Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Treating; Harvesting; Testing

Big weekend. I treated with Apiguard all the hives I previously treated with powdered sugar. I harvested several frames of honey from one of my new hives this year (a rarity to get honey from a brand new hive) and took four frames from one of the commercial hives so I could get the Apiguard packet on top of some brood frames. I'll have a video of Apiguard treatment posted in a couple days.

The honey is much darker than the sage honey I harvested on July 4. This honey is dark amber, like Guiness beer. I think it's probably a mix of nectar from sumac, California buckwheat, California Pepper Tree, and Eucalyptus (we've got some early blooming Euc's in the area).

Just got an email newsflash that further implicates the varroa mite in Colony Collapse disorder, so I'm going all out this year to control these little vermin. All out, that is, without resorting to actual miticides or other poisons...

To that end, I tested a new gizmo to see if it would make powdered sugar treatments easier. It's a bellows I got from Brushy Mountain Bee Farm. The jury's still out on its efficacy, as you can see from this video:

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Battle with Mites Continues

I put sticky boards under most of the hives last weekend, and pulled them for a mite count this evening. You may recall (if you watched the videos below) that I treated two hives with Apiguard because they had high mite counts, and treated the rest with powdered sugar.

Well... either I didn't do a good job of thoroughly powdering each hive, or powdered sugar just flat doesn't work. Apiguard, on the other hand, seems promising.

Here are the results. In parentheses are the counts from July 28:

1- 37 (106)
2- can’t place board, need to elevate hive.
3- Too many to count! Hundreds! A carpet of mites! (20)
4- 55 (6)
5- 66 (17)
6- 50 (111)
7- 0
8- didn’t check; need to make another sticky board

So, the two hives I treated with Apiguard--- #1 and #6--- saw a reduction of roughly 50-66%. Pretty good.

The hives treated with powdered sugar simply exploded. Hive #3 was insane; the sticky board was carpeted with mites. Interestingly, I had noticed yellow jackets preying on fallen bees in front of that hive this weekend. I thought it was just drones being kicked out for the year, but now I'm thinking they were drones--- and maybe workers--- weakened by mite parasitism.

Obviously, I'm going to treat all the affected hives (except 1 and 6) with Apiguard asap; probably Friday AM.

Apiguard, by the way, is a thymol-based solution. Thymol is an essential oil, not an insecticide. While you should not pull honey during Apiguard treatments, it's okay to place supers and pull honey immediately afterwards, that's how benign it is.

As for #1 and #6- I'm gonna give powdered sugar another try, this time with a bellows applicator I just bought. I've read mixed reviews on how these work; but I'll give it a shot. Maybe it'll be more effective than just shaking the sugar from the top. Since I just did a full treatment with Apiguard on these two, I don't want to repeat that this soon.

If I can talk my fearless videographer into showing up next weekend, I'll have some video of the process.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Today the Ants Won

Over the weekend I fought what turned out to be a losing battle with sugar ants (I don't know that actual species, I only know these teeny little black ants LOVE sweets).

My observation hive sits inside a kind of inside/outside room--- it's an enclosed room, screened in, and the flooring is simply part of the deck. So, it's certainly not ant-proof, and that was driven home in a big way starting Thursday night.

The observation hive was besieged by ants going after the frame of capped honey and bee bread, and the bees were freaking out. I pulled the hive outside on Saturday, completely removed everything, brushed away all ants, cleaned up the home site as best as I could... and when I returned the hive, the ants were back within hours.

I kept fighting for awhile, soaking the surrounding area in Windex, setting ant stakes up outside, etc... but it was no use. They were simply overwhelming the small number of bees in this hive.

So, I took the observation hive outside and opened it up. I removed the honey frame, the brood frame, and an unused drawn frame, along with the undrawn honey frame (it's a four frame ob hive).

I gave the honey and brood to the garage cut-out hive, since they're struggling. And I let nature take its course.

Interestingly, the queen must've flown back into the observation hive when I had it outside. Eventually, after a great deal of tumult, they settled into swarm formation. I moved them to my backyard so they're out of the way, and I'm just gonna let 'em go. It's such a small group and it's so late in the season, I don't think they'll make it through the winter, and it's not a big enough group to warrant catching and adding to an established hive.

Here's the hive with the swarm, and then a close-up of the swarm.

Oh, well. Ants 1, Kerry 0.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Update on the Garage Cut-Out Hive

We're in pretty much a total dearth right now in this area, and the small hive I cut out of a garage wall (see photos in an earlier post below) has simply not been able to make much progress. I checked 'em today; they hadn't expanded their comb at all, and were pretty ornery besides.

I'm going to feed this hive again in the next couple days to give them a boost, but I think I'm going to need to combine them with a stronger one soon. Hopefully I'll be able to video that process, and I'll show it here.