Beetles in the Hive!

July 19, 2013 (Day 69) – Inspection

We’ve been crazy busy and I’ve been trying to leave the girls alone for longer periods of time rather than disrupting them on a weekly basis. They work so hard, then the big evil monster opens up their dark little world, exposing them to the bright sun, then smoking them out and digging through their home. A few friends and family always meet their maker in the process. It really has got to be like something out of a horror film. Yet, it must be done.

This past week, I noticed a change in behavior between the hives. With the nonstop heat hitting the high 90’s, I expected lots of bearding. Green Hive 1 (GH1) usually gathers a small beard on the front while Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) will form a huge beard since it has more bees and has been the more active hive. That hasn’t been the case. While GH1 has been bearding more than usual, YH2 has not been bearding at all. In fact, the number of bees that populate the front of the hive have reduced considerably.

I pulled the top covers off this morning to collect the feeders and in YH2 I noticed a Small Hive Beetle scurrying across the box. I’ve heard of these little buggers, but have never seen one before, until now. Small Hive Beetles can infest and destroy hives, and they breed and thrive in hot weather, so this is not good news.

I went up to inspect the hives in the late afternoon, after the sun had gone down. Usually you inspect hives during peak sun while bees are out and about, but it was just too darn hot and I really wanted the hubster home to assist. I opened the hives around 6pm, temps were around 90 degrees, it was still daylight and slightly overcast.

GH1

GH1 consumed all of their sugar syrup. The top box (which I will start calling Box 3 because it was the third box added) had only two center frames drawn out last time. This time, the girls had drawn out every frame and capped most of the sugar syrup. There were also a very large and growing population of bees. This earned GH1 a new box (Box 4), yay! I did notice they’ve been using lots and lots of propylus. That’s the orange gummy stuff that glues the boxes and frames together – kinda like natural weatherproofing to keep the elements out and to protect the hive. Not a bad thing, just an observation.

I moved down to box 2 and pulled one or two frames. Gorgeous capped brood from top to bottom. My job was done. This hive is noticeably strong and healthy. I’m thrilled. I closed up GH1, added a new box and a new bucket of feed, then moved on to YH2.

YH2

YH2 had not quite finished their feed. Odd considering they’re the larger hive. The top box (Box 4) was added the same time as GH1’s Box 3. Although most of the frames were drawn, the ends still weren’t finished, and none of the comb was capped, it only held some nectar.

Box 3 had lots of bees, the frames were very dark and I only saw nectar, a few drone cells, few isolated spots of capped brood, and lots of empty comb. I also noticed what appeared to be some small queen cells. I don’t worry much about those anymore. They weren’t large, and I understand the bees like to have them around. I looked and looked for the little specks of rice but saw only nectar in the dark cells.

I moved down to Box 2, which before had held nice larvae capped brood and tons of eggs. Today it looked much like Box 3. I didn’t see larvae, I couldn’t find eggs, and I only saw a few spots of capped brood. Disappointing since this was a very strong hive with lots and lots of brood production. There may be brood in Box 1, but I wasn’t going to dig any further. It was obviously things had changed for this hive. They still look heathy, active and plentiful, but not thriving like they were.

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I added an entrance excluder to reduce the size of the area they have to protect. This makes it easier for them ward off unwanted pests and critters. The girls were buzzing up a storm in front of their hive after I closed up and left.

I always have a fear of doing something to the queen when I work the hives. They’re such fragile little creatures. Powerful in their own right, but not as powerful as the monster who invades their home week after week and can so quickly change the course of their colony with one simple wrong move.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Beetles in the Hive!

  1. Paula,
    Sorry to hear YH2 is not doing so well. Beetles are likely not the problem. Healthy hives generally manage to coexist with the beetles. However, if the hive population declines due to other problems, the beetles can overwhelm the bees. A couple of thoughts on helping the bees to control the beetles:
    1) Don’t be too eager to clean up propolis. A lot of beekeepers think they need to remove propolis every time they open a hive. However, propolis is a key weapon that bees use to control hive beetles. The beetles will often scurry into a small cranny where the bees can reach them. The bees will frequent keep them in there, and close them in with propolis. (Many times, when I remove frames, I will note that there are dead beetles inside the propolis sticking the frames to the box.)
    2) Consider adding some sort of beetle trap. We use the Beetle Blaster, which is one of several different designs you can insert between a couple of frames in the box. We put one in each box, and usual between outer frames (e.g., #1 & #2, or #9 & #10, if you’re using a 10 frame configuration). There are other types available, too, including a bottom board design that a friend of ours uses, that slides under a screened bottom board. The concept is the same though: The bees chase the beetles in the hive, the beetles sees what looks like a cranny to hide in, but instead ends up drowning in the oil that is in the trap. (Be careful not so spill oil in the hive, as that will cover the air holes in the bees’ exoskeleton, suffocating them.)

    By the way, I really liked your description of the monster going in the hive. When I go in the hive, I often think the same thing: How do the bees feel about this giant, white clad creature dismantling their home, and sometimes even rearranging. Does it seem to them as though Godzilla is on the loose?

    Keep up the good work!!

    Ed

    • Awe, thank you so much Ed for leaving such a nice comment a such great information. As a new beekeeper, I can’t tell you how much I appreciate tips and advise from more experience beekeepers. I installed Beetle Blasters in the hives yesterday. My problem is a bad queen, so I’m hoping the frame of brood works and they get themselves turned around. Thanks again, and best of luck to your girls.

      Paula

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