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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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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