Advancing beekeeping through special projects and industry trials

The agriculture sector includes many industries, such as crop and livestock systems. Unlike beekeeping, these other industries have true extension services, which direct programs for change. These changes advance the industry, promote sustainable practices, and enhance production practices. However, beekeepers have rarely had true extension services and service to their issues, until now. The Bee Informed Partnership (BIP) is a non-profit organization that provides these types of extension services to beekeepers. One major service BIP provides is special projects and industry trials. These projects and trials performed for university, beekeepers and industry experts test ideas and concepts. Laboratory and field studies need replicates in real-time…

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A debt of gratitude

My grandfather was a lucky man. He married a wonderful woman who put up with him and he had two healthy children, a girl (my mom) and a boy (my uncle). He must have been born under an auspicious star because when he decided that it was time to leave Russia at the height of World War II, his charmed life kicked in. They escaped but others from their village were not so lucky. It took them 10 long years, moving across Europe, to finally make it to the US and he did what was necessary to keep his family alive (including raising a contraband…

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Bee Understanding

Earlier this year I had the opportunity to take part in the filming of a documentary by the Bee Understanding Project and it turned out to be a very fun and informative experience! The point of the film was to show the relationship between the almond and beekeeping industries through a job swap, where each participant, almond grower and beekeepers, could better see the other’s perspective. Unlike many other recent honey bee documentaries, this film does not portray commercial beekeepers or almond growers as the bad guys, but rather is fair in describing the challenges each of them faces as our agricultural systems become more…

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It’s (almost) over

Throughout much of the northern parts of the country, the spring and summer landscape is predominantly green with splashes of color provided by a diversity of blooming flowers.  As the season progresses the changing fall foliage dominates the autumn landscape with reds and golds but there is still one last floral splash of color that persist until frost in much of the country. Just as decreasing daylight and the changing of leaves indicate winter is approaching, the appearance of New England Aster bloom is a sure sign that the end of bee season is nearing. New England Aster (Symphyotrichum novae-angliae) is a member of the…

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The signs of mite damage- How to identify progressed varroosis?

Varroa infested colonies entered the United States in ~1987, and changed beekeeping forever. Beekeeping has always been time consuming, difficult and experience oriented; however, beekeeping became even more challenging when beekeepers were called to eradicate a bug on another bug. Since its introduction in the US, beekeepers have reported high annual colony losses due to mites. In fact, some beekeepers report 60% losses due to this troublesome pest. While beekeepers have faced devastating challenges before, including American Foulbrood, Varroa mites has presented damages never before seen. Varroa have become more difficult to manage since their introduction. The mites are seemingly embedded within the honey bee…

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Only you…

“Only you….” Depending on your age, that phrase can evoke images of Smokey the Bear and his stoic message of preventing forest fires or, if you are a bit more on the wiser and mature side, you may recall the hit song, Only You, from the Platters. Regardless, the message is ageless and could not be more relevant in today’s world of beekeeping. If you are reading this, you know that every one of your colonies has Varroa mites. Yes, every single colony that you manage has Varroa mites. Take a deep breath. But you know what to do. You know that monitoring has to…

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A Bit About Wings

I spend a lot of time taking photographs of bees, particularly as they flit from flower to flower gathering pollen or nectar. All of this time spent stalking them through gardens has given me appreciation and wonder of their flight capabilities. Bees are capable of flying at speeds up to 15 mph and carrying nectar loads that approach their own body weight. In addition to these feats of strength, they are also capable of delicate maneuvering and hovering while they approach flowers. These amazing aerial abilities are of course made possible by their wings, which at a glance seem undersized for the task. At this…

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2018 Northern California Update

Weather in Northern California greatly fluctuated this spring. It was in the 70 and warmer before the almond bloom started, then once the trees started blooming the weather turned cold. There were a few days when temperatures dropped to the low 20’s. These temperatures damaged the early pollinated almonds and will most likely affect the overall yields of early blooming varieties, which suffered damage by frost in some locations. We sampled many hives during the bloom and they were packed with pollen even though the bee flight hours were low due to cold windy weather. The weather also impacted the bee’s temperament, bees were more…

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Bee Toes

Honey bees have had a close relationship with humans for thousands of years and have been intensively studied and observed by both scientists and beekeepers. Despite the accumulation of knowledge and ever increasing understanding of bee behavior, there are still a number of mysteries that bees guard. One of these behaviors that is yet to be thoroughly understood is called festooning. If you have ever been in a hive and noticed the bees seem clingy and hang from or between frames in chains, you have seen festooning. It is not currently known why bees exhibit festooning behavior. There is general agreement, however, that the behavior…

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Five Dollar Bee Words

I came to the world of bees by accident and had no bee-specific knowledge or training prior to becoming a beekeeper. Prior to working with Bee Informed Partnership (BIP), I spent 8 years as a commercial beekeeper where I gained a good understanding of bee behavior and management from practical experience. Since joining BIP, the exposure to colleagues and scientists has led to a lot of “lightbulb” moments where an unfamiliar word was used and I had to ask what it meant. The explanation was normally met by an, “Oh sure, I’ve seen that, I just didn’t know there was a word for it,” or…

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