Drone Fishing

Last week, Jody Gerdts and Maggie Shanahan went fishing for drones. Drones and queens mate generally over 60 feet up in the air. Drones gather in specific spots, queens fly by, and the drones chase her. The ones that catch-up get to mate. These drone congregation areas are sometimes even in the same from year-to-year. Some of the books say drones and queens fly different distances away from the hive to prevent inbreeding. However, after talking to beekeepers that have seen the drone congregation areas I am unsure if the distances are true. I have talked to beekeepers that have seen congregation areas much close…

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Non-native bees and invasive plant species. (Part 2)

In the last blog, I talked about the invasive plant “Spotted Knapweed.” This plant is unique because it supports several oligolectic bee species, which means that the bees visit (for pollen and nectar) very specific host plant species. Lithurgus chrysurus, or the Mediterranean wood boring bee, is one of them (see previous blog). Another bee that feeds on this Centaurea species is Megachile apicalis, more commonly known as a leaf-cutter bee. This rare non-native species, like the L. chrysurus, is from the Mediterranean region. I have become familiar with both bees from collecting in my hometown in PA for the past 3 summers. To identify…

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Bee Squad

When starting out, some hobby beekeepers feel overwhelmed with trying to understand what is going on in the hive and how they can best help their bees. I was really lucky when I learned how to keep bees, because I spent 40 hours per week with people who had spent years researching and keeping bees, and who never stopped asking questions to find more about bees (mainly Gary Reuter). If I didn’t understand something, there were several people who I could ask. For beekeepers that are just beginning, they rarely get access to the expertise and information that I did. There are books to read,…

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Processing Samples for Varroa and Nosema

The video above was taken at the Butte County Cooperative Extension building in Oroville, CA. Rob and I moved to California a little over a month ago to work with 16 northern California honey bee breeders. Since arriving here we have had the chance to do some field work with a few of the beekeepers in the area. Some of them have moved their bees out of the valley and up into the mountains in Shasta and Siskiyou Counties. Last week we collected 150 samples from two beekeepers from 12 different apiaries and this week we spent most of our time processing those samples for…

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Invasive plants supporting invasive bees

  I have been collecting insects since 2005 and I collected almost anything unique to the eye. A majority of my collection was Coleoptera and Hymenoptera. In 2008, I started collecting native bees when I was using bowl traps for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. My collecting was concentrated in Montgomery, Chester and Lehigh County. Around this time the department was working on locating an invasive species by the name of Lithurgus chrysurus or the Mediterranean wood boring bee. The females cause damage to wood structures by burrowing into wood to nest. Overwintering of this bee occurs as prepupae inside a cocoon and they are…

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2010/2011 US Honey Bee Pest and Disease Survey Results

  Several of us on the Bee Informed Partnership team also work on the USDA/APHIS US Honey Bee and Pest Disease survey and have been part of this work since it started in 2009 with 3 states (HI, CA and FL). It grew to 13 states last year and we have welcomed 33 states this year.  The results of our 2010/2011 Survey have just been released (2010/2011 US Honey Bee Pest and Disease Report). We are proud of the most comprehensive honey bee health survey to date and thank all the beekeepers in the 13 states who participated. Over 2,700 hives from the 13 states…

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How to Make a Bee Beard

Having about 10,000 bees on your face is one of the best ways to demonstrate how calm and fun bees can be. I have done a few bee beards for demonstrations at fairs and the most common question I get asked is how the bee beard works. I will give a walk through of how we do it. The basic idea is to make the bees think they are in a swarm, but instead of gathering on a tree branch or the like, the bees gather on someone’s chin. Step 1) Prepare the bees. We find a small, friendly colony and move it during a…

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Modified Hive Tool

Normal Hive tool functions 1. Dislodge Frames 2. Separate Hive Bodies and frames 3. Cut: weeds, vines, plant material, packaging tape, newspaper, pollen patty, taste honey, open treatment packaging, slit zip lock bags (winter feeding). Heat hive tool with smoker to cut out queen cells. 4. Scrape: Top bars, bottom boards, telescoping top covers, inner covers, and stingers. This is important for hive hygiene: Remove burr comb and excess propolis to maintain clean hives. 5. Push: Down frames, smoker fuel and crush Small Hive beetles. 6. Lift: Frames out of the hive, sugar cans out of packages, remove staples, remove nails, clean foundation out of…

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Hygienic Behavior

Hygienic behavior is a trait that correlates with resistance to chalkbrood, American Foulbrood, and Varroa. Bees with the trait are able to detect, uncap, and remove infected pupae before they become infectious, slowing the spread of disease and the population growth of the mite. It is a trait with multiple genes involved influencing the uncapping and removal behaviors and olfaction. The olfaction genes indicate that the bees need to be able to smell the diseased or dead pupa (or absence of a healthy smell) in order to remove it. To test for the trait, I remove a frame with capped brood, twist a 3” PVC…

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SBV or Sacbrood Virus

In 2005 I started keeping bees. I never saw any disease or virus in my hives until the 2008/2009 season. The first disease I noted in the summer of 2008 was DWV, which is an acronym for Deformed Wing Virus. In the spring of 2009, I found another virus…Sac Brood Virus or SBV. During an inspecting of one hive in early May, I recognized a problem when I saw capped cells that were perforated and had jagged edges. Inside the cells were strange uncapped larvae, which looked like they had shrunken heads. Once the larvae is infected with the virus, it will die and eventually…

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