Archive | October 2010

Varroa Mite Infestation

Todays weather was actually decent so I opened the hive. I’m glad I did because the bees have Varroa mites. I saw at least two bees with the tell-tale red spots (the mites) on their backs.

I will not be treating the hive using pesticides. I find this to be a task that is completely backwards and unhelpful to both bees and humans in the long run. All it does is create stronger parasites, while raising bees that depend on human interference. Bees have existed for millennia without human intervention. Why start now? If my bee’s die over the winter, then that’s what’s best for the species. If they survive, then they will live to see next spring where they can send their beneficial genes out into the world.

No one seems to understand this idea in my family. I’m looking at these bees from an evolutionary point of view. The bees that are alive today are clearly not managing to live with the mites that plague them. So how is it beneficial to try and help these bees by making them dependant on humans?

I fed the bees today also. All I did was pour about two cups worth of sugar water into the empty cells around the edges of the frames. Let’s hope it helps!

Now you might be thinking, Ok, if he just said that helping bees is wrong, why is he feeding them? The answer to this is, the bees started the year out late. They were given a new space at the wrong time of year. So they don’t have the room or the numbers to collect enough honey to last them over the winter. Coating the bees with pesticides that will get into every crevice of the hive and eventually result in their deaths one way or another is very different from giving them an extra bit of food to help them through the winter because they didn’t have enough time to prepare themselves.

A Sunny Fall Day

The bees are doing excellent, and have been active despite the dropping temperatures. It’s been getting down into the mid 30’s at night around here, but during the day it’s in the 60’s so the bees are able to travel. Almost every other bee that’s returning to the hive have full pollen baskets. I just hope they’re getting enough honey also. Here are a few shots of them today, because they were a little more active than they have been.

I know it’s difficult to see all the bees, but trust me when I say there’s a lot of pollen in the picture. It’s hard to get too close to the hive anymore, because they’re so aggressive now. Because it’s closer to winter they feel the need to protect their stores more, so they’re more likely to sting you to keep you away. Even crouching down in front of the hive, which use to be easy, is difficult because of the flight pattern of the bees. Standing in the middle of the yard can even be dangerous sometimes, because they tend to fly at or below head level through that part of the yard.

I actually went to check on them tonight, and could smell the hive from several feet away. It’s a smell that’s hard to describe. It’s a warm-woody-waxy-honey smell. Unless you’ve smelled it before, you can’t really understand it. But once you have, the only thing you can really say it smells like is bees. Lol. I got a little closer and could hear them humming. It was surprisingly loud. The entrance was guarded by almost a dozen bees, all of which were humming as well. The way bees keep warm in the winter is by clustering in the center of the hive. They form a sphere around the larvae and eggs, and slowly eat the honey and pollen stores. They move around the hive to get to the other stores. To generate heat they all vibrate their wing muscles. Thus the loud humming.

And of course, there are plenty of dead bees to be found around the yard. The ants usually clean up the bodies, and can often be seen crawling on the hive, but this little bee had yet to be picked up. It was sad yet pretty at the same time.

Alright, so that’s not really honeybee. But they have been all over these. If you look at the outer edge of the flower you can see that that’s all been pollinated.

And then there is the bee-neighbor interaction. Which is always fun to hear about. My neighbors have a plant that’s in bloom right now that the bees love. Over half of the plants purple flowers are occupied by my honey bees during the day. Today my neighbor was out reading her library book on her back porch, and a bee pooped in the middle of the page. Luckily she was just about to finish, and it’s a library book. lol.

Quick Before It Rains

I opened the hive early because I heard it was going to rain tonight and tomorrow. The sun was shining and warm, and the hive was very active. With the bad weather in mind I opened the bees around 1. It was dark and raining by 4:30.

The hive is doing well, although the amount of capped honey seems unchanged since last week.

The overall population also seems unchanged, despite having three or four frames of brood that hatched within the last few days.

I was unable to locate the first queen, which makes me think that the hive has completely done away with her. I can’t say I’m too offended. Having a queen that will produce the workers of bees from hives just down the street (or wherever the nearest hive is) tells me the hive will be at it’s best for this area. There is a change in climate even a few miles away, so having bees that have survived here will make an impact on the hives productivity.

Because It’s Still Nice Enough

Clearly I have no idea when the bees are going to be done with collecting nectar and pollen. And since it was sunny and in the 70’s (I was wanting for it all day) I figured I’d open the hive just to take a look.

There is more nectar stores then the bees know what to do with. They’re putting nectar and pollen in the middle of the brood nest, that’s how little room they think they have. Some frames have honey surrounding the edge of the frame all the way around, most of it in the process of being capped. There’s such a good nectar flow that the bees have started making wax again. Of course, its bur comb, but it’s better than nothing. Right?

There was a frame on the edge of the box that was virtually untouched, so I moved that to the other side, almost directly in front of the entrance, with brood on either side. It’s drawn out enough that the queen can lay in it if she wants, especially since she’s running out of room with all the honey in the way.

I saw about five new eggs. There was a lot of capped brood. Actually, any space that wasn’t holding honey or pollen was capped brood. Hopefully the “new” (the empty drawn out frame) will entice the bees to put more stores in that, as well as confuse them into thinking they don’t have enough for winter.

Here’s a picture of one of the brood frames.

Note all the capped honey on the top edge of the frame. The capped brood is hard to see, but you can see a few spots that have hatched already. Those spots have all been filled with honey or pollen. I did notice some weird spots on other frames in which a white substance was floating in the honey. I don’t know what it is, but I saw at least four combs with it. It wasn’t eggs.

As far as I can tell, the original queen is gone. I couldn’t find her anywhere, and looked over every centimeter of each frame. I found the new/unmarked queen. She’s looking healthy, although a bit wider and slightly darker than the previous queen in my opinion. My sister came out to take pictures once I was halfway through the hive, and only stayed long enough to take about six shots before getting bored and going back inside. *rolls eyes*. So I wasn’t able to get a picture of the queen unfortunately. I feel like there are a lot less bees in the hive. There is going to be a major population explosion once all the capped brood hatches. Just in time for winter. The good news is, all those bees will be ready to fly once spring comes round.

Quick Update

I put food out for the bees on the 3rd because I wasn’t able to get around to it on the 2nd (the day after my last post). They’re only just getting to the last little bit of the 4 cups I set out. They seem completely uninterested in it. Hopefully this means they found a better nectar flow elsewhere.

Anyway, just wanted to give a little update and say they’re still as active as ever. The weather has been consistently above 60 which is good. There’s a constant stream of bees coming and going from the hive, and a lot more are flying around in search of flowers. I can’t wait for next year when spring comes around and they’ve got the apple tree to pollinate and the cherry blossom to buzz around. It’ll be a sight to see!

Oh and about my bee sting. It’s more itchy than anything else, and the skin three inches around it is red and tight. It’s gotten better today, but yesterday I couldn’t stop itching it.

This Is REALLY The Last

I thought the bees would be wintering up by now, but they’ve been plugging away all week without any signs of stopping. Since it was in the 70s, I figured I’d open them up. I got my neighbor J to come over and take pictures. She thought she had a bee in her hair several times, and ended up having to take pictures from a different spot because so many bees were after her. I was all suited up per usual, and laughed while she ran toward the house shrieking several times. Lol, I suppose I deserved it then when I was stung. Somehow a bee managed to get into my suit and sting me on the inner part of my upper arm. I felt it crawling around, attempted to squish it several times, as well as just move things around because I wasn’t quite sure there was really a bee in my suit. How could one’ve gotten all the way to the upper part of my arm? It would’ve had to crawl from the middle of my upper arm, down to my hand (having managed to squeeze through the elastic band at the end of my gloves) , and then back up to my upper arm, again managing to squeeze through the elastic band.

Finally I couldn’t take it anymore and had to remove whatever was tickling my arm. As I was pealing off my suit, I felt a very slight prick. Almost as if I’d been pricked with some needle left in the fabric of the suit. I went to the spot that I felt the prick, and pulled out a stinger. J found the dead bee in one of the folds of the suit. The sting stopped hurting after five minutes, and it didn’t really hurt to begin with. I’ve got a slight red mark on my arm, but other than that I’m fine. Anyway, now for the pictures.

The bees have been busy. This picture shows almost an entire frame of nectar and pollen. There’s lots of nectar throughout the hive, but little to no capped honey. Capped honey is best because it won’t ferment, where as nectar will. I’m thinking of feeding them because there’s a LOT of empty space around the hive that really needs to be filled in. The more they gather and prepare now, the less I have to feed them in the winter.

This frame is almost completely drawn out, but there are only a few small pockets of nectar on here… I think I’ll feed them tomorrow.

This is the largest patch of capped honey in the hive at the moment. Clearly there’s a lot more room available.

Here’s the new queen. I’m glad to know that there’s another hive in the area, and that my bees will (clearly) be able to requeen if need be. I couldn’t find the original queen, so I’m not sure if she was killed or what. It’s likely I just didn’t see her. I almost didn’t find this one. I think this is one of the best pictures of a queen that I have. Especially since you can see the larvae in the cells she’s standing on.

And she’s definitely laying well. There was one other frame like this one, and another that was entirely new eggs. Every cell on the frame had an egg in it. unfortunately that pictures’ not so good, so you get to see all the capped brood instead.

That’s all I’ve got for now. Well, that and a bee sting.