Honeybees in Natrona County

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A backyard beehive
A honeybee queen and her attendant workers. This is a Russian queen

Help! There are bees in my yard!

Congratulations! You've likely been honored with a visit by a swarm. A few things to know:

  • Let's make sure they really are honey bees and not something else. Take a look down this page for pictures on how to tell the difference between honey bees and other insects, like Yellow Jackets and wasps. Honey bees we can help with - other insects, not so much.
A cluster gathered in a pine tree. Actual picture sent by a home owner in Casper
  • Relax! This is the safest time to be around these bees. I know it's kinda scary - being so unusual and they do make a lot of noise - but these bees have one or two goals in mind and as long as you don't get in their way - they will leave you alone. First goal? Protect their queen! The swarm, if it hasn't already, will find a spot to cluster. The queen will land there and the rest of the flying workers will form a tight, protective ball around her called a cluster. A few others will fly around - there's always stragglers late to the party. The second goal? Don't worry about it - the scout bees will fly off and look for likely hive sites. We should be able to get the swarm moved into a manageable hive before they find one.
  • Give us a call! We'll be happy to have one of our volunteer beekeepers come out and collect the swarm. Give them a new, safe place to live. You can call Metro Animal control at (307) 235-8398 and they'll help you get in touch with us. If you want to call me direct, have questions about bees or need help with a swarm collection - check out the About NCBees page for contact info.
  • Now, last thing you would want to do is go out and harass, pick on, poke at or disturb that cluster. Please, do not spray them with anything! So long as their queen is safe, they're happy to simply hang out while scouts are looking for likely new hive sites. In the mean time, they are not a threat to passersby. So long as you don't disturb them, they'll take care of themselves and leave you alone.
  • Take pictures - this is a wonder of nature and something to be remembered. It's not everyone that gets honored by such a visit. You have one of natures unique Super Organisms right there. An organism of individual insects all working as a single group - much like the cells in your own body keeping you healthy.
  • Now, on the off chance you've a colony that's been there awhile - months to years - still give us a call. We can assist with what's called a "Trap Out". Removing the bees and providing guidance on the clean up. This takes quite a bit more time and expense. Give us a call, when we see how they're situated, we can help you choose an appropriate plan of action.

Honey bees or something else?

Honeybees are not Yellojackets (Wasps)! Natrona county is rich in Yellowjackets. The differences between the two are significant.

Difference between honey bees and yellow jackets.

Honeybees are vegetarians, eating only plant nectar, honey and pollen. Yellowjacets are carnivours and predatory, not only hunting other insects, but are also carioin eaters. This is why they seem to be attracted to your ham sandwich! Many use their prey as fodder for their young. Honeybees will defend their hive or themselves if provoked, but generally are much less aggressive than Yellowjackets. Honeybees do not like to sting, as it kills them. Yellowjacket stingers are barbless and they can sting multiple times without injury to themselves. Yellowjackets are more prone to sting with less provocation, special if foraging or alone. Of more significance, Yellowjackets are not pollinators, and do not produce honey or beeswax! See this site for more details.

NCBA Meetings

The Natrona County Beekeeping Association meets on the 2nd Thursday of every month. 7:00pm - Room 207 of Strausner Hall on the Casper College campus.

Next meeting is 13 August

If you need to contact the System Administrator <- use that link.

Past Meetings

Notes, pictures and maybe even information from past NCBA meetings can be found here.

Brochure

Here is a PDF copy of our 'introduction' brochure. Feel free to make copies and share amongst your friends and neighbors.

NCBEES Brochure (PDF warning)

This and several other documents are available in the Library - see the link under 'resources' in the sidebar.

Want to keep bees?

Visit our Getting Started page for information on starting your own apiary.

Honey Bee Biology

This is a HUGE arena with discoveries being made all the time. Visit our Honey Bee Biology page for some of the basics and leads for further study.

Estimated Frost Dates

For Casper, WY - Each winter, on average, your risk of frost is from September 19 through May 22.

Casper is located in USDA Hardiness Zone 3

Casper, WY:

Tempurature 10% 20% 30% 40% 50% 60% 70% 80% 90%
Spring: 32° Jun 8 Jun 2 May 29 May 25 May 22 May 18 May 15 May 11 May 5
Spring: 28° May 18 May 14 may 10 May 7 May 5 May 2 Apr 29 Apr 26 Apr 21
Spring: 24° May 9 May 4 May 1 Apr 28 Apr 25 Apr 23 Apr 20 Apr 16 Apr 12


Read more

If you've ordered package bees through Murdoch's, Prairie Wind or Ft. Collins Honey - some good dates to be aware of when choosing your delivery! Murdoch's will deliver in Casper late April to early May - just right!

Facts about Honeybees

Pollination

A honeybee covered with pumpkin pollen

Agriculture depends greatly on the honeybee for pollination. Honeybees account for 80% of all insect pollination. Without such pollination, we would see a significant decrease in the yield of fruits and vegetables.

Pollen

Honey bee returning to the hive with loaded pollen baskets

Bees collect about 66 lbs of pollen per year, per hive. Pollen is the male germ cells produced by all flowering plants for fertilization and plant embryo formation. The Honeybee uses pollen as a food. Pollen is one of the richest and purest natural foods, consisting of up to 35% protein, 10% sugars, carbohydrates, enzymes, minerals, and vitamins A (carotenes), B1 (thiamin), B2 (riboflavin), B3 (nicotinic acid), B5 (panothenic acid), C (ascorbic acid), H (biotin), and R (rutine).

Honey

Honey is used by the bees for food all year round. There are many types, colors and flavors of honey, depending upon its nectar source. The bees make honey from the nectar they collect from flowering trees and plants. Honey is an easily digestible, pure food. Honey is hygroscopic and has antibacterial qualities. Eating local honey can fend off allergies.

Beeswax

Honeybee secreting beeswax

Secreted from glands on the underside of a worker bee's abdomen, beeswax is used by the honeybee to build honey comb. It is used by humans in drugs, cosmetics, artists' materials, furniture polish and candles.

Propolis

Propolis along the top of a super

Collected by honeybees from trees, the sticky resin is mixed with wax to make a sticky glue. The bees use this to seal cracks and repair their hive. It is used by humans as a health aid, and as the basis for fine wood varnishes.

Royal Jelly

Royal Jelly in queen cells

The powerful, milky substance that turns an ordinary bee into a Queen Bee. It is made of digested pollen and honey or nectar mixed with a chemical secreted from a gland in a nursing bee's head. It commands premium prices rivaling imported caviar, and is used by some as a dietary supplement and fertility stimulant. It is loaded with all of the B vitamins.

Bee Venom

The "ouch" part of the honeybee. Although sharp pain and some swelling and itching are natural reactions to a honeybee sting, a small percentage of individuals are highly allergic to bee venom. "Bee venom therapy" is widely practiced overseas and by some in the USA to address health problems such as arthritis, neuralgia, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and even MS.

Threats to Honey Bees

Types of Honey Bees to mitigate threats

There has been extensive work to produce a variety of types of bees that are naturally resistant to diseases and parasites. Each has it's own strengths and weaknesses. Use this information to help identify what type of bee may work best for you.

Overview

This video provides an overview of what's going on, namely with the concern for 'Colony Collapse Disorder' (CCD).

Mites

A honeybee larva infested by Varroa mites

The greatest threat to beekeeping are two varieties of mites (Varroa and Tracheal). And although these mites can be kept under control by a persistent beekeeper, the negative effects on the honeybee population has been devastating. The Back Yard Beekeepers Association surveyed its membership and learned that over 40% of the membership's hives died in 1996. These mites are greatly reducing the overall honeybee population in the USA. The mites are of no concern to humans, except for the effect they can have on honey production. In the past few years, incidences and density of mite infestations in Wyoming have increased. We need to be proactive to reverse this trend.

We've a page just on various methods and tools of preventing and Controlling Varroa mites. They've made their presence known in WY, but thankfully haven't had a huge impact state wide. Who knows, though, this may be the season for 'em.

Disease

Beekeepers are on the watch for various diseases unique to honeybees, and harmless to humans. "Foul Brood" and "Nosema" are two such diseases. These problems can easily be addressed by good management and proper medication. Honeybee diseases, identification, treatment and prevention is an extensive subject and one of the primary duties of any beekeeper.

Urbanization

With more and more urban development and the growth of cities, increased weed and pest control, increased mineral extraction and other resource utilization, there is less and less forage available to bees every year.

Africanized Bees

The arrival of so-called "killer bees" in a few southern states has received sensationalized treatment in the media. In some areas of the country, this negative publicity has stimulated - often hysterical and counter productive - local restrictions and ordinances on the hobbyist beekeeper. In reality, it can be argued there are no honey bees anywhere in the world that don't have some level of africanization.

But, since beekeepers are constantly working to improve their livestock - just as any cattle, sheep or horse rancher would. Breeding for desired traits and eliminating traits deemed detrimental. It's a fairly simple process to re-queen any aggressive colony and within a few weeks, have a normal, gentile hive again. The wholesale destruction of aggressive colonies is actually counter productive as there are a few traits these types have that are desirable. Resistance to Varroa mites for one.

And, aggression is the primary difference between so called 'killer bees' and domestic honey bees. Africanized colonies are more prone to defend themselves and maintain that defense longer. This can and does to more stings. But, it's the same type of sting - no more potent than any other honey bee and stinging has the same affect on the bee itself.

One of the other traits of africanized bees is they tend to be very poor at over wintering. They don't cluster the same way our domestic bees do. It's been predicted that the lack of an effective clustering instinct would lead to the death of a strongly africanized colony during Wyoming Winters. As such, the chances of there being a 'killer bee' problem in Wyoming is slim to none. Even if it did present itself, it's fairly easy to re-queen a maintained colony, not only saving it for over-winter, but eliminating the threat of aggressive behaviors as well.

Glossary of Terms

Beeswax: waxy material produced by worker bees and used to build combs.

Drones: Male bees, whose main function in the colony is to fertilize the queen. Drones make up a very small percentage of the total colony. In the Autumn drones are expelled from the hive by the female worker bees.

Foundation: Thin sheets of beeswax imprinted with a pattern of honey comb. The beekeeper installs these sheets into wooden frames as "starters" for the bees in making uniform combs.

Frames: The removable wooden structures which are placed in the hive. The bees build their comb within these frames. The removable quality allows the beekeeper to easily inspect the colony.

Hive Bodies: The first one or two wooden boxes of the colony. The hive bodies contain the brood nest of the colony.

Larva: The grub-like, immature form of the bee, after it has developed from the egg and before it has gone into the pupa stage.

Nectar: Sweet fluid produced by flowers is 60% water and 40% solids. This is collected by the bees and converted into honey at 17 -18% moisture content.

Pollen: Very small dust-like grain produced by flowers. These are the male germ cells of the plant.

Propolis: Sticky, brownish gum gathered by bees from trees and buds and used to seal cracks and drafts in the hive. Also called "bee-glue".

Pupa: The immature form of the bee (following the larval stage) while changing into the adult form.

Queen: A completely developed female bee (with functioning ovaries) who lays eggs and serves as the central focus of the colony. There is only one queen in a colony of bees. A queen's productive life span is 2-3 years.

Royal Jelly: The milky white secretion of young nurse bees. It is used to feed the queen throughout her life, and is given to worker and drone larvae only during their early larval lives.

Super: The supplementary wooden boxes places on top of the hive body the expand the size of the colony, and to provide for storage of surplus honey.

Supercedure: When a colony with an old or failing queen rears a daughter to replace her.

Workers: Completely developed female bees that do have developed ovaries and do not not normally lay eggs. They gather pollen and nectar and convert the nectar to honey. A worker's life expectancy is only several weeks during the active summer months. However, they can live for many months during the relatively inactive winter period.

From backyardbeekeepers.com

Hive modeling software

Want to see how different things, different conditions and management techniques may affect a colony? You can now model a hive using this software freely downloadable from beehave-model.net. I've just started with this myself, but it looks quite powerful! For a brief overview, watch the video presentation here.

Mead

Often called "The Drink of the Gods", mead is an ancient and relatively easy to make alcoholic beverage that contains no gluten. Wyoming's own Michael Jordan of A Bee Friendly Company has posted a bit of the history - and a recepie - of making mead on the Brink of Freedom blog. Enjoy!

More info

A 'Wikibook' on Beekeeping

You're welcome to come attend our meetings or post on our discussion board, The Wyoming Bee Forum. However, you do have to register an account to post on the forum - but it's free. You can also call me direct - find my info on the About NCBees page here on this wiki.

Help with this Wiki

Consult the User's Guide for information on using the wiki software.