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.

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Cletus Notes

Hello Everyone,

Here in Texas we are well into our bee season. Our first honey flow of the season was from the yaupon bush which started blooming here in the Bryan, Texas area around the end of March. We had a good flower bloom and a nice surplus was made.

Several of the Texas queen breeders have recently had difficulty because of the weather conditions, especially in and around the Houston area where they’ve had lots of windy days. We are deciding whether or not it would be good to make a few splits. Typically, we only make splits from hives that are making queen cells this time of year. We make most of our splits in late June. We prefer to keep our hives strong for the tallow flow which should begin towards the end of May. Making honey is our primary goal so we need to have strong hives at the right time.

This is the time of year that beekeepers enjoy the most. This is spring time. Spring is magical and is the time of year when life awakens from a deep sleep. It’s a time when the skeletal remains of the bushes and trees begin to show signs of life. Migrating birds start their long journey back to their spring and summer retreats. It’s a new dawn, a new day, a new season and the air is filled with renewed vitality. This is spring.

Live and enjoy your bees.


"Happy Mothers Day"


Honey Bees Struggle to Find
Enough Good Bacteria

Modern monoculture farming, commercial forestry and even well-intentioned gardeners could be making it harder for honey bees to store food and fight off diseases, a new study suggests.



Phylum-level distributions of bacterial community, determined by Illumina MiSeq sequencing of bee bread from 20 hives, organized by location (on an east-west axis left to right)


Human changes to the landscape, such as large areas of monoculture grassland for livestock grazing, and coniferous forests for timber production, is affecting the diversity of the 'microbiome' associated with the long-term food supply of honey bees.

Scientists at Lancaster University examined the mix of bacteria, known as a microbiome, of bee bread. They found that the bee bread within hives close to agriculturally improved grasslands, made up of single grass varieties, and those near coniferous woodland contained lower bacterial diversity than hives near habitats with more plant variety such as broadleaf woodland, rough grasslands and coastal landscapes.

Bees use a diverse community of bacteria to turn fresh pollen into a long-term food store. They need a range of bacteria to help them fight off infectious diseases, and also the bacteria can act as a preservative for bee bread within hives. Without a diverse microbiome the bee bread can be more vulnerable to mold, causing a food shortage for the hive.

The researchers discovered that some of the bacteria present within bee bread, such as bifidobacterium and lactobacilli, are the same 'good bacteria' found in some brands of bioactive yogurt. Bees pick up different strains of bacteria from plants when they are foraging for food and this is transferred to bee bread within the hive.

Lancaster's Dr Philip Donkersley, lead author of the study, which is published in the open access journal Ecology and Evolution, said: "We are showing that even in a small geographical area there is a huge variance in bee bread microbiome. This is almost certainly because bee bread has a variable composition made up of pollen from different plants.

"It is traditionally thought that monocultures, such as grazing land and timber forests, were bad for pollinators due to a lack of food continuance through the year. However, our study suggests land use change may also be having an indirect detrimental effect on the microbiota of bee bread.

"Since nutrition derived from bee bread and the microbiome therein directly affects the health of bees we therefore believe this demonstrates an indirect link between landscape composition and bee fitness."

In addition, hives located near urban landscapes also demonstrated lower diversity in the microbiome of bee bread. Gardeners trying to help bees by growing a range of pollinator-friendly flowers from around the world may need to consider that non-native species may not be as good for bees as native UK plants.

Native bees, their forage plants and the bacteria located within have evolved together and the bacteria bees pick up from non-native plants may be less likely to be beneficial to the hive.

Dr. Donkersley thinks that "Decreased bacterial diversity in bee breads near urban environments suggests that the increased range of non-native plants in gardens could be impacting bees' ability to get diverse microbiota.” But perhaps there is something else in urban environments reducing the microbiome availability, such as air pollution. It would be interesting to compare microbiome composition of bee bread from different urban environments that varied in their native vs. introduced plant diversity.

The work is reported in the paper 'Bacterial communities associated with honeybee food stores are correlated with land use'.


Droughts Bring Fewer Flowers
for Bees



Bees could be at risk from climate change because more frequent droughts could cause plants to produce fewer flowers, new research shows.

Droughts are expected to become more common and more intense in many parts of the world, and researchers studied the impact on flowering plants using a field experiment. They found that drought roughly halved the overall number of flowers. This means less food for bees and other pollinators, which visit flowers for the nectar and pollen that they provide. The research was carried out by the University of Exeter in collaboration with the University of Manchester and the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

"The plants we examined responded to drought in various ways, from producing fewer flowers to producing flowers that contained no nectar," said lead researcher Ben Phillips, of the Environment and Sustainability Institute on the University of Exeter's Penryn Campus in Cornwall. "But overall there was a very clear reduction in the number of flowers that were available - and obviously this means less food for flower-visiting insects such as bees."

Bees are already under pressure from a variety of threats including habitat loss, the use of particular pesticides, and the spread of diseases and alien species.

"Not only are these insects vital as pollinators of crops and wild plants, but they also provide food for many birds and mammals," said joint lead researcher Dr Ros Shaw, also of the University of Exeter.

The study took place in Wiltshire on chalk grassland, which is an important habitat for UK pollinator species. The plant species studied included meadow vetchling (Lathyrus pratensis), common sainfoin (Onobrychis viciifolia) and selfheal (Prunella vulgaris).

"Previous studies of the impacts of drought on flowers and bees have looked at individual species, often in the laboratory, but we used an experiment with rain shelters to examine the effects on real communities of plant species living in chalk grassland," said Dr Ellen Fry from the University of Manchester, who set up the experiment.

"The level of drought that we looked at was calculated to be a rare event, but with climate change such droughts are expected to become much more common."

The findings suggest that chalk grasslands may support lower pollinator populations in the future, but the scientists warn that the results are likely to be broadly applicable to other regions and habitats. The research was part of the Wessex Biodiversity and Ecosystem Service Sustainability project, and was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council. The paper, published in the journal Global Change Biology, is entitled: "Drought reduces floral resources for pollinators."


When Enemies Come to Help



The March 2018 cover of ABJ featured a crab spider that had caught a honey bee. Crab spiders have an amazing ability to blend into a flower and catch pollinators. This could harm plants in need of pollination, but new research shows the spiders also protect the plant.

Interactions between organisms such as plants and animals can be found everywhere in nature. Anina Knauer and Florian Schiestl, a professor at the University of Zurich, have taken a closer look at one such instance: the interaction between crab spiders and the buckler-mustard, a yellow flowering plant common in Europe.

The harmful side of crab spiders
Crab spiders are predators that lie in wait for their prey on the flowers. It used to be assumed that these spiders harm the plant, because they catch pollinating insects or discourage them from visiting the flowers. The ecologists at UZH have now been able to reveal a surprising phenomenon: "Crab spiders find the plant by following the scent of its flowers. They do so using β-ocimene, the floral volatile that also attracts bees," says Schiestl. This volatile β-ocimene is the same scent given off by young honey bee larvae that drives foragers to collect more pollen.

Floral volatile serves as a cry for help
Indeed, if crab spiders are sitting on the flowers, fewer bees will visit, because they're discouraged by the spiders. But the spiders don't just eat pollinators. They also eliminate plant-eating insects and their larvae that feed on the flowers or fruit and damage the plant. This way the crab spiders benefit the plant, bearing out the principle that the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Apparently, the benefit is so great that when attacked by florivores, the plants give off larger amounts of the floral volatile that attracts the spiders. This "cry for help" actually works: in response to it the spiders are increasingly likely to visit the flowers that are being attacked, where they find rich pickings.

Understanding interactions to protect ecosystems
The study shows that the effect of interacting organisms is highly dependent on the ecological context. But in complex ecosystems the consequences can't always be predicted. This means that the disappearance of existing interacting partners or the appearance of new ones can have unforeseeable implications for individual members of an ecosystem. "For this reason, it's important to better understand the interactions between organisms and their consequences to be able to apply the insights in the protection of ecosystems or organic farming," concludes Florian Schiestl.

Read the scientific paper here:


The Corn Earworm Hybridized into
a Resistant Mega-Pest



New crop pests often leaves farmers scrambling for new control methods. When pests hybridize and become resistant to pesticides, farmers often need to apply more insecticides to help rein in the damage. In South America, two megapests have hybridized and if they make their way north, it could mean trouble for America’s farmers. 

Australian scientists have confirmed the hybridization of two of the world's major pest species, into a new and improved mega-pest. One of the pests, the cotton bollworm, is widespread in Africa, Asia and Europe and causes damage to over 100 crops, including corn, cotton, tomato and soybean. The damage and controlling the pest costs billions of dollars a year. It is an extremely mobile pest and has developed resistance to all pesticides used against it.

The other pest, the corn earworm, is a native of the Americas and has comparatively limited resistance and host range. However, the combination of the two, in a novel hybrid with unlimited geographical boundaries is cause for major concern.

Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) researchers in a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the USA provides clear evidence of the hybridization of the two moths in Brazil.

"A hybrid such as this could go completely undetected should it invade another country," Research Director leading CSIRO's Biosecurity Risk Evaluation and Preparedness Program Dr. Paul De Barro said.

While a combination of insecticides currently controls these pests well, it is important to study the pests themselves for sustainable long-term management world-wide. The scientists confirmed that among the group of caterpillars studied, every individual was a hybrid.

"No two hybrids were the same suggesting a 'hybrid swarm' where multiple versions of different hybrids can be present within one population," fellow CSIRO Scientist Dr. Tom Walsh said.

The bollworm attacks more crops and develops much more resistance to pesticides than the earworm. A concerning finding among the Brazilian hybrids was that one was 51 per cent earworm, but included a known resistance gene from the bollworm.

Lead author of the paper Dr. Craig Anderson, a former CSIRO scientist now based at The University of Edinburgh, believes the hybrid study has wide-ranging implications for the agricultural community across the Americas.

"On top of the impact already felt in South America, recent estimates that 65 per cent of the USA's agricultural output is at risk of being affected by the bollworm demonstrates that this work has the potential to instigate changes to research priorities that will have direct ramifications for the people of America, through the food on their tables and the clothes on their backs," Dr. Anderson said.

To read the paper published in PNAS, visit:


Sowing Strips of Flowering Plants
Has Limited Effect on Pollination



To determine the impacts of flower strips on pollination, scientists placed pots of strawberry plants or field beans in fields with or without strips of flowering pollinator plants. At flower strip sites (left circle), one group of pots were placed adjacent to the flower strip and one group of pots in a field border at the same study site; at control sites without flower strips (right circle), one group of pots were placed in a field border. Pollination was compared across the sites.


Strips of wildflowers dotting fields is visually attractive and provides much needed forage to bees. But does it actually increase pollination of nearby agricultural crops? Turns out that it depends on the scale and diversity of the farm. Researchers at the Centre for Environmental and Climate Research at Lund University have studied how pollination varies in different agricultural landscapes, by placing pots with either wild strawberry or field bean in field borders. Plants that were placed in a small-scale agricultural landscape, with pastures and other unploughed environments, were better pollinated than plants in landscapes dominated by arable land.

The researchers also investigated how sown flower strips, i.e. flower plantings which farmers often create to benefit pollinators, affected pollination in the different landscape types. In landscapes dominated by arable fields, pollination increased adjacent to the flower strip. A few hundred meters further away, however, the sown flower strips had no effect on the pollination of wild strawberry and field bean. In more small-scale agricultural landscape, the sown flower strips instead reduced pollination of adjacent plants, likely because the increased amount of flowers resulted in competition among flowers for pollinating insects.

"In our study, pollination was highest in small-scale agricultural landscape, with pastures, meadows and other unploughed habitats. Wild bees are important pollinators and manage better in a landscape with a lot of field borders and other unexploited environments. In intensively farmed landscapes, where such environments have disappeared, we can increase pollination, at least in the immediate vicinity, by sowing flowering plants to attract pollinating insects", says Lina Herbertsson, one of the researchers behind the study.

Farmers can receive financial support to implement measures that promote biodiversity, some of which may also benefit pollinating insects. An evaluation is currently underway of the EU's common agricultural policy, CAP, which among other things regulates the support for greening measures, aimed at reducing the climate impact of European agriculture and promoting biodiversity in the agricultural landscape.

"Our study underlines the importance of carefully designing measures intended to increase biodiversity, in order to achieve the desired effect. The same measure could have different impact in different places. If we want to increase pollination in varied agricultural landscapes, it seems to be a better strategy to restore and maintain pastures and meadows, and to manage field borders in a way that favours the local flora, rather than adding sown strips of flowering plants", concludes Lina Herbertsson.

It might be hard for bees to find randomly placed pots of strawberries or field beans. Would the results be different if it was a large row of flowering crops? We know that bees need increased forage. Other studies have shown that providing habitat and forage that blooms throughout the season increases pollinator abundance and diversity. If that pollination is provided by native bees with short foraging distances, it makes sense to put in the pollinator habitat in close proximity to the crops you want pollinated.
Read the paper:


New Pesticide as Alternative
to Neonicotinoids



In February 2018, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) confirmed that the pesticide group of neonicotinoids is harmful to bees. A novel pesticide manufactured by Bayer AG is therefore being discussed as an alternative; it contains flupyradifurone from the class of butenolides. The product goes by the brand name of Sivanto.

Sivanto is assumed to be effective against various sucking insects such as aphids and whiteflies and can be used on a number of fruit and vegetable crops, but also on cocoa and coffee plants. Advertised as bee-friendly, the pesticide can even be applied on flowering fields. It has been available in the US market since 2015. In the EU, it is approved, but not yet available.

Measurable impact on honeybees
Scientists from the University of Würzburg have now investigated the effect of flupyradifurone on honey bee behavior. The study led by Ricarda Scheiner, Professor for Neuroethology of Arthropods and Hannah Hesselbach, her PhD student was published in the current issue of Scientific Reports.

"Our data show that non-lethal doses of flupyradifurone after a single application to collecting honey bees have a negative impact on the bees' taste, learning and memory capability," Ricarda Scheiner sums up the study result.

No impact when used properly
The two researchers first tested the bees' gustatory response to sugar using a standard procedure. Subsequently, the bees were subjected to olfactory conditioning, and on the next day the scientists tested their memory to see what the bees had retained. "Whereas the two smaller doses did not exhibit any adverse effect, a flupyradifurone amount of 1.2 microgrammes per bee results in significantly reduced perception and learning performance," Hannah Hesselbach says.

The good news, however, is that the collecting honey bees will probably not come into contact with such high doses when the pesticide is applied properly. But the scientists believe that further research is necessary to determine the pesticide's influence on motor function, waggle dance or orientation.

"Also, we cannot say which influence flupyradifurone will have on bees in combination with other pesticides, which are frequently found in honey and pollen in residual amounts," Hannah Hesselbach adds. The impact on wild bees and other pollinators should also be examined according to the researchers.

Read the open access paper at: