Sunday, August 29, 2010

They're just not taking syrup!

I inspected both hives the other day to see if the Parent was taking syrup and the Daughter was moving the honey form the supers down into the hive bodies.

Answer:  Nothing is happening in either hive!

Is it because there is plenty of food about?  I don't know. There has been so little rain recently it is hard to believe there is much nectar out there flowing. But there is nevertheless pollen being collected - I've seen lots of yellow and orange pollen being carried in. So, I think there must be something for the bees to find otherwise surely they would have taken the syrup by now.  I have changed the syrup to see if freshening it up helps.

The same goes for the Daughter hive. Actually, if anything, they seem to have put more honey in the supers over the past couple of weeks. If you remember these supers are above an inner cover, so I think this kind of dispels the idea that by inserting an inner cover this will encourage the bees to move the honey down into the hive bodies - well at least in my case!.  Maybe the weather needs to be cooler (more autumnal) to encourage the bees want to consolidate their stores.  I'll leave the supers in place a while longer.

The good news is that the beetles, although still present, are in reduced numbers.  I replaced the Beetle Blasters and added the West Trap under the Daughter, just to see how many larvae are removed, and I'll look at the end of next week.  I am developing a new trap to be located outside the hive that will disrupt the life cycle of the beetle. I will install my first prototype after I remove the West Trap.  Photo's will follow.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bee Grooming and the Swindon Bee

A British beekeeper, Ron Hoskins, has identified a strain of bees that is go good at grooming and removing varroa mites that they are virtually mite resistant. As a result, he has not expeirienced the levels of colony losses that others have!  Is this too good to be true?  I don't know but it deserves further study. Ron's objective is to spread the genes around the country by distributing queens and hopefully the drones produced by a Swindon Queen can spread the genes to other colonys.

Anyway as the article suggests, although this might not be a cure for CCD, having bees that are good at grooming each other can only be good for bee health!

Well done Ron!

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

My Urban Bees are healthier than your Rural Bees. Discuss!

A study in the UK (link ) has determined that urban bees have a more varied diet than those in a rural setting and are healthier. Clearly this must depend on the setting but it will be interesting to see how the research pans out over all 45 hives being studied, and we can see what plants the bees favour. But overall I think my response was a “well, Duh!”.

As I think we all knew in the UK, the dreaded yellow peril that is Oil Seed Rape is being shown to give our bees a restricted diet, and that can’t be good. I’d guess it’s the same here in the US, and maybe even worse given the much larger areas turned over to monoculture. A lot of us have been saying this for ages and the findings of this research comes as no great surprise. The comments made at the bottom of the article are evidence of this.

I would however be wary of saying the urban environment is now a refuge for bees. We have some way to go before that is really a reality. How much pesticide do we really use in our gardens and do we apply them in accordance with manufacturer’s guidance? I’d bet a lot of people just use the bottle of chemicals indiscriminately and use it all in one go. There is a lot of debate about how the toxicity of the chemicals may be greatly enhanced when the application pesticides and herbicides is doubled up or applied close together.

It’s all about educating people who live in the ‘burbs so they do not treat, or over-treat, their gardens with chemicals – or indiscriminately ‘fog’ for mosquitoes. If we can move away from a dependence on having that perfect green sword of grass (which benefits no pollinators, well, not much more than a slab of concrete would) and move towards having wild flowers and plants and shrubs that actually benefit animals, and make our gardens and yards spaces that are actually used and not just viewed, then I think we’re on to something big in our towns and cities.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

We never had any doubt, did we?

Beekeeping is cool, well "geeky-cool", and it's not just me who says so...

Starting Fall Management.

It's mid August so I'm preparing to do some Fall/Winter management.  I did a sticky board count for Varroa in both hives over the weekend and fortunately I think there is little to concern me.  The Parent hive had 1 mite and the Daughter 24 mites, both in 48 hour periods.  So no chemical treatments required as yet - horray!  I will do another check in a week or so, just to satisfy myself the mite levels remain manageable. Similarly I will check on the beetles; their numbers still trouble me.

So my Fall preparations began.  I did a reverse on both hives as there was brood in the top hive boxes, but not in the bottom hive boxes.  I hope moving the brood will stimulate some more brood rearing in the few weeks that are left before the queen slows and finally stops laying for the winter. By the time winter comes around I hope the brood will be nicely established in the top hive box and will be surrounded by stores.

I fed the Parent hive some 2:1 syrup in a Division Board Feeder; about 3.75 litres. There isn't much in the way of stores in the hive, so I will be feeding in earnest over the next few weeks.  With luck the varroa count will remain low in the hive and so I can continue to feed.  If I find the bees are really packing the syrup away I may even try to get the bees to draw out the empty foundation in the spare hive body I removed the other day.  I think this is a bit optimistic, as the bees really haven't been interested in foundation bulding this year.

The situation in the Daughter hive is more interesting.  There is honey in the supers (probably in excess of 10 lbs) but I want this to be in the hive bodies. Therefore, in an attempt to encourage the bees to move it down into the hive I have moved the inner cover between the hive bodies and the supers.  Eugene assures me this does work, but how reliable it is only time will tell.  I'll check the progress in a couple of days time to see how much has been moved.  This method is at least better than leaving the supers out in the open for robbing by all and sundry in the neighbourhood! I guess if the honey does gets moved I will start to feed this hive with syrup until I am happy sufficient quantities have been stored.

I think the next 4 to 6 weeks will be very interesting indeed!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Screened Bottom Boards - Definitely a Problem.

I'm certain now.  Screened bottom boards - the type that sits above a base board to enable the use of a sticky board - are a problem.  I opened up my Daughter hive this afternoon and found piles, and I mean piles, of Small Hive Beetles. They just hide under the screen away from the bees and breed!

I think the best way to deal with them may be to install a normal baseboard with a screen so that debris can fall out of the hive, but which isn't too big to allow beetles in. This coupled with a West Trap and entrance reducer should I think  enable the bees to fight off an onslaught of beetles. So, I therefore intend to modify my bottom board this evening and install a West Trap, once I have done a Varroa count.

Back to the Daughter hive. The third hive body was still not built out so I removed it, partly to give the beetles fewer places to hide and also partly to get the bees more focussed on the brood chambers.  The supers are however filling up with honey which is interesting.  Depending on the Varroa count I measure tomorrow I will keep these on longer. But if I record a high count I will treat and so remove the supers. I will probably put the supers in the freezer to kill any beetles and then store for later extraction.

Despite the beetles, at least the bees seem healthy and have not been over-run inside the hive.  All in all it's best to keep on top of the beetle problem and trap before they become an issue!  Bit of a no-brainer really!

Friday, August 13, 2010

My Girls Rock!

Well the beetle infested hive is now doing very well.  The queen I installed a week or so ago is now laying and I saw some nice brood coming along!  Brilliant!

The hive also looks nice and clean and all the 'slimy' honey comb has now been been removed from the hive.  Some honey has been retained too, so that's a bonus!  I reckon there is still some work to do before this hive will be able to go through the winter - a lot of feeding and possibly some feed supplement to make up for any lost pollen.

I have put a sticky board under the hive to see if there is a varroa problem, but I'm not expecting this. There hasn't been much in the way of brood cells in the hive for a while, so varroa shouldn't have been able to find any brood to get into to breed.

nevertheless I will check again on Sunday, but with luck I will be in a position to feed this hive up and get it through the winter!

Well done girls!!

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Small Hive Beetle update

The Small Hive Beetle problem now seems to be well under control.  Although I admit I won't really know until I check to see how the new queen is doing, and I'm reluctant to do this for another week. Anyway I cleaned the oil in the West Trap today, without opening the hive up.

Initially I had thousands of adults in the hive and what I can only describe as a beetle breeding area under the screened bottom board.  The Beetle Blasters were excellent for removing the adult beetles, but now that the adult numbers are somewhat reduced, it is the West Trap that is coming into it's own!

This trap is now intercepting the larvae as they try to leave the hive and complete their life cycle.  Although the Beetle Blasters are still working, it's obvious they can't remove the same numbers of beetles they did when they were initially installed.  So, I reckon the emphasis is now on stopping the beetles reproducing. The next thing to try is nematode worms in the soil in order to kill the larvae - I don't want to use chemicals. The only thing is I think it is the wrong time of year to get my hands on these worms.

So if you have an infestation of Small Hive Beetles I reckon a combination of both traps is your best option. Oh, and I tried sprinkling cinnamon powder in the corners of the hive frames (I read the beetles don't like this), but I really can't say this made any difference, one way or the other. The jury's still out.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Another Queen!

A queen bee came my way this afternoon - no, not the opening line to some old gag, but a spare queen had become available.  I decided to use it in my (apparently) queenless parent hive - the one that's had all the problems with beetles.

What do I have to loose?  If there is a queen already inside that's great!  If not, well the new queen should help bring the hive up to strength.  Win Win! But I don't have much time.  She's been in her cage for about a week now and there's no candy plug left - so once the cork is removed that's it - acceptance or be killed.

As she's been in so long I reckon I'll have to release her tomorrow, unless it's really clear the bees don't like her. Then maybe I'll just pull her out and hope someone else wants a queen.

STOP PRESS: The new queen was released yesterday evening.  The workers appear to have accepted her, so it's now fingers crossed for about a week!