The Journey Begins

Hello! My name is Garett Slater, and I am excited to present you with The Daily Guide to Beekeeping. I am excited to share my experience, ideas, and thoughts about beekeeping. I feel I have the experience and expertise to write about beekeeper. But I do admit, I do not know everything and I hope some of these blog posts will be a great learning experience, not only for me but for you! Before I talk about the blog, I want to describe myself.

I am the lead member of the Midwest Tech-Transfer Team. I work primarily with Minnesota and North Dakota migratory beekeepers We sample colonies for Nosema and Varroa, while performing whole colony inspections negative health symptoms, i.e. diseases, pathogens, pesticides. I am new to BIP, and in the process of meeting many ND/MN beekeepers, learning diagnostic techniques, and figuring out it is extremely easy to get lost finding bee yards (Damn you GPS!). I thoroughly enjoy this position because I get to work directly with commercial beekeepers. I am driven to provide beekeepers with data about colony health and the most effective management practices to reduce parasite loads

My interest in beekeeping started as a young child. My parents would help local commercial beekeepers extract honey during later summer, and I would often tag along. I would scrape poorly uncapped frames after they passes through the uncapper. Many times, the beekeepers would bring me to the bee yard, which sparked my interest in honey bees. When I could legally begin working, I got a position with a local commercial beekeeper. I learned quickly that commercial beekeeping is tough work! There were definitely long nights moving bees across ND, providing extra supers to colonies because it was going to be a clover year, pulling pounds of honey from colonies in 90 degree weather (and of course, using too much bee-go, which causes your eyes to burn, and clothes to smell for weeks!) and long days/nights extracting honey. But I savor this experience because it built character and a strong work-ethic. This job remains one of my most enjoyable experiences, and ultimately, taught me about not only the business of commercial beekeeping, but honey bees.

After I graduated from High school, I began studying biology at North Dakota State University in Fargo and eventually began a masters program. I wanted to learn as much about honey bees. With the help of my graduate advisor Dr. Julia Bowsher, whom has a research focus in developmental biology, I decided to determine how nutrition determines caste (queens versus workers) in honey bees. Queens and workers have the same genetic makeup, but due to differences in nutrition (AKA Royal jelly versus Worker Jelly) during larval development, individuals can become either a queen or worker. Moreover, I was also interested in how variation in nutrition impacts caste because nutrition can vary by the hive and/or apiary location.

To test this, I raise larvae in a laboratory environment (in vitro) on an artificial diet. I altered the diet during larvae development, followed the individuals to adult, and measured both final adult caste and reproductive parameters.

 

48 well plate I use for rearing honey bee larvae on an artificial diet!

A wide range of individuals were raised from my artificial diets! Not only were queens and workers reared, but also intercaste bees (part worker-part queen), or what I call them, princess bees. I have never seen intercaste bees in a natural hive setting nor have I seen miniature workers half the size of normal workers. Thus, it seems bees have the ability to develop into a wide range of body sizes. These results indicate 2 conclusions: 1) nutrition during development is extremely important for both workers and queens, and 2) colonies impressively control queen versus worker development.

Look at the wide range of sizes!

These results were pretty cool and I loved the research, but I decided I wanted to have an applied focus to what I do. Mainly because I started graduate school in order to help beekeepers, so I wanted to remain true to my long-term goal. Shortly after I graduated, I got this position at Bee Informed Partnership, and I am pleased. I get to be outside, meet many great beekeepers, serve as a liaison between researchers and beekeepers, and most importantly, I can work directly with beekeepers to improve colony health.

A personal photo of a swarm in Fargo ND!

 

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Me taking selfies while my colleague Dan Aurell actually works…

Why should I read this blog?

I want to tailor this blog to my readers, and I want to write about topics that interest my viewers. Sounds obvious right? So I would LOVE if my readers are engaged and are willing to have healthy conversations about honey bees and beekeeping. If you disagree with what I say, please leave a comment or send send me a drive comment. Obviously we may disagree on certain topics, but please do not take it personally. I have certain life experiences that have shaped my view, but every reader has their own life experiences that shape your opinions, so feel free to share them with me and the other readers!

I intend this blog to be a learning experience about beekeeping, beekeepers, and the life of the honey bee. Because there is so much to cover, I decided to make this daily blog. As of now, I have a tentative schedule of the types of blogs I will write each day. I plan to grow with this blog, and I am happy to add/change any aspect of this blog. For example, I am willing to add a Q & A section or a section summarizing reader comments. If at anytime you would like me to change anything, please leave a comment. Here is the Tentative schedule:

Monday:  Weekly Summary- I will summarize the blog topics I will cover during the week. Here is what the weekly summary will look like in a condensed version (BTW, these are the topics I will blog about this upcoming week!):

Tuesday: Supplementing bees with Acai berries: My upcoming summer trial
Wednesday: Summarizing the article “Does fumagillin control the recently detected invasive parasite Nosema ceranae in western Honey bees (Apis mellifera)?” (Relevent topic considering fumagillin will be discontinued in June..)
Thursday: All about splits: The 3 major technique for splitting your colonies
Friday: Out of left field: Why I do not have a problem with feeding your bees blood. (This comes with the recent announcement that Purina has released a honey bee supplement that contains sheep blood)
Saturday: Bees in the new: A summary of new articles about the world of bees
Sunday: Crossword puzzle: “A New world”

Tuesday: Long form blog post- I will write this blog post about relevent topics in beekeeping, incuding management practices, treatment regimines, hot areas in beekeeping, etc. If you would like me to write a long form blog post about a certain topic, please let me know!

Wednesday: Science Wednesday- I will review a scientic article. I have a few qued up at this moment I am interested to summarize and review. As of this week, I will talk about Nosema and fumagillin because: 1) Many commercial beekeepers rely on fumagillin to control for nosema,  2) fumagillin will be discontinued in June and 3) there is debate about the efficacy of fumagillin and honestly, the need for it.

Thursday: Long form blog post- Similar to Tuesday, I will write a long form blog about relevent topics in beekeeping. This week, I will write about the major techniques for splitting colonies. Once again, these are based on my experiences so I am sure I may not incude all splitting techniques.

Friday: Out of left field- I am most excited for this blog post because I will get to talk about hot topics in the world of beekeeping. I intend this blog post to be more of an opinion piece, which may include strong views on a certain topic. Please do not get offended because I would love to have a healthy conversation about it!

Saturday: Bees in the news- I will summarize and attached links to relevent articles about honey bees. I do not plan to attached a lot of articles, but maybe 5 articles I deem relevent. If there is an article of interest to you, please send my way so I can share it with everyone.

Sunday: Honey bee crossword-  This will be fun! I will design a weekly crossword that relates to honey bees, beekeeping, beekeepers, pop culture, etc. Everything is free game! I am literally using a website to make these crosswords, so feel free to make one, and send them my way. I would love to post crossword puzzles from the readers! I will post the answers during my monday blog post.

Wheewww. This is enought writing. I am excited about this blog, and I will begin following the schedule Saturday. Expect the crossword puzzle this week. It is very difficult….. So please follow my facebook page: The Daily Guide to Beekeeping  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1624266190961975/?ref=group_browse_new

and subscribe to the emails so the post can be sent to you immediately after they are sent.

 

Thanks everyone and enjoy.

 

Cheers!
Garett Slater

 

Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton

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