De-bugging Buzz

At the end of 2017, I wrote about the death of Buzz the beehive due to a wax moth infestation.    We have plans to re-hive Buzz in April, but winter projects on my to-do list include moving both Buzz and Woody about 10 feet from where each originally stood, and to finish cleaning and disinfecting Buzz from the yucky remains of the wax moth infestation.  I’m pleased to say that I’ve achieved both goals, well ahead of the April re-hiving date!

When we discovered the invasion of wax moths, we removed the offending invaders and most of their accoutrements, therefore the ick of infestation remaining in Buzz consisted primarily of webbing, some frass (okay, lots of frass), and a few possible larvae cocoons.

All laid out on the back patio, ready for the cleaning.

Webbing from the moth larvae, with frass in the mix. The dark spots are frass.

One sneaky cocoon left over from the initial elimination of the insects and their remains.

Another hiding cocoon.

I thoroughly vacuumed each box and all section pieces of Buzz, and then with brush, gloves, and bleach water in hand, proceeded to scrub-a-dub-dub the inside parts of the hive.  In some spots, I used a utility knife to clean out narrow gaps and remove the remains of cocoons.  I certainly don’t want any cocoon hanging around, awaiting release from dormancy for the purpose of reinfection.  If the new hive is strong–which it will most likely be–a re-infestation is unlikely, but just to be on the safe side….

After rinsing the entirety of Buzz with fresh water, I left the dismantled hive out for a few days in the cold to dry out.

The parts shown, left to right: brood box, top lid, another brood box, mesh, base, bottom board.

There are no frames because we destroyed and trashed them–the frames were too infected with wax moth nastiness and not salvageable.

 

Meanwhile, we moved Woody to her new spot in the garden, and placed a marker right next door for Buzz–for when she’s ready.

You’ll notice a bottle of sugar-water on Woody’s bottom board.  The bees are foraging on warmer days, but during this time of winter honeybees are at their greatest risk of starvation.  There’s not much blooming and it’s possible that the girls have used up their honey stores.  It’s too cold for me to check the hives, so the easiest thing to do is to mix up some “nectar” and see if they go for it–and they have!  Honeybees like their sugar!  Well, I can’t criticize, I’m well-known for my sweet tooth, too.

All situated, Woody is buzzing and Buzz is awaiting.

Of course, Buzz has no buzzy bees, so she sits, in decorative mode for now: no bees, no sugar-water, but all nice and clean and ready for spring!

Scar, our Warre hive, is also being fed.

 

In my garden, there’s currently little flowering, thanks to the cold, dry winter boasting of several hard freezes.  However, my three  Leatherleaf mahoniaMahonia bealei, are reliable winter bloomers and the bees are all over the cheery blooms as they open.

How many bees can you count?

Of course the bees also fly 3-4 miles for other nectar and pollen providers.  The honeybees aren’t exactly bereft of blooms, but neither are there bunches of blooms for them to choose from.

I’ve recently planted this green shrub in hopes of providing more winter sustenance for my honeys.

It’s a Sweet Olive Tea tree, or Fragrant Tea OliveOsmanthus fragrans.  I’ve been angling for a winter blooming, non-invasive, and evergreen plant, and happened upon this specimen during a nursery sojourn.  A non-native plant, the Sweet olive tree is primarily known and grown for its fragrant white blooms.  It’s drought tolerant once established and also deer resistant, though (thankfully!) that’s not an issue for me.  The Sweet olive tree is also something that isn’t particular about soil and will tolerate my clay and supposedly will bloom in sun, part-shade, and shade.  The spot I chose in my garden for this large shrub/small tree receives winter sunshine, but is somewhat shady for the remainder of the growing season.  I’m  confident that it will prove a good source of nectar and pollen for my honeybees during winter.  I also plan to add more mahonia to my garden, though I’ll probably choose other varieties than the Leatherleaf for the sake of diversity in plant material.

Honeybee season is nigh, as is the season for native bees.  The first native bees in my garden will be the Blue Orchard bees, who will emerge, buzzing and beautiful blue, from their pollen-packed holes (in bee hotels and masonry) sometime in the next few weeks.

Bees are starting to happen!

 

Bee Mama Missive, May 2014

It’s been about seven weeks since we hived our honeybees and I’ve received requests for another update with their progress.  You can read about the hiving of our honeybees here and our first hive check here.   I’m glad to report that our honeybees are great!

Eating!

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Drinking!

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Eating more!

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Hanging out!

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Bearding!

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Visiting one bloom,

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flying to another.

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and sipping from that bloom!

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Gossiping with the neighbors!

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About three weeks ago, we added a second box to both hives because our industrious bees completely filled the bottom box with drawn comb.

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In that comb we spotted capped brood, recently hatched brood (next generation!), drone cells and capped and uncapped honey.  We also saw eggs and larva.  All looked healthy and prosperous (from a bee prospective), so we decided it was time to give the girls a bit more space. We haven’t opened the hive since, but all appears well.  I stopped feeding the bees sugar-water as there is plenty blooming for them, plus they’re good commuters.  (They don’t have to deal with Austin’s traffic.)  I placed wood at the entrance for the first week or so after I removed the Boardman feeders, so that the ladies wouldn’t need to suddenly defend a significantly larger entry space.

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You can spot the foragers bringing in pollen.  The pollen sacks on the hind legs are called pollen baskets or corbiculas.  I prefer to call them pollen pantaloons; I think that name has a certain charm.

I eased the wood away over the next ten days, so now they can defend with impunity.  I hope that’s happening.  All seems well and the hive is active and flourishing.

Now,  what to do with the extra sugar-water????

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Anyone?

Thanks to Deb at austin agrodolce for the Bee Mama moniker.

Busy Bees

Posted on May 30, 2014

We hived our honeybees  just over two weeks ago and other than checking to assure that the queens left their cages, we haven’t opened our hives.  We’ve fed the bees sugar-water, watched them cruise in and out of the hives and observed them at blooms and bird baths.  Neighbors inform us that they’ve seen a definite increase in honeybees in their gardens, so we knew something was happening in our hives. Last Sunday, with excitement and trepidation, we opened our hives to check on our honeybees. We took the top off,

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and heard the incessant bzzzzzz of activity.  I pulled up the back frame of hive #1 and was stunned!

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There was fully formed comb in that bar and the next 4 bars!

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In the first combs there is capped honey (the lighter yellow, toward the top left) and capped brood–larva (the darker yellow in the middle of the frames).  We also observed uncapped larva, eggs and pollen stores (the dark amber on the upper right side).  After only two weeks!!!  We were absolutely giddy!  We couldn’t believe  the bees had accomplished so much in such a short time.

Busy, busy bees!

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We closed the first hive,

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and added some more syrup for their dining pleasure.

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Look at these little girls and their pantaloons.

Pollen pantaloons: that’s what I call them.  That’s not the technical term, but I like it.

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We opened hive #2,

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and observed the same conditions as  in hive #1: larva, eggs, capped brood, capped honey, pollen stores and happy, productive bees. In both hives, not all the bars have fully drawn comb, but all the bars have some comb.

Beautiful.

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Perfect comb.

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We were gobsmacked at what the bees accomplished in two weeks, that we forgot the look for the queens.  Considering the built comb and amount of brood, honey and activity,  we assume the queens are ruling their roosts and doing their queen things. So amazing are these bees.

The Oxford Dictionary defines the word awesome as: Extremely impressive or daunting; inspiring great admiration, apprehension, or fear.

Except for the “fear” aspect, I think honeybees qualify as awesome.

The bees in hive #2 became a little annoyed at our amateur antics, so we closed the hive,

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and logged our observations like good little beekeepers.

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Meanwhile back at the bar,

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…the honeybees regularly visit my bird baths, especially my blue bird bath.  No matter what time of the day, there are always some gals having a drink and socializing.  Sometimes, they’re drowning or drowned.  I rescue those I can, but there’s not much I can do about the others. Sniff.

They wiggle their butts when they drink.

We’re thrilled that our hives appear healthy and progressing normally.

Awesome is such an overused word,

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but I think our honeybees are AWESOME!!!