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Moldy Bee Wash

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  • leifrichardson
    Hello, Last summer I stored several boxes of recently pinned bee specimens in a damp part of my house, and they were attacked by a stringy, white fungus that
    Message 1 of 1 , Mar 9 12:53 PM
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      Hello,
      Last summer I stored several boxes of recently pinned bee specimens in a damp part of my house, and they were attacked by a stringy, white fungus that made identification all but impossible. I modified a bee washing technique from Sam's Very Handy Bee Manual to remove this fuzz, and thought others might find it useful. So here it is.

      First, I cut a piece of foam board (like the foam you find in a standard insect box; I got mine from Bioquip) to fit snugly in a small plastic food storage container. I wedged this into the bottom of the container, stuck pinned specimens (labels removed) into the foam, and added warm, soapy water to submerse the bees. With the top on I gently shook the container for about five minutes, then drained it and repeated. I next filled the container with 70% ethanol and shook for five minutes. I used two additional alcohol rinses, then removed the foam board from the container and used a hair dryer to dry and fluff the bees.

      The bees emerged from this treatment with most of their body parts intact. Some pollen was removed from scopas. Most of the fungus was removed, but some still clung to hairy places and the tight spaces between body segments. I think you could use a soft children's watercolor paintbrush to jab away more of the fungus during one or more of the rinses. One caveat: the foam board has a tendency to break free and float, causing the specimens to get pressed up against the top of the container. I think this could easily be avoided with the right container, foam, glue, etc. Finally, the dimensions of the container will determine how many bees you can clean at one time and how much alcohol you will have to use.

      Has anyone processed moldy bees with another technique?

      Leif
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