Saturday, March 28, 2009

Successful Queen Rearing Short Course

I started reading April's issue of the American Bee Journal yesterday and caught sight of a news item on page 305, announcing the scheduling of a queen rearing course at the University of Minnesota's St. Paul campus July 10th to 12. I may not be at the point of raising my own queens but I do have a great curiosity for all things apis, so I registered for the class last night and mailed my check in today.

If anyone else is interested you can read more about the course at www.extension.umn.edu/honeybees/components/publiccourses.htm . Enrollment is limited to 32 people, so they encourage people to register early.

Getting Myself Psyched

One way I get myself psyched all winter for spring beekeeping is to watch videos on youtube. Here is a nice video of an inspection of a top bar hive located in Texas.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Lake No-Bee-Gone Goes Solar

I just received my Sunjet 150- Solar Powered Pump in the mail today, already to be installed in Beelandia's pond, Lake No-Bee-Gone. Besides being more sustainable, it will eliminate the sight of that ugly extension cord in the apiary. I don't know how the bees felt about it but this orange cord was always getting in my way.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Some Neglected Photos

Here is a photo from the last few weeks that I forgot to serve previously:




The above photo was taken of the bottom board of Bee Glad... two weeks ago. Notice all the dead mites. Surely this must've been a factor in this hive's demise.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Beelandia Re-arranged

In light of the dying of both Metpropolis and Bee Glad... , I've decided to move the hives around a bit in Beelandia. I suspect that one cause of the bee demise was their placement in the apiary. They just did not get much winter sun where they were placed.

I am moving Metpropolis further away from the north facing fence. During the winter, this fence shaded the hive from any winter sun. Hopefully, the hive will get more just one or two feet south.

Bee Glad... will be moved a few feet east, away from the house, right in the middle of Beelandia. Lake No-Bee-Gone will be positioned right where Bee Glad... use to sit.

Three feet behind Bee Glad..., the new langstroth, Lib-BEE-taria, will be placed in all its green splendor.

Finally, on the far south side of Beelandia, Monta's newly built top bar hive, Plan Bee from Outer Space, will be positioned, facing Beelandia's garden of sunflowers and such.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Carniolans Due on April 11th

I checked out Nature's Nectar's blog today. It looks like my carniolan packages will be in on April 11th.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hive Autopsy Finished on Bee Glad...

On Saturday, I finished examining Bee Glad... and found a disturbing surprise. The bottom board was covered with thousands of varroa mites. What part this played in the death of Bee Glad... is still debatable but my surprise lies in how did this occurred. I checked the hive for mites all spring and summer, did periodic drone brood frame extraction, along with sugar dusting. When the mite count became too large in August, I treated it with Thymol and the count went down significantly. I was confident going into winter that the mite load was reasonably low, but, having seen the state of the bottom board, I imagine my confidence was unfounded.

I will be publishing some photos of the bottom board later this week.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Hive Autopsy Begins

Saturday, I began the autopsy of Bee Glad... and Metpropolis. I was planning on continuing my examination of both hives on Sundy but the weather did not cooperate.

Bee Glad... probably died because of what I suspected originally: starvation in the midst of abundance. The top two deeps were jam-packed with honey with no empty comb cells for the cluster to move up through. (Below is pictured a typical frame)


The cluster was in the bottom box. Many of these bees were found dead, head-first in cells. There was only one place where "spotting" might indicate a Nosema problem.

I collected some bees for microscopic examination.

Metpropolis' autopsy does not seem as definitive. Again there was plenty of untouched honey and pollen in the hive. However, despite my best efforts in the fall, the bees still moved the honey to both sides of the brood nest. This probably happened because I moved the top bars of honey around a little too early in fall, giving the bees enough time to rearrange things during the warm spell in late October. Because the honey was located on both sides, the winter cluster had become too diffused and separated throughout the brood nest, and when extreme cold occurred the bees couldn't keep the cluster temperature warm enough.


Two other things are worth mentioning about Metpropolis. First, the hive still had an usually high percentage of drones in it when it died. Whether this is an indication of some underlying problem is a question that needs further research. Second, I was able to find the queen. (pictured below) She looks healthy but I will do a closer examination of her body in the future.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Experiences in My Global Issues Course

This semester I am using Michael Schacker's A Spring Without Bees in my Global Issues course. It has been serving as the basis for helping my students think about environmental global issues. I have supplemented this reading with the wealth of videos about honey bees and CCD available on the internet. The reaction toward this topic has been phenomenal. I am being constantly bombarded by student questions and interest. I am approached in the hallway after class with even more discussion about bees and their social and ecological environment. In all, this topic has peaked their interest in a way no other topic has.

I am left with mixed feelings as I do this, however. On the one hand, it is wonderful to discuss this topic with truly engaged students for a change. In my 27 years of university teaching, this has been a very rare experience. On the other hand, it has increased my bitterness toward the university that will not support me in expanding this topic into a full semester Global Issues course. I wish the institution trusted my intuition and experience more than they do.