A Facebook friend’s post this week told how a large honeybee swarm had taken up residence in an empty hive on his property. All on its own! He’d left the hive out all winter, “seasoning it with lemon grass every month,” (rubbing lemon grass into the wood), and the day before saw a scout bee […]
By Meredith Swett Walker Imagine a parasite about the size of a grapefruit, and it’s latched onto your back where you just can’t reach it. Now imagine that parasite is sucking your blood and that its cronies are reproducing rapidly in your home and attacking your family. This horrifying scenario is essentially what the mite […]
Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr. (April 12, 1907-2003)
Father of Honey Bee Genetics
Bee biologist Harry Hyde Laidlaw Jr. (1907-2003), known as “the father of honey bee genetics,” served on the UC Davis Department of Entomology faculty from 1947 until his retirement in 1974. Long after his retirement, however, the professor continued his research and outreach programs, publishing his last scientific paper at age 87 and his last book at 90. He died at age 96 at his home in Davis.
Childhood and Career Development
Born April 12, 1907 in Houston, Harry spent his boyhood and teen years in the Southeast: Virginia, Florida and Louisiana. In his childhood, he developed a keen interest in bee breeding and worked with his grandfather, Charles Quinn. They experimented with mating queen bees and control breeding and developed what became known as the Quinn-Laidlaw hand-mating method.
In 1929, while working in Baton Rouge, Laidlaw was encouraged by his boss to attend Louisiana State University. He completed his master’s degree in entomology in 1934 from Louisiana State University and received his doctorate in genetics and entomology form the University of Wisconsin in 1939. Two years later he was inducted into the U.S. Army, commissioned. and served as the Army entomologist for the First Service Command in Boston. There he met Ruth Collins, whom he married in 1946. They lived in New York City where he worked as a civilian entomologist for the Army. His career with the UC Davis Department of Entomology began in 1947.
Laidlaw is best known for developing artificial insemination technology for honey bees. His contributions enabled selective breeding of honey bees and pioneered the fundamental study of insect genetics. He authored numerous scientific publications and four books on honey bee genetics and breeding.
Laidlaw studied pests and diseases and conducted research on the breeding of queen bees and on re-queening bee colonies. His research on artificial insemination of bees inspired poet E.B. White to write a poem, “Song of the Queen Bee,” published in the New Yorker magazine in 1945. It included the lines “What boots it to improve a bee, if it means an end to ecstasy.”
Laidlaw received national and international awards for his research and service to the university, agriculture and the beekeeping industry. He was elected a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science in 1955, and the Entomological Society of America (ESA) in 1991. At UC Davis, he was the first associate dean for research (1969) in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. The College of Ag selected him for its Award of Distinction in 1997.
Laidlaw was awarded the Western Apiculture Society’s “Outstanding Service to Beekeeping” award in 1980, being cited as “one of the great scientists in American agriculture.” In 1981 he won the C.W. Woodworth Award of the Pacific Branch of the ESA.
Laidlaw published his classic text Queen Rearing in 1950, in collaboration with J. E. Eckert. He published his last book, Queen Rearing and Bee Breeding, written in collaboration with Robert Page, former chair of the UC Davis Department of Entomology, in 1997
Although retired, in 1980-85, he established a honey bee breeding program for the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture as part of a joint UC-Egypt agricultural development program.
Naming of Laidlaw Facility
In 2001, the Bee Biology Laboratory at UC Davis was renamed the Harry H. Laidlaw Jr. Honey Bee Research Facility. Local artist and sculptor Donna Billick and entomologist-artist Diane Ullman designed the sign at the facility.
Source: Harry H. Laidlaw Papers from the UC Davis Special Collections
Biographical materials, correspondence, writings, research materials, course materials, printed materials, memorabilia, photographs.
By Constance Lin Varroa mites, pathogens, or climate change? What exactly causes the honey bee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD)? Honey bees (Apis mellifera) offer us critical pollination services. In the United Kingdom, for instance, data from the British Beekeepers Association estimates that approximately one-third of the nation’s food supply is dependent on pollination, and more […]
It’s bee season again! As your going through your hives, you may notice they are putting on queen cells. There are three types of cells you will see: Swarm Cells, Superscedure Cells, or Emergency Cells.
The swarm cell is typically the one you will see. This type cell is an indicator that your hive is preparing to swarm. The beehive is a super organism, and bees are eusocial. This means that each individual bee can not survive on its own for very long. Superorganisms reproduce in different ways. Honey Bees do this by swarming. They will raise a new queen, and after that queen hatches, the old queen and a number of the worker bees will leave the current hive in search of a new home. Swarm cells are typically located on the bottom of frames or around the edges. There can be several in a hive at one time.
Supersedure cells are different. These are made to replace an existing queen. Sometimes the hive views the queen as inferior. There are many reasons for this. I have had hives do it when I put in marked or clipped queens. Sometimes they do it when the think she is not laying enough brood, or is not mated properly. These cells can be anywhere on the face of the frame. Typically there are 1-3 at a time. There has been some debate over whether the workers put the eggs in, or if the current queen lays in the cell cup.
Emergency cells are easy to spot. They are made in the absence of a queen. The worker bees realize there is no queen within an hour. They respond by selecting a couple of eggs that are the correct age. The reform the wax around that egg into a queen cell. These cells can be anywhere on the frame, and are usually somewhat recessed into the frame. There is some debate over the quality of these queens. However, I have had some good success with emergency queens. I raise some of my own queens, and when the season is over I purchase them. However, sometimes a quality queen from a reputable source is not available. So I let thousands of years of evolution do what it has learned to do.
Recognizing what type of queen cells are in your hive can help you to make decisions about your hive. Sometimes it can mean the difference in whether or not you loose the hive. If you are new to beekeeping, and are unsure, ask your mentor, or take a picture and send it to another beekeeper to find out what’s going on.
Remember, swarm cells are a great time to make increase. If you have a good supply of brood, honey, pollen, and bees you can make at least one split with a swarm cell.
Source: Types of Queen cells
Uses of propolis by bbkamodules
The varnishing of cells?
Where does this get a mention? It’s in the study notes..
They asked lots of people too.
In Ribbands, Chapter 27, Huber (1814) observed that new combs become more yellow, more pliable stronger and heavier and sometimes there were reddish threads on the inner walls. Chemical tests showed this was propolis.
Source: Uses of propolis
For a beekeeper, queen cells can symbolize success and failure simultaneously. Personally, it’s one of my favorite things to find during a hive inspection. Something about opening up the hive and seeing multiple, healthy queen cells reminds me that our bees will, more often than not, do just fine without us.
There are three different “types” of queen cells –
- Supercedure Cells – When the colony chooses to replace the existing queen. This usually indicates a problem with the previous queen – poor brood pattern, health problems, etc.
- Swarm Cells – built when a colony is preparing to swarm. These queen cells are left behind when the colony leaves with the old queen.
- Emergency Cells – These are made from existing eggs / larvae when something happens to the queen. This is how a hive naturally recovers from queen death.
Using Queen Cells to start a new colony can be a great way to utilize your apiary’s natural resources. You can carefully remove select queen cells and place them in the hive that needs a queen. This is best done on day 14 or 15.
One of the best resources for queen rearing that we’ve found online came from Glenn Apiaries – he’s got the best and most simplistic diagram so we’ve included that and the explanation he has along with it below:
Day 1 – Give breeder hive an empty dark brood comb to lay eggs in.
Day 4 – Transfer (graft) larva into artificial queen cell cups, from the breeder comb. Place the frame into a strong colony (cell builder) made queenless the day before.
Day 14 – Remove completed cells from cell builder. Leave one cell behind to replace the queen. Keep queen cells warm (80-94 F) until they are placed in queenless hives (mating nucs).
Day 22 – Virgin queens are ready to mate. They require nice weather (69 F), and an abundance of drones to mate with. A few colonies within a mile are adequate for providing drones for mating.
Day 27 – If queens mate without weather delay, they should now be laying eggs.
Weather delays in mating will add days to the process, after 3 weeks delay, virgin queens may start to lay unfertilized eggs.
Time your activities so that warm temperatures and drones are available when the queens are ready to mate.
Source: Queen Cells
Good weather broke out, finally, in July. This is news at Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey here in Maple Falls Washington. The month of June gave us 5 days of sun, 5 days of overcast, and all the rest was rain. So when the sun started shining on July 4 (after 2 inches of rain on July 3) it was actually a cause for celebration – and the sign that I could return to painting bee boxes, tops, and bottom screens.
But that’s a bit dull to read about. Some musings, and studies, on what colors bee see would be a bit more interesting.
Honeybees Do Not See The Same Colors We Do
Bees get to see in the ultraviolet world. We can use photographic techniques to mimic that world, but all resulting colors are approximations of what a bee MIGHT see. (More photos by scientist-cameraman Bjorn Roslett can be found at his web site NaturFotograf.com (click on Infrared in the left side menu)
We can never see colors the way bees see them.
- Bees see “primary colors” as blue, green and ultraviolet
- They can distinguish yellow, orange, blue-green, violet, purple, as combinations of their three primary colors.
- Humans see “primary colors” as red, blue, and green
- We can distinguish about 60 other colors as combinations of our three primary colors.
Bear in mind that not all the studies agree on the exact colors or preferences bees see, but they all agree red is black
Some studies propose that honeybees see orange, yellow, and green as one color (green in that group surprised me). Blue, violet and purple are seen as a second color.
Ultraviolet being their third color.
Honeybees Do Not See Red
It’s not that they don’t get angry (as in “to see red”), but honeybees see the color red as black.
Honeybees Versus Humans : A Breakdown
(Courtesy of West Mountain Apiary, where a very good write-up about color can be found)
|Orange||Yellow – Green (darker perhaps than yellow)|
|Blue||Blue plus Ultraviolet blue|
|Violet||Blue plus Ultraviolet|
Their Favorite Colors?
Their favorites are said by some to be: purple, then violet, then blue (which all look different to them). I could not find the study that came to this conclusion, but I like it, as my favorite colors are purple, violet, and then blue.
How Do We Know All This?
We don’t know it all; studies vary. However:
Bee’s color sense was partially demonstrated by Karl von Frisch. In 1915, he showed that bees could discern green, yellow, orange, blue, violet, and purple. He did this by using colored cards and bee feed. He imprinted the bees with the idea that feed could be found on a blue card, but not the other colors. When he removed the feed, the bees still went to the blue card. He then tried this with green, yellow, orange, violet, purple and red. The only color it did NOT work with was red.
In 1927, Professor A. Kuhn took the study of honeybees’ color sense further. He tested bees using the visible spectrum for humans, but also used longer and shorter wavelengths : the ultraviolet and infrared. The infrared was black to the bees, but ultraviolet was a color.
You CAN Try This At Home
A very nice PowerPoint presentation at this Link from the University of Nebraska, will walk you though an experiment on which colors in our visible spectrum honeybees can see. Sorry, there’s no test for ultraviolet.
Back To Painting Bee Gear
As you can see over time I have used purple (ok blue to them, but I like purple), yellow, orange, blue and green. It turns out this is helpful to the bees as it distinguishes their hive from the others in the yard. I did it because I thought the bee yards looked prettier with all the colors and red has never been a particular favorite of mine.
My most current bee hive top color choices of mariposa lily orange and forest green (the husband says it’s British Racing Green) came from long, diligent thought (kind of). The green was in the hayloft, left over painting trim on my house. The orange was last year’s color, and I had a bit left. That paint ran out before I was done with the tops and the Stockton’s Paints, my favorite paint store is an hours drive away (one way).
That’s my one tip on painting: if you are going to take the time to paint your bee gear, use good quality paint. Primer and two coats of color, just like a house. I’ve bee gear that I painted over a decade ago and it is still just fine, even in our 8 month rains.
That’s the news from Brookfield Farm Bees And Honey in Maple Falls, Washington. It’s still bright and sunny, so I’m back to painting bee boxes…
What colors have you chosen for your hives? Why did you make those choices? I think the colors in a bee yard are one of the fun parts of beekeeping.
It’s spring colony splitting time and one thing we should keep in mind as we delve into the congested and complex hive is having the correct balance of bees of various ages within the hive or split. An upset in the balance of bees’ ages upsets the proper functioning of the colony. Ex.: who’s going to clean the cells and feed the young larva if the colony goes queenless for an extended period and all of the bees have passed that stage in their adult development? Reversible? I wonder to what degree, and about the quality of work that can be expected from a bee that has passed it’s normal period for the work expected.
I’ve read below and elsewhere that there is some flexibility in the bees’ ability to move forward or backward in their age defined activities. However, the quality of the work suffers based on the bees’ physiologically ability to perform a particular task.
When making splits during the spring buildup there isn’t any difficulty finding brood of various ages so as to provide a split with a diverse population. Done well, a split hardly misses a beat and continues to grow and build effortlessly, while poorly configured splits struggle to get going and sometimes fail.
A simple diagram showing the life history of the honey bee worker.
The schedule of worker bee activities is both flexible and reversible, depending more upon physiological age than on chronological age, and is altered according to the needs of the colony. Diagram Source: Sipa Honey Bees
The science and politics of saving America’s bees gets messy. And the bees continue to die.