April Activity (New Activities suggested Monthly)
Natural History Journal: Buds, Leaves and Pollen
The days are getting longer and everyone notices. Canada geese are visiting the newly opened water on our lakes and wet lands, sugaring buckets are attached to maple trees catching the sweet sap, and the Twins just opened their season. Watch for tree buds beginning to swell and leaves starting to unfurl. Some of the earliest flowers are slim cylindrical catkins with inconspicuous or no petals. Many of these flowers rely on wind to spread their pollen, but are still an important first source of natural pollen for bees. Willows, oaks, and maples all have early spring flowers important to bees.
Grab your camera and set out to find signs of spring. Send us emails of your pictures or post your pictures to our facebook page. Please include the date, location, and subject of your photos. Your participation will help us document seasonal changes in the Twin Cities.
Importance of a Protein Supplement (Pollen Patty)
Bees are vegetarians obtaining their protein needs from pollen, the male reproductive part of a flower. In addition to protein, pollen provides lipids, vitamins, minerals, and sterols (cholesterol is an example) that are all essential components of cellular growth and development.
Nurse bees are the primary consumers of the pollen in the colony. They depend on the proteins and associated nutrients to develop the glands necessary to perform their age dependent jobs in the colony. For example, young nurse bees make worker jelly and royal jelly, the food for developing larvae and queens, respectively, from specialized glands in their heads. The size of these glands is related to the quality and quantity of food the nurse bees can produce. When nurse bees are lacking adequate pollen in their diets, these glands are less productive and brood care diminishes. Colonies fed pollen or pollen substitute in early spring in Northern climates have been shown to have a greater workforce come spring than control colonies. This difference in buildup was especially evident during a prolonged spring with late cold snaps and little natural pollen available to the colonies. Greater May population build-up translates to a larger workforce to take advantage of our nectar flows, thus potentially yielding a bigger honey harvest.
By giving your bees a pollen patty, you are providing extra insurance against a cold spring and enabling them to feed their brood properly.
A pollen patty split in half placed just at the edge of the cluster under the inner cover. Bees can access the protein and aren't squished when you replace the inner cover. photo by Jody Gerdts
Mattila, H. R., and G. W. Otis. 2006. "Influence of Pollen Diet in Spring on Development of Honey Bee (Hymenoptera: Apidae) Colonies." Journal of Economic Entomology 99 (3) (June 1): 604-613. doi:10.1603/0022-0493-99.3.604.
Announcing Bee Squad Participant colony design and photo contest. We look forward to seeing how you design and paint your hives. Keep in mind that your apiary setting, including location and surrounding landscaping, will have an impact on your pictures. the setting of the colony and the artistic approach to the photo will all be considered when deciding on the best of the best.
We welcome entries from our Home Apiary Help, Mentoring Apiary and Hive to Bottle customers. We will let the public vote for their favorites in an online contest held during the month of July. The colony photos with the most votes will be featured in our 2014 Bee Squad Calendar. Also, the Bee Squad will be voting for their favorites in additional categories (creativity, location, hive box colors, etc.) and awarding prizes at our annual celebration at the end of the season.
Submissions must be made by June 30th, 2013.
Please click here for contest details.
Thermoregulation of the Honey Bee Colony
Individual bees are ectothermic animals, meaning their internal temperature varies with the ambient environmental temperature. A colony of bees acts more like an endothermic animal because it can tightly regulate the temperature inside the cluster. When brood is present, bees are able to keep the internal part of the cluster around 94°F, regardless of the outside temperature!
Honey bees regulate the temperature the colony through physiological and behavioral adaptations. We will focus on how bees they keep themselves warm in winter. In a summer update we will describe how bees cool the colony during hot and humid days. During these cold winter months, bees cluster together to share heat. The cluster expands and contracts in response to the air temperature. On warmer days or when solar radiation warms the colony, the cluster relaxes, allowing air exchange. When the air temperatures cool to around 20°F, the cluster tightens as much as it can. It is only during warmer times that the cluster can move to different frames to find food. During prolonged cold snaps, when temperatures are around or below zero for many days, the cluster may not be able to move, especially if the cluster is small. In this case, the bees may starve to death even though they are within inches of stored honey.
Bee fuzz helps insulate each bee while creating air space between bees that traps heat in the cluster. While in the cluster, some bees uncouple their flight muscles from their wings and shiver these muscles to generate heat. Only a portion of the bees in the nest shiver at one time, creating hot spots in the nest. Bees on the outside of the cluster remain at around 48°F, or just below chill coma temperature for them. Eventually bees on the inside of the cluster make their way to the outside of the cluster and the ones outside migrate to the center.
During late winter (February to March in Minnesota) bees on the inside of a healthy cluster will maintain a temperature sufficiently warm to rear brood. Most colonies will have pollen stored in the nest from the previous fall, which they consume to help feed new brood in spring. As a precaution, we feed pollen substitute in early spring to provide supplemental protein for the bees while they rear brood.
Colonies that went into winter with too few bees to form a productive cluster or with too little honey to fuel the metabolic needs of the colony will likely perish.
A. A picture taken with an infrared camera during the broodless winter. The bright yellow spots shows a bee shivering and the arrow points to the queen. Temperature range is 41°F to 104° F
Stabentheiner, Anton, Helga Pressl, Thomas Papst, Norbert Hrassnigg, and Karl Crailsheim. 2003. "Endothermic Heat Production in Honeybee Winter Clusters." The Journal of Experimental Biology 206 (Pt 2) (January): 353-358.
Enjoy this past episode of The Splendid Table hosted by Lynne Rossetto Kasper where she visits Dr. Marla Spivak in the U of MN Saint Paul Campus Apiary. Dr. Spivak talks about both the biology of the honey bee colony and the challenges that are facing the bees today. Enjoy the entire episode or fast forward to 15:22 - 26:44 and join Dr. Spivak and Lynne in the apiary.
Read or listen here how Dr. Marla Spivak, head of the U of MN Bee Lab and Bee Squad founder, comments on the relationship between honey and wild bee pollination and the importance of keeping all bee populations healthy.