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Posts Tagged ‘mites’

February 2016 Agarita blooming

Well it appears spring is pretty much here to stay. That’s Agarita in bloom in the above picture. It’s a great early spring plant for the bees and they are all over it. Very awesome to see this. I was hoping for a little colder weather still as I do miss it even though I’ve been here 20 years and I know what to expect but I still hope for some crazy cold, long lasting winter. HEHE I know that’s not what the beekeeper might want and likely the bees wouldn’t either. Speaking of beekeeper, Mark continues to make his rounds to his bee yards, checking their statuses and feeding whenever necessary. Some hives are doing really well while others need a little help until the flowers really bust out. He’s also continuing his mite treatments as he continues to see mites in the hives. A follower on Instagram asked us if we do that preemptively or if we actually have mites and know it. I told her we have mites; we know it; most beekeepers, if not all, have them; and she’d be wise to start reading up on all the research out there on multiple treatments available. No one yet knows the best answer but it’s a raging topic and a debate at times among beekeepers and sometimes even with bee supporters who don’t know much about bees or this mite issue. I can’t tell you how often people judge beekeepers who opt to use ANYTHING UNNATURAL on the bees. We’ve now gotten to the point where we just tell folks that if we were really sick and had a palm-sized tick sucking the life juice out of us, please give us medicine and help us. We don’t want to die that way nor would we want to let our bees die that way. It’s a terrible issue and we will do what we can to help our girls. Okay, on to more positive news from the Bee Ranch and Seguin.

Overall and especially in Guadalupe County bee yards (this is the county where we reside so most of our bees are here), Mark’s been really pleased with how almost all the hives are looking at this point. Strong hives with lots of bees, brood patterns starting to thicken, more and more pollen coming in and good looking queens. This may be the strongest he’s seen the majority of his hives at the end of winter and rolling into spring. We are very excited about this!

That's a lovely queen we got there

Here are a couple of projects and developments that have us super excited.

Beeswax lotion bars. I’ve been working on this formula for some time now and I think I may have it the way we like it. I’m so excited to get a label for this soon and start offering it! I am so in love with learning how to make these new products with Mark and making it for us, our family, friends, and soon our customers.

Beeswax Lotion Bars at the Bee Ranch

Hive Kits for sale at the Bee Ranch

Our Bee Gear and Equipment retail area continues to grow and Mark is happy he can supply local folks with things they need to get started to get going. These fully equipment hive kits (three levels) have become quite popular now that spring is upon us and busy people just want to pick up the complete hive and not sorry about piecing it together, which they can do if they choose to here. It’s been a good learning experience but also a lot of work for Mark but if you know him, you know it also makes him happy to help people starting out in beekeeping. He’s a great teacher and mentor.

Okay, I am off to do some more body care product development. We both wish we had more hours in a day to do all the fun things we want to try! πŸ™‚

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Bee board holding pecans

Hello everyone. Just wanted to take some time to catch you up on our happenings. First off, yard treasures. This past year we had an amazing pecan crop when many others didn’t. Between bee work, candle making, construction and living life, Mark and Tang picked up pecans. We had a little help from family visits and a LOT of help from our dear friends, Mr. & Mrs. Savior. Boy, that man can climb trees still and he is up there in years. I was very little help really as the cedar has been trying to hurt me as it does every year about this time. After harvesting the pecans, we took them in batches to Brookes Pecan of San Antonio. They did a great job for us and while we wait for the final total, it looks like we are either first or second in terms of hauling in the most pecans, measuring by pounds brought in and shelled. Whoa! That’s pretty cool. At this point, I can safely say it was over 1,000 pounds. Exact number coming soon.

Here’s a second yard treasure for you (pecans being the first) – Colombian coin in the yard! It’s so pretty. I love the beautiful flower tree on one side of the coin. It’s the tree of life, which is what one of our ornaments is named! Meant to be, I tell you. So neat to find little treasures, both edible and not.

Colombian coin found in our yard

In construction news, we are happy, worried, anxious, eager, and all the other emotions that people must feel when they are spending a ton of money to build a dream. There’s always something unexpected though not always bad, so that’s nice. It’s good we’re near the end of building because we’re also dwindling away funds and while we did set aside funds for this, it’s still a little scary, right? πŸ™‚ Keep us in your thoughts and prayers, please. We can’t wait to get in the building so we can see how far our journey will continue to take us. We have power; we have concrete landings; we have some landscaping dirt and gravel; and we have a builder ready to finish out the inside. Ahhhh!!! There’s still more landscaping work to be done but it looked so wonderful tonight when I walked out back to see the progress made today with fill dirt and gravel. It’s going to be so wonderful when it’s time to move into it! What a joy it will be to work in all that space and to have the things you need better organized.

Today's look at our Honey House

One more shot regarding building and construction and things you have to do to make the City happy. Such as build a sidewalk in front of your place of business. This one deserves a post at a later date so for now, I will leave it at this…the men were out front researching and figuring how to meet requirements and also not have to take out the lovely trees at our entrance. We’ll keep you posted.

Researching placement of the required sidewalk

Finally, I will share a one of the pictures I got from Tang and Mark as they check and feed bees. This is the first batch of drone brood for the season and it’s exciting because it means the hive is starting to grow and that’s always a great thing. It’s a sign of good health. Yay bees!

First drone brood of the season

Quiz time: What else do you see in the above picture that is noteworthy?

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Fall honey and pollen

Today was a gorgeous day out there – nice day to work the bees, not too hot. While I was in an office listening to the breeze whip bush limbs against my window, Mark and Stan were busy, busy. Stan’s got a whole lot of our honey bottled and ready for markets, class and other events coming up. What a great help and a great space saver for us. I actually was able to move freely around the Honey House after work as I met a customer and then did some work there (although my flowing skirt kept catching on the bottling tank valves, hehe).

Anyway, that gorgeous frame at the top of the post is from the Pizza yard and I think it’s absolutely gorgeous. It’s a shot like that – of the perfect frame – that makes me wish I was there with him with my big camera. The colors are gorgeous. That’s brood in the center followed by a ring of pollen and then honey. The bees are doing very well at the Pizza yard and they made some fantastic honey that I got to taste this evening. Thanks, girls!

Now, below is a shot of two of the five mites Mark spotted on the poor little larva. 😦 This is why he’s treating with Mite Away. To put this in perspective for people during our bee classes, Mark tells students to imagine a tick the size of a FOOTBALL on your back – just sucking the life out of you. YUCK. Now imagine five of them. 😦 I am so sad just thinking about the poor bees. Let’s hope the Mite Away does its job well and helps them out a bit. So far, so good with the treatments.

Mites on bee larva

Let’s end on a good note, shall we? Mark also visited the Marriott again and was pleased with his check of the treatment he applied earlier. Then he sent me this shot and again I marveled at the beauty of the bees’ work. Gorgeous frame of pollen and bees. It takes so many little pouches of pollen to fill each one of those cells…can you imagine how many foraging trips it took the bees to fill one cell? And then all the cells on one frame? And then the other frames in one bee box? And then the other boxes stacked on the colony? That’s a lot of work.

Bees & Pollen

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Apiguard treatment on new hives

David and I had our first chance to look at all of our 52 new hives today. The hives are on pallets with pairs facing away from each other. The hives looked good and healthy when we picked them up and they seem to have enjoyed the five-hour trip from Jasper, Texas last week because they still looked good and healthy today. I liked the way that they are all about the same strength and very gentle – no stings during today’s inspection. Our plan is to build up these hives in late winter/early spring. We’ll divide each one to make up about 50 nucleus hives to sell. (Already have several orders!) The remaining bees we’ll keep to make honey here in Guadalupe and Gonzales Counties.

These bees (and all of my other hives, too) were due for a mite treatment using a thymol product called Api-Guard. Considered a natural miticide, the thymol is activated by heat and the vapors kill the mites that are attached to the bees. It doesn’t kill the mites in the brood, so it’s best to use in the fall when the colonies have less brood. Getting control over these mites in the fall is the key to having strong colonies in the spring.

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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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