Test for Varroa

I am going to save my original topic of propolis and bee health for a later weeks since it seems more apt to talk about Varroa this time of year. Late summer and early fall is the time when many beekeepers treat for Varroa. Treating now reduces the number of mites feeding on the bees that will become winter bees. One symptom of a mite feeding on a worker pupa is a shortened life span for that adult bee. So, if too many winter bees are exposed to mites during their development, then the population of adult bees can die off over the long winter.…

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Battles at the Entrance

As fall approaches and forage becomes scarce, honey bees become more aggressive to protecting their honey crop. The honey crop is collected throughout the spring and summer. They use the stored honey throughout the winter to fuel their survival by beating their flight muscles to generate heat to warm the colony. The honey becomes very attractive to other insects this time of year; this is often when you see battles at the entrance. There is a video below to show the aftermath of one of these battles. There are also some other pictures of insect pests trying to get into the hives for honey below.

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Frames of Bees

“Colony 47 is queen right with eggs and larvae, there are 10 frames of bees, I got sealed brood at 5,8,11,15,21,29,23,21,17,16, 9, and 5.  The brood pattern is good and there are no diseases…”  This is an example of dialogue between Bee Team members calling out observations from hive inspections and colony assessments in the field. As we gear up this fall for sampling of potential breeders, hive inspection and colony assessments are always a large part of the field work that compliments sample collection.  We will try to sample a minimum of 100 potential breeder colonies from each of the 16 queen breeders we…

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Propolis and human health

Poor Mike isn’t feeling so well this week. He likely has a cold. But on the positive side he can turn to our beloved bees for a bit of help. People all over the world use a substance bees collect to help treat colds, coughs, and general icky-ness: propolis. Some trees and plants excrete resins to protect their growing buds and wounds from getting infected with bacteria, fungi, and viruses and from insect invaders. Bees visit these plants, collect the resins on their back legs like pollen, and bring it back to the hive. Resins are really sticky, so other bees need to help the…

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Field Notes and Hive Inspection

  Not taking notes while inspecting your hives is like going to Yellowstone without bringing a camera.  You might still get what you want out of the experience but you will have no snapshots of things you might otherwise forget.  Organizing your observations into a notebook or spreadsheet during a hive inspection will provide information that can be accessed long after the inspection has taken place.  Think of the hive inspection and the field notes that go with them as a snapshot in time.  These “snapshots in time” can help a beekeeper track the progress of his hives, head off any potential problems before they…

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Almonds, pollination and harvesting

To get almonds you need pollinators. Above is an image of a handful of honey bee colonies out in an orchard during the almond bloom. This pollination starts at the end of January and throughout February depending on weather. There are close to a million honey bee colonies in California during the time of this bloom. This makes California's Almond bloom the largest annual managed pollination event in the world. Below are images of almonds on the trees several months after pollination. During this time of year almonds are becoming mature and harvesters are preparing to start shaking the trees. Once the almonds reach a…

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Differentiated Females

Two weeks ago while inspecting some hives just outside of Willows, CA I shot the video of this queen. She caught my attention because of the distinct striping on her abdomen. Rob Snyder and I were in Willows to inspect and sample hives that were in sunflowers for pollination service. Tomorrow I have a presentation to give for the Marin County Beekeepers. As I put the finishing touches on my presentation I came across a passage in Snodgrass’s, “The Anatomy Of The Honey Bee” that made me rethink what I thought it meant to be a queen and a worker. The passage is below… “…young…

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Grafting

Thousands of queens are raised and sold around the country. But how does one get their bees to raise all these extra queens? The secret lies within manipulating the bees own biology (as does most of beekeeping). There are two types of eggs in the colony: unfertilized and fertilized. The unfertilized eggs will become drones and the fertilized eggs will become female bees, either workers or queens. A bee must be born a queen, but there is no difference in genetics. She becomes either a worker or queen depending on how she is raised and what she is fed. Bees destined to become workers develop…

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Tarsal claws hard at work

Ever wonder how bees can hold on so well? For starters, honey bees are insects that have 3 pairs of segmented legs. The legs can do more than just hold on, the tibia of the hind legs have adapted hair to hold pollen. When the hairs are filled with pollen,it is termed “pollen basket “or corbicula. The corbicula is found on bees in the family Apidae; other bees have similar branched hair structures called scopa. The forelegs contain antennae cleaners. The leg segments include coxa, trochanter, femur, tibia, tarsomeres (tarsal segments), and the tarsal claws. The tarsal claws are at the end of the leg…

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Centaurea stoebe and Pollinators (Part 3)

In the previous two blogs, I have talked about the invasive plant “Spotted Knapweed.” Centaurea stoebe is native to Europe and was introduced into the United States in the late 1800s through contaminated seed. Spotted knapweed is considered by some a nuisance because it displaces native plants and forage for livestock. The plant releases toxins which degrade livestock growth when foraged on. To insects and beekeepers this plant is beneficial by producing nectar and pollen sources. It can produce 1000 or more seeds per plant. These seeds can remain viable for several years in soil and may only show up a few years after introduction.…

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