Thursday, August 20, 2015

2015-08-20: Allergy Confirmed

Finally had my allergy test done and lucky me I'm allergic to honey bee venom! 

The test involved a series of small (very small really) injections of venom from the insects of the hymenoptera order.  I believe 8 different insect venoms were involved in ever increasing potency.  I had no reactions to any of them until the doctor hit 1:100 strength of the honey bee venom.  He continued on to full strength with all the other venoms and I had no reaction to any of them.  Why honey bees why?!?

The good news is that next week I will start the allergy shots.  Once a week for ten weeks.  I believe they increase the venom dosage each time.  After ten weeks if I show no signs of a reaction then they send in a blood sample.  If it comes back that I have no immune response then I'm "cured".  I would still need to keep going back for a shot once a month for the next five years to keep my body in tune with the venom.  The main thing I'm focused on now is the ten week goal.  I guess that would put me at the end of October.  Just in time for me to be doing nothing with the bees!  Hahahah  =)

Let the countdown begin!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

2015-08-10: Back In The Game

After my rather dramatic post last time, I just couldn't wait anymore and had to get out to see the bees.  I armed myself with some Benadryl, my EpiPen and my friend Keith and headed out to do some inspections!  I actually donned the FULL bee suit as well, which I haven't worn since I did the shed cut-out.  Dang is that thing hot!  My goals were to check and see if the cut-out hive had successfully re-queened themselves and to check the nuc hives to see how they were doing with the new queens in them.

Cut-Out Hive / Yellow Hive:

I had Keith do all the work and I just barked orders the entire time.  Thankfully Keith is a really good sport and was happy to help me out.  He removed the cover, took off the extra boxes that were covering the honey feeder and got into the first box.  The bees were pretty sparse here and there were only a few frames with any wax drawn at all.  And even those frames only had a few spots on them with any wax.  That box came off and we were into the next box.  Slightly more wax built out in this box but about half the frames were still untouched.  Finally after getting to the last three frames we were able to see some good drawn frames.

Plastic Frames being filled
About 3/4 of the frame was drawn and there was some capped honey and some nice pollen in the cells.  The next frame was very similar and I was able to spot some larva scattered here and there.  This was the first good sign that a queen was present.  We grabbed the last frame and look who we spotted!

Cut Out has a new Queen!
She's a beauty!  Look at how dark she is.  She definitely has some non-Italian genetics in her.  I'm hoping she has "Winter Survivor" written all over her!  I followed her around with the camera for a bit and if you zoom in on this photo you can see she has eggs in every cell.  Good job!

New Queen and Eggs
At this point I really didn't need to go into the last box since I know they were able to re-queen themselves.  I had Keith take a few frames from the top box that had some wax on them and swap them with some of the frames that had no wax on them.  Then we removed the top box entirely.  They have a lot of wax to draw still and they don't really need that extra space to police.  I also decided that since there weren't really a lot of bees in the hive that I would put the entrance reducer on.  We are probably due for a nectar dearth and I don't want the strong neighboring hives to bust in and rob this hive out.  I'll probably make up some syrup to feed them and this should get them to draw out some more wax.  I need them to fill out three medium boxes before Winter sets in.

Speaking of Winter, I see the Goldenrod starting to bloom in my area.  That always signals the approach of Fall.  Many of my late blooming flowers are also in full bloom.

Coneflowers in bloom
Green Nuc:

Since my Nuc hives only have 5 frames, it makes them really quick and easy to check.  Most of the honey frames that I put in are still full.  They have eaten a little bit and replaced it with pollen which is a good thing.  Two frames in and we hit the first solid brood frame.  The new queen looks like she is settling in nicely!

Solid brood pattern
The very next frame over I was able to spot her majesty.  The green dot on her back makes it a little too easy to spot her.

This hive is doing pretty well with two frames of brood front and back and two frames of honey and pollen.  The one empty frame I had given them sadly remained empty.  They had a few blobs of comb ridges created but I didn't care too much for them.  I had Keith scrape some it off the frame.  I'm hoping when all these sealed brood start hatching out that there will be a lot of new bees that will be primed to start drawing wax.  I need to get busy building some boxes so I can move these nucs into full sized hives soon.

Yellow Nuc:

Very similar to the Green Nuc.  Two honey frames that the bees had eaten a little from and replaced with either pollen or more nectar.  Two pretty solid frames of capped brood.

Capped brood on Honey Super Cell plastic frames
This hive seemed to be much more interested in drawing some comb on the new plastic frames though.

New comb and brood
Since this was a medium sized frame that I placed into a deep sized box, the bees have drawn comb off the bottom of the frame to fill in the space.  Bees are sure efficient!

On the opposite side of this frame they decided to draw a few of the same ridges I described in the last nuc.  At least they've drawn plenty of normal looking comb too.

Comb ridges
I'm wondering if they were just stealing wax from one part of the comb to make this instead of drawing new wax? 

We spotted the queen on the next frame and that was the last thing I needed to see.  This was a very successful inspection.

Next Steps:

I plan on making some 1:1 sugar syrup to feed to the hives trying to draw new wax.  I need to get the full sized boxes ready to move the nucs into.  I also need to give Green Hive a check to see how much of the two honey supers they have filled and also to see if the new queen is doing alright in there as well.  I'd also like to do some Varroa monitoring with a powdered sugar shake.  That sounds like a lot to do and we are already half way through August!

As always, thanks for reading!

Monday, August 3, 2015

2015-08-01: Sting Reaction

I was showing my son-in-law some of my hives this past weekend when a poorly navigating bee landed behind my ear and accidentally stung me.  First off, if you watch bees fly for any length of time it can be quite hilarious how badly they seem to fly at times.  Secondly, it is obvious that one of my bees would never sting me on purpose, so therefore she must have accidentally got her stinger caught in my epidermis!  Believe what you want folks =)  Anyway, I scraped out the stinger and walked back up to the house.  All the time being "escorted" back by another bee.  When I got into the house I felt a bit itchy and soon noticed I had red splotches all over my chest and even some hives around my waistline.  Not good.  This is where the phrase "severe reaction" enters into the story.  Any kind of reaction outside of the sting area and anything more than your typical redness, swelling and/or itching.  Matter of fact, if you start looking on WebMD then you are getting into the anaphylaxis symptoms.  Trying not to panic at this point I took some Children's Benadryl that I had in the house and then showed my wife what was going on.  We decided to wait and see if the Benadryl took care of it since I wasn't having any other anaphylaxis symptoms.  Within a few hours the reaction had gone away and I started to relax a bit.  I went to the doctor the next day and she immediately called in an EpiPen for me and made me an appointment with the Allergist.  At this point I'm kind of freaking out and thinking that I have to give up beekeeping if I'm deathly allergic to them.  But I'm going to try and put off judgement until I get some more solid answers from the Allergist.  Quite an emotional roller coaster so far.  I am a little relieved to read on some beekeeping forums of quite a few other people that experienced the same thing.  Many of them were able to undergo desensitization therapy until they had no more reactions to stings.  So, I guess there is hope for me yet  <sigh>.