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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I am an undergrad at the University of Wisconsin. One of the requirements for a Biology class I'm taking next semester is doing an Independant Project. I can spend some time this summer observing, testing, etc. in the field with honey bees, also I can spend some time in a lab conducting research on campus in the fall if needed. After I finish the project, I must present the results and give a presentation.

Luckily, I just started work in an USDA Entomology lab on campus. The lead researcher is Johanne Brunet and has agreed to take me on next semester in her lab. She has done a lot of research with Bumble bees and Hawk moths in the past few years - pollination and gene flow in different plant species. The following link is a study recently done by Johanne looking at the different success rates of bees pollinating alfalfa, if anyone is interested.

http://downloads.hindawi.com/journals/psyche/2010/201858.pdf

My bees are back home, on Washington Island in Lake Michigan. As of this writing there are only 4 other colonies on the Island other than mine. Currently, I have two yards - one in the middle of my grandma's 70 acre orgainc farm and the other is about 2 miles away on my dad's 40 that is mixed wetlands and organic fields. There is very little conventional farming and no commercial orchards. My family does organic cash crop farming - mostly wheat and flax. I manage to talk dad into planting a few acres of buckwheat for the bees every year. The biggest flow is wildflowers/clover with another golden rod flow later.

I should have 18 colonies that made it though the winter. I realize this isn't enough to make any concrete judgements, I can't afford to buy any more, but may be able to split if I can build some woodenware cheaply.

They are either russian/italian hybrids from Hardeman packages or splits made with NWC queens from Tim at honey run apiaries that I bought last spring, or queens from OWA in Washington that I started in Nucs at the end of August.

I have them in polystyrene hives and nucs, but have access to some wood equipment. I am thinking about comparing the success of making honey in two different hive materals (wood, polystyrene). I would make everything else equal, colony strength, SBB's, hive color, etc. Maybe have them in two different locations, each with all three different populations.

I don't treat them in any way, except a little spring feeding of sugar water and pollen substitute.
I'm still not sold on this idea, and I am looking for any other suggestions that aren't too complex and have something quantifyable.
If I use your idea - and you don't have honey coming out your ears - I'll send you a bottle in the fall.

Thanks for your time,

Jesse
 

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For a good study you need to ask yourself: What are my hypotheses and why? In other words why do you think that the material the hive is made from could affect honey production and can you measure it effectively (so many factors at play)?
 

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Thanks for the reply frostygoat.

My assumption is that Polystyrene insulates better.

It's easier to keep cool, easier to keep warm.

Less bees collecting water, less bees vibrating flight muscles.

Less energy (honey) used to carry out those tasks.

more time and energy can be devoted to nectar collection.

That's my train of thought, and similar to what advertizers claim the polystyrene hives can do for you.

I use all the same frames, make sure there aren't any bees on the frame and weigh them in the field with a scale and use a refractometer for sugar concentration and moisture content. You can measure demensions of the proportions on the frame of honey to get a fraction of the frame. There is probably a standard equation that can be found to calculate the weight as well.
I could survey the amount of capped/ uncapped honey every week - or other set time frame, find what the difference is in capped/ uncapped - with the final measurement set at a time in the late summer/ early fall before extraction.

I'm also thinking about doing something with pollen instead.

Keep the questions and comments coming - it forces me to think things through and look at them in a different way.
 

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I suggest that you in addition to standard wooden boxes, build a couple of wooden boxes with the same insulation value (U-value) as the styrofoam boxes.

Styrofoam are lightweight and a good insulator. But the advantages for the bees may all be in the improved insulation. The wooden control-hives would tell you something about this.
 

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]

That's something to think about, thanks.

The insulation rating for the top, I believe is 7, and that is thinnner than the sides - which are about 1 cm thicker - maybe 9 insulation value. It would take some pretty thick lumber to create wooden hives with that high of an insulation rating.

Good to see another Norwegian on here - though I'm only 1/4 ;)
 

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I am a little confused. I have worked a little with the Finnish(?) EPS boxes. I can fore see little difference in the Summer, but possibly significant differences in the winter. When will you be doing this study? I can think of other questions I would rather have answered first, such as:
The effect of hive consentration on varoa lethality,
The effect of severely reduced mite population in a hive on mite imbreeding,
The effect of various thymol concentrations in syrup/patties on thymol concentration in royal jelly.
The cost analysis of feeding sugar syrup and or supplements to create bees (what levels are cost effective).....
Need more?

Roland
 

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Something that I can test for during the fall/summer without too much complexity or cost. I am a married undergrad with not a lot of experience or resources. I may get guidance and the support from a lab - but they aren't going to magically come up with a bunch of money for some undergrad's IP.

I also don't want to use any chemicals in my hives, though I may consider a comparison of organic treatments.

I am also thinking about doing something with pollen. Ideas?

 

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"Such differences in tripping rates and pollen
deposition can be influenced by whether a pollinator forages
for pollen or for nectar [9] and has been shown to influence
fruit and seed set [2, 7]."

The difference in nectar vs pollen gathering by CO2 anesthetized hives would fit in with the above nicely. Pollen traps would be a way to measure the difference between pollen gathered by a CO2 anesthetized experimental group and a non treated control group. Using nested sieves might be a way to sort the pollen as well. The amount of honey in the hive would measure the nectar gathering of the bees (I think).

http://jeb.biologists.org/cgi/reprint/27/3/302.pdf

Acording to this ancient study, "The experiments showed that CO2 anaesthesia induced a permanent change in
foraging behaviour, with the elimination or very marked reduction of the pollencollecting tendency of bees so treated. Exps. 3 and 4 showed that this change was not associated with an impairment of memory for the crops which the bees had worked before treatment. The CO2-treated bees returned to the crops which they had worked before treatment, but collected only nectar."

So, after CO2 treatment, they go for nectar.

I think that you might have a study in hand.

PS: honey bees don't like getting bopped on the noggin when alfalfa 'trips'.
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
I don't know about saturating the hives with CO2 - I'll have to look into it - but maybe some other variable and compare the pollen and nectar amounts.
 

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I think a wooden box will have to be 2-3 times as thick as the styrofoam one to give the same insulation values. They would be heavy and not very movable, but for the sake of comparison it might be worth it.

1/4 is a lot more than nothing, consider yourself lucky.:)
 

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Good luck on your project, and we hope you report the results back here!

Two observations:
First, if you're going to compare wood with other hive materials, you'd want to use what is commonly available, because that's what most of us use. That type of study would tell which hive material works best, and under what circumstances.

Second, for the test to be fair, I'd think you'd need both types of hives in each apiary. Circumstances could differ from apiary to apiary. If you have more than one apiary, put the test equipment in all apiaries, to get a good comparison. Hope that makes sense.
Regards,
Steven
 

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Discussion Starter · #13 ·
Duboisi - my intention wouldn't be to see the difference in wood and polystyrene as a material - but, the difference in the equipment available commercially. One of the differences between wood and polystyrene - maybe the most important as far as a quality of environment for a bee colony that polytyrene boasts, is the insulation value. That's part of the potential hypothesis anyway.

On a side note -

I've always wanted to go to Norway - my Grandfather tried to go every few years. He passed in '98 and none of the family has been back to Norway since. I believe our two Norwegian ancestorial families were mostly from Elverum and Kristiansand - but when I get over there, I'll be sure to go to Bergen and see the fjords! It's too bad I'm still a student and can't afford it - my wife is a Russian citizen from Kaliningrad - we will be visiting her family in August - I wish we spend some time in Norway as well.

Back to bees -

I agree with you Steven - each type of hive would be in every yard if this is what I chose to test.
 

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Just a fuzzy thought here, the amount of pollen taken into the hive with a pollen trap vs. without. Not sure how you would measure the difference though?
 

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I'm not convinced you're going to get a measurable difference in honey quantity or quality between the hive types. Hard to control for hive health, queen vitality, mite loads, etc. with the number of reps you're going to have. Not that no results or negative results are bad, you'll still have plenty to report and probably get an A. But to have all the factors I mentioned fade into background error you would need a lot of colonies.

I like where you're going with the pollen. Just identifying the pollen coming in over a season in different habitat types would be cool and could really benefit fellow beeks in your area. If you sampled the pollen weekly and identified it you could plot that out for some compelling graphics. Might need access to a scope for some pollen IDs which your lab should have. You could pinpoint some of the critical pollen plants in your area and maybe you'll be surprised what they are. Maybe even do some observations on those plants and see what other pollinators use them. Just a thought!
 

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Maybe try a TBH and a Lang........many debated here on this forum about what the bees like the best, going up, or around....or do they use the space to the best availability that they can....how does the honey crop differ between the methods of old and the Lang with proper management....just thoughts
 

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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
They are actually doing some research here - I believe it is an emeritus professor - comparing a langstroth to a new design - I believe it's hexagonal. They have over wintered colonies in both and will do a comparison throughout the growing season.

I am liking the idea of something with pollen more and more - although I'm not too excited about going around and collecting pollen off of all the flowering species of plants and trees for comparison - I have no idea if there is already some standard for the defintion of individual species out there that I can easily reference. I would probably have to collect on my own. Still kicking ideas around - thanks for everyone's input thus far.

Jesse
 

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Thanks WLC - there are a few of those plant/tree types in my area, many more not listed.

I won't be nearby a lab to do every fresh sample I collect - I wonder if freezing would provide acceptable results? I'm sure Johanne would know.

The problem would then be to compare it to collected pollen from the bees, I'm sure a lot of the time each individual forager collects from multiple sources.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
I bet someone in the botany department at UW has done some inventoring of pollen of local species - I should try and find a connection there.
 
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