Monday, August 23, 2010

Sweet Insulation

IMG_2676  Originally uploaded by dmb90260

I have not been into the hives since the July 3 check and honey collection with John and Arjuna. Last week I had lifted the top cover on the Playa Hive and found a wax worm on top edge of the super. I flicked it off and then noticed some moths on the outside of the hive. These were very dark but I do not know what wax moths look like.  I was curious to see if there was moth damage inside that hive.

Later I was filling the water in the turkey tray moats on the bottom of the hives. Apparently I had set the nozzle at an odd angle and it was making too much noise and annoying the Twitchy Bees. There were a lot of bees flitting around the hive entrance and these were not orientation flights.  They did not seem happy,  I shut the water off and left.
An hour or two later I went to move some clothes in the laundry room, next to the hives. I looked around the corner and the bees still seemed to be agitated after all that time.  I turned to leave and a guard bee took issue and kept buzzing me as I walked to the house. It made the mistake of getting tangled in my hair. Top of the head stings do not bother me but he never got that close to my scalp before he was smushed. I wanted to check that hive to see if there were other problems.

Summer has finally arrived locally and it has been a little too hot most days to bother the bees.  It was in the low 70's when I went out this AM at 11.   Well it said that on all my electronics but It seemed very hot while I was out there.  When I was finished all the fancy gauges said it was 85!!!

I had added a super on each of the hives in July and I have two more ready to add when I set out for the inspection.  With the milder summer I had no idea how fast the bees were filling the last super.

The top super had no new wax yet.   When we added it I had pulled two of the of the lower frames up.   The bees were working on these and both looked like this with dark wax but fill ig with honey..   The good news was an absence of wax moths or worm evidence.

   There was more activity on the second super.
On the outside frames the bees were adding pollen to the empty frames I had swapped in July.

The other frames looked like this with capped honey n the top and some brood in the middle.  I did not see the queen but that is impossible for a solo person to do and also take pictures.  I had evidence she was active and the hive seems to be thriving after it swarmed in June.  Still no evidence of wax worm or moths anywhere.   I closed the hive.

With the Twitchy Bees living up to their name when I filled the water moats, they were well smoked before I checked things today.  The top lid was sealed very tight. it took a bit of work to get it loose without it making some noise.
The added top frames were empty but for this pyramid of wax moving upward
The empty frames I had added in place of the honey we had extracted were still empty but there was still a lot of good looking honey there.   The bees get to keep it for now.
I guess I did not handle the full honey frame in July.   When I lifted this one I was very impressed with how much it weighed.  I checked a few more frame smiled at the largess and left it for the bees.  There was no evidence of wax moth in any of these frames
The Twitchy Bees went back to work.
And so did the Playa bees.  If wax moth had shown up, the bees had dealt with them.  The Playa hive seems to be recovering from the swarming.   The Twitchy Bees proved they could be nice if I asked them with a little smoke.. I did not add either of the new supers but there is honey coming.   It was a good day in The Dale.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Faux Bee

Originally uploaded by dmb90260

As seems to be the case often, a planned single post is just not enough.  Another subject pops up unexpectedly.  That happened early today. This morning I was out spraying non-fat milk on my tomatoes when I spotted this little guy.

Wait!  What was that?  Milk? On tomatoes?  That is about right.  Last year my tomatoes were ravaged by mildew that killed the leaves and then the plants.  I had lovely fruit for the initial round but nothing after that.   Last year I tried combating it with neen (or neam) oil but the bottle did say "do not use around bees."  My bees were yards away so I went ahead and use it but some time later I had the bad bee adventure.. absconding bees. 
This year I planted more heirloom tomatoes and kept an eye out for mildew and removed any leaves with spots.  I was barely holding my own against the evil fungus when I left town for a couple of weeks.  My friend Jean came over to water the tomatoes and gather some fruit and saw the mildew.  She checked with a friend who belongs to a community garden and nothing bad is allowed at all.  They are very aggressive about dealing with problems and their solution with mildew was to spray it with non-fat milk.  She applied some and it looked better when I got home so I continue the practice.   In fact last week I was talking about mildew on plants to a gardening friend  and he recalled someone using the same practice with mildew on zucchini plants.   It seems to be working now and I keep lots of milk handy so I will know if it is effective in a few weeks.

That brings us back to this morning and our little visitor.  I have no idea what his real name or call name is but he looks like a moth pretending to be a bee, maybe a bumble bee.   I have never seen any bumble bees around here but no one told him that.

I don't know what he is but he is kind of cool looking with those big eyes and wide stripes.   He never moved at all while I was taking pictures.   When I went back much later he was long gone.
I hope he/she has not left any eggs or such on the next crop of tomatoes.   I have lost two plants but 3-4 are managing to survive.    FYI, the one that seems to have the least issue with mildew is the Brandywine Pink tomato.    This particular variety has leaves called potato leaves, very similar to potato plants.

If you have an idea what this little guy is, please let me know so I can post the information.

Odds and Ants

After the small honey harvest last month I have not been messing with the bees much.  Shorty after the honey day I left town for a couple of weeks.  When I left things were in good order except the bees were ignoring my newly planted Russian Sage.

When I picked it up in the nursery all of the plants were covered in bees.  I have not see a single bee on it at my place.  After looking closely it is apparent it was all a matter of bad timing.  The blossoms are empty and drying up.  It may be the season or the result of transplanting but the bees will get their reward in the next bloom cycle.

This has not been a normal So Cal summer.  It has rarely gotten hot.  In my area, three miles from the coast there is always an ocean breeze and it rarely gets over 85 but for now we have rarely been over 74 and this is August, the start of our hot season.   With the cooler weather I had not seen much evidence of ants this year.  When I got back home lifted the cover of the Playa Vista hive and checked to see if they needed another super.
Oops, the ants were  back.  I put the lid back on and got suited up.  I used the bee brush and kept pushing them off of the frames and sides of the hive.  When there were fewer bees I started to add water to the turkey pans under the hives, something I should have done months ago.
Yes, those are bee bodies in the pile.  Not to worry.  Both hives seem to have used the pans as covenient ossuaries to collect all the dead bees from the hives.  They are not recent deaths but from over the entire winter.   I scraped the majority of them out so they would not provide a bridge for the ants to the hive.

The larger Twitchy Bee hive had only a few bees evident on the hive exterior and none on the top super frames.  I topped off the water in the pans on both hives.  I could have applied more Tanglefoot which would have corrected things but given my hive positions that would have meant lifting and moving both hives.   The water will work just fine for now and I will keep it topped off for the summer.  There is one problem I have to work out.  Most days I find several bees drowning in the water which may be unavoidable for now. 

Over the last couple of days I have lifted the lid on the Playa bees and brushed away more ants but their numbers are lessening.  I will go in next week and clean more out but Ii can see it is working, there seems to be much more bee activity in the top super than there was before.  I may be adding another super quicker than I planned but it is ready with frames and wax starter strips all set up.