5 years ago
Thursday, June 28, 2012
Well this is Serenity's hive- this was the split we did earlier this year. You can still see the blackened peel at the top and bottom. There was a PILE of chalkbrood mummies on the bottom of this hive. The bees were doing a great job of cleaning them out of the frames, just not out of the hive.
The banana peels had mold on them and looked nasty. Yech, but I will tell you that two out of three hives are looking pretty chalkbrood free. I am now wondering if we need to move the third hive to a sunnier location as they still have wicked chalkbrood. Sigh.
So will I do this again- sure it didn't hurt the bees and along with better ventilation, might help. It certainly didn't hurt the bees.
Along with all this crazy chalkbrood I have been waiting for the bees to supercede Sun. She's three years old and is starting to lay in a patchy pattern. Perhaps my talk to the bees worked because what to my wondering eyes should appear today but a new queen. She was camera shy so I only got an iffy shot but like her mum, she's all golden. She is lighter than Sun but she has no marks on her abdomen.
Monday, June 18, 2012
I got stung last week while I was checking a fellow beekeeper's hives while he was out of town. This is a critical time of year for many hives with lots of swarms and supercedures (replacing the queen). His hives looked good but on the last hive check I got stung.
My ankle swelled up so more that it did when I was pregnant and it was very hard to move. This is a fairly typical response to bee stings for me and a number of other beekeepers I know.
I've been asked lots of times if I get stung often and truthfully I do not. This was the third time I've been stung in three years - yes, once a year is my average lately. Given that I am in my hives about every 10 days from March to November, I am feeling really good about that.
How do I not get stung often?
I am calm around my bees and pay attention to the moment. It is a very meditative experience for me. I do wear gloves and a veil but they are more as an aid to me to remind me to be in the moment. My gloves don't get stung either.
What do I do when I get stung?
First, I take out the stinger. I usually use my fingernail to make sure I have it out. The venom is excreted in less than two minutes, so be quick.
Then, if possible, I chew plantain leaves and get them on the sting. Plantain grows in most people's yards and looks like spinach. This can help to neutralize the venom.
Finally, I use spray antihistamine to relive the itch. The itch is primarily from the swelling, so if you don't have it, don't use it.
Monday, June 11, 2012
I did feel a bit bananas to be putting bananas in my hive. As a beekeeper for just over five years, I have been hearing for just over five years not to eat bananas before going into the hives because the smell of bananas is very very similar to the alarm pheromone of bees. Twice I have smelled the banana oil alarm and packed everything up and left the bees within moments. The smell is quite distinctive and I am sure that I reeked of my own alarm pheromones at that point as well.
So it was no surprise when a fellow beekeeper suggested I give my hives bananas to help them with the chalkbrood that I thought he was bananas. Nonetheless, I decided to give it a try. This is the top of Sun's hive and since there are LOADS of bees in that hive, they got a whole banana, sliced in quarters atop the frames. The other two hives split a banana.
How did the bees respond to this unorthodox use of fruit? They were very curious. They crawled all over the fruit but didn't act alarmed or fly around.
Why does this work? All my research online and in books suggest this may work by triggering a cleaning behavior in the bees. When they finish with the strange fruit in the hive, they may continue to clean out the infected brood. Honestly no one really knows and no scientists have tracked it either. The state bee inspector was very curious and agreed to recheck the hives later this summer.
Can this lead to some scientific proof? No, for two reasons. First I treated all three hives so there is no control.
Second, I also removed the mouse guards from the two hives that still had them in place - so I also increased the ventilation. Serendipity's hive only has a partial entrance reducer so I left that on for now. I wanted to make it as easy as possible for the bees to remove the infected larvae.
Time will tell.