Whats wrong with my hive?

To determine if something is wrong with your hive, you must first know what a healthy, productive hive looks like. Knowing what a healthy colony looks like takes time, patience, and many hours in the hive to get a feel of what is going on in the colony throughout the year. Sometime the colony does not look so great and the size of the colony starts to dwindle. You can do two things here, panic or take a look at what is actually going on. Look at the brood, look at the bees(size, wings, uniformity, behavior), look at the sealed brood, look at the food…

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Yellow Jackets

With winter approaching and food sources dwindling honey bee colonies are starting to be harassed by pests. Yellow Jackets are one of the most common pests, they feed on bees, larva, brood, honey bee bread and pretty much anything they can take advantage of in the hive. During this time of year when robbing becomes a problem, the yellow jackets will follow. During the chaos there is an open opportunity for yellow jackets to move in and take advantage of the situation. In Butte County, CA it was a very dry year so the yellow jackets will be a more serious problem with the lack…

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Spotlight on Valley Oak

As we enter the final week of summer it seems fitting to talk about Quercus lobata Née, the Valley Oak. This tree is a late summer source of bee forage in Northern California where forage is scarce going into the fall. Valley oaks are endemic to California and are found in the interior valleys and foothills. At this time of year one can hear honey bees buzzing high up in the canopy. They’re not visiting flowers, but “oak apples,” a type of gall induced by the oak gall wasp Andricus quercuscalifornicus. What the bees are after is the honeydew the gall secretes. The tiny wasp…

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Detecting American Foulbrood with a Blacklight: UPDATE

For clarification, using a blacklight is supposed to help you see if there are AFB scales in the bottom of a cell. The blacklight will make other things made of protien glow as well, so always double check that what you are seeing is a scale and not shaped like something else. An AFB scale should only be on the bottom of a cell (see picture). Be sure to look at the comb under a normal light as well, and if you are still not sure then ask or you can even send in a picture!

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Examining Bacteria From Colonies with Foulbrood Symptoms

Microscopy is a useful tool to diagnose honey bee problems. While working on some content for eXtension.org, I helped record the following video. These bacterial spores where found in a comb showing symptoms of American foulbrood disease. Paenibacillus larvae With Brownian Motion From a Honey Bee Colony Video description: Spores of the causative agent of American foulbrood disease in honey bee colonies are shown here. Paenibacillus larvae spores (seen here at 1000x) display brownian motion when the microscope slide is prepared with the hanging drop method. Acknowledgements: Organized, prepared slide: Michael E Wilson, University of Tennessee; videography & microscopy: Ernest Bernard, University of Tennessee; Video…

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Phorid Fly (Light Trapping)

The past few months I have been trying to capture honey bees that are infected with Phorid Flies in the Chico, CA area. So what is a Phorid Fly? It is a fly commonly referred to as the humpback-fly because of its appearance. Previously the fly was known to parasitize bumble bees and paper wasps but has now transferred host and is able to reproduce using the honey bee (Apis mellifera). It has been termed the “Zombee” because once parasitized, the honey bee behaves irregularly, taking flight at night and dying away from the hive. More information on this name and the fly can be…

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Antlions (Myrmeleontidae)

Previously I wrote a blog about an insect known as a “Wormlion.” I suspected this insect to be an Antlion at first. I then figured that not many people knew what an Antlion was so I figured I would blog about them. Antlions are in the order Neuroptera which in English translates into “nerve-wings.” An Antlion is the larval stage of the insect; these are also referred to as “doodle-bugs.” They call them doodle-bugs because when you place these insects on sand or loose dirt, they will crawl backwards making a distinguishable trail and eventually burrow down into the medium. In the wild you can…

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It’s Raining Frass!

In early June I experienced an outbreak of forest tent caterpillars (FTC), Malacosoma disstria, while sampling at an apiary in west-central Minnesota. Not only were the hive lids covered with frass, the technical term for insect feces, but the caterpillars themselves were falling on both the lids and my shoulders as I worked. According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, FTC has been in the outbreak stage in west-central counties of Minnesota for several years, potentially numbering from one to four million caterpillars per acre. In between outbreaks FTC can be nearly undetectable. The larval caterpillars emerge from over-wintered egg masses around mid-May and…

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Honey Bee Lab from Home

From time to time we are approached by beekeepers who are interested in setting up their own labs so that they can take samples of their bees and test them for Varroa mites and Nosema spores. Most beekeepers know what a Varroa mite looks like so identification usually isn’t an issue. Counting Nosema spores can be a more daunting task, especially if you are trying to quantify spore loads. Seeing an image of a Nosema spore on the internet or in a book can make things easier but until you see one yourself under a microscope and have someone verify the identification it could be…

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Pest and predators of honey bees

As the weather starts to warm and flowers start to bloom, honey bee colonies start hoarding pollen and nectar to rear brood. At the same time, honey bee pests start to awaken from their winter slumbers or eclose from an egg. What are these pest interested in? Most pests feed on the bees themselves, bee brood (for protein), sugar/corn syrup or pollen patties. The chances of these pests attacking hives are higher when food is scarce or when there are large apiaries of 40 or more hives. Some beekeepers use electric fences in hopes to deter some of these pests (image below of an electric…

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