Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Stupidity meets Varroa, Part 1 of 2

Greetings everyone! Sorry for the delay in posts these last two weeks. Before you get mad at us, I must explain that a number of things have kept us from updating the webpage
in the interval of time since we last posted.

Firstly, the weather has been, for the most part, abominable - which has delayed our inspections on a regular basis. Nasty little rain storms have been frequently appearing unannounced, sweeping in across Lake Champlain and ruining afternoons. Good news is, our gardens are doing very well, but the recent inclement weather patterns have not exactly been conducive to letting us get into the supers and therefore relay blog-worthy developments to all of you. Further compounding this more natural impediment to our web-progress are several other notable factors. Because the weather had chosen to not be cooperative, we were forced to stay indoors and play video games. Rob recently the mistake of buying an extra XBox controller (I only had one) so that we could play Halo against one another whenever time allowed. Alas, to Rob's chagrin, his 20 dollar investment has only led to the many deaths of his character at the hands of mine in multiple instances across numerous fields of battle. Only time will tell who is the true Halo master (but I have a strong feeling that it will be me).

In any event, our lives have been filled with distractions and powers beyond our control for the last several weeks, but we are around again now, and promise that our recent posting hiatus was not in any way, shape, or form indicative of a loss of interest in this site or to our commitment to those of you who so fervently follow our exploits.

Ok, that's over. We have some news to catch you up on. Huzzah!

On Sunday morning, Rob and I had a chance to take a peek into the guesthouse hives (for those of you not keeping score, that would be "the mystery hive" - supposedly Carnolians, but possibly Cordovans, and then, of course, our Russians). Actually, to be fair, we only got to the Russians - explanation to follow.

Anyway, we had recently put an excluder and a shallow on the Russians (pictured here on the right; NOTE: in this earlier picture, both hives were still recieving sugar water, hence the extra supers and the inner cover separating them). A week or two back, upon inspection we noticed that the Russians had surprisingly already drawn out the whole extra deep that we had given them, and were capping brood and storing honey very busily, so we added the excluder and the honey super so that they could get started making surplus that we could extract later on. But Rob noticed a little while afterwards that the bees seemed to be ignoring the shallow all together. When we cracked open the lid and inner cover, sure enough - there were no bees working on foundation, despite having what looked to be noticibly cramped quarters below.

Now, for you newbies out there, an excluder is a thin sheet of metal with vertically and horizontally bisecting grid which worker bees can traverse through without much effort, but the fat-abdomened queen is too large to squeeze through. The result is that workers will cross over and begin drawing out comb in the new foundation of the added shallow as normal, but the queen cannot access this area when laying eggs. The space will soon be allocated for surplus honey storage, which we can later uncap and extract without having to worry about having larvae mixed up in our honey. A simple and effective design.

But the bees hadn't made it up there yet. Could the excluder possibly be too restrictive and the bees not be able to get through? Or were we just rushing things?

Well, I came up with an idea that, in retrospect, seems pretty freakin stupid. If we brush away all of the bees on the outside of the hive and bottom board and send them into the air, we could lift up both deeps (one at a time, of course), slide the excluder under the bottom brood chamber, and reset things. Then, once the bees had settled down after a few minutes, we could tell if the bees could squeeze through the excluder by whether or not any exited the hive after we put the device in place, right? It was pretty stupid, in my opinion, as there are many better and simpler ways to have done this (which I realized in hindsight, of course).


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