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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Rice Country

A couple of weeks ago, Randall “Cass” Mutters took Rob, Mike, and me on a tour of the rice industry in Northern California. Cass is the rice farm advisor at UC Cooperative Extension, Butte County with an office just down the hallway of my own. According to www.calrice.org, 95% of the state’s rice is grown north of Sacramento – my region. About 2 million tons of rice is produced annually.  Driving around the area always made me wonder about rice production, especially because of the oddity of seeing fields of standing water. Northern California is notorious for the lack of rain in the summer, so it…

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Chalkbrood

When I started inspecting for honey bee diseases, the first and most prevalent disease I found was chalkbrood. I first observed this disease a few weeks into the spring while inspecting a few colonies. I had seen the disease on several other occasions, so it was very easy to identify by the hard “chalk-like” mummies inside the cells. As the season progressed, I learned something from the bees and what they do when the colony has chalkbrood. The nurse bees will drag white, black and other different colored infected larvae out of the hive. These “chalk-like” mummies can be found around and in front of…

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Yellow Star Thistle

Since arriving here we have had the chance to meet and talk with a few of the beekeepers that we will be working with all year. We talked about many things including their bees, their operations, and the weather. The one reoccurring theme with all of them was talk of yellow star thistle. The yellow star thistle in and around the Chico area has started to bloom, exciting bees and beekeepers alike. All of the beekeepers we talked to agreed that yellow star thistle is an excellent source of nectar. What some of them didn’t agree on is when the plant produces its nectar. I…

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