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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

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

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

What’s killing the honeybees? The tragic ending to my first year keeping bees.

9 Feb

Five months later and with the promise of new bees arriving this weekend soothing me like a sweet low hum, I’m finally able to describe the tragic end of my first year of beekeeping.

The Bee Apocalypse

July 24 about 10 a.m., we noticed a massive exodus from the hive. This wasn’t an exuberant swarm though; this was thousands of dying bees crawling from the hive like zombies.

When we approached the hive, there were already thousands dead near the entrance. When I pulled out the bottom board, piles of bees fell to the ground. Clearly, the carcasses had been blocking the bees inside from moving between the comb.

Those on the ground crawling were clearly in great pain as they twitched and hopped amid rocks and mulch. Hundreds twitched around me at any given point in a ten foot radius around the hive. Continue reading

Wax Moths: Truly Revolting Opportunists

7 Aug

Nature’s a cruel hussy.

Less than 2 weeks ago, my hive lost 95% of its inhabitants to what I now believe was a neighbor’s innocent application of Behr deck sealer. The deck sealer, when you call Behr, contains “anything that might keep insects from biting the wood.” Um, insecticides anyone? Sprayed less then 20 feet from my hive too. Four days later, the girls were piled in heaps outside the hive.

But that wasn’t nature.

Neighborhood ants and wax moths moved in nearly immediately. With sticky tape, the ants were easy to control but the wax moths? My girls have succumbed.

Bee Massacre: A Massive & Overnight Die-Off

24 Jul

And I thought that the great bee emergency was reserved for commercial beekeepers and the good folks in Baden-Württemburg

This morning — right now — my bees are dying by the thousands in great heaps under the hive in my Albuquerque backyard.

The worst part? There’s absolutely nothing I can do.

Perhaps the City sprayed yesterday for the mosquitoes that follow our annual monsoon season. Perhaps a neighbor went pesticide crazy. I’ve no idea, but just yesterday I had a full and burgeoning hive.

All I can do right now is ease their discomfort as they twitch and writhe. Maybe remove the bottom board so the few remaining bees can move freely between the comb without being encumbered by thousands of their dead sisters.

I’m disheartened right now. For my bees. For our world.

The Vanishing of the Bees

26 Jun

Vanishing of the Bees
I just learned about this powerful bit o work: The Vanishing of the Bees

The trailer includes footage from a Malaysian honey hunt described in Stephen Buchmann’s Letters from the Hive as well as interviews with beekeepers from all over the country.

To be honest, the trailer is so compelling that my sappy little Mama cortex is having a full-on emotional crisis.

Will my bees (and I) hallucinate on datura?

7 Jun

Jimsonweed/datura in my backyard

My jimsonweed is 1 day away from blooming. What will this mean for my bees?

According to some sources:

Bee nectar collection from Datura plants in Mexico and Hungary, belladonna flowers, henbane (Hyoscamus niger) plants from Hungary, Serjania lethalis from Brazil and Gelsemium sempervirens from the American Southwest can all result in toxic honey.

Should I dig up my datura?

44% of all U.S. bees died last winter

5 May

44% of all the U.S. bees died last winter. Again, doing the math, that comes to 1.1 million colonies, just shy of what’s needed for almond pollination next spring. Hmmmm….
from ‘Colony Collapse Disorder: What We’ve Learned’

In the article above, Kim Flottum, editor of Bee Culture magazine, seems to conclude Israeli Acute Paralysis Virus (IAPV) has something to do with it.

death comes to the beekeeper

3 Mar

Dead Bee, photo by Hamed SaberOne of the most generous beeks in our local community examined his hives this weekend and found tragedy.

2 entirely dead hives

It’s the sort of thing that drops your heart right through your feet, crashing like a pebble on the dirt below.

Immediately the examination of conscience begins like Sister Rose Angela in the 3rd grade quizzing you tirelessly:

Surely, you have sinned, my child.

NM Beek did the brave thing and wrote about it. For a newbeek like myself, his experience and the naked telling of it are invaluable learning opportunities. 50 lashes aside, nothing hones one’s skill like a few failures and a visit to the bee catacombs.

Besides, he’s not the only one.

[photo by Hamed Saber]