The Scaredy Cat beekeeper?

DO I HAVE BEEKEEPER PTSD?

After I recently got stung to pieces trying to capture a swarm in the wrong manner, all kinds of things went through my pea brain.  Kind of like a person that falls off or gets bucked off a horse, I was reluctant to do my normal bee routine. I was having trouble wanting to get back out there and tend to the remaining bees that I did have. Although I know that with my suit and gloves on, the chances of getting stung again were not really very likely.  And I always take great pains not to crush anyone.

But I had never in 5 years of owning bees gotten to really enjoying them.  I did not enjoy the fact that they really didn’t like my presence, and could act really hateful at the wrong moves.  Adding to the fact was that I had changed my bees from Russians, to two different other breeds.  One of these breeds was Italians, which did not seem to be very touchy.  The other breed was a mutt breed called “survivor bees” who seemed calm, but with no warning would explode into a rage.  I had never had any bees that temperamental.

My Russians would always head butt me before actually stinging, so I had some kind of warning.  But they were very swarmy, so I changed types last year.

Anyway, after the attack I was leery of bees, not terrified, but reluctant.  I knew I needed to tend to them, but I found all and any kind of excuse to put it off.  However, I did consider the idea at the last that aside from that reluctance, those survivor bees did seem to be a tad screwy.  And since I didn’t actually see them leave the hive in a swarm, I entertained the idea that possibly these were not my bees, but a feral bunch from somewhere else.  OR “Africanized bees”?????

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The culprits. Bee guarding entrance to hive.

But none of that explained that one hive in the back that was super touchy.

I thought possibly if I requeened all the screwy hives . . . And I also thought about selling all the darned bees, because what good is it having them if you don’t maintain them?  I didn’t mind having a few hives (2 or three), but six was a maintenance thing if you didn’t really love it.

Hey, here I am posting umpteen articles on how to take care of bees, and I didn’t even feel comfortable around them enough to want to keep them any more.  I opologize profusely.  But it is the trooooooooth.  I can stand sitting in a chair in front of the hive without fear at all.  But I put on that bee suit, and I know the bees will like me up until the point that I remove some frames.  Then they just lose it.  I keep going, but they are pissed and I do not enjoy them being pissed at me.  I guess I just want my animals to like me because I take so much care taking care of them.

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Finger sting

It’s not as if I’m terrified, or in fear of my life or anything.  I know that it isn’t personal. I know the bees don’t hate me personally, or even all people personally.

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My eye . . . swollen up

I think I need a beekeeper shrink . . .  But now for my other reaction

I got up the morning after writing the above article.  I was not even awake, with bleary eyes, cricked neck, and another thought coming into my not yet awake mind.  Here I am spending my hard earned money on beehives, frames, beetle traps, time out of my life, etc.  So I resolved to look at this in the opposite way for once.

    • They cost me over $100 each. x6 = $600
    • Their hives cost about $150 each. x6 = $900
    • The beetle traps cost at least half that each. x6 = $300
    • The extra supers cost a certain amount.
    • Extra excluders cost a certain amount.
    • Powdered sugar for shaking, and miscellaneous equipment probably cost at least $100
    • A SMALL spinner for spinning frames of honey cost $120.
    • Maintenance averages 2 weeks a year. That equals 5-6 months out of my life. Which is equal to a large vacation.
    • I worry over the parasites that attack them.
    • I have to go out in the cold and make sure they don’t freeze to death or starve.
    • I have to go out in a hot bee suit and sweat over them while they try to kill me.
    • Bee stings make me itch and dig my skin off for at least a week.

And the bad possiblities . . .

    • They are in MY backyard.
    • They are bought and paid for by me.
    • They are taken care of with time out of my valuable life.
    • I only ask for PART of their food, which is extra they won’t use.
    • They live at my discretion.
    • The beetles would get them if I didn’t do something about it each year.
    • They could have gone to someone that bangs on their hive.
    • They could have gone to someone that likes to smash bees.
    • They could have gone to someone that puts poison in their hives.
    • They would just act like bees and die a like a bee if I didn’t take care of them.

So, who cares if the bees actually LIKE me?

The perks used to be getting to watch bees and observe their many ups and downs.  And HONEY, the main thing that is not replaceable by getting it at the grocery store in the same manner.  The honey is storable for very long periods of time, tastes great, make great gifts and can be sold.  You can actually stockpile it, put it in your coffee, tea, cook with it, etc.

Well, they are insects.  And in their little pea brains I probably should not expect any more than that.  And I’m sure I wouldn’t get a heck of a lot of money if I sold them.  And that would also mean having some inspector running around my yard telling me what I already knew in the first place, which is that I have a few small hive beetles. Yeek.

So, I’m back to square one.  I need to get out there today and fix those hives so they’ll survive some more and see if they have any extra honey after swarming all over the place.  Anyone have one of these epiphanies?

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Researchers Find Foe for Small Hive Beetle

This is a reblog of a Small Hive Beetle conversation I had on the blog IPM IN THE SOUTH.  It might possibly add more solutions to beetle infestations.

IPM in the South

In the winter issue of Southern Exposure, you’ll find a story about a relatively new pest that has been “bugging” bees in the southeast. The pest, the small hive beetle, is too small for the eye to see, but big enough to bully entire colonies into leaving their nests.

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Hive Beetle update April 2014

One of my readers wrote to me asking advice (I added a few sentences later):

I just read your blog about hive beetle. We had them for the first time last summer. Noticed it when we found a huge pile of bees on the ground. Bees had been in that hive since spring. When we opened up the hive, we discovered a large amount of hive beetles. No other hive was disturbed. We have four hives. I installed another swarm a few weeks ago and they absconded. Was thinking about making the cd case trap. We cleaned out the box, burned the inside, and installed another swarm in the same box. Less than a week later, we had dead bees again all over the ground. No beetles, though. It is strange how this has happened, but will be destroying that box, but first will douse it with 50/50 bleach and water. No other signs of any disease or anything. You mentioned using roach bait, I have some of the powdered bait, would you suggest I sprinkle it on the ground near the back of the hives? Also, what kind of nematodes should I purchase? ~ Gloria

Dead bees after hive beetle infestation

Dead bees after hive beetle infestation

I know the feeling. You do all that work and there they are, a big mess.  How are your other hives doing?  Are they free of problems? In my case, after all of what I did to get rid of beetles I decided several things:

  • That I couldn’t tell if the nematodes did anything.  And they are really expensive.  So I decided not to get them a second year.  Maybe the original ones are still alive in the soil and working.  Who knows?

  • The beetle traps with poison in them didn’t catch anything at all.  I don’t know why, but other people say the opposite.  They catch beetles for them.  I caught none.

  • I forgot to add something.  POWDERED SUGAR SHAKE!  You put powdered sugar in a flour sifter or something similar, and shake this all over your bees and inner parts.  It riles the bees up irritatingly, they attack whatever is in there.  And it makes things slippery so that mites and whatever falls into your oil trap.  Do this regularly, maybe once a month during fine weather.  It’s non toxic, and the bees will eat the leftovers.
  • OOPS! forgot something else my husband reminded me of.  We have our hive up on a deck up off the ground.  And several times a year we wrap the legs in rags and soak that in used transmission fluid and kerosene half and half.  It keep ants and all kinds of things from crawling up to the hives.  Additionally, my deck legs are sitting on concrete blocks for leveling.  I douse these with oil too.
  • Additionally, and this is very important. There must be enough bees in the hive to cover all of the frames, and chase the beetles and harass them.

Bees will corner beetles and keep them in corners and make it difficult for them to breed.  They even resort to using propolis to wall them in. But if there is too much space, such as adding a super prematurely, and too little bees to cover the space, the beetles will be able to evade persecution, running in all directions and hiding in the cracks.  This gives them ample time to lay eggs and multiply.

I think, if your other hives were not overcome with beetles they had a big enough population to defend and corral the beetles that they did get.  It’s possible that your failed hive was the opposite, and even that beetles were not the original problem, but what weakened them enough to make them overcome with the beetles.  So check for any other problems.

NOTE:  My hives only had a few beetles one summer.  I left for a week long vacation, after putting extra supers on all the hives hoping to prevent a swarming.  When I came home the beetles had taken over all the hives.  CAUSE:  I gave them room to escape by putting the supers on too soon.

I also think that the powdered sugar shake, combined with the Freeman Beetle trap, and sucking the beetles up regularly with a low powered vacuum can keep the population down to manageable levels.

The Freeman oil Beetle Trap is different from other oil traps, in that it doesn’t have ledges at the bottom for varmints to hide and lay eggs in.  Which leads me to my other article about sealing cracks in the hive.  See my article on how I sealed the cracks permanently HERE

Honey Bee Deck

Bee deck 2010 before beetle invasion

Honey bee deck leg

Leg of Bee Deck where you wrap the legs

Probably using a combination of controls is what helped my beetle thing.  But I think the sweeper was best.  I never completely got rid of every single beetle, as they came back the next spring. (They overwinter in the hive, and hatch normally in the dirt outside the hive if not actively reproducing inside the hive)  So the bees keep them warm for the winter.  How convenient.  What I did was to cut the population down to less destructive levels.

The way I used the sweeper was that whenever I opened the top lid of the hive to check or mess with the bees, I flipped it over quickly and vacuumed any beetles running around as quick as I could, dodging bees all the while (it WILL suck up bees too).  Then I switched to the inside top of the hive and chased any beetles I saw running on the top board and/or up over the sides of the outside of the hive.

I made this a regular thing every two days while the beetles were thick, and then every week, and then every two weeks.  Until I only saw a few.  It really cut down the beetles, all of which are breeders that you want to kill.  Now I only regularly see 4 to 5 beetles when I open the top cover.

Make no mistake, these four could become many upon many if left unchecked by controls.

I’m working on some kind of front of the hive entrance trap, because when beetles come back, they just fly to the front entrance of the hive and crawl right in!  I’ve actually watched them DO this, and once inside they make a mess.  And that mess is what makes your bees leave.  They just give up in disgust because their honey is rotten, their babies are eaten, the maggots are everywhere, and stinky slime is all over the place.  It’s a science fiction, but NOT fiction horror movie made for bees.

Also, although I’m no expert, from reading what you said, I wouldn’t sprinkle the roach bait on the ground, because bees can be scavengers in the spring, and they might pick it up and bring it back to the hive.  I didn’t use powdered roach bait.  They (other people) recommend the roach bait that comes in a syringe in a past form, and you put it in a CD case when you use it.  Like I said, it didn’t work or catch anything where I was at.  The CD case makes sure the bees can’t get it on their feetsies.  Also, with the CD case, you can see if any beetles end up in the CD case.  In mine nothing was caught.

We used a big RubberMaid tub to soak the nasty parts in overnite, and then used a power washer to heavily spray the bleach solution completely off all hive parts.  Bees are sensitive to smells.  And then air dried in the sun for a week before storing the parts for winter.  Then the next year I got new bees.  So my parts had time to air out and get rid of any bleach or smell.

LAST NOTES JUST IN CASE:

  • I would make sure you have oil traps on the bottom (I recommend the Freeman Beetle Trap) they catch LOTS of beetles and mites.

  • I would make sure you don’t have some additional problem like mites, or disease on top of having beetles.  It’s possible to have multiple problems at the same time.

  • And bees can go out and get poisoned, come back to the hive and die from it.  We can’t do much about that.

  • Sometimes, when a hive is weak, the other hives will rob it out.  But not likely if the honey is crapped out and nasty.

You can get an idea of mite populations if you take a piece of sticky shelf paper and put it sticky side up under your ventilated screened hive bottom (you got one?) to catch dead mites.  Then you count the mites that stick to it.  Don’t put it where the bees can get to it, or they’ll stick to it too (grin)  OR you could just reley on your oil trap to catch the dropped mites.

I ordered my nematodes from here: 
Note:  They are tiny in a zip lock and a wet gel to keep them alive and a cold pack.  And they are sensitive to overheating, drying, AND poison.  (Another reason not to sprinkle poison around the hives)  You have to keep the ground moist or they will dry out and die.  We put ours in non-chlorinated water (chlorine is bad for them), and sprayed them on the ground under and around the hive.

Southeastern Insectaries, Inc.
606 Ball Street, PO Box 1546, Perry, GA 31069
Office 478-988-8412   Fax 478-988-9413  Toll Free 1-8777-967-6777
Email addresses:
sei@windstream.net
southeasterninsectaries@gmail.com

 

Beehives in cold winter winds

Although I live in one of the not so arctic areas of the US, but THIS winter had a few extreme cold snaps, and I improvised a wind break for the beehives.  I was mostly worried about the wind, as these are first year hives.

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Beehive wind and rain protection. The hive setup

The winds were deeply chilling, and I got out my old sheets, couch covers, and bundled up to go and cover them before night came.  It was vurrrry windy (30 MPH), and I took sheets of solid foam insulation to cover the sides on the bottoms because I have  ventilated bottom boards.

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Beehive number ONE (the Italians) with wind and rain protection

Then I covered the entire hive, including the front entrance clear to the ground floor with couch covers and sheets.  My aim was not to completely seal the hive, but to break the wind.

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Beehive number 3 with winter protection from wind and rain

When days come that it isn’t really badly cold, I just lift the front to expose the entrance so the bees can get out and do their “business”, whatever that might be.

NOTE:  the things on the top of the hives are scavenged from an old hot tub cover, and are foam covered with Naugahide upolstery material.  They are waterproof, and can be used for shade if needed, or rain and snow.  I’ve had them for several years and they also come in handy to set things on top of when I’m tending hives any time of the year.  You just don’t put your smoker up there.

Small Hive Beetle Sweeper

Last year when we had our huge beetle infestation my husband, overwhelmed at the mess, said he was “tired of squishing beetles” and invented me a BEETLE SWEEPER!  This year with my new bees, I have been using it every few weeks in my beehives, clear up to when the bees are left alone in the fall for the winter.  It works really good.

Photo of Sweeper used to suck up small hive beetles

Brand and power of sweeper

He took a small, low powered sweeper, and cut the end off of a transmission fluid funnel like this one:

Photo of transmission fluid funnel

Transmission fluid funnel used to make nozzle

He then inserted it into the tip of the hose and secured it with electrical tape wound really tightly.

Photo of nozzle on small hive beetle sweeper

Nozzle with cut off end taped inside of it

And this is the result:

Photo of Finished small hive beetle sweeper

Finished small hive beetle sweeper

I just lift the top lid of the bee hive and lay it down quickly so that the beetles that might be in the lid do not scatter or fly off.  And you have to be VERY careful to avoid the bees because it will suck them up too.  And you can’t release the bees without releasing the beetles, so they are gone.  But you’ll get the hang of it after sucking up a few bees.  You will learn to gauge just how close you can come without commiting a bad thing.

Photo of beekeeper using a small hive beetle sweeper

Me using the hive beetle sweeper on my own hives

I have found that if I do this on a regular basis, after a while lifting the lid and examining shows only a few beetles. I think it’s having a good effect on the population.  Keep in mind, I also have bottom oil traps too.

HONEY BEE and HONEY FACTS 2

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Honey bees can gather the nectar in more than 300 flower types in the United States.

A honey bee must tap 2 million flowers to make 1 pound of honey.

The average worker honey bee makes 1 1/2 teaspoon of honey in her lifetime.

A honey bee visits between 50-100 flowers during one collection trip.

To make one pound of honey, honey bees must gather 10 pounds of nectar.

Honey has a tendency to granulate due to its natural properties. Granulation does not affect the taste or purity of honey.

Granulated honey can be restored to liquid form by carefully placing the jar in a pan of very warm water. (not too hot, cause that can ruin the taste and the vitamins and enzymes)

Store your honey in a dry cupboard. Do not refrigerate honey. Cold temperatures hasten granulation.

Honey does not benefit from pasteurization because it is naturally low in bacteria and other microbes.

Honey contains no fat, no cholesterol, no gluten and no sulfates or sulfites.

Honey is primarily composed of carbohydrates.

Honey is a natural sugar and is easier to digest. Honey is 100% pure and natural. It is made entirely by honeybees from flower nectars.

For all inquiries regarding the use of honey in medical conditions such as diabetes, weight control, etc., please consult your physician.

Honey was found in the tomb of King Tut (fl. c.1350 , king of ancient Egypt, of the XVIII dynasty) and was still edible since honey never spoils.

Due to the high level of fructose, honey is 25% sweeter than table sugar.

Honey is created by honey bees who mix plant nectar, with their own bee enzymes and then evaporate excess water.

Honey has different flavors and colors, depending on the location and kinds of flowers the bees visit.

To the ancients, honey was a source of health, a sign of purity and a symbol of strength and virility.

Nectar can contain 80 percent water, which the bees fan with their wings to evaporate most of.

Honey is antiseptic, antibiotic, and acidic

Natural honey will form into granular sugars

Honey can be used as a preservative

Honey can be used as a sugar substitute

Honey can be used as a facial beauty mask

Honey is used by some people for allergies.  But supposedly only honey from your local sources

NOTE – I understand from hearing from other sources that honey should not be fed to children under the age of 12 months.  I’ll research this further.

Hive Beetle fresh opinions. New spring hives. WolfCreek and Georgia Bees 2013

new bee hive

First new hive, Italian bees, all stragglers vacating the box after dumping.

WHY I PICKED THE BEE BREEDS I DID
I said previously that all my bees didn’t make it because of the beetles, and that I’d be ordering bees to start fresh with this winter, and I did, but in a totally unexpected way.  THIS time I decided I was going to try some new kinds of bees instead of my normal Russians.  I always loved Russians, but then I’d never had any other kind.  And although I didn’t worry about Varroa Mites, they were not immune to beetles, and they were very, very SWARMY.  Sometimes even though I did the early checks, giving more room, checkerboarding techniques, etc, they might even swarm several times per hive.  Sometimes they would swarm late in the season.  And when they got too many beetles they were out of there!

So I explored some of the others, researching and running all over the internet getting opinions.  I thought hmmmm. . .  CARNIOLANS.  But couldn’t find anyone close to get pure forms of.  Then I thought VSH resistant types.  But ultimately, I ordered some Italians from Georgia Bee, because I was just plain curious.

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Georgia Bees (Italians) on the front porch of their castle!

Then I found another breed that wasn’t even a breed.  They were from Wolf Creek Apiary, and were called survivor bees, a combination of feral, Russian, Carniolan, Italian.  In other words tough like a mutt dog!  In addition, they were purported to never have been raised with pesticides, and also were raised on small cell foundation.  They said they were gentle, productive, bug resistant, etc.  I was really attracted to that.  And here is the reason why:

I do not have an isolated bee yard, and in fact my Russians weren’t originally pure bred.  And I have not requeened by ordering a queen yet, so they basically breed with whatever is running around out there anyway.  I just end up with mutt bees in the end, because my queens breed wherever they want.  I may do the requeening, but without killing any of the original queens, as for instance if I just do a split.  But I figured I’d just get some tried and tested mutts from somewhere that at least knew the traits their bees had.

GEORGIA BEES
April 14th I when to the post office, got my bees, and went home to install the Italians from Georgia Bees.  Golden in color, and very gentle.  Not so much after they took posession of the hive, but that is normal for any bee I think.  But definitely not stingy.  NOTE: For some reason the queen didn’t have any “attendants” in her cage with her.  Possibly an oversight, but she didn’t have any girlfriends inside with her to take care of her.  Just all the strange bees in the whole cage outside HER cage.

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From Wolf Creek. So gentle I installed without gloves or suit or smoke.

WOLF CREEK APIARY
April 20th we went to meet Ruth Seaborn and her husband of Wolf Creek Apiary from up around Nashville, and met her in the parking lot in Memphis.  They were delivering a large batch of bees to some beekeepers around Arkansas, and she said I could save shipping if I just met her and she’d bring my one little package of their bees.  We called it an outing, and took off for a day of getting bees!

They had brought many many cages of bees for a bee club also, and one woman came just to pick up some queens she had ordered.  I asked a lot of questions, and Ruth is the greatest.  You can tell they care a lot for the bees they raise.  Her husband calls them “his girls”.  (so do I)  She also brought some of the essential oils I ordered which were Peppermint, and Lemongrass oils, which can make the bees attracted to the food, and I guess much else.  I figured I could use them for anything, not just bees.

I was so impressed with how healthy the bees looked that I remembered that I wished I had ordered two boxes instead of one, and she said I could order another one right then and THERE.  Very nice, I sure did so, because I didn’t want to wait until next year.  Now that is handy.  Normally by this time of year (April), nobody HAS any bees to order.

SPRING HIVE BEETLE OBSERVATION
Hey, I had my FREEMAN BEETLE TRAP, the oil pan one under the first hive I installed in April.  We had, last year, sprayed nematodes, sterilized all equipment, and I was hoping that they all died from not having a hive to overwinter in.  Well, I think they lived somewhere around that I missed, because I find it hard to believe that 15 beetles came with a box of bees.  But my Freeman Beetle trap caught that many and I killed just two.  One in the hive lid, and the other scampering on the deck by the bee hive.  I BELIEVE THESE BEETLES HATCHED AND CAME OUT OF THE SOIL OF MY YARD, not the bees I ordered, but I can’t proove it.  If that’s true, then the nematodes either didn’t kill them all last year, or they overwintered somewhere else.  I couldn’t afford to nematode my whole yard.

THE FREEMAN BEETLE TRAP FROM LAST YEAR
I can say that this a really GREAT beetle catcher/killer.  It differs from the regular under the hive oil pan trap, in that the screened bottom goes all the way to the edge, and there are no ledges for the beetles to hang out on.  The bees can then just herd and push them off through the screen as they enter the trap.  But I advise continuing to check the lid of the hive and crushing or vacuuming those so that they don’t reproduce.

I’ll keep you all posted on what happens with them.

HIVE BEETLES KILLED LAST HIVE

dead bee from hive beetles

Rest in peace my girls . . .

Well, it finally happened.  I lost the last hive I had.  It was weak anyways, and ultimately didn’t make a queen in time to make babies and store enough honey.  But to add insult to injury, the robber bees that ended up dealing the last blow were probably from a previous hive of mine that had swarmed.  Big, healthy bees that came back to get the last honey.

HOWEVER, all is not totally lost, because I’ve read that hive beetles can’t survive outside the hive in the winter.  That they need the warmth of a huddle of bees to keep them warm.  So, anyone know anything about this last bastion?  If it’s true, then possibly my bees didn’t die in vain.  Possibly when I get my new order of Russians, they will be able to start new without any outside varmints to eat them alive . . . We will see.

Freeman hive beetle trap and nematodes arrived!

Bees from Georgia Bees

Italian bees from Georgia Bees

Got my beetle trap.  Unadvised and as I did the frames, I used a glue gun to track down any cracks in the construction to prevent the beetles from hiding from the bees.  I only found the normal amount, just along the sides and bottom.  Did not do this on the grooves for the sliding tray by the way, so that the tray will slide in and out as designed.  It is hot, hot, hot, here in West Tennessee.  My nematodes also arrived, and I am watering the ground beneath my hive patio before I put them on the ground.  Hope they lived through the shipping in this hot weather.  I looked at them under high magnification and can just make out masses of them in the gel packs.  But I can’t tell if they are moving . . . They are very tiny and hairlike.

Leave a comment at the bottom of the page.  I like that the mostest.

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