NOW LIVE! The 2018-2019 Colony Loss and Management Survey!

Good morning America! It’s beautiful outside! The birds are chirping and the bees are flying! You may even notice a few flowers outside too! Here in the South, our many azaleas are in full bloom! This means Spring is upon us! And of course, Spring means one thing: it’s time to take the Bee Informed Partnership’s annual Colony Loss and Management Survey! It’s easy! One click and you are in, ready to take the survey and to serve our nation’s beekeeping industry: TAKE THE SURVEY TODAY! The information that you provide will be invaluable to our understanding of honey bee health around the country. As…

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Honey Bee Caste Systems: Part 1- Honey Bee Genetics

I have always been fascinated with queens and workers. In fact, I spent my master’s degree studying the mechanisms that produce queens and workers. I want to spend the next three articles in this and upcoming issues discussing the complex processes that govern how an egg becomes either a worker or a queen. You can look forward to these three pieces: The Genetic Book of Life-The basics to honey bee genetics How genetics and the environment shape honey bee workers and queens The differences between queens and workers Honey bees have a system of sex determination (male drones versus female queens or workers) known as…

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Three Advantages of Rain Covers

Having worked on both the Northern California Tech Transfer Team and Pacific Norwest Team has given me a unique opportunity to compare and contrast management styles across regions. One thing that I immediately noticed when I first came to the Oregon team was the use of rain covers or shelters over the fall and winter months, especially in the wet Willamette Valley. It should come as no surprise that rain covers are not used extensively in California, considering in recent years the winter rainfall has been insignificant, except in 2017 (and 2019 so far!).  However many Oregon beekeepers have come to the conclusion that rain…

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Almond Math

There are plenty of quick stats you come across working around bees: At peak population, a strong colony can have over 60,000 individual bees. A queen is capable of laying more eggs in a day (up to 2,000) than there are minutes in a day (1,440). A single bee can produce 1/12 tsp honey in its lifespan and may cumulatively travel 500 miles during the several weeks it spends as a forager. Despite annual losses in the 30-40% range, the total managed colony numbers remains fairly constant at about  3 million. The American bee industry is inextricably linked to the almond industry. Every year, about…

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Fried Drone Brood – A healthy and savory snack?

I live close to the town of Snook, TX – where the local roadhouse is renowned for its chicken fried bacon. This dish inspired a thought; why not fry something shocking myself? I was using drone brood removal as a method of mite control in a couple colonies, and they were producing a lot of drone brood around the time of the privet (Ligustrum sp.) flow. I’m a whole lot less squeamish about eating honey bee immatures than I would be about a lot of other insects. After all, honey bee brood is enjoyed as food in large parts of the world. The tricky step…

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It’s Cold (and Wet) Out There

  I don’t know what the groundhog did or saw this year, but according to the calendar it’s still winter. The first day of spring is still a month away. If you’re a pollinator or grower of almonds, you’re hoping weather conditions up and down the central valley of California become more favorable for flight activity than they have been. I recently returned from 2 weeks of inspecting and sampling colonies where conditions were cold, wet, and windy. These conditions delayed onset and slowed progression of the almond bloom and are forecast to continue. Frequent updates on the progression of bloom and conditions for flight…

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Spring Hygienic Testing and California Hygienic Score Trends

This spring we will start Hygienic testing Queen breeders’ colonies. This is my favorite type of testing for beekeepers because we get to look at the best performing colonies in the entire operation. The beekeeper we  work with often selects the best hives throughout the year for performance and marks them, then in the spring the final selections are made from spring build up and how well the colonies-maintained size over the winter. It is best if the colonies are all in the same yard because it is easier to go through colonies quickly. Sometimes we test in almonds and have to move from pallet…

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Not much, but not nothing

What are your bees doing right now? If you’re in a northern location like me in Michigan the answer for most of the period between November and February may be not much. . .  but they aren’t doing nothing. They are dormant but they aren’t hibernating. During the period of winter dormancy the bees will cluster together to conserve the heat generated by individual bees vibrating their flight muscles. The bees aren’t attempting to heat the entire volume of the hive like we would heat a house, instead their shivering behavior just maintains the necessary temperature of the cluster itself. This behavior allows the colony…

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2018 Sentinel Apiary Program Results

The fourth year of the Sentinel Apiary Program was another great success! The program included 64 beekeepers sampling 418 colonies, for a total of 1,901 samples! You can view the whole 2018 Summary Report here.     We are very excited to share that 2018 Sentinel Participants had significantly lower Varroa loads than the historical national average!           Our Hive Scale Map also underwent extensive remodeling this year, and now includes Varroa data as well as showing a net weight gain or loss per state over the past week to provide even more real time context.         With…

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Eyes in the Sky: Mapping Bee Health

Among the most exciting aspects of BIP’s work is the wealth of data collected for years on honey bee health. This impressive, growing database is keeping a pulse on the health of American bees. With an abundance of information, and growing team to analyze it, we’ve begun to explore new methods to monitor and detect trends and to optimize sampling. It is exciting to be part of team that is open and enthusiast to embrace innovative technology and new interdisciplinary approaches to examine questions around honey bee health. My personal background, for example, is as a geographer. The BIP team has encouraged my interest in…

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