Thursday, June 28, 2007

Now, if bees could vote...

There was a bee related editorial in the Baltimore Sun. Basically, it called for further public beekeeping assistance. Here's a tidbit:

Unfortunately, the Maryland Department of Agriculture has only one full-time employee, plus some part-time contractors, to inspect hives for diseases. These inspectors have to do double duty advising beekeepers - which is not their job - because in 1996 the Maryland Cooperative Extension eliminated the last apiculture extension faculty position. If the system were working properly, the University of Maryland would do research on how to improve beekeeping, and agricultural extension would bring it to the beekeeper.

But it's not happening. One example of this neglect: Since 1984, two types of invasive mites have devastated Maryland bees, becoming resistant to several treatments in turn and leaving beekeepers without effective controls for these pests. But the Cooperative Extension has not revised its printed beekeeping handout since 1983. The inspection program needs better support; UM should do more practical honeybee research; and the beekeeping extension program needs to be revived.

Ahh, government inaction! Ooops, I meant in action.

Speaking of government and bees, I purchased my bees from a gentleman whose day job is a Maryland State bee inspector. He makes nucs as a sideline business. I guess he inspects his own nucs, because when I purchased my bees they came with the yellow inspection sticker that says that my bees are inspected and free of disease. I stuck the sticker on my hive after installation of the nuc. So if anyone was wondering about the sticker, that’s the skinny.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Sittin’ on the front steps, starin’ down the road…

Now that the weather is getting hotter, many bees can be seen cooling off on the front of the hive. This is known as “bearding”. Just like people without air conditioning, the bees hang out on the front porch to keep cool. The pictures don’t do it justice- it’s pretty cool to watch.

The cat, of course, is unimpressed.

Sunday, June 24, 2007

A shout-out to the environment…

The bee is not afraid of me,
I know the butterfly;
The pretty people in the woods
Receive me cordially.

The brooks laugh louder when I come,
The breezes madder play.
Wherefore, mine eyes, thy silver mists?
Wherefore, O summer's day?

~ Emily Dickinson

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Random thoughts

Today, I went to Don Pablo’s in Columbia for a quick happy hour. In the parking lot, there was a small patch of grass and some trees surrounded by a curb, common in many parking lots. I notice a good bit of clover in bloom in the grass (something I would never have noticed if I didn’t keep bees) and I saw a couple of Italian honey bees collecting nectar from the clover.

Given the flight range of a honey bee is about a mile and a half, I suspect these bees were from a feral colony. I seriously doubt anyone is keeping bees in the commercial and heavily suburban areas within a mile and a half radius Don Pablo’s. This put a smile on my face. It is good to see there are still feral colonies out there that have not been killed of by mites, CCD or uniformed humans with cans of Raid.

What I find even more interesting, is that you rarely ever hear of swarm sightings or other kinds of European honey bee “inconveniences” in the local media. This shows that feral bees are thriving just under the radar of human awareness. Bees are highly evolved survival machines that (hopefully) will be around for a long time.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Movin' up town

I did a brief inspection to see how things are going in the upper hive body. The comb on the new frames is being drawn well, especially the drone comb on the green drone frame. Too bad the brood on that frame will wind up in my freezer as a mite control measure.

My favorite queen pic so far:

A new frame of new comb:

Sugar coated bees

After reading an article in the American Bee Journal, I decided to try a chemical free and cutting edge treatment for varroa mites. Basically, this method involves simply dusting the bees with two cups of powdered sugar, which interferes with the ability of the mites to attach themselves to the bees. This works because the sticky foot pad of the mites is ineffective once it is covered in powdered sugar. With the foot pad out of commission, the mites fall off the bees. Thus, this is a mechanical way to prevent mites, rather than a chemical.

I put a metal window screen on top of an empty super and brushed the sugar through it onto the bees below. The bees sounded kind of pissed.

Three hours after dusting, there were 26 mites that had fallen off the bees through the screened bottom board. I was hoping for more, but mites are not a huge problem for my bees at this point. As long as I do this every three weeks or so, along with the removal of the capped drone brood (mites reproduce in drone comb), I hope to minimize the mite threat.

What could be better than bees coated with powdered sugar?

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Busy bees

Yesterday was inspection day. I have not pawed through the hive in three weeks, and in that time the bees have been hard at work. With the exception of one side of a wall frame, all 10 frames in the hive are fully drawn. They have been sucking down the sugar syrup from the hive top feeder which has really stimulated their desire to draw the comb out. Most of new frames are filled with capped brood and a good bit of capped honey. The bees have really taken advantage of the clover bloom to build up significant honey stores. I ate some of the burr comb honey I scrapped off the top of a frame and ate it. Mmmm…it was delish. One of the new frames has eggs and larvae on it. Interestingly, I have only seen the queen on one of the four original nuc frames, but she is obviously getting around to the other frames to lay eggs.

The bees are doing so well, in fact, I have added a second deep hive body. The frames in the new hive body are not drawn, so the hive top feeder will stay on to encourage them to draw comb on these frames quickly. I am extremely pleased with their progress.

Miscellaneous pictures:

Her majesty...

This comb honey tasted GOOD...

Look at the capped brood and honey on this pretty new comb...

Check out the larvae in the cells of this frame (they look like little white grubs)...

Sunday, June 3, 2007

Rain, Rain, Go Away by Next Weekend

Well, I wanted to inspect the hive today but the weather thwarted my plans. Honestly, we need the rain so badly that I am not complaining. The weather yesterday, of course, was perfect for hive inspection, but my excellent bee photographer was unavailable. It appears that Orlando Bloom dressed like a pirate is more important that my bees ;-). So, today I just filled up my hive top feeder with sugar syrup. Since they are unable to fly, I at least want to make sure they are able to draw comb. Sugar syrup ensures this. In the meantime, I will put on a Jimmy Buffett record and hope for better weather next weekend.

Below are some bees gorging on syrup from the hive top feeder...

And here is my wonderful bee photographer, dressed to remove plutonium from the hive…