Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Live and Learn

The old saying is "Live And Learn." A more appropriate version might be "Learn And Live," at least more bees will live on. With my bees within easy reach out back I make a point of checking them out everyday. This is just a cursory glance not like going into the hive. This morning I was working in the yard trying to salvage my mildew trashed tomato plants and doing other stuff to feel useful.
A couple days ago I had trimmed the volunteer palm tree by the bees and left the fronds on the ground. I was going go remove them today when I glanced at the bee area and saw this!!
The ground was littered with bee bodies in numbers I have never seen before.
There are always a few dead bees but not like this.

This is the area below the bee porch. The bit of string had been holding
comb in place and the bees removed it.

Here are some of the bees trying to move bodies off the hive. I had planned on getting into the hive to check out the frames that had been cut down last week. This looked more serious so I suited up and checked things out. Before I got into the hive I swept up the majority of the bodies scattered about. Time to get into the hive.
The top super had little activity and no new comb but there were a few bees wandering around. I had moved a frame of comb with honey into that super last week, hoping to lure more bees up. I removed the top super and looked at the #2 level where there were bees.
Sorry about the lousy shots, I need an assistant badly. This is one of two frames with lots of capped honey in level #2, along with lots of brood and bee activity.
Another shot out of frame (pun intended) showing lots of brood along with larvae which I could see but you cannot. Trust me, they are there but do not ask about eggs,. My eyes are too old. This frame is one of the re-sized frame that Russell and I put in a week ago after cutting the comb to fit The comb was held in place with string and rubber bands. The bees remove it when they are of a mind to do so. It is looking good with the comb re-attached all around the frame and I assume the other three re-sized frames look just as good.
At this point I had come up with my answer to the bee deaths and did not need to go any deeper into the hive. I had already disturbed them enough last week and killed some of the workers. They obviously knew what they were about even if I did not.

By all appearances they are thriving and all the frames in #2 super had comb except the in one with numbers on it. That is where I took out the frame with comb and moved it to the top super.
The bees seem to congregate on the left side of the hive, inside and on the porch. That may be due to the original long frames with brood being installed on this side on Day #1. The next time I make an extended check I may move those initial brood frames to the center. Or maybe I just have left handed sinister bees.

As I swept up the bees I noticed a majority of them had white powder on them. I could blame the ants but like we do in the "show dog world" I declared a "handler error" That means the dog or bees in this case are just fine, the problem is with the two legged beast who thinks he is in charge.

A week ago when we cut down the large frames and installed the comb on medium frames we ended with five frames with comb remnants on them. We decided to leave them out for the bees to clean up. A nice gesture but they were resting on the ground and inviting other denizens of the yard to attend the feast. When I went out the next day the hive had ants all around it and on the frames too. Nothing like leaving a trail for the ants to find the Mother Lode.
I have Diatomaceous Earth which I have used successfully to fight ants around my worm bins. I sprinkled it around making sure none got on the hive except a back area where the ant approach was. Bees do not go there so I applied a bit in their path and also removed those frames and put them inside. (Another DUH moment, the ants found them there too. They have since been secured and stowed properly.)
By the next morning the ants were mostly gone and I used my bee brush to clean the remainder off the hive. Things looked well until today.
I have no idea what lead to the surge in deaths but I am certain most deaths were due to bees getting into the Diatomaceus Earth after my over exuberant application when fighting the ants.
There may have been 1-2 hundred dead bees, a big number but not compared to the number of bees in the hive. The hive is thriving and if I do not mess up and slaughter more bees we will have honey one day.
Lesson learned:
Don't leave honey things to attract ants.
Be cautions when using things to solve the ant problem with out making it a bee problem.
Sorry bees, I promise to do better next time.


patricia said...

I would have been pretty freaked out to find that many dead bees around my hive!

I've used Tanglefoot on the legs of my hive for ants. I squeeze it onto painting tape, and wrap it around the legs. You'd have to use longer pieces to get it around your cinder blocks, but it might work. I put it on the tape because I don't want to permanently muck up my pretty lil' hive.

That was one crazy two-and-a-half pound tomato! Good job bees!

Dennis In The Dale said...

I have heard of Tanglefoot but not seen any available. I will have to look for it. Because my hive is on concrete it was easy to see the bees and correct the problem. If the hive was in a garden I might not have seen enough of the bees to alert me to the problem.

Dennis In The Dale said...

Anyone looking for the tomato referenced above can find it at http://www.flickr.com/photos/kenskill/3812029633/

David S said...

Is this a possible foraging worker die off? Many workers are getting to their times up & this heat had stressed em so. Do most of the bees look tattered & worn?

Dennis In The Dale said...

I have no experience with worker die off so it could be that. It continued this morning. I have some pictures to post but the short video is taking forever to load. New post will be up some time today.