Saturday, August 27, 2016

You might have noticed I haven't been blogging much the last few years.  Well, I kind of got sick, got busier, had trouble keeping up, got a lay off notice (they sent my job to Toronto), found another job, then spent a year and a half in training for the new job and then we were so busy they wouldn't let me take my holiday time off so I could work the bees.... swarms sat in trees and flew away while I sat behind a desk ... It was a frustrating time.  Yada yada yada.

So.  I'm back. And I hope to post more regularly.  Got the job all sorted out and things are so much easier now.  And I'm feeling much better too.

To catch up briefly, two winters ago I had 20 hives and in the spring I'd lost half.  What a mess to clean up dead hives.  Such an incredibly depressing job.  If you're a beekeeper you have either already experienced it or might in future--I certainly hope you never do.

I had not lost a single hive for 5 years and then I lost half just after corn was planted all around my yard.

Last year I lost one hive.  But it wasn't a good year.  The bees were requeening all summer and their numbers were low.  Most hives didn't make enough honey that I could take any.  I left extra boxes on and removed them this spring once the bees were going well.

This year I didn't lose any.  One hive was very weak but they've built themselves up beautifully.

It's been a very good season so far this summer.  Drought conditions and the hottest summer in Ontario in 135 years.  So record breaking.  Now we're getting the rains and I've had a few days at home (beekeeper's day off) and boy oh boy, have I ever gotten into mischief.  But more on that very soon.

Stay tuned!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Zombees do exist and found in Canada

Read about the phorid fly which has been found attacking a hive of bees in Vancouver BC.  It's reportedly the first time it's been spotted in Canada.

CBC report on Zombees

Friday, September 11, 2015

How bees are saving elephants in Africa and India

Imagine how a little bit of knowledge can grow into an idea.  Then the idea grows into an incredible ingenious project.
It's called the Elephants and Bees Project.
 
(http://http://elephantsandbees.com and http://savetheelephants.org/human-elephant-conflict/elephants-bees/ are the web sites).

It's the creation of Dr Lucy King.

She collaborated with Oxford University, Disney's Animal Kingdom and the farmers in Africa and India to help save the elephants.
But we have bees to thank for saving them.
 
 
Elephants are naturally afraid of bees.  With this little bit of knowledge the idea was born of creating "bee fences" around crops.  It keeps the elephants out of the crops.

Farmers don't loose their crops and so the conflict between farmers and elephants is removed.

Elephants aren't killed by angry farmers.  And it's all thanks to the little honey bee.
The farmers harvest the honey and have an increase in family income because of the honey they have for sale.

The project has also been used to put hives around trees to protect them from foraging elephants.
 
They accept donations to help with their funding.  What a worthy project!
 
 
 

Monday, September 7, 2015

Does your bee yard Stink? If so, that's a good sign

Relax.  It's okay.

It's not AFB that you're smelling in your yard.  My first year of beekeeping I got so worried when I smelled my hives.

If you've opened your hives at this time of year then the smell will be even stronger.

What is it?  It's the smell you'll have in your yard every fall - it's Goldenrod nectar being processed.

What does it smell like?  Stinky socks or stinky feet is the best description.

The cured honey doesn't smell.  It's only while the bees are processing it.

So inhale.  Relax.

And think about that amazing flavour of goldenrod honey - my favourite honey flavour.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Queens in hives...Finally

I haven't seen brood in a hive in so long it felt like I couldn't remember what they look like.

Of course the only hives I was inspecting at this time of year were the ones that I knew were queenless.

I believe that my hives had requeened at least two to three times through the summer and the failure rate was high.

At first I thought the problem was in the yard on the conservation land but after noticing population declines in my other yard and doing inspections I found the problem was persistent in both yards.

The big question is Why?  I don't know.  I certainly cannot blame mites since the brood cycle has been so disrupted that they've had periods of time with no brood so mite levels are low or non existent.  I live in the corn belt - southwestern Ontario so it's very likely that neonics are affecting the bees.

I purchased three queens and installed the cages last week.  I dug out a bit of the candy so they could release a little quicker.
 
A week later I returned.  Both queens were still not releasted (the candy was a bit hard) so I released the queens.  I closed up and left.
 
I let another week go by and today checked the two hives.  These were hives I absolutely knew had no queen before.  I saw eggs in both hives.  Thank God the queens were accepted.  One hive was very calm.  In the other hive the bees were antsy.  They had eggs in their cells but the bees weren't relaxed.  They weren't aggressive or stinging but they were giving off an anxious sounding buzz.

On examination of frames I could see they had wax moth catepillars and cocoons.  I scraped them out.  This hive was weak due to population decrease.  Also, they had been robbed out of their honey.  I believe they were anxious because they don't have food stores.  They did have pollen though.  I will be feeding them sugar syrup tomorrow.

I had put an entrance reducer in over a week ago when I saw what I considered to be too much activity on the hive - since they were queenless and had a population decrease.  I feel stupid for being so slow to realize they were being robbed out.

Advice:  Keep in mind that if a hive is queenless it might be a good idea to put in entrance reducers so that a declining hive population can better protect itself while waiting to resolve their queen issues.

The problem in July is that queen breeders have wait lists and even if you know you need a queen you can't get one!!!  The demand is too high.  If you want to purchase queens get your name on the list early in the game.

By August queen are available as most consider it too late in the year to do anything.
 
I seriously think I need to develop queen rearing skills for next year.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Is a hive queenless? What to look for

Below is a list of things to watch for if trying to determine if a hive is queenless. 

Keep in mind there can be other circumstances which give the behaviours as well.

For example, bees can be antsy, aggressive and sting if they're upset from predation activity such as robbing, or skunks or racoon attacks.  And brood cells can be filled with nectar if the hive doesn't have enough supers.

No queen:
  • All the cells where brood should be are filled with nectar during the flow times and no brood in the hive
  • Antsy and aggressive behaviour with stinging when opening or inspecting the hive
  • Bees running and buzzing with anxiety when inner cover opened
  • No pollen going in
  • No eggs or young brood
  • Population decrease
  • Decrease in activity
  • No cleaning in the hive, removal of garbage
  • No guarding (when population is really low)
  • Put your ear on the hive and listen.  If there is anxious buzzing that can be a sign of queenlessness.


Have a queen:
  • Calm
  • Good hum - like a nice machine sound - rhythmic and relaxing sound.  You can put your ear on the hive and listen. The sound of a queenless have has notes of anxiety in the hum and doesn't sound relaxing,
  • Pollen going in
  • Population increasing
  • Good activity on the outside with bees coming and going
  • Guarding entrances and washboarding entrances
  • Cleaning and doing chores such as removal of dead bees and garbage








Friday, August 21, 2015

Problems with Queens

I'm seeing a repeat of last summer's problem.  The bees just can't keep their queens alive.

In spring they requeen as usual.  I do my best to do splits on the stronger hives to prevent swarming and losing precious bees.

Sometimes in spring the requeening fails and they make another.  I often give them a frame of eggs (with the nurse bees on the frame) to keep them going if they're running out of brood.

This summer, most of my hives have been constantly requeening all summer long.  Here I am in mid Aug and I have at least six of 16 hives that are in the middle of requeening.  The other remaining hives have successfully requeened.

Two of the hives have utterly failed.  They had queens hatch out, I even saw them in the hive, but then shortly after they no longer had a queen.  She either didn't make it back from going out to mate or she somehow failed in the hive.  They have no eggs or brood of any kind.  These bees are antsy.  They run, buzz loudly and are quick to sting.  They're upset and with good reason.
  They're doomed unless there's an intervention.

Normally since it's so late in the year these hives would be blended with other hives.  But I'm a hobby beekeeper and a rescuer so I bought some queens.  I've installed two on the worst hives.

One strong but queen and eggless hive I gave a frame of eggs, larvae and bees from their mother hive that they were originally split from a couple years back.  DNA seems important because the bees took two eggs and moved them and created two queen cells to put them in.

These cells are now capped and I'm counting the days to the hatching.  Now take note that when I gave this hive the frame of eggs from their mother, I transplanted two lovely not yet capped queen cells from another hive.  A week later I came back to find they had chewed out the introduced queen cells.  It seems this hive wants to use the DNA of their mother hive to create their own queen instead.  So I'm going to let this play out to see if they're successful.


At this stage I don't expect to take any more honey from the hive because once they're rolling again they'll need whatever honey they can store for winter.


Another hive has 5 capped queen cells and capped brood.  The capped brood tells me that sometime in the last 10 to 24 days there was a queen laying eggs in that hive.  She has obviously failed in some way and they are replacing her.  I'm watching these cells as well.  This has been my best hive that I've had for seven years.  I'd prefer to keep this gene going because it's a strong one for really good bees.


Last week while in the bee yard a person was there going for a nature walk.  She told me my bees had swarmed and there was a clump of them on the pine tree.  I asked her to call me if she ever saw that again and pointed to my phone number posted on a sign in my yard.  (Silently saying to myself damn it why didn't you call me!!!!)


The difficult part with giving frames of eggs and bees at this time of year is having to lift off honey boxes to dig down to the nest.  I hate doing that as ultimately bees get squished and the boxes are heavy.  I don't want to remove honey just yet and there's a reason why.


Last year in the fall when I went to take more honey off I found the bees had almost none.  They had been requeening all last summer, their numbers were low and so they were weak and couldn't bring in enough honey for themselves, let alone for me too.  I had to give boxes to them from other hives.  So this year I'm being very careful about how much honey I take.


It's a difficult balancing act.  None of us wants to see a hive fail.