Wednesday, March 31, 2010

"Bee Bait" the Mouse

This morning's task in the Beelandia apiary was to clean out the egg carton winter insulation I had placed on both sides of the follower boards in the top bar hive, Plan Bee... . As you may remember, this hive had an unwanted guest this winter, a mouse which daughter Eme has affectionately named Bee Bait. You can imagine the mess I found on one side of the colony: chewed up egg cartons and newspaper, mouse feces, etc. And, of course, as I dug further into the debris, I eventually found Bee Bait, fully alive in all his/her furry brown splendor.

Immediately, Bee Bait tried to hide in the remaining paper mess but I persisted up until the mouse decided to take off underneath the follower board and into the colony. I tried to follow but the bees would have none of it. Bee Bait's visit whipped them into a frenzy (i.e. one sting, so I backed off and simply continued to clean up the egg carton mess as best I could, making sure there was no place for the mouse to nest. When the bees calm down, I shall return.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Worker Bees of the World Unite

Just a short note on today's activities in Beelandia:

1. The weather was remarkable today, especially considering it is still March. The high was about 73 degrees F, mostly sunny, though the wind was strong.

2. I moved Nuc to Be Named Later... to its permanent location, entrance facing south and around a foot and a half west of where it was located. Officially, this nuc is now a "regular" hive and will forever be called Worker Bees of the World Unite.

Monday, March 29, 2010

On Reading Beck's Risk Society

I have been reading Ulrich Beck's book, Risk Society -Towards a New Modernity and, again, am confronted with the inadequacy of my past political commitments. In a world of  economic globalization and its consequent effects on the environment, how can I take serious any local solutions to our ecological problems? A sustainable, ecologically-sound community may still be polluted by the waste of its neighbors. Unsound local communities may still live upstream. The waste of industrial production does not honor political borders.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Bees In More Trouble Than Ever...

Another disturbing article on honeybee decline found in the Gainesville Sun. As the article states:

MERCED, Calif. — The mysterious 4-year-old crisis of disappearing honeybees is deepening. A quick federal survey indicates a heavy bee die-off this winter, while a new study shows honeybees' pollen and hives laden with pesticides.
 I wonder if death rates are the same for non-commercial beekeepers?

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Like Night and Day

My 5 hives have come out of winter healthy which leads me to the next obvious question: Why did I lose my two hives last year, and, this year, have my 5 hives all survive?

First, I know it isn't due to how much food they stored. This year, I worried going into winter because the hives had little honey in storage. Bee Workers of the World Unite! had very little indeed! Last year in comparison, the two hives were packed with honey going into November and it was all still there when I examined the dead-outs in February.

Survival could be due to two factors beyond either the bees' or my control. First, last January had two weeks of continuous subzero temperatures. The bees probably couldn't move up to the capped honey within inches of the cluster. Second, I still suspect that my bees had a significant virus infection created by an immense varroa mite infestation.

But I did do other things to prepare the bees for winter that I didn't do last year:

1. I moved the hives slightly, so that they would receive plenty of winter sun.

2. Monta and I made quilt boxes for both the top bar hives and langstroths. These boxes absorbed a significant amount of moisture that rose up from the cluster.

3. While I kept the screen bottom boards on the langstroths, I did duct tape the openings, keeping the cold air out.

4. Besides wrapping the hives with black wintering materials, I also placed hay bales around the hive to cut down on strong winds.

5. I tilted boards in front of the bottom entrances. The bees could leave through the bottom entrances but didn't get full exposure to the chilly winds.

While these are the things I did, I can't be assured that these interventions were actually the key to the bees' survival. Honey bee survival/death is the result of a number of apicultural and environmental factors. It probably cannot be reduced in any particular silver bullets.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Beelandia-- 3/13 - 3/14 2010

I was busy all weekend working in Beelandia. Saturday, a cloudy, rainy day of upper 40F degree temperatures, was spent carrying out the hay bales I had placed around each hive last fall. Except for a slip on some ice, everything went well. I was also able to sow some poppy, and bird's foot trefoil seeds as well. I was a muddy, tired mess after this activity but I accomplished much.

Sunday was a beautiful day with full sun, and temperatures in the lower 60s. I took the box quilts off each hive and, on the langstroths, replaced them with feeders filled with 1:1 sugar syrup. The top bar hives still had plenty of honey and so to those I added simply a pollen paddy. As I suspected, Plan Bee... has or had mice, though it doesn't seem to have hurt that hive any.

As the above video of Bee Glad... shows, the bees were very active this afternoon. All hives were doing orientation and cleansing flights, and many workers were bringing in some off-white substance in their pollen baskets.

I think we have a winner in the Name That Nuc Contest. David Hinck, SMU student, suggested I name the hive: Worker Bees of the World Unite. Thank you David!

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Sign of Spring? My First Bee Sting

I took a slippery walk into Beelandia on this foggy, rainy upper 40F degree day. The snow has mostly melted in the yard but there were still patches of ice and slush which made walking quite difficult. This is the time of the year I get a bit "antsy" for warmer weather, and blossoming flowers, asking myself, "Will my bees starve before proper foraging conditions exist?"

On the basis of quick glances into the entrances of each hive, I am happy to report that all the hives seem to be doing well. And, as usual, the carniolans in Lib-BEE-taria are as fiesty as ever, giving me my first sting of the season. Spring can't be far away!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Knocking Together Some Woodenware

Early this afternoon I spent some time putting together equipment for the increases and splits I plan for the spring. Nuc To Be Named Later's bottom box and board are presently the queen castle nuc I started the colony in last July. Some time in late March or early April, I plan to take the top box of Nuc and move it on top of a new bottom board, take out the frames in the queen castle and place them in a new box, and place this box on top of the old top box. I will store the queen castle for future increases and queen mating. Nuc will be the colony I plan to raise queens from if all goes as planned.

By the way, since this colony will no longer be a nuc but a full-fledged hive I will have to rename it. Any suggestions from readers for a new name? I'm thinking of calling it The Mothership!

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Videos From Beelandia (3/6/10)

I took some videos this afternoon in the the Beelandia apiary of the 5 hives. All were active on this bright, 40 degree day. The first hive is Lib-BEE-taria .

The next is Bee Glad....

The third is Metpropolis:

Fourth, Nuc To Be Named Later:

And last, Plan Bee From Outer Space.