Thursday, December 20, 2007

Beemax Material Research

A reader left a comment on my Sept. 10, 2007 Post "New Toys". It reads "Beemax are made of polystyrene and a componant is styrene which has been banned in several states. It is known that it causes cancer in animals and nerve disorders in humans." Thank you who ever you are for bringing this up to me.

You know!! it made me think ........ I should had done some research on what exactly is Polystyrene. So better late than never .. here is my research.

Note : these are my online findings, research, and conclusion. What do I know. Key words in RED.
First my conclusion:

  1. Had I done this research before buying the Beemax hives, I still would had gone ahead and bought them.
  2. Polystyrene - Styrofoam take out containers ARE Polysterine with injected air. Remember those Styrofoam containers from the 80's that kept the hot part hot and the cold part cold of a Big mac??? Well, that's what Beemax hives are made out off. Now, Styrene is a component of Polystyrine, but you have to melt Polystyrine to get the Styrene out. Like any burning plastic, burning it will produce noxious fumes. SO DON"T BURN and inhale BEEMAX HIVES or any other plastic
  3. Now, Expanded Polystyrene (Styrofoam Fast food food containers and carry out containers) have been band in several states, but not because they are potential carcinogens, rather because it takes a long long long time in landfills to decompose. "The health effects caused by consuming polystyrene when it migrates from food containers (primarily from a leaching caused by heat exchange) into food is under serious investigation" (Wikipidia) . Just Like cell phone use, grilling on the BBQ, laptops on your lap, the sun, eating too much of this or not enough of that, etc etc.
My research Starting with -

Styrene : "also known as vinyl benzene as well as many other names , is an organic compound with the chemical formula C6H5CH=CH2. Under normal conditions, this aromatic hydrocarbon is an oily liquid. It evaporates easily and has a sweet smell, although common impurities confer a less pleasant odor. Styrene is an important precursor to polystyrene, an important synthetic material." "Styrene is named after the styrax trees from whose sap (benzoin resin) it can be extracted. Low levels of styrene occur naturally in plants as well as a variety of foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, beverages, and meats. " " Health effects
Styrene is a toxin, an irritant, and a potential carcinogen

Polystyrene : "is an aromatic polymer made from the aromatic monomer styrene, a liquid hydrocarbon that is commercially manufactured from petroleum by the chemical industry. Polystyrene is a thermoplastic substance, normally existing in solid state at room temperature, but melting if heated (for molding or extrusion), and becoming solid again when cooling off.".(Wikipidia)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Early Santa Visit and 2008 Beekeeping Plan/Goals

I was a very good boy too, but first things first. I have to thank my good friend and running partner Patti for the Blog slogan... “Bees give a natural Buzz ……” I actually had been looking for something to use in the blog and as my signature in the forums. I think Patti was just trying to be funny, but I like it and I’m going with it.

How did I get my present so early? Simple …. When you tell the wife you want bee stuff for X-mas she’ll most likely say order it. The trick is to make sure you order some big items. When it comes in just ask her if you can have it now or does she want to wrap it and put it under the tree!!!!!! Trust me, last thing she’ll want to do is wrap that huge box, and first thing she’ll want is the bee stuff out of the house.

It was a good day and a disappointing one. Good because I got my new PLASTIC HIVE STAND/VENTILATED BOTTOM BOARD and a new Beemax super from Dandant. All the parts for my second hive are now in. Here are a few pictures of the base unassembled and assembled. I like the base and trust it to control my number one bee problem – Florida carpenter ants. It has a partial screen board exactly where the bees keep their brood nest. The whole base slopes into the screen area and down into the inspection drawer. The partial screen is made for unobstructed ventilation to help with the hot and humid Florida weather. Personally, I think it has two draw backs, one is correctable.(Picture below is stand from behind with inspection drawer partially out)

  1. The ventilation holes are large enough for some bees to squeeze out of them, when and if the entrance is closed off. Not a good feature if one wishes to move the hive.
  2. The side squirts are not wide enough to hide the moats. Bees accidentally fall and drown in it when they are out bearding, or if they misjudge their approach pattern with a full pollen/nectar load. The problem is easily corrected by gluing or bolting on a 1 inch strip of wood to the side lengths.

(Picture below shows side moats)

Link to more pictures of my stand

Why disappointing?? I have been doing some research and planning on the best method of obtaining new bees to stock the new hive and the TBH. I finally ordered two 3lbs packages from Rossman Apiaries, but I though about it for too long, and my delivery is not scheduled until early May. With a May delivery, I’m going to completely miss the best Florida months for beekeeping. Oh well, live and learn.

The beekeeping goals and plan for 2008:

  • Self sustaining by years end - Two Lang hives, One Top Bar Hive (TBH), and One Nuc to support them.
  • Split current hive by late March, early April.
  1. If I can get a queen via the mail, then re-queen the split, and place above the TBH to stock it. Otherwise…
  2. Allow Nuc to raise its own queen and, if successful, allow it to grow into a full Lang or use it to support the May delivery of packages
  • With the arrival of the new bee stock in early May if Nuc is ready to provide support of drawn frames with capped brood.
  1. Install one package in Lang with 1 or 2 frames of brood from Nuc
  2. Install second package in the TBH

OR If the Split is well on its way to becoming a good colony

  1. Install one package in TBH
  2. Install second package into a Nuc

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Why we live in Florida - Dec 1st Activity

Coldest weather of the season arrived this past weekend. Lows in the low 50's and high in the upper 70's, Brrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

I couldn't even put a entrance reducer right now, it would just create a traffic jam at the entrance.

I took some silly short videos. I’ve said it before, I think video is a good way to observe behavior and to look out for heavy Varroa infestations or signs of other parasites / diseases.Observations from the video

  • "IN" Traffic keeps to the bottom of the landing board. "OUT" Traffic exits above and upside down. That really keeps things moving
  • Not a big flow of resources, but there is still a flow of pollen and nectar. Not bad for early December. It’s mostly nectar in the morning and as the day progresses pollen increases. That’s due to the simple reason that later in the day, the sun dries up the nectar in the flowers.
  • The loud noise you hear over the bee’s buzzing are cicada’s. If you think they are loud now, you should hear them in the summer.

Also visible in the video is my latest modification. I extended the side skirt with some wood and liquid nails (light brown stuff you see). It hides the moats on the sides completely under the hive. This equates to less bees drowning in the moat. I noticed that bees coming in fast and heavy at certain angles (directly from behind --> perpendicular to the entrance) from the field would sometimes miscalculate their approach and come up short just to land and drown in the moat. The wood skirt extension greatly relieves the problem of drowning bees. Still, in the front moats there are 4 to 6 bees drowning per week. I finally observed why .................. bees that are dying, worked their wings off or for whatever reason can't fly back, make an attempt to walk back with their last field load. Only to be denied returning to the hive by the moats. I find a few bees now and then dying or dead just hanging on the side wall of a moat. Cruel thing but maybe, just a theory, it may be for the best of the colony. Bees walking back may give microbes/parasites/diseases a change to hop on and be taken into the hive. But that’s just a theory.

The following video was taken the same day but in the afternoon. The angle is different simply to allow the light to be behind the camera. Notice the increase of pollen compare to the morning video.

Top Bar Hive (TBH)

This document is my final draft (very rough) of some of my ideas, rules, and basic sketches for my Top Bar Hive Design. I'll finalize it the day I'm done building it.

The standard beekeeper has Langstroth hives. Invented in 1860 by, Rev. Lorenzo Langstroth. Their convenience allows a beekeeper with multiple number of Langstroth hives, to move components from hive to hive. Allowing keepers to easily combine weak hives or split strong ones. We (yes, I'm including myself) may also buy components from different makers with no worries about them not been compatible.

So what does a beekeeper do to stand out of the crowd? (As if beekeeping wasn't enough ?)

Well ...... aside from letting your 6 year olds pick the hive color and decorate it. In my opinion, build and design a Top Bar Hive (TBH).

TBH vs. Langstroth is probably one of the biggest discussions among beekeepers. I read that they both have their pro's and cons. I can't deny or verify any, maybe in a few years. I think is thrilling to have the chance to design and build my own Hive.

A couple of Questions to answer between hive styles :

  • Which hive is easier to manage
  • Which hive is stronger (bee number), more productive (Honey production), and healthier(less Varroa mites)

Influences of my TBH design

  • Be able to interchange frames from my Lang to the TBH, and vice-versa. This feature should comply with the Florida beekeeper rule of using standard size frames.
  • Sloped sides. To me is a completely esthetic feature. Required or not, I want sloped sides
  • Length is dictated by the Florida heat and humidity.
  • Must be able to supper it

These are my Favorite TBH sites, I'm incorporating a lot of ideas from these sites into my own, and learning a lot from their posted knowledge.
This is my Favorite TBH Site, very informative site. I love the building procedures from this site, my favorite TBH blog, and this one has got to be the best looking TBH I seen online. I hope mine looks that good one day.

Pollen Count (March 31 - 2008 )

Help your self to the data from the spread sheet HERE
The blue line is the statistical trend of the data.

Personal observation - Rainfalls drop the Pollen Ccount for aproximately One Day. The heavier the rain fall (Volume), the lower the pollen count number.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

It’s a White Thanksgiving

I set up the video camera to record how I opened the hive, and dusted it and the bees with powdered sugar. It is my last treatment for Varroa mites. I hated the video, actually hated the sound of my voice in the video. My wife agreed, she said I sound like a goober. So instead of video I’m did a slide show. (Link to slide show)

I do have some video of the hive after I dusted it today. Is a little boring, but is the best way to get a feel for the sound of the hive. It either captivates people, or it makes the hair on the back of their neck stand up.

It took the bees all day to clean the outside of the hive, and before dusk I gave them a hand by watering away large clumps of sugar. I didn’t want to feed the ants or any other animals over night.

This most likely is the end of the inspections until next February. I may inspect once a month from now on just to keep them used to my presence and the intrusions. I also want to keep the hive components from becoming glued together to the point where it’s going to take a hammer and chisel to get them apart. I need to ask the experts about this.

Mid Novemebr and pollen is still coming in, and today I personally saw them colleting it from my FireBush. There is red and yellow pollen been brought in. I have no idea where the yellow is coming from. There also seems to be a return of the Small Hive Beetle, not in the hive, but in the trap/drawer. I'm trying to see if the drawer is as effective with out the bait.

There were some local events that reminded me why I decided to be anonymous. Personally, I think both sides are a little irrational. First, trying to keep nine hives in a residential neighborhood is a little over the top, but the neighbor claiming to have had her children swarm by bees is an ……….(if you can’t say something nice about a person, don’t say anything my mom always said). Her ignorance on the subject is visible with statements like "We are concerned for our safety -- for the safety of our children and for our property value," neighbor Nancy Aumuller said. "Who would want to live next to someone who has bee hives?"
Nancy, bees don’t swarm children unless you roll them in honey. Local Channel 6 story , My local paper, and the world wide web

But, life goes on and this is an educational blog. Hopefully people may learn something new about honey bees that they didn’t know, andforget about Hollywood movies about killer bees.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

My Honey Label

I really didn’t put much thought into the label. It sort of fell together on its own. You may recognize the angels. They are part of a painting that is fairly well known in advertising and gift shop items among other things. It is a painting by the Italian High Renaissance artist Raffaello Santi, circa 1512-1514. (Wikipidia entry) What most people don’t know and you may have missed it a few lines above; the angels are part of a painting, a very small part of the Sistine Madonna.
Six years ago with the birth of my kids (twins), I had it tattooed on my shoulder along with the kid’s initials assigned to each of the angels.
Again, I borrowed the painting for my honey label. Photo shopped the mural option to the background, added the bee in the direction to which the angels are looking. The bee picture is one of my bees working the Hyacinth plant. I took it a few months ago, and photo shopped it until it looked more like a painting than a picture. The Pure Local Honey well …….. do I really need to explain ?? “A” & “B” are my kids initials. Yes, “A” was born before “B”. We live in Melbourne, and the number on the bottom right is my official Florida Beekeeper registration number. Voila – I have a honey label.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Sweet, Sweet Golden Mess

This was an exciting and slightly painful weekend. I’m going to first brag, and then I’ll document things from the beginning.

The weather has been incredible; pollen is trickling in at a slow but steady pace. So…… I robbed a frame out of the supper yesterday.
(Apology: If you know who I am, and I didn’t share one of these 8 oz jars with you, please don’t take it personally!!! There will be enough to go around next April - I promise!!!!!!)

Almost mid November!!!!!! This is awesome. The kids and I are hooked on comb honey now, and I found out my wife has never been a big honey fan!!!!! 17 years of marriage and now I find this out?????

Ok, now that I’ve bragged, let me document the weekend. First, I need to up the sting count to a total of eight. I had some spare time late Friday and wanted to take some really up close shots of the entrance. Well, I found out how close is too close. I got it right on my index knuckle while trying to retrieve the tripod away from the entrance. These are my hands today, yesterday it was slightly bigger. No biggie, swelling is my normal reaction to a bee sting. The reactions seem to be getting less intense, and shorter in duration as I reach double sting digits.

Late in the week I observed a half hearted effort by the hive to remove the drones. I mean half hearted because it seemed like there is just one bee assigned to dragging them out. The drones just try to hold on to anything they can as the worker drags them out. After a short struggle both bees hit the ground in front of the hive. The worker takes a break after the wrestling match. The drone turns around and flies back in passed the entrance guards. Every 4 minutes the sequence repeats itself. I can’t tell if the same worker is dragging out the same drone.

I wanted to remove the medium supper, inspect the brood in the deep body, remove a frame from the supper and dust everything with confectioner powder sugar. It was a good plan but poor execution on my part. I was able to break the seal between the hive bodies, but I couldn’t take them apart. Too many of the frames on the super were stuck to the deep frames. As I tried to lift the super, I could see frames on the deep pull out too. So I decided to rob the honey frame I had in mind and rearrange the super for the 3rd time. I replaced the frame I took with a plastic foundation frame, and grouped liked frames with each other. This WILL be the last time I reconfigure the super. Rearranging the super broke enough burr comb between the deep so that I could now remove the super. This is how the super is configured, and will remain till next spring
(Picture on the left is after the inspection) I noticed that the bees were busy closing the top entrance. So I did away with it. I'll try next summer to see if they want or need it.

I inspected half the frames in the deep body. It appears the middle frames have a lot of burr comb under them, as seen in the picture. This is frame 6(E). Inside the red circle is the brood. Typical football shape. Between the yellow and the red lines are the pollen stores. Outside the yellow line are the honey stores. Below the blue line is the burr comb. All burr comb seems to have honey stores.This is the west side of the same frame. There is a good laying pattern but it seems like it is finally slowing down. If it wasn’t for the burr comb on the bottom of the frames, things would look almost perfect. It was time to button things up, and go try some honey. It wasn’t until I was putting all my tools away that I noticed the powder sugar sitting inside the shed. DO’H!!!! Oh well, next week. I won't inspect, just dust them with the confectioners sugar.

Once I figure out a good method to get honey I'll post my steps. Things went OK, but it could had been much better and faster. Here is the comb from the frame I took. Why are there two slabs??? It seems like the comb was started on each end of the frame. Instead of meeting in the middle both ends were overlapped by at least 6 inches. From the slight stomachache, and what I bottled, my guess is that we got 80 ozs from the one frame. Two of those jars are comb honey per the kids request.
Cross view of the honey comb
Crush and strain.
Bounty for the day.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Another Learning Week

1st, check out fellow beekeeper and co worker Mike. Early November and he's extracting honey. I'm so jealous I may rob one frame from mine next weekend.

Anyway, seems like there is something to learn every week. This weekend I took half a day on Saturday to attend the Florida State Beekeepers Association 87th convention in Winter Haven.

I took a couple of classes on the proper methods of doing a hive inspection. It was kind of neat to have the inspector pull out a frame loaded with bees, point out the queen, and pass the frame around to everyone. When it was handed to me all I could think was: "Lord, please don't let me drop this frame in front of everyone, look like a fool, and make the bees angry". The time we all took to make sure we had a good grip during the hand off makes me think we all felt the same way. I learned that I shouldn't inspect the hive as I dismantle it. Instead, it should first be dismantle down to the brood chamber, inspect it and then inspect the suppers as the hive is reassembled.

I also took classroom classes on Nucs and splits . Follow link for the best paper on The Advantages of Using Nucs, by Jamie Ellis, PhD. Also took his class on how to wisely use the Florida Management Calendar, and finally a class on the Migration of Africanized Bees in Florida.

The agricultural dept of Florida recommends that beekeepers not catch swarms of feral bees. The explanation is long and I don't think I could do it justice, but I'm a convert. Africanized bees are slowly diluting the feral honey bee population and slowly converting it over. They are completely adapted to do it.

Only disappointing thing from the convention was the lack of interest every one seems to have in organic beekeeping methods. Not that I want to be Mr. Organic. After all, I use plastic foundation instead of natural comb and BeeMax Polystyrene Hives instead of wooden hives. I just think a balance between the two methods would be more advantageous for hobbyist.

Speaking of organic treatments, yesterday (Sunday) I went ahead with the last of my tobacco smoke outs. Before smoking the hive I cleaned out the collection drawer and the mite average was still one/day, but the Small Hive Beetle number jumped up again. Below is the four day catch (Wed -> Saturday). From top to bottom: Four Mites, looks like seven but after zooming in three of the spots turned out to be just debris like the toothpick I left there, I used it to moved things around.Fifty Small Hive Beetle, give or take a few. That was a normal number during the summer and luckily they never seemed to get up in the hive.They are laying on some left over window screen that I use as a filter.

I checked the trap today, and after two days the SMH are down to normal (just 3). Since the weather has turned cooler I'm not sure if that has affected their reproduction cycle, or the tobacco smoke sort of camouflages the smell of the hive and they can't find it. That’s something to keep in mind and investigate later.The Mite count from Sunday night to Monday afternoon was 6. So obviously the tobacco has some effect on the mites. Below is a close up of one. I have gotten pretty good at spotting them in the tray, but I still use the macro lens to confirm.

Next week, inspection, and powder sugar shake (last step of treatment for Varroa Mite ).

Monday, October 29, 2007

Honey Anyone?

I can’t wait till next year when I will hopefully have some answers to all of my beekeeping questions.

Questions like - When is the bee population going to start declining for winter? It is a little nerve racking to see so many bees, and then come to a conclusion that the hives peak populations are during springs and summers!!!!!!

My goal yesterday was to smoke the hive with more tobacco smoke, part two of my Varroa treatment. I also wanted to check the honey stores on the top medium super and take a look at the deep hive body.
This is the hive without the top. I rearranged again and removed another frame. This time I took out a plastic frame to give the bees even more room to draw out another wooden frame. By all estimates, there is enough honey to take the hive through two winters. The picture shows my current super configuration. The plastic frames are drawn out and capped from 60 to 80%. The inside wooden frames are drawn out and capped 100% percent. The outside ones are currently being worked on.

Then here is my deep body. I pulled just one frame out of it; by the time I worked my way down here the bees were working themselves into a wild frenzy. A frenzy created by all the spilled honey from frames pulled apart for inspection, and from spilled honey out of bur comb that I cleaned off. I cleaned bur comb like the one in the picture below. It also happens to be Frame 9 of the hive body with more capped honey.

After removing the medium super, I placed it on my frame storage container (trash can). My hope was to keep any honey from falling to the ground and attracting ants. A lot of honey did drip on the lid. I decided to leave it all for the bees to clean. At first the bees seemed to be glad the inspection was over. They were more interested in repairing my damage, salvaging the spilled honey,

and stepping out of the top entrance for some fresh air. Within 20 minutes it turned into a mad feeding frenzy. I need to take note of this when I have multiple hives. Open feeding by the hives is definitely not a good idea. The weakest hive is going to get robbed. Regardless, I couldn’t have done a better job cleaning the mess. Only thing left was the bur wax, which by the time the bees moved off the ants moved in. Darn things were trying to make off with my wax!!!!! I’m collecting all this bur wax for future uses such as coating the top bars in the Top Bar hive (TBH)
Good inspection and good picture day. The link will take you to my favorite pics from yesterday. I counted four Varroa mites in the trap. I last inspected for them on Wednesday, so I have a great average of 1/day. Florida threshold before chemical intervention is 60/day. The Small hive beetle count is down to about 10 per week, if you don't count big mama here. Look at the size of this so call Small Hive Beetle.
Next week is step three of the Varroa treatment. More tobacco smoke with out an inspection.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Varroa Mite

Well, I can now say I have seen mites in my hive. Bee lesson for today, assume every hive has mites. I think this is one beekeeper experience I could had done with out ……… it’s a little depressing. On my previous blog entry I described how I smoked the bees with tobacco smoke. By the way, I smoked them at 5PM and went to bed at midnight still feeling the nicotine head rush. I’ve never been a smoker, what can I say.

I came home from work today and went to check the drawer of my hive stand. The suckers are small and my eye sight is not what it used to be. I took some pictures of the drawer after pulling it out.

This is what I saw; the macro lens is my microscope.

My next step was to pour the oil from the drawer, along with its contents over 3 paper towels. I picked out the suspicious shapes and took some more pictures.

This is a digitally enhanced version of the same picture. Compare then to the shape of the Mites in this picture from Wikipidia They can't be anything else but mites.

At least the Small hive Beetles are disappearing…just 8 in the trap for the whole week. That was how many would fall in a single day a month ago.

Six mites total. The purpose of a screen bottom (like I have) is to allow any mites to fall out of the hive that may lose their grip or get groomed off. Since I really never looked for them in the drawer, and they are hard to spot; have there been mites in the trap all along or did they fall off due to my tobacco smoke?? I will try and monitor the drawer daily for the rest of the week, and continue my planned treatment. Most keepers use a sticky paper to trap them but I left a shallow layer of vegetable oil to drown them.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Take Ten, and Smoke Them if You Have Them

The last few days have been somewhat overcast with light on and off rain sprinkles, and it appears the fall honey flow is over. Therefore the hive appears to be business as usual at a lower pace. I decided today would be a good day to start my four step Varroa treatment because there should be a lot of bees staying home.

I have not seen any signs of Varroa in the hive, but all the beekeepers recommend a yearly treatment. It seems that they all assume that there will always be some level of Varroa infestation.

My organic treatments consist of smoking the bees with tobacco smoke on three separate occasions (once a week), followed by dusting confectioner’s powder sugar all over the hive. This is most likely an impossible treatment method for a beekeeper with hundreds of hives, but perfect for the casual organic beekeeping hobbyist. Here are a few picture of my now storage/honey house/tobacco drying shed located in my bee yard. On the left my second hive for next spring, and spare suppers. In the middle a new trash can holding my frames. 10 deep plastic frames, 10 medium plastic, and 10 wooden with starter strip frames. Next weeks tobacco leaves drying in the rafter. Why smoke it with tobacco? The nicotine in the smoke should make the mites dizzy, like a teenager smoking his fist cigarette, and hopefully loosen their grip and they fall off.

Why three times?? To allow any mites in capped cells to emerge and get at least one treatment

Why the powder sugar?? Is the equivalent of the mites trying to walk on marbles, slipping and falling out of the hive via the bottom screen. The mess it creates should trigger a thorough house cleaning from the bees, and trigger self grooming for the bees. Either one should help reduce the mite population if any. The sugar also feeds the bees.

The video below is while I smoked the bees. I had a hard time keeping the tobacco leaves lit, so the hissing sound you hear in the video is me stepping back and blasting the smoker with the blow torch. The smoker sounds out of the picture is while I'm blowing smoke in the top entrance. I’m not sure there is an easy way to be 100% positive that this, or any treatment works. I mean if the hive never succumbs to a mite infestation, there is no way to be positive that my treatments are the reason. Could be there are no mites in my area; the bees may be a good Varroa resistant breed; or just pure luck. One thing is for sure, if Varroa symptoms appear, my treatments didn’t work.

Is the idea of using tobacco solid??? I think so. Notice the bees at minute -1:15 come out to groom each other, and they fall off the landing board as if they were drunk. Oh let me just say it, I’ve been dying to. It’s as if they are STONED. BUT trust me; it is simple home grown tobacco. No worries, the bees flew back in. Also, I’m feeling the effects of the tobacco. I feel like the kid that gets caught smoking by his Dad, and Dad makes him smoke the whole pack to teach him a lesson. If the tobacco smoke affected the bees and me, most likely it did the mites too. OK, let’s just hope their symptoms went away faster than mine did, and there are no permanent effects.

During dinner my wife commented it was like sitting next to an old cheap cigar. I felt like one too, so a shower followed.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

What a Mess

Unfortunately, I lost the best pictures of my inspection. I knew the memory stick in the digital camera was acting up. I made a point of getting a new one, but I didn't use it. I just didn’t want to give up on the old one. I'll have to explain what I observed this weekend. First, I noticed a lot of idleness from the hive.

I don’t know if the bees prefer green, or if the bees were fooled by the kids painted flowers. I came out at 10AM to inspect the hive and this is what I saw. It sort of proves my point about the hive being too idle.

I pried off my new wooden home made top cover. If it has any draw backs, I would say it is it’s weight. It may just be that I'm use to the Beemax heavy as a feather components.

Looking down into my medium supper, I started to realize why the hive is idle. The hive is, I believe, honeybound (Full of Honey). The top medium super has alternating plastic frames with plastic foundation, and wooden frames with a small wooden starter guide. The bees worked their way up drawing comb on the middle plastic frame. Then jumped out to the adjacent wooden frames, and drew out their own natural size honey combs. The natural comb was violating the ever so critical bee space. In other words, the combs on the wooden frames are big, so big that the adjacent plastic frames were too close to build comb on them. So with the supper 80% full, technically there was no space to store anything else.
I did some quick thinking, and recalled reading beekeepers sometimes space their supper frames out to fit just nine. So my solution was to remove the outer most wooden frame that had not been worked on yet. Leave the supper with just 9 frames and then spread the remaining frames so the bees can utilize both sides of the remaining frames. I decided that a picture is worth a thousand words. (see graphic explanation) My next inspection should reveal even more honey, and a heavier supper. My plan in two weeks is to simply remove the supper (nothing but honey by then) by pass it and do an inspection of the hive body. Today's lessons are: Fact 1 - with no cell guide (plastic foundation), bees will draw out a cell size they seem fit for the job. Fact 2 - Natural Honey storage cells are larger. Conclusion : plastic or not, foundation or foundationless, bees will draw anything out. Mixing frames types may not be such a hot idea.

Compare this picture to the first one in the post. The increase in space reflects the increase in activity. Notice that more bees seem to have gone out to work this morning. More honey stores give the colony a better chance to make it to spring with minimal intervention from the beekeeper.

I'm still puzzle at the lack of activity out of the top entrance. I see maybe one bee per minute coming and going from it.

Found this spider not too far from the hive, very cool looking Black and Yellow Argiope female

Fall Management

Is mid October, and the Florida Bee Forums are finally talking about getting the bees ready for winter. The Fall management steps will ensure a healthy and productive hive come spring, and the survival of the hive during winter

  1. Re-queen if necessary. – The hive did an emergency supercedure a few months back (raised a new queen). From the egg laying I have seen, I’m sticking with her. She may technically be a mutt (not breed by an expert for desirer qualities), but is my mutt and is from a proven local stock.
  2. Varroa mite treatment – The mite is a very dangerous parasite for bees, and the main source for a pronounce impact on the US bee industry. As an organic beekeeper, my goal is to knock/kill the mites off the bees with out chemicals. I should have very little to worry about this year. A broken brood cycle is one of the best mite control methods. Inadvertently, the hive had a broken brood cycle while it was raising a new queen. I have also observed a very good grooming behavior from the bees. In the weeks to come I will implement two organic Control methods. I’ll smoke them with tobacco (isn't nicotine a chemical ?? Oh well), and sprinkle the hive with confectioners powder sugar .
  3. Sufficient food stores – the bees must collect enough food to last them till next February. 80% of the medium supper is full of honey. Good stuff too. I couldn’t help having a taste when I broke some cells as I was doing my inspection.

Monday, October 8, 2007

Great Weather if you are a Duck

But not so hot if you happen to be a bee. Florida has had a different sub tropical depression spinning off the Atlantic coast, one per week for the last 3 weeks. Sub tropical depression is just a lot of rain and wind coming from the ocean. I’m just glad it’s not more hurricanes. The weekend was overcast with winds at 20mph, gusting to 30mph. Needless to say the bees were not out and about much. Below is the hive at 3PM on Sunday. I have never seen it like this early in the afternoon. The entrance was crowded and any sudden movement was sending them off into a momentary frenzy. I guess this is probably bee cabin/hive fever. NO WAY was I opening the hive this weekend.
It’s been a few weeks since I replaced the top cover and created a top entrance. I still have never seen any bees come in or out of it. Guards are on duty by it, but no one uses it. This picture was taken moments before the previous picture of the bottom entrance.

Here is my usual four day Small Hive Beetle collection - all drowned in vegetable oil. The lure is made of ½ cup apple cider vinegar, ¼ cup sugar, one cup water and ripe banana peel cut up fine or ground. Combine and let ferment before placing in the trap. I think every beekeeper down south knows this recipe by heart now. Up till now I was just turning around and dumping the contents of the trap by the hive. Big mistake, the ants were having a good old time feeding on all the dead beetles, and what ever else falls out of the hive into the tray.

I figured that no matter where I would dump the dead beetles, the ants and what ever else would find them. Didn’t really want to dump all the vegetable oil in my trash can, suddenly it occurred to me. Feed them to the egg laying garbage disposals. Chickens will eat anything. I made the mistake once of feeding them left over rice on a paper plate. I returned 30 minutes later to pick up the plate, and they had completely eaten it too. Boy was I right; the chickens love the beetles, the vegetable oil, and what ever else happens to be in there. Finally making some use of those darn annoying SHB.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

First Day of fall

----- For all of today's pictures; click here ---------

The experienced beekeepers in Florida are waiting for the fall honey flow. This is the time when Florida hives collect their winter stores. For weeks I have been reading in beekeepers forums how everyone up north is buttoning up their hives preparing and planning for the winter. Here in Florida the 1st day of fall means no more low to mid 90’s temperature…bring on the upper 80’s.

Due to the heat, the high humidity, and the anticipated honey fall flow; I gave my hive a new top that implements an upper entrance. The hot humid weather equates to the bees having to fan the hive in an attempt to move fresh air in. I also wanted an easier time prying the top cover off the hive during inspections. The Beemax top fits incredibly snug and it is impossible to insert the hive tool between the top and the hive body to pry them apart. The picture shows the inserts in place to create the top entrance (click on any picture for larger view), I can also pull them out to eliminate the entrance. It telescopes out and down on two sides and incorporates a landing path on the front when open, and in the back it allows me to insert my hive tool between it and the hive body.

Today was not a good day for pictures, the sky was overcast (slow
shutter speeds on the camera) and light rain sprinkles were on and off the whole day. Here is a picture of the main hive body after the medium supper was removed. I wanted to explain what I mean when I say Frame 1, 2, 3, 6 or 10. The picture is taken as I’m standing behind the hive and from right to left is frame 1 to 10. The hive’s entrance faces south, and frame 1 is to the West. Each frame has two sides, so each frame has an east face and a west face. Two weeks ago I inspected frames 6 to 10. Today I wanted to take a look at the other side.

I have never seen the queen aside from a partial picture of her abdomen two weeks ago. I still haven’t seen her but I see tons of her work. First, Frame 1 East: Capped Honey (top), pollen (scatter reddish cells), uncapped nectar (uncapped nectar = pre honey) Frame 2 East and West are almost carbon copies, capped honey (top) and uncapped nectar. Frame 3 has me a little worried, not because of the tons of uncapped brood but because it is warping. Warped frames are not easy to remove or insert.
The surprise of the day was on the underside of frame 4. I knew two weeks ago the queen had no room to lay another single egg which was why I added the medium supper. The new space didn't stop the bee's plan to solve the space problem. Their solution was to draw comb underneath frame 4 where about ¾ of those cells had eggs in them. I didn’t know what else to do but remove the mess and freeze the wax for future use. After I closed the hive it dawned on me that I have never removed frame 5. Oh well, there will be another day.

A quick look at the medium supper before closing the hive revealed the winner between plastic frames and foundationless wooden frames. With out foundation the comb is drawn from the top down. So it might not be a fair contest since the bees seem to be slowly moving up.

It was a good inspection day unless you count the sting on the back of my thigh (Sting count is now 7). It happened as I turned my back on the hive to place the smoker down. Little bugger got me good, my leg has swollen from mid thigh to just past the knee. The sting in itself is not painful; it’s trying to move the area that causes some pain. The area has swollen as much as the skin will give and the usual redness and increase temperature in the area are present already.
Small Hive report: After a slow start this week, the trap is collecting it's usual number. I'll try and do a full count tomorrow. I say forty.

Monday, September 17, 2007

SHB Larva in Trap

It has been almost two months since I brought home the hive, and from day one there has been no lack of adult Small Hive Beetles (SHB) in the trap. I inspect the oil in the hive drawer and re-bait about every four days. The usual number of drowned adult beetles is about thirty, give or take a hand full. The only lull came about a month ago when for a week there were only four beetles in the trap. I was just one day away from cleaning the oil out of the inspection tray for good when all of the sudden the body count spiked up; twenty the first week and then back to thirty or so the following week. The trap has done its job of controlling the beetle population. There are plenty in the trap but it is very rare when I photograph or see one in the hive.

This weekend was the first time I found two SHB larvae drowned in the oil. The wax moth and the SHB larva are very similar in appearance, but my online research confirmed the fact that it was a beetle larva. The UF dept of Entomology and Nematology website helped me identify the larva. “They can easily be distinguished by the presence of six prominent anterior legs. Wax moth larvae have a number of smaller less-developed, uniform prolegs.” What does a “have a number of ” legs mean anyway??? Has no one taken the time to count how many legs the wax moth larva has??? Does MORE mean 7? maybe 8?? Anyway, the macro lens pictures show the six prominent legs, therefore SHB larva. (Click on pictures for better views, Oh and the ruler shows about 12 mm in length, NOT over and inch)

I was somewhat alarmed, since I had added the medium supper the previous week. I had thoughts of the bees not being able to patrol the extra space, and the beetles and its larva running amok in the additional space. With that fear in my mind and curious to see if the bees had selected the plastic foundation frames, or the wooden starter strips on wooden frames, I decide to take a quick minimally invasive look.

Here is the side of my hive that had never been photographed before; it is sort of the dark side of the moon that hardly any one gets to see. The next picture is of the medium supper on the hive with the top off. The bees always seem to be building burr comb on the underside of the cover. I imagined with the additional space the top cover would have been free of bees. I was shocked to find that the top underside of the cover is as active, if not even more active, and cells are being drawn between the supper and the brood frames. There are plenty of bees hanging around the empty frames of the supper, but there seems to be no work being done on them. There should be plenty of laying space in the brood, but my goal was to be as non intrusive as possible. I’ll take a better look next Sunday. My fears were put at easy. Not a single SHB or its larva to be seen.

The goal for the next inspection is to take a look at a couple of frames with brood, honey and pollen stores. Speaking of which, this weekend I noticed dark red pollen been brought in. I found this entry on Wikipedia. I though pollen only came in yellow. I wish there was a simple way to tell where the pollen is coming from.

Powered by WebRing.
Powered by WebRing.