Rice Country

A couple of weeks ago, Randall “Cass” Mutters took Rob, Mike, and me on a tour of the rice industry in Northern California. Cass is the rice farm advisor at UC Cooperative Extension, Butte County with an office just down the hallway of my own. According to www.calrice.org, 95% of the state’s rice is grown north of Sacramento – my region. About 2 million tons of rice is produced annually.  Driving around the area always made me wonder about rice production, especially because of the oddity of seeing fields of standing water. Northern California is notorious for the lack of rain in the summer, so it…

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Future

There is so much we can do in the future. During the formation of the BeeInformed Partnership, Dennis approached Marla about taking the Bee Team under its umbrella. Dennis wanted people on the ground to work hands-on with beekeepers in northern California. Marla and I were all too excited at the prospect of being a part of BeeInformed. For one, I get two new team members, Rob Snyder and Mike Andree, who just arrived last week. They are great guys and experienced samplers, so working with them out here should be lots of fun and go smoothly. BeeInformed will also fund the analysis of virus…

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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 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…

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Origins

On this blog, I will share the work I am doing with bee breeders in Northern California. However, I would to give a more complete story through a three-part blog of how I got here, what I am doing now, and where I hope this project will go. Origins Bee breeding if the most interesting part of beekeeping. There is so much to learn with all the complexities of how to choose breeder queens, how to maintain lines, and different ways to use the bee’s biology to raise new queen bees.  I was one of Dr. Marla Spivak’s students at the University of Minnesota, and…

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Weather in Northern California

Beekeepers are farmers. And like other types of farmers, beekeepers depend. on the weather. And this was a particularly stressful year for weather. Queen season started out with temperatures much lower than normal and rainy in February and March. The problem with the poor weather is the queens that normally would go out and mate did not have a single day nice enough to fly, resulting in beekeepers not being able to cage mated queens to sell. The queens had to wait two weeks until they could mate, putting the bee breeders two weeks behind their normal schedule. They had to push queen orders back,…

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Nosema

Nosema. This gut fungus is still a mystery to me. The more I sample, the less it seems to make sense. I take samples for Nosema, analyze them, and provide the results to the beekeeper. The idea is to provide hopefully useful information to help with treatment decisions or decisions on choosing breeder. However, when I provide the beekeeper with the results, I do not know what to tell them. Nosema levels just don’t seem to correlate with colony health: huge and healthy colonies can have 30 million spores per bee. I don’t even know what levels are considered to be high or potentially damaging. Or even if…

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Catching Queens

This week I spent some time with Leonard Pankratz and his crew catching queens. It was a bit chilly and cloudy in the morning, but about noon the clouds parted and it got to be about 75 and sunny. I worked in a sleeve-less shirt and veil-less along side Linda Pankratz. After the unseasonably cold and rainy beginning to this years queen breeding season that set everyone back about two weeks, it was fantastic to work in the sun catching some lovely queens and absorbing the sun.

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Katie Reports from the Field

The other day I did hygienic testing on Buzz Landon’s colonies while they were in the almonds. He brought his two little boys on the day we checked the test. They wore little mittens to protect their hands, but couldn't resist taking them off to poke at the bees. We rode around from pallet-to-pallet on a golf cart that the kids adored and would always yell for their dad to go faster. Buzz would occasionally let them puff smoke on the bees. He laughed and asked me “How many dads do you think let their kids smoke?”

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