Saturday, August 8, 2009

What I Learned from Outside the Hive

I made a couple of discoveries yesterday. One was really fun and interesting and the other was frustrating and the last was a bit sad.

I was just back from vacation and so I planned to drop by to see my bees.

My plan was to observe from the outside, a check-in, just to see how they were faring.

The first thing I discovered was a cicada sitting on one of the platforms. It did not move very much so I was able to take quite a few photos.

I know that cicada nymphs stay underground for something like 7 years before they surface as the flying adults. I assumed that this one had probably already mated or laid its eggs because it looked like it was dying.

A week earlier I added 2 yellow medium honey supers to the hives with foundation. The bees were nearly done drawing comb in the purple supers.

Hive #2 I could see at a glance that something wasn't right--at least to what I would expect. There were very few bees on the front porch and not a lot of activity coming and going.

I stayed a while to observe and there was some pollen being brought in but comparing Hive #2 to Hive#1 there was a big difference in activity.

Hive #1 which was a bit behind Hive #2 was booming with activity. Bees were coming and going and it too had some pollen being brought in.

I found a few young bees walking on the ground exploring. I picked them up with my hive tool to observe them. It wasn't long until they discovered the honey there from my last inspection. This bit of honey proved to be a great distraction for a photo op. The bee was so busy eating up the honey that I was able to get lots of closeup photos. It was very interesting to be able to observe them up close without them feeling threatened.

After a while the bee flew off. I watched while it flew around and around some foliage as if it was looking for nectar plants. I'm assuming that this was a new and inexperienced field bee who was just learning about the great outdoors.

Then I found another bee walking around and picked her up and had the same result. She flew off too and then circled around the foliage. This reminds me of baby birds that I've seen just released from their nests. I think they're more accustomed to walking than flying and they haven't adjusted to the whole 'wing thing' yet. I've seen baby birds fall over when sitting because they opened their wings and they got in their way.

Later I took out my Varroa Mite sticky boards to look them over. I found one mite on each board, but what was more distressing was a curled up dying bee I found on the sticky board. Somehow she had found a gap at the back of the hive and had crawled in there. I could tell she was too far gone to recover, but the distressing part was seeing the two adult mites attached to her thorax, sucking the life from her.
I got out my small metal tool with the idea of prying the mites off the bee. Even if the bee was going to die I wasn't going to leave those mites there. That's when I made my nasty discovery. Those suckers can move! They actually ran away around the whole chest of the bee to a new location each time my tool got anywhere close to them. They were worse than ticks on a dog! I was shocked to see how fast they could move. They have a hard shell back too and once I caught them they were difficult to crush, but crush them I did.
Once the bee got down on the sticky board they probably found her and climbed onto her body. Obviously the mites are clever enough to move to avoid being cleansed off the bees. I can see that being a hygienic bee is a real challenge and I hope their genetics can keep up with the evil mite.

The sad part was watching the dying bee's antennae moving gently up and down. It was like she was tapping out her last message, her last body part that she could command to move before dying.

I found the small gaps at the back of the hive where a bee might crawl in and I used duct tape to fill them in so it won't happen again.

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