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3.6: The Beekeeper's Year - Biology


3.6: The Beekeeper's Year

US Beekeepers Report Abnormally High Summer Losses After Lower Winter Losses

Beekeepers across the United States lost 43.7% of their managed honey bee colonies from April 2019 to April 2020, according to preliminary results of the 14th annual nationwide survey conducted by the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership (BIP). These losses mark the second highest loss rate the survey has recorded since it began in 2006 (4.7 percentage points higher than the average annual loss rate of 39.0%). The survey results highlight the cyclical nature of honey bee colony turnover. Although the high loss rate was driven by the highest summer losses ever reported by the survey, winter losses were markedly lower than in most years. As researchers learn more about what drives these cycles of loss, this year emphasizes the importance of the summer for beekeeper losses.

This past year, winter losses were reported at 22.2%, which is 15.5 percentage points lower than last year and 6.4 points lower than the survey average. However, high summer losses were reported at 32.0%, which is 12.0 percentage points higher than last year and 10.4 points higher than the survey average.

“This year, summer loss was actually the highest we’ve ever recorded, even higher than winter losses, which is only the second time we’ve seen that, and it’s mostly commercial beekeepers that are driving that loss number, which is unusual,” says Nathalie Steinhauer, BIP’s science coordinator and a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Maryland Department of Entomology. “So that makes this year different and interesting to us, because we want to know what is driving their losses up in comparison to previous years.”

Commercial beekeepers typically have lower losses than backyard and smaller operations. Commercial honey bees pollinate $15 billion worth of food crops in the United States each year, so their health is critical to food production and supply.

“When BIP started doing this survey, winter loss was the main focus because that period of the year was thought to be the most challenging for beekeepers and their colonies, especially in temperate climates,” says Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University and co-author of the survey. “Adding summer loss into the survey in 2010/11 was quite revealing. For the first time, we had the numbers to show that loss occurs throughout the year, and that summers are not insignificant for beekeeper losses.”

Since beekeepers began noticing dramatic losses in their colonies in the early 2000s, state and federal agricultural agencies, university researchers, and the beekeeping industry have been working together to understand the cause and develop best management practices to reduce losses. The BIP annual colony loss survey, which has been conducted since 2006, has been an integral part of that effort.

The survey asks beekeeping operations of all sizes to track the survival or turnover rates of their honey bee colonies. This year, 3,377 beekeepers managing 276,832 colonies all across the country responded to the survey, representing about 10.4% of the nation’s estimated 2.67 million managed colonies.

According to Dan Aurell, BIP field specialist based at Texas A&M University, the factors that go into summer and winter losses are quite different, as are the consequences for commercial beekeepers, who seem to have struggled the most this past year based on the survey results. The health of the queens that head production colonies is a major factor in summer losses. In addition, beekeepers split their colonies after winter to strengthen them as a best management practice, and the health of those colonies at that time is critical to their longevity.

“Factors that often contribute to summer loss tend to be if your splits are in poor condition or don’t have the right resources, and queen failure,” says Aurell. On the other hand, winter loss is closely related to fall management practices, Aurell explains, such as whether your colonies have good conditions during the summer to build up to a robust fall population, and if the fall varroa mite loads were high.

“I’ve heard beekeepers say that the California queen raising season in 2019 was the worst in 30 years,” Aurell adds about one of the major queen-raising markets in the United States. According to Aurell and his colleagues at Michigan State University, UC Davis, and Oregon State University who all work with commercial beekeepers, this could have been a contributing factor.

“Commercial beekeepers pretty consistently have lower losses than backyard beekeepers–you don’t get to a level where you are managing more than 500 colonies, and often a lot more than that, without learning good management strategies,” says Aurell. “But high losses for commercial beekeepers can be really costly. It may be that 400 colonies cost upwards of $80K to replace. And even if the rest of your bees are healthy and strong after a big loss, it is a lot of labor to split those and restore balance in your operation. If you’ve had a big loss, it’s often the case that your surviving colonies are also in poor condition.”

Many of the summer losses this year could represent carry-over from a particularly poor winter last year, where BIP reported the highest winter losses it had ever recorded at 37.7%. Higher levels of the parasitic varroa mite reported that winter may have weakened colonies going into the spring of 2019. Additionally, weather conditions may have promoted brood diseases, affected the availability of mated queens when they were needed, or contributed to a lack of food for honey bees at key times throughout the year, such as during the almond blooms.

“While these explanations are entirely based on what we have been seeing and not on data, our conversations with beekeepers and colleagues across the country support these issues as potential reasons for the particularly high summer losses this past year,” says Aurell.

In addition to the loss survey, BIP conducts a management survey to connect management practices to losses, exploring ways to manage and reduce losses overall. However, according to the researchers, losses are a natural part of the beekeeping industry, rising and falling with the weather, varroa loads, pesticide loads, and a variety of other factors.

“In the survey, we ask what beekeepers consider to be acceptable loss in the winter, and that number has crept up from 15% to 25% pretty steadily, so it is slowly trickling into the beekeeper’s mind that losses have gotten worse over time, and they have to accept more as a new normal,” says Steinhauer. “There is always going to be some turnover, but it is about what is a normal turnover and what is abnormally high, and how BIP can help arm beekeepers with the information they need to manage it.”

Williams adds, “BIP is working on an epidemiological approach to really understand the health issues of bees. It’s using correlational information generated by the loss and management survey results to drive more hypothesis-driven research to validate and verify findings and causes of mortality.”

The survey is conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership with data collected and analyzed by the University of Maryland and Auburn University. Survey results are available on the Bee Informed Partnership website on this page.


US beekeepers continue to report high colony loss rates, no clear improvement

Credit: Pixabay/CC0 Public Domain

Beekeepers across the United States lost 45.5% of their managed honey bee colonies from April 2020 to April 2021, according to preliminary results of the 15th annual nationwide survey conducted by the nonprofit Bee Informed Partnership (BIP). These losses mark the second highest loss rate the survey has recorded since it began in 2006 (6.1 percentage points higher than the average annual loss rate of 39.4%). The survey results highlight the continuing high rates of honey bee colony turnover. The high loss rate was driven by both elevated summer and winter losses this year, with no clear progression toward improvement for beekeepers and their colonies. BIP hopes to use the survey results to better understand how colony losses are experienced by beekeepers, and what can be done to reduce losses in future seasons.

Since beekeepers began noticing higher losses in their colonies in the early 2000s, agricultural agencies, researchers, and the beekeeping industry have been working together to understand why and develop best management practices to reduce their losses. The BIP annual colony loss survey, which has been conducted since 2006, has been integral to that process.

"This year's survey results show that colony losses are still high," says Nathalie Steinhauer, BIP's science coordinator and a post-doctoral researcher in the University of Maryland Department of Entomology. "Not all beekeepers are affected at the same intensity, but the turnover rate of colonies is still overall higher than beekeepers deem acceptable [normal or acceptable turnover is defined at about 20%]. We should remember, however, that loss rates are not the same as population decline. The recent numbers of honey bee colonies in the U.S. are relatively stable despite those high losses, but that's because beekeepers invest a lot of time and effort to increase their operation size to mitigate their losses."

Commercial honey bee operations are essential to agricultural production in the U.S., pollinating $15 billion worth of food crops each year. Honey bee colonies are moved around the country to pollinate important agricultural crops such as almonds, blueberries, and apples. Minimizing their losses and ensuring the health of both commercial and backyard colonies is critical to food production and supply.

"Beekeepers of all types consistently lose a high number of colonies each year, which puts a heavy burden on many of them to recoup those losses in time for major pollination events like California almonds," says Geoffrey Williams, assistant professor of entomology at Auburn University and co-author of the survey. "Colony losses remain elevated, and this year's annual and summer loss rates are among the highest recorded."

This past year, winter losses were reported at 32.2%, which is 9.6 percentage points higher than last year and 3.9 points higher than the survey average. Summer losses were some of the highest ever reported again this year at 31.1%, which is 0.9 percentage points lower than last year, but 8.6 points higher than the survey average.

The survey asks beekeeping operations of all sizes to track the survival or turnover rates of their honey bee colonies. This year, 3,347 beekeepers managing 192,384 colonies across the country responded to the survey, representing about 7% of the nation's estimated 2.71 million managed colonies. This effort helps to keep a finger on the pulse of what is going on with beekeepers to identify why high losses are persisting.

"Though we see fluctuations from year to year, the worrisome part is we see no progression towards a reduction of losses," says Steinhauer.

"The long-term efforts of the BIP's annual survey are so important to monitoring honey bee colony losses and beekeeper management over time, and hopefully to identifying key practices that are protective for colonies," stresses Williams. "Because of the close connection of honey bees to the environment, the survey's long-term data may lend itself to insights into how changes in land-use and weather impact the beekeeping industry too. These are really understudied areas at the moment."

This year, to get a better understanding of different management practices that may lead to loss fluctuations, the BIP team delivered two versions of the survey to cater to different beekeepers. The two surveys found that backyard (managing 50 or fewer colonies) and sideliner (managing 51-500 colonies) beekeeping operations face both similar and distinct challenges to commercial beekeepers managing more than 500 colonies. While parasitic varroa mites continue to be a major issue for beekeepers regardless of operation size, queen management might be a factor that can lead to variation in seasonal colony losses.

"A colony needs a healthy, fully functioning queen before major pollination events to be productive," explains Williams. "A preliminary look into survey data reveals that commercial beekeepers almost always replace old queens with new ones during the summer, whereas only about half of backyard beekeepers do. Could this explain why commercial beekeepers lose fewer colonies in the subsequent winter than backyard beekeepers? Perhaps, but we need to dig deeper and possibly perform experiments to shed more light on this."

While the survey suggests that beekeepers are remaining responsive to the current best management practices and health concerns of their colonies, the loss data shows little progress.

"We see in the survey signs that beekeepers are adjusting their practices over time," says Steinhauer. "We also see that their perception of risk is changing. The level of acceptable loss, which was originally around 15% in earlier years of the survey, has crept up to 23% this year. So that tells us beekeepers are thinking about those factors that affect honey bee health more actively. We also see some beneficial changes in agricultural practices that could affect honey bee health, like changes in spray recommendations. But there are still a lot of issues that are left unaddressed. It seems we're running to stand still because beekeepers are changing their practices, and yet we still don't see a clear improvement in their loss rates."

BIP stresses that the lack of improvement in losses is a clear call for more attention and efforts to be paid on finding solutions, especially concerning varroa mites. The BIP annual loss survey continues to be an important part of documenting the data necessary to drive future research, best management practice recommendations, and support for honey bee health.

"We hope to continue BIP's survey effort to record colony losses experienced by U.S. beekeepers and explore beekeepers' management practices," ensures Steinhauer. "We have a general idea of what practices are associated with higher success, but the devil is in the details, and we need to understand why the implementation of some practices are more successful in some cases than others. Of course beekeepers also need the support of the public and political sectors. We need to recreate environments that are conducive to healthy bees, and that will benefit both honey bees and native bees or other wild pollinators."

The survey is conducted by the Bee Informed Partnership with data collected and analyzed by the University of Maryland and Auburn University. Survey results are available on the Bee Informed Partnership website, with a summary provided below.


The Beekeeper's Pupil

”It seems to me that in making my way in the world I can find my path well enough through a blind man’s eyes. For though I am a countryman I’m no fool, and I know my master’s vision, whatever it is, will condition my state. Better to serve a plain blind man than one blinded by corruption or the vanity of the world.”

I have had this book on my shelf for years and had added it to my Paperback Swap books figuring I would never get to it. The title had languished on my virtual shelf for a couple of y ”It seems to me that in making my way in the world I can find my path well enough through a blind man’s eyes. For though I am a countryman I’m no fool, and I know my master’s vision, whatever it is, will condition my state. Better to serve a plain blind man than one blinded by corruption or the vanity of the world.”

I have had this book on my shelf for years and had added it to my Paperback Swap books figuring I would never get to it. The title had languished on my virtual shelf for a couple of years, when someone finally said they wanted it. Then, of course, I had to read it before I let it go.

I should have read this wonderful little story long ago. First of all, it reminded me of why I am in awe of both bees and scientists. Bees and their communities are fascinating. George shows her characters trying to understand why bees do what they do – we are seeing the beginnings of apiology. Since these events are happening during the late 1700’s, many of the tools these men are using are fairly primitive. However, they don’t give up.

That brings me to the scientists, the main characters. Their actions are good examples of how the scientific method works. That may sound boring, but it isn’t George makes these historical events come alive. I don’t know what other readers might think of this tale, but I was enthralled.

Besides the bees and the scientists, I was also interested by the author’s portrayal of this French household. This novel is not about a typical French family of the period, but it was clear that George had done her homework and knew enough about the historical facts to bring them to life. I enjoyed that part also.

If you have an interest in bees, science or historical fiction, you might want to pick up this story. . more

This is a lovely slice of life in the late 18th century in Switzerland. An intelligent young peasant (Francois Burnens) has been fortunate enough to be educated by the local priest, and is recommended for the job of manservant / secretary for a blind scientist (Francois Huber) who is studying bees. Both Burnens and Huber were real people, as were the other scientists named in the novel. The life-story of Huber and his wife - certainly of their meeting as 17-year-olds and her determination to mar This is a lovely slice of life in the late 18th century in Switzerland. An intelligent young peasant (Francois Burnens) has been fortunate enough to be educated by the local priest, and is recommended for the job of manservant / secretary for a blind scientist (Francois Huber) who is studying bees. Both Burnens and Huber were real people, as were the other scientists named in the novel. The life-story of Huber and his wife - certainly of their meeting as 17-year-olds and her determination to marry him despite her father's protestations (she waited till she was 25 and could make her own decision), and the scientific interest of their son in ants - was recorded in 1832, the year after his death in The Foreign Quarterly Review, Volume X, published in August and October, M. DCCC. XXXII (1832), which, clearly, the author of this novel read long before I did.

Clearly, also, the author would have done a lot more research than my insignificant 10 minutes on the internet, but she probably didn't find much on Burnens' personal life. Servants, no matter how extraordinary they might have been, didn't have their life histories recorded. What the author has done is to create a thoroughly believable story told through 'his journal entries', which his niece has selected from, and occasionally annotated, and sent to an enquirer wanting to write about Burnens. And so we read in fascinating detail about Huber's experiments and Burnens' part in them, and we read Burnens' thoughts and feelings. There are lovely accounts of his love and respect for Huber, his observation of the others in the household (family, servants), and his growing desire to have a family of his own and make his way in the world.

Oh yes, it's also set in the context of the nearby French Revolution, which of course affected the lives of the Swiss. This is a very well-written historical novel - political, scientific and social history all there behind a nice story. . more

The story of a manservant who helps his blind master record information on the habits of bees. Parts of it are gross. I don&apost want to know about the coagulated semen found in the queen bee&aposs vulva. Ew.

Other than disgusting descriptions about mating habits, the book describes the servant&aposs relationship with everyone else in the house. I felt a bit irritated that there was so much more focus on the bees, rather than the servant&aposs life. The story of a manservant who helps his blind master record information on the habits of bees. Parts of it are gross. I don't want to know about the coagulated semen found in the queen bee's vulva. Ew.

Other than disgusting descriptions about mating habits, the book describes the servant's relationship with everyone else in the house. I felt a bit irritated that there was so much more focus on the bees, rather than the servant's life. . more


When to Add a Second Honey Super

When 8 out of 10 (or 6 out of 8) frames are being used for brood and food storage, it’s time to add another box. If you are in doubt, it is often best to add a bit early rather than too late.

This rule is in reference to beekeepers that are adding additional boxes for honey harvest. Adding honey supers allows room for ample honey collection and eases crowding inside the hive.

It is best to add 1 box at a time. Inspect the hive every 10-14 days during the honey flow to check for space.

If you have a strong hive and you are going on vacation for a couple of weeks during a heavy nectar flow – it’s okay to put on 2 supers.

However, check the bees when you return to ensure they are filling out the outer frames in the bottom box too.


Feeding Honey Bees

Honey bees, like all other animals, require essential ingredients for survival and reproduction. Most of what we know about honey bee nutrition was learned from the 1950s through the 1970s only during the last few years have we started to pay attention to honey bee nutrition again. Honey bees require carbohydrates (sugars in nectar or honey), amino acids (protein from pollen), lipids (fatty acids, sterols), vitamins, minerals (salts) and water. Additionally, these nutrients must be present in the right ratios for honey bees to survive and thrive.

Sugar

Like other animals, honey bees need carbohydrates as an energy source. Carbohydrates are converted to glucose or fructose, either of which are used to produce energy directly. Aside from being used as an energy source, glucose can also be converted to body fats and stored. Nectar is the main source of carbohydrates for honey bees. The amount of nectar needed per colony depends on how concentrated the sugars are in the nectar. A worker bee needs 11 milligrams (mg) of dry sugar each day, which translates to about 22 microliters (&mul) of 50% (1:1 ratio) sugar syrup per bee per day. One teaspoon full of 50% syrup is about 5 milliliters (ml), which provides enough food for 227 bees for a day. A colony with 50,000 bees therefore needs 1.1 liters (about 2 pounds) of 50% sugar syrup per day, or almost 700 pounds of food per year. Most nectars contain less than 50% sugar, so the amount of nectar to support a large colony is even greater than 700 pounds per year.

Feeding Bees Sugar

At times, you may need to provide food to honey bees so that they do not starve. This includes when packages are first installed, or when colonies are small or getting established. You can provide supplemental food in the form of honey in combs or as a sugar syrup. A 3-pound (lb) package should receive at least two deep frames of honey or 2 gallons of syrup, which will provide enough food for about 2 weeks. If colonies are started with foundation only, more food should be provided because one pound of wax costs about 8 pounds of honey to produce. In the spring and early summer, use thin sugar syrup. Thin syrup mimics a honey flow from plants, and queens will be stimulated to lay eggs. Thin sugar syrup should be 50% (l lb of sugar to 1 lb of water).

Fall presents another time for providing food to bees. During a nectar dearth, which would be around August or September in Michigan, bees could starve due to the lack of floral resources. In Michigan, if you take all the honey from a colony, then you must provide enough food for them to winter. A typical colony will need from 70 to 100 pounds of honey to make it through winter. This translates to one deep super of honey plus three to four deep frames in the lower box. If you use medium supers, then you need two medium supers full of honey plus two to three medium frames in the lower box. Finish feeding by Oct. 1. At this time, syrup should be at least 66%, with 2 parts of sugar to 1 part of water. This is because bees do not have enough time (and high ambient temperature) to remove the water to make the syrup into honey (about 18% water). Providing thicker syrup will reduce the amount of work bees need to do.

You can provide syrup to bees via several methods. You can insert frame feeders, which are shaped like a frame of comb, into the brood box between other frames. You also can place hive top feeders on top of the colony to let bees go up and drink the syrup, or set glass jar feeders just outside the hive but near the entrance. Finally, you can set a bucket feeder on top of the hive and over the inner cover hole to provide to bees. Usually a hole is cut in the lid of the bucket and a fine mesh screen is glued over to provide bees access to syrup. Base the type of feeder you use on how much food you need to feed and how often you can refill the feeder.

Pollen

Pollen provides bees with protein, lipids, vitamins and minerals. Proteins are made up of amino acids. All animals need essential amino acids, which must be obtained externally and cannot be synthesized by animals. Honey bees also need the same 10 amino acids as other animals (for example, humans). These amino acids are obtained from pollen only, because honey bees do not have any other sources of protein. Pollen collection by a colony ranges from 10 to 26 kilograms (kg) per year.

Pollen is mixed with nectar and bee secretions to produce &ldquobee bread,&rdquo which goes through lactic acid fermentation. Rearing one larva requires 25&ndash37.5 mg protein, equivalent to 125&ndash187.5 mg pollen.

Trapping bee pollen

You can purchase bee-collected pollen from suppliers, but a risk of bringing in diseases and pests through pollen exists. Another option is to trap your own bee pollen using pollen traps. Pollen traps are devices placed under or in front of hives, with holes just large enough to allow bees in but not large enough to let bees with pollen in. You can make a trap by fixing a piece of hardware cloth with six meshes (6 holes per inch), or purchase commercial traps. The cheapest one, about $15 each, is a drawer that sits in front of a beehive. Harvest pollen every 1 to 2 days and store it frozen inside zip-close bags. You can mix the pollen with sugar syrup and provide it to bees in the spring. Bee-collected pollen has been shown to be superior to any type of pollen substitute.

Pollen substitute for bees

A good pollen substitute for honey bees should have the same features as a good pollen: 1) palatability (is readily consumed), 2) digestibility (is easily digested) and 3) balance (contains correct amino acid balance and enough crude proteins). Currently, there are at least six commercial pollen substitutes for honey bees in the U.S.: AP23, Bee-Pol, Bee-Pro, Feed-Bee, MegaBee and Ultra Bee.

Ultra Bee or MegaBee seem to be the most popular with beekeepers. Since AP23 is new, there are no published tests on it. Beekeepers reported similar acceptance and performance of AP23 as to MegaBee.

Studies are still being underway to find the optimal ratio of fat to protein in a substitute. For bumble bees, the best ratio of fat to protein is between 1:5 and 1:10. This might mean that most substitutes in the market today are too low in fat and you should consider adding 10% vegetable oil to the pollen substitutes.

Feeding bees pollen

Feed pollen or its substitutes around mid-February to early March in Michigan. This will stimulate brood production and colonies will be ready to be split by late April. Provide at least 2 pounds in patties above brood nests on a wax paper. (To prepare patties, mix dry substitute powder with equal amounts of sugar. Then add 50% sugar syrup to make a paste-like consistency.) Bees will be desperately seeking protein sources in April and May when it is warm enough but few flowers are open yet. They may seek out any powder that looks like pollen. Bees have been seen loading up ground corn in bird feeders in the spring, even though these powders will not provide good protein to bees. Some beekeepers also provide pollen or substitutes to bees during the dearth in August and September. They claim this will build the colonies up so that they get a larger crop of goldenrod honey and bees will winter better. Feeding bees before wintering (in October and November) does not seem to help the colonies because this extends brood rearing. Any workers involved in brood rearing will not survive the winter.

Water

Honey bees forage for water for two purposes. One is to use it to dilute honey so that honey can be added to brood food. The second is to use water to cause evaporative cooling by fanning over a thin layer of water when the ambient temperature is over 35 °C. During wintertime, bees have enough water from condensation over the inner cover. This often may produce too much water, which can drip on the cluster and kill bees if there is not adequate ventilation. When bees have a choice, they usually prefer water with some salts (for example, they&rsquoll choose a swimming pool over a lake). A recent study showed that bees in the laboratory preferred water with 0.15&ndash 0.3% salt (NaCl).

It is a good idea to provide water to bees during summer, with 0.1&ndash0.2% edible salt added. (One teaspoon of salt to 1 gallon of water makes 0.11%. Use uniodinated salt if possible.) You must do this early (around mid-April in Michigan) so that bees will get used to your water source. Otherwise, they will establish their own source and go there instead of to yours. Provide some sort of floating device to keep bees from drowning. Keep replenishing the water source as needed. Never let it run dry or bees will find a new water source.

Conclusions

Honey bees can obtain all of their nutrients naturally if bees are in a setting that has sufficient floral resources. There has to be a mutualistic relationship between honey bees and humans &ndash we provide them with shelter, care and nutrition when necessary. In return, we use them for pollination, and when there is a surplus, we remove some honey as a reward. Enjoy bees and their sweet reward!


Understanding Colony Buildup and Decline: Part 5 – Egglaying, Adult Survivorship, and Modeling Colony Growth

Understanding Colony Buildup and Decline – Part 5 Egglaying, Adult Survivorship, and Modeling Colony Growth Randy Oliver ScientificBeekeeping.com First Published in ABJ in June 2015 CONTENTS Some Questions Begging For Answers Survivorship Of The Workers A Simplified Mathematical Model Question: Why Does The Population Stop Growing After 10 Weeks? Population Top Out Playing Catch Up [&hellip]

Everything on this website is open access and freely given to beekeepers and researchers worldwide, on a not-for-profit basis. I gladly accept gifts of appreciation from my readers and supporters. You can donate via Paypal below. Notice: I will, for tax purposes, treat all Paypal donations as "gifted research grants" to be applied towards beekeeping research and the reporting on thereof -- given by you with "detached and disinterested generosity" out of "affection, respect, admiration, charity or like impulses." Since I am not a 501(c)(3), your gifts are not tax deductible.

ScientificBeekeeping is a not-for-profit enterprise, and I'm happy to receive notes of thanks for how information on this site has contributed to my readers' success at beekeeping (and sometimes saved them hundreds or thousands of dollars). It is your support that allows me to devote my life to this site. All donations go towards website maintenance, bee research costs (typically tens of thousands of dollars per year), re-donations to fund research by others, and a small amount to partially offset the incredible number of hours that I spend in research and writing. I guarantee that every penny is pinched and well spent!

I appreciate the notes of support that I receive from all over the world. Seeing who is donating, their locations, and the little notes that come with contributions help to let me know how I should direct my research and writing. In appreciation, and in order to show who is supporting my research and writing, I honor below those who have recently made substantial donations:

Recent $1000-plus MAJOR SUPPORTERS

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The beekeepers contracting with California Almond Pollination Services

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Trevor Tauzer, California

South Jersey Branch of the New Jersey Beekeepers

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Beekeepers with Joe Traynor

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In memory of Jim Primus, Columbia Tenn. Area Beekeepers, Tennessee


The Beekeeper's Handbook

If I were to choose one book for all my beekeeping, this would be #1. If I were to recommend one book for the beginner, a book that will last a lifetime of beekeeping, this book would be #1.

Well written, clear, concise. None better as far as I&aposm concerned. Holy Propolis, Batman, this book is awesome!

If I were to choose one book for all my beekeeping, this would be #1. If I were to recommend one book for the beginner, a book that will last a lifetime of beekeeping, this book would be #1.

Well written, clear, concise. None better as far as I'm concerned. . more

Everything you ever wanted to know (and then some) about beekeeping.

The only downside is that the book is printed in landscape orientation, which makes it less practical as a "hand" book. Definitely takes two hands to hold this sucker. :) Everything you ever wanted to know (and then some) about beekeeping.

The only downside is that the book is printed in landscape orientation, which makes it less practical as a "hand" book. Definitely takes two hands to hold this sucker. :) . more

This was a great basic book on how-to. Covers almost all the important questions and problems that come up during the different seasons while beekeeping.

I think I will purchase this book to add to my library for quick reference.

Awesome reference, much more thorough than expected.

This deeper understanding of bee behavior, prevalent diseases, and the importance of timing of maintenance activities left me feeling alternately empowered to reach out to local beekeepers and get started with my own hives and intimidated by how fragile and intricate this hobby actually is in practice.


The Honey Bee Superorganism in Perspective

Since January 2015 I have been writing a column in these pages on the social evolution of the honey bee. Social, in the sense that I have focused less on Darwinian forces that shape the individual and more on Darwinian forces that shape the group. This is why I have not, for example, talked about the evolution of insect anatomy, metamorphosis, or flight, as these are ancient features that were settled hundreds of millions of years ago by individual selection acting on honey bees’ solitary ancestors.

Along the way we studied the genetic peculiarities of the insect order Hymenoptera, the ants, the wasps, and the bees, and showed how the state of haploidy in males – possessing only one set of chromosomes – sets the stage for extreme relatedness in colonies.

Although this was no doubt a powerful driver toward sociality at first, we also showed how the subsequent evolution of queen multiple mating upset this tidy state of in-nest relatedness in favor of in-nest genetic diversity. Such a move can only be explained as an example of group, or social selection: the benefits of genetic diversity to the group outweighing the benefits of selfishness and nepotism to individuals. Put another way: a group of cooperative altruists probably out-competes a similar group of selfish competitors, even if the altruism is purchased at the cost of reduced individual fitness.

Early on we also established the three criteria of true sociality, or eusociality: 1

1 Cooperative brood care in which individuals participate in the care of a common brood,

2 Reproductive division of labor in which reproductive demands and housekeeping demands are met by different cohorts of individuals, and

3 Overlapping generations in which at least some offspring remain at the nest to help their mother produce more siblings.

These three criteria are additive so that groups possessing only one or two of them are understood to be expressing presocial behaviors. Only when all three are present can we call a species eusocial, but even then, we can still talk about perennial versus annual eusociality on the basis of whether the species lives year-round in a eusocial state. Bumble bees fit this latter category, as it is only the newly-mated daughters who survive in isolated hibernation over winter, emerging in early spring to single-handedly found a nest, forage, and produce the first clutch of brood. Only when the first workers emerge is full eusociality restored. Honey bees, on the other hand, fit the description for perennial eusociality as they live as a social unit year-round.

We’ve also spent a lot of time talking about the distinction that occurs once a perennially eusocial species adopts fixed reproductive castes, as in the case of the honey bee. Over geologic time, as the mother bee abandoned foraging and nest duties, her worker-like behaviors and morphology atrophied until she was no longer able to perform work. The reverse was true of daughters who abandoned egg-laying to specialize on worker behaviors. Once castes had evolved into such states of hyper-specialization and mutual dependence, it was now the colony that was the true Darwinian unit of selection. Evolutionary biologists call this the “point of no return” because there are no known examples of a species returning to solitary life after these irreversibly divergent caste decisions were made.

Once reproductive conflicts between females was resolved by caste differentiation, the mother (we can now call her the queen) was free to practice multiple mating, leading to genetically diverse colonies in favor of genetically narrow families. It is no accident that this genetic diversity became associated with task specialization, increasing scales of efficiency leading to larger colony populations, emergent properties such as group thermoregulation and complex nest architecture, and every other measure of advanced eusociality.

Once fixed castes had rendered the colony an integrated whole, it became untenable to think of it anymore as a “society” which in biology implies an assembly of reproductively autonomous individuals. The group collectively achieved what organisms typically do, yet its constituent parts, the workers, were not cells but organisms themselves. It begged for a new name, and credit for illuminating the conundrum fell to William Morton Wheeler, who in a 1911 published lecture 2 pointed out that an ant colony:

1 “…behaves as a unitary whole, maintaining its identity in space”

2 “…has its own peculiar idiosyncrasies of composition and behavior”

3 “…has a most interesting adaptive growth and orientation which may be regarded as a kind of tropism,” and

4 differentiates its cell types like an organism “in which the mother queen and the virgin males and females represent the germ-plasm …while the normally sterile females, or workers and soldiers, in all their developmental stages, represent the soma.”

All of which are things that describe organisms. It took Wheeler another 17 years before he coined the word “superorganism” 3 to describe this situation that establishes when a group of organisms coalesce integrally and genetically into a higher level of biological organization. The “super” in superorganism expresses the idea of a stratum higher than organism, with the organism, not cells, making up the constituent parts.

The idea of the superorganism had its ups and downs in the 20 th C, laying low while science went through decades of infatuation with reductionist approaches to biological questions. But recent years have seen a resuscitation of the term owing to a growing recognition of its usefulness as a context for understanding broad patterns of evolution. In short, the evolution of the superorganism recapitulates the evolution of organisms such as you and me, with, in the case of honey bees, the added benefit that one can “dissect” a superorganism and put it back together again. One of my reasons for writing this series of articles has been to let beekeepers know that they are wardens of a unique and privileged insight into reality, the honey bee superorganism – a window into ourselves and all organismal life on this planet.

Regardless of our labels and how we arrive at them, superorganismality has been a wildly successful life strategy. E.O. Wilson cites numerous examples. 4 One third of all animal biomass, including vertebrates, in the Amazonian rainforest is composed of ants and termites. On the Ivory Coast savannah, the density of ants is 20 million per hectare. And in a demonstration of the mind-boggling populations possible in the most advanced eusocial species, one ant colony on the coast of Hokkaido, Japan was found to contain 306 million workers and 1,080,000 queens living in 45,000 interconnected nests spanning an area of 2.7 square kilometers (1 square mile).

The ecological success of eusociality can be explained as an interplay of at least three qualities: 4 (1) coordinated groups can perform functions in parallel, rather than serial workflows (2) groups can invest more effort, by energy or sheer numbers, on such priorities as …


3 Answers 3

The answer to the question "has evolution designed the common Honey Bee's stinger solely for stinging man-kind?" is no.

A honey bee's barbed stinger remains in the skin of any mammal afterwards due to its elasticity (skin closes back around the base after penetration) but can be retracted after stinging another insect. It isn't a human-specific thing. Presumably this is because it takes more toxin to dissuade a mammalian predator than an insect given their size. A little dose of toxin is released straight away but in order to deliver a dose large enough to irritate a large predator the venom sac needs to remain attached. The resultant damage kills a sterile worker bee but removes an attacking predator that could do much more damage it is a strategy that confers a selective advantage.

The reference you cited doesn't appear to say anything about other mammals, just other animals, so this doesn't actually contradict your other source. Insects are animals too!

"Stingers in bees evolved from ovipositors", here is a good reference of how bee stinger have evolved. http://www.askabiologist.org.uk/answers/viewtopic.php?id=4021

The defense of the honey bee, having a barbed stinger which continues to pump venom even after the bee is swatted away by the intruder, (be it a human or a bear or other animal), is called "sting autonomy." When defending against a large mammal, the more stings the more likely to have an impact.

The reason the honey bee colony can afford to lose many guard bees in this manner is that they are a highly social species, called eusocial, or truly social (the highest level of social structure). The colony typically has 10s of thousands of members, and the queen is constantly laying eggs to replace lost workers, which usually only live 4-6 weeks, in normal summer activity.

Only the social bees are likely to sting you. Most bees are not social. The honey bee is the exception, so most bees will not sting you (if you can even find them). There are 3600 other species in the US besides honey bees, (which represent one, single species). And furthermore, honey bees will not sting you unless you approach or open their nest, (or grab one in your hand, or crush one) which is unlikely to happen accidentally. They will not attack you unless they are defending their nest- never at a flower! I doubt you have ever been stung by a honey bee, as most people confuse them with yellow jackets, which are not bees, but social wasps. The yellow jacket also has a barbed stinger but much smaller barb (and a much more defensive temperament), so it may or may not get stuck in your skin.

You can read all about stinging insects in the wonderful book, The Sting of the Wild, by Justin O. Schmidt. Bee Well! - Carl the Beekeeper (Cornell University Master Beekeeper)


Watch the video: Συρμάτωμα πλαισίων και τοποθέτηση κηρήθρας. Όλες οι λεπτομέρειες. (November 2021).