Working Honey Bees in Hawai’i

Working bees in November in Hawai’i? YES, PLEASE! BIP Tech Team Field Specialist Ben Sallmann and I pounced on the opportunity to leave Minnesota and Michigan's dreary November weather. We tackled all of the logistical challenges and hopped on a plane to Hawai'i to conduct fieldwork for the state's contribution to the National Honey Bee Disease Survey (NHBS) . National Honey Bee Disease Survey The National Honey Bee Disease Survey (NHBS) is a federally-funded, nationwide, annual honey bee survey. This survey has been conducted since 2010 and is a joint effort between the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) and…

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Moving Bees Into Almonds

Every year, beekeepers from across the continental United States move millions of honey bee colonies to California’s Central Valley, arriving just in time to tend the billions of bursting almond blossoms that require their pollination services. But have you ever really thought about what it takes to accomplish this massive migration? Colonies from every corner of the country - many hunkered down in the dead of winter, or stacked in indoor, cold storage sheds - are prepped and loaded onto semis, hauled hundreds of miles, inspected at border stations, unloaded into temporary holding yards, and then relocated once more - strategically placed amongst the almonds…

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Feeding Bees – Top Feeders

Feeding colonies sugar syrup is something most beekeepers do, generally in the spring and/or fall.  The purpose of feeding syrup can be to stimulate colony growth, sustain them through a dearth period, or build and maintain adequate stores for wintering. There are multiple methods for feeding syrup, each utilizing different pieces of equipment and having their own pros and cons. Previous blog posts discuss the use of gravity feeders and frame feeders, which are the two most commonly used feeders. A top feeder is a third method for feeding that is also a good choice under certain circumstances. As the name suggests, a top feeder…

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Scooping Bees

To keep healthy bees, beekeepers must monitor their colonies for harmful pests and diseases. This commonly includes testing for the presence and abundance of Varroa, Nosema, and (less frequently) a number viruses and pesticides. To perform these tests beekeepers need to sample their bees.  It is not that hard to sample bees, but doing it quickly and accurately is an acquired skill.  Of course, there are many good methods for sampling honey bees, but most involve some form of scooping. Choosing a Frame Since all of these tests are performed using a small number of bees relative to the total number found in the colony,…

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“Bamboo” honey

A colony of bees is capable of producing honey from a stunning variety of floral sources, but a few years back, when a beekeeper in New York told me his bees were in the midst of making a good fall crop on the bamboo, I was a bit puzzled. Knowing that bamboos belong to the grass family (Poaceae), I questioned a little further about how it was possible for bees to make honey from a grass, and the beekeeper pointed to a patch of dense, shrubby plants covered in white flowers and bees. Continued questioning eventually got to the answer that the “bamboo honey” was…

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Detecting Wax Moth Larvae in Frames of Sealed Brood

As a honeybee health field specialist, when I am assessing a colony's health I look for irregularities in the sealed or open brood (Image 1 & 2). These irregularities may indicate the presence of diseases or pests. One common pest that can cause brood irregularities is the wax moth. Wax moth larvae develop underneath the honey bee colony's brood cappings. The wax moth larvae often bind a honey bee pupa’s feet to the midline of the of frame, resulting in pupae that are not able to molt properly and therefore die in the capped cell before emergence. When identifying and locating wax moth larvae in…

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The New York State Tech Transfer Team Report

As a national organization the Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) is fortunate to collaborate with beekeepers, scientists and educators around the country. These relationships manifest in many different forms but are linked by the common thread of seeking to better understand honey bee health and find ways to improve it. One of BIP's longstanding collaborations has been with the New York State (NYS) Beekeeper Tech Team. The NYS Tech Team program originated in 2016 with funding from the NYS Environmental Protection Fund to address unsustainable colony loss rates throughout the state. The program is carried out by Cornell University in collaboration with NYS Department of Agriculture…

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The Great Bee Marathon

If you are an almond grower, a beekeeper or simply live in Northern California, you know where to find most of America’s honey bee colonies in late January through February. Close to two million honey bee colonies come from all over the United States to pollinate the almond blooms each year. But then what? If getting bees to California is like a sprint for beekeepers, what happens after is more like a marathon. When the last almond petals fall, the beekeepers’ most intensive work period begins. Lightning Speed Honey Bee Biology and their Life Cycle In nature, honey bees reproduce on two levels. At the…

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Field Testing the Benefits of Probiotic Supplementation in Real World Commercial Beekeeping Operations

In light of the rise in probiotic supplementation's popularity among beekeepers, the California State Beekeepers Association (CSBA) awarded Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) funding to test the colony health benefits of probiotic supplementation in commercial beekeeping operations. To do so, we tested two commercially available probiotic products: SuperDFM, manufactured by Strong Microbials, and Mann Lake's ProDFM. Field trials were conducted between fall 2019-spring 2020 and included colonies from commercial operations in Oregon and California. For each region, three bee yards were selected, and within each yard, four colonies were randomly assigned to one of three groups: SuperDFM; ProDFM; or No supplementation Negative Control, (2 regions x…

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The Bee Informed Partnership Field Specialists’ Report on 2020 Commercial Beekeeping Trends

The Bee Informed Partnership's Tech Transfer Team offers a honey bee colony health monitoring program tailored to meet the specific needs facing commercial beekeepers. The Tech Transfer Team program's Field Specialists follow commercial beekeeping operations during their yearly migrations across the country, to provide pollination services and producing honey (Figure 1). Field Specialists perform colony health inspections, on-site testing for several important honey bee pests and diseases, including the destructive Varroa mite, collect samples if additional laboratory testing is required, and consult with the participating beekeepers regarding their colony health management plan. In 2020 alone, BIP's Tech Transfer Team collectively inspected over 13,000 colonies, put…

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