Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Sugar Coated Bees

I'm not sure what proper bee keepers wear to keep bees from going up their pant legs, but last weekend, when I opened the hives at my parents house, I borrowed a pair of my dad's long socks, and tucked my pant legs into them.  Not only does this make me feel safer around the swarming bees, it also enhances my dweeb factor exponentially.  Super Dweeb!

Even though high socks and a tucked in shirt is not my favorite style, I'm going to share the photos Jamie took as I sugar coated the bees.  I read that sprinkling powdered sugar on the bees would help them remove mites.  I've never seen a bee mite, but it's a common problem, and bees with too many mites are sometimes not healthy enough to survive the winters.  Since bees like to eat sugar, this is supposed to be a method to help control mites without resorting to toxic chemicals.  Most importantly, it's fun to do!  

As you can see in the photo above, I approach the hive cautiously and puff smoke in the direction of the hive.  

These bees are using the front and the back of the hive to come and go, so I puffed some smoke around each entrance.  

The top of the hive is made of plastic, and lifts off to reveal the wooden panel on the top, which has a hole in it that the bees tried to seal with wax sticky propolis.  Notice that we have one large box, called a super, on the bottom of the hive, and a smaller one on the top.  

The top board is always glued down tight by the bees, so I used the nifty hive tool to pry it up and puff in some smoke.  I was super cautious when opening the hives this time, because I've read that the bees are more aggressive during the late summer and early fall because they can't afford to lose the honey they've stored for the winter, and it's too late to make much more.  Plus, a friend of mine told me that she experienced an aggressive hive response recently, from bees that are normally very calm, which sort of spooked me.  

As you can see, there were bees in the top super, and on the bottom of the lid.  I just set the lid board in the grass, with the bees facing up, and they didn't seemed bothered by that at all.  I'm pretty sure I would have been more upset if someone had turned my world inside out and upside down.  

We were really hoping that the bees would have filled the frames in the small top super with honey, so that we could steal a few to bottle.  Unfortunately, despite all the activity on the frames, they only had wax in the top super.  This makes us nervous that they don't have enough honey for themselves, so dad is going to start feeding them sugar water to see if that helps.  We didn't really want our bees to be dependent on us for food, but I would rather give them junk food than open a dead hive, like I did this spring.  

I removed the top super, and set in on it's side in the grass, and sprinkled powdered sugar from a small sieve into the top of the large super on the bottom.  This box was full of bees, and the ones near the top would get frosted and move down into the hive, probably to get away from the dweeb with the sugar, and I could see new un-frosted bees, so I would sprinkle them too.  

Soon, everybody looked like ghost bees, so I put the small super back on top.  

I gave those bees a good sprinkling too, and then sprinkled the bees on the bottom of the lid.  I hope this powdered sugar trick actually works.  If nothing else, it gave them a little snack, and gave me a reason to open the hives and check on their progress.  After all the drama of getting these bees installed in the hive, I really hope they make it though the winter.  Cross your fingers!

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