Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Ceebs Water Meter Bees

Over the Easter Weekend there was a call to pick up bees from a water meter in Lakewood.  I was doing other things and did not make the call.  One of the other Backwards Beekeepers, Ceebs, knew the person who called and said she would collect them on Monday.  I let her know I would show up to assist in the removal.

Put on a bee suit and every one hides or everyone shows up.  The entire neighborhood was there, including a few of the boys who got a short lecture about throwing things at bee hives.  I had to remove a few stones and newspapers off the water meter when I arrived.  It was all done in a gentle way.  That is Michelle in the bee hat, she made the original call to Bee Rescue and is a friend of Ceebs.
And here comes Ceebs.  We were lucky, these were extremely calm bees and no one got stung even though some spectators were very close. The home owner is on the left.  She took a lot of pictures for school.
There were only three small combs on the concrete lid.  I held it while Ceebs cut them off and dropped them directly into the hive box along with any bees.  A couple big thumps on the concrete and most of the bees were in the hive.  The young locals are checking one of the pieces of comb,they were very good students.  That piece went to the home owner who is a 2nd grade teacher and will have a tale to tell.  Ceebs is also getting someone to make a presentation to the class.

Ceebs smoking the bees still in the meter box.  She had scrapped out all of the comb pieces but some bees still stayed there not wanting to leave. . Later she used a bit of plastic to scoop many of the the bees up and encourage them to go into the hive.
Much of the time was just waiting for the bees to move in so we moved the hive right next to the meter.  One at a time many of them came to their new home.
This how we know the queen was in the hive box.  These bees are "nasonoving", tilting their abdomens up, releasing a special pheromones that say "The Queen Is Here!"  and fanning their wings very fast.  This occurred in any of the exposed areas of the box.  .
At this point the work is done,Ceebs replaced the hard top cover with a screen for ventilation,,She had included a couple frames with old comb on them which the bees seemed to like very much.  Before we left she put in the other empty frames so the frames would not be sliding around in transit.   Every thing was strapped together and then covered with a sheet.  There were a number of bees still trying to get into the hive but time was running out. 
The bees should be in their new home today and I hope they stay, these are very gentle bees.  We might have been able to do the entire operation without the bee suit but then we would not have had the crowd.    This was a nice small job that ended up being very educational for a neighborhood.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Moving On

I was at a vintage trailer rally in Ojai, CA this past weekend and found this in a thrift store.  These are labels from Biggers Bees, an apiary run by George Biggers in the 60's and 70's.  He appeared many times on TV showing off his bee beard and was a favorite of Ripley's Believe It or Not.

Last week I thought I had sealed off the hive from ants.  I returned yesterday to discover they had crossed the moat on debris in the water and found the single tiny break in the band of Tanglefoot.  Since this will be a continuing problem with honey left in the combs, I decided to clean out the hive.  I removed all the comb and all the ants I could find after I had fixed barrier problem.  I put the hive back together and put out the Space Available sign.  Maybe someone will move in now with the ants gone and no wax moth damage to fix.

This is the first batch of comb, my wax melter is not that big.  It will be a long job.  The honey still in the comb is not capped so I do not plan on trying to salvage it.  I shall see if I can adapt the solar cooker I have to increase the amount of wax I can process.  This method works but will be painfully slow give the amount of comb it can hold.
There are some of the queen cells I removed.  The one on the left had two queens,  Most located on the bottom of the frames but a couple were mid frame
Once this was done I took a chance, wearing only the hood, I popped the lid off the twitchy bees and added another super to that hive.  It is now five high and I surely do not want these girls to swarm.  I had the top off for less than three minutes but I still had a couple guard bees come by and yell at me.  No stings and I retreated as soon as the top was back on.  

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Demise of A Hive

My smaller hive, aka the Playa Vista bees, have never been strong since they swarmed last June.
 I checked on them periodically but did not venture deep into the hive.  They seemed okay the last time I looked about six weeks ago.  They had an ant attack then which I cleaned up and looked inside.  The top super had empty comb and the next super was about the same but there were bees in the bottom, a good number were on top of the frames. 
The ants were back again yesterday.  After cleaning them off and filling the water moats I decided to look inside.
This wad of wax moth web completely filled one of the frames in the top super.
These frames were clean the last time I looked.  Now they were half eaten and full of wax worm detritus.  There were worms through out the top two supers.  The bees in the hive were long gone.  The only bees were scavenging honey and pollen.
Too bad the resident Black Widows did not deal with the wax moths.  Smush time..
One of the evils on the comb.
The bottom frames seemed to be clean of worms but some had fallen to the bottom board
After filling the water moats, both base blocks got good coats of Tanglefoot inside and out.
Some of the comb was dark and some was lighter but the bees kept coming by and checking for honey and pollen
There were a number of empty queen cells,not all of them were on the bottom of the frames.
 After carefully inspecting all the frames for wax worm and continuing to sweep off ants, I put the hive back together.  There was no evidence of robbing, the comb was intact except for the wax worm messes.  The old hive just left and the worms moved in with the ants close behind.

Next to the vent in the middle you can see an interested spectator waiting for more wax worms to be tossed out.  The bird hung around a long time and then started picking bees when I was leaving.
I had been tempted to put one of the swarms I captured recently into this hive.  It is a good thing I waited.  They would have left very quickly.  Now that it is much cleaner maybe a swarm will come looking for a home.  If not I will go out an catch one.   In a few days I will take the hive apart again and check for wax worms again.  The small ones can hide in small spaces.

Monday, April 11, 2011

A Second Chance

The other day I had responded to a call about some bees on an old lamp post.  By the time I arrived the bees had swarmed.   I talked to the owner a while and found out he was going to have some landscaping done near the post. The bee access holes would have to be sealed up but it looked like they also had egress further up the pole.  It looks like the hive in the lamp post could survive and not bother any one.  I went back home, bee-less.

I had a call on Sunday afternoon, the swarm had apparently decided they liked their lamp post better than some tree limb.   They had returned to their original jumping off point on the base of the lamp post.   Fortunately I had left a Backwards Beekeeper business card with my name and number on it.  I had been watching the Masters Golf Tournament which was far from settled at that point., I had plenty of time to deal with these bees..

I sprayed the bees with sugar water and used my handy milk jug scoop to collect the bees and pour them into a nuc.  The bees were very calm and none tried to sting me or Tom, the home owner who did not have a bee suit or hat.  The scoop worked very well, better than some of my expensive equipment.
I gradually got the majority into the nuc.  The white nodules on the lamp post are bees wax.  These girls were in a major comb making mode.
I never saw the actual queen but I did spot some bees fanning on top of the frames, a good sign that she was inside.

After I had as many bees as I could scoop in the nuc I laid it on the side so more could crawl inside.  This was very effective and we got a lot of them.
The only problem was activity of the bees in the nuc indicated the queen was in the space between the nuc wall and the strip of cardboard that holds up  the frames.  Aside from dissembling the nuc there was no easy fix to the problem on site.   I put a lid on the nuc and closed it carefully to not threaten the queen.  
When I got home I called one of the club members on the "need bees" list and made contact with Kristie in San Pedro.  She came by later and picked them up.  I explained about where I thought the queen was.  She would be putting the bees in a top-bar hive and would not be using the frames any way so the problem should be resolved. 
I got a call from Kristie this morning, she had already been out to do her own swarm collection .  She would be passing those bees on to someone else.  
It is a good thing to share the bees...

Sunday, April 3, 2011

A LIttle Night Work

The first job of the day was a modification to the Mighty Bee Vac.  The flip gate where the bee intake tube goes works very well but it could have been accidently knocked open during transport. Stever vary carefully attached a nice brass closure to prevent that from happening.  This was a small job that took a lot of time but was the occasion for very pleasant visit with Steve and his wife Cheryl. 
When I got home much later in the day there was a message on the Backwards Beekeepers Bee Rescue Hot Line about a swam in a tree in Carson.   That was only 15 minutes from my house and Backwards Beek Roberta was going there.  I offered to assist.
Ron, Nancy, Erin & Patty was very interested in what was going on.  They stayed out with us well after dark,  Ron provided a nice light which was big help.
Since the swarm, rugby ball size, was in a bush we clipped the branches to gain access.  Then clipped a few more so Roberta could jam the nuc up under the hive.  One big yank of the bush and many of the bees were inside.   We waited but could not determine if the queen was in the box.   A bit later and one more yank and we had her and most of her escorts in the box.

All in all, an easy capture once the branches were out of the way.  However there are issues with handling bees in the dark.  The main one is you cannot see many of the bees not in the box.   These bees were not aggressive at all but they ended up in wrong places and you could not spot them.  At one point Roberta handed me something I had dropped and that included a bee that nailed me.  Later one was crawling inside my sleeve and got me. After everything was loaded and bee suit off, I headed home with bees in the back of my pickup.  Well, most of them.  As I drove down the freeway something hit one of my fingers, I was able to spot the bee resting on the window which I opened quickly and freed him.  After I got home the dogs ended up capturing a bee that had come in with me.  No more stings but adventures I usually do not have when it is daylight.
These bees will be moving to Hollywood today for their new home.  Here's hoping they decide to stay.  About half of the captured swarms decide they can find a better place.  No guarantees with these bugs.  

Another case closed by the Backwards Beekeepers Rescue (Team Roberta)