Let's Celebrate National Pollinator Week

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey June 14, 2019

A ceramic/mosaic sculpture, “Miss Bee Haven,” anchors the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. It is the work of self-described rock artist Donna Billick of Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

A ceramic/mosaic sculpture, “Miss Bee Haven,” anchors the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven on Bee Biology Road, UC Davis. It is the work of self-described rock artist Donna Billick of Davis. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

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Did you know that next week is National Pollinator Week?

It is. June 17-21 is the week set aside to celebrate pollinators and how we can protect them.

Actually, National Pollinator Week should be every day.

Launched 12 years ago under U.S. Senate approval,  National Pollinator Week zeroes in on the valuable ecosystem services provided by bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles, according to Pollinator Partnership, which manages the national celebration.  (Other pollinators include syrphid or hover flies, mosquitoes, moths, pollen wasps, and ants. Pollination involves the transfer of pollen from the male anther of a flower to the female stigma.)

On the UC Davis campus, the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, operated by the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, will be a "hive" of activity next week, announced manager Christine Casey, academic program management officer. "We'll be hosting National Pollinator Week events Monday through Friday, June 17 to 21, between 10 a.m. and noon each day." Activities include bee information and identification, solitary bee house making, and catch-and-release bee observation.

The haven volunteers also will sell bee friendly plants and bee houses to support the haven (cash and checks only).

A new event at the haven is hive opening. At 11:45 a.m. on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, California Master Beekeeper Program volunteers will open the hive in the haven "so visitors may see the girls in action." The haven, installed in the fall of 2009,  is located on Bee Biology Road, west of the central campus. It is open from dawn to dark, free admission.

The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation is planning a free webinar Insect Apocalypse? What Is Really Happening, Why It Matters and How Natural Area Managers Can Help on Tuesday, June 18. The webinar, by Scott Hoffman Black, executive director of the Xerces Society begins at noon, Eastern Time, which is 9 a.m., Pacific Time. 

Black says he will "explain the latest science on insect declines and highlight important ways natural areas managers can incorporate invertebrate conservation into their land management portfolio. Though they are indisputably the most important creatures on earth, invertebrates are in trouble. Recent regional reports and trends in biomonitoring suggest that insects are experiencing a multi continental crisis evident as reductions in abundance, diversity and biomass. Given the centrality of insects to terrestrial and freshwater aquatic ecosystems and the food chain that supports humans, the potential importance of this crisis cannot be overstated. If we hope to stem the losses of insect diversity and the services they provide, society must take steps at all levels to protect, restore and enhance habitat for insects across landscapes, from wildlands to farmlands to urban cores. Protecting and managing existing habitat is an essential step as natural areas can act as reservoirs for invertebrate diversity." Click here for more information and to register.

Happy Pollinator Week! Think the "b" alliteration: bees, birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. But don't forget the flies, ants, mosquitoes and moths!

Visitors to the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven can learn what to plant to attract pollinators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Visitors to the Haagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven can learn what to plant to attract pollinators. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)

2019 California Spring Update

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Bee Informed Partnership Post by Rob Snyder June 12, 2019

Many California beekeepers reported that the start of this year was the worst in 20+ years. Several factors contributed to this year’s issues, starting with the numerous fires last year causing nearly 3 months of smoke in the area.

A beekeepers yard in September showing smoke from fires in Northern California 2018.

A beekeepers yard in September showing smoke from fires in Northern California 2018.

Petal Fall in 2019 in almonds after heavy rain.

Petal Fall in 2019 in almonds after heavy rain.

Once the days got longer, queens started laying but the temperatures dropped again and egg laying stopped once more resulting in smaller colonies after almonds. In fact, most colonies were 2-3 weeks or even a month behind, which delayed the start of queen production. Many producers had to source bulk bees from beekeepers further south to begin starters, builders and nucs.

Italian Queen selected for hygienic testing.

Italian Queen selected for hygienic testing.

Carniolan Queen selected for hygienic testing in 2019.

Carniolan Queen selected for hygienic testing in 2019.

Once queen producers started generating nucs, the weather conditions were still challenging enough that the windows of opportunities for queens to mate were narrow at best. However, many queen producers found the first round of catching queens resulted in better than expected mating percentages, allowing them to somewhat catch up on orders and start replacing their own queens. Around this time beekeepers were treating with terramycin to combat European foulbrood (EFB). Some beekeepers believe as I do, that fungicides play a roll in colonies being more susceptible to brood diseases especially EFB. I do think that some of the EFB outbreaks we see are due to the way commercial beekeepers and queen producers manipulate colonies to shake bulk bees.

Early EFB symptoms, orange arrows indicate larvae I would select for testing, red arrows indicate old larvae I would not test

Early EFB symptoms, orange arrows indicate larvae I would select for testing, red arrows indicate old larvae I would not test

If you are seeing this or lots of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) it will be really hard to nurse colonies back to health. This is what happens if you neglect to treat or manipulate colonies to impact mite levels. Red arrows point to varroa mite in or on open brood.

If you are seeing this or lots of Deformed Wing Virus (DWV) it will be really hard to nurse colonies back to health. This is what happens if you neglect to treat or manipulate colonies to impact mite levels. Red arrows point to varroa mite in or on open brood.

Currently queen producers are re-queening and treating their colonies before shipping off to summer honey and pollination locations. The late spring has provided more rain than the past 8 years and many beekeepers say that rain in May increases the star thistle crop. We are hopeful this year will be a great star thistle honey crop, helping to restore lost colonies and recover some of the income lost due to the late start on queen production.


Tariffs on Chinese Products Aid US Garlic and Honey Producers

CATCH THE BUZZ June 12, 2019

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Employees on the production line at Christopher Ranch in Gilroy, California — the local garlic industry is reaping the benefits of US trade tariffs against China because it makes local produce more competitive in the United States (AFP Photo/Josh Edelson)

As most US farmers feel the brunt of the trade war with China, some, like garlic and honey producers who have struggled for years, are applauding new, higher tariffs on Chinese goods.

“It’s been a pretty exciting time for us in Gilroy, California,” Ken Christopher, whose family runs Christopher Ranch, the nation’s largest garlic grower, told AFP.

Though nearly all garlic consumed in America was grown in the US prior to 1993, that changed almost overnight when Chinese exporters began flooding the US market with their product, all but wiping out garlic growers across the country, Christopher said.

“Back in the 1990s, there used to be 12 commercial garlic farms in America and now there’s only three,” he said. “And that’s due to the illegal dumping of Chinese garlic.

“Since 1993 they have illegally flooded the US market with cheap garlic below the cost of their production.”

Under sweeping trade duties imposed by the Trump administration — part of an aggressive strategy to force Beijing to end what the US considers to be unfair practices — tariffs on Chinese garlic increased from 10 to 25 percent on May 10.

Christopher, whose company grows about 100 million pounds of garlic annually that represent 30 percent of total US consumption, said that has led to prices more in line with US growers who have higher labor costs and have struggled over the years to stay afloat.

A box of about 30 pounds of Chinese garlic that sold for some $25 before the latest tariffs increase is now selling for about $45.

That’s as opposed to $50 to $60 for a box of US-grown garlic.

– Relief for Industry –

“This has brought immediate relief for our industry,” said Christopher, whose family-run business is the largest employer in Gilroy, located south of San Francisco, with about 1,100 people working there full-time.

“For the last 25 years, it’s been a game of whack a mole,” he added, describing the difficulty in going after Chinese exporters dumping their produce on the US market for a fraction of the price of US-grown garlic.

“By the time the US Department of Commerce identified the Chinese exporter violating the US law, that company would fold and pop up as a brand new company.

“And often times many of the companies in China were subsidized by the Chinese government.”

Honey producers across the United States who have helplessly watched over the years as China blew them out of the market are also thrilled about the tariffs increase.

“It’s been probably 30 years that China’s been trying to destroy our domestic beekeepers by selling large amounts of honey at prices way below what we can produce at,” said Kelvin Adee, head of the American Honey Producers Association.

“It costs the US producer around $1.75 to $1.85 to produce a pound of honey,” said Adee, whose company Adee Honey Farms is the largest commercial beekeeping operation in the US with some 100,000 beehives.

“They’re bringing it in here under a dollar and there’s no way we can compete with that.”

Adee said that while the US is heavily dependent on imported honey — it consumes around 600 million pounds of the product a year and only produces between 150 to 170 million pounds — tariffs are needed to ensure fair trade practices.

Trump has imposed 25 percent tariffs on a total of $200 billion in Chinese goods, and has threatened even more — while Beijing has hit back with tariffs of its own, largely targeting soybeans and pork.

But despite hopes the tariffs will even the playing field, farmers like Adee and Christopher are well aware that Chinese producers can still beat the system by using evasion schemes.

And they realize that other farmers across the country, like soybean and hog farmers, are paying a steep price because of the spiralling trade dispute.

“We know that a lot of farmers in the middle of the country are hurting and our hearts go out to them,” said Christopher.

“And we know that a 25 percent tariff isn’t a long-term solution,” he added. “We know that at the end of the day there will have to be some kind of negotiation between China and the US.

“But it’s our hope that there will be enhanced enforcement on both sides to make sure that their illegal dumping stops.”


Manuka Honey To Kill Drug-Resistant Bacteria Found In Cystic Fibrosis Infections

Swansea University From Ben Johnson / University Press Office May 29, 2019

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Manuka honey could provide the key to a breakthrough treatment for cystic fibrosis patients following preliminary work by experts at Swansea University.

Dr Rowena Jenkins and Dr Aled Roberts have found that using Manuka honey could offer an antibiotic alternative to treat antimicrobial resistant respiratory infections, particularly deadly bacteria found in Cystic Fibrosis (CF) infections.

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Using lung tissue from pigs, experts treated grown bacterial infections mimicking those seen in CF patients with Manuka honey. The results showed that it was effective in killing antimicrobial resistant bacteria by 39% compared to 29% for antibiotics, whilst improving the activity of some antibiotics that were unable to function effectively by themselves, honey and antibiotics combined killed 90% of the bacteria tested.

CF is one of the UK’s most common life-threatening inherited diseases, with around 10,400 people in the UK suffering according to the CF Trust. A government review led by Lord Jim O’Neill also highlighted the threat of antimicrobial resistance, estimating that a continued rise in resistance by 2050 would lead to 10 million people dying every year from antimicrobial resistant infections.

A problem that CF patients suffer from are chronic and long-lasting respiratory infections which often prove fatal due to the presence of certain bacteria that are resistant to many (if not all) the antibiotics that doctors currently have at their disposal.

Bacteria that cannot be removed from the lungs through antibiotic treatment can, as a last resort, be removed by providing patients with newly transplanted lungs. This has some associated risks, however, as the bacteria that caused the original infection can still be found in the upper airway, and migrate into the new lungs, thus making the transplant ineffective.

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Some patients have a worse prognosis as they are infected with deadly types of bacteria, such as Pseudomonas and Burkholderia cepacia complex, which are difficult to kill (due to multiple antibiotic resistance) and cause extensive damage to the lungs. In some instances, merely their presence within a patient can prevent them from receiving life-saving lung transplants.

The effectiveness of antibiotics against these deadly infections is a huge concern, making the need to find suitable, non-toxic alternatives, which are effective at killing the bacteria a top priority.

Honey has been used for thousands of years as a medicinal product. More recently, research has shown that Manuka honey is capable of killing antibiotic resistant bacteria present in surface wounds. Funding from The Waterloo Foundation and The Hodge Foundation has allowed research to look at it as an antibiotic alternative in CF infections.

Dr Rowena Jenkins, Lecturer in Microbiology and Infectious Diseases at Swansea University, said:

“The preliminary results are very promising and should these be replicated in the clinical setting then this could open up additional treatment options for those with cystic fibrosis infections.

“The synergy with antibiotics and absence of resistance seen in the laboratory has allowed us to move into the current clinical trial, investigating the potential for Manuka honey as part of a sinus rinse for alleviating infection in the upper airway.”

This research was first published in Frontiers in Microbiology, while Swansea University are currently sponsoring a clinical trial for this research that runs for another 12 months.


Join Kim And Jim In The Beeyard, And On The Front Porch Of The A. I. Root Homestead On June 18th At Noon EST (9 AM PDT)

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Check out the next LIVE KIM&JIM Show, on June 18, 2018. Kim and Jim are first going to take a look at the 4 bee hives on the A. I. Root Company property, right next to A. I. Root’s Home. There are 2 overwintered colonies, and 2 were installed as packages this spring. What’s up with the old and the new this spring? We’ll find out. Then, they’ll take a look at the new polystyrene hive just installed this spring to begin looking at thermal efficiency in a beehive. A new hive, with a new package will be the center of attention for a bit.

Then, because it’s Pollination Week, KIM&JIM will take a breather after all that work, and sip a cool one on the A. I. Root’s front porch and talk about all of the historical figures that have come and gone from that porch over the years, sort of a sneak preview of THE HISTORY OF AMERICAN BEEKEEPING event coming your way in October. And, because it’s pollination weeks, they’ll discuss a bit about the pollinator gardens, that they will visit later this summer, and about some of the activities going on around this most important subject.

KIM&JIM. Tune in, Tuesday, June 18, 2018 from noon to 1 PM. Look at bees, look at beehives. Sip a cool one on A. I. Root’s front porch. What better way to spend the first week of summer.

Please Register for Kim & Jim Visit the hives at A. I. Root’s home. on Jun 18, 2019 12:00 PM EDT (9:00 AM PDT) at:


After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the webinar.



Bees Can Link Symbols To Numbers: Study

EurekAlert (RMIT University)

Research Shows Bee Brains May Be Capable Of Connecting Symbols To Numbers. Credit: RMIT University

Research Shows Bee Brains May Be Capable Of Connecting Symbols To Numbers. Credit: RMIT University

We've learned bees can understand zero and do basic math, and now a new study shows their tiny insect brains may be capable of connecting symbols to numbers.

Researchers have trained honeybees to match a character to a specific quantity, revealing they are able to learn that a symbol represents a numerical amount.

It's a finding that sheds new light on how numerical abilities may have evolved over millennia and even opens new possibilities for communication between humans and other species.

The discovery, from the same Australian-French team that found bees get the concept of zero and can do simple arithmetic, also points to new approaches for bio-inspired computing that can replicate the brain's highly efficient approach to processing.

The RMIT University-led study is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Associate Professor Adrian Dyer said while humans were the only species to have developed systems to represent numbers, like the Arabic numerals we use each day, the research shows the concept can be grasped by brains far smaller than ours.

"We take it for granted once we've learned our numbers as children, but being able to recognise what '4' represents actually requires a sophisticated level of cognitive ability," Dyer said.

"Studies have shown primates and birds can also learn to link symbols with numbers, but this is the first time we've seen this in insects.

"Humans have over 86 billion neurons in our brains, bees have less than a million, and we're separated by over 600 million years of evolution.

"But if bees have the capacity to learn something as complex as a human-made symbolic language, this opens up exciting new pathways for future communication across species."

Mini brains, maximum potential: what the bees learned

Studies have shown that a number of non-human animals have been able to learn that symbols can represent numbers, including pigeons, parrots, chimpanzees and monkeys.

Some of their feats have been impressive - chimpanzees were taught Arabic numbers and could order them correctly, while an African grey parrot called Alex was able to learn the names of numbers and could sum the quantities.

The new study for the first time shows that this complex cognitive capacity is not restricted to vertebrates.

The bee experiment was conducted by Dr Scarlett Howard, formerly a PhD researcher in the Bio Inspired Digital Sensing-Lab (BIDS-Lab) at RMIT and now a fellow at the Research Center on Animal Cognition, University of Toulouse III - Paul Sabatier, CNRS.

In a Y-shaped maze, individual bees were trained to correctly match a character with a number of elements.

They were then tested on whether they could apply their new knowledge to match the character to various elements of the same quantity (in the same way that '2' can represent two bananas, two trees or two hats).

A second group was trained in the opposite approach, matching a number of elements with a character.

While both could grasp their specific training, the different groups were unable to reverse the association and work out what to do when tested with the opposite (character-to-number or number-to-character).

"This suggests that number processing and understanding of symbols happens in different regions in bee brains, similar to the way separate processing happens in the human brain," Howard said.

"Our results show honeybees are not at the same level as the animals that have been able to learn symbols as numbers and perform complex tasks.

"But the results have implications for what we know about learning, reversing tasks, and how the brain creates connections and associations between concepts.

"Discovering how such complex numerical skills can be grasped by miniature brains will help us understand how mathematical and cultural thinking evolved in humans, and possibly, other animals."

Studying insect brains offers intriguing possibilities for the future design of highly efficient computing systems, Dyer said.

"When we're looking for solutions to complex problems, we often find that nature has already done the job far more elegantly and efficiently," he said.

"Understanding how tiny bee brains manage information opens paths to bio-inspired solutions that use a fraction of the power of conventional processing systems."


The paper, "Symbolic representation of numerosity by honeybees (Apis mellifera): Matching characters to small quantities" with co-authors Aurore Avarguès-Weber (University of Toulouse), Jair Garcia (School of Media and Communication, RMIT) and Professor Andrew Greentree (ARC Centre of Excellence for Nanoscale Biophotonics, RMIT), is published in Proceedings of the Royal Society B (DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2019.0238).


Wild Bees Are Building Their Homes from Plastic—And Scientists Aren’t Sure Why

National Geographic By Sarah Gibbens June 5, 2019

Portrait of a leaf cutter bee, the species believed to be using plastic for construction material in Argentina. Photograph By Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

Portrait of a leaf cutter bee, the species believed to be using plastic for construction material in Argentina. Photograph By Joel Sartore, National Geographic Photo Ark

When tasked with making their unique nests, Argentina’s solitary bees are now choosing plastic.

Wild bees, nesting in Argentinian crop fields, were recently found constructing nests entirely made of the flimsy plastic packaging material left on farms.

From 2017 to 2018, researchers at Argentina's National Agricultural Technology Institute crafted wooden, artificial nests for wild bees. Unlike bee species that have a large hive with queens and workers, wild bees burrow into nests to individually lay larvae. The constructed nests fit together like long rectangles with a narrow, hollow opening that allowed wild bees to crawl inside and fill it with cut leaves, twigs, and mud.

Sixty-three wooden nests were constructed, and three were found lined entirely with plastic. Similar in size and shape to a fingernail, the bits of plastic had been carefully cut by bees and arranged in an overlapping pattern in their nests. Based on the material, researchers think the plastic may have come from a plastic bag or film, which has a similar texture to the leaves bees typically use to line their nests.

Of the three plastic nests, one had not been finished, meaning the bee did not use it to lay her larvae, Science Alert reports. In the remaining two, one larva died and the other was not found, leading the researchers to believe it survived.

What does it mean for bees?

This new research, published in the journal Apidologie, documents the first time bees have been seen making nests only out of plastic, but for years scientists have known bees were incorporating plastic into their building materials.

In 2013, a paper published in Ecosphere outlined how bees were using plastic films and foams to line nests in urban areas throughout Toronto, Canada. Similar to the bees in Argentina, the wild bees observed in Canada cut pieces of plastic that resembled the leaves they commonly use.

Notably, the Canadian study found it wasn't just flaps of plastic bags the bees were using. Plant resins, which can be fashioned into anything from gum to latex, often bind a bee's building materials together. But some individuals, they observed, were hauling a plastic-based caulk back to their nests to use instead.

Both studies noted that more research needs to be done before scientists can outline the potential impact plastic might have on bees, but the nest building shows that bees are highly adaptive to changing environments. In both places, leaves were readily available as a building material.

“It would demonstrate the adaptive flexibility that certain species of bees would have in the face of changes in environmental conditions,” the study’s lead author Mariana Allasino wrote in a press release translated from Spanish.

Plastic dangers

Hollis Woodard, an entomologist who studies bees at the University of California Riversides Woodard Lab, isn’t surprised to see bees hauling plastic to their nests.

“I think it’s really sad,” she says. “It’s another example of the rampant use of materials that end up in places we don’t intend them to.”

Plastic often presents a threat to wildlife in the form of microplastics, the incredibly tiny bits of plastic that form as larger plastic trash breaks down. Microplastics are a danger to the animals that mistake them for food, which many do, especially in marine environments. No study, however, indicates that bees might be consuming plastic.

Among the dangers that bees face are pesticides, habitat destruction, and exposure to viruses or parasites.

Researchers have speculated that plastic may form a barrier against common nest issues like mold and parasites.

If the bees are in fact choosing plastic over natural materials, it wouldn't be the first time animals have used trash to their advantage.

Sparrows and finches line their nests with cigarette butts to ward off parasitic mites, and black kites in the Italian Alps collect bright strips of plastic to decorate their nests and attract mates.

“It would take a lot more research to know what this means for the bees themselves,” says Woodard. “Sure it’s possible it might afford some benefits, but that hasn’t been shown yet. I think it’s equally likely to have things that are harmful.”


LACBA Beekeeping Class 101 Class #5: Sunday, June 9, 2019, 9AM-Noon, at The Valley Hive

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Sunday, June 9th, 2019
9AM - Noon

The Valley Hive
10538 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Chatsworth, CA 91311

Actual Location for this Class: Details will be emailed to registered participants prior to class.
Parking for Class: Details will be emailed to registered participants prior to class.
Time: Check in open @ 8:30am. Class Starts @ 9am
For more info: https://www.losangelescountybeekeepers.com/beekeeping-class-101/
Class SIgn Up: https://www.losangelescountybeekeepers.com/new-products/beekeeping-class-101-1



This class will take place in an apiary, therefore, protective equipment will be required.  If you do not have proper protective equipment you will NOT be able to participate in class and refunds will NOT be issued (all money collected for classes were a donation).

Guest Speaker: Michele Colopy, Program Director Pollinator Stewardship Council

Join Us this evening, Monday, June 3, 2019 for the
Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Monthly Meeting!

Guest Speaker
Michele Colopy

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Michele Colopy has been the Program Director of the Pollinator Stewardship Council since March 2013. Her father was a beekeeper in southeast Ohio. She keeps honey bees in the city, and has replaced her crabgrass front yard with pesticide-free pollinator flowers for her honey bees and native pollinators.

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Ms. Colopy holds a Master’s degree in Nonprofit Management/Arts Administration. Her nonprofit experience includes work in the performing arts, housing and homelessness, foreclosure prevention, community development, and health and wellness. She is currently the Treasurer of Ohio State Beekeepers Association.

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The mission of the Pollinator Stewardship Council, Inc. is to defend managed and native pollinators vital to a sustainable and affordable food supply from the adverse impact of pesticides.

As pollination is required for one-third of the nation’s food supply, we strive to accomplish our mission through the following activities:

  • Affect regulatory processes of pesticide risk assessment, label, and enforcement.

  • Provide advocacy, guidance and tools to document the detrimental effect of pesticides on pollinators.

  • Raise awareness about the adverse impact of pesticides on pollinators critical to the supply of food and the ecosystem.


LACBA Meeting: Monday, June 3, 2019

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Next LACBA Meeting
Monday, June 3, 2019
Doors Open: 6:30PM (Club Discussion)
Meeting Starts: 7:00PM
All are Welcome!

Mt. Olive Lutheran Church 
3561 Foothill Boulevard 
La Crescenta, CA  91214

LACBA Meeting Minutes - May 6, 2019


Meet and Greet - 6:30pm

Discussion - 6:45pm
Paying for volunteers at Honey Harvest Festival 6:45

Volunteer limit of 5 packages as per state employee definition

Membership Meeting - 7:00pm

a. Welcome

b. Flag Salute

c. Introduce the board Kevin Vice president, Merrill Secretary, ElRay Member at large and I your president. Bill our treasurer passed away March 26th. We will have a remembrance tonight at the end of the meeting.

d. Select Raffle ticket seller, index cards for questions

e. New Members and/or guests

f. Thank Doug Noland for the treat du jour

First/Second year beekeeping - 7 minute Speaker

Cindy will give us a fireside chat. How you got into beekeeping and on the mistakes made, the trials, tribulations, problems of their first two years of beekeeping.

Topic Speaker

Michele Colopy is the program director for the Pollinator Stewardship Council whose mission is to defend managed and native pollinators vital to a sustainable and affordable food supply from the adverse impact of pesticides. She will be addressing tonight Migratory Beekeeping and why keeping them alive is so difficult.


How are the new package bees looking? Does anyone have A package with drawn comb and a package on foundation…to see the difference.

April 25th it’s been 39 days so new bees coming out for some 18 days?

How many bees do you see in the hive? When you open, how many frames are covered with bees. 8 frames? Is when you’ll add another box? What’s your plan? Swarm control? Treat?


Meeting Minutes - Mary Ann Laun

Secretary Report - Merrill Kruger

Treasurer's Report – Jon Reese

Membership Report – Cheryl Thiele

Website Report – Eva Andrews

Education Report - Mary Landau – opportunities to educate.

Beekeeping 101 - Keith. How did bee class go and what’s in the next class


1. Eaton Canyon Nature Center - We Love Bees! Report!

2. ElRay Ench - Honey Harvest Festival Update.

3. Cindy Caldera - LA County Fair Bee Booth. We need to gather literature, seeds, posters, bags, etc

July Speaker
Beekeeping in South Africa next month by a Beekeeping Family that worked bees in that area.

What’s blooming

Index cards Q&A

Next month with Bees Splits, mite check-treat, honey flow?

Raffle!!! Remember to bring raffle items!

'World's Smallest McDonald's' Restaurant For Bees Is Now Open

LAD Bible By Jake Massey May 22, 2019

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Travelling the world is great because it enables you to have your eyes opened to all sorts of things you don't see at home. However, there are three things that are certain in this life, and you'll find them the world over: death, taxes and McDonald's.

As such, we shouldn't even really be that surprised the fast food chain has now opened a restaurant for bees.

The McHive is touted as 'the world's smallest' Maccies - which isn't surprising really, given it is the size of a beehive.

The restaurant is completed with impressive detail, including signage, seating, drive-thru bays and of course, the famous golden arches. However, while it may look just like a tiny Maccies, it is in fact a fully-functional beehive, not a restaurant. That means no till worker bees, bee-f burgers, double beesburgers or beenana milkshakes.

So, what is the point of the thing?

Well, the tiny diner is designed as a 'tribute' to the global chain's Swedish restaurants, some of which have beehives on their roofs. The initiative started in one of the country's outlets and has begun to swarm across the country, and it is hoped the McHive can help to create further buzz about the concept.

McDonald's has opened its smallest restaurant - which is actually a beehive. Credit: NORDDDB

McDonald's has opened its smallest restaurant - which is actually a beehive. Credit: NORDDDB

As you're probably aware, bees are crucially important to the healthy functioning of the planet's ecosystems due to the fact they pollinate about three quarters of our plants. However, climate change and the use of pesticides have resulted in a population decline, and no bees means no food - which is bad news for all of us, not just Maccies. 

Given there are more than 37,000 McDonald's restaurants across the globe, covering each one in beehives would certainly have a positive impact on bee numbers, so here's hoping the initiative does continue to spread beyond Swedish shores. 

Christoffer Rönnblad, marketing director of McDonald's Sweden, described it as a 'great idea'.

According to Adweek, he said: "We have a lot of really devoted franchisees who contribute to our sustainability work, and it feels good that we can use our size to amplify such a great idea as beehives on the rooftops."

The McHive is a 'tribute' to the Swedish restaurants that have beehives on their roofs. Credit: NORDDDB

The McHive is a 'tribute' to the Swedish restaurants that have beehives on their roofs. Credit: NORDDDB

Last year, the EU introduced a ban on pesticides that are harmful to bees. The new laws came into effect off the back of a report from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which found that neonicotinoids were a serious threat to bees, no matter where or how they were used.

Vytenis Andriukaitis, the EU commissioner for Health and Food Safety, said: "The Commission had proposed these measures months ago, on the basis of the scientific advice from the European Food Safety Authority.

"Bee health remains of paramount importance for me since it concerns biodiversity, food production and the environment."

Featured Image Credit: NORDDDB


Bee Alert: Is a Controversial Herbicide Harming Honeybees?

Yale Environment 360 By Michael Balter May 7, 2019

A honeybee pollinates a blossom in an almond orchard in McFarland, California. DAVID KOSLING/ USDA

A honeybee pollinates a blossom in an almond orchard in McFarland, California. DAVID KOSLING/USDA

Recent court cases have focused on the possible effects of glyphosate, found in Monsanto’s Roundup, on humans. But researchers are now investigating whether this commonly used herbicide could also be having adverse effects on the health and behavior of honeybees.

Is one of the world’s most widely used herbicides a danger not only to annoying weeds, but also to honeybees? While debates rage over whether certain powerful insecticides are responsible for so-called colony collapse disorder — or even whether bee populations are declining at all — recent research suggests that glyphosate, the active ingredient in weed killers such as Monsanto’s Roundup, could be having subtle effects on bee health.

Glyphosate has been in the news in recent months, but not for its possible harm to bees. Rather, some studies have suggested an association between exposure to glyphosate and higher risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma (NHL), a cancer of the white blood cells. Glyphosate garnered headlines last August when a jury in California awarded groundskeeper DeWayne Johnson a massive judgement against Monsanto’s parent company, the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer. Johnson, along with more than 13,000 other plaintiffs, alleges that glyphosate caused his case of NHL.

But concerns about glyphosate are not limited to humans. Researchers have been accumulating evidence that glyphosphate may also be having deleterious effects on the environment and be harmful to fish, crustaceans, and amphibians, as well as to beneficial bacteria and other microorganisms in soil and water.

A University of Texas study reported evidence that glyphosate disrupts microorganisms in the guts of bees.

In recent years, a number of studies have concluded that glyphosate could also be hazardous to bees. Although the herbicide does not appear as toxic to bees as some other pesticides (notably neurotoxins known as neonicotinoids), researchers have found that glyphosate may impact bees in more subtle ways — for example, impeding the growth of bee larvae, diminishing bees’ navigational skills, altering their foraging behavior, or even disrupting their gut microorganisms, known as the microbiome.

The research is controversial because defenders of glyphosate use have long argued that it is benign in the environment. The herbicide is uniquely designed to target an enzyme that plants need to grow. That enzyme is essential to the so-called shikimate pathway, a metabolic process required for the production of certain essential amino acids and other plant compounds. However, the shikimate pathway is also used by some bacteria and other microorganisms, raising the possibility that glyphosate could have widespread and unexpected effects on a variety of natural organisms.

In a September study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Nancy Moran, an evolutionary biologist and entomologist at the University of Texas, Austin, and her coworkers found evidence that glyphosate disrupts microorganisms found in bees’ guts.

Monsanto's Roundup at a store in San Rafael, California. The product's manufacturer maintains that glyphosate is safe when used as directed.JOSH EDELSON/AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

Monsanto's Roundup at a store in San Rafael, California. The product's manufacturer maintains that glyphosate is safe when used as directed.JOSH EDELSON/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Mature bees have eight dominant gut bacterial species. Those strains are responsible for such benefits as promoting weight gain and providing resistance to harmful pathogens. The University of Texas team found almost all of them declined when the bees were exposed to concentrations of glyphosate commonly found in the environment. Young worker bees exposed to glyphosate were more susceptible to dying from infections. Moreover, the gut bacteria were more sensitive to the effects of glyphosate if the bacteria possessed an enzyme known to play a key role in the shikimate pathway.

Bayer disputes research findings suggesting Roundup or glyphosate is hazardous to bees. Utz Klages, Bayer’s head of external communications, says the “good news is that honeybee colonies are not in decline and rumors of their demise are greatly exaggerated.” Klages notes that regulatory authorities in a number of countries, including the United States, Canada, and the nations of the European Union, “have determined that glyphosate is safe when used as directed.”

A number of studies have suggested that glyphosate is not highly toxic to bees, including research performed by Monsanto and several other agrochemical companies. That research considered the “realistic worst-case” exposures to the herbicide and found no significant effect on bee mortality. Similarly, a series of studies led by Yu Cheng Zhu, a research entomologist at the U.S. Department of Agriculture, concluded that glyphosate did not seem to kill bees outright. “We did not find an unusual number of dead bees after spraying a bee yard with Roundup a few times each year,” Zhu said.

Scientists have found that glyphosate appears to interfere with the growth and survival of honeybee larvae.

But Walter Farina, a researcher at the University of Buenos Aires in Argentina, says that the very fact that glyphosate is not immediately toxic to bees facilitates the harm it does. “Since glyphosate does not cause lethal effects, it can enter the colony and [be] assimilated by the younger individuals,” Farina says. “The negative effects of [glyphosate] are worse for younger bees, promoting an increased disorganization of the collective task within the hives.”

Farina and his team have looked at some of these effects in Argentina, where glyphosate is intensively used in agriculture. In a 2014 study, published in The Journal of Experimental Biology, they found that the “appetitive behavior” of honeybees — including how well they could detect sucrose and their ability to learn and remember where food sources were located — was significantly diminished after exposure to doses of glyphosate commonly found in farmlands.

In a second study, published in 2015 in the same journal, Farina’s team used harmonic radar to track how long it took honeybees to find their way back to their hives. They found that exposure to relatively low doses of glyphosate appeared to hinder the bees’ ability to navigate back to the hive, and concluded that glyphosate “impairs the cognitive capacities needed to retrieve and integrate spatial information for a successful return.”

A farmer in Argentina, where glyphosate is used intensively, sprays a soybean field in Entre Rios province in February 2018. PABLO AHARONIAN/AFP/ GETTY IMAGES

A farmer in Argentina, where glyphosate is used intensively, sprays a soybean field in Entre Rios province in February 2018. PABLO AHARONIAN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

In other research, scientists have found that glyphosate appears to interfere with the growth and survival of honeybee larvae. For example, in a studypublished last year in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, Pingli Dai of the Institute of Apicultural Research in Beijing, China, and his colleagues found that elevated exposures to glyphosate can lower both the weight of bee larvae and the larval survival rate. This study also showed that glyphosate markedly decreased the diversity and richness of bacteria in the larvae’s intestines, indicators of reduced resilience.

As concerns about how glyphosate may be affecting honeybees mount, researchers are getting a boost from funding agencies that see this as an important research avenue. In March, the National Science Foundation awarded nearly $1 million in grant money to researchers at Virginia Tech and Eastern Washington University to further study the honeybee microbiome.

Meanwhile, Moran, at the University of Texas, says her lab has done follow-up confirmatory experiments using antibiotics to target the honeybee gut bacteria, with similar results on bee mortality as in the previous experiments. She emphasizes that these results have little to say so far about how important a factor glyphosate might be in the declines in bee populations. “We have to say that we don’t know at this point,” she says. “Our results suggest that it is worth studying further, which is what we are doing, and hope others will do also.”


Honeybees Enter Virtual Reality So Scientists Can Study Their Brains

The Scientist By Jeff Romeo February 14, 2019

honeybee virtual reality.jpg

Researchers at the Free University of Berlin have developed a method for directly recording the brains of honeybees as they navigate a virtual-reality environment. The team implanted electrodes into a region of the bee brain called the mushroom body, located in the front antennal lobe, to track neurological changes as the bees worked to complete a virtual maze, according to a study published last month (January 25) in Frontiers in Behavioral Neuroscience.

The experiment involved tethering honeybees to a Styrofoam ball “treadmill” and exposing them to a cone-shaped screen displaying images of their natural environment, while monitoring the electrical activity in their brains.

“The main strength of this study is the possibility offered by their setup to combine electrophysiological recording and a visual learning task,” says Aurore Avarguès-Weber, a behavioral scientist at the University of Toulouse who was not involved in the study.

Virtual reality (VR) has been used to study the behavior, physiology, and neuroscience of species from flies to rodents, but it wasn’t until recently that it had been successfully used to study bees. In 2017, Martin Giurfa, an animal behavior researcher at the University of Toulouse, became the first to create a VR environment for honeybees, using it to investigate the insects’ visual learning and their ability to transferknowledge learned in the real world into a virtual environment.

The development of an effective VR setup for honeybees “was a big achievement,” says Giurfa. He says that the new study, which he did not participate in, shows how this technology can be paired with neural recording equipment, as has been done for fruit flies and mice, to gain more insight into mechanisms for learning and memory.

See “Virtual Reality May Revolutionize Brain Science

To achieve this pairing, Hanna Zwaka, a postdoc with the research group headed by neurobiologist Randolf Menzel, and her colleagues first demonstrated that the bees were effectively fooled by the virtual environment. The bees were trained to navigate a classic maze, following a series of yellow and blue stripes to a sucrose reward. Then, the researchers put the insects in the VR setup and displayed on the screen the same colored stripes as the bees had seen in the real-life maze. Sure enough, the bees walked toward the appropriate visual stimuli to solve the maze. “It’s a simple 3-D video game for honeybees,” says Zwaka.

The virtual reality setup used to study honeybee learning. HANNA ZWAKA

The virtual reality setup used to study honeybee learning. HANNA ZWAKA

In a separate experiment, the group tested the bees’ ability to learn a maze solely in the virtual environment. This time, Zwaka and her colleagues implanted electrodes into the frontal lobe of their tiny brains to record changes in neurological signals. They specifically targeted the mushroom body, a region containing a variety of different neurons, as previous studies have demonstrated that the structure is involved in learning and memory.

Sure enough, the team documented significant changes in the mushroom body over the course of training. The type of responding cells shifted as the bees responded to stimuli, as did the number of cells firing and the response frequency, explains Zwaka. The authors suggest that these changes are a product of the visual learning that occurs as the bees get a handle on the virtual maze.

The bees never learned to follow the maze as consistently as they had in the first experiment, however. To Weber, this suggests that the observed neuronal changes don’t represent learning. “[The study lacked] convincing, significant learning performance,” she says. Weber believes that the heavy electrodes might have impaired the honeybee performance, weighing the bees down or making them uncomfortable. “More work seems necessary to validate their findings on the implication of mushroom bodies in visual learning,” she says.

Zwaka doesn’t know exactly why the bees trained in the virtual environment navigated the maze less consistently than those trained in the real world, but she wouldn’t necessarily call their performance “impaired.” The novelty of this recording setup means “there is no real performance you could compare it to. Maybe they don't perform exactly as we would expect during free flight.” But that does not mean that no learning occurred, she says.

She agrees that more research is needed to understand the results that the VR setup can produce. But she and her colleagues think it is one of the most promising techniques for investigating the neurological nature of learning in bees.

Better understanding of the honeybee brain could yield insights into human memory and learning, says Menzel, and the bee brains are easier to work with. “Under certain conditions, a small brain is much more convenient, and it’s more possible to go deeper into the cellular mechanisms and the network properties.” 

But, he adds, “these tiny brains are more complex than we could ever imagine.”


The Buzz About Bees: UC Davis Apiculturist in 'Science Friday' Program May 24 (Noon)

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey May 23, 2019

Professor Tom Seeley (right) of Cornell University chats with UC Davis Professor Neal Williams following Seeley’s keynote address of the 2018 UC Davis Bee Symposium. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Professor Tom Seeley (right) of Cornell University chats with UC Davis Professor Neal Williams following Seeley’s keynote address of the 2018 UC Davis Bee Symposium. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

"Bee" sure to tune in Science Friday, the National Public Radio program, tomorrow (May 24) at noon to hear the buzz about honey bees.

Guests will be Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, Professor Tom Seeley, bee scientist, researcher and author, of Cornell University, Ithaca; and New York city police officer and beekeeper Darren Mays, who keeps hives on the roof of the 104th precinct.

Ira Flatow hosts the popular program. Senior producer Christopher Intagliata said plans call for introducing Seeley at the top of the hour, and then bringing in Niño around 12:30. Officer Mays will be introduced at 12:40.

Elina Lastro Niño
Niño, who joined the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology in 2014 from Pennsylvania State University,  researches honey bee biology, health, reproduction, pollination biology, insect ecology, evolution, genomics and chemical ecology, and genomics. She directs the California Master Beekeeper Program and the Häagen-Dazs Honey Bee Haven, a half-acre bee garden located next to the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility on Bee Biology Road.

Born and reared in Bosnia in Eastern Europe, Elina moved to the United States with plans to become a veterinarian. She obtained her bachelor's degree in animal science at Cornell University, Ithaca, N.Y., but while there, enrolled in an entomology class on the recommendation of her adviser. “I was hooked,” she recalled.

Following her graduation from Cornell in 2003, she received her master's degree in entomology from North Carolina State University and her doctorate in entomology from Pennsylvania State University.  She then served as a postdoctoral fellow in  the honey bee lab of Christina Grozinger, who studies the genomics of chemical communication.

Tom Seeley
Seeley is the Horace White Professor in Biology, Department of Neurobiology and Behavior, Cornell University. He joined the faculty of Cornell in 1986 and holds a doctorate in biology from Harvard.

A frequent speaker at UC Davis, keynoted the 2018 UC Davis Bee Symposium.  In his address on "Darwinian Beekeeping," Seeley commented: "EVERYTHING that colonies do when they are living on their own (not being managed by beekeepers) is done to favor their survival and their reproduction, and thus their success is contribution to the next generation of colonies. And I mean everything."

Seeley says that is scientific work primarily focuses on "understanding the phenomenon of swarm intelligence (SI):  the solving of cognitive problems by a group of individuals who pool their knowledge and process it through social interactions.  It has long been recognized that a group of animals, relative to a solitary individual, can do such things as capture large prey more easily and counter predators more effectively.   More recently it has been realized that a group of animals, with the right organization, can also solve cognitive problems with an ability that far exceeds the cognitive ability of any single animal.  Thus SI is a means whereby a group can overcome some of the cognitive limitations of its members.  SI is a rapidly developing topic that has been investigated mainly in social insects (ants, termites, social wasps, and social bees) but has relevance to other animals, including humans.  Wherever there is collective decision-making—for example, in democratic elections, committee meetings, and prediction markets—there is a potential for SI."

Seeley is the author of numerous books, including  Honeybee Ecology: A Study of Adaptation in Social Life, Princeton University Press; The Wisdom of the Hive: The Social Physiology of Honeybee Colonies.Harvard University Press;   Honeybee Democracy. Princeton University Press,  Following the Wild Bees: The Craft and Science of Bee Hunting. Princeton University Press; and  The Lives of the Bees: The Untold Story of Honey Bees in the Wild, Princeton University Press.

Darren Mays
Mays is a well-known rooftop beekeeper. According to a 2018 article in the Business Insider, he "gained temporary fame this summer when he vacuumed up a migrating swarm of bees that perched atop a hot dog cart umbrella in Times Square." At night, he patrols the streets of Queens, and by day, he keeps the bees.

"Mays and another officer, Michael Lauriano, are responsible for responding to any issue a New Yorker calls in with that involves a 'stinging insect.' He said he responds to about a dozen calls during a typical summer, as people request help with bee swarms, wasps nests, and more. Before Mays and Lauriano, an officer named Anthony 'Tony Bees' Planakis served as the NYPD's first bee 911 responder."

Extension Apiculturist, Elina Lastro Nino, opens a hive at the Harry H. Laidlow Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Extension Apiculturist, Elina Lastro Nino, opens a hive at the Harry H. Laidlow Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis. (Photo: Kathy Keatley Garvey)

Controlling Varroa – 89% Of Large-Scale Beekeepers Said They Use Chemical Varroacides, While 61% Of Small-Scale Beekeepers Do

Catch the Buzz May 23, 2019

varroa mite on bee.jpg

With the Varroa destructor mite a pernicious pest of managed honey bee colonies across North America, beekeepers have a variety of control methods to choose from to reduce the mites’ impact on their hives. Which ones do they most prefer?

To answer that question, researchers at the University of Maryland and the Bee Informed Partnership analyzed four years of data from surveys that asked beekeepers about their Varroa-management methods. Their findings, reported in a new study published in April in the Journal of Economic Entomology, highlight a wide variety of combinations of methods used and indicate a lack of any perceived “silver bullet” option for controlling Varroa mites.

Among the range of practices, though, some patterns emerged, says Ariela Haber, Ph.D., lead author of the study and a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Maryland at the time it was conducted. (Haber is now a postdoctoral researcher at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service.) For instance, 89 percent of large-scale beekeepers (managing 50 or more colonies) said they use chemical varroacides, while 61 percent of small-scale beekeepers said they did. And, while about half of large-scale beekeepers said they use nonchemical methods (either exclusively or in combination with varroacides), about three-quarters of small-scale beekeepers said they use them.

Haber says these insights into use of Varroa-management methods “take into account important considerations such as affordability and logistical constraints associated with different practices. Thus, the findings can inform future experiments that directly test the efficacy of different Varroa management practices that beekeepers can realistically use.”

The survey data, which Haber analyzed with University of Maryland colleagues Nathalie Steinhauer and Dennis vanEngelsdorp, Ph.D., covered nearly 19,000 responses over a four-year period, asking beekeepers about their use Varroa-management methods among the bevy of options currently available:

bee informed survey results.jpg

Beekeepers were also asked about colony losses. Across all types of beekeeping operations, use of varroacides was associated with lower colony loss, with amitraz associated with better colony survival than all other varroacides. Meanwhile, among nonchemical methods, splitting colonies was associated with the lowest levels of colony loss, “although our results suggest that nonchemical practices have limited success as stand-alone controls,” the authors note in their report. The survey did not ask about intensity of Varroa infestations or other factors that can influence colony survival, so Haber and colleagues stress that the results are only observational and shouldn’t be interpreted to infer causal links between Varroa-management methods and colony survival rates.

The primacy of chemical management methods, however, indicates the ongoing challenge beekeepers face in managing Varroain their honey bee (Apis mellifera) colonies. Repeated use of varroacides has led to Varroa populations evolving resistance to at least two previously effective products. “Even though evidence from our study and from other studies suggests that chemical treatments tend to be more effective than nonchemical practices for controlling Varroa, we should be cautious in interpreting the results of any varroacide efficacy study and in making recommendations to beekeepers, as it is unlikely that any chemical control will be effective in the long term,” Haber says.

More broadly, Haber says she sees the intensive operations of managed honey bee pollination services in agriculture as an environment with multiple factors contributing to honey bee colony losses, such as low-quality pollen diets in monoculture crops to high-density colonies. “This suggests that honey bee colonies in the U.S. will be vulnerable—to problems we have already seen as well as new, unforeseen problems—as long as we keep our current system in place,” she says.

Read more - Source: Journal of Economic Entomology

See: https://beeinformed.org/

Flame in the Bee Yard: Relighting a Smoker the Easy Way

Bee Informed Partnership By: Dan Aurell May 16, 2019

The Scenario

We’ve all experienced a smoker going out just when we need it. Sometimes we may simply forget to pump the bellows for too long while we are getting some other things ready; sometimes we may make the mistake of stuffing the fire chamber too tightly with fuel before the fire has a good chance to catch. At other times our smoker may go out during travel between bee yards. Any of these scenarios sound familiar?

The Traditional Method

So, when your smoker goes out for the umpteenth time, what do you typically do? You could re-open the smoker, dig in there, take out some fuel, burn your fingers in the process of making room for a flame, light the fuel from the bottom and cross your fingers so it stays lit this time? Let me save you the embarrassment, there is a lazy way to re-light it!

A smoker holds up after numerous external lightings

A smoker holds up after numerous external lightings

The Tried and True Easy (Lazy) Method

First, if you do not already own a propane blow torch, it is well-worth your time, energy and money (~$40) to procure yourself one. Once you have a propane blow torch, you can simply blast the flame at the outside of the metal smoker while pumping the bellows, and voilà! The heat transfer through the metal will re-light most smoker fuels. Don’t be afraid to heat the metal red-hot: smokers are seemingly built to withstand such high heat for long periods of time. For example, commercial beekeepers will keep their smoker lit for a long time while loading a semi truckload of bees or working colonies in a big bee yard. If you are concerned about wear and tear, I can report that after a year of relighting my smoker with a torch, the metal on one part of the fire chamber is a little bumpy, but otherwise totally fine.


Keep the flame away from the bellow and its air valve

Keep the flame away from the bellow and its air valve

Even though it is shielded by metal on most models, be aware that there is an air valve on the back side of the bellows that could be damaged by flame or heat. The same goes for fingers…

The Lazy Man is a Safe Man

You read that right – this lazy method has an upside beyond convenience. At times and places with an elevated wildfire risk, this method may be a safer way to play with fire in the bee yard. Since it doesn’t require you to pull out the contents of the smoker, which often are still smoldering a little and with a slight breeze can blow sparks across a dry field, you too can prevent wildfires!


Diverse Bee Forage Could Lead To Good Honey Crop

AgAlert By Christine Souza May 15, 2019

Stanislaus County beekeeper Orin Johnson tends to beehives near Hollister. He says he is optimistic that the season’s moisture and precipitation will lead to a good honey crop for California apiarists. In recent years, the drought, a lack of diverse forage and the Varroa mite have made it difficult for beekeepers and resulted in honeybee losses. Photo/courtesy Orin Johnson

Stanislaus County beekeeper Orin Johnson tends to beehives near Hollister. He says he is optimistic that the season’s moisture and precipitation will lead to a good honey crop for California apiarists. In recent years, the drought, a lack of diverse forage and the Varroa mite have made it difficult for beekeepers and resulted in honeybee losses. Photo/courtesy Orin Johnson

  It's a "mixed box" when it comes to beekeeper expectations regarding this season's honey crop. Some beekeepers report that winter weather brought plenty of forage for honeybees to feast on this year, and others say uneven citrus bloom in some areas may affect honey production.

Although no formal statewide honey production figures are expected to be released for a few months, individual beekeepers report that the amount of honey they will extract from bee colonies could be up this year.

"We're expecting that the honey crop should be significantly better than the last five to seven years at least because of all of the rain," said Imperial County apiarist Brent Ashurst of Westmoreland, president of the California State Beekeepers Association. "For everyone, the weather has been beneficial because of all of the additional food sources for the bees, and it really makes our job easier because the bees can do what they are supposed to do."

Beekeepers point out that in recent years, factors such as the ongoing drought and lack of forage, Varroa mites and exposure to crop-protection materials, have taken a toll on the bees, resulting in bee losses for many beekeepers. But the moisture and precipitation this season has led to diverse forage for honeybees, including an abundant mix of plants and wildflowers that bees depend on for quality nutrition.

Ashurst said he does not rely on honey as an income "because it's feast or famine; there are some years we make a decent amount of honey, and some years we don't."

"Where we are located (in Southern California), a good year is 12 pounds of honey per colony. Whereas at a honey-producing area like Montana, they might be getting 120 pounds per colony, so 12 pounds is pretty insignificant," Ashurst said.

This season, due to the favorable weather, Ashurst has honeybees placed in sage locations in Temecula and Escondido.

"What we're hoping to get is a sage (honey) crop because finally we got some rain. We don't know what that crop is going to look like until we take it off in June," said Ashurst, who added that many beekeepers can sell honey for the wholesale price of $2 a pound, or filter and bottle the honey for farmers market sales and make about $10 a pound.

Stanislaus County beekeeper Orin Johnson of Hughson said "honey production in California has over the years decreased, but this year, we're looking for a little bump up in honey production for the state."

For the past few days, Johnson has extracted sage honey, calling the variety "one of the premium honeys in the world."

"The bees are still in the sage and will probably make another box by the time they come out by June," Johnson said. "We only make a good sage crop in extremely wet years. This year we had a lot of moisture. It wasn't as much as 2017, but it came at the right time and the plants are producing."

With his honeybees placed in sage locations near Hollister and Pinnacles, Johnson recalls beekeepers had large sage honey crops in 2017 and 2010. Johnson sells honey direct to local customers from his warehouse.

"A lot of my customers, other than the family that wants a jar or two, are those interested in selling honey at farmers markets, so they will come with their 5-gallon buckets and purchase direct from me," Johnson said. "l might have one person come and get a quart jar and another person come get about 30 gallons."

Many beekeepers have recently moved bees out of the state's citrus groves near Tulare County and are busy pollinating other crops.

Tulare County beekeeper and citrus grower Roger Everett of Terra Bella Honey Co. said, "We just got done pulling hives from the citrus groves and now we're trying to get to the next pollination job."

Transporting honeybee colonies to pollinate watermelons in Kern County, Everett said he likely won't open a hive to extract citrus honey until late May or early June.

"I don't know if the hives are all heavy or sort of heavy. I just know there's a stack of pallets with hives that just came out of the citrus that need to be ran through a machine and we'll see what we get," Everett said.

The citrus bloom was hit and miss, Everett said, adding, "Bloom was really weird on the citrus; some fields had heavy bloom and some hardly bloomed at all. That's how much variation there's been, at least in Tulare County."

Related to the orange honey crop, Everett said, "I think it's going to be a little off again compared to previous years or the expectation over the past few years with the rain we've been getting."

Honey production has been declining in California in recent years, Johnson said, although he said the state is among the top 10 honey-producing states.

"At one time, California was the second- or third-leading honey-producing state in the nation. Production is now about 40-pounds per hive, where before it was closer to 60 pounds a hive," said Johnson, who noted that changing diversity among irrigated crops has affected honey production.

Beekeepers say that for much of their income, they rely on revenue from pollination, such as from pollinating almonds and other crops.

"Definitely, we've got to have the almond pollination income," Johnson said.

A report on U.S. honey released in February, by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center, found that American appetite for honey is growing. In 2017, Americans consumed 596 million pounds of honey or about 1.82 pounds of honey per person, a 65% increase in consumption since 2009. In addition, the report noted that the U.S. honey sector in 2017 was responsible for more than 22,000 jobs and had total economic output of $4.75 billion.

The state apiary sector will know more about this season's honey crop in a few months, as the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Agricultural Statistics Service is expected to release its annual honey report for 2018 this week. The report includes information about honey producing colonies, honey-production and price by color class.

(Christine Souza is an assistant editor of Ag Alert. She may be contacted at csouza@cfbf.com.)

Permission for use is granted, however, credit must be made to the California Farm Bureau Federation when reprinting this item.


How A Queen Bee Achieves Her Regal Status That Elevates Her From Her Sterile Worker Sisters Has Been A Long-Standing Question

CATCH THE BUZZ May 15, 2019

queen bee status.jpg

CRISPR gene-editing used to understand links between diet and genetics to make a future honey bee queen.

How a queen bee achieves her regal status that elevates her from her sterile worker sisters has been a long-standing question for scientists studying honey bees.

To get at the heart of the question, scientists have now used for the first time the gene-editing tool CRISPR/Cas9 to selectively shut off a gene for necessary for general female development.

By doing so, they have shown that a dramatic difference in gonad size between honey bee queens and their female workers in response to their distinct diets requires the switching on of a specific genetic program, according to a new study published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology by Arizona State University honey bee expert and School of Life Sciences Regents’ Professor Robert Page, and colleagues Annika Roth and Martin Beye of Heinrich-Heine University in Dusseldorf, Germany.

“This study focused on a critically important and missing connection between nutrition and the developmental processes that make a queen,” said Page, who is also a distinguished sustainability scholar in ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. “This has been a major unanswered question in developmental biology for more than a century.”

The finding is likely to allow more detailed analysis of the interplay of genes and nutrition that drives the selection of queens from worker bees.

Queen bees differ physically from their sterile sister workers, with a much larger body and ovaries that are needed for her prime responsibility in life — to be tended to just so to produce all the future offspring in the hive. As such, future queens are fed a bee delectable, sugar-rich “royal jelly” from the time they emerge as larvae — while future workers receive relatively sugar-poor “worker jelly.” But the degree to which diet alone determines the difference in gonadal size between queen and worker has been unclear.

To explore the genetic influences on gonad size, the authors first showed that reduced sugar had no effect on male gonad size, indicating that diet isn’t the sole influence. Next, using CRISPR, they knocked out the so-called feminizer gene in early worker larvae.

With the feminizer gene turned off by CRISPR, they found that a low-sugar diet had no effect on gonad size. In fact, their gonad size was similar to those typically found in male drones. The authors conclude that the feminizer gene must be switched on not only to produce ovaries but also to permit nutrient level to affect gonad size.

“Because of the ability to rapidly screen mutations in honey bees allowed by gene editing, this study is likely to set the stage for much more extensive investigations of the role of individual genes and gene pathways in immune defense and behavioral and developmental control,” Beye said.

These results will spur further work to determine if the same gene is needed to allow development of large ovaries in future queens.


Read more - Source: https://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article?id=10.1371/journal.pbio.3000171

Rob Stone's Re-Queening Protocol

Orange County Beekeeping Supply By Rob Stone May 16, 2018


Or, Why did I spend big bucks on queens and none worked?!

Re-queening colonies is always a challenge, even the best beekeepers report success rates of at most 90%, with beginners typically around 50%. There are many factors that affect success, including colony size, genetics, honeyflow, weather, stress factors, etc. The biggest factor by far is colony size. You will not be able to requeen colonies of 2 and 3 boxes with any direct introduction technique, but sometimes it can be accomplished with more elaborate efforts and will take quite a bit longer. One other major prerequisites is the colony you are trying to requeen must be queenless. And it  is much better if there are no active queen cells being raised. If a virgin emerges after you have  introduced your desired queen and she is laying, she will be unsuccessful at fighting a feral virgin queen and most often the nurse bees will not let the introduced queen destroy the queen cells before their ‘home’ raised queens emerge, so you must intervene.  Of course, a colony cannot be queenless long enough to have the dreaded ‘laying workers’ syndrome, but that often can be rectified by introducing a frame of brood with all stages of eggs and larvae each week for 3 weeks, then trying the queen introduction as described here. Colonies need to be of normal mix, meaning you cannot wait till dark, pull a honey super full of foragers from a large colony to get your 5 (or 4 or 6) frames of bees and requeen that ‘colony’ because foragers are the least likely to accept your ‘foreign’ queen.   

Back to what is correct, the optimum colony size for requeening is of 4 to 6 frames of bees. 3 frames will still work if they have food and pollen. Even two frames, but expect a very slow buildup following introduction.  If you have bigger colonies, split them and requeen both halves or as many splits as you wind up with, but each should have at minimum 1 frame of brood. Two is better, three is best. And some of the brood should be unsealed, this is important as it provides the colony the brood pheromone which suppresses laying workers. You can use a nuc or a regular deep, each are OK but if you had a choice the fuller the box, the better, so the Nuc is preferable. Give them a frame of honey or two of honey (in the outside positions, thermal barrier) if you have it. Of course, if you working with 5 or 6 frames of bees, use the full size 10 frame hive body.   

Make the colony queenless. Yes, find her and remove her, untold thousands of queens have tried to be introduced to queenright colonies and they will be rejected. Without exception. I know, I have unknowingly tried this many times and it always has the same outcome, bad. A colony knows it queenless in about 8-12  hours, and they begin building emergency queen cells within 24 hours. Wait for about 3 days after you removed her and inspect. If you didn’t find queen cells being built, they think they have a queen. Or another queen is. So keep looking, you must confirm this colony is queenless by finding queen cells. Many colonies have multiple queens, most often mother/daughter combos that can persist like that for months. The colony must be in desperate need for a queen before it will accept a foreign one. Verify they need a queen by seeing the evidence of queen cells. 

Ok, you have waited 3 days and there are queen cells under construction, destroy them. Put your new queen (in her queen cage!) with corks in both ends in between brood frames or next to the one, but still be jammed between two frame top bars. You want nurse bees to come in contact with her. Before hand,  smear a tiny amount of honey on the screen of the cage. This will keep her fed for a few hours and hopefully the bees will begin to feed after that.  If you put the cage with the screen up between two frames you can check the next day how they are acting towards her and smear honey on the screen again in case they aren’t friendly to her yet. But be SURE they bees can get to screen, so they can come in contact with her when they are ready.  If they cant access her (but through the protection of the screen), she will die. Its OK to put the cage in screen down or up or whatever. She is going to remain confined like this for 3-5 days. She will be accepted within this time period, or not and she will be dead.  

So, the five confined days have passed, open up the colony and see how the bees are clinging to the screen of the queen cage. Gently coax them away from the screen. If they are trying to sting her, something is still wrong and you should remove her, and I bet you will find a queen, a virgin or queen cells. Correct and start over. Otherwise, put her aside and go through the colony very carefully to make sure you haven’t missed any queen cells, which should be large and sealed by now. If you find any destroy them. Pull one of the frames of brood and shake the bees off. The best selection is sealed brood ready to hatch or hatching now with a little corner of honey too. Bees just emerging will accept any queen.  Now we are going to let her out of her wood  cage into a push-on wire cage over some sealed brood (and some honey, if sealed poke a couple of cells so she can feed herself). This is the trickiest part of this whole procedure. An all wire queen cage is just a wire cage open on one side that your press down onto the comb. Yes, it will kill some brood where the cage knifes into the comb. I now cut a small door the size of the queen cage into the side of wire cage and flip it up (open).  Pull the cork  from the wood cage (not the candy end) and stick your finger over it (no gloves for this part of the procedure). Lay the brood frame down on something and lay the wood cage down on the frame. Place the wire cage up to the door you have cut into the push on cage. You now have your finger off and the queen can come out, and it can take a long time for her to find her way. Be patient.  When she (and attendants too if included) comes out pull away the wood cage and imprison her in the wire cage on the comb above honey and brood. I have seen her run straight to the honey and drink so it’s not true about queens not being able to feed themselves. When she is in the cage and on the other end, flip down the door and push it into the comb. She just have enough room to crawl around on the comb underneath the cage. Replace the frame with her on it and leave them alone for 5 to 7 days. She will have  bees hatch with her and she will start laying in the comb she can access. You pull the cage off after the five to seven days and now you have done it. Smile and congratulations.   

So its complete and all your stress is over. Not quite. Many times, in particular with aggressive feral colonies, they will accept your foreign queen, let her lay eggs for somewhere between a week and month,and then she is gone and you find a full set of queen cells. The only action you can take to prevent this is to look each week at your newly requeened colony and if they build queen cells, destroy them. But always verify there are eggs in worker cells before you destroy their chances of replacing your new foreign queen who has now somehow  failed and has stopped laying or is laying drone. 

Additional thoughts: Other factors influence your success rate. One is honeyflow. If there is no honeyflow things are more complicated, the bees are cranky and wont tolerate your interventions as well, and the small colony you are working with will be more  susceptible to Robbing. If your working with one colony in your backyard, robbing is a much smaller issue, but if it’s a small colony in a beeyard, you have to be so very careful. Without a honeyflow, you should put in a feeder and provide syrup, like to 1 to 1 (water weight to sugar weight) to stimulate the colony and get them to want to grow. You dont need to feed, they should have a couple of frames of nectar or honey already. You just need the stimulation a honeyflow provides. Be extra careful with the syrup (no spills, open the colony the minimum time necessary) so the small colony doesn’t get robbed out, that will ruin your chances of a happy outcome. And just put in an inch or two at a time and do it again in a couple of days. If they didn’t drink it there is a reason. Figure out why.  With feeding the big issue is robbing, so already have reduced the entrance to one bee space before you begin the requeening protocol, and use a robbing screen if the time year warrants it.  

If your working with nicer bees and can go gloveless, you can add newly hatched bees into the cage with the queen before you mash it into the comb. Find these fuzzy bees on a brood frame and pick them up from behind or by the wings and insert. They wont sting you. There are a couple of these bees on the picture above close to the queen. Again, newly hatched bees accept any queen.  

Queen pheromone strength.  If you buy a batch of queens they come in individual cages inside a large box that has few hundred attendants with it. The attendants care for all queens in the box, but you will see some queens have much larger groups of bees surrounding them. Those queens have stronger pheromone and will be easier to introduce. This is a factor for introduction. Use the more powerful queens for the larger colonies you are attempting to requeen, and the less powerful queens for the smaller colonies. 

1. Get colony to proper size, 3 to 6 frames.  Entrance reduced, correct size box, etc. Honey, brood, pollen. 
2. Make queenless, and verify queen cell construction. Destroy cells
3. Put in queen, feed her first. Let them get used to her. Feed her again.
4. Destroy cells again and transfer queen to screen comb cage. 
5. Brood hatches and accepts her, she begins to lay in comb inside cage. 
6. Remove cage.
7. Inspect weekly for queen cells for the next month.


[Note: Rob Stone, owner of Orange County Beekeeping Supply, was our featured speaker at the May 6, 2019 monthly meeting of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association. Whether or not you were one of the fortunate attendees at this meeting, you’ll remember Rob’s highly informative, engrossing, and entertaining talk about bees and beekeeping, you’ll want to check out his blog at: https://www.ocbeekeeping.com. Thank you to Rob Stone - your talk was awesome!]