Honeybee “Vaccines” found in Royal Jelly

 

A very exciting study has been published recently in the Cell Reports concerning honeybees.  It seems that we’re not the only living earth occupants that partake in the use of vaccines to ward off illness. We now know that honeybees do too.  This study shows that honeybee can share immunity by transmitting RNA ‘vaccines’ through royal jelly and worker jelly throughout the hive.  This form of social immunity is very exciting and perhaps might lead to discovering a way to defend against the varroa mite and the viruses they are known to transmit.

The science on this shows “an environmentally mediated RNA cycle among honey bees. The cycle is engaged by consumption of RNA-containing diet by an individual bee. Then, the ingested RNA is spread from the digestive system through the gut cells to the hemolymph, where it is associated with a protein complex. A systemic RNA signal reaches the food secretion glands of nurse bees and is transmitted to the progeny, again, through RNA-containing jelly consumption. This phenomenon is driven by horizontal RNA transfer among individual bees and across generations. Hence, it demonstrates an inherent non-organism autonomous RNA—a transmissible RNA route in honey bees. Such a route could involve transmission of diverse exogenous and endogenous RNA types, including double- and single-stranded RNA corresponding to protein-coding and non-coding genes.” The full paper can be found here

It’ll be interesting if using this knowledge, we might be able to get a handle on the issues of the varroa mite and perhaps get back to having colonies in our apiaries for decades instead of seasons.

 

 

 

 

 

Two Packages, Two Different Hives

It’s interesting to me that I can order two packages from the same apiary and end up receiving two different types of colonies.   One hive is so busy that they are flying into me when I’m at the hive, and the other is so small that it hardly notices when I am around.  It seems like there are 2/3 fewer bees in the second hive then the first.  I was worried that perhaps the package tried to abscond and the queen would be gone, but I have eggs and larva so even though I didn’t see the queen, I know she’s there.  I’m confident there’s plenty of time to build the hive.

I wonder if some of the bees from Hive #2 moved to Hive #1 in the bustle of hiving.  There were bees everywhere, and since they traveled so closely together, maybe they mixed up the pheromones.  The difference in size of the two hives is amazing.

Next inspection I will add Rhubarb leaves, and at least for Hive #1 I will do a sugar shake and see what the might load looks like.  Not sure I want to add extra stress to Hive #2 so, for now, I will treat both based on the one.

On a side note, my mother and brother have gained a hive of bees.   They had an empty Langstroth hive sitting out with foundation, and now there is a large colony living there!  How cool is that!

This is such an exciting time of year!

They’re here!

It’s always so exciting when the post office calls to tell you your girls have arrived.  This year I ordered 2 3# packages, and I’m tickled that they arrived safely.  It was unfortunate that is was raining and yucky outside when they arrived.  It was in everyone’s best interest to place them in the basement for the night and wait for sunny skies in the morning to hive them.  I actually waited until almost 2pm to allow the temperature to climb over 55.  These girls were eager to make the hives their new home, very quickly I saw workers poised to waft pheromones in the air helping all to find their way.

Pretty quickly on, I noticed that the two hives seem to have two different personalities.  Hive #1 is a very busy and active hive!  Mind you, they are in no way aggressive, just busy and at one point, away from the hive itself, I had a few bees fly into me in their orientation flights.

The second hive is much more laid back, and not as seemingly busy.  They appeared to be happy to be in the hive, but not as many bees coming in and out and it took significantly longer for them to leave the shipping package to the hive.

  • Time: 2pm
  • Temp: 56º
  • Humidity: 35%
  • Pressure: 30.09 ↓
  • Total bars: 5
  • Environment: Sunny, Pretty day

Bloom on the farm:  lilac, oak, sycamore & autumn olive

Added 1:1 sugar water to each hive and closed 2 of 3 entrance holes leaving the middle open

Welcome Back Bees

As the early spring blooms are coming to an end, the excitement of the start of a new bee season for me is about to begin.  It was a difficult year in my little apiary last year, and I’m eager to start again with hopes and prayers for a successful year.  This year I have ordered two packages of #3 Gold Star Honeybees.  These guys are used to small cell comb and are a mix of  Russian, Italian, and Carniolan genetics also winter hardy, which I’m hoping is better than getting packages from Floria.  I’m hoping that these girls will be able to withstand the temperatures of WV winters with less overall stress.

This year I’m also going to try an additional varroa mite treatment that I read about in The Beekeepers Quarterly (No. 127) on how a couple of beekeepers, Ann and Maciej Winiarski, in Poland, have been using rhubarb (Rheum rhabarbarum) as an effective method of controlling varroa. Rhubarb leaves have a natural low dose of oxalic acid which can be used at any time in the apiary to control varroa without harming the bees or honey. By placing the leaves, together with their crushed stalks between the brood box and super, the worker bees will work to remove the rhubarb. Because of the conditions inside the hive, the leaves don’t dry out but slowly releases oxalic acid in a gaseous form which circulates around the hive.

this method wasn’t originally done in a top bar hive, but I don’t see why this wouldn’t work perfectly in my hives.  I have a beautiful patch of Rhubarb transplanted years ago from my in-laws.  I usually just compost the leaves…but I’m super excited to be able to use them for the good of the girls.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed for a healthier and stronger hive going into winter this year.

 

Big day at the Apiary

 

A few weeks ago I treated my hive with HopGuard II for mites.  I haven’t used this before, and it seemed like a good choice for a topbar.  I was also happy that I didn’t need to worry about honey in the hive when being used.  I’m hoping that it works well for this season.

But then I had a thought…what if I planted hops to grow around my hive?  Would that have a positive effect in keeping the mites in check?  I haven’t seen anything out there about such a thing, but I couldn’t convince myself that it would hurt, so I bought some.

I ended up ordering ten rhizomes of Liberty Hops.  For my friends that are beer makers, Liberty is a triploid variety bred that is crossed between a female Hallertau Mittelfrüh and a downy mildew resistant German male hop. The variety was developed in 1983 from the USDA program at Oregon State University and released in the US in 1991. Of the four triploid Hallertau Mittelfrueh varieties released, Liberty most closely resembles the Hallertau Mittelfrüh.

Pedigree Triploid from Hallertau Mittelfrüh and German aroma male hop
Aroma Mild, slightly spicy, floral
Alpha Acids* 3.0 – 5.0 %
Beta Acids 3.0 – 4.0 %
Cohumulone 24 – 30 % of alpha acids
Total Oil 0.6 – 1.2 ml/100g
Myrcene 20 – 40 % of total oil
Humulene 35 – 40 % of total oil
Caryophyllene 9 – 12 % of total oil
Farnesene < 1 % of total oil

We built a frame around two of my hives and planted them so that they will grow up the frame on cordage.  I’m hoping that in the winter, I’ll be able to cut the binds off the rhizomes and leave them on the frame to act as a windbreak for the winter.  Of course, we will have harvested the hops before that.

Hops and Honey…oh what is one to do with that combination?! I’m keeping fingers crossed for a decent first-year harvest so my son can help me make a batch of Honey Wheat Ale for the cold winters months!

Keep your fingers crossed for us!

 

A New Start

After last years terrible ending, I decided to order a package of bees to start my season off.  This is the first time I have bought bees…I’ve always caught swarms to add to the apiary.  With the terrible losses last year throughout the state, I was nervous the swarm scene might not be as magnificent as it was in 2017.  I received my package yesterday–it was a balmy 42 degrees out.  I was hoping for much warmer weather, but this coming week looks to be delightfully in the low to mid 60’s.

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The post office called me at 6:30am to let me know that the bees have arrived in town.  It was 32 degrees.  When I got there to pick them up, the Postmaster told me he was a little worried because they were all very quiet first thing, but as the temp began to rise, so did the bee activity.  It was 42 degrees when I decided to hive them.

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I’ll admit I had to watch a YouTube video before trying this. (you can learn anything from YouTube!)  I found that getting the sugar water out of the package was a bit difficult, but what I really failed at was the Queen herself._DSC0771

As I flicked the staple out to release her cage I did so without holding on to her!  Down she fell!  Retrieving her was not that difficult actually, but I was worried that I would squash a few reaching for her.

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In the end, the rest of the installation went smooth as can be.  The cool weather might have helped a little, but I was surprised to see so many bees flying around the apiary. They seemed calm, just taking a look around.  I closed up the hive, and I’ll check on them on Monday to verify the Queen has been released from her cage.

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Fingers crossed and a quick prayer to Saint Valentine, who not only is the Patron Saint of love and romance but is also charged with ensuring the sweetness of honey and the protection of beekeepers.

Here’s to new beginnings.

A Total Loss 

I’m sad to say that I’ve lost all 5 of my hives this year.  This is just devastating to me.  As I talked with the local beekeepers here in West Virginia, it seems to be the same scene playing over and over again in the local apiaries.

Looking for answers inside one of my hives,  I came across this.  Yellow Jackets!  They were in every hive, and as you can see, they were inside the combs eating the honey.  The thing is, I’m not sure the Yellow Jackets caused the fall of the hive, or if they were just opportunistic.  As you can see, they too died, and not all of the honey in the hives were consumed.

The combs look terrible, and seem to confirm a robbing even happened, but again not sure if it was before or after my bees lost their hive.   Here are a few additional photos.

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There was plenty of capped honey still left in all hives, which just added to the mystery.

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Overall, I expected to see more dead bees inside the hives, but that just wasn’t the case.  Where did they go?  Through my local beekeeper’s club, I was able to speak to the State Apiarist, and there just doesn’t seem to be many answers to what happened this year, just a confirmation that this little apiary wasn’t the only one with big losses in the state.

We’ll try again next Spring.

Our First Trap-Out

        A friend of mine texted me one night and asked me if I was interested in some bees.  It was right at the start of swarm season, and I was super excited to get my hands on a swarm.  As I asked more questions, I came to understand that it wasn’t a swarm at all…

        As it turned out, a neighbor a few houses over has had bees in their house for over 8 years!  Let me let that sink in for a few…8  Y E A R S.  In the back yard, there once was a deck that was removed.  Once removed, the hole that remains in the cedar siding were just left open.  Eventually, a swarm found their was in through the holes and made a warm home within the rafters of the ceiling.  For years, they have been trying to find someone to help them with this problem…to no avail.  After we talked, we decided to do a trap-out to remove the bees without doing any damage to the home.

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        The first thing we needed to do was make sure all potential entrances into the hive were closed except one.  We used wire, duct tape, and a board to wedge under the siding that had been separated a bit from the house.   We used wire to close up two of the three holes leaving the largest one open.

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        Once all of that was completed, Ed made a cone out of wire that we placed over the remaining large hole.  The idea is to allow the bees to leave the hive like they always do, but not allow them to re-enter the hive.  We placed a new hive at the new exit, so that we hoped they would choose set up camp right there.  We gave them 4 framed of comb, and one frame of honey.  We figured that would make it smell like home.

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        It didn’t take long for us to see the first bee exit the funnel.

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        After we watched for awhile longer, we decided to leave for the day.  We returned in the morning to find a large congregation of bees still on the side of the house.  I was getting nervous that we left an opening still uncovered.  As we looked closer we noticed that the bees removed the cheap duct tape that we used under the funnel to tape the  wire to the concrete.  We used a board wedged between the ground and the siding to finally close that off.  Two days later, we were happy to see that the bee’s have decided to use the hive we offered them.  Now it was just a game of wait.

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        At week 3 we decided it would be a good idea to add some brood to the new hive.  I was hopeful that they would decide to create a queen.  A lot of time when you do a trap-out, the queen never emerges from the hive.  We tried to keep the funnel opening large enough to allow her to join her gals in the new hive.  For good measure, we wanted to offer them an alternative in case she didn’t make it.

 

        Six weeks after we placed the cone, bees stopped exiting the cone so we removed it.  Re cleaned up the siding as much as we could, and removed extra staples, but left everything else in place until the home owner was able to properly seal the holes so no other wandering swarm  decided to find a home in the same place.

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        All we had left was to strap the hive down, and bring them to the apiary to continue to thrive, pollinate, and produce.  We are so thankful to have these bees and grateful that they weren’t destroyed because of the nuisance that they create when they inhabit a human space.

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HOME SWEET HOME

 

Queen–Missing in Action

This is the second year in a row that I have rushed into judgment about one of my hives being queenless.  Obviously, this is only my second year, but I hope that I soon start learning not to be so quick to panic.

So here’s what happened. As Spring finally took hold in West Virginia, my bi-weekly hive checks began.  I noticed that my Bruceton hive had a lot ( I mean A LOT) of queen cups and queen cells.  Thinking that it was time for a swarm, I removed one of my bars with capped queen cells and made a split, and added extra bars to open the brood area of the hive, hoping to convince the girls they had plenty of growing room.  In two weeks I came to the hive and found queen cells that have been opened by workers and a dead queen larvae removed.  I assumed a new queen was born, and she was offing the competition.

Two weeks more, and I entered the hive to find a ton ( I mean A TON) of male drone bees.  Further inspection of the bars found no capped brood, no brood at all which made me very nervous.  The bees were happy and calm, but I wasn’t.

(I circled the drone bees that are obvious.  They are bigger than the worker bees and have very large eyes in comparison. )

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Alarms going off in my head, I’m sure I have a queenless hive.  This is a bad thing and one that needs to be remedied quickly before my workers started to do something foolish, like start laying eggs themselves.  I texted my mentor for any leads on a new queen, and I asked for advice on this great Top Bar Facebook group.  Overwhelming, the group told me to take a breath and assured me that all was well with my hive and just give it some more time.

Today, one week later…because I could wait any longer, when I looked in my queenless hive, I saw this.  EGGS!!   Bee eggs look like small pieces of rice standing on end in the center of the cell.  There was a full bar of them.  I have a LAYING QUEEN.

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In the end, this is what I learned.  If the hive is acting fine and looks fine…it’s probably fine :). It might sound simple, but this is the second time a hive without a queen has made me nervous.  Maybe if I keep repeating it, I’ll learn to trust they know what they’re doing.

Doing the happy bee dance.

 

A New Hive Added to the Apiary

Spring is such an exciting time for those of us in the beekeeping world.  Last week another swarm was added to the apiary.  I wasn’t prepared for how large this was, so instead of placing it on a small nuc box until the 4 topper hive was ready for occupants, I tried something new.  Using 2 follower boards and a wall of straw between the two…I added this swarm to the back of the previous hive that was captured earlier in the spring.  A 1/2 in. circular hole was added to the side of the hive for a second entrance.  I was nervous that it might not be far enough from the front of the hive and a bee war would insue.  Happily, this plan worked!  A week later I was able to easily move the new swarm into their permanent home.  These ladies are most likely Carniolan bees, and there are kicking butt!  This hive is very busy and making comb and bringing in nectar and pollen. DSCN2736

There official name within the apiary is the Maple hive…and they are doing great in their new home.

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