Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Critters in my hive! My new book arrives in the nick of time!

When I attended the Certified Natural Grown workshop this past Saturday, January 9th, I thought they would devote more time to dealing with bee colony pests in a more all-natural way. And I was disappointed when they didn't. They spent more time dealing with the rules for the organization than anything else. I still haven't reviewed the meeting, but I plan to soon. You can probably tell that I'm not all that enthusiastic about the program as of yet...but keep in mind that its the infancy stage and has a lot of growing to do yet. But more on that later.

The temperatures here are finally climbing back up to the moderate level. Over the next few days the daytime temperatures are expected to climb back into the 50s, so I decided to remove the corrugated plastic from under the screened bottom board so the air can circulate again. The plastic sheet had been in place since December 31st, and I decided that it wouldn't be necessary anymore with the warmer day and night temps on the way. 

When I removed the plastic, I noticed a dark dot the size of a really small garden pea. Making sure not to drop it, I went inside the garage and grabbed my magnifying glass to get a closer look. You guessed was a small hive beetle. Honestly I didn't know what it was at first, but the more I examined it (and looked at pictures on the Internet) I realized I found my first. The beetle was dead, possibly dying from the freezing cold we've had lately. I've always heard the beetles could be found inside the hive itself..but this one was between the screened bottom board and the plastic corrugated sheet I installed. That leads me to believe that it may have hatched on the underside of the stand where it is dark and out of the way of the colony itself. But its possible that it was inside the hive. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website says, "They have been shown to attack bumblebee nests in the laboratory, and have been observed to survive winters in the hive inside the bee cluster." So now I'm going to have to keep a closer eye on this situation. The last thing I want is a major invasion of these beetles in my hives. They're disgusting looking and obviously not good for the colony.   

Now remember, I put the plastic corrugated sheet in place on December 31st. So it had been in place for 13-days altogether. While I was examining the plastic sheet, I also found some dead varroa mites. How many? 67. So if the sheet had been in place for 13-days, and a total of 67 varroa mites were on the plastic, then I consider the count as rather low. I realize that some may say that my method of arriving at that conclusion may not be very scientific, that a 3-day count would be more accurate. But when you add the extra days to my count, I think a count of 67 is a low count. Still though, it looks like the first thing I will do after I split this hive in a few months is give them time to settle down, then do a thorough powdered sugar dusting.

In light of these developments, the book I ordered over the weekend, "Natural Beekeeping: Organic Approaches to Modern Apiculture" arrived from Amazon on Tuesday, and just in the nick of time it seems. Ross Conrad, the author, looks at holistic methods to keep our hives healthy and handle pests without chemicals. It is obvious that many people, like myself, prefer to steer clear of chemicals when it comes to hive health. I've heard nothing but good things about the book, and now I plan to delve into it and read some each night. I think I'll hit the small hive beetle and varroa sections first.

Enjoy your day and bee safe!


  1. I was very interested in an organic approach as well and have researched it. I took own the Natural Beekeeping book. You should have told me you wanted it I could have loanded it to you! :)

    On the yahoo organic beek list they pooh-poohed this book because in their view it wasn't purely organic, i.e., use of essential oils to kill Varroa. And in my other research I learned very quickly there there are varying opinions about what is "natural" and what isn't--sometimes rabid opinions. Quite frankly they scared me off. So I'm in an observation mode, watching, reading listening to see how the organic movement progresses. My main goal was to get through one or two years of experience with traditional beekeeping before moving to organic.
    I do like the natural idea using essential oils, which I think are natural. Maybe that's why Ross named his book Natural and didn't use the 'organic' label.

  2. So glad you got the book. In light of what I found today (read the blog) I obviously need to go back and read it again.

  3. Sorry to hear about your SHB's. Keep us updated on how you deal with them and how successful it is. I don't think we have to worry about them in my part of the country- for which I am very grateful.

  4. I want that book also, I will have to order through amazon as I have not seen it in the shops here.
    NZ doesn`t have SHB`s yet, Oz does, I hope we can keep it out for as long possible.
    I hope your weather warms up soon - autumn for us starts in March, spring for you.

  5. SHB has not made it to UK shores, and for that I'm very glad. I hear it's nasty - good luck with yours.
    I agree your varroa count is not too high, although of course it's still a worry. I'll admit to having thousands drop over a 2 week period from one of my hives after an Apiguard treatment last year. And the colony's still going strong, even with the snow on the hive.



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