Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Bees Update

I got lucky and was able to replace the Italian bees that took off last Thursday.  It's good to be in contact with the local beekeeper's club.  I went to the monthly meeting the same day I discovered my bees had gone and pressed the flesh, did my pitiful but earnest new beekeeper routine, and begged for leads to packages or nucs.  On Saturday I got an email about a beekeeper who had some customers back out of an agreed upon sale of nucs.  They were Italian bees with new queens, and only about an hour away.  We were there Sunday afternoon to pick up our new bees.

Foligno (my Italian hive, nearer one in the picture above) looks a bit different now, since the colony was sold in a medium super with a full complement of comb and some brood.  We kept them in the garage overnight since it was going to be so cold.  We wanted to give the smaller colony a break with keeping their brood warm enough to survive.  It was a snap to "install" them Monday morning and top off their feeder.  They did their orientation flights as soon as it warmed up.  That's what bees do when you move them: they map the world by flying out of the hive and turning to look back at their home, gradually flying farther and farther away as they familiarize themselves with the landscape.  By Monday evening, we saw foragers returning to the hive with their pollen baskets nice and full.

While we were suited up, we checked on Izhevsk, the Russian colony we started this year as well.  They look great, even if they are drawing comb directly inside the frame feeder.  We didn't see the queen, or take out more than one frame, but there is a good deal of comb being drawn and we saw some pollen stored there.  It's a very active colony that looks promising.

I found it interesting that both Izhevsk and (the original) Foligno kicked a bunch of drones out just after the packages were installed.  Drones, the male bees, are total freeloaders.  They contribute nothing whatsoever to their home colony.  A newly installed package of bees has plenty room but no time or energy to spare.  Drones won't even help themselves to food within the hive; they beg food from the (female) workers.  Looks like when push comes to shove, it's the drones that get the boot.  There were many of them dead in front of the hive in the first few days after installation.  I can only speculate, but it seems there's a lesson in there somewhere.

For the record, the trick of painting cinder blocks with used motor oil to keep black ants away doesn't work.  Maybe a full on dunking or soaking would be more effective, but the thin coating of oil we put on the blocks has almost disappeared from the top course.  I think the oil is redistributing itself within the material of the block.  I found a few ants on each of the hives yesterday.  I do think the oil is effective to limit wicking of moisture from the ground though.


el said...

Glad to hear the new colony seems to be settling in.

I have had bad problems with sowbugs (pillbugs) eating seedings in my greenhouse and I got turned on to Tanglefoot, which is used by the orcharding industry to keep bugs from sucking on new grafts of wood. It might help you with your ant issue. It's just basically really sticky stuff. I got my tub (enough to last me a while) for around $10 locally but I know you should be able to find it online too.

Rachel said...

I second tanglefoot. If you get it on you, I've found that you can get it off by rubbing olive oil (or any other oil) on it and then washing up with soap.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you got a new colony so quickly. Fingers crossed...

Christy said...

glad to hear your new colony is doing well and you are enjoying the bees. we got ours last year and they have been fascinating to watch. i read somewhere also that if workers don't return with enough pollen/nectar they get refused entrance to the hive and have to go back out again - a lesson in there too!

Kate said...

El, and Rachel, thanks for the suggestion on Tanglefoot. I'll have a look for it.

Thanks, Hazel. I need all the crossed fingers I can get at the moment.

Christy, interesting. I hadn't heard that about foragers. I am enjoying the bees, but their (recent) escapades have rather frazzled me. Hoping it gets better.

MMc said...

Thanks for your post on bee keeping! We are interested in it ourselves, and I am learning as you go! Please keep updating! Great Blog! :)


Kate said...

Thanks, Margie. Never fear. I will keep posting about the bees, so long as they survive our ineptness as beekeepers.