the South West Louisiana Beekeepers Association.  I anticipated cleaning the hives and removing the dead bees and residue but decided (as suggested by the experts)  it was best to leave the hive for the bees to clean and care for.

On December 3, six days later, I inspected the hives and found most all of the dead bees were gone from inside the hives and placed, by the bees, on the outside of the hives near the entrances.  So the bees took care of the problem.

What happened to kill the bees?

I believe the most likely problem was the cold weather  and the north wind we experienced on the evenings of November 25th and 26th.  I estimate approximately 500 to 100 bees dead from the Hebert Hive and a much smaller number for the Shirley Hive.  The dead bees photo is the Hebert Hive.

I originally located the two hives near the pond (for plenty of water)  and in a semi wooded area facing basically east and west, with the entrance toward the southeast. This allows the hives to be bathed in direct sunlight from sunrise till around 2 pm and then in partial shade until sundown.  This allows the bees to better cope with our tropical weather.

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Predators in and of the Pines – A Perspective

Predators in and of the Pines – Perspective

By George Giltner, lifetime tree farmer

Louisiana’s “number 1” crop is wood fiber in the form of southern pines.  The most economical means of growing these trees is in a semi-monoculture of Southern Pine Plantations, the Tree Farm.  Through modern times this practice has come under the attack of novice environmentalists, property taxes, and pine beetles.

My encounters with novice environmentalists of the 70’s was they did not like the appearance of “strait rows of trees”, but otherwise they could not define a valid reason for environmental harm in growing pine trees, which existed here since the last ice age.   However their efforts did aid in one of the largest southern pine beetle outbreaks in Kisatchie National Forest, and on surrounding areas.  Instead of taking measures to control the outbreak, “Let Nature take its course” lead to a temporary decimation of some of the most beautiful pine forests in the South.  As I walked through miles and miles of Kisatchie hiking trails surrounded by dead snags of fire and beetle destroyed forest, my spirit was depressed.  This type of terrific destruction and waste was preventable, if foresters were allowed to manage the forest.

A checkered clerid beetle attacking a bark beetle. Photo by USDA Forest Service.

After the 70’s, logic and science replaced some of the chaos of Mother Nature’s bad side and novices.  J. D. Reeve and many other USDA Forest Service researchers have done a tremendous job of unraveling forest ecology of the Southern Pine Beetle with published articles: “Predation and bark beetle dynamics” (1997), “Complex emergence patterns in a bark beetle predator” (2000), “Artificial diet and rearing methods for Thanasimus dubius, a predator of bark beetles” (2003), and “Geographic variation in prey preference in bark beetle predators” (2009), and numerous other articles.  For these scientists, we owe gratitude and thanks for their life-time efforts in modern understanding of bark beetles.

“Southern Pine Beetle II”, USDA Report SRS-140 (Nov 2013, 522 p.) can be downloaded free of charge to your iPad, computer or a printed copy can be purchased.  This wealth of information is invaluable to foresters and tree farmers as it delves into details of the tree host, pine beetles, and the predators and parasitoids of pine beetles.  We have understood that trees under stress from high density stands, disease, flooding, drought, storms, or mechanical damage are most susceptible to SPB attacks.  The next phase of research, already in progress, is to artificially rear SPB predators that can control outbreaks.  Another topic of research is to understand and establish healthy endemic populations of predators that naturally curve bark beetle outbreaks. This may include having annual food plots for omnivorous (nectar/pollen – bark beetle) predators, or perennial shrubs and hardwoods that provide habitat for a diverse variety of insects within a pine plantation.  The predators of bark beetles must have a food supply when they are not feeding on SPB, Ips, and other tree pests.

Property taxes can be as devastating as Southern Pine Beetles and hurricanes to the family owned tree farms.  In recent years the profits have decreased to record lows while federal, state, and parish taxes have increased.  This tax pressure has helped erode productive agricultural land into fragmented suburbia.  If the trend continues, our forest and forest industries along with clean water and wildlife habitat will disappear as it has in many other communities in the United States. It is common for additional recreational and school taxes to be passed with ease, for property values above $75 k, while owners of lesser property pay nothing.  It is not only the big box stores that get hit with these taxes.  It is family farms, too, that get punished with these unfair taxes.  If all citizens want a remote sidewalk around a barrow pit, then everyone should have to pay, not just productive property owners.  If a school needs additional tax funds, it should also be a joint responsibility of all citizens that vote to contribute.

Growing trees is a long term investment that requires a minimum of 12 years before a return comes in.  However pests of all types take their toll from the day the trees are placed in the ground.  While science provides us with understanding and a hopeful future, it is commonly our laws and taxes that determine success or failure.  May we be reminded of our agricultural founders, Washington and Jefferson, who understood the role of past civilization’s history and destiny.

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Longleaf Pine in the Landscape, Keith Hawkins, Area Forester, LSU AgCenter

Longleaf Pine in the Landscape

Keith Hawkins, SW LA Area Forester, LSU AgCenter

      About a year ago, a family in Ragley asked me to look at their landscape trees. They were particularly concerned about the health of their longleaf pines. A few older needles were browning due to the drought stress at that time. However, the trees seemed to fundamentally healthy.

      The husband and wife described how their longleaf pines had survived the winds of Hurricane Rita while other trees had failed and then had to be removed. While longleaf pine is a good timber tree producing high-value, pole timber, it has value as a landscape tree.

      One reason to consider longleaf in the landscape is its native heritage. Settlers found open groves of longleaf with wide enough spacing for wagon traffic to move freely. These stands also had native grasses and legumes suitable for livestock. The USDA is trying to restore the longleaf pines stands as a native forests.

      There are a couple of disadvantages with homeowners planting longleaf pine as landscape trees.  The longleaf pine is famous for its “grass” stage. A longleaf seedling looks like a tuft of grass for five to ten years. During this time, the seedling is developing an expansive root systems. Then when the seedling is ready, the young tree has a rapid spurt of growth forming its main trunk.

      One practice that may enable a longleaf seedling to have an early growth spurt would be controlling plant competition. A homeowner, through normal yard mowing, may encourage the longleaf seedling to leave the grass stage early.

     Another disadvantage might be the pine straw. Over time, as the longleaf tree mature, the pine straw may become a nuisance. Also, several longleaf trees would produce enough pine straw to impair mowing. and raking would be an annual fall task.

However, for some folks, longleaf pine straw would be a valuable mulch for homeowners who enjoy gardening. In fact, longleaf pine straw is considered the “Cadillac” of pine straw, and some businesses harvest and bale pine straw for retail sale at garden centers. Longleaf pine straw mulch is very stable in windy and rainy conditions. Its natural appearance is attractive for landscape purposes.2014 LDAF longleaf seedlings.

The Louisiana Office of Forestry sells 100 containerized longleaf seedlings for $40.00.  Here is a link for a seedling order form:

Containerized longleaf seedlings at LA Office of Forestry nursery.

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Lousiana Wildflowers Comments, Skip Cryer, LA Master Gardener


  Wildflowers generally thrive in disturbed soil and do not get happy with fertilizer.  So plowing an area and leaving it alone allows the native seed that lie dormant to germinate and grow.  It is true that most wildflowers are more tempermental than domestic seed.  You just about have to have a burn schedule for the plants to thrive.  That is their genetic history.  Mowing at the right time helps but the thatch can build up and smother the plants you want to thrive.  There is a strong tie between moisture content, shade, and variety.  All of this is also tied to quail survival.  The natural eco system is complex and does not lend itself to monoculture to mimic Mother Nature.  Wildflowers are generally prairie plants.


Wildflowers in Louisiana West Gulf Coast, image by The Nature Conservancy.

I had managed my fields into a thick blue stem grass and wildflower mass.  Then I planted pine trees and the burn liability changed dramatically.  Now I mow only and between the shade of the pine trees, straw, and the mowing my beautiful yellow fields now are dwindling away in areas.

When someone tells you that long leaf and wildflowers go together it is true but the natural pine/flower savannas did not have the shade problem of modern tree planting and the areas burned clean periodically.  Fire generates germination in both native flowers and long leaf pine and is paramount in releasing the plants.


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