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Almonds, pollination and harvesting

To get almonds you need pollinators. Above is an image of a handful of honey bee colonies out in an orchard during the almond bloom. This pollination starts at the end of January and throughout February depending on weather. There are close to a million honey bee colonies in California during the time of this bloom. This makes California's Almond bloom the largest annual managed pollination event in the world. Below are images of almonds on the trees several months after pollination. During this time of year almonds are becoming mature and harvesters are preparing to start shaking the trees. Once the almonds reach a…

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Differentiated Females

Two weeks ago while inspecting some hives just outside of Willows, CA I shot the video of this queen. She caught my attention because of the distinct striping on her abdomen. Rob Snyder and I were in Willows to inspect and sample hives that were in sunflowers for pollination service. Tomorrow I have a presentation to give for the Marin County Beekeepers. As I put the finishing touches on my presentation I came across a passage in Snodgrass’s, “The Anatomy Of The Honey Bee” that made me rethink what I thought it meant to be a queen and a worker. The passage is below… “…young…

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Grafting

Thousands of queens are raised and sold around the country. But how does one get their bees to raise all these extra queens? The secret lies within manipulating the bees own biology (as does most of beekeeping). There are two types of eggs in the colony: unfertilized and fertilized. The unfertilized eggs will become drones and the fertilized eggs will become female bees, either workers or queens. A bee must be born a queen, but there is no difference in genetics. She becomes either a worker or queen depending on how she is raised and what she is fed. Bees destined to become workers develop…

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Tarsal claws hard at work

Ever wonder how bees can hold on so well? For starters, honey bees are insects that have 3 pairs of segmented legs. The legs can do more than just hold on, the tibia of the hind legs have adapted hair to hold pollen. When the hairs are filled with pollen,it is termed “pollen basket “or corbicula. The corbicula is found on bees in the family Apidae; other bees have similar branched hair structures called scopa. The forelegs contain antennae cleaners. The leg segments include coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, tarsomeres (tarsal segments), and the tarsal claws. The tarsal claws are at the end of the leg…

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Centaurea stoebe and Pollinators (Part 3)

In the previous two blogs, I have talked about the invasive plant “Spotted Knapweed.” Centaurea stoebe is native to Europe and was introduced into the United States in the late 1800s through contaminated seed. Spotted knapweed is considered by some a nuisance because it displaces native plants and forage for livestock. The plant releases toxins which degrade livestock growth when foraged on. To insects and beekeepers this plant is beneficial by producing nectar and pollen sources. It can produce 1000 or more seeds per plant. These seeds can remain viable for several years in soil and may only show up a few years after introduction.…

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Winter Loss Survey 2008 – 2009

A survey of honey bee colony losses in the United States, fall 2008 to spring 2009 Published in the Journal of Apicultural Research, this survey found that an estimated 29% of all US colonies died over the winter of 2008-2009. vanEngelsdorp, D., J. Hayes Jr, R. M. Underwood, and J. S. Pettis. 2010. A survey of honey bee colony losses in the United States, fall 2008 to spring 2009. Journal of Apicultural Research. 49: 7 -14.

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Nectar Flow

It’s August in Northern California and the nectar flow from the Yellow Starthistle is on… In fact, some beekeepers have already begun extracting honey. For those beekeepers trying to make pure Starthistle honey it’s important to have their bees in locations where there are few other nectar producing plants. Starthistle nectar and honey have a distinct green tint that is visible in both the cells of the hive and the jars on the shelves. Last week, Rob Snyder and I were in the field with Shannon Wooten to sample some of his hives. He took us to a few of his locations in Shasta County…

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Drone Fishing

Last week, Jody Gerdts and Maggie Shanahan went fishing for drones. Drones and queens mate generally over 60 feet up in the air. Drones gather in specific spots, queens fly by, and the drones chase her. The ones that catch-up get to mate. These drone congregation areas are sometimes even in the same from year-to-year. Some of the books say drones and queens fly different distances away from the hive to prevent inbreeding. However, after talking to beekeepers that have seen the drone congregation areas I am unsure if the distances are true. I have talked to beekeepers that have seen congregation areas much close…

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Non-native bees and invasive plant species. (Part 2)

In the last blog, I talked about the invasive plant “Spotted Knapweed.” This plant is unique because it supports several oligolectic bee species, which means that the bees visit (for pollen and nectar) very specific host plant species. Lithurgus chrysurus, or the Mediterranean wood boring bee, is one of them (see previous blog). Another bee that feeds on this Centaurea species is Megachile apicalis, more commonly known as a leaf-cutter bee. This rare non-native species, like the L. chrysurus, is from the Mediterranean region. I have become familiar with both bees from collecting in my hometown in PA for the past 3 summers. To identify…

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Bee Squad

When starting out, some hobby beekeepers feel overwhelmed with trying to understand what is going on in the hive and how they can best help their bees. I was really lucky when I learned how to keep bees, because I spent 40 hours per week with people who had spent years researching and keeping bees, and who never stopped asking questions to find more about bees (mainly Gary Reuter). If I didn’t understand something, there were several people who I could ask. For beekeepers that are just beginning, they rarely get access to the expertise and information that I did. There are books to read,…

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