Thursday, February 25, 2010

Mary in the Intensive Care Unit

Mary is failing. Her population is to low to survive another month. She has plenty of stored honey & pollen but the cold is killing her. From occupying a double deep she's down to a corner on 3 frames. There is only a couple hundred bees left. Why she's crashing is anybodies guess. Bad genetics, poor hygiene, Nosema, Tracheal mites, who knows. I'm not giving up on her just yet though. So it's time for extraordinary measures. On Tuesday i brought Mary's entire hive into the garage. She will stay inside this improvised Intensive Care Unit until the colony improves or it dies out.

First, being inside the house she will need a new entrance to the outside like a Observation Hive has. I fit a stretch-tube to a plank of MDF on top of the hive then ran it to another plank set in the window. Now the bees can go outside when they need to. It's longer than I need but the extra length allowed for a heat trap. Just a bend in the tube to keep the cold air out & the warm air in. It's 20 F outside at night. I'd like for that cold air not to flow over them from the new window entrance.

Not a Dryer

New Window Entrance

Also I closed off the hive's usual front entrance with #8 hardware cloth. They need to be outside, not in the garage. I may need to close it off with a solid block. The bees have ganged up on it once or twice. Trying to get out and fly I think. Right now it serves as a useful window into their activities. They may forget about it after they discover the new entrance up top.

Have a peek

What I'm doing Now...

Now that the hive is in a controlled environment I hope to help the colony back from the brink. As I see it the main issue is heat. To that I turned on the space heater in the garage and placed it near the hive. If the area can stay at about 50 F the bees should not cluster. Out of cluster they can roam freely to get what food they need. Their energy can also be put towards working the queen. Getting her to lay eggs is the one thing that will save this colony. If not they're dead. 50°F is also cool enough to keep them from getting too antsy to fly since it's still 30 F outside. I hope.

In the garage moisture won't be a problem so I'm feeding them with 1:1 syrup. The light syrup promotes brood rearing so they're going to get a lot of it. I'm using the Boardman feeder in the old (original) entrance. I wanted to use the hive-top feeder but that would interfere with their New entrance. I'm not sure if they've found it yet. With so few bees it would take a while for the syrup level to drop enough to notice. There were signs of possible Nosema during the last inspection. If I see more of it I'll medicate the syrup.

The bees have not wanted for honey or pollen. When they weren't to cold to get any that is. Empty frames have been rotated out for filled frames all Winter. Yet at this point everything must be tried. Though the frames are filled I will start adding pollen patties immediately. Pollen starts the queen to laying so the more the merrier.

The amount of Sunlight available to plants & animals is dependent on what time of year it is. The bees thinking it's Spring instead of Winter might be further spurred towards brooding up. Plus bees love the sun so I've put 3 shop lights on the hive for 15 hours a day to mimic later in the year.

When it gets warm enough to go into Myrina, still outside & doing fine thank you kindly, I'll rob some of her brood or bees and place them in Mary. The beeks I've talked to said 2 frames of bees or brood, with nurse bees, should do the job. The boost in numbers will significantly help this colony survive.

The point of it all...

If this colony dies out I'll have a nicely primed hive ready to accept a package of bees this Spring. They'll be way ahead of the curve if they start with a hive filled with honey & pollen. Honey in spades for sure. So why all this trouble then. For starters a package costs money; minor but important. The big reason is that I can take a swarm cell out of Myrina and put in in Mary. If Mary is still here that is. Then all the problems of Mary can go away as the new queen produces more bees. Replaced with Myrina's superior genetic traits that have kept her healthy & strong for 2 years now. Also gone will be drones carrying Old Mary's genetics to other colonies polluting them with lousy hygienic tendencies. I know first hand that Myrina is a master at dealing with all local climate & pest issues. I'd have to guess, fuss, & worry about a package from somewhere else.

They say breed your own local queens. That's what I aim to do.

Oh, did I mention I saw a bee come out, fly around, and go back in the window entrance today. Hope she tells the others.

1 comment:

immwia said...

Like a Naval corpsman in the thick of a battle you are fighting to save every life.

You are a wonderful example of someone trying to save the planet and those on it that provide us life in return.

Thank you and I hope your extraordinary measures work.