Saturday, June 12, 2010

Bee Hive Observations

Mike Worthy noticed that the queen bee reached inside each cell and measured its diameter with her front legs and then turned around and laid an egg. Tod Underhill found a drone bee with a mutation: white eyes. He also found some parasitic Varroa mites on several adult honey bees. These observations were made inside the hives; however, much can be revealed by carefully watching the outside of the hives. As beekeepers approach the hives, we look at the ground in front of the hive. Are there large numbers of dead bees on the ground? A few dozen is quite ordinary, as there typically are one hundred bees dying inside the hive every day. A thousand dead bees may mean that the bees have been exposed to insecticides. Are there bees crawling along the ground? They may tell us that there is a problem in the hives. Do the bees have their wings separated in a K shape? Are there any bees with deformed wings? Each condition can indicate bee hive diseases. Can we see parasitic Varroa mites on any of the drone bees? Conditions and activity at the hive landing boards can be quite revealing. A greasy landing board often means a queen-less hive is being robbed by foreign bees. Scratches on the front of a hive usually mean a skunk is attacking the hive at night. Bees harassed all night by skunks often sting their beekeepers all day! White-colored “mummies” of bee brood on the landing board usually means a hive has some chalkbrood, a fungal disease. Is there excessive fighting on the landing board, or are the guard bees merely checking incoming bees?

Opening the hive we get to employ each of our senses. First, how do the bees sound? Are they humming gently or do they “buzz up” loudly? How does the bee activity appear? Do we see calm bees? Do we feel stinging bees? What odors do you detect in the hive? Soon we’ll taste the honey.

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