Saturday, September 11, 2010

Homemade Solutions

One of the things I like about beekeeping thus far is that people look for solutions to problems and share their experiences with others. It's a mentality of "we're all in this together," and that is rare in our day and age.

If you want to see the inventor of one of the "green" methods of pest control demonstrate the effectiveness of powdered sugar and an oil trap in dealing with the Small Hive Beetle, check out his video on YouTube!

My favorite line is, "I powdered those rascals down!" As Mark said, "Pa-paw is gettin' it DONE!"

Mr. Freeman says in the video that used cooking oil is an attractant for the beetles, so maybe now I can convince Mark to get used oil rather than buying vegetable oil. Free oil works for me!

Cranky Bees

Hive 1 doesn't have a queen, as far as we can tell.

On Labor Day, we checked Hives 1 & 6 to see if the queens were released. Hive 6 had an empty queen condo, and the bees seemed content.

Hive 1, on the other hand, was Unhappy. The queen had not been released. Mark had been advised that 3 days was enough, and we'd waited 5, but the bees still hadn't eaten through the "candy" to release her. Mark moved the condo to see if he could find another queen in there, and in retrospect we should have followed the bees' cues. The workers mobbed the queen cage -- it was covered up to the point it wasn't visible. If we'd reviewed The Backyard Beekeeper beforehand, we would have known they were too aggressive . . . but we didn't, and we released her.

"There's a bee fight," Mark said, as soon as she got into the hive. They killed her. The suspicion is that they grew their own queen and therefore killed the intruder. So we closed up the hive with the air full of agitated bees, drove off still suited up in our veils, and figured we'd give them a week to calm down.

We went out this morning, and they're still cranky. This could mean that they don't have a queen at all, that the one they grew is still a virgin and isn't laying which is a problem, or that she's defective in some way. We noticed they've got supersedure cells again, some drone brood, and lots of big drone bees hanging around. They're clearing out honey, putting up pollen for the winter, and the brood that had been in there is hatching -- but no eggs. Hive 1 has a lot of bees, and they were stinging Mark's gloves and dive-bombing our veils. Again we drove off still suited due to some persistent followers keen on exacting vengeance.

Mark has called Harry Fulton, who just retired from MSU and is the president of the Mississippi Beekeepers Association. Hopefully he'll call us back with advice.

In the other hives, all appears to be well. Hives 4 & 5 have empty feeders, so we'll make them some more food. I tell myself that someday we'll know what we're doing, but right now ignorance is *not* bliss. I feel like a bad beekeeper, leaving carnage in my wake!

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Sunday afternoon, reflecting on Saturday morning

Mark and I are sitting on the front porch. The air is buzzing with sound of hummingbirds. A gentle breeze blows our deep-toned wind chimes, and the temperatures of summer have abated for a few days. Bliss.

Yesterday morning we headed to Bee Hill to follow up on our notes from Art's visit, as well as check on our two new queens in 4 & 5. The picture at left shows all six hives when we first arrived. (Mark had whacked the weeds back on Friday, which made it nice.) Thankfully, in both hives, the queen had been successfully released. In fact, both queen condos had been "licked clean" of every bit of candy. The bees were very calm, which we took as a good sign, and rather than disturb their contentment with their new leaders, we opted to look for the queens another time. I got to sprinkle them with powdered sugar, and Mark added a medium super to both to accommodate the growing number of bees. (Photo on the right shows Hive 5 is full!) Hive 4 already had a feeder with sufficient supply, so we added a feeder and the last of the recent batch of diluted "stinky" honey to Hive 5. Hives 4 & 5 should be set for a while with plenty of fuel to strengthen them and get them well established before the colder months set in. The goal was to give them enough room for the population they have, but not give them so much space they have a hard time keeping it warm.
Hives 2 & 3 got the powdered sugar treatment and pollen patties as well. Both seemed to have the beginnings of capped honey in their medium supers, which means the brood nest is solidly established in the lower deep super. (Photo below.) Nice!

Hives 1 & 6 both had some activity, and tomorrow we'll check them to make sure the queens were released.

I felt for the first time that we were working in tandem as a team, getting needed tasks accomplished and equipment moved around without me being in the way. Admittedly, being suited up in my jacket, veil, and gloves makes me more willing to get closer and help!
In beekeeping news, we got our first issue of the Mississippi Beekeepers Association newsletter, and the annual meeting is the end of October. They're going to have a class on crafting soaps, candles, and cosmetics with beeswax and honey, classes on marketing your product, etc. I'm excited! A new addition to their schedule is a make-and-take decoupage class. I gave Mark a hard time about how even beekeeping seems like an old boys' club in MS, because they're having the crafty event "so our ladies can get to know each other." I'm going to attend, and try not to feel like they're patting me on the head. It also makes me want to learn as much as possible so I can hold up my end of conversations and avoid asking silly questions at the meet-and-greet events. Who knew beekeeping would turn out to be a competition? Oh wait. For Lewises, *everything* is a competition!

Finally, a shout-out to Cousin Marla and her family -- check out Mark's cap!