Bears Raiding Bee Colonies: They're Seeking the Brood

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey     May 18, 2017

A huge financial loss: this is an example of the damage a bear can do in the bee yard.(Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris, Palo Cedro)Yes, bears raid honey bee colonies.

But it's primarily for the bee brood, not the honey.

The brood provides the protein, and the honey, the  carbohydrates. For beekeepers and commercial queen bee breeders, this can wreak havoc. Financial havoc.

The American Beekeeping Federation, headed by Gene Brandi of Los Gatos, recently asked Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology to respond to a question about bees and bears.

Mussen, who retired in 2014 after 38 years of service (but he still remains active from his office in Briggs Hall), is from Minnesota, where the bears are and he isn't. He's managed to photograph a few bears, though, on family outings to Lake Tahoe.

We thought we'd share his response about bees and bears. Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, who owns Jackie Park-Burris Queens, kindly let us post some of her photos so our readers can see what bear damage looks like.  A past president of the California State Apiary Board and the California State Beekeepers' Association, she's a member of the noted Homer Park beekeeping family and has been involved with bees all of her life. She's been breeding Park Italian queens since 1994.

But back to Eric Mussen, the bee guru who has answered tons of questions during his 38-year academic career and who's now serving his sixth term as president of the Western Apicultural Society. (The society, founded in Davis, will gather \Sept. 5-8 in Davis for its 40th annual meeting, returning to its roots.)

"Bears eat both meat and plants (berries) etc. whenever they can find them," Mussen says. "Most people think that a bear has a sweet tooth, since it is attracted to beehives. While it is true that bears will eat some honey if it gains access to a hive, a closer look shows that it will eat all of what we call 'brood' first, and then eats a little honey."

Eric MussenMussen describes bee brood "as made up of bee eggs, larvae, and pupae."  Since the queen may be laying between 1000 and 2000 eggs a day, "quite a bit of brood can accumulate before the end of the 21-day period that it takes to complete development from egg to adult female worker bee (24 days for the drones)."

"Bears have a pretty good sense of smell, so they can smell a beehive if they get downwind of a nearby colony," Mussen points out. "If the colony is living in a tree, often the bear literally tears the tree apart to get to the bees.  Unfortunately, they will claw and dig into a man-made beehive, as well.  They leave the covers scattered all over; the hive boxes scattered and often broken; the combs pulled out, broken, and strewn about in the apiary; and the combs that had brood in them will have the comb eaten out.  The colony will not survive and there may be very little undamaged equipment to salvage."

"To a small-scale beekeeper," Mussen says, "the financial loss is not too severe.  However, losing the colony, that requires so much effort to keep healthy these days, is quite a blow.  For commercial operators, who may not revisit the apiary for a couple weeks, it can mean a very substantial economic loss."

"The correct type of well-maintained bear fence usually is very effective at keeping bears away from the hives.  However, that holds true only for situations in which the bear has not had previous positive experiences ripping apart man-made beehives.  In that case, the bear expects a substantial reward for barging through the stinging fence and getting into the hives."

What to do? "Most beekeepers have no desire to kill bears, but they do desire to keep their colonies alive," Mussen says. "Often, attempts are made to capture the offending bear, tag it, and move it away far enough that it should not return.  Some of the wildlife specialists marvel in how far away a bear can be taken away and still return. Bears that cannot stay away from apiaries, or away from people's houses, or away from trash containers, etc., sometimes have to be eliminated.  It is best to have this done by agency personnel, but sometimes in remote areas the beekeepers get deprivation permits and kill the bear themselves.  In Northern California, the beekeeper has to notify the wildlife people of the kill, and the carcass has to be inspected to be certain that specific, black market body parts have not been removed from the bear.  The carcass then is buried in a landfill, or once in a while used in institutional food."

Occasionally Bug Squad hears of bears raiding honey bee hives in rural Solano County. We remember a story about a beekeeper/queen breeder in Mix Canyon, Vacaville, who was losing his hives to a "wild animal." The loss? Reportedly about $30,000. He set up a stealth camera and....photographed a 300-pound black bear. 

"Bears have a pretty good sense of smell," as Mussen says, and the result can be "a very substantial economic loss."

This is what bear damage to a hive looks like. This photo was provided by Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, who owns Jackie Park-Burris Queens. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris.)

A bear scattered frames all over this bee yard, as it went for the brood and then the honey. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris, Palo Cedro.)

A bear wreaked havoc in this bee yard. (Photo courtesy of Jackie Park-Burris, Palo Cedro.)

 This image of a bear snagging fish was taken at Lake Tahoe by Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist emeritus, UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology. He's been answering questions about bears and bees for more than three decades.

http://ucanr.edu/blogs/blogcore/postdetail.cfm?postnum=24145

Could Honey Bee Brood Bee The Future Of Food?

Phys.org     Provided by Taylor & Francis   November 28, 2016

Bee brood . Credit: Taylor & FrancisHoney bee brood – the larvae and pupae of drones – has great potential as a food source. It is already eaten as a delicacy in many countries, including Mexico, Thailand and Australia. It has a nutty flavor with a crunchy texture when eaten cooked or dried, and is a versatile ingredient used in soups and egg dishes. It also has high nutritional value, similar to beef in terms of protein quality and quantity.

Bee brood is already eaten as a delicacy in many countries, including Mexico, Thailand and Australia. It has a nutty flavor with a crunchy texture when eaten cooked or dried, and is a versatile ingredient used in soups and egg dishes. It also has high nutritional value, similar to beef in terms of protein quality and quantity.

Beekeepers are accustomed to removing brood to manage Varroa mite, the most harmful parasite affecting honey bees worldwide. According to Professor Annette Bruun Jensen of the University of Copenhagen and her colleagues, this practice makes drone brood an abundant source of farmed insects with untapped potential for human consumption.

Brood farming has a number of advantages, including the relatively little arable space and low financial investment required to set up hives. Research on  biology and breeding also has a long history compared to other candidates for insect farming.

But several challenges would need to be met for this method of farming to take off – none more so than in the harvesting of brood, which is very fragile and thus difficult to remove intact from the hive.

Storage, shelf life and safety are also important considerations. Due to their high fat content, larvae and pupae could go rancid if not properly removed from contact with oxygen. Yet research has shown that they can be frozen and stored for up to 10 months without severe loss or change of taste.

The food safety risks associated with bee brood are yet to be assessed. However, no cases of food poisoning from bee brood have ever been recorded, and the European Food Safety Authority has found no additional or specific risks associated with the production and consumption of insects compared to traditional livestock production.

Professor Bruun Jensen said: "Honey bees and their products are appreciated throughout the world. Honey bee brood and in particular drone brood, a by-product of sustainable Varroa mite control, can therefore pave the way for the acceptance of insects as a food in the western world."

Explore further: Bees Throw Out Mites

More information: Annette Bruun Jensen et al. Standard methods forbrood as human food, Journal of Apicultural Research (2016). DOI: 10.1080/00218839.2016.1226606

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2016-11-honey-bee-brood-future-food.html#jCp