The Foragers combined a field day with a community service project last weekend when they visited Ms. Sandra’s apiary at Norfolk Christian School to do a hive inspection. The Foragers started the day with a tip on getting a quick health check of a beehive from Mr. Hodgie: if the bees are bringing in pollen, then it’s a good sign that there’s a queen present. This is because worker bees have to eat pollen in order to make royal jelly to feed to the queen.
The Foragers also got to see how to mark a queen bee after Mr. Hodgie found the queen on the first frame removed from the hive. We also did a varroa mite check using two different frames of bees and using the new varroa mite jars we made at the last meeting. After doing two shakes of two varroa mite jars using bees from different frames, the Foragers found no mites in the water, which almost never happens! During the inspection, Mr. Hodgie found a hive beetle larva so we put another hive beetle trap with oil into the hive as well as Swiffer cloth to trap the beetles.
Some other good bits of information Mr. Hodgie passed on to the Foragers:
- The cells on the frame are positioned at an upward angle to keep the nectar in the cells.
- If you are stung by a bee, puff smoke on it to mask the alarm pheromones.
- Don’t throw propolis on the ground which can attract insects.
Mr. Hodgie then showed the Foragers how to do a hive inspection:
- Always work a hive from the sides and back. Don’t stand in front of their in their flight path.
- Start with removing the outer cover and turning it upside down and setting it on the ground.
- Puff a little smoke on the top of the open hive and at the entrance. If you do this every time you go into your bee hive, then the bees will learn to recognize you.
- Take the top boxes off the hive and set kitty corner down on the outer cover. This will reduce the area where the hive edges meet when you set the boxes down, reducing the risk of squishing any bees. Less bee squishes = happier bees!
- It is good to have a quiet box in which you can put your queen once you find her to keep her safe during the inspection.
- Use the hive tool to pry apart the frames. The bees use propolis to glue the frames to the hive and it’s hard to break them apart.
- You can use a frame grip to get the frame out or you can use your fingers.
- If you have a frame holder, you can put the first couple of frames on it once you have inspected the frames. These frames usually have pollen or honey, but not usually brood. Mr. Hodgie recommends keeping the frames with brood in the hive during the inspection since the brood needs to maintain a certain temperature to stay safe.
- When putting the frame back into the hive, you don’t want to slide the frame over to the others since this could result in squished bees. You can lift it slightly to its position and bounce it gently to feel for any bees under the ear before placing it down. You can also blow a couple of puffs to move the bees away from the frame. The third way is to slide the edge of the frame down, against the frame that is next to it in the hive.
WORKING THE SMOKER
Mr. Hodgie instructed the Foragers on one method of lighting the smoker. First you put some burlap or pine needles at the bottom of the smoker and then put three to four handfuls of wood pellets on top. Then you top that with some more burlap that will stop the hot pellets from falling out when you use the smoker during the inspections. Hot pellets in the beehive = very unhappy bees! When this burns down, then you can put more pellets on top and some more burlap and keep repeating the layering as you need the smoker to continue burning.
The Foragers also got instruction on hive beetles:
- Always squish any hive beetles you see in the hive.
- If you see hive beetle larvae, then you have an infestation and need a treatment.
- If you have a hive beetle trap with oil, be careful not to drop the oil in the hive because it will kill the bees.
- You can puff a hive beetle on a frame over a flat surface. The smoke will cause the beetle to fall off of the frame and then you can squish it on the flat surface.
VARROA MITE CHECK
The Foragers got to perform a varroa mite check on the hive using the jars they made during the last monthly meeting.
Supplies needed for the check:
- Big Tupperware container in which to shake the bees off of the frame (or a bucket of some kind)
- Varroa mite sugar roll jar
- Measuring cup if your container does not have measurements on it. If you are using a measuring cup, test it to make sure that it fits well in the corners of the Tupperware corner to make it easier to collect the bees.
- Powdered sugar containing cornstarch which prevents the mite’s sticky pads from adhering to the bee so they fall off.
- Wide, deep container lid or wide container in which to shake the jar over after the roll, preferably white or light colored to easily see the mites.
The sugar roll process:
- It is best to do mite check at this time of the year since there are more mites in September because of the brood cycle.
- Get one brood frame from the hive. The best frame to use has brood, larvae, and emerging bees.
- Shake the frame of bees into the Tupperware container.
- Collect the bees with either your marked container (you will have to shake the bees down to make sure you have the correct measurement and collect more if needed) or use your measuring cup to collect the bees from the container and transfer to your jar.
- Put the lid on and put approximately two tablespoons of powdered sugar into the jar through the screened lid.
- Roll the bees around in the sugar and leave them for about five to ten minutes. You don’t want to leave them so long that their breath makes the sugar clump.
- Put water into your wide container to prepare for shaking the jar over.
- Once the time is up, shake the jar over the water and look for varroa mites in the water.
- Count the varroa mites you see. A half a cup of bees is approximately 300 bees and you shouldn’t have more than six to nine mites in your shake. Anything more indicates a problem that requires treatment.
- Repeat the process again, starting with putting two more tablespoons of sugar into the jar, waiting and then shaking over the water.