The bee saga (part 2)

Yes, we are still around… In a previous post I described how we were processing a hive infected by hive beetles and promised a follow up. Well, here it is – a short review on what worked and what didn’t work.

So. a few weekends ago we had a public holiday on a nice sunny day, which was ideal weather to inspect our hives, do the autumn harvest and pack the hives down for winter. (For non-bee keepers, packing down means to make the hives smaller by removing some of the boxes. This makes the hive smaller, which makes it easier for the bees to maintain heat and energy through our cold wet winter, and it also makes it possible for them to their own pest control better. A winter hive with wide open spaces is a haven for all kinds of pests to settle in. If it’s all tight and populated, the bees chase the pests out themselves.)

Unfortunately, we didn’t take many photos. In the old days when we were still mentored by Sam from Geelong Honey Source, it was still easy to take a million photos while Sam was showing us how to inspect the hives and process the frames with bare hands. Now that we’re doing it ourselves, it’s a focussed glove and suit business to get it done quickly and efficiently with as little disturbance to the bees as possible. If we stop to take photos, the smoker goes out, or the bees settle on the bowl with scraped off wax comb, or some other disaster sets in! Besides taking photos with a gloved hand full of wax isn’t the best treatment for the “device” either, and it’s pretty hard to do.

What didn’t work

In that previous post I described how we used soapy water to wash and then clear water to rinse off the infected frames. That all worked well; there wasn’t a beetle or larvae that survived. However, the frames must have still been damp or had some water in them. The result is when I took the (fortunately sealed) box out of storage, it was one big clump of mould. Not only will we have to replace the frames, but the super (that is the wooden box for readers not familiar with bee-keeping terms) is also so mould invested that we would have to dispose of that as well and replace it in the spring. Not an expense we would have liked to incur. How we are going to dispose of it is another question…

What worked

Placing the hives on the metal frame definitely worked. The area is much cleaner and makes it much easier to work with the hives. Moving the hives further into the sun also improved the general health of all three hives, even though it complicated lawn football with kids just a little bit.

The biggest positive was the beetle trap bases we added underneath each hive. Even in our healthiest hives we found dead beetles in the oil underneath, as well as a lot of gunk that had fallen through the mesh into the vegetable oil below. Thank goodness that gunk didn’t accumulate in the bottom of the bases. It’s so much easier to merely pull the drawer out, scrape the dead beetles and gunk into a black bag, seal it and dispose of it, that trying to remove three supers and clean the base with bees buzzing all around. We cleaned the trays as part of the inspection and harvesting process, but you can easily do that by itself without even a suit or using a smoker – it’s a very un-invasive process.

Hive beetles trapped in vegetable oil

Even though we still saw one or two beetles in the weak hive, the hive was in a healthy state overall. It smelled good and fresh, like honey. When you have a hive beetle infestation, it smells really rank. We even harvested two very healthy capped frames from that hive and gave them two new frames to fill during the last weeks of autumn. We left them the other six frames of honey for feed during the winter. Especially for that hive it is important that we look after the bees health. But I’m glad to say their numbers look good, they’re active and the hive is pretty full of activity, which is a great improvement from it’s previous state.

The harvest

With Patricia’s parents around, we formed a functional production line and got the scarping and spinning done in about two thirds the time we normally do. All in all, we harvested around 40kg of honey, which may see us through the winter!

Still to do

With the sun moving more to the north, there is more shade falling on the hives, which is not ideal for winter, especially with one or two beetles still around. They hate sun but thrive in cold shade. I’ll have to get the chain saw out and seriously trim some solid Cyprus trees behind the hives. I’ll have to pick a cold blustery day to do that when the bees aren’t buzzing all around.

About (207 Articles)
My name is Martin Rennhackkamp, I now live happily in Lara, Victoria, Australia with my wife, two children and two dogs. My interests, apart from the obvious Organic, Biodynamic and Permaculture Gardening and Farming, include sustainable living, surfing, horse-riding, a wide variety of music, dancing, nature, birds, reading, Christianity and a few other things which I never get to...

1 Comment on The bee saga (part 2)

  1. Kelly m Milikins // May 17, 2023 at 8:57 am // Reply

    What a great lot of information, thank you Martin.
    Easy to read and understand, awesome!

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