Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Insect Apocalypse


decline in insects, citizen science

decline in insects, citizen science

Where have all the insects gone and what's next for birds, fish, or mammals that depend on these insects as food.  I started to read The Insect Crisis by Oliver Milman (2022) which opened with a dystopian Sci-Fi future without insects.  I quickly gave up in frustration and jumped to the book's references.   A lengthy science book that does not include one photo, table, or graph is not my scene.   Instead, I recommend reading The Insect Apocalypse Is Here - a 2018 New York Times article.

Entomologists and Citizen Scientists data lack:

  • long term studies
  • the right kind of studies to distinguish between 1) total insect numbers, 2) total weight of the insects and 3) local vanishing of specific insect species versus global vanishing of the same species

Decline in insect populations - Wikipedia page writes,

The causes of the declines in insect populations are not fully understood. They are likely to vary between different insect groups and geographical regions.[19] The factors suspected to be important are habitat destruction caused by intensive farming and urbanisation,[20][21][3] pesticide use,[22] introduced species,[23][3] climate change,[3] eutrophication from fertilizers, pollution,[24] and artificial lighting.[25][26][27]

The use of increased quantities of insecticides and herbicides on crops have affected not only non-target insect species, but also the plants on which they feed. Climate change and the introduction of exotic species that compete with the indigenous ones put the native species under stress, and as a result they are more likely to succumb to pathogens and parasites.[16] Plants grow faster in presence of increased CO2 but the resulting plant biomass contains fewer nutrients.[28] While some species such as flies and cockroaches might increase as a result,[3] the total biomass of insects is estimated to be decreasing by between about 0.9 to 2.5% per year.

I'm not skeptical of the fabulous citizen science work in Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, or the UK.  We don't know what we don't know (yet).

 A few more links to acknowledge the attached photos:

Monday, May 16, 2022

May 16th swarm

beekeeping,bee,swarm,swarm trap,abscond,

At 7 pm, I stepped outside and heard the loud buzz in the backyard.  The buzz was the strongest standing in front of the hive and looking straight up into the tree canopy the blue sky was darkened by bees. I'm not sure what happened:

  • Did my hive swarm or abscond then return landing and accumulating on the outside of their hive?   It's hard to imagine that this weak hive had a population this large and certainly 1/2 of the hive population was not this large.  This is where I wished I had a recent baseline hive weight measurement.
  • Did a neighborhood hive or wild nest swarm and chose my hive boxes over the hanging 40-liter swarm traps.  For the past few days, I watched scout bees investigating my swarm traps.   I suppose 6 boxes filled with drawn comb is more attractive than the swarm traps - a furnished home with all the modern conveniences versus an unfurnished selection!
Time will tell what's going on.
beekeeping,bee,swarm,swarm trap,abscond,
Here's a photo the next morning.  I'm so pleased the bees moved in last night and that I did not intervene - the bees executed a plan, a plan that I did not understand.  Previously in my first-hand experience, swarms choose the hanging swarm trap and not a vacant hive.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

imperfect comb

My foundation-less beekeeping results in comb with a gentle wave across the frame where bees 1) merged distinct regions of top bar attached comb like a clothing zipper, or 2) transitioned comb construction between worker and drone sized cells.

On Two Bees in a Podcast Michael Smith spoke about imperfect comb.   Here are links to the topic of where bees created 4, 5, 7, 8 and 9-sided non-hexagonal cells:

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

tulip poplar windfall and other spring flowers '22

beekeeping,bee,tulip poplar,white clover,chinese wysteria,amur honeysuckle,spiderwort,pollen,foraging,

1st Windfallday of year
April 10, 2011100
March 27, 201287
April 19, 2013109
April 12, 2015102
April 15, 2017105
April 5, 201895
April 11, 2019101
April 7, 202197
April 6, 202296

I found this year's first Tulip Popular flower windfall on April 6, 2022 (96th day of the year) and in a few days afterward the ground was covered with Tulip Popular flowers and bees returned with cream colored pollen.   April 6 is just a few days earlier than expected.  However March 27, 2012 is the big outlier, nearly 2 weeks earlier than expected.

Other nectar sources at this time (not shown):

Thursday, March 24, 2022

dandelion, rosemary and native crabapple 2022

bee, beekeeping,dandelion,crabapple,redbud tree,rosemary,spring,foraging,trees atlanta,
bee, beekeeping,dandelion,crabapple,redbud tree,rosemary,spring,foraging,trees atlanta,
bee, beekeeping,dandelion,crabapple,redbud tree,rosemary,spring,foraging,trees atlanta,

In my opinion, this spring attracted more bees to dandelion flowers than previous years. Thank you to my neighbors who do not spray herbicides.

Strong spring wind gusts made photographing bee foraging difficult and I consequently have not included bees visiting blooming ornamental cherry trees and eastern redbud.   What's left on my iPhone are a few lucky snaps of bees on native crabapple (thanks to Trees Atlanta) and rosemary flowers.

Saturday, February 12, 2022

nectar management - checkerboarding

beekeeping,bee,Small Hive Beetle,checkerboarding,winter,nectar,bee cozy,hive tool,

beekeeping,bee,Small Hive Beetle,checkerboarding,winter,nectar,bee cozy,hive tool,

beekeeping,bee,Small Hive Beetle,checkerboarding,winter,nectar,bee cozy,hive tool,

beekeeping,bee,Small Hive Beetle,checkerboarding,winter,nectar,bee cozy,hive tool,

In the previous post using external measurements and observations, I postulated bees consumed honey and raised late-winter brood.   February 12th was my first 2022 hive inspection and I took action, well some actions!

  • an 8 frame medium box with drawn comb was set aside from the hive - drawn comb is a luxury that I rarely have at hand as a crush-and-strain beekeeper
  • the bees had corralled small hive beetles above the inner cover - I crushed these beetles using the short edge of the standard hive tool or my finger
  • every other frame in the hive's top medium box was exchanged with every other frame of the set aside 8 frame medium box
  • the top medium box contained 7 frames of nectar and 1 frame of capped honey
  • the set aside medium box was placed onto the hive completing my 8-frame version of checkerboarding
  • as more winter temperatures are expected, I returned the hard foam insulation above the inner cover and overlapped two hive cozys to cover the new medium box

honey consumption and late winter brood rearing

bee,beekeeping,ventilation,temperature,hive weight,bee cozy,winter,brood,foraging,
bee,beekeeping,ventilation,temperature,hive weight,bee cozy,winter,brood,foraging,

My 8-frame hive is wrapped in a hive cozy. On warm afternoons in December and January, bees flew vigorously and performed orientation flight. These 2021-2022 measurements show that bees are most likely consuming their honey stores and raising late winter brood.  

  • Temperature measurements are taken at dawn at the top vent using an inexpensive RadioShack Waterproof Pocket IR Thermometer. The orange trend line is most likely an increase in total bee metabolism/respiration (bees covering late winter brood). Peak temperature top vent measurement of 78°F (25.6ºC) is not the expected 89.6-96.8°F (32-36ºC) brood nest temperature, so why? Cold air flows into the hive entrance and screened bottom board and mixes with warm moist bee respiration and exits the top vent - usually I discover the warm moist air condensed to the outside of the hive cover.
  • Less frequently, I weigh the hive using an inexpensive luggage scale. The green trend line is most likely winter consumption of honey stores. I would prefer to connect densely sampled weight measurements (points) with a spline instead of the polynomial trend line.  However, extra hive weight measurements are not possible with my travel schedule. 
  • Also shown are HoneyBeeNet 2012 hive weight measurements from Cowetta GA (40 miles from Atlanta). HoneyBeeNet is a NASA hive and climate citizen science project. The zoom into these end of year weight measurements show a similar sharp drop in hive weight.