Feeding the Girls
September 20, 2007
The new beehives at UBC are just becoming established, so they need a little boost from the beekeeper. That picker-upper comes in the form of beet sugar dissolved in water (at a ratio of two to one). We divide into two groups: some volunteers stay in the kitchen and heat up the water to dissolve the sugar, while the rest of us go out to watch Allen feeding the hives and treating the bees for mites. There are two different kinds of feeders. One is a white plastic bucket with a lid and an opening. The other feeder is a plastic trough that fits right beside the comb.
Some of the hives have bottom boards under screens that can be pulled out and checked for dead mites that have dropped off the bees. On inspection, we see the hive boards contain live earwigs, earwig poop, wax flakes, pollen pellets and a few mites. The hives on the east side of the farm in the shade happened to have the most mites. The bees obviously need the formic acid treatment to help get rid of the minute pests.
We watch as the bees move away from the acrid stench of the formic acid pad. Allen tries not to drip the potent chemical directly onto the bodies of the bees. The mites seem tiny to us, about the size of a pinhead, but as Allen says, imagine you are a bee and that the mites are the size of an orange on your neck. (Gulp.)
Then pressure is on for the honeybees to gather enough food for the winter. Every dandelion I see on the ground contains a bee or wasp hard at work. While Allen is feeding the bees, one of the volunteers shows us a wasp attacking and devouring a honeybee on the face of a sunflower. When the sugar water leaks out the bottom of one of the hives we observe wasps and bees gather at the pooling nectar and slurping it up. The drones are also being kicked out of the hive because they've done their job and now they are a burden. The female bees need all the food they can store to get them through the winter months.AS I lean over to snap close-ups of the hive Bruce laughs and says I must get a peaked cap to wear under the veil because my nose is hitting the face netting. It's one of the places beekeepers are liable to be stung. Thanks for the warning!