New research on natural selection and honey bee health

An interesting paper by heavyweight apiology researchers Professor Peter Neumann and Dr Tjeerd Blacquière is being published in the mainstream, peer reviewed research journal Evolutionary Applications.

The paper recommends major changes to beekeeping practises in order to address various health issues such as varroa, and in particular a switch to using natural selection rather than tightly controlled breeds of bee. Topics covered include… Continue reading

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Observations with an Infrared Camera

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infra-red image of the beehive. Note the temperature-scale: the scale varies, so it is not easy to make comparisons between pictures

The seasons are turning: we have days of fireworks and poppies, of squirrels skittish on ripe conkers, and clock-hours turning back. I worry about the bees. As I walk, misty-breathed beside the Thames, I think of them huddled together in the hive, with only thin pine walls to protect them from the turning of the year.

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Racial profiling of North Oxfordshire mongrels

Oxfordshire hybrids vary in colour. Also, the rear areas of bees naturally pulse darker as the bee moves / breathes and its segments (tergites) slide over the rear stripes.

Oxfordshire hybrids vary in colour. Also, the rear areas naturally pulse darker as the bee moves / breathes and its segments (tergites) slide over the rear stripes.

Like many natural beekeepers, I am interested in having locally adapted bees, especially tough “survivor stock” from unmanaged feral colonies which thrive without treatments for varroa mites.

In observing my several swarm-caught colonies, all gathered ‘locally’, I have always wondered about their racial origins and hybridity. Colour and size variation is apparent, but sadly this is not a reliable determinant of actual genetic mix, and lacking DNA testing I had thought I may never know better than guesswork what mixes my Oxfordshire mongrel bees actually were. However, since learning about wing morphology and gaining access to a suitable microscope (see Microscopy article), I have found that I could make a study of the key races represented in my apiary. Continue reading

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The Sounds of the Bees (putting a microphone inside the hive)

Once the swarms had begun to establish themselves, I became increasingly curious about the hidden world inside the beehive. I knew it was not sensible to disturb the colony without good reason, so resisted the urge to open-up and prod-about. Instead, I watched at the entrance – learning to spot the difference between worker and drone, and, as spring turned to summer, to identify the colours of the pollen carried back from the allotments. But I still couldn’t shake the feeling that I should be ‘doing’ something – something more than the occasional inspection. My hands were restless. Continue reading

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Warre hive modification

Following on from the July visit to Gareth’s apiary, has anyone modified their hives?

There are 3 stages:

  • add some legs
  • move the entrance up above the lower box
  • add some extra insulation

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Beekeepers under the microscope

Lab equipment included a centrifuge, hotplate and... flowers, for pollen samples!

Lab equipment included a centrifuge, hotplate and… flowers, for pollen samples!

In late September, I went on an introductory course on microscopy led by master beekeeper Marin Anastasov. He led a dozen of us through the basics of using microscopes and their applications in beekeeping. Subjects covered included disease diagnosis (nosema, amoeba, acarine mites); wing morphology, an indicator of a bee’s race; and pollen identification, used in determining a honey’s provenance.

To me, the most intriguing part was using wing vein patterns and measurements (cubital index) to identify the race of a bee. I intend trying to identify the racial mix of the swarms I’ve collected and hence the genetic variation in my apiary – more on this I hope in a future post once I’ve had a chance to do some analysis. Edit: I’ve now done this and written about what I found out about my bees in this article. Continue reading

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Natural Bee Husbandry – a new journal for our community

natural-bee-husbandry-journalNatural Bee HusbandryThe International Journal for Bee-Centred Husbandry is a new quarterly journal focused entirely on low intervention, sustainable, bee-centred beekeeping.

It is being launched next month by Northern Bee Books  at £20 a year for print (UK), £15 for online only, and £25 for both.

With four issues a year (five the first year), purely around natural beekeeping there will be no need to wade through irrelevant conventional beekeeping articles.

Subscribe via the Natural Beekeping Trust website  here and, if you use FB, you can see snippets of the articles here.

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