Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Bringing Home The New Bees And Beetles

For years I read about bees, wondered what it'd be like to be a beekeeper, and more recently heard all the bad stories about pesticides killing honey bees. So in I jumped to help nature. It was too late to order a package so I purchased a five frame nuc and a whole hive from two different local beekeepers.

The nuc, short for nucleus, includes frames of brood, honey and a queen. We brought it home, installed it in its new hive, began feeding sugar water to help with comb building, and watched. Lots of watching! A few days later we picked up the full hive. More watching and the hand wringing began. They seem weaker than the nucleus, they aren't as active, and against the sellers instructions I went in the hive the first week instead of waiting three. Holy hive beetle they're everywhere! 

For those unfamiliar with the small hive beetle count your blessings. These little scourge of Satan spread like wildfire. Not only were they weakening the new hive they had spread to my other one. I began using GardStar under the hives to prevent the beetle larva from making it to adulthood. I also used cockroach traps, containing fipronil, that the beetles were attracted to. The infested hive included an oil tray at the bottom and traps throughout. Beetles hid under the traps when the lid came off. That allowed me to crush the evil little bug. Otherwise neither option proved very effective. Ultimately that hive failed and the seller replaced according to his guarantee.

Small hive beetle larvae on left side of comb midway from the top.
Frame from failed hive.
Being a newbee I thought I had messed up. I was a failed beekeeper. So we packed up the new hive and drove away. This time I would eradicate the beetle if it came back. I would redeem myself. Instead the new hive was full of beetles too. Lots of beetles and some wax moths. That concluded my few month short course in hive beetles as I learned his apiary offered prime conditions for beetles to thrive. They love hives that get a lot of shade. The second hive failed too. The beetles and months overwhelmed it. Someone with a larger apiary could share frames between hives to lessen the effect, but I didn't have that option. I slowly watched the hive decline until most of the bees relocated.

Once I was back to one hive, that wasn't overrun, the beetles were easier to control. I continued GardStar application along with roach traps. When inspecting the hive I got great enjoyment squashing every beetle that dare show itself. The hive did a bit of the work too since it was stronger. The bees chased the beetles and cornered them. The bees then took turns not letting the beetles out. Lastly I used one Checkmite+ strip cut into pieces and stapled to cardboard. It was placed on top of the inner cover. The beetles would hide in the cardboard grooves to escape the bees and would be exposed to the pesticide in the strip. That provided the largest decline in beetles.

The treatments I used are from a resource provided by the University of Arkansas. This was an amazing resource I found online that worked wonderfully. http://gardens.usf.edu/data/small-hive-beetle-control.pdf

Monday, May 30, 2016

The Non-Perfect Beekeeper

Here I am coming up on my one year beekeeping anniversary. This is a hobby that constantly occupies my brain. Planning, scheduling, what ifs, and sharing information about the amazing honey bee. Constantly seeking out knowledge, working hard to ensure the bees are safe, and a healthy amount of worry that everything is okay in my hives. Afterall they are thousands of bees, dependent on each other, that I'm trying to support. One poor decision could endanger the entire hive. Maybe not the best hobby choice for a worrier!

The lesson I've learned over and over is.....if it can go wrong it will, if it can break it will, or if the least possible scenario can come to fruition it will! I'll make mistakes, I'll learn from them, and I'll work fast to correct them.

The other lesson I learn each time I check the hives, watch activity outside the hives, or read about bees is this is an amazing learning opportunity that will provide knowledge for decades!

I'm late combining my hobby with a blog, so I'll spend the next couple weeks catching up with what's happened since I got my first bees June 20, 2015. Then a celebration of my first year as a beekeeper.

I'll mention I'm an accountant, and as such I enjoy numbers. I'm terrible with grammar. This blog is to share the information I've gathered, provide a few good laughs at some of the craziness I've experienced and caused, and to have fun. Grammar police do not point out my lack of appropriate punctuation and poor wording. I will train my bees to not pollinate your plants if you do. If you are a repeat offender there will be no honey for you!