Friday, April 24, 2015

Spring 2015 - Hive Losses

I managed a peek at my beeyard on Sunday around dinner time. It was cold and windy. A winter day actually with temperatures around -4 Celcius. I know other beekeepers took advantage of a few sporadic warm days that we had to open their hives. Everyone that did reported some lost hives. It's hard to be patient in spring and sometimes the temptation can be to open hives a bit too soon. When it's still cold you can get some good info from looking at the outside of the hive, peeking in the upper entrance you may see bees converging there during the day time. Also, doing a heft of the hive to get an idea of the weight can let you know if the bees will be needing heavy spring feeding, or even emergency feeding. (They won't eat sugar water if it's cold anyway so only a candy board would help when temps are still too cold). When the weather warmed up I was able to check the hives. I didn't pull frames because I didn't want to break their seals since it was still cold. In the Pines bee yard I had 10 haves and 5 were dead. They were weak all last year after the move from the corn area. I think I had them in too much shade from the pines so in winter they didn't get enough sun to help keep the hives warm. I now plan to shift the 5 living hives more into the sun. At the Heeman's Garden Centre all 7 hives survived and are doing well. Two of them were weak but surviving. All the hives were bringing in a pale coloured pollen in a month ago and now are bringing in a yellow or deep gold pollen. I started medications last week but this week we've gone back into winter again.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Insect Mimicry

The idea is really quite brilliant:  Take a scary insect and make yourself look just like it.  Then others will be scared of you too.

The result is they'll leave you alone.

There's a whole raft of insects from earwigs to flies that are stingless and harmless but they copy the bees stripes as a deterrent.

It's like having a built in security system.

I rescued these "bees".  While visiting friends outside London these fake bees were coming in the barn door and hanging around the window.

[photo from Wikipedia - false bees]

It was cool outside but the sun in the barn window was pleasant and warm.  These insects had the humans scared until I picked them up and showed them.

They're actually flies - complete with fur and stripes the exact same colour as a honey bee.

Their tongues are like a fly' with the round stopper at the end.

One particular bee liked me and actually sat on my hand and arm for over an hour.

The attraction was probably my great personality as a fake bee whisperer and not that I was warm or anything like that.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Fueling Stations and Filling Station Bees

When you're relaxing in the rec room do you have a bar fridge close by that you keep snacks in? 
If you do then you're thinking like a bee.

The bees use the center of a frame as the brood area.  But to make it easier for the nurse bees to feed the hungry brood the bees deliberately put food close by.

They store honey and pollen in the top corners of every frame in the brood chamber.  As the bees work outwards from the center the frames will become full of just honey.

After the brood box is filled they'll move up and put honey and pollen in the supers.
Have you every noticed on a frame of fully capped cells that there's the odd cell here and there that the queen didn't lay in.  She didn't miss that cell.  It was done by design.  It's a fuel cell.
The workers use these cells as fueling stations. As you can see in the photo the cells are very close at hand for hungry nurse bees.  Remember they feed the larvae royal jelly created by their bodies so they need to fuel up so they can put the fuel out.

You can tell a fuel cell because it'll be full of nectar.

A worker chore that I had not known about before is a filling station bee.  These bees are charged with the task of filling up the fuel cells for the nurse bees.

Jurgen Tautz reported on these fueling cells in his fascinating book, The Buzz about Bees.  I highly recommend this book.  I learned so much about bee biology in this easy to read book.  See a review of it on Amazon at: The Buzz About Bees

I don't think the bees will ever stop being amazing.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Tips for entrance reducers & hive wraps

From experience I found that the best time to put in an entrance reducer is on a warm day.

In fall if it gets really cold and I added an entrance reducer during the day time I'd come back the next day to find an awful lot of dead bees on the front porch.

What killed them was the cold weather and the sudden change to their entrance which they'd discovered when they returned to the hive after foraging.

They'd wander around outside going back and forth and many would not figure it out.  Because of the cold they'd lose their body heat too quickly and then they couldn't move at all.

They'd just sit there and die a few inches away from the entrance.

But if it was warmer, the bees don't cool down so quickly and it gives them the extra time they need to figure out the new entrance.

After that first experience I wait for a warmer day to put the reducer on, even if it's too early.  You can put it on at night too.

If you stuff a bit of grass in there, it'll slow the bees down exiting which is believed to help them orient the front door before flying off to forage.

[photo - wrap on and reducer in place but the wrap isn't snugged down until later in the season].

I found the same problem when installing the hive warps.  So now I put the wraps on a bit earlier in the fall but I don't snug them down over the entrance.  Every visit I pull it down a little more each time.

The bees get used to the minimal adjustments much more easily.  The bottom line is a lot less dead bees who can't find their way in.