LACBA Beekeeping Class 101 Class #2: Sunday, March 10, 2019, 9A-Noon, at The Valley Hive

!!!REMINDER!!!
LACBA Beekeeping Class 101 Class #2
at The Valley Hive
Sunday, March 10, 2019
9AM-Noon
Sign Up Today!

LACBA Beekeeping Class 101.jpg

Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping 101:
A Class for Beginning Beekeepers
Hosted by The Valley Hive

Who: Current 2019 Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Members. The membership is a family/household membership, children under the age of 18 are welcome with accompanying adult member.

What: 8 Classes to guide you during your first year as a beekeeper

Where: Chatsworth, CA: Class topic will determine class location

When: The 2nd Sunday of the Month (See full class schedule )

Time: 9am to Noon (All classes are the same time.)

Requirements: Beginning with the 3rd class (April) BEE SUITS ARE REQUIRED to attend class.

Cost: Suggested donation of $20 per class per household or $100 per household for all 8 classes. The February and March classes are free. You will need to be a current LACBA member to take class.

More Info: Please refer to our Beekeeping Class 101 page for the Location(s) and Schedule of Classes.

Sign Up for LACBA Beekeeping Class 101

Beekeeping Supplies & Equipment - Just What You Need!

Basic Essentials List for Beginning Beekeepers

A Bee Hive

The Hive - Langstroth (from the bottom up):

Hive Stand - This is a platform to keep the hive off the ground. It improves circulation, reduces dampness in the hive, and helps keep ants, bugs, leaves, and debris from getting into the hive. It can be made of anything solid enough to support the weight of a full beehive. Wooden hive stands are available for sale but bricks, concrete blocks, pallets, and found lumber are just as good. It’s helpful to place the legs of the stand in cans filled with used motor oil to deter ants from climbing up the legs and into the hive. The stand should be strong enough to support one hive or a number of colonies. What is important to remember is that the hive needs to be at least 6 inches off the ground.

Bottom Board - Is placed on top of the hive stand and is the floor of the hive. Bees use it as a landing board and a place to take off from. 

Entrance Reducer - Is basically a stick of wood used to reduce the size of the entrance to the hive. It helps deter robbing.

Hive Boxes/Supers - Come in three sizes: deep, medium and shallow. Traditionally, 2 deep boxes have been used as brood chambers with 3 or 4 or more boxes (medium or shallow) on top as needed for honey storage. Many beekeepers use all medium boxes throughout the hive. This helps reduce the weight of each box for lifting. If you have back problems or are concerned about heavy lifting, you could even use shallow boxes all throughout the hive. So, 6 boxes as a minimum for deep and medium. More if you wanted to use only shallow boxes. You will only need two boxes to start out, adding boxes as needed for extra room and honey storage.

Frames and Foundation - For each box you have for your hive, you will need 10 frames that fit that box. Frames can be wooden with beeswax foundation or all plastic with a light coating of beeswax. The bees don't care and will use both equally well. Foundation is intended to give the bees a head start on their comb building and helps minimize cross comb building that makes it difficult to remove and inspect. You can buy all beeswax foundation or plastic foundation with a thin coat of beeswax applied to it. Alternatively, you can provide empty frames and let the bees build their comb from scratch but that can be a bit tricky and it takes the bees longer to get established. 

Top Cover: The top cover can be as simple as a flat sheet of plywood. We prefer the top covers made with laminated pieces to make a flat board and extra cross bracing to help hold the board flat for years. Plywood tends to warp over time. You can also use a telescoping cover, but they require an additional inner cover. 

Paint - All parts of your hive that are exposed to the weather should be painted with (2 coats) of a non-toxic paint. Do not paint the inside of the hive or the entrance reducer. Most hives are painted white to reflect the sun, but you can use any light colors. Painting your hives different colors may help reduce drift between the colonies. If your hive will not be in your own bee yard, you may want to paint your name and phone number on the side of the hive.

We primarily work with the Langstroth hive but you can also use the Top Bar Hive or the Warre Hive.

Tools & Supplies:

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Bee Brush - A beekeeper needs a brush to gently move the bees from an area of observation when looking for a queen and when harvesting frames of honey. Use a brush that has long, soft, flexible, yellow bristles. Don’t use a dark, stiff brush with animal hair, or a paint brush.

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Duct Tape - You’ll have lots of uses for duct tape, might want to keep it handy.                                                                                                                                                            

 

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Hive Tool - A hive tool is the most useful piece of beekeeping equipment. It can be used to pry up the inner cover, pry apart frames, scrape and clean hive parts, scrape wax and propolis out of the hive, nail the lid shut, pull nails, and scrape bee stingers off skin. The hive tool has two parts: the wedge or blade and the handle. Hive tools are often fitted with brightly-colored, plastic-coated handles which helps the beekeeper locate the hive tool while working. 

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Feeder - You may want to have a feeder with sugar syrup to give your new bees a boost in their new home. Its the helping hand they need to get started building comb.

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Smoker - Examining a hive is much easier when you use a smoker. Use it to puff smoke into the entrance before opening the hive and to blow smoke over the frames once the hive is opened. This helps the beekeeper to manage the bees. Cool smoke helps to settle the bees. Smoking the bees initiates a feeding response causing preparation to possibly leave the hive due to a fire. The smoke also masks the alarm pheromone released by the colony’s guard bees when the hive is opened and manipulated. Smoke must be used carefully. Too much can drive bees from the hive. A smoker is basically a metal can with a bellows and a spout attached to it. We prefer to use a smoker with a wire cage around it. A large smoker is best as it keeps the smoke going longer. It can be difficult to keep a smoker lit (especially for new beekeepers). Practice lighting and maintaining the smoker. Burlap, rotted wood shavings, pine needles, eucalyptus, cardboard, and cotton rags are good smoker fuels.

Protective Clothing:

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Bee Suit - For the best protection, full bee suits are recommended. You can also use a bee jacket.

But whether or not a suit is used, a beekeeper's clothing should be white or light in color (bees generally do not like dark colors and will attack dark objects). Avoid woolen and knit material. You will want to wear clothing both that will protect you and you don’t mind getting stained (bees produce waste that shows up as yellowish marks on your clothing). You’ll want to close off all potential to getting stung by wearing high top boots or tucking your pants into your socks and securing your cuffs with rubber bands or duct tape.

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Bee Gloves - Long, leather, ventilated gloves with elastic on the sleeves help protect the hands and arms from stings.

Hat and Veil - Even the most experienced beekeepers wear a hat and veil to protect their head, face, and eyes from bee stings. Wire veils keep bees farther away from the face than those made of cloth. Black veiling is generally easier to see through. Make sure the veil extends down below and away from your neck.

That’s it!

Once you have all you need, expenses can be kept to a minimum. With the right care, equipment, tools, and clothing will last a long time. If your hive becomes overcrowded, just add another box or two. Or, you may find you’ll want to split your hive – then you’ll have two! If honey is overflowing, just add another box or two. And, great! – You’ll have lots of yummy honey!!

A note on protective clothing: There was a time when we could safely visit our bees wearing little protective clothing. With the arrival of Africanized Honey Bees into Southern California we've come to realize the potential danger of an aggressive hive and have learned to exercise caution when approaching our bees. A once gentle hive could be invaded and taken over by a small aggressive swarm in a few days. These bees are unpredictable and vigorously defend their hives. Protective clothing such as a bee suit, veil and gloves will help keep stings to a minimum in the bee yard if worn correctly.

Suppliers:

Local supplier:

Los Angeles Honey Supply Company
Pierce Beekeeping Supply Company
Pierco Beekeeping Equipment
The Valley Hive

Outside Los Angeles area:

Dadant
Better Bee
Brushy Mountain Bee Farm
Glory Bee
Mann Lake
Shastina Millwork
Western Bee Supplies

Sharing 'The Secret Life of Bees'

Bug Squad By Kathy Keatley Garvey

"Where can kids learn beekeeping for free?" someone asked us last week.

One of the ways is through the 4-H Youth Development Program. Who can join 4-H, which stands for head, heart, health and hands and which follows the motto, "making the best better?" It's open to all youths ages 5 to 19.  In age-appropriate projects, they learn skills through hands-on learning in projects ranging from arts and crafts, computers and leadership to dog care, poultry, rabbits and woodworking, according to Valerie Williams, Solano County 4-H representative. They develop leadership skills, engage in public speaking, and share what they've learned with other through presentations.

At the recent Solano County 4-H Presentation Day, held at Sierra K-8 School, Vacaville, 4-H'ers presented demonstrations, educational displays, illustrated talks, an improv,  and an interpretative reading.

The interpretative reading was about bees.

Kailey Mauldin, 15, a sixth-year 4-H'er and member of the Elmira 4-H Club, Vacaville, delivered an award-winning presentation on Sue Monk Kidd's New York Times'bestseller, The Secret Life of Bees. Kailey read and interpreted passages, and answered questions from evaluators JoAnn Brown, April George and Kelli Mummert.

Kailey related that the story is set in a fictitious rural town in South Carolina in 1964 during the civil rights era. Fourteen-year-old Lily Owens "has just run away from her abusive father named T-Ray," Kailey recounted. "Her mother passed away at an early age." In going though her mother's belongings, Lilly finds an address that leads her to a farm where she meets three sisters, May, June and August, strong African-American women who run a beekeeping business.

Kailey read several passages about Lily's first experience with bees. The book is in Lily's voice.

August, opening a hive, tells Lily: “Egg laying is the main thing, Lily. She's the mother of every bee in the hive, and they all depend on her to keep it going. I don't care what their job is—they know the queen is their mother. She's the mother of thousands.”

The way the bees poured out, rushing up all of a sudden in spirals of chaos and noise caused me to jump.

“Don't move an inch,” said August. “Remember what I told you. Don't be scared.”

A bee flew straight at my forehead, collided with the net, and bumped against my skin.

“She's giving you a little warning,” August said. “When they bump your forehead, they're saying I've got my eye on you, so you be careful. Send them love and everything will be fine."

I love you, I love you, I said in my head. I LOVE YOU. I tried to say it 32 different ways...

Eventually, Lily experiences "a frenzy of love" as the bees seem to say: "Look who's here, it's Lily. She is so weary and lost. Come on, bee sisters."

Interpreting the passages she'd just read, Kailey said: "I learned all bees have mothers and that love isn't who or what, it is now...The way they took her (Lily) in, that was love. Love is everywhere."

Kailey isn't enrolled in a 4-H beekeeping project--yet.

(Editor's Note: Extension apiculturist Elina Lastro Niño offers beekeeping classes at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. See website.)

Honey bees at work. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Honey bees at work. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Elmira 4-H member Kailey Mauldin gets ready to present an interpretive reading on ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Elmira 4-H member Kailey Mauldin gets ready to present an interpretive reading on ‘The Secret Life of Bees’ at the Solano County 4-H Presentation Day. Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey

Quantum Dots Track Pollinators

The Optical Society By Stewart Wills February 18, 2019

A bee, caught after visiting a flower whose pollen grains had been labelled with quantum dots. The glowing dots show evidence of the bee’s travels, and how the pollen attaches to it, when the insect is examined under the microscope in UV light. [Image: Corneile Minnaar]

A bee, caught after visiting a flower whose pollen grains had been labelled with quantum dots. The glowing dots show evidence of the bee’s travels, and how the pollen attaches to it, when the insect is examined under the microscope in UV light. [Image: Corneile Minnaar]

A particularly sobering aspect of global environmental degradation is the rapid decline of insect populations. One recent study in the journal Biological Conservation estimated that 40 percent of the world’s insect species could go extinct within the next three decades, owing to habitat loss due to agriculture and urbanization, pesticides, climate change and other insults.

Quite apart from playing havoc with the food web, declines in certain insect populations threaten the bugs’ crucial role as pollinators. Humans rely on insects to pollinate more than 30 percent of food crops—a huge service that nature provides free of charge.

That makes it essential to understand which insects are pollinating which plants—even to the point of tracking individual pollen grains from flower to flower via their insect vectors. But a robust, useful system for labeling the tiny grains, which are subject to the vicissitudes of wind and weather in addition to the mazy paths of insects, has been fiendishly difficult to devise. Now, a pollination biologist in South Africa has hit upon a novel answer: tag the pollen with fluorescent quantum dots (Meth. Ecol. Evol., doi: 10.1111/2041-210X.13155).

Dots, flowers and pollen

Quantum dots (QDs) are luminescent semiconductor nanocrystals that, when excited by light of a specific wavelength (such as UV), re-emit at visible wavelengths, with the specific emission wavelength depending on the size of the quantum dot. They’ve found use in a wide variety of contexts including biomedical study (see, “Quantum Dots for Biomedicine,” OPN, April 2017). Indeed, the pollination biologist behind the new study, Corneile Minnaar of Stellenbosch University, South Africa, reportedly got the idea for pollen tracking with QDs from a paper on their potential use in targeting and imaging cancer cells.

Corneile Minnaar, applying a solution of lipid-tagged quantum dots to the business end of a flower. [Image: Ingrid Minnaar]

Corneile Minnaar, applying a solution of lipid-tagged quantum dots to the business end of a flower. [Image: Ingrid Minnaar]

To use QDs to track individual pollen grains, Minnaar—who began the work as a Ph.D. student at Stellenbosch, where he’s now a postdoc in the lab of pollination biologist Bruce Anderson—first had to figure out how to tie the dots to the pollen. To do so, he began with commercially available, nontoxic CuInSexS2−x/ZnS (core/shell) QDs with four different emission wavelengths: 550 nm (green), 590 nm (yellow), 620 nm (orange) and 650 nm (red). Next, Minnaar chemically tied the QDs to an oleic‐acid ligand molecule that would latch onto the lipid-rich “pollenkitt” that surrounds pollen grains—the same substance that makes pollen stick to the coats of pollinators like honeybees.

Minnaar then took the lipid-doped QDs and dissolved them into a volatile hexane solvent, and micro-pipetted drops of the solvent onto the pollen-rich anthers on flowers of four different plant species. The ligand-bearing QDs quickly stuck to the pollenkitt on the grains, as expected, and the volatile hexane rapidly evaporated away. The result: flowers packed with potentially trackable, QD-labeled pollen.

Building an “excitation box”

The next problem to be solved was how actually to read the signal from the tagged pollen. While Minnaar says he started with a toy pen with a UV LED light to excite the fluorescence in the dots, he clearly needed something a bit more scalable. To get there, he used a 3-D printer to create a black “quantum-dot excitation box” that could fit under a dissection microscope, and that included four commercial UV LEDs, a long-pass UV filter, and supporting housing. In a press release accompanying the work, Minnaar said the UV box could “easily be 3D-printed at a cost of about R5,000 [around US$360], including the required electronic components.”

Minnaar tested the ability of the pollen grains to hold onto the QDs by agitating samples in an ethanol solution, and found that the grip was firm. Also, in a controlled, caged experiment, he trained honeybees to move from tagged to untagged samples of a particular flower species, and found that labeling the grains with the QDs had no effect on the grains’ ability also to stick to the bees.

Robust system

The general robustness of the system suggests it could serve well in tracking pollinators in wild settings, quantifying parameters such as pollen loss and the importance of certain species to sustaining specific kinds of plants. That said, there are still a few limitations, according to the paper. One is that right now, “there are only four commercially available, distinguishable quantum dot colors in the visible range,” which could limit studies to only four plant species at a time. And, while initial tests were encouraging, more work needs to be done to determine whether the labeling and application process has effects on pollen viability that could complicate experiments or affect pollinator behavior.

One other, unavoidable drawback, notwithstanding Minnaar’s clever microscope setup, is the sheer labor of counting and checking the glowing pollen grains to amass experimental data. That's a task likely to while away the hours of grad students for years to come, irrespective of the technique used to label the grains. “I think I've probably counted more than a hundred thousand pollen grains these last three years,” Minnaar said.

Source: British Ecological Society

https://www.osa-opn.org/home/newsroom/2019/february/quantum_dots_track_pollinators/

Theodore Payne Foundation to Speak at LACBA Meeting Monday, March 4th, 2019!

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You won’t want to miss our LACBA Monthly Meeting Monday, March, 2019! Our main speaker is from the Theodore Payne Foundation.

The Theodore Payne Foundation inspires and educates Southern Californians about the beauty and ecological benefits of California native plant landscapes.

Come learn about native plants and wildflowers. Bring your questions about gardening for bees. http://theodorepayne.org/

LACBA meets at the Mount Olive Lutheran Church, 3561 Foothill Boulevard, La Crescenta, CA 91214 (In Shilling Hall) Committee Meeting: 6:30pm / Membership Meeting: 7:00pm.

For more info: http://www.losangelescountybeekeepers.com/meetings/

Los Angeles Zoo - Spring Fling

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Spring Fling

The Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association will be hosting a ‘Honey Tasting’ (like a ‘Wine Tasting’) during the Los Angeles Zoo 2019 Spring Fling. For six weekends beginning Saturday, March 23 through Sunday, April 28, 2019. LACBA members will be on hand offering samples of a variety of local honeys. We’ll also be selling local honey as well as providing education about honey bees and answering questions. We will also have a 30 minute slot every day on the stage next to our Honey Bee Booth to talk about beekeeping. 

LACBA Members Volunteer Sign Up

Almond Math

Pollinator Partnership By Dan Wyns February 28, 2019

There are plenty of quick stats you come across working around bees: At peak population, a strong colony can have over 60,000 individual bees. A queen is capable of laying more eggs in a day (up to 2,000) than there are minutes in a day (1,440). A single bee can produce 1/12 tsp honey in its lifespan and may cumulatively travel 500 miles during the several weeks it spends as a forager. Despite annual losses in the 30-40% range, the total managed colony numbers remains fairly constant at about  3 million.

The American bee industry is inextricably linked to the almond industry. Every year, about 3/4 of the national herd migrates from various wintering locations to the central valley of California for the almond bloom in February. The almond industry also has some eye-opening statistics: The 117,000,000 almond-producing trees in California are responsible for 82% of global almond production, and it is estimated that it takes approximately 1 gallon of water to produce a single almond. The Almond Board of California does a fantastic job summarizing and quantifying the industry in the annual Almond Almanac available here. A couple previous BIP blogs discussing bees and almonds are available here and here.

Given the link between almond and bee industries and the eye-opening numbers in both, it got me wondering how many almonds each bee produces, or how many bees it takes to produce a single kernel (almonds aren’t technically nuts). Do you think a single bee accounts for hundreds of almonds? Does it take dozens of bees to produce each almond? Pick a number and we’ll work through some estimates to see how close you come.

Each almond starts with a bee in a blossom

Each almond starts with a bee in a blossom

The population of honey bee colonies is often estimated in a unit called frames of bees (FOBs). A frame of bees is defined as a deep frame (apx 19” x 8.5”) well-covered with adult bees on both sides. Estimates range between 2000 and 3000 individual bees per frame. For the sake of this exercise I’ll use the 2400 bees per FOB estimate reported here.

Beekeepers that rent their colonies for almond pollination typically do so under a contract that specifies both a minimum acceptable size and an average colony size that must be met. A commonly used contract may specify a 4 FOB minimum and an overall average of at least 8 FOB with potential bonus payments for colonies exceeding standards.  During the month of February 2018, Bee Informed Partnership  Tech Transfer Teams inspected over 1,100 colonies from 38 different operations with the overall mean frame count being 8.96 FOB per colony, so we’ll use that number as an estimate for colony strength. It is worth noting that not all bees in a colony are foragers and the percentage of individual bees that forage increases with colony strength. Randy Oliver has an excellent summation of the pollination value of a colony relative to FOB available here. Considering the difficulty of accounting for variable percentage of foragers and also the fact that a colony could not function with foragers alone, we will consider the total number of bees present to all be needed in order to provide pollination.

It is estimated that in recent years approximately 1.9 colonies per bearing acre have been required to meet almond pollination demand. For the 2017/18 almond crop year, there were an estimated 1,000,000 bearing acres. For the same year there was an average yield of 2,270 almonds lbs/acre. For a total crop of 2.27 billion pounds. It is estimated that there are 368 almond kernels per pound.

Having accumulated the numbers above we can now go about calculating the total number of bees pollinating almonds:

2400 bees/FOB * 8.96 FOB/colony = 21,504 bees/colony

1,000,000 acres * 1.9 colonies/acre  = 1,900,000 colonies

1,900,000 colonies * 21,504 bees/colony = 40,857,600,000 bees pollinating almonds

How many almonds do those 40 billion bees produce?

2.27 billion pounds * 368 almonds/pound = 835,360,000,000 almonds

835,360,000,000 almonds/40,857,600,000 bees =20.45 almonds per bee

Each of the approximately 40 billion individual bees rented for pollination is responsible for producing a handful of almonds.

Each of the approximately 40 billion individual bees rented for pollination is responsible for producing a handful of almonds.

So there we are, each bee that gets set in California almonds accounts for about 20 almonds. My guess before gathering any of the numbers was about 10 per bee; how close did your guess come?

https://beeinformed.org/2019/02/28/almond-math/

LACBA Meeting Monday, March 4, 2019

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Our next meeting will be held on Monday, March 4, 2019**

  • General Meeting: 7:00pm 

Location: Mount Olive Lutheran Church (Shilling Hall)
                 3561 Foothill Boulevard
                 La Crescenta, CA 91214

       Please bring something for the raffle!

**The meetings of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association (LACBA) are open to the public. Everyone is welcome. Please see the draft agenda in the email below and send any requests to add or revise agenda items to our president president@losangelescountybeekepers.com prior to the meeting.

Agenda:

General Meeting - 7pm

  1. Welcome

    1. Flag Salute

    2. Introduce the Board

      1. Jon Reese - President

      2. Kevin Heydman – Vice President

      3. Merrill Kruger - Secretary

      4. Bill Rathfelder - Treasurer

      5. El Rey Ensch – Member at Large

    3. Select raffle ticket seller

    4. Index cards for questions

    5. Recognize new members and/or guests

    6. Thank You

  2. Main Meeting Topic  

    1. 7 minute - Experienced beekeeper - My first 2 years as a beekeeper; mistakes, trials, tribulations, and problems.

    2. Main Speaker - Theodore Payne Foundation

  3. Secretary's Report - Merrill

  4. Treasurer’s Report

  5. Committee Reports

    1. Website  - Eva

    2. Membership - Cheryl

    3. Beekeeping 101 - Keith

  6. Upcoming Events

    1. LA Zoo, Honey Tasting – 6 weekends (March to April)

    2. Eaton Canyon Nature Center, Once Day Event – June

    3. UCCE Master Gardeners of Orange County presents: Exploring Beekeeping https://ucanr.edu/survey/survey.cfm?surveynumber=26715

  7. Package Update - Month 11

  8. What are you seeing in your hives?

  9. What’s Blooming in your area?

  10. Q & A (answer questions from index cards)

  11. Next month

  12. Raffle

2019 Beekeeping 101
Our second class of the year.
Sign Up Now!

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED!
 

When: Sunday, March 10, 2019**

Location:  The Valley Hive 
                  10538 Topanga Canyon Blvd.
                  Chatsworth, CA 91311

Parking for Class:  Please park on Topanga Canyon Blvd.  No parking restrictions on Sundays.

Time:  Gates and Check in open @ 8:30am.  Class Starts @ 9am and will run until Noon.

Class Requirements: 

  • You must have a paid 2019 LACBA Membership

  • Bring a notebook and pen/pencil to take notes

  • Seating is limited. If you want a chair you should bring one with you

  • Positive attitude with a willingness to learn!

Price:  This class is free! (Suggested donation of $20 per person per class or $100 for all 8 classes. LACBA is a 501c3, your donation is tax deductible.)

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED!

Class# 2:  Sunday March 10, 2019 from 9am to noon
Registration is Required

Class Topic:  What to plant in a bee friendly garden. The importance of well-built hive equipment.  How to build/assemble your own Hive Equipment.  The life cycle of the colony and basic bee biology.  How to install a package or nuc of bees into your equipment. 

REGISTRATION IS REQUIRED!
Sign Up Now!

Save the Date(s):

Immense Numbers Of Introduced Honey Bees Overwhelm Native Pollinators For Access To Pollen And Nectar, At Least In San Diego

CATCH THE BUZZ February 28, 2019

Non-native honey bees have established robust feral populations in San Diego, such as the pictured swarm. Honey bees currently make up 75 percent of the observed pollinators in San Diego, considered a global biodiversity hotspot.    Credit: James Hung

Non-native honey bees have established robust feral populations in San Diego, such as the pictured swarm. Honey bees currently make up 75 percent of the observed pollinators in San Diego, considered a global biodiversity hotspot.
Credit: James Hung

Hike around the natural habitats of San Diego County and it becomes abundantly clear that honey bees, foreign to the area, are everywhere. In a study published last year, researchers at the University of California San Diego found that honey bees are the most widespread and abundant pollinators of wild plants in the world, with the San Diego region having exceptionally high honey bee visitation on native plants — roughly three-quarters of all observed pollinators.

New research from the same team found that honey bees focus their foraging on the most abundantly flowering native plant species, where they often account for more than 90 percent of pollinators observed visiting flowers.

The new study by Keng-Lou James Hung, Jennifer Kingston, Adrienne Lee, David Holway and Joshua Kohn of UC San Diego’s Division of Biological Sciences is published on Feb. 20 in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

“To have a non-native species that removes the lion’s share of pollen and nectar in a diverse ecosystem such as ours is stunning” said Kohn, a professor in the Section of Ecology, Behavior and Evolution. “Think about if we had an invasive plant that covered 75 percent of the region’s land area — it’s similar to that level.”

The honey bees’ monopoly over the most abundantly blooming plant species may strongly affect the ecology and evolution of species that are foundational to the stability of the region’s plant-pollinator interactions, the researchers said.

“It’s concerning enough that a non-native species reaches an overall 75 percent numerical dominance — what’s more, we now show that their numerical dominance is even higher on the plant species that supply the largest amounts of pollen and nectar,” said Hung, a former student of Holway and Kohn who is now a postdoctoral researcher at The Ohio State University. “This finding suggests that honey bees are disproportionately removing resources from the plant species that likely support the greatest diversity and abundance of native pollinator species.”

From an ecological perspective, the new assessment could help habitat and wildlife management evaluate pollination services and native pollinator conservation in natural areas where non-native honey bees have become established.

“Our study is a first step in figuring out which plant and pollinator species may be most susceptible to interference from honey bees,” said Hung. “This is also a great example of the importance of understanding the natural history of a non-native species when we attempt to evaluate its ecological impacts — both positive and negative.”

Native to Europe, the Middle East and Africa, honey bees were introduced to North America in the 1600s. They spread in California after the state’s gold rush in the mid-1800s. In San Diego, the great majority of honey bees foraging in natural systems are both feral and Africanized (an aggressive hybrid of the Western honey bee).
Behind the honey bees’ ability to preferentially target the most rewarding plant species is the fact that they employ social communication to “spread the word” when flowers with rich pollen and nectar resources are available in abundance. Most pollinating insects native to the area are solitary, and thus not capable of such communication.

“Honey bees are thought to have the most sophisticated communication of all invertebrates. They can communicate the distance and direction of a high quality food source,” said Kohn. “Native bumble bees are also social and are thought to communicate that there is a worthwhile floral resource and what it smells like, but they can’t communicate distance and direction the way honey bees can.”

Native bumble bees made up only 0.2 percent of insect visitors to flowers, perhaps due to competition with honey bees. These findings highlight the importance of considering the honey bee’s unique foraging behavior when evaluating its ecological impact on native species.

San Diego County is considered a global biodiversity hotspot where researchers have documented more than 600 species of native bees, numerous other pollinating insect species and more plant species than any other county in the United States. According to the researchers, the high biodiversity, coupled with the fact that many plant and pollinator species in the region are threatened by habitat loss and climate change, means that any ecological impact of honey bees on native species could be especially consequential.

“There is little doubt that honey bees currently play an important role in pollinating native plants here in San Diego,” said Hung, “but we need to also consider how honey bees may be impacting native pollinators by competing with them for limited food resources.”

The researchers also point out that non-honey bee pollinators are known to increase the pollination success of many crop plants in California and elsewhere, even when honey bee hives are brought to fields by the truckload. So the maintenance of healthy populations of native insects is an important aspect of stable food production.

In addition to possible negative effects of honey bees on native pollinating insects, honey bees may negatively affect native plants as well. Studies in other systems have shown that too many visits by comparatively large and super-abundant pollinators such as honey bees can hinder plant reproduction because of damage caused to flowers. In addition, honey bees are known to visit more flowers on a plant before moving to the next plant than native pollinators. This may increase self-fertilization, which often leads to lower-quality seeds due to the negative effects of inbreeding.

The researchers are now investigating these and other possible ramifications of honey bee dominance in San Diego, although their true impact is difficult to assess since there are no available baseline data from before honey bees were introduced into the area.

“In general, the threats that honey bees may pose to native biodiversity have not been explored very thoroughly, but we are now headed that way,” said Kohn, who first became interested in honey bee dominance while hiking in local wilderness areas. “No matter how far away from agriculture or urbanized areas I was, if something was blooming heavily, it was just swarmed with honey bees. I thought it was odd that there were so many honey bees here.”

https://www.beeculture.com/catch-the-buzz-immense-numbers-of-introduced-honey-bees-overwhelm-native-pollinators-for-access-to-pollen-and-nectar-at-least-in-san-diego/

In Search of the World's Biggest Bee: How It Came to 'Bee'

BugSquad By Kathy Keatley Garvey February 26, 2019

Imagine you're in an Indonesian rainforest and a humongous bee, with a wingspan of two and a half inches, flies over your head.

The world's largest bee, known as Wallace's Giant Bee (Megachile pluto), considered extinct since 1981, lives.

It's not extinct, after all.

You probably read the news. An international team, accompanied by guides, rediscovered the black resin bee in January in the North Moluccas, an island group in Indonesia. The find, announced Feb. 21, continues to draw "oohs" "aahs" and accolades.

The four-member team, supported by Global Wildlife Conservation, an Austin, Texas-based organization that runs a Search for Lost Species program, included Honorary Professor Simon Robson of the School of Life and Environmental Sciences at the University of Sydney; Honorary Professor Glen Chilton, of Saint Mary's University, Canada; Clay Bolt, a natural history conservation photographer from Montana who specializes in North American native bees; and entomologist and bee expert Eli Wyman of Princeton University.

“It was absolutely breathtaking to see this 'flying bulldog' of an insect that we weren't sure existed anymore,” said Bolt, who is known for his conservation efforts, including his work with the rusty-patched bumble bee. His work (see his website at http://www.claybolt.com) has been featured in National GeographicScientific American and many others.

“To see how beautiful and big the species is in real life, to hear the sound of its giant wings thrumming as it flew past my head, was just incredible," Bolt said. "My dream is to now use this rediscovery to elevate this bee to a symbol of conservation in this part of Indonesia."

It was the last day of their five-day trip when they found it: a single female Wallace's Giant Bee living in an active termite mound in a tree about 2.5 meters off the ground. The bee, which nests in active arboreal termite mounds, lines her nest with tree resin to protect it from termites.

Lynn Kimsey, director of the Bohart Museum of Entomology at the University of California, Davis, and a past president of the International Hymenopterists (she was not involved in the project) surmises that are more in the area. "Finding a female is a good thing," she told us.

"Yes, I've had a lot of folks email me and call me about the giant bee," said Kimsey, whose museum houses a global collection of nearly eight million specimens, but no Megachile pluto. "I've actually seen specimens of this beast either at some meetings or the American Museum of Natural History. No surprise that it hasn't been collected since the '80s. Its probably been that long since someone collected in the Moluccas."

In his blog, Bolt relates how it all came about. In 2015 he visited Wyman at the American Museum of Natural History  “as part of an ambitious project documenting North America's under-appreciated native bee species. Eli was kind enough to show me around. As we looked through drawers of pinned bee specimens from around the world, I drooled over the beautiful array of species. Just before I left, Eli said with a sly grin, ‘want to see a specimens of Megachile pluto?” I couldn't believe my ears and seconds later, I was literally inches away from one of the rarest and most-sought-after insects in the world."

“It was more magnificent than I could have imagined, even in death,” Bolt blogged. “Eli shared with me that it had been his dream to try to find the bee in the wild for years and before long the two of us began a lengthy dialogue discussing possibilities, following clues, nearly giving up; ultimately a path to follow in the footsteps of Wallace himself and search for the bee in the Indonesian islands known as the North Moluccas. When we heard that GWC was calling for nominations for their Search for Lost Species program, we convinced them to include Wallace's Giant Bee on their top 25 'most wanted list.' We were one step closer to fulfilling our dream."

Fast forward to January 2019. Bolt remembers staring at "termite mounds for 20 minutes at a time" then moving on to the next mound. "It was invigorating but tiring work...As each day went by, we were less and less sure it would happen."

"By the last day of searching, we were all dealing with various maladies, including Glen, who had made the difficult decision to return home to Australia after coming down with heat-induced illness," Bolt blogged. "That day we walked down an old orchard road flanked on both sides by mixed lowland forest and fruit trees. Iswan (a guide), ever the eagle eye, spotted a low termite mound, around eight feet from the ground. He later recounted that he almost didn't mention it to us because, like the rest of the team, he was feeling tired and hungry. However, I'll forever be grateful that he did because as we scampered up an embankment to the nest, we immediately noticed that it had a hole in it, like many other nests we'd seen, but this one was a little more perfect. It was very round, and just the size that a giant bee might use.

"Bracing the rotting tree, I asked Iswan if he would mind climbing up to take a look inside. As he peered inside the nest he exclaimed, 'I saw something move!' Jumping down, for fear that the creature was a snake—his worst fear—after catching his breath, he said that it looked wet and sticky inside. Eli and I looked at each other with reserved excitement. Eli climbed up and immediately felt for certain that it was a bee nest. The structure was just too perfect and similar to what we expected to find. I climbed up next and my headlamp glinted on the most remarkable thing I'd ever laid my eyes on. I simply couldn't believe it:

"We had rediscovered Wallace's Giant Bee."

They documented it, photographed it, and let it bee.

British entomologist Alfred Russel Wallace discovered the giant bee in 1858 when he was exploring the Indonesian island of Bacan. He described the female bee, about the length of a human thumb, as "a large black wasp-like insect, with immense jaws like a stag-beetle." Years went by. It was considered extinct until American entomologist Adam Messer rediscovered it in 1981. 

And now this international team has rediscovered it...in 2019.

Sadly, this is a bee threatened by habitat loss.   Between 2001 and 2017, Indonesia lost 15 percent of its forestation, according to Global Forest Watch.  "The islands have become home to oil palm plantations that now occupy much of the former native habitat," says Wikipedia. "This has caused the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to label this species as Vulnerable."

And sadly, there are greedy entrepreneurs out there anxious to make a buck. Or a lot of bucks. Two specimens sold on eBay in 2018. One sold for $9,100 on March 25, 2018. It was advertised as "very rare--only one!"

We need strict conservation efforts--and bans on international trade--to save this iconic bee.

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt photographs Wallace’s Giant Bee in its. nest. The bee nests in active termite mounds in the North Moluccas, Indonesia. (Copyright Simon Robson)

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt photographs Wallace’s Giant Bee in its. nest. The bee nests in active termite mounds in the North Moluccas, Indonesia. (Copyright Simon Robson)

Wallace’s Giant Bee, Megachile pluto, the world’s largest bee, is approximately four times larger than a European honey bee. This is a composite. (Copyright: Clay Bolt, www:claybolt.photoshelter.com)

Wallace’s Giant Bee, Megachile pluto, the world’s largest bee, is approximately four times larger than a European honey bee. This is a composite. (Copyright: Clay Bolt, www:claybolt.photoshelter.com)

Earning a Bee's Wings

Washington State University-St. Louis (The Source) By Talia Ogliore February 20, 2019

In hives, graduating to forager a requirement for social membership

It is a classic coming-of-age story, in many ways.

A honey bee hatches and grows up deep inside a hive. Surrounded by 40,000 of her closest relatives, this dark and constantly buzzing place is all that she knows. Only after she turns 21 days old does she leave the nest to look for pollen and nectar. For her, this is a moment of great risk, and great reward.

It’s also the moment at which she becomes recognizable to other bees, according to new research from Washington University in St. Louis. A study in the journal eLife reports that honey bees (Apis mellifera) develop different scent profiles as they age, and the gatekeeper bees at the hive’s door respond differently to returning foragers than they do when they encounter younger bees who have never ventured out before.

This work offers new insight into one of the most important interactions in the lives of social insects: recognizing self and other

Ben-Shahar

Ben-Shahar

Until this point, most bee researchers thought bees recognize and respond to a scent that is the homogenized scent of all of the members of their own colony. That’s how it works for some ants and other insects, at least. But new work from the laboratory of  Yehuda Ben-Shahar, associate professor of biology in Arts & Sciences, shows that nestmate recognition instead depends on an innate developmental process that is associated with age-dependent division of labor. The work was completed in collaboration with researchers from the lab of Joel Levine at the University of Toronto.

“It was always assumed that the way that honey bees acquire nestmate recognition cues, their cuticular hydrocarbon (CHC) profiles, is through these mechanisms where they rub up against each other, or transfer compounds between each other,” said Cassondra L. Vernier, a graduate student at Washington University and first author of the new study.

“You would expect, then, that even younger bees would have a very similar pheromonal profile as older bees. When in fact that is not what we saw,” she said.

Vernier compared the CHC profiles of bees on the day they were born and at 1 week, 2 weeks, and 3 weeks old. The 3-week-old bees had significantly different profiles than their younger siblings.

Graduate student Cassondra Vernier conducted lab experiments and observed hours of bee interactions at the entrance to the hive. She is shown here at Tyson Research Center, Washington University’s environmental field station. (Courtesy photo)

Graduate student Cassondra Vernier conducted lab experiments and observed hours of bee interactions at the entrance to the hive. She is shown here at Tyson Research Center, Washington University’s environmental field station. (Courtesy photo)

Vernier compared the CHC profiles of bees on the day they were born and at 1 week, 2 weeks, and 3 weeks old. The 3-week-old bees had significantly different profiles than their younger siblings.A 3-week-old foraging bee also has a very different job to support the hive than a younger bee — one who spends her time as a nurse caring for bee larvae and building the waxy honeycomb structures in the hive.

The researchers wanted to separate out whether the differences they saw were based on age alone, or were somehow tied to the older bees’ foraging activities. Bees that exit the hive to collect nectar encounter lots of scents on flowers and other surfaces they touch. They also are exposed to different environmental factors such as sunshine and rain that could affect their body coatings.

So Vernier also compared the CHC profiles of foraging-age bees that were held in the hive and not permitted to forage with bees that were able to venture out. These two groups were also significantly different.

“What we found is that it’s actually a combination of both — of being at the age for foraging, and actually performing the foraging activities,” said Ben-Shahar.

Guards are gatekeepers; specific triggers still unknown

Importantly, not every bee notices the difference in scent profiles. Guard bees are the only ones who care to identify outsiders.

“They sit in the entrance and they have a very specific posture,” Ben-Shahar said of the guards. “They’re very attentive. Their forelegs are usually raised, and they’re very alert. Still, it is hard to know who they are until they react to somebody.”

Place a 1-day-old, 1-week-old, or 2-week-old outsider on the stoop in front of a guard, and she is likely to be able to waltz on through. But it’s a different story after 3 weeks of age — when guards bite, sting and/or drag outsiders away from the door.

“Nestmate recognition is something that is very context-specific. It involves an interaction between very specific bees within the colony,” Ben-Shahar said. “Most bees are completely oblivious. Most colony members don’t produce the signal that tells anyone if they belong or not, and they don’t care about the signal. They don’t react to it.”

As an important caveat, the new study does not directly address the mechanism by which cue specificity is determined in bees. Which specific components of the honey bee CHC profile represent the nestmate recognition cue remains unknown.

“Something environmentally related is causing expression-level changes in the CHC profiles of the bees,” Vernier said. “That’s our model for now.”

The bees in this study were kept in two different locations: Tyson Research Center, the environmental field station for Washington University in St. Louis, and an amateur beekeeper’s private residence in University City, MO.

Funding for the project was provided by the National Science Foundation under grants NSF DGE-1143954, IOS-1322783, IOS-1707221 and IOS-1754264.

https://source.wustl.edu/2019/02/earning-a-bees-wings/

World's Largest Bee Rediscovered in Indonesia

Discover Magazine By Alison Mackey February 26, 2019

worlds largest bee.jpg

What a bee! Lost to the science since 1981, the world’s largest bee (Megachile pluto) has been rediscovered on an island in Indonesia.

Its non-scientific name is Wallace’s giant bee, named for British entomologist Alfred Russel Wallace, co-discoverer of the theory of evolution by natural selection … and giant it is! With a 2.5 inch wingspan, this beast of a bee towers over its more familiar brethren. The female is pictured here — males of the species are smaller, something not uncommon for insect species.

The bees make homes for themselves inside termite nests, walling themselves off from the insects with resin and other materials. Their large jaws come in handy here, put to use scraping the resin from trees to be rolled into balls and flown back to their nests.

Natural history photographer Clay Bolt has the distinct honor of being the first person to photograph a living specimen of the giant bee in decades.

http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/d-brief/2019/02/26/worlds-largest-bee-indonesia-wallaces-giant-bee/

Honeybees' Waggle Dance No Longer Useful In Some Cultivated Landscapes

PHYS.org Universitaet Mainz February 25, 2019

A honeybee performing a waggle dance. Credit: Christoph Grüter

A honeybee performing a waggle dance. Credit: Christoph Grüter

For bees and other social insects, being able to exchange information is vital for the success of their colony. One way honeybees do this is through their waggle dance, which is a unique pattern of behavior, which probably evolved more than 20 million years ago. A bee's waggle dance tells its sisters in the colony where to find a high-quality source of food. However, in recent years, people have begun to study the actual benefits of this dance language. Biologists at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland and at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz (JGU) in Germany have now shed some new light on the benefits and disadvantages of the bee dance.

"To our surprise, we found that bee colonies are more successful at collecting food if they are deprived of their dance language," reported Dr. Christoph Grüter, a behavioral ecologist at Mainz University. One possible reason may be human-induced habitat change. Together with his colleagues in Lausanne, Grüter conducted experiments over several years to examine the effect of the dance language on a colony's success.

There are about 10 species of honeybees that communicate through waggle dancing. However, the vast majority of bees, i.e., more than 500 species of highly social, stingless insects, have no dance language. Thus, Grüter was interested in the benefits the waggle dance brings to colonies, not least because, as a communication strategy, it is relatively time-consuming. Some waggle dances can last only a few seconds, while others may take up to five minutes.

In the experiments, the scientists manipulated the conditions influencing some of the bee colonies in order to confuse and disorientate the dancing bees. Performed under such conditions, the waggle dance no longer made sense to its bee audience. To create these conditions, light was prevented from falling on the honeycombs, and they were also turned into a horizontal position, preventing the bees from using gravity to orientate themselves.

Another particularly important aspect was to take into account their ability to memorize the location of food. "Bees foraging for food have an excellent memory and can recall a rich feeding spot for several days," explained Grüter. Thus, the research team had to prevent foragers performing the waggle dance for 18 days to ensure they could not use their memory to tell other bees where to fly to find the excellent sources of food. Foraging bees are older than other colony members. In their final phase of life, they no longer work in the hive, but go out to collect nectar and pollen. Typically, they are in the last 18 days of their life.

A colony of bees on a horizontal honeycomb. The researchers rotated the honeycombs to lie horizontally, making it impossible for the bees to orientate themselves with the help of light or gravity. The hive was placed on a balance to record variations in biomass weight. Credit: Christoph Grüter

A colony of bees on a horizontal honeycomb. The researchers rotated the honeycombs to lie horizontally, making it impossible for the bees to orientate themselves with the help of light or gravity. The hive was placed on a balance to record variations in biomass weight. Credit: Christoph Grüter

Honeybees with no information from the waggle dance are more effective in challenging conditions

The team of biologists was surprised by their result that beehives without the dance information were more active and produced more honey than beehives that used dance language. "We were expecting to confirm that dance language was important, but our results were the exact opposite," said Dr. Robbie I'Anson Price, lead author of the study. "I suspect that the bees probably lose interest when confronted with a disoriented dance, and they go out to search for food on their own initiative," added Price. The differences are significant: Bees in colonies with no dance language went on foraging flights that were eight minutes longer and yielded 29 percent more honey over the entire 18-day period than bees using the waggle dance.

The conclusion is that some bees, such as the Buckfast bee, a 100-year-old cross-bred western honeybee used in this study, may do better without social communication. Grüter believes that the environment and the availability of food play an important role. If there is a large apple tree in full bloom nearby, then waiting for information on its location is probably a good strategy. If, on the other hand, there is only a sparse scattering of flowering plants on balconies or roadsides, it may be better to leave the hive sooner and forage independently. "In our opinion, the behavior we observed can be primarily explained in terms of how much time the bees save," said Grüter.

Colonies of bees on vertical honeycombs, the standard orientation of hives. The hives were placed on balances to record variations in biomass weight. Credit: Christoph Grüter

Colonies of bees on vertical honeycombs, the standard orientation of hives. The hives were placed on balances to record variations in biomass weight. Credit: Christoph Grüter

Bees might be able to learn how to assess the value of waggle dance information

By observing the bees, the scientists made the extraordinary discovery that the bees were apparently able to judge the relevance of the information content of a dance and hence would lose interest in disoriented dancing. "It looks as if after a while they become aware that something is wrong," postulated Grüter. "Our results raise the possibility that humans have created environments to which the waggle dance language is not well adapted," write the authors in their study, recently published in the renowned journal Science Advances.

The idea that bees may be capable of evaluating the quality of information in a dance is one that Grüter wants to investigate more closely in the future. He is also planning to repeat the experiments in the Mainz area under different conditions—in urban and rural areas and at different times of the year.

Christoph Grüter has been head of a research team at the Institute of Organismic and Molecular Evolution at Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz since 2015. Previously, he was head of a research group at the Department of Ecology and Evolution at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland. His group investigates how social insects organize and coordinate their collective activities, with communication in insect colonies playing a central role.

Explore further: How honeybees read the waggle dance

More information: R. I'Anson Price et al, Honeybees forage more successfully without the "dance language" in challenging environments, Science Advances (2019). DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aat0450

Journal Reference: Science Advances

Provided by: Universitaet Mainz

Read more at: https://phys.org/news/2019-02-honeybees-waggle-longer-cultivated-landscapes.html#jCp

Massive Loss Of Thousands Of Hives Afflicts Orchard Growers And Beekeepers

NPR Heard on All Things Considered By Anna King February 18, 2019

Bret Adee, a third-generation beekeeper who owns one of the largest beekeeping companies in the U.S., lost half of his hives — about 50,000 — over the winter. He pops the lid on one of the hives to show off the colony inside.  Greta Mart/KCBX

Bret Adee, a third-generation beekeeper who owns one of the largest beekeeping companies in the U.S., lost half of his hives — about 50,000 — over the winter. He pops the lid on one of the hives to show off the colony inside. Greta Mart/KCBX

Almond bloom comes nearly all at once in California — a flush of delicate pale blooms that unfold around Valentine's Day.

And beekeeper Bret Adee is hustling to get his hives ready, working through them on a Central Valley ranch before placing them in orchards.

He deftly tap-taps open a hive. "We're gonna open this up, and you're going to see a whole lot of bees here," Adee says.

Under the lid, the exposed sleepy occupants hum away. He uses a handheld smoker to keep them calm and huddled around their queen.

This third-generation beekeeper works night and day with a crew of more than 35. Adee has been busy staging more than 100 semi truckloads of his honey bee hives in almond orchards over a 200 mile swath of the Central Valley.

When temperatures rise and the blooms open, his bees wake up and go to work. It's his hives' first yearly stop on a 6,500-mile tour across the nation.

But this almond bloom, Adee's scrambling more than usual.

Deadouts

Adee lost more than half of his hives over the winter — 50,000. And he's not alone.

"You know, in September, I thought we had the most awesome bees ever," Adee says. "The bees looked incredibly good."

Like Adee, many beekeepers across the U.S. have lost half their hives — they call one with no live bees inside a "deadout." Some beekeepers lost as many as 80 percent. That's unusual. And many of the hives that did survive aren't strong in numbers.

A healthy hive able to pollinate has at least eight frames mostly covered in bees on both sides. But the fear this year is that there will be many weaker hives put into California almond orchards for pollination because so many hives have died across the country.  Greta Mart/KCBX

A healthy hive able to pollinate has at least eight frames mostly covered in bees on both sides. But the fear this year is that there will be many weaker hives put into California almond orchards for pollination because so many hives have died across the country. Greta Mart/KCBX

For decades Adee says if he lost 5 percent he really got nervous. Now a 40 percent loss every few years is more common, he says. But this many lost hives across the country is concerning.

Every hive

California almond orchards have grown so much over the past 10 years, the bloom requires nearly every commercial hive available in the United States.

Almonds have grown from 765,000 acres to 1.33 million acres in the last decade. Bees travel from as far as Florida and New York to do the job. Without these hives, there is no harvest.

Almond bloom is just as important to the beekeepers. It's a chance to make nearly half their yearly income, and a place for the bees to work and grow early in the spring while healing up from winter.

This year, many beekeepers have had to tell their orchardists that they won't have enough bees this year to cover their entire contracts. And some orchardists are desperately calling beekeepers. Some report pollination prices going up.

Sneaky suckers

Experts say honey bees are dealing with many stressors: chemicals, loss of wildflowers, climate change, nutrition and viruses. But this year, a special problem might have taken down the honey bees more than usual.

A matrix of almond branches show off delicate early blooms near Lost Hills, Calif. Almonds have grown from 765,000 acres to 1.33 million acres in the last decade.  Greta Mart/KCBX

A matrix of almond branches show off delicate early blooms near Lost Hills, Calif. Almonds have grown from 765,000 acres to 1.33 million acres in the last decade. Greta Mart/KCBX

A tiny parasite called the varroa mite sucks at the bee's body, causing big problems.

Ramesh Sagili, a bee expert with Oregon State University, predicted these big bee losses because of mites earlier last year.

"It's a very lethal parasite on honey bees," Sagili says. "It causes significant damage not only to the bee, but to the entire colony. A colony might be decimated in months if this varroa mite isn't taken care of."

He says unusually early and warm spring weather last year made the bees start rearing baby bees early. That gave varroa mites a chance to breed and multiply too.

Varroa mothers crawl into the cells of baby bees and hide there until the bees close the cell up with wax. Then they lay an egg and rear their young on the baby bee.

Emotional sting

When the almond blooms fade, beekeepers will truck their hives across America — from the Northwest and Dakotas to the South and Maine, chasing spring.

Eric Olson, 75, of Selah, Wash., points out the fruiting wood on his cherry tree. Pruning helps to open the canopy so the fruit can ripen well, and cuts back on fast-growing branches called suckers that can sap the tree's energy away from the valuable fruit.  Anna King/Northwest News Network

Eric Olson, 75, of Selah, Wash., points out the fruiting wood on his cherry tree. Pruning helps to open the canopy so the fruit can ripen well, and cuts back on fast-growing branches called suckers that can sap the tree's energy away from the valuable fruit. Anna King/Northwest News Network

In Eric Olson's foggy and frosty Washington state cherry orchard, bloom is still a while off. His crew is busy pruning away the wood that would block light to the fresh fruit.

He's helps manage one of the largest beekeeping businesses in the Northwest.

He says their hives experienced a dramatic loss this year. But it's not as bad a when he lost about 65 percent of them.

"That's when I cried," says Olson, who served 20 years in the Air Force. "I was a pilot and I spent my time in combat situations. Never in my life was I as low as when we lost 65 percent of those bees."

Chasing spring

Still, spokespeople for the almond industry are saying it's all fine.

"Orchard growers who have long-standing relationships with beekeepers are not experiencing problems," says Bob Curtis, a consultant for the Almond Board of California. "Folks that are having trouble are the ones that don't make the contracts in the fall with beekeepers."

If Northwest growers line up beekeepers early, Olson says he expects there will be enough bees for the region's smaller fruit tree bloom. Still, he's worried for his orchardist friends.

"If I can't get bees in my cherries I'm in trouble," Olson says. "I don't have a crop. What do I do? I don't know."

Surveys later this spring will give a better idea of nationwide bee losses, but that might be too late for orchardists at the end of the pollination line.

This story comes to us from the Northwest News Network.

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/02/18/694301239/massive-loss-of-thousands-of-hives-afflicts-orchard-growers-and-beekeepers

Wild Sri Lankan Elephants Retreat From Sound Of Asian Honey Bees

University of Oxford January 22, 2019

Wild Sri Lankan Elephants.jpg

For the first time, researchers have shown that Asian elephants in Sri Lanka are scared of honey bees, much like their African counterparts.

Playbacks have been used for many years to explore the behavioural responses of African elephants to a suspected natural threat. However, the research published in Current Biology, is the first time this technique has been used to record how Asian elephants react to the sound of bees.

The study, led by Dr Lucy King, a Research Associate with the Department of Zoology at Oxford University and head of the Human-Elephant Co-Existence Program for Save the Elephants, showed that Asian elephants responded with alarm to the bee simulations. They also retreated significantly further away and vocalised more in response to the bee sounds compared to controls.

In collaboration with elephant scientists from Cornell University, Save the Elephants, Trunks and Leaves, Disney’s Animal Kingdom and University of Peradeniya the team now hope that beehive deterrents, used so successfully to ward off African elephants from rural farm lands, can be applied to prevent Asian elephant populations from raiding crops.

Dr Lucy King said: 'Asia has even higher levels of human-elephant conflict than Africa does and Asian elephants are approximately 10 times more endangered than African elephants. If we could help apply the results from this research to develop effective community-based beehive fence deterrent systems for rural Asian farmers living with elephants, we could have a significant impact on the survival of the Asian elephant species.'

The study was performed in Udawalawe National Park, which has an exceptionally large elephant population. 'Udawalawe is a microcosm for the issues Asian elephants face, because it is practically encircled by agriculture and settlements. This study takes the first step in offering a new way of addressing the conflicts that arise as a result,' said Dr. Shermin de Silva, Director of the Udawalawe Elephant Research Project.

In partnership with the Sri Lankan Wildlife Conservation Society and Australia’s Newcastle University, a network of 10 trial beehive fence projects are presently being tested to see if they can reduce human-elephant conflict for rural farms in central Sri Lanka.

'We have a wonderful community of willing farmers there who are helping us understand if beehive fences could work to reduce conflict in this intensely high human-elephant conflict zone,' said Dr King. 'Although beehive fences may not completely stop elephant crop-raids the honey bees provide other benefits to the farms in the form of pollination services and a sustainable income from honey and wax products'.

The initiative is already harvesting honey from the beehives and four beekeeping workshops have been held to boost beekeeping knowledge and honey processing skills. Further Asian beehive fence collaborations are being formed with scientists in Thailand, India and Nepal.

http://www.ox.ac.uk/news/2018-01-22-wild-sri-lankan-elephants-retreat-sound-asian-honey-bees

Out-Of-Work Appalachian Coal Miners Train As Beekeepers To Earn Extra Cash

NPR The Salt By Jodi Helmer January 28, 2019

Members of the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective inspect one of their apiaries. The collective teaches displaced coal miners in West Virginia how to keep bees as a way to supplement their income.  Courtesy of Kevin Johnson

Members of the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective inspect one of their apiaries. The collective teaches displaced coal miners in West Virginia how to keep bees as a way to supplement their income. Courtesy of Kevin Johnson

Just like his grandfather and father before him, James Scyphers spent almost two decades mining coal in West Virginia.

"These were the best jobs in the area; we depended on 'em," he recalls.

But mining jobs started disappearing, declining from 132,000 in 1990 to 53,000 in 2018, devastating the area's economy. In a state that now has the lowest labor-force participation rate in the nation, the long-term decline of coal mining has left West Virginia residents without new options to make a living.

Scyphers was fortunate to find a construction job, but it paid two-thirds less than what he earned underground. He often took odd jobs to make ends meet. One of those odd jobs included building hives and tending bees for the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective.

"I wish this group had been here 30 years ago," he says. "Our region needs it."

Appalachian Headwaters operates the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective. The nonprofit was formed in 2016 to invest a $7.5 million settlement from a lawsuit against coal mine operator Alpha Natural Resources for violations of the Clean Water Act. The money has been used to fund environmental restoration projects and to develop sustainable economic opportunities in the once-thriving coal-mining communities of West Virginia.

The collective offers beekeeping training to displaced coal miners and low-income residents of mining communities throughout the state, with the goal of helping them find new job opportunities and generate supplemental income.

"It wasn't just the miners that lost their livelihoods when mining jobs disappeared; other industries started to wilt, too, and entire communities were affected," explains Cindy Bee, a master beekeeper with Appalachian Headwaters. "We're doing something that can boost the town up."

To date, the nonprofit, based in the small town of Hinton, has trained 35 beekeepers (with an estimated 50 more signed up for classes that begin in a few weeks) and operates in 17 counties throughout the state. Those who complete the free Introduction to Beekeeping classes receive equipment and bees free or at a reduced cost and have access to ongoing training and mentorship. Partners maintain between two and 20 hives.

James Scyphers, who spent almost two decades mining coal in West Virginia, says miners have a lot to gain from the program. "Beekeeping is hands-on work, like mining, and requires on-the-job training. You need a good work ethic for both."  Courtesy of Kevin Johnson

James Scyphers, who spent almost two decades mining coal in West Virginia, says miners have a lot to gain from the program. "Beekeeping is hands-on work, like mining, and requires on-the-job training. You need a good work ethic for both." Courtesy of Kevin Johnson

Bee says 2018 was the first season with "boots on the ground," when beekeepers were maintaining their own hives. Beekeepers must wait a full year to collect honey from their hives; the first honey harvest will happen this spring. Appalachian Beekeeping Collective will collect, bottle and sell the honey and pay beekeepers market rate for their harvest.

A strong beehive can produce between 60 and 100 pounds of honey per season, Bee says. At an average retail price of $7.32 per pound in 2018, beekeepers could earn an estimated $732 in supplemental income per hive per season. With multiple hives, that can add up quickly: Twenty hives could mean nearly $15,000 per season. There are also opportunities to produce candles, lip balm and other wax products with additional training offered through the organization.

In a region where jobs are scarce and more than 28 percent of residents live in poverty, opportunities for additional income are welcome. And beekeeping does leave plenty of time for other work.

The supplemental income would be "life changing" for Carie Ortman.

The Alderson, W.Va., resident maintained 18 hives last season with the help of her mentors at the Appalachian Beekeeping Collective. Although disease and winter losses, common among beekeepers, have forced her to start over each spring (she started keeping bees in 2016 as a hobby), Ortman remains optimistic.

"Now that I know about all of the possibilities for making money from my hives, I'm all in," she says. "I need this extra income, and I'm going to be big time with this."

While the training is open to all West Virginia residents who are at or below the federal poverty rate, Scyphers believes former coal miners have the most to gain.

"The older folks want to get back to work, but mining is never going to be like it was in the '60s and '70s, and there is nothing to fall back on, no other big industries here, so all of these folks need retraining," he says. "Beekeeping is hands-on work, like mining, and requires on-the-job training. You need a good work ethic for both."

"Most of the coal miners are hardworking people," Scyphers adds. "With what Appalachian Beekeeping Collective is doing, teaching us how to make a profit from beekeeping, I think we can all make a good go of it and get back to work."

https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2019/01/28/685878133/out-of-work-appalachian-coal-miners-train-as-beekeepers-to-earn-extra-cash

(Note: The Western Apicultural Society is making a collective and conscious shift to be an organization that builds community around bees. This will be very apparent at our upcoming conference (July 11th-14th in Ashland, OR)... bee there!!

In the meantime, check out this very cool project that aims to create community and build income for folks who have fallen on hard times in Appalachia!

Our opening keynote speaker, Katrina Klett, is doing similar work with farmers abroad.)

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Detective Dog Sniffs Out Devastating Honeybee Disease

Earth Island Journal By Cherese Cobb January 28, 2019

Maryland's chief apiary inspector has trained her Labrador to inspect hives for harmful bacteria

Sure, dogs may not always wear capes, but they have a superpower — their superior sniffers. “They have up to 300 million olfactory receptors in their noses, versus only about 6 million for us. The part of their brains dedicated to interpreting smell is about 40 times larger than ours,” says Michael Nappier,an assistant professor at the Virginia Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine. “While we might notice if our coffee has a teaspoon of sugar added to it, a dog could detect a teaspoon of sugar in a million gallons of water, or two Olympic-sized pools,” writes Alexandra Horowitz, the author of Inside of a Dog: What Dogs See, Smell, and Know.

Cybil Preston, chief apiary inspector for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, does a training run with Mack. She sets up fake beehives and commands him to “find.” He sniffs each of them to check for American foulbrood. If he detects the disease, he is trained to sit to notify Preston. Photo by Morgan McCloy.

Cybil Preston, chief apiary inspector for the Maryland Department of Agriculture, does a training run with Mack. She sets up fake beehives and commands him to “find.” He sniffs each of them to check for American foulbrood. If he detects the disease, he is trained to sit to notify Preston. Photo by Morgan McCloy.

That's why canines can sniff out American foulbrood (AFB): the most serious bacterial disease impacting honeybees. Reported in the United States since the 1930s, it’s spread by beekeepers, drifting worker bees, and robber bees — often accompanied by killer wasps — who steal dangerous, spore-laden honey or bee bread and bring it back to their broods. Its spores can't be seen with the naked eye, but they can remain viable for over half a century. Caused by the spore-forming bacterium Paenibacillus larvae, AFB poses a major threat to American honeybees — and by extension, to US agricultural systems that rely on them. It's worsened by other factors like loss of habitat, use of pesticides, and climate change.

The disease doesn’t impact adult bees, but infected larvae turn chocolate-brown and melt into a gooey mass that looks like brown snot. “Once spores are in the midgut, the vegetative form of the bacterium takes over using the larvae as a source of nourishment,” says Rob Synder, a crop protection agent in Oroville, California. When the larvae dry out, they become black scales that are essentially glued to the hive’s floor. The scale from a single larvae can contain one billion spores. “It only takes 35 spores to trigger the disease,” says Spencer Gutierrez, the author of Beekeeping Secrets: 15 Facts You Need to Know That Will Save Your Life.

When hives are infected, beekeepers generally treat them with FDA-approved antibiotics like tylosin tartrate and lincomycin hydrochloride. They control the disease’s symptoms, but they don't destroy its spores. Under a vet’s supervision, the substances are mixed with powdered sugar. Four-to-six weeks before the start of the main honey flow (usually in the spring or fall), the sugary-antibiotic mixture is dusted across the top bars of the brood nest frame: a removable cell that holds the colony’s eggs, larvae, and pupae. From there, the worker bees pass the drugs on to the larvae during feeding.

“When you treat a beehive with antibiotics,” says Bryan Merrill, a researcher at Stanford University, “it'll knock down the population of all the healthy bacteria that bees need to survive.” With weakened immune systems, honeybees can’t fight off another bout of AFB, which often becomes antibiotic-resistant. “Everything else that can go wrong with the hives is fixable,” says Cybil Preston, who’s been keeping bees in Maryland since 1997 and working as an apiary inspector for over a decade, “but not that.”

American foulbrood poses a major threat to American honeybees. Infected larvae often turn chocolate-brown and melt into a gooey mass. Photo by  Tanarus / Wikimedia Commons .

American foulbrood poses a major threat to American honeybees. Infected larvae often turn chocolate-brown and melt into a gooey mass. Photo by Tanarus / Wikimedia Commons.

To save nearby colonies from infection, beekeepers frequently destroy their hives. They plug their entrances with newspaper and cover their sides with masking tape. Then they pour unleaded gasoline onto the hives and set them on fire with a blow lamp.

That’s where AFB-sniffing dogs come in — they make sure that infected hives are either isolated or destroyed.

“Detection and quarantine processes are essential to save our bees,” says Josh Kennett, the owner of Australia's first apiary dog.

It’s a big task for the canines to take on, particularly given declining honeybee numbers in the US: In 1947 there were an estimated 6 million hives, compared to today’s 2.4 million.

The job also comes with some risks. “[In 2013,] I realized that [my dog] Bazz was able to sniff out the disease, and save thousands of bees,” Kennet says. “But, he didn’t like being around them too much when he was getting stung.” Kennet designed the black Labrador his own beekeeper suit, which includes a homemade, mesh headpiece that’s similar to the cones dogs wear after a trip to the vet, only this one protects him from stingers.

Bazz may be Australia’s first bee-sniffing dog, but the tradition dates back further in the US. The Maryland Department of Agriculture (MDA) has kept a full-time “bee dog” on its staff since 1982. The only state agency in the nation that trains canines to detect AFB, the MDA keeps tabs on roughly 3.4 percent of the country’s pollinators, according to the USDA. The dogs assist with the state’s apiary inspections, a free service provided for commercial beekeepers and hobbyists. “Mack is our fifth bee dog,” Preston says. The 4-year-old yellow Lab is the only certified dog in the US that can sniff out “brown snot gunk."

Mack sits in front of a beehive, a sign that he's detected AFB. Photo by Cybil Preston.

Mack sits in front of a beehive, a sign that he's detected AFB. Photo by Cybil Preston.

Preston rescued Mack from a garage when he was a year-and-a-half old. When his family couldn’t care for him anymore, they called her. “I couldn’t resist,” she says. “I had to take him. I saw how cute he was.” While he’d been housebroken, he wasn’t fixed and was kind of wild, pouncing on people at the door.

Preston taught him basic commands. Then she partnered with Mark Flynn, the K-9 unit commander at the state’s Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services, to complete an eight-month training program. Whether dogs are searching for contraband cell phones, illegal drugs, or foulbrood in beehives, Flynn looks for the dogs that’ll jump into the water to get the ball, the ones completely obsessed with their toys. “Because when a dog is searching, he believes in his heart he’s trying to find his toy,” Flynn says.

Mack wasn’t motivated much by toys. “But there’s this phenomenon where you can actually build up the drive in a dog,” he says. And through reward, repetition, and play — wrestling, throwing balls, and tug of war — that’s what Preston did. Using rubber gloves, she also saturated his toys and blankets with AFB-infected honeycomb. “I did this indoors to decrease the chance of environmental infestation,” she says.

There are about 9,000 honeybee colonies scattered throughout Maryland. A single healthy colony may hold around 60,000 bees in mid-summer, 30,000 bees in the late fall, and closer to 20,000 by the end of the winter. Mack is cost-effective for Maryland. He only works in colder weather, usually from November to March, because bees are dormant or clustered when it’s below 54°F.

On long summer days, when the hives are busy with bees flying in and out to forage, Mack won’t even budge from his bed in the van. Preston still hides his training aids, and she runs drills to keep him on his toes. “When we're not [training], he's either swimming in the pool or sleeping on the couch. He's a Lab so he does that hanging out thing very well,” she says.

In the field, when Preston commands him to “find,” he moves from beehive to beehive, sniffing each one for the distinct odor of dead fish, the smell associated with AFB. If he smells the disease, he sits to alert Preston that a manual inspection is needed. Then Mack is praised and rewarded with a special ball that he doesn't get at any other time. “He’s incredibly efficient — in a span of three weeks, Mack inspected over 1,600 bee colonies that were being sent to California for almond pollination. And he is accurate —in field testing, he correctly identified 100 percent of infected hives,” she says. “It would take us a year to work on that many colonies.”

Preston, Mack, and Tukka — a young springer spaniel who’s still in training — are currently on the front lines, securing our country’s food supply. Grains are primarily pollinated by the wind. But fruits, nuts, and veggies — which comprise 70 of the top 100 human food crops — are pollinated by bees. That’s why beekeepers follow the bloom. For six months a year, they travel with their bees to fruit, vegetable, and nut farms in need of pollination.

“Every third bite of food we take would be thanks to the honeybees,” Preston says. “Without our canine program, beekeepers wouldn't be able to move their bees into West Virginia for strawberries and apples or into Delaware for cucumbers and pumpkins.” Tractor-trailers carry about seven million bees across the country to pollinate crops. They’re vulnerable. “AFB would be a lot more prevalent if we weren't doing dog inspections.”

http://www.earthisland.org/journal/index.php/articles/entry/detective-dog-sniffs-out-devastating-honeybee-disease?fbclid=IwAR0ut9Qc2LrfnFlvdYJ2pDyzFzkrOb_IxaWCns1axNyG7J6uFcojE6FF6Dc