Archives for posts with tag: Apiguard

I decided to check the colony one week after the first Apiguard treatment rather than waiting the full two weeks and discovered that the first patty was nearly finished. I am in a time crunch with rain arriving finally and plants soon to start blooming, so I am attempting the two patty treatment in a constricted timeframe. The colony appears strong despite the alarming number of mites I find on the sticky bottom board when I check it each morning. I’ve estimated 30 – 50 mites per day, with the numbers definitely falling over time; assuming a full hive body holds 20,000 – 30,000 bees that results in a 2 – 3.5% infestation rate, which is getting too high. According to Honey Bee Health a beekeeper should strive to keep the colony infestation below 3%.

My colony has filled all the frames now and there is no room for them to grow. They are apt to swarm if I don’t add more space for them soon. Some of the sites I’ve read recommend adding more space when the colony has filled six to eight frames in a ten frame box. Managed colonies expand by the beekeeper adding additional boxes with frames for the bees to build new comb. There is a balance to maintain because if there is too much empty space during the winter, it’s harder for the bees to maintain and protect their environment and it’s easier for intruders like wax moths or hive beetles to get a foothold into the colony. I am hoping that with the swath of lemonade berry about to bloom behind my property, there will be plenty of honey to keep the bees through next winter as well as a bit for my harvest. That means I need to add a super at a time when I am not also treating for varroa mites since the thymol treatment can lead to funky tasting honey. If it weren’t for my honey greed, I could have added another box at any time and just left whatever was produced for the bees.

Lush chaparral hillside

The timing of my inspection was not ideal as it was still a little too cold and most of the bees were in the hive rather than out foraging. That meant a lot of angry bees when I started peeking in their house! Here are links to the videos on YouTube if you’re interested in watching: inspection and summary. One note if you watch the second video, don’t do as I say and run and hide if bees are chasing you; if you safely can, calmly walk away. I tried to be quick about the inspection due to the weather, but became a bit disturbed when I could not locate the queen.

What I did find was several capped drone cells (I’ve highlighted them in the photo to the right) and one large bee sans blue dot. Last week I had found a couple drones, so I thought I knew how to distinguish them from the queen, but I’m clearly not confident in this.

Though this larger bee lacked the dot, I thought this was a queen due to a more elongated abdomen. It also seemed to have rather large eyes, a drone feature, so I clearly need more practice. Unfortunately, the bees were so upset that Marc, my super-handy husband and chief videographer (pictured to the left; yep, he needs a beesuit), was not able to get in close to get a photo for my later reference so it’s all a bit of a mystery for the moment. I did not find queen cells, neither supersedure, nor swarm cells, so I assume she’s there.

I’m going back in today to pull the second Apiguard treatment and add the honey super. My beekeeper friend is coming to help so we can be certain if the colony is queen-right. Wish us luck! It’s still a little cold.

It’s been a few weeks since I sugared my bees.  After being stung once again while filling their sugar syrup, I’ve been reluctant to open the hive while the weather is still a bit chilly.  I’ve been checking the sticky board regularly and finding a disturbing number of mites on it, so I knew I needed to increase my efforts at mite control.  I spoke with my beekeeper friend about options, and checked out methods local beekeepers have posted online.  I decided on something considered a “soft” chemical treatment called Apiguard that uses thymol, a primary ingredient in thyme oil, as my next-level choice. 

I opened the hive with the intention of placing the Apiguard and a new pollen patty, and discovered bees everywhere: throughout the frames as expected, but also along the sides of the hive body and at the bottom. Even more exciting is that I found a couple drones. These are the only male bees in the colony. I had seen pictures of them, but hadn’t actually seen one so it took me a minute to figure out what I was seeing. At first, I thought my queen had lost her blue mark because the drones are quite a bit larger than the workers. Then I noticed a couple peculiarities: 1) there was more than one of these larger bees and 2) they were unusually chunky looking. Drones! How cool! Unfortunately, Marc was not helping me film this inspection so the video I shot has only a single camera angle and does not have any close-ups of the drones (Inspection 011721). If only Jonah had thumbs, he could help.

Besides these first drones, I also noticed that the frames at the far side of the box that have been empty for months now have beautiful, freshly drawn, creamy white comb in them.  Which means the bees have been busily building again in preparation for spring’s arrival, and now the frames are nearly full with nowhere for them to go.  This would be a wonderful achievement for my mini-swarm-started colony, if I weren’t also finding more mites than I’d like and if we weren’t in a dry, La Nina year. 

Less rain means the blooming season is likely to be shorter, which also means there will be a limited amount of time for honey.  Either I can continue to expand my colony for another year and not worry about honey, or I can put honey supers on early and maybe have a wee harvest this year.  We’ve had one good rain so far this year, with more in the forecast this week.  The lemonadeberry is starting to bloom, and the canyon is full of it so I’m hoping they’ll have a feast in store for them, even if it doesn’t last long.  

The catch with the Apiguard treatment is that I’ve timed this all rather poorly since a full treatment takes three to four weeks and it must occur prior to placing honey supers.  Once complete, the super can be put on right away.  My current plan is to stop feeding the sugar syrup so they’ll eat some of their honey stores instead of the syrup and continue the Apiguard treatment that I started.  I’ll check the hive in two weeks and re-assess.  At that point, I’ll either place the second Apiguard treatment or stop treatment and install the honey super.  It will depend how the space is looking in two weeks.  Hopefully, I have time before they start getting ideas about swarming.  And next year, assuming mites are still an issue requiring treatment, I’ll treat the colony in the fall right after removing the honey supers.  Ah, the joys of learning!

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