Monday, August 31, 2009

A Wee Bit More

When I collected the Wee Swarm last week there was another cluster of bees on a second garbage can. The two cans had been next to each other until the larger swarm can was moved out to the street. I had enough to do with the big swarm and just figured the others would fly away since there was no queen. They did not and just hung there on the side of the garbage can. According to Kirk that is the spot they had become accustomed to and there was no place else to go so they would stay there until they died.

I got an E-mail from Terra asking if I could save them, some of the locals wanted to kill them. They were not anti-bee but with tales of all those Africanized Bees around and needing to use that garbage can, some of them were concerned and wanted the bees gone.

I did not know what to use to capture them, they would not be where a simple shake would get them into a hive box and there was no queen for them to follow. I kept thinking of boxes with screen lids and such until I happened to spot the answer in my recycle box. A large empty tonic bottle, make a cut 3/4 around the liter soda bottle, add some air holes and bring along some tape.. one bee collector! I had some old comb handy so I tossed a bit into the bottle also.

This is the cluster from the original swarm. Maximum size was about two closed fists. I put on the veil to keep any strays out of my hair but I was in shorts and sandals. I did not expect any aggressive activity from these bees. The scoop collector worked very well. I gently slipped it up under the bees and most of the went right inside. I capped it off very quickly but there were a few bees up under the lip that I could not reach.

A little help from a bystander and it was sealed shut. The talk of Africanized bees stopped when I took my bare finger and gently eased a bee the rest of the way into the bottle. They were very docile. There were a few more bees coming back to the spot which had a few specks of beginning comb on it. I did not have another big bottle but I got a small water bottle from the trash, made another collector and got some of the stragglers.

Here there are at their new home. I could use this kind of collector this since I lived close to the swarm site and they bees would not be in there very long. With the local heat wave I wanted to limit that time as much as possible. I would not recommend keeping them this way for a long drive or extreme weather. I had rinsed the soda bottle so there was some water in there if they got thirsty. You cannot see it but they were festooning inside the bottle.

The hive has medium frames in a standard nuc so there was plenty of space to just lay the bottles in and remove the caps. The bees can come out when they are ready. Since these should all be sister bees there should not be any problems but I have been wrong about bees before.

More bees to this little hive is a very good thing it will not be growing very quickly. At the club meeting yesterday one of the women mentioned having these very tiny bees that were not aggressive. I just noticed how small these guys are. I suspect these are the same kind, they are very small. Perfect for Kirkobeeo small cell comb!!

Yesterday at the peak heat time of the day, some of the Wee Hive were outside cooling off. This is the massive bearding of the Wee Hive. I have taped a ruler next to the main hive entrance just to the left side of the opening. It is warm again today so later on they should be back out bearding and I will try to get a shot next to the ruler and see how big or little they really are.

I went back out later and checked on the bees. The new kids seemed to be setting up house inside the large bottle. This is not what I planned. I pulled the tape back and opened the end. They were no happy, not vicious but not happy with many flying about. I put the nuc lid back and cracked it so they new kids could still find home and left.

A couple hours later I went back with a pair of scissor, veil and the smoker. I put some smoke in which did not thrill them, let them rest, added more and removed the nuc lid. The were not leaving the plastic bottle so I cut it into two pieces and smoked them out. They few, they buzzed me but it was done and the nuc lid was replaced. After flying about they started to settle and beard on the front of the nuc by the entry. Some even went inside, I expect the others to follow soon.

You can now see the ruler and see how small these bees are. This was right after I tossed them out of the plastic bottle house. 15 minutes later there only a few left out.

Home Sweet Home for the Wee Swarm (I hope).

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Wee Hive

In order to keep names straight this will be named the Wee Hive because it is so small and out of respect for a past member of the household

This is how they were set for the first night in the new location.

Last night in the dark I added a baggie of 1:1 sugar water and put a couple slits in the bag. This is my first try at supplemental feeding and I would have been better doing it in the daylight. I used a gallon baggie which was too large and the slits were too big. A few bees drowned in the syrup, not what a small group needs. This morning I swapped it for a quart size with smaller slits. While I was there I noticed a couple bees slipping out the back side of the nuc so I taped over all the openings.

I also taped over part of the opening so they could protect it better if necessary.

The temperatures are very hot for this area. We have managed to miss summer heat all Summer long but it has shown up this weekend. This looks like the bees are trying to cool down the hive with their wings.

When I am done here I will go out and prop the lid open just enough for air but not intruders. The nuc does not seem to have that good ventilation and I do not want to provide any excuse of these guys to leave. If it looks like they are going to stay I will pick up a wooden nuc which should be a better habitat than the cardboard.

Just enough extra air to make things better.

And fewer bees out front, I got very close and nothing there looks like a queen so maybe they are happier. I have noticed that their guard bees do come up and check my head very often. I hope I will become accepted at some point.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

As I Was Saying

Before I was rudely interrupted, I was rambling on about an empty hive and tossed out comb. I had a dental appointment today near downtown LA which is near the LA Honey Store. I needed a reason to visit even if I did not have bees. It was a matter of keeping in touch with the Inner Buzz.
When I cleaned and rearranged the hive I left a bit of comb on the porch in the silly hope that it would attract a new set of occupant. There were some Lookie Lou's but no takers. I asked a the Bee Store and got this.

This small packet is a swarm lure. It is kept in the freezer until needed and then tacked or stapled inside the hive WITHOUT opening the package. On the way home I came to understand why. My truck was permeated with the aroma of Orange Blossoms or maybe Night blooming Jasmine. Being a work vehicle this was not a bad thing, a change in oudour is always appreciated but I did remove it from my shirt pocket.

I got home and laid the lure on the kitchen table and IT WORKED INSTANTLY.
I had an e-mail about a swarm that needed gathering in my area. Wow!! That was quick. I recommend this stuff to anyone..
The report was two swarms at a house in a trash container and then two swarms in two containers. I volunteered to ride to the rescue after failing to find any immediate help and after checking with Kirk (the Bee Guru) I got ready. I guess it is my personality or sign or something but I had a nuc, actually two of them, with frames at the ready. Kirk suggested adding comb.
When I cleaned the absconded hive I tossed most of the comb but not some of the nice clear with stuff. I was going to try it in my solar wax melter but this was better. I tied it into a comb, fixed some sugar water, added the rest of my equipment and I was off.
Kirk had warned me, bee calls are never what you expect. They can be better but are often worse. I showed up with a bucket to collect honey ( yeah sure) and two nucs in case this was really two big swarms. I was ready, maybe.
In an area where multi-unit structures are displacing the old beach cottages, this was an old collection of beach cottages. The caller, Terra waved and sent to me towards the back. One of the row of garbage cans had one of the "swarms which turned out to be a small bunch of bees on the side in a cluster smaller than my hand.
Is that it? Then she pointed out front. These are small units in a tight cluster. It was wise of her roll the other can out front away the homes.
This was the main swarm body and where I guessed the queen was. Not a lot of bees but more than were living in The Apiary in The Dale.
Time to go to work. Okay it is a swarm and the bees might be friendly but I have the fine bee suit and need to use it, the public demands it.. The crowd, Terra and her neighbor were very impressed.

I could not come up with a better solution so I sprayed the bees with sugar water, tilted the container and gave it several mighty whacks. The bees were sort of annoyed but the main group along with the queen seemed to have fallen into the nuc.
The bees had started a small bit of comb which I presented to Terra.
There were some that did not want to leave but I brush, cajoled and thumped most out. For the remainder I smoked the inside of the container and sealed the edge with duct tape and waited for them to join the real party.
This was a good experience, nothing I could not handle and an appreciative audience as I messed with bees and pontificated on the life of bees. The South Redondo problem is gone and my bee problem has been solved. Win win all around. Thanks Terra. As I spouted off waiting for the bees to settle in, I must have used most of what I remember from Beekeeping For Dummies. It sure was not from my wide experiences as a beek. I left some happy locals with a problem gone away and a few bees for The Dale. Later tonight after the bees have bedded down I will go add a baggie of sugar water on top of the frames. Normally I would not be inclined to do this but this is a small swarm and needs a little assistance.


Looking for Tenants

What a sad sight. Since I had no real clue what caused the bee die-off it was recommended I toss the old comb. There was no honey and a chance that some of it could have poison in it so out it went. I had twenty frames, most with comb, to dispose of. I left an inch or so of comb at the top of the frames for a guide when any new bees are here.

Just got a call. I am off to attempt to collect a swarm of my own

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Tanglefoot Anti-ant paste

Before the bees absconded, along with the die-off there were a couple ant attacks. I can control them somewhat with Diatomaceous Earth but it blows and washes away, not always where I want it. My niece, Beekeeper Tricia, recommended Tanglefoot paste. It was hard to find, not at Home Depot or Lowes. I finally found it at OSH Hardware. Although not major attacks those attacks may have the proverbial straw on the bee's back. With no bees on hand it is a good time to attend to other issues with the hive.

Tanglefoot is natural gum resins and carnuba wax. It does not kill the ants, it just suggests going some place else...if the scouts can get unstuck. Thow away gloves are highly recommended but this is not toxic, just very sticky.
I put a line of tape under the bottom edge with a generous lip hanging over. I think this will prevent the ants from going under the block. These are very small ants. What I call normal sized ants have not been around here for several years and these seem to filling the void.

I put a generous bead around the bottom and up on the edge of the block. There is another one around the top inside also. When I moved the hive off the blocks I found several generations of Black Widow spiders. Maybe the inside stuff will discourage future spider families also.

I believe this will stay for a good long time.

I had a bit of comb from one of the frames so I left it on the doorstep as a natural lure.
There have been some Lookie Lou's already, it is a nice neighborhood.

This space availableAll in place and the hive back together. Who knows maybe a swarm will come by looking for a home. I have left only two hive boxes with comb in all the frames. There have been a few random scavengers or scouts about the place so I left the third super nearby on a table.
The fence is just a deterent for my dogs. One or two bee visits and they tend to avoid the area. It might also be good for possums which have been seen around here.

A Gift Of Bees

This was on the Backwards Beekeeper blog. The Heifer Foundation donates to poor communities around the world They concentrate on donating livestock instead of money. One of their Programs is The Buzz About Bees, a name that caught our attention for some reason. Click on the name and find out how you can help a beekeeper who needs bees for survival, not just a hobby. If you have any questions about the organization check them out on the web. Give the gift of bees.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Commentary - Opinion Piece

Lo tho the Queen has absconded I still strive to be a Bee Keeper. Having the bees leave is sad and a major hit on my hopes for home grown honey gifts this Christmas but it is not a tragedy.

I am proud to be a member of Backwards Beekeepers, founded and led by Kirk Anderson in the Los Angeles area. Many if not most of us are flaunting the local laws. There seem to be more rules and regulations than bees. They were put in place back when communities were transitioning form rural to urban. Bees were needed and used by the farmers but came to be enemies of the urban population. As farms moved out and people moved in, anti-bee or less than friendly bee laws and rules were put in place.
Over time bees were relegated to places far and distant from the cites. Luckily the bees paid the laws no heed. Commercial bees were working the farms and trying to combat ails and ills imposed on them by commercial interests who only wanted more honey. More honey!
Problems ensued, some due the human interference and who knows what else. Local city bees live in the bushes and parks in spite of human interference. Then along came Colony Collapse Disorder.
Truth be known, no one is sure what causes it but human malfeasance is a major suspect. The organic beekeepers (those using no additives, aid, medicines, artificial substances) looked at the feral bees and saw little or no Colony Collapse Disorder and a movement was born.
Out of this Kirk Anderson started Backwards Beekeepers in Los Angeles with a few rules or concepts.
1) Bees make the rules
2) We provide space and home for the bees.
3) Bees used are feral bees
4) No chemicals or additives are used.
5) They give us honey but the main idea is we promote the bees and provide a friendly habitat.

Simple concept and simple rules, the bees rule.
At least those are the rules as I understand them.

One day I heard something on the radio, attended one meeting and yelled for some bees.
Got bees, tried not to interfere with them and things were going well until...
The bee die-off happened this week, a couple of times. I tried to correct things, failed and the bees left.
Tragedy? No. Sad? Of course but there are more bees out there and this lot has apparently moved to a happier place for them.
As Kirk says, the bees decide.
Long live the Queen!
One Day the Buzz will return to The Dale

I Bee Missing You and You and You etc etc

There is something forlorn in an abandoned bee hive. A few stragglers come looking for their Queen. One or two just born bees are struggling to get free. Here and there are dead larvae. Not a happy place.
One lone bee trying to save or salvage something.

This was typical of he comb in the bottom hive box

I did not know what these white specks were when I took the hive apart but here they look like abandoned eggs with the surrounding liquid removed.
More eggs??
This is what most of the comb looks like.

Another one looking for work to do.
The bottom board littered with bee bodies

What is all the little litter stuff? I thought bees did not poop in the hive but that is all I can come up with to describe it.
These were stuck to the bottom board. I am assuming they are wax moth larvae sacs.

There was some wax moth evidence but surely not enough to make the bees leave. I saw web stuff on only two cells and two places with the larvae sacs on the bottom board like that above. Of course those may not Wax Moth egg sacs. No sign of any other problems inside the hive. I can only guess that the combination of die-off (cause unknown) and ant attacks made the hive uninhabitable to them.
There was always water near by but I never saw a single bee using that source. The worse thing is having them leave this late in the year. It may take a while to replace them.

There will be more bees in The Dale only this time I may have to put in two hives so there is a back up if one of the absconds again. The Buzz will return.

What Next?

I am still seeking some advice on the empty hive. When I post the next set of pictures you will see a little more Wax Moth evidence. I have some questions I am seeking answers for.

1) Should I leave the empty comb there for a new set of bees to use?

2) Should I cut it down to a minimal strip of wax at the top and remove the rest?

I have twenty frames with wax on most of them. With evidence of Wax Moth normally I would freeze the frames but I can fit only one frame at a time in my freezer. At 24 hours each that will take a long time.
3) Has any one used dry ice to freeze the frames? I have a couple nuc boxes and each could handle 5 frames they can be done with the freeze in 2 days instead of 20. Does that sound like a workable solution?

5) Aside from the frames do I need to do anything to the hive boxes and the bottom and top boards other than clean them up and remove the debris?

The Worst Word -Abscond

There is no Buzz In The Dale today, only a quiet hive. After yesterday I thought things were going right and the bees were happy. As my old 5th grade teacher used to say, Thought Made A Fool Out Of You. I did not get out to check the hive until noon today and this was what I found.

No buzz, no bees, aside from a few hangers on. There were no new dead bees on the ground. There were no bees anywhere. Just in case the stragglers were unhappy I put on the veil and went to work
The top hive box was empty expect for one frame with empty wax, just the way it had been on Monday.

This is the first frame with some capped brood but not larvae showing.

Second frame had one dead larva hanging out. This was the frame that the bees had re-attached and it was full of bees on the first day of the die off.
The next frame had the reminder of what I believe is wax moth activity.

Frame #3 had one bee looking for work or food. It was active but very slow moving.

Frame #5 had this dark spot which I recall as being full of capped honey the other day.
There are more pictures but I am waiting for them to up load from my camera and the batter just died. They will be on the next post.

From what I have read the bees abscond when they are under stress. I am guessing that the stress of two days of die-off and a series of ant invasions made them want a new home. There was water available even though I never saw them use it. I have to assume they had another source the preferred. They had what seemed to be plenty of honey so no food shortage. Maybe I added the third super too soon

I will post the other pictures in the next blog entry, they may help someone more knowledgeable come up with a better guess about why they left.

For now it will be quiet in the Dale but the Buzz will be back.