Ocelli or “Simple eye”

The word ocelli is derived from the Latin word ocellus and means little eye. The ocelli are simple eyes that bees use to orientate themselves towards the sun. Located in a triangular shape are two dorsal ocelli and one central ocelli. They are located dorsally on the bees head (see images above for location). The ocelli are simple eyes, meaning they collect and focus light through a single lens. These simple eyes assist bees with sun orientation so they can navigate well during the day. Some bee species are crepuscular meaning they are active from dusk until dawn. These species have enlarged ocelli which detect…

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When we turn to one another for counsel…

"When we turn to one another for counsel we reduce the number of our enemies" -Khalil Gibran We are in the thick of our fall sampling which started in late September and will go until the end of November. The idea behind the fall sampling is to give each of the sixteen beekeepers involved in the Bee Informed Partnership a “snapshot in time” of some of their hives before heading into winter. The hives will be reassessed and sampled again in January and February to see how they have come through the winter. Providing hive history through regular inspections and sample collection over the course…

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California Bee Breeders Conference

Last week was the California Bee Breeder’s Association meeting. Mike, Rob and I attended and Dennis flew in from the East to go. I always enjoy the meetings in a large part because we get to watch all these independent personalities interact. We work with each beekeeper individually and get to know them, but only at the meetings do we really see this bigger image of how they all fit together. Sure, they disagree (and can be pretty vocal about it), but their goals are the same in that they all want to breed the best bees possible. If it helps their bees, they will…

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Propolis and Bee Health

I talked a little about propolis, human health, how bees collect it here, but now I want to talk about propolis and bee health. If the bees can’t eat propolis, then why would they collect it? It is costly to bring back to the hive since it takes time and energy away from bees that could be foraging for nectar or pollen, so it must have some benefits. And it does! Mike Simone-Finstrom did his PhD work on looking at how propolis affects bee health. Bees living in a tree cavity coat the tree walls with what Tom Seeley dubbed a “propolis envelope.” The walls…

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Wax Moth

I would like to talk about a pest previously mentioned in these blogs called the “Wax Moth.” This pest can be a problem all year round especially with stored equipment. Here are some ways to store comb, if you have any other ways to store your equipment please post in the comments. You can use PDB crystals (Dichlorobenzene) or moth balls as fumigants, be sure to air out a day or two before using them. A good friend of mine Tracy Alsedek from "Main Line Honey" keeps his equipment in a room with the light on 24/7 365 and he has no wax moth issues.…

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Inhabitants when the colony dies or is clustered for the winter

Going into the winter, beekeepers place an entrance reducer on colonies to reduce robbing and also prevent other animals and insects from entering the hive. The entrance reducer is used to decrease the size of the entrance; it also gives the bees a smaller area to defend. Two common pests to deadout colonies are mice and chipmunks (in Pennsylvania). A mouse can chew drawn comb to nothing but bits and pull debris into the hive to make nests. The chipmunks use hive bodies as storage places to protect their food from the weather as shown in the image below. Using an entrance reducer can limit…

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The Promised Land

This past week has been incredibly busy. We just started our major sampling for beekeepers – collecting about 100 samples in alcohol for Nosema and Varroa and recording information for each of the 100 sampled colonies like frames of bees, queen status, colony weight, temperament, bee color, and any diseases. The goal is to help them choose colonies to breed the next generation of queens. Queen breeding season doesn’t start until the end of February, so we are helping them get a jump start on grading colonies. Last Wednesday, a reporter, Robin Wise, from program called The Promised Land came out to the first beekeeper…

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Eggs, Larvae, Pupae, and the Queen

See snapshots and more detail about the picture and gigapan technology at gigapan.org Double click on the comb of the honey bee frame in the picture above to see if you can spot eggs in the cells. Double clicking will zoom in to reveal much more detail. Katie, Rob, and I have started contacting and visiting bee breeders in Northern California to inspect and test colonies of bees from their breeder pools. Inspection requires that we observe the status of the queen in each colony within an operations’ breeder pool. The queen can be elusive and I have had several beekeepers tell me that you…

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Dead out pests and more inhabitants of the hive.

  When a honey bee colony dies there a number of insects that will invade the hive and take advantage of the resources left over. Often, the first insect to move in is the wax moth and they can be a pest before the colony is even completely dead. These moths usually move into colonies at night when colonies are weak and take advantage of wax from the brood nest. I have pointed out these tunnels in the image below. Also found in dead out colonies are black ants. They use comb as egg storage and shelter from the elements. There is an image above…

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Pesticide Kill

Northern California is a beautiful place. I am located in the Sacramento Valley between the Sierra Nevada and Northern Coastal mountain ranges. The good soils partnered with a Mediterranean climate makes the Central Valley (the northern Sacramento Valley and the southern San Joaquin Valley) one of the most agriculturally productive regions in the world. The intense food production means it is a breeding ground for insect pests that feed on the crops. Growers need to control these pests in order to produce a viable crop. One repercussion of this is sometimes beneficial insects take a hit. This is what I saw on a visit to…

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