Monday, March 21, 2011

It's a Wonder I Have Any Bees Alive at All

Please disregard the pictures on the post below.  I do not currently have a full pound of menthol on top of my bee hive.  "Sigh." 

Before putting it on yesterday afternoon, I read the packaging carefully.  It stated that the net weight was 1.8 ounces and that a whole package was a dose.  Then, overnight, I got to thinking about what I had paid for this package of menthol, and this morning I dug out the shipping order.  The invoice stated that I had purchased a pound bag.  After digging the package back out of the trash, I again read 1.8 ounce, net weight.

Freaked, I went out and scooped most of the menthol off the screen and then called Brushy Mountain, the supply company, to inquire.  The very helpful woman explained that a 1.8 treatment would be a couple of tablespoons, and that I indeed had a pound bag.

Poor bees.  No wonder they hummed in irritation.  It made my eyes water a bit when I took it off the hive.

So...further research on the internet indicated that the menthol should go in a mesh bag above the brood nest and below their honey supply.  That, for the moment, cannot be helped. 

The surplus menthol is going in a package in the fridge for the moment.  I'm going to make my own bags out of screen, I think, rather than pay for shipping. I'll work on that later.

Jimmy cricket, I feel terrible about dumping all that menthol on the hive.  That's where reading directions will sometimes take you.  Too bad the common sense took a few hours to kick in.

Forgive me, bees.  I was just trying to help.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Diagnosis and treatment

We finally received some info back from the bees we sent to the test lab in January.  Received the following email this week from our state bee inspector:

Congratulations, you were absolutely correct.  Some of the newer members weren’t keeping bees when tracheal mites were a problem.  Did you recognize the symptoms from experience or reading?  Again, good eye.  Menthol, formic acid, and grease patties are all good treatments, but requeening with a resistant stock is probably best, especially if the hive isn’t doing well. 
***My email address has changed to - please update your records.

So, tracheal mites it is.  These tiny mites live in the respiratory system of bees and can decimate a hive.  Jack initially did not think we had tracheal mites because they had not been prevalent in our area for a while.  Since the symptoms had matched the description of this type of mite when we researched back in January, we had gone ahead and put grease patties on top of the hive.  I also ordered some menthol, but waited until I heard a diagnosis before adding the menthol to the hive that had the crawling bees.

Both hives still had most of their initial grease patties when I peeked in today.  I left them right where they were, but didn't add any more.  You can see the white patties through the screen inner cover, pictured above.  The red around the edge of the screen and the yellow in the middle are both where the bees have added propolis to the screen to close it off some.  Propolis is part of their own immune system, so I love that the screen encourages them to put some around.


The screen was also handy for adding the menthol.  I put it directly on the screen over the center cluster of bees.  I suspect the grease patties are now in the wrong place....I read today that they are supposed to be on the top bars of the brood box, but for now, this is our situation.  Since I only ordered one package of menthol, we just treated the one hive today.  I'll order a couple more packages and hit both hives with a dose in a few weeks.  Spring is optimal menthol treatment time, particularly on warmer days.  We'll want the menthol off four weeks before the early summer honey flow.

The bees acknowledged the dumping of the menthol on their screen with an enthusiastic "vvvvvvvvvvvvv."  They were still buzzing loudly when I came back in the house.

The girls have been flying more with the warmer weather this year.  I've been seeing them come into the hive with pollen on their legs.  Will try to get a good pollen shot later.