Tuesday, 19 September 2017

September Buzz

After an especially wet and cool summer we are now having an unusually hot couple of weeks. Perhaps the last weeks of September and October will be the happy medium of this year's extremes.

Like most beekeepers in my area, this year I noticed a decline in honey production. All those rainy days made the bees stay home from work, loaf about inside and consume their groceries. Much like my own response to the inclemency! (And when it wasn't raining, mosquito hordes also drove me to seek shelter.) Now that the sun is keeping us steady company, the bees are busily harvesting sedum, hollyhocks, golden rod and wild asters.

A bee covered in sticky grains of hollyhock pollen.

Despite the summer-like temperatures, lessening daylight hours have triggered the honey bees to start their Fall drone eviction. Workers are nipping, stinging and riding their larger sized brothers away from hive entrances. At times it resembles a miniature rodeo in which the drones are the bucking broncos ridden by the smaller workers. The bodies of murdered drones lay on the ground outside the hives and are dismembered and carried off by ants and yellow jacket wasps. I watched as one yellow jacket took fully five minutes to snip off the head of a drone and then fly off with it. Surprisingly, little black ants can actually intimidate the much larger sized wasp. I guess the ant's formic acid is like skunk spray to a dog.

A week ago I was horrified at the high level of varroa mites during a hive sugar-shake mite count. A quick application of formic acid pads produced a rain of dead mites. Left untreated, my bees would certainly have died this winter. Now a worldwide pest, this mite is a devastating threat to honey bees and must be diligently controlled to prevent colony losses.

Honey bees forming beards after an application of formic acid mite treatment.

Amid dead varroa mites, a yellow jacket wasp and an ant compete for a drone body.

Air traffic getting busy at a hive's bottom board entrance.

Hunched over and fanning like mad to cool their hive on this hot September day.

1 comment:

  1. How interesting! Wonderful photos. Hope your bees stay healthy.
    Take care.


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