Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Fall Feeding

I made the hives really tall - it is funny to see them tall again. I took down the fall medications I use for mites. Varroa mites attach to bees when the are little larvae and then when the adult emerges from the cell, the mite is already attached. They suck the life out of bees - not all the life, but just a little at a time. The makes the whole hive just a little bit less able to fight infection. The more mites, the less able the hive is able to fight infection.

And did I mention that the more mites a hive has, the meaner they get!? Oh, yeah the bees in my first hive -the meanest bees in Worcester County- had high mite levels. Not wanting to go there again, I treat my bees with a miticide that is gentle to the bees and to me.

I added a hive box and gave the girls lots of honey to help them keep warm in our chilly mornings. They seem like they are doing well. Unlike last fall, Sun's hive is the weakest of the three. The other two hives have more bees, but all three seem to be quite happy and doing well.

I did discover we need a new cover for Ruby's hive. The cover is old and rotting underneath. It is letting in moisture and that can be fatal for the bees in the winter - if they get wet in the winter they can freeze and die.

Over the next month or so we will be tucking the girls away for the winter. They will be getting a partial wrap around the hives to help keep in the heat and protect them from snow covering the entrance way. I also put a few bales of hay outside of the bee-deck to help with the wind. I don't know if it really really helps, but it makes me feel better.

I miss the bees already!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Bee porn, slutty queens and vegetarianism...

We had three speakers at the fall Massachusetts Bee Meeting - a queen breeder, a researcher who studies queen quality among other things, and Harvard profession who studies public health.

What a great day! One of the speakers was late so we heard both talks by the Joe Latshaw ( While he produces queens for commercial beekeepers and works on a scale that is way beyond my wildest dreams, he explained to us - hobbyist beekeepers - how to use what he's learned and some of his techniques to become our own queen breeders on a small scale. What I took away from Joe's talks is that I need to think about the sustainability of my own apiary and I now have the tools (ok at least the directions) to select and rear my own queens to make that happen. Joe also stressed keeping records. This resonated with the scientist in me!

Our second speaker was Alex Lu from Harvard. He titled his talk "Putting your health in your hands" and was a great talk. I can see how much of what he spoke about being applicable to my hives - preventative care is way less expensive and more sustainable than treatment. I love the reminder to eat vegetarian before 6pm - save the world and your body by consuming less meat which contains high levels of chemicals and antibiotics.

The final speaker was David Tarpy from North Carolina State University. He explained why we need genetic diversity in our bee yards and that slutty queens are better. On average, honey bee queens mate with a dozen drones - but some will mate with that many in one day and still go out the next day for more! He showed us a great video of a queen on her nuptial or mating flight. Wow - bee sex is brutal and a one shot deal for the drone! Aside the idea that more is better for the queen, I learned a great deal about the reproductive health of honeybee queens. They are pretty amazing girls!

Bee meetings are great for socializing with other beekeepers too. I got to sit with two of the other beekeepers in Millbury - always a good time!