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Inhabitants when the colony dies or is clustered for the winter

Going into the winter, beekeepers place an entrance reducer on colonies to reduce robbing and also prevent other animals and insects from entering the hive. The entrance reducer is used to decrease the size of the entrance; it also gives the bees a smaller area to defend. Two common pests to deadout colonies are mice and chipmunks (in Pennsylvania). A mouse can chew drawn comb to nothing but bits and pull debris into the hive to make nests. The chipmunks use hive bodies as storage places to protect their food from the weather as shown in the image below. Using an entrance reducer can limit…

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The Promised Land

This past week has been incredibly busy. We just started our major sampling for beekeepers – collecting about 100 samples in alcohol for Nosema and Varroa and recording information for each of the 100 sampled colonies like frames of bees, queen status, colony weight, temperament, bee color, and any diseases. The goal is to help them choose colonies to breed the next generation of queens. Queen breeding season doesn’t start until the end of February, so we are helping them get a jump start on grading colonies. Last Wednesday, a reporter, Robin Wise, from program called The Promised Land came out to the first beekeeper…

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Eggs, Larvae, Pupae, and the Queen

See snapshots and more detail about the picture and gigapan technology at gigapan.org Double click on the comb of the honey bee frame in the picture above to see if you can spot eggs in the cells. Double clicking will zoom in to reveal much more detail. Katie, Rob, and I have started contacting and visiting bee breeders in Northern California to inspect and test colonies of bees from their breeder pools. Inspection requires that we observe the status of the queen in each colony within an operations’ breeder pool. The queen can be elusive and I have had several beekeepers tell me that you…

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Dead out pests and more inhabitants of the hive.

  When a honey bee colony dies there a number of insects that will invade the hive and take advantage of the resources left over. Often, the first insect to move in is the wax moth and they can be a pest before the colony is even completely dead. These moths usually move into colonies at night when colonies are weak and take advantage of wax from the brood nest. I have pointed out these tunnels in the image below. Also found in dead out colonies are black ants. They use comb as egg storage and shelter from the elements. There is an image above…

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Pesticide Kill

Northern California is a beautiful place. I am located in the Sacramento Valley between the Sierra Nevada and Northern Coastal mountain ranges. The good soils partnered with a Mediterranean climate makes the Central Valley (the northern Sacramento Valley and the southern San Joaquin Valley) one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world. The intense food production means it is a breeding ground for insect pests that feed on the crops. Growers need to control these pests in order to produce a viable crop. One repercussion of this is sometimes beneficial insects take a hit. This is what I saw on a visit to…

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Test for Varroa

I am going to save my original topic of propolis and bee health for a later weeks since it seems more apt to talk about Varroa this time of year. Late summer and early fall is the time when many beekeepers treat for Varroa. Treating now reduces the number of mites feeding on the bees that will become winter bees. One symptom of a mite feeding on a worker pupa is a shortened life span for that adult bee. So, if too many winter bees are exposed to mites during their development, then the population of adult bees can die off over the long winter.…

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Battles at the Entrance

As fall approaches and forage becomes scarce, honey bees become more aggressive to protecting their honey crop. The honey crop is collected throughout the spring and summer. They use the stored honey throughout the winter to fuel their survival by beating their flight muscles to generate heat to warm the colony. The honey becomes very attractive to other insects this time of year; this is often when you see battles at the entrance. There is a video below to show the aftermath of one of these battles. There are also some other pictures of insect pests trying to get into the hives for honey below.

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Frames of Bees

“Colony 47 is queen right with eggs and larvae, there are 10 frames of bees, I got sealed brood at 5,8,11,15,21,29,23,21,17,16, 9, and 5.  The brood pattern is good and there are no diseases…”  This is an example of dialogue between Bee Team members calling out observations from hive inspections and colony assessments in the field. As we gear up this fall for sampling of potential breeders, hive inspection and colony assessments are always a large part of the field work that compliments sample collection.  We will try to sample a minimum of 100 potential breeder colonies from each of the 16 queen breeders we…

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Propolis and human health

Poor Mike isn’t feeling so well this week. He likely has a cold. But on the positive side he can turn to our beloved bees for a bit of help. People all over the world use a substance bees collect to help treat colds, coughs, and general icky-ness: propolis. Some trees and plants excrete resins to protect their growing buds and wounds from getting infected with bacteria, fungi, and viruses and from insect invaders. Bees visit these plants, collect the resins on their back legs like pollen, and bring it back to the hive. Resins are really sticky, so other bees need to help the…

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Field Notes and Hive Inspection

  Not taking notes while inspecting your hives is like going to Yellowstone without bringing a camera.  You might still get what you want out of the experience but you will have no snapshots of things you might otherwise forget.  Organizing your observations into a notebook or spreadsheet during a hive inspection will provide information that can be accessed long after the inspection has taken place.  Think of the hive inspection and the field notes that go with them as a snapshot in time.  These “snapshots in time” can help a beekeeper track the progress of his hives, head off any potential problems before they…

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