Tag Archive | manage

DIY Powdered Sugar for Sugar Rolls

September 13, 2015

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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.

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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.

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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…

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BooBee December Update

December 13, 2014, Saturday

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Between work and the holidays, my free time has disappeared, and so I’m playing catchup on my bee journal.

The weather changes every few days around here – 60’s and sunny one day, then below 30’s and bitter cold.  I don’t mind that because the girls get opportunities to get out and about and I can check on their statuses.  I confess that during the winter I never quite know what’s going on, and I’m never an optimist.  Anything can happen at any time.

Possible Issues with Purple Hive

Everyone is still flying about during warm spurts, but I have noticed that Purple Hive has a lot more dead bees coming out of the hive than the others, and Mint Hive doesn’t appear to have much activity at all.  When I lift the lids, I see bees in all hives but Purple Hive.  That doesn’t necessarily mean they’re dying out because they may be toward the bottom staying warm.  Candy has been consumed and they are cleaning house regularly, so there is activity.  I just have to sit back and hope for the best until the weather turns warm enough to warrant further investigation.

Winter Prep

I hadn’t shown off our winter wind breakers this year.  Last year’s wind breakers were very effective, but a bit tedious to put up and maintain.  This year we went with a simpler approach.  My husband owns a large format printing business, which means he has access to coroplast and metal frames that stick in the ground.  He used thick 1/2 inch 4 ft x 6 ft sheets of coroplast to form a barrier around the outside of the hives.  This creates an easy, inexpensive and effective wind breaker.

I don’t wrap hives, mainly because I believe that hives need to breath and that wrapping prevents that, causing ventilation issues.  If we lived in Canada or Vermont, then yes, I would probably wrap.  But with our warmer climate, although we have cold spurts and snow, I don’t think it warrants wrapping.  Wind breakers help tremendously for keeping out the cold and they’re much easier to work around.

Bees can manage in the cold – moisture is a bigger problem.

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Candy Making Party

I mentioned that they’re eating candy.  In November our bee club had our annual Candy Making Party.  I love the candy making party.  Always a fun time to get better acquainted with other beekeepers, ask questions and learn.  Click here to check out our candy recipe.   The bees seem to enjoy the candy and since the party, I’ve already replenished their supply.  Some feel that candy is for emergency feeding.  True, but I don’t think it hurts to keep it in the hives during the winter to ensure they always have food.  If they don’t need it, they won’t eat it, it’s a simple as that.  I supplemented with candy all winter last year and had two very healthy hives come through with flying colors.

One lesson I learned is NOT to cover the top of the frames with candy because this inhibits ventilation.  This year I placed the candy across the front third of the hive on the side where the morning sun first hits.   This helps soften the candy and allows plenty of room for air to circulate.

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So there you have a two month update in a nutshell.  Bees, winterization and candy…oh my!  Hope everyone’s girls are hanging in there through this cold and blustery time of year.  Expect the worst and hope for the best…that’s my motto!

I am looking forward to the quiet time to catch up on indoor activities like reading up on my strategies for the coming year, cleaning equipment, and making homemade lotions and potions.  Stay tuned for fun recipes and how to’s.

Best wishes from all of the BooBees at BooBee Honey for a bee-utiful, happy holiday season!!!  

Sticky Board Reveals All

July 25-28, 2013 (Days 76-79)  – Pollen Patties and Sticky Board Inspection

After disappointment the week prior, I got back in and gave the girls some pollen patties.  They need some protein since the pollen sources have died off.  I really should have been digging for the queen in YH2, since she is, or was, the likely source of my problems. Instead I took note of a half dozen more beetles and started my research on how to get rid of them before they get really bad.

Sticky Board Inspection

I decided to place sticky boards at the bottom of the hive for three days to help monitor my pest issues.  I lined the boards with a thick layer of Crisco – because beetles supposedly love Crisco.

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The sticky board method is really used to determine the mite populations in the hives. I insert the boards into the back slot on the hives, beneath the screened bottom board. The bees can’t get through the screen, so the boards only catch mites and small parasites, pollen, bee poo (yes, bees do poo), and other savory items. The mites fall off the bees and stick to the board. Three days later, I remove the board and count the mites.

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When I removed the boards, I found pollen, one dead bee, not too many mites, one small hive beetle (still kicking), one unexpected wax moth larvae (not good), and lots of small black crumbs, which based on my research may be wax moth poo (yes, even moths poo). I can’t look at these boards without thinking about the hungarian tea leaves and how the fortune tellers can read the leaves to tell a person’s fortune. I suppose you can “read” the boards and determine the bees’ fortune.

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So I’m at a point w/ YH2 where I have a failing or dead queen, I have hive beetles to deal with, and I have wax moths.  Did I mention I won a $250 Amazon gift card at a recent business conference?  I’m spending a good chunk of it on bee pollen and organic pesticides – seriously.  There’s not much you can’t buy on Amazon.

Dealing w/ the Beetles and Moths

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to trade the girls in.  They just challenge me, that’s all. But I’ve done my research and I am ready to take action.  I ordered boric acid to create homemade beetle traps.  But after speaking with my supplier, he said they probably won’t work, so I’m looking at putting in a few beetle blasters and a tray that fits beneath the bottom board.  Just add vegetable oil and some soap, and the tray just slides in and out without digging into the hive.  Supposedly they’re very effective.

The moths, well everyone talks online about BT, an organic insecticide that kills worms but is safe for bees and people and dogs.  Unfortunately it isn’t sold in the US.  I could probably get some, but it would cost $30 just for shipping.

Course of Action

Seems the best course is the make the hive strong again. It still has lots of bees. They just need a strong laying queen. My tasks this weekend are 1) find the queen, 2) if no queen, then transfer a brood frame from GH1 to YH2 so they can start making a new queen, 3) remove a box from YH2 to condense the colony and make them stronger to defend themselves from the beetles and moths, and 4) buy 2 hive beetle traps for the bottom boards and some beetle blasters.

Hey, usually I’m stumped so at least I have a plan. Hopefully the plan will help strengthen YH2 and get them going again.