Monday, March 29, 2010
Plums in Bloom
A report has been released which indicates that Colony Collapse Disorder still persists after four years of honey bee die-offs in the United States and Canada. The report reveals that continuing CCD losses coupled with a more severe winter than normal may bring record over-winter colony losses this year. The study found bee pollen and hives laden with pesticides. Many of the pesticides are systemic agents which are designed to be taken up by the plants and carried throughout the plant. It is felt that the systemic pesticides are brought back to the hive by honey bees foraging for pollen to feed to the brood. The report can be followed at http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20100324/ap_on_sc/us_food_and_farm_disappearing_bees. Hopefully, this and similar reports will make more of the public aware of the effect certain pesticides have on the pollinators.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:09 PM 2 comments:
Labels: bee plants, Colony Collapse, honey bee, plum, Roses
Sunday, March 28, 2010
Horticulturist Paul Little is selecting varieties of the succulent plant, sedum, which are well adapted to the environment in the Southern United States. His method involves attempting to grow large numbers of sedum plants and evaluating how well they perform in the region’s warm, humid temperate climate and varying soil conditions. Of course, many of the varieties that Paul tries simply die. They are not suitable in the region. Paul propagates sedum from the heartiest survivors. His plants are identified as Southern Select Sedum, and may be viewed at http://www.southernselectsedum.com/. The method of improving the survivability of either honey bees or sedum plants is similar. Honey bee producers probably have an advantage over sedum producers because the multiple mating of queen bees results in a numerous traits to select. Sedum plants are propagated by cuttings. The offspring plants from cuttings are clones of the parent plant without genetic differences to select.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 5:47 PM No comments:
Labels: honey bee, Paul Little, Sedum
Friday, March 26, 2010
Click on today’s photo to see honey bees building Small Hive Beetle jails in a honey super. The workers are placing propolis along the ends of the frames to hold beetles as prisoners. In the picture a brown-colored adult beetle tries to escape. Its sensitive antennae are tipped with feather-like ends. To prevent breaking the propolis bonds that trap the Small Hive Beetles, we may make regular checks of the hives without opening them. Having large numbers of bees flying in and out of the hive and pollen being brought into the hive usually mean that we have a laying queen and bees are feeding larvae. Small Hive Beetles often hide in burr comb. We can remove hiding places by scraping beeswax from the top bars of frames. Using frames of drone comb foundation encourages the bees to not build burr comb. At times we can inspect a hive by removing a few frames from the upper hive body and look down into the lower box. We should not leave excessive amounts of equipment on the hive, as this provides good hiding places for Small Hive Beetles. We should also avoid hive feeder arrangements that drown bees; Small Hive Beetle larvae thrive on the protein of the dead bees.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:06 PM No comments:
Tuesday, March 23, 2010
Dead Nettle in Bloom
I got a message today from an Arkansas beekeeper who discovered that she lost the queen for one of her colonies. It is fortunate that she has more than one colony to work with, because honey bees are not producing queens and drones in this region now. The colonies will be producing both in a few weeks, though. I found the first drone brood today that I have seen this year. Drones emerge as adults in 24 days, but they are not sexually-mature for about another 20 days. This beekeeper may need to combine her queen-less colony with a queen-right colony to protect the honeycomb until the bees are ready to produce queens and drones. If she lets the colony collapse from lack of a queen, hive scavengers will likely destroy the combs. Small Hive Beetles and wax moths eat the combs and contents of abandoned hives. Once the bees start producing queens and drones in a few weeks, she can divide her hive into two colonies.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 10:09 PM No comments:
Labels: bee plants, Dead Nettle, honey bee, Mints
Monday, March 22, 2010
Searching for Pollen
While inspecting bees, I found the colony that held two queens on January 24 had died of starvation. I gave all of the colonies in that bee yard supplemental feeding at that time, and they consumed all of the syrup. It is likely that the colony with two queens laying eggs simply produced a population that could not be sustained by the available food. Beekeepers who want to produce a honey crop face a balancing act during the early spring. They must encourage the bees to build a large population to be able to exploit the large nectar flows while trying to avoid starvation and swarming.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 1:11 PM 3 comments:
Labels: Africanized Honey Bees, Daffodil, honey bee, Honey Bees, Nutrition
Friday, March 19, 2010
Late Winter Hive Inspection
Many of the hives were also ready for a rearrangement of the order of the brood boxes. It is the natural tendency of the honey bee cluster to move upward in the brood nest over winter. The bees eat the honey from the cells above their cluster, and then they move into the empty area and use it for brood production. In cases where the brood was found to be in the very upper-most part of the hive, the lowest hive body was usually found to be completely empty of brood and honey stores. Often the bees will not move downward by themselves; the beekeeper must step in to rearrange the hive to provide brood space. If the bees can’t find adequate numbers of empty cells for the queen to use to lay eggs, they colony will begin a month-long set of preparations for swarming. Moving the lowest hive body to the upper position effectively moves the cluster of bees downward in the hive. The empty cells above the brood nest can now be used for brood nest expansion or storage of nectar being brought into the hive. For some of the colonies, this week brought the second rearrangement of the brood nest this year. Each rearrangement opens brood space and stimulates brood production. Click on today’s picture of nurse bees tending brood of mixed ages, including eggs, larvae, and pupae.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 11:01 PM No comments:
Wednesday, March 17, 2010
The Honey Super
In the modern Langstroth bee hive, the surplus honey is stored above the brood nest in boxes called honey supers. They get the name, “super” from the fact that the boxes are “superimposed” or stacked upon one another. The beekeeper places frames of foundation in the supers for the bees to produce the honeycomb to hold the hive’s surplus honey. In keeping with the honey bee’s tendency to draw out more lengthy cells for honey storage, we often remove a frame to give the bees room to extend the comb. This allows each frame to hold more honey, and the beeswax cappings are exposed for greater ease of cutting the cappings and removing the honey at harvest time. The bees’ tendency is to build comb and store honey in the center of the hive. We can encourage the bees to use the entire honey super by placing frames of drawn comb in the outside positions and frames of foundation in the center. In the photo, I am spacing nine frames in a super capable of holding ten. Empty frames of honeycomb above the brood nest stimulate the bees to collect nectar and hoard honey. During strong nectar flows, the bees draw out the foundation in the center frames and fill it with honey. Additional supers are added as needed.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 11:01 PM No comments:
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
A New Bee Yard
To avoid conflicts, a bee yard is planned with human and animal neighbors in mind. An important consideration is access. Since bee hive equipment is heavy, the bee yard should be near a road, passable in all seasons. Sturdy hive stands are placed to provide good circulation of air. When possible, beekeepers face the hives toward the east or south. A clearing is preferable to an enclosed area in the woods. A bee yard in the full sun has fewer problems from Small Hive Beetles than one in the shade. Afternoon shade helps the bees cool the hive in the summer. An evergreen wind screen is helpful in the winter. There should be a source of clean water within a quarter of a mile of the bee yard. The honey yield from the hives will depend in great part on the nectar sources in the area. Crystal and Ed move a hive to their new bee yard.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 2:35 PM No comments:
Labels: honey bee, Small Hive Beetle
Monday, March 15, 2010
Pollination in Kentucky
Today’s photo shows a honey bee collecting nectar from forsythia, an old-time favorite shrub and one of the first colorful plants to bloom in the late winter. The honey bees learn to access the forsythia’s nectary from the sides of the blossom, reaching the nectar between the flower petals.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 8:57 PM 2 comments:
Labels: Conservation, forsythia, honey bee, Mountain Top Removal, Tammy Horn
Sunday, March 14, 2010
The Cavallo family has been showcasing traditional Southern cooking in Memphis since 1943 at their restaurant, The Cupboard. The offerings at The Cupboard, which specializes in fresh vegetables, are the very items that we can thank the honey bees and native pollinators for helping to produce. Without bees we would not have their eggplants, Crowder peas, turnip greens, and fried green tomatoes. Jereme Cavallo and Dory Sellers of The Cupboard visited Peace Bee Farm. That’s Dory in the bee suit. We are proud that The Cupboard chooses to offer our Delta honey to their loyal customers.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:08 AM No comments:
Labels: honey bee, Nutrition, pollination
Saturday, March 13, 2010
With spring approaching, this is a good time to consider making any gardening or landscape planting an area to support pollinators. Very few modifications from traditional planting techniques are necessary. To be of great value to the pollinators, the planting should be planned to provide a continuous succession of blooming plants. A diversity of plants also helps assure that the honey bees, bumble bees, carpenter bees, solitary bees, and other insect pollinators receive good nutrition. Nesting habitat for bumble bees and ground-burrowing solitary bees can be provided by providing some bare, sandy soil. For a planting to be of use to pollinators, one should be cautious in the use of chemical pesticides. Today’s picture shows one of our native pollinators, the blue orchard bee. Here, it is seen pollinating a watermelon flower. Watermelon is one of the plants that is completely dependent upon insect pollinators to produce fruit. To provide nesting places for blue orchard bees, hang bundles of pithy-centered reeds or leave standing dead tree trunks. These solitary bees lay eggs in the hollow-stems of plants and abandoned beetle holes in dead trees. One third of our diet depends upon pollination from insects. The honey bee is the principal agricultural pollinator. Its natural home is a cavity in a hollow tree. Beekeepers house the honey bee in modern wooden hives that replicate hollow trees.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 8:58 AM No comments:
Labels: Habitat, honey bee, Nutrition, pollination
Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Common feeding of syrup has some draw-backs that need to be considered. Bees sharing common feeding may spread some diseases, particularly Nosema, from colony to colony. More contamination, however, probably occurs from bees drifting into the wrong hive. Common feeding does not always provide equal food to each hive, and weak colonies may not receive enough of the food. The bees can only access syrup in the open in fair weather, and some of the bees being fed are from feral colonies or distant bee yards. Common feeding of syrup can encourage robbing behavior, and entrance reducers should be used to give the guard bees an advantage. Fumagillin, a treatment for Nosema disease, should not be applied in common feeding, because it is broken down by the sun.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:53 PM No comments:
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
The Children's Museum of Memphis
While the honey bee is quite the subject of educational study, The Children’s Museum of Memphis accomplishes learning experiences through play and hands-on exhibits and programs. Children don a beekeeper’s veil to watch the honey bees through a glass window. The museum is currently hosting the world premiere of a traveling exhibit, “Harry’s Big Adventure: My Bug World!” My favorite part of the exhibit is a kitchen sink. When you open the cabinet doors, the sink is full of live cockroaches. Like the honey bees, they are safely housed behind glass. Follow museum activity at http://www.cmom.com/.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:31 PM No comments:
Sunday, March 7, 2010
Medications needed to control honey bee conditions, such as Nosema disease, can be applied in syrup fed in the late winter and early spring before supers are added to collect spring and summer honey. To ensure the medicated syrup is taken up rapidly by the bees, a feeding stimulant containing essential oils is added to the syrup. A new strain of Nosema has been identified as one of the possible contributing factors in Colony Collapse Disorder. Rita is feeding medicated sugar syrup flavored with essential oils of lemon grass, peppermint, tea tree, and wintergreen to a colony of bees that will be used to produce queens later in the spring.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 1:21 PM 4 comments:
Labels: Colony Collapse Disorder, Essential Oil, honey bee
Thursday, March 4, 2010
The Great Sunflower Project
The sunflower planting can be the start of each person’s pollinator garden. With spring approaching, the time is right to participate in The Great Sunflower Project. Seeds can be ordered now, and they will arrive in time to be planted as soon as the soil is adequately warmed. When the plants produce flowers, you are ready to report the bee visitors. The colorful blossoms are highly attractive to numerous species of bees. The planting of great numbers of pollinator gardens can be the quickest method for reversing the decline of pollinators. Those who participate will be eager to learn techniques for maintaining lawns, gardens, golf courses, and farms in a manner that provides food and habitat for the pollinators. Visit The Great Sunflower Project’s web site, http://www.greatsunflower.org/, to participate. Click on today’s photo to see solitary native bees collecting pollen from a sunflower.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 11:00 PM 1 comment:
Labels: honey bee, Native Pollinators, Sunflowers
Tuesday, March 2, 2010
Mobility Means Survival
The honey bee also takes advantage of its mobility to survive by flying to various available flowering plants as they come into bloom throughout the year. A single colony will typically fly two and one half miles in every direction to forage an area of about nine thousand acres. They are able to pass from one species of flowering plant to another as these plants come into bloom throughout the year. It takes quite a large amount of forage to feed a flock of snow geese or a colony of honey bees. Neither would be successful if they were not able to move to the available food. For the honey bees to produce one pound of honey, the bees must fly a combined distance of 55 thousand miles, more than twice the distance around the world.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:23 PM No comments:
Labels: honey bee, Snow Geese
Monday, March 1, 2010
Feeding pollen to bees in the fall helps insure that the young bees will have fully-developed glands necessary for them to make the brood food needed in the late winter and early spring. The queen is stimulated to start laying eggs when the workers bring pollen into the hive. For this reason I like to place some dry pollen substitute in a feeding station in the bee yard where I will be raising queens. Supplemental feeding of pollen can also be done inside the hive by making patties of pollen substitute and syrup. These patties are useful for feeding the brood during build-up. They should be placed directly above the brood nest. If the patties are not consumed rapidly by the honey bees, small hive beetles are attracted to their protein. The picture shows a simple arrangement for feeding dry pollen substitute. A pet feeder is placed inside a five gallon pail, which is open toward the east. The feed is pollen substitute mixed with natural pollen that I trapped and froze last summer. Some powdered sugar is added as well. Bees love this mix.
Posted by Richard Underhill at 9:31 PM No comments:
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