Winter loss of colonies – dead bees and why did my bees die?

It is finally looking like spring at my old Kentucky home, bees are flying, a lot of blooming underway, bees are bringing in nectar and pollen, and I am putting honey supers on my hives. However, I continue to receive questions about colonies lost this past winter. Winter is rough on bees, winter colony losses occur in hives in nature (trees), as well as in managed colonies. Our role as honey bee shepherds, or beekeepers, is to help our bees survive better than in nature. 

Below are a couple of photos of what beekeepers often see when opening colonies that have died out in winter. The first (below) shows dead bees with their head down in the cells.


 

Dead bees in that position indicate starvation, even though there was stored honey elsewhere in the hive. The other is a very small, baseball sized cluster of dead bees.


I’m certain that the low population contributed to the colony’s final demise. It is not unusual to see clusters of starved bees, in the winter or early spring, inches from honey.

When I speak to beekeepers about helping our bees get ready for winter, I talk about three major issues: 1 – numbers of bees, 2- food stores, and 3 – colony health. Continue reading

Bee Informed Partnership annual surveys

To my fellow beekeepers,

While we have a lot of great honey bee research going on at our state universities, I am greatly impressed by the work of a group called the Bee Informed Partnership or BIP. Based at the University of Maryland, one of the primary roles of the BIP programs is collecting and analyzing information of honey bee health and colony losses, including management practices that may contribute to better health of our colonies. One of the important tools of this data collection are annual surveys of winter colony losses and management practices. I encourage ALL beekeepers to participate in these surveys. The surveys can be filled out on line, Continue reading

Federal program for honey bee losses

I received this press release today, announcing a federal government program for reimbursements for livestock losses – the ELAP program, which includes honey bee colonies. For more information, you can see the 2014 Farm Bill fact sheet, but there is not a lot of information there. Alternate and perhaps best source of information is contacting your local Farm Service Agency office. I’m attaching the link for state FSA offices, from the state office webpages, you may locate your local office. Sign-ups for the program begins April, 15, 2014.  

National Geographic photos of bees

National Geographic magazine is known for their beautiful photographs, of places, people and nature. You may visit their webpage to see some beautiful micro-photographs of bees, including honey bees.

You also may wish to visit another link mentioned in the article, about a previous story concerning strangely colored honey in France, a subject I wrote about in my Ask Phil Bee Culture column last year.

Varroa mites & Hopguard

Hopguard is a varroa miticide that came out a few years ago (2011?). The active ingredient is “hop beta acids”, which are derived from hop flowers – more commonly known as a flavoring for beer. Hopguard is marketed as a natural miticide, which it is. It can be used even with honey supers on the hive, though not inside the supers. As a contact miticide, as opposed to a fumigant, it can be used without regard to outside air temperatures. The strips are made of cardboard and are saturated with hop acid, so they are wet and brown in color when removed from the packaging. Continue reading

Chinese honey removed from store shelves in Great Britain

See this link http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-101494/All-Chinese-honey-ordered-shelves.html for article concerning removal of ALL imported Chinese honey from store shelves in Great Britain. Testing is said to show the presence of the antibiotic chloramphenico in 40% of the Chinese honey sampled.

Killer hornets

I ran across this article on the CNN webpage concerning a large number of human fatalities in China, due to a species of wasp, Vespa mandarinia, commonly called the Asian Giant Hornet. A follow-up article discusses the problem of allergy reactions and red blood cell damage that result from the sting of these insects, complicating sting reactions. This second article quotes Dr. Justin Schmidt, an entomologist at the Southwest Biological Institute in Tucson, Arizona. Dr. Schmidt previously worked at the USDA Bee Lab in Arizona, where he studied Africanized honey bees.  A related Asian species of hornet – V. velutina – has been responsible for attacking and destroying beekeepers’ honey bee colonies Continue reading

When NOT to destroy a feral honey bee colony!

This was forwarded to me this morning.

Woman lights power pole on fire to get rid of beehive

VALLEJO, Calif. (United Press International) — Authorities in California said a 68-year-old woman was taken for a mental evaluation after she allegedly lit a power pole on fire to get rid of a beehive.

A Vallejo Fire Department spokesman said the woman used lighter fluid to ignite the power pole about a block from her Vallejo home. However, he said there were no reports of stings and the flames were quickly extinguished.

Police officers were apprehensive about exiting their vehicles to take the woman into custody.

“She thought they were killer bees,” a police lieutenant said. “The officers didn’t even stop. The bees were everywhere.”

(Since putting this up, have received a note from a beekeeper friend  – see comments -who said that Vallejo was pretty far north in California (” …close to Oakland and San. Francisco area..” and so more likely not Africanized Honey Bees).

This week’s time magazine cover

Honey bees make the cover of Time magazine this week. You might wish to pick up a copy at the grocery store. It looks to me that one cannot purchase this single issue online, but can only purchase a one week subscription online. If you are interested in an online subscription go here: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,2149141,00.html

Honey bee behavior – “festooning” and beeswax production

Have you noticed honey bees in your hives hanging as if linked in a chain, hooked together by their legs, between the frames of foundation in your hive?

These bees are “festooning” or hanging in a festoon or chain. This behavior is linked to beeswax production, but not well understood by bee scientists. Continue reading