Hive History

The summer sampling period began 10 days ago with the sixteen beekeepers participating in the Bee Informed Partnership. This sampling period places an emphasis on determining Varroa mite and Nosema levels prior to beekeepers treating with medicines this year. Most beekeepers will try to have their mite treatments in 30 days prior to the nectar flow. Out here the flow begins in July when the star thistle blooms. Treatment windows are narrow, making timing and balance critical. One of the many benefits of our program is that we help to provide beekeepers with a history of their hives by inspecting and sampling some of them…

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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…

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Boots on the Ground: A Radical Shift in the Interface Between Research and Real World.

McNeil. (2012). Boots on the Ground: A Radical Shift in the Interface Between Research and Real World. Bee Culture. April 2012. "Booooos from the back of the audience were directed to the young woman on the stage at the California Beekeepers Association Conference. Without the context, the message could easily have been misconstrued....." McNeil. (2012). Boots on the Ground: A Radical Shift in the Interface Between Research and Real World. Bee Culture. April 2012.

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Long-term or short-term lease?

It was a couple weeks ago that Heather, Jennie and I were talking about using drone comb as Varroa management in a colony. Drone larvae are particularly attractive to Varroa mites. By adding drone comb to a hive, a beekeeper is creating a lure for the mites in the hope that they will go to the drone larvae instead of infecting precious worker larvae.  Once the drone brood is capped, the beekeeper removes the frame and freezes it, thoroughly killing the pesky mites. While it is apparent that Varroa are attracted to drone larvae, it occurred to me, why is this so? What makes drone…

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Survey Time: An Appeal to Our Greater Good

For a great many of us, it is as easy to slip into apathy as it is to succumb to eating our children’s Easter candy – especially the chocolate peanut butter cups.  We sometime remove ourselves from involvement and responsibility of the larger social structure because, well, we think someone else will take care of what needs doing; however, this cannot be the case now.  It is survey time at the Bee Informed Partnership and that means involvement FROM EACH AND EVERY BEEKEEPER.  Whether you manage 1 hive or 10,000 hives, we want to hear from you.  I’m making it easy on you.  Here is…

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Coordinated BIP effort aims to cut in half annual bee colony losses.

BEE Informed Partnership: Coordinated BIP effort aims to cut in half annual bee colony losses. by Richard Lehnert Good Fruit Grower magazine article, March 15th, 2012. "After five years of annual colony losses near or above 30 percent, beekeepers have settled in for the long haul in their struggle to find solutions to the problem of unsustainably high honeybee death losses. Scientists have also settled in to help them..."continue article here...

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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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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…

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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…

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