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Bee Tidings
March, 2004

Bee Tidings is a cooperative publication of the University of Nebraska
Cooperative Extension and the Nebraska Beekeepers Association.
The newsletter announces events of interest to beekeepers, provides
timely advice, and summarizes current research that beekeepers can use.

Message from Jim Sack,
Nebraska Beekeepers Association President,
Regarding March and April Association Meetings

The next meeting of the Nebraska Beekeepers Association will be Saturday, March 13, at 10:00 AM, in the Gretna Public Library. Our organization is in need of a person to publish the monthly Newsletter. Our previous editor will gladly share insights on the effort required. Please consider if you are willing to help the organization in this manner. It takes a lot of volunteers to create a vibrant organization, and communication of upcoming events is vital. It would be great if a newsletter editor could be named at the March meeting.

Our April meeting will not take place at the Gretna Library, but at the Apiculture Lab in Mead, Nebraska. The meeting will not be on the second Saturday of the month, but on the first Saturday, April 3, from 9:00 AM to 3:00 PM. There will be a potluck lunch, so bring a dish to share! We will meet and work with the new beekeepers from the Beginning Beekeeping Classes (http://entomology.unl.edu/beekpg/workshop_sched2004.htm) taught on February 21 in Kearney and March 22-23 in Lincoln. They will be eager to learn how to examine a colony, assemble their equipment, and they will have many questions. Don't miss this opportunity to share a meal, make new beekeeping friends, and to share your expertise.

You can still register for the Lincoln class by contacting Dr. Barbara Ogg, Lancaster County Cooperative Extension office (bogg1@unl.edu). There should be some enthusiastic new beekeepers at the lab on April 3rd. Come on out and talk with them; be ready to share all that knowledge you've picked up by working with your own colonies. See you in Gretna on 13 March and at the Mead Lab on 3 April!

Observing Dancing Bees

maple bloom
Maple bloom in March
(Click for larger view.)
Tuesday, March 9 was the first day that bees collected pollen in downtown Lincoln. It was a pale yellow pollen and came from silver maple trees. Now is a good time to watch dancing bees and try to locate where they are foraging based on the dance instructions. There is not a lot of competing bloom, and it is easy to find where the bees are foraging. The dance arena is usually close to the entrance. Dances you can observe include:

The DVAV Dance or Dorsal-Ventral Abdominal Vibrations Dance.

This dance is used to recruit more bees to forage when foraging conditions are favorable. It consists of a bee placing its legs on the dorsum of another bee and vibrating its wing muscles to shake the recruit.

The Tremble Dance

This dance is used to recruit more nectar receivers. The tremble dance is performed by a bee walking throughout the brood nest shaking her body in a twitching manner with her front legs held aloft. Bees that collect nectar or water do not deposit it in the hive. Rather, they transfer it to a receiver bee who stores it. Bees that are unloaded quickly continue to forage on the same resource. Bees that require a long time to find a receiver willing to take their load go to the dance arena for new instructions. Receivers unload the most desirable loads first. This process allows the colony to focus its foragers on the most profitable resources.

The Round Dance

This dance is performed to indicate a resource that is within ten meters of the colony. The dancer dances is a circle, then reverses herself in a circle in the opposite direction. The dancer repeats this process for several cycles. She will stop periodically to give attending bees a taste of what she has found. Attending bees also sense the scent of the resource on the dancer's body. The round dance directs nest mates to leave the hive and fly in increasingly large concentric circles until they locate the scent found on the dancer's body. This is the same search pattern that many other insects use to locate food.

The Waggle Dance

The Dancing Bees
Karl Von Frisch book
(Click image for larger view.)
waggle dance diagram
Honey bee waggle dance
(Click image for larger view.)
Click for 6-second AVI Movie.(1.5 MB)
The waggle dance is the dance for which honey bees are well known. It is a symbolic dance in which the position of a celestial object (the sun) and the gravitational field are represented symbolically. It was discovered by an Austrian Zoologist named Karl Von Frisch in 1944. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for his discovery in 1973. It is used to communicate the location of resources that are more than 100 meters from the hive.

If you want to learn to interpret the waggle dance, a great place to start is by reading The Dancing Bees by Karl Von Frisch. You will also need a few supplies including a compass, a stopwatch, a 360 protractor, a good map, and an azimuth table for your location. A compass and stopwatch can be obtained from most local outfitters. An azimuth table for your location can be printed from the WWW at http://aa.usno.navy.mil/data/docs/AltAz.html. Protractors are available from art supply dealers.

In the waggle dance, dancers make a straight run during which they vibrate their bodies rapidly. They then complete a half circle loop and repeat the waggle run portion of the dance. They then complete a half circle loop in the opposite direction. Dancers will complete many cycles of the dance. They will stop periodically to give attending bees a taste of the resource. Attending bees also touch the dancer with their antennae to pick up any scent associated with the food.

In the waggle dance, the gravitational field symbolically represents the position (azimuth) of the sun. If the waggle run is straight up (towards the gravitational field, it indicates that foragers should fly towards the sun's azimuth. If the waggle run is straight down, attendees are instructed to fly 180 from the sun's azimuth. If the waggle run points 45 to the right of vertical, attendees are instructed to fly in a path 45 to the right of the sun's azimuth.

The distance of the resource is indicated by the length of time it takes to complete the waggle run portion of the dance. If it takes one second, the resource is 0.4 miles from the hive. If the waggle run last two seconds, the resource is 1.2 miles away, and if the waggle run lasts for three seconds, the resource is two miles from the colony. There is a linear relationship between distance from the hive and how long the waggle run portion of the dance lasts.

Now you are ready to watch a dancer in an observation hive. Use an erasable marker to trace the pattern of the waggle dancer on the glass walls of the hive. Have an assistant take five measures of how long the waggle run lasts. Average the five time measurements to calculate distance. Then use your protractor to measure the angle of the dance.

Now take your azimuth table and determine the sun's azimuth for the time of day you made your observation. Mark your observation hive's location on the map, and then use your protractor to make a line from your hive to the edge of the map that represents the sun's azimuth. Then center your protractor on the hive's location and place the zero setting along the azimuth line. You are now ready to plot the angle you recorded for your dancer. For example, if the azimuth line is at 45, and your dancer danced at a 30 angle to the right of vertical, your resource line would be 75 to the right of vertical. You can now plot the resource location along the azimuth line using a ruler calibrated to the map (most maps include a ruler that is calibrated to the scale of the map).

Now the fun begins! Take your map and go find the resource your dancing bee was reporting. It helps if your dancer is bearing a pollen load. You can then match the color of the forager's load to the color of the pollen of the resource you have located. You can have even more fun by catching a few foragers and marking them with white-out to see if you can find them back at the observation hive. This observation will work best if there are no other hives nearby that may have foragers at the same site.

There is no more fascinating aspect of bee behavior, and you will gain great satisfaction by learning to interpret the waggle dance.

Azimuth Table for Lincoln, Nebraska
for Use in Interpreting Waggle Dances

Altitude and Azimuth of the Sun
March 13, 2004, Lincoln, Nebraska, CST

H:MAltitudeAzimuth (E of N)
Graph for Estimating Distance
in the Waggle Dance

distance chart
360 Protractor for
Interpreting Waggle Dances

compass digram

Options for Chemical Control of Varroa for 2004

The Varroa mite seems to pose a never ending challenge to beekeepers, however several new strategies have become available, and some old ones are beginning to fail. The most widely used strategy is chemical control. In 1999, widespread resistance to Apistan was found in Nebraska. Apiaries and resistance continues to limit the usefulness of Apistan. In 2002, resistance to Checkmite+ was found in Maine and Florida. To date, Checkmite+ resistance has not been found in Nebraska, but the occurrence in other regions suggest that, like Apistan, it may have a limited useful life.

Currently, any beekeeper can buy Apistan. Checkmite+ is only available in states that have a Section 18 or emergency use label. While Nebraska has a Section 18 label for Checkmite+, the label has to be renewed each year. The 2002 label expired February 15, 2004, and it will be March 15, 2004 before the EPA approves a new label for the current year. This timing protocol works for chemicals used in field crops, but it is awkward for beekeepers. To avoid problems in purchasing a product registered for emergency use (such as Checkmite+), order what you need before February 15 or after March 15.

Two new chemical control products are available in 2004 that are safe to handle and pose little risk of leaving harmful residues in honey or beeswax. Sucrocide is a sugar ester that is diluted with water and sprayed over frames containing bees. To effectively use the product, you must remove the frames and spray the bees on each side. The product is most effective when brood is not present. If brood is present, the manufacturer recommends three applications at seven day intervals. Application is labor intensive, but treatments can be applied at any time, including during a honey flow. The product works by suffocating mites by entering their breathing tubes and by dissolving the waxy coating of their exoskeleton. The product costs $19.95 per pint, and one pint is enough to treat 87 colonies one time each.

The other new chemical control product is Api Life Var. Api Life Var consists of vermiculite wafers saturated in a mixture of thymol, eucalyptol, camphor, and menthol. It is a fumigant, and best results will be obtained when temperatures are in the 59 - 69 F. range. The product should not be used when temperatures exceed 90 F. In addition, Api Life Var must be withdrawn 30 days prior to adding surplus honey supers. Like Checkmite+, Api Life Var is available under a Section 18 label and will not be available for purchase until after March 15.

The Nebraska Beekeepers Association, and Association President, Jim Sack, worked hard to make Checkmite+ and Api Life Var available to Nebraska beekeepers. Neither product can be purchased in many states. A strong association serves all beekeepers well. I hope you will do your part to keep the Nebraska Beekeepers Association a strong and vibrant voice for beekeepers.

Value-Added Workshop on June 18-19, UNL ARDC, Mead, NE

Chunk Honey in Jars
View and print
a PDF file of
the workshop.
(1.1 MB)
A Value-Added Products Workshop will be offered in Mead, Nebraska at the Agricultural Research and Development Center Headquarters building on June 18-19, 2004. The workshop will focus on three hive products that command premium prices ---- creamed honey, comb honey, and mead. The program will include detailed presentations on all aspects of preparing and marketing high quality products.

The program will include both classroom and hands-on demonstrations. You will learn how to use the Killion method for producing premium comb honey and how to combine the Killion method with powdered sugar dusting to control Varroa mites. You will also learn how to use the shook swarming strategy for producing comb honey and a variety of other management techniques used by successful comb honey producers.

Creamed honey presentations will include how to prepare and use starter, how to obtain a uniform set, strategies for controlling temperature, adding fruit flavor and color to creamed honey, labeling requirements, and marketing strategies.

Mead production presentations will include equipment needed, fermentation techniques, bottling equipment, aging, labeling and marketing. Participants will be treated to a mead tasting mixer at the end of the first day.

Registration is limited to 100 individuals, so be sure to register early if you want to participate in this workshop.

Subscription Information

Bee Tidings is published jointly by University of Nebraska Cooperative Extension and the Nebraska Beekeepers Association four times a year. Your membership in the Nebraska Beekeepers Association for $12 per year includes a subscription to Bee Tidings.

This newsletter was respectfully written by:
Marion Ellis Marion D. Ellis
209 Plant Industry, Box 830816
University of Nebraska
Lincoln, NE 68583-0816
Phone: 402-472-8696
Fax: 402-472-4687
Email: mellis3@unl.edu
Your comments and suggestions about
the newsletter are always welcome!

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