BIP Helps Breed Hygienic Honey Bees

Like other livestock breeders, queen producers are constantly working to improve the quality of stock they produce. When determining which colonies to graft from breeders will evaluate colonies on a variety of traits including productivity, fecundity, and temperament. Traditionally, selection has focused on breeding from colonies that produced large honey crops, reared abundant brood, and behaved in a docile manner. As pest and disease pressures have increased in recent years breeders have increasingly incorporated hygienic behavior as a criteria for selection. Hygienic behavior is a trait that helps colonies control several stressors including American Foulbrood, chalkbrood, and Varroa mites. Hygienic behavior is identified by performing…

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Empty Calories

Somewhere early on in a “Beekeeping 101” class you’ll learn that honey bees forage for 4 things: nectar, pollen, propolis, and water. The nectar and pollen become honey and bee bread to provide sustenance. Propolis is used as a structural component and also contributes to colony health through immunological activity. Previous blog posts about propolis here and here provide more information. Water is necessary for a variety of purposes including preparation of brood food and evaporative cooling. So in addition to water, bees need 3 substances produced by plants. But do they collect anything else? Of course they do. If you’ve ever seen open syrup…

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Lazy bees?

Honey bees have long been admired by humankind for their industriousness. The beehive has served as a symbol of organization and hard work throughout history, and common sayings like “busy as a bee” that persist today indicate we still perceive bees to be hard workers. The state of Utah has been particularly fond of the beehive analogy. It officially adopted the beehive as the state emblem in 1959, although it featured the beehive on its seal as early as  the 1850s when it was still a territory.  The city of Manchester, England adopted the worker bee as an emblem during the industrial revolution, and a…

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Almond Math

There are plenty of quick stats you come across working around bees: At peak population, a strong colony can have over 60,000 individual bees. A queen is capable of laying more eggs in a day (up to 2,000) than there are minutes in a day (1,440). A single bee can produce 1/12 tsp honey in its lifespan and may cumulatively travel 500 miles during the several weeks it spends as a forager. Despite annual losses in the 30-40% range, the total managed colony numbers remains fairly constant at about  3 million. The American bee industry is inextricably linked to the almond industry. Every year, about…

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It’s Cold (and Wet) Out There

  I don’t know what the groundhog did or saw this year, but according to the calendar it’s still winter. The first day of spring is still a month away. If you’re a pollinator or grower of almonds, you’re hoping weather conditions up and down the central valley of California become more favorable for flight activity than they have been. I recently returned from 2 weeks of inspecting and sampling colonies where conditions were cold, wet, and windy. These conditions delayed onset and slowed progression of the almond bloom and are forecast to continue. Frequent updates on the progression of bloom and conditions for flight…

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Not much, but not nothing

What are your bees doing right now? If you’re in a northern location like me in Michigan the answer for most of the period between November and February may be not much. . .  but they aren’t doing nothing. They are dormant but they aren’t hibernating. During the period of winter dormancy the bees will cluster together to conserve the heat generated by individual bees vibrating their flight muscles. The bees aren’t attempting to heat the entire volume of the hive like we would heat a house, instead their shivering behavior just maintains the necessary temperature of the cluster itself. This behavior allows the colony…

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Was it enough?

  One of the most critical aspects of maintaining healthy colonies is the control of Varroa mite levels. If you are a regular reader of these blogs, this will not be surprising to you. Visual inspection after applying a treatment may indicate a high mite drop but this may not be sufficient to determine if Varroa levels have been reduced to a satisfactory degree. One of the ways that BIP Tech Transfer Teams work with beekeepers is to quantify Varroa levels in order to determine the efficacy of a treatment and decide if further intervention is necessary. This level of vigilance can and should be…

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It’s (almost) over

Throughout much of the northern parts of the country, the spring and summer landscape is predominantly green with splashes of color provided by a diversity of blooming flowers.  As the season progresses the changing fall foliage dominates the autumn landscape with reds and golds but there is still one last floral splash of color that persist until frost in much of the country. Just as decreasing daylight and the changing of leaves indicate winter is approaching, the appearance of New England Aster bloom is a sure sign that the end of bee season is nearing. New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is a member of the…

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A Bit About Wings

I spend a lot of time taking photographs of bees, particularly as they flit from flower to flower gathering pollen or nectar. All of this time spent stalking them through gardens has given me appreciation and wonder of their flight capabilities. Bees are capable of flying at speeds up to 15 mph and carrying nectar loads that approach their own body weight. In addition to these feats of strength, they are also capable of delicate maneuvering and hovering while they approach flowers. These amazing aerial abilities are of course made possible by their wings, which at a glance seem undersized for the task. At this…

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Bee Toes

Honey bees have had a close relationship with humans for thousands of years and have been intensively studied and observed by both scientists and beekeepers. Despite the accumulation of knowledge and ever increasing understanding of bee behavior, there are still a number of mysteries that bees guard. One of these behaviors that is yet to be thoroughly understood is called festooning. If you have ever been in a hive and noticed the bees seem clingy and hang from or between frames in chains, you have seen festooning. It is not currently known why bees exhibit festooning behavior. There is general agreement, however, that the behavior…

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