Bees

Wax Moths!

I was heading out to check on the bees today and do a harvest, and I noticed there was busted comb underneath hive#2. I suited up and poked my head under since the screen had completely been torn off. I immediately knew the bees were all gone. To confirm I picked it up and moved it out of the apiary. There were wax moth larvae on the top bars and as I began to pull out the bars, there was severe wax moth damage to all the combs. I scraped the top bars clean and tossed the damaged comb in a garbage bag. I also mixed up some insecticidal soap and drenched the ground beneath the hive in hopes of killing all the wax moth and hive beetle larvae underneath it. I found a minimal amount of dead bees, so I think they either moved out and the wax moth larvae took over or they were overwhelmed and vacated. I had looked in this hive just 3 weeks earlier, and everything appeared normal.

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Another swarm

I woke up this morning to another swarm hanging from the magnolia tree in the exact same place as the previous one. I believe this swarm cam from the original hive with the now Russian bees. Having seen the overwintering and spring buildup that they achieved, I didn’t want to lose them. I had previously assembled a medium super to start building on top of the lang I put the other swarm in. I had heard of placing a second colony on an existing colony to end up with a two queen colony once the pheromones mixed. Since I don’t need / can’t have another hive, this seemed like the only logical choice. After some fast reading to answer a few questions about separating the colonies with newspaper, I pulled off the cover, placed a single sheet of newspaper, cut a few holes with the hive tool, and added the medium super to the stack. This time instead of dropping the swarm in a container and then dumping it in I simply cut the branch and shook the bees into the hive with one swift bump. Unfortunately I didn’t have help this time, so no video. I had already pulled a couple of empty drawn combs from Hive #1 a few weeks ago and froze them in preparation to band them into the new super.

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Captured swarm

I noticed a small swarm in the magnolia tree while watering the hops. My brother was in town so I got him to help me capture and hive the swarm. Fortunately I had put the deep and medium super together. I made them some sugar syrup and left the entire branch and swarm in the top medium super. I checked on them just the other evening and they have mostly made their way off the branch and into the deep. I’ll pull the branch out this weekend. Good times!

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Hive # 2 Swarmed

My neighbors noticed a swarm of bees on the chain link fence and gave me a call. I was getting prepared to capture the swarm and they began to fly up and away. I noticed the entire garden was filled with bees. Then I saw that they were clustering on the front of hive #3. They covered the front and all entrances. I later discovered that they came from hive # 2. I guess this means that the swarm preventing measure didn’t work. Two weeks ago I added blank bars between bars 5 through 12. I’m fine with them swarming as long as the colony raises a new queen. Now I’ll have to check on them regularly to make sure there are eggs in the next 4 weeks.

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March CABA meeting

Jimmy gave an excellent presentation on how to install packages in a new hive.
David gave a very thorough presentation on how to make splits to increase your colony count. The important takeaways here are:

  • It takes 2 days to start raising a queen then 16 days to hatch, 3-4 days to mate, 3-4 days to mature.
  • The old queen always leaves with swarm.
  • If a hive does swarm it is best to re queen, since there is no way to determine that the queen the colony raises will be of good quality.
  • You should have at least 7 frames of good pattern brood before a split.

David went into depth with pictures on a number of different techniques for splitting colonies.  He discussed Out Yard, In Yard, & Adee splits, which I have heard of.  He also discussed Harbo, Katrina, & Ferguson splits.

The Katrina split was developed as a result of the hurricane losses and involves making a split every 14 days.  With this method they were averaging 4 new hives from one original hive.
Ferguson splits are done on top of each other to increase output of drawn comb and two queen hives to increase honey production.


Apiary redesign

I have been planning to move the beehives around in the garden to keep the flight path of the bees from being directly through the garden. The plan was to point the entrances towards the back fence instead of at the garden. I also spoke to a friend that had to get rid of his hive due to an uncooperative HOA and neighbors. I helped him build the hive at the beginning of this year so I offered to fit it in so he could still have them and come work them when he wants to. We laid down landscape fabric and a heavy tarp to keep the weeds back and I plan to eventually fill the area with rocks so I won’t have to mow or weed under the hives. Now I have a dedicated 12×10 apiary with lots of room to work the hives and the bees shouldn’t fly directly through the garden.

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December CABA meeting

I skipped the meeting this month. It was just a showing of the Vanishing of the Bees documentary, which I have already seen. Plus we had a lot going on at work and home this week.


November CABA meeting

The November CABA meeting included a honey contest and demonstration on multiple aspects of beekeeping. Dr. Bob Danka spoke about how the honey is judged. The primary factor is moisture content. There were 4 entries disqualified because they were above the maximum moisture content of 18.6%. The quality of the container is also very important, since points are deducted for imperfections in the queenline jars. Beyond that, bubbles, lint, & other impurities in the honey all detract points. Dr. Danka said they do not judge the honey flavor against the other entries, but they judge based on the presence of off flavors created by excess smoke or too much heat processing.

Several CABA members had setups explaining various aspects of beekeeping. Jack demonstrated a frame jig used to put together 10 frames at once. Orie, the club apiarist, demonstrated hive body building. David showed everyone tips on taking hive notes and spoke about the advantages of solid bottom boards. Another member gave tips on wiring frames. There were also interesting custom made gadgets for various tasks.

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Honey harvest

I pulled a comb of honey from hive #2 yesterday and got 3.5 lbs of honey. We crushed strained and bottled for sharing at work.

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October CABA meeting

Chris Frink got alergist Dr. Nordy Redhead to speak about bee stings. He explained that localized swelling is not a true allergy from allergist perspective. An allergic reaction is classified by life threatening symptoms within minutes. In cases of a bee sting allergy the body creates antibodies that it should not create. The next time a person is stung these antibodies are in place and can cause a massive systemic reaction. Respiratory symptoms and swelling of any body part is possible including the tongue or throat. He also explained that honey bee venom is in a separate class and does not cross react with hornets wasps etc. So, if you are allergic to one you are not necessarily allergic to another. There are bee sting allergy tests that test for the antibody presence. If you are allergic desensitization is an option as well. This consists of a series of dilute venom injections up to the equivalent of two bee stings. Once you reach the target dose the desensitization continues with a dose every 6 weeks for 5 years. This course has ~80% efficacy of reducing a life threatening reaction. This same desensitization is even more effective for other stinging accidents. When the question was asked about honey being good for people with allergies Dr. Nordy said he has not seen any conclusive studies either way. On the contrary he recounted two events of people eating raw honey and having an allergic reaction. Dr. Nordy recommended Benadryl or NSAID to counteract minor reactions. For those with an allergy an Epi-pen can be prescribed.
All of this became immediately relevant when I went out to check the beehives Wednesday evening. As I crouched down next to hive #1 the whole colony fluttered and one bee instantly attacked my left forearm. A few minutes later I checked the hive with no consequence. Within 10 minutes I had taken a Benadryl, so the reaction was limited to minor swelling and itching.