Cletus Calendar
April 2018

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 monitoring our bee’s progress on gathering nectar from the yaupon honey flow. At Lone Star Farms, we rarely ever add a honey super during the first week of the flow. We like to give the bees the first week in order for them to fill most of their two brood boxes and do repairs in the hive. That way we rarely have to feed the bees during the summer months, especially if we do the same thing for the tallow flow in June.

Starting in the second week if the bees are ready for it, we add the first honey super. When the bees have filled the super to where they have started working on the two outside frames, we add another super and then repeat the process until the flow has ended.

Remember, the bees like to move up. If you add a super too early, they may not fill the outside frames with nectar. They may move up into the new box before completing the lower box.

(Use this management technique in your location.)

Enjoy your bees and be a good manager.



Grant allows researchers to develop app and
Amazon-like seed distribution


With a $338,613 grant from the foundation's Pollinator Health Fund, UCF Biologist Barbara Sharanowski and her team will make native seeds (specific to each ecoregion in the USA) widely available through online distributors. Think of an Amazon for wildflowers. The team will also create an app and online tools to educate the public and volunteers about the important role bees play in food production and how to properly sow the seeds.


Funded by the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, Barbara Sharanowski will coordinate a nationwide team of citizen scientists who will convert lawns into native wildflower havens especially designed to attract native bees and other insects that pollinate plants.

Bees and other pollinators are essential to food production. Some scientists estimate that one out of every three bites of food eaten exists because of pollinators like bees.

But bees have been dying off since the early 2000s. The reasons for the decline vary from disease to habitat reduction. Scientists around the world are working on reversing the trend, but one of the things everyone can do to help now is to increase the bee's native habitat, Sharanowski said.

"Lawns provide no habitat for pollinators and occupy far more area than any one crop," she said. "Lawns provide an opportunity for habitat restoration to help conserve pollinators. Each person, whether in an apartment or house, can make a difference by creating pollinator habitat using local, native wildflowers."

With a $338,613 grant from the foundation's Pollinator Health Fund, Sharanowski and her team will make native seeds (specific to each ecoregion in the USA) widely available through online distributors. Think of an Amazon for wildflowers. The team will also create an app and online tools to educate the public and volunteers about the important role bees play in food production and how to properly sow the seeds.

"Through the development of a fun mobile app, we hope to teach the general public about pollinator identification and planting native wildflowers so that these citizens can contribute to data on pollinator abundance and diversity," she said. "By engaging a large number of people across the US, we hope to create a national movement where Americans participate in conserving and documenting native pollinators. These small steps by individuals collectively contribute to our national food security through pollinator conservation." Individuals wanting to help beta test the project can sign up here:


The UCF team includes postdoctoral research associate Nash Turley from Biology, Bobby Jeanpierre from the Department of Educational Human Sciences, and Bree Goldstein from the College of Business. Jason Gibbs from the Department of Entomology at the University of Manitoba is also collaborating.

Bees are vital to food production and to the species that depend on food for their survival - including humans. According to the USDA, three-fourths of the world's flowering plants and about 35 percent of the world's food crops depend on animal pollinators to reproduce.

Bees eat nectar and pollen almost exclusively so they require flowers to survive. But many flowers need bees as well, they require that their pollen be transported to other flowers so they can generate fruits and seeds. By buzzing from flower to flower, bees eat and ensure flowers are fertilized and can reproduce. These mutually beneficial interactions are necessary to sustain the over 5,000 bee species that live in North America, but also ensures that grocery stores around the world are stocked.


Honey Bees May Unlock
the Secrets of How
the Human Brain Works


Researchers from the University of Sheffield have discovered that looking at honey bees in a colony in the same way as neurons in a brain could help us better understand the basic mechanisms of human behavior

The team studied a theoretical model of how honey bees decide where to build their nest and viewed the bee colony as a single superorganism which displays a coordinated response to external stimuli - similar to the human brain. The study concluded that the way in which bees "speak" with each other and make decisions is comparable to the way the many individual neurons in the human brain interact with each other.

Previous research has shown that the brain of humans and other animals follow certain rules known as psychophysical laws. Single brain neurons do not obey the laws, but the whole brain does. Similarly, this study found that even if single bees do not obey these laws, the superorganism, i.e. the bee colony, does.

The study, published in Nature:
Scientific Reports, has fundamentally found that superorganisms may obey the same laws as the human brain. It suggests that the mechanisms that generate such psychophysical laws are not only happening in brains as previously thought. This discovery will enable scientists to better understand the basic principles that generate such laws by studying superorganisms such as bee colonies, which is much simpler than watching brain neurons in action when a decision is being made.

The study also helps us better understand and explore brain laws, including Pieron's Law, Hicks Law and Weber's Law.

Pieron's Law is the law that suggests that the brain is quicker to make decisions when the two options to decide from are of high quality. The brain is slower when the two options are of lower quality. When studying the bee colony, the study found that the honey bee colony is quicker to make a decision between two high-quality nest-sites compared to two low-quality nest-sites.

Similarly, Hick's Law finds that the brain is slower to make decisions when the number of alternative options increases. In this study, academics found that the bee colony was slower to make decisions when the number of alternative nest-sites increased.

Researchers also compared bee colonies to brain neurons in Weber's Law. This law finds that the brain is able to select the best quality option when there is a minimum difference between the qualities of the options. The minimum difference is small for low qualities and big for high qualities - there is a linear relationship between quality and minimum difference. In the study, the bee colony model was found to follow the same linear relationship of the minimum quality difference between nest-sites and their average quality.

This law can also be applied to changes in stimulus as well as quality, for example, light, sound or weight. An analogy could be: if you're holding 1lb of rocks and add another 1lb of rocks, you'll notice the difference immediately; but if you're holding 30lbs of rocks and add another 1lb, the change is much less noticeable.

Dr. Andreagiovanni Reina, Research Associate in Collective Robotics in the University of Sheffield's Department of Computer Science, said: "This study is exciting because it suggests that honey bee colonies adhere to the same laws as the brain when making collective decisions.

"The study also supports the view of bee colonies as being similar to complete organisms or better still, superorganisms, composed of a large number of fully developed and autonomous individuals that interact with each other to bring forth a collective response.

"With this view in mind, parallels between bees in a colony and neurons in a brain can be traced, helping us to understand and identify the general mechanisms underlying psychophysics laws, which may ultimately lead to a better understanding of the human brain. Finding similarities between the behavior of honey bee colonies and brain neurons is useful because the behavior of bees selecting a nest is simpler than studying neurons in a brain that makes decisions."

A. Reina, T. Bose, V. Trianni, J.A.R. Marshall. Psychophysical Laws and the Superorganism. Scientific Reports 8:4387, 2018.


Economic Effects and Responses
to Changes in Honey Bee Health

Peyton M. Ferrier, Randal R. Rucker, Walter N. Thurman,
and Michael Burgett


What Is the Issue?
Since 2006, annual winter losses of managed honey bee colonies have averaged 28.7 percent, approximately double the historical winter mortality rate of 15.0 percent. These elevated losses have raised concerns that agricultural and food supply chains will suffer disruptions as pollination services become more costly and less available. This study provides an overview of the pollination services market and the mechanisms by which beekeepers, farmers, and retail food producers adjust to increasing scarcity in the pollination services market. It also examines the empirical data on pollinated crop production, pollination service fees, and annual numbers of honey bee colonies.

What Did the Study Find?
Despite higher winter loss rates, the number of U.S. honey bee colonies has remained stable or risen between 1996 and 2016, depending on which of two data sources is considered. Winter loss rates have no negative correlation with yearly changes in the number of U.S. colonies at the national or State level, and loss rates have a positive correlation with the rate of colony additions, which may reflect strategies used by beekeepers to manage colonies.

Among crops pollinated by honey bees for which data are continuously available, almond sand plums have had the largest increases in pollination service fees, rising about 2.5 and 2.4times, respectively, in real (inflation-adjusted) terms since the early 1990s, with by far the largest portion of the increase occurring between 2004 and 2006. For most other crops for which pollination fee data are available since 1987, real pollination service fees have risen at an average rate of 2-3 percent annually and have not shown a marked increase since colony collapse disorder appeared in 2006. For a few crops, real pollination service fees are lower now than in 1987.

Between 1988 and 2016, real beekeeper revenue per colony more than doubled. This increase resulted primarily from a doubling of real honey prices over that time span, as well as dramatic growth in both almond acreage and almond pollination service fees. Industry data indicate that in 2016, pollination service income accounted for 41 percent of beekeeper revenue, whereas pollination services accounted for only 11 percent of revenue in 1988. In 2016, 82 percent of all pollination service revenue came from almond pollination, implying that almond fees accounted for one-third (82 percent of 41 percent) of total beekeeper revenue in that year. The high share of almond service fees in pollination revenues can be attributed to the following: (1) almond fees are substantially higher than fees for other major crops, and (2) almond pollination accounts for 61 percent of all honey bee colonies rented and 52 percent of all crop acres that pay fees for pollination services. A primary driver of the increased share of pollination fee revenue over time is the dramatic expansion in almond acres—from 419,000 bearing acres in 1988 to 940,000 in 2016.

For most crops other than almonds, the share of total costs attributable to pollination service fees is less than 5 percent at the farm level and less than 1 percent at the retail level. That small share, along with the relatively modest changes in pollination service fees for most crops, will tend to make the effect of increasing pollinator health problems on food prices very small for most crops.

How Was the Study Conducted?
Historical data on pollination service fees were obtained from surveys of beekeepers in the Pacific Northwest since 1987 and California since 1993 and compared with recently released fee data from USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service’s Cost of Pollination Report. Farmgate-level pollination cost shares were compiled from data using two methods. The first method combines pollination fee data with data on yield, crop price, crop production, and stocking density to develop a cost of pollination and revenue per acre from crop production. The second method compiles crop production budgets created by State agricultural extension agents for farmers at the regional level. Retail cost shares were developed by multiplying these figures by estimates of retail-wholesale price spreads. Data on colony losses were obtained from annual data developed by the Bee Informed Partnership, while colony stock figures were obtained from USDA’s annual National Honey Report and from the Census of Agriculture, which is administered by USDA every 5 years.

You can download the full USDA report at the following site:


'Lazy Lawn Mowers' Can Help
Support Suburban Bee
Populations and Diversity

UMass Amherst research shows
less-frequent mowing may help suburban bees

Ecologist Susannah Lerman of UMass Amherst mowing a suburban lawn that was part of her study of bee populations and diversity. In exchange for participation, homeowners got free lawn mowing. Credit: UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - Homeowners concerned about the decline of bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects need look no further than their own back yards, says ecologist Susannah Lerman at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and the USDA Forest Service. In new research, she and colleagues suggest that homeowners can help support bee habitat in suburban yards, specifically their lawns, by changing lawn-mowing habits.

The researchers found that taking a "lazy lawn mower" approach and mowing every two weeks rather than weekly can help encourage bee habitat in suburban lawns by allowing flowers to bloom. Longer intervals between mowing lets the lawn flowers bloom, which helps bees. She says, "Mowing less frequently is practical, economical and a timesaving alternative to replacing lawns or even planting pollinator gardens."

Given the pervasiveness of lawns and other habitat loss for pollinators, the research findings provide immediate solutions for individual households to support bees in suburban settings, she adds. Lerman conducted the study with her colleagues Joan Milam at UMass Amherst, Alix Contosta at the University of New Hampshire and Christofer Bang at Arizona State University. Findings appear in the current issue of
Biological Conservation.

For this study, supported by the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Science, Engineering and Education for Sustainability (SEES) program, Lerman and colleagues recruited 16 homeowners in Springfield, Massachusetts, and during 2013 and 2014, assigned each yard one of three mowing schedules so that yards were mowed either every week, every two weeks, or every three weeks, and then tested how the bees responded.

Before each of five bee-sampling occasions per season, the scientists counted "yard" flowers - ornamentals not affected by mowing - and "lawn flowers" such as clover and dandelions growing within the grass, for the entire property. They also measured average grass height, counted and identified bees, and calculated several metrics to understand how bees responded to changes in mowing frequency: bee abundance, richness, and evenness, all of which drive patterns in bee diversity, Lerman points out.

The authors observed a total of 4,587 bees representing 93 bee species, with supplemental observations reaching 111 bee species. Lawns mowed every three weeks had as much as 2.5 times more lawn flowers than lawns mowed on the other schedules. The lawns mowed every two weeks had the greatest number of bees but the lowest diversity compared to the other two mowing intervals, they report.

Lerman and colleagues point out that bees are essential for crop pollination and supporting natural ecosystems. But both domesticated and wild bee species are in decline around the world, due in part to urbanization, agricultural intensification and loss of habitat. However, co-author Milam says there's reason to be cautiously optimistic: "I was amazed at the high level of bee diversity and abundance we documented in these lawns, and it speaks to the value of the untreated lawn to support wildlife."

Further, says Contosta, "There is evidence that even though lawns are maintained to look uniform, they may support diverse plant communities and floral resources if the owners refrain from using herbicides to kill 'weeds' such as dandelions and clover."

Bangs adds, "We acknowledge our small sample size and the study's limitation to suburban Massachusetts, though the findings may be applicable in all temperate areas where lawns dominate." Lerman says, "This research is a reminder that sustainability begins at home, and in this case involves doing less for more buzz."

Sam Scheiner, NSF's SEES program director, says, "A decrease in pollinators, and insects in general, is a growing problem. This research shows that we all can help address this problem with a change in how we manage our lawns, and demonstrates that basic research directly contributes to societal needs."


How Royal Jelly Helps Honey Bee
Larvae Defy Gravity
and Become Queens

Two cells with royal jelly. The 3rd cup from the left has royal jelly with a pH of 4.0, while the 4th cup has a pH of 5.8. When turned upside down, the larva falls out of the 4th cup.Credit: Buttstedt et al./Current Biology

Honey bee larvae develop into queen bees only when they are fed large quantities of royal jelly. But royal jelly does more than determine whether a larva becomes a queen: it also keeps her safely anchored to the roof of the queen cell in which she develops. Research published in Current Biologyon March 15 explains the role that the pH of royal jelly plays in making the substance viscous enough to keep the queen-to-be from falling.

"Royal jelly is kind of viscous and sticky and jelly-like; that's why it's called 'jelly.' It's like a mixture of marmalade and honey," says senior author Anja Buttstedt, a molecular ecologist who performed the study at Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg. And like jam in a jar turned upside down, it's viscous enough to cling to the ceiling of the queen cell and to keep the larva hanging as she grows.

Larvae destined to become queens don't have to hang to develop properly. But they are too large to fit into the cells of the hive's honeycomb, and often the only place on the hive with enough room for the queen cells is hanging off the bottom of it. While other larvae are fed small amounts of food jelly directly, the worker bees stuff royal jelly into the queen cell in vast quantities, building up a sticky mass that both feeds the larva and keeps her in place.

This space constraint makes royal jelly's viscosity extremely important, so Buttstedt and her team were surprised when their experiments on the proteins that make up the substance completely changed its consistency. "It was totally liquid, almost watery," she says. To understand what had happened, the researchers looked at royal jelly, which normally has a pH of 4, at several different pH levels. They found that between pH 4 and pH 5, the viscosity of royal jelly changed dramatically, and that at a neutral pH, it had that strange, runny consistency.

"And then we realized that the protein that we were purifying at pH 4 was somehow much bigger in size than what we would expect from its amino acid sequence. Most purification protocols use pH 7, so other people never expected or saw the huge size of the protein," she says. She found that the main protein in royal jelly, MRJP1, polymerized with another protein in more acidic conditions to form a network of fibers. These fibers both increased the size of the protein and played a crucial role in changing the jelly's viscosity. "That was, in the end, the missing link between the pH, the viscosity change, and the protein," she says.

It's still unclear how these fibers change the viscosity of royal jelly. But she does have a good hypothesis for why the change is necessary: royal jelly is produced in the glands of worker bees and needs to be fluid enough to travel through their glandular ducts. Production of the jelly actually happens in two separate glands, one that produces the proteins in a neutral pH and one that produces fatty acids that can reduce said pH when the two secretions finally meet.

Other species have similar pH mechanisms that regulate the formation of crucial proteins. In humans, a protein that serves as scaffold for melanin synthesis only forms fibers at pH 6 in specific organelles. Another example is spider silk. "You don't want it to be too sticky in the gland where it's being produced, but when the silk is coming out, there are changes in pH that contribute to turning it into the real, strong silk," she explains. So royal jelly's pH-dependent viscosity change does make a lot of sense—it's just that no one had ever looked at it before.

"The longer I think about it, the less surprising I find it," Buttstedt says. Still, she plans to continue studying royal jelly and the ways it works to turn normal larvae into queens. "There are many other proteins in royal jelly, and I would like to find out what all of them are doing. Because these proteins exist in this way just in honey bees, they most likely use them to do something very special."

This work was supported by the German Research Foundation and an ERASMUS+ exchange program grant.

Current Biology, Buttstedt et al.: "How honey bees defy gravity with royal jelly to raise queens"


Commercial Pesticides:
Not as Safe as They Seem

Lack of information on the effects of all pesticide ingredients makes them appear safer than they are — potentially causing serious harm to people and the environment.




New regulations are needed to protect people and the environment from toxic pesticide ingredients that are not currently subject to safety assessments. This is the conclusion of the first comprehensive review of gaps in risk assessments for "adjuvants" - ingredients added to pesticide formulations to enhance the function or application of the active ingredient. Ignoring the potential dangers of other ingredients in commonly used commercial pesticides leads to inaccuracies in the safety profile of the pesticide solution, as well as confusion in scientific literature on pesticide effects, finds the review published in Frontiers in Public Health.

"Exposure to environmental levels of some of these adjuvant mixtures can affect non-target organisms — and even can cause chronic human disease," says
Dr. Robin Mesnagefrom King's College London, who co-wrote the review with Dr. Michael Antoniou. "Despite this, adjuvants are not currently subject to an acceptable daily intake and are not included in the health risk assessment of dietary exposures to pesticide residues."

Pesticides are a mixture of chemicals made up of an active ingredient - the substance that kills or repels a pest - along with a mixture of other ingredients that help with the application or function of the active ingredient. These other ingredients are known as adjuvants, and include dyes, anti-foaming agents and surfactants.

Regulatory tests for pesticide safety are currently only done on the active ingredient, which assumes the other ingredients have no effects. This means the full toxicity of a pesticide formulation — including those used in both agriculture and domestic gardens — is not shown.

"Currently, the health risk assessment of pesticides in the European Union and in the United States focuses almost exclusively on the active ingredient," explains Dr. Mesnage. "Despite the known toxicity of adjuvants, they are regulated differently from active principles, with their toxic effects being generally ignored."

Based on a review of current pesticide literature, the authors describe how unregulated chemicals present in commercial formulations of pesticides could provide a missing link between pesticide exposure and observed negative outcomes.

The researchers focused on glyphosate-based herbicides, the most used pesticide worldwide. They point out that this weed killer has so many different adjuvant formulations that a safety test of one weed killer does not test the safety of another.

"Studies comparing the toxicity of commercial weed-killer formulations to that of glyphosate alone have shown that several formulations are up to 1,000 times more toxic than glyphosate on human cells. We believe that the adjuvants are responsible for this additional toxic effect," says Dr. Mesnage.

The authors also highlight neonicotinoid insecticides — strongly suspected to be involved in the collapsing of bee colonies — as another example of adjuvant toxicity affecting non-target organisms. An adjuvant used in these insecticides to increase the penetration of the active ingredient has been shown to cause varying toxic effects in bees. On top of this, residues of the toxin have also been found in honey, pollen and beeswax produced by contaminated bees.

The authors hope their review will stimulate discussion on the toxicity of commonly used pesticides and encourage more thorough regulations.

"Testing of whole pesticide formulations instead of just active ingredients alone would create a precautionary approach, ensuring that the guidance value for the pesticide is valid for the worst-case exposure scenario," says Dr. Mesnage.

Their findings have already had a considerable impact. The European Food Safety Authority is now reassessing the validity of pesticide risk assessment in the EU, and authors hope that this reassessment can extend to entire commercial formulations of pesticides and their other ingredients.