Five Dollar Bee Words

I came to the world of bees by accident and had no bee-specific knowledge or training prior to becoming a beekeeper. Prior to working with Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), I spent 8 years as a commercial beekeeper where I gained a good understanding of bee behavior and management from practical experience. Since joining BIP, the exposure to colleagues and scientists has led to a lot of “lightbulb” moments where an unfamiliar word was used and I had to ask what it meant. The explanation was normally met by an, “Oh sure, I’ve seen that, I just didn’t know there was a word for it,” or…

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Drift

Bees have incredible navigation abilities that allow them to fly miles away from the colony to forage and return home with enough precision to locate the entrance to their colony, even when there are dozens of nearly identical hives within a small apiary site. The current understanding of navigation is that a combination of position relative to the sun and landmarks across the landscape get them close and then a combination of visual cues and pheromones to precisely locate the colony entrance. When a returning forager ends up returning to the wrong colony, she is typically not attacked as a robbing bee but accepted into…

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The Long Haul

The changing agricultural landscape and current economic conditions of the bee industry have led most commercial beekeepers to undertake significant migrations to pollinate crops, access better forage, and seek favorable wintering conditions. General beekeeping activities and short distance moves are generally accomplished with a variety of light and medium duty flat-deck trucks, but long haul moves typically involve moving bees on semis. Colony carrying capacity of a semi is limited by both weight and space. The maximum legal gross weight is 80,000 pounds. A truck + trailer unit generally weighs around 30,000 pounds leaving approximately 50,000 for cargo. The number of colonies that can be…

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What’s in a name?

Naming yards isn’t complicated but it’s an important aspect of managing a large commercial operation in order to facilitate communication between staff. Many states require apiary sites to be registered which requires filing paperwork that names the yard in addition to providing some basic information about location (latitude, longitude or nearest intersection), property ownership, and contact details. More importantly having yard names that are known to all of the staff in an operation allows management schedules and work plans to be made so crews can accomplish assigned tasks in appropriate places. Selecting names is seemingly simple, the most common method is naming yards based on…

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Migratory Pallets

Pallets: 4-way vs. 6-way The vast majority of colonies in commercial operations are on pallets to facilitate ease of movement with forklifts. There are many design components to be considered (clip style (U vs.W), open/closed centers, screened/closed floors, drainage holes, entrance size and orientation, . . .) when building pallets but the first decision a beekeeper will likely make is how many colonies per pallet they want to run.           I’ve seen pallets designed for 2,3,4,6 and 8 colonies but the vast majority are either built for 4 or 6 colonies. As with most bee management topics, there isn’t a definitive…

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Tart Cherry Pollination

The summer of 2017 is an exciting time for the Bee Informed Partnership as industry support and beekeeper interest has facilitated the expansion of a new BIP Tech Transfer Team based in Michigan. This expansion into a new territory means learning about the specifics of the local landscape, agricultural systems and beekeeping calendar in order to better serve the local beekeeping operations. Most Michigan-based beekeeping operations spend the winter in Florida or other warmer states and return to Michigan in the spring for fruit pollination and honey production through the summer and autumn. Tart cherries are one of the most prevalent pollination crops   in Michigan…

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Clover Seed Pollination

Clover seed is an important crop grown in western Oregon that benefits rom hired honeybee colonies to boost yields. The Willamette Valley has an ideal climate for seed production with high annual rainfalls that allow growing without irrigation but infrequent rains in July and August allow seed to be harvested with limited risk of moisture damage. There are three main types of clover grown for seed in Oregon with all belonging to the Trifolium genus of the Fabaceae family. They are red clover (T. pratense), crimson clover (T. incarnatum) and white or Dutch clover (T. repens). In addition to clovers the Fabaceae family includes other…

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Meadowfoam Pollination

May in the Willamette Valley is a time of lush green fields of grazing pasture and grass seed crops covering the flatlands along the I-5 corridor from Eugene to Portland. These verdant fields are punctuated by small plantings of dense, low growing, brilliantly white flowers, appropriately called Meadowfoam. Meadowfoam (Limnanthes alba) is an annual oilseed crop with a native range from Vancouver Island, BC to northern California. The oil derived from Meadowfoam seeds contains long-chain fatty acids that are very stable relative to other vegetable oils. This resistance to degradation make it a valuable ingredient to prolong shelf life of products and it is of…

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Oregon State Sentinel Apiary

Spring has come early to western Oregon and it means that monitoring and sampling of colonies in the newly established sentinel apiary is already underway. The sentinel apiary is located at the Oak Creek Center for Urban Horticulture (OCCUH) on the western edge of the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis.  The location provides a diversity of forage including natural, agricultural and low density urban areas.                     The OCCUH apiary is maintained for research and teaching purposes as part of the OSU Honeybee Lab and Oregon Master Beekeeper program. The apiary consists of colonies in a…

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Top Bar Hives

It’s hard to beat a Langstroth hive for its modularity, productivity, and convenience but it can also be interesting to play with bees in a different configuration. I was introduced to bees and learned beekeeping in New Zealand and I’m always looking for opportunities to see bees in new locations and contexts. In reading about beekeeping volunteer opportunities, I came across some different hive designs used around the world where access to materials and budgets are limited and was intrigued by top bar hives (TBH).  The beauty of a top bar hive is in the flexibility of design and low cost possibilities.   Greeks were…

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