Archive for the ‘disease’ Category

The round swingy chair :-)

While I have some quiet time here in Irving (just swinging in the bumblebee-like chair at the hotel), I was thinking how much I miss my beekeeper and my home and our bees and our new Bee Ranch and my friends and my kitty. I think that about covers it. I’m finishing up my second week of travel for my IT training job and while I have enjoyed dipping back into training delivery (really, really miss teaching!), I will be glad to be home again. I need to pack a house, after all!

Earlier during a break between classes, a teammate stopped by to check on me and then our talk turned to bees, which often happens once people get a taste of our beeventures and the honey. He asked great questions – how does the queen mate? How long do they live? What is honey used for in nature if we didn’t extract it? Do other animals bother the bees? Do ants pose a problem? How do you get a bucket of honey? Does it go bad? I loved it. I love talking bees and honey and beeswax. 🙂 And partnerships and sharing and fun friends we make. I also had another conversation with a new friend and vendor at Pearl and we’re going to continue our discussion in future about growing a small business. Mark and I had just talked about the potential of our friends’ venture and what great products they have but noted they had no online presence up to this point. We thought about how much they could grow their sales if only people knew what they had and how they made it. Well, our friend brought it up and wants some insight into the whole social media component of marketing a business. You know me – I love to talk about social media so I can’t wait to give them some information about how it has really helped GBR grow. If utilized properly, then social media need not be a scary, bad thing. Really.

Putting moth crystals on cleaned up empty supers

I have been wanting to share with you all something we are doing – prepping empty supers for storage now that the honey flow is over. That’s a shot of Mark at The Farm bee yard in one of the greenhouses not being used currently. Pedro is nice enough to let us store our supers there – good and dry cover so that is wonderful. As we finish extracting, the empty honey supers are stacked and then taken out to a bee yard so that the bees can go to town cleaning them up – getting all the honey they can off the frames and boxes. They typically do a great job within a few days. Then you must get the cleaned, empty supers and prepare them for storage. The honey the bees make from now through fall will be a darker honey from Broomweed and we’ll leave that for them to eat on during winter and before things bloom in spring. In the shot below Mark is putting plates of moth crystals on top of the stacks of empty supers. The crystals will not damage or contaminate the wax and boxes in any way but it will keep wax moths from eating up our wax. Mark replaces the lids snuggly and makes sure any holes/entrances are plugged. We need to seal them up so that the proper fumigation takes place. These frames will be used again next year.

Moth crystals to fight wax moths

Here’s a shot of what happens if you don’t get the moth crystals on the supers in time or if they are just pesky enough to survive the crystals – yuck!!!!!! No matter how many times I see these types of frames, I am always a little startled by them. It’s not the end of the world, however, and often you can just clean off the frames and they’ll be fine for reuse but me being the girl I am…I am ever thankful that Mark handles all this. He’s a sweetie to not ask me to work the bees and clean up messes like this and I’m super grateful! And sorry I didn’t get a closer shot…I didn’t want to really see it up close but I must note it is rather fascinating that those little devils turn our beautiful honeycomb frame into what looks like ashy webs. 😦

So your beekeeping lesson: Try and take care of your supers as soon after you extract as possible. And at least here in south Texas, prepare the supers for storage by getting a good amount of moth crystals (NOT MOTH BALLS) on the empty boxes.

Bad frame - wax moths


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In the hive 10

Hi everyone. This week has been filled with lots of different activities – from visiting a friend’s garden property to our class today with sales and visits in between as well emails and so on. We had a great class this morning despite it being a bit on the chilly side. It has been a long time since we had a cozy class of six. A small class allows for more personal conversation, getting to know each other. Thanks for joining us, folks! In the picture above, Mark was able to show the students a lot of things in the hive today, including the process through which he counts mites. On this board, they were able to see a beetle (squished after show and tell), beetle larvae and mites that had been groomed off the bees. Nice!

Me at Mike's Altwein Farm

Speaking of class, in the above photo, we visited with Mike, a former student, at his nearby garden, half-way between Seguin and New Braunfels. Always a great time visiting with Mike – he is so enthusiastic about things he does and he has marvelous gardens. The vegetables he sends back with us are amazing! We are thrilled to work with him to get hives on his gardens in the near future.

David & Mark discuss an upcoming event

Finally, I wanted to share a shot I particularly like of David and Mark as they plan the takeover of the world through bees and honey. 🙂 They are so fun and I knew they were out at the Farm yard Friday afternoon so I hoped over there after work to catch a bit of the great outdoors before it got too dark. The bees were really flying these days and that’s wonderful to see.

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Mite counting

Yes, these are dead mites, killed by our application of a natural miticide called HopGuard. The mites are the oval shapes, about the size of a pin-head. (The fuzzy stuff is the cardboard used with the HopGuard product. The bees chew it literally to bits and remove it from the hive.) Twenty-four hours after the HopGuard application I checked these white boards, which catch the dead mites as they fall to the bottom of the hive. I was surprised to find between 100 and 200 dead mites fallen from the hives at Elm Creek. The hives at the Farm only had about 20 dead mites on their white boards. The Elm Creek hives either had a serious infestation of mites, or the HopGuard is very effective at killing them. I’ll do mite counts again soon to see how they are doing.

Applying HopGuard

I treated the hives at the Pizza Yard with HopGuard on Friday. The weather was cool and windy with some sprinkles. The bees did not appreciate being disturbed in those conditions, and for this hive the HopGuard application was the final straw. At least they appear to be big and strong!

Showing our guests the bees

Today we had a knock on the door from a Turkish beekeeper and his family! The parents are visiting from Turkey and found us through a beekeeping association and our website. It was so great to meet them and to share our backyard bees and honey house with them. If only there had been time to take them to a bee yard. Maybe next year when they visit again. The father has about one hundred hives in northern Turkey, near Russia, and we have a standing invitation to visit them. This made our day for sure. Meeting wonderful people like this family is one of our favorite things about keeping bees and running GBR. You just never know who’s going to knock on the door or walk through the gate. And it is awesome.

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Medicine for the bees

This is HopGuard, a strip of cardboard soaked with a gooey concoction made from hops. According to the manufacturer, it is a natural product that will kill the mites in my hives, but will not kill my bees. One drawback is that it is messy, and latex gloves are a must. Just an FYI – bees can sting through latex gloves.

The cardboard strip straddles across a frame with the ends hanging down into the brood nest. I placed two of these strips in each brood box.

Here are the two installed strips. The good news is that the bees do not seem bothered in the least by the product. Unfortunately, it will only kill the mites that are on the bees, not the ones attached to developing brood inside the cells, so several applications may be needed. I placed a white board under the hives to catch the mites that drop from the hive. After about 30 minutes, I counted zero mites dropped from one hive and one mite dropped from another. Maybe my fall mite treatments with Apiguard were very effective. Or maybe I need to give HopGuard more time to work. I’ll check the white boards again in 24 hours.

Meanwhile, in the Elm Creek area…

Agarita, one of our best, early honey plants is officially in bloom. It’s interesting that the buds are red and the flowers, after they open are bright yellow. Agarita honey has a fantastic flavor and someday I hope to have some hives strong enough early enough to produce some that I can harvest. But not this year. The bees are doing well, but are still in drought recovery mode. They need all the nutrients they can get right now.

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Mark & David check the wax moth damage

Today was a weird sort of day at work for me so I rushed home afterwards and after about four minutes, decided I just had to get outside. I pinged Mark to see if he and David were done yet at The Farm yard. YAY, they were wrapping up but Mark said for me to come on out so I rushed out the door. The weather had cleared up by afternoon and it was warm enough for Mark and David to check on the new hives we got. Not a cloud was left in the sky by the time I got there at 5:30 p.m.

Good news: The hives are going strong and we have twenty-nine that have a second deep super, or brood box, on them. The queens were enlarging the brood nests already and that was a happy sight for my beekeepers to see. I could tell they were very pleased with their visit today. When they showed me the hives, I was amazed to see how they bees were out and flying like crazy. I don’t blame them, it was a gorgeous day to get out after the rains we’ve been getting. David said they were carrying all sorts of pollen in different colors. I bet that was nice to see!

Bad news: See the pictures? These are (luckily) just a few frames that the wax moths had gotten a hold of while the frames were sitting in storage in one of the vacant greenhouses on the property. YUCK. But still not as bad as I have seen him deal with in the past. Mark’s going to save one or two of these for teaching purposes. The others he will simply toss.

photo 3

I enjoyed my brief visit with the guys as they packed up. I got to breathe fresh air, see beautiful bees in flight, saw some hilarious chickens and a rooster, watch a chicken chase a dog (and he cried!)…got to be with my honey bee and that always takes my stresses away. Here’s one of the things I enjoyed seeing at the Farm yard. (And even though wax worms are not my favorite thing to see, I am still glad I got to learn more about them.)

A rooster & his hens

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hive entrance mite board

As part of his morning activities with the bees, Mark’s been going to out to each bee yard on a regular schedule that he keeps up-to-date on his phone. This morning he visited the Capote yard, which has been a tough yard for the bees this year. We love it out there but we’re down to a handful of hives. Mark just agreed, they are a handful. Those poor things have suffered cows and bulls bumping them and the dreaded foul brood, which Mark got under control. He’s moved some of the hives out and lost a couple but he perseveres as always. The powdered sugar treatment is a part of his routine out at the yards. He slides the marked board under the screen bottom board of the hive and then he shakes that fine dusting of sugar from above. As the mites fall off the bees and onto the board below, he can assess if the count warrants some more attention beyond the powdered sugar treatment. In the picture below, can you see some tiny brown, round flecks in the bottom of the grid? There’s also another mite in the second from bottom row on the grid – far right. So, I always wonder…when Mark goes to HEB (our local grocery chain) and buys bags and bags and bags of sugar and powdered sugar – do folks wonder what he’s got planned? Does the cashier thing, lord, this man must be a baker! Or a sugar addict. Oops, I gave away his secret. lol

mite board

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powdered hive

The varroa mites can really build up in our hives this time of year and if we’re not careful hives will be lost. I have started weekly dustings of the hives with powdered sugar. This loosens the mites that are attached to the adult bees and they fall through the hives’ screened bottom boards and onto the ground, where, hopefully, the fire ants will eat them. I’ve tried different chemicals and medications to kill the mites, but as you might guess, that which kills the mites also kills the bees. Not good. Powdered sugar dusting isn’t the most efficient way to kill mites, but it’s the only way I’ve found so far that doesn’t kill my bees.

ghost bee on frame

It’s easy to spot the white powdered bees, especially when they fly into the wrong hive. When you have some bees covered with powdered sugar it makes them easy to track, and it’s interesting to see just how frequently bees will fly in and out of hives that are not their own. “Robber” bees will usually be attacked and driven out when they enter their neighbor’s hive, but bees covered with powdered sugar seem welcome wherever they go.

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