Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mite Sampling: 09-10-2013

I hate to even talk about this because just the thought of mites sucking the blood (hemolymph) out of my bees and perhaps transferring diseases to them pisses me off!!  But the Varroa Mite, is now an integral part of any beekeeper's management and there is no escaping their impact.  So, what to do?  I long ago decided I want no antibiotics or chemicals in my hives, so those kind of treatments are out.  This leaves me with various IPM (Integrated Pest Management) techniques to use.  Before you use any of those techniques, you need to determine what kind of mite load your hive is currently dealing with.  Of course, there are numerous ways of doing mite sampling and there is a great article here about the different techniques and why you would or wouldn't use them.  I decided to start my sampling by doing the sticky board drop test.  It isn't perfect, but it is quick and easy and a good place to start!

Mite Drop Test:
All you do to perform this test is put a board with a sticky substance on it underneath a hive that has a screened bottom.  You leave this on for a few days and then take it off and count the mites.

I put some vegetable oil on the board (next time I'll use vaseline) and put the board under the hive for 48 hours and this is what I found:

What you end up seeing is a plastic sheet covered by bee debris.  The debris consists of pollen, dripped honey, dust, dirt, a bee leg or two and some mites.  This is one of the reason you don't leave the board on for too can't spot the mites because of all the debris.

Here is a close up of the debris:

See any mites?  The big chunks of pollen are pretty easy to spot but telling the difference between a piece of dirt and a mite is a bit more difficult.  Here are the mites:

If you look very closely you can see the legs sticking out from their body.  Once you get a feel for the size, shape and color, they become easier to spot.

Counting the mites, I ended up with a total of 21.  Divide that by the number of days and you get just over 10 dropped per day.  There doesn't seem to be any rule set in stone that says "if you have this many then you need to do this", so right now this will be a baseline number that I use as a comparison.  I believe this is a relatively "low" number for this time of year, but I will plan on doing more tests in the future.  It is easy enough to clean off the board and put it back on the hive for a few days.

I would like to try the powdered sugar jar sampling method in the future.  That sounds interesting, you don't end up killing the bees, and you end up with a bunch of powdered sugar covered ghost bees walking around your hive for a while!!

Until next time, thanks for reading and I hope my mite numbers go down!

Monday, September 9, 2013

Busy Bees: 09-08-2013

I decided to take my camera and record a little video at the hive entrance.  The activity here is the definition of the phrase "busy as a bee".  Note the bright orange pollen coming in on quite a few of the bee's legs.  I would think that with all the Goldenrod in bloom right now, that it would be the source of the pollen.  But the pollen isn't yellow in color at all.  Hmmmm, what else is in bloom?

Enjoy the video:
White Hive Activity

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Performance Anxiety: 09-02-2013

White Hive has been closed up and left alone since the last inspection on 8/6, almost a full month ago.  The last few times I walked by the hive I have seen an ever increasing number of bees flying in and out so my hope is that the new queen is performing well!  Knowing that there were larva and eggs during the last inspection, there should have been plenty of bees that have been born since.  Going back to our trusty "bee math", an egg laid today will hatch into a worker bee in 21 days.  It has now been ~25 days and since a queen can lay around 2000 eggs in a day, that is a lot of new bees!  Well, what is suppose to be and what is are two different things.  The only way to see for sure it to open it up.

I had some help with the inspection this time when my friend Casey came over to give me a hand.  It is always beneficial to have an extra set of hands to hold frames, take pictures, use the smoker, etc.  Plus, I love teaching others about bees.  Especially when they are as excited as I am about them!

If you recall from the last inspection, I had added a second brood chamber onto White Hive.  Now it consists of two brood chambers and one honey super.  Since the second brood chamber was totally empty, I eagerly checked to see if the bees had begun to use it.  When I opened it up, the bees were covering 5 frames in the center of the box.  That is a pretty good sign right away.  I only moved in about 3 frames and spotted the queen on a frame of mostly capped brood!

Awesome!!  It is great to be able to spot the queen but even better when you get to show someone else!  I also noticed quite a few grey colored, slightly shriveled looking, fuzzy bees.  I believe those are the bees that have recently hatched.  They take a few days for their exoskeleton to harden and then they begin their first duties.  It usually takes around 22 days before a bee even leaves the hive for the first time!

Want to learn more?  Check out these links:
Honey Bee Jobs
Worker Bee Activities

If you ever see a honey bee buzzing around one of your flowers, you know they are an "old" bee!  Sometimes you can even see that the tips of their wings look shredded.  A honey bee pretty much works herself to death during her 6 week summer life span.

Back to the inspection: After finding the queen I did find a few more frames there were almost completely SOLID brood!  This is a great sign as she is doing her job and laying eggs and making more bees.  It is really important that they are producing strong numbers this late in the summer since a lot of these bees will be the ones that begin the winter cluster.  More bees = more warmth during the winter!

This early in the inspection I have seen pretty much everything I needed to.  The rest of the time I used as a teaching opportunity.  There is so much to show and often times when you teach, you end up learning too.

As I closed up the hive and talked to Casey about what he had seen, it was pretty clear that he was gung-ho about becoming a beekeeper himself!  Catch the buzz!  =)

To complete this post, let me leave you with some sad evidence of the impending demise of summer:

Nothing says "fall" like Goldenrod in bloom.  This bumble bee was taking a nap on these flowers, enjoying the sun and warmth.......while it lasts.

Until next time, thank you for reading!