Cheers to a Healthy 2017 with the Healthy Colony Checklist!
By Dick Rogers, Bayer Bee Care Center, Research Triangle Park, NC
As the clock struck midnight ushering in 2017, many of us resolved to get organized and learn new hobbies, among other new year’s resolutions. I’d venture to say that topping many of our lists was the goal to get healthy, and we at the Bayer Bee Care Center have renewed our resolve to ensure improvements in honey bee health in 2017 and beyond, as well.
Frequent monitoring is essential to ensuring honey bee colony health, as colony health can change dramatically over a short period of time due to Varroa destructor, Acarapis woodi, Aethina tumida, numerous viruses and a variety of other stressors. There are many ways to inspect honey bee colonies, ranging from infrequent casual entrance examinations, to opening hives for detailed, in-depth looks on a regular schedule. There are also many tools to record and process inspection observations. All of these variables can lead to complicated and inconsistent monitoring and management of honey bee health.
The Healthy Colony Checklist, which I presented at the American Bee Research Conference during the North American Beekeeping Conference in Galveston, Texas, January 12, 2017, is a practical system to quickly assess, record, understand and plan management of honey bee colony health. Comprised of the below six assessable conditions, the Healthy Colony Checklist simplifies the monitoring process to avoid common pitfalls when inspecting hives, such as collecting too little information, recording misleading or inaccurate information, gathering too much data, or not measuring quantitative and qualitative results consistently. According to the Healthy Colony Checklist, a hive can be considered healthy if:
There are all stages of brood and instars (i.e. eggs 1-3, larvae 1-6, pupae 1-11)
There are sufficient adult bees and age structure to care for the brood and perform all tasks of the colony
There is a young (less than 1 year old), productive, laying queen present
Sufficient nutritious forage, water, and food stores are available either inside and/or outside the hive
There are not any apparent stressors present that would lead to reduced colony survival or performance or impede normal colony development
There is suitable space (not too much or too little) for current colony size and short-term expected changes in colony size as well as room for egg laying; the space is sanitary and defendable
We recommend monitoring colonies weekly to better understand the current health status of a colony, predict future colony health and determine management needed over the short-term to correct deficient colony health conditions. We hope the Healthy Colony Checklist is a helpful tool in making more frequent colony assessments easier and better management of honey bee colony health achievable in 2017 and beyond.
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