Thursday, May 19, 2011

Chalk Brood and Sugar Water

The bees have been busy and productive lately. We've gone from 40,000 bees when Adam bought them in April, to over 100,000 bees now. Lots of babies. When the sun came out yesterday, they went crazy, flying about to use the warmth.
You'll note that the hives are shorter. Adam removed the top box on each hive, the box that just contained a glass jar of sugar water, to feed the bees. You can see, leaning against the hives, the board covers that the jars sat on. These covers were a problem:  because they covered the main hive boxes, they prevented air circulation, which is so necessary to hive health. Adam has a fine screen on the bottom of each hive. It allowed air to flow in, but keeps other bugs out. Ideally, a screen should be on the top of each hive also. Well, yesterday, he removed those feeding boards, and put on screens.

He did this because he was getting chalk brood in the hives. Chalk brood is a fungus that gets on the brood -- the babies capped in the comb -- and kills them. The nursery bees throw this brood out. Chalk brood comes when the weather is moist, as it has been. Good air circulation prevents it.

But, how to feed the bees, once Adam removed the jars and their boards? Well, he has a solution for that too -- a feeding bucket. This is a 5-gallon bucket, turned upside down, full of sugar water and the essential oils that bees love. You can see that it's set in water, to prevent ants from climbing up and drinking all the bees' water.
He set the bucket out yesterday, and in no time, forager bees discovered it. Here's one, sitting just above the tiny holes that Adam drilled in the bottom of the bucket's rim. See them? They're the right size for the bees' tongues. The sugar water doesn't come pouring out, because a vacuum is created in the bucket. The bees can suck it out, but it doesn't come out on its own.
This morning, the bucket was loaded with bees. They're happy to find their water! But Adam wanted to know if all the bees there were his own, or if some were from other hives. So he decided to "bee line" his bees. He takes powdered sugar, sprinkles it on the bees at the bucket, and watches to see where they fly. The powdered sugar makes them look like little moths, or angels, flying around. But normal powdered sugar also has corn starch in it. He didn't want his bees to have corn starch. (They will groom each other, and eat the sugar off each other.) So he made his own powdered sugar.

Did you know you can powder your own sugar?

Just put sugar into a good chopper/grinder, and voila! Powdered sugar!
Happy bees.
That's what the beekeeper is doing this morning.

1 comment:

  1. Hi MK! Wow! It takes brains to keep bees! I didn't realize there were so many things to learn about them.

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