Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Inspecting My Bees for the Small Hive Beetle

Sep 20 Sunday: Inspecting Bees for Small Hive Beetles

I’m inspecting hives #2 and #3 for Small Hive Beetles. These quarter inch long beetles coexist alongside the bees, exploit empty cells and eat their honey. They defecate in the open honey cells, the honey ferments and the smell drives the bees away from adding to those cells or cleaning them out. The smell can be so bad that it drives the bees out of the hive! When this happens the moth population goes unchecked, eggs hatch and within two weeks the frames of honey are in ruins. I think this all happened to me 12 years ago when I was given an old, weak hive by an old guy that had visited my garden, and the life of the hive fell apart--I also was ignorant of good hive maintenance at the time--in August.

I open the lid on the far right hive, not bad. Then the top board and see 20 scurrying around. I stab at them with my finger or my tool, just the kind of activity that disturbs the bees. I look at one frame. Two beetles. Not bad at all, in fact much better than before. Activity is good.

In the center hive, none are under the lid or on the top board, but a group of 20 are in one corner. I stab at them. The bees don’t like it and raise their humming decibels. I’m ungloved and unmasked so I need to be gentle even though I want these beetles OUT. I notice a lot more bees than there were Sep 6. Let’s see, that’s 14 days. The worker bees brood cycle requires 21 days; have so many hatched? I hadn’t seen a lot of eggs before. This is confusing, but I’m happy about the full and busy population.

I write all this down. Notekeeping is as important as the inspection itself because I can establish the patterns of the hive. It’s easy to forget.

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