Friday, May 29, 2015

Natioanl Geographic video - A bee's metamorphasis

This video by the National Geographic is short (60 seconds) but it is narrated and it's packed with visuals.  It shows in time lapse the stages of development of a bee from an egg to larvae to pupae and to a bee.

It's amazing.  The magnification of the camera lets you see exquisite detail.

You can see the larvae swimming in their puddle of royal jelly as they eat.

Really well done.

Monday, May 25, 2015

A Warning for Beekeepers about Ticks and Lyme Disease

Yesterday I learned of two people close to family members that are suffering from Lyme disease.  From what they were reporting, this disease can be life altering, and not in a good way.  Diagnosis if done right away and medication taken can have good results but if you contract Lyme disease from a deer tick bite and it goes undiagnosed you could experience a wide range of changing symptoms which make pinning down the diagnosis difficult.

I was told that in Canada there is a test that can be done and it can give false negatives which is what happened in the case of this family member.  They finally had to go to the USA at their doctor's suggestion where a different test not yet approved in Canada could be done.  Turns out he does have Lyme disease.

On the Mayclinic web site is a description of the symptoms.  It can start as a red bite that spreads out in a bull's eye pattern and then a rash.  This disease can progress to some pretty awful joint pain and neurological problems.

 This Ontario government health web site gives details on areas where the disease is more established as well as how to remove the tick, treatment, etc.  In Ontario if you find a tick and believe you have been bitten you can get the tick tested for Lyme disease free of charge.

As beekeepers, we need to take this seriously.  Our bees are often kept in meadows and areas where deer travel.  Below is a note from the Ontario Bee Association to warn us to watch out for ticks in our hives.

OBA members Sharon and George Overton write: "We were told years ago that the ticks' intermediary host is the good old deer mouse, so beekeepers unwrapping hives from the winter should be careful, not only of ticks from the ground, but also from any mouse nests in the hive tops as they are unwrapped and the straw or whatever was used to stop condensation in the hive is removed, as it is a spot the mice will have wintered. The immature ticks are virtually invisible, so watch for signs of infection, even without obvious tick bites."

Let’s keep our socks over our pants to keep both the bees and the ticks out.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Dead drones

The last two trips to my Heeman's bee yard I noticed about a dozen or so drones dead out front on the stoop of two of the hives.
[forgot my camera so photo from 2014]

No workers were dead, just drones.  I'm not sure if the bees tossed out the drones because we had a sudden change in our weather.

A week ago we had temps of 30 degrees Celsius and the bees were productive and flying.  Then we stepped back into winter - I mean no snow for us here in southwestern Ontario (although they did get some up north) but I had to flip the furnace back on after having the a/c running!

I was deliberately slow to take my wraps off for this very reason.  Early spring can be unpredictable and our weather has been showing more sudden and dramatic changes.  (I had a tornado hit my home last summer.  It didn't ruin the house but the neighbour's tree took out my garage roof.  And sadly I lost all my big trees in the back yard.)

I have now taken the wraps off all hives except one.  It had a very small number of bees, about the size of your fist.  But they did have a queen.  So I left the wrap on to help keep them warm.  I gave them a couple frames of capped brood with the bees on the frame from their sister hive.  I didn't want to give them any eggs or larvae because the the population would be too low and stressed to care for them.  But already capped brood just need to be kept warm until they hatch.

I gave them a sugar syrup baggie laid out on the frames and protein patties.  So essentially all the food they'd need was in the hive.  It's always amazing to watch how after adding the frames how the bees get excited and greet each other.  You can almost see their relief at seeing the recruits coming aboard.  There's no aggression whatsoever.  Then within 30 minutes they had organized themselves and assigned guards at the upper and lower entrance (reduced to keep out cold and protect them from robbing).  Before adding the bees no one was protecting the entrance because there were no bees to spare to guard.

I checked them today and the population has increased, so many of the capped brood have hatched.  The bees were chewing happily on the protein patties.  I gave them a  baggie with fresh warm syrup.  I was glad to feel heat in the hive when I lifted the inner cover.  They are keeping themselves warm and cozy.

I'll keep an eye on the drone situation.  Our temperatures are swinging back up now to hot.  Hopefully it'll stay warm this time and give us a great spring and summer.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Removing Winter Wraps - In stages

 Here's photos to show how I try not to confuse the bees by removing the wraps all at once.
I've watched them when they come back and a lot of bees get confused with the sudden change from a black hive with a the wrap pulled low to a suddenly colourful hive.
I can do this because I'm a hobby beekeeper and I know this isn't practical for commercial beekeepers.
First I pull up the wrap and tuck it under to expose the entrance, often the entrance reducer is still in place.
This year when doing the formic acid mite treatment I removed the entrance reducers but left the wraps on and pulled them up so it wasn't blocked.
Then as the weather got warmer I came back to strip off the wraps.  Leaving them on longer won't hurt the bees and can help them to keep the brood warm.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Moving hives around in the bee yard

The whole thing about moving hives is that you don't want to confuse and lose bees by moving the hive too far so they can't find the hive.
In warmer weather if the bees returning are stuck outside trying to find their hive it might not be quite so bad but in early spring the temperatures can vary considerably and bees left outside at night can get too cold to fly quickly and give up searching.
In my Pines bee yard I lost 5 of 10 hives.  I know the bees are experiencing a lot of stress with neonics, mites, climate change, etc.  So I think about all the things I can control to help.
When setting up this yard I was so focused on making sure the bees had shade in the afternoon that I believe I put them into too much shade.  Too early in the day they're in shade, which in a hot summer would be okay.  But it would meant they're not as active.  It would also mean they wouldn't get as much winter sun on the black wraps to help give the hives heat.
My feeling is that what didn't help the five weak hives was that they got too cold in their location.  So my decision has been to move the hives to give the more sun.  The theory being that being too hot is better than being too cold.  In a warmer or tropical climate of course the shade issue could be very different.
So, how to move the hives about 15 to 20' without causing too much stress on the hives?  The answer is to shift them in degrees.  One foot per day is the suggestion distance.
[photo - new location about 20 feet away to the east]
Instead of setting up a platform next to the existing and sliding them over (very time consuming) I've put some wagons into use.
[photo - breaking down the yard, removing dead hives and platforms]
I've loaded a hive on a wagon and then I can move it each day until I get it into position.
I've found it's much easier for the bees if their entrance orientation is the same direction.
If changing the entrance orientation, do that much slower and in smaller increments.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Knockdown or Knockout?

It's a battle dealing with these Varroa Mites.

I used formic acid last year but going into fall I wasn't happy that the mites were under under control.
[A strong hive in spring - the old mite pad from fall still on the top bars].
I've used Miteaway Quick Strips - called MAQ's.  These formic acid gel packs can be placed on a hive while honey supers are on.  This is such a relief to beekeeping.

So I planned to treat the hives in mid July to try to get some control over them.

The hard decision is whether to go gangbusters with 2 pads or to do a softer treatment with 1 pad.  One pad is called a knockdown and two is a knockout.
The problem is that beekeepers find too much brood are killed and queen deaths occur a lot when using 2 pads.
I've used just one but found the treatment too soft.  The best year I had is when I used 1 paid but did the treatment 3 times - spring, summer and fall.
It's a 7 day treatment and the pad is biodegradable and will be chewed up by the bees so it doesn't have to be removed.  I usually remove it well after the 7 days.
This year I did 1 1/2 pads in spring and plan to also treat mid summer and fall.  The goal is to get more serious to take down the mites.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Harsh Winter for Ladybugs

While working on the hives on the weekend I removed the last of the wraps and added Mite Away Quick Strips, AFB & Nosema treatment.

Every year the ladybugs tuck themselves into the lining on the hives or inside the inner cover if they can get in there. I don't mind them at all, especially since they're beneficial insects.

I was really saddened to see that on every hive all the ladybugs were dead. It didn't matter where they had hunkered down, they were dead. Not sure if pesticides played a part here but our super cold winter of 2014 was deadly to these lovely little bugs.