Sunday, July 17, 2011

What kind of dummy...

I decided to do a little problem solving with the bees today. I decided to do a little artwork so it would be easier to talk about which hive was which. I was getting too confused talking about left and right. It was really very arbitrary given that I often took pictures from different angles, so the left was often on the right. I couldn't call them the "good" one or the "bad" one, because constantly in a state of flux. So now, we have Luna and Dia: Luna for night, Dia for day.

Oil pastels. Perhaps not the best idea. I didn't have any paint. 

There will be a little more artwork later on. I was forced to retreat a little early. 

I also decided to add a new super to both hives. They had been getting really full and I wanted to give them a little more room. Crowded bees can lead to a couple of different problems. #1: Swarming. #2: Swarming. They had really been hanging out on the front of the hive quite a bit. Of course, the heat index has been over 100 degrees earlier in the week. However, the front of the hive had been getting increasingly populated and I saw a couple of weeks ago that both hives were pretty full.

Pretty durn full. 

I added a new super to give them some room to grow. Also, MAYBE they will bring in a little honey during the fall honey flow. I would love to taste the "fruits" of "my" labor this year (so not really MY labor, but whatever). 

You may be wondering, "Do you not have any honey now?" Technically, we do. The formerly top super is pretty full of honey. However, this honey is mostly made from the sugar water I had been feeding them and would not really be good for eating. Also, that is food for the bees. Hopefully that will get them through the winter. 

This was going to be a pretty easy job- just take off the other top, put on the super. So I suppose I got a little cocky. No smoke, no socks, no problem. Right? I felt one of those little girls get in my suit, and crawl up my leg, right up the leg of my shorts. I know that as a bee keeper, getting stung in part of the game. However, if possible, I would rather not be stung on the rear. I decide to abandon ship and get her out of there!

I did successfully avoid getting stung on the rear, but she got me on the calf. Lesson learned. Good beekeepers wear socks. 

Independence! From Mites?

We celebrated Independence Day with the Bee Man and the rest of the family here in Athens. This was my first family cookout at our "new" house. It is a little embarrassing that it has taken us this long to invite the family over, especially since they just live an hour away (except for mom and dad). But we had a great time.

As an added bonus of fun for the weekend, I got to spend some time with mom in the kitchen and dad in the bees. We decided to make a little something "sweet" in both places. In the kitchen, we made a lemon ice box pie. In the bee yard, we did a sugar test for mites. Yummmy......

So the sugar test is one way to see how bad your mite problems are in the hive. Do all hives have mites? Probably so to some extent. Mites are parasites that hang out in the hive and really sabotage the larva. They can make your bees weak and deformed. If you are interested in mites, there are many sites and books you can read. Here is a great link on the powdered sugar test.  The Bee Man talks a little about mites here.  So here is our try at the sugar test. 

Here is the bee man laying out something white to dump the mites out on after shaking the bees in a jar of powdered sugar. The idea is to coat a small representative of bees in powdered sugar, they will then fiercely try to clean themselves off, in the process getting the mites off of their little bodies. The mites are then left in the jar, then shaken out, and counted to see how many there are. The more mites, obviously the worse off you are. 

Bees are NOT that easy to get in a jar. We didn't quite get enough in the jar. 

Shakey- shakey!

Do you see anything? We didn't. 
Probably because we didn't do it right.

Returning these sweet bees to their home. 

Ghost bees. 

So you may have some questions- such as "Why didn't you do it right?" Good question. Sometimes dad and I don't quite read the directions. First, we didn't get enough bees. We didn't really think through the whole "getting them in the jar" thing. So we just got as many as we could. You need a hundred or a couple hundred typically. We may have had forty. Then we shook them and immediately dumped them out. We should have let them sit for a little while to give them time to clean themselves off, thus releasing the mites. So this was really just a "trial". The Bee Man will try this on one of his hives soon to get the method perfected. Then he will tell me how to do it, I will remember about half of what he tells me, and we will try it again here. 

Another question you may have is "Surely, it can't be good to coat them in sugar! Doesn't it kill them or bother them?" The answer is No and Yes. No, it does not kill them. Yes, it probably bothers them. Not that I have ever been coated in powdered sugar and forced to lick myself clean, but perhaps the human equivalent is walking through a spider web or stepping in dog doo. You won't die, but you either panic and flail about until you are free, or you are really ticked off and walk around half the day trying to get it out of the tread of your shoes. In short, they spend the day cleaning themselves off.

This is a good thing in reality because through the cleaning process, the mites fall off. You can also do a powdered sugar treatment on bees in the hive as well. You shake it all over the top, ensuring that many bees will have a bath that day, thus allowing them the opportunity to get the mites off of their bodies. 

Independence from mites? Probably not. I just hope that they stay under control.