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 book link above*****

LSF Apiary Inspection Service

Hello Everyone,

Over the years I have frequently been asked if I would come out and inspect someone’s apiary for a fee, but had to decline because of limited time available to me. Now, I’ve freed up some time and I’m in a position to except some local traveling.  In the past I would ask that folks send me some pictures of the inside of their hive and I would offer them my best diagnosis. That is still available to you. However, things can be missed from just looking at a picture. During a proper hands-on inspection I am able to see the whole picture and give you the current condition of the hive and what to fix, if anything. There are so many things to look for that a picture cannot expose.

So, with that in mind, I would like to introduce the “Lone Star Farms Apiary Inspection Service.” If you live within thirty miles of Lone Star Farms, (Out of town service is also available.) I will come visit your hive (S) and perform a proper hive inspection. I will inspect your hive, making sure that there is a queen, a queen that is performing like she should be, look for any bee disease, if the hive has enough food stores, if there are any queen cells present, if the hive has enough space or too much space and the overall condition of the hive. I will fix any problem that I find at the time of the inspection. You will be able to learn as well by observing what I do.

The fee for this service is $85.00. This will cover my travel and I will inspect up to two hives at a location. Each hive above the two hives at that location I inspect will add $15.00 per hive. This is a small price to pay compared to what you have already invested to make sure your hive (S) is in good shape.

If you have any interest in this service, please contact me through the Lone Star Farms website or call. 979-279-5266

For those of you that live outside the local area and would like to take advantage of this service, please contact me to work out the details. Thanks

Dennis Brown



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.

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

Enjoy your bees.



Bee Virus Spread Manmade and Emanates from Europe

The spread of a disease that is decimating global bee populations
is manmade, and driven by European honeybee populations,
new research has concluded

University of Exeter

The spread of a disease that is decimating global bee populations is manmade, and driven by European honeybee populations, new research has concluded.

A study led by the University of Exeter and UC Berkeley and published in the journal Science found that the European honeybee Apis mellifera is overwhelmingly the source of cases of the Deformed Wing Virus infecting hives worldwide. The finding suggests that the pandemic is manmade rather than naturally occurring, with human trade and transportation of bees for crop pollination driving the spread.

Although separately they are not major threats to bee populations, when the Varroa mite carries the disease, the combination is deadly, and has wiped out millions of honeybees over recent decades. Varroa feed on bee larvae while the Deformed Wing Virus kills off bees, a devastating double blow to colonies. The situation is adding to fears over the future of global bee populations, with major implications for biodiversity, agricultural biosecurity, global economies, and human health.

The study was funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) and supported by a Royal Society Dorothy Hodgkin Fellowship. It involved collaborators from the universities of Sheffield, Cambridge, Salford and California, as well as ETH Zurich in Switzerland.

Lead author Dr Lena Wilfert, of the University of Exeter's Centre for Ecology and Conservation, on the Penryn Campus in Cornwall, said: "This is the first study to conclude that Europe is the backbone of the global spread of the bee killing combination of Deformed Wing Virus and Varroa. This demonstrates that the spread of this combination is largely manmade - if the spread was naturally occurring, we would expect to see transmission between countries that are close to each other, but we found that, for example, the New Zealand virus population originated in Europe. This significantly strengthens the theory that human transportation of bees is responsible for the spread of this devastating disease. We must now maintain strict limits on the movement of bees, whether they are known to carry Varroaor not. It's also really important that beekeepers at all levels take steps to control Varroain their hives, as this viral disease can also affect wild pollinators."

Researchers analysed sequence data of Deformed Wing Virus samples across the globe from honeybees and Varroamites, as well as the occurrence of Varroa. They used the information to reconstruct the spread of Deformed Wing Virus and found that the epidemic largely spread from Europe to North America, Australia and New Zealand. They found some two-way movement between Europe and Asia, but none between Asia and Australasia, despite their closer proximity. The team also looked at samples from other species suspected of transmitting the disease, including different species of honeybee, mite and bumblebees, but concluded that the European honeybee was the key transmitter.

Professor Roger Butlin, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at the University of Sheffield, said: "Our study has found that the deformed wing virus is a major threat to honeybee populations across the world and this epidemic has been driven by the trade and movement of honeybee colonies.

"Domesticated honeybee colonies are hugely important for our agriculture systems, but this study shows the risks of moving animals and plants around the world. The consequences can be devastating, both for domestic animals and for wildlife. The risk of introducing viruses or other pathogens is just one of many potential dangers."

Senior author Professor Mike Boots of Exeter and UC Berkeley concluded: "The key insight of our work is that the global virus pandemic in honeybees is manmade not natural. It's therefore within our hands to mitigate this and future disease problems."


USDA Research Identifies Factors Causing Premature Commercial Honey Bee Queen Failure

by Kim Kaplan

ARS News Service, USDA

BELTSVILLE, Md., Feb. 10, 2016—Temperature extremes during shipping and elevated pathogen levels may be contributing to honey bee queens failing faster today than in the past, according to a study just published by U.S. Department of Agriculture(USDA) scientists in the scientific journal PLOS One.

"Either stress individually or in combination could be part of the reason beekeepers have reported having to replace queens about every six months in recent years when queens have generally lasted one to two years," explained entomologist Jeff Pettiswith the Bee Research Laboratoryin Beltsville, Maryland, who led the study. The Bee Research Laboratory is part of USDA's Agricultural Research Service.

Queens only mate in the first few weeks of life. Then they use the stored semen to fertilize eggs laid throughout their life. Queen failure occurs when the queen dies or when the queen does not produce enough viable eggs to maintain the adult worker population in the colony. Replacing queens cost about $15 each, a significant cost per colony for beekeepers.

Commercial beekeepers usually order their replacement queens already mated, and the queens are shipped to apiaries from March through October. Researchers questioned whether temperature extremes during shipping could damage the sperm a queen has stored in her body. During simulated shipping in the lab, inseminated queens exposed to 104° F (40° C) for 1-2 hours or to 41° F (5° C) for 1-4 hours had sperm viability drop to 20 percent from about 90 percent.

In real-world testing, queens, along with thermometers that recorded the temperature every 10 minutes, were shipped from California, Georgia and Hawaii to the Beltsville lab by either U.S. Postal Service Priority Mail or United Parcel Service Next Day Delivery in July and September. Researchers found that as many as 20 percent of the shipments experienced temperature spikes that approached extremes of 105.8° F and 46.4° F for more than 2 hours at a time. Those exposed to extreme high or low temperatures during shipping had sperm viability reduced by 50 percent.

"The good news is with fairly simple improvements in packaging and shipping conditions, we could have a significant impact on improving queens and, in turn, improving colony survival," Pettis said.

Assessments of the queens sent in by beekeepers for this study found that almost all of them had a high incidence of deformed wing virus; Nosema ceranaewas the next most commonly found pathogen.

Beekeepers had also been asked to rate the performance of each colony from which a queen came as either in good or poor health. A clear link was found between colonies rated as better performing and queens with higher sperm viability. Poorer performing colonies strongly correlated to queens with lower sperm viability.

"We saw wide variation in both pathogen levels and sperm viability in the queens that were sent in to us, and sometimes between queens from the same apiary in July and September, so there is still more research to do. But getting queens back to lasting two years may well be one of the links in getting our beekeeping industry back to a sustainable level," Pettis said.


Bees Abuzz Over Rapini

By Jan Suszkiw
(USDA-ARS)A honey bee foraging on rapini flowers. Photo by Gloria Degrandi-Hoffman.

Popular in Italy but also grown in the United States, rapini, or broccoli raab, is a turnip-like vegetable featured in the recipes of cable television's top celebrity chefs. Foodies are not the only fans of rapini. Honey bees love it too, for its bright yellow, pollen-packed flowers. Studies by Agricultural Research Service(ARS) scientists show that managed honey bee colonies that foraged pollen from plots of fall-seeded rapini fared better than protein-supplemented colonies.

ARS scientists in Tucson, Arizona, began their studies in 2012 at the request of California's almond industry. Almond growers rely on managed bee colonies to pollinate the state's 800,000-acre nut crop, which starts flowering in February. Researchers investigated rapini because of its cold-hardiness, attractiveness to bees and ability to flower six weeks after planting—characteristics that could benefit overwintering bees.

During the fall, more than a million bee colonies are transported to California by beekeepers from throughout the United States. In the absence of natural food sources, the journey to spend the winter there can take a heavy toll on the bees, especially nurse bees and brood (young). The flow of nutrients through nurse bees affects colony size which, in turn, affects almond yields, explains Gloria DeGrandi-Hoffman, an entomologist who leads ARS' Carl Hayden Bee Research Centerin Tucson.

One way to tide the colonies over until bloom time in February is to feed them specially formulated protein supplements. However, in the study, the supplements didn't meet all of the bees' nutritional needs. The protein in the supplements also wasn't well digested; about 65 percent was excreted as waste. With rapini pollen, only about 30 percent of the protein was lost, according to DeGrandi-Hoffman, whose team reported these and other findings in a recent 2015 issue of Apidologie.


Flowers Tone Down the
Iridescence of Their Petals and
Avoid Confusing Bees

University of Cambridge

Bee on non-iridescent flower. Credit: Edwige Moyroud

Iridescent flowers are never as dramatically rainbow-coloured as iridescent beetles, birds or fish, but their petals produce the perfect signal for bees, according to a new study published today in Current Biology.

Bees buzzing around a garden, looking for nectar, need to be able to spot flower petals and recognise which coloured flowers are full of food for them. Professor Beverley Glover from the University of Cambridge's Department of Plant Sciences and Dr Heather Whitney from the University of Bristol found that iridescence - the shiny, colour-shifting effect seen on soap bubbles - makes flower petals more obvious to bees, but that too much iridescence confuses bees' ability to distinguish colours.

Whitney, Glover and their colleagues found that flowers use more subtle, or imperfect, iridescence on their petals, which doesn't interfere with the bees' ability to distinguish subtly different colours, such as different shades of purple. Perfect iridescence, for example as found on the back of a CD, would make it more difficult for bees to distinguish between subtle colour variations and cause them to make mistakes in their flower choices.

"In 2009 we showed that some flowers can be iridescent and that bees can see that iridescence, but since then we have wondered why floral iridescence is so much less striking than other examples of iridescence in nature," says Glover. "We have now discovered that floral iridescence is a trade-off that makes flower detection by bumblebees easier, but won't interfere with their ability to recognise different colours."

Bees use 'search images', based on previously-visited flowers, to remember which coloured flowers are a good source of nectar.

"On each foraging trip a bee will usually retain a single search image of a particular type of flower," explains Glover, "so if they find a blue flower that is rich in nectar, they will then visit more blue flowers on that trip rather than hopping between different colours. If you watch a bee on a lavender plant, for example, you'll see it visit lots of lavender flowers and then fly away - it won't usually move from a lavender flower to a yellow or red flower."

This colour recognition is vital for both the bees and the plants, which rely on the bees to pollinate them. If petals were perfectly iridescent, then bees could struggle to identify and recognise which colours are worthwhile visiting for nectar - instead, flowers have developed an iridescence signal that allows them to talk to bees in their own visual language.

The researchers created replica flowers that were either perfectly iridescent (using a cast of the back of a CD), imperfectly iridescent (using casts of natural flowers), or non-iridescent. They then tested how long it took for individual bees to find the flowers.

They found that the bees were much quicker to locate the iridescent flowers than the non-iridescent flowers, but it didn't make a difference whether the flowers were perfectly or imperfectly iridescent. The bees were just as quick to find the replicas modelled on natural petals as they were to find the perfectly iridescent replicas.

When they tested how fast the bees were to find nectar-rich flowers amongst other, similarly-coloured flowers, they found that perfect iridescence impeded the bees' ability to distinguish between the flowers - the bees were often confused and visited the similarly-coloured flowers that contained no nectar. However, imperfect iridescence, found on natural petals, didn't interfere with this ability, and the bees were able to successfully locate the correct flowers that were full of nectar.

"Bees are careful shoppers in the floral supermarket, and floral advertising has to tread a fine line between dazzling its customers and being recognisable," says Lars Chittka from Queen Mary University of London, another co-author of the study.

"To our eyes most iridescent flowers don't look particularly striking, and we had wondered whether this is simply because flowers aren't very good at producing iridescence," says Glover. "But we are not the intended target - bees are, and they see the world differently from humans."

"There are lots of optical effects in nature that we don't yet understand. We tend to assume that colour is used for either camouflage or sexual signalling, but we are finding out that animals and plants have a lot more to say to the world and to each other."

Glover and her colleagues are now working towards developing real flowers that vary in their amount of iridescence so that they can examine how bees interact with them.

"The diffraction grating that the flowers produce is not as perfectly regular as those we can produce on things like CDs, but this 'advantageous imperfection' appears to benefit the flower-bee interaction," says Whitney.