Monday, July 23, 2012

Expert Assistance

This weekend, we had to call in the expert to help us with our hives. 

Nathan, in a painter's suit, and David, in actual beekeeping garb.

David is one of the leading members of the local bee club, has been raising bees since 2000, and is the man who sold us our two hives, kicking off our beekeeping adventure. After we lost one of our hives, we were understandably nervous about the surviving colony. On the rare ocassions we were able to open it without getting attacked by angry, stinging bees, we had seen hive beetles, which are never a good sign. On Friday, Nathan called David to see if he could come out and give us a hand, and on Sunday, the man himself was in our yard, working our bees with his magic touch. 

Open hive, docile bees, and no stinging (yet).

Bees and a hive beetles.

The good news: our hive is strong, full of thriving bees and healthy brood. There's a good amount of honey and we might even be able to harvest a few frames this season (we weren't expecting to get any for ourselves until next year). The bad news: we have one of the worst small hive beetle infestations that David had ever seen. Oops.

Lifting out a frame.

Checking the status of the honey and comb.


Small hive beetles are fairly common in our part of the country, unfortunately, and it's normal to have a few in your hive. Most of the time, the bees can handle it themselves, by chasing the beetles out of the hive, or attacking and killing them. The problem is when the beetle population overtakes the bee population, and the bees can't get rid of them fast enough. That's when things get serious. From Wikipedia
Larvae tunnel through comb with stored honey or pollen, damaging or destroying cappings and comb. Larvae defecate in honey and the honey becomes discolored from the feces. Activity of the larvae causes fermentation and a frothiness in the honey; the honey develops a characteristic odor of decaying oranges. Damage and fermentation cause honey to run out of combs, creating a mess in hives or extracting rooms. Heavy infestations cause bees to abscond; some beekeepers have reported the rapid collapse of even strong colonies.
We're pretty sure this is what happened to our lost hive, why those bees chose to find a new home - and really, who could blame them? Still, we didn't want the same thing to happen again, so we took a few measures in order to give the bees a hand in the war against the hive beetle.

Nathan and David installed some beetle traps in the hive, and then added a screened bottom board, instead of the solid one we had been using. The screened one has a dish at the bottom, which Nathan filled with mineral oil. The bees will chase the hive beetles down to the screen, where they'll drown. The hive beetles also go in and out of the entrance in order to lay eggs in the soil under the hive - on their way, they will hopefully fall into the mineral oil and drastically cut down their own population. 

Hive beetles also hate light, so every time we open the hive, they'll naturally race down to the bottom (and the mineral oil), to escape the sun. Which means we'll have to open the hive again in a few days, this time without the help of our bee expert. Hopefully the bees will be in a better mood, now that we've helped them out with their infestation. 

Putting the hive bodies back in place.

In addition to saving our bees, we also had a few other minor adventures this weekend - we rearranged our bedroom and guest room, in preparation for my sister's arrival this Friday; we got a great deal on a new coffee table and end tables for the living room; we secured a location for the rehearsal dinner; and I drank a bottle of wine during a three hour phone conversation with one of the my best friends from college. But this post is already pretty long, so I'll share our thrift store finds and Feng shui'ed rooms tomorrow. For now, here's a cute photo of Seamus to help you get through your Monday:

Seamus says, "Have a great week!"