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I began this blog to chronicle my beekeeping experiences. I have read lots of beekeeping books, but nothing takes the place of either hands-on experience with an experienced beekeeper or good pictures of the process. I want people to have a clearer picture of what to expect in their beekeeping so I post pictures and write about my beekeeping saga here. Along the way, I've passed a number of certification levels and am now a!
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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Creative Entrance Reducers

In Billy Davis' talk to our bee club, he emphasized the importance of entrance reducers.  He stated that the use of entrance reducers and keeping robber screens on the hives at all times stopped robbing in his apiaries.  So I am taking him seriously and trying it this year.

I've had two rather humorous experiences so far.  First at Morningside, the men who live in the house beside the community garden (where my hives are) are complaining that my bees are disturbing their use of their hot tub.  They are nice guys and supply water to the community garden, so we want them to stay happy.  I wrote them that there are five beekeepers within a mile of the community garden and that my bees are highly likely not to be the only ones visiting their hot tub.

However, to begin to address the problem and hopefully to prevent my needing to move my hives, I put a Boardman bottle of water on each hive.  I put a teaspoon of Chlorox in each bottle and a few drops of lemongrass oil to entice the bees to get their water at home.  However, I also wanted to reduce the entrance as per Billy Davis.  The Boardman bottles took up space and I don't have entrance reducers that short so I did something that I had read about on a beekeeping forum.  I used wine corks:




The bees fell all over themselves as they learned the new entrance but then calmed down.  I also put the same corks on the hive that I made from the Colony Square nuc the week before.   This photo was taken just before I left the Morningside hives.

I do wonder what the gardeners will think of all the wine corks - possibly that I really like wine!  But it is serving the purpose and looks like fun, doesn't it?








After the corks, I was really tired - not from putting in corks, but because we had done a lot of bee work already.  Jeff and I had already done our splits that morning; I went to the Morningside Garden berfore the splits to work on my plot there; and I was anticipating moving the hives in a few hours that night.  I knew the 3-box hive at Morningside needed a new box, but I just wanted to go home for a couple of hours and not do bees.

I sat on a stump by the hives and watched the bees for about 10 minutes.  Then I started for the car, telling myself that I'd get to it another day.  But I was already there and had already carried the box and all my bee stuff up to the hives.

I sat another second and then opened the hive and got to work.  I had brought a box of half empty frames and half drawn frames.  I checker-boarded these frames with the frames in the box below.  As I lifted out the seventh frame in the box on the hive, there was the queen!  What was she doing in the top box and on comb that looked like it was for honey storage - too large a cells for worker bees?

I got a little concerned that the reason she was there in that box was because the bees were running her around to get her ready to swarm.  She does look a little skinny!  However, skinny or not, she is certainly a pretty sight, I must say.  As is the beauty of the brand new wax and the festooning bees.















So I decided it was a good sign to reinforce my staying to add the box.

That was my funny entrance reducer story #1.  My second story happened on Sunday afternoon.  After the big split Saturday, on the next day (Sunday), I drove to Lula, Georgia to get a package of bees from Don Kuchenmeister for our teaching hive at Chastain Conservancy.

First I drove up to Rabun County to see if the bees there had lived through the winter.  Remember the one hive had been destroyed by what, I don't know.  The other was a hive that was populated on its own by a swarm last spring.  Those bees were alive in December, but Rabun county is 125 miles north of Atlanta and they have had a cold winter and some snow.

I found the hive dead, full of honey, with no bees at all in the hive except for about 20 on the bottom board.  I left the hive set up to possibly attract another swarm from the feral hive that lives in the wall of the nearby school building.

Then I picked up my package from Don - actually he had an extra one that I also bought to replace the Rabun hive, since I need a hive there and don't have confidence in my splits.  I couldn't drive another hour north to Rabun again, though, so I took both packages home.



I installed the first package in my backyard.

As I am getting ready to install the bees, I am thinking of Billy Davis.  So before I put in the package, I equipped the front of the hive with a robber screen as close to the one Billy had as I could do with my landing being slightly different from his.



















Then I installed the package and stepped back to view my "great job."






















And then there was my moment of realization, my Ah-Ha of the day.  A package consists of several pounds of bees (three in this case) and an unknown queen in a queen cage.  These bees aren't attached yet to the queen - they were only dumped in the package yesterday.  So the bees are no different than robber bees.  Without the pull of the queen pheromone, they have a hard time finding a way into the hive.  Attached to the queen, resident bees can negotiate the robber screen and undaunted, enter the hive from the side opening of the robber screen.

DUH.  My bees were flying at the hive in every direction and not finding the hive entry.

So I removed the robber screen and allowed the wayward bees to find their to-bee-queen and will wait to install the robber screen!

But I do plan to put them on every hive this year.  I lost my two biggest hives last summer to robbing and I am not having that happen again, if I have any possible way to influence that occurrence.

6 comments:

  1. Could you please post a sideview of that robber screen? I am not sure what happens where the landing starts.

    I lost both my hives due to robbing last year. :(

    ReplyDelete
  2. I'll post a slide show of the robber screen. This is my first iteration of it and it may not be the best. The entrance to the robber screen needs to be, according to Billy Davis, at least 4 inches from the hive entrance. The screen wire (#8 hardware cloth) is staple-gunned to the wood above the entry and across the front of the hive. The cloth is folded so that there is a tunnel created with an entry on either side of the landing (2 entries). Bees fly in at the side, make their way across the landing to the entry hole and come in there. I'll take better photos and put up a slide show. Thanks for the request and the interest.

    ReplyDelete
  3. I think I understand what you are saying, but it would be nice to have a step by step photo guide if you can manage it.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Clever idea with the wine corks. I'll have to try that one when need be. Unique advice for sure.

    ReplyDelete
  5. Interesante mundo el de las abejas.

    ReplyDelete
  6. Anonymous6:40 PM

    Do you find small hive beetles hiding in the slotted bottom board?

    ReplyDelete

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