The Treatment

All week, it’s been hot and humid with dark clouds threatening storms, and today was no exception.

Still, our beekeeping duties required us to suit up and treat the hives for Varroa. Because I wield the magic wand (our vaporizer), I had the added pleasure of an N95 mask and safety goggles. It was Very Hot.

Using a vaporizer to treat with oxalic acid is usually pretty simple. You block the entrances, put the powder on the little tray, slide the tray into the hive, attach the leads to a battery, and leave the vapor to permeate the hive for the alloted amount of time.

Easy-peasy.

However, when you have honey supers on a hive, you have to take them off the hive to treat because oxalic acid guidelines say honey that’s been treated with OA shouldn’t be consumed by humans.

That’s how the guidelines stand at present, although the prevailing wisdom seems to be moving away from that idea because oxalic acid is a naturally occurring substance. On February 23, 2021 the FDA finalized a ruling that establishes an exemption from the requirement of a tolerance for residues of oxalic acid in honey and honeycomb.  

Nonetheless, “Bee Culture” magazine says this doesn’t mean we can all start treating our hives with honey supers on. So, we either take them off to treat with oxalic acid, or we use Formic Pro, which can be used with supers.

Formic Pro also has the advantage of killing Varroa that are in cells of capped brood. But it takes longer (14-20 days instead of minutes [or in today’s case, about an hour]), can only be used in a certain temperature range, and kills some bees along with the Varroa. Since one of bees that it may kill could be the queen, this can be a serious disadvantage.

In our situation, we have a new queen in OH, Girls who hasn’t started laying and possibly a new queen who’s not yet laying or a new queen in the works in the OH, Girls split. As a result, two of our three hives have no brood to worry about.

Meanwhile, in the Kremlin, Olga’s laying is a little spotty, and we treated that hive when it arrived as a package.

We decided to use oxalic acid on all three hives even though we’d have to get the bees out of OH, Girls’ supers.

In the past, we’ve had no problem using our escape board to accomplish this.

We insert the board between the supers and the deeps with the triangles down and leave it in for twenty-four to forty-eight hours. The bees seem to find their way down into the brood boxes for the night, but have problems finding their way back up. There are always a few stragglers left in the supers and/or the board, but they’re easily dealt with.

Today, however, the bottom of the board was seething with bees.

After regrouping, The Engineer and I decided to cover the hole in the escape board and treat the hive with the board in place.

Filed under “other problems” was the fact that the front porch of the hive was also loaded with bees who didn’t take kindly to me trying to move them either in or out of the hive so I could block the entrance to treat the hive.

Then, the part of the vaporizer that actually does that blocking fell off, and we had to sort of hold it in place while the vaporizer was working.

We were about halfway through the treatment when The Engineer realized we hadn’t replaced the bottom board. This meant all the vapor that was going in the hive was coming right back out of the hive through the screen at the bottom.

It was like a slapstick movie where Laurel and Hardy take up beekeeping.

Out came the vaporizer. In went the bottom board. And we started all over again.

The bees were delighted with these developments.
Not.

Also, we discovered a few guard bees took their jobs very seriously, butting our veils repeatedly.

Have I mentioned how much I love my hat and veil?

What a relief it was to finish that hive and replace the supers and quilt box!

We’d hoped to be able to pull some frames for extraction, but though most were full of honey and nectar, none were completely capped. 😦

Our best bet for getting the bees on the escape board back into the hive seemed to be to tip it in front so they could walk in.

A LOT of Bees

For comparison, here’s a photo from two years ago when we used the escape board to get bees out of the supers so we could extract.

Normally, the walking back in process takes a short time, even with lots of bees. This time, the bees on the board seemed reluctant to abandon it. The picture above was taken about thirty minutes after we finished treating, and it was over an hour later before the board was mostly empty.

Clearly, this hive is very full despite having been split a month ago, and we’ll need to keep a close eye on it, especially once the new queen starts laying.

Despite the rivulets of sweat pouring down our faces and OH, Girls’ diligent guard bees trying to convince us we should abandon our tasks, we managed to treat the other two hives without incident.

What’s next on our beekeeping schedule? We’ll need to do full hive checks on all three hives, looking to see if the new OH, Girls queen has begun laying, if Olga’s prowess at egg laying has improved, and if the split has managed to requeen.

For now, that’s all the news from the OH, Honey! beeyard.

Bee Update: Fingers Still Crossed

It’s always a great day when you see the queen, but seeing her after months of snow and freezing temperatures … well, celebrations are in order.

We hit the upper 60s today, and finally the snow in our yard has completely melted. More importantly, it was warm enough to do a proper hive inspection which gave us the chance to spot Her Blueness.

If you look closely, you can see her blue marking has begun to wear, but she’s still lively, busily scurrying around laying eggs.

The proof is in the capped brood.

Also, I think I may have spotted larvae.

The Engineer is more dubious. It’s hard to be sure because it was on frames with yellow foundation.

When we started beekeeping, we were told black foundation was better because it’s easier to spot tiny white eggs against a dark background. This is true, and we generally stick to black. We ended up with few yellow frames only because my co-beekeeper was going past a bee supply place on his way home from a work trip. We needed frames. They had yellow. So here we are, trying to decide if I was seeing larvae or the yellow foundation at the bottom of the cell.

What do you think?
Sorry, this one is quite blurry.
For comparison, here are some cells at the bottom of a frame that definitely do NOT have larvae.

It’s hard to tell, isn’t it? So let’s take a closer look at those queen pictures. Look inside the highlighted circles.

Yup. That’s definitely larvae.

This doesn’t mean we’re in the clear, however. March is notoriously hard on bees in this area of the country, with little to no food available except for what they’ve stored.

Still, we will keep our fingers crossed and try to do everything right, including a second treatment of Oxalic acid tomorrow. We also put in some fresh pollen and sugar patties, as well as freshly baited beetle traps (because Hive Beetles LOVE pollen patties). The pollen patties will provide the protein needed for larvae, and sugar patties are backup carbs.

You can count on further updates.

But you don’t have to read them. 😉

In the meantime, I’ll be celebrating with a nice cuppa P.G.Tips.

Hive Loss

After treating our hives a few weeks ago, we anxiously waited for a break in the weather to take a peek under the hood.

That break finally came on Tuesday , but the news wasn’t good.

Our plan was to check food stores and give all three hives a dose of probiotics to try to combat any possible side effects of the Oxalic Acid.

We opened Buzzers’ Roost and immediately saw the worst had happened. Though there was plenty of food (cleared away before taking the photo), there was no activity whatsoever.

Not a single living bee in sight, and not many dead.

Dreading what we might find, we opened FreeBees to find a similar sight.

Both hives seemed damp, so I immediately concluded they died from too much moisture. Bees can handle cold better than damp, so this is a possible explanation. “A wet bee is a dead bee,” is a phrase commonly bandied about by more experienced beekeepers.

The Engineer focused on how few bees there were, which reminded me of the number of dead we cleared out last time we were in the hives. Too few bees = not enough warmth because it takes a certain number to generate enough heat to keep the hive warm.*

Either of these could be the cause of the die-off. Or they could be merely a symptom.

The only thing we can rule out is lack of food.

Both hives had honey, which you can see above, as well as sugar patties. (And although the bee above looks like she is alive, she’s not.)

We knew NewBees were still alive, possibly thriving, because they were out flying.

They’ve been out more than the other two hives all winter, but we put that down to the difference in how they were winterized. “The Pink Igloo” has proven to be a simpler, and warmer, winter cover. Because it goes over the hive, with airspace in between, it gives our girls a means of getting outside the hive without having to face winter weather. And that space also allows air circulation to help keep their home drier.

The Pink Palace before its placement outside

Where do we go from here?

The Buzzers’ and FreeBees hives are gone, but we still have NewBees (crossing fingers, wishing hard, praying they make it to spring), plenty of drawn comb, and even some honey and pollen to help build new hives.

When the weather warms, we’ll move FreeBees into one of the empty boxes to begin that process. I’ve ordered a package of Saskatraz bees for the other.

In the meantime, The Engineer and I will take an afternoon to dismantle, clean, and try to autopsy Buzzers’ and FreeBees. If we can get an idea what happened, we can try to avoid making similar mistakes in the future. (On a side note, I think next year going into winter, there will be a row of pink palaces in our yard, rather than one pink and two black-wrapped hives.)

We will also be keeping a watchful eye on NewBees and hoping for a good spring nectar and pollen flow.

*Such disagreements and the resulting discussions are one of the many reasons I’m glad our beekeeping is a team effort. It’s been extremely helpful because although we work well together, we think differently and bring different skills to the job.

The Bird and the Bees

First, the bird (and an apology for the poor picture quality — it was shot through glass).IMG_2578

I was working in the kitchen when I heard the “Whomp!” of a bird hitting the window. Unfortunately, this happens now and then, even where we put fake hawk stickers. I didn’t think too much about it until I glanced out a few minutes later to see this Tufted Titmouse still sitting on our deck looking bemused.

But, as I watched her/him, another Titmouse came up beside and started gently pecking and hovering above the first one as if encouraging it to get up and fly. IMG_2579

The first Titmouse merely sat back up, and blinked.

The second one flew away, and I thought that was the end of it.

However, a few minutes later, several Titmice — yes, that’s the correct plural — appeared. Two hung back and watched as one performed the same ritual: gentle peck, flutter above, push.

The crashed Titmouse’s response was modest, at best.

Once more, the “helper birds” flew away.

But one returned again, clearly determined to get her/his flockmate moving.

IMG_2580S/he shoved the first bird over, pecking, pushing, and fluttering around until finally, finally, they both flew off together.

It was amazing.

It was also quite smart because we have hawks who hunt on our property, occasionally even perching on our deck, probably for a better view of our bird feeders.

 

 

And now, some more good news.IMG_2588

Yes, this is a dandelion, and yes, I saw it Saturday when The Engineer and I went for a hike/walk.

I realize this may not be good news if you are the type of person to nurture an immaculate lawn. Still, that type of lawn requires herbicides, which aren’t good for bees, and if you’re someone who thinks a green lawn is more important than pollination, you’re probably reading the wrong blog anyway.

Suffice to say, dandelions are a major source of food for bees in the spring, so it’s good news for them.

In other bee news, the weekend was warm enough for us to treat the hives with oxalic acid vapor to kill any mites that might be on the bees.

We also scraped the dead bees from the bottom of the hives.

Below, you see two photos made into one, the top of FreeBees with the bees out exploring, and their dead sisters (along with a few brothers) in the picture beneath.3BA5759C-205B-4D5E-AC25-B0F3384F210F

It looks like lot of dead bees, but that’s to be expected. In warmer weather, the dead are less noticeable because they don’t all die inside. If they do, the other bees push them out the front (and occasionally pick them up and fly off to dump the carcasses elsewhere).

The Engineer pored through all the dead bodies and didn’t find any queens. In March 2018, this is how we learned we’d lost the queen of our only hive, so we’re always relieved when she’s not among the dead.

All three hives were active, with bees zooming in and out on cleansing flights. If you aren’t sure what “cleansing flight” means, feel free to check out my post on bee poop. The picture below is a pretty clear illustration of what it looks like.IMG_2586

And although beekeepers lose more hives in March than the winter, it’s still a relief to see them out flying in February.

In the early spring, bees sometimes run out of the food they stored for winter. We’re paranoid about this and feed them sugar patties. These are made from a four pound bag of sugar, about 6 oz of water, and some Honey-B-Healthy. The mixture is shaped into patties on parchment paper and left to dry.

The essential oils in Honey-B-Healthy are said to stimulate feeding. As a bonus, when I make a batch of bee food, the house smells wonderful for days!

The next time it hits 50 F, we’ll place the patties directly on top of the frames and pray it stays warm enough for the bees to reach the food.

Also, since we treated the hives, we’ll feed them some bee probiotics to help keep their guts healthy. It may sound a bit woo-woo, but there’s science to support the idea.

In fact, I think it helped last spring when Buzzers’ Roost’s bees had a touch (spurt?) of diarrhea. This is a scary symptom because it could indicate Nosema (which is truly awful). But, we’re learning. Before panicking, we cleaned out the fouled sugar pats and fed them probiotics. By the next hive check, the problem was gone.

As the weather warms, you’ll probably hear from me more often, but for now, I’d like to encourage you to consider voting for Queen Right Colonies in the FedEx Small Business Grant contest. Queen Right could win a $50,000 grant, and you can help by voting for them. Click on the link, and type “Queen Right” into the search box. You don’t even have to register. Just provide a name and email.

The folks at Queen Right been an invaluable help in our beekeeping adventures, and it would be great to see them get some love (or at least some cash).

Thanks for visiting!

 

 

 

The Opposite of Too Many Queen Cells

After treating Buzzers and NewBees, we were feeling cautiously optimistic when we opened NewBees and FreeBees for a hive check. (Buzzers was in the middle of the 14-day Formic Pro treatment.)

NewBees were doing well with capped brood, honey, nectar, and pollen. They also had queen cells, which was worrisome, but we put it down to crowdedness and lack of air flow. They were also bearding a lot.

For lack of a better idea, we cleaned off the queen cells, made a mental note to find a way to increase the air flow, and turned our attention to FreeBees. (Lesson learned: Don’t get rid of queen cells until you are sure your bees don’t need them.)

After checking, FreeBees, we realized it had been a mistake to be so cavalier with NewBees’ queen cells because FreeBees had no eggs, no larvae, and no capped brood. Apparently, their queen was gone. Had we known, we could have transferred some of NewBees’ queen cells to FreeBees.

Ah, hindsight is always perfect vision isn’t it?

On a positive note, they had lots of nectar, pollen, and even some honey. Isn’t it beautiful?

So, here’s the question we asked ourselves: Was the queen gone before we made the split, and that was why they were making so many queen cells? Had we made a mistake in splitting the hive? Answer based on my notes: Probably not, because there was both larvae and capped brood in the hive that day. True, we didn’t see eggs or the queen, but she wasn’t marked, and we’ve discovered it’s difficult to spot eggs on cloudy days. Our hive checks this year, of necessity (due to weather and work schedules), have mostly been on cloudy days. (We now use a flashlight to overcome this.)

So, what could we do?

We decided since NewBees had lots of brood, we’d look for a frame with eggs and brood on it, and let FreeBees raise a queen. Or maybe we’d luck out, and when we were able to check Buzzers again, they’d have a frame to “donate.”

Before making any decisions, we took out the bottom board from FreeBees and moved them from the picnic table (solid wood) to the hive stand (open) to allow more air circulation.

Of course, the returning foragers would look for the hive at its old location (a few feet away) and wouldn’t be pleased to find it moved.

This proved true. A small cloud of bees buzzed around the area for a few hours and a couple of stragglers were hanging around even the next day.

To try to aid their orientation, we moved the picnic table and a white plastic chair that had been near the old location, placing them closer to the new location, in the process discovering the chair seemed to be the focal point.

We learned this a few days later when we moved the chair back so we could set something on it, and it was immediately surrounded by bees.

Buzzers’ waiting period from the Formic Pro treatment had finished, and we were going to put the frame moving plan into action.

First we opened Buzzers.

It was a repeat of the FreeBees check — nectar, with a few cells of capped brood. No larvae. No eggs.

And this time, we shone a flashlight on the frames to be sure.

There was no queen in sight either, and this one had been marked.

Above you can see the nectar glistening in the light, a few frames of pollen, and a small amount of capped honey in the corner.

More nectar and pollen, a little honey, no brood, eggs, or larvae.

There were a some cells of capped brood, including a few drone cells, but mostly no signs of new bee life.

As my notes say, “No f—ing brood.”

It gets worse.

When we checked NewBees – the split we’d created as a “resource hive” for the other two, the story was similar. There was still capped brood, nectar, and pollen, but no eggs or larvae.

What is it with us and queens?

On Tuesday, I expect to be picking up two new queens. Since FreeBees is sort of an extra mini hive, we won’t replace their queen. Instead, the honey, pollen, and bees in it will be used to bolster the strength of the other two.

There is a (small bright side). All the breaks in the hives’ brood cycles will help with Varroa control.

Meanwhile, I’ll share this photo and video of the bees fanning to cool the hive on the hot day we made these disappointing discoveries.

And here’s a picture of one of them drinking from out birdbath. I know the water looks skanky, but they seem to prefer it that way.

I’ll let you know how the requeening goes.

The Bees Knees – A Hive Update

We have a new hive! Okay, so technically, it’s a nuc (nucleus hive – basically a mini hive with only five frames).

It is, of course, named “NewBees.” (What else?)

The Engineer calls it the “Pink Palace,” though it’s actually lavender.

NewBees hive was created using a variation of a “walk away split,” where you take a couple of frames with eggs, larvae, and capped brood from a strong hive, add another frame of honey and pollen and two empty frames (preferably with comb on them), and make a new hive. Before closing up, you shake a frame of nurse bees in (from another frame of brood, which is then returned to the original hive). It’s called a “Walkaway split,” because you then walk away. If you’ve shaken the queen into the new hive, the old hive will create a new queen. If the queen was left in the old hive, the new hive will make one.

We hedged our bets by looking for our old queen before putting the frames into the new hive and making sure there was a nice fat queen cell on one of them. (If you’d like a more thorough explanation of splits, go here: http://www.bushfarms.com/beessplits.htm.)

If you recall, the last time we were able to check FreeBees, they had started making queen cells. For several weeks after that, the weather wasn’t conducive to opening the hives, and I was growing concerned they would swarm either right when we were leaving for our trip or while we were gone.

Thankfully, a window of good weather opened, and we were able to do the split. It was a good thing we did! There were at least ten queen cells in various stages. We chose the fattest one, and scraped off the rest before stealing brood and honey for NewBees.

They still looked crowded, so we also added another honey super. Although we weren’t sure they’d need it, we also knew we’d be gone for two weeks and unable to check.

Many beekeepers recommend relocating a split 2 miles or further from the old hive to prevent drift. But some say if you shake enough nurse bees in, the foragers you shake in will return to the original hive, but the nurse bees won’t because they haven’t yet imprinted the original hive’s location as home because they haven’t been out int the wide, wide world.

We planned to follow the “moving the new hive” plan, but time was short, so we didn’t. I’d also read you can put a board or something in front of the hive to force the bees to reorient. We did that, put on a big jar of food and left them to it.

Poor FreeBees. We also treated them with Formic Pro before we left. The timing wasn’t ideal, coming right after being split, but it needed to be done.

Buzzers were also due for a treatment, but we held off because the new queen seemed to just be settling in.

Fast forward two weeks to our return.

All three hives seem to be thriving, although the weather was once again not our friend. We had a quick look inside NewBees. Saw lots of bees, but no brood or eggs. When I rechecked our resources, I discovered we should not have checked until four weeks. It had been only two.

No wonder they were a little crabby.

A swift look under the hood of Buzzers showed the new queen has found her mojo. Lots of brood, lots of bees in both Buzzers and FreeBees, so we don’t think FreeBees swarmed.

Lots of pollen and nectar coming into all three hives, though you won’t notice much activity in this picture. It’s just to show you what the hives look like right now. Buzzers on the left has the standard two deep boxes and a super. The super has been being used to feed them while we nurse it to full health, but is now empty because we finally managed to treat them (also with Formic Pro). The directions recommend putting on an empty box – something to do with better air flow and less bees dying off.

FreeBees has two deeps and two honey supers with frames for honey. If you look very closely, you can see the metal queen excluder between the deep boxes and the supers.

We also treated NewBees, but they got Oxalic Acid. Oxalic Acid works only on the mites that are phoretic (on the bees). It doesn’t penetrate the capped brood. But NewBees had no capped brood because of the break in the laying cycle as they raise a new queen.

After the treatment, we were standing around watching the NewBees hive (yes, beekeepers actually do this). The Engineer noticed a large, long, fat bee land at the entrance and pointed her out.

Dear readers, we think we actually saw the queen returning from a mating flight!

Quelle excitement!

This leaves us feeling cautiously optimistic about our three hives, although we won’t be able to check either NewBees or Buzzers’ Roost for another couple of weeks. Buzzers have to be left alone while their treatment works, and NewBees need to settle in, hopefully with a new queen. But I hope we’ll have a chance to take a good look at FreeBees in the meantime.

I’ll update you if we do.

Meanwhile here are some photos and a video of bees, and a wasp in France. I took them after a delightful lunch of canard (duck) with mashed potatoes in a cafe in Pompadour. We were supposed to visit Pompadour Chateau, but it was closed, so instead I took pictures of bees. I’m sure the people in the cafe thought we were crazy. I loved this orange bumblebee, with its white bottom, similar to the yellow one in the video below. (We also saw the white-bottomed, yellow ones in England.)

Weight and See

Summer is slowly winding down, and the bees have been making the most of the fine weather. They’ve been in a foraging frenzy, perhaps sensing the forthcoming temperature changes.

They’re finally visiting the goldenrod in their own yard!

It cooled down over the weekend, with rain on and off all day today. Each time the showers stop, the foraging begins again.

And yet, when we checked the hives a week or so ago, Buzzers’ Roost had no honey, and FreeBees had very little. Instead, we saw loads of pollen, lots of nectar, and a surprising amount of capped brood.

Still, with all that nectar, there’s bound to be some honey soon.

Check out the graphs below. Notice any trends?

The first two graphs show the weight of the hive over the last month — finally trending upward. The next two show a week each, and you’ll notice daily ups and downs, probably from when the foragers are out.

So, we’re not too worried about honey levels, at least not yet.

Below is a picture of a frame containing both nectar and pollen. We also found several that were filled solely with nectar or solely with pollen. Theoretically, we should be able to identify the source of the pollen by its color, but unfortunately, I’ve not found an accurate chart online. Here are links to two if you’d like to try: Sheffield Beekeepers’ Association and Metrobeekeepers.net. My guess is mostly goldenrod because the fields are full of it.

While we had the hives open, we did alcohol rolls on both. This is supposed to be a more accurate way to count Varroa.

Our count was a big fat zero on both hives.

Yeah, we must have done it wrong.

Either that or the hive beetles are eating them. Don’t even ask how many of those we found. It was too many to count.

Little bastards.

The weird thing is, the bees mostly ignore the beetles. Once in a while, they’ll herd a particularly brazen one into a corner, but then the bees go back to whatever they were doing, and the beetle scuttles away. (Unless we get it first!)

There was propolis everywhere, especially around the beetle traps, which makes me wonder if this is the bees’ response to the pests. There were a few beetle corpses in some of the propolis, so who knows?

Unfortunately, our girls don’t seem to grasp that the traps are there to help them and had propolized the openings where the beetles are meant to enter. At least one trap had every opening completely blocked.

But let’s get back back to the subject of the main hive pest — the dreaded Varroa. For two years, we’ve used drone foundation as part of Varroa control, with very little success.

Last year, the hive used the drone foundation mostly for honey.

This year, both hives have ignored them.

Until now.

This year, a few short weeks — okay, a few short months — before the workers start kicking out drones (to lower the number of mouths they have to feed in the winter), FreeBees has decided to make drone cells. Half the foundation was full of capped drone brood, and there were more cells on the top of some of the other frames.

Weird. Also unusual in placement. Drone cells are usually at the bottom of hive frames.

Whatever. It’s their hive. They can do what they want.

As we’d been instructed, we removed the drone foundation and opened the cells to check for Varroa, but found none there either.

I can’t believe there are no mites at all, but am willing, even eager, to believe the treatments have been working, and the threshold is safely low.

Just to be sure, we will treat both hives with Oxalic Acid before winter after we take off the supers.

I’m still holding out hope that we might be able to pull at least one frame of honey for ourselves.

Oxalic Acid and Sugar Patties

It was warm again on Monday, so we borrowed the backup battery from our sump pump to power the vaporizer for an Oxalic Acid treatment. (And when I say “we,” I mean The Engineer muscled the thing upstairs and into the wheelbarrow for me to cart it outside and treat the bees.)

Bees don’t much care for  these treatments, and I don’t blame them. As implied by the name, the vaporizer fills the hive with Oxalic Acid vapor to kill Varroa mites — not a pleasant experience, I’m sure. It’s no surprise many chose went for a cleansing flight afterward. (Go here to watch them in motion.) I watched them for a few minutes before going back inside.IMG_3283
I heard it immediately after closing the door — the telltale buzz of a bee in the house — and mentally kicked myself for not checking my clothing.

I carefully took off my jacket and shook it.

No bee.

Convinced one was caught in my hair, I gingerly ran my fingers through the tangles.

No joy.

The buzz continued. Was I imagining things?

I went in the bathroom, examined what I could see of my back. Still no bee.

I took off my shirt, gave it a gentle shake.

No bee.

My jeans.

The buzzing continued, and I was starting to feel like a character in a sitcom.

Finally, I realized the sound was louder in the foyer, and looked up to see one of our girls banging on the second story window.

Sighing with relief, I grabbed a glass to catch her, released her outside, and watched as she flew straight back to the hive.

Even though a hive has thousands of bees, no beekeeper likes to be the cause of harm to even a single bee. Plus, in many cultures, having a bee come in the house is either good luck, or a sign of company is coming. Obviously, this only holds true if you don’t kill it. So, next time you find one in your house, use a glass and a piece of paper to catch and release her. I’m pretty sure there’s no such superstition about Yellow Jackets. Just sayin’.

Friday, we again had a look inside the hive. The weather has been changeable, the temperature readout extremely variable, and we had no idea how much sugar our bees might have consumed in ten days. As you can see from the pictures below, the answer turned out to be not much. IMG_3286IMG_3287
They were more interested in the pollen patty in the corner, which led me to surmise (possibly erroneously) they still have honey.

We’ll continue checking when weather permits, and I’ll keep you posted.

Until then, bee happy. 🙂

 

 

 

Minding our Bees and Qs

I think I’ve established The Engineer and I have a lot to learn about beekeeping. If you haven’t yet reached that conclusion, I recommend you re-read my previous post, as well as the one before, which are full of corrections.

For this reason (and because Brushy Mountain offered 10% off any orders picked up at the event) we attended the Ohio State Beekeepers Association (OSBA) conference held Saturday.

We also planned to visit Darling Daughter, which morphed into attending a beer tasting event held by the Friends of the Worthington Library system. Bees, beer and books — what more could you ask for in a weekend?

The conference sessions were interesting and educational, though some were well beyond our beekeeping skill level. I’m quite sure we won’t be rearing queens for profit in the near future, yet it was good to be exposed to possibilities that are currently beyond our capabilities.

Our order from Brushy Mountain was hope, prevention, and current needs made manifest in beekeeping equipment — a nuc box in the hope that we’ll eventually have a large enough hive to split, a drone frame as part of our pest management plan for the future, and an oxalic acid (OA) vaporizer to treat once more before winter.

IMG_3002

Oxalic Acid and Vaporizer, with my notes on use, painters’ tape for sealing hive, nitrile gloves and measuring spoons.

We previously treated Buzzers’ Roost with MiteAway Quick Strips (MAQS), which can be used with the supers on, but for the vaporizer, it’s necessary to remove them. This means first removing the bees from the supers, and to accomplish this, we used an escape board (picture below is from the Brushy Mountain catalog). 774-escape-screen-10-f_main-1.jpg

The board above is upside down, and you can see how it works. The beekeeper puts the triangular maze facing down so the bees easily enter through the big hole to return to the brood boxes, but find it difficult to find their way back to the supers.

After performing what will probably be our last semi-thorough check of the boxes on Sunday (when it was 67* F), we inserted the board.

At first we forgot to close the top entrance, rather defeating the purpose of an escape board, but once that was remedied, the board proved effective. There were only three bees in the supers when we took it out the next day. (If you leave it in too long, the bees figure out how to get back up, so this must be done within 24-48 hours.)

By then, however, the temperature had dropped to the upper 50s, necessitating a quick removal to avoid chilling the hive. About 30-40 bees were hanging out in the net triangle maze and had to be assisted back through the front door to their brood box. Even with our encouragement and guidance, not all managed the feat. (If we looked at it from the bees’ perspective, you could probably substitute “interference and meddling” for the words “encouragement and guidance.”)

Yesterday, I taped off the upper entrance and the small gap in the back where the bottom board is inserted, donned my mask, gloves, and eye protection, and used our new vaporizer for one last mite treatment before winter. You can see the tape in the picture below. And check out the verandah The Engineer created to help keep rain off the entrance. The metal thing is a mouse guard. Both were removed before the treatment. IMG_3003
Unsurprisingly, the bees don’t like this kind of intrusion. About thirty seconds after inserting the wand, a kind of quiet roar began emanating from the hive. Also, one befuddled bee tried in vain to find the entrance that had been there only moments before. No vapor escaped though, and the OA crystals were gone when I pulled out the wand, so maybe the treatment will prove successful. Between the tape and the bees’ propolis (more about that next post), the boxes were well-sealed.

I removed the tape so they would have the ventilation necessary to prevent a wet hive and left them to recover.

Then, this morning I woke up to this.unnamed-5

Snow.
Time to put on the hive wrap.

Not all beekeepers wrap their hive(s), but since our bees had a rough start, we wanted to give them some extra help for the winter. This morning, I duct taped on the hive quilt we bought from B&B Honey Farm. There are other means to insulate a hive — a wind break made of straw bales, wrapping the hive in tar paper, crumpling newspaper to absorb moisture under the lid — about as many as there are beekeepers.

It seems the challenge is helping the bees keep warm while at the same time preventing condensation. Damp bees are dead bees.

We chose two tactics: the hive quilt and insulating foam under the lid.

IMG_3015

Snow falling over Buzzers’ Roost

Cross your fingers that this is only a cold snap and not the start of true winter. We’d like one more warm day to move the hive, put the honey super back on, feed one last pollen and/or sugar patty, and attach our new wi-fi hive scale.