Summer: Cycle of Northern California Bee Breeder

The graphic above illustrates the basic cycle of beekeeping during the summer season in northern California. Things like applying treatments and feeding are management decisions based on what the bees are doing in response to the environment around them. Feeding and treating is operation specific and location dependent. Think of treatment windows in terms of hive dynamics with bee population being one of the most important. Hive populations go in cycles, rising in times where forage is abundant and falling at times when available forage tapers off. It is much easier to effectively treat a hive for Varroa and Nosema when bee populations are low…

Continue Reading →

State of Beekeeping in Northern CA:

I have been living in Northern CA for just over a year now and from what I’ve been told the weather in the past year has been atypical. Last spring and early summer was late and unusually wet which led to one of the best star thistle crops in years. Because of the rain the star thistle was able to out compete the grasshoppers and produce more than enough flowers to keep the bees busy. Most beekeepers in the area were able to make a surplus of honey and I think the abundance of available forage during the summer months may have helped curb pests…

Continue Reading →

Cycle of a Northern CA Bee Breeder

Most commercial beekeepers will tell you that beekeeping has changed dramatically in the last 30 years coinciding with the arrival of Varroa mites in the late 80’s. It seems as though things have been in a constant state of change since then as beekeepers and scientists scramble to understand the complexities of Varroa, viruses, Nosema ceranae, pesticides and how they interact with bees, both, alone and in combination. The days of setting bees down in a single location and letting them go until it was time to extract honey are far gone. Now, commercial beekeepers start to fall behind if they are not making their…

Continue Reading →

The Ropes of Research – Learning My Way Around a New World

When I think back to when I first started as an apiary technician at the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture the first thing that comes to my mind is how completely clueless I was when it came to beekeeping. I also had a lot to learn about scientific research. The more I learned the more I realized how little I actually knew. An answer to one question almost always leads to another question... I will never forget my first day in the field at a yard just outside the small town of Lewisburg, Pennsylvania. Dennis vanEngelsdorp and I met Jeff Pettis and Nathan Rice (USDA Bee…

Continue Reading →

The Midwest at its Best

Not many Californians would jump at the opportunity to spend their summer in Minnesota and North Dakota, but not many Californians work with bees either. I was glad to be given the opportunity to work with Katie Lee in the Bee Informed Partnership and pack my bags and relocate to St. Paul at the beginning of June. For the past four years I've worked with Sue Cobey at UC Davis, learning how to keep bees and raise queens, working my way up to a full time position taking care of the research hives and lab facilities at the Harry Laidlaw Honey Bee Research Facility. My…

Continue Reading →

Spring Collecting In Northern California

Spring in Northern California has been good for collecting different native bee species along with other flower visiting insects. With summer approaching fast, native bees are thriving on yellow flowering plants such as Yellow Star Thistle (Centaurea solstitialis) and Great Valley Gumplant (Grindelia camporum). On these two species of flowers I collected 6 genera including Megachile, Triepeolus, Mellisodes, Osmia, Ceratina and Lasioglossum. There is an image below and at the end showing some of the bees collected and pinned. I also collected some other insects and arthropods in Siskiyou County. I found some swallowtails (Papilio sp.) congregating near a stream bank in the late afternoon.…

Continue Reading →

Midwest Bee Team

This past weekend, I made a solo trip halfway across the country back to my homeland of Minnesota where I will now be based. One of the goals of the Bee Team program is to expand and establish multiple Teams around the country. There have been requests to establish Teams in the Northeast and Southeast, which I really hope happens in the near future. But for now, the next Team will be established for Midwest beekeepers, focusing on Minnesota and North Dakota. What we will be doing in the Midwest will be slightly different than in California, since we will be primarily working with non-queen…

Continue Reading →

Queen Season

It is queen producing season! The first grafts happened late February and now thousands and thousands of nucs (mini colonies) are scattered across the Sacramento Valley. Normally, how it works is the beekeepers make up the tiny colonies with about a spam can of bees (that is the actual measurement in a few cases), put in a cell with a queen about to emerge, then place the nuc out into the field so the queen can mate a few days post-emergence. The beekeepers will wait until the new queen is laying eggs and generally looks healthy, then catch and cage the queen, and ship her…

Continue Reading →

Spring Sampling Season

Our spring sampling season is almost finished (in Northern CA, spring starts in January - coming from the Midwest, I initially found that very confusing) . It has been a marathon to try and get all the bees sampled before the queen breeding season starts. We've been sampling colonies for Varroa, Nosema, viruses, and hygienic behavior that the beekeepers picked out as potential queen mother colonies. The data is only really useful if they get it prior to the start of their grafting, so we have been working pretty much non-stop since the end of January to get the information to them in time. We…

Continue Reading →

Be Involved. Be Included.Bee Informed.

Donate Now ! →