like Facebook follow Twitter watch YouTube subscribe RSS Feed
Archive | Newsletter Articles RSS feed for this section

Moisture condensation in hives in winter

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

We have had a lot of rain the last month [in Los Angeles] and the weather has gone into the 40′s many nights—or even the upper 30s. If you have not looked in your hives since this change in the weather, please have a look to see if water is condensing on the underside of the top board. Because of the cold outside air and the warmth and moisture of the bees and their evaporating nectar inside the hive, there is a tendency for moisture to condense and drip down upon the bees. This is very unhealthy for them!

I checked all my hives two days ago and found water accumulation, and even some lids with black mold growing. Only one hive, which had retained a shim under the inner cover from placement in the summer, was dry. So, whether you are using a telescoping cover with a inner cover or a migratory cover, ventilation of the warm, moist air must be accommodated. After wiping the water off the lid undersides with a old towel, I placed small chunks of wood  under the covers to prop them up. These I picked up off the ground from the abundant mulch, but you could use anything that would allow airflow.

Some beekeepers make a small shim, called a Imrie shim, to place under the inner cover or migratory cover. This would work well, too.   But, the first step is to do the checking, so please be sure to get out there!

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

Beekeeping in the balance

“This is an editorial from Bee World, 1972. Probably written by Eva Crane. I think it’s still instructive today, especially the last paragraph” -Peter Borst 

HoneyLove visiting the Almond Orchards in Bakersfield


 

In many parts of the world beekeeping hangs in the balance, and the scales are tipped against the bees and the beekeeper. In countries with highly sophisticated agricultural systems, beekeeping may be in a decline because too many factors in modern agriculture work against the bees. Even in countries beginning to move away from traditional agriculture, bees are less and less part of the rural economy. Declining numbers of bees and beekeepers, and lack of official interest, are matched by falling honey yields. Yet the very changes in land use which now seem to be bringing about the end of beekeeping may lead to its recognition as an essential part of agriculture, because of its importance for crop pollination.

The factors limiting beekeeping may be summarized as follows. Forage available to bees is being reduced, by current agricultural practices, and by industrial and urban land use, including road construction. Losses from pesticide have been mitigated to some extent in recent years, but hazards are constantly arising from the use of new crops, and changes in agricultural techniques, especially for the control of pests and weeds. Also, although many of the bee diseases are well understood, and treatments available, largescale “losses” of indeterminate origin still occur from time to time, and can cause severe damage to beekeeping in the area concerned.

Beekeepers face rising costs which may so far outstrip the financial return that commercial beekeeping becomes uneconomic. At an amateur level, beekeeping as a hobby does not fit easily into areas of high human population, especially in towns and suburbs. Further, beekeepers are, in American terms, “not a well organized commodity group”: the very independence that makes a person a good keeper of bees may well make him a poor negotiator, and one who does not easily co-operate. It may also hinder understanding between beekeepers and crop growers, whether or not the growers use bees to pollinate their own crops.

Nowadays so many interdependent factors are involved in determining any one issue, that more and more interdisciplinary co-ordination is needed-and this does not come of itself, but has to be sought out and worked for. There is no magic solution, but there are ways in which benefits have been, or could be, obtained.

Human nature is perhaps the most difficult of all factors to change, but where the need is great enough – as in a nation at war – cooperation can be achieved. Surveys leading to a relatively objective assessment of the position could well be a valuable start. One such survey (concerned with development rather than decline) was conducted in Ireland in 1967, and another, specifically on bee losses and their effect on honey production and pollination, was carried out in the United States in 1970. In some countries with tracts of undeveloped land, surveys should be made to establish what further sites could profitably be used for hives, or what areas could be planted specifically for bee forage. In the more intensively used lands, pressure groups can be formed to maintain and reclaim potential areas for bee forage-even road verges are worth attention. More studies are urgently needed to define the requirements of crops for insect pollination (especially in the tropics), and to establish how widespread the dearth of pollinators is. The system of payment for colonies of bees provided for pollination, and conditions for safeguarding them, should also be restudied and improved.

Crop management techniques must be developed in which pest and weed control measures are applied only according to need, and methods are selected which are the least hazardous to bees. Much research has already been done, and if the results are presented in a way that can be assimilated, their application should not prove too difficult.

Understanding between beekeepers and crop growers has been achieved on a local, personal, scale in various countries, with very satisfactory results. Perhaps a study of these successful ventures might also show the way to more general progress.

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: The details of the new beekeeping code

Sanctuary Group Jump 2013
by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

It is now official! The full city council of Los Angeles unanimously endorsed the new backyard beekeeping code in a 15 to 0 vote. Mayor Garcetti set his signature to clinch the new law, and now we have the largest city in the country covered for keeping backyard hives.        

In case you do not know the specifics set in the code, you may see them here—
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/d9zhgb1wy9v9lfv/AADXk9qo_P9w_wSyPpavtiBHa?dl=0

The new rules do not specify what sort of bees we may keep nor what kind of hive we must use. The language is concerned mainly with lot line setbacks, alignment of the flightpath and enclosing walls or fences—in other words, land use issues. But with privilege comes responsibility, and one of the very important things to remember is that most of the folks around us will not be keeping bees. Annoying the public will lead to nuisance complaints. We must manage our bees well, giving them regular inspections for space assessments, health, temperament, and  queen viability. Joining up with other members of bee clubs and keeping up with educational advancement will be very important aspects of setting the best impression for calming worried citizens who are not so sure about this new allowance for backyard hives.

There is one part of the code that requires the beekeeper to interact with the officials, and that is this—-The applicant is registered as a beekeeper with the County of Los Angeles Agricultural Commission. Registration is easy, costing only $10 per year per beekeeper. The current apiary inspector, Conrad Burns, is a likable, friendly guy. He is going around to all the backyard beeks to make contact, assess beekeeping knowledge, and trying to help with the success of our model. Please do not neglect this aspect of responsible urban beekeeping—get your hives registered. It creates a impression of legitimacy with the public and can only work to everyone’s benefit.

We have the downloadable form on dropbox for you here—
https://www.dropbox.com/sh/5tr9ljcy5zsapkw/AAAHSuE3fqpAlDAgLFF7Lzgwa?dl=0

Send it in and make a renewed pledge to help establish the most vibrant, connected beekeeping community in the country—Los Angeles. Get involved with HoneyLove and make the networking of a like-minded group help you with your beekeeping challenges as well as contribute to our ever present need for folks to help us spread the message. We really need our members to contribute in substantive ways to continue to accomplish the goals.

Thanks!

Susan BIP Scale
Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

Heat and collapsing honey combs

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

The weather this summer in the LA basin has been record-breaking hot. These prolonged conditions stress the bees trying to maintain the proper temperature in their hives. They normally coat the insides of the hive bodies with water they gather, and fanning with their wings, induce a “swamp cooler” air conditioning.

I have seen the entire front of hives covered with bees trying to stay out of the interior—even great clumps of bees hanging from the front porch landing area. All this heat has caused the honey combs in two of my larger hives to fall out of the frames and fold over. It is quite the mess. Clearly, this trend of hotter, longer summers is being predicted by climate scientists, so something needs to be done to help the bees vent the heat.

I have fitted each hive with a wood framed, screened top board that fits under the regular migratory top. By turning the migratory top over (upside down) the cleats will create a shaded, one inch air space to relieve the bees’ heat issue and not expose them to direct light. Very many more bees are now back inside their hives, instead of hanging out on the front.

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

Breeding, buying and Varroa: a few thoughts

By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

I have had a lot of cognitive dissonance lately from the talk among beeks about breeding, treating, buying queens, etc. Maybe you’ve run into some of the same. If so, here’s a small bit of information that cements my certainty that when we select for certain traits we inadvertently de-select for things that serve the organism and discard important traits we definitely don’t want to lose.    

Our feral bees have strong characteristics of hygiene, pest and disease resistance. They tend to propagate a small worker bee (4.7 to 4.9 mm brood cell diameter) which allows the young bee to beat the emergence of parasitic varroa by emerging before the mite completes its development by at least one day. This natural characteristic of Africanized honey bees is being sought by bee breeders of European honey bees through genetic selection in laboratories with artificial insemination of queens and with strict control of drone mating areas. I have found that the behavior of our bees in pre-selecting young brood—before they emerge—by uncapping at the purple-eye development stage—is clearly apparent in my hive inspections.   


 

I was asking Michael Bush (author of the “Practical Beekeeper—Beekeeping Naturally”) some questions recently about these processes and the attempts to circumvent natural selection by purchasing queens from breeders for the trait of varroa resistance or VSH (varroa sensitive hygiene). He sent a very interesting answer, including a quote from eminent beek, Kirk Webster.

One thing to know—Michael kept a large, 4 frame, glassed observation hive for several years in his living room with a tube to allow the bees to come and go. This device was very instructive for understanding what bees actually do, minute to minute over a long period of time.

To Michael from Susan:
I have a question about the uncapping of brood at the purple eye stage. [During pupae development,coloration begins with the eyes: first pink, then purple, then black.]   I have always taught (and believed) that this signals a problem with the larvae and the bees plan to drag that pupa out and discard it.     Is that correct? 

Michael’s answer:
It is a sign of hygienic behavior if they uncap the brood.  Dee [Lusby] says they remove the mite and leave the larva.  I was not trying to answer that question when I was observing uncapping in my observation hive, so I never noticed.  Sometimes they removed them.  But recapping them would not be inconsistent with my observation though I never tried to track that.

I think VSH is going to turn out to be a very bad idea to breed for. There are already reports (lots of them) from people who say their VSH bees cleaned up the entire brood nest and threw the brood out of the hive.  I think they are breeding OCD bees.

I think any breeding for one trait has always failed spectacularly in any species we humans have attempted it.  We should look at the big picture.


 

 

“We’re making the same mistake with our honey-bees.  We’re trying to ensure the failure of modern bee-keeping by focusing too much on single traits; by ignoring the elements of Wildness; and by constantly treating the bees.  The biggest mistake of all is to continue viewing mites and other “pests” as enemies that must be destroyed, instead of allies and teachers that are trying to show us a path to a better future.  The more virulent a parasite is, the more powerful a tool it can be for improving stocks and practice in the future.  All the boring and soul-destroying work of counting mites on sticky boards, killing brood with liquid nitrogen, watching bees groom each other, and measuring brood hormone levels—all done in thousands of replications—will someday be seen as a colossal waste of time when we finally learn to let the Varroa mites do these things for us.  My own methods of propagating, selecting and breeding bees, worked out through many years of trial and error, are really just an attempt to establish and utilize Horizontal breeding with honeybees—to create a productive system that preserves
and enhances the elements of Wildness.  My results are not perfect, but they have enabled me to continue making a living from bees without much stress, and have a positive outlook for the future.  I have no doubt that many other beekeepers could easily achieve these same results, and then surpass them.”

–Kirk Webster, many decades beekeeper in Vermont, treatment free, survivor stock “What’s Missing From The Current Discussion And Work Related To Bees That’s Preventing Us From Making
Good Progress?”

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

Queens and Inspections

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

One of the most important regular events in the life of a beekeeper is the inspection of the hive to verify that the queen is laying and the workers are vigorous. It’s late July, so the queen is laying less and the bees are not as focused on brood rearing as they were earlier in the year, but we still must inspect the brood nest every 3-4 weeks to verify that the queen is doing her job. 

I often hear newbees say that they “know” they have a laying queen because they see the bees bringing in pollen. This is not a reliable sign; even a queenless hive will show the pollen gatherers robotically still bringing in pollen because that’s their job!

The only way to know the status of your Queen Mother is to actually see eggs and open brood. You do not need to see HER, only the evidence of her work. Proper smoking technique is essential for calming and observing the bees, so if you do not know what that is please read up on the HoneyLove website. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a7RAgCEtaME

If your hive stack is several boxes high, it is best to go to the bottom level first by setting aside the other boxes so not all the bees are driven to the bottom box (crowding them) by the smoking and inspection process. Foragers returning will also add to the number in the entry box, so place the boxes in a stack in reverse order to be able to look into the bottom level first.

Alternately, If your hive is grumpy, place a towel or piece of plywood over each box as you remove it so the individual bee boxes are isolated from each other and contained. Check the frames in the first hive body for eggs and open brood. Eggs are very small and it is essential that you be able to identify them. Use a strong set of glasses or a magnifier if you need to.

Older hives—two years or more—will often abandon the lowest level the first winter and most brood rearing will occur in the next level up while excess bee bread and honey will be stored in the bottom box. There is no satisfactory answer from experts as to why this happens but it is common.

Sometimes a colony loses their queen and a worker (or a number of workers) begin laying drone eggs as compensation. There can be entire frames of capped and open drone brood. This is called having a “laying worker hive” and obviously leads to a dead end. Sometimes the bees do not have the resources of eggs less that four days old to make a replacement queen, so in their desperation they will draw queen cells that contain only drone eggs laid by the workers.

This is a very confusing sign if the beekeeper has not been attentive and missed the change in population dynamics by way of regular inspections. It is imperative that the beekeeper act on the situation, though, as the colony is fated to die out.

Know what a good brood frame looks like by practicing attentive observation on a queen right hive. A laying worker hive can be remedied by newspapering in a swarm, putting the queen right colony under the queen-less colony with a double screen board and leaving the stack for two weeks, then combining them. There are a number of additional fix-its; Michael Bush’s site has an exhaustive list of the many remedies at http://www.bushfarms.com/beeslayingworkers.htm

In closing, frequent inspections year-round is the key along with on-going education.

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Swarm-less Spring and Summer?

By HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

butterfly_plants

It is the natural reproductive urge of honey bees to build up numbers in the Spring in order to swarm and establish new colonies. This activity has other benefits for bees besides the increasing of numbers—it helps bees cleanse their colonies of carpetbagging diseases and pests by initiating a break in the brood rearing cycle. Many pathogens depend on a continuous occupancy of the brood nest and young bees, so when the swarm leaves the hive and takes up to two weeks to find a suitable cavity, draw comb, and the queen commences egg laying, the pathogens drop away.

But, as some of you may have noticed, there seems to have been a dearth of swarms this year. Many  hopeful newbees have put out swarm boxes, watching carefully for a swarm to move in, but it has sat empty. My normal connections with a bee swarm removal service that delivers the boxed swarms after a client call, have been dismal. Both Wendy and Sam, the contacts I work with to re-home these boxed swarms, have had no calls in weeks from the public in the South Bay. My own network with the city of Manhattan Beach and the listing with the Agriculture Department have yielded very few calls. Most of the swarms I am getting I am hiving myself rather than listing them for adoption.I have asked other beeks about their impression of swarming this year. Rob Stone with Orange County Beekeepers Club says not much swarming activity is being seen down South. Scott Davis in Palos Verdes has had half the number of swarm calls he would expect and thinks the issue is the prolonged drought.

So for the time being, the ongoing drought is affecting the forage sources of the bees such that fewer have the numbers to swarm successfully, are making less honey, and finding less pollen for raising brood.

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Brood diseases and lagging bees

by HoneyLover Susan Rudnicki

Spring is the time of year when bees go into high gear to get ready to do their instinctive reproductive act of procreation—swarming. A colony grows to fill its space, replacement queens are drawn and nurtured, and the final event is a leaving from the mother hive of about 50% of the workers and the old queen. These bees will attempt to found a new colony somewhere else and begin the cycle again. During this build up in Spring we urban beekeepers must watch carefully for the signs of swarm preparation and guide it so that a swarm is not the outcome—in the city such swarms are not appreciated by the general public living in close proximity to us.

I have now been keeping bees almost four years and am getting a better feel for the rhythm of the growth cycle in a colony. We have mild winters in Los Angeles, so the Spring brooding up period often begins in January. This means we will begin seeing drones and drone brood, new brood comb being drawn, and a general increase in the number of bees and activity of the queen.

However, early this year, two of my hives at the house were not showing these changes and I really began to notice by February. It seemed they were just staying in a holding pattern—no new comb was being drawn and, at first, this was the most noticeable issue. By the beginning of March, I was seeing sac brood, perforated cappings (small holes in the brood caps), lots of uncapped pupae in the purple eye stage, dried up “mummies” of brood in cells, and some cells of open brood with watery goop that may have been European Foul Brood.  There were also some adult bees with DWV, or deformed wing virus. The wings of the bee are twisted little stumps or thread-like and useless. The colonies had plenty of stored honey and many frames of bee bread. Together, these conditions and the different maladies of the larvae and pupae are sometimes lumped under the name “Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome”  which describes diseases vectored by the activities of the varroa mite.

Here is a website entry detailing what I was seeing—

Information compiled by Beekeeper Lonnie E. Campbell of The Loudoun Beekeepers Association.

Bee Parasitic Mite Syndrome was first named by The Beltsville Bee Lab to explain why colonies infested with both varroa mites and tracheal mites were not thriving. BPMS was first reported by European beekeepers whose colonies were already stressed by varroa mites. Colonies that are apparently very healthy and productive suddenly experience a sudden decrease in adult population often resulting in the total loss of the colony. Plenty of food stores are often present, but very spotty and unhealthy brood are observed.

I began searching my readings and books to find out what I might do to help these two formerly thriving hives (one hive is 5 mediums, the other 2 deeps and 3 mediums). I wanted to support them before their population dropped too much that they would be weakened beyond recovery. I saw on inspection March 22 that very little open brood was present and no eggs. One queen was seen (in the biggest colony) but in the other I didn’t find the queen.

Michael Bush’s book offered the best information for this situation that I could find. A brood break, or a cessation of egg laying by the queen, is one of the best responses for breaking the cycle of the pests and diseases that may afflict a hive. By denying the pathogens a food source the disease cycle is automatically broken. One way of doing this is to find and kill the queen and then introduce a new queen. Another way is to dispatch the queen and let them raise another one. By the time the new queen is laying, the brood break will have cleansed the disease cycle.

But the method I thought I would settle on was the use of a push in cage. This is a small confinement cage made out of eighth inch hardware cloth that holds the queen on the face of a frame for a period of time to prevent her laying eggs in the normal pattern. It is just a shallow 3 sided box of wire, 5 X 10 inches, pushed into the face of the wax comb. You try to place it in a zone with some honey cells, some emerging brood, and some open cells—all of these to serve the needs of the confined queen.

On March 28, after preparing two cages and getting my mind clear about what I was going to do, I opened up the first hive to start my search for the queen. I had at hand a  good tool for safely catching a queen— a “hair clip” catcher.

However, I soon saw that something better than my plan had already occurred. The frames that had lacked any eggs or open brood were now completely filled with eggs! The queens had stopped laying eggs by their own accord and interrupted the brood cycle of the diseases and varroa that had been afflicting them. I was very excited that the queens and their workers seemed to have a inborn strategy to get over their problems. My notes to Michael Bush to report this were confirmed in his answer here:

         Yes, the bees often do a brood break to resolve the issues.  Sometimes it’s done by dispatching the old queen and sometimes she just shuts down. EFB usually clears up on it’s own when whatever stress was the cause is relieved.  Usually by a flow in a dearth.

And this one:

It doesn’t always work out well, but then interfering doesn’t always work out well either.

“Our attentions may be useful to them but are oftener noxious to them; thus far goes our interference.” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

“…without the foresight, or rather the astonishing presence of mind of the bees, who always do at the proper time what needs to be done…” –Francis Huber (in a letter to Elisa)

So, there we have it. Another beek lesson learned!

Read full story · Posted in Newsletter Articles

READ: Should LA legalize urban beekeeping?

by Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich

LA is the only major city in the United States with illegal beekeeping.

City planners must remain forward-thinking. California is a huge agricultural state. To make any pollinators illegal is to limit agriculture. That decreases job availability, limits food production, and prevents access to education. These are social justice issues, and policy makers must take action to allow access to these resource for all residents. In 100 years, is it possible that we could have modern, urban farms on rooftops or underutilized properties? It is, if policy allows it so. Our population is growing, but our available land is not. We must be smart about how we plan for the future of urban living. We must legalize pollination, and honey bees are the best generalist pollinator available to humans… Furthermore, corporate real estate companies are rolling out regional and national beekeeping programs to increase their sustainability image. Beehives can even help make skyscrapers more sustainable and earn an additional LEED certification point by the Council for Green Buildings.

Will legalizing beekeeping increase the number of swarms in the city?

Beekeepers play a vitally important role in preventing disease and preventing swarming. My 2014 TEDxBoston talk (above) showed how beekeepers work with municipalities to develop programs to collect any swarms rapidly, and perhaps more importantly, open access to education about how to prevent them. When New York legalized beekeeping in 2010, there was no influx of honey bees as pests to anyone. A person walking through Times Square today would have no idea that there are multiple hives overhead at the InterContinental Hotel. Managed beehives swarm far less frequently than feral hives because beekeepers add space to the hives as they grow. Space is a trigger of swarming, as the queen bee continues to lay eggs, the population of a beehive runs out of space, and some of that population must leave to go find a new home. Beekeepers prevent swarming by using standard, safe beekeeping practices to keep bees in their hives and not in people’s chimneys, sheds, or walls. This is a non-issue in Boston, New York, Paris, and anywhere else urban beekeeping has been successfully happening for a long time.

Will supporting urban beekeeping damage our native bee population?

Many native bees pollinate in different ways than honey bees do. For example, bumble bees use sonication, or buzz pollination, whereas honey bees do not. Carpenter bees drill holes in the sides of flowers and take resources through a different mechanism. Honey bees can collect pollen left by those other mechanisms and make use of it, but honey bees do not compete with those bees because of different pollination mechanisms. There is plenty of pollen and nectar to go around and be shared by all bees. See my book (The Bee: A Natural History, published in 2014 by Princeton University Press) for more information about urban beekeeping, including about how the diversity of bee species is relatively the same between ground level and rooftop habitats. Bees live in harmony – these are non-aggressive, vegan, garden pollinators. I, too, fully support native bee conservation, as well as pollinator conservation as the larger issue. My book addresses all 20,000 or so species of bees, to prove this.

Are bees still in trouble?

The 2014 Farm Bill provides reimbursement for Beekeepers who experience greater than 17.5% loss of beehives. The national average remains between 30-40% loss of beehives each year, and this is in the post-CCD world (see my Sept. 2014 piece in the New York Times). Bees are dying from myriad diseases for which there is no cure, and data published in the most recent Science magazine and highlighted in BBC show that there are host jumps to other bee species, specifically to bumble bees as Mark Brown and colleagues showed. Bees do best in urban environments, and so we must allow bees to live in habitats where they are thriving. This is of vital importance for our future in urban living, where we will have more and more people to feed from less and less land.

Policy makers need to vote in favor of urban beekeeping and not prevent access to jobs, affordable food, healthy food (fruits and vegetables), and education.

 


The Best Bees Company is now offering our beekeeping services in and around Los Angeles. Our proceeds fund our research to improve bee health. One of our current research studies is investigating urban beekeeping, comparing honey production and hive health in cities compared to the countryside. We are currently seeking special permissions to set up observational research hives in Los Angeles to provide local data, but our multiple emails to LA policy makers have remain unanswered. For more information about getting beehives, scheduling a complementary site consultation, bee research, speaking events, or hiring local beekeepers, please contact us at INFO@BESTBEES.COM or (617) 407-8979.

Dr. Noah Wilson-Rich is the Founder & Chief Scientific Officer of The Best Bees Company, a beekeeping service and research organization based in Boston’s South End. His research is based at the Urban Beekeeping Lab & Bee Sanctuary, where he and his team develops experimental treatments for improving the health of honey bees. In 2012, Dr. Wilson-Rich gave a Ted talk about urban beekeeping. His first book. “The Bee: A Natural History” will be published in 2014 by Princeton University Press (US) and Ivy Press Ltd. (UK).

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove Interviews, Newsletter Articles, Yay Bees

Bee Informed Partnership Hive Scale Project

Susan BIP Scale
via HoneyLover Susan RudnickiHave you ever wondered how our local, LA Urban beekeeping differ from other areas of the country? I just read the other day that beekeepers in Wales expect about 25 pounds of honey per year on their hives—33 pounds is a bumper crop!   This does not seem like much. Our bees are active year ’round, making brood, honey and drones. This growth is very different from temperate climate bees and, as well, we are using Africanized hybrid ferals—a relatively rare population to survey. We now have a opportunity to participate in amassing data on our specific niche by the generosity of HoneyLove who purchased the SolutionBee Hive scale for me to monitor a hive in my backyard garden.

The project is managed by BIP (the Bee Informed Partnership)  and the hive data is automatically sent to their website as well as the SolutionBee team, the manufacturers of the hive scale (purchased from Brushy Mountain). The colony I selected came from a large swarm hived on April 27, 2014 which has proven to be super productive and nicely behaved. They now occupy 3 deep boxes and 2 mediums after seven months and have produced 60 pounds of honey.  I have also raided their brood nest for frames of brood for weak nuc hives. They are VERY strong bees and a pleasure to work.

The goal of the project is summarized below, as taken from the initial offering to participate sent out by BIP. I am having great fun with this, watching my bee’s growth graph going ever upward in weight gain. For the first time I am also having to learn how to use a cell phone—my son’s iphone—as the data recording and uploading device. Arghh!  —this is not my strong suit.

The Bee Informed Partnership is dedicated to helping beekeepers make informed data-based management decisions. Monitoring weight changes in colonies has huge potential to help us understand disease and parasite population growth, as well as the timing of management practices. We are seeking some innovative beekeepers who are willing to help us develop and beta test the hive scale tools’ ability to develop a system that will provide the best regionally specific management practices based on real time data. We are collaborating with NASA’s Honeybee Net, under the direction of Wayne Esaias, to test this exciting effort.

Why hive scales?

Hive scales weigh individual colonies at regular intervals, keeping track of strong nectar flows, swarming, and other conditions that affect management decisions.  Beekeepers may respond to rises in weight by putting supers on, inspecting colonies for swarm cells, and extracting full honey supers. Conversely, weight loss may indicate a need to feed colonies, robbing or indicate the colony has swarmed and is at increased risk of becoming queenless.

With new digital hive scales, beekeepers can track the weight of colonies without having to do a hive inspection. The scale we are using for our beta testing will utilizing Bluetooth with an Android device (e.g., Android phone or tablet), and a visit to the apiary is required to read the data. The data can be viewed on the device or be uploaded via cellular or WIFI communication. However, in the future these same scales when used with a data collector will allow for data to be automatically uploaded via cell phones or cell phone service data plans that allow for remote monitoring.

Armed with data from hive scales and other disease monitoring efforts, the Bee Informed Partnership hopes to make predictive models of honey flows and disease population growth. These models will help us develop an “alert system” that will make management recommendations based on real-time and regionally specific data.

As to my particular case,  I don’t expect the disease/pest monitoring aspect will be so relevant to my bee population. The varroa mite has not been a great destroyer of my bees in the past and they seem to manage the pest well on their own. When Spring comes, it will be interesting to observe the growth of the brood nest and respond with management techniques to overcome swarming tendencies.   One thing is sure—that time will be sooner than any other part of the country.

Read full story · Posted in HoneyLove HQ, Newsletter Articles