Jorge Returns

by Jorge

I've been back in Iowa for a number of days now. In mid-November I headed to the UK to do some work for my graduate degree, and then I had Christmas in Estonia and New Year's in Sweden. Below I have an image from the Irish farm where I looked at some letters in Jim Ryan's collection (he has a ton of information on the Irish Beekeepers' history).

Today there are several inches of snow on the ground. It's hard to believe that in about a month it will be time to open up the hives again and give some of them a shot of syrup. I keep hoping most of them will live through the winter--mites were under control and we had great feeding weather in the fall. More young bees went into this winter than last winter.

The Welcoming Christmas Tree on O'Connell St, Dublin

This is the abandoned gate lodge at Jim Ryan's ancestral farm.

Preparations on the Verge of Winter

by Jorge

The last ten days or so have had a pretty regular rhythm. Feed the bees, block the entrances, and wrap the hives. We actually started blocking the entrances a few weeks ago. Once the nighttime temperatures start dropping into the fifties, the mice start looking for sheltered homes. Beekeeping equipment seems to serve them very nicely. Today we went to southern Iowa and visited a yard where three empty sets of bottoms and lids all had mouse nests recently built in them. Maybe they worked as good traps to keep them out of the actual hives. It's always annoying to put in the blocks and then go back in spring and discover that you trapped a mouse or two inside the hive. They really make a mess of the frames, chewing through the wax and woodware.

Mostly, the bees look strong. I like to see 6-8 frames of bees in the cluster to consider them strong for winter. There are still a few hives with two boxes of bees. On the other hand, there are a few yards that have a number of hives in the 4-5 frame population range. Those are strong enough that they might survive, and the chance is good enough that I don't want to combine them. The weaker ones always make me nervous though.

It was 76 degrees today--November 3. Winter didn't set in very early this year. Evidently a big change is coming in the next couple of days, but the fall has gone pretty well. With any luck this winter won't be as brutal as the last.

Loading up the division board feeders with corn syrup. The syrup in the 2-gallon feeder buckets started to granulate for some reason this year--we've never had that problem before. With warm temperatures, it's safe to dump the cloudy syrup into the division boards.

And then wrapping them up nice and cozy for the winter.

Small Hive Beetle Continued

by Jorge

I can't say that I especially want to say anything more about small hive beetles. They don't look like an organism that ought to be able to do a lot of damage. Rather small, hard-bodied little critters that shouldn't bother anything. But then, it's not the adults that are the problem except for the eggs that they lay. And they lay a lot of eggs. It's possible to run across larvae in the thousands.

All of that is just to say it seems proper to put up a couple of pictures that show the beetle itself. The picture in the previous post only shows the larvae.

The first image gives an indication of size. So small yet so nasty (a consistent theme in bee pests apparently).

Note the disc-shaped antennae--they are very obvious when you run across an adult hive beetle.

The End of Harvest

by Jorge

We are basically done with the honey harvest. There might be an odd box that comes in for extracting in the next couple of weeks, but we are essentially finished. The crop turned out much better than seemed to threaten in July, but it is a long way from the 120#-150# crops we've been lucky to get in the past few years. At least it wasn't a total disaster. With a wholesale market that's lingering around $1000 per barrel, we sure don't want to buy all the honey we need to satisfy our customers. So, things could be worse.

On the downside, we had a new visitor to our honey house. Small hive beetles. We had seen a few traces of them in the past year or two, but there had not been any problems. This year we had some honey with some drone brood mixed in it sitting in the building for two or three weeks. The beetles found them and tried to make a mess of things. Hopefully we just have to turn over the boxes more quickly in the future--I knew that letting them sit is an invitation for beetles but we just hadn't experienced any infestation in the equipment until this year. Fortunately, we were moving through the boxes as soon as the larvae started developing, so our losses were very few--just a few burned frames. Still they are nasty little pests that make a disgusting mess of any equipment that they spend much time inhabiting.

I will hope no one else has to deal with images like these very often:

First we have a pile of the small hive beetle larvae collected on a dripboard.

Then one of the irritating varroa mites on the thorax.......

And finally the infamous wax moth damage--one of the larva is visible.


September Swarm

by Jorge

A couple of days ago we went out to clear some yards of honey boxes and put in Apiguard. At one of our locations, a swarm was hanging in the tree next to the hives. September swarms aren't very common in our area, but there are a few of them every fall. I've always been surprised that more of them don't swarm when we break down the hives to two boxes after the honey flow. Here is one that decided two hive bodies and a honey super was not enough space for this fall.

Bees in trees.

Alex got lost in the tree while bee-hunting.

All boxed up.

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