Here in central Kentucky it has been a very mild winter. Many days were above 45°F, which meant bees flying and drinking from my bee waterer.
On these warm days I observed lots of activity at the entrances of my hives, which has made me curious about what is going on inside. However, I have a policy of not opening hives and disturbing the clusters until we have consistent weather above 60°F. That time finally arrived this week as daytime temperatures climbed above 70°, and I took my first look inside.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.”
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
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
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
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!