Tuesday, September 24, 2013


The end of the season is always risky. Often both Paula and I make it until the end of August without getting stung. Honey bees are generally very docile especially during a nectar flow and when they have brood to tend to. However, in late August they get protective and guard their nest with great enthusiasm. It isn't just humans who want to take their honey but other honey bees, wasps and hornets as well. Guard bees can be seen hovering close by to go after any avenger.

Three weeks ago when we were pulling some honey for ourselves the bees went after me. I got at least 8 stings, mostly on my arm and one on my belly. I was wearing my suite but they can sting right through that. I should have had a long sleeve shirt on and didn't. Last week we went to try and pull some empty frames that the bees had cleaned and Paula got a bee inside her veil that stung her on her temple and then a few more stings. You see once a bee stings it sends out a warning signal to other bees and they tend to swarm and sting with enthusiasm. Paula left the bee yard right way to try and temper the bees while I got everything back in order. We abandoned the task and came back yesterday to finish the job. I actually didn't get stung until we were finished with our work and were leaving the bee yard when a single bee got to my ankle and stung me.

I do have boots that I typically were in the bee yard but they are literally falling apart with gaping holes so I left them behind yesterday and went in with some flimsy shoes. My next mission is to replace those boots, they are 10 years old and have served five of those years in the bee yard. I just hate to buy new shoes and boots, it is such a chore for someone with size 5 feet.

Anyway, yesterdays sting is a dozier, right on my ankle joint and my foot blew up like a balloon and is bruised and so tender I can't flex the foot at all. I am struggling to get into a pair of shoes to work a little princess shift this morning!  If you didn't know better you'd think I had sprained my ankle. All for the love of honey bees.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Oh Dear! Another Pest!

That would be Wax Moth from Achroia gisella better known as lesser wax moth which hatch from Waxworms, the caterpillar larvae of wax moths.  They live as parasites in beehives, eating pollen and shed skins of bees and chew through beeswax. If allowed to get out of hand they will destroy brood comb in no short order. Unfortunately for us we have been outwitted by the pest and had to destroy an entire box of brood comb and then some.

And it was all my fault!

I know about Wax Moth and I know how to prevent it. I got lazy and violated a simple rule and didn't store a box of brood comb properly. I know perfectly well brood comb must be stored in air tight containers. Period end of story. Simple no brainer. I also have more large air tight containers than anyone you know! When this happened those containers were sitting right next to the box of brood comb, empty! Watching Tashi Losar stalking a moth for over 30 minutes the other night should have been a red flag rather than a source of amusement for me.

Damn it anyway! Lesson learned. Why do we have to learn lessons about things we already know for pete sake? It was beautiful dark comb, an entire box, ready to be made into candle wax. I am only glad it was Paula and I who discovered the mess and not someone else who might have been completely freaked out!

Paula and I spent the morning extracting honey. No extracting party this year, just the two of us. We used electric de-capping knife to un-cap about 9 super frames and a scraping tool to open up some patchy areas on about 9 brood frames. We had a fair amount of un-capped honey and couldn't avoid mixing the two. The good news is that we did get 5 gallons. The bad news is that it is very high moisture honey, 19-20 on the refractometer which means it could ferment quickly!
There is still  a great deal of work to be done, mostly physical in nature. Removing all but two brood boxes from the hives in the yard, cleaning all the equipment and getting a game plan in place for next year. All of that is hard to face after Wax Moth, minimal honey and bees that just don't seem well. We managed to collect one large tub of wax for candles despite the loss from Wax Moth and we will get more when we pull the rest of the equipment from the bee yard.