Bee Beard

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MiVTZbISMcE Last Saturday Rob and I volunteered to participate in the Patrick Ranch’s annual Country Faire and Threshing Bee. For more information about the event visit: http://site.patrickranchmuseum.org/index.html We got a call from Yvonne Koehnen earlier last week asking if we would be interested in doing a bee beard for the honey bee exhibit at the fair. The Koehnen family has been beekeeping since 1907. For more on the Koehnen family visit: http://www.koehnen.com/ I had never done a bee beard before so I was excited about the invitation. We put our weekend plans to fish the McCloud River on hold and happily accepted Yvonne’s invitation. There…

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Spring Collecting In Northern California

Spring in Northern California has been good for collecting different native bee species along with other flower visiting insects. With summer approaching fast, native bees are thriving on yellow flowering plants such as Yellow Star Thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) and Great Valley Gumplant (Grindelia camporum). On these two species of flowers I collected 6 genera including Megachile, Triepeolus, Mellisodes, Osmia, Ceratina and Lasioglossum. There is an image below and at the end showing some of the bees collected and pinned. I also collected some other insects and arthropods in Siskiyou County. I found some swallowtails (Papilio sp.) congregating near a stream bank in the late afternoon.…

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Pest and predators of honey bees

As the weather starts to warm and flowers start to bloom, honey bee colonies start hoarding pollen and nectar to rear brood. At the same time, honey bee pests start to awaken from their winter slumbers or eclose from an egg. What are these pest interested in? Most pests feed on the bees themselves, bee brood (for protein), sugar/corn syrup or pollen patties. The chances of these pests attacking hives are higher when food is scarce or when there are large apiaries of 40 or more hives. Some beekeepers use electric fences in hopes to deter some of these pests (image below of an electric…

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Queen Bee Identification

Over the past few months we have been sampling and assessing colonies throughout queen breeders operations. We looked at colony size, weight, brood pattern, bee color and queen status. I had a chance to photograph some different Italian queens (Apis mellifera ligustica) and Carniolan queens (Apis mellifera carnica). Both species are usually gentle and can be kept in areas with people without problems. There are many differences between the two subspecies of bees; some say the Carniolan queens are better for colder climates. Despite these differences, queen breeders generally breed for some of these characteristics below. I have also included photographs of some of these…

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Insect Flight

When you think of a honey bee, one adaptation that stands out is its ability to fly. Without flight, the honey bee would not be able to accomplish any of the tasks that allow its existence. There are two mechanisms of flight, one primitive and the other more advanced from evolutionary pressures to survive. The primitive flight is termed “Direct Flight.” There are two insect orders within this class of flight, Ephemeroptera (Mayflies) and Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies). All following orders of insect’s flight mechanisms are termed “Indirect Flight.” The difference between the two flight mechanisms is the insertion and origin of the flight muscles…

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Moisture Control

In some locations in the United States moisture can kill honey bee colonies over the winter months. This moisture is caused by the condensation of the water vapor as it rises from the cluster and cools at the interface between the warmer and colder air. This interface is usually at the inner cover in most hives. Bees can be killed by moisture if it builds on the inner cover and rains down onto the bees when clustered. The bees can tolerate the cold but not when they are wet. Many beekeepers will place an empty hive body above the inner cover for added protection against…

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Convergent Lady Beetle Congregation

A few weeks ago in December, Mike and I ventured into the woods to fish the Butte Creek. After a few hours of fishing and hiking rough terrain we stumbled onto a Ladybug congregation area. There is an image above of the convergent ladybugs. After a few minutes of photographing the beetles, we noticed that they started to rise from the leaf-litter. Ladybugs or Ladybird beetles usually overwinter in leaf-litter, crevices in rocks, tall grass areas, cracks and crevices in trees and many other locations including nearby homes. The leaf-litter is most desirable for the beetles since it insulates and protects them from the elements.…

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How to catch a swarm

When someone informs you of a swarm, it is critical that you ask some important questions and take down some information before heading out to catch it. These important items include the following: • You need to know the height of the swarm to determine if you can reach it by standing or if a ladder will be required. • It is also important to determine that they are actual honey bees; the best way to do this is ask questions. Many calls come in but in fact, are for wasp nests or some other insect. • Are they on a branch you can cut…

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Entrance Reducers

What is the purpose of an entrance reducer? Entrance reducers can be used for different things at different times of the year. Entrance reducers are most commonly used in the fall when forage becomes limited and bee traffic slows down. It is also important to seal up any other holes in the colony around this time of the year to prevent robbing or access for pests. Beekeepers will decrease the size of hive entrances to limit the space that the bees have to protect. They also change the temperature and ventilation unless using screen bottom boards. Reducers can keep unwanted pest like chipmunks and mice…

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How to store soft bodied insects

In my last blog I explained how to pin and label bees. In this blog I am going to talk about another way to store and preserve soft bodied insects or larvae. This is particularly useful when you want to store the larvae or pupae of bees. There is an image above of different bee caste I found in clay soil over the summer of 2010. For larvae, I like to use Pampel’s solution, a general purpose preservative. Two other common fixatives are KAAD larval fixative and Peterson’s solution. They are available from Bioquip.com. These are a bit more expensive than what we store common…

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