Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

New Years Eve advice from;
Historical Honeybee Articles - Beekeeping History
Honey For Your New Years Celebration. 

According to the National Institute of Neurological and Communicative Disorders and Stroke, honey speeds up alcohol metabolism, which means that it will help your body break down the alcohol more quickly. - Source: What Women Need to Know - 2005, page 14, By Marianne Legato, Carol Colman

Eating toast and honey after a long evening's drinking will help prevent the morning-after hangover headache. -Source: Better Homes and Gardens - 1977, page 61

2015 LACBA Holiday Banquet Recap

Our Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Annual Holiday Banquet was held Monday, December 7 at Pickwick Gardens (in the beautiful Rose Garden Room). Once again, we enjoyed a wonderful dinner provided by Outback Catering (LACBA member Doug Noland).  As always, LACBA members contributed an abundance of hors d'ourves and all kinds of sweet desserts.

LACBA President, Keith Roberts, introduced Inspector Conrad Burton, LA County Apiarist from the Department of Agricultural Commissioner/Weights & Measures. Inspector Burton provided lots of useful information on the Bees in Our Environment Apiary Program, pointed out the benefits of registering our hives, and directed us to links for the: Annual Apiary Registration FormAnnual Registration Notification LetterCalifornia Food and Agricultural Code: Division 13: Section 29040-29056. He also brought along some brochures on Bees In Our Environment with helpful info on: Swarms, Feral Bee Colonies, Foraging Bees, Beekeepers, and Bee-Proofing Your Home. 

The Golden Hive Tool Award (our President’s choice of someone who has shown great dedication to the club and thereby improved people’s experience of beekeeping) was awarded to Clyde Steese. For the past 19 years Clyde has volunteered countless hours at the Bee Booth at the LA County Fair. For the past seven years he has been the Chairman of the Bee Booth and heads off to the fair each year for five weeks on the momentous task of organizing, setting up, and overseeing the Bee Booth. The Bee Booth is a major highlight of the fair and the only fundraiser of the year for the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association. Through the efforts of LACBA members who volunteer at the Bee Booth, we use profits from honey sales to support all our club’s educational activities throughout the year, enables the LACBA to send member representatives to the California State Beekeepers Convention, and donates support for ongoing research and other activities for the benefit of honey bees. At our November meeting, the LACBA members voted to provide funding to the following organizations. During the CSBA Convention, the LACBA was privileged to present checks to:

American Beekeeping Federation - American Honey Queen Program
Bee-Girl Organization
Bee Informed Partnership
California State Beekeepers Association Research Fund
California State Beekeepers Association - Right to Farm Act
E.L. Nino Bee Lab - UC Davis
Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility
Pollinator Partnership 
Project Apis m.  

In February of each year, Clyde and his business partner, Bill Lewis, host the LACBA Beekeeping Class 101. One Sunday each month for nine months, new and seasoned beekeepers gather at Bill's Bees Bee Farm where Clyde, Bill, and experienced beekeepers from the LACBA, share their experience and knowledge in educating others about bees and beekeeping. Clyde Steese is also a past president of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association.  

Former receipants of the Golden Hive Tool Award include: Walt McBride, Don & Robin Mitchell, William (Bill) Lewis, William (Red) & Anne Bennett, Bill Rathfelder, StacyMcKenna, and Cynthia Caldera.

RAFFLE!!! Our yearly honey-bee theme “RAFFLE” brought in more funds for honey bee research. With tickets going at $1 a piece, there were lots of eager bees awaiting prizes. Keith and Jeremy Jensen (LACBA Vice President), outdid themselves this year with their entertainment skills. 

 (To see more images, check out our 2015 LACBA Holiday Banquet Album on our Facebook Page. Please remember to 'LIKE' us.


Bees On Sale Now


Order by December 31, 2015 and receive the 2015 price. 
Prices will increase January 1, 2016. 
(Packages Available April 2016)
(Nucs Available May 2016)

Package Bees - Nucleus Colonies - Complete Hives
VSH-Italian Queen Bees

Bill's Bees sells only VSH-Italian Queen Bees and Italian Honey Bees that are gentle, easy to work with, and build up abundantly for pollination and honey making. 

If you are just beginning beekeeping, or already an urban beekeeper, these bees are perfect for you. Their known gentle genetics make them ideal for Backyard Beekeeping in Los Angeles.


The Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association Beekeeping Class 101 begins in February. Order your bees now so you don't end up beeless in the spring!!! See You At Bee Class! 

How Collective Intelligence Helps Organizations Move Past Hierachical Leader Structures

TNW News Insider   By Louis Rosenberg   December 28, 2015 

Source: Louis Masai

Conventional wisdom tells us that organizations run best when critical decisions are made by a strong and capable CEO.

This is true even if it means calling upon a temporary leader until a permanent replacement can be found (as we saw with Twitter’s recent scramble to bring on Jack Dorsey).

Of course, this begs the question – are there alternatives to top-down decision-making that can achieve better outcomes?

I’m not suggesting we do away with hierarchical leadership structures, but if there are ways for companies to make smarter decisions, it’s worth understanding them and exploring if new technologies can help us implement such methods.

To research this issue, I looked to nature and was inspired by the remarkable decision-making abilities of honeybees.

Like an organization facing bankruptcy or a desperate round of financing, bee colonies face a life-or-death decision every year – selecting a new hive location.

From hollow trees to abandoned sheds, a colony will consider dozens of candidate sites over a 30 square mile area, evaluating each with respect to dozens of competing criteria.  Does it have sufficient ventilation?  Is it safe from predators?  Is it large enough to store honey for winter?

It’s a highly complex decision with many tradeoffs and a misstep means death to the colony. This is a decision even a seasoned CEO would not want to face.

Remarkably, honeybees make optimal decisions.

As revealed by the painstaking research of Thomas Seeley at Cornell University, honeybees select the very best site at least 80 percent of the time.

You might assume that means each colony has a strong leader – “a Queen bee” that weighs all the competing factors, from the volume required for honey storage to the complexities of seasonal temperature control, but you’d be wrong. The Queen does not participate in any of the decisions that govern the colony.

So, who makes this critical decision about where the colony should move?  Nobody does.  Or, more specifically – everybody does.

That’s because individual honeybees lack the mental capacity to make a decision this complex and nuanced.  But, when they pool the knowledge and experience of their most senior scout bees, they evoke a “Collective Intelligence” that is not only able to make the decision, it finds the optimal solution.

In other words, by working together as a unified system, the organization (i.e., the bee colony) is able to amplify its intelligence well beyond the capacity of any individual member of the group.  And they do this with no bosses or workers.  No hierarchy at all. 

Louis Masai

In fact, it’s so exciting it’s been the focus of my own research efforts for the last few years – exploring if networked teams can pool their knowledge, opinions, and insights to forge a unified Collective Intelligence that can think smarter together.

So, can we get smarter by pooling our knowledge, insights, and opinions?

Yes, researchers are recognizing the power that connected groups can unleash.

At the simplest level, we can pool our intelligence by casting votes and taking the average.

Often called “the Wisdom of Crowds”, research shows that the average estimate from a large group is almost always more accurate than the estimates given by the vast majority of individuals. The problem is, simple votes are highly sensitive to social biases that can greatly distort the outcome.

For example, recent research shows that if you poll a team in a hierarchical organization, members are often influenced by what they think their boss wants to hear or what they think the group already believes.  Thus, instead of insights being combined and strengthened across an organization, decisions often get distorted as they go the management chain.

Even a relatively flat organization can have barriers to unleashing their Collective Intelligence.

These groups can be thought of as “herds” because they function the way natural herds do – a single individual darts in one direction and the rest of the group follows.

This tendency toward “herding” is exacerbated by social media and other modern technologies. We euphemistically call it “trending” or “going viral” but often it’s just a random impulse gone astray, amplifying noise rather than harnessing intelligence.

In fact, a brilliant study out of MIT, Hebrew University of Jerusalem and NYU shows that if you randomly assign the first vote in an up-voting system similar to Reddit, that single first opinion will influence the final result by 25 percent, even if thousands of votes follow.

So, what would a decision-making process look like if there were no leaders and no followers, but a balanced structure that allowed the group to solve a problem together and find the optimal solution?

For one, if everyone in an organization had an equal voice, it could resolve many of the current gender inequality issues in the workplace, which are quickly becoming a monumental crisis.

Other forms of discrimination – intentional or not – could be avoided as well.

But beyond that, could we boost our overall intelligence, making decisions that exceed the ability of any of the team members?

I believe we can, although we need to look beyond the simple votes and polls that have been the mainstay of Collective Intelligence efforts, and employ new methods and technologies.

One path is to refer back to those amazing honeybees. They don’t cast votes, they form systems – “swarms” – that use feedback loops to combine their input in real-time and converge on optimal solutions together. But can organizations make decisions that way?


Referred to as Human Swarming, teams can be connected by specialized networking software that allow them to form closed-loop systems and tackle problems as a unified intelligence.

In a recent study that I was involved in, groups predicted the winners of the 2015 Oscars by working together in online swarms and greatly out-performed standard votes and polls.

All in all, I’m optimistic that emerging technologies will make us better and better at harnessing the Collective Intelligence of organizations. This will allow companies to leverage the combined brainpower of teams by merging diverse ideas and opinions, insights and intuition.

This could lead to smarter decisions and more inclusive strategies.

Of course, using Collective Intelligence to guide decisions doesn’t mean leadership becomes less important, as there are many ways to be a good leader. It will just put more weight on other leadership qualities – like offering vision and encouragement, with passion and inclusion.

Image credit:@louismasai


Herbicides, Not Insecticides, Biggest Threat to Bees

AGFAX   By Bonnie Coblentz    December 17, 2015 

People who care about honeybees know that insecticides and pollinators are usually a bad mix, but it turns out that herbicides used to control weeds can spell even bigger trouble for bees.

Jeff Harris, bee specialist with the MSU Extension Service and Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station researcher, said herbicides destroy bee food sources.

“When farmers burn down weeds before spring planting, or people spray for goldenrod, asters and spring flowers, or when power companies spray their rights-of-way, they’re killing a lot of potential food sources for bees and wild pollinators,” he said.

Harris said the direct effect of these chemicals on bees is so much less of an issue than their loss of food supply.

“Disappearing food is on the mind of beekeepers in the state,” he said. “That is even more important to them than losses of bees to insecticides.”

Johnny Thompson, vice president of the Mississippi Beekeeping Association, is a cattle and poultry farmer in Neshoba County who has been in the bee business for the last 10 years.

“Before we got back into bees, I sprayed pastures by the barrel to kill weeds. As a cattle farmer, weeds are a nuisance,” Thompson said. “I’m trying to grow grass for the cows to eat and not weeds, but as a beekeeper, those weeds are not weeds. That’s forage for the bees.”

Today, Thompson said he uses the bush hog more than he sprays herbicides to keep the food supply for bees intact on his land.

“If you kill everything the bee has for food, you may as well go in and spray the hive directly. The bees are going to die,” he said. “All the emphasis is being put on insecticide, but the greater risk to bees are the herbicides.”

He has made management changes for the sake of his bees’ food supply, but he recognizes the tension between current agricultural management practices and pollinators’ best interests.

“When you travel through the Delta or the prairie part of the state in February, the row crop land is purple with henbit blooming. By the end of March, it’s all gone because farmers burned it down with chemicals to try to kill everything in the field before they plant,” he said.

“They burn it down early because weeds in March or early April are a reservoir for insect pests to the crops that will soon be planted,” Thompson said.

Crops in the field, especially soybeans, are great sources of bee forage, and farmers and beekeepers can coordinate to protect both of their interests. 

“We moved bees to the Delta this summer to make soybean honey,” Thompson said. “We’re working with the growers to try to put the bees in areas that are fairly protected and won’t get directly sprayed.”

But farmland is not the only place bees find food. Yards, roadsides, golf courses and power line rights-of-way are other places bees forage when plants are allowed to bloom naturally.

“We need to stop looking at them as weeds and instead look at these plants as forage,” Thompson said. “I can manage around the insecticides, but if herbicide use means there’s nothing for a bee to eat, there’s no reason to put a hive in an area.”


ABF Conversation with a Beekeeper Webinar January 19, 2016

Join Sarah Red-Laird and Zac Browning in this live, interactive webinar to discuss issues, solutions, and consequences of inaction in the beekeeping industry.

What's a "Next Generation Beekeeper"? “Next Gen” is defined as, “The step forward that perpetually propels us into our impending destiny.” We are the next generation in our family of beekeepers, we are the drivers of the next stage of development in the products, services, expertise, and knowledge our industry provides. This beekeeper is a commercial or small scale beekeeper, or works as an educator or researcher. They are passionate about bees, and want to be involved in future beekeeping innovation, research, policy, technology, advocacy, or community leadership. In the near future, we need a functional model of collaboration and diversification. You tell us what that needs to be done, we’ll listen and help to develop a positive action plan.

Please log in to your ABF membership account and visit the 'Conversation with a Beekeeper Webinar Series" section of the website to register for this webinar.


Tools For Varroa Management

Honey Bee Health Coalition

This Guide explains practical, effective methods that beekeepers can use to measure Varroa mite infestations in their hives and select appropriate control methods.

About this Guide:

Every honey bee colony in the continental United States and Canada either has Varroa mites today or will have them within several months. Varroa mite infestation represents one of the greatest threats to honey bee health, honey production, and pollination services. When honey bee colonies are untreated or treated ineffectively, colonies can fail and beekeepers can incur major economic losses, and, ultimately, agricultural food production may be impacted. In addition, colonies with Varroa are a source of mites that can spread to other colonies, even in other apiaries, through drifting, robbing, and absconding activity of bees.

All beekeepers should remain vigilant to detect high Varroa mite levels and be prepared to take timely action in order to reduce mite loads. Effective mite control will reduce colony losses and avoid potential spread of infectious disease among colonies.

This Guide will explain practical, effective methods that beekeepers can use to measure Varroa mite infestations in their hives and select appropriate control methods. The Honey Bee Health Coalition offers this Guide free of charge and asks that you please reference the Coalition if distributing.

Download Varroa Guide


EPA Calls For Less Ethanol Next Year. Let's Hear It For The EPA!

Bee Culture - Catch The Buzz   December 15, 2015

The US EPA has changed direction on ethanol production for next year. Its ethanol mandate for 2016 requires less use of biofuel, thus a greater demand for fossil fuel. This is probably a good thing for lots of people, but think about this. It puts the EPA, that stands for Environmental Protection Agency, right in bed with big oil. Less ethanol used, more gasoline used. Does that make sense? For 2016, EPA wants 18.1 billion gallons blended into the nations fuel supply. That’s 4.1 billion fewer gallons than last year. First, let’s look at the numbers here. You get 2.8 gallons of ethanol per bushel of corn. The US averaged 168 bushels of corn per acre in 2015. That comes to 471 gallons of ethanol per acre. Taking 4.1 billion gallons of ethanol out of the equation reduces the acres of planted corn next season by 8.7 million acres. That’s just about 10% of the 81.1 million acres of planted corn last year.

Why would EPA want to use more fossil fuel next year? Well, after careful study, The National Academy of Science, the UN and the Environmental Working Group found that corn ethanol may actually have higher emissions than petroleum-based gasoline, which doesn’t even account for the fossil fuels required to raise, harvest and transport all that corn. It’s a better bigger picture.

Plus, there’s all that subsidy money that farmers are getting to raise all that corn. Tens of billions since the 1980s when this all started. About 40 percent of the corn raised in the US goes into ethanol production, causing corn-based grocery foods to cost US taxpayers about $40 billion more than needed a year.

Another plus for this is the reduced use of seed applied pesticides on all those millions of acres. And herbicide, and fungicides. If big ag was smart, they’d use that 8.7 million acres to meet that federal mandate of 9 million acres of increased pollinator forage needed next season. Of course, the land freed up from all that corn would probably be a killing field for all those pollinators because of lingering pesticides left over from years of applications.

From the beekeeping industry’s perspective, that’s a boatload of poison that won’t get into the system, and, perhaps, some of this now-idled land will eventually find its way back to producing something edible, and safe for our bees.

Anyway you look at it, 8.7 million fewer acres of corn next year has got to be a good thing.


Beeing A Bee-Friendly Beekeeper

This article by Dr. James Tew is from the Dec/Jan Alabama Beekeepers Association Newsletter, the Stinger 


Within a wide range, every beekeeper maintains their colonies in ways suitable to their lifestyle and personal schedule. Some of us can allocate more time to our bees than others. As colony numbers increase, you should expect to spend less time with individual colonies.

Beekeepers who rarely manipulate their colonies will most likely have some, or even many, die. Alternatively, beekeepers who open their practically every day are also putting stress on their colonies. New beekeepers can be somewhat excused. They are still learning and are excited to explore their new bee world.

The following “bee-friendly” points work for me. They may not work for you. I have called the items, 'low impact beekeeping procedures'. I offer them for thought and review.

Low-Impact Beekeeping Procedure #1:
So much as possible, I have left my fifteen colonies alone all spring, summer and fall. When supering I looked at a frame or two of brood in the upper brood body, but I tried to keep my intrusion minimal. I did stagger the upper supers to allow for more ventilation. I supered pretty much on time and did a reasonably good job of keeping the grass knocked down. Otherwise, I have not intruded upon my bees.

Low-Impact Beekeeping Procedure #2:
I have tried to develop my concerns about re-queening. The queen needs to be truly a bad queen before I elect to put the colony through the confusion and disruption of re-queening. I suspect that the occasional marginal queen is as good as one that I can quickly get and install. By the time the re-queening procedure has finished, the nectar-flow will have essentially passed and I am left with a new queen in a weak colony that has missed the season.

Would it be fair to say that a minimally invasive recommendation would be to re-queen once per year and, unless disastrous, to live that year with the queen you get?

Low-Impact Beekeeping Procedure #3:
I try to treat for mites in the Fall of the year. Some newer materials allow for treating more often. I try to treat correctly and keep my hive openings to a minimum. I realize that mites and bees are developing both good and bad resistance to each other and to chemicals, but for the present, I am assuming that my bees will need some kind of mite treatment at least once per year.

Low-Impact Beekeeping Procedure #4:
So much as possible, I have reduced supplemental carbohydrate feeding for both survival and spring stimulation. I can’t stop it all together and am not suggesting you do, either. At times it is necessary, but I have completely stopped allowing bees to rob extracted supers or honey cans. Robbing is a vicious behavior that results in weaker colonies (sometimes even stronger colonies), if not killed outright, becoming so depleted that they have little hope of surviving the upcoming winter.

Low-Impact Beekeeping Procedure #5:
For colonies that you really care about, prepare for the hive opening event. Have extra equipment on the truck to replace worn or broken hive parts. In a perfect bee world, you would even have access to a spare queen from nuclei that you set up earlier in the spring. A working number is about one nucleus per ten colonies. This past season, I maintained two nuclei for fifteen colonies. When the hive is open, perform as many chores as possible in order to reduce future trips. On double-sided bottom boards, I use the shallow side (3/8” opening) year round. That way, I avoid having to install and remove entrance reducers.

Low-Impact Beekeeping Procedure #6:
When the season allows, set up an observation hive. Not yet, but maybe soon, I will come around to saying that observation hives are presently undervalued as a management tool. Currently, they are used as educational devices or as novel seasonal hives. They could be so much more. Rather than opening full-sized colonies, I can get an idea of the field events by looking at the observation hive activity. Pollen collection, nectar collection, drone production, and the status of the queen are readily viewable in an observation hive.

The performance of a new queen can be evaluated before transferring her to a full sized colony. Brood from the observation hive can be used to subsidize needful field colonies. As it were, both observation hives and nucleus hives provide living spare parts. Plus, upon looking at bees within an observation hive, I satisfy a bit of my beekeeper need to see the inside of a hive. Should the recommendation be one observation hive for every ten colonies rather than a nucleus hive per ten colonies? Maybe sometime I will recommend this, but not just yet.

Low-Impact Beekeeping Procedure #7:
Consider putting on some deeps as supers in order to have spare honey for the winter months when things go particularly bad. Deep supers are heavy – even difficult to handle, but wintering bees can readily use bee-stored honey when nearly nothing else will do. If stored properly, deep supers can be held for several years without undue harm. If stored pollen is minimal, wax moths
will not do much damage to stored comb. Not only useful as winter-feed, deep supers of honey can be used during spring seasons to make splits or to boost spring colonies needing some help.

Low-Impact Beekeeping Procedure #8:
I top super rather than bottom, but I provide upper entrances. To decrease the distance bees must travel to store nectar, bottom supering stipulates that the empty super goes just above the brood nest and partially full supers are placed above the empty super. It’s considerable work for me and much more disruptive to the bees to remove all supers before adding a new one and frequently, burr comb must be removed or a poor fit results and bees are crushed. Top supering is easier for me and causes less disruption to the colony.

Low-Impact Beekeeping Procedure #9:
Don't use any more smoke than necessary and only blow cool, white smoke. I’m afraid that too often rather than work our colonies, we bully them. With our protective gear and our smokers blazing, no doubt we are the bees’ most formidable enemy. Use only the smoke you need so the colony can recover as quickly as possible. Though it’s common sense, don’t kill any more bees than necessary to open and close the colony. With their sensitive olfactory systems, the bees know you’ve just killed several hundred of their kin. You think that makes them appreciate your efforts? (A beekeeping secret – the smoke from a smoker is probably not good for your respiratory system. Don’t oversmoke the bees or yourself.)

Low-Impact, Totally Impractical, Beekeeping Procedure #10:
I enjoy working my colonies on nice, memorable days but these are the very days that bees should be out foraging for winter stores. We cause our bees to lose a significant part of a good foraging day when we choose that day to open colonies. Should we select cooler, rainy days or possibly go for late afternoon sessions or could such tasks as adding supers or filling feeders even be done at night? It could be done then. Just so you know, I will not be adding supers or filling feeders at night. If you want to, have at it.

My point: So much as possible, let your bees be bees. I'm afraid that, many times, we hurt more than we help.

Dr. James E. Tew
State Specialist, Beekeeping
The Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Auburn University

The Buzz About Honey Bees and Marijuana

Bug Squad    By Kathy Keatley Garvey   December 15, 2015

Extension apiculturist emeritus Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology, “retired” in June of 2014 after 38 years of service but his phone and keyboard at Briggs Hall gather no dust.

The honey bee guru continues to answer a range of questions. The latest concerns the effect of marijuana growing sites on honey bees.

We thought we’d share his answer, which deals with honey bees, pollinators, Cannabis, pesticides, and what could happen to beekeepers who stumble upon a pot farm.

The question: “What is the effect, good or bad, that marijuana plants and marijuana grow sites have on the honey bee? From what I understand, these grow sites are using chemicals to control pests year round. In some cases, I hear that marijuana growers are importing chemicals from Mexico that are stronger and work better to control pest.”

Mussen answered the question succinctly and openly.

“As you might guess, since marijuana is still considered an illegal plant to grow by the federal government,” he replied, “it is no surprise that there are no pesticides registered for use on the ‘crop.’ Some states are trying hard to build a list of acceptable products, but here is the problem. So far we have registered products based on contact and oral toxicities to mammals. We have only run inhalation toxicities on a few very potent and stinky products (fumigants). You can get up to 10X the dose of a chemical, from the same amount of plant mass, if you smoke it versus eating it.

“There are quite a number of websites dedicated to pot growing. When pest control becomes the topic, most sites suggest mechanical methods or use of products allowed in organic agriculture. However, those organic pesticides have not been checked for inhalation effects, either.”

“Thus, practically any pesticide that is used will be illegal. Given that, growers are apt to determine which materials work best on the pest at hand on other crops, acquire those materials, and use them. The regulators know this, and in states where marijuana currently is legal, the states are testing some of the products on the shelves to see what pesticides are in them. The samples have been found to be pretty clean, for the most part.”

Mussen acknowledged that blooming hemp plants are attractive to many pollinators. “I have no idea what the pollen and nectar might do to them when the bees consume it. We can provide a pretty good idea of what will happen when pesticide products used on other crops are applied to the bloom (at agricultural rates), but since nothing is registered, there is no way of guessing what might be used. For the standard fee of just under $400, we can send a sample of the bees or pollen to the USDA AMS pesticide residue detection lab in Gastonia, N.C., and they can tell us the residues. Butthat doesn’t help us much in terms of regulatory assistance.

“Pot growers probably won’t care if they repel or kill visiting bees,” Mussen speculated. “Pollinated blossoms become senescent too quickly, and do not produce the maximum amount of important resins if they are pollinated early in their cycle.”

“Up to this time, I have not heard of beekeepers reporting damage from pesticides applied to marijuana, but it is likely to happen before long. Beekeepers are more worried about being shot if they accidentally get too close to a pot farm.”

Stay tuned.


Bee-Girl to LACBA: SO Much Love!

"SO much love going out to the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association for their donation to keep our programs going!! These folks know a thing or two about generosity and bee love!" Sarah Red-Laird, Executive Director, Bee-Girl Organization. 

(Note: It is through the efforts of members of the Los Angeles County Beekeepers Association who volunteered their time at the Bee Booth at the Los Angeles County Fair to raise money in support of honey bees, bee research and education. Thank you also to the LACBA membership who voted to provide funding for the Bee-Girl programs. Read more about Bee-Girl Organization http://www.beegirl.org/.)

Angry Bees Are Easily Distracted By Food, Study Finds

The Washington Post    By Rachael Feltman   December 23, 2015

You know those Snickers commercials about how easy it is to get angry when you're in need of a snack? 

Well, scientists haven't exactly shown that honey bees get "hangry," but the word certainly comes to mind when reading a new study on bee aggression. In the study, published Tuesday in Nature Communications, researchers led by Martin Giurfa at the University of Toulouse and Judith Reinhard of the University of Queensland found that honey bees put on the war path were quite easily put off it by the scent of food.

When a guard bee senses a predator using visual cues like color and movement, it sends out pheromones -- chemicals that illicit an unconscious, automatic physical response in other members of the same species -- to put soldier bees inside the nest on high alert. This puts the bees into kamikaze mode, since any stinging attack leaves the species Apis mellifera sans several internal organs. At least 40 chemical compounds have been found in the pheromone cocktail that calls honey bees to war, but the main component, isoamyl acetate, is enough on its own to make a soldier bee ready to die for the cause.

Previous research has shown that bees and other insects can sometimes get confused by exposure to more than one kind of pheromone. But researchers wanted to see whether the scent chemicals produced by flowers might have any effect.

First, they had to make some honey bees angry, which they did by placing them in an "arena" with an annoying moving target:

Two bees are placed into a container with a moving target and are unaffected by the movement until one of the bees strikes. (Morgan Nouvian (CRCA – QBI)

Two bees are placed into a container with a moving target and an alarm pheromone. The reaction to the sting alarm pheromone can be extremely fast, as evidenced by this pair of bees attacking the moving dummy within seconds of their introduction inside the test arena. (Morgan Nouvian (CRCA – QBI))

But when flowery scents like lavender were added, the bees chilled out. It wasn't simply a question of masking one scent with another -- some food-related scents, like citrus, had no effect -- but the compounds linalool and 2-phenylethanol, along with the scent of lavender (a mix of linalool and other chemicals) seemed to block the aggressive response to the alarm hormone.

Since stinging is such a nasty business, it's not surprising that bees might be hardwired to avoid it in favor of accessing available food for the hive. But the bees didn't have to rely on memories of previously foraged snacks in order to decide what food trumped fighting. Even newly emerged bees, who had never foraged and therefore had no experiential preference for particular flowery smells, were calmed by the lavender-related scents.

The researchers told Live Science that any calming effect of lavender on bees is probably unrelated to the anecdotal calming effect it has on humans. Lavender might be a pleasant, calming scent for a human bubble bath, but for a bee it's like the scent of a juicy burger (if that burger sent out chemical signals that literally drew your body toward it).

But that doesn't mean that humans can't benefit from the study.

"We certainly see great potential for applications to beekeeping," first author Morgane Nouvian, a graduate student at both the University of Queensland and the University of Toulouse, told Live Science. "Developing a product based on our results — for example a scented hand spray [or] cream, or an odor-releasing device to place at the hive entrance — could certainly help reduce the number of bees stinging while [beekeepers are] handling the hives. This method would be a great alternative to the current use of smoke and repellents, because we would be tricking the bees with something that they actually 'like,' and it would thus likely be less stressful for them."

Since constant exposure to venom actually makes beekeepers more likely to become allergic to it than the general population, a product like that would be pretty sweet.

Read at: https://goo.gl/rXQ738

Wild Bees Are Least Abundant Where They're Most Needed, Study Says

Los Angeles Times     By Geoffrey Mohan   December 21, 2015

But the Central Valley's love affair with almonds and other orchard crops has left the area with a steep imbalance between wild bee populations and the need for the pollination services they provide, according to a study published online Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The study comes amid alarm over the precipitous decline in the population of commercial honey bees that are brought in to pollinate crops, at great expense to growers.

Wild bees, it turns out, can make domesticated honey bees much more efficient, and that adds about $3 billion to the country's agricultural production, studies have shown.

The bee imbalance:

The red zone: Where supply and demand for wild bees are mismatched. (Leif Richardson / University of Vermont)

The map above shows where the gap between abundance of wild bees and demand for pollination is steepest. Not surprisingly, the biggest disparities, shown in red, occur in areas where extensive tracts are given over to single-crop cultivation. Those include 139 counties, mainly in the Upper Great Plains, areas flanking the lower Mississippi River, and swaths of Texas, California, Arizona and Washington.

“I think the reason why the Central Valley lights up so much is largely almonds," said study co-author Taylor Ricketts, a landscape ecologist at the University of Vermont. "It's a hugely valuable crop that’s been expanding like crazy, and it’s entirely dependent on pollinators.”

Crops such as tomatoes and pitted fruits contribute to the state's supply-demand gap, "but the one that is making the map so bright red is almond,” Ricketts said.

California growers added about 140,000 acres of nut-bearing almond trees from 2008 to 2013, the time period of the study, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture data. The $3-billion almond industry spends $239 million annually to rent more than 1 million bee hives.

The wild bee population study, the first of its kind at a national scale, comes in response to a White House effort last year aimed at addressing honey bee colony collapses. It called for a national assessment of wild honey bee populations, and the creation of 7 million additional acres of habitat for wild pollinators.

Knowing where pollinators are available and how changes in landscape can affect their abundance is central to any effort to add more habitat, Ricketts said. 

So the researchers gathered estimates of bee abundance from top entomologists, then created a model that predicts how many wild bees live and work on different types of land in the lower 48 states. Those modeled results were spot-checked against data from smaller-scale studies.

Using a well-known database of land cover, the researchers calculated the change in bee abundance from 2008 to 2013. Then, they mapped the relationship between relative abundance and the need for pollination, based on the types of crops cultivated. That reduced the problem to one of supply and demand.

Over those five years, relative abundance of wild bees declined in 23% of the land area in the contiguous states, the study found.

Where the wild things aren't:

Wild bee abundance declined in 23% of U.S. land area, a new study suggests. (Leif Richardson / University of Vermont)

The resulting map could be a warning to growers that they are too dependent on commercial honey bees and should “diversify their portfolio," Ricketts said.

“It could be a glimpse of the future for a lot of crops," said Ricketts. "It’s such an extreme and early case, where they’ve so intensified that there’s no habitat left for native bees. "

California's Central Valley, the Imperial Valley and parts of Washington stand out in the West, largely because growers there cultivate crops that depend heavily on pollination: apples, peaches, pears, blueberries, cherries, watermelon and honeydew melons, almonds and tomatoes.

"We are a state with a huge dependence on pollination. We have very intensive agriculture, which has challenged our wild bee pollination a lot," said UC Davis entomologist Neal Williams, one of the authors of the study.

Increased gaps elsewhere in the nation came from a greater rise in acreage dedicated to crops that are only moderately dependent on pollination, such as soybeans, cotton, canola and sunflower, the researchers said.

Some almond growers have begun to take notice, adding wild bees to their pollination plan and restoring native vegetation. Wonderful Pistachios & Almonds, formerly known as Paramount Farms, will use blue orchard bees this year during pollination season, for example.

The effort is part of a national campaign to diversify the way crops are pollinated, Williams said.

"Where there are wild bees present, even modest numbers of wild bees can make the honey bee a better pollinator of almonds," Williams said. "It changes the behavior of the honey bees. For some reason … the wild bees cause the honey bees to move more between varieties. So they’re essentially transporting better pollen.”

Read at: http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-bees-almonds-20151221-htmlstory.html

King Tut's Beard Is Back, With Help From a Little Beeswax

The mask's elongated beard snapped off while museum staff worked on the display in August 2014. An attempt to restore the royal beard with epoxy followed. The latest conservation efforts began in October 2015. The objective was not only to reattach the beard, but also to undertake a full-scale study of the mask using the museum archives as reference, which hasn’t been done before.


Concern over Tut's beard dates back to 1922, when Tutankhamun's tomb was discovered. “The study of the mask showed that its beard was detached and was not fixed back till 1946” says Christian Eckmann—the German expert who lead the mask’s restoration team—in a press conference that unveiled the mask after restoration. Eckmann is a conservator with a specialization in glass and metal, the two main components of the golden mask. He had previously restored and conserved several Egyptian artifacts, notably the two copper statues of King Pepi I, and the golden head of Horus.

“The 2014 damage was exaggerated, since the beard was previously detached as the examination showed," says Friederike Fless, the president of the German Archaeological Institute in Cairo, one of the German and Egyptian bodies that cooperated in the restoration process.

The restoration process started with a full 3D scan with a light pattern projection scanner to record and document the mask’s status, followed by the removal of the inadequately applied glue. No chemicals were used to remove the resin—instead, the team worked millimeter by millimeter with wooden tools after raising the temperature of the mask. This step alone took more than four weeks.

“The process has uncovered two surprises, the first is that beard has an internal tube that connects it to the mask's face, and the second is that the 1946 reattachment of the beard was done using soft solder," says Mamdouh Eldamaty, the Egyptian minister of antiquities.

Picture of King Tutankhamun's golden mask on display

A picture taken in 2009 shows the mask on display, spotlighted in a specially darkened exhibition gallery, in the Egyptian Museum in Cairo. Photograph by Khaled Desouki, AFP/GettyImages

Ancient techniques were implemented in the restoration process; The team has used beeswax as an adhesive since it was a common material in ancient Egypt, and because it's an organic material that poses less risk of damaging the metal of the mask.

The beard on the mask wasn't how Tut's actual facial hair looked. The false beard was an important symbol in ancient Egypt—it was one of the ways Egyptian kings identified themselves with Osiris, the god of the underworld. Unlike in real life at the time, where facial hair was considered a sign of a low social status, wearing a false beard with an upturned end, like King Tutankhamun, was a sign of divinity.

The information gathered from the scans of the mask and details of the restoration will be published in a forthcoming book.

During the restoration process, a 3D hologram of the mask was on display, but starting December 17, museum visitors can enjoy the real mask, and will be allowed to take photographs of it and the entire collection of the museum for one month.

2015 has been a big year for King Tut admirers. This summer, National Geographic grantee Nicholas Reeves theorized that hidden chambers in Tut's tomb might lead to the burial place of Queen Nefertiti. Scans of the tomb reveal there may, in fact, be two rooms hidden behind walls, and further examination of the space is expected in the coming months.

The Navigational Skills of a Honey Bee

BBC iWonder   Presented by Professor Adam Hart Biologist and broadcaster

We are all familiar with the satellite navigation systems found in modern cars and smartphones. It’s modern technology that we program in a location and get given directions and distances until we reach our final destination. Yet the humble foraging honey bee does all this many times every single day in its daily quest to find the perfect flower to tap for nectar and pollen.

But if that wasn’t miraculous enough, a bee can pass on the exact location of the perfect flower to its colleagues, so they can share in the bounty. Its secret is not using circuit boards and processors it’s the angle of the sun, counting landmarks and electrical fields.

So suggesting that a bee could be as smart as your modern satellite navigation system is not as daft as it may seem.

Read more: http://goo.gl/f9PPR4

Interaction between Varroa destructor and imidacloprid reduces flight capacity of honeybees

Phys.org    December 18, 2105

Parasitic mites Varroa destructor together with the pesticide imidacloprid hamper bees in their search for pollen. The pesticide and the bee parasite reduce the honeybees' flight capacity, causing bee colonies to weaken and possibly even collapse. This was concluded by researchers from Wageningen University & Research Centre in their article in Proceedings of the Royal Society B.

Honeybees fly shorter distances when they originate from colonies with many Varroa mites, the researchers note. The distances they travel are even smaller when those colonies were also exposed to the chemical pesticide imidacloprid in a dose that bees may encounter in the field. The effect of the Varroa  was found to be larger than that of imidacloprid, but the pesticide increases the negative effect of the parasite.

Colony losses

The study shows that the ability of the colony to collect food may be hampered due to imidacloprid in combination with the parasitic mite Varroa destructor. When this effect lasts long enough, it may lead to weakening and ultimately collapse of the colony.

The role of the Varroa mite in winter mortality of  is well known among beekeepers. A heated debate has been going on for several years already about the role of neonicotinoid pesticides, like imidacloprid. In previous studies on the effects of these pesticides on , often individual bees were exposed to relatively high doses of the pesticide. In this study, however, entire bee colonies were exposed to both the Varroa mite and imidacloprid for several months.

Flight mill

Bee in flight mill. Credit: C. van Dooremalen, Wageningen URThe researchers used  foraging bees for the experiment. These were caught when returning to their colony with pollen on their hind legs. From this, the researchers deduced that these bees had fetched pollen at least once successfully. Because 'very sick' bees probably not even become a foraging bee, this means that the researchers rather underestimated than overestimated the impact of the Varroa mite and imidacloprid on individual bees in these colonies.

The flight capacity of the bees was tested in a flight mill. Travelled distance and the speed of the bees were measured. To standardize the flight measurements, the  were given a fixed amount of fuel in the form of sugar water beforehand.

Varroa mites (chesnut) on bees' back. Credit: Cornelissen, Wageningen URExplore further: Use of imidacloprid - common pesticide - linked to bee colony collapse

More information: Lisa J. Blanken et al. Interaction between and imidacloprid reduces flight capacity of honeybees , Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences (2015). DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.1738 

Journal reference: Proceedings of the Royal Society B

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2015-12-interaction-varroa-destructor-imidacloprid-flight.html#jCp

Honey Bees' Hard Winter

http://agnetwest.com/   December 14, 2015

For the past couple of years, beekeepers have been doing better at reducing winter honey bee colony losses. Part of this success comes from better management of a principal cause of these losses, the varroa mite. Cathy Isom tells us why this winter could be especially hard for honey bees.


Honey Bees’ Hard Winter

The following is from: Expect A Hard Winter for Honey Bees
By Dick Rogers M.Sc., Principal Scientist / Entomologist: Bayer Bee Care Center – Bee Health & Integrated Apiculture Research

There’s nothing I enjoy more than getting out in the field and investigating honey bee colonies. All right, maybe there are a few things I enjoy more, but I consider it a “win” any time I get out of the office to work with bees! During these late summer and early fall inspections, which involve evaluating up to a hundred and fifty samples taken from different hives across the country, I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting the rate of winter survival of colonies beekeepers can expect.

What I’ve seen so far this year really concerns me.

Since 2013, U.S. beekeepers have been doing better at reducing winter honey bee colony losses. Part of this success comes from better management of a principal cause of these losses – the Varroa mite. However, during my 2015 hive evaluations, I was disturbed to find the vast majority of hives contained mite infestations well above the threshold level of concern.

In the almost 30 years since Varroa was introduced to North America, I’ve learned that a hive containing three Varroa mites per 100 bees suggest that the colony is in trouble. While three mites may not seem like a big deal, remember that a typical colony may contain 40,000 bees – and that equates to more than a thousand parasites, which weaken bees through their feeding and disease transmission activities. This year I’m finding at least two-thirds of the hives I’ve examined contain mite counts above that threshold and many have exceeded seven mites per 100 bees, a level that is almost certain to result in colony failure this winter.

I checked with other honey bee experts to get a sense of what they’re hearing and seeing regarding Varroa infestations this fall and they’ve confirmed my worst fears. Recent scientific presentations at bee health conferences indicate that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is finding infestation levels up to eight mites per 100 bees this fall, which agrees with our own assessment. This does not bode well for honey bee colonies going into winter.

So what’s causing this?

We know that when honey bees are doing well, large infestations of Varroa mites are never far behind. The rule of thumb is that “Varroa does best in strong colonies” but even so, there may be more happening here. For years, management-minded beekeepers have relied on Apivar® (amitraz) strips to keep mite infestations in check. This year we’re hearing widespread reports that suggest this treatment isn’t working as well as it has in the past. Our testing suggests that Apivar is still the most effective product out there, but we have seen control failures when re-infestation pressure is high, as well as some tests that show efficacy is lower than expected. Since there are few effective treatments for Varroa and these mites are prone to develop resistance, the potential loss of this acaricide from our management toolbox is very concerning.

What’s most troubling about this unwelcome news is that it should be no surprise, since Varroa has caused massive colony losses before, most recently during the winter of 2012-2013. Since Varroa first became established in North America during the latter half of the 1980s, beekeepers have been playing catch-up in their efforts to manage this parasite. Just a few years ago, the National Honey Bee Health Stakeholder Conference identified Varroa as the “single most detrimental pest” of honey bees and other scientists have shown that it remains a leading cause of colony failure. And despite all the attention focused on honey bee health in the past decade, we seem no closer to solving this particular problem, or preventing these cyclic colony losses.

There is hope.

This year I had the pleasure of working alongside Dr. Dewey Caron and other experts associated with the Honey Bee Health Coalition to release a new Varroa Management Guide, which offers beekeepers practical, effective methods of monitoring and controlling this invasive pest. At Bayer, we are seeking and testing new varroacides, as well as more efficient delivery systems to better manage infestations. Complementing this research is our Smart Hives initiative, which is designed to monitor honey bee colonies remotely and non-invasively, using digital sensor technology to provide real-time alerts that can allow for rapid responses and more effective management practices. Additionally, other scientists are looking to improve honey bee genetics to increase the bee’s tolerance to the Varroa parasite.

For now, there is little beekeepers can do to change the hand they’ve been dealt. Winter normally is a stressful time for colonies, but high mite infestations make this year’s situation particularly challenging and I am expecting the worst. I hope I’m wrong about the consequences associated with the levels of Varroa we’re seeing. Regardless, the two things I’m sure of is that honey bees are not at risk of going extinct, and that beekeepers are an extremely resilient group. I know the bee industry will bounce back as beekeepers adapt and reach new levels of expertise to address what is the ‘new normal’ in apiculture.

As a scientist and beekeeper, I’m frustrated that no “silver bullet” has yet been found to consistently manage the Varroa mite. What I can tell you is that Bayer and other members of our industry won’t stop working until we finally rid ourselves of the damage caused by this destructive pest.


honey bees

Bayer Crop Science LP Video 

University and government scientists, beekeepers and other bee experts attribute this year’s possible higher bee losses to an increased presence of the Varroa mite. The Varroa mite is a parasite that feeds on the blood of honey bees and reproduces on the developing bee brood. Ultimately Varroa mites infest hives and can devastate a wintering honey bee colony.  

Saving the Mighty Honey Bee

University of Maryland    November 15, 2015

Massive honey bee die-offs threaten our food production, but entomology Assistant Professor Dennis vanEngelsdorp is leading a group of UMD and national researchers to find a way to save these important pollinators.