Thursday, April 30, 2015

Weather Looks Great for Honeybees/Pollen/Entrance Reducing

Our bees have more pollen right now than they can possibly gather! I am not feeding pollen patties to my bees at this time. What's most important is giving them sugar water until the nectar arrives. They have to have flowers to forage for nectar. The first sign of this is dandelions. As soon as I see dandelions, I pull my feeders replacing them with frames. Another way we can help our bees at this time is by pulling the entrance reducers during the day and replacing them on the smallest entrance before it gets under 40* in the evening.

Interior Alaska Extended Weather Forecast

Inbreeding Avoidance in Honeybees

How Does a Honey Bee Queen Avoid

Inbreeding in Her Colony?


Matthew Webster and Andreas Wallberg at Uppsala University, have studied
recombination in honeybees.
 Credit: Petra Korall

Recombination, or crossing-over, occurs when sperm and egg cells are formed and segments of each chromosome pair are interchanged. This process plays an crucial role in the maintanance of genetic variation. Matthew Webster and Andreas Wallberg at the Biomedical Centre, Uppsala University, have studied recombination in honey bees. The extreme recombination rates found in this species seem to be crucial for their survival.

Like other social insects, honey bees live in colonies consisting mainly of closely related members of the worker caste. High genetic diversity among the workers is important for the whole colony's survival. There are several theories as to why: for example, a genetically variable workforce may be best equipped to perform the diverse tasks required in the colony, and diverse colonies may also be less susceptible to disease. But how can the queen, the colony's only fertile female, prevent inbreeding and maintain genetic variation?

The queen bee solves the problem in two ways. One is through polyandry. She mates with a score of drones and uses their sperm to fertilize the eggs randomly so that workers often have different fathers. The second is through extremely high rates of recombination.

By sequencing the entire genome of 30 African honey bees, the research team has been able to study recombination at a level of detail not previously possible. The frequency of recombination in the honey bee is higher than measured in any other animal and is more than 20 x higher than in humans.

Recombination affects how efficiently natural selection can promote favorable genetic variants. In line with this, the researchers have found that genes involved in the new adaptations to the environment in honey bees also undergo more recombination. But recombination is not entirely risk free.

"Recombination is not only beneficial for bees. When parts of chromosomes broken and exchanged, errors can sometimes occur during their repair due to a process called "GC-biased gene conversion", says Matthew Webster.

This process leads to gradual fixation of mutations that may be harmful to the honeybee. Although a similar process occurs in humans, it is more than ten times stronger in honeybees. Over time, recombination is expected to lead to a deterioration of the gene pool, a process that seems to have accelerated in bees. The extreme recombination rates - crucial for maintaining genetically diverse honey bee colonies - come with a high price.

"There are no free lunches. Not even for a honey bee", says Matthew Webster.

American Bee Journal Beekeeping Classes Calendar

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Looking for Queen Cells & Removing them.

Below are photos of various queen cells. As long as I find my queen, her pattern is full, 
and/or I find evidence of her laying eggs in the past day or two, I use my hive tool to scrape out the queen cells. This will keep my colony from swarming.

This is what a healthy brood pattern looks like!

A healthy brood pattern has queen evidence in nearly every cell. 

This is an amazing queen pattern, an excellent example of the pupa stage. The huge oval in the middle shows that this queen is doing her job!
There is a "rainbow" of pollen above the pupa pattern and honey in the corners and around the edges of this frame. The honey acts as insulation and protects the unborn bees from other animals.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Check your sugar syrup!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Hi Folks, I went out to grab an extra queen for someone and discovered my sugar feeders are completely empty after only three days. I am re-filling my sugar feeders sooner than ever before so that my bees have plenty amino acids, etc. to get them through until local nectar arrives.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Feeding Honeybees in the Spring

I try not to let my sugar H2O run out, especially if I hived my bees on bare foundation. I mix up a fresh batch of sugar water every 4 days and just lift the lid off of each hive to fill the sugar feeder (in the afternoon when temperature = 50* or higher) I will check for queen activity this weekend (4/24/15 - 4/26/15). At that time I will be holding frames up to peer into the back of wax cells to hopefully find eggs that look like small grains of rice or larva. These are both sensitive to sunlight so don't leave them out of the hive for too long. Just take a peek and place them right back inside the hive. Keep feeding sugar water for a several weeks.

Friday, April 17, 2015

2015 Beekeeper's Calendar

2015 Beekeeper’s Calendar
For Alaska’s Interior
By Dawn Cogan of Science-Based Art of Alaska, LLC

This is my tentative schedule for beekeeping in Interior Alaska for 2015.  These dates and activities are subject to change depending on the weather and unforeseen circumstances.  Regardless, I will be posting weekly updates on my blog: 

The bees will treat the excluder as a “ceiling” and will rarely if ever draw-out the honeycomb. 
Add queen excluder(s) three weeks prior to extraction so all the brood will hatch out before harvesting and extracting.

April 18th: Honeybees arrive at 605 Betty Street (next to Monroe Catholic School on the gym side of the school).
April 24th - 26th: 1st Queen check (50* or warmer) Looking for eggs & larva (Do not look for queen because it is probably too cold) If you find no eggs, check again in three days. Do not let sugar water run out! Keep filling feeder(s).
May 8th - 10th : Perform a complete hive check. You should see brood in all stages (eggs, larva, and pupa) If you still do not find eggs, either call an experienced beekeeper or if you are absolutely positive there are no eggs or larva present, purchase a new queen and slowly release her (using a marshmallow like the original hiving).  If you find cells with several eggs on the cell wall – dump your colony & kill your bees.  If you find several eggs at the bottom of cells, it is o.k.
May 20th – 23rd: Perform a complete hive check. You should have several frames of brood (eggs, larva & pupa) and few cells should be empty.  If the brood pattern is “spotty”, or you find many empty cells, something is wrong!  You should either re-queen or unite your colony with another colony - (After killing the “spotty” queen).  Your bees are not getting enough food if they have no stored sugar water or no pollen in cells.  One good indication of this is if your bees are running over the frames, “shaking.”  If this is the case, feed them sugar water as well as frames with stored honey.  If you find eggs and emerging adult bees (being born) but no larva, then your hive is suffering from a lack of pollen stores.  In this case, give your bees a pollen patty (room temperature).  We may need to remove sugar feeders.  Make sure to keep any grasses, etc. cut short in front of hive entrance.
June 2nd – 4th: Perform a complete hive check. – Look for sugar water and pollen stores.  Look for all stages of brood.  Remove sugar water feeders as long as local plants are blooming and sugar stores are well-stored! Swarm prevention time!! – If you know your queen is healthy & laying from the evidence of eggs, larva and pupa, kill any “swarm cells/queen cells.”  If your queen is “honeybound” (has very little empty cells to lay in) then you need to reverse your hive bodies and add a super.  Depending on the weather, you may need to turn or take your entrance reducer out completely by now.  Make sure to keep any grasses, etc. cut short in front of hive entrance.

*Remember: Queen cells are usually on the sides and bottom of frames – take your time, move slowly as you check for queen cells.  Sometimes it’s easy to miss them!  If you miss one, your hive is in danger of swarming!! Keep removing queen cells every 10-12 days.  Demaree handout is a good tool at this time. 

June 14th – 16th: Perform a regular hive check.  Make sure to keep any grasses, etc. cut short in front of hive entrance.
June 26th – June 28th: Perform a regular hive check.   Keep entrance free of weeds and grass!
July 8th – 10th: Perform a regular hive check.  Add supers Keep entrance free of weeds and grass!
July 20th – 22nd: Perform a regular hive check.   You could add your excluder now if you plan on harvesting and extracting honey on or after August 15th. Keep entrance free of weeds and grass!
August 1st - August 3rd: Perform a regular hive check. Keep entrance free of weeds and grass! Add supers Keep entrance free of weeds and grass! Cage queens on hive(s) not being wintered-over! Make sure the cork is well secured and hang the queen between two frames.  (Make sure queen can be fed through the screen of the little queen box).  
August 13th - August 15th: Perform regular hive check. Keep entrance free of weeds and grass!
August 23rd  – September 1st: Extract honey and give “sticky” frames back to bees. 
September – To the end: Give bees sugar water so they will draw out any bare foundation frames.
September (a few days to 1 week after giving bees sticky frames):  In early morning or later afternoon (cool temps 35*-40*), Shop-vacuum bees and dump in compost.

Finally- Store your equipment by putting your queen excluder on top of your bottom board to discourage mice from entering and eating any left-over honey, pollen stores, or destroying next season’s wax!!  Cover up any holes in the hive with fine, mesh screen (staple).  Leave your hive outside on foundation bricks or some sort of elevated surface to discourage spring water damage.  Ratchet-strap hive together from top to bottom.  


A new beekeeping season is upon us. Those of us who have ordered bees from Steve Victors of Alaska Wildflower Honey are scheduled to pick up our bees tomorrow, Saturday, April 18th around 5P.M. at 605 Betty Street.

Things I do before the bees arrive tomorrow:

Store my equipment indoors
Prepare sugar water (1:1 ratio)
Prepare hive location
Have a chemical-free spray bottle filled with sugar water ready
Have a pollen patty ready

I will have free mini-marshmallows available.
Pollen patties will also be available for sale tomorrow.

The 2015 Beekeepers calendar  will be posted this evening.