Saturday, March 28, 2015

Bee Stings vs. Lyme Disease

Several days ago, I had been invited to a sales party for skin care products. The presenter was talking about how one of the products increased the collagen in "mature" skin. During the party, several people remarked on how smooth my skin was, and I joked that my secret is getting stung in the face a couple times every summer. That's how I increase my collagen.

All jokes aside, I really am convinced (or deluded) that bee venom has curative properties. Yesterday, someone sent me a fascinating article from Discover (Thank you, Enabler!) that discusses the uses of venom in healing. It specifically mentions how "melittin [from bee venom] is a potent antimicrobial, fighting off a variety of bacteria and fungi with ease. And scientists are hoping to capitalize on this action to fight diseases like HIV, cancer, arthritis and multiple sclerosis."

This article also contains a wonderful story about a woman suffering extreme debilitation from Lyme disease was cured by the stings of Africanized honey bees. Ironically, she had been stung as a child and suffered an allergic reaction. She went her whole life avoiding bees until she was randomly attacked by some AHB. I highly recommend reading the article for that story.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Dead-Out Diagnosis

Monday, I was super bummed about my hives. After discovering my dead bees, I had to take my son to ski club where I was totally pathetic. Outside, I was smiling and chit-chatting with the other parents because I didn't want to appear ridiculous, but inside, I was sobbing like a baby. I kept second guessing myself about what I could and/or should have done differently. I was even considering switching to Langs this year!

Yesterday, though, various forums I follow started reporting on other dead hives, including quite a few in New England. One of the worst stories was about someone who lost 10 out of 11 Langs. (It appears that even experienced beeks with Langs were not exempt from frigid weather fatalities.) I don't want to say that misery loves company because I feel terrible for those other people, but I do feel like less of a dummy today, so I can stop crying and pick myself up again.

Meanwhile, after some consultation, I've determined that condensation was indeed the reason for the deaths. I was also provided with this link to some tools for diagnosing dead-outs. It was helpful for me, so I thought I'd pass it on.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Beekeeping Fail

Two weeks ago, Feb 22, a quick visual/audial inspection revealed that all of my colonies were still alive. Then we got 10 days or so of horrible weather (highs in the teens/subzero lows). Last Wednesday, there was a slight break with a high of 40. More horrible weather Thursday - Saturday, but another 40'ish day on Sunday. Today is a beautiful 47 degrees F, so why aren't I smiling???

Sunday, I expected to see cleansing flights, but I didn't. So today, I thought I'd check on the girls. Austeja was flying, but none of the others.  A quick listen with the stethoscope and... nothing. Dead silence.

My colonies went into winter pretty light, and I've been worried ever since November that they'd run out of stores before spring. Fearing the worst, I opened them up. There were loads and loads of stores. There were also loads and loads of dead bees. Part of me wonders if they simply couldn't move; however, they weren't all buried in the comb the way one expects with bees that have starved. Also, the bees had a slick, wet sort of look. Could they have been killed by condensation?

Dang it. That's 3 out of 4 dead. A whopping 75%. Oh, and I opened Austeja first thinking she might need some sugar (she didn't) and broke a comb. Double dang. Definitely a beekeeping fail.

It's weird, though, that Austeja pulled through when the others didn't. I was sure Peach would pull through to spite me just because she was the meanest, but I'd mentally voted Austeja least likely to survive. The only thing that's really different about her is that she has an observation window. Could it be that moisture simply condensed on the glass and ran down? (I've heard that is an advantage with glass.) Or could it be that because of the glass, she had an extra thick wall on one side? (The other hives have 1" thick walls that I put styrofoam over. Austeja's observation window is inset, so I covered it with styrofoam to insulate it. Then there was a 1" board over it, and a styrofoam board on the outside.)

Although I've been in CT only 2 years, I went to school in Boston, and I can't for the life of me remember a winter this brutal. Usually, it gets cold, maybe snows, then we get a little warm up. Starting in January, this winter has just been nonstop frigid. I'm concerned that it may continue that way. Che GueBee, a TBH beek in Denmark, says he uses fairly thick walls and that seems to help, so I'm thinking about modifying my hives with 2" thick walls for more insulation. I'd lose my "artwork," but whatever.

Some more experienced beeks say that it's impossible to tell whether the hives are truly dead until we get a few days of 50 degree weather. Quite a few of them have stories about a hive that died during the winter, so they brought the hive indoors where, after a few days in the warmth of the house, the bees suddenly resuscitated. So it's possible that not all hope is not lost, but I'm still not holding my breath.

In any case, I have two packages on order, and plenty of comb & stores to get the new girls going. I've been considering ordering some queens from Kirk Webster and Mike Palmer, and now I have some incentive to do so (to requeen the packages). Also, if Austeja continues on her present trajectory, I will have some proven overwintered stock for making up new nucs.

Chris Harp, The Bee Doctor, said that he killed 10 hives his first 10 years. I've already got four under my belt, so hopefully there won't be too many more.