Beekeeping 101

December 17, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Dr. Deborah Delaney, assistant professor and extension specialist, will be a presenter at a “Beekeeping 101″ workshop offered on Saturday, January 12 from 8am-4pm at Delaware State University’s Research and Outreach Center in Smyrna, Delaware.

Sponsored by the Delaware Beekeepers Association and Delaware State University’s Small Farms Program, this one-day course is a great intensive learning opportunity for anyone interested in the art and science of beekeeping. For more information or to register, contact Bill Leitzinger at e-mail – DEBeekeepers@gmail.com.

The cost for the workshop is $50 and includes lunch, a one year membership in the Delaware Beekeepers Association (a $20 value), handouts for each topic covered, and the popular beginning beekeeping book “The Backyard Beekeeper” by Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine (list price $24.99). Married couples/life partners are welcome to both attend – and only pay for one person. (Only one book will be given out per family/couple who attend.)

Other workshop presenters include:

  • Bill Leitzinger, President, Delaware Beekeepers Association
  • Robert Mitchell, State Apiarist, Delaware Department of Agriculture
  • David Carter, Backyard Beekeeper & Experienced in Woodworking

AGENDA

8:00      Registration & Networking – Muffins, donuts, fruit, coffee, tea, juice, etc…

8:30      “Why Beekeeping is a Great Hobby”

8:45      “Essential Beekeeping Equipment”

9:45       BREAK

10:00    “Hive Management in the First Year of Beekeeping”

10:45    “Flowering Plants Important to Honey Bees”

11:30    “Inspecting, Feeding, & Placement of Your New Hives”

12:00    Lunch – sandwiches, fruit, dessert, & drinks provided

12:45    “The Secret Life of Honey Bees”

1:45      “Identifying Honey Bee Diseases & Pests”

2:30      BREAK

2:45      “Integrated Pest Management”

3:30      “Ask the Beekeeping Experts” – Panel of Beekeeping Experts

4:00      ADJOURN

DIRECTIONS: From Route 1 – Get off at the South Smyrna Exit. Turn right onto Rt. 13 North. At the next light, turn right onto Smyrna-Leipsic Road. Go ½ mile, see sign on right for Delaware State University – Smyrna Research & Outreach Center. (look for yellow “BEE MEETING” signs). The snow date is Saturday, January 19th.

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UD researcher offers the buzz on why bees, wasps are busy in autumn

October 9, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension

You buy a cider doughnut at the apple orchard and they quickly find you. Your kid opens a sports drink at the soccer field and they show up. You dine on the deck on a warm afternoon and sure enough, there they are.

This time of year, bees and wasps seem to be everywhere. Why won’t they buzz off?

University of Delaware bee researcher Debbie Delaney can’t clear the bees and wasps from your backyard barbecue but she can shed some light on why these insects are busy in autumn. Given how beneficial these species are to humans (yes, wasps, too) she hopes people will become more tolerant of their activity this time of year.

“Bees aren’t trying to sting you or ruin your outdoor fun,” says Delaney, assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. “It’s just that autumn is a particularly important time for honeybees and native bees as they get ready for winter.”

In late summer and fall, worker bees labor long hours, collecting enough nectar to feed and maintain the colony throughout the winter. Bees visit flowers to obtain carbohydrates (nectar) and protein (found in the pollen).  Late-blooming flowers that feed the bees include asters, chrysanthemums, goldenrod and Russian sage.

“As the days shorten, the bees know it’s time to go into this food-gathering mode,” says Delaney. “If supplies run low during the winter, beekeepers can feed bees various sugary concoctions — for example, sugar syrup, corn syrup or granulated sugar in the form of sugar boards. But wild bees are out of luck in this regard. Their colonies may not survive if they didn’t make adequate preparations.”

For the most part, bees hunker down and stay in the hives all winter. On unseasonably warm winter days, they will come out to remove waste from their abdomens and the hive, clean themselves, and forage. Of course, there isn’t much to forage in the dead of winter so provisions gathered in fall are critical to the success of the hive.

While bees are busy getting ready for the season ahead, wasps are taking advantage of a brief, well-deserved retirement.

“In late summer and fall, when the queen wasp stops laying eggs, the worker wasps change their food-gathering strategy,” says Delaney. “Earlier in the season, the wasps were busy collecting insects – a protein source – for the colony’s young. But now they’re intent on getting sweets and carbohydrates for their own consumption.”

Adult wasps have just a few weeks to binge on carbohydrates before they die off at the first hard frost. They deserve some fun, considering the good that they do.

“I don’t think many people realize that wasps are beneficial insects,” says Delaney. “But they are true carnivores and engage in a lot of insect collecting earlier in the season. They are predators of a number of pest insects, including mosquitoes, flies and beetle larvae.”

Wasps that do enjoy a longer lifespan are the newly mated gynes (aka, queens). They over winter alone, awaiting the first signs of spring, which signals them to start the creation of their own nest.

Compared to wasps, there’s much more awareness of the critical role that bees play to human life. If honeybees disappeared, food would be scarce, as colonies stopped pollinating fruit, nut and vegetable crops. And if all 20,000-plus species of bees in the world were to disappear, the results could be catastrophic.

Here in Delaware, residents can thank honeybees and native bees for pollinating a cornucopia of crops, including apples, asparagus, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cantaloupe, cucumber, eggplant, peaches, pears, peppers, pumpkins, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon and more, notes Delaney.

Plus, the honeybees share their honey with us, too. Delaney and her students pulled honey from the UD Apiary in late July and August and it’s now for sale for at the UDairy Creamery. This is the second season that UD honey has been available to the public.

Branded with the moniker “Dare to Bee,” the first harvest was golden in color and had a light taste, which reflects the fact that the bees obtained a lot of pollen and nectar from a stand of black locust trees near the apiary. The second harvest is darker in color and has a caramel flavor representing a blend of late season native and introduced species such as asters and knotweeds.

“Dare to Bee” honey sold out fast last autumn. If you’d like to try it, buzz on over to the UDairy Creamery soon. It’s located behind Townsend Hall on the university’s Newark campus. For store hours and more info, go to the website.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Aug. 25: NCC Day in the Garden

August 22, 2012 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

Join the New Castle County Master Gardeners and Master Food Educators for a Day in the Garden.  FREE, and for the entire family.  Saturday, August 25, 1:00 pm – 3:00 pm.

Master Gardeners and Master Food Educators will be available in the Vegetable Teaching and Demonstration Garden at the University of Delaware New Castle County Extension Office at 461 Wyoming Road to answer home gardening-related questions and share a taste of the garden harvest.

Displays will offer information on the following:

  • food safety
  • nutrition
  • growing and harvesting summer and fall vegetables and fruits
  • freezing and canning
  • worm bin and backyard composting
  • pollinators
  • seed starting
  • and more….

Samples of fresh salsa, gazpacho, and vegetables, harvested from the garden on that day, will also be available for tasting.

For more information, contact Carrie Murphy, Horticulture Educator, New Castle County Cooperative Extension.  (302) 831-2506, cjmurphy@udel.edu

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CANR’s Delaney has the buzz on UD’s new research apiary

June 21, 2012 under CANR News

Debbie Delaney has two million new best friends.

That’s the number of honey bees buzzing about in the recently opened University of Delaware research apiary, which joins an existing 30-colony teaching apiary on the university’s Newark Farm.

Delaney, a UD assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology, has been researching honey bees for years but continues to be amazed at their abilities, ranging from the way they precisely maintain colony temperature to their figure-eight dances that tell hive mates where to find patches of flowers and water.

She has a hunch that her insect friends have some undisclosed talents, too. For example, in her own backyard beekeeping, she has noticed that hives that swarm and split into separate colonies seem to have fewer mites than hives that don’t split up.

“Varroa mites are the single biggest threat to honey bee health. Most backyard beekeepers and commercial operations treat for mites,” says Delaney. “But I think mites can be reduced naturally by interrupting their brood cycle. Mites require bee brood for reproduction but the brood cycle is interrupted when colonies are split, thus slowing mite reproduction rates. This reduces the total number of mites in each new colony.”

Delaney doesn’t treat with miticides in her personal hives; she simply allows certain colonies in the apiary to swarm and make new colonies when they are so inclined, rather than repress such efforts. Although she relies on gut instinct in her own backyard, Delaney knows she can’t advise other beekeepers until she puts her theories to rigorous test.

That’s where the new research apiary comes in. Delaney received a $50,000 grant from the Environmental Protection Agency for the facility, which is operated in collaboration with a new apiary at Penn State University. Research at both locations will focus on non-chemical ways to manage parasites in small colonies. The goal is to reduce pesticide use by small beekeepers by as much as 80 percent.

Varroa mites are only the size of a small freckle but they can wreak havoc on hives. First reported in the U.S. in 1987, varroa mites are now the major killer of all bee colonies, wild or managed.

“I don’t think splitting and swarming is sufficient to control mites in large, commercial operations but our research project may show that it’s a good management practice for small-scale beekeeping,” says Delaney.

Historically, beekeepers have tried to prevent their bees from swarming because they thought the process was detrimental to honey production and pollination. But existing research already shows that colonies allowed to swarm show lower mite numbers and decreased bee mortality. Delaney’s research may help beekeepers look at apiaries as dynamic systems that require constant turn-over to stay healthy.

“I’m trying to re-define what’s considered to be a healthy apiary,” says Delaney. “We want to reduce the use of chemicals and create sustainable, long-term solutions to the issue of mites and other pests in honey bee colonies.”

Katy Evans is a new UD graduate student who will be overseeing the research apiary. She also will be managing varroa mite research at Penn State’s apiary, with assistance from researchers there. A 2009 graduate of the University of Florida, Evans most recently worked for the state of Florida as an African honey bee lab technician.

A Florida native, she says she is excited to be part of a varroa mite project because the pest is an even greater problem in Florida than here in Delaware. “It’s hotter in Florida, and gets hotter sooner,” says Evans. “This weakens the bees and gives the varroa mites a greater opportunity to infest the hives.”

“I’m really pumped about working in a brand-new apiary and being in charge of the project,” adds Evans. “I hope that our research is able to help small beekeepers better manage their hives.”

UD’s teaching apiary had a good winter and the number of colonies is up. However, this bucks the overall trend of declining honey bee populations. Since 2007, there has been a loss of approximately 33 percent of over-wintered colonies in the U.S. each year.

“Colony declines in domestic honey bees continues to be a major concern,” says Delaney. “We still don’t know the cause or causes. But our research project may give us a better understanding of the role that natural resistance plays in fighting disease or environmental stress, as well as a better understanding of genetic components that contribute to ‘survivor stock.’”

Article by Margo McDonough

Photo by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed on UDaily.

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Happy National Pollinator Week

June 21, 2011 under CANR News

Debbie Delaney looked like she was feeling the heat on a recent 95-degree day at the University of Delaware apiary, despite the shade of black walnut and tulip poplar trees. It was hard to tell how the 22 hives of honeybees – some two million bees in all – were handling the steamy weather.

But Delaney, an assistant professor of entomology and wildlife ecology in the College of Agricultural and Natural Resources, had no worries. “Bees are much better at thermoregulation than humans are,” says Delaney. “Honeybees maintain strict temperature control. The colony always stays between 89 and 92 degrees, ideal for a honeybee, and the humidity never varies more than 5 percent. Worker bees flap their wings to cool the air and some periodically leave the hive to reduce the effects of body heat.”

Delaney has been researching bees for years but continues to be amazed at their abilities, including staying comfortable in the heat while we wilt. She’d like to see bees get a bit more respect — if not the all-out enthusiasm she displays.

She’ll have an opportunity to spread the word about bees this week, which marks National Pollinator Week. The event recognizes not only bees but all pollinators – birds, butterflies, bats and beetles. One in every three bites of food humans consume has been made possible by one of these pollinators.

Pollinator Partnership, a nonprofit organization that sponsors the week, calls bees the primary pollinator of most plants. Delaney agrees, with a slight qualification.

“Bees are definitely the most important pollinator in our state in terms of the numbers and the importance of the crops they pollinate,” she says. “But bats also are important in a different way. Bat-pollinated flowers generally open at night and have distinct floral tube sizes and shapes that can accommodate bats.  So bats are very important pollinators for a certain subset of plants.”

Even while giving bats their due, Delaney rattles off the Delaware crops that bees do pollinate: apples, asparagus, blueberries, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, cantaloupe, cucumber, eggplant, honeydew melon, nectarines, peaches, pears, peppers, pumpkins, okra, onion, squash, strawberries, tomatoes and watermelon. She’s quite sure she has missed a few. After all, bees pollinate more than 90 crops in North America.

Non-native honeybees are responsible for some of this pollination. But Delaware’s native bees deserve credit, too.

There are at least 200 native bees in the state, according to the state Department of Agriculture, which recently completed a five-year study of native bees. “Recent research has shown that native bees can play a major role in pollinating agricultural crops,” notes Delaney. “Native bees often will visit flowers in wet or cold weather when honeybees don’t want to come out of their hives. And farmers who use managed honeybees will see increased yields when native bees interact with the crops.”

Wild honeybees – descendants of honeybees introduced by European colonists – also play a role in agricultural pollination. Research on these feral bees may even help combat colony collapse disorder, a poorly understood syndrome that can wipe out entire hives of managed honeybees.

The Feral Bee Project, sponsored by North Carolina State University, asks beekeepers and “citizen scientists” to log the location of wild honeybee hives at the Save the Hives website.

“Colony collapse disorder in domestic honeybees continues to be a major concern,” says Delaney. “We still don’t know the cause or causes of this syndrome. But the Feral Bee Project may give us a better understanding of the role that natural resistance plays in fighting disease or environmental stress, as well as a better understanding of genetic components that contribute to ‘survivor stock.’”

Learn more

To find out more about pollinators and National Pollinator Week, go to the Pollinator Partnership website.

The Brandywine Zoo will be hosting “Pollinator Power” on June 25, a family friendly event from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Article by Margo McDonough

Photos by Danielle Quigley

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.

 

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How insects survive the long, cold winter

February 3, 2011 under CANR News

Baby, it’s cold outside. Time to put another log on the fire, wrap up in a thick sweater, or make a steaming mug of tea. These human adaptations to cold weather are quick, easy and get the job done. Even more effective, of course, is the central heating that is ubiquitous in our homes, offices and schools.

It takes a lot more effort for other mammals, birds and insects to make the necessary adaptations to survive harsh weather. Next week, we’ll look at animal and bird strategies; today we’ll see how insects make it through the winter.

In many species, insects adapt to the cold by dying off; it’s the larval stage of the species that goes through winter. Insects that do over-winter as adults usually enter a hibernation-like state called diapause.

“Insects don’t technically hibernate in winter but many go into diapause, a dormant state that allows them to withstand cold temperatures,” says Brian Kunkel, a UD Cooperative Extension entomologist.

The mourning cloak butterfly exists in a type of diapause called freeze susceptible. It avoids freezing in much the way that car owners do — by adding anti-freeze. This butterfly replaces the water in its body with antifreeze compounds — called cryoprotectants — which supercool its bodily fluids and tissues.

The other form of diapause, called freeze tolerant, is used infrequently by North American insects but is a common strategy of Southern Hemisphere insects. In this type of diapause, the insect freezes its bodily fluids.

Not all insects go into diapause in winter. A few, like the stonefly and mayfly, can be seen out and about in their adult form. The best time to look for stoneflies is after a snowfall — these small dark critters are much easier to spot in the snow.

The social insects take a middle-of-the-road approach to winter. They don’t enter diapause, like many butterflies, but they’re not bounding about, full of pep, like stoneflies. Social insects that live through winter in Delaware include honeybees, termites and a number of different ants.

Many of the social insects, including ants, consolidate their living quarters during the winter, says Deborah Delaney, an assistant professor in the Department of Entomology and Wildlife Ecology in UD’s College of Agriculture and Natural Resources. In late fall they move deeper into their nests and close up the exit with soil, leaves and other organic materials.

Honeybees slow down in winter and stick close to the hive. The focus is on eating and huddling close to each other on cold days, notes Delaney.

When the hive temperature drops below 64 degrees, honeybees cluster together into a carefully organized, compact ball. The interior bees generate warmth by vibrating their wing muscles. The outer bees are motionless, acting as an insulation layer. The colder the temperature outside, the tighter the cluster. A single bee can increase heat production 25-fold.

The honeybees take turns enjoying the warmth in the middle of the huddle and then move to the outside. Not surprisingly, the queen bee reigns supreme in the middle and never takes a turn on the outskirts of the huddle.

Despite huddling and other strategies, winter takes a toll on honeybees, says Delaney. Hives that may have had a peak of 60,000 bees in the summer may diminish to 20,000 bees by mid-winter. Some hives are totally lost, due to insufficient food or other factors.

Worker honeybees toiled long hours in the fall, collecting nectar to feed and maintain the colony until spring. If their work wasn’t adequate, there is nothing they — or Delaney — can do about it now, in the depths of winter.

Nonetheless, Delaney checks on the hives at UD’s Apiary about two to three times a week this time of year. “I hold my ear to each hive and if I hear buzzing inside, I know everything is good,” she says.

“The hives are kind of like my fourth child,” admits Delaney, who is the mother of three small children.

Article by Margo McDonough

This article can also be viewed online on UDaily by clicking here.

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Twilight Tour with Bees

August 23, 2010 under CANR News, Cooperative Extension, Events

The Delaware Department of Agriculture (DDA) and UD Cooperative Extension are presenting a Twilight Tour with Bees from 5:30 PM – 7:30 PM on Monday, August 30, 2010, at Lister Acres, 5417 Milford-Harrington Highway, Harrington, Delaware.

DDA and UD staff will have tour stops demonstrating the importance of healthy, abundant bee populations to Delaware’s fruit and vegetable crops, the diversity of native bees found in the state, and farm management to enhance pollinator conservation.

The speakers from DDA include Entomologist Heather Harmon Disque, State Apiarist Bob Mitchell from DDA. Assistant Professor Dr. Debbie Delaney, Extension Entomologist Joanne Whalen, and Vegetable Specialist Gordon Johnson are among the speakers from UD. Funding for the event is provided by a Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) grant.

The nearly 4,000 species of bees found in the United States are the premier pollinators of fruit and vegetable crops, as well as a wide variety of native plants. Protecting and conserving bees is vital to our food supply and our quality of life.

The Twilight Tour with Bees is the culminating event in the four-year long SARE grant funded pollinator initiative (Farming for Native Bees) undertaken by DDA and UD. From 2006-2010, several thousand native bees were collected from vegetable farms as well as state parks and lands. These bees represent more than 100 species. Of these, 18 were state records, namely bees that had not been collected in the state before. Assessments of bee population diversity, and pollinator conservation farming practices were conducted on 15 farms. The project also produced two publications, “Delaware Native Plants for Native Bees” and “Farm Management for Native Bees”, funded by NRCS (Natural Resources Conservation Service). The host of the Twilight Tour, Chuck Hurd, was chosen as the 2008 National Pollinator Conservationist of the Year by the North American Pollinator Protection Campaign. For information on attending the event, contact DDA at 302-698-4577.

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