Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Varroa Mite Count After Treatment

So, in early July I treated for varroa mites. Two hives had high counts, so I used Apiguard. For the other hives I just used a powdered sugar shake (you can see the video in an earlier post below).

The two Apiguard hives had a HUGE mite drop. (Meaning, mites that had fallen through my screened bottom board, onto my sticky board). Interestingly, both hives are Carniolan bees. My other hives are either Italians, or Minnesota Hygenic (which is an Italian that's been bred specifically for its cleanliness; hence "hygenic").

The two afflicted hives went from a 3-day count of 21 and 38 mites, to 106 and 111, respectively! I'm hoping this means the Apiguard is doing its thing, and in another couple weeks when I pull the last packet I'l start to see ensuing reductions in count.

The sugar-treated hives had slight increases in mite drops, or remained nearly unchanged. Since all were pretty low, I'm not worried.

I tested the swarm hive (you can see the video swarm capture below) just for the heck of it, and as I figured would be the case, there were zero mites. Swarming is a great mite control method for bees, as it interrupts the brood cycle--- the bees have to rebuild and start fresh, so there's nothing for the mites to live on for awhile.

Here's what a varroa mite looks like (thanks to Wikipedia for the photo). They're actually visual to the naked eye, although at my age I use glasses and a magnifying glass :-)

By the way, for my sticky boards I just use white, glossy poster board (also know as foam board, or foam core) and spray it with Pam. I punch a hole in one end and affix a string, so I can easily pull it out from under the hive.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Giving My Observation Hive a Boost

I've got an observation hive that has maintained a very small population level. When I first created this hive by taking some frames from an existing hive, I think I lost the bulk of the bees to "drift"--- meaning, they left the observation hive and went back to their previous home.

So, with such a low population this hive leads a hand-to-mouth existence, and I decided to treat them to a full frame of capped honey from one of the hives I got out of the almond orchards. I like doing it this way, as opposed to feeding them sugar water.

This observation hive has a wooden "tunnel" that leads from a bottom entrance (a hole in the upper circular swivel baseboard) through a wood panelling of the wall's interior, and the stucco of the wall's exterior. That's how the bees get in and out without entering the room.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Are You Allergic to Bees?

Ever since I started beekeeping I've run into so many people who tell me, "I'm allergic to bees." When asked about symptoms, they say, "I swell up."

Well, pretty much everyone swells up to one degree or another when stung. The dangerous reaction is anaphylactic, when breathing becomes difficult and emergency care is required. Some beekeepers carry epinephrine kits so they can inject themselves just in case.

I've been stung under my eye with no reaction, and stung on my eyelid with a tremendous reaction. I've been stung on the hand and had it swell up like a catcher's mitt, and stung on the stomach with little more than a pimple resulting. So, it varies. But swelling doesn't mean you're allergic, just means you're normal.

Here's a handsome photo of me within about an hour of getting stung on my right eyelid. Anyone wanna make out?

For more info on anaphylactic shock: http://www.webmd.com/allergies/severe-allergic-reaction-anaphylactic-shock

Saturday, July 18, 2009

How to Light a Bee Smoker

Sean Arenas, my friend who shoots all these great videos for me, was fascinated by how simple in design the smoker was. I guess in this hi-tech world a tool that hasn't changed fundamentally in hundreds of years is kind of a curiousity.

Anyway, he had questions about the fuel I use, how I light it, and so on, so while I was answering him, we went ahead and shot it. Here's how you light a honeybee smoker:

BY THE WAY... I mention in the video that smoking the bees "calms them down." That's not actually what I meant. They're so busy filling their honey stomachs that they don't have the inclination to defend their hive. Most of the time, anyway...

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Someone Had a Question About Frame Labelling

I had a question from Dane, who watched one of the videos and was sharp-eyed enough to notice that some of my frames have dates written on the top bars. The question was, "What's the purpose of that?"

I dated those frames so I'd know, a few years down the line,how long they've been in use. At some point it's considered a good idea to replace "black comb" with new foundation, just as a hedge against disease.

Some people recommend switching out old foundation/comb every 3 or 4 years, but others don't change them out at all. I'm going to play it by ear, and see if I can establish any kind of guideline of my own.

I don't do this with all my frames, by the way. The ones on the video just so happened to be ones I'm going to be experimenting with. In case you want to look here's the video Dane was referring to.

Thanks for the question, Dane!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

My First Cut-Out Hive

A few weeks ago I did my first cut-out, where I removed a hive that was living in the wall of a garage out in Santa Monica. The hive was behind a tarp that was hiding an unpanelled section of wall.

I pulled the tarp away, and here's what the hive looked like:

I used a homemade bee-vacuum to capture all the bees, and then cut the comb out and rubber-banded it into some empty frames. Once I got home, I installed the frames, along with a few extra frames with foundation, and the bees into this nuc.

I later moved them into a larger hive box, and fed them. Here's where I feed 'em again, and we find the queen.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Varroa Mite Control Using Powdered Sugar

Finished dusting four hives with powdered sugar on Saturday.

I'll put the sticky boards down next Friday, and pull them Sunday. That's when I'll do another mite count.

The combination of powder and a screened bottom board is part of a natural program of preventative maintenance. I've got two hives I treated with Apiguard--- they had a high varroa infestation, so I went to a stronger treatment (thymol, an essential oil), after which I'll dust them.

All an effort to avoid using Apistan or other pesticides that mites across the world are already becoming resistant to.

There is controversy over the efficacy of the powdered sugar treatment. This link http://www.ibra.org.uk/articles/20090217_5 is a summary of a study which says it's pretty much useless.

However, beekeepers everywhere use this--- again, not as a cure-all, but as a part of an overall mite control program. The goal isn't eradication, the goal is to help the bees cope with a manageable number of mites. In the end, the real solution will be mite-resistant bees--- there are a number of breeding programs underway towards that end.

Anyway, I promised to show, not tell... so here's a video demo of the Powdered Sugar method.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

How to Catch a Bee Swarm

As an introduction, here's a clip of a swarm capture I did on June 30, 2009 in a Reseda, California backyard. Enjoy!

Mucho thanks to Sean Arenas for the video work.

Starting a Blog About Hobbyist Beekeeping

If you're checking out this blog, presumably you're thinking about becoming a hobbyist beekeeper. Good for you! Beekeeping is a rewarding and fun hobby, and it's also a great way to really get in touch with the natural world around you--- even if your "natural world" is a suburb or downtown apartment!

My plan is to show, rather than tell, so I'll be posting a series of instructional videos that cover everything from the basics of lighting your bee smoker to treating for harmful mites to harvesting honey and more.