Spring Sampling in Northern California 2013

 2010 Almond Bloom in California.

2010 Almond Bloom in California.

Sampling large numbers of beekeepers takes considerable behind-the-scenes planning and work and this aspect of the project usually goes unseen and is underappreciated. I want to shed some light on what we all do to prepare for a hectic and fast-paced sampling season. Our spring sampling kits arrived from the east coast in several boxes. Team member Karen Roccasecca in Pennsylvania put the kits together consisting of a labeled alcohol bottle and virus sample bottle in individual bags. The individual bags contain both bottles and were grouped in 12 then placed into larger bags and eventually boxed. She then shipped them to our team at the Butte County Cooperative Extension in Oroville, CA.

Boxes from Pennsylvania with kits on the left and Kits finished for California on the right..

Once these kits arrive, we get them ready so that we can just grab a complete boxed kit and go. So from here, we unboxed all of the bagged sample bottle kits and organized them in the hallway from the lowest sample ID number to the highest sample ID number. These are numbers used as unique identifiers for each individual sample. The sample number is then correlated with a tag placed onto the hives starting with the number 1000 and is unique to each beekeeper. We then separated the bags into groups of 50 for each Beekeeper involved in the program. Next, we took the sample bottles and placed them into individual boxes and we placed a National Honey Bee Survey kit into each box (for more information visit Liz’s blog on “National Survey for Honey Bee Pests and Diseases in California”). The next things added to the boxes were sample tags, data sheets, treatment data sheets, and packing slips for virus/alcohol sample shipping. Before we placed the tags into the boxes, we had to gather all the unused tags from the previous sampling period. I have included an image to show examples of the tags.

Sample kit ready for tags, datasheets, management surveys and shipping labels  to be added.

Sample kit ready for tags, datasheets, management surveys and shipping labels to be added.

Tags for sampling colonies.

Tags for sampling colonies.

Kits ready for Sampling in California

Kits ready for Sampling in California

Bin with some supplies in it.

Bin with some supplies in it.

Also at the same time, we begin preparing our Rubbermaid bins with all the tools and items needed in the field to collect samples. An important part of this sampling period besides collecting alcohol samples and virus samples is the Hygienic test we conduct. The Hygienic test is used to measure hygienic behavior, a mechanism of disease resistance that demonstrates sensitivity to odors of brood diseases. Hygienic testing involves using liquid nitrogen to freeze-kill 160 worker pupae and then returning in 24 hours to assess the colonies ability to uncap and remove dead brood from cells. I have included some images from hygienic testing and for more information visit Mike’s blog on “Testing for Hygienic Behavior”.

Virus samples collected on Dry Ice to prevent the RNA from breaking down.

Virus samples collected on Dry Ice to prevent the RNA from breaking down.

Waiting for the frozen PVC to thaw before placing the frame back into the brood nest of a Hygienic test.

Waiting for the frozen PVC to thaw before placing the frame back into the brood nest of a Hygienic test.

A colony 24 hours after hygienic test.

A colony 24 hours after hygienic test.

A colony 24 hours after hygienic test, this colonly did very well.

A colony 24 hours after hygienic test, this colonly did very well.

We are about halfway through our breeder pool sampling for this year. Inclement weather has slowed down this year’s progress for both researchers and beekeepers. Things should start to pick up for us in the next few weeks.

  • Michael Wilson

    Hey, now there is a strong looking colony of bees!

  • Rob Snyder

    They are boiling over, great colonies from great beekeeping!

  • JOHN BAILEY

    THERE HAVE BEEN GREAT LOSSES IN MIDWEST THIS WINTER,SOME THAT SENT HIVES TO CALI. HAVE HAD ALMOST TOTAL LOSS.MY QUESTION TO YOU IS HAVE YOU CHECKED ANY OF THOSE HIVES? IF SO CAN YOU TELL US WHAT TYPE OF POLLEN WAS FOUND IN THE DEAD HIVES. I SUSPECT THE BEES IN OUR AREA 9SOUTHWEST WISCONSIN0 TOOK IN A LARGE AMOUNT OF CORN AND/OR BEAN POLLEN CAUSING MALNUTRITION IN THOSE HIVES,DUE TO DROUGHT. WE ARE SEARCHING FOR AN ANSWER AS TO WHAT CAUSED THE DIE OFF. THANK YOU FOR YOUR WORK JOHN BAILEY RICHLAND CENTER WI

    • The Bee Informed Team

      Hi John,

      Thank you for your comment and your concern. We are aware of high losses nationwide this year and certainly those in the midwest are experiencing issues we believe may have resulted from the large drought areas last summer. Our team has sampled extensively not only CA colonies but migratory colonies coming into CA (many from the midwest) and we are still waiting for some lab results. Once we have some feel for the reason(s) of the losses, you can certainly expect us to blog about it on our website. We also plan to replicate the drought conditions here in greenhouses this summer and sample/analyze the effect it has on pollen from treated crops (like sunflowers). It has been a difficult and trying winter for most and that will be documented in our Winter Loss survey going live in about a week. Please do tell beekeepers you know to take that survey so we can capture the losses and perhaps learn of the underlying causes. Knowing what crops your hives were located near is very helpful in pulling those data out.

      Thank you again and best of luck, The Bee Informed Partnership Team.