September 30

September 30 – Full Saturday of Beekeeping!

After coffee at my favorite coffee shop (Catawba Coffee),  I was off to work all of my hives and some of my student’s hives as well.  It has been a very full and rewarding day of beekeeping and the girls all seemed happy with my visits and tending.

Alexis Apiary – Sonya and Wesley Sisk

It has been longer than I wanted since I last visited this Apiary in the country.  Even so, both hives were particularly strong…in fact the best I have ever seen.  Plenty of stores for the winter and they are bringing more in.  I placed entrance reducers on both hives, completed an inspection, and then treated with my new “Vapor Gun” using oxilic acid for mite control.  I did notice a few hive beetles, so I think I will put a couple beetle traps in each hive next week.  These hives should be ready for winter.  I plan to treat two more times with Oxalic Acid.

Dennison Apiary

Now has three hives cooking and all three are doing well.  I will be moving the rescue hive to my house as soon as the weather gets colder.  Too much bearding to mess with them now.  Treated all three hives for their first time with oxalic acid vapor.  Two more treatments needed.

Francis Smith Apiary

-I really have no idea what is going on in Andy’s two hives.  Sandy sold hers to Andy so he has two hives that are still very much configured in summer mode.  Andy, if you need help, please contact me.  You need to greatly reduce your hives for winter, Complete a deep inspection, place hive entrance reducers on, and they need to be treated for Mites (which I can help you do).  I am still waiting to hear from you and do not feel comfortable doing anything with your hives without your permission.

-Sean is busy taking care of his family after the fire.  I am managing his hive for him and it is in very good shape.  Plenty of honey stores for winter, entrance reducer in place, and I completed his second of three hive beetle treatments today.

-Keli’s hive is doing gangbusters and they have plenty of winter stores saved up.  A very strong hive as we go into winter.  I completed a second of three beetle treatments on her hive today and completed a light inspection.  All is well!

-Irene and Joe are so covered up at the coffee shop they asked me to help them out.  Today I completed a deep inspection.  The hive is strong as far as bees, but only has a moderate amount of honey saved up.  However, they are currently really bringing a lot of fall honey and nectar in, so it is too early to tell if they will need to feed again.  For now we will forego any feeding and allow them an opportunity to take care of themselves….which if they continue as they are now, should easily accomplish.  Place entrance reducer on and completed a second application of oxalic acid vapor with their hive.

Jaxson’s Apiary

As for my own Apiary, I completed inspection in two hives and added ap23 which is an artificial pollen patty.  I still need to inspect two others and treat all 5 here at the Apiary.

Leigh and Bobby have great hives and we completed deep Inspections recently.  Sunday afternoon I plan to treat my 5 hives plus The Blacks and Leigh’s hives tomorrow.  Once this is done I will feel caught up…just need to hear from Andy.

Bee thankful for your bees!



September 28

Why are my bees crawling in front of the hive?

Why are my bees crawling in front of the hive?

We call them crawlers. They can appear any time of year but are most prevalent in the fall. They inch along the landing board, cling to blades of grass, or struggle among twigs and small stones. On close inspection they look normal, but they can’t fly. You may see a few, a handful, or hundreds. What does it mean?

The tracheal mite connection
In years gone by, tracheal mites were often blamed for causing crawlers. You can still find many references that link crawling to tracheal mites, but they no longer seem to be the major cause. For one thing, tracheal mites have largely disappeared in many areas because of the widespread use of acaricides to treat varroa mites.

Over the past six or seven years I’ve heard from dozens of beekeepers who’ve had their crawlers tested for tracheal mites, and all but one came up negative. And while tracheal mites are less common than they used to be, reports of crawlers seem to be on the rise.

Furthermore, not everyone agrees on the relationship between tracheal mites and crawling. Way back in 1969, L. Bailey wrote:

There are no reliable symptoms for the diagnosis of the common infections of adult bees. Nosema apis and Malpighamoeba mellifica do not cause crawling, and sickness of bees infested with A. woodi cannot be unreservedly attributed to this parasite. Paralysis virus is the most probable pathogen for causing crawling and early death of bees and these often are the only signs the virus causes in nature.[1]
Or maybe pesticides
Pesticides have also been blamed for causing crawlers, and I believe pesticides could be a cause in some cases. However, the signs of pesticide poisoning are often more dramatic and include piles of dead bees with extended tongues or dying bees that are shivering, quivering, or spinning.

The trouble with crawling is that it’s a common sign of a sick bee. Many things can weaken a bee and render it unable to fly. Diseases, poor nutrition, environmental stress, and genetics are all potential sources of weakness. Those possibilities coupled with the fact that old and wing-worn bees may also crawl, make it hard to diagnose.

Viral disease and varroa mites
In recent years, however, I’ve become convinced that crawling bees are often infected with one or more of the viruses commonly carried by varroa mites. Although deformed wing virus is frequently cited, a number of other viruses could cause crawling.

Anecdotal evidence indicates that crawlers are often seen in the fall just as the mite-per-bee ratio inside the hive spikes, often beginning in late August or early September. Also, some beekeepers report actually seeing deformed wings among the crawlers. Others have reported to me that in the weeks following an increase in crawlers, their colonies died of varroa mites, as evidenced by guanine deposits, shredded brood caps, and varroa among the hive debris.

In fact, Stavely et al (2014) wrote:

The causal criterion of specific symptoms experienced by colonies suffering from the combination of Varroa and viruses is convincingly supportive. These symptoms include reduced colony development, the presence of malnourished, deformed, and underweight bees, or crawling bees that are unable to fly or that have crippled wings.[2]
On its website, also suggests a strong correlation between varroa mites and viral disease:

… controlling Varroa populations in a hive will often control the associated viruses and finding symptoms of the viral diseases is indicative of a Varroa epidemic in the colony. Viruses are, however, the least understood of honey bee diseases. Emerging information of honey bee viruses continues to alter our understanding of the role viruses play in honey bee colonies.
Recall that long before varroa mites appeared in the US, Bailey [above] suggested that paralysis virus was the most likely cause of crawling. The current list of viruses carried by varroa mites includes several of those identified as paralysis viruses, including acute bee paralysis virus, Israeli acute paralysis virus, chronic bee paralysis virus, and slow bee paralysis virus. It makes me wonder if perhaps tracheal mites carry the same viruses as varroa mites and distribute them in similar fashion.

That said, I do not believe there is a one-to-one correspondence between crawling bees and mites. As stated above, crawling has multiple causes. However, I am convinced that if you have an abundance of crawlers, you should begin your diagnosis by doing a varroa count. With so much apparent correlation between varroa and crawlers, it seems like an easy and logical place to start looking.

A word about visual observations
Remember that it is easy to be fooled by casual observations. Sometimes a beekeeper will say, “I saw no deformed wings and no varroa, so I can eliminate that problem.” But in truth, it’s not that simple. In the first place, varroa are good at hiding. Even a phoretic mite hitching a ride on an adult bee can easily slip into the space under an abdominal plate where it is nearly impossible to see.

We’ve all seen photos of clearly visible varroa mites clinging to adult bees. But those photos are on the Internet for a reason: it’s an uncommon sight. I’ve been carrying my camera around for the last ten years trying to get one of those photos, and I never see phoretic mites, even in colonies with high mite counts. So please, don’t rely on visual inspections of adult bees. Do a real mite count with powdered sugar or alcohol so you have solid information to work with.

Remember, too, that a bee can be infected with deformed-wing virus whenever it is bitten by a varroa mite carrying the disease. If the bee is bitten in a developmental stage before the wings appear, the wings may become deformed. However, a bee that is infected after the wings are fully formed will not show that symptom. So a bee with perfect wings is not necessarily free of deformed-wing virus. There are plenty of other consequences of the virus that are harder to see, including lack of vitality, shortened life span, and depressed immune response.

Implications for the beekeeper
Nothing I’ve read so far convinces me that a particular virus causes crawling, However, there seems to be a strong association among crawling, viruses, and varroa. With that information, the appearance of crawling bees—which are often easier to detect than either deformed-wing virus or varroa mites—can signal the need for further investigation into a possible varroa infestation.

Honey Bee Suite

[1]Bailey, L. (1969). The signs of adult bee diseases. Bee World, 50(2), 66-68. Chicago

[2]Jane P. Staveley , Sheryl A. Law , Anne Fairbrother & Charles A. Menzie (2014) A Causal Analysis of Observed Declines in Managed Honey Bees (Apis mellifera), Human and Ecological Risk Assessment: An International Journal, 20:2, 566-591

Please note: Although the conclusions drawn in this post are my own, I wish to acknowledge the kind assistance of Peter L. Borst in locating some of the quoted material.

September 20

September 20 – Update

Gaston County Bee Association

Hope this note finds you all well and enjoying your bees.  I received news from Sean Moore, one of our second year Beekeepers, that his house caught on fire and he had substantial loss in the second floor.  They are out of their house for at least three months and Sean received some burns from the fire,  The good news is he is on the mend and no one else was injured in the fire.  Unfortunately he has lost some things of value and must now deal the reconstruction of his home.  For now, I am asking that we all help Sean take care of his bees.  I will take over any Inspections, feedings, mite controls. Etc, but if any of you see any unusual activity at his hive, please contact me immediately.

Tommy Helms, a Master beekeeper in Mecklenburg County, has been teaching me a new way to vaporize and apply oxilic acid.  I will be using an insect propane vaporizer to apply the treatment…making it even quicker and better than before.  I will no longer have to drag a 12 volt marine battery around with me.  It is much quicker and much more effective.  By next week I will have my new device and have already  made up the mixture of 150 proof alcohol and oxilic acid.  I have treated everyone’s hive one time except for Andy, as I have not heard from him.  I will be completing several more treatments for you over the next few weeks.

Thanks to Erin’s quick action, she and I have been able to save a swarm of bees that fell from a tree in her backyard during the effects of the hurricane.  We believe this is the swarm that left Chris’s hive a month ago and settled in a tree very high up and out of our reach.  I also captured a small swarm in Catawba Heights.  I have now opened up a “bee rescue” portion of my apiary and will place both of these hives next to each other so I can take care of them and feed them.  They will have to be fed during the winter as well.  I will be moving Erin’s swarm as soon as we move into some cooler weather.  Right now it is so warm the bees are bearding and hanging around outside even late at night.  Meanwhile, Erin is feeding the bees at her house.

Erin has one very strong and aggressive hive, while her husband’s hive swarmed (as stated earlier) and is much weaker.  The good news is they made a new queen and the hive is growing stronger.  May have to feed it some during the winter.  I will also be treating her hives first thing next week.

Bobby and Melanie’s hive is going like gangbusters.  We actually add to add a super to the hive as they were honeybound and out of room.  This is not a bad problem to have, but one you want to be on top of as it can cause swarming.

Kelly’s hive is doing well and inspection showed it had adequate stored for the winter.  I peaked into Irene’s hive and believe theirs may be ready as well…waiting for them to complete an inspection.

Everyone should have their hive reducers on to help lower the risk of robbing.  We should not be placing bottom boards on as this will greatly restrict ventilation. In fact, in my last GCBA meeting I learned that a number of the Beekeepers do not use bottom boards at all unless there is some really sustained cold weather…which we have had very little of lately.  For now, I want everyone to hold off on bottom boards.

My latest and newest piece of equipment is a solar wax melter.  I can now place 6 frames inside and melt away the old wax into a collection pan.  Way cool! (or should I say hot!) Continue reading

September 9

9-9-2017 Bee Team Update

I have the following updates on our Hives.

1. Bobby and Melanie Black completed a deep hive inspection with me. Found the hive to be honey bound, so we added another super. We treated with Oxalic Acid Vapor for mites. Very strong hive with tons of brood yet to hatch. Places hive reducer on front. This hive is ready for winter. Bobby continues to send me videos and photos of this hive. At this time I would say it is our very strongest hive including all of mine as well.

2. Kelli Adam’s hive is strong with good stores of honey. We treated for mites with Oxalic Acid Vapor. Placed hive reducer on front. This hive is ready for winter at this time, but will need to recheck honey stores the first of October.

3. Irene, Rachel, and Joe Pharr. Hive appears strong. Needs inspection, but I took feeder off and We treated for mites with Oxalic Acid Vapor. They plan a deep hive inspection Sunday. Will determine readiness after inspection. I believe they can end feeding for the time being. Need to place reducer in front.

4. Sean Moore has completed his deep inspection. Very strong hive. He has added his hive reducer. I believe he can now end feeding. We treated for mites with Oxalic Acid Vapor. Needs to reduce his hive size by one super if possible.

5. Erin Dennison has been working with her hives since returning from vacation. Needs to continue feeding her hives at least through September. One hive appears to have superseded itself and has a new young queen. Just need to be careful we try to build this hive up…Honey B Healthy is a good idea for this hive and in fact I recommend using anytime you feed. There is a cost effective recipe on our blog for this. Needs a hive reducer for one of her hives.  Also need to treat for mites!

6. Scott has treated all his hives at the Smith Apiary and in his yard. Still needs to treat hives in Alexis and add reducers there. Lost one weak hive due to early spring push-over…but successfully caught a swarm in a yard in Catawba Heights. This hive has now settled in at his home apiary and appears to be doing well. Top Bar hives do not have adequate honey supplies. I am continuing to feed both. The smith Apiary Top bar is doing better. Will continue to feed and add bottom board today.

*ALL HIVES SHOULD BE CHECKED EVERY TWO WEEKS THROUGH OCTOBER. This does not mean a deep inspection, but checking on your Queen And checking honey stores are essential.

Bee the best you can Bee!

Scott (Mr. G)


Micah 6:8


September 5

The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life A slew of factors

The Science Behind Honey’s Eternal Shelf Life
A slew of factors—its acidity, its lack of water and the presence of hydrogen peroxide—work in perfect harmony, allowing the sticky treat to last forever
By Natasha Geiling

What is it that makes honey such a special food? Photo via Flickr user Flood G.
Modern archeologists, excavating ancient Egyptian tombs, have often found something unexpected amongst the tombs’ artifacts: pots of honey, thousands of years old, and yet still preserved. Through millennia, the archeologists discover, the food remains unspoiled, an unmistakable testament to the eternal shelf-life of honey.
There are a few other examples of foods that keep–indefinitely–in their raw state: salt, sugar, dried rice are a few. But there’s something about honey; it can remain preserved in a completely edible form, and while you wouldn’t want to chow down on raw rice or straight salt, one could ostensibly dip into a thousand year old jar of honey and enjoy it, without preparation, as if it were a day old. Moreover, honey’s longevity lends it other properties–mainly medicinal–that other resilient foods don’t have. Which raises the question–what exactly makes honey such a special food?


The answer is as complex as honey’s flavor–you don’t get a food source with no expiration date without a whole slew of factors working in perfect harmony.
The first comes from the chemical make-up of honey itself. Honey is, first and foremost, a sugar. Sugars are hygroscopic, a term that means they contain very little water in their natural state but can readily suck in moisture if left unsealed. As Amina Harris, executive director of the Honey and Pollination Center at the Robert Mondavi Institute at Univeristy of California, Davis explains, “Honey in its natural form is very low moisture. Very few bacteria or microorganisms can survive in an environment like that, they just die. They’re smothered by it, essentially.” What Harris points out represents an important feature of honey’s longevity: for honey to spoil, there needs to be something inside of it that can spoil. With such an inhospitable environment, organisms can’t survive long enough within the jar of honey to have the chance to spoil.
Honey is also naturally extremely acidic. “It has a pH that falls between 3 and 4.5, approximately, and that acid will kill off almost anything that wants to grow there,” Harris explains. So bacteria and spoil-ready organisms must look elsewhere for a home–the life expectancy inside of honey is just too low.
But honey isn’t the only hygroscopic food source out there. Molasses, for example, which comes from the byproduct of cane sugar, is extremely hygroscopic, and is acidic, though less so than honey (molasses has a pH of around 5.5). And yet–although it may take a long time, as the sugar cane product has a longer shelf-life than fresh produce, eventually molasses will spoil.

So why does one sugar solution spoil, while another lasts indefinitely? Enter bees.
“Bees are magical,” Harris jokes. But there is certainly a special alchemy that goes into honey. Nectar, the first material collected by bees to make honey, is naturally very high in water–anywhere from 60-80 percent, by Harris’ estimate. But through the process of making honey, the bees play a large part in removing much of this moisture by flapping their wings to literally dry out the nectar. On top of behavior, the chemical makeup of a bees stomach also plays a large part in honey’s resilience. Bees have an enzyme in their stomachs called glucose oxidase (PDF). When the bees regurgitate the nectar from their mouths into the combs to make honey, this enzyme mixes with the nectar, breaking it down into two by-products: gluconic acid and hydrogen peroxide. “Then,” Harris explains, “hydrogen peroxide is the next thing that goes into work against all these other bad things that could possibly grow.”
For this reason, honey has been used for centuries as a medicinal remedy. Because it’s so thick, rejects any kind of growth and contains hydrogen peroxide, it creates the perfect barrier against infection for wounds. The earliest recorded use of honey for medicinal purposes comes from Sumerian clay tablets, which state that honey was used in 30 percent of prescriptions. The ancient Egyptians used medicinal honey regularly, making ointments to treat skin and eye diseases. “Honey was used to cover a wound or a burn or a slash, or something like that, because nothing could grow on it – so it was a natural bandage,” Harris explains.
What’s more, when honey isn’t sealed in a jar, it sucks in moisture. “While it’s drawing water out of the wound, which is how it might get infected, it’s letting off this very minute amount of hydrogen peroxide. The amount of hydrogen peroxide comes off of honey is exactly what we need–it’s so small and so minute that it actually promotes healing.” And honey for healing open gashes is no longer just folk medicine–in the past decade, Derma Sciences, a medical device company, has been marketing and selling MEDIHONEY, bandages covered in honey used in hospitals around the world.
If you buy your honey from the supermarket, that little plastic bottle of golden nectar has been heated, strained and processed so that it contains zero particulates, meaning that there’s nothing in the liquid for molecules to crystallize on, and your supermarket honey will look the same for almost forever. If you buy your honey from a small-scale vendor, however, certain particulates might remain, from pollen to enzymes. With these particulates, the honey might crystallize, but don’t worry–if it’s sealed, it’s not spoiled and won’t be for quite some time.
A jar of honey’s seal, it turns out, is the final factor that’s key to honey’s long shelf life, as exemplified by the storied millennia-old Egyptian specimens. While honey is certainly a super-food, it isn’t supernatural–if you leave it out, unsealed in a humid environment, it will spoil. As Harris explains, ” As long as the lid stays on it and no water is added to it, honey will not go bad. As soon as you add water to it, it may go bad. Or if you open the lid, it may get more water in it and it may go bad.”
So if you’re interested in keeping honey for hundreds of years, do what the bees do and keep it sealed–a hard thing to do with this delicious treat!

September 4

September 4th 2017 Bee Update

Swarm caught!

Today I moved a swarm Harper and I were able to coax into a nuc hive last week.  Since the hive fell outside the 3:3 rule (you can move a hive less than 3 feet or more than three miles) I had to use an old bee keepers trick and cover the front entrance with a lot of brush.  This causes the bees to look around and reset their gps.  I will be feeding these bees for the next month and hope they can build enough brood and stores to make it through the winter.  I also treated two of my hives with oxilic acid for the dreaded varolla mite.  I will treat them all again at the end of September.  If you are interested in my treating your hives you will need to schedule a time with me.  I have several lessons about Mites on here and the correct treatment.  I suggest you all read up on these.  You need to check your hives to determine if you can stop feeding.  Golden rod is now in bloom and our bees will be bringing this in.  Be sure to send your inspection reports in to me.