Tragedy in the Beeyard

This is probably a clickbait title. This title should probably  be reserved for bears ripping open hives or death-by-bees. But it was devastating to me and I write the titles so THERE.

I’ve been meaning to go into the hives and check to see if they need more empty bars. The weather turned rainy so I hadn’t gotten a chance but today when we returned home from church IT WAS MAYHEM out back. I couldn’t tell if the whole world was robbing my hives or if just, EVERYONE had hatched and shoved the next batch out to do their orientation flights, or WHAT. So, I had Devin suit up and we opened up the hives.

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It’s impossible for the camera to capture how many bees were flying. But also there were about five ON the camera at this time soooo

Devin is not super comfortable with bees. That’s too gracious. Devin is 95% terrified of bees but he loves me VERY MUCH. But still, considering how ACTIVE and NUMEROUS the bees were, this was a major test of love.

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This is where Devin feels comfortable. Well, actually, even this is probably “too close for comfort.”

The smoker WOULD. NOT. START. which I should’ve just given up because I basically didn’t use it anyway. Ah well. Practice.

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Devin, being my BELLOWING MAN, giving the smoker oxygen.

I opened up the hives, with fuzzy (at best) goals. See if they need more bars. See if there is obvious robbing. See if there are even food stores to ROB? See if there are drone brood, maybe pop one open to look for varroa mites.

Varroa mites. I meant to write a blog post about them but I thought “I have time.” In short, they are probably The Biggest Nemesis. (There are many but this one is winning.) The short version is, they’re like the ticks of bees, if ticks were half the size of our face. Think headcrab. But on bees.

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This poor bee has three visible.

Like ticks, varroa mites (also called varroa destructors) carry a plethora of Bad Things. Bad Things like viruses which cause bees to hatch with deformed wings as one tiny example. Needless to say, they can wreak havoc and double their population in one month.

I’m scared of varroa. I don’t want to treat, but I don’t want my bees (my very expensive and loved bees) to die. I am still formulating what methodology I want to adopt in dealing with that type of issue.

Which is why it was devastating when today I watched one of the brood bees drag a pupae body out of the hive and see a varroa mite scrambling to get back in after clearly having laid an egg with that pupae causing it to get tossed out.

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Removed pupae.

I had a lot of feelings. One of those stomach dropping, assume my hives are basically all dead, I killed my bees feelings. I don’t like it. My more reasonable side says, “Hey now shhhhhh. They aren’t dead YET. Yes, you found a bomb in the hive, you don’t know how to diffuse it, BUT you have probably enough time to read some bomb manuals and TRY to diffuse it!” Thanks, reasonable me. I feel sooooo much better.

So now, I have to figure out what to do. Oh, and bonus points because also the “tree hive” had TONS of water in it again??? HOW??? WHY??? I checked the roof and it’s not a leak. Unless it’s coming in through the sides or something, or just bee-living condensation, I don’t get it. I also DON’T KNOW WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT.

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I AM SO DISPLEASED

In lieu of not knowing what to do about THAT EITHER, I scattered a few pine pellets in the bottom so at least it’d be getting soaked up by something. Seriously, what a crap day.

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WHY, WATER? ALSO, HOW?

With regards to my goals, I think I identified some drone brood. Of course, now that I know THERE ARE MITES (though other hive), this is NOT GOOD.

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I believe the drone brood are those raised caps there in the middle. A lot of those are empty too or uncapped, so probably that hive has varroa as well. I HATE EVERYTHING.

All and all, a crap day in the bee yard and a lot of problems to solve. SIGH.

I did manage to take a bad selfie though, sooooo

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One of the new bars of comb! They’re up to 12 now.

 

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7 thoughts on “Tragedy in the Beeyard

    • It has got to be either condensation or leftover moisture from the feeders, that’s all I can figure. Or, I guess, coming in through cracks? But the top of the bars are dry and the underside of the roof is too. VERY BAFFLING. I’ve been having one of the middle entrances open during the day so hoping it’ll be mostly dried out when I go in this weekend.

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      • Wait, I’ve seen this problem before. There is a bug in the collision part of the physics code and it is letting raindrops pass right through the roof’s collision shape. Or else the winding of one of the polygons that makes up the roof of the hive is in the wrong order.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. The good news is that in dragging out the pupa your bees are displaying some hygienic behavior that should help slow down mite reproduction. They will still likely need help. No one wants to treat but it is cruel to just let the colony die and become a varroa bomb to infect neighboring hives. Besides the treatments are not as scary as the original nasty miticides.

    https://pollinators.msu.edu/resources/beekeepers/planning-for-varroa/

    The first thing would be to quantify your mite levels. Buy or put together a sugar roll kit and take some measurements.

    https://theprospectofbees.wordpress.com/2016/07/06/pour-some-sugar-on-bees/

    If the levels are high enough (more than 3 mites per hundred bees) then treat. We suggest mite-away quick strips (formic acid). Since the top bars form a solid ceiling unlike in a Lang hive, we spread them apart a bit so the vapors can drift down through the spaces into the hive. The bees eventually propolyze things shut but we just scrape it away should we need to treat again.

    Good luck. Many a colony has died in our care and we well empathize with the sick-to-stomach feeling.

    Liked by 2 people

      • Happy to be helpful. Just some more comments.

        1. The video guy seemed to eyeball his half a cup of bees into the jar. For accuracy everyone else we know uses an actual half-cup scoop which is then poured into the jar.
        2. It can be hard to see mites under the sugar. If you dump them into a white or light-colored tub rather than onto a sheet of cardboard then you can add water to dissolve the sugar and make it much easier to count the mites.
        3. Do not forget to wait the few minutes between rolling to coat the bees and shaking to dump the mites. It is during that period that the mites fall off. Otherwise you can underestimate the mite load.
        4. #8 screen can be hard to find for some reason.
        5. We highly recommend buying the mite kit linked to in our post. Of course that probably would not arrive for a while.
        6. Good luck!

        Liked by 1 person

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