I finally got to get into the bee hives this past week. All the books I have read talk about making sure that conditions are right before you try to get into your hives. Right temperature, humidity, no wind, no rain, etc. Unfortunately I am a rule-follower. If a book says that you should not get into your hives in the rain, by golly I am NOT going to get into my hives in the rain.
In case you missed it, it has rained in Alabama this summer. A lot. I heard on the news recently that if we get no more rain for the rest of 2013 we will still end the year with a surplus. I believe it.
Consequently I have not gotten into my hives until a slightly sunny day a couple of weeks ago. My bottom-board oil traps were gross and had several nasties in them. The Small Hive Beetles were everywhere. My bees were not drawing out comb. Then I looked down and noticed a bee crawling around on the ground. It seemed to have one wing shorter than another and was staggering and not flying (which could indicate a problem with Varroa Mites). I went on the war-path!
The bottom boards were cleaned (the chickens enjoyed the nasties) and the oil was replaced.
I weeded a very wide swath around the hives.
Mr. Marvelous was sent to Home Depot to purchase Diatomaceous Earth. This was used to dust the ground around the hives and hopefully prevent the nasties from being able to crawl up into the hives.
Then we went to the monthly meeting of our local beekeepers organization . Some of the experts were pretty entertained that I thought I could not get into my hives unless conditions were perfect. I was reminded of the fact that commercial beekeepers with hundreds of hives have to get into their hives regardless of the weather. Oh. Oops.
We now have a plan.
- Weekly hive inspection
- Weekly replacement of oil in bottom boards
- Hives will be treated weekly (on the same day each week) with powdered sugar for six weeks. I know, crazy, isn't it? But the powdered sugar gets dusted over each box of the hive coating the bees. This gets the bees be more aggressive about hygiene, thus decreasing any varroa mites. We are using sugar instead of chemical treatment because I want to try a non-chemical approach before going with chemicals.
- I will start feeding a 1:1 solution of sugar water. I have learned that if I put the feeders at the entrance to a hive, or even in the hive itself, the strong hive will rob the weak hive. Then the strong hive will survive the winter but the weak hive will not. The way to get around this is to put the feeders slightly away from the hives so that the bees have to forage for it. I will start with this approach and see how it goes. If I can't get my weaker second colony built up a little bit (or perhaps a lot of bit), that hive isn't going to survive the winter anyway.