Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Max's Work At Work

Max Wong has been on local television and also written for her local newspaper.  Her hard work is already starting to pay off.  This morning the Bee Rescue Hotline had a message from Steve in Carson.  Finally something in my area and I was off on my mission.
Steve's family has a commercial garden next to Cal State Dominguez Hills.  He had a bee problem and had caught Max on KABC-TV.  Being a gardener he was not interested in terminating his bees but in saving them.    He said the bees were in a shed and I had visions of a small rubberized thing from Home Depot and a simple heroic bee rescue.  Hah!

The shed turned out to be an ancient wooden trailer like they used to haul to construction sites. It is not stable enough for any major deconstruction..  It was used by Steve's dad as tool shed and the bees inside had become a concern for Steve when Dad wanted to do a little work now and then.

The bees had full access from an opening on the West side of the building and were very active.  They were not aggressive to us but were active.  Click on the picture and you can see columns of comb on the right side.  Steve did not thing the opening was much deeper than the size of the hole and had no idea how far back it went.   Apparently in the past bees were at the other end of the shed and had been terminated.  That was not the plan for today.
 Over the years the bees had swarmed often, usually to the adjacent tree. Steve has seen them many times in the tree..  Steve wanted to protect his dad but did not want to destroy the trailer.  Given it's age and condition I did not believe a cut out would work.
 That left a trap-out.  Once we went inside there were a few bees around a couple of the windows and all of the windows were heavily stained with yellow bee poop.  The end of the shed under the hive was littered with thousands of dead bees.  There was a circle at least two feet across of dead bees. The morticians had found a place to dump the bodies.  They had obviously come for a single spot but I did not identify it.   There were a number of holes in the interior roof but I did not see any being used while we were there.  There were less than 10 bees inside at that time.

After some discussion I decided a trap-out was impossible with the holes to the interior of the shed.  Those holes had to be sealed shut first and that does not deal with the exterior roof.   It is covered with old wooden shingles and is probably full of holes too.   There were wasps flying under the roof on the other end.  Just what I needed a turf war. LOL.
 No cut-out due to the age of the trailer they did not want destroyed and no trap-out because of the many holes at yet not located.  The main thing was to protect Dad.   Steve will get some space filling foam and try to fill any holes inside and see if he can keep the bees out so Dad can work in safety.

Then we will see if he can use the hive as a swarm source.  Using what I brought along, I sprayed a nuc with Lemon Pledge and placed it next to the hive.  This hive is so active they must swarm several times a year.  That will do for now, until the interior hole patching is done.  If  the hole patch does not work more drastic measures may be the only option but that will wait.

On the good side, Steve is a gardener with a huge property loaded with plants and some weeds. He would love to have hives permanently located on the property.  Before going on this mission I checked the Carson Municipal Code and found no mention of bees or apiaries.  It may be quite legal for him to keep them on site.  And Backwards may have found a friendly site for those of us who end up with evicted bees looking for a home.
After the patch work is done I may be going to LA Honey with Steve for his own hives and he is interested in our meeting at the end of the month..  All good things that started with Max doing her bit on the tellie.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

So Calif Bees In The Fall

The weather in Southern Calif has been very erratic. From the coolest summer in many years we moved to the hottest day of the year in late Sept,. It was 105 at the Apiary in The Dale on that day.. Since then it has been cool enough for long pants and then back in the 80's.
The bees just roll with it. In the picture above you can see a bee with a load of pollen flying in over the moat.  Click on it to make it larger.  Earlier the pollen was mainly yellow, this time of the year it is white or a very pale yellow.

I have not checked on the bees closely since late August.  I have another super ready to add to each of the hives and needed to find out if they were ready for it by now.

The Playa Vista bees are a smaller hive that seem to be thriving since they swarmed back in June.  They have always been gentle so they get the first inspection which allows more time for the smoker to work on the other hive.

When I added the third super in June I moved a couple frames of wax up, it is still there and the bees are adding some honey but there has been no further comb making.   As I checked the middle level, the two empty frames still had nothing on them either.  They were side by side so I split them apart with honey/brood frames in between then.  There was more capped honey than brood.
There was plenty of brood on the lower level.  This is the only frame I pulled out.  The queen was laying and they did not need to be bothered more.

 As I inspected the frames I accidentally spilled out some of the honey.  The workers were all over it but one or two look like drones getting a late feed before they are booted out.
This hive is not expanding quickly but seems to be okay with a fair amount of capped honey for the winter.  The La Nina weather implies less rain so there should be plenty nectar and pollen through the winter without having to feed them sugar water.

The Twitchy Bees are always active.  I have been out at 9PM in the summer and found this kind of crowd hanging out on the deck.  The top super  (#4) had comb only on a single frame but they are finally moving up..

The next super was a different story.  Empty frame #1 but 6-8 of the others looked like this.  Solid capped honey all the way across.  These bees will not be starving this winter.  Given the large amount of capped honey and very active state of the bees, I have to assume the Queen is working well and full time.  I went no further.  The Twitchy Bees are doing just fine.

Neither hive needed the extra super and should not need them until the Spring, both seem healthy.  I did see one bit of wax moth web on the lid of the Playa Bees but I did not see any other evidence.  The hive should be strong enough to deal with the intruder.  As I understand it wax moths lay their eggs under the hive and the larvae crawl up out of the dirt into the hive.  That should not happen here, both hives are on concrete and water. 

Unless some happens I doubt I will be bothering these guys for another two months.  They could be left alone longer than that but I get curious and need to poke around a bit.

REMINDER: BEE MEETING OCT 31 AT FARMLAB,   11AM.  Finally there is a hole in my dog-life schedule and I can make this meeting.  See you there!