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Archive for July, 2009

Getting Stung

I went to both feed and check the hives yesterday to see if I could determine mite counts and make sure that the queens were laying enough brood (although, honestly, I could tell you that from what I’ve seen over the past couple of weeks the hives have had a tremendous population explosion). I also wanted to check to see how well the bees were doing building comb on the frames in the supers I put on top of the hive.

The good news is that the bees have been busy building comb on the new supers — so fast in fact that I’ve got to make sure to put the other two supers (along with 20 more frames) on top of the hives soon. They’re storing sugar syrup in the new supers and that’s been great. I took the supers off and started to check the frames in the hive bodies to look at the brood pattern. I’ve got good brood pattern in the top hive body in what I call hive ‘A’ — the hive on the right when looking at them from the front — I couldn’t check more than a couple of frames in hive ‘B’ though as the bees have built the comb in such a way that one frame touches another (except for two of them). Of the two I could check in hive ‘B’ they’re pretty much full of honey and that’s it. I couldn’t check anymore in hive ‘B’ because doing so would destroy too much comb — some of which includes brood.

Hive ‘A’ has good brood pattern in the frames of the top hive body. I couldn’t check the lower hive body as the bees began to get very defensive. One bee stung me just above where my thumb joins into the wrist. I removed the stinger and decided to close up the hive without checking for mites this time.

With hive ‘B’ I was able to get all the way down to the lower hive body and check some frames there…they had capped brood as well as larva…although not as much larva as I would have liked…nevertheless both hives have lots of capped brood as well as lots of adult bees. Like hive ‘A’, hive ‘B’ has pretty much built out all of the frames in the super and is storing syrup in the cells. Looks like I’ve got my work cut out for me this week. While working hive ‘B’ I was stung at the top of the middle finger of my left hand. Again I removed the stinger and because the bees were becoming more defensive I decided to close things up and leave. I’ll try and check mite counts next Sunday.

Even though I removed the stingers from both sites I’ve had dramatically different reactions to the stings. The middle finger of my left hand has had no reaction to the sting whereas the site where I was stung in the right hand has swollen and is red as well as tender. But the swelling has not gone beyond the general site of the sting. I find it interesting that I’ve had two completely different reactions to the stings. The last time this happened I discovered a piece of the stinger was still in the skin and it took three days before I removed it and the swelling went away. Hopefully this is not the case again. I’m hoping that this is just a case of the venom having penetrated further in my right hand than in the finger of my left. I’ve checked the sting site on my right hand with a magnifying glass and can find no evidence of a stinger remnant.

Hopefully I’ll be able to check for mites next week. One thing I’m curious about though is why, when I go out in the late afternoon to check on the bees and to feed them hive ‘A’ always has a mass of bees on the outside of the hive just above the entrance and hive ‘B’ doesn’t (see the picture below). As far as I can tell they’re equally strong hives in terms of overall numbers of bees.

Hive 'A' and 'B'

Hive 'A' and 'B'

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This year has been a real challenge with respect to the Garden. We went away in mid-April to go to Texas to visit family and because of that we got a late start on the garden. On top of that it rained like crazy here in Maryland this year…I mean buckets! We had a really wet May and June…so much so that it seemed that our garden plants would never grow and we would lose the year.

Well…never count your chickens before they hatch as the old saying goes. Our garden has recovered dramatically and some of the plants are really producing lots of fruit. We released lady bugs as well as put out three preying mantis egg cases and tricograma wasp eggs to control aphids and other bugs. Anyway, I finally got out to the garden to take pictures and post them up here.

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Supers

I added supers to the hives (with ten frames each) last Friday. I haven’t checked the hives yet to see how their doing as far as building out comb on the new frames but I will in a couple of days. The frames that I used have wax foundation (not Duragilt as I’ve given up on it) and I taught myself how to embed the wire into the foundation. It actually was easier to put these frames together than the Duragilt frames.

Another thing I need to do is inspect the hives for mites. I suspect that the mite load is low but I will be treating the hive with a combination of powdered sugar and garlic powder per Ross Conrad’s suggestion in his book Natural Beekeeping.

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I checked up on my hives and it seems that it’s about time I added supers to the hive bodies in order to give the bees a place to store more honey. These are new hives and I’m trying to encourage them to build out as much comb in the hive body frames as possible before I add supers. At this point they’re going through 7 lbs of sugar every 48 hours (which is a real challenge keeping up with them – I may need to consider getting deeper hive-top feeders in order to reduce the number of visits I have to make every week) — and that’s just two hives!

I’m going to add two supers to each hive with 10 frames a piece in order to get the maximum amount of honey for winter feeding if need be. Hopefully when the winter comes I’ll have enough honey that the bees will be well fed by spring.

On another note, I haven’t seen much evidence (actually none at all) of Varoa at this point. I’m looking at how I can get ahead of any possible infestation before it starts. At this point visual inspection shows that the hives are healthy and looking good.

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