Tag Archive | control

DIY Powdered Sugar for Sugar Rolls

September 13, 2015

IMG_3391

Sugar rolls sound more like a sweet breakfast treat rather than a mite preventative for bees. I’ve said time and again that I will not treat for mites, at least not with chemicals. I did it once, never again. But I’m not against using natural, organic practices, like sugar rolls, or fogging with mineral oil. I don’t have a garden fogger yet (note to hubster…it’s on my Amazon holiday wishlist!), but I do have plenty of sugar, so I decided to attempt my first sugar rolls to help manage/reduce mites in the hives.

What’s a Sugar Roll?

Sugar rolls are a very common, natural, chemical free mite management method used by many, many beekeepers. I question whether there’s any real scientific evidence to prove its effectiveness, but then again, a million flies can’t be wrong. There’s a reason so many beekeepers do it.

IMG_3392

The process involves shaking a thick layer of powdered sugar across the top frames of each box (1 cup per deep box. 1/2 to 2/3 cup per medium box), then lightly brushing back and forth across the tops of the frames to push the sugar down between the frames (this is the “roll”), covering the bees in sugar.

This does two things…

  • The sugar creates a slippery surface on the bees that will cause the mites to lose their grip and fall down out of the hive through the screened bottom board; and
  • The bees clean themselves and each other profusely, consuming the sugar, picking off the mites and dropping them out of the hive though the screened bottom board.

Sugar rolls don’t destroy the mite populations like chemicals do, but when performed on a scheduled basis (e.g. every month or two), they help keep the mite populations manageable by the bees and the beekeeper. No harm comes to the bees…they like sugar. Just bee gentle with brush when rolling. Also use a shaker that distributes the sugar lightly and evenly. I have a Pampered Chef sugar shaker that holds about 1 cup of sugar and works bee-utifully. I had the large container of powdered sugar open and handy as I worked, and I just reloaded my shaker between boxes.

Pure Homemade Powdered Sugar, Minus the Cornstarch

The hardest part was finding powdered sugar that doesn’t contain cornstarch. Cornstarch is bad for the bees, and I quickly discovered that virtually every bag of powdered sugar sold in stores contains cornstarch…even the more expensive Dominos brand. So I decided to make my own powdered sugar.

Nothing but the best for my bees – pure, homemade powdered sugar is actually super easy to make in a really good blender. We have a Ninja blender, which includes the smaller shake containers that attach directly onto the blender. I found that the large blender container didn’t work so well at pulverizing the sugar into powder, but the small containers and processors works great!

I added about ¾ cups of granulated sugar to each shake container and blended for about 30-45 seconds, til I could see the sugar change in consistency – it becomes more condensed and powdery in the blender.

IMG_3386

 

IMG_3387

Voila…powdered sugar, minus the cornstarch. Save leftovers in airtight containers for future sugar rolls or, dare I say it….holiday baking.   So long summer, hello fall…

Advertisements

Blasting the Beetles

August 4, 2013 (Day 86) – Installing Beetle Blasters

I drove to my bee supplier and bought 10 Beetle Blasters.  Beetle Blasters are small plastic wells that sit between the frames and are intended to trap small hive beetles.  Fill them half way with oil and when the bees chase the beetles around the hive, the beetles will jump into the traps to seek refuge from the bees.  This is an effective, safe alternative to chemical treatments.  However, ask a question to 10 different beekeepers and you’ll get 10 different answers – this certainly applies to the how to’s of using the Beetle Blaster.  Below are some Beetle Blaster how to’s that I gathered during my research…

One time or multiple uses:

  • Beetle Blasters are meant for one time use, however, my supplier said he carefully cleans his out and reuses them.  I’m cheap, so I will attempt to reuse.

How many to use:

  • Some say put one or two traps in each box, depending on severity of the infestation.   I find this method to be very invasive.  Especially if the traps in each box are changed every 7-10 days.
  • Some will place up to 4 just in the top box, because most of the beetles reside up top.
  • My bee supplier uses two in the top box of all of his hives.  Again, this is because most beetles reside in the top of the hive.
  • Again, I’m cheap.  I’ll start with one in GH1 because I haven’t seen any beetles in that hive, and two in YH2 since it has more beetles.  I’ll increase if needed.

What to use for filling the traps:

  • Vegetable oil is most popular.  Hive beetles are supposedly fond of Crisco (the oil, not the shortening).  It has been suggested that bees will clog the holes with propylus when using vegetable oil.
  • Mineral oil is safe and supposedly effective.  It was also suggested that bees do not clog the holes with propylus so much when using mineral oil.
  • Some people use motor oil.  Sure it probably works, but why would you put that in your hive?
  • My bee supplier suggested vegetable oil with a top layer of dish detergent to allow the beetles to sink to the bottom.  This enables the trap to hold more beetles and also prevents floaters from acting as stepping stones for the newly trapped victims.
Fill half way with vegetable or mineral oil and top off with dish detergent. This breaks the surface and allows the trapped beetles to sink to the bottom.

Fill half way with vegetable or mineral oil and top off with dish detergent. This breaks the surface and allows the trapped beetles to sink to the bottom, so the trap can hold more beetles.

How to fill the traps:

  • The easiest way I found to fill them is with an empty syringe.    The traps easily hang across a 9- inch bread baking pan.  I lined up 4 traps across the baking pan, used the syringe to fill them halfway with vegetable oil, then topped off the oil with a thin layer of liquid dish soap.
4 beetle blasters are easily filled and transported while sitting across the top of a 9 inch bread baking pan.

4 beetle blasters are easily filled and transported while sitting across the top of a 9 inch bread baking pan.

How to install:

  • I just lifted off the top of the hives, smoked the bees down (because they’re very curious creatures) and inserted the traps easily between the frames.
Placing the Beetle Blaster between the two end frames.

Placing the Beetle Blaster between the two end frames.

Positioning:

  • If using one, then between the first two or last two frame toward the back of the hive.
  • If using two, then place between the first two and the last two frames, one positioned toward the front and one positioned toward the back.
In place and ready to start blasting some beetles.

In place and ready to start blasting some beetles.

Now we just hurry up and wait.  I’ll check them again next weekend.  Of course, I open the hive to insert the traps and did not see one single beetle the entire time.  I hope they’re in dark little corners shaking with fear.

In the meantime, I pulled the homemade CD traps.  Not one single beetle entered those traps.  But as soon as I set them down, the ants raced right into them.  So great for trapping ants, not so great for trapping beetles.   At least mine didn’t work so well.

I’d love to hear how other beekeepers manage their beetle and pest problems.  Do you have any thoughts on using the Beetle Blaster or other beetle and pest management methods?

YH2 Gets a Brood Transplant

August 2, 2013 (Day 84)

Battling Beetles and Helping Yellow Hive Requeen

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2) is still having problems. Based on the last inspection, the hive has Small Hive Beetles and the comb is empty and without brood. I also found a wax moth larvae. All serious issues if not dealt with right away.

The Plan of Attack

The best defense for any hive against pests is a strong colony. Granted, YH2 has not been as active, but it still has ALOT of bees, and they are still guarding their hive. After speaking with my bee supplier, he suggested I reduce the size of YH2 from 4 boxes to 3 boxes. This condenses the colony so they have more bees and less space to cover for fighting off the beetles and pests.

Beetle pic

His other suggestion, besides using a hive beetle trap inside the hive, was to take a frame of brood from GH1 and put it into YH2. This would give the YH2 girls a good foundation for breeding a new queen.

Making Pollen Patties

I also started feeding the girls pollen patties since they’re not bringing in pollen and they really need the protein. I had ordered a bucket of BeePro pollen substitute, mixed it with sugar syrup and HoneyBHealthy, and rolled out my own homemade pollen patties. The girls have taken to them well. I posted this tutorial on SnapGuide, so go check it out!

Check out How to How to Make Pollen Patties for Bees by Paula P on Snapguide.

Two Homemade Pollen Patties

Beezilla Returns

Inspections are one thing, but this time I really had to know exactly what to do and how to do it BEFORE going in. I entered YH1 first, removed all the boxes down to Box 1. I looked through box 1 to verify there indeed was no brood. And I couldn’t find a queen, and no brood means either she’s died or she’s not in good laying order. So that meant leaving YH2 open while digging into GH1 for a frame of brood. GH1 has been doing outstanding, so they could afford to help YH2 out. I removed a center frame from YH2’s bottom box, shook off the bees and set it aside.

Helpful Tip Using Pillow Cases or Landscaping Fabric

I don’t like just leaving the boxes open like that. The bees operate in a dark hive and don’t care for the sunlight, plus they fly around like crazy wondering what’s going on. A fellow Maryland beekeeper and blogger, Suburban Rancher, suggested overlaying open boxes with pillow cases. A brilliant idea, except I didn’t bring any pillow cases with me to the apiary, and I don’t know that I have any on hand anyway. Then I remembered I had some black landscaping fabric. I pulled it out of the greenhouse and laid it over YH2 and it worked like a charm. It’s lightweight, keeps the bright light out, and the bees were more settled and not flying around everywhere.

Stealing Brood

I opened GH1 and removed a beautiful frame of capped brood, verified the queen was not on it, then shook the bees off and back into the box. I replaced that frame with another drawn out frame from an upper GH1 box, and replaced the upper frame with a brand new frame.

Capped Brood from GH1

Capped Brood from GH1

GH1 received a nice pollen patty as a reward for their donation, then I closed them up and grabbed their empty feeder bucket for a refill. GH1 goes through a lot of sugar syrup! I also did not see any beetles in their hive. A testament to a strong hive’s ability to fight off their foes.

IMG_3281


YH2 Gets a Brood Transplant

I placed the capped brood frame into YH2 and placed a pollen patty over the top bars of the brood area. The last pollen patty was completely consumed so I was hoping this one would be just as popular. Protein aids in brood production. In this case, I hoped it would aid in queen production.

Beetles were emerging left and right. I smooshed as many as I could. I’m sure a few will go for the pollen patty. I closed up the hive, with the exception of box 4 (the top box). I shook the bees from box 4 into the hive and left YH2 with only 3 boxes. I wrapped box 4 with kitchen trash bags and happily discovered that the entire box and frames fit comfortably in the bottom of my freezer. Freezing will kill any unwanted pests and bacteria and then I can figure out how to store it for later.

I also inserted two homemade hive beetle traps made with CD cases and some boric acid bait into the hive entrances. The bees chase the beetles around, and hopefully the beetles will seek refuge in the bait filled CD case. This is an experiment so we shall see if they work. I’ll still be picking up some Beetle Blaster this weekend.

YH2 only ate half their sugar syrup. I refilled it anyway. Now we just wait and see if YH2 can requeen and make a total recovery. Fingers crossed.