Insect stings and the Schmidt “Pain Scale for Stinging Insects”

A number of years ago I met a honey bee researcher from the Tuscon USDA Bee Lab named Dr. Justin Schmidt. Sometime later I read about his Pain Scale for Stinging Insects. Not too surprising, since one of his research interests was Africanized Honey Bees. These bees are known for their stinging, as I discovered first hand in Africa in August.

While boarding a plane in France for the last leg of my a flight to Africa, I picked up a copy of the International New York Times. What was on the front page but this article about Justin, titled The Connoisseur of Pain, about his first hand experiences with stinging insects. Was someone trying to tell me something? After returning home last week I was forwarded the following link to the Jimmy Kimmel Show. Guess who was on the show? And Justin has a new book out, which is mentioned in the video clip.  Check out all three links – interesting, entertaining, and educational. Science is fun, though research can be painful. I prefer to stick to honey bee stings. They are fairly low on the pain index.

Phil’s trip to Africa, Aug 26th – 30th, 2016: Week of instruction

A busy week of teaching concluded my assignment in Nigeria.  On Monday and Tuesday, I worked with the institute’s apiculture instructors.  Officially, my mission here is training the trainers.  Though I have had quite a bit of contact with students, working with the staff has been my priority.

Over the years, I have developed a set of PowerPoint presentations for beekeeping classes and meetings.  I am constantly updating and adapting them for particular audiences. After spending my first few days here getting familiar with African bees, top bar hives, and their approach to beekeeping, I made some more revisions.

nigeria instrut

Little changed was the first segment: honeybee biology.  I added more information about honey bee classification, and subspecies. Which will be the subject of a future post. Continue reading

Post 5, August 25th & 26th – In the classroom and hives

August 25th, 2016 -Thursday, Classroom talk

I have learned a little more about the institution where I am working.  The Federal Polytechnic Ado-Ekiti, as its name implies, is a technical, post high school educational institution.  Degrees are offered in fields such as engineering, business, and science, including computer studies. There is also a Center for Entrepreneurship Development and Vocational Studies (CEDVS), which is home to the apiculture and other agricultural programs.  I mentioned some of the agriculture related studies in the previous post.  The goal of the center is to prepare students to enter the workforce, or ideally to create their own businesses, after graduation.  Each morning I have been eating honey which was produced locally by a graduate of the program.


Continue reading

Phil’s trip to Africa, day 5, Aug 24rd, 2016: Stung by bees on four continents

As you might assume from the title of this post, I was around bees today.  We were not actually opening hives (not intentionally, anyway) but close enough.  We started the day with a trip to one of the apiaries with Ayodele Sulaimon, the chief apiculture instructor here at Ado-Ekiti, and a number of his students.

DSCF2104 (2)Phil & some of the students

The task at hand was setting up empty hives to serve essentially as bait hives. That is an empty hive placed by a beekeeper, in an apiary or a location where feral colonies are known to exist, in hopes that a swarm will decide to move in.  Result: a free colony of bees! Continue reading

Two different deformed wing viruses

This is from Joe Traynor’s recent newsletter. Joe is a beekeeper and broker in the almond groves in California. Which means he connects almond growers needing bees for pollination, with beekeepers having hives to lease. I have known Joe for many years, and while his columns are mostly related to news in the almond/beekeeping relationship, it is much more. This next piece is an example.

“And Then There Were Two (or more), Australian entomologist Denis Johnson surprised the bee world when he found there was more than one species of varroa and that varroa destructor (which we have) was far more lethal to bees than varroa jacobsoni (endemic to Apis Cerana). Now, some great work by UK apiculturist, Stephen Martin has shown that there are two (or more) strains of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) one more virulent than the other. Let’s hope that the less lethal strain will prevail.”

Phil’s trip to Africa, day 4, Aug 23rd, 2016: Arrival at my destination

Another travel day.  I had a wake-up call at 6 AM, breakfast at 7, and left the hotel at 7:45.  Take off was scheduled for 9:45 AM, but was delayed until 10:30. It happens here too.  After a one hour flight and picking up our baggage, it was already noon.  The three hour drive was bone jarring.  Welcome to travel in the third world. Continue reading

Phil’s trip to Africa, day 2 & 3, Aug 21st & 22nd, 2016: Travel & rest

Day 2: Sunday was more air travel, and no sleep.  After a 1-hour flight to Atlanta, 8 hours to Paris, and 6 hours more from Paris to Abuja, I was worn out.  Counting layovers and an hour for customs in Nigeria, that adds up to 24 hours of non-stop travel.  I rarely sleep on airplanes, and this weekend was no exception.  After a short ride to the hotel and a quick supper, it was lights out for me. Continue reading

Phil’s trip to Africa, day 1, Aug 20th, 2016: Start of the journey

August 20th, 2016

I am currently somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean on my way to Abuja, Nigeria, as a volunteer for a United States Agency for International Development (USAID) Farmer to Farmer assignment.  In 2012 I took part in a similar program in Bangladesh, where I provided instruction to beekeepers in a small village.  In Nigeria I will be working in a “train the trainer” program at a rural educational facility, the Center for Entrepreneurship Development and Vocational Studies (CEDVS) in Ado-Ekiti, Nigeria.  In Ado-Ekiti I will be working with both staff and students, providing classroom instruction as well as hands on training in hives located at the center.   Continue reading

It is not royal jelly that makes a queen

I am working on my next Bee Culture column, and ran across this interesting article in Wired magazine. Everyone wants to learn more about honey bees!

royal Jelly



Progress of new package hives, part 2

As I have discussed in my post of April 22nd I installed five packages of bees into hives on April 15th. See the April 22nd post for progress of the new hives up until that point. I looked at them this past Saturday, April 30th, and had also made observations the previous weekend, on April 23rd, which I had not written about. You also may wish to see my post of April 13th – “What to look for in your new hive”.

I will give general observations about their progress, comments are representative for most of the hives, except one, and I will comment on that hive in detail at the end of the post. A week after the installations I was seeing multiple frames with drawn comb, lots of nectar in the new cells, as well as eggs and larvae. Fresh pollen was also present in the cells.  On April 29nd, two weeks after the packages were installed, there was capped brood in four of the hives, and these hives are all approaching the “seven frames drawn” point at which I add another box of frames containing foundation. I have prepared the frames, and likely on Sunday, May 8th, I will add another box to these four hives. When to add the box is not extremely critical, I just do not wish to see the first box to get completely full of bees, and brood, without adding the second box. So Sunday will be fine. It would require a great number of new bees to emerge from brood for this to occur, and that will not happen for some time. Continue reading