Thursday, December 4, 2008

Sweet! a tasty way to deal with Varroas

Another tactic to combat against mites is sprinkling powdered sugar on the bees (pictured). This causes them to groom themselves to get off the sugar, which keeps them clean and can remove the mites. They can then use it in the honey production process. Some beekeepers actually give their bees sugar water to supplement their diet (for instance during the winter). It makes for better honey if bees make it naturally, and we don’t really need to do that in California since things are in bloom all year.

A couple weeks ago, I did see one bee that appeared to have Deformed Wing Virus (DWV), which is carried by Varroa mites. Not good! But it could have also been torn wings.

Lastly, the ants are finally gone! Ants not only are attracted to the honey, they also eat the bee brood. Bees are somewhat powerless against them since they are too small to sting. Two other things were attracting them in large quantities: the powdered sugar residue on the ground, and the bits of wax and other sweet things that fall out of the mesh bottom (pictured). The hive is propped up on upside-down flowerpots inside plastic bowls filled with water to keep out ants. The problem is that the water evaporates pretty quickly. Bees and leaves also tend to fall in the cups creating a bridge for the ants. I tried putting chalk in the areas where there were trails of ants because that can cover up the pheromones. That kind of worked, but there were so many that I finally used some “Grant’s Kills Ants” poison, which is not harmful to bees, and I haven’t seen any ants since.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Varroa mites and drone cells

In our hive, we have taken a number of precautions against Varroa mites. K. O. (the beekeeper) gave us a box that has a mesh bottom, so the mites will fall out.

The drones (which are created from unfertilized eggs) are more susceptible to Varroa mites because the development time of the drone brood matches that of the mite. The drones are larger in larval state than other bees. We have special frames that are open (pictured in the bottom two). Drone cells are larger than normal, so the bees choose these open frames to put the drone brood. Once the frame that is pictured is filled up, I will cut out the wax again. This may seem harsh, but it is important to get rid of the drone brood because that is where the mites tend to concentrate. You can also see some honey in the cells in the last image. Tasty!

The first picture shows a fresh frame that we had just put in. The bees will build the honeycomb on either side of the sheet (I’m sure they already have; they are incredibly fast workers).