One keeps the teeth of the little ones healthy and clean to avoid caries, dentures, and even heart disease but the little ingrates bite one’s finger.

Good Intentions Having learned in our first year that poking about a top-bar hive in 90°F(32°C) weather risks comb collapse we thought to take advantage of a slightly cooler morning on Monday of last week to again sugar roll the bees and see whether they yet required treatment. In addition we could try to do a little comb surgery. Our sharply peaked top-bars had until now successfully encouraged straight, well behaved comb. This year we have had one occurrence of comb drifting to the next bar and several overthick combs where rather than build new comb on an empty bar the bees simply expanded adjacent comb into the space. When they did build new comb it sometimes merged with such expanded comb. We suspect that a particularly strong nectar flow is to blame.

The sugar roll results are:

Hive MpHB1 – Jun 29 MpHB – Aug 01
Beatrix 1.0 Unknown
Clarissa 0.3 No more than they deserve
Dorcas 0.0 2.0

The Paved Road We only tested Dorcas, tried but gave up on Clarissa, and did not even attempt Beatrix. Sugar rolling Dorcas went smoothly enough but she managed to land a few stings on the Mr. as he cut apart and reformed wayward comb, dripping honey in the process. Stingers in bee jacketClarissa was even more upset with him right from the beginning and undeterred by smoke but he soldiered on until the unattacked Mrs. bade him to just walk off a ways while she closed up the hive. We also had a persistent pair of escorts back to the house. When we counted, the Mr. had acquired a dozen stings, only one of which was much swollen, and his bee jacket had trapped stingers from another half dozen attempts. See the specks in the picture at left? Close-up of one in the picture at right.

Lessons LearnedClose-up of stinger in bee jacket Bees will not follow into a dark space like the back of a barn away from any windows. But they will stubbornly wait by the door. This is valuable.

Other things we knew but received pointed and venomous reminders.

  • One is that there are more bees in the hive in the morning. All the foragers have not left yet and have nothing to do so why not sting the beekeeper?
  • Another is that bees get cranky during a nectar dearth, such as the current one provided by our lack of adequate rain.
  • Yet another is that a long opened hive may invite robbing, especially if there is any honey spilled, and resulting defensiveness. We kept our eye out and did not see the canonical frenzy but there may have been just enough sly robbers to upset the residents.
  • And stings put out some pheromone to urge more stinging. We tried countermeasures but without success.

In brief we chose the worst time of day at a bad time of year to irritate the bees. In our defense the weather has been denying us windows in which to do anything.

Future Plans Dorcas has gone from immeasurable to measurable mite load. We expect the others to also have increased and all to increase further before the cold sets in, probably to treatable levels. Booming Beatrix may already be there. While we would prefer to treat based on data rather than guesswork, we are tempted to just apply a dose of formic acid(MiteAway Quick Strips) to all but temperatures are too high for that as well. So we wait fretting until the weather cools or we snap.


1MpHB = Mites per Hundred Bees or Mites per Hectabee in metric

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