I've gotten a couple notes that some readers are grossed out by bees and by other bugs. FYI, this post is certainly not for you. We have other bugs in this post, and one photo is slightly gross.
This post is the combination of two days of beeing. Mr. Neil is leaving for a while and I wanted to make sure he got a bee experience before he left. Unsure of what his packing schedule would be, I came out the night before he was to leave so I could be up early and ready to beekeep at a moment's notice. When I arrived, I met up with a woman who is assessing the surrounding woods and will help come up with a plan to get rid of some non native plants and managing the woods for native plants, bees, and wildlife. She mentioned that the bees were very active and loud, crowding at the entrances of their hives.
I zipped up my bee suit and stoked the smoker to go see what was happening. Olga bees were all over and swarming out of the hive. When I was about 50 feet away, you could hear the buzzing--usually you can't. From that angle, when you first approach the hives you can see the bee super highway as they head up over the tops of the trees on their way to look for nectar and pollen. There was a pretty steady stream of bees coming and going. I don' think it was swarming, I think it was four days of constant rain--they wanted out and wanted to gather winter stores. I didn't open the hives, but just took some time to sit at the entrance of each hive and watch the bees coming and going.
The Kitty bees were coming back loaded with pollen of various colors. Note that almost every bee in the above photo is loaded with pollen--I love the neon yellow stuff. Goldenrod is blooming all over, so my guess is they are using that.
Now, look at this one. In the middle is a bee with the neon yellow pollen. But, look in the bottom right hand corner. That bee has pollen that is snow white--where are they getting white pollen? Wish I knew my plants better.
When I came to the Kitty hive, there were some grasshoppers (sometimes called by locusts) hanging out. There are always some on one of the hives and I always wonder what the appeal is. Do they like the buzzing? These appear to be two different species. I've been trying to id them with the Kaufman's Field Guide to Insects of North America. I think it might be a two-striped mermiria but am willing to listen to anyone who knows otherwise.
When I went over to the Olga hive...I didn't find any life grasshoppers. Apparently, Olga has a lower tolerance for these guys hanging around their hive. This is a dead Carolina grasshopper. When they jump/fly they resemble a mourning cloak butterfly with dark wings and a light stripe. I found this species in my Songs of Insects book (I love this book. Not only does it a beautiful picture book, but i comes with a CD that identifies the buzzy insect songs of late summer early fall--I'm paying way more attention to the number of species I'm hearing now. Sometimes I just let it loop on my iPod while I'm writing, it's great background noise).
One of the really cool things of just hanging outside of the hive was that I noticed some things I had never seen before. The dead grasshopper got my attention, and then I noticed a worker from the Olga hive dragging out another dead worker bee. She was trying to fly it away far from the hive--this is part of they hygienic behavior my bees are bred for. Here's a video of it:
This helps keep the hive clean and healthy. I wondered if the workers had been putting some of this off because of the rain or if I'd never just had a chance to sit and watch them come and go from the inside of the hive. of just I noticed something interesting. I scanned the ground just outside the entrance and found a few lethargic drones and workers. Then I found this:
This is a solitary wasp called a beewolf (some books lump it as one word, some make it two separate words) and it's attacking one of my workers. I wondered if this is a lethargic, dying worker and not one of the stronger ones. They paralyze other stinging insects and take them back as prey for their larvae. You can read more about them here.
The next day Mr. Neil and I went out to check what was going on inside the hives. It was very much the same as last week. Again, I think it's because the workers haven't had a real chance to forage and draw out more comb and produce honey. I'm not too worried about Olga, but I'm going to need to give food to Kitty if she's going to have enough food to supply the colony for the winter.
We tried putting the queen excluder in last week and I think I'm done with them. The queen excluder is supposed to prevent the larger queen from going up into your honey supers to lay eggs. However, it's very obvious that workers are having a tough time passing through the bars too. This poor girl was so wedged, I had to push her out. The beekeeping community seems to be divided on the queen excluder, but myself, I'm done with them. My other option is to do what's called a reversal--which we did do and is kind of a mess, but it's better than watching a bunch of workers stuck in a metal frame.
When we opened the Olga hive, about nine moths flew out from just under the roof. One landed on my hood. One concern you have with beekeeping are wax moths (you know the wax worms you get for fishing or sometimes to feed birds--the larvae can wreak havoc on a beehive). The larvae will eat the beeswax and make cocoons in the frames, generally making a dusty, webby mess. This moth doesn't look like a wax moth to me, I think this was more some other type of moth and they were trying to keep out of the rain. Either way, Olga is a nice strong colony and a strong, healthy colony can keep wax moths out.