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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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Not much, but not nothing

What are your bees doing right now? If you’re in a northern location like me in Michigan the answer for most of the period between November and February may be not much. . .  but they aren’t doing nothing. They are dormant but they aren’t hibernating. During the period of winter dormancy the bees will cluster together to conserve the heat generated by individual bees vibrating their flight muscles. The bees aren’t attempting to heat the entire volume of the hive like we would heat a house, instead their shivering behavior just maintains the necessary temperature of the cluster itself. This behavior allows the colony…

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2018 Sentinel Apiary Program Results

The fourth year of the Sentinel Apiary Program was another great success! The program included 64 beekeepers sampling 418 colonies, for a total of 1,901 samples! You can view the whole 2018 Summary Report here.     We are very excited to share that 2018 Sentinel Participants had significantly lower Varroa loads than the historical national average!           Our Hive Scale Map also underwent extensive remodeling this year, and now includes Varroa data as well as showing a net weight gain or loss per state over the past week to provide even more real time context.         With…

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Eyes in the Sky: Mapping Bee Health

Among the most exciting aspects of BIP’s work is the wealth of data collected for years on honey bee health. This impressive, growing database is keeping a pulse on the health of American bees. With an abundance of information, and growing team to analyze it, we’ve begun to explore new methods to monitor and detect trends and to optimize sampling. It is exciting to be part of team that is open and enthusiast to embrace innovative technology and new interdisciplinary approaches to examine questions around honey bee health. My personal background, for example, is as a geographer. The BIP team has encouraged my interest in…

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BIP Mobile Bee Diagnostic Lab

Our Bee Informed work trucks serve as virtual mobile bee labs, and are stocked with everything we need to take a variety of samples. On this particular day, the Pacific Northwest Tech Transfer Team was preparing to take virus samples in addition to the standard varroa/Nosema testing, as part of a longitudinal USDA study on bee viruses. Each individual bee will be tested (rather than the typical composite sample) to determine the type, variation and scope of viruses present. Numbered tags are stapled on each colony so they can be found again and longitudinally monitored over many months. The cardboard box contains a cooler full…

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Was it enough?

  One of the most critical aspects of maintaining healthy colonies is the control of Varroa mite levels. If you are a regular reader of these blogs, this will not be surprising to you. Visual inspection after applying a treatment may indicate a high mite drop but this may not be sufficient to determine if Varroa levels have been reduced to a satisfactory degree. One of the ways that BIP Tech Transfer Teams work with beekeepers is to quantify Varroa levels in order to determine the efficacy of a treatment and decide if further intervention is necessary. This level of vigilance can and should be…

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Emergency response team for crashing colonies

Tech-Transfer Teams provide third-party documentation of emergency events, such as acute pesticide poisoning, for beekeepers who request this service. The Northwest team responds to at least two emergency calls every year. BIP Tech Teams provide a complete colony health assessment during these calls to help find the underlying issue or at least rule out other possible contributing causes of colony loss. This includes sampling for Varroa mites, Nosema, tracheal mites, and viruses as well as pesticide analysis of dead bees, bee bread, fresh pollen, wax and honey. Sampling dead or dying colonies is difficult for everyone involved but knowing that there is a resource that…

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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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Data-Driven Applications for Beekeepers

With the withdrawal of Fumagillin from the market, there has been renewed interest among queen producers and honey producers alike in finding ways to control Nosema infection in their bees. The Texas BIP team recently helped a beekeeper look at whether essential oil patties or a sprayed-on probiotic would help reduce the Nosema load of spring splits. 30 colonies (8-12 colonies per group) were sampled for Nosema at time of check-back (mid-April 2018) and randomly selected to be part of one of three groups: untreated control, essential oil, or probiotic. When Nosema loads were sampled again (mid-May 2018), the levels had gone down in all groups in accordance with the usual seasonal pattern.…

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Advancing beekeeping through special projects and industry trials

The agriculture sector includes many industries, such as crop and livestock systems. Unlike beekeeping, these other industries have true extension services, which direct programs for change. These changes advance the industry, promote sustainable practices, and enhance production practices. However, beekeepers have rarely had true extension services and service to their issues, until now. The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) is a non-profit organization that provides these types of extension services to beekeepers. One major service BIP provides is special projects and industry trials. These projects and trials performed for university, beekeepers and industry experts test ideas and concepts. Laboratory and field studies need replicates in real-time…

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