Where ever you live in the world you should apply the information on working your bees that is given below when the weather conditions in your area are right. So take notes and be ready.

*****Check out the new easy to use book link above*****

Cletus Notes

Hello Everyone,

March has arrived and I would like to offer you a simple but efficient system for performing a hive inspection. Hive inspections are important, but it is also important how you perform that inspection. I have over the years developed a system that will allow you to work your hive efficiently, and with ease. It is important for you to get in and out of the hive without causing much interruption to the daily activity. I have outlined this system in my book; “Beekeeping A Personal Journey” as well.

1. Always pry up the second comb closest to you first. The first comb is usually anchored to the side wall in several places by the bees, and it is much harder to remove first.

2. Once you removed the second comb, hold it to the side and look at the face of the third comb for the queen. You will be able to locate the queen much easier if you adopt this system because you are always looking ahead to the face of the next comb. (Don’t worry about looking for the queen on the comb in your hand first, because if the queen is on it you already have her.)

3. If you don’t see the queen on the face of the third comb, then inspect the second comb (the one in your hand). After inspecting this comb for all of the things you should be looking for, stand it on its end up against the back of the hive to avoid kicking it. By leaving this comb out, you have provided more space to work in. (In the Kelley bee catalog you can find a new comb rack that hooks onto the side of the hive, and gives you a place rest that first comb.)

4. Next, remove the third comb; hold it to the side while you inspect the face of the fourth comb for the queen.

5. After inspecting the third comb place it next to the first comb which is still in the hive next to the wall.

6. Remove the fourth comb, hold it to the side, and inspect the face of the fifth comb for the queen.

Note: If at any time during the inspection you find the queen, you should inspect her carefully and slide the frame back into the hive. Never place the frame that has the queen on it outside the hive no matter which frame you find her on.

7. After looking at the face of the fifth comb, inspect the fourth comb. After inspecting the forth comb, place it back inside the hive next to the third comb.

8. Remove the fifth comb, hold it to the side, and inspect the face of the sixth comb for the queen.

9. After inspecting the fifth comb place it back inside the hive next to the fourth comb.

10. Remove the sixth comb, hold it to the side, and inspect the face of the seventh comb for the queen.

11. After inspecting the sixth comb place it back in the hive next to the fifth comb.

Keep working the hive this way until all of the combs have been inspected.

Always place the combs back in the exact position they were in when you started. The last comb you remove should be placed back where you got it. Then, all you need to do is slide each of the other combs into their original position. Remove the first comb, which is still on the side wall, inspect it, and place it back on the wall. Take the second comb, which is outside the hive, and place it in the second position in the hive. At this time all of the combs are back in their original position, and the inspection is complete.

Get in the habit of looking for the queen herself, not the colored dot on her back. Beekeepers who order their queens to be marked always get in a habit of looking for the colored dot instead of the queen herself when they inspect their hives. Sometimes this dot fades, and is not visible. Sometimes the same queen you started with is not there any longer, and the new queen doesn’t have a colored dot. Use the colored dot as a sec­ondary means of locating the queen, not the primary means.

You will know you have become skilled at opening and working your hive when you find the queen still laying eggs in the cells as you watch. That means you have performed the inspection with very little disruption to the hive, which is what you should strive for. This information and much more is included in my book “Beekeeping: A Personal Journey.”

I hope this helps you as much as it has me over the years.

Enjoy your bees!



The ‘Weapon of Mass Destruction’
That’s Killing Honey Bees

These are new close-up images of one of the mites responsible for killing billions of honey bees around the world.

The magnified photographs of the pinhead-sized mite, aptly named Varroa destructor, were captured by Dr. Jonathan Salvage of the University of Brighton (UK), using a state-of-the-art scanning electron microscope (SEM).

Dr. Salvage, a Research Fellow in the University’s School of Pharmacy and Biomolecular Sciences, has been working with Adam Leitch, a Master Beekeeper, on both a study of plant pollen that honey bees pollinate and aspects of honey bee pest anatomy

Dr. Salvage said: “The mite, with its ice-axe-like weapon of attack, the palptarsi claws, is a major threat to honey bees globally. It is involved in the mass destruction and deaths of billions of bees, which, in turn, threatens crop pollination and food production.”

Mr. Leitch, a member of the Reigate Beekeepers Association, said it was originally thought that blood loss was responsible for the death of parasitised bees: “But scientists later discovered that these bee mites carry and transmit deadly viruses to bees whilst feeding.

“The large red spikes on the claws pierce the body of a victim bee so that the mite can hold on tightly. The mite then feeds on adult bees and larvae using its mouthparts, coloured yellow in Picture 2, like a harpoon to penetrate and secure itself onto the host bee.”

The University has been studying pollen types and morphology associated with honeybees and honey production, to contribute to beekeeper training and education, which Mr Leitch delivers to beekeeping societies.

The mite images will be contributing to the teaching material to furnish amateur beekeepers with the skills to manage mite populations.

There are miticides and non-chemical methods to help combat the mites for beekeepers. Researchers, meanwhile, are studying how ribonucleic acid interference might knock out genes in the mite, and there is also research under way into breeding defensive changes in honey bees.

Dr. Salvage said the £500,000 SEM facility, which provides electron microscopy imaging and analysis, is “proving an invaluable resource for teaching and research which external commercial clients are now benefiting from”.

For more information, contact:


With Native Pollinators
for Crop Pollination,
Diversity Gives the Best Results



Previous studies may have been underestimating the number of bee species needed for adequate pollination by at least one order of magnitude, a new large-scale effort finds. The results help to disentangle the influences of species dominance and species turnover (the replacement of one species for another across space or time) on ecosystem functioning. Many studies to date have explored the influence of biodiversity on ecosystem functions, such as nutrient cycling and pollination. However, whether the findings of field and laboratory experiments truly apply to natural systems is debated. In particular, the question of just how many pollinators are needed to ensure successful crop pollination on large scales remains unknown.
To gain a better understanding of the impacts of bee diversity on widespread pollination, Rachael Winfree and colleagues studied crop pollination by wild (unmanaged) bees at 48 commercial crop fields in the Mid-Atlantic region of the United States and measured the typical amount of pollen that each species delivers on a single visit. They found that at the smallest spatial scale, achieving the 50% pollination threshold required 5.5 bee species; however, achieving the 50% threshold across all 48 sites required 55 bee species.
Modeling revealed, surprisingly, that the effects of species turnover were, on average, 14 times more important for pollination function than were the effects of species dominance (at the largest scale of analysis). These results highlight how sites with low levels of pollination will require most or all of their species, including the rare ones, to reach a sufficient pollination threshold.
Claire Kremen discusses these findings in a related Science
Perspective article, noting that the results of this study may help support the idea that conservationists should use ecosystem-service arguments “to garner support from a broader array of people for biodiversity conservation.”

This research appears in the 16 February 2018 issue of Science.


Introduced Honey Bees Could
Cause Plant Extinction

Honey bees out-compete local pollinators, which play
vital specialist role in plant pollination

New research indicates that introduced 'alien' honey bees are competing for resources with native bees and threatening the survival of plants that rely on interactions with specific pollinators.

The study, published in the journal Diversity and Distributions, was led by Dr. Olivia Norfolk of Anglia Ruskin University, who carried out the work alongside academics from the University of Nottingham.

The scientists monitored the interactions between plants and their pollinators in the mountainous region of St. Katherine Protectorate in South Sinai, Egypt. The region supports many range-restricted endemic plants and pollinators whose future may be jeopardized by the recent introduction of non-native honey bees.

The mountains are characterized by the presence of Bedouin orchard gardens, which act as hotspots for biodiversity, providing valuable habitat for wild plants, pollinators and migratory birds. These gardens form the basis of traditional Bedouin livelihoods, but recently honey bee hives have been introduced to supplement their income.

The study found that introduced honey bees were extremely generalized in their foraging behavior, visiting 55% of available plant species. However, they made few visits to range-restricted plants and showed high levels of resource-overlap with range-restricted bees.

In this arid resource-limited environment, the presence of high numbers of super-generalist honey bees may pose a competitive threat to native bees, particularly in periods of drought. A previous study in California showed that high numbers of feral honey bees reduced bumble bee populations through intensified competition over floral resources.

The research also found that the range-restricted plants were significantly more specialized than wider-ranged counterparts. These plants showed a much higher dependence on range-restricted pollinators and received very few visits from the introduced honey bee.

The effects of floral competition, where honey bees out-compete more efficient native pollinators, could lead to a drop in native bee visitation and a subsequent decrease in their reproductive success.

Dr. Norfolk, Lecturer in Animal and Environmental Biology at Anglia Ruskin University, said: "In this mountain system, range-restricted plants exhibited much higher levels of specialization than their pollinators, suggesting that they may be more vulnerable to extinction.

"Range-restricted pollinators exhibited high resource overlap with the super-abundant honey bee, which could lead to resource competition. Even a small reduction in the population size of range-restricted bees could be detrimental for the reproductive success of range-restricted plants, which depend on low numbers of specialized interactions.

"The introduction of honey bee hives is a common strategy encouraged by charities and NGOs to supplement livelihoods in rural regions. Our research suggests that hives should be introduced with caution because super-generalist honey bees compete with native pollinators and can cause pollination risks for range-restricted plants.

"Any economic benefits associated with honey production must be balanced against the negative impacts to local wildlife, such as the potential extinction of endemic plants species of high conservation concern."

More information: Olivia Norfolk et al, Alien honeybees increase pollination risks for range-restricted plants, Diversity and Distributions (2018). DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12715


Sick Bees Eat Healthier

Good nutrition can help us ward off illness. But what happens when we’re already sick? In honey bees, sick bees appear to make smarter nutritional choices. A new study compared the feeding habits of healthy bees to those infected with the gut parasite Nosema ceranae.

In the study, published recently in the journal Microbial Ecology, the researchers first gave groups of bees different kinds of pollen. They found that sick bees, and not healthy bees, lived longer when they had access to the pollen that was more nutritious, even though it also increased the number of parasites found in their gut.

"The real question then was - when the bees had the opportunity to select their own food, would they choose what was good for them?" said Jade Ferguson, the student who conducted the project for her Honours degree.

The answer was yes. When given the option to forage on artificial flowers with either high quality pollen, lower quality pollen, or sugar water, healthy bees showed no pollen preference. However, twice as many infected bees selected the higher quality pollen than the lower quality pollen.

"Nosema ceranaeis one of the most widespread parasites of adult honey bees in the world, and a lot of studies have investigated its effects on bee physiology. Ours is the first study we're aware of to investigate effects on floral choice," said Dr. Lori Lach, Senior Lecturer at James Cook University

It is still unclear how the bees distinguish between pollens of different quality. However, the choices bees make will likely affect the native and crop flowers they visit. Flowers vary greatly in the quality of pollen they offer and are often competing for pollinators. Parasites appear to be one more factor that may influence which flowers are visited.


When Did Flowers Originate?

Bees depend on the flowering plants that produce nectar and pollen for sustenance. It’s a symbiotic relationship that evolved over time. New research shows that flowering plants likely originated between 149 and 256 million years ago.

The study, published Feb. 4th, 2018 in New Phytologistby researchers from the UK and China, shows that flowering plants are neither as old as suggested by previous molecular studies, nor as young as a literal interpretation of their fossil record.

The findings underline the power of using complementary studies based on molecular data and the fossil record, along with different approaches to infer evolutionary timescales to establish a deeper understanding of evolutionary dynamics many millions of years ago.

"The discrepancy between estimates of flowering plant evolution from molecular data and fossil records has caused much debate. Even Darwin described the origin of this group as an 'abominable mystery'", explained lead author, Dr. Jose Barba-Montoya (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment).

"To uncover the key to solving the mystery of when flowers originated, we carefully analyzed the genetic make-up of flowering plants, and the rate at which mutations accumulate in their genomes."

Through the lens of the fossil record, flowering plants appear to have diversified suddenly, precipitating a Cretaceous Terrestrial Revolution in which pollinators, herbivores and predators underwent explosive co-evolution.

Molecular-clock dating studies, however, have suggested a much older origin for flowering plants, implying a cryptic evolution of flowers that is not documented in the fossil record.

"In large part, the discrepancy between these two approaches is an artefact of false precision on both palaeontological and molecular evolutionary timescales," said Professor Philip Donoghue from the University of Bristol's School of Earth Science, and a senior author of the study.

Palaeontological timescales calibrate the family tree of plants to geological time based on the oldest fossil evidence for its component branches. Molecular timescales build on this approach, using additional evidence from genomes for the genetic distances between species, aiming to overcome gaps in the fossil record.

"Previous studies into molecular timescales failed to explore the implications of experimental variables and so they inaccurately estimate the probable age of flowering plants with undue precision," said Professor Ziheng Yang (UCL Genetics, Evolution & Environment) and senior author of the study.

"Similarly, interpretations of the fossil record have not fully recognized its shortcomings as an archive of evolutionary history, that is, that the oldest fossil evidence of flowering plants comes from very advanced, not primitive flowering plant lineages," Professor Donoghue added.

The researchers compiled a large collection of genetic data for many flowering plant groups including a dataset of 83 genes from 644 taxa, together with a comprehensive set of fossil evidence to address the timescale of flowering plant diversification.

"By using Bayesian statistical methods that borrow tools from physics and mathematics to model how the evolutionary rate changes with time, we showed that there are broad uncertainties in the estimates of flowering plant age, all compatible with early to mid-Cretaceous origin for the group," said Dr Mario dos Reis (School of Biological and Chemical Sciences at Queen Mary University of London), a co-author of the study.

Regardless of when flowering plants evolved, from a bee’s perspective, there can never be too many. When the public asks how bees are doing, maybe beekeepers should answer “They’re starving. But you can help. Plant some flowers.”