Bee A Supporter

There are so many people I get to talk with who want to know how they can do something to help bees.  Anything except be a beekeeper that is.

I understand.  Beekeeping isn’t something for everyone.  It takes just the right amount of agricultural interest combined with various degrees of insanity to want to be a beekeeper.

But still, the next best to help bees is to help beekeepers and bee-friendly gardeners and people who use hive products is to help them to bee more successful.

Help them to learn to bee better at what they do.  Help them have access to the resources that can help them bee more successful.  What better, more rewarding, and more fun way to do that than to bee a Bee Smart Patron?

A Bee Smart Patron is part making a donation and part being a subscriber to the “Bee Smart beekeeping project”.  When you go to our Patreon page and click the button to become a Patron, you can choose to support us at the $2.50, $5.00 pr $10.00 per month levels.  By supporting our ongoing efforts to inform, educate and entertain on all things bees and beekeeping, you help those beekeepers and people using hive products to make things and people who grow gardens using bee pollination to have those tools, information and resources and bee better.

At the same time, you become a subscriber to the Patron only Bee Smart Monthly Newsletter.  You get access to Patron only areas of the member forums at the Bee Smart website.  You even get discounts and special content just for being a Patron.

Helping bees and having access to the inside, down-low beehind the scenes activity of some of the coolest, most publicly interactive beekeepers in the country.  That’s what you are getting for such a small amount per month.

How awesome can you bee?

Don’t forget to share the link to the Bee Smart website and all the awesome stuff like podcasts, videos, downloads and bee article posts we add to daily.  the more visitors we have, the more people we bee useful too.

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Swarming And Varroa Infestation

In an interview on a German podcast about a year ago, Dr.Tom Seeley made some interesting points during the interview that I, as a self-proclaimed “Organic” beekeeper find very interesting and supporting of some of the points I often make in my own presentations and classes.

This isn’t to say that Dr. Seeley is an Organic beekeeper or that he claims to be, but from a research point of view he has made certain observations which to my mind, certainly seem to support some Organic beekeeping ideas.

One of the points Organic beekeepers make is that when at all possible, we want to mimic or emulate successful practices and behaviors of honey bee colonies that are feral or wild as opposed to doing things that might work contrary to “bee nature”.

Honey bee swarm in a tree. Image by Tony Sandoval

In this particular discussion, Dr. Seeley makes the point that swarming in a honey bee colony can actually have a positive effect on reducing Varroa mite populations in the nest.  This is accomplished primarily due to the exit of the large number of adult bees during the Primary swarm.  It is further impacted by the consequent lack of eggs being laid and there being a period of being brood-less in the hive in between the exit of the prior mature Queen and the beginning of the new mature queen beginning to lay eggs.

All in all, Dr. Seeley says that when a colony is allowed to swarm naturally, approximately 60 to 70% of all the adult bees in the hive depart with the prime swarm.  That number is a result of the facts that about 50% of mites are phoretic, meaning that they are parasitize adult bees instead of being in cells parasitizing larvae and capped pupae.  Of all those approximately 35% of all mites are removed from the nest because of the departing swarm.

File:Varroa destructor on the head of an emerging bee (5048710240).jpg
Varroa destructor on the head of an emerging bee By Gilles San Martin from Namur, Belgium [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
There can be a further reduction in mite population after a prime swarm departure due to the exit of after swarms, grooming behavior of remaining bees and lack of bees to parasitize due to not enough bees remaining to sustain a population of mites.

In terms of Organic hive management, this supports the practice of preferring to do splits in the Spring and Fall to reduce mite populations as opposed to using chemical treatments be they toxic or non-toxic chemicals.

Another interesting comment he made was that the practice of beekeeping by humans is contrary to the natural evolution of honey bee colonies which have evolved to excel in two areas due to Natural Selection.  Those two things being survival and reproduction which obviously go hand in hand.Beekeeping by people, by and large according to Dr. Seeley actively works to inhibit reproduction and suppress swarming.

Beekeepers tend to try to control reproduction and inhibit it by controlling drone populations (one of the common methods of controlling Varroa) and by inserting already fertilized, inseminated queens.  In regards to suppressing swarming, it is a common practice among beekeepers to manipulate hive boxes, especially in the Spring, to try to minimize or eliminate the chances of colonies swarming out so as to keep the hive population large for obtaining a larger honey harvest over the season.

Suppressing swarming is also a method used by many beekeepers as a way to try to keep larger populations inside the hives, thereby keeping more bees present to “work” the nest and keep pest populations down through the bees own nest behaviors.

It’s certainly some interesting information from a very well-respected and trusted bee researcher.  Even if one doesn’t consider themselves an Organic beekeeper, the knowing how swarms affect Varroa populations in the hive can certainly bee good to know about.

Listen to the “Radio Milkwood”podcast for more of the roughly 12 minute interview with Dr. Tom Seeley.

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Bringing You The Best Of The Buzz On Bees, Beekeepers and Beekeeping

Here at the Bee Smart beekeeping project, we want to bee the best we can bee.  A large part of that is working to bring you interesting, useful and entertain original content.

Beeginning today, Bee Smart beegins the next phase of bringing forth the buzz by doing a bit of news aggregation.  Meaning, we scour the world wide web every morning looking for noteworthy news and put it all together here in one place for you.   Beecause of that, we’ve also added a new category area to search in our posts, “Bee Newsworthy”

You will notice that we have already posted some interesting tidbits pulled from various news sources that we think you will find fits our description of “useful, interesting and entertaining”.

Later today, you will still get some of our original content as you are becoming used to seeing as well.  I hope you enjoy the news and notes here.  I know I like them.

 

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Bee Smart, Bee Informed Video Series. Episode 1 John Winkler

John Winkler from the Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources was on the Bee Smart weekly podcast recently.  While we had a full audio episode, we thought you might like to see some video excerpts that focus on some of what John had to say about NRD land management practices and being bee friendly.

 

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Seeing is bee-lieving

Honey bees are extra-ordinary creatures.  There are so many interesting things to know about them that set them apart from every other creature in the world you could write every day in a lifetime and still not cover it all.

One of the fascinating things about bees is their vision.  The anatomy and physiology of what they eyes are and how they work to help bees do what the do is phenomenal!

First of all, bees have two sets of eyes.  There are the “simple eyes” technically called “ocelli” and there are the “complex” eyes which are the “Compound” eyes.  Except for bee larvae, they don’t have any eyes at that stage.

Bees live in a world of almost complete and total darkness when they are inside a hive.  Just like you and I, they need to find their way around in the dark.  The bigger eyes, the compound eyes, aren’t the best for that.  The ocelli are their answer to how to “see” in the dark.

There are three (3) small spots on the top of a honey bee’s head, between their antennae in a triangular layout.  Those are the ocelli.  Ocelli are only able to observe changes in light intensity, but that ability helps them do so much.

Apis mellifera, F, face, Maryland, Beltsville 2013-04-25-16.35.09 ZS PMax (8682047014)
By Sam Droege from Beltsville, USA [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
Honey bees have two (2) large compound eyes.  These are the eyes we can see on the bees head on either side.  The compound eyes have multiple tiny facets with lenses (ommatidia) covering each eye.  Each of the three castes of bees has a different number of ommatidia.  For example, Queens have about 4,000, Workers have about 5,000 and Drones have around 8,000 of them.

The compound eyes do more than just “see things” for the bees.  Compound eyes are capable of forming images (seeing things), seeing in color (except red) including the ultra-violet spectrum, detecting movement, identify shapes and patterns, initiate head turning response, and seeing polarized light.

Not only that, but there are little hairs growing from the surface of the compound eyes and the bees use those hairs to detect air motion.  That is how we figure bees to be such interesting pilots because it allows them to gauge airflow speed and direction.

Whew! Those are some kind of eyes.

This is what some researchers tell us bee see things as…

image from http://www.neurobiologie.fu-berlin.de/Gumbert-Kunze.html

The biology of honey bees is a thing of technological wonder and artistic wonder.  The more we learn about these incredible little critters, the more we realize we have so much more to learn.

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Bee Smart Podcast Project: Advanced Bee Culture

The Bee Smart beekeeping project is all about bring useful, informative and entertaining (hopefully) content about all things bees, beekeepers and beekeeping.

In the spirit of all of the above, I am proud to announce the “audio” recording of the book “Advanced Bee Culture” by W.Z. Hutchinson.  This is the second edition published in 1911 and edited by E.R. Root of the A.I. Root Company.

Unlike traditional audio book recordings, each chapter will be recorded as one episode here until the book is completed.

I hope you enjoy hearing this book as you drive, or sit back and relax.  It happens to be one of my personal favorites containing a great deal of information still pertinent and relevant today.

Look for the posting of the Introduction and Chapter One Thursday, January 19 and hopefully every Thursday afterward the next chapters will be posted here on the Bee Smart website.

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Bringing The Bee Life To You

The Bee Smart beekeeping project is available to bring a special live and multimedia presentation to your school, organization or business in the Omaha/Metro area in Nebraska.

We have two options to offer depending on your needs.

Option 1:  Bee Educated

The Bee Smart beekeeping project will bring a combination of a live presentation with a video presentation to show participants about the incredible things bees and beekeepers do.  This presentation can last from 1 to 2 hours depending on group size.

We can bring a live portable bee display (bees cannot get out) only between May 1 and September 15th otherwise we have a photo and video display of a live bee hive and a selection of honey samples, beeswax item samples and plenty of useful, informative and useful information available to bring out all year long.

Cost for this interactive and entertaining presentation is based on number of participants.  Call Big Bear to schedule this exciting presentation at 402-370-8018 or email us at:

beesmart@bbe-tech.com

Option 2: Bee Adventurous

The Bee Adventurous presentation is designed to be a 4 to 8 hour presentation booth with a live observation hive of bees (bees cannot get out), a real professional beekeeper to talk with visitors to the booth and plenty of real honey and beeswax product samples.

Cost for this interactive and entertaining presentation is based on number of participants.  Call Big Bear to schedule this exciting presentation at 402-370-8018 or email us at:

beesmart@bbe-tech.com

Diapause, Do Honey Bees Do It?

One of the most common questions beekeepers are asked is what happens to the bees when it gets cold outside.  Usually sung to the tune of, “Do bees hibernate?”

When it comes to insects, like honey bees, IF they did any such thing, it would probably be “diapause” and not “hibernation”.  To be real loose and cavalier with explanations, “Hibernation” is like taking a very long nap and all the vitals become depressed and slow down.  Think of it kind of like being in a coma.

“Diapause” is more of a state in which development in something like an insect, say… a honey bee, seems to nearly stop cold while bad and ugly things in the environment around them happen.  Again, playing loosely with descriptions, think of it sort of like going into suspended animation when the weather gets too rough to find food or water, etc…

I have had more than one person ask if “diapause” was “The Change” for bees since they were all girls just getting older over the Winter.  No, bees have plenty of other reasons to be cranky, they don’t need another one.  Though in the Winter, they might actually appreciate hot flashes.

As for honey bees though, they do neither in the cold of Winter.    Honey bees are awake and active the whole time.  When temps hit somewhere around 57-ish degrees F or lower, the colony will cluster.

Honey bees survive Winter in their nest by “Clustering”.  That is, they group together in a ball style shape in and around the wax cells in the combs and as a group, shiver their wing muscles to generate heat.  By being clumped so closely together, they keep themselves and each other warm through the Winter.  The colder it gets, the tighter they cluster together.

Winter cluster image courtesy of Randy Oliver at scientificbeekeeping.com

How do they keep up the heat?  By eating honey.  The bees forage for, make and store honey primarily for times like Winter, so that they will have a full pantry and not have to go outside to get more food.  It’s already in the hive.  The more they generate heat, the more honey they have to consume to maintain the energy to do it.  The faster they go through the honey stores, the more likely it is that bees will starve out in the late Winter or early Spring because the food didn’t outlast the weather.

The closeness of their bodies and even the beeswax combs themselves also help to act as some bit of insulation so as to help keep some of the heat they generate hanging around and keeps them, in however little or greater effect, from using too much energy to soon.

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