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Introduction to Honey Bee Survival Traits

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1 Introduction to Honey Bee Survival Traits
Walt Wright Box 10, Elkton, TN 38455 (931) 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

2 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits-2012-02-19
About The Speaker Walt Wright, 79. Born and raised in Maryland. Electronics test and troubleshooting engineer. Came to Alabama to work on the Moon Rocket. Took up beekeeping in 1990 to supplement retirement income. Have no “scientific” data to show. Report what I see – observations only. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

3 Our European bees are forest creatures.
Factors of Influence Our European bees are forest creatures. Their survival traits were developed prior to emergence of man on the landscape. Traits are tuned to the accumulation of consumables during the early tree bloom season. Reproduction by division (swarming) must be early enough to give the offspring swarm time for establishment during tree bloom. Late winter is dedicated to reproduction. Late spring is dedicated to colony re-supply. The over-wintered colony has a different set of activities and objectives from the first year colony in the establishment mode. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

4 Factors of Influence (continued)
Safety margins are built into all survival requirements. Bees prefer to work in the heat rise from the brood nest. The only judgment made by the queen is whether or not to fertilize an egg. Workers decide where and when the queen lays. The court/retinue directs the queen to prepared cells. Multiple mating is given credit for genetic diversity. All colonies do not respond the same way to similar circumstances. This discussion treats what most of the colonies do, most of the time. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

5 Factors of Influence – Special Skills of the Social Insect
Colonies adjust population and stores in proportion to cavity volume. Population management is accomplished by increase or decrease of brood volume. This is a slow process requiring advanced planning. Locally, brood nest size changes during the entire active season. Bees are very careful about protecting accumulated stores. They are masters of efficiency. The flexibility of mid-aged bees to shift from one job to another supports the above. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

6 Beekeepers’ Impact on Survival Traits
We house them in the Langstroth hive design. The break in functional comb between boxes of about 1-1/2 inches affects comb usage. Colonies are more comfortable on the continuous comb of the wild nest – from the top down. We are continually adjusting the hive height. Survival traits are based on a fixed cavity volume. There wouldn’t be a surplus without supering. We are stuck with existing hive design. We need to compensate for the Langstroth design. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

7 Seasonal Survival Activity Segments
Reproduction Doldrums Wintering Wintering Honey Stores Fall Preps Each segment has a “format” in colony activities. The format is keyed to forage availability. Some of it appears a lot like deductive logic (thinking). Although complex, we believe it to be instinctive. Honey bees are not the only insect with complex instincts. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

8 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits-2012-02-19
Reasons for Swarming Extracted from Sammataro/Avitabile “Beekeeper’s Handbook”. A very good beginner’s book (pricey at $30.00). “Reasons for Swarming” lists the academic position. We call those reasons the ‘excuse mentality’. Bees do not need an excuse for reproduction. All species must reproduce to survive. Mother Nature will not leave reproduction to happenstance. The bees’ deliberate format is applied early in the season. Gives the offspring swarm a chance at establishment. Protection of the parent colony’s survival is incorporated in the format. The early season is dedicated to reproduction. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

9 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits-2012-02-19
Reasons for Swarming 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

10 Reasons for Swarming (continued)
1 & 8 - Interrelated. Congestion (adult bee crowding) The crowding is considered to limit queen pheromone distribution. 2, 3, 4, & 9 - unfamiliar to me. 5 - Also known as “no room for the queen to lay”. 6 - Weather often delays swarm issue, but is not a cause. There is a long lead time in swarm preparations. 7 - In my opinion, is false. We have seen colonies supersede after starting swarm cells. 10 - Idle nurse bees – a relatively new theory. Young bees are needed to staff the swarm. Wax makers are basically idle – reported to take 10 days. Crowding, nectar in the brood nest, and “idle” young bees are all part of the swarm game plan. These are effects, not causes. Did you notice that reproduction is NOT on the list? 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

11 Established Colony Timeline – Early Season
Survival format is tailored to forest forage. Bee activities synchronized to forage availability. Swarm issue timed to peak forest forage. Parent colony survival takes priority. Reproductive cut off is decision time. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

12 First Significant Observation
This area provides excellent support for colony swarming. Early and overlapping forage sources. Both pollen and nectar. These conditions permit the colony to implement their instinctive reproduction strategy. Part of the format is to save a honey reserve to protect survival all through the swarm process. Feed on incoming forage to maintain the capped honey reserve. Expand the brood nest to the reserve and start swarm preparations. Brood nest expansion reaching the minimum honey reserve initiates swarm preparations. I had seen nothing in the literature to make me believe this last statement was true. Had better test the concept. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

13 First Significant Observation (continued)
This is what the minimum honey reserve looks like. In order to test if brood nest expansion to the reserve initiates swarm preps we added another super of honey at the top in the fall. Results: - Greater populations and more surplus honey. - Less reproductive swarming. Conclusion: - Look for a way to attack the capped honey reserve. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

14 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits-2012-02-19
Swarm Process Simplified sketch of the sequence. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

15 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits-2012-02-19
Swarm Preparations Build brood volume to the honey reserve. Midway to this goal, start drone rearing to support the mating season. When the minimum honey reserve is reached, start backfilling the upper brood volume with nectar as brood emerges. Frees up young bees to support swarm needs. Starts re-supply of parent colony. When the brood nest is sufficiently reduced, commit to swarm by starting queen cells. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

16 Reproductive Cut-Off Intro/General
The point in vegetative development where swarm ambition is canceled in favor of existing colony re-supply. Occurs just before the peak in available forest forage. Any later, counting queen rearing delay, would give the offspring swarm too little time for establishment. Colonies committed to swarm by starting queen cells continue to swarm issue – rear house bees in parallel. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

17 Changes at Reproductive Swarm Cut-Off
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18 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits-2012-02-19
Changes at Repro c/o Until this timing, colony has done without wax makers, nectar processors, and other bees dedicated to house bee duties in the interest of efficiency. Time to turn colony attention to self preservation and rear the house bees needed for efficient honey storage. Not on the chart: Early flow and main flow are both misnomers. One big flow – peaking at this time. All colonies in a given location show new wax within a few days of each other. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

19 Spring Operations Summary Chart
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20 Checkerboarding Manipulation
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21 Advantages of Checkerboarding
Reliability – 100% is achievable when regimen is followed. MUST precede swarm prep period of late winter. MUST maintain empty comb at the top through repro cut off. Increased production. Bees will add supers of nectar before “main flow”. Generates larger brood nest/population. Increased population for main flow. Easy & simple One-time action. No extra equipment. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

22 Advantages of Checkerboarding (cont.)
Go to . Articles of 2011 treat the advantages. February discusses the reliability of swarm prevention. April discusses honey production from the standpoint of brood volume. June discusses less effort, time, and cost than other techniques. We suspect we have tapped an unknown survival trait. All European races respond reliably. Could the genetics have been present when they expanded their range from Africa to Europe? 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

23 Seasonal Brood Volumes
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24 Fall Preparations for Wintering
Inactive to conserve resources. Rear foragers and excess young bees. Need fattened young bees for: Mid-winter brood rearing (Vitellogenin). Cluster-maintaining hardiness. Use pollen reserve to support build up. Heavy pollen foraging on fall flow. Backfill brood nest incrementally with nectar. Need internal cluster fuel to generate heat. Feed if necessary. Cluster temperatures drift lower to conserve stores. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

25 Notes on Wintering Format
Cluster Temperatures permitted to drift lower after brood nest close out. Bees in the insulating band are in a near dormant state. They consume very little honey when dormant. Honey is used primarily as fuel for warming. Mid-winter brood rearing increases honey consumption. Mid-winter brood rearing is batched to sustain cluster size. Mid-winter brood protein is from fat bodies (vitellogenin). Build up starts with the availability of field pollen and periodic flying weather. They need water to thin honey to feed consistency. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

26 Pollen Box Maneuver Insures The Pollen Reserve
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27 Fall Management by Beekeeper
Install mouse guard of your choice prior to clustering. Entry reducer. Reversible bottom board. Various screen types. Configure hive top to take advantage of cluster metabolism. Moisture – normally vented overboard. Deprives colony of midwinter water to thin honey. In the tree hollow condensation is recycled. Check out Dennis Murrell’s Plexiglas cover here: Heat rise trapped at top in the tree hollow. Come up with a hive-top configuration that applies the physics involved. Have tried many but open cell foam shows the most promise. Water absorbed. Bees can sip water from wet foam. Drawback – need a dry spare when cover gets heavy with water. Still room for improvement. Apply yourself. Objective: retain condensation for colony use in thinning honey. Late winter water foraging is hazardous duty. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

28 Fall Management by Beekeeper Other Considerations
Pollen box maneuver – done in early spring. Reduce hive down to anticipated wintering size by Sept. 1. Sept./Oct. the colony is adjusting population and stores to the right ratio for wintering. Help the bees get it right by giving them fixed dimensions to work to. Forgo fall honey in favor of better wintering. Monitor backfilling of the brood nest at close out. Bees normally get it done in TN. Or did in early ‘90’s. Climate change in recent years has induced irregular forage patterns and record breaking temperatures/precipitation. In ’07, a late freeze took out the spring flow. In ’09, there was no fall flow. Bees suffered over winter. High and low production areas scattered over the country. Summary: We have ignored fall preps – because we could get away with it. A strong fall flow bailed us out. Fall preps are becoming more important as time wears on. 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

29 Seasonal Manipulations
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30 Additional Information
All published articles may be found at: Nectar Management by Walt Wright Send requesting instructions on how to order to: Other sites with excellent information and/or checkerboarding write-ups: 9/20/2018 IntroToHoneyBeeSurvivalTraits

31 Checkerboarding Results
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