Archive | April, 2009

Bees a-swarming at the Albuquerque Botanic Gardens

29 Apr

Aww… ain’t it sweet?

The good times are rolling at the City of Albuquerque BioPark where resident honey bees are swarming as we speak.

I wrote about the BioPark bees last year, introducing their keeper Tomás.  Even more lusciously, I’ve tasted the BioPark honey which bursts with floral notes and the promise of fruit, seriously rivaling the bouquet of the Serenade Blend made by Casa Rondeña winery further up the valley. Touché!

Surrounded by 36 acres of carefully-tended gardens at the BioPark, it’s no wonder their girls are burgeoning.

Photo by Erik Andersen, courtesy of ABQ BioPark. This photo was taken on Monday, April 27, 2009.  The swarm has now moved on.

Photo by Erik Andersen, courtesy of ABQ BioPark. This photo was taken on Monday, April 27, 2009. The swarm has now moved on.

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Varroa Prescription: Powdered Sugar

29 Apr

So you’ve spotted creepy red dots on your bees. Even worse, they move!

Nasty little varroa parasite on my bee

Nasty little varroa parasite on my bee

Yep, that’s varroa, or the parasitic mite more officially and ominously called varroa destructor.

We found the lil nasties in our Kerry hive this spring and have been treating the besieged girls with powdered sugar for the past 3 weeks. It’s not as simple as slapping on a strip of Apistan, but it’s a more gentle approach of the kind advocated by practitioners of Integrated Pest Management

Honey bee coated in powdered sugar

Honey bee coated in powdered sugar

Here’s how it works… Continue reading

Reflections on a Swarm

26 Apr

I dreamt of bees last night, like curious stars filling my sky.

They danced, those randy fire twirlers, and blocked my light with their own exuberance. Ten thousand bees hurled themselves like unshackled inmates from the hive into the sky above, blue and capacious.

Oblivious to me, they tumbled and bounced and chattered, colliding after some minutes into a mass of vibrating heat.

Now, they hang heavy from a single, dry twig. While I stand motionless as in a pool of warm mud.

Bee swarming FAIL

25 Apr
 
After being unable to convince their queen to swarm, the bees release a pheromone telling everyone to return home

After being unable to convince their queen to swarm, the bees release a pheromone telling everyone to return home

The Kerry Hive has been owned.

After nearly a month of threatening to do so, our strongest hive swarmed today. With great huzzah, thousands of divas escaped the hive and took to the sky like buzzing parade day confetti.  They formed a cluster on a nearby tree and called thousands of their sisters to join the party.

And then they changed their mind.

Whether the queen refused to join them, or couldn’t because her wings were clipped, we’ll never know.

All we can say for certain is that everyone returned home for the night and that we’ll likely be on swarm patrol again tomorrow.

Photo of Swarm vs. Supercedure Cells

20 Apr

How can you tell the difference between a swarm cell and a supercedure cell? 

As a new beekeeper with energetic girls, I’ve had plenty of opportunities to learn the difference. Now predicting what happens when a hive starts building these cells is anyone’s guess…. but here’s what look like and where you can find ’em on the comb.

In a Top Bar Hive:

  • Swarm cells are typically built on the edge, side, or bottom of a comb.
  • Supercedure cells are typically built smack in the middle of the comb.
2 capped swarm cells, built on the edge of the comb

2 capped swarm cells, built on the edge of the comb

Queen cup (left) and capped supercedure cell (right), both built in the middle of the comb.

Queen cup (left) and capped supercedure cell (right), both built in the middle of the comb.

In a Langstroth Hive:

Things are slightly different in a Langstroth hive, but here’s a useful discussion indicating that in a Langstroth:

High Drama and the Virgin Queen Piping

18 Apr

My little bee brain is buzzing with information overload.

Today’s hive inspections brought plenty of good news but also a wild cornucopia of new bee experiences. I think I need a drink.

Alex opening the Ann Hive

Alex opening the Ann Hive

But first, here’s what went down:

  • We found queens and eggs in the Ann Hive and the Polski hive. Yay!
  • At least 10 capped swarm cells awaited us in the Kerry Hive.
  • It was impossible not to hear the high-pitched squawk of a virgin queen in the Kerry Hive which we tracked down and photographed. 
  • We removed 7 bars of brood and resources from the Kerry Hive and gave some queen cells to a local beekeeper in need.
  • The extra swarm cells we dissected.
  • Opening some drone cells, we found varroa mites on drone pupae.
  • We saw a birthing bee.

Photos and details follow. Whew! Who knew one afternoon in the life of a beekeeper could be so fascinating.

Continue reading

Seducing the Farmers; Killing the Bees

16 Apr

Pesticides are the siren seductress luring America’s farmers into unwitting participation in the massive honeybee catastrophe. Or so says Evaggelos Vallianatos at Truthout.org.

Honeybees Continue to Vanish: Don’t Blame Aliens — It’s Our Addiction to Pesticides That’s at Fault

Sounds to me like it’s time for a showdown. My money’s on Bhramari Devi, the goddess of black bees, to quietly lash back with some serious bee mojo.

Goddess of Black Bees

Goddess of Black Bees

All Hives Are Go

11 Apr

The ‘hood is now two hives richer. Despite the wind, we successfully installed 2 packages of honey bees in Albuquerque’s Nob Hill neighborhood near the University of New Mexico. It’s a great place to keep bees with plenty of backyard gardeners and loads of flowering trees on campus.

Below is the Ann Hive, site of last year’s bee tragedy. It’s got a new team on board, a new graffiti wall, and we’re feeling optimistic.

The Ann Hive, now with bees

The Ann Hive, now with bees


Within a couple of minutes after installing the package, our new girls were tail in the air releasing an orienting pheromone from their Nasonov Gland. The photo below is one of the new occupants of the Ann Hive, hanging her hat on the door and calling it home.
Bee exposing and fanning her Nasonov Gland to release an orienting pheromone

Bee exposing and fanning her Nasonov Gland to release an orienting pheromone


Bonus! I’ve uploaded this image to Wikimedia Commons. Enjoy 😉

Photos of the White House Beehive

10 Apr

UPDATE: New photos of the White House beehive

Wondering what’s up with the White House bee hive?

As a friend of the new official White House beekeeper, ToniBee’s got a front row seat on the most excellent beekeeping adventure occurring at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Sleeping with 20,000 bees in my living room

10 Apr

Rise and shine, girls! It’s time to set you up in your new home.

20,000 bees waiting in my living room

20,000 bees waiting in my living room