Saturday, May 26, 2007

You load sixteen tons, what do you get...

One of my favorite things to do is just sit back a little ways from the hive and watch the bees fly in with loads of pollen and nectar. The pollen can be seen on the hind legs (in the corbicula for the scientifically inclined) of the returning foragers. Right now the bees are bringing in light grayish pollen and bright orange pollen. The nectar is carried in the stomach of the bees and cannot be seen.

Thus far, the colony seems to be flourishing. Every week there are more and more bees flying about.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Float like a butterfly….

I finally got stung. It really didn’t hurt that badly, I actually felt worse for the bee for which it was a suicide mission. Plus, it was my fault. I had just put a grease patty on the hive (a mixture of Crisco and sugar) which is used to prevent tracheal mites, and I had the sugar all over my hands. Sugar attracts bees, so I tried to get as much off as possible. It didn’t work. A bee must have landed on my hand without me noticing and when I moved my hand, she got me.

She works hard for the money...

I cracked open the hive to see how things are going after one week. Basically, everything looks great. The bees are busy drawing new comb on the new frames as expected. There is plenty of capped brood, larvae and honey on the original nuc frames. The queen is looking healthy. I’ll check again in two or three weeks, but in the meantime I’ll just keep feeding them sugar syrup and let them do their thing.

Plenty of capped brood...

Pretty new comb...

The queen is looking good...

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

When you sleep with the dogs…

You wake up with mites.

The bottom of my hive is made of wire screen mesh. These types of bottom boards became popular after the invasion of the varroa mite, a parasitic mite that inflicts bee colonies. Almost every bee colony is infested with these mites to some degree. Anyway, the theory behind the screened bottom board is that when the mites happen to fall off the bees, they will fall through the screen and onto a tray that can be inspected by the beekeeper. Counting the mites is one way to gauge the severity of the mite infestation of your bees.

Tonight, I pulled the tray beneath my screened bottom board and I found three varroa mites. They are so small they look like random dirt specs- but they move. I also found lots of little flakes of beeswax which leads me to believe the bees are busy drawing comb. Additionally, I found little green pellets which were kind of mushy. I think these are pollen pellets that the bees were working into the comb and happened to drop.

Ah, the fun things you can see without even opening the hive!

Monday, May 14, 2007

Home Sweet Home

After a late Saturday morning phone call along the lines of “Hey, your bees are ready- can you be here tonight to get them?” I found myself on my way to Western Maryland to pick up my nuc (pronounced the same as “nuke”, the WMD).

A nuc is basically a couple of frames (usually 3-5) of bees in a wooden or cardboard box that serves as a temporary hive. The frames from the nuc are then installed in a permanent hive. The good thing about a nuc is that the queen has already been accepted by the bees and she has been verified by the nuc-maker to be laying eggs. I thought this was the best way to go for a beginner.

The installation of the nuc frames into my hive went very smoothly. The weather was a tad chilli and it was a little bit breezier than I would have liked, but all in all it wasn’t too bad. The temperament of the bees was great. I just blew some smoke into the nuc box which immediately chilled the bees out. The whole time I was juggling around the frames the bees were as calm as Hindu cows. The bees had glued the frames in the nuc box pretty good, so I had to do quite a bit of prying to get them out. It seemed like there were zillions of bees on the frames so it was tough to see if there were eggs or larvae in the comb. I did notice a good deal of nectar and honey which is a good sign. The comb on the nuc frames was drawn out far enough where it was a bit of challenge to fit them, along with six frames of foundation, into the new hive.

Check out the queen bee in the above pic. She is the one with the yellow dot on her back.

The last step was to add some sugar syrup to the hive top feeder to get the bees to draw comb on the new frames. In about a week I’ll crack the hive open again and make sure they are drawing comb and I’ll check for eggs and larvae. They're home at last!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Operation Desert Swarm

Tis’ the season for swarms, so I want to say a few words about them as a public service to non-beekeepers.

First, a swarm is when about half the bees (including the queen) decide to leave the hive all at once and look for a new place to live. The bees in the hive that stay behind raise a new queen and otherwise continue business as usual. Swarms are how bees start new colonies. Most animals, like people, perpetuate their species by rearing young that leave the nest and start new families. Social insects, like bees, need to produce new colonies in addition to new individual bees. Thus, Swarms are the means in which bees “leave the nest” and make new colonies. In other words, swarms are perfectly natural bee behavior.

Secondly, bees normally sting to defend their hives, their brood, and their food stores. Since swarms have no hive, no brood and no food, they are gentle. In fact, a swarm of bees is the gentlest state in which you can find bees. You can literally paw through them with your hands to find the queen and you won’t get stung (as long as you are gentle).

Third, Africanized Honey Bees (AHBs) are not yet in Maryland. It is doubtful that AHBs will ever be able to live in Maryland since they do not survive northern winters. If you a see a swarm in Maryland, it is probably not a swarm of so called “killer bees”.

Swarms usually hang out for a few hours or a few days while scout bees go out and look for a new place to live. As soon as one is found, the swarm will head to the new home and take up residence. If you see a swarm, the best thing to do is take a few pictures and enjoy the miracle of nature that it is.

If you see a swarm and do something like this, you are a moron.

Friday, May 4, 2007

A swarm in May is worth a load of hay...

Here is a brief news video on a swarm that was captured today in DC. I wonder where the swarm came from? Is there someone keeping bees in the city (which I suspect is illegal) or are there feral colonies out there that have not been killed off by mites?

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Bees in the Court System

Honey bees just cost Monsanto some sales. By transferring pollen from Roundup Ready alfalfa to regular alfalfa, bees cause the Round Up resistant trait can be transferred to the regular alfalfa. Many people, including the judge, are unhappy about this.

A Federal judge today made a final ruling that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) 2005 approval of Monsanto's genetically engineered (GE) "Roundup Ready" alfalfa was illegal. The Judge called on USDA to ban any further planting of the GE seed until it conducts a complete Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the GE crop.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Call me anytime…

How did the “cell phone” theory as a cause for CCD become so popular? Even the scientists who conducted the experiment did not link cell phones as a cause of CCD.