We had such a good time Saturday when we were visited by a girl scout troop wanting to learn about honey bees. We borrowed suits from the YFS Farm project (Thank you Sharon!) so the girls could suit up and look in the hive if they wanted to. I did not expect everyone to want to but I was wrong! Even the mothers suited up! We sat on the patio and talked bees, then suited up and went to the back yard and opened a hive. We saw lots of bees, honey, and larva. We did not see the queen though. The girls got an information and coloring packet and were going to earn a badge by teaching those who could not attend about the bees. What a great time!
Unfortunately we now have small hive beetles in our area. On September 17th one of our fellow beekeepers called and informed me that they have “the beetle”. They brought a sample and showed me, we compared the beetle to the pictures on the web page, and it was indeed a small hive beetle. This is a first for me to see beetles here in our area. They are rather nasty insects and need to be treated right away to maintain control. The apiary manager for the state of South Dakota was contacted and his advice is to:
- As soon as you see the beetles take off the honey supers.
- Extract the honey as soon as possible.
- Treat the hive with corrugated square w/check mite strip with one (1) strip per 5 frames.
- Remove the check mite strips after 42 – 45 days.
- Use a ground drench such as Gardstar* around the hive approximately 24″ in front of hive every 2 – 4 months during warm weather. Do not use Gardstar* in the hive.
- Most beetles will die off during cold weather but the beetle will over winter in the brood cluster.
- There are several beetle traps described in the article below, some can be purchased and some can be made by the beekeeper. There are chemical solutions but there are also organic solutions that can be applied to maintain an acceptable level for beetle control.
A very informative article on small hive beetles can be found at: https://www.uaex.edu/publications/PDF/FSA-7075.pdf
ADR bees carry the above mentioned treatment products.
This month’s club meeting will be all about winterizing our colonies. A very timely topic. When getting ready to put our girls to bed, several things should be considered:
- Honey harvesting–to take honey now or in the spring? There are two different schools of thought on this; both of them equally valid. When you examine your hive and you have one or more supers full of honey, and the two brood boxes have honey, it is safe to take the honey from the supers. That is why most of us put them on in the first place. The honey in the brood boxes will, under normal circumstances, provide the bees with enough food for the winter. If circumstances change, steps can be taken to provide food for the bees in the winter. Some beekeepers prefer to leave one super, as well as the two brood boxes, just in case it is needed. They then harvest the honey in the spring.
- Mite detection–Examination for mites is an important step in protecting the future of your hive. There are several ways to do this and each method has its followers. One method is capturing about 100 bees (from the brood area) in a container with powdered sugar in it. Gently shake the container to cover the bees with the powdered sugar then pour them onto a white surface. The bees will groom off any mites that may be on them. The mites then will appear as tiny black spots in the sugar. Another method is to use a “sticky board”. This board lays on the top of the bottom board, leave in place for three days, remove and count the number of mites. Yet another way is to use a frame with prearranged drone cells on it. After the queen has laid eggs in the cells and the worker bees have capped the cells, remove the frame, freeze to kill the drones and the eggs of the mites contained in the drone cells
- Mite control–If you detect a significant number of mites in your hive (> 10 mites per 100), you now have to decide what to do about it. Again, there are several options. There are several manufactured medicines available which can be administered after honey harvest. There are also some “home remedies” such as using the drone frames.
- Weather protection–There are several steps you can take to “weatherize” your hive. In the past I have: done nothing; used straw bales and a top cover; used winter hive box covers; and insulation boards. All of these have met with different degrees of success. If your hive is placed in a naturally protected area, nothing may be needed. Straw bales with a cover provide protection from the wind which robs the hive of heat. This is also true of the insulation boards and winter hive box covers. Each hive is different, each setting is different and each winter is different. Bottom line is: you can’t go wrong giving the hive some protection to help them conserve heat during the winter.
One of the biggest hurdles for a hive surviving the winter in the Black Hills area is the wide fluctuation of temperatures during the winter. Often, after a hive has died, there is still honey in the hive but large numbers of dead bees throughout. This suggests that a warm spell developed, the bees came out of cluster (or at least partially), then the temperature quickly dropped and the bees were not able to get back into cluster.
A beekeeper cannot control everything. We can help our colonies by being vigilant, timely, and thoughtful in handling our girls during the year.
We missed a lot of the swarm activity this year since we were in Alaska for a month. However, we have been told that many people captured swarms–either their own or others–with good success. The Black Hills Wannabe Hobby Beekeepers club has a good network of people, both those who will capture and those who would like to receive a captured swarm. This works well for everyone. We have received several calls recently from outlying areas about swarms. Of course, not all calls turn out to be honey bees, especially this time of year. Many are wasps and even bumble bees. The good thing is: people are calling first before destroying. Education is working! Another good thing is that we have so many club members in so many areas that we can respond quickly. This, too, is good for everyone and is excellent public relations. So, in this regard, the club is serving a very important community service. Thanks to all of you!
So, we are home from our month-long visit to Alaska, seeing friends and relatives. What a superb trip! All stars were aligned for this one! The weather cooperated throughout the visit even giving us two full days of a perfect view of Mt McKinley, which is rare. Jason and Katie even took a flight seeing trip around McKinley, Foraker, and Hunter, landed on a glacier for a 74 degree snow ball fight. We made it to the cabin at Bear Island for about four days which was awesome. Again, the weather cooperating by having the day breeze keep the mosquitos down. The loons, eagles, Steller Jay, otters and seals all came to say hello. We spent several more days in Homer catching up with friends and doing some fishing then moved on to Anchorage. In Anchorage we stayed with our granddaughter Kassie , husband Nate, and new English Yellow Lab, Yuki, which was delightful. Lots of good food, drink, laughter, and conversation
Well I had a first the other day. I made a solar wax melter. It is still a work in progress but I am getting there. I took an old cooler and painted the inside black. I then took two plastic strainers (of different sizes) and using a piece of window screen on the top one and a paint strainer on the bottom one. I cut some plexiglass to fit the top and proceeded to add wax Jerry had collected in an old coffee can. It would have worked well if several things didn’t happen: First, I left the little flap for emptying water open, and there was a lot of honey in the wax jar as well that ran out of the cooler; second, it got so hot the bottom strainer collapsed; third, the strainer that collapsed got stuck in the pan I put in (the second run) to catch the honey. The bees will get to clean that up. So today I trying again. The same set up but with metal strainers. More to follow on this experiment.
We have had a busy several weeks. Rapid City is all a-buzz about hobby beekeepers within the city limits. In the eleven years I have been keeping bees, this is the first complaint I have heard of. Upon investigation it seems this was more of a personal issue than a beekeeping issue. Basically a neighbor of a fellow hobby beekeeper saw bees around his grandchildren’s wading pool. Instead of going two doors down and talking to the beekeeper, he called animal control. Animal control interpreted the city ordinance to mean beekeeping was not allowed and notified our beekeeper he had two weeks to dispose of the bees or face a hefty fine accrued daily. The interpretation was that bees were classified as wild animals. The beekeeper and several past and present officers of the Wannabee Beekeepers Association met with the city committee that over sees animal control. They were told they must comply as directed. The next step was to go before the entire city council and speak to the issue. A number of club members came to speak and to show support. In addition, people who were not beekeepers came to speak and show support. Between the committee meeting and the full council meeting there was much activity on the part of the beekeepers, researching other areas and other ordinances of cities that do allow beekeeping. Of course there are many outstanding examples of such cities such as Paris, New York, Salt Lake City and numerous smaller cities. After the public input at the council meeting it was voted on to review the ordinance and the city attorney was to work with the beekeepers to come up with either a new or revised ordinance that would allow beekeeping within the city limits. Later that week at the regularly scheduled club meeting, the assistant city attorney was present and heard comments from the club members. We voted to have a committee consisting of Jerry Owens, Bill Clements, Tom Allen and John McDowell who would come up with language acceptable to the club and act as liaison with the city. We have not won the war but it appears we might have won a battle and perhaps a war will not develop.
We have had a tremendous spring and early summer so far. The amount of rain has kept things green and growing. Good for bee food, especially if you see my front yard! It has been a good swarm season as well. We have been called for a number of swarms–as many as four in one day. These have varied in size but check out the gallery for the “mega-swarm” we recovered on Memorial weekend. In capturing a swarm, remember that generally they are very docile. Usually you can work them without suiting up or smoking them. In fact, you don’t want to smoke them. I have found that if they are on a branch or small bush/tree you can just shake them into a box set below them. Sometimes you may have to cut the branch they are on if they are high in a tree. The key is to make sure you have captured the queen.
We also had another first experience, for me, in getting a bee tree. A tree in Deadwood was going to be removed and it was discovered that there was a colony of bees in it. Bill Clements was working in Deadwood and the city contacted him about removing the bees. The end result was the city had the tree removal company come out to remove the tree. The night before, Bill covered the entrance used by the bees with mesh, trying to keep as many of the bees in as possible. The tree removers cut the branches, then started on the trunk until they came to the bees. They quickly put a piece of cloth over the opening in the trunk and secured that. Then they went down below where the bees were and cut the trunk there. They lifted the piece of trunk with the bees onto Bill’s waiting flatbed. He took the trunk, with bees, to his place, dug a hole and put the trunk upright in the hole. The bees were in there new home. A post script to this is that the bees later swarmed but Bill was able to capture them and put them in a hive box. Again, check out the pictures of this operation in the gallery.
Friday the 30th of August I traveled to Rosebud to look at their hives. They have ten (10) hives, five (5) from 2012 and another five (5) from 2013. When I was there in July the hives were doing quite well with a couple of exceptions. I fully expected to see several honey supers full of honey, but was surprised when the hives were in about the same shape as they were a month ago. There were signs of clover and other wildflowers, the bees were bringing in pollen
Our path forward is to start feed them sugar water and set up a water supply near the hives. We hope that this will stimulate them to start producing honey. The hives were all quite active with lots of bees. There is no sign of disease, and plenty of brood. So there is hope for most of the hives and we will get some honey this fall.
I have added a number of pictures of a bumble bee nest to the gallery. I received a call from a lady saying she had this nest on her front porch and what should she do. I questioned if they were bumble bees and not another type of bee (hornets, etc.). Sure enough, they were bumble bees. I was fascinated since I had never seen a bumble bee nest. The woman asked if I could move them since she didn’t want to kill them but also didn’t want them on her front porch. I did move them but I believe all bumble bees die out in the winter except for the queen. The important thing to remember is that there are many different pollinators that are beneficial to us all.
Yesterday I received a call from a lady who is concerned that she has a varroa mite problem. She had put a bottom board, with the screen base and the drawer with the sticky board, on the hive to catch any mites that fell to the bottom of the hive. She had it on one day and when she looked at the sticky board she saw (estimate) about 100 mites. Her hive is a first year hive and is doing very well. Both brood boxes are drawn out and are full of honey except the brood and pollen areas. In addition she has two honey supers on the hive, one full and the other 30% full.
She wants to know when to put medication on the hive. She has several options:
1. Leave the hive alone until the honey flow has stopped for the year, remove the supers, harvest the honey leaving the two brood boxes for the bees for the winter, and medicate the hive for varroa mites.
2. Remove the full honey super now, harvest the honey and start medication now leaving the partially filled super on the hive for the winter. Do not intend to use the honey in the remaining super for human consumption as it will contain chemicals that could be harmful to people.
3. Medicate now, knowing that she cannot use any of the honey in the hive for human consumption.
Note: The question arises: do you want to harvest the honey in the fall or the spring? This is an individual choice. Remember, medicated honey, although good for the bees, is not good for people at any time.
After discussion this lady opted for #1
I support this decision mainly because she has a very strong hive at the present so there is no immediate reason to medicate now.
Earlier we mentioned the two options of when to harvest: fall or spring. We have members in both camps. The advantage of harvesting in the fall is obviously being able to enjoy the honey. One disadvantage is making sure the bees have enough honey to winter over. On the other hand, if you harvest in the spring, you will ensure the bees have plenty of honey; however, if you leave the frames in too long the honey will crystalize and you may not be able to spin it out. This is a personal choice and each method is viable. Our main objective is the support of the bees so it is always important to regularly monitor their condition and adjust your actions accordingly.
Our daughter in Cheyenne called the other day with the news that her drones were being evicted. Sure enough. When we checked our hives in the Hills, our drones, too were being given there walking papers. Quite unceremoniously as well. Even with the 90 degree temperature, our girls know fall is just around the corner.
It’s the end of July, 2013 and what a year it has been! We have had more rain than has been normal in the past several years which means food for our bees is more abundant than it has been. Also, we are not experiencing a large number of grasshoppers which have had such a negative impact on our bee’s food source in the past. Hopefully this will continue on.
Although we still have at least 6 to 8 weeks before the weather turns colder, we can be thinking ahead about harvesting honey and winterizing our hives. There are two different schools of thought on harvesting honey. Some of us harvest in the fall, making sure to leave enough for the bees to live on during the winter. A good rule of thumb is two deeps full of honey should keep our girls through the winter. You do want to monitor your bees especially if we have an unusually cold or long winter. Others do not take any honey during the fall, leaving it all for the bees. Then in the spring they harvest what is left over from the winter.
One of the problems that we encountered last year in the Black Hills area was a series of warm spells followed by a quickly developing cold snap. This resulted in the bees breaking cluster when it warmed up to clean the hive, etc. but not getting back in cluster soon enough and being caught be the cold spell. We found a number of hives that were dead but that still had honey in them. Winterizing our hives will be addressed later.