Tag Archive | pest

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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UFOs in the Hive

June 29, 2013 – Inspection (Day 50)

The afternoon was gorgeous, warm (high 80s) with a nice breeze, bright and sunny.  I lit the smoker with pine needles. They burned easily and gave off a nice cool thick white smoke. Then I pulled out the tools and geared up.   It was 4PM, their most active time of day.  I hoped they’d be too busy to pay attention to me.

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Green Hive 1 (GH1)

The feeder was empty and I could see the chopsticks worked well, allowing room for movement beneath the pail. I opened the inner cover and saw a moth amidst the bees. Pests are never a welcome sight, although I didn’t see anything else that looked problematic.  Another item to monitor and research.

We added a third brood box last week.  Few bees were in the top box and one or two center frames contained the start of some drawn comb.  They were slow to start on the new foundation before, then within two days they’d practically drawn the lot. You just never know.  I’ll spray the frames with sugar syrup and Honey B Healthy, which will permeate the hive with minty, lemon balm aromatherapy and make those frames super tasty. That should pull them up and get them going.

I pulled a frame from the second box and low and behold, I saw eggs.  That’s right, I saw eggs!  Not a figment of my imagination.  I had to look hard, but definitely across the bottom rows.  Rice shaped white specs.  Note, I wore contacts rather than glasses and the sun was behind me.  A beautiful site indeed! I flipped the frame to find rows of fat white larvae nestled in the cells. The bees are numerous and continuing to reproduce.  Yay!  GH1is good to go!  Moving on…

Yellow Hive 2 (YH2)

YH2 was on it’s good behavior. I think the girls and I are back on good terms after last week’s incident. The feeder was completely empty. Both hives are still feeding like crazy. I pulled off the inner cover and found, setting on top of the frames, small propylis covered pebbles and a dark brown papery looking cocoon with an entrance/exit hole.  I don’t like the looks of it and wonder if it may be related to the moth I’d seen earlier in the other hive.  I’ll take both items to my bee meeting this week for show and tell in hopes of getting some answers.

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The new super we added last week is full of bees and the center 2 or 3 frames are being drawn out nicely. They’re a bit farther along than GH1’s new box.

I moved down to the top brood box and found nectar and pollen, but saw no eggs. Still very crowded with bees. I pulled the first frame from the center brood box and noticed some drone cells along the bottom. My eyes followed upward across some nice capped brood then skimmed over a big red dot. Whoa, there she was, her majesty and highness, the queen of the hive marked with an unmistakable red dot, right there looking at me as if to say “Do you mind?  I’m trying to work here”.

Enough said.  I carefully tucked her frame back into the box and closed up. My work was done – the girls are still rockin their hives.

Inspect-Move-Deter

June 21, 2013 (Day 42)

The objectives included:  Inspect GH1 for Queen, Add the Ant Deterring Additions, and Make Room for a Third Hive

For the first time, we entered the hives at dusk when the bee activity was very low.  That’s because we had to move the hives.  Temps were in the mid-80s, sun had gone down, not much breeze, just a beautiful day that turned to a beautiful evening.  Both hives were highly active around 5PM.  Our mission began around 7:30PM.

Challenge with Moving Hives

In beekeeping class, they tell you to place the hives where you plan to keep them, because moving hives is no easy feat.  When filled with bees, honey and comb, one 8-frame medium box can weigh about 40 lbs.  It has to be done in chunks and, believe me, the girls do not like to be moved around.  Bees also become easily disoriented when their hives are moved.  Even if moved only a few inches, they may have trouble finding their way home after flying out.  The rule is, anything more than 2 feet doesn’t matter.  You may as well move it 2 miles.  Of course, I’ve watched a number of YouTube videos on the subject, but since we were talking inches rather than feet, we decided to take the risk and just shift them without further measure.

We had both hives on 2 levels of cinder blocks.  Since the hives are growing in height, we decided to lower them down one level. We also decided this would be a good opportunity to move Green Hive 1 (GH1) to the left about 8 inches so we can add a third hive in the center, when that time comes.  Just for the record, I never said anything about a third hive.  That suggestion came from straight from the hubster.  Not that I haven’t been thinking it, but I wasn’t gonna say it.

Ant Deterring Additions

Ants have been a problem for several weeks now.  Every time I lift the top covers, ants scurry around the feeders and down the sides of the boxes.  Not a huge infestation, but enough to be annoying.  I also see spider mites and other creepy crawlies that are enticed by sweet sugar syrup and the smell of honey.

I’d previously posted the hive enhancements shared by members of my beekeeping association.  These enhancements consist of PVC end caps that, when filled with water or vegetable oil, form mini-moats at the base of the hives.  So unless the insects are good swimmers, they’ll likely become floaters.   Mine will be filled with water so they’re easy to fill and easy to flush out.  This will be done regularly because floaters make good stepping stones.

Thank goodness the hubster loves projects.  We made our usual 4 or 5 trips to Home Depot to get exactly what was needed for his “improved” design.  For some reason, men can never just look at another design and replicate it.  There always has to be a one-up.  This is not a complaint, just an observation.  In fact, his one-ups are pretty ingenious and have a high success rate.  He created bottom frames footed with the PVC caps and held on with heavy screws and bolts.  They’re very solid and the hives set right on top of them.

Two ant deterring frames footed with PVC caps that will be filled with water.

Two ant deterring frames footed with PVC caps that will be filled with water.

Preparing for Our Mission
I suited up, the hubster brought up the frames, and I carried up 4 quarts of sugar syrup. I started separating GH1 and realized I’d forgotten my hive tool and brush. Had to run and grab those. Hubster set two cinder blocks between the hives as a place to set the boxes. The feeder pail was completely empty. They’d gone through about 5 quarts of syrup over the last week, so they’ve been feeding like crazy.  Just before filling their buckets, the hubster asked me if I’d added the Honey B Healthy supplement ($30 a bottle!) to their feed.  I forgot AGAIN – 2nd week in a row. Ugh!

GH1 Having Queen Issues
I opened GH1 and saw a comb ladder leading to the top board.  Immediately, I ran down to the shop to get a new box and frames.  GH1 bees weren’t active. Just going about their business. I decided to inspect for the queen. I’ve been digging into this hive for over a month trying to determine whether it’s queen-right. The side frames on the top box haven’t been touched, so false alarm – no need for a third box yet. The bee population is not increasing, and may even be decreasing. I looked at every frame and saw no sign of the marked queen. Doesn’t mean there isn’t another queen in there, I just can’t find her. On a good note, there were no drone cells and no supercedure queen cells, but I didn’t see any new larvae either.  I can’t keep waiting to figure it out.  I’ve decided to purchase a new marked and mated queen and solicit help from someone in my bee club who can identify and remove the existing queen, if there is one.

Adding the Ant Deterrents

We moved GH1 in two chunks to the temporary holding place.  Hubster removed the original top blocks, shifted the bottom blocks 8 inches outward and leveled them.  We added the PVC frame and positioned the bottom board over the frame.  Perfect fit!   Just in time, since GH1 was starting to get irritable.  I assembled the rest of the hive and moved on to Yellow Hive 2 (YH2).

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

Hubster repositions and levels GH1 base and adds ant deterring frame.

On to YH2

Unlike GH1, YH2 is growing like crazy and the girls are much more irritable and active.  We moved quickly on this one, no inspections.  I transferred the bee-filled boxes, the hubster aligned and leveled the blocks and added the frame, then I started to reassemble.  The girls were getting angrier.  That’s when the smoker burned out.  Hubster made an emergency run to reignite the smoker.  I was left with angry, darting bees.  Even in full gear, I worked faster and faster.  I decided not to wait for the smoker and just slid the boxes back on, taking down a few casualties in the process.  Hubster returned with an active smoker and a few choice words, but the deed was done.

Bees do not like it when other bees are killed.  Communication in the hive is instantaneous, which is why smoke is so important to keep them settled.  The sides of YH2 were lined with bees trying to inspect the damage and clean bee parts that extruded from between the boxes.  It’s what they do, clean house, remove the dead, protect the hive.  Oh, the guilt!

End Result

I visited the hives this morning.  Both are active and GH1 bees are flying in and out of the right hive.  Good news.  The PVC caps are filled with water, ready to foil any hive robbery attempts by the ants and creepy crawlers.  I’ve determined my next action for fixing GH1’s queen issues.  And I’ve decided to install a white board checklist in the greenhouse, to be reviewed before each inspection…because lack of preparation is unacceptable.

It wasn’t pretty, but mission accomplished.

PVC caps filled with water.

PVC caps filled with water.