Beekeeping Enters the Cloud

Being at the intersection of computing and beekeeping affords unique opportunities for me to share my love of beekeeping.  Beekeeping Enters the Cloud was the catchy title for a talk I gave at the Microsoft Research Cloud Futures 2011 conference where I explained how cloud computing is being used to address the problem of high winter losses through the Bee Informed Partnership and to provide beekeepers a powerful record keeping tool called Hive Tracks.  Watch the talk (click on the image) to see my vision for the ongoing intersection of computing and beekeeping.

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Wormlion (Vermilionidae)

On a recent trip I stumbled onto pits in sandy soil. The first thing that came to mind was Antlions which congregate in dry soil. They sit in the bottom of the pits and wait for unsuspecting prey to fall in. Upon further investigation I found that there were small worm-like larvae in the bottom of these pits. They were somewhat strange looking having no pronounced prolegs or large sclerotinized mandibles to grab prey with. So once I figured out that these were not Antlions I figured I’d throw in some prey to see what happened. When I did, I was surprised. The larvae grabbed…

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Velvet Ants (Mutillidae)

On a recent adventure into the Ishi Wilderness...(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ishi_Wilderness) I stumbled onto my second Velvet Ant (Mutillidae) in California. This one was similar to the first species I saw. There are a few images below that show the first one I collected. Mike also found a Velvet Ant that looked to be the same species. Velvet ants are so named because of their dense hair that can be gold, black, orange or a variety of other colors. I have both specimens in captivity now. One fascinating thing I found about these ants is they make squeaking noises by stridulation which means that they make sounds by…

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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.…

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Queen Bee Identification

Over the past few months we have been sampling and assessing colonies throughout queen breeders operations. We looked at colony size, weight, brood pattern, bee color and queen status. I had a chance to photograph some different Italian queens (Apis mellifera ligustica) and Carniolan queens (Apis mellifera carnica). Both species are usually gentle and can be kept in areas with people without problems. There are many differences between the two subspecies of bees; some say the Carniolan queens are better for colder climates. Despite these differences, queen breeders generally breed for some of these characteristics below. I have also included photographs of some of these…

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Insect Flight

When you think of a honey bee, one adaptation that stands out is its ability to fly. Without flight, the honey bee would not be able to accomplish any of the tasks that allow its existence. There are two mechanisms of flight, one primitive and the other more advanced from evolutionary pressures to survive. The primitive flight is termed “Direct Flight.” There are two insect orders within this class of flight, Ephemeroptera (Mayflies) and Odonata (Dragonflies and Damselflies). All following orders of insect’s flight mechanisms are termed “Indirect Flight.” The difference between the two flight mechanisms is the insertion and origin of the flight muscles…

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Convergent Lady Beetle Congregation

A few weeks ago in December, Mike and I ventured into the woods to fish the Butte Creek. After a few hours of fishing and hiking rough terrain we stumbled onto a Ladybug congregation area. There is an image above of the convergent ladybugs. After a few minutes of photographing the beetles, we noticed that they started to rise from the leaf-litter. Ladybugs or Ladybird beetles usually overwinter in leaf-litter, crevices in rocks, tall grass areas, cracks and crevices in trees and many other locations including nearby homes. The leaf-litter is most desirable for the beetles since it insulates and protects them from the elements.…

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How to store soft bodied insects

In my last blog I explained how to pin and label bees. In this blog I am going to talk about another way to store and preserve soft bodied insects or larvae. This is particularly useful when you want to store the larvae or pupae of bees. There is an image above of different bee caste I found in clay soil over the summer of 2010. For larvae, I like to use Pampel’s solution, a general purpose preservative. Two other common fixatives are KAAD larval fixative and Peterson’s solution. They are available from Bioquip.com. These are a bit more expensive than what we store common…

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How to Pin Bees

In prior blogs, I talked about methods of collecting bees from nets to bowl traps. I am now going to talk about the process of pinning the insects that have been collected. If the collected bees are frozen, put them on a paper towel or tissue to dry for 10 minutes or so. I will usually gently role them in a tissue to remove any excess condensation from thawing. A picture below shows some bees on a paper towel thawing out. If the bees are from a bowl trap or collected and stored in alcohol, follow steps from my bowl collecting blog to dry the…

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Collecting with Bowl Traps

In my previous blog I talked about collecting bees. I am now going to talk about using another tool for collecting insects. This collection method uses bowl traps. The bowl traps are painted various colors to attract different bee species. For the past 3 years I have been using Silica flat yellow fluorescent and silica flat blue fluorescent paint for bowl colors. I also have used plain white bowls. There is an image above showing one of the bowls used for bowl trap collecting. When using the bowl traps, you will need several items. You will need the bowls which you can make yourself. For…

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