Sunday, January 30, 2011

Follow Up Inspection and Sample Collection

As per directions from Jack, our bee inspector, we took a pickle jar full of rubbing alcohol out to the area where the bees were crawling in the grass and collected around 100 bees.  We'll soak them overnight, pour off the alcohol and send them to the bee lab for analysis.

We then cracked open both hives.  The hive on the right (not pictured) had few bees in the top box, but that top super was chock full of honey.  We believe the cluster in that hive is in the top deep and has not yet moved up.  We popped a couple grease patties on the top bars and closed it up.  Then we cracked open the left hive (pictured above and below) to see how they looked.  (This is the hive with bees crawling in the grass as described in yesterday's blog entry.)

There seemed to be a lot of bees in the top super, ready to greet us.

We checked their honey supply, and found that some of the frames were empty, so we gave them two frames of honey that we'd had stored in the freezer.  Still, they had many frames of honey, having had a great fall harvest.

We had made the grease patties last night when our top theory was tracheal mites.  One part Crisco, two parts granulated sugar, one good squeeze of honey.  We've heard today that tracheal mites have not been prevalent in our area, but decided to go ahead and slap the grease patties up there for good measure, since they didn't strike us as terribly toxic.  We'll see what the lab says.

Response from our bee inspector

Friend Janet forwarded my question about the bees (see yesterday's post) to our bee inspector, Jack Hanel.  Here is his response:  

Hi, Janet, Tracheal mites is a good guess, but we haven’t been seeing them as much of a problem lately.  Nosema and varroa (viruses) sometimes cause the same symptoms.  The best thing to do is send a sample to:  Bee Disease Diagnosis
      Bee Research Laboratory    
      Bldg. 476 Room 20
      Beltsville Agricultural Research Center-East
      Beltsville , Md. 20705
To prepare the sample, collect about 100 of the sick bees in rubbing alcohol.  Let them soak overnight.  Drain off the alcohol.  Put them in a ziplok bag.  Put the bag in a small cardboard box so the samples won’t get crushed.  Put your name and address in the box so they know where to send the results to, and a brief description of the problem.  Jack


Saturday, January 29, 2011

Bad News Bees

The weather hit the 50's today, and the bees came out to fly about and poop and stretch their wings.
Soon, the assistant beekeeper raised the alarm.  "Something is terribly wrong with the hive on the left!"

The grass to the left of the hive was full of bees.  Individual bees, little balls of bees, far too many bees, just sitting around, huddling, not moving or making any sign of returning to the hive for the night.

We have two main theories.  1) Starvation.  We plan to go into the hive tomorrow with some extra frames of honey at hand in case they have somehow gotten low on honey supply.  We doubt this is the case, since we left them with what we considered to be a LOT of honey.  2)  Tracheal mites.  Not sure we can treat this time of year.  Terrifying to think we might lose the hive, and so sad to watch them come out to die in such numbers.

We'll keep you posted.  Beekeepers in this area lost about 50% of their hives last winter.  That could easily be the case for us as well this year.  If one hive survives, we might split the surviving hive or catch a swarm and rebuild our stock. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Keep Bees, Crack Nuts

When deciding to keep bees, one should realize that this hobby will impact not only the gifts you give (honey, chapstick, candles) but also the gifts you receive.  Just got this excellent nutcracker from my sister-in-law in Wisconsin.

He has fine tools including a hat with a veil, an old fashioned skep hive and a bee the relative size of a falcon, plus the small decorative bee on his hat.  I presume the pipe is for smoking the bees.

He also has the traditional handle in the back for operating his nutcracking jaw.  Nuts are good with honey, I think.  Welcome to the house, little beekeeper.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Bees Above Freezing

After weeks of snow
and temperatures below freezing,
the sun came out today.
So did the bees.

As the temperatures rose into the 40's,
the bees flew merrily out...
to poo, to stretch, to see the world.

There were bees strolling on the white icy snow,
bees on the front of the hive,
bees in the air.

Tonight they are back in their cluster
in the warmth of their community shivers
tucked safe and sound in the hive.
I hope they feel better for the break.