Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Hive Check: Week 8

Ah, the weekly hive check. Easy to do, but sometimes a pain to write about, especially when you've got exciting (non-computer) things to do, like having hardcore beekeeping adventures.

In addition to my apprentice Emily, I was also accompanied by a Who's Who of treatment free beekeepers from all over the nation. We were joined by Kirk Anderson, founding member of the Backwards Beekeepers Club in LA, Sam Comfort of Anarchy Apiaries, Meg Paska of Brooklyn Homesteader, Chase Emmons from the Brooklyn Grange, PLUS Alex Brown, a photographer working with Meg, and Theadora, a friend of Emily's who we pressed into photographic service. It's the largest group of people I've ever had on the roof and it was a blast.

The gang, left to right:
Sam Comfort, Kirk Anderson, Meg Paska, Me, Chase Emmons, Alex Brown

Bees, it would seem, like honey.

Hive #1 and their new queen (Esmeralda) continues to do very well. The workers are drawing out a fair amount of comb in the recently added deep and the queen has started to lay in the cells. There is already a fair amount of nectar/syrup being stored in the newly drawn frames, and there continues to be a large amount (>6 frames) of solid brood in the bottom hive body.

Smoking up with the triangle smoker.

Pop, pop.


Havin' a looko-seeo with KirkoBeeo.

Both hives are still being fed with sugar syrup, which isn't great, but they got off to a late start this year and will need to be fed until they have drawn out enough comb to store all the honey and pollen they'll need to make it through the coming winter. Once they have two full deeps of comb drawn out, they'll come off of the artificial stuff, hopefully forever.

The light, it burns.

I sure am white.

As I mentioned last week, I've gotten the idea that the poor brood pattern in Hive #2 may be the result of a shortage of the high quality protein needed to produce royal jelly. Worker brood is fed royal jelly for the first three days of its larval stage, so to maintain a large broodnest, a huge amount of pollen is required.

Emily removing the ratchet straps holding the hive in place.


Clean and jerk.

Looking at the hive with Sam and Kirk, we saw that there were many eggs laid in a good solid pattern, but that a lot of the brood was being lost before it reached maturity, resulting in the scattershot pattern of capped brood that I've been seeing. While Kirk suggested that I just replace the queen, Sam thought that brood may have been suffering from one of the low grade brood ailments, such as chalkbrood, sacbrood, or european foulbrood (EFB).

So friendly!

We didn't see any of the larval or pupal 'mummies' which are indicative of chalkbrood in or around the hive, but we did see a couple of the dying (yellowing) larvae which Sam refers to as "snotbrood". We didn't see a large amount of dead brood in the cells, which is both good and bad. We know that the brood is dying before it reaches maturity (which is bad), but the lack of dead brood within the hive tells us that the bees are exhibiting good hygienic behavior and attempting to remove potential sources of contagion quickly and efficiently (which is good.)

I feel like Kirk was somewhat surprised by the calmness of the bees.
LA bees like to riot or something.


There are two main courses of action for treating pretty much all the brood diseases, other than American Foul Brood (AFB.) The first is to requeen, the idea being that the current population of the hive is genetically weak and/or susceptible to disease. By requeening, you effectively change the genetic makeup of the population, hopefully for the better. Unfortunately, it can be a bit of a crap shoot. The new queen may be no better than the old one, or worse.

Theadora getting artsy.

The other main option is to fortify the hive with better food. Well fed bees and brood are less susceptible to disease. The hive is already getting plenty of carbs in the form of sugar syrup, so a bit of added protein seems like the way to go.

Luckily, I have a 5lb bag of fresh pollen from Brushy Mountain in my fridge. Let's see if it makes a difference!

Put the lime in coconut.

Time to bulk up, little dudettes.

The reaction of the bees:

P.S. Photos from this inspection were taken by Theadora Tolkin, our resident singer/songwriter/sea squirt biologist. Every beekeeper should have one!

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