Category Archives: Uncategorized

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.  

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 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

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:,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

What should you be seeing in your hives in May?

For new beekeepers with new hives started this year from packages: Most beekeepers who are getting started in the spring will have installed their packages in April, but others more recently. It may take a week or two for the bees to get a frame or two of comb drawn out, and several weeks to get a good part of the foundation in the first box drawn.

                                  All photos in this post by Mary Parnell Carney

You’ll first see fresh nectar (which may actually be the sugar syrup you’re feeding) in the drawn cells and fresh pollen. Continue reading

Interesting new publication of study regarding colony loss

I recently ran across a publication of results from an interesting study by a number of honey bee researchers including: Dennis vanEnglesdorp, University of Maryland; David R. Tarpy, North Carolina State University; Eugene J. Lengerich, Pennsylvania State University; and Jeffery S. Pettis, USDA-ARS Bee Research Laboratory. The study involved tracking 80 hives of honey bees in three different migratory beekeeping operations, as the hives traveled up and down the east coast of the United States providing pollination services. The purpose of the study was to asset the hives for various health and colony risk factors which may impact the health of bees in the hives and contribute to colony loss of the hives and to attempt to determine which of these may be associated with the death of the bees in the hives (colony loss). Continue reading