Wild Spartans: All About Honey Bees with with Ana Heck

February 9, 2021

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In this episode, we talk to an entomologist researching the pollinators of our world. Meet MSU apiculture researcher, Ana Heck, learn about her field work, and the education and career path she followed to get there as she discusses “All About Honey Bees: Working with a Superorganism” as we discover what the buzz really is about bees!

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Video Transcript

(crickets chirping) Hello my 4-H family. Thanks so much for joining us this evening. For our Wild Spartans, monthly Wildlife Science Series. This program is created by Michigan 4-H, Michigan State University Extension, MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. There's over a 100 families participating and registered from this program across Michigan, we also have guest tuning in from Utah, Illinois, and across Canada. We're glad to see you all here. I'd like to introduce the moderators for tonight's program. My name is Laura Quist, I am a 4-H program coordinator, who focuses on shooting sports and environmental and outdoor education. And I'm housed in Wexford county. I'll still have Anne Kretschmann on the call. She's a 4-H staff member that partners with Houghton and Keweenaw counties up in the UP. Veronica Bolhuis is a 4-H program staff member from Kalamazoo County and Seth Martin is 4-H staff from Macomb, also on the call tonight and part of the Wild Spartans team, Dr. Alexa Warwick, She's the Wildlife Engagement Specialist with MSU Extension and also the MSU Department of Fisheries and Wildlife, and based in East Lansing. So what is 4-H? Not everybody on the call tonight is a 4-H member. I'd like to tell you that 4-H might be thought of being an agricultural program, working with topics like plows and cows. But we are actually the largest statewide youth development organization in Michigan. And we focus on a variety of project areas. And this monthly series, the 4-H Wild Spartans, we focus and explore on careers in wildlife conservation, will meet scientists involved in field work, will follow along as they climb through bogs, peer into bear dens, mist net songbirds, snorkel, looking for fish, and perhaps even tag some deer. You'll meet researchers, you'll learn about their field work and the education and career path that they follow to get there. And if you are interested, you can even join a wildlife themed 4-H club in your own community. Our program tonight will last around 30 minutes. All the participants are muted and your cameras are off. If you type into the chat, all of our 4-H staff will see it and answer and be able to help with any of the questions you might have. But if you have a question for our presenter, Ana Heck, type that question into the Q & A feature. And that's right at the bottom of your screen, you'll see the Q & A button. Type your question into there. And at points along the program will stop and take those questions. And Ana will answer all of your bee questions before the program is over. We are recording tonight's session, but only the presenter and moderators will appear on the video recording. And after the recording and video is closed captioned, we will make it available on our Wild Spartans page along with the other videos for you to view and share with friends and learn more about careers in Wildlife Research. And now a bit about our presenter tonight Ana Heck, began as an apiculture extension educator with Michigan State University in July of 2020. She was introduced to beekeeping while working in Nicaragua for two years with a non-profit organization that engaged in rural development projects. She joined the University of Minnesota's Bee Lab squad in 2014, where she managed a bee barrens, provided hands-on and classroom training to beekeepers and manage the Bee squads outreach programs. Prior to joining MSU Extension, she worked on MSU's Department of Entomology as a research technologist to support pollinator and education initiatives, honeybee research and to implement policies to protect pollinators. Ana holds a Master's degree in public policy and a graduate minor in entomology from the University of Minnesota. And with that, I'd like to turn the program over to our presenter. Ana, we are so very glad that you could be here tonight to Teach us a little bit about bees and about how to get involved more in the work that you do. Thanks so much. Awesome. Thank you so much for having me. It's great to be here. So I'm going to talk a little bit about my background and what it's like to work with honey bees. So I am an apiculture extension educator, meaning I work with honeybees and beekeepers. And I'm based on campus. I'm at East Lansing but I work with beekeepers all over the state of Michigan. So today we're going to talk about my background, how I got into honeybees, pollinator basics, what are pollinators? And then honeybee colonies as super organisms. So the different roles that bees do within the hive and then also the colony lifecycle. So we'll start with my background. So I studied abroad when I was in college. I spent a semester in the Dominican Republic. And that program had nothing to do with bees. But after I finished, I knew I wanted to spend a longer amount of time in another country. So I signed up for a program where I got to live in Nicaragua in Central America for over two years. And I worked with a local organization that did really cool work around rural development and one of their projects was beekeeping. So I, while I was there, I helped out a team of really excellent beekeepers. At this point, I didn't know any thinks of mostly my job was just to carry stuff around or hold the smoker. But the whole time I got to learn and ask lots of questions. So here are a couple of my mentors Jusas and Juan Carlos. And they both did a great job of teaching me about bees and introducing me. Also, when I was in Nicaragua, got to work with a cooperative of women beekeepers. So there were a lot of women who were interested in beekeeping as a way to earn some extra money for their households. And so they formed a cooperative and helped each other take care bees to sell honey. Here's a few photos of us taking care of some bees in Central America. So the bees, they're a little bit differently than we have here in Michigan. They're also honeybees, but they are a different subspecies and so they are better at defending their hives than our bees here in Michigan. That's why we would always wear full protection, full suits. Here we're harvesting some honey boxes. And so I moved back home to Minnesota. And I was really interested in beekeeping, but I realized that what I learned in Central America was really different than the way we keep bees here in a northern climate. So I took a class from the Minnesota Bee Lab and I asked if I could volunteer. And they said no, they weren't looking for volunteers. But then a little bit later they asked if I wanted to apply for a job, and so I was able to work in the Minnesota bee lab while I was in my graduate program for public policy, where I also did some projects and research related to pollinators and policy. So this was the Minnesota Bee Lab. It's a really big lab. It's for honey bees and other bee species. It has the wild bee or native bee lab as well. And they do a lot of community outreach and programming. So my job was really based. So part of my role was to take care of bees around the Twin Cities and then part of it was to work with programs that worked with youth to teach them how to do pollinator outreach or other community events where we talked with the public about pollinators. So one of our programs, we did a lot of beekeeping around the Twin Cities. Here we are at a museum. This is a rooftop apiary. and you can see the difference in protection that I wear when I'm in Nicaragua versus here in the summertime. So these bees, I'm okay getting stung I get stung all the time. But as long as it's just one or two here or there, it's a very different here than in some other places where we take care of bees. So here we are on the rooftop in Minneapolis at the Minneapolis Institute of Art. So this is kind of cool. Beekeeping on rooftops is a lot of work because it's hard to carry heavy honey through, down stairs or off the roof. With the art museum. We had to be really careful that we, when we were taking the honey for harvest, we had to brush every single bee off because we are really worried that if we accidentally brought bees into the museum, they could poop on the valuable artwork. So that was an interesting challenge for us. So I started here at Michigan State about two years ago. So I, we're working with our Michigan pollinator initiative. And so if you're interested in more information, this is a good website to write down its pollinators.MSU.edu. And we have a lot of good information on there about planting for pollinators, citizen science projects that support pollinators, information for beekeepers. And then we also have, so part of my work is with beekeepers in beekeeping, but another big piece of my role. Is to work with other people who are interested in supporting pollinators and trying to figure out how to reduce pesticide harm to pollinators. So I work with pesticide applicators and growers in the public and home gardeners to figure out ways to reduce pesticide harm to pollinators. And these are great groups to work with. Everyone is really interested in trying to figure out how we can keep our bees healthy. So I also help with some research projects. So here you can see out in the field doing some research, some times We will talk about what's in the hive later, but sometimes we have to take samples of brood. We're doing a lot of research to try to understand the bacterial disease that some of the developing bees get. So, out here in the field. So these are commercial colonies. So these are colonies owned by a beekeeper who has a 1000 or thousands of colonies. And they're on pallets so they're able to move them with forklifts, load them on the semi trucks and move them around the country. So a lot of beekeepers are here in commercial beekeepers are here in the summer in Michigan because they can make honey. Michigan is a pretty good state for honey production. And also because they can get money, get paid for pollination. So the beekeepers will put there, hives right next to a field of a crop that needs pollination. So the bees will visit and provide that service and move pollen from flowers and help those plants pollinate. So that's where our beekeepers are. Normal area here in Michigan for pollination and honey in the summer. And then they will often go south where it's a little bit warmer. Right now all of our Michigan commercial beekeepers are in California for the almond pollination. This is the biggest pollination event in the world. And they will then after almond pollination is done, they will either come back to Michigan or go somewhere south. But in the spring a lot of them will be back here in Michigan. And now here's a photo of a class doing some research. And we recently moved into a new building. So we're calling it the Pollinator Performance Center. It was previously used for animal air quality research. See, you can see it has a lot of small rooms where they could put like a cow in each room and do some research. That's kind of what the building was designed for. But this is going to be a really great space for us here on campus. Right now I'm going to move on to some pollinator basics. So we have a lot of different pollinators. And a pollinator is really just anything that moves pollen from one plant to another. So there's a lot of different pollinators out there. We're going to talk a lot about honeybees, but there's also a lot of other species of bees that are pollinators. And there's also other insects and even they're organisms that can move pollen from one plant to another. Bees tend to be very good pollinators because they're branched hairs that the pollen clings to so they move more pollen from flower to flower. So we have about 20 to 20 thousand bee species worldwide. And then we have over 450 bee species here in Michigan. So honeybees are just one species. We're going to talk about them a lot today, but I really encourage you to learn a lot about the other species of bees because there are some really cool bee species out there. And we care about pollinators because they pollinate our food crops. Over 90 crops in the US are dependent on pollinators. So they're really important and they're kind of out there doing the hard work for us, moving pollen from one flower to another so that the plants get pollinated and produce a fruit. And it's not just our food, it's around 80% of all flowering plants need animal pollination. In the plants that need pollinators are important for ecosystem function. So while ago, Whole Foods grocery store helped us tell the story of what's happening with bees. So the photo on the top is just the grocery store, the produce section on a normal day. And then the photo on the bottom is where they removed every food item that benefits from bee pollination. And so you can see, we have, we don't have very many options once they take away the foods that are pollinated by bees. But the good news is we're not really in danger of our grocery stores looking like this. Bees are facing a lot of issues, but we're not worried about honeybees going extinct. They're actually, their population seems to be pretty stable over the last decade or so. We are worried about some of our other bee species, like the rusty patched bumblebees, species is now on the endangered species list. But right now we are not worried about losing our bees are honeybees, but we are as its, as it's become harder to keep, keep them healthy. We do worry about increased food prices. So honey bees, like I said are just one species of our bees here. They are not native to the Americas and they are not endangered. And there's a lot of different issues they're facing that we're not really going to go into today. But in general, most of our bees are facing issues like poor nutrition. They just don't have diverse good forage. I always tell people if you, if you want to do something to help bees plant flowers for bees, if you're excited about bees after today, the best thing you can do to help is to plant flowers. Pesticides can also harm bee, same with pathogens, different diseases and viruses they encounter and that also pests. So for honeybee is this one called the varroa mite that's really, really hard on it. It spreads diseases. And so that's one reason why it's really hard to keep honeybees healthy these days. Right now are going to talk a little bit about what it's like inside the hive. And I think there's a lot of people that once you get started into beekeeping, it's just kind of grabs you. It's so fascinating how life works in the hive. So here are some hives and the bees, each of these stacks of boxes is a Hive. Hive is where they live and then the colony is the group of bees that lives in the hive. So we have our worker, our drone and our queen. And so the workers on the left, most of the bees in the colony are workers, they do most of the work in the hive, so they have an appropriate name and they have a barbed stinger. So once they sting you, they will end up dying and they leave the stinger in your skin. So that's our worker bees. Our drone bees are males, our workers are female, the drones are males. There in the middle there. They have really big eyes. They don't have a stinger. And then we have our queen. So we normally have one queen per colony. And she has a stinger, but it's not barbed, so she can when she stings, she doesn't die. But it is very, very, very uncommon for people to get sung by a queen bee. And so they kind of have three main segments , their head, their thorax and their abdomen. Here's our is a queen. So this is me holding a queen, we can actually pick them up if we're pretty careful. I like to put a little dot of paint on mine just so that they're easier to find the next time and I can keep track of them. A lot of times when I talk about queens, people think it's the coolest job because it's the coolest title. But really I think queens have a pretty boring life. So their job is really just to lay eggs. So they lay eggs throughout the spring and summer and fall. If in the times when they're laying a lot of eggs, they can lay up to 2000 eggs in a single day. And so they're laying one egg in each of these cells, so this is the hexagon wax comb. and they are laying one egg in each cell. And these eggs develop into larvae. So they have a larval stage. These are all larvae here. And more larvae. And then we have the pupal stage. This is the sealed brood. Here, some photos. This is worker brood. So these are worker bees. They will emerge as adult worker bees, but right now they're just developing. Here we have a frame, we're towards the bottom and the yellow, that's worker brood, that's pupa. But then at the top we have sealed honey. So the bees also store nectar and pollen in the comb. And once they, and so nectar and pollen are what they get from the plants once they bring the nectar back to the hive and put it in the cells, then they'll dry it out. And once it's dry enough, they'll cap it off with the capping of wax. And that's how they store their honey. So it's nectar from flowers, but after the bees bring it back and dry it out, that's when, and cap it off, That's normally when we start calling honey. Alright, so here's our drone. This is our male bee. They've really big eyes. So drones main goal is to mate with queens, new young queens from other colonies, so they'll go, leave the hive and fly And this is in the summertime, the fly in the sky hang out in a group together. It's a lot of drones in the same area. And they will wait to see if a new young queen from another colony will come by and give them the opportunity to mate. If they're successful in mating, they will die within a few hours of mating. So a lot of drones aren't successful, and then They just come back to the hive. And so this is mainly kind of what they do. They're, they're mostly just looking for an opportunity to mate if they have good weather for flying. So here you can see there is a male drone in the middle and then workers around it. Just to kinda see that size comparison. And so really the drones are around in the summertime, but they don't overwinter with the colony normally. So once we're in the fall season, the worker bees will actually drag out or escort the drones and kick them out of the hive. So most of the drones don't overwinter in the colony. I sometimes find drones that don't get kicked out. So here's a photo of a drone that I don't know because under the radar and didn't get kicked out in the winter. And then we have our workers and our workers, like I said, they're the ones doing all the cool jobs. So they're females and they they're job depends on their age. So again, in the summertime, the younger bees, are going to do that in hive tasks. So they do things like feeding the developing larvae. They have a gland in their head that they produce food with and then they feed that to developing larvae. They also clean the wax cells, they attend and feed the queen. They'll build that comb. They have a gland in their abdomen where they produce little teeny tiny wax flakes and that's how they build the comb. And then the older bees are going to be the ones that we'll go and fly and forage. So they're foraging for pollen, nectar, water and tree resins. And so there's a really cool term, it's called temporal polyethism. And that means that the jobs that the bees have changes as over time or as they age. But there's also some flexibility. So if something happened and see a lot of the foragers die while they're out in the field than some of the younger bees will start foraging at an earlier age to make up for that work. Or if something happens to a lot of the bees in the hive than some of the foragers will start helping out with the in hive work. Here is a look at the queen. So the bees will typically attend the queen. So a lot of them will, oftentimes use their antenna, and they'll groom her and also spread her pheromones around. So pheromones are chemical signals that the bees use to communicate. And they're always passing the queen pheromone around and spreading that through the hive. And that lets the other bees know that there's a queen present. So like I said, they're also, for workers at an older age are going to be foraging for nectar and bringing that back to the hive. Nectar is really important because it's the energy source for the bees. So the carbohydrates. And it's, it's important for the older bees, so that energy for forging, it's also really what we need for our bees to survive the winter. So right now our bees are clustering and they're eating a lot of honey. And they need to eat honey in order to have energy to use their muscles to shiver and generate heat throughout the winter. Bees also forage for pollen. And here this is blue pollen and I think that the kind of a pretty cool color. I think it's from squill in the spring. And so they will carry it on their back legs in little balls and bring that back. The pollens really important. It's because it's a protein source that's really important for the younger bees and the developing larvae. So here some pollen that's stored in the comb. So the flavor of the honey and the color of the pollen depend on the plant that they're bringing it back from. So if there's actually a lots of different flavors of honey, if you haven't had a chance to try some different ones, that's kind of cool. Especially if you're traveling, you're just looking in the grocery store for different sources. But the flavor of honey can vary quite a bit, and it depends on which flowers the bees were visiting when they were collecting the nectar. Bees will also gather water and bring it back to the hive, as well as tree resins. So we call that propolis when it's back in the hive, but they bring back the tree resins to seal off the hive and little cracks. But it's also being found to have some antimicrobial and beneficial health benefits for the bees. All right, and now we're going to talk a little bit about the colony lifecycle. So oftentimes in the spring the colony will want to reproduce. So there's reproduction in the sense of the queen laying eggs. The queen lays female eggs or male eggs. All of the male eggs develop into drones. The female eggs will develop into worker bees or into queen bees, and it just depends on the nutrition that they're given as young larvae. So if, if a colony wants to raise queens, it'll start giving some of those young female larvae, royal jelly. And that nutrition, that change in nutrition, changes the trajectory so that they develop into queens. So this a kind reproduction on individual level, but we really think of honeybees as a "super organism". So the colony, the group of bees, is that what we consider kinda like the animal or the organism. So in order for this super organism to reproduce, it has to split itself. And so that's what happens at swarming. Oftentimes in the spring, what will happen is the colony will start raising some new queens. And so again, they're finding some young female larvae. They're giving them this royal jelly and they're, so they're developing into queens. So here we have some queen cells. The one on the right is sealed, so it's still in the pupal stage. And the one on the left, you can see that the bottom is open, kind of in a circle. That means that the queen chewed her way out and emerge from that cell. So normally before the queen emerges, so when the colony is about to swarm, they're raising some queens and queen cells. And then the queen will leave with about half the bees and find a new home. And so this is how swarming happens. So this is roughly about half the bees in the colony. Normally it has the queen in it, and normally they just have like a meeting spot outside of the hive. They'll all congregate together on like a branch or something close to the hive. And then some of the workers will go and search for a new hive location. And so they're looking for a cavity. Oftentimes it's a tree cavity. Sometimes it can be another place, but they want to find a new place to establish a new home. So while they're in this meeting spot, they're looking for a place and they're coming back and doing a waggle dance to tell the other bees where it is that they can check it out. And so this is a way that bees are able to communicate, communicate through a dance language. The worker bees will come back and they will waggle, waggle waggle ,go back around, waggle waggle, go back around And the distance that they're waggling is relative to the distance of the location that they think would be a suitable home. And the direction that they're waggling is also the direction of the new home. And so the bees are able to read and understand that dance language. And then they're able to go and check out the new space themselves. And finally, once enough bees, are doing a waggle dance to the same spot, that whole swarm will leave they are very fast flyers and the leave as a group to their new hive location. So that's how they're able to communicate. So here's another swarm on a tree. And as, for us as beekeepers, we will oftentimes catch swarms. So this is an opportunity for beekeepers to add a colony to their operation. I, we also sometimes get swarms because we don't want them to be is to move into the siding of someone's home or a place where they wouldn't be welcome. So we can catch the swarm. Just shaking the bees, normally, off the tree branch or shaking them into a box. Here's another swarm. The bees are starting to congregate on that tree. Here is my old coworker. She's shaking a tree branch into a box and the bees are just landing in that box. That's how we're capturing that swarm. There's also some other ways that bees communicate. So these two photos here, the bees might look like they're doing similar things, but they're actually communicating very different things. So on the left they're giving off a pheromone called Nasonov. And that's an orientation pheromone. And it's what the bees do when they're trying to stick together. It's very, it's what they use while they're swarming. So they need to all, they're trying, they're looking for queen pheromone and nasonov enough to stick together and be close to each other. This is a really nice pheromone. It smells very lemony and it's not defensive. But on the right you can see if you look closely that the bee has her stinger out and actually have a little drop of venom at the end of her stinger. So that is the beegiving off alarm pheromone. And this is a pheromone that we can also smell. It smells like artificial banana or really kind of brown banana. And that's what the bees use to communicate if they sense a threat, it's a defensive pheromone so once and it's a chain reaction. So sometimes when one bee starts giving off alarm pheromones, other bees will also start to give off alarm pheromones. And so that will encourage other bees to give off alarm pheromone or to sting if they think that there's a threat. So here, here is someone getting stung. And remember the workers have barbed stingers so the stinger will stay in the skin until you remove it. But that's why we use a smoker. So we use a smoker as it kinda defense tool while we work our colonies because that covers up the alarm pheromone. So if 1 bee or few bees start giving off alarm pheromone, we use the smoke that covers up the alarm pheromone that the other bees don't sense the threat and don't get very stressed out. So the bees will tend to build up really big in the summer. There can be 50,000 or more bees and a colony. And then it will often times harvest honey in the fall. So honey bees will go search for nectar as long as it's out there in the environment, it's that good weather for foraging and they're healthy. So as long as there's nectar out there, the bees are going to keep bringing it back. That's why we add lots of boxes on to our hives in the summer. And it's also why humans are able to enjoy honey. Because we, as beekeepers, are able to evaluate in the fall how much honey our bees will need to survive the winter. And then we're able to take the extra honey. So our honeybees sometimes can produce an extra, 100 or more extra pounds on what they need to survive the winter. I typically leave my bees with 75 to a 100 pounds for winter, more than they'll normally need to survive the winter. And then I also sometimes get an extra honey, 100 pounds just from a single hive or a single colony. And so now that it's winter our bees are clustering, so they're in there forming a tight ball and they are using the muscles in their thoracic is to shiver and generate heat. And this is how they survive the winter. They eat the honey that they have, store it up in that give them energy to cluster on warmer days that go out and do a cleansing flight. So it'll go out with the hive, poop outside on the snow and then return. And then they'll come back in. They're very good at surviving the winter in cold weather as long as they're healthy and we kept them healthy throughout the season. Alright, so this is a close-up of a cluster. So they're just all on top of each other. And with that, here's my contact information and I would love to hear any questions you have. Here are some of our questions. So how much can a honeybees pollinate? How much can a honeybees pollinate? I don't know the answer to that. That's a great question. So a lot of the visit lots and lots of flowers. Sometimes they visit a 100 flowers on a single trip, but then they're taking lots of foraging visits throughout their lifetime. In the summer they live about four to six weeks. The foraging forager bees do. But I don't know how many flowers they pollinate. Great question. How long did you live in Minnesota? Most of my life. So I lived there, growing, most of my life when I was growing up and then also in graduate school and a couple of years after that, There was, I don't know if you can go back to your slides, but there was a picture that had some cans in the background. Oh, yeah. They would like to know if the cans are So I will show you again. So the so honeybees have some issues. There's different diseases that they can have and some of them are in developing brood. So there and there's some honeybees are better at recognizing when there's an issue in the developing brood. So when those bees are in that pupal stage, so there's like chalkbrood American foulbrood or some brood diseases. And if that adult bees, recognize that there's an issue with the developing bee, with the pupae or the pupal, they'll remove it. And that's called hygienic behavior. And so this is a genetic trait that bees have. Some, because of genetics, some colonies are just much more hygienic than others. And so this is a pretty desirable trait. We, when we're selecting for new queens, we want our bees to be able to recognize disease brood, because when they remove it, it helps it from, prevents it from spreading to more bees in the hive. So this is what we are doing here in research project, is we're taking those plastic tubes and we're pouring liquid nitrogen in it. And so that kills all the brood in that circle area, but it leaves the capping intact. So then once the tubes thaw, we remove it to the or we return the frame to the hive. And then we come back the next day and see if the bees removed all of the brood that we killed with liquid nitrogen. And so if they remove all of the dead, the dead brood, that's a really good sign for us because it means that the bees have this genetic trait where they're recognizing that something's wrong with it. And that if they had diseases, they would also be removing that brood to prevent it from spreading. So how did the bees produce wax to seal off their honey? Great. That's a great question. So the bees produce wax to seal off the honey by with a little gland in their abdomens. And there's little teeny flakes that come out of their abdomen and that's what they used to build the wax comb. They need a lot of nectar, sugar, water that we feed them in order to be able to produce that new wax. And so what is the difference between sweat bees and bumblebees? Yeah. So those are different types of bees. You have lots of different types of bees, wild bees here in Michigan. And so that's great if you can learn about the different kinds. There, if you learn about taxonomy there just in different categories for types of bees. How would you suggest to safely remove a stinger from the skin? Yeah, that's a great question. So we used to always say that you didn't want to pinch the stinger to get it out because people thought that that would actually pinch more of the venom into you. And we recently, there was a study or paper that showed that that's not really the case. So as long as you get it out of your skin, normally getting it out sooner rather than later can be helpful. Where's the best place to start? Where's the best place to get a starter hive in Michigan? I will say that beekeeping's really hard. And so there's a lot of times people will lose colony. So we really encourage anyone who wants to keep bees to make sure you're getting into, you know what you're getting into and learn a lot about bees before you start. Normally we suggest that if you can try to just get a beekeeping suit and learn from other beekeepers, that's a really good way to start. To get a starter colony. There's a few options. So northern Bee Network is one place where people will post about nucs that are available. There's also some michigan beekeeping Facebook groups where people will post if they are selling or interested in buying nucs. And then the, but the main way I would suggest is to connect with your local beekeeping club and see what their what they have available, what they suggest. So the Michigan Beekeepers Association has a map of all the local bee clubs. And that's a really great resource for you. But it, and then the other thing I'll just say again is you don't have to be a beekeeper to learn more about bees, there's a lot of good citizen science projects and it's great if you can plant flowers for bees. So what causes Colony Collapse in Michigan? Great question. So Colony Collapse Disorder is kind of a weird group of symptoms that we don't really see very much here in Michigan anymore. But we see colonies die quite a bit. Most of them seem to be related to the Varroa, mite which is a parasite that spreads. So all of our colonies have this parasite. It's kind of like dogs having fleas, but except for all of our colonies have it and it's just a matter of how many mites they have. And these mites spread diseases between the bees and they can also spread between colonies. So this is one issue that's really hard about beekeeping right now is that the, a lot of other colonies die because of mites and diseases that they spread. And that's the main one for honeybees. But also exposure to pesticides can either kill bees or just make give them chronic health effects that make their life's spans shorter or change the behavior. There's also sometimes not good, and adequate nutrition and forage. Bees need really good forage in order to stay healthy. Yeah, so those are the main reasons why it's hard to keep us healthy here in Michigan. One of our families did post that they do have bees. So I just asked them if they would re-post how many hives they have. If you have anymore questions, if you can put those in the Q&A or the chat, or if you have other thoughts on that would be great. Question for you. I was told by a gentleman, he's a beekeeper, I believe he takes care of mites with powdered sugar? Have you heard of that and can you talk a little bit about that? Sure! So there's two really common ways that beekeepers monitor for mites and so one is with powdered sugar and one is with rubbing alcohol. And for powdered sugar, if you take a sample of bees that's about a half cup of bees, and that's turned out to be close to 300 bees. Then you put them in a jar with this screen on the top where the bees can't get out. You put some powdered sugar in and then you let them sit and then you shake the bees. So you're shaking the powdered sugar and the mites out. They've passed through the screen, but the bees can't pass through the screen. And so that's what one away where we can do a sample to test how many mites we have in that sample. Same, it's a similar tests for rubbing alcohol. But then, so those are just for monitoring because that's really important for beekeepers to know how, how many mites they have in their colony. There's also some treatments that we can use to kill mites. It is kind of hard because we're trying to kill mites, but were we don't really want to harm our bees, but anything that we use to kill our varroa mites, it's it has to be is regulated by the EPA as a pesticide. So we're only allowed to use things that are approved and we have to follow the label. Thank you. So used monitor, you start monitoring, not preventing. Okay. Great. Thank you for clearing that up. Thank you. For those of you who are not beekeepers, beekeepers actually considered livestock. And so, you know, when you think about your cattle or your pigs, you know, they're, they're the same and it will say the same family, but they fall under the same rules. It's just a lot harder to keep track of your bees than it is your cattle or your sheep, but harder to count them. Can you describe for us your favorite day of work? Sure! so I love days in the summer when I get to be outside all day long and, you know, we have those long days where it's light out for a long time. In the spring, it's really fun because we are trying to prevent our colonies from swarming, so we will split them and that helps to deter them from swarming. And so that's a lot of fun. There's a lot of problem-solving in beekeeping or strategy in trying to and planning and trying to figure out, okay, where do I, how do I want to manage this colony? What, how do I want to grow by operation, or what do I want to do here? And so that's probably my favorite is when I'm outside all day long, just working bees, hive to hive. Sometimes with a really good team. Yeah. Great question. And when you were in middle or high school, did you ever think that you would be working with bees? I had no idea. I had absolutely no idea until I was hearing about this position in Nicaragua and they said, oh, you might want to get to work with honeybee it and I said, I want to do that. It just kind of struck me that that was exciting to me, but I even then I had no idea that I would keep working with honeybees. Would you have any advice for any of the youth who are joining us, who one to get skills that they could gain now who might, that might help them in the future? Sure, I think one thing is just the citizen science projects paying attention to what some flower is, what different species bees you're seeing? So there's some cool citizen science projects where you take photos and you can try to identify what bees you're seeing. I'm paying attention to what's around you can help a lot. For beekeepers, we're always thinking about what is in bloom, what's about to bloom? What's, where are our bees gonna get nectar and pollen from to paying attention to your environment and what you see outside and different flowers and plants can be really helpful too. Yeah, there's just so many different directions to go. So I have coworkers and colleagues who are working with other bee species. Some of them are rearing bumblebees. Some of them are really focused on plants for bees, some of them are focused on other insects. So there's a lot of different ways you can get involved or be in something related to bees. And I think that's part of it is making sure that when you are planting flowers, you're planting flowers that bloom all year long. So not just planting, you know, those, those tulips that are going to be in the spring. But thinking about what it is all year long, What are your favorite facts about honeybees? That's a good one. So there's one that is always hard for me to believe that it takes 2 million flowers for bees to make just one pound of honey. So that's a lot of blossoms. But our bees do have to collect, will actually just get little batches of nectar from lots of different flowers. Another one is called Floral fidelity. The honeybees, when they're out foraging, they'll keep forging from the same type of flower. That's one reason why they're really good pollinators is because they don't jump between different types of flowers. Visiting from this, all from the same flower while they're on that foraging trip. So here's the question that I'm going to try not to screw up this word. So that does dia diatomaceous earth work for mite control? Yeah. I've heard about it, that is not one that's approved for varroa mites. How far we have the bumblebee watch and the Great Sunflower Project. What are your favorite US citizen science projects that youth might enjoy exploring? Let's say one of my favorite citizen-centered project has been Queen Quest. We are trying to learn more about where bumblebees spend the winter. And so we will go out in the fall and just search the ground looking for bumblebee queens. So far we've only found them when we aren't looking for them. When we're trying to look for them, we don't find them, but there are times when we're just outside not looking for bumblebee queens. That's where I seemed to have more luck. So here's a question. Is there, is it true that one ounce of honey, wait. Is it true that with one with a one ounce of honey, bee can fly around the world. I don't know. That's a great question. I mean, we know that bees can't actually fly around the world, but I understand that, you know, the question is, is how little honey they need in order to generate energy. But I don't know the answer if that's right or not. Do you want to explain a little bit about the difference between honeybees and that are native bees here in Michigan and the wasp hornets, yellow jackets that maybe, you know, they may be a little more fearful of? Yeah, so honeybees are the ones that we have here are of European origin. There just one species. They get a lot of attention because beekeepers manage them and because they make extra honey that we're able to enjoy. I'm like we talked about earlier, there's over 450 different species of bees here in Michigan. A lot of, some of them are bumblebee species, so those are big and fluffy and fuzzy looking yellow and black bees. And then there's also lots of other bee species and many of these other bee species don't live in colonies and they're often, so they're often solitary and they will live either in the ground, or in stems. And so they're very unlikely to bother you just because they're by themselves and they're not living in a group and they're sometimes really tiny and you might not even notice them. So those are bees, but then there's also wasps that are kind of similar to bees, kinda genetically, but they can tend to be more of a nuisance, especially in the fall. So we tend to get a lot of calls sometimes in the fall from people who think they have bees, but really they're wasps. So wasps can, can tend to be kind of sting a little bit in in the fall we especially like yellow jackets or paper wasps, you know, any further Sorry, I'm sorry, I wanted to say, but sometimes wasps can also be beneficial and sometimes they eat some of our garden pests. So I like wasps too. What did you want to say? Here's another question for you. Do you know any facts about honeybees that most people don't know? And I think because they work with honey bees and beekeepers, there's, there's, there's, I get to learn a lot of things. I really like learning and talking about honeybee pheromones cuz I think it's really cool how bees communicate in the hive. So that's a talk that I give a lot is the different pheromone. So I talked today about nasonov, the orientation pheromone, alarm pheromones that bees give off when they sense a threat. queen pheromone so that the bees spread around the hive to know there is a queen, right? There's also brood pheromones. So the developing larvae and pupae give off pheromones that also encourage the bees to do certain things. So for example, the, if there's a lot of sealed brood or pupae in the hive that encourages the worker bees. There pheromone encourages the worker bees to go collect more pollen which is necessary for, for raising brood. So that would be one, I guess. One of the other thing that I think is really cool is they say that people with allergies to pollen allergies, that local honey is really good to help with that. So staying within a 20-mile radius of getting that local honey versus the Honey you might get at Meijer or Walmart is really good for your allergies. It kind of on the subject. Could you tell us the difference between raw honey in not raw honey from the kind of consumer perspective at the grocery store. Yeah, so raw honey is. So there's, it's not a standardize regulated term. So different beekeepers interpret the word differently. But really raw honey is saying that it wasn't, heated up very much because once you heat up the honey, it can lose some of its beneficial properties. But sometimes beekeepers will heat up the honey because it will crystallize. Crystallization is a natural process, but sometimes consumers don't want honey that's really granulated so they'll, heat it up. And so there's some ways where you can gently heat up the honey without destroying some of the beneficial properties. But there's sometimes beekeepers will heated up even more so that's when normally you considered not to be raw. One of the other cool facts that I think about is that they found honey in some of the Egyptian tombs and it was still edible. And so I think that's kinda cool. So our last question that I'm seeing right now is, Where our honeybees native to? Yes, the honeybees that we manage here in Michigan are native to different areas in Europe. I have one final question. I've, I've heard that honey can be used medicinally, or topically on wounds. Have you heard anything about that or have you do you know anyone that does that? Yeah. So that's definitely, I'm not going to give medical advice, but there are some antimicrobial or antibacterial properties that honey has and So for some people for wound care, they do use honey and even in the hospitals, they can use it. So that's, that is really cool. Is the honey you're using the hospitals different than what we'd be buying a store, for example. There's some honey is that difference types, so from different floral sources that might have some different microbial properties, but I don't know exactly where the hospitals are getting their honey from. Great, thank you. Great question. Are there any honeybees that are destructive to native bees? Yeah, so that's one of the big conversations we're having right now is about honeybee is another bee species. So one question is whether or not our honeybees are spreading their diseases to other bee species. And other question is if there are out-competing some of our bee species for forage. And so if these are things that you're concerned about, which a lot of us are really the one way we can address this concern is by planting more flowers. So we don't want to be in a position where honeybees and our other bee species are competing for food and that there's not nectar available because one species is taking more. So if we can plant more flowers, that's one way to help eliminate some of that competition and concern. There is one more question. And they want to know if other bees make, if there are other bees make honey. So other bees will collect nectar and use it as a food source. Here in Michigan, honeybees are the only ones that really make extra honey that we can take. But there are some bee species, like in Mexico and parts of Central America, for example, called sting-less bees. And they also make extra honey that people can harvest, which is really cool. And other, a few specific or more common flowers that honey bees collect pollen from? Yeah, so there's a whole list and so I would suggest I can put the link in the chat. If you go to our website and you go to pollinator planting, you can find some really good plant lists. For for bees. And thanks so much for joining us everyone. Don't forget, there are 4-H clubs in every county across the state and you can focus on the wildlife engaging in conservation stewardship activities in your own neck of the woods. And feel free to contact your local Michigan State University Extension office to learn more about the 4-H programs you can get involved with . Good Bye Ana, Have a good night, everybody. Thanks for joining us. Thanks Flora. (Crickets chirping, music “Enthusiasm” by Jay Man is licensed under CC BY 2.0)