The NEW Honey Bee Discovery Center in Orland

A few weeks ago, I was invited to the Honey Bee Discovery Center Kick-off and Exhibit Preview in Orland, California. This event was followed by the Queen Bee Festival the day after. The Honey Bee Discovery Center is ‘the first interactive exhibit and museum of its kind’. It highlights the history of beekeeping from hobbyists, sideliners and commercial operators’ perspectives, and features the evolution and breakthroughs in equipment, pollination and art inspired by bees. Inside the center, one can find multiple showcases of vintage bee equipment related to all apicultural activities, complete with an observation hive near the center of the room. All around the new…

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2019 California Spring Update

Many California beekeepers reported that the start of this year was the worst in 20+ years. Several factors contributed to this year’s issues, starting with the numerous fires last year causing nearly 3 months of smoke in the area. Once the days got longer, queens started laying but the temperatures dropped again and egg laying stopped once more resulting in smaller colonies after almonds. In fact, most colonies were 2-3 weeks or even a month behind, which delayed the start of queen production. Many producers had to source bulk bees from beekeepers further south to begin starters, builders and nucs. Once queen producers started generating…

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Spring Hygienic Testing and California Hygienic Score Trends

This spring we will start Hygienic testing Queen breeders’ colonies. This is my favorite type of testing for beekeepers because we get to look at the best performing colonies in the entire operation. The beekeeper we  work with often selects the best hives throughout the year for performance and marks them, then in the spring the final selections are made from spring build up and how well the colonies-maintained size over the winter. It is best if the colonies are all in the same yard because it is easier to go through colonies quickly. Sometimes we test in almonds and have to move from pallet…

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Making a Difference

Over the past seven years working with BIP, I have witnessed, first hand, improvements on the quality of the hygienic behavior in honey bee stock coming out of the Northern California Queen Breeders. Of all the variety of samples we perform as BIP Tech Teams, hygienic testing is my favorite because it means I get to look at the best performing colonies in each of the operations we work with. Over the years, I have noticed a decrease in the severity of European foulbrood, Chalkbrood and Sacbrood virus due to our collaborative efforts with the beekeepers in the program who select for hygienic behavior traits.…

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2018 Northern California Update

Weather in Northern California greatly fluctuated this spring. It was in the 70 and warmer before the almond bloom started, then once the trees started blooming the weather turned cold. There were a few days when temperatures dropped to the low 20’s. These temperatures damaged the early pollinated almonds and will most likely affect the overall yields of early blooming varieties, which suffered damage by frost in some locations. We sampled many hives during the bloom and they were packed with pollen even though the bee flight hours were low due to cold windy weather. The weather also impacted the bee’s temperament, bees were more…

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Northern California Summer Update 2017

In northern California, after a wet winter and spring it has been a really dry and hot summer. In the spring I saw a lot more chalkbrood than normal, something that was noted nationwide by our other teams. Below are a few images of some of the worst cases photographed. It has been the hottest summer in the 6 years I have lived in northern California, with many weeks above 100F. I was able to document how dry it has been this summer as I traveled around and sampled honey bee colonies for BIP. Other than the heat, beekeepers in northern California have been dealing…

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2017 Spring Pollen and Nectar Source: Pussy Willow

As spring approaches and the days grow longer, more plants are starting to bloom, including pussy willows. These plants usually bloom here in Northern California between February and March. There are several species of this plant but Salix discolor is the most commonly found. I usually find these trees near water though they are also used as ornamental plantings. There is a tree in the image below in bloom. Once you get closer to the trees, you can start to see the catkins, which are unique on this plant as opposed to the alders which are also in bloom now (For more information see Ben's…

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Bee Informed Partnership Diagnosis and treatment of Common Honey Bee Diseases Wins Bronze!

At Apimondia this year our training manual for ‘Common honey bee diseases’ was submitted in the book category.  This simple training manual was entered among many other highly competitive books and won a bronze award to our surprise!  I originally wanted to create a honey bee disease/diagnosis manual because  most of the literature had very small, poor quality photos which made disease identification difficult.  So for the past 7 years I had been collecting images of the various bee diseases and pests I came across during colony inspections in Pennsylvania as well as in migratory operations around the country.  In 2011, I moved to Northern…

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Variable Efficacy of Mite Treatments?

Variable efficacy of mite treatments has been a constant battle for beekeepers in the past 28 years. However, there are some things we can do in the colony to increase a treatment’s efficacy. Many treatments available to beekeepers are spread through the hive by the bees and also by the bees fanning and ventilating the hive. This ventilation is a crucial part of the hive as a whole since pheromones are spread through the hive via ventilation and traffic from worker, queen and drone bees. Through my experience, and especially over the past 8 years, I have noticed many different types of beekeepers: there are…

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Alfalfa Leafcutter Bee (Megachile rotundata)

Megachile rotundata (or the alfalfa leafcutter bee) is a species native to Eurasia that was introduced into the United States after the 1930’s because of a drop in seed production. This bee was brought into the US to increase pollination yields of Alfalfa for seed because honey bees are not the best pollinators of the crop. M. rotundata was also introduced to New Zealand (1971) and Australia (1987) for the same reasons. This solitary species is now widespread across the United States with many feral populations. Alfalfa has a tripping mechanism that triggers the stamen (pollen reproductive organ) to strike the pollinator enabling pollen transfer…

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