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Hygienic Behavior

Hygienic behavior is a trait that correlates with resistance to chalkbrood, American Foulbrood, and Varroa. Bees with the trait are able to detect, uncap, and remove infected pupae before they become infectious, slowing the spread of disease and the population growth of the mite. It is a trait with multiple genes involved influencing the uncapping and removal behaviors and olfaction. The olfaction genes indicate that the bees need to be able to smell the diseased or dead pupa (or absence of a healthy smell) in order to remove it. To test for the trait, I remove a frame with capped brood, twist a 3” PVC…

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SBV or Sacbrood Virus

In 2005 I started keeping bees. I never saw any disease or virus in my hives until the 2008/2009 season. The first disease I noted in the summer of 2008 was DWV, which is an acronym for Deformed Wing Virus. In the spring of 2009, I found another virus…Sac Brood Virus or SBV. During an inspecting of one hive in early May, I recognized a problem when I saw capped cells that were perforated and had jagged edges. Inside the cells were strange uncapped larvae, which looked like they had shrunken heads. Once the larvae is infected with the virus, it will die and eventually…

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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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Chalkbrood

When I started inspecting for honey bee diseases, the first and most prevalent disease I found was chalkbrood. I first observed this disease a few weeks into the spring while inspecting a few colonies. I had seen the disease on several other occasions, so it was very easy to identify by the hard “chalk-like” mummies inside the cells. As the season progressed, I learned something from the bees and what they do when the colony has chalkbrood. The nurse bees will drag white, black and other different colored infected larvae out of the hive. These “chalk-like” mummies can be found around and in front of…

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Yellow Star Thistle

Since arriving here we have had the chance to meet and talk with a few of the beekeepers that we will be working with all year. We talked about many things including their bees, their operations, and the weather. The one reoccurring theme with all of them was talk of yellow star thistle. The yellow star thistle in and around the Chico area has started to bloom, exciting bees and beekeepers alike. All of the beekeepers we talked to agreed that yellow star thistle is an excellent source of nectar. What some of them didn’t agree on is when the plant produces its nectar. I…

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EFB

The first time I encountered this notable disease was in 2005. My professor at the time had a frozen frame with European Foulbrood. He held up the frame and asked what we saw wrong with it. The first thing I noticed was the shotgun brood pattern. I looked closely and observed contorted/twisted larvae. The symptom is caused by the bacteria Melissococcus plutonius. The larva dies before the cell is sealed because the bacteria out-compete the larvae for the food. The images below demonstrate symptoms I first noted. The next time I saw this unique disease was the summer of 2008. A beekeeper called with concern,…

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Moving West and Settling In

This panorama of Badlands National Park was taken about 2000 miles into our trip from Allentown, Pennsylvania to Chico, California. Rob Snyder and I were moving to Chico to join Katie Lee for a chance to work with some of the best beekeepers/breeders and scientists in the country. We left Pennsylvania Monday June 13, 2011 and arrived in Chico, California 7 days later. From the Badlands we got back on Interstate 90 and moved toward Wyoming stopping briefly at Devil’s Tower National Monument and Grand Teton National Park to take the following images: Before hitting the Tetons we did some fishing in Shoshone National Forest…

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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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Colony, a Beekeeping Documentary out on DVD

  Get out your popcorn. Film directors Carter Gunn and Ross McDonnell’s bee movie “Colony” is out on DVD. Avoiding the quirky approach of “Vanishing of the Bees”, Carter and Ross allow you to experience the reality of California beekeepers facing threats of Colony Collapse Disorder and the declining US economy in 2008-2009. Certainly not a downer, the film also captures the excitement of life challenges, nature, agriculture, and successes hard fought. I had the opportunity to meet Carter and Ross over dinner at the 2007 Heartland Apiculture Society conference in Kentucky. They were just about to set out on their cinematic journey West after…

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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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