I put off collecting one last swarm trap until last week. It was hung in a tree and as I was taking it down I dropped the trap. It traveled home with me in the car and then I sat it outside my garage figuring I'd clean it up over winter. Well, it warmed up today and some honey bees came out for cleansing flights! I had checked it last in early August, so this is a late season swarm. I weighed it against an empty trap and realized they seem to have a reasonable amount of stores. So, off it went to the bee yard and I’ll check them out in the spring!
Giving honey bees as a present this year? After you complete your purchase from us, you can download and print our card to leave under the tree! Just click the link below.
I just returned from an extended vacation in Egypt and was excited to find hieroglyphs of honey bees in some of the tombs! I'm posting this image as it still has the original colors it was painted all those thousands of years ago.
If you are just getting started in beekeeping, I strongly suggest the video series at the University of Guelph. They are well done, just the right length, and very informative.
Plenty of bearding going on when it is 92 degrees outside in October! After such a wet summer it is nice to enjoy the sun this Autumn. I planted wildflowers and a bunch of other specimen plants this year with the aim of improving end of year foraging. So far, so good!
I often come across spiders while tending the hives, but this one was disconcerting! It was pretty large and had strung a web between two hives, so I had to disturb it when doing an inspection. These spiders are fairly common and I always like to see the zig zag pattern they place in the center of the web.
About a week ago I performed a cutout at an apartment complex. I pretty much knew where the hive was from their entrance, but the thermal camera confirmed the location. I drilled a small hole to verify (a few girls peaked out), and then cut open the ceiling (second image). The third image shows the area just after I finished removing the bees and comb. Unfortunately, the queen didn't make it in this cutout and the bees are raising a new queen (last photo). I'm feeding them and will build them up to overwinter. This hive was booming, but I did note a small hive beetle as I was working.
A fellow beekeeper called me as her hive was getting weaker and weaker. The problem was, the hive had been queenless for a while. I zoomed in so you can see the multiple eggs in each cell and the eggs that are laid on the side of a cell (rather than centered). You can save a hive with laying workers, but it is a lot of work and I suggest combining it with another hive or just giving up on it (shake the bees all out in front of your other hives). If you have other hives most of the workers will eventually get in, but the laying workers will not.
If you don't know what a hive beetle looks like, here you go. Thankfully, I don't have many of these - healthy hives keep them in check. I know I'm not the only one who really enjoys squashing these when you find them.
This is a very productive queen, with a great laying pattern. The interesting thing to note here is sometimes even great queens get confused. Can you find the cell with two eggs in it?
I picked this swarm up around 7:00 in the morning. The folk's whose yard it was in called me late the night before, so I headed out early to pick it up. It was one of my easiest swarm calls this year. The swarm is doing great.
I recently presented on honey bees to members of the MidAtlantic Chapter of the American Public Works Association. It was a lot of fun presenting to folks who are not beekeepers. This is a nuc I took to the conference. In the background you can see the equipment that was setup for the Equipment Rodeo (think of it as a test of skill with large equipment). This was a great hive, everyone saw the queen, and folks lined up to have their picture taken holding a frame of bees!
These girls obviously over stayed their visa! Sometimes a swarm will start drawing out comb if the stay in a location too long. This could have been complicated as there was very little room to work, but I located the queen, got her in the box, and everyone else marched on in.
My niece is all set to help me in the apiary this coming summer! I picked up this child's jacket just for these moments. It is too cold still to get in to the hives much, but she'll be ready this summer when she visits again.
With this weather it seems early, but yesterday I helped a fellow beekeeper capture the first swarm of the season!
Not all beekeepers are familiar with the USDA Bee Research Laboratory located in Maryland. The laboratory provides free diagnosis of diseases in honey bees. According to their site "Samples received of adult bees and beeswax comb (with and without bee brood) are examined for bacterial, fungal and microsporidian diseases as well as for two species of parasitic mites and other pests associated with honey bees (i.e., small hive beetle, Aethina tumida). When requested, American foulbrood samples are cultured and isolates are screened for their sensitivity to Terramycin (oxytetracycline) and Tylan (tylosin).
Learn how to submit samples at the laboratory's website and better understand the challenges your bees are facing!
I recently presented at the Williamsburg Area Beekeepers Association meeting on Virginia's limitation on liability for beekeepers. You can read the actual law here, and the related Best Management Practices (BMP) here. The limitation code states "A person who operates an apiary in a reasonable manner, in compliance with local zoning restrictions, and in conformance with the written best management practices as provided by regulation of the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services shall not be liable for any personal injury or property damage that occurs in connection with his keeping and maintaining of bees, bee equipment, queen breeding equipment, apiaries, or appliances." I was curious as to how this functioned in practice. Was the state going to do inspections? Was an apiary going to be required to self-certify? To find an answer I reached out the the state and received the following:
"The Best Management Practices, BMP, regarding limited liability for beekeepers is a voluntary program. The Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services does not include verification of the BMP’s in normal apiary inspection. We anticipate verification in BMP compliance will only be needed in regard to pending liability litigation. Beekeepers should retain records for purposes of verifying specific practices, i.e. queen purchases."
By my understanding, the state will only verify compliance if someone sues a beekeeper. And, based on this response, it is the beekeeper's responsibility to document his or her actions following the BMPs in order to gain the protection of this limitation of liability. Do note, I'm not a lawyer - seek your own legal advice on this matter!
With this in mind I have developed a basic self-verification and record keeping checklist of the BMPs that a beekeeper can utilize on a regular basis to document compliance. I have made this checklist available for download for all beekeepers in the Commonwealth. If you do download the form, you agree to the following: User understands and accepts that no warranty of any kind is made to the use of the form for any legal or regulatory reasons; user assumes all risk and responsibility.
The University of Guelph Beekeeping Lab has an excellent series of educational beekeeping videos. The university is located just outside of Toronto (located here, for those geographically challenged). They answer some typical questions about hive equipment, protective clothing, etc. Watch a few videos for no other reason than to hear those wacky Canadian accents "They will tell you aboot the pro-cess...".
Samuel Ramsey spoke at a VSBA training event this weekend that I attended in Virginia Beach. His full presentation is summarized by him in three minutes in the video below. As noted in this UMD article "For nearly 50 years, researchers have believed that the mite fed on the hemolymph (the “blood”) of the honey bee. Ramsey’s research establishes that the mites are primarily feeding on the honey bee’s fat body tissue—an organ in insects that serves a similar role to the human liver. Since several existing systemic pesticides were formulated assuming that mites fed on hemolymph, this discovery explains why these pesticides were never successful in controlling the mites. The mites will never ingest enough to kill them, but frequent exposure may contribute to future resistance." In his lecture he went into great detail on all the negative impacts Varroa have by feeding on this fat body tissue. Essentially, the fat body tissue is a critical to a number of life cycle functions and its destruction contributes to multiple mortal impacts on honey bees.
This was one of the most fascinating bee lectures I've sat through in a long time. His research will change the entire approach we take to control Varroa mites and their negative impact on Honey Bees. In fact, he hinted that a major company has already approached him to leverage his research! His work is now going through peer review and so is not fully published. I did capture his conclusion slide and it is worth repeating here:
I have a small water garden outside my kitchen window and use it to judge how cold it really is and how long it has been cold. Well, for southeast Virginia it has been pretty cold! The spitter in the photo below has had ice forming around it for the last few days. The water stream is actually now deflected by the ice to the left (behind the ice block). When it gets like this I start worrying a little about the bees, but not too much. Compared to what folks up north work with, it is not so bad here. The weather is staying cold until at least January 8th, when it will get up to about 50. I'll check some hives then and add winter patties as needed (I make them myself).
I use a thermal imaging camera to check on hives in the winter. These photos are a little blurry, given the lack of ambient light, but they quite nicely show the winter cluster of this small hive. There is a clear six degree temperature differential near and away from the cluster.
For the winter I place dry sugar on the inner cover as emergency food for my bees. Many folks put it on the top bar, using newspaper to hold it. I've found putting it on the inner cover is easier and just as effective. The second photo is a cluster that was checking me out as I removed a box and lowered the inner cover. I was very late getting this hive ready for winter due to a longer vacation.