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Colony Assessement

This page is credited in full to Dave Cushman who created it. His voice is expressed in black colour text and any additions or comments in blue belong to myself. Credit: Dave Cushman’s website.

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Honey Bee Colony Assessment

This is a “paperwork” exercise and is the collating and analysing of the data collected as individual Hive Records. Only colonies that have been headed by the same queen for a full year are actually assessed.

Assessment consists of totalling and averaging the numbers in Michel’s 5 columns then aggregating them to form a score out of 25. Only individual column scores of 3 and above with a combination score of 15 or greater should be considered worthy of propagation. However in the very early stages of a program or if colony numbers are limited then lower numbers may be accepted. The numbers will creep up year by year showing that you are achieving actual improvement.
Other factors that should be considered

Hygienic Behaviour
Marla Spivak is a renowned authority on this subject and her text
“The Minnesota Hygiene Queen” is becoming the classic work on this theme.

House Cleaning Behaviour
This is separate and distinct from, but often confused with, “Hygienic” behaviour simply because of the links in human life between hygiene and cleaning.

Grooming Behaviour
This is the ability of individual workers to remove mites (and other contaminants) from their bodies, combined with similar action performed by pairs or groups of workers.

Mite Damaging Behaviour
This is another item that is confused with both grooming behaviour and hygienic behaviour. In it’s simplest form it is counting the total mite drop, then microscopically examining each mite for signs of mutilation and bite marks by the bees. Then a score is generated on the number of damaged mites compared to the total originally counted. (I have some thoughts on another method that apportions “scores” according to the type of damage and the degree of severity of it. I have many other projects as well so this will have to wait.)

Varroa mites for microscopic examination can be sandwiched between plain glass microscope slides using the cardboard masks that allow inspection of both upper and lower body surfaces of many individual mites.

Propolising Behaviour
Excessive propolis causes sticky hands and makes frame removal difficult during colony examination. [future link] Select from those colonies that do not exhibit large dollops of propolis on the ends of frame topbars.

Following Behaviour
Bees following a beekeeper back to his or her vehicle may encounter other humans that are not wearing protective clothing. It does not matter whether these following bees sting or not, they still give beekeeping a bad name and should be de-selected wherever possible.

Cool Weather Clustering (cool air clustering)
This is exhibited strongly by Apis Mellifera Mellifera colonies and is a characteristic that I positively select for. It is often described as “drippy” bees and some beekeepers consider the behaviour as “nervous”. Providing it is not mixed with “running” and “jumping” and you turn your trousers down around the tops of your wellington boots, it is no problem.

Apiary vicinity Mating
This is not very often observed directly, but may be inferred due to knowledge of local weather. It gets a big plus in my book.

Capping Quality
With a mind to the commercial appeal of cut comb and section honey… White, regular and slightly raised cappings catch the eye and confer a higher purchase price on the finished product.

Head Butting Behaviour
Bees bouncing off the front of your veil or battering your head may seem trivial if you consider the smallness of a bee’s mass, but it soon becomes a nuisance and should not be tolerated. The general public are unlikely to take kindly to this activity either.

Biting and Hair Pulling
These uses of the bees mandibles are fairly rare and I am uncertain as to whether it is a good or bad trait. I am hopeful that a link will be shown between this and “mite damaging” which will clinch the matter, but we must wait for the results of more research.

Guarding Behaviour
This I categorise as mainly neutral. However, I try to avoid those colonies that extend the process of guarding beyond their alighting board.

Robbing Propensity
This is one thing that I greatly dislike in bees, and will cull ruthlessly, although I know some commercial beekeepers that consider it is to their benefit to propagate such robber bees.

selection for good characteristics and breeding from the specimen colonies that are found to contain the ‘right’ qualities is a big feature of the work done by the Galtee Bee Breeding Group that is organised by Miche├íl Mac Giolla Coda in Ireland.

 

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