Monday, November 30, 2009
L. L. Langstroth
The non-profit group, Science Friday, is trying to convince the U. S. Postal Service to honor L. L. Langstroth on the two hundredth anniversary of his birth by issuing a commemorative postage stamp. For information on how you may lend your support in this effort, view: http://scifri.org/dte/about/projects/bee-science/postage-due/. In today’s photo, I am inspecting a modern Langstroth bee hive. The hive, constructed of open wooden boxes stacked atop each other makes it very similar to a hollow tree, the honey bee’s natural home. Removable frames separated one bee space of three eights inch hold the combs. My granddaughter, Erin, watches me inspect a hive. I use a hive tool to break the propolis bond and remove a frame from the hive.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 11:24 PM 2 comments:
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Fighting at the Hive Entrance
With the conditions set for robbing of the hives, we need to reduce the size of the entrances to the hives. Reducing the entrance serves two purposes: It helps keep mice from entering the hive, and it gives the guard bees an advantage in their efforts to protect the hive. It is easier for the guard bees to protect a smaller entrance. Honey bee colonies, when they swarm, often select cavities with very small entrances. Click on the photo to see the hive entrance reduced by a notched stick. Notice that the opening is placed upward. This arrangement often fools mice, which scurry along the edge of the stick and don’t climb the one half inch distance to the entrance. On the hive’s landing board, guard bees with potent stings stand poised on their four hind legs with foreleg raised. They check any bees approaching the hive entrance with their antennae and mouthparts. Guards recognize bees of their own colony by odor, and any bees foreign to the hive are repulsed. On the lower-right corner of the entrance, three guard bees are stinging an intruder. A pair of robber bees with shiny, black abdomens can be seen; one is located on each side of the entrance. Robbers get this shiny appearance as they lose the hairs on their body while fighting with guard bees.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:49 PM No comments:
Labels: Guard Bees, honey bee
Saturday, November 28, 2009
With the season’s first frost foretelling more cool and cold weather to come, the honey bees are reacting to a scarcity of available nectar. They are searching for new sources. Many bees are flying around the wood shop where I am cleaning hive frames. There is also much activity on the landing boards of bee hives where the guard bees are checking all returning bees to prevent robbers from entering. Each hive’s winter stores of honey are vulnerable to robbing bees. Evening primrose is a medicinal herb that was a staple food for many Native American tribes. The colorful and long-blooming evening primrose is often planted as a hearty summer flower along fencerows and in meadows.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 8:45 PM No comments:
Labels: bee plants, Evening Primrose, honey bee
Friday, November 27, 2009
The Mustard Family
Today’s photo shows some purple top turnips that are growing in one of our clover fields. A benefit of growing cool-season crops like the mustards is that they require almost no care. Planted in the late summer or early fall, the small plants have very little competition from other plants. If turnip seed is planted in late August or early September, there is a good chance of the plants producing the turnips at the base of the greens in the fall before winter's freeze. Both greens and turnips are delicious table fare; many prefer them cooked together. Turnip greens, seasoned with salt and a piece of pork fat, are a staple and delicacy in the South. If the mustard family vegetable plants, like turnips, mustard, kale, or collards, are left undisturbed in the soil in the spring, the plants will bloom and then produce seed. The blooming mustards are most attractive to honey bees, and the blooms are quite valuable at the honey bee’s spring population build-up time.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:43 AM No comments:
Labels: bee plants, honey bee, Mustards, Turnips
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I am thankful that Peace Bee Farm is able to carry on our family farm tradition established in 1950. It could not be done without the skills, enthusiasm, and efforts of the entire family. I am most thankful that there exists a creature like the honey bee that fits into the natural world so well that it actually produces food for mankind, animals, and wildlife as well. I am especially thankful that my beekeeping experience brings me in contact with some wonderful people from around Arkansas, Tennessee, and around the world: Sherri, Barry, Rick, Kyle, Dallas, Joel, Agnes, Mary, Cissy, Dena, Bob, Ken, Robert, Big Dan, Shirley, Mike, Charles, Nick, Amy, Keith, Jill, Uele, Carolyn, Vickie, Karen, Jonathan, Brandon, Amanda, Ngaio, Lynn, Micah, Jerry, Candice, Tammy, Judith, Kevin, Pratima, Randolph, Jim, Ray, Dick, Danny, Petra, Ken, Shirley, John, Ed, Melissa, Kjeld, Joann, and Margie. I am also most grateful to have you readers around the world to share my observations.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 12:35 AM No comments:
Labels: honey bee, Peace Bee Farm, Thanksgiving Day
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Storing Honey for Winter
As the bees are producing their honey throughout the spring, summer, and fall, they spread the honey throughout the hive, away from the brood nest. As fall approaches, the bees consolidate the honey to an area close to the brood nest. In the photo, you can see that the bees have filled the green-colored frame of drone brood comb with honey. Here, they are taking advantage of the drone brood comb as a storage area when needed. The colonies have not been producing drones for a number of weeks. The resourceful honey bees use the same comb for different purposes at different times of the year. The task for the beekeeper is to insure that there is adequate honey for the colony to consume over the winter and that it is placed where the bees can access it in cold weather. That means that the honey should be above the cluster of bees in the hive.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:46 PM 2 comments:
Labels: Drone Brood Comb, Honey, honey bee
Monday, November 23, 2009
For beekeepers, one of the most important uses of beeswax is the manufacture of foundation for the bee hive. The foundation is the mid rib of the honey comb which is made of beeswax secreted by the two to three week old worker bees. When beekeepers purchase beeswax foundation, it contains traces of chemicals, mostly pesticides used to fight parasitic mites. At Peace Bee Farm, we save our own chemical-free beeswax cappings from the honey harvest to paint onto our plastic foundation as part of our integrated pest management program. Removing old comb and allowing the bees to replace it with freshly secreted beeswax removes chemicals and spores of honey bee diseases, such as American foulbrood, chalkbrood, and Nosema.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:41 PM No comments:
Labels: Beeswax, honey bee, Integrated Pest Management
Sunday, November 22, 2009
The soybean, considered self-fertile, can be a significant source of nectar for honey production. However, there are quite a few varieties of soybeans being grown now; and some varieties produce enough nectar for honey bees to produce a surplus of honey, and some do not. The result for the beekeeper is that soybean may be an erratic nectar source, changing from year to year depending upon the varieties of soybeans grown in the area surrounding the bee yard. The variety of nectar rewards offered to the honey bee may explain the difference in results of studies of increases in soybean crop yield for soybeans pollinated by honey bees. Results have been measured from zero to 30 percent increases in soybean yield when honey bees are present for added pollination. A 16 percent increase is the most common finding. Soybean farmers and beekeepers both recognize the importance of the honey bee in helping to produce our food crops. Soybean honey, one of my favorites, is light amber in color and mild in aroma and flavor.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:39 PM 2 comments:
Labels: bee plants, honey bee, Soybeans
Friday, November 20, 2009
The Composite Family
Composites of economic significance include lettuce, chicory, chrysanthemum, artichoke, and sunflower. As I am visiting my bee yards at this time of the year, I am finding a few composite flowers in bloom. Whenever we see some bees bringing pollen into the hives at this time, it is usually from composites. Today’s photo shows a honey bee foraging in a perennial sunflower, the Jerusalem artichoke or sunchoke.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:18 AM 2 comments:
Labels: bee plants, Composites, honey bee, Sunflowers
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Honey Bee Tracheal Mites
Beekeepers can interfere with the tracheal mite’s ability to reproduce by placing vegetable oil patties in the hive. These patties, made of solid vegetable oil and sugar, are taken up by the bees because of the sugar. The oil is distributed among the bees in the hive, thinly coating all of the bees. Tracheal mites are less successful in finding day-old bees when all of the bees are coated with oil. At Peace Bee Farm, we keep vegetable oil patties on the hives at all times. We add spearmint and lemon grass essential oils to the mix to make the patties more attractive to the bees. Vegetable oil patties are part of our integrated pest management plan. Resistant strains of honey bees have made the tracheal mite less of a killer today.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:53 PM No comments:
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
Communication and Navigation
Humans communicate by voice, by vision, by written words and symbols, and now largely by electronic devices. Rita and I received an invitation from Candice Ludlow, News Director for WKNO FM Radio, NPR for the Mid-South, to visit their new digital media center. I headed out with a map that I downloaded from the internet. It gave me the direction and distance. I got turned around in route. At times I checked the direction against the sun. Bees do that. At other times, I checked it against the compass in my car. Bees can navigate by magnetism. We’ll see Candice another day. Here’s a picture of Candice interviewing me for an NPR report on Colony Collapse Disorder.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:16 PM No comments:
Labels: honey bee, NPR, WKNO FM Radio
Monday, November 16, 2009
The Rose Family
The fruiting trees and berries, which rely on honey bees for commercial pollination service, are of significant economic importance. The almond, a nut from a tree in the rose family, is a major export of the Unites States. The almond crop is completely dependent upon the honey bee for pollination. It is said that an almond tree without honey bees is merely a shade tree. One half of the managed honey bee hives in America are employed in California each spring to pollinate almonds. Click on today’s picture to see a honey bee unknowingly pollinating a pear while collecting nectar.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:16 PM No comments:
Labels: bee plants, honey bee, pear, Roses
Saturday, November 14, 2009
Marking a Queen Bee
While the honey bee colony shares in collecting, preparing, and storing food, tending to the hive, and feeding and caring for the brood, the colony also employs a common means of reproduction. A single queen bee produces all of the eggs that will become the population of the colony. The male bees, the drones, serve a single role. The drones mate with queen bees. Since the drones never mate with queens inside the hive, they add genetic diversity to surrounding colonies. The queen bee is more likely to be mating with drones from various distant colonies. Since the population of the colony and its success is dependent upon one bee, the queen, she is of utmost importance to the colony. Many beekeepers mark their queens to be able to match the colony’s traits to an individual queen. Honey bee colonies regularly replace their queens through a process called supersedure. If a queen bee is found in the hive without the appropriate marking, it is likely that the queen has been superseded. In the photo, Shirley, Mike, and I are marking a queen bee with a dot of paint on the bees’ thorax.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:31 PM 2 comments:
Labels: Drone, honey bee, Queen, Supersedure
Friday, November 13, 2009
The Mint Family
Many of the mints are of economic importance as ornamental plants, culinary herbs, and as sources of aromatic oils used in perfumes and other fragrances. The mints make excellent candidates for plants to be grown in pollinator gardens. Many can be found in culinary herb gardens at the kitchen door. Sage and thyme are quite drought hearty and can be grown in planter boxes or upturned concrete blocks. Spearmint is quite tolerant of wet soils and can be grown in either sunny or shady areas. Some common members of the mint family are spearmint, peppermint, sage, thyme, lavender, and the colorful coleus. Purple dead nettle is a close relative of henbit. The two plants are often found together covering lawns in the early spring. Other members of the mint family include motherwort, bee balm, or wild bergamot, horsemint, false dragonhead, or obedient plant, self-heal, or heal-all, and mountain mint. Other mints are the blue sage, cancer weed, or lyre-leaved sage, calamint, hairy skullcap, wood sage, or germander, forked blue curls, lemon balm, and catnip. Many of the mints make enjoyable flavorings for foods, and many are excellent sources of nectar and pollen for honey bees.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:33 PM No comments:
Labels: bee plants, Henbit, honey bee, Mints
Thursday, November 12, 2009
The Legume Family
Aside from the food and forage value of the legumes, we derive dyes, gums, resins, and oils from the seeds. The legumes are a major food source for wildlife. Legumes also serve the environment by fixing nitrogen into the soil. Many of the legumes house bacteria living in nodules on the plant roots which convert atmospheric nitrogen to a usable state in the soil. In the Arkansas Delta, soybeans are the greatest nectar source for honey due to the immense acreage of plantings. Our Peace Bee Farm summertime honey is principally derived from a mixture of nectars from soybeans and wildflowers. This honey has a light amber color and a mild aroma and flavor. The legumes are truly important plants for the honey bees. With the help of the honey bee’s pollination, the legumes provide large amounts of food and forage for man, and domestic animals, and wildlife.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:00 AM No comments:
Labels: bee plants, honey bee, Legumes, Lespedeza
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Beekeeper Mentoring Program
Shirley started her hive by installing a nucleus colony, a small colony of bees with a laying queen, brood, and workers covering a few frames of comb. She placed the bees in a hive that she built after attending the Memphis Area Beekeepers Association’s Forty-Fourth Annual Short Course in Beekeeping. She assisted the bees to draw out the comb on the frames of foundation by supplementing their foraging by feeding sugar water. Shirley is following many of the same procedures that I employ in attempting to care for the honey bees in a chemical-free manner. Her integrated pest management approach started with a queen bred from parasitic mite resistant stock. Her hive is placed above the ground for good air circulation and uses a screened bottom board for ventilation. Screens block robber bees from entering her top feeder while providing ventilation to the top of the hive. She traps small hive beetles inside the hive, removing the beetles without the use of any chemicals. We monitored the levels of the colony killing Varroa mites by removing drone brood pupae and counting developing Varroa. A frame of drone brood foundation is available for sampling mites and killing them by freezing. Shirley also tests for colony mite loads by counting mites on a sticky board. She has encouraged the reduction of mites by dusting the bees with powdered sugar. Her hive is now set-up for the winter with a prolific queen, a large population of young bees, and good stores of honey.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 3:06 PM No comments:
Saturday, November 7, 2009
Bee Hive Set-Up for Winter
There are two requirements for setting up the bee hive for the winter. First, there must be adequate stores of honey which are placed where the bees can access them in the coldest part of the winter. As the bees’ natural tendency is to eat the honey stored above them, the winter cluster of bees should be low in the hive with frames of honey above the cluster. The beekeeper may have to rearrange the position of hive body boxes or frames to get the bees and honey where they should be. The second requirement for wintering honey bees is that the hive must have adequate ventilation. A screened bottom board, opened at the bottom provides considerable ventilation. Further, the openings in inner covers used with telescoping covers provide a chimney to let moist air escape the top of the hive. Placing a stick under the hive to tilt it forward prevents droplets of condensed water from falling onto the bees during cold weather. The photo shows a hive with a full box of stored honey above the cluster of bees. The frame removed from the center of the upper box is full of honey which is fully ripened and capped with beeswax. The color of the cappings changes in a horse shoe pattern resulting from the bees’ filling the lower portion of the frame with honey after the young bees emerged from the last brood cycle of the year.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:55 PM No comments:
Wednesday, November 4, 2009
The Snapdragon Family
One way to choose plants that will be effective attractors to the various species of pollinators is to select members of the important bee plant families. One of those families is the snapdragon or figwort family, Scrophulariaceae. This family is made of a number of colorful plants which make for beautiful natural plantings. Among the snapdragons are Gerardia, false foxglove, Indian paintbrush, blue toadflax, red penstemon, woolly mullein, and speedwell. This family also includes the foxgloves and snapdragons from which Digitalis is produced. The honey bee, through pollination of flowering plants, helps produce some of our important medicines. There is one woody member of the snapdragon family which can be found in old homesteads around the Arkansas Delta. It is the Empress tree shown in today’s photo: a large, spreading tree and a native of China, which was planted in the past and later escaped. Empress tree flowers in April and May. The flower buds are rusty tan husks that remain on the tree through the fall and winter.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 8:46 PM No comments:
Labels: bee plants, Empress Tree, Figworts, honey bee, Snapdragons
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Pheromones Protect the Bee Hive
Click on today’s photo to see guard worker bees posed on the inner cover of a bee hive with their abdomens in the air and their stings exposed. With the sting exposed, the bees fan air across a small drip of alarm pheromone. Other bees in the hive detect the pheromone odor and immediately prepare to defend the hive. When the beekeeper sees the guard bees with their stings exposed, he or she should be aware that the colony is unsettled and defensive. Usually, the bees can be calmed with a little smoke, which interferes with the detection of the alarm pheromone. At other times it is advisable to close the hive and wait till another day to open the bee hive.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:13 PM No comments:
Labels: Guard Bees, honey bee, Pheromones
Sunday, November 1, 2009
Fighting Mites in New Ways
Researchers are attempting to develop methods of reducing Varroa mites without the use of chemical miticides. The continuous use of pesticides, like the insecticides and miticides, often lead to chemical-resistant strains of the pests being treated. Researchers with the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service are developing a scent which attracts the Varroa mites and leads them to a sticky trap. See www.ars.usda.gov/is/ar/archive/jul09. The use of the scent is a biological control, and the use of the sticky trap is a mechanical control. Both biological and mechanical controls are favorable approaches to reducing mites, as they do not lead to the evolution of resistant strains of Varroa. This occurred with the use of Fluvalinate and Coumaphos miticides over only a few years since the introduction of parasitic mites into the United States in the late 1980s. Click on today’s picture to see a close-up view of a Varroa mite, which has penetrated the surface of a honey bee drone pupa with its mouth parts. The puncture wound on the pupa is a good point of entry for viruses. Shirley Murphy took this photo of the mite we found while examining drone brood foundation. Varroa prefer to reproduce in drone brood, which has the longest development time.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 8:35 PM No comments:
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