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Posts posted by Otto

  1. i think every beekeeper has ants under the lid, sticky

    it would probably make more sense if you post a photo of the ants you're looking for and we tell you if we got those.

    the common ant we see is about 2=3 mm long, bitch black and lifts up their bum very high when you disturb them

    - and yes, runs around with their eggs.

    Pretty sure the ones commonly found under lids are a Technomyrmex species. In Warwick Don's "Ants of New Zealand" book (2007) they were regarded as Technomyrmex albipes (the white footed ant) but this wasn't the correct species. I see on AntWeb that we have a T. jocosus, maybe it's this one. Some specimen photos can be seen at Species: Technomyrmex jocosus - AntWeb.


    Pictures of the Argentine ant (Linepithema humile) can be found on the same site at Species: Linepithema humile - AntWeb


    Down here I have never seen an ant in a beehive:)

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  2. I would send you some, but I don't have a queen cage, and my bees are all self-bred (all my queens are at least 2-3 generations away from a bred queen), so I don't know if thats what you want anyway.

    Do the drones need to be alive when you get them?

    Could I just stick them in a small tin and post them?

    Any container is fine. I only suggest a queen cage because it is something many beekeepers have lying around. Thanks:)

    • Like 1
  3. RFU stands for relative fluorescent units.

    DNA is made up of two strands bound to each other through four bases (A's bind to T's and C's bind to G's). The binding of the two strands comes apart as DNA is heated. The way a piece of DNA melts is dependent on it's sequence, the combination of A's, C's, G's and T's that make it up, and their order. With this method we take our amplified DNA and very slowly heat it up and as we do so measure the amount of unmelted DNA left using a fluorescent dye. The higher this number the more double-stranded DNA there is.

    • Like 2
  4. Some more information for anyone who's interested.

    We are looking at the genetic variation (ie DNA differences) in the gene responsible for sex determination. Many of you will know that fertilised eggs result in a female bee while unfertilised eggs result in drone bees. The way this works is through the action of a gene known as csd (for Complementary Sex Determiner). This is a gene for which over 100 different sequences have been identified in Apis mellifera so far (each allele is a different version of the csd gene). When a bee develops with two different alleles of this gene it becomes a female (queen or worker) while a single copy results in a drone.

    There are two main objectives for this initial part of our research.

    1) Identifying the alleles of csd that are present in queen being used for queen breeding in New Zealand. This tells us the number of different sequences actively being propagated by beekeepers (the more sequences, the better gene pool depth).

    2) Identifying the different alleles present in New Zealand bees as a whole to give us a measure of the genetic variation present in New Zealand bees (that can potentially be compared to the variation present in other parts of the world).

    The assay we are using to run this test uses DNA purified from drones. The most variable part of the csd gene is amplified out using a PCR test. This is simply a way to get many millions of copies of the specific part of the csd gene we are interested in so that we can analyse the sequence of it and see how it varies from other alleles.

    There are several ways of analysing the sequence of a given allele. We can sequence it which gives us exact information for that allele. This is ideal but is prohibitively expensive to do on a larger scale. Instead we analyse the sequence with a technique called High Resolution Melting (HRM). Different sequences will melt differently and give a different fluorescent trace. The same method was used to differentiate bad Psa-V in kiwifruit from a benign Psa species also detected.

    The pictures below show some DNA fluorescent traces from some of the assays I have done on some New Zealand drone samples. The first one are the melt curves from 9 drones samples from one of Alastairs breeder queens. A queen has two alleles and her progeny drones will have either one of these two. In this test 5 drones had one distinct melt curve while the other 4 had a different one. The second picture show the results from the drones collected from the hive containing Alastairs second breeder queen. Here the results show 4 drones with one melt curve, 3 drones with a second curve and 1 each with different melt curves. This suggests that 7 drones were the progeny from the queen in this hive while the other 2 were drones that originated in different hives. The last picture show the curves obtained from 12 drones collected as a 'random' sample from an apiary. Two drones were collected from 6 different hives in one apiary. Here there are seven different curves (meaning seven different alleles).

    All up, the more samples we receive from beekeepers around the country the more useful the information from this study will be for the beekeeping industry. So keep the samples coming please!




  5. Why do you say this Stephen?


    A pollen analysis should give a very good indication of what the honey source is.

    Not necessarily. Some plants produce lots of pollen and a little nectar while others produce lots of nectar but only a little pollen. My understanding was that if bees collect from both, the pollen count can get skewed towards the plants that produce the most pollen rather than those that produce the most nectar.

  6. Very cool paper just out in Science.


    First author is Lucas Garibaldi. Lots of authors so haven't listed them all here.



    Diversity and abundance of wild-insect pollinators have declined in many agricultural landscapes. Whether such declines reduce crop yields, or are mitigated by managed pollinators such as honey bees, is unclear. Here we show universally positive associations of fruit set with wild-insect visits to flowers in 41 crop systems worldwide, and thus clearly demonstrate their agricultural value. In contrast, fruit set increased significantly with visitation by honey bees in only 14% of the systems surveyed. Overall, wild insects pollinated crops more effectively, because increase in their visitation enhanced fruit set by twice as much as an equivalent increase in honey bee visitation. Further, visitation by wild insects and honey bees promoted fruit set independently, so high abundance of managed honey bees supplemented, rather than substituted for, pollination by wild insects. Our results suggest that new practices for integrated management of both honey bees and diverse wild-insect assemblages will enhance global crop yields.

    • Like 1
  7. It depends on what you mean by 'harmed'. If you mean anything but getting euthanased and blended into bee soup before purifying DNA . . .then no, the drones won't be harmed.


    Otto has developed a great assay for this work - no screes of excel data but easy to observe 'is this bee the same of different' by following a DNA trace (in colour even for no extra cost!). If two traces the same = bees the same. If trace different . . .you get the picture. Talking of which - how about posting one Otto??

    Good idea. Will have to be Wednesday as I'm away from work tomorrow. I'll use the results from the drones you provided.

  8. end benefit = enormous. one of the most worthwhile SFF projects I've seen.


    Right now we have no real idea about the genetic variability or viability of our populations. As we move more towards selected breeding programmes to try and combat varroa and such we need to know that what we have out there and that we can maintain enough genetic variability that we don't breed ourselves into a corner of overly homogenous bees.

    Or for that matter, that we know how much genetic material we have explored to find solutions before we go reaching for other solutions (eg, imports).


    Otto, I'm small commercial = 75 hives currently. Only do queens for a proportion of my own hives, but happy to get you a sample next weekend if you're interested.

    Yes please Dee. Don't have any from Hawke's Bay as yet. Are you happy to collect a random sample or two (2-3 drones from around 10 hives in an apiary)? If you have any breeder queens a sample of 8 or so drones from this hive would be great too.

  9. Hi Otto, if we send in samples; do we get to know what the results were, not that it would mean much to us

    Absolutely. It won't mean much by itself no but a little further down the track we'll produce a map of what we've found where. If we get enough samples from beekeepers around New Zealand it should be a useful database for those wanting to add some new genetics to their breeding operation.

  10. I've had a mysterious die off at the 4 hives at my house. Over the last month or so they have mysteriously lost around 2/3rds of their bees. One also lost the queen, and another the queen (marked), was there but stopped laying for just over 3 weeks.

    Few dead bees around the hives, they must have been dieing somewhere else.

    These hives have varroa but no more so than my other hives. They were recently lab tested and do not have N Cerana.


    Hives were here this time last year and there was no such event.

    How many other beekeepers do you have close to your house (close enough to be covering at least some the same foraging range) and how well do you know the beekeepers? Any chance you can get in touch with some of them and see if they are affected also? Might give you an indication of how big the area being affected is.

  11. The comb from the honey frames will be either worker comb or drone comb. Depends on if you used foundation or let them draw the comb themselves. If they drew it out themselves there could certainly be quite a lot cells too large for workers. You should be able to tell by comparing to an existing brood frame. If it is all/predominantly larger drone-sized comb I'd choose some different frames.

  12. My reading of the literature concerning bee viruses is not very complete. I would (cautiously) agree that the focus at the moment should mostly be on Varroa though. Were any of these viruses were ever really a problem until Varroa came along and started injecting them directly into the hemolymph of bees?


    My current understanding is that keeping varroa levels low should keep virus problems in check. I would argue that virus symptoms (e.g. deformed wing) are a useful indicator that you have too many mites in your hive. John, the paper you mention regarding increased DWV load leading to higher winter losses - how were the mite levels in these hives? Might be wrong but I would be surprised if DWV levels and mite levels were not quite closely linked and that the actual reason they saw higher winter mortality was that these hives had more mites.

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  13. I've done a little comb honey this season. I just used empty frames (no wires, no foundation). I picked my strongest hives that were collecting the most honey and hung the empty frames between frames already mostly full of honey. Was a little nervous initially about whether they would draw it out nicely but they did. I would recommend filling the groove of the top bar with wax (much like people do for top bars in TBH). Got some pretty nice comb honey too. It's very easy to cut up with a kitchen knife.



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  14. I agree with Dave. If you're unsure about that your monitoring method is working properly try another and see if you get the same results.

    I've been playing with a few different methods for monitoring to see what works best for me. Sugar shakes seem very simple and are giving me sensible results that correlate with natural mite fall numbers. I've also tried an accelerated mite drop by dusting the bottom brood box with icing sugar (use about a cup and sprinkle over the seams between frames). Apparently after around 15 minutes you should have a mite fall number similar to what you would see on a sugar shake. This works pretty well also but does mean you end up waiting around a bit.

    I still need to have a go at doing all three methods on a few hives to see how well they correlate. Hoping to fit that in week after next.

    • Like 4
  15. The tutu is there, they just don't have the passion vine hopper problem.

    This is the important point that needs to be reiterated. Seems from a quick read over this conversation that people here are perhaps not fully aware of how tutin gets into honey. Tutin is not actually present in nectar from Tutu plants. It gets into honey when bees start collecting the honeydew from passion vine hoppers feeding on the plants.

    I have a book, called a field guide to the native edible plants of New Zealand, it tells of accounts of people drinking the juice and eating the jelly.

    But people have tried to eat it before and stuffed it up and died.

    I think if you touch it then eat you probably do get sick, or dizzy.

    I've always stayed well away from it, my dad taught me what it was when I was very young and I've remembered ever since.

    There is a lot of it around here.

    The berries are also toxic. From the plant conservation network page

    Coriaria arborea var. arborea | New Zealand Plant Conservation Network

    All parts of all Coriaria species are poisonous except the succulent black, soft fleshy petals surrounding the seeds are poisonous (the seeds themselves are also poisonous). Poisoning is usually through eating the seeds, berries or poisonous honey.

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  16. Thanks for the advice. Much appreciated.


    I think getting a refractometer does sound the way to go. That way we can work out what is okay to take off without guessing.



    Best to buy a refractometer set up for honey they read off in % of water. the one I have has a adjustment for temperature. It was not much about $120.00 a few years ago.


    $120 might be a small expense if you're running a commercial honey house yes. If you have one or two hives it is a decent chunk of money.

    • Like 1
  17. Is there a way to encourage bees to finish capping honey frames?


    We have had a mix of decent weather and a good honey flow going here and the bees are filling everything up with honey. Many hives have full boxes of honey sitting on them but seem in no hurry to seal things up.


    Would be interested to hear if there are ways to speed this process up a little.


    Maybe my bees know I'll take it away when it's properly capped...

  18. Would also echo that it's not worth the risk. If in doubt - test.

    I very much doubt we are having tutin problems here just yet.

    Local, experienced beekeepers are going to be your best source of information as to whether your honey is likely to be okay. They have experience from many previous harvests and know when problems are likely to arise. They cannot afford to take their honey off too late so using them as a guide for when to take yours off makes sense to me.

  19. Otto as an academic it surprises me you ask TVNZ to try harder, they are but a median for the promotion of "ones" agenda the man involved leases hives to silly Aucklander's who wish to be a part of a trend, and thus has just scored and inordinate amount of free advertising, we lost true journalism in our news rooms long ago.

    Couldn't agree more. It still disappoints me though - especially when they make basic factual errors due to sloppiness or laziness.

    • Like 3
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