Latest Spring Fashion – Blue Pollen

Early spring can be a time requiring patience for beekeepers in northern locations. The weather can be volatile, but the occasional sunny days bring about bee activity. As a beekeeper it can be tempting to open hives and start digging around once you see some flight activity, but the reality is that you may end up doing more harm than good at this stage. Sometimes the best thing you can do as a beekeeper is leave them alone. If you really must do something bee related on a sunny spring day, try just observing the entrance and see what your bees are gathering. On a…

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Honey Mustard or Mustard Honey?

Honey bees need an abundance and diversity of floral resources to grow and thrive throughout the season. In areas of intensive agriculture, like the almond orchards of California, forage can be scarce before and after the primary cultivated crop blooms. One of the pollinator friendly plants that is often seen in and around orchards and agricultural fields is mustard. The common appearance is due to both deliberate planting as a cover crop and the plant spreading through self-sowing. There is a great deal of research going into developing cover crop seed mixes to supplement forage before and after almond bloom. Many of these seed mixes…

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A Look At Filaree As A Forager Food

The vast majority of the commercially managed honey bee colonies in the United States spend February and a portion of March pollinating almonds in the central valley of California.  Almond pollen is very nutritious, and colonies build well on it when favorable weather conditions prevail during bloom. The weather during almond pollination season in 2020 was very favorable, and colonies made significant increases in both population and food reserves during the bloom period. While warm and dry conditions this year led to a good nut set, it did mean that bloom progressed quickly, and once finished there were limited flowers available. By working in various…

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2019 California Spring Update

Many California beekeepers reported that the start of this year was the worst in 20+ years. Several factors contributed to this year’s issues, starting with the numerous fires last year causing nearly 3 months of smoke in the area. Once the days got longer, queens started laying but the temperatures dropped again and egg laying stopped once more resulting in smaller colonies after almonds. In fact, most colonies were 2-3 weeks or even a month behind, which delayed the start of queen production. Many producers had to source bulk bees from beekeepers further south to begin starters, builders and nucs. Once queen producers started generating…

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Almond Math

There are plenty of quick stats you come across working around bees: At peak population, a strong colony can have over 60,000 individual bees. A queen is capable of laying more eggs in a day (up to 2,000) than there are minutes in a day (1,440). A single bee can produce 1/12 tsp honey in its lifespan and may cumulatively travel 500 miles during the several weeks it spends as a forager. Despite annual losses in the 30-40% range, the total managed colony numbers remains fairly constant at about  3 million. The American bee industry is inextricably linked to the almond industry. Every year, about…

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It’s Cold (and Wet) Out There

  I don’t know what the groundhog did or saw this year, but according to the calendar it’s still winter. The first day of spring is still a month away. If you’re a pollinator or grower of almonds, you’re hoping weather conditions up and down the central valley of California become more favorable for flight activity than they have been. I recently returned from 2 weeks of inspecting and sampling colonies where conditions were cold, wet, and windy. These conditions delayed onset and slowed progression of the almond bloom and are forecast to continue. Frequent updates on the progression of bloom and conditions for flight…

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Wintering Sheds: Why are more North American beekeepers overwintering their bees in cold storage?

More and more US beekeepers are starting to place their bees in sheds for the fall, for indoor wintering. While beekeepers in Canada have done this for decades, the popularity of the practice in the US is more recent. Beekeepers began by using structures already built for onion and potato storage in Idaho to house their bees in the fall. These beekeepers then remove the bees in January, and bring them to California for almond tree pollination. Many beekeepers are still using old potato and onion sheds in Idaho, but as the popularity of this practice has increased, some beekeepers have built sheds just for…

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Everything is Bigger in Texas

                I have been working in Texas for the Bee Informed Partnership since May, 2017. Many US commercial honey bee colonies are part of migratory beekeeping operations, so I have been on the road a great deal of the last 5 months helping beekeepers monitor the health of their colonies. I have been in a lot of bee yards in the Dakotas this past summer, and I’ll be going to California when the hives are trucked there to pollinate the almond orchards in the spring. Some of the beekeepers I work with keep their bees in Texas all…

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BIP National Loss Survey Comparison with NASS results

The National Agricultural Statistical Service (NASS) recently reported the results of its second honey bee colony loss survey. The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) also recently published preliminary loss results covering the same period. Despite the differences in methodology and sample sizes, these two surveys yielded comparable results. Specifically, we estimate 33.23% losses based on the BIP survey, and we estimate 35.39% losses when we use BIP methods to calculate losses from the NASS survey (Table 1). This is reassuring as it suggests past BIP surveys are representative of national losses despite the non-random nature of the BIP respondent pool. Both of these surveys were created…

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Tart Cherry Pollination

The summer of 2017 is an exciting time for the Bee Informed Partnership as industry support and beekeeper interest has facilitated the expansion of a new BIP Tech Transfer Team based in Michigan. This expansion into a new territory means learning about the specifics of the local landscape, agricultural systems and beekeeping calendar in order to better serve the local beekeeping operations. Most Michigan-based beekeeping operations spend the winter in Florida or other warmer states and return to Michigan in the spring for fruit pollination and honey production through the summer and autumn. Tart cherries are one of the most prevalent pollination crops   in Michigan…

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