MI Ag Ideas - Getting started with Beekeeping with Ana Heck

February 20, 2024

Have you wondered if beekeeping is right for you? Have you considered keeping honey bees to produce your own, local honey? Honey bees are awe-inspiring, but keeping them healthy takes a lot of learning and hard work. Before you get started, find out what costs, time, and effort are required. Learn what beekeepers do and where they can go for resources and support.

We all benefit from a healthy pollinator population. You don’t need to become a beekeeper to help take care of our bees! This presentation will also cover pollinator diversity, issues that bees are facing, and what people can do to support pollinator health.

The 2024 MI Ag Ideas to Grow With conference was held virtually, February 19-March 1, 2024. This two-week program encompasses many aspects of the agricultural industry and offers a full array of educational sessions for farmers and homeowners interested in food production and other agricultural endeavors. While there is no cost to participate, attendees must register to receive the necessary zoom links. Registrants can attend as many sessions as they would like and are also able to jump around between tracks. RUP and CCA credits were offered for several of the sessions. More information can be found at: https://www.canr.msu.edu/miagideas/ 


Video Transcript

Good afternoon. Welcome to the MI Ag Ideas to Grow with Virtual Conference. My name is Paola Bacigalupo Sanguesa and I am a dairy extension educator based in Ingham county. It is my pleasure to welcome you to the session getting started with beekeeping. Today we will hear from Ana Heck. Before we get started, I would like to take a quick moment to thank our sponsors who are shown on the screen. Now give me a second. Due to their support, we're able to offer this event to at no charge participant. Now let's jump in today's presentation. Let's begin. Ana, the screen is yours. I'll stop sharing so you can share your material. Thanks a lot Paola. My name is Ana Heck, I'm an apiculture extension educator at Michigan State University. I get to work a lot with people who are interested in beekeeping or who want to support pollinators. We'll go ahead and get started. MSU Extension programs are open to everyone. The agenda for today's presentation is really thinking about this question of what does it mean to be a beekeeper? We'll do a brief introduction to the members of the honey bee colony. We're going to talk through what honey bees need. What is a colony inspection? What are you getting yourself into? How can you help bees? And how can you get started keeping honey bees? It gets started with the introduction to the members of the colony. Here we have a photo that has a honeybee worker, a drone, and a queen. The honeybee worker is on the left. Workers have barbed stingers so that if they normally the stinger gets caught in the skin or whatever they're singing, that means that part of that stinger will tear their abdomen and they will end up dying after sting. The drones are males and they don't have stingers. You can see the difference in the body shape of the drone. It has really big eyes and a wider body. And then on the right we have a honeybee queen. The queen does have a stinger, but it's not barbed, so they don't die after singing. And it's very rare for humans to get stung by a honeybee queen. It is on my bucket list. I've never had that happen to me before. As far as I know, we're looking here at the different members of the honeybee colony side by side. And we'll talk through their different roles. But just another thing to look at is their different body parts. For honeybees, they have their head. They have their thorax. Their thorax is that middle body segment. It has a lot of muscles in it. And that's important because they need those strong muscles for their wings to flap, so that they can fly. Then we have the abdomens, which have their digestive systems. And for the queen, that's where she had a special organ called a spermathica, where she stores sperm from meeting with multiple drones. All right, here we have a picture of a queen surrounded by worker bees. Naturally in the hive, the workers will tend to the queen. They will feed her. They'll pass and spread her pheromones around the colony. This is pretty common that workers would be surrounding the honey bee queen. However, if you are opening up your hive, there's a lot of disruption that happens. It's not always that you get to see this retinue or circle behavior of the worker bees surrounding the queen. Sometimes people think that because the queen is the queen, she must have the cool job of bossing all of the other bees around. But that's not really what her job is. Her job is to lay eggs. In certain times of the year, she'll lay over 1,000 eggs per day. Here we have a photo of hexagonal wax cells and there's a single egg in each cell. This is why looks good. We're seeing lots of eggs in cells. I will say once you're out in the real world trying to look for eggs in a hide, it can be much more difficult to see eggs. This is probably the easiest time you'll ever have seeing eggs, honeybee eggs is when they're really magnified on this photo. Sometimes having good lighting or magnification can help you see eggs. But really the main job of the queen is going to be to lay eggs and her phermoes that are spread around the colony. Help the bees know that they are queen, right? And they can proceed as normal. Those eggs will develop into larvae. The larvae are fed by the adult worker bees. The alt worker bees have a gland on their head called the hyperphyngial gland, and that's where they produce food for the developing brood. Once the larvae are old enough, they give off a chemical signal and that lets the adult worker bees know to cap off their cells with wax. Here we can see honey bee worker brood. That's in the pupation phase. The phases of development for the bees are larva pupa, and then they'll emerge as adults. For worker bees, it's 21 days from when the egg is laid till the worker E emerges as an adult. All right, here we have again a photo of a drone. The drones are males and their main purpose for the colony is reproduction. They will leave the colony and they will fly and hang out in an area in the sky called the drone congregation area. They will wait in case a young new queen flies by for mating. New queens can only mate within the first couple weeks of their lives. They are normally flying further from mating than drone, and that helps prevent some inbreeding. If there's a new queen, she'll emerge. She'll go on mating flights. She'll mate with multiple, sometimes dozens, of drones if they are successful. If the drones are successful in mating, they will die after mating. But if they're not successful, they'll just return to the hive and try again another day. We see drones in the hive from the spring through the fall. In the fall before winter, the worker bees will kick the drones out of the hive. Here's another picture of a drone in the middle, and then next to that drone, there's some worker bees. Just for comparisons, you can see how they look a little bit different. That drone has a little bit of a wider abdomen and bigger eyes. All right, and then we have our worker bees. And our worker bees have a really appropriate name because they do a lot of work. The jobs that they take on depends on their age and also the needs of the colony. And that's a fancy term called temporal polyethysm. But we expect the younger worker bees to do the jobs in the hive. That includes things like cleaning the wax cells, feeding the developing brood, tending to the queen. And then the older worker bees are going to forage from the hive, forage for things outside of the hive. There are four things that honey bee workers forage for. One is nectar. Nectar has a lot of moisture in it. The bees bring it back, They use their fans. They evaporate some of that moisture off. And once it's dry enough, that's when we call it honey. The worker bees also forage for pollen. I think this photo here has a worker be with some blue pollen on her legs. I think sometimes people think of pollen as only being yellow or orange, but pollen can be all kinds of really cool colors. Then they also bring resins back from trees. They're collecting resins from trees like cottonwood and poplar trees, and they're bringing them back to the hive. They'll use the resins to seal little nicks and crannies in the hive, and it makes our job a lot harder as beekeepers when the resins are in the hives, we call it a copylus. This propylus means that everything in the hive is stuck together. We have to use a tool called a hive tool, which is like a small P bar to separate frames and boxes. The other thing about Propolis that's a little tough is I have not found anything ever that will get it out of clothing. It just stains my clothes permanently. But the cool thing about Propolis, aside from the bees just using it to seal off parts of their hives, is that it has a lot of antimicrobial properties. There's research that's showing how important it is for the honeybee colonies health to have Propolis. And we're actually now trying to look at different ways to encourage Propolis production in honeybee colonies. All right, so here is a little chart from the University of Minnesota labs, beekeeping in Northern climates that shows the different development times for the different types of bees. For queen, worker and drones, the egg stage is going to be three days. Then for queens and workers, which are both females, that larval stage will be five days. For drones that's a little bit longer, it's seven days. Then the pupil stage for queen is eight days. For workers is 13 days. And for drones it's 14 days. All right, now that we've been introduced to the members of the colony, we're going to talk a little bit about what do honey bees need. When we think about honeybee colonies, we really think of them as managed livestocks or like an animal. Honeybees are an organism that needs to be managed and cared for. America is not the native range of our honeybee, which is Apis malefa Honeybee we have here in Michigan was brought over from Europe. There's lots of other species of bees here in Michigan. Many of them are native to the Americas. And the best way to support wild species of bees is normally going to be to have good habitat for them. Planting flowers that are good for them, and then also making sure that they have space for their different nests or colonies, depending on what kind of bee they are. But again, we think of honey bees as managed livestock for honey production or, and pollination, or maybe as a hobby. But similarly, how we might think about keeping backyard chickens. Honey bees have needs that we take care of. When we're thinking about honeybee colonies, we're thinking about them as animals and how they need food, water, shelter, and medical care. Those are the same things that my little doggie Reno in this photo needs to get started with food. A lot of times honey bees are going to be able to get food from the environment. There's flowers that produce nectar and fallen. In the right circumstances, bees will be able to fly to those flowers, collect nectar and pollen, and bring it back to the hive. But there are certain times where in certain environments where the landscape may not have enough flowers for Es, thinking about, you know, a grass lawn that doesn't have any flowering plants in it or certain types of agricultural landscapes may not produce enough nectar and pollen for bees. These are nectarine pollen are really important. Nectar which gets dried down to honey is full of sugar. It's carbohydrates, and it's what the bees need in order to go on those long foraging flights. The bees also need honey to survive the winter. Today we had a really nice warm day, but throughout the winter, when it's cold, the bees will cluster inside the hive. They'll use their muscles and their, thes, the same muscles that they use for their wings to shiver, And then they're able to generate heat, but they need to consume a lot of honey in order to generate heat throughout the winter. And then pollen is really important for insect growth. As proteins, fats, vitamins, minerals. We, unfortunately we see honeybee colonies die of starvation each year. This is normally going to be something that's preventable because the beekeeper can make sure to leave enough honey for the colony and feed, supplemental feed as needed. But really thinking again about our honeybee colonies as an animal or livestock that we are taking care of and how important it is to make sure that they have food, and if not, we are providing that food. Here's another picture of starvation. This is a colony that's not quite dead yet, but the colony ran out of food. So it is now starting to cannibalize that developing brood. One thing that we see here in Michigan is bees need honey on them to survive the winter. Sometimes spring can be a really critical time of year. It's common for colonies to deplete a lot of their honey stores over the winter. And then in the spring, they're raising new broods. They're building up a population. They need more food. We might be at a time of year when there's flowers in bloom, but all of a sudden it gets too cold or too wet for the beuse of page that is something that we see here in Michigan. Is winter and spring being critical times where the beekeeper should be checking to make sure that the colony has enough food to survive so that we can prevent starvation. There's lots of different ways to feed honey bee colonies, but a lot of times for small scale stationary beekeepers, it's just finding a special feeder that you can fill with sugar, water, and give to the colony. We see a bees at several different times of year, especially when the lani is new or very small. Having access to good nutrition can help them grow. If they're small in population, they're not going to have a lot of foragers that can leave the hive and return with food. Workers have glands in their abdomen where they're able to produce little, teeny tiny flakes of bees wax. But they need a lot of sugar in order to draw comb or to produce that bees wax. Normally, they can do that if they're on a strong nectar flow, if there's a lot of nectar out there in the environment that the bees are bringing back to the hive, or if they're being fed sugar water. We also feed our bees if there's not enough food available in the environment for them, we feed them sometimes when they're sick. Sometimes having access to good nutrition is something that can help bees recover when the weather prohibits foraging, if it's too cold or too wet outside for foraging for the bees to leave, we may need to feed them if they don't have enough food in their hive when they don't have enough food stores. In the fall, we're normally checking our hives to see how heavy they feel. We just put it up from the back and can tell normally if a hive feels light and if it doesn't, we'll want to make sure that we're feeding in the fall before winter. That's the main thing to think about, is that oftentimes starvation is preventable and some honey bees are livestock. We are making sure that their food needs are met. Honey bees also need water. My dog loves water. Honey bees need water. Bees will forge for water, especially on hot days. This is especially important for beekeepers in Michigan to think about because one of the most common complaints I hear from the public is when honey bees are visiting their neighbors swimming pool for water. Normally, the best way to prevent the bees from going to a water source at your neighbor's property is to, early in the season, establish a water source close to the bee hives and keep it full of water consistently. If there's a water source close to the hive, the bees will start going to that water source and bringing it back to the hive as needed. But if you don't establish that water source early on, or if it dries up, they'll look further away for water and it can be a really big nuisance if bees are collecting water from the sewing pool, because all of a sudden you have hundreds of bees at the water. And it doesn't always make neighbors feel very comfortable with your beekeeping. All right, then we're also going to think about the shelter that our honey bees need. Honey bees are naturally cavity nesters in the wild, they'll often find a tree cavity here. We often manage them in a hive, which is the style that we see here where you can add or take away boxes, is called the Links Strath hive and that's the most common style that we use here in the United States. The hive is the home where the honey bee colony lives. It's the equipment. Then the colony is the group of bees. Honey bees are super organism. We think of the whole group or family of them as a super organism. That super organism is the honey bee colony, the group of bees beekeeping. The word hive and colony are used interchangeably, quite a bit. Normally, beekeepers aren't sticklers for whether or not you say hive or colony. Oftentimes will use one or the other to refer to the same thing. All right. Then we're also adding or taking away boxes throughout the season as needed. It's pretty common for bees to come through winter in one or maybe two of these blink strap style deep boxes. This is, I think, an eight frame or high, but it could be ten frame. And the bees will come through the winter in a smaller configuration. And then spring, when there's lots of nectar and pollen out there in the environment, the bees will bring that back. And the queen will also need more space for land. That's when we're adding boxes on top of the hive. We expect most of the brood nest, the barrier where the queen has laid to be in the bottom, normally two boxes. And then they'll have pollen and honey in those boxes as well. And then normally, it's the extra boxes that we put on top of the hive that are for incoming nectar and the boxes that we expect to extraact honey. They need a lot of honey for winter, but they don't know when they have enough honey for winter. It's not like they get to a certain point where they've been bringing nectar back to the hive. And they say, hey everyone. We can all just chill and relax now because we have more than enough honey to survive the winter. As long as the colony is healthy and there's lots of food out there in the environments and weather is good enough. The bees are going to keep bringing nectar back to the hive. And that's what allows us to beekeepers to harvest the surplus honey. So for Michigan colonies that stay here year round, I might leave 75 pound, 100 pounds of honey in the hive for the winter for the bees to consume. And then in a good year, the colony may produce an extra 100 pounds or more of surplus honey. But it really depends on the colony and on the year. We are really encouraging beekeepers to think about which boxes are used for overwintering for the brew nest, for the animal of the honey bee colony, and which are used for collecting honey for human consumption. So that we're keeping those comes separate in cases of feeding and medication. So we're not adulterating any of our honey. All right, then lastly, honey bees need medical care. The unfortunate part of beekeeping is that there's a parasitic mite called Oa destructor or the omit. It is Oliver honeybee colonies. It is not a question of whether or not a Michigan honeybee colony has roamites. It's a question of how high those levels are. They are relatively large to the human eye. We are able to see them if you have good vision. Although normally they're hiding on the bee. You can't just look at bees to see how many mites you have. You normally have to do a special test to see how many mites you have in a sample of bees, but they're really. Probably the biggest challenge of keeping bees, especially of keeping honey bees healthy. Hard of learning to manage honey bees, is also learning how to manage this parasitic might the reproduction of the mite. If you look at that top image, you'll see there's a throomite that will leave an adult worker bee and go into a brood cell. I mentioned earlier that when the larvae are at a certain age where their cell is ready to be capped off with wax, they'll give off a chemical signal and then the adult work will cap off that cell. Unfortunately, the mites are also able to understand that chemical cue and that's when they will enter into a brood cell. It'll be a female, and after the cell is kept, she'll lay eggs. The first one is normally a male, the subsequent ones are normally females. The offspring mate with each other in that developing honey bee cell. And the mother mite will make a feeding spot on the developing honeybees abdomen and honeybee pups abdomen. That's where they will feed. Unfortunately, this is really problematic because not only do roomites do some damage to the bees themselves just through their feeding behaviors, but they also spread diseases to bees. There are some diseases that are much worse for bees when they're spread by roomites than when they're just spread from B to B. When the adult emerges show emerge with the mother mite and the daughter mites and then those mites will transfer hosts and potentially continue to spread diseases. Just to show you what it can look like if you have really high levels or moderately high levels of mites and diseases in the colony, you might see a bee with deformed wings. There's the virus called deformed wing virus that the colonies can have. The bees can spread it from B to B. But when it's spread by me, that's reproducing in a honey bee. Brood cell can be much more virulent. And we can see these cases of bees emerge that are really sick and that have deformed wings and that don't live for very long. This is something we'll see normally if the bromite levels are much higher than where they should be, then this is a picture of some really sick brood that's in a colony that has high mites and high virus loads. You can see in the cells, instead of the pearly white larvae, they look sunken, melted, deflated. This is something that we'll see in colonies that are really sick or that high levels of rhomites and viruses. Unfortunately, we as beekeepers can't wait until we see these deformed wings or we see this really sick brood in order to act. Because then it's going to be really hard for us to get the virus levels and levels under control. A lot of what we're doing as beekeepers is taking steps to try to manage or kill mites so that the levels don't get very high and subsequently the virus levels can't get very high. We do a lot of education on mites because it is so hard, because it takes so much in order to keep the mite levels low. Dr. Megan Milbrath has a series on our website that starts with looking at examples of colonies that have died from high omite loads will teach you how to monitor omites. Normally, we're going to recommend the alcohol wash test, which is where you take a sample of 300 B's and you put them in a jar with a screened lid. You put isopropal alcohol with the bees. Then I guess first you have a solid lid. You shake it, it dislodges the mites, and then you pour the isopropyl alcohol in the mites through a screen so you can see how many vroomtes you have per your sample of 300. Then we also have information on how to make a plan for votes steps, or management steps throughout the season to try to keep the vomite levels low. There's a really nice resource that's free. It's called the Tools for Buro Management Guide from the Honey Bee Health Coalition. And it goes through all the different buromite management strategies that we have in order to manage buro mites. But here in Michigan, most beekeepers who are successfully keeping honey bee colonies alive and healthy year after year are going to use some treatments. These treatments are regulated by the EPA. They are pesticide treatments that we use in the hives to try to kill or damage mites to prevent our populations from getting too large and prevent the disease loads from getting too high. There's some different treatment options that are available. The formic acid, hop guard and oxalic acid treatments can be used when honey supers are on. When we're collecting honey for human consumption, the time oil based treatments cannot, can't be using those treatments when we're also collecting honey for human consumption. Then there's some synthetic treatments, but we're seeing varying levels of resistance to those synthetic treatments. Normally, for stationary beekeepers, we're using the acid based or time oil based treatments. All right, then there's other diseases and issues that we can find in the honey bee colony as well as a first year beekeeper. Your main goal would be to be able to identify healthy versus not healthy. If you're able to see if it's healthy, that's great. And then you also want to be able to identify if it looks like there's a problem, in which case you'll take photos. You can send them to me at extension. You can send them to your beekeeping club or beekeeping mentre. I will tell you one thing that really helps us is if you take photos that are clear and not flurry. But normally if you're able to take some photos, that'll at least help us get started in figuring out what might be wrong. But a few examples of diseases that we sometimes see. On the left, we have chalk brood, which is a fungal disease. We see that, especially sometimes in the spring, some stocks, some genetic stock, is more resistant to chalk brood than others. In the middle we have European fel brood, which is a bacterial disease. It is pretty common here in Michigan to find the bacterial bird disease, we see it most commonly in the spring but sometimes later in the season as well. And then we have American Bowl bird on the right, which is a different bacterial bird disease. And it has spores that can live in comb indefinitely. This is not a very common disease that we see, but it's one that we need to take really seriously to prevent it from spreading to other colonies. We have to destroy all the comb, and there's different ways to move all the bees onto brand new equipment to remove the disease and the spores. All of these would be situations where you'd hopefully be able to notice that the brood looks funny, that the brood pattern looks pretty spotty. So if we're looking at the cap cells, there's spaces between them and that can be a clue that maybe some of the brood are sick or not surviving. And again, take photos and reach out if you think that you have some kind of disease issue. All right, so next we're going to talk about what it's like to inspect a honey bee colony. There's someone that I work with that will say honey bee hives aren't lawn ornaments. Honey bee colonies are animals, and they need to be inspected and cared for. The frequency of inspections can depend on the time of year and how much experience you have keeping bees. But oftentimes for new beekeepers, it's going to be in the spring, maybe every seven to ten or sometimes 14 days. There's four things that we want to check for in an inspection. We want to check for food space queen, right, And call health. We'll start here with food. Normally, when we're doing a call inspection, we'll want to make sure, do our bees have stored pollen? Do they have stored nectar or honey, or do they have supplemental food? This is something that we as beekeepers should just be in the habit of always checking to look for stored food in the hive. So we know if our colonies need more, there's certain places in Michigan in times of year where there's so much pollen and nectar coming in to the hive that it's not really something that we need to worry about. But we are still in the habit of always checking to make sure that our bees have food. Again, we're looking for nectar or honey in the hive. Normally, we call it nectar. When it's uncapped, the bees dry out that nectar, and once it's dry enough, they will cap it with bees wax, and that's when we normally start to call it honey. Then we're also looking for pollen stored in the comb and the hexagonal cells. Again, pollen can be all kinds of color and it's normally close to the brood nest, the developabes. We're also going to make sure that our colony has the right amount of space. We're starting our colonies. Normally if it's a brand new colony, if it's a package, or a nucleus or new colony, it's normally going to start in just one box. Because when they're really small, they don't need quite as much space. But then we're adding on boxes as needed throughout the season so that there is space for the queen to lay more eggs, and there's space for incoming nectar. Here we can see a honey bee hive, and the bees look like they're boiling over the top. This is a hive that probably needed more boxes on sooner. We're trying to anticipate the needs. We're trying to add boxes in on the hive before they need it, so they're not getting crowded. If they do get crowded, that can trigger swarming, which is something we'll talk about. Then again, we're thinking about which boxes we're using for the brood nest, which boxes we're using for the honey crop, and we're keeping those boxes separate. All right. Another thing we'll check for is if our colony is queen, right? That does not mean that every time you open up your hive, you're going to find the queen. And I know how exciting and cool it can be to find a honey bee queen, but if you are going frame by frame looking for her at each inspection, you're probably going to do more harm than good. Because it can be pretty disruptive to the colony if you're going through every single frame. If you're not really trained to look for her, or even sometimes if you are, it can be easy to miss the queen. Normally, we don't want to look for the queen. It can be too disruptive to try to find her at every visit, but instead we'll look for eggs. Normally, if we see eggs like this one for her self and we see larvae and puppy and worker brood that looks really good and healthy. We can be assured that the queen is probably doing just fine. Remember eggs or eggs for three days. If we see eggs like this, it means the queen laid them within the last three days. All right? So you might wonder, why wouldn't we have a queen? Colonies will raise new queens under three different impulses. One is swarming. Swarming is the way that the colony, which is a super organism, reproduces. We talked about reproduction on the level of the honey of the queen laying eggs. But if the colony as an organism is trying to reproduce, it will split itself by swarming normally, that will mean that a queen will leave with a portion of the colony. Sometimes about half of the bees, they'll stay close to the hive. The worker, the scout bees will look for a permanent hive location, like a tree cavity. And then once they decide that that's the new home, the whole swarm will leave and move into that area. Bees will naturally raise new queens in the spring because of a strong reproductive urge. Or if they get crowded, if there's not enough empty cells for the queen to lay in, as well as incoming nectar to be stored, that can trigger swarming. The bees will also raise a new queen when they sense a failing queen. This is called supersedure. Then there's also a situation called emergency queen rearing, which is when the queen is suddenly removed or killed. And that's my nice way of saying that maybe the beekeeper accidentally squished the queen. If that happens, the bees recognize within hours that the queen's pheromone is there, and they'll start raising new queens. The queen can lay fertilized eggs or unfertilized eggs. The unfertilized eggs are male, they always develop into drums. The fertilized eggs are females. Whether or not they develop into workers or queens depends on the nutrition they're given as really young larvae. If the bees decide that they are going to raise new queens because they're clean, was squished or because they are preparing for swarming or supersedure, The workers will identify some young female larvae and they will feed a different proportion of brewed food that contains more royal jelly. That changes that larvas trajectory from worker to queen. The development both workers and queens develop from fertilized eggs and it really just depends on the nutrition they're fed as young larvae. Here we have a photo of some queen cells. Worker and drone brood is going to face out on the frame and queen cells are going to point down here we have an example of some sealed queen cells. On the left, in the bottom, that's the honey bee queen in the pupil stage of development. And then on the right, we have an emerged queen cell. That is where a new queen emerged. And we can tell she emerged from that cell because it was chewed out in the bottom in a nice little circle. It looks like the cell was opened with a teeny tiny can opener. Here's another example. On the left, we have a emerged queen cell, and on the right we have a sealed queen cell. It's pretty common during coin rearing that the colony will raise multiple queens. A lot of times the first queen that's out will start marking the other queen cells, and those cells will get torn down. And then we have a period where the new queen needs to go on mating flights where she's mating with drones and drone congregation areas outside of the hive. She's mating with multiple drones. And then she has to do all of her mating within the first couple of weeks. After that. The queen can no longer mate after that two week period. But she's able to keep the sperm alive in an organ called aspermapica. The queens can live multiple years. There's reports of queens living five years or longer. They're able to keep that sperm alive and that special organ called aspermapa. All right, here's an example of a honey bee swarm. Like I said, when the colony is reproducing because of that natural reproduction urge or because they're crowded in their hive, they'll, it's normally a queen that leaves with mini workers. Oftentimes in the spring, it's the queen that overwintered in the hive. Sometimes we see after swarms where the colony issues, swarms with young virgin queens as they emerge. But we can see that they'll hang somewhere close to the hive. Oftentimes on a tree branch or a pole or a post. They'll congregate there. And then the worker bees will scout for a new home. Then if they find it within hours or days, they will move as a group to that new cavity, that new home that they've identified. Here's another photo of a honey bee swarm on a post. Then here's a honeybee colony on a tree branch. Again, a lot of times, honey bee swarms can be relatively gentle because they don't have brood or honey to defend. That said, you can definitely still get stung by a swarm. Normally, beekeepers like to deter swarming as much as we can, then collect swarms if we find them in order to expand the number of colonies we're managing. There may be some downside in having some colonies that are out there in the wild that aren't being medicated or treated for rolla mites. Because those mites sort back to our managed colonies, then the big reason is because sometimes instead of establishing in a tree cavity, a swarm may establish in the siding of someone's home. That can be really hard for people to deal with. You're normally going to have to hire someone who has both construction and beekeeping expertise to remove a swarm that's established in the siding of your home. I hear people who have to deal with that difficult situation. Normally we're going to try to deter swarming as much as we can and then capture swarms if we can do so safely and not risk falling and hurting ourselves. All right, so why do honey bees form? Again, it's the natural reproduction of the super organism, it's crowding. And this can be something that's really hard for new beekeepers because normally when we say we want to give our colonies enough space, we mean empty drawn comb for the queen to lay eggs in and for them to store incoming nectar. The tough thing about getting started is you probably won't have lots of empty drawn. You'll have to make sure that your bees have nectar or sugar syrup so that they can draw that new comb. But sometimes they can't draw it as quickly as they need it. That can be a challenge to getting started. The swarming can depend a lot on the weather, and it changes from year to year. There's some years where I get lots of reports of swarms, and then some years where it's not so much, but it can coincide with the onset of a strong nectar flow, lots of plants producing nectar. And then some genetics plays a role too. Some colonies are going to be more prone to swarming than others. All right? So a lot of times as beekeepers, in order to deter swarming, we're going to split our colonies. And this is something that many beekeepers do in the spring time before the colonies begin swarming. And that's to deter them and split that organism, let them reproduce, but still under our management. Here's just an example, if you're thinking about keeping bees. A lot of times that means splitting surviving colonies. All right. Some other issues we can run into in terms of still thinking about the part of our inspection where we're checking to see if our colony is queen, right? We can have a situation sometimes where we have what we call laying workers. If the colony is queenless for a long time and doesn't have brewed, it's low on queen fairmones and brewed phirmones. The workers can begin laying eggs. The worker bees can't mate. So they can only lay unfertilized eggs. And these unfertilized eggs will develop into drones. And so a situation where we might say laying workers is, for example, maybe the colony raised a new queen because you know it was swarming. Or because we squished the queen by accident. And then that new queen emerged and went on some mating flights. And maybe something happened to that new queen and she didn't return to the hit. Well, at this point the colony doesn't have a chance to raise a new queen, right? At this point they've been without young brood for a while. So they don't have the young female larvae that's in the hive where they can feed that royal jelly so that they develop a new queen. So at this point with the low levels of brewed pheromones and lack of clean pheromone, the workers ovaries will develop and they will lay unfertilized eggs, which will develop into drones. Which makes sense because at this point, the colony's last chance of getting its genetics out in the world is raising a bunch of drones that may meet with a young, new queen. Some signs of laying workers. Here in this photo we're seeing that the larvae in these cells look really big for the cell size. And that's because they're drone brewed. They're drone larvae, which are bigger than worker larvae. And they're in the worker size cells. Another telltale sign of laying workers is when we see multiple eggs per cell or eggs on the cell walls. This is a situation where unfortunately the colony is not going to accept a new queen. The laying workers give off a blend of sense that doesn't make them readily accepting of a new queen. Normally, what we're going to do in the situation of laying workers is what we call a newspaper combination. Especially if you're a small scale stationary beekeeper. This is an easy way to deal with it. Where for example, in the photo on the right, the green box would be a queen, right high. Then we put a single sheet of newspaper between the boxes. The white box is going to be with the laying workers. The bees will clean out that newspaper, but it gives them some time to get used to each other. Sent bees will recognize it if the bees are from their colony or not, because different colonies have different sense. And having that sheet of newspaper gives the bees time to adjust to each other's sense while they clean it out. All right. Then another issue that we can see in terms of queen issues in the hive is what's called a drone layer queen. This is when there is a queen that's present and laying, but she's laying unfertilized eggs where she should be laying fertilized eggs. This can happen with a really young new queen if the weather was bad during the mating flight period, and she just wasn't able to go on mating flights. Or it can happen with old queens that are starting to run out of sperm in the spermatheca. Especially with the older queens, we'll sometimes see a combination, A worker brood and then drone brewed, sprinkled in the patch of worker brewed instead of in its own area. And that can be assigned that the queen is intending to lay a fertilized egg in those workers size cells. But she's instead unfertilized eggs which develop into drones. So this is something that really, it doesn't get better with time. Normally, it means that the beekeeper is going to intervene, remove that failing queen and replace it with a new queen. There's a really helpful article by Dr. Megan Milgrath called, Help, I Need a Queen. And it goes through the different queen issues. It also has a nice timeline. One of the things that can be really hard if your colony is experiencing a queen issue is to be patient for the colony to raise a new queen. For that new queen to go on meeting flights and come back. And then to actually get to the point where you're able to check for eggs, just see if the colony is queen, right? All right, so in addition to checking for food for space for queen, right, We're also going to check for colony health. Normally we're looking for open brood, which is that larval stage. We're looking for sealed brood which is that pupil stage. And we're doing over all my check and we're making sure that everything looks okay. We're not checking every single frame. Normally in an inspection, we're going to look at a few frames to make sure we see the food, to make sure we see different stages of brood, and that we don't see any issues. That we're looking for eggs to make sure that the colony is clean, right? And then we're also adding on boxes as needed, especially in the spring here in Michigan when nectar flows can be really strong and sudden, we're giving the bees extra space anticipating those nectar flows. All right. You might be thinking, what are you getting into if you're getting started with beekeeping? We normally recommend starting with two or three colonies. More than that, it's probably going to be a little overwhelming and going to be hard to keep bees healthy and alive. But we don't recommend starting with just one colony, because if you only have one, then it really limits the amount of troubleshooting you're doing. You can do, for example, there's certain issues that we might see in a colony where it would be helpful for them to receive frames from another colony. For example, if we have a queen let colony, we might want to move a frame with eggs from one leading to another to the queenless hive to see if that queenless hive will make queen cells. Then you also will need to share nectar frames or pollen frames between hives as needed. Normally, two to three colonies is the right number for most people to get started. Then you're going to also think about how the number of colonies can be dynamic. If you're keeping your bees alive and healthy through the winters, you're probably going to need to plan to split those colonies. So you're either anticipating buying more equipment. Or you can split by making smaller colonies, called nucleus colonies, to sell or share with other beekeepers. Then we're also, unfortunately, thinking about colony losses. We lose a lot of honey bee colonies in Michigan every year. According to survey data, it's often around 40% of colonies. It is a really hard time to keep bees alive. And healthy bees can survive really harsh winters if they have enough honey to consume over the winter. And if they're healthy, the hard part is keep getting bees to be healthy. When the winter bees are developing, the winter bees develop in the fall. Unfortunately, when we look at trends for Bromite populations and virus levels, those tend to start lower in the spring, build up through the summer, and then peak in the fall. Oftentimes our honey bee colonies when they're raising the winter bees, those winter bees are developing under high parasite and virus levels. And that makes it really hard for the colony to survive the winter if they're not in optimal halt. That's one of the reasons why we're constantly talking about Romites throughout the beekeeping season, and trying to manage them throughout the season is to keep the levels low so that by the time our winter bees develop, they're developing under lower parasite virus, lungs all. There's also lots of cool things about honey bees and how they communicate. They have a dance language to tell the other be es, the direction and distance of different floral sources or of a new homes if there are new cavity. If they're swarming, they also communicate with sense or pheromones. If we look at these photos here, in both cases, the worker bees have their abdomens pointed up, the photo on the left. If you look, there's a little white band towards the end of the abdomen that's open. They're giving off nasinov, which is an orientation pheromone. They'll use this pheromone a lot when they're swarming because they need to stick together. But we'll also see bees giving off Nazinov when we are inspecting the colony because frames are getting moved around, bees are inside and outside of the hive and they're trying to stick together. They'll give off the nasinohmone. Not everyone can smell it, but if you can, it smells really lemon. I think it's a really pleasant smell and it's not a defensive behavior. It's just cool to see, see and smell how our bees are communicating. Then on the right, if you look closely, you can see that the worker bee has her stinger out. And then at the very tip of that stinger, there's a little drop of benum. This is defensive behavior which colonies are trying to defend their brood and their honey. The alarm pheromones which the Spe is giving off are a chain reaction on some bees give off alarm pheromones, other bees will start giving off alarm pheromones and the solicit bees to sting. And this is the reason why beekeepers use smokers when we're inspecting a colony because it can cover up those alarm pheromones. It can sometimes also just make it more gentle for the bees that when we're doing an inspection, but really we're trying to interrupt that alarm pheromone chain of reactions. All right, Here's another really cool behavior. It's super adorable and photo worthy when all the honey bees are looking up at you and the hive. This is also one of the first signs of just guarding behavior right now. The bees aren't giving off alarm pheromones or trying to sting, But this is the first stage of guarding or defensive behavior. Again, this might be an opportunity to use a little bit of smoke, which would make the bees just go down. And oftentimes smoke has the effect of making the workers just want to eat nectar or honey. All right? And there's other pheromones to in the hive. The brood gives off pheromones, the larvae give off signals when their cells are ready to be kept, the sealed brood will give off pheromones that elicits incubation, so it's kept warm. The queen gives off blended pheromones so that the colony knows if she's there or not. A lot of what we're really trying to do is work with the natural instincts of the bees. I used to work in University of Minnesota Lab with Dr. Marlus Pip. And she would always say that if you can learn about honey bee biology, you're going to be a much better beekeeper. Because a lot of times what we're trying to do is understand what the bees are doing and then work with that. All right? We're thinking about cost getting started. It can be price. This is definitely something worth considering the hive, the structure where the bees live might cost about $250 Prices have really gone up in recent years, Maybe it's more than that. But again, we're starting normally with at least two hives. Then the colonies, you can buy bees as a package or a nucleus colony. A package is a screened box with worker bees and a queen. But no. And so you put that into the hive. You have to feed it a lot so it can draw that new comb. Another way of buying is, especially if you're trying to buy local is from a nucleus colony or a nuke, UC. That's five frames of bees. Normally it has five frames with that normally includes some honey, some pollen, and some brood. And then the bees and then a single queen. All right. So those might be approximately $200 each. You'll need a beekeeping bail or suit and you'll want something, at least to cover your head and your face. But sometimes, depending on your level of comfort getting stung, you might want a bigger suit, you'll want a smoke. We always make sure that we have our smoker lit before we go into the hive. Even if the colony is not defensive and we don't need to use much smoke, we still want to have that smoker lit in case we need it. We'll need that hive tool, which is the small pride bar that we use to separate frames and boxes that are all stuck together because of the propolis in the hive. And then we'll also need medications. We might need replacement queens, we might need sugar for making sugar syrup and supplemental feed. Some people get an Pp pen. Then there's honey extraction equipment. Sometimes you can borrow an extractor from a beekeeping club or a local beekeeper, and then honey jars and labels for harvesting your own honey. It can be quite a bit to get started. We'll say at least 1,500 sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on how much your different options around you. But I would say probably more. In most cases a, a lot of teams, people are interested in beekeeping because they're interested in bees and they want to help bees. But as we talked about, beekeeping is really hard. We expect, unfortunately, because there's so much to learn, it's common that new beekeepers will actually lose their honey bee columns. Your main goal is just to help bees. Normally, we're going to suggest that you can plant flowers and that you can promote pollen in your health. In other ways, bees need a lot of nutrition from flowers, Flowers in the landscape that produce nectar and pollen throughout the season. Benefit are honey bees in lots of ways. Even though honey bees deal with the mites and diseases and pesticide exposure, having access to good nutrition can help offset or reduce some of those effects of those stressors that they have. Then for our wild species of bees, they need areas where they can create their nest. They also need access to good forage. We have a lot of resources on planting for pollinators. If you go to our website Pollinators su, there's a resources tab where you'll find lots of information on planting for pollinators and different kinds of areas. For some people, it means that they want to have a lawn. But they want to have small flowering plants in their lawn that produce nectarine pollen for bees. For some people, they want to make a pollinator garden with native plants that supporting different species of bees. For people who have multiple acres, they might consider large scale pollinator plantings. Then one idea that I think often gets forgotten is trees. There are some trees that we have that produce huge amounts of nectarine pollen, because once the tree is in bloom, there's just thousands and thousands of blossoms. Trees can be a fantastic way to support pollinators, and we have some good lists of the trees that produce nectarine pollen on our website. Then we're also thinking about nesting areas for native species of bees. Minimizing pesticide exposure to bees. All right, We're thinking about native bees and habitat. Sometimes people think about these little be hotels that you can create, but oftentimes it's just good to leave stems. In the garden, we have some species of bees that will create their nests by laying eggs in stems. And then they leave them with some fallen and they partition off the stems. And then those developing bees will emerge in the spring. Similarly, bees will make little, tiny nests in the ground where they will lay eggs that will develop and then emerge as adults. In the spring, there's lots of different kinds of bees. Many of the species of bees we have here in Michigan are native to this area. We have about 465 species of bees in Michigan. We only have one species of honey bee here in Michigan. Most of the species are not honey bees, and many of our species of native bees are solitary. They don't live in a family or colony. And you might not even notice them just because they're so small, or it's just a single individual. But one great way to learn about how to help bees is through our Pollinator Champions course, especially if you're going to keep bees. I recommend this course because as soon as you become a beekeeper, or as soon as you start planting pollinator habitat and talking about pollinators, you're probably going to find that many people around you start asking questions about bees. And there's a lot of misconceptions out there about pollinators. This Pollinator Champions Course is a free online course that's packed full of information about what kind of bees we have here in Michigan. What issues they're facing, and how people can help them. All right, If you want to get started in keeping honey bees, we have a lot of resources for you. One is beekeeping, right? For me. Online course, This is a free course and it goes through meeting the honey bee, how to help bees, The basic needs of beekeeping. It really dives into physical demands. There's a lot of lifting with bee keeping. The time demands for learning and taking care of bees, testimonials and financial costs. And then ends with a knife pledge to help pollinators. This is a free online course that doesn't take too long to complete. And goes into depth of some things that I'll talk about here. But we really want people to understand how hard it can be to manage es, the boxes of honey can be really heavy. You're sometimes trying to keep them high up, which is sometimes a hard way to lift stuff and sometimes they're sticky with honey and propolis. There's a lot of beekeepers I talk to who stop keeping bees because of the physical demands. There are ways to do bee keeping with the buddy or different kind of modifications you can make as needed, but it's normally going to be physically demanding. We also talk in this spree online course about the different things that you need to do, the time needed to learn about beekeeping, and to get involved in bee clubs and manage your colonies. Then we have some real life testimonials about people who were beekeepers or are still beekeepers and their experiences getting started. Just some lessons to think about before you buy beekeeping equipment and get into it. And then also in the online course, we go over the different costs of beekeeping. All right? Normally, if you're interested in getting started with beekeeping, we suggest that you buy a beekeeping suit. You learn as much as you can. You join a beekeeping club and you get in hive experience or talk with your club before you actually buy bees and get started. You can find a beekeeping club here in Michigan by going to the Michigan Beekeepers Association's website, they have a tab that says Michigan Clubs. We have about 30 beekeeping clubs here in Michigan. Then the American Beekeeping Federation has state and local beekeeping organizations listed on its website. All right, so we suggest you learn as much as you can from trusted resources. Focus on honeybee biology, local beekeeping management, monitoring and managing group. And look at sources like university extension, local beekeeping clubs, beekeeping conferences, workshops and classes. Books, trade journals, and online videos. If local and chroma trusted source. There are a lot of videos out there, some of them are very good, but they're from beekeepers from different areas or different conditions where they wouldn't really work here in Michigan. If you read or hear something about beekeeping, it may be true. It may be true but not for your location. It may be true for your location but not your operation. Or it may be true for your location and your operation, but not this year with some resources. Our website, again, is pollinators. Again, there is beekeeping right for me online course, which goes into depth of some of these considerations that you should make before you get started. We have a web page of resources called Getting Started with Beekeeping in Michigan. And this has lots of information about how to get started and different learning opportunities. We also list events on our website, pollinators, some upcoming events. Right now, we have several in person beekeeping conferences coming up here on campus. We're going to host the Michigan Beekeepers Association Spring Conference Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2. The Southeastern Michigan Beekeepers Association Spring Conference on Saturday, March 16. And the Upper Peninsula Beekeeping Conference is on Saturday, March 30. Just this month, we already have the Holland Area Beekeepers Association School, and the Kalamazoo School. MSU hosts monthly office hour webinars throughout the bee keeping season where we talk about seasonal beekeeping management. And then we just have lots of time for questions and answers. This is an online opportunity we offer every month throughout the beekeeping season, and they're posted on our events page. You can sign up for our newsletter, where we'll send you upcoming events and news articles. You can sign up for the MSU Extension News Digest. Then you can find that on our website, Pollinators at MSU Click State connected the newsletter and were the pollinators and pollination News Digest. We have a Youtube channel called the Michigan State University Beekeeping Channel, where we have posted several of our past webinars. We also offer an ask form for beekeepers here in Michigan. If you go to our website and click questions, they'll find an ask extension form or you can ask beekeeping questions. All right? And there's lots of different grants that support our work. Again, our programs are open to everyone and I am Ana Heck, and the best way to ask questions is through the ask extension form at pollinators.msu.edu/questions. Thank you so much for listening. Thank you so much, Ana, Just as a reminder, if you have any question, please feel free to add them in the chat. Or maybe I don't know if you were able I was struggling with zoom a little bit, but if you can unmute yourself and ask a question, please go ahead. Now is the time. In the meantime. Oh, we do have one question. Let me pull that one up. It was wait at the beginning. What is the four things that bees forage for? Oh, that's a great question. The four things that bees forage for is nectar, pollen, water, and resins. Okay. Thank you. Ana, I think we have one more question now. Oh, no. This was an excellent presentation. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you, Cindy. So if we don't have more questions, any closing thoughts Ana? Thank you all for taking the time to learn about beekeeping. Please feel free to reach out if you get started. I'm going to put the ask extension form in the chat again. Again, that's pollinators.msu.edu/questions. If you missed any of the resources I listed during my talk, you can feel free to reach out. Or I can send you information about some of our upcoming opportunities to learn more. Thank you, Paola for hosting the webinar. You're welcome.