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Author Archive for alexj – Page 2

Beekeeping class schedules posted.

Dates are starting to be set for upcoming beekeeping classes in the area. Our event calendar has been updated with some of them, and we’ll add more as we hear about them. Of special note is a free beekeeping overview workshop for beginners being held this weekend in Ben Lomond by Mountain Feed and Seed. It’s listed on their Workshops and Events Page, and will be taking place this coming Sunday. It will fill up fast, so if you’re interested in becoming a beekeeper, sign up soon!

No regular Guild meeting this month

Just a reminder that we will not be having a regular Guild meeting this month. Instead, the steering committee will be meeting to organize the meeting topics and speakers for the new year.

We will resume our regular meetings next month on February 1st. If you are interested in getting into beekeeping, the February meeting is the one to attend! We will be talking about starting up you apiary for the new season. The exact meeting agenda is still to be set, but will likely include lots of information for newcomers and for current beekeepers coming out of the winter season!

See you next month!

December 2016 Guild Meeting is Tomorrow!

The last guild meeting of 2016 is tomorrow, Wednesday, 7 December. Instead of our regular meeting, we will be celebrating another successful year of bee stewardship with a potluck and social time. Bring something to eat and drink, and have a good time with fellow beekeepers. Same time, same place – see you there!

November Guild Meeting Tomorrow

Our November Guild Meeting is tomorrow at 6:30. We’ll be talking about making sure your girls are ready for winter, and what to watch for now that the rains are upon us. See you there!

October Guild Meeting is today!

Our October Guild Meeting is this evening. For our presentation session, guild Member Bodo Langen will be discussing alternative beekeeping approaches and hive product uses. There will also be a new sub-group meeting from 6:30 to 7:00 to talk about Top Bar Hive management. This will take place alongside our regular Q&A session at this time.

Finally, please bring honey to the meeting to give as a gift to the El Rio residents at.

This is our way of thanking them for generously allowing us to use their meeting room “rent free” -which is why as a guild we do not have membership dues. We should be able to give each home a small gift jar. Please help us out!!

If you have harvested honey, bring your own. If you have not harvested or do not have lots to share, please buy a few jars.
Penny will be transferring the honey into lovely gift jars for the El Rio Residents, so a quart jar or two is perfect.

September 2016 Guild Meeting

The September 2016 Guild Meeting is tomorrow night. In addition to our usual agenda items, we will hear from UCSC graduate student, Monika Egerer. She’ll be discussing her research on the ecological complexities of urban agriculture in the California central coast.

Check out the meeting agenda here.

Note: to accommodate Monika’s schedule, we’ve changed the format of the meeting around a bit. We’ll be hearing from Monika at 7:00, and continue with our meeting after the break.

See you there!

 

August Guild Meeting

Our August Guild Meeting is tomorrow night. In addition to the standard topics, Karla and Marja will be discussing fall management practices and late-season hive management. See you there!

July 2016 Bee Guild meeting is tonight

Our July Guild meeting is tonight:

https://www.santacruzbees.com/event/july-2016-guild-meeting/

We have a great speaker lined up, Hamutahl Cohen, who is a Ph.D. Student in Environmental Studies at UCSC. Her research looks at how agricultural practices and urbanization impact pollinators. She’s conducting research on bee-microbe interactions in urban gardens and farms along the Central Coast of California. She’s worked with honey bees and mason bees, but is also fascinated by the diversity of native bee pollinators in California. Her presentation will touch on her mason bee research, bee biodiversity, Colony Collapse Disorder, and tips for gardeners to support bees in their own home gardens.

See you there!

June 2016 Bee Guild Meeting is Tomorrow

The June 2016 Guild Meeting is tomorrow. In addition to our regular agenda, Emily Bondor will be talking about the UC Davis Bee Symposium, Small Hive Beetle, and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) See you there!

P.S. As usual, please park outside the El Rio Mobile Home Park. If there are spaces available, you may use the Lenz Arts lot, but please don’t block anyone in – including keeping the gate area clear. Thanks!

About those “Killer” bees

As you likely know, the recent news about an aggressive hive of africanized bees found in Concord has been making the rounds in the last several days. Of course this has created alarm among some people, and has begun to generate some questions to the Bee Guild site. I started writing a response to one of these questions, and as my text grew, I realized it might make a better blog post than an e-mail. Here are some thoughts on the situation:

While the colony of africanized bees in Concord is concerning, it’s probably not something to be too worried about. The likelihood of encountering an africanized colony in this area is quite low, especially compared to many other risks people face every day. For example, we know that the africanized alleles (genes) have been present in our area for some time. As I recall, an africanized colony was discovered near Prunedale in 2006, and samples from Lafayette last year show the africanized genetics have been in the bay area since at least 2014, and probably years before that. So, they’ve been around for at least 10 years. However, the Concord hive last week is the only instance (that I’m aware of) of an extremely aggressive africanized hive since the one in Prunedale (assuming the one in Prunedale was aggressive).

There are probably on the order of 100,000 managed hives in the greater bay area (i.e. definitely more that 10,000 and far fewer than 1,000,000). So, given the observational history, in any given year we might hear about 1 aggressive africanized hive in perhaps 900,000 hives. In a given year, the risk of actually dying by being bitten or stung by ANY insect anywhere in the world (including where africanized bees are ubiquitous) is something like 1 in 22,000,000. This is a much lower risk than, for example, getting killed in a car accident (1 in 17,000), of drowning (1 in 83,000), or of dying in a fire (1 in 90,000). On the other hand, just hearing about an africanized hive in the area might be somewhat more likely than, for example, dying by lightning strike (1 in 4,000,000). Sources for these stats are from the Risk Communication Institute, and were derived from the National Safety Council.

It’s also important to remember that the africanized bees are really hybrids. All of the bees are Apis mellifera, and they interbreed. That means that the traits we see in both the local honey bee populations and the africanized newcomers will mix, and the africanized traits (e.g. aggressiveness) will be diluted as the alleles spread through the gene pool. This has already been observed in areas where the africanized alleles are present, like Arizona, Central America, and Southern California. As the Africanized bees spread, their aggressiveness evens out somewhat. The africanized characteristics are still present in hives in the area, just perhaps not as strong as a pure africanized colony, and everyone learns to deal with them. In fact, most – if not all – of the commercial beekeeping in Central and South America is now done with africanized strains. They have just learned how to work with them.

I recently heard a good comparison – it’s like having rattlesnakes in the area (which we do). We know they’re around, and when we see them, we know how to act around them (leave them alone). Once in a great while, someone will have an unfortunate encounter, and will need to seek medical attention. It’s really rare to hear about an actual death, though.

Also, beekeepers generally don’t like to work with unruly bees. Consequently, when the bees start to get a little jumpy (long before they get really aggressive), a beekeeper will usually re-queen their hives with gentler strains. I’m doing that with three of my hives right now. This behavior on the part of beekeepers will also tend to favor the gentler traits, and dis-favor the aggressive traits brought in with the africanized bees.

Finally, it’s also important to remember that the news about africanized bees tends to be the “interesting” news. We’ll hear about an aggressive hive or headlines that “killer” bees have been found in an area. That sparks people’s interest and sells newspapers as well as advertising. We won’t hear that the africanized alleles are being diluted, and the africanized colonies are getting less aggressive. Or that a cool winter has knocked down the prevalence of africanized alleles because they aren’t well adapted to colder temperatures.

Here’s a good post that one of our Guild Members, Dr. Allison Gong, did in her blog last year about africanized bees. She’s an invertebrate biology professor, and has a particular interest genetics, evolution, and ecology, as well as a fascination with bees.

So, yes, we should be concerned that the africanized colony was discovered up in Concord. We as beekeepers should be aware of it, and keep an eye out for those characteristics in the hives we encounter, and we should share any discoveries with the wider beekeeping community. However, the risk of encountering an aggressive colony is still extremely small. That fact should temper our concern and our response should be proportionate to other similar risks we take every day.

-Alex