Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Fingers Like Snakes and Spiders in My Hair

Today I had a terrifying experience. Here, let me share my terror with you. It is, after all, October.

Today was Harvest Honey From Our Bees Day! I was worried about the harvest because I had noticed what looked like tiny white dropping near our hive. When I peaked in the entrance to the hive, I saw the same things on the floor of the hive. Now what could possibly be small enough to get inside the hive, yet big enough to leave those droppings? And what could climb up to our hive? It would take quite the acrobatic feat.

Anna came over and I showed her the mystery. She called our relative expert while I paged through a bee keeping book. I found that beetles sometimes invade beehives. Beetles! Small enough, big enough, and fantastic climbers! Getting rid of them would be complicated, but doable.

Anna hung up the phone with a worried expression on her face. "He said he didn't know because he can't see, but he thinks it's a specific fungal infection. If he's right, There is no cure. We'll have to burn the whole hive."

"Huh." I said. "I think it's beetles." I showed her the book. She thumbed through it, then excitedly shouted "Chalkbrood! It's a fungus that attacks the bee larvae  The larvae become dried and chalk-like. The worker bees pull them out and drop them to the hive floor, the move them out of the hive, dropping them all around the hive. That MUST be it!"

And since Chalkbrood is easier to treat than both our earlier theories  we both heartily agreed it was chalkbrood. With that in mind, we opened up the hive.

After going through each individual frame and finding the queen (hooray!), healthy larvae  and eggs, we found a single frame with unmistakable signs of chalkbrood. We found no signs of beetles or of that dreaded other fungus.

In order to help cure the hive of chalkbrood, we needed to clean out the bottom of the hive; help those worker bees out. We pulled off the beehive, leaving only the base, and froze: Moths. A lot of them. A huge nest of them. With larvae. Giant, Scary worm larvae: Wax moths;  A common affliction to beehives. We caught them in the early stages (thank goodness) and began to clean clean them out.

This leads me to the terror part. As we cleaned up chalk brood and wax moths, we found another infestation: Spiders. Huge, scary, waxy spiders. A lot of them. And their many egg sacks.

I freaked. Poor Anna, who is not a big fan of spiders herself (and let me emphasize these were particularly ugly, shiny, big spiders) had to squash and clean them up herself. Gah. I'm freaking out just writing about it.  But she did, and we scrubbed the foundation then put the beehive back together.

We got exactly zero ounces of honey. And who can blame our poor bees? Battling fungus, moths and monster spiders.

The good news is the bees did a great job of making honey for themselves. They are healthy, with a healthy queen. They are now strong enough to battle off chalkbrood and wax moths, so those shouldn't be a problem anymore (but of course we'll keep a close eye on it). We expect a lot of honey next year. That is, if we can figure out a way to keep the spiders out of the beehive. Any suggestions?  And for that matter, any suggestions on how to keep the spiders out of my nightmares?

1 comment:

  1. I don't want a picture. I was going to ask for a picture to see these spiders and moths and chalkbrood but I didn't and I don't regret it.

    I want to see the hive to be sure and I suspect that this idea is terrible, but couldn't you spray for spiders at the base of the hive (assuming that doesn't bother bees), or use a different (less chemically) method of spider deterrent?

    ...Now this question is going to bother me. I gotta look up an answer. I can't wait to see your bees on Saturday.


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