Present

I never thought I would get sick of listening to classic rock, but I did on the three day drive from Minneapolis, Minnesota to Chico, CA on a road trip with my dad. It is his favorite music, and since he was generous to come with me we listened to whatever he wanted. It was a small price to pay for his company and driving help. We left Minnesota

Road Trip
On the road trip with my dad.

and her terrible winter on December 1st. I was hoping to make it out of state before snow hit, but we were far too late. Our cross-mid-country trip took three days and about 2,500 miles. I could have been about 1,900 miles, but we kept heading south to avoid driving through snowy mountains highways that required  chains. I didn’t want to take a risk with my Honda Civic, already strained with all my personal belongings (and some work) I was bringing out with me. My dad and I made it safely to Northern California, my dad flew back, and I unpacked all my stuff into my new apartment in Chico in about 20 min.

 

On December 6th, I started work at UC Cooperative Extension, Butte County in Oroville. My office is a diverse and really interesting group: Joe Connell the almond and misc. tree advisor, Randall (Cass) Mutters the rice advisor, Sara Goldman-Smith an Integrated Pest Management specialist, 4H advisors, master gardeners, a top-rate nutrition program, and two super helpful secretaries.  My position was brand new to the office (and country for that matter), since Marla Spivak developed the position of Tech-Transfer Bee Team. My goals, following work done with bee breeders in March of 2008, 2009 and 2010, were to help bee breeders with:

  1. Disease and pest diagnostics,
  2. Stock selection and breeding for resistance traits,
  3. Enhancement of genetic diversity in bee stocks, and
  4. Facilitating cooperative research on relevant topics.

To achieve these goals, I had the lofty plan to sample 50 colonies from each of the 16 participating beekeepers for the gut fungus Nosema, the parasitic mite Varroa, and to test the colonies for hygienic behavior, which correlates with disease resistance. I asked the bee breeders to if I could test potential breeders colonies or colonies that just looked really good. After testing, they would receive the results to help illuminate what is going on in the colonies and to help make informed decisions when choosing breeder colonies. My goal was to test and provide data before the end of February when they generally select their breeder colonies. Since I was so far the only team member, testing all of the colonies required more work than just I could possibly do. I still offered to test 50 colonies per beekeeper, but luckily for my sanity most had fewer than 50.

Lab on dining room table
I set up a mini-lab in my apartment so I could work from home and get more done. During the busy times, I would sample during the day and come back to my apartment and run through samples into the late evening.

By the end of February, I visited 15 bee breeders (I tested the 16th breeder in May) and sampled colonies they were interested in. The hygienic behavior test was done in the field so the results were immediate, while the Nosema and Varroa samples were taken in alcohol and brought back to the lab to analyze. Overall between January and February, I tested 15 of the bee breeders, with a total of 558 colonies tested for hygienic behavior, 643 tested for Varroa, and 667 tested for Nosema.

 

It was a ton of work (I worked between 70 and 80 hours per week though both January and February), but I was able to get the data from the samples back to each beekeeper almost always in week or under and all data back before the end of February so each beekeeper could use the data to select breeder colonies and make treatment decisions. It was a busy couple of months, but I was really happy with how all the work turned out. Plus, the best part of this job is going out to visit and learn from these great beekeepers. Each visit I make, I learn something new. I moved out to California by myself, but the beekeepers have really helped me feel welcome.

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