This week, we invite Geoff Williams and Mikayla Wilson from Bee Informed Partnership to talk with us about their 2022 Loss and Management Survey! It kicks off in April - in just a few days! The was started in 2007 by the as a non-profit organization...
This week, we invite Geoff Williams and Mikayla Wilson from Bee Informed Partnership to talk with us about their 2022 Loss and Management Survey! It kicks off in April - in just a few days!
The Bee Informed Partnership was started in 2007 by the Apiary Inspectors of America as a non-profit organization with the goal to improve honey bee colony health and survivorship in the United States. The Colony Loss and Management Survey is one of BIPs longest running programs.
BIP defines "Colony Loss" as as a turn-over rate, as high levels of losses do not necessarily result in a decrease in the total number of colonies managed in the United States. This is often misinterpreted that the 'bees are disappearing'. Beekeepers should be able to correct this while talking with non-beekeepers.
Geoff and Mikayla talk about this year's survey and how you can participate, whether you are a commercial, sideliner or hobby beekeeper.
BIP has other programs which Geoff and Mikayla discuss, including the Tech Transfer Program, and the Sentinel Apiary Program (which is still accepting participating beekeepers until April 24th) and how you can support BIP without sending a dime. BIP is part of Amazon Smile where 0.5% of your purchase is donated to a non-profit charity of your choice. Make BIP your charity of choice!
Let us know what you think by leaving comments for this episode above. Start a discussion!
Thank you for listening!
Links and websites mentioned in this podcast:
We welcome Betterbee as sponsor of today's episode. Betterbee’s mission is to support every beekeeper with excellent customerservice, continued education and quality equipment. From their colorful and informative catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast series, Betterbee truly is Beekeepers Serving Beekeepers. See for yourself at www.betterbee.com
We welcome HiveAlive back as an episode sponsor. HiveAlive is the #1 liquid feed supplement for honeybees worldwide. It contains a unique blend of seaweed extracts, thyme and lemongrass. HiveAlive has been proven to increase bee strength, produce more honey, improved bee gut health and improved overwinter survival. Ask about HiveAlive and new HiveAlive Fondant & Pollen Patty at your local beekeeping store or visit the website www.usa.hivealivebees.com for more information.
This episode is brought to you by Global Patties! Global Patties is a family business that manufactures protein supplement patties for honey bees. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will helpensure that they produce strong and health colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Global offers a variety of standard patties, as well as custom patties to meet your specific needs. Visit them today at http://globalpatties.com and let them know you appreciate them sponsoring this episode!
Thanks for Northern Bee Books for their sponsorship of Bee Books: Old & New with Kim Flottum. Northern Bee Books is the publisher of bee books available worldwide from their website or from Amazon and bookstores everywhere. They are also the publishers of The Beekeepers Quarterly and Natural Bee Husbandry. Check them out today!
Thanks to Strong Microbials for their support of Beekeeping TodayPodcast. Find out more about heir line of probiotics in our Season 3, Episode 12 episode and from their website: https://www.strongmicrobials.com
We want to also thank 2 Million Blossoms as a sponsor of the podcast. 2 Million Blossoms is a regular podcast featuring interviews with leading bee and insect researchers in the world of pollination, hosted by Dr. Kirsten Traynor.
We hope you enjoy this podcast and welcome your questions and comments in the show notes of this episode or: firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks to Bee Culture, the Magazine of American Beekeeping, for their support of The Beekeeping Today Podcast. Available in print and digital at www.beeculture.com
Thank you for listening!
Podcast music: Be Strong by Young Presidents; Epilogue by Musicalman; Walking in Paris by Studio Le Bus; Original guitar background instrumental by Jeff Ott
Beekeeping Today Podcast is an audio production of Growing Planet Media, LLC
Jeff Ott:Welcome to Beekeeping Today podcast presented by Bee Culture. Beekeeping Today podcast your source for beekeeping news information and entertainment. I’m Jeff Ott.
Kim Flottum:And I’m Kim Flottum.
Global Patties:Hey, Jeff and Kim. Today’s sponsor is Global Patties. They’re a family operated business that manufacturers protein supplement patties for honeybees, it’s a good time to think about honeybee nutrition. Feeding your hives protein supplement patties will ensure that they produce strong and healthy colonies by increasing brood production and overall honey flow. Now is a great time to consider what type of patty is right for your area and your honeybees.
Global offers a variety of standard patties as well as custom patties to meet your needs. No matter where you are Global is ready to serve you out of there manufacturing plants in Airdrie, Alberta, and in Butte, Montana, or from distribution depots across the continent. Visit them today at www.globalpatties.com.
Jeff:Thank you Sherry and thank you Global Patties. You know everybody, each week we get to talk about how much we appreciate our sponsor support, and we know you’d rather we get right to talking about beekeeping. However, our great sponsors are critical to making all of this happen. From the transcripts, to the hosting fees, the software, the hardware, the microphones, recorders to subscriptions, everything they enabled each episode. With that, thanks to Bee Culture magazine for continuing their presenting sponsorship of this podcast.
Bee Culture has been the magazine for American beekeeping since 1873. Subscribe to Bee Culture today. We want to welcome HiveAlive as an episode sponsor HiveAlive is the number one liquid feed supplement for honey bees worldwide, contains a unique blend of seaweed extracts, thyme and lemon grass. The formula has been proven to help bees produce more honey, improve bee gut health and improve overwinter survival. Ask about HiveAlive at your local beekeeping store, or visit the website at usa.hivealivebees.com or visit our website sponsor page for more information.
Hey, everybody, thanks for joining us. We’re really really happy you’re here, but just before we get started, I just want to remind everybody to subscribe to follow Beekeeping Today podcast and rate us. It really helps us it helps other beekeepers find us. Don’t forget, we’ve added a couple new features at the website including complete transcripts that you can share transcripts, read transcripts as we talk along. You can now leave episode, questions and comments online for each show. You can ask a question, leave a question, answer a question, just join in the discussion.
Have you ever listening to episodes and thought that person sounds really interesting, I’d really like to get to know more about him? You can. Each episode now has links to each guest profile and each profile has a guest photo, bio contact information including Instagram and Twitter details if they have them. Lots of be found on the beekeeping today website. Check it out.
Hey, everybody finally. Thanks for joining us. Kim is away for another week, but don’t worry, he’s okay and hopefully he’ll be joining us soon. In his place, I want to welcome Dr. James Tew. Jim, welcome to Beekeeping Today podcast, you’ve got a new chair here.
Dr. James Tew:I do, Jeff. Thank you for having me here and no one can truly fell in for Kim so I would just sit here for Kim.
Jeff:[laughs] Kim is irreplaceable but I really am happy to have you join us and I’m sure our listeners are too. Jim, normally this time in the podcast, Kim and I talked about what a beekeeper can do at this time of year with their bees. We’re looking at the end of March beginning of April. Throughout, much of the states, they’re starting to warm up a little bit if you’re out of the southern tier states. What are some of the things that beekeepers can be looking at in their hives this week?
Jim:I went out just yesterday, it was a nice day and the bees were flying and it’s a good day to have a look because the colony is not yet really powerful and they’re very appreciative. If you put a feeder on or if you have some method of feeding the bees that you’re using, they’ll take it very well. They’ll also take down pollen substitute so it’s a good time to be putting that on right now. In fact, you should have been on for a while already.
I just hope the bees wake up. We’re trying to pump them up and help them be all they can be by providing their food resources to them.
Jeff:Absolutely. One of the things I’ve told, people I’ve helped mentor is now’s a good time of the year if you’re timid about wearing or not wearing gloves, now’s a good time to start experimenting with that when the colonies are less populous. They’re a little bit more dormant or maybe even a little bit more clustered. Anyways, it’s a good time to try it as opposed to, I’ll say August. [laughs]
Jim:Exactly. Jeff, I’d like to comment though that it’s a big country a lot of different seasons. As we speak, I was talking different beekeepers yesterday in the southeastern US, specifically Alabama and they’re raising queens. They’re grafting and raising queens and drones are flying. While I’m talking about stimulative feeding, they’re talking mats for me down the road.
Jeff:Someone was talking about, we’ve got bees and trees already in Florida, they’re just swarming already so cheers to those folks who are already experiencing those fun things. Speaking of swarming, I know on Honey Bee Obscura I’ve sat in for Kim on a couple of those episodes with you and we’ve been talking about swarming.
Jim:Yes. We are going to be talking about swarming, that’s still after all these years it’s is one of the most exciting thing that still happens to even an old, tired, cranky beekeeper. When you go out and there’s a swarm leaving your colony, whatever you had on your agenda just changed.
Jeff:It’s gone. [laughs]
Jim:It’s gone. You can go to the grocery store later, that yard can wait nothing all of a sudden, is you’ve got to get that swarm. Is a primal feeling is a very primal feeling, the beekeeper has.
Jeff:It’s a cross between a kick in the stomach and an excitement. I don’t know how you can explain. Have you gone out trying to tang them?
Jim:I did try to tang them. I did it because there’s some really diehard people who like that. Kim and I did a segment on that.
Jeff:Your poor neighbors.
Jim:No harm done, but you need to have other alternatives in place, too, but I don’t want to offend the tangers in anyway. No, I don’t routine a tang. I was going to say that one of the things I enjoy the most is when it’s not my bees. I just love picking up your swarm. It’s free bees to me. Heaven knows I’ve given you enough of mine in theory I mean apathetically.
Jeff:Yes, that is the fun part about swarms when there’s someone else’s bees or we like to think they’re from a feral colony, and they’re Varroa resistant. How about that? That’s a good way of looking at it.
Jim:I got a long story that I can’t go into but I picked up a swarm three or four years ago, that within three weeks ended up being one of the angriest, most hostile colony I’ve ever had. Attacking the neighbors, attacking the dog, attacking me and so I wrote about it and Bee Culture what an episode, how do you choose which colony to execute when you’re not sure which one’s the troublemaker?
Jeff:Is that the one you moved? [crosstalk]
Jim:It was that swarm that had a really aggressive demeanor about it that just was not friendly at all. Free bees sometimes come with caveat.
Jeff:With a price.
On today’s episode, we are inviting back Geoff Williams of Bee Informed Partnership and Mikayla Wilson also of Bee Informed Partnership, and they’re talking about their management and loss survey and the also the Sentinel program that they have going but it sounds like a fascinating program. I look forward to hearing from them.
Jim:I have worked with Jeff at Auburn. He and I were at Auburn at the same time for a while. I look forward to talking with him, and Mikayla we go back I think I’ll have to confirm this but with John’s Gunner days I think at the University of Tennessee.
Jeff:Fantastic. Let’s get right into the interview but first, a quick word from our friends a Strong Microbials.
StrongMicrobials:Hello beekeepers, your honeybees face a lot of challenges out there, unbalanced food sources from monoculture crops, holding yards, drought, food shortages, antibiotics, pesticides, and pathogens like chalkbrood. To overcome these challenges, your bees need the multiple bacteria that are in all nectars, pollens and the environment. These bacteria aid honey bees digestion and improve your honey bees response and resilience to pesticides.
Now you can help improve your honey colony health with a quick, easy and safe to use product. Strong Microbials SuperDFM-HoneyBee use this naturally occurring bacteria to restore the healthy gut biome of your honey bees. Check them out today at www.strongmicrobials.com.
Jeff:Hey, welcome back, everybody. Sitting across the virtual student table right now are Geoff Williams and Mikayla Wilson both from Bee Informed Partnership. Geoff welcome back to Beekeeper Today podcast. Mikayla, welcome to Beekeeping Todaypodcast. I’m really happy you’re here.
Geoff:Thanks, Jeff. I think it’s been a couple of years. I think I convinced or twisted Selena’s arm last year to join this call.
Jeff:We’ve had BIP on several times in the past. Listeners might want to check up on some of the other earlier shows. We had you back on, gosh, 2019? 2019, you and Selina in 2019. We had, let’s see, Kelly Kulhanek in 2020. Oh, you were here last year with Natalie.
Geoff:Oh, really? Oh, no. Time flies. I’ve got a new baby, so I’ve got the baby brain going on right now.
Jeff:Time flies differently when you have a newborn in the house.
Jeff:Geoff, for our listeners who really don’t know much about Bee Informed Partnership, or BIP, why don’t you give us a little bit of background of who you and Mikayla are, and then what BIP does?
Geoff:Sounds good. I’m the president of Bee Informed Partnership as of a few years, but who’s counting, in any case. I’m joined by Mikayla. Do you want to say a few words?
Mikayla:Yes. I’m Mikayla Wilson. I work at the University of Maryland with Dennis vanEngelsdorp. I’ve worked on the Bee Informed Partnership since we started it up in 2011. I work on the survey and other database needs of the organization.
Geoff:Most of us at BIP are connected to some land-grant university. Mikayla’s connected with UMD. I’m at Auburn, and we’ve got a whole host of other staff that are housed in other land-grant universities across the country. That’s how we operate. We come together to promote the managed honeybee here in the United States. As you can imagine, to promote the managed honeybee, we also have to promote the beekeeper.
I’m really in the business of developing best management practices through all of our activities, so that we can convey that to the beekeeper. Hopefully, we come out at the end of the day with some healthier colonies and lots of pollination and some happy beekeepers. That’s the goal that we’re always striving towards.
Jeff:Once you list the couple of different high-level visibility programs that you do that beekeepers may know about.
Geoff:That sounds good. Mikayla, do you want to take a first stab, mate? You can come up with one program.
Mikayla:Yes. One of the things starting up for the season is the Sentinel Apiary Program, where beekeepers can buy kits to sample their colonies and use our mobile app to enter field observations of the colonies. We put all this data together to visualize with the beekeepers and meet with them to interpret their results and help them through the year to assess what’s happening in their bees.
Jeff:I don’t want to go too far, but you’re looking at different things besides Varroa? You’re looking at Nosema, Varroa?
Mikayla:Yes. Nosema, Varroa, and this year we’re going to offer the opportunity to do some pesticide testing and for people who want to see if they’re picking up anything in their colonies. Also, just training on what are those key metrics that you need to be recording when you open your colonies over time, such as queen status, and recording the population of the bees, so that you can better communicate what the state of your colony is and have a better overall assessment of the health of the colony.
Geoff:Actually, two things I really love about the Sentinel Program, the first is all the work that Mikayla’s done to create that online portal. You can actually go and have a look at other people’s anonymous data to see what mite counts they may have or the weight of their hives, because a lot of the Sentinel Program apiaries have hive scales connected. That online portal is really fantastic, from my perspective.
The other thing is just the opportunity for clubs to use the Sentinel Program. Every month, the beekeepers have to go in and inspect the colonies, as Mikayla mentioned. It’s a great opportunity for clubs who have demonstration yards to really connect with other beekeepers across the country, by feeding in some of their data to that online portal. I really want to give a plug out to that portal that Mikayla and others have really worked on.
Jeff:Is that visible then from any beekeeper?
Mikayla:Yes. There’s a map on the research.beeinformed website, where you can see the results per county for the participating counties.
Jeff:All right, we’ll post that link in the show notes.
HiveAlive:We welcome HiveAlive back as an episode sponsor. HiveAlive is the number one liquid feed supplement for honeybees worldwide. It contains a unique blend of seaweed extracts, thyme, and lemongrass. HiveAlive has been proven to increase bee strength, produce more honey, improve bee gut health, and improve overwinter survival. Ask about HiveAlive and new HiveAlive Fondant and Pollen Patty at your local beekeeping store, or visit the website usa.hivealivebees.com for more information.
Geoff:Then the other program I really want to highlight here is our tech team activities. The backyard or smaller scale beekeepers probably aren’t aware of this, but we’ve got a whole host of really experienced staff that are essentially running around the country following our commercial beekeeping colonies as they go through their pollination routes, for example.
They’re working alongside commercial beekeepers to inspect their colonies, especially for diseases, provide recommendations, really are what we call the, boots on the ground, so to speak, to really understand what’s happening with our commercial colonies that are so important to our major activities, like almond pollination or honey production.
Jim:Geoff, this is Jim here, what experience do those people have? Are they themselves former commercial beekeepers, work for commercial beekeepers, bee biologists, or what?
Geoff:I’m going to say all of the above. They all have very diverse backgrounds. I think our most recent full-time tech transfer team specialist, he came out of Georgia. He was working at a commercial outfit for a few years. It’s all over the map. I think you learn a lot quickly when you’re spending a lot of time with a dozen or two dozen commercial beekeepers over the course of a year.
I know that all of them and their knowledge just radically changed by just enjoying the time with these commercial beekeepers and seeing all their different operations, which really puts them in a good perspective. They literally have their sanitized hive tools in all kinds of operations all over the place.
Jeff:Several of the YouTube videos I’ve seen on the BIP YouTube channel, I always get, I don’t want to say overwhelmed, but amazed. I appreciate, I’m in awe of the amount of data and bees that your tech teams go through. They’re going through a lot. They become absolute experts in collecting that data and hives and reading hives. I’m impressed.
Geoff:Mikayla, you can probably speak to that. They’ve got a whole app out there that are collecting all the data. BIP has really invested a lot into our IT realm in the past few years.
Mikayla:Yes, we have a unified strategy to collect data from all these different projects in a way where it’s comparable and standardized. The Sentinel participants use the same app that the tech team beekeepers use. It all really goes into the same database, where we can use the same charting and do analysis across data sets, basically.
Jeff:Real nice. Let’s start talking about the other very big, publicly noticeable part work that BIP does, and that’s the annual loss and management survey.
Geoff:It is starting up April 1st, every year. I guess that’s why you were listing all of our visitors to your podcast over the past few years. We’re like a recurring-- I was going to say nightmare, but it should be a recurring dream. For some beekeepers out there, I think it probably seems like a nightmare. You have to remember all the things you did over the past years.
We’ll get into it a little bit how we’ve tried to streamline that and make it a little bit more easy for the beekeeper to fill out. These surveys are daunting sometimes, but they’re so important for gathering this long-term data set.
Jeff:Talk about the survey. What is the survey and how did it start? When did it start?
Geoff:Again, a bit of a history lesson in my baby mush brain is, yes, hopefully, I can remember. [laughs] I believe it was born out of the remnants of CCD and that at the time several government programs were asking our colleague Denis and others. I think the Apiary Inspectors of America were really heavily involved too to come up with some kind of standardized monitoring of colony losses. Because before that, a program or independent program didn’t really exist. The first colony loss survey was during the wintertime.
I think it was either winter of 2006 or ‘07 or ‘08. Yes, BIP has been running that survey ever since then. Several years later we added a summer loss survey to that questionnaire. Now we’re doing both winter and summer losses in one fell swoop, starting in April 1st.
Jim:Mikayla and Jeff, before everybody had baby mushy brains, it was just always a general assumption. You’d go to a meeting and you’d talk to the person sitting next to you, there’d be an announcement from the podium, it was just always a general discussion. “I had a really bad winter.” “I did not have a bad winter.” Then from that major conclusions would be drawn and that would become the estimate for that particular year in many cases.
This program has really gone a long way toward giving organizations an exactness to what had here before been just chaotic randomized best guess situation. It’s been a really positive attribute and good data that the program has added.
Geoff:I know there was a lot of statements about, historically, beekeepers of experienced 10% losses or 15% losses. Then you would really have a tough time trying to draw those data out of whatever kind of literature. You will come across some of those results when you’re looking at past literature at the colony level.
A scientist may have reported that, “They had these treatment groups, but their controls, they lost 15% or 19% over the winter.” As far as I know how we are really able to back up those statements about 10% or 15% losses on average maybe two decades ago prior to Varroa maybe. No doubt there’s been high losses throughout the course of time when humans have been taken care of, managed honey bees.
Yes, I think it ebbs and flows in our long-term data sets, kind of highlights that. We are now experiencing on average, quite high losses around 30% on average. One year could be 23% in the winter. The next year could be 39% or 42%. It does really have some peaks and valleys.
Betterbee:Betterbee is pleased to sponsor today’s episode ofBeekeeping Today podcast. For over 40 years, Betterbee has supplied beekeepers across the country with the tools, equipment, and knowledge needed to succeed. Because many Betterbee employees are beekeepers themselves they understand your needs and challenges and are better prepared to answer your beekeeping questions. From their colorful catalog to their support of beekeeper educational activities, including this podcast Betterbee truly lives up to their tagline of beekeeper, serving beekeepers. See for yourself at betterbee.com.
Jeff:How does the survey work? Is that something someone signs up for and receives, or is it mailed? What’s the mechanics of the survey?
Mikayla:Throughout the year there’s an opportunity for people to sign up on the Bee Informed Website to be notified about the survey start and to be sure that they are included and know what’s happening with that. Then, April 1st we began distributing links to the online survey and inviting people to take it.
We have an email list of about well over 20,000 people that we manage ourselves and then share with the Bee Culture and other outlets who might also have email lists to send those out. We have a number of our people on staff that have contacts with commercial beekeepers. We’ll start hint the phones and calling people up. If they are going to be out at their locations, they might ask them in person. They might have a paper copy with them and try to get them to fill it out there.
We try to just come out of there every angle that we can. It is a voluntary survey. It’s different from the mass survey where they try to contact the same people every year and connect those responses year after year to the same person. Ours is more of a voluntary and just try to get as many responses as possible from the different size groupings. We are sure to try to reach commercial beekeepers as well as midsize and small-scale beekeepers.
Geoff:One thing we’re doing every year is listening to the beekeepers and trying to make that experience better. Speaking about how the beekeepers can take part in the survey, Mikayla and the rest of the IT team have been working really hard to create essentially the survey on our own BIP platform. It’s all basically online. I know Mikayla mentioned some paper options, but we’ve really tried to avoid that mainly because everyone’s got a computer.
Second, all the undergraduates who have to enter the data from the paper version they’re quickly losing all their hair. We try to promote the online survey use. I don’t know, Mikayla, maybe this is a good time to highlight some things you’re most proud about in the online platform that you’ve created.
Mikayla:Yes. Up until this year, we’ve used survey software that would be designed by companies that universities might use to conduct surveys. We’ve been using these since-- I was using them in honeybee surveys even before BIP. It’s interesting.
A lot has changed on surveys. Over time it’s harder to get people to answer surveys in general. A lot of the online platforms you can buy, they’re really focused for very short surveys. With people that are going to be asked just a very few questions and our survey’s pretty long, because we need a fair amount of detail to be able to say much about losses and why people are having losses. Beekeepers are willing to answer these longer surveys.
We ended up designing our own survey this year to where we can format the pages a little bit better for a longer survey since that’s just not really available commercially. The survey will be at research.beeinformed.org, and each page is designed custom to try to make it as user-friendly as possible so that people have these few problems and frustrations with filling it out as we can get. That’s pretty exciting.
I think we’ll probably continue to do that as a strategy. We’re taking with the database to try to get more and more people using it as a place to enter and manage their own records over time to where they could be able to come back to their entries over time and see changes in their own reporting. This is just a start of that for this year to move that survey into our database.
Jim:Mikayla, I’m not sure how to say this. It’s a positive comment, but I want to compliment you for being able to get beekeepers to respond because they are first and foremost, forevermore beekeepers. They are not trying to be and have no interest in being computer people. I know this fact because I have been personally told this fact over and over again.
It’s really admirable that you can word it, present it, get these people to follow up on it, and draw conclusions from it because you bring beekeeping kicking and screaming into the next generation. It’s a very useful procedure. People like you are really viable and making that system work and helping the industry evolve.
Mikayla:Thank you and that is so true. I see that all the time. Beekeepers, as much as they get frustrated with technology, they do recognize the value in it and participating. That’s what motivates them to work with us to get their information in.
Geoff:Jim, I do want to say, I think you need to give the beekeepers more credit. Last year I was visiting some of our local clubs in Alabama and I thought, “I’m going to do a quiz on my presentation and I’m going to put up a big QR code.” The beekeepers are going to have to scan that QR code and go do the quiz and you know what? They did and it was awesome.
I was very, very nervous, but they were all-- It’s like the only time in a lecture, that’ll ask someone to pull out their phone. Everyone is very happy by that. They scan their phone, the QR code is on their phone, and boom right into their online survey. [crosstalk]
Geoff:That’s also something that’s really great about just beekeepers in the country, especially the small scale, just such a diverse audience of people keeping bees, all walks of life, all occupations. I really enjoy that because it’s just so diverse the beekeepers out there. Of course, we try to make the experience as good as possible when we go through this online platform.
Mikayla mentioned, we really have to give a shout-out to all the people that helped us spread the word, including you both here today on the podcast. ABJ, Bee Culture, and all the different national organizations, Honey Producers, Beekeeping Federation, they all help us spread the word and it’s amazing the support there. Really want to give thanks to all those people too.
Jeff:We’ll have the links to the survey in our show notes. That does kick off on April 1, in just a few days from the release of this show. Going back to the survey itself, you mentioned there’s three, it is targeted for the commercial, the sideliner, and the hobbyist, essentially. Is it the same survey or what are some of the key differences between the commercial beekeeper survey and the sideliner and the hobbyist?
Geoff:Two years ago, again, listening to our beekeepers, we decided to try to fine tune and focus our survey. It’s a bit shorter, a bit more concise. Last year was the first year we did that and there was two aspects that we changed. One is, we have these core questions that we’re asking every single year for, just so that we can monitor these long-term trends, but we’re adding a unique component or unique topic every year.
Last year we were speaking about queens and new colonies. This year we’re talking about environment. I’ll let Mikayla get into that in a second. That’s how we changed. They tried to focus it a little bit more each year also to shorten the survey. The other aspect is, in fact, we’re not asking a beekeeper if they’re a backyard, a hobby, a backyard, or a sideline or commercial. Now we’re breaking them into two groups. Either we’re calling it a small scale, so 50 or less, or a larger scale, 50 or more colonies.
With that, we do pose a few different questions. For example, um, for the small scale, we’re not asking questions about beekeeping crews and like how many crew members you have or what is their experience? We are making slight adjustments, also migratory route and things like that. We’re trying to customize the survey a little bit better to make, if you’re a commercial beekeeper, a backyard beekeeper, be able to answer those questions a little bit more easily. Maybe I’ll throw it over to Mikayla to talk about our specific topic this year.
Mikayla:Last year we focused on queens and queen issues. This year we’re focusing on environment, weather and location-based aspects of beekeeping. There’s some pointed questions about if you’re experiencing, changes or extreme weather events, how that might impact your beekeeping. If you’re having more issues with feeding or drought, heavy rains. Give beekeepers opportunity to tell us about the experiences that may be changing over time, such as weather. We did a little bit of this last year. We asked people how the pandemic affected their beekeeping and got some information about that as well.
Geoff:Speaking about weather, we do have these core questions that we’re asking every single year that we hope we actually can connect to. For example, how the climate may be changing? Like we’re asking the keepers when they made their first splits every year. Then we also, again, have these very specific questions this year about drought, excess precipitation.
We actually work with the USDA on some of those questions because their agency is super interested in that. Like, how do these extreme weather events affect all kinds of aspects of agriculture, not just beekeeping?
Jeff:As a beekeeper, what’s the benefit for me to take and complete the survey?
Geoff:First off, I would say to be just a great, citizen scientist and promote this long-term data collection. Because, for example, as we go along and are collecting more information, more data, we’re now able to look at these long-term trends. We’re starting to, for example, map out hotspots of called me losses over time, that we needed these long-term trends to participate.
First and foremost, just being a citizen scientist to promote beekeeping as a whole, so that we can include your data. Whether or not you have two colonies or 20,000 colonies, if you’re living in Oregon or Florida, you know we need all of these diverse experiences to really make a good analysis moving forward for the country.
I would say that is number one, but I imagine as a beekeeper filling out that survey also, get some glimpses into some experiences that perhaps other beekeepers would have. Because a lot of our questions are multiple-choice. Maybe that just opens up your eyes to what other beekeepers are performing in other parts of the country. We have a data portal where you can actually look at some of those results, some of those key management actions, and how they connect to losses.
It just diversifies your experiences and the other thing is, it hopefully forces you to keep good records of what’s going on in your yard. Because we know that’s super important. I know Jim is chuckling there, but for sure you agree with me.
Jim:I do agree. I’m going to keep good records. I’m going to start this very year. I know I am. That’s why it was painful. Every year I wanted to do better. Jeff and Mikayla, where could I see this information? Are you going to make me pay for it? Are you going to make it available to me? Or how can I profit from this information?
Mikayla:We’ve published numerous. We have about, 10 or so, science publications where we’re summarizing these results. Those are available on our website @beeinformed.org. This information gets, presented and many, many meetings, I’ve seen lots of different people presenting on the results of the survey. beeinformed.org is your main place to go to find some of these things.
Geoff:We’ll publish the abstract, like a summary with our state-specific results about a month or two after closing of the survey at the end of April, and something that’s really awesome that we’re still updating a little bit is our data portal on the BIP site. Again, it’s connecting the lost questions with the management questions and that part of the survey. You can really play around, it’s like an interactive explorer there. See what happens if you monitored for Varroa using alcohol wash. If there’s a relationship there with colony loss.
I know we’re tweaking and updating that site, but hopefully, it’ll be up pretty soon. There’s another place where you can go access that information free. We’re again really trying to promote communication with as many beekeepers as possible. Trying to limit those firewalls, so to speak.
Jim:It sounds like really useful information at a time when we all need really useful information. I hope people are using it and supporting it.
Jeff:How can beekeepers support the programs of BIP? You said part supported by land grants and there’s other supporters. As an individual beekeeper how can I support the programs of BIP?
Mikayla:The last survey is really just a great opportunity to taking the survey is a great opportunity to support what we do. A lot of commercial beekeepers have reported to us that they value, giving us information about their losses and their challenges so that we can then use that information to go and support them, by trying to obtain funding, to investigate these problems. Letting the world know that there are still a lot of challenges in beekeeping and losses.
I would start with taking the survey and letting us know what your experiences are, but you can also donate money. There’s ways to donate. There’s services you can purchase such as the Sentinel Program, which feeds back into the process and helps keep it going.
Jeff:I was going to let that BIP will see a large portion of income come from me personally from Amazon, because my Amazon Smile dollars goes towards Bee Informed Partnership. This last year took a serious hit on my Amazon account.
Geoff:We are a non-profit. There is a Bee Informed connection to Amazon Smile. Amazon shoppers out there, I don’t know if we’re allowed to plug a name, maybe I shouldn’t have said that, but, yes, go for feel free to add a Bee Informed Partnership to your Amazon Smile account. We are a non-profit. We will take Jim’s cold hard cash. Feel free to send that my way, Jim, and I’ll upload it to our bank account.
Just participating in activities as Mikayla mentioned, the survey, that’s free to participate in our other programs like the tech teams, and the Sentinel Program, they do cost some money but that actually gets reinvested through IT and our tech team specialists. Really just participating in BIP, spreading the word about BIP, all those things go a long, long way to supporting our organization, and in turn, hopefully, we turn around and give you a higher return on investment, so to speak by promoting beekeepers and beekeeping.
Jeff:Yes. You do have a online shop too. My BIP shirt is in the wash. I would’ve worn it just for you. [crosstalk]
Geoff:Just yesterday, right?
Jeff:Over the weekend. Over the weekend, absolutely. That was yesterday. There’s plenty of opportunity and I think you guys do a fantastic job. Is there anything else we haven’t touched on that you would like to bring up or talk about?
Geoff:I think just be aware a couple days, April 1st, we’ll really be excited and looking forward to as many people participating as possible. On our just main page, you’ll be able to find the survey. We hope that you’ll use a beekeeper, we’ll fill that out, but maybe pass that information onto a few of your beekeeping pals and just create this moment for us where, again, we can hit 5,000 beekeepers this year or more.
Jeff:When do the results come out from this year?
Geoff:We might adjust our communication plan a little bit, but I would say sometime late May, early June. It takes us a few weeks to go through the data and clean it up, crunch some numbers and then communicate that back out. It’ll be, probably realistically, early June, we’ll love to communicate those information.
Jeff:If you send us a note, we’ll make sure we let our listeners know in a future podcast.
Geoff:Great. Will do.
Jeff:All right. Geoff Williams, Mikayla Wilson, we really appreciate you taking time this afternoon to be with us on beekeeping today podcast and look forward to having you back. Thanks for all the great work you’re doing.
Jeff:Thanks so much. Thanks for the support.
Mikayla:Thanks so much.
Jeff:I enjoy having Bee Informed Partnership on the show. We’ve been a supporter of their work and their programs since our very first years. I really do have them as my Amazon Smile, charity or nonprofit selection on Amazon’s and portion of all my Amazon purchases goes to Bee Informed.
Jim:That was cleverer. You thought to do that. I wouldn’t have thought of that. I enjoy hearing their results too. They add order to beekeeping chaos because otherwise before BIP it was just a long series of getting the best opinions you could. I like their work.
Jeff:Yes. It’s reviewed. There is some controversy if you listen to the people who speak. There’s pros and cons, or some people say they don’t interview enough commercial beekeepers or whatever, but all in all, they’re out there doing the hard work and putting it out for others to review and use as needed. Kudos to them.
Jim:Yes. Kudos to them.
Jeff:That about wraps it up for this episode. Before we go, I want to encourage our listeners to rate us five stars on Apple podcast wherever you download stream the show. Your vote helps other beekeepers find us quicker, even better. Write a review and let other beekeepers looking for a new podcast know what you like. You can get there directly from our website by clicking on reviews, along the top of any web page.
As always, we thank Bee Culture, the magazine for American beekeeping for their continued support of Beekeeping Todaypodcast. We want to thank Global Patties. Check them out at www.globalpatties.com and thanks to HiveAlive for returning this episode of the sponsor. Check out their honey bee feed supplements at usa.hivealivebees.com.
We also want thank Strong Microbials for their support of podcast. Check out their full pro pilot line at strongmicrobials.com. We want to thank Better Bee for joining us as our supporter. Check out their full line of beekeeping supplies at www.betterbee.com.
Finally, and most importantly, we want to thank you, theBeekeeping Today podcast listener for joining us on this show. Feel free to leave us comments and questions in our show notes, or send us an e-mail at questionsatbeekeepingtodaypodcast.com. We’d love to hear from you. Anything else, Jim you want to mention before we sign off?
Jim:No, I want to speak for Kim. He’s an excellent resource here and I hope he’s back soon.
Jim:Thank you for letting me fill in for him.
Jeff:You bet. Thanks a lot, everybody.
[00:46:05] [END OF AUDIO]
Mikayla is a Faculty Specialist at the University of Maryland, vanEngelsdorp Bee Lab. She designs and maintains database, web application, and general IT needs of primary honey bee projects including the Bee Informed Partnership and APHIS National Honey Bee Survey since 2011.
Mikayla has a Master’s degree in Entomology from the University of Tennessee and has worked in University computing roles since 1994. She has been a beekeeper since the late 1990s as well, with a keen interest in applying information technology to agricultural sciences and education. She has worked on numerous USDA projects since 2008 in response to the decline in bee health, first at Tennessee then joining the UMD lab in 2021.
I’m a Canadian living and working in Alabama! I grew up in Alberta, went to grad school training in Nova Scotia and have worked with honey bees throughout North America, Europe, and Asia.
Before joining Auburn University, I worked for the Swiss government. Now at Auburn University, I’m building a program that seeks to better understand and promote bee health. To achieve these massive goals (as you can imagine), the AU-BEES lab is working on various topics – from studying the effects of neonicotinoids on queens, to working on the latest Integrated Pest Management tool against varroa, to performing the Bee Informed Partnership’s National Colony Loss and Management Survey, to investigating bee attractiveness to native wildflowers.
Apart from assisting my students with their studies, another aspect of my work that I really enjoy is discussing with beekeepers – hearing why you keep bees and love beekeeping, and what are some of your major challenges. Despite geographic and cultural differences, bees bring many different people together – I love this!
And finally, outside my daily activities at Auburn University, I am also the President of the Bee Informed Partnership and Vice President of the COLOSS Honey Bee Research Association.
Here are three of our favorite episodes! If you've not heard our podcast, start with these. Which is your favorite? Let us know!