Saturday, October 06, 2007

Mighty Miteless Joseph

joseph returns sugar shake bees to hivePerhaps you know this already, but the brothers at the Monastery were kind enough to welcome three beekeepers this year: me, Joe (the president of the Monastery Garden Guild), and Joseph (a hapless dogwalker I snagged with bee tales last year). Both Joe and Joseph have been my "mentees" this year (a.k.a. I am their beekeeping mentor), but I have not been on top of them about their mite treatments.

So even though it is a little late, I have showed Joseph how to perform a sugar shake. This is a way to non-destructively (mostly) test your bee colony for the presence of mites. You can get pretty clear, short directions from Betterbee, but the upshot is that you cover a couple of hundred bees with powdered sugar, shake 'em until the varroa mites fall off, then count the mites. If you get a lot of mites, you have to treat, if you don't, you get to worry about whether you should treat.

Except for Joseph. We shook and shook, not one mite! So we pulled his bottom board. It had been in for WEEKS: maybe 2 mites.

Joseph does not have to treat for mites. Next year, however, Joseph does have to give me a daughter of the most hygienic queen I have ever seen.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Nature Loves a Bee

praying mantis on bee hiveOK, looking at this image, what is the reaction you expect? Horror? outrage? Morbid curiousity? Would you be terribly disillusioned if what I told you instead was "How cool is that?!"

Beyond the fact that you really should respect any bug that can turn its head and look you in the eye, both this type of mantis (Tenodera Sinensis) and the honeybee are not natives of North America. But they have both made their homes here, and nature continues on in her colorful, red-in-tooth-and-claw way. This hive is actually at MaryEllen's house, and she has a picture of a more succesful mantis, with a disappointed-seeming bee clutched in her claws. And so it goes: all living things take, all living things give, all living things pass...the tapestry of life weaves another row.

MaryEllen and I were supposed to be labelling the honey we pulled for the Mill apiary, but it was sunny outside, and you can see what really happened. In less than two weeks, we will have a presentation session there. The harvest was not huge this year: once again, we pulled the boxes in August, and then the weather (drought) caused the bees to burn through more of their stores than we bargained for.

I think we will have a few dozen jars in maybe 5 sizes for the Mill store, pretty good for hives started from packages this Spring. My hives were started on drawn comb, which was my rationale for harvesting at all. Once again, we will see how well our bets were placed. I can tell you this: we did not place enough labels on jars today!