Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Supers, Robbers, Wasps, and Summer

I'm really enjoying this summer! I could spend all day gardening and honeybee watching if it weren't for all those darn dishes and all the places the kids have to get to :-).

I finally got around to supering my weak hive. It's the one with the blue box. Little Olivia chose the color (her favorite) and helped me to paint it.

When we moved in there were a bunch of weed trees along the fence line. Slowly but surely we are clearing them, along with all the weeds and planting aspens. If you look at the green hive, you'll notice a lot less bees lingering about the entrance. It's amazing the difference between the two hives. The hive on the left is my strong hive. I supered it over a month ago. The bees are so busy, they zip in and out with out any troubles. The guard bees seem to have no trouble at all. My weaker hive on the other hand has struggled since day one. It's like they have a hit out on them! Notice all the funny little jars? I'm sure Chad thinks I've gone crazy! This hive is struggling with robbers of all kinds. Other bees, and worst of all wasps. The jars are for the wasps. I set up pheromone traps all over the yard (away from the hives), but I am still catching and killing about 100 wasps a week just in front of the hive. With all the robbing that is going on, it's like a little bee graveyard in front of the hive. At first the wasps were carving up the dead bees and carrying them off to feed their young. Now they're starting to attack live bees and sniff around the entrance! Gah! So why the jars? I just happened to be sipping some water one day while bee watching and a wasp came sniffing around. I'm usually able to catch them pretty quickly. If there is a bee trapped in the jar all I have to do is give the jar a little thump and the bee will fall down, but the wasp continues to try and fly upwards. I can lift the jar just enough to slide it over letting the bee free, but catching the wasp. It isn't very nice to the wasp, it usually dies of heat, or lack of oxygen in a couple of hours, but last year my hive was taken out by wasps, so the little critters get no pity from me! I'm pretty sure that my weaker hive is NOT being robbed by the stronger one. For one the robber bees have a completely different kind of appearance. They are darker and striped just a little differently. Also, The bees on the left zip in and out with lightening speed in directions away from the hives, so I'm guessing it's not them. Even though my weaker hive is struggling, they seem to be doing a good job. I've watched them detect a robber bee, give it a good old fashioned but kicking and haul it from the hive. Most of the dead bees outside of the hive are the robber bees. I've even watched them kill one of the smaller wasps. So despite their struggles, I think they are doing fine. I've also looked inside and they seem to be doing great. Plenty of brood and eggs, pollen and honey, etc.

As far as robbing goes, I've learned a few things. The first is that once it begins it's an all out battle till the end. I've also heard two things: 1. Stop robbing IMMEDIATELY and 2. Once it begins, there is almost nothing you can do to stop it. What??!! It's true though, I've rarely felt so helpless as I sat by watching. There are a few things you can do to help though. All of the suggestions here require you to follow through with them either in the early morning or late at night. You don't want to loose or exclude any of your foragers. So take precautions when there aren't any bees zipping in and out of the hive.

Use your entrance reducer: Set your entrance reducer so that it is set to about 1 bee width. This gives the guard bees less area to cover and lets them concentrate on a smaller area. It also frustrates the robbers who are used to a wider entrance.

Wet Sheet: Get a sheet damp, by wetting it and ringing it tightly. Drape it over your hive extending the long part out and into the grass like a tent on the side that your bees are used to entering and exiting. The home bees will find their way in and out, but the robber bees will get pretty confused and hopefully give up.

Vicks Vapor Rub: Place a small amount of Vicks around the entrances to confuse and cover the robber bee's scent.

Robbing Screen: Buy or make a robbing screen. This is one I made on the fly, I'm sure other's are much better! The idea is the same as the sheet. The home bees will find their way in and out, but the robbers will get confused and eventually give up. I feel like this method helped the most. I also really liked using the entrance reducer, but didn't care for the wet sheet, and thought the Vick's didn't do hardly enough.

This picture was taken in the early morning before they mayhem ensued. The two sides and bottom are flush with the hive. The only way in or out is at the top. The robber bees are so obsessed with the entrance that they just keep knocking their little heads against the screen trying to figure out a way in. You can totally tell I used whatever was closest to me. I found an old piece of screen that was falling out of an old door and pinned it onto the wooden frame that I quickly nailed together. I also used a bit of tape to smooth out the rough edge of the screening on the top edge. It was super crude, but hey, it worked :-)

A little bit later... I really didn't capture a good image of the total chaos that was going on, but in the thick of it there were many many more robber bees trying to get in. In this picture you can see a black wasp sniffing around. He is all by his lonesome in the bottom half of the screen.

Just a note on supering:

since I have the two hives and I'm not planning on taking any honey this year I decided to experiment a little between the two hives. You'll notice in the picture that I have placed a queen excluder on the hive on the left. It took the bees a few weeks to start building in the super. Because the queen can't get in that box it is only for Honey and I imagine some pollen? Remember, I am new to this! I was surprised how long it took the bees to move up because they seemed so crowded and also very industrious. They had their first box combed within a couple of days of moving in. So I wondered if having a queen excluder slowed them down a bit from moving up. I decided when I added my 3rd deep on the hive on the right to see what effect not having a queen excluder would have if any on how quickly the bees moved upward. I'm not scheduled to make another hive exam until this Friday, so I will let you know what my findings were later this week, but I'm interested to see what the difference will be. This hive was equally as full when I added the 3rd deep.

I do love watching my little bees. I've also found that I've become much more interested in all of the other little critters that happen to come nearby. I don't always have my phone handy, but here's a few pics I snagged while gardening.

Who knows, but I'de like to think this is one of my little bees sipping on this clover flower :-). Wish I had a better camera!

I thought this dragonfly was beautiful!

The bumblebee is pretty cute too.

On a totally random note, we found this cute little nest inside Chad's garage at work :-)

How Sweet! Hope you all are enjoying your summer!

No comments: