About Andrew Garavito

Andrew’s interest in Honey bees began while working as a field technician for Dr. Galen Dively. He has helped with hive management, in-hive sampling, and the preparation of hive samples to be tested for Imidacloprid. During his last semester as an undergraduate student, he had the opportunity to intern in the vanEngelsdorp lab at UMD. He graduated from UMD with a BS in General Biology, and was offered a position in the vanEngelsdorp lab and the Bee Informed Partnership. Garavito joined BIP in 2012 because “It seemed like a great way to pursue my interest in honey bees, while being a part of the effort to help beekeepers.”

Using Pollen Traps, and Processing Pollen Samples

A bottle of bee pollen in our lab.

A bottle of bee pollen in our lab.

Installing pollen traps onto your honey bee colonies can provide many benefits.  First off, you can harvest the pollen granules from a hive for human consumption.  Bee pollen is marketed as a “Nutrient Rich Superfood,” and is sold at various health stores.  While there has not been much research into the potential benefits of taking bee pollen as a nutritional supplement, some people swear that it is a cure for many different ailments.  At the UMD lab, I seem to be the only person that has mildly enjoyed the taste.  If you do decide to harvest pollen from your bees, make sure that you leave enough for the colony.  You can do this by only engaging traps for a day or two at a time, and cycling the hives that you take pollen from.

A set of 3 gram pollen subsamples.  The sample on the left was taken in June, and the one on the right was taken in September

A set of 3 gram pollen subsamples. The sample on the left was taken in June, and the one on the right was taken in September.

In my opinion, the true benefit that comes from using pollen traps is the information you can learn about the foraging behavior of your colonies.  You can obtain foraging information about your colonies by engaging a pollen trap for a day and then taking a subsample of the pollen collected.  I sort a three gram subsample by color.  Each color of pollen will come from a different plant, so by sorting it you can get an idea of the number of different types of plants your bees are foraging on.  You can also learn which plants your bees are visiting the most by weighing out each pollen color and comparing it to the total weight of your subsample. Identifying what specific plant your pollen came from can be tricky.  I use a compound microscope and some reference pictures to try and determine which plant family the pollen came from.  Processing samples in this way can give you an idea of what plants are in bloom in your area, and when they bloom.

This picture shows a set of samples that have been sorted by color.  The samples were taken from the same colony from June to September.  Yellow pollen tends to be from plants in the Fabaceae family (such as clover), and pollen that is orange usually comes from plants in the Asteraceae (such as daisies and sunflowers).

This picture shows a set of samples that have been sorted by color. The samples were taken from the same colony between June and September. Yellow pollen tends to be from plants in the Fabaceae family (such as clover), and pollen that is orange usually comes from plants in the Asteraceae (such as daisies and sunflowers).

Starting in 2014, BIP will be starting a pollen trap program for beekeepers participating in our Real Time Disease Load Survey.  Beekeepers choosing to participate will be sent a kit containing a pollen trap and the necessary materials to collect samples.  The kit will contain twelve 50 mL tubes, which will allow beekeepers to send in a pollen sample biweekly over the six month sampling period.  More information on this new BIP effort will be coming to the Bee Informed website soon.  We will also be discussing the BIP pollen trap program at our booths at the upcoming ABF and AHPA meetings in January.  So feel free to come by and ask us about them!

Some Good Neighbor Policies for Urban Beekeepers

A few weeks ago, we had an incident at the University of Maryland involving the bees from

Our bees in line for some Italian Ice. Photo courtesy of Sarah Katz-Hymen

Our bees in line for some Italian Ice.
Photo courtesy of Sarah Katz-Hymen

our rooftop apiaries.  A group on campus was giving away free Rita’s Italian Ice, and our bees felt inclined to participate in the event.  I had a few friends send me pictures of what was going on.  We have also heard that the bees have been getting into the trashcans on campus in search of soda and other “forage.”  Currently, bee groups on campus are working towards having all of the campus trashcans fitted with lids that are animal-proof and insect-proof.  Hopefully this will decrease the unwanted attention some of the students are getting from our bees.

Soda can be enjoyed by just about anyone on a college campus.

Soda can be enjoyed by just about anyone on a college campus.

In addition to covering your trash cans, here are a few other ways to lower the chances of your bees becoming a problem for your neighbors.  The first thing you can do to decrease the chances of your bees bothering your neighbors is to put a fence in front of the entrances of your hives.  This fence can be man-made, or a “natural” fence can be used such as a row of trees or tall bushes.  A fence in front of your hives will force your bees to fly upwards faster.  By encouraging them to fly upwards, you can reduce the risk of them bumping into the heads of you or your neighbors.  Another preventative measure is to have a water source close to your hives.  You want to prevent your bees from relying on a water source in your neighbor’s yard; like their pool!  A good water source can be something as simple as a bucket filled with water, with straw for the bees to land on; or something like a small pond with floating plants.  Bees are very faithful to water sources, making it a good idea to set one up before you establish hives in a new location.  Finally, using a little bit of common sense will prevent you from making enemies with your neighbors.  Only work your bees on days that are sunny and warm, and make sure you re-queen any hive that is particularly aggressive.

Do you have any additional suggestions for preventing your bees from bothering neighbors? Leave a comment and let us know.

 

An October Tour of the UMD Apiary

Getting ready to head to the hives

Getting ready to head to the hives

Last week, Jordan Arata and I had the pleasure of giving a tour of the UMD Apiary.  The apiary is located on the roof of a]one of the campus diners.  The tour was set up by Carin Cebuluski, from the UMD Arboretum; and only one person in the tour group had any beekeeping experience.  I really enjoy showing people a hive for the first time, as it is always a fun experience.  Jordan and I went over a few basic safety tips and equipment explanations.  Then we got started.

Lighting the smoker (and showing off the BIP hat!)

Lighting the smoker (and showing off the BIP hat!)

 

Pointing out pollen stores to the group

Pointing out pollen stores to the group

The weather was great that day and the bees were very active, buzzing around all over everyone. We went over some basic information about honey, pollen and brood.  Then we pulled frames to find examples of each.  I found some eggs, but they were very difficult for everyone else to see!  We passed around a brood frame, so everyone could hold it.  Of course, the highlight of the tour was when the queen made an appearance.   The tour was a lot of fun, and afterwards, a lot of people had questions.  Some people were even talking about starting their own hives.  I would have to say it was a great success.

Showing off the queen.

Showing off a frame with the queen.

Here is a close up shot of her

Close up picture of the queen.

Photo credit goes to Carin Cebuluski.

Looking for Tracheal Mites

Here at the UMD BIP lab, I have been looking for tracheal mites (Acarapis woodi) in honey bee samples.  Tracheal mites live in the trachea of honey bees, they enter the tracheal tubes through the bee’s spiracles.  Once inside the trachea, they puncture the wall of the trachea and feed on the bee’s haemolymph.  An obvious sign that bees have a heavy tracheal mite infestation is when the trachea have brown/ dark red scarring.  Cloudy trachea can also indicate the presence of mites.  Clear trachea are USUALLY a sign of bees without tracheal mites.  However, I have found mites in many bees that had clear tracheal tubes.

Tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi, seen with a compound microscope at 40x magnification

Tracheal mite, Acarapis woodi, seen with a compound microscope at 40x magnification

Another tracheal mite, seen with a compound microscope at 40x magnification

Another tracheal mite, seen with a compound microscope at 40x magnification

A section of trachea on the right, with two mites in the bottom left corner.  Seen at 100x using a dissecting microscope.

A section of trachea on the right, with two mites in the bottom left corner. Seen at 100x using a dissecting microscope.

A cloudy trachea with light scarring, the white/yellow figures are tracheal mites.  Viewed at 40x (approx.) using a dissecting microscope

A cloudy trachea with light scarring, the white/yellow figures are tracheal mites. Viewed at 40x (approx.) using a dissecting microscope

This is an infested tracheal tube, viewed using a compound microscope at 10x magnification.  You can see tracheal mites and the scarring and debris they leave behind in the tracheal tube.

This is an infested tracheal tube, viewed using a compound microscope at 10x magnification. You can see tracheal mites and the scarring and debris they leave behind in the tracheal tube.

If you dissect 16 honey bees from a colony, and do not find mites in any of them, there is a 95% chance that tracheal mites are not present in the colony.  I usually dissect 20 bees instead of 16, so that I have a few extra bees in case I accidentally cut the trachea out of the thorax of one of the bees.

Here is an outline of how I go about dissecting bees to look for tracheal mites.

  1. I take 20 bees from an alcohol sample of bees that was taken from an individual colony.
  2. Using a scalpel, with a No.10 surgical blade, I remove the bee’s abdomen
  3. Next, I put the bee on its back and cut off the head and first pair of legs.
  4. Then, I cut a thin cross section of the thorax and place it onto a microscope slide.
  5. I cut the first 10 bees and place them all on one slide.   Then I place a small drop of 85% Lactic Acid onto each thoracic disk.  The 85% Lactic Acid dissolves the bees muscle tissue and makes the trachea much easier to see.
  6. I repeat this process for the second set of 10 bees, and place them onto another slide.  After applying the Lactic Acid, I usually wait about 15-25 minutes for the muscle tissue to dissolve/ lighten in color
  7. Finally, I look at the slides under a dissecting microscope and scan over each bee to look for tracheal mites, or the scarring they make in the trachea.

When looking at the thoracic disk from the top, the part of the trachea that is attached to the spiracle is obstructed from view.  It is very important to look at this part of the trachea because mites enter the tracheal tubes through the spiracles.  Bees with a low infestation are likely to have the mites close to the spiracle, because the mites have not moved further into the tube.  Also, this area of the trachea is a bit wider, giving the mites more room.  You can view this part of the tracheal tube by removing the collar of the bee, or by flipping the disk upside down and pulling out the tube for closer examination.  I use #5/45 forceps with an angled tip to inspect the thoracic disks; you can use the forceps to dig through the muscle tissue to get a better look at the trachea.

A thoracic disk viewed under a dissecting microscope.  Tracheal tubes can be seen in the middle, in the shape of an upside down “V.”  These tubes are clear and free of mites.

A thoracic disk viewed under a dissecting microscope. Tracheal tubes can be seen in the middle, in the shape of an upside down “V.” These tubes are clear and free of mites.

The trachea is labeled on the left.  The red circle on the right side of the image shows the location of the obstructed portion of trachea that attaches to the spiracle.  The circled portion of the trachea is covered up by the “collar” which is a portion of the 1st thoracic segment of the bee (Prothorax).
The trachea is labeled on the left. The red circle on the right side of the image shows the location of the obstructed portion of trachea that attaches to the spiracle. The circled portion of the trachea is covered up by the “collar” which is a portion of the 1st thoracic segment of the bee (Prothorax).

By pulling up on this section of the collar, you can remove it, and view the obstructed portion of the trachea.

By pulling up on this section of the collar, you can remove it, and view the obstructed portion of the trachea.

 

The Rooftop Apiaries at UMD, College Park

Over the past month, I have had the pleasure of installing eight hives on the roofs of two buildings at the University of Maryland, College Park.  It was a new experience for me because I have never transported honey bees in my car.  My first trip was a bit chaotic.  Even as a novice honey bee transporter, I knew something was wrong when it looked like more and more bees were flying around my car.  I realized that the entrance to one of the hive boxes was not completely sealed.  I could see the bees pouring out of a tiny little hole where the screen had not been stapled over the entrance.  Luckily, I had a roll of duct tape in my car; and I was able to patch up the hole before all the bees got out.   The fives hives I brought to campus on my first trip were installed on the roof of 251 North (one of the campus dining halls).  251 North has no elevator.  You can imagine that it was quite a workout carrying those hive boxes up 3 flights of stairs!  My second trip went much more smoothly, since I made sure to double check all the boxes before I put them into my car.  More importantly, the Plant Sciences Building has an elevator.  This luxury made my life much easier.  With a cart, I was able to get the three hives onto the third floor of the Plant Sciences Building in only one trip!

bees in the car pic

Unloading the hives for the Plant Sciences Building

One of the first sources I learned about rooftop beekeeping from was a 2012 TED talk by Noah Wilson-Rich.  Wilson-Rich, of Best Bees Company, states that urban hives have a better overwintering survival and a higher honey yield than rural hives.  This is the exact opposite of what I would expect.  There are a few reasons that have been proposed for this counterintuitive trend.  For instance, it could be that the reason that most bees evolved to nest in trees is because it allowed for more efficient foraging than when they left from nests that were closer to the ground.  When foragers leave a hive, they fly out and up.  Getting to a certain altitude to scout for flowers would be quicker when leaving from a tree (or a roof), than from the ground.  Also, leaving from this higher altitude would allow them to use a lot less energy to reach their optimal foraging altitude.  It makes a lot of sense that foraging would be easier and more efficient for bees that start from a roof, rather than from the ground.  Also, there is a wide variety of flowers in urbanized areas because of the different preferences of individual gardeners and landscapers.  These various flowers will bloom at different times, leading to a longer nectar flow and a wider array of nutrients for urban honey bees. Their rural counterparts may have less variety in their diets if they are located near large agricultural fields.  Finally, it has been said that honey bee pests can have a harder time surviving at the higher altitudes of rooftop hives.  Small Hive Beetle larvae, for example, will be less likely to pupate when they drop out of a hive because there is no soil for them to burrow into (Bunham 2013).

These are all convincing arguments that have led me to be very curious about how these hives will do.  All of my prior beekeeping experience involves bees in a much more rural/ farmland type setting.  This is going to be my first year being involved in rooftop beekeeping, so I hope everything goes well!  Take a look at some pictures of our rooftop sites here at the University of Maryland.

PLS bees, pic 3

The hives on the roof of the Plant Sciences Building

PLS bees, pic 7

Another view of the Plant Sciences Building hives

251 bees, pic 5

The hives on the roof of 251 North, one of the campus diners.

IMG_0205

Another view of the 251 North hives.

 

Works Cited

Burnham, Toni. “Downtown-Rooftop Bees, Part 2.” Bee Culture Apr. 2013: 50-54. Print.