I promised a story about my “Sugar Shake” adventure with the bees. This experience was a first for me and possibly my bees. I can’t say for sure about the bees as they could have lived with a bee keeper previously who’d performed this unusual feat with them. It’s done for their own good but I’m suspicious they do not know this. I am also not sure they took offense to it. I mean, being coated in powdered sugar sounds quite jolly to me.
This time of year beekeepers are preparing the hives for winter. Checking for pests, making sure there is adequate food for the winter, looking for the queen or signs that she is there, generally assuring themselves that they’ve done the best job possible to help the bees survive the winter. Depending on which part of the country you live in this may be done from August – October. Texas, being a warm state, doesn’t require winter prep until September or October.
Anyway, “Sugar Shake” is a method used to check for Varroa Mites, nasty little creatures that can destroy a hive. I’m overjoyed to say that none of my hives seem to be infected! This means I do not have to purchase or apply any miteacide to my hives. I would’ve treated with an organic product but fortunately it won’t be necessary.
Now, “Sugar Shake” involves a pint size glass jar with a screened lid, 3-4 tablespoons of powdered sugar and as many bees as one can catch in the jar! Scooping flying insects into a jar, full of sugar is a feat in itself.
The next step is to cover the screened end with a gloved hand and shake as if mixing a martini! I imagine it’s this part that is quite startling for the girls inside the jar. I discovered that my girls remained calm and crawled right out of the jar or happily walked away when I shook them out. After mixing the bees up with the sugar, I shook the sugar through the screen, much like sifting flour, onto a piece of white paper. The idea is that the sugar will dislodge any mites and allows the beekeeper to “see” them as they fall off of the bees onto the paper.
At this stage the bees are completely covered in white dust and anxious to be released from the jar. Not to worry, their sisters clean the sugar off of them and use it to stock the pantry in the hive.
This event took 2 days to complete. I also flip-flopped supers to place the ones full of honey closest to the center of the hive to make it easier on the bees to reach the honey during winter. It is said that a cluster of bees can starve to death if the honey is not close enough to them in the cold months. Praying this won’t happen to my sweet bees.
New adventures such as this are thought provoking for a bee keeper. I noticed that after the first couple of hives the process became easier and progressed more smoothly. For those of you reading who are also bee keepers or interested in bees I am still feeding my smallest hives, either swarms or removals who were without food. They are taking the syrup quickly and building up their food stores. They seem to know fall is here and cooler weather could be just around the corner.
For those of you looking for some good food I’ll be posting a delicious pasta recipe as well as my newest favorite cocktail later in the week.