Monday, April 21, 2014

How Wolves Help Bees

     In l995 wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone National Park after a 70 year absence.  They had been exterminated by ranchers wanting to protect their livestock and by those who simply get pleasure from killing things.  The reintroduction led to something called a "trophic cascade".  This phenomena is basically the effects of removing a top predator from a food web.  Without wolves the population of deer and elk escalated which led to extreme overgrazing.  Reintroduction of the wolves led to a myriad of beneficial consequences to a variety of species which the video above explains.  One of the benefits to native bees is the increase in aspen and willow (great early season pollen) and the many varieties of fruit bushes and wildflowers (Wildflowers of Yellowstone) which had been overgrazed by the unchecked population of deer and elk. 
     A biological survey (Bioblitz) held on August 28-29th, 2009 in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park identified 46 species of native bees.  Biologists estimate that there are between 400-500 species of native bees in Yellowstone. 
     My first experience with wolves was about 40 years ago when as a young man working on the railway in the Rocky Mountains I met my first wolf.  I was alone in a 20 below blizzard, five miles from camp carrying about 100 lbs of equipment with the task of switching the rails.  As a young greenhorn, unable to see because of the whiteout, I felt my way along the tracks thinking for sure this was my last day on earth.  The snow let up briefly enough for me to see a wolf come out of the woods.  Spotting me the wolf froze about 10 meters from me and growled.  In my anger and desperation I growled back wielding an 8 foot long iron pry bar.  We starred at each other for what seemed like an eternity (probably 30 seconds), he turned and disappeared back into the woods.  Since that moment I have always held a special love and admiration for wolves.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Grafting Queen Bees Made Easy

     For many backyard beekeepers the thought of grafting queen cells sounds similar to performing brain surgery or rocket science.  While there are many methods of making queens (Advanced Beekeeping) Randy Oliver has produced a great powerpoint presentation that provides an easy and understandable step-by-step tutorial on grafting queen cells.  The advantages of creating your own queens are numerous.  They include cost savings as queens in our area sell for $25-35.  Also time savings as allowing a split nuc to create their own queen takes about 50 days to produce a laying queen.  This means the building of your colony and honey production are delayed 50 days.  Maybe most important of all, grafting your own queens from your strongest colony allows you to control the future genetics of your colonies.  This allows you to participate in creating your own disease resistant, hygienic, local, survivor stock which may be the most important aspect of the future of beekeeping. 
     While the grafting process can be performed at any time mating is possible your local swarm season is best.  All that is required is a frame of pollen, a frame of young brood and lots of nurse bees.  The tools required are a grafting tool (Urban Bee), plastic cell cups and a damp towel.  A magnifying jeweler's headlamp is optional.  Queens emerge 10-12 days after grafting.  To check out Randy's powerpoint on grafting download "Queens for Pennies" from our Beekeepers' Library  or go to

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Beekeeping Webinar: Making Colony Splits

Bee Lab Webinar on April 16th 

Ohio State University will be presenting their next free monthly beekeeping webinar on April 16th from 9AM to 10AM (Eastern District Time).

Making Colony Splits - An Inexact Procedure

Jim Tew, Extension Bee Specialist, Alabama Cooperative Extension Service 

Taking a "split" from a bee colony is comparable to taking a cutting from a plant. Dividing surviving colonies is a traditional way to make colony increases and recover from winter-killed colonies.  

The challenge is that splitting a hive requires our best guess. This webinar discusses some ways to help make your best guesses. 

All webinars are free, and pre-registration is not required. To join this free webinar, follow the link and LOG IN AS A GUEST at about 8:55 (EDT) on April 16th (That's 5:55 a.m for you west coasters):

To access via iPad or iPhone, download the Adobe Connect app.

      This and each monthly webinar will be recorded and archived on the OSU Bee Lab website the day of the session and is also available in our Beekeepers' Library.  

     When creating a split in addition to the benefit of creating a new colony there is also the benefit of a brood break which means a break in varroa reproduction. In the past beekeepers were careful not to move the queen when creating the split but for many that philosophy has changed.  I'm in agreement with this and feel moving the old queen to the new split assists in a faster buildup of the new colony.  The stronger parent colony will quickly make a new queen and is more able to withstand the broodless period.  Should be a good webinar.  Enjoy! 


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