Scales? July 23, 2012 Hive Check

Catchy heading!  Read all the way to the end to find out more…or not, since I have no idea what I saw on the back of that little bee’s thorax.  Definitely looking for input here.  Hopefully it isn’t anything that will be the “straw on the camel’s back” for my colony!

I’m just about to give up on summer.  This morning the heat came on again in the house.  It was only about 59 degrees outside.  The rain and wind we’ve had are working against my bees and not making my first year of beekeeping a happy one.  It’s been too cool to open the hive and check to see if my virgin queen came back after making her appearance last week…hopefully mated.  This afternoon, when the sun came out, I decided to give it a shot and take a peek.

Things looked busy inside.  My frames are still more than a “bee space” apart and the gals are building comb, sticking them together.  I tried very carefully to pry two of the frames apart so I could take a look at them to check for new eggs.  Keeping my fingers crossed (well not really, since I had to hold the frame up to look), I examined as best I could for the presence of those tiny seed pearls floating in royal jelly.  Guess what?  I need to get my eyes checked.  I did see cells with clear-ish jelly inside though, and the workers were obviously tending something, but I couldn’t determine if there were eggs or not.  I even took off my veil and held the frame with the sun behind me to get a better view.  No luck.

The queen, if she was inside, was staying hidden.  Although I didn’t see her, it is possible she was under the excess comb that the bees have built.  I was hoping to spot her and since I didn’t, I’m inclined to check again tomorrow.  When I do, I am going to take a magnifying glass as well and look again for eggs.

I didn’t see any presence of varroa mites.  That’s good!  The Hopguard I used must have worked. The foragers were coming back with pollen in shades of cream, orange, and gray.  My only other concern was seeing one bee with some weird fungus-like growth on the back of her thorax and the yellow jacket that was trying to get into the hive.  I used the entrance reducer to help safeguard the entrance from the yellow-jacket.

Here are photos from today’s hive check.  I’ve included some of the bees with pollen and the one with the unidentified substance on her.  Definitely interested in finding out what it is, so if you or any fellow beekeepers have seen this before, write and let me know!

July 23, 2012 Hive Check

More orange pollen

gray pollen and orange pollen

Little bee with something on her thorax

more with the bee and the unidentified something on her thorax.

bee with fungus-like something on her thorax and another bee coming in with cream colored pollen

Not Welcome!

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Do Honey Bees Like Honeydew?

A most interesting thing I learned about today!  This morning when I had a conversation with my friend/bee-mentor about my new queen, we digressed into talking about nectar sources for the bees.  She mentioned that she’d read something about honey bees collecting honeydew and I thought I’d do some further study to find out more.

Perhaps I should begin by expanding a bit on honeydew and what it is.  Honeydew is a substance secreted from hemipterans (also known as “true bugs”).  True bugs are sap-sucking insects like Aphids, which you may recognize as a common garden pest.  I already knew that many ants enjoy honeydew and in some cases even provide protection for the aphids making it.  The part about bees liking it was news to me!  So, again…the steps for true bugs making honeydew are:  1) the hemipteran (aphid) sucks the sap from your plant,  2) digests what it needs, and  3)excretes the rest!

And how fascinating is that?  Honey bees like honeydew!  Since I was really curious about honeydew as a nectar source for my bees, I did a little research this morning.  I read that there is even honey sold that is advertised as “honeydew” honey.

Sometimes the honeydew honey is called Forest Honey since honeydew can also be produced from trees such as Oak or Fir.  This honeydew is bactericidal and secreted in response to injury of the tree.   I’ll share my links so you can read more about it too.

Links to read about Aphids, Honeydew & Honey bees that like Honeydew ❀

1)  http://cynthiabrast.wordpress.com/2011/10/04/got-aphids-honey-dew-i/

2)  http://www.airborne.co.nz/hnydew.shtml

3)  http://ehoneybees.com/Types-of-honey/Honeydew-honey.php#.UAMXuI7lPbY

4)  http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/02/070222160102.htm

5)  http://www.nzes.org.nz/nzje/free_issues/NZJEcol17_2_85.pdf

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Her Highness Takes Flight!

If you read my last post, you know I discovered two queen cells in my hive and yesterday when I checked, they’d both been opened.  Without actually “bee-ing” in the hive myself, I could only surmise that my colony had new royalty.  Although I looked carefully yesterday, I failed to see any evidence of her highness.  Even though there were two queen cells and both were opened, there would have been only one survivor.  Whoever was luckiest to emerge first would have found her competitor’s unopened cell.  The unfortunate contender probably piping her frantic objections at her cell being chewed apart and facing her subsequent death sentence from the  stings of the reigning queen. (Read some really neat things about sound communication in the hive  at http://www.culturaapicola.com.ar/apuntes/conducta/205_comunicacion_sonidos_abejas.pdf ).

Since I am still very inexperienced with beekeeping, I was hesitant to throw more money into the operation and thought I’d take a wait and see approach.  My “wait and see” turned into getting my camera this afternoon and taking a front row seat to watch the little gals flying in and out of the hive.  Unbelievably, I was able to catch with my camera, the new queen emerging from the hive and flying off on a mating flight.  I’m not sure if there are drones to fertilize her, but just to finally SEE the queen was enough for me!  Getting photos was the highlight of my day.  So what if my truck broke down and the rest of the day hadn’t gone so well.  I am on cloud nine!

Out of the hive she emerges

With her attendants

and off to seek her mate(s) she flies!

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July 12, 2012: Bee-wildered! Queen Cell and Deformed Wing Virus.

I am trying to check my hive at least twice a week to monitor how things are going, especially after seeing the varroa mites since installing the second package of bees and new queen.  The temperature here on the island has finally warmed up with highs in the high 60’s and low 70’s, and I’m definitely seeing much more flight activity around the hive.  It feels really hot for me wearing my full bee gear, so I’m down to gloves and my inner calm as it’s so much easier to view them without the veil.

Last week I was somewhat concerned when I went to change out the Hopguard strip and check the sticky paper again below the screened bottom board.  I don’t see any mites dropping, nor do I see any on the bees, so that could “bee” really good news!  What I saw instead were a few undeveloped bee pupae at the hive entrance and one poor little gal (newly hatched) with deformed wings.   Image

In case you don’t know this, Varroa mites are dreaded because they transmit bee viruses and are thought to contribute to Colony Collapse Disorder or CCD in this way.   One of these viruses is called Deformed Wing Virus.  Naturally, I worried that all my new bees hatching from eggs the new queen has laid will be affected.  Maybe I’ve handled the varroa problem in time.  Alas, only “time” will tell!

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Worker bee with varroa mite

The other thing I saw when I opened the hive was that my frames hadn’t been spaced properly and the bees are building chunks of comb in between those “too-far-apart” spaces.

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frames with “too-far-apart” spacing and comb build between

When I pulled out a frame, a piece of comb came loose.  I picked it up off the ground, along with the little bees that dropped off with it, put the bees back into the hive and carried this piece of comb back into the house to look a little closer at what looked (to me) like a queen cell.  Here is a photo so you can see it too and a photo of a developing pupa I opened to take a peek for for mites inside.

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Chunk of comb that fell off when I removed the frame

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Queen cell?

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bee pupa

Opened cell (Queen cell?)

After inspection and a few photographs, I put the comb back into the hive to see what might happen.  Maybe the new queen I put in last month has some sort of problem that the worker bees had already sensed.  Bees are really good at detecting when things are not as they should be.  They can even hear the varroa mites moving around in the brood cells and there are some species of bees that will open the invaded cells and kill the varroa mites, chewing off their legs.   If this is indeed a queen cell, then I’ve been wondering how she would lay more than just drone brood since there are no nearby hives with drone populations to fertilize her.

Maybe I should attempt to requeen.  I’m not certain yet what my decision will be.  I did check my hive yesterday and saw that the cap is off the comb that I put back.  It would be too early for a brand new queen to start laying eggs.  When I examined the frames, I did see eggs in many of the cells and there are capped cells with worker brood as well.

Last night I read another chapter in the book I’ve been so intrigued with, “Fruitless Fall, The Collapse of the Honey Bee and the Coming Agricultural Crisis” by Rowan Jacobsen – http://www.rowanjacobsen.com/books/fruitless-fall.  In Appendix I, it mentions the way bees actually build comb in the wild and says there are “mismatched cells” with very large cells (up to 6 mm in diameter) built along the top of the comb with cell size decreasing to small cells along the bottom of the comb.  Maybe with my “too-far-apart” frames, this is what the bees were fashioning.  I did find this piece of comb with the look-alike queen cell at the top of the frame.  Maybe it wasn’t actually a new queen and the queen I had is doing just fine.

More to buzz about later!

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Little Bee Loves the Mustard

We had some sunshine for a few moments yesterday morning…and my bees were happy to be out enjoying the warmth!

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Counting Varroa Mites

Yesterday I went out to check and see how effective my Hopguard strip is at repelling those varroa mites.  My Country Rubes screened bottom board has access at the back of the hive where I’ve placed a sheet of gridded sticky paper under the screen to catch the mites that fall down from the frames.  My count yielded a grand total of fourteen mites.  That wasn’t as many as I was expecting, but perhaps my varroa problem was caught early enough that the population wasn’t so high.  I believe they must have come in with my second package of bees since I never noticed any with the first one.  

Next week, I will re-treat with another strip of Hopguard.  My bee-mentor and friend recommended I hang the next strip after ten days.  They aren’t as effective as the gooey Hop mixture dries out.  I’ll keep checking my frames and the sticky sheet as well to see if the count goes up.  

Everything else looks good though.  The only thing that would help is for the temperature to warm up here just a little….and maybe for the sun to come out!  Image

 

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cynthiabrast

June 24, 2012

The sun is out today!  We’ve had almost a whole month of gloomy weather that many on the island have dubbed the month “June-u-ary!”    Perhaps the next few weeks will be warmer and the overcast skies will clear.

Last week when I checked my hive, I noticed I had the dreaded varroa mites.  My new queen is doing fine though and the bees have cleared out all of the old drone brood that was the result of my first queen.  I have no idea what became of her, but the operation in place now looks healthy…except for those mites!

My day today is a full one.  I have been baking and preparing food for my daughter’s high school graduation potluck supper this evening.  While in the kitchen though, I thought I’d take care of some bee hive tasks as well.   Since the jar of sugar syrup I…

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