Posts Tagged: Kim Flottum
Often you'll hear kindergarten students asking one another: "What's your favorite color?"
Beekeepers do that, too--in a joking sort of way. Some like to rear the blond Italians; some prefer the darker Carniolans, developed from the area of the Carniolan Alps in southeastern Europe; and others opt for the even darker bees, the Caucasians, originating from the Caucasus Mountains of eastern Europe.
It's the desirable traits, not the color, though, that really matters.
"More than 20 breeds of bees have been identified, and many of these have been tested by beekeepers for their ability to live in manmade hives, as well as their adaptability to the moderate climates of the world," writes Bee Culture editor Kim Flottum in his excellent book, The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden.
"Many species," Flottum continues in his book, "have been abandoned by beekeepers because they possess undesirable traits, such as excessive swarming, poor food-storage traits, or extreme nest protection."
Bee breeder-geneticist Susan Cobey, who has a dual appointment with the University of California, Davis and Washington State University, is partial to her New World Carniolans, a bee line she established.
Overall, the Carniolans are known as a good colder-weather bee. The Italians, though, are the most common bee in the United States. Sometimes you'll see an Italian bee so blond it's lemony.
Jackie Park-Burris of Palo Cedro, chair of the California State Apiary Board, rears Italians, which leads to good natured-ribbing between her and Cobey about "the best bee."
If you're interested in genetic diversity, mark your calendar for May 2, 2012. Cobey will speak on “Importation of Honey Bee Germplasm to Increase Genetic Diversity in Domestic Breeding Stocks" at her seminar from 12:10 to 1 p.m. in 122 Briggs Hall, UC Davis. It's part of a series of seminars that the UC Davis Department of Entomology is sponsoring. Plans are to webcast this; so stay tuned.
Meanwhile, take a look at foraging honey bees in your neighborhood. Like the patchwork coat in the Dolly Parton song, "Coat of Many Colors," you'll see many colors.
Many, many colors. And some belong to young bees with a fuzzy thorax and fresh wings, and some to old bees with a bare thorax and tattered wings.
What's your favorite bee? Native pollinator specialist Robbin Thorp, emeritus professor of entomology who maintains an office at the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility at UC Davis, says that "beauty is only skin (integument) deep."
"I prefer the ones with a good disposition regardless of their external appearance even on a 'bad hair day,'" Thorp says.
As for me, to paraphrase American humorist Will Rogers (1879-1935), "I've never met a bee I didn't like."
I haven't met any of those highly aggressive, super-defensive Africanized bees, though.
Darker bee and a light-colored bee foraging on sedum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Beautifully striped honey bee working the sedum. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Caucasian bee (from the Caucasus Mountains) on saliva. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When you encounter a "Golden Girl" in your backyard, there's one thing to do: grab the camera.
The "Golden Girl," in this case, is an Italian honey bee (Apis mellifera liguistica), the most common honey bee in the United States.
Make that the world.
"Package producers prefer Italian bees because they can start the rearing process early and raise lots of bees to sell," writes beekeeper-editor-author Kim Flottum in his book, The Backyard Beekeeper: An Absolute Beginner's Guide to Keeping Bees in Your Yard and Garden.
Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, goes on to say that commercial beekeepers especially like this trait when it comes to their bees pollinating early-season crops like almonds.
Then, too, Italian honey bees "produce and store lots of honey when there is ample forage and good flying weather," he writes.
There's still another good reason why beekeepers prefer the Italians: "they are not markedly protective of their hive," Flottum says. "Italians are quiet on the comb when you remove and examine frames; they do not swarm excessively, and they do not produce great amounts of propolis."
As for photographers preferring the Italians, these "Golden Girls" just stand out more so than the Carniolans and Caucasians, two other popular races.
Italian honey bee on lavender. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, makes seven good points in his piece on honey bee health published in the Jan. 18th edition of The Daily Green.
Scientists, he writes, don't know what exactly causes colony collapse disorder (CCD), the mysterious phenomenon characterized by adult bees abandoning the hive, leaving behind the queen bee, brood and food stores.
But Flottum says, all this research on what ails them provides insight on what will help them. He lists seven key maladies that may be contributing to CCD.
One of them is poor nutrition.
"Honey bees forced to dine on only a single source of pollen have problems. Imagine living for a month on only Twinkies. The first one is great, the second good... the 123rd is disgusting, and, you are slowly starving to death. When researchers looked closely at the diet for our honey bees, they saw the problem and today--after four years--there are almost a dozen healthy food choices on the market we can feed our bees (including Megabee and Nozeivit, sold by Dadant; Ultra-Bee, sold by Mann Lake; and Feed Bee, sold by Ellingsons’s Inc.) That's progress. (But look at your grocery store and see how many kinds of dog food there are... wouldn't you think hard working honey bees should have the same choices?).
Flottum advocates diversity in the diet--and rightfully so.
"Make sure bees have a diverse and varied diet. Many floral sources are needed for a healthy, wholesome, season-long diet. And make sure those flowers have not been sprayed with the new insecticides and fungicides that are so detrimental to the young. And feeding bees is a good idea. Use one of the newer substitute diets available from the supply companies and feed whenever there's a food shortage or lack of variety. It will only help."
Check out the other six maladies contributing to a honey bee's poor health. We're all in this together, and together we can improve their health.
So you're thinking about becoming a backyard beekeeper...
What considerations are involved?
Honey bee guru Eric Mussen, Extension apiculturist and member of the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty, has just revised his Bee Brief on "Getting Started in Beekeeping," posted on the department's website.
"One of your most important considerations," Mussen says, "is the safety of family members and neighbors." Indeed, someone might be allergic to bee stings and require immediate medical attention.
"The only way to find out is to ask the neighbors, and this will allow you to find out whether or not there is serious opposition to your keeping bees in the neighborhood," Mussen says.
Among the other considerations:
1. Over how much of the year will nectar and pollens be available to the bees? Will you have to feed the bees to ensure their survival?
2. Over how much of the year will water be available to the bees? They need it every day.
3. What will the bees be flying over to get their food and water? They defecate in flight and bee feces can damage finishes on cars and leave colored spots on everything below them. Also, will they be flying across a pedestrian, bicycle or equestrian pathway? If so, they have to be encouraged to gain altitude quickly by installing fencing or solid, tall plantings near the hives.
4. Is the apiary accessible year around? Flooding at or near the apiary site is the usual problem.
5. Try to avoid low spots. They hold cold, damp air for prolonged periods.
6. Try to avoid hilltops. They tend to be windy.
Mussen goes on to talk about beekeeping equipment, costs, knowledge of diseases, beekeeping journals, and the "bible" on honey bees, the 1324-page book: The Hive and the Honey Bee.
It's a good idea to join a local beekeeping organization and get tips from the veterans.
Beginning beekeeping books? Mussen points out that Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, recently published a 167-page book, The Backyard Beekeeper, and that UC Davis emeritus professor Norman Gary (and bee wrangler) has written a beekeeping book, The Honey Bee Hobbyist, due out in November or December.
There's a wealth of information out there to help you get started.
Honey Bee on Begonia