It had been a while since I talked to kids about bees, and I forgot what great questions they come up with. On Friday I volunteered at the Washington State Fair at the Bee Booth, and spent four hours talking about how cool bees were, pointing out the queens in our two observation hives and stamping tiny hands with rubber bee cut-outs.
It must have been field-trip-to-the-fair day because it seemed like every 15 minutes another group of tiny people showed up, shepherded by their taller teachers with the neon yellow flags. With little kids you give them the run-down of what the worker bees, drones and queen look like, ask them how many eggs do they think the queen lays, and then ask if they know what bees make.
Eric Mussen, the recently retired, extension apiculturist at UC-Davis spoke at yesterday’s meeting of the Puget Sound Beekeepers Association. While his focus was on honey bee nutrition, Mussen stunned the group by opening with the results of his varroa mite study. Mussen explained he and his colleagues had been monitoring several colonies in California, recording the number of mites to fall through the hive in a given week.
For the majority of the summer that tally stayed around one to two mites per day, but near the end of the season, Mussen said the mite number exploded to 1,700 in one week. He said these were perfectly healthy colonies throughout the summer, but with the dearth of pollen as winter approached, the bees began robbing honey from other mite-infested colonies.