If you’re a gardener (aren’t all beekeepers?) you’ll know a little about what biologists call the ‘stress induced flowering response’. As a lad some forty-something years ago I think I knew that, even if scientists have just got around to studying it in the last decade. You know, stop watering whatever it is, or provide a bit of a temperature shock, and it’ll burst into flower. We already knew that right? We suppose plants can survive as a species if they flower and produce seeds, producing the
It’s a complicated thing. There are plants that do not require pollination of any kind to produce fruit and seeds. There are some that require the stimulus of pollination, but not actual fertilisation, to fruit. Where pollination is required a plant may use pollen that it has produced (in the same or a different flower), or may have to use pollen from another, distant, plant of the same species. Unfortunately too, there are plants that have a bet each way, both ‘cross-pollinating’ and ‘self-poll
It’s hard to find a paper or article these days that doesn’t begin with a reference to “Declines in the number of global pollinator insects” or some other form of the bee or insect ‘apocalypse’ sentiment and the potential economic or ecological damage to be wrought. While one reaction to this is to prevent or mitigate the circumstances that cause it, finding alternatives to natural biotic pollination is another one to consider. At times there are clear reasons why forms of ‘artificial’ pollinati
Everyone knows honeybee females (queens) mate at the beginning of their adult life and are then unable to mate again. A queen mates with many males (drones), often on a single occasion but sometimes after multiple flights in successive days. The mating is very quick, not more than 5 seconds and perhaps no more than one or two seconds, after which the male is paralysed and dies.
Competition between males in a mating congregation occurs, mostly as a result of size and power, and some s
A honey bee nest and its enclosure provides a rich and stable range of ecosystems where we might expect an abundance of microbe populations to thrive, constantly replenished through its interface with the phyllosphere that surrounds it. We know a great deal about the harmful micro-organisms that cause disease; foulbrood bacteria, chalkbrood and nosema, even virus infections, but very little about beneficial micro-organisms that maintain health. Despite a contemporary obsession with prophylactic
Physics provides a lens that focuses on our honeybee colonies in interesting new ways and a recent paper from Derek Mitchell at Leeds University’s School of Mechanical Engineering does just that. The mathematics is a bit challenging if you’re anything like me, but it’s possible to get through that, and he also has some worthwhile observations we can apply to polystyrene hives. Mitchell’s current interest (Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD); his thesis was about differences in heat transfer betw
2. Venom Biochemistry
3. Minimising the dose
4. Treating the sting
5. Topical treatments
6. Systemic, toxic, and anaphylactic responses
7. Ocular stings
9. Caring for others
New Zealand is fortunate to have very few stinging insects. These are members of the hymenopt
Social insects like honeybee living in close proximity have a higher risk of spreading diseases and poisons among nestmates, so we would expect to find mechanisms that mitigate this. One of these systems is an innate immune system that provides an antimicrobial film on their exoskeleton, a hostile gut environment, a peritrophic membrane and gut epithelium, and effective cellular and humoral defences. These secrete antimicrobial chemicals, engulf or entomb foreign materials, and provide enzymes t
Not totally bulging at the seams but definitely growing. This is the 2 frame nuc that I have been feeding protein substitutes and sugar syrup all winter. They finally graduated to a second brood box today. By the End of October I think they will be ready to split and add a mated queen to The queenless half. Bam! doubled a hive count instantly and plenty of time to build up for the summer honey flow.
The drawn empty frame I checkerboarded a week or so back has now been populated with eggs and newly hatched larvae, honey and pollen stored as well. There is lots of natural pollen coming in now and the bees have mostly left the pollen patties alone.
As the colony grows there are a couple of older brood frames that will be cycled out to make way for new frames.
For most of us viruses are confusing. Many people are unable to distinguish between viruses and bacteria and expect them to be much the same kind of thing, which they are not. Viruses don’t fit easily in to the various categories of living things we are used to dealing with, and actually whether they even are living organisms is arguable, and how they came to be still more controversial. Which is why there is never a clear answer about how we might kill a harmful virus.
Viruses are n
Inspection of the nucleus colony today was pivotal in the development of this colony. The queen had all but run out of space to lay. 5 frames had about 80% coverage by attached bees and more out foraging.
Rather than potentially stalling the egg laying through having no empty cells To lay in I made the decision to transfer the colony to a 10 frame box.
Whilst transfering I placed an empty drawn frame 2 frames in from the internal feeder with the thought of providing a new brood frame
Colony is still expanding. Brood area is increasing significantly. Still shot gun pattern although every cell has either a pupae, larvae or egg in it. Some dodgy cappings but all inspection of larvae, pupae come up negative for AFB.
If the laying pattern doesn’t improve by October this queen will be culled and replaced with a new season queen. Which is a shame as the current queen is an April 2018 mated queen.
Getting colonies sorted today for a sale I made, so while in the back yard I checked on the nucleus colonies I have been building up over the past few months.
Nucleus 1 is now covering 4 frames and has 2 frames with brood on both sides, a total coverage of about 1.5 FD frames.
This is excellent and the colony is heading in the right direction. By the end of August I reckon I will be moving them over to a 10 frame box.
Nucleus 2 has done extremely well and toda
Overcast afternoon. Venturing out to the back yard recovering from a migraine.
Over the past month or so I have been feeding a couple of nucleus colonies 1:1 syrup with seaweed extract added. Also 1/3 of a Megabee premade patty.
Nucleus 1 has continued to increase the brood area and there is a continuous emerging of new Bees now, and in turn the population is noticeably getting larger to care for the corresponding increase in brood. I added 1 Apivar strip after adding some bees from a
The promiscuity of honey bee queens generates lots of interesting questions about social insect society, many of which relate to the many different ‘sub-families’ that co-exist within a colony. For example, do individuals within a colony overcome their self-interest to rear the ‘best’ replacement queen in an emergency or do they try to pick their closest relative? Just how far does social co-operation extend? Emerging recent research is starting to suggest that, apart from picking well-fed larv
Nucs are going OK with 1-1 1/2 frames of brood and some older brood starting to emerge.
Today I topped up syrup and added another 1/2 of a MegaBee pattie.
Brood area is increasing in all the hives. Nuc #1 has some dodgy looking capping so I have inspected those and a few more cells. All is OK so far but I will remain alert the this in future inspections.
OK so a quick look in the nucs today. Overcast grey skies but relatively warm so lots of bees were out flying and good amounts of pollen on the returning bees. Colours ranged from vivid orange, yellow and a small amount of white.
Todays task was to add about 500ml - 1 litre of 1:1 syrup to each nuc feeder and have a look to see if brood rearing has increased.
Both nucs are chomping through the Megabee pattie and all the syrup add last week has on the whole been consumed w
It’s 8.58pm and I am sitting by the fire. To date I have added a pollen patty to all of the 5 frame nucs and fed them copious amounts of syrup to get at least 3 frames of feed in the boxes. So far this has worked. There are a few 3 frame nucs that are house in 3 way boxes. They, apart from only 3 frames of bees are looking happy and the combined warmth from sharing a common hive body seems to be helping them. Each of these 3 way nucs has a 500ml container sitting above on the hive mat. This feed
I have been experimenting with moisture removal over the last few years and we now have the ability to build machines to remove water at 4 litres p/hr from honey at 35 degrees. If you have fermentation issues or concerns I have been investigating this issue a lot but there is still lots to learn. Always keen to share and learn from others.