Archive for August, 2007

Other bugs around the hives

August 26, 2007

I mentioned previously finding a rather large spider under the roof of one of my hives. Its not uncommon to find spirders, just that that one was pretty big and unusual. Normally, I see a couple spiders, but they are almost always the same type. I decided to try and take a picture of them (sorry, the focus is not always great – I need a camera with a macro setting).

The spiders range in size. Most interesting is they way they crouch in corners. They crouch with their legs together in sets of two (the first picture). I’m not sure my picture does it justice, but they always remind me of a cricket more than a spider when they are crouched like that. They will just stay like that unless I get them to move with a twig. I always let them go on the ground a little way from the hives, but there are always more when I come back the next time.

I also had a run in with a butterfly while checking a hive. It landed on the hive, then happily climbed on my finger and hung out for a little while. There are lots of butterflies around because the owner of the land where I keep the hives has a wonderful variety of flowering plants (including butterfly bush).

I most commonly see two types of butterflies. One is the type pictured above. I decided to try to take some pictures of the other main type I see too.

If anyone know anything about any of these (spiders or butterflies), I’d be interested in it.

Bees in a drought

August 26, 2007

Well, even with some record heat and a good drought, the bees are still hanging on here in there. Both hives still appear strong, but have all but halted brood rearing I think. The last time I did a full check, the was some brood but almost no honey stores. I haven’t done a full inspection since then, but yesterday I did pull out a few combs to check.

One of the first things I always look at when I get to the hives is the front entrance. Its interesting to see what the bees are doing there and watch them work. Sometimes there are lots of bees hanging out there, sometimes just a few. Interestingly, hive #2 almost always has more outside on the front of the hive. A week ago, there was probably the largest number I have seen hanging out on hive #2. In adition to the face, they were also covering the underside of the roof overhang and getting into the “attic”.

Sometimes they are washboarding, sometimes not. Before I do anything else, I always just watch for a few minutes at each hive to see what I can observe. I always feel good seeing bees coming and going. Even now in a drought, I can still see bees coming in loaded with pollen (orange and yellow). I obviously can’t see if there are bees coming in with nectar, but I assume some are since I see a good number coming and going (they are probably also bringing in water due to the heat). Here are what the entrances looked like yesterday. (hive #1 on the right, #2 on the left)

Since they were so low on stores, I have been giving them sugar syrup each week when I go out to check on them (usually every weekend). I make 1×1 syrup using 6 cups of sugar and 6 cups of water. I’m not sure of the exact volume that makes, but I split it between the two hives. Its always gone when I come back a week later. When I checked back on a Wed. on week, it was gone then too. They are obviously taking it pretty fast. I was just hoping that it was at least covering their energy needs for the week. When I pulled a few combs from hive #1 yesterday, it does appear that they are storing some. This means that even though they are taking the syrup quickly, they are storing it and it is at least lasting until I get back the following week. Here is a picture that shows some syrup in the comb (you can see the wet reflective look). I was also able to see the queen (I just got lucky she was on one of the combs I pulled).

I’m happy to know that they aren’t starving. They will definitely need much more stores before winter, but I’m hoping we get some rain here at some point and maybe get a fall nectar flow (there is some goldenrod blooming now). If we don’t get any good flows, I’ll have to feed them to build up winter stores before winter (I think what I am doing now is more like subsistence feeding).

Bees and Spiders

August 12, 2007

I went to check on my hives, but forgot an important tool … my camera.  I hate it when I see interesting things and have forgotten it.  You have to make due with an old picture and some links.  Sorry.

I didn’t end up doing much with them, mostly just giving them some sugar syrup.  Its been really hot and dry here in NC lately.  On Fri. it hit 104 and had been above 100 for a few days prior to that.  Its funny when you are happy that its “cooler” at only 93 or so.

I am pretty sure there isn’t much in the way of nectar to collect and my hives don’t have any stores to speak of, hence the sugar syrup.  When I checked today, both seemed ok though.  There are plenty of bees, but also plenty of empty comb.  They have clearly slowed their brood raising.  I didn’t check more than 2 combs however.  I think I will try to check back during the week, to see how fast they are using up the sugar syrup.

My one surprise came when I removes the roof on hive #1.  I always do this from the back, lifting up the back edge with one hand and sticking the other inside to grab the ridge pole as far forward as I can.  After I had done this and set the roof down, I found a rather large spider curled up in a corner, not far from where I put my hand.  I really wish I had my camera. 😦

I looked on the web, and the closest looking pictures I can find are of the genus AraneusIt was a mottled brown color that blended perfectly with fallen leaves (which is where I ended up putting it).  The distinctive part was the size of its abdomen.  It was bigger than all the rest of the body, probably about 3/4″ in diameter.  It had backed into a corner and kind of hidden itself under it abdomen.  The closest looking species I have seen on the web is a Araneus marmoreus, or Marbled Orb Weaver (they seem to come in a variety of colors).  Here is another picture I found that shown one hiding under its abdomen like mine was.  I’m not sure it was a Marbled Orb Weaver, but that was the closest looking thing I found.  Mine definitely hadn’t made a classic orb web, as it was hidden under the roof of the hive.

I’m not overlay frightened of spiders and an usually either leave then alone or simply move them.  My wife, who really doesn’t like bugs, find this a little annoying about me.  She would much rather I just kill the ones I find in the house (and quickly).  Here is a picture of a nice wolf spider I removes from our house (maybe 1-1.5″?).  I do remember it ran fast. 🙂

The only other impressive spider we have had around our house was a Yellow Garden Spider (Argiope aurantia).  It was quite large, and stayed for about a week on our back porch.  It had a 2-3′ orb web.  My wife got mad at me when I tossed large grass hoppers into its web (she thought I was crazy to feed it).  It left peacefully of its own accord though.

Of all the spider pictures I’ve seen, one I found on Flicker is the most impressive(here is the setup used to take the picture).  I am amazed by the extent of that macro!

Anyway,  even though I find spiders fascinating and often catch them to move out of our way, I am less than happy about sticking my arm up to the shoulder into a dark space I can’t see into.  I’ll take a bee sting any day over a spider bite.  After finding the spider in hive #1, I put on my beekeeping gloves to take the roof off of hive #2. 🙂

Festooning bees

August 5, 2007

Sorry I haven’t posted much for a little while.  I normally check on my hives on the weekends, but recently my weekends have been otherwise filled (laying new flooring in second story of my home).  Even if I wasn’t busy,  there isn’t much to report.  I didn’t want to bother the bees too much after full inspections on both hives.  Today when I went, I simply gave them some sugar syrup (at the last inspection they didn’t have much reserves and I don’t think there is much blooming).

One funny thing I found at hive #2 was some bees festooning (hanging on each other).  This is actually quite common inside the hive and I see it pretty much every time I have opened up the hives.  Usually, the are bees connected across top-bars, so when I remove on I commonly get a line of bees that look like they are trying to hold the two top-bars together (I just pull a little and they let go – I’m stronger than them 🙂 ).  This time, I found a nice line of bees connecting the roof’s overhang with the entrance.  I’ve often found some bees recently haging out under the overhand of the roof, but this is the first time I have found them forming a chain to the entrance.  They just stayed there for a few min. while I watched them.  I had to break the chain however when I removed the roof to refill the feeder.  Inside the hive, bees do this while building comb.  I have no idea what they thought they were doing outside the hive (actually, I don’t think they thought it through fully 🙂 ).