Tuesday, August 30, 2016

August 29, 2016: MAQS


About a week ago, on Monday 8/22, I went into my hives and installed what beekeepers call MAQS--Mite-Away Quick Strips. These are one of the least invasive, least chemically-onerous ways of treating bees for mites. I hadn't seen a lot of mites on the drop trays, but it's better to treat in the late summer rather against the possibility of a huge infestation setting in during the fall.

As prescribed, I took out the strips yesterday and found tons of dead mites under my big hive, but very few under the smaller ones. Most of that may just be the difference in size (the big hive is currently 5 boxes tall, while the smaller ones are only 2). But it may also be that the new queens I got from my mentor for the smaller hives are of a more "hygienic" genetic strain. Some bees are just better about cleaning themselves and each other, and they rid the hive of mites more effectively because of that.  On the other hand, if they were better about cleaning, I'd be seeing more mites on the trays.  So who knows?

Either way, I'm happy with what I've found, and I'm really happy with these new queens: the culture of those hives has changed completely. We cracked open the hives yesterday and they barely noticed. They're sweet, now.

The plan for this fall is to open up the big hive, kill the queen (who produced those aggressive new queens), and divide the boxes of brood and honey between the two small hives, thus making two big strong healthy hives with young queens going into the winter.

Beekeeping! Never dull!

August 27, 2016: One of my bees at the pond

July 11, 2016: Replacing the Queens


So this afternoon my beekeeping mentor arrived with two new queens for me, one for the newly aggressive hive, and one for its sister hive that has been in the process of trying to produce its own queen. He raises queens as a hobby, and the more he can put them in hives around south Amherst, the more he can influence the genetic make-up of all our bees. Since my hives seem to have produced an aggressive, possibly Africanized strain, it's best to replace them.

We cracked open the hives, found the queen in one of them and killed her (ack!), and found all the queen cells in the other and scraped them out. Then we put a small 3x5" screen box in each of them, positioned over a patch of new and emerging brood. He had the beautiful, marked queens in two plastic ventilated cups: as I held one of them the worker bees started to coat my hand and the cup, crawling all over, attracted to her pheromones. We trapped the queens in the boxes, closed up the hives and Bob's yer uncle. We'll go back in a week or so and set them free, and with any luck the bees will be happy.

Sadly, it will take 4-6 weeks before the bees in that angry hive settle down.

Not my queen cage, but mine looked just like this.  This one is from http://www.riskshoney.com/2012/06/12/effective-queen-introduction/

July 8, 2016: Bees as Political Activists


I went out to do one final thing with the hive that was so angry the other day--a simple small thing that I couldn't do then because they were so pissed off. And I got stung again, twice. They were instantly enraged, and for the next few hours chased me around the yard when I was on the opposite side of the property.

And along came candidate-for-State-Rep and childhood friend Eric Nakajima, canvassing the neighborhood. My bees promptly chased him up the street and stung him on the back. I feel like my kids misbehaved in a deplorable way in public.

But Eric is a thoughtful and noble soul, and after catching his breath he said the bees were "so exciting!" and "so interesting!" which was the most gracious possible reaction.

Not to press a metaphor, but this hive is acting up because they've got a new young queen that is kind of...ill-tempered. I'll have to replace her with a new queen, and once I do that the hive will probably settle down and live more harmoniously. Eric would make a good queen bee: he is thoughtful, community-minded, gracious, and hardworking. The hive will work well with him as an elected leader.

If you live in my neck of the woods and you haven't made up your mind (there are a lot of good candidates out there), I hope you'll consider voting for Eric.

July 5, 2016: Queen Cells


Today I found multiple queen cells in the queenless hive!  But I also got stung, multiple times.  Ugh.  Still: hopeful.

June 19, 2016: Fall Honey vs. Spring Honey

June 19, 2016: First Honey of the Season