Several weeks ago I opened my boxes to find millions of hive beetles. The small hive beetle is one of the evil destroyers of the honey hive. They have a hard shell, thus the bees have a hard time killing them. They love the dark, so as soon as I open the box, the beetles quickly skitter away. Because the bees have a hard time controlling them, the beetles reproduce rapidly and make a mess in the hive, which we all know bees don’t like. I talked about this issue here.The next thing I needed to worry about is the dreaded varroa mite. Article upon article in the beekeeping community right now is about taking care of the varroa mite. These guys look like tiny red ticks. They seem to love to attach themselves to the bees thorax and lay their eggs in the bee larva cell, which of course kills the larva. Larva grow into bees. Without larva, there are no bees, no hive, no honey. I did two different tests to determine my mite level.
One test involved two jars that are screwed together with a screen in between. I was suppose to gather a cup full of bees, (I totally had no idea how to do this. I guess I should have done some research first.) Then I put the gathered bees into the jar with a few ounces of rubbing alcohol. This would indeed kill those bees, but it was the sacrifice I have to make in order to save a whole hive. I swirled the bees around the alcohol to dislodge any mites that might be present. Then turning the jar contraption upside down, the mites and liquid pours through the screen. Then I would count the number of mites. I had about 4 tiny red mites. The experts all say to not wait until there is a problem, “Bee Proactive!” So I bought “Mite Away” pads.
I made a rookie mistake and opened the package inside the barn. OMG! I about passed out from the fumes. I placed the pad on top of the frames and waited a week. I did another test to see if there were any mites again. This time I place a grid board that is covered in Vaseline under the hive. The idea is that mites will fall down and stick to this board. A week later I pull it out and count the number of mites. Again, I am a complete rookie, but to my untrained eye I saw no mites! Yay!!! I see lots of pollen and bee debris, but no mites. I do a happy dance.in fact, y boxes feel nice and heavy, which tells me they are full of bees and honey. Each box can weigh around 40 lbs when in a healthy state.Two weeks go by, I’m thinking my hives are the bees knees
Then I open the green hive and am astounded at how bad it looks. It looks almost empty! What used to be frames of pollen, eggs, larvae, capped cells and loads of happy bees, I now see frame after frame of emptiness. There are a small number of bees buzzing around, but nothing like the sweet hum I had just a few weeks before. I am in a small panic. The yellow hive looks amazing! Everything looks as it should. But the green one is very sad.It is the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, so I have to wait until Tuesday to call the bee store for help. I really am worried that I’m going to lose a hive. Finally I get to call Carolina Honey Bee and ask Kelly what I should do. I can’t see a queen, but then I really don’t know what I’m looking at. Am I queenless? Without a queen to lay eggs, there won’t be any bees born. She suggests that since we are in dearth, no nectar flow, that maybe I should add pollen patties to help the bees nutritionally. We decide to try this first, then if I don’t see any improvement, then we can try adding a new queen. Three days later, I went over to see what was going on. Lookie here! Lookie here! I’ve got action! In just 3 days, we’ve got the rainbow effect going on with capped brood and pollen surrounding it. Beautiful!In just a few days, this frame from the top box went from being dry to glistening with honey and the beginnings of capping. The girls have a long way to go to be prepared for winter, but I know they can do it. They have 10 frames front and back that need to be full of capped honey in order for them to survive the winter. This little peanut shaped cell is a queen cell. This was not here on Tuesday. So if the queen of this hive had become ill or died, the workers would have taken care to raise another queen.Here is another queen cell or two. The workers decide whether or not a queen is needed. They somehow know and build her a special cell. They feed her gourmet meals fit for a queen of royal jelly. If several of these special cells produce queens the bees will choose the strongest one and kill the rest. Hey, they know what they are doing.The bees are so thankful for this boost. Check out those two gals who went a bit overboard and gorged themselves to death. Actually I may have squished them on accident when I closed the box up the last time. I think this is what I look like sometimes after gorging myself on some amazing dessert involving chocolate.
Here’s a video I shot of me putting bees from one box to another. I had thought that the bees were doing so great that I could put a box on top, that they would fill with honey for me. I really jumped the gun in this one. So I needed to take each frame and knock those bees back into the established hive. This was done weeks and weeks before I started having all the pest trouble. It’s still kind of cool to see how it is done. Hey! Check out my new wagon! To walk to and fro from the barn to the hives, I usually have my arms full. This baby has been such a helpful piece of equipment.
There is so much to learn! God made these little critters perfectly. I’m the one who is messing with success by keeping them. I don’t know the reason why bees that are kept are different than honey bees in the wild. I need to do some research. But when I decided to be a beekeeper, I made a commitment to take care of them. There is a fine line in letting them do their God-given thing and helping them thrive. I’m making lots of mistakes, but I’m also learning so much.
Thanks for all of you who are interested in this little adventure I’m on with these buzzing girls.