Hive equipment · Lazer Creek Apiary · Queen Bee · Supplemental Feeding

Pollen Substitute and Regicide

I guess I need to start by telling you that the pollen substitute did not cause the regicide — I was an accessory to that crime, but I have no idea of how hubby actually disposed of the evil queen once I helped catch her!    We have another hive that has just become more and more unreasonable over time, and they now go straight for the upper thighs when we even approach them, never mind get started with a hive inspection.   We had purchased a new queen — one that was purported to be from a calm strain and also a strain that is very good at dealing with Varroa Mites.   After we removed the old queen, we waited 24 hours to re-queen, placed her in a queen introduction frame, sprayed the frame and the frames in the hive with Honey B Healthy to mask her pheromones — and they still killed her.     Talk about frustrating.   We’ve had other evil hives turn nice, so we haven’t given up on them yet, but I have had quite a few choice words for them over the past month.

Queen Introduction Frame
Queen Introduction Frame

The production of new brood has fallen off in all of our hives over the past month, and we really want to build them up before the fall flowers (Goldenrod and White Milkweed, mainly) start to bloom.    We’ve noticed that all of the hives have a lot of nectar and honey stored, but very little pollen, so we decided to give the pollen substitute another try.

Bees Collect Pollen Substitute
Bees Collect Pollen Substitute

Now, when we put this stuff out in spring, the bees showed no interest whatsoever.   This time, they are flocking to it like the dog to canned food!   We already saw an increase in bee bread in the frames of hives we inspected yesterday.    I placed the first batch in bird feeder that gave the bees plenty of access at the bottom, but provided shelter from rain.  I only put a small amount in and the bees crawled through the holes, through the inch high pollen, and became trapped in the feeder.   I understand why a little better now that we’ve watched them roll the powder around, roll around in the powder, and generally behave like little dung beetles rolling the powder up into little balls which they then take home with them.  By the end of the first day,  they had moved all the remaining powder to one end of the cookie sheet — and there was not much remaining.

Of course, my English hive has to be different and they are showing little interest in the powder that I laid out in a tray especially for them up in their private garden!   I did experiment with some supplement with sugar water and giving them a protein shake — they loved that.   Maybe they are just spoiled.  Maybe they like soup.   They were in the supplement dish this morning trying to get to the rain water-supplement mush.

When we were updating our hive inspection spreadsheet last night, we started a new page to track available resources by date.   Hubby had noted last year that the pollen death starts around the same time that the pink and white Crepe Myrtles bloom in our garden.    There was also a nectar dearth last year because of the drought, but this year the bees keep bringing in nectar, but not enough pollen.   We now know to watch for this next year and maybe get the pollen substitute out sooner.

We continue to battle small hive beetles, but we’ve cut the brush back from around the hives again and we know that helps.   I plan to put some landscape fabric down to minimize what can grow back, and we’ve also discussed relocating the hives over time.  The area right behind the hives is so very uneven, with trenches that are above knee-height, that we can’t bush hog in there until we do some leveling and clear some of the timber-harvesting debris.  We can’t continue to weed eat that much, but that’s what it takes to keep the blackberries and vines at bay.     The hives that are coming back from the sunflower field we definitely be in the other cleared lane and we’ll put some DE and landscape fabric down under the hive stands before we even go get them.   There is still so much to do and there is so little summer left — we really need to spend some time panning for gold down at the creek so that we can stay here forever!

 

Bees · Home Remedies

Bee stings and toothpaste

When we were visiting family in Texas this summer, my husband was stung on the forehead by some red wasps that he was attempting to evict from his aunt’s house soffit.  We were both surprised when his aunt exclaimed that she was going to get the toothpaste and disappeared into the house.  We were even more surprised when smearing toothpaste on the sting relieved his pain.

Then, a few weeks ago, my brother-in-law kindly loaned me a bee-hat so that I could get a little closer to the action when he and my husband were working his hives.  The day before, the bees had already shown their dislike of dark colors by dive bombing my husband’s black baseball cap the moment he plonked it on my head.  So, the following day, with my head safely ensconced in a white cover and face-protection, they decided to go after a different dark item — my navy-blue thermal shirt!  That was my first bee sting since childhood and considerably less painful than I anticipated.  (But still something to avoid, when possible.)  We were too far from the house to make fetching toothpaste seem worth while, but the bees had fired a warning shot.

You would think that would be a lesson that would stick with me, but apparently I’m a little slow today.  Now that I have my own bee suit and gloves, I headed out with my husband to put new fondant in our hives and to see if there was any left from the batch we placed in a week ago.  My husband lifted the lid on the least populated hive, and I got to see a wonderfully healthy cluster of bees through the hole in the top cover. Then I got to see that they had eaten almost all of the fondant, and then they let me know very clearly that a bee suit may protect my face and hands, but wearing thermal weave, dark pants is inviting them to find the weakness in my defense.  Of course, they went after the largest and most obvious target area and I was subsequently able to gain first-hand experience about the effectiveness of toothpaste on bee stings.

While cooking a new batch of fondant for the ungrateful little critters, I researched reasons why toothpaste would actually help soothe stings.  According to Rapid Home Remedies,  the alkalinity of toothpaste neutralizes the acidity of the venom in the bee sting.  Apparently fire ants have an alkaline venom, so toothpaste probably will not work on those.  I’ll let you know next summer….

The new batch of fondant is cooling, and the kitchen smells are invigorating.  First of all, the smell of the boiling sugar water reminded me suddenly and very strongly of memories of my mother making red-currant jelly.  I guess the lemon juice in the mixture is what transported me back to my childhood home.   Now the smell of the lemon grass in the Honey B Healthy I mixed into the fondant pervades the kitchen and makes the stress in my life just float away.  It smells so good that my husband recently felt compelled to tell me that the label clearly warns against human consumption!   The bees love the smell even more than I do, so it’s a good way to attract them to supplemental food supplies when there’s a dearth of plants to provide pollen and nectar.  Toothpaste and bee vitamins — what a weird mix of components to make a day on which I got stung still simply perfect!