Blue Diamond Almond Facts November-December 2021


into storage are intended to remain undisturbed for the duration of their stay. This means that all management actions, such as feeding, culling, or combining weak colonies and treating for Varroa and other diseases must be completed before going into storage, so that beekeepers are only paying to store strong, healthy, disease-free colonies. As beekeepers like to say, indoor storage is “a hotel not a hospital” — the condition of the colonies going into storage will dictate their condition when they are removed. Given the potential benefits that indoor storage may offer to some commercial beekeeping operations, it is not surprising that there has been a recent rise in beekeeper interest in using them. However, additional research is needed to investigate the benefits and disadvantages of indoor storage for colony health and survival rates and to explore ways in which the benefits of indoor storage may be extended beyond its current benefits. Dr. Brandon Hopkins, Assistant Research Professor and Apiary Manager at Washington State University and Dr. Kelly Kulhanek, Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Hopkins Lab, have been a critical part of the research community effort to further study the application for indoor storage in commercial beekeeping operations, and have

Figure 4: Bee Informed Partnership Tech Transfer Team Field Specialist Ben Sallmann performing colony health inspections as part of the WSU Indoor Storage Study. Photo Credit: Ben Sallmann

been integral in developing an indoor storage guide specific for US commercial beekeepers, which is now available at no cost on the Project Apis m . website (www.projectapism. org/indoor-storage-of-honey-bees. html). The Bee Informed Partnership’s Technical Transfer Team has also been working with the Hopkins lab, providing field support for their recent work with indoor storage and will continue to do so in the upcoming field seasons. Building cold storage facilities in California would be welcomed by beekeepers and almond growers for the benefits that would come with keeping bees in close proximity to almond orchards. Unfortunately, California’s extremely high property and energy costs, combined with the higher energy demands required to

keep indoor storage facilities cool when located in warmer climates, make it much more financially attractive to build and maintain facilities outside the state. The greater number of warm, late autumn days and freeze-thaw cycles during the winter months that colonies wintered in the northern US are now experiencing makes the prospect of storing bees in facilities with controlled, consistent climate conditions more appealing than having to deal with the challenges created by increasingly unpredictable outdoor winter conditions. And whether bees are wintering in Idaho storage sheds or catching a late- spring brood break in a facility further south, it is clear that spending more time indoors is what’s in store for many US honey bee colonies.

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