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Ruth Askren

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Viewing 15 posts - 1 through 15 (of 33 total)
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  • in reply to: locating hive #9254
    Ruth Askren
    in reply to: locating hive #9252
    Ruth Askren

    A flat roof is a good place for a hive in terms of keeping their flight path well over everyone’s heads, but they can get extremely hot up there. Be sure to consider both radiant heat coming up from the black rooftop and also the beating mid-August- October sun. The roof-heat can be dissipated by putting your hives on a pallet. Providing a shade cloth to help in the hot season is something you might want to plan for now. It can be a problem on a roof to find a vertical pole to hang a shade from.

    If the deck outside your bedroom has a floor solid enough to walk on, I don’t know why it would vibrate enough to bother the bees. It should be able to bear about 300 pounds of weight though.

    Ronni, all the issues you mention bear consideration. There is no place for bees that is completely perfect. You don’t mention what city you’re in but I assume it is Los Angeles and so you are wise to try to conform to the Santa Monica code, because when it is legalized we will probably have something close to that.

    I consider the compass direction the hive faces to be much less important than several other factors. Here is my priority list:
    (1) As far as possible from a fenceline where the neighbors on the other side have children who play in that yard. That’s a no-no.
    (2) Facing along, not across, a property line.
    (3) Access for the beekeeper: must be accessible from outside. A balcony for example with a high wall, where you would need a ladder both on the balcony and outside, to get up to the balcony, would not work. You will be needing to carry heavy things back and forth, and some of those heavy things will have bees flying around them and/or honey dripping from them. You don’t want that in the house. Angled ladder access is okay, but you may also need the ability to raise and lower boxes on ropes.
    (4) At least four hours of direct sunlight, or nearly direct.
    (5) If hive is in a small yard where you may need to walk back and forth across the flight path, then an enclosure should be built, using at the minimum 6′ high reed or bamboo fencing (a “bee cabana”). Make sure to leave enough room to walk around the hive and be able to place hive components on the ground as you inspect.
    (6) Homeowner of hive must be able to secure young dogs away from the hive permanently. Ditto for children under the age of approximately ~7. I advise people with toddlers or soon-to-be that it might be better to wait if their space is limited.
    (7) Out of direct line of sight of neighbors. If next door you have an apartment building where the second story windows look directly on to your hive site, you might want to consider a different site. People become fearful when they see a hive opened and it’s not worth the hassle. Put it somewhere that people won’t be seeing it every time they look outside.

    I’m sure there are other things I havent brought in to the conversation. Glad you brought it up, it’s something we should discuss more often.

    Ruth Askren

    I use the “Freeman Beetle Board” (in addition to aggressive management strategies) since the Freeman board is a mechanical exterior treatment that put nothing inside the hive.

    I love the fact that my LA feral bees do so well without putting any substances like Crisco or essential oils in the hive. But to keep them this way I have found that I need to keep a close eye on hive space management.

    If you leave dead space (empty combs) in your hives, AND you have moisture constantly nearby (like an automatic drip watering outlet near the base of the hive) you WILL get SHB’s in southern California. Don’t water the ground under or near your hives and get them out of the shade if possible. Clear underbrush and dead leaves, that is perfect breeding ground for the pupae as Dennis mentioned.

    Most of your frames should be covered with bees, except maybe in early spring. You might have a couple/few frames that are empty-ish, but you want a high level of bee density in your hive to manage SHB and all pests.

    This is also the secret of great honey production, as Michael Bush has said, a hive has to be a bit crowded for the bees to be making extra honey.

    in reply to: Hive Beetle Trap Options #9141
    Ruth Askren

    I do get plagued with a fair amount of shb uprisings from time to time and I use as many tools against them as I can muster. If there’s any way to control the dampness factor that is a major cause of shb infestations… but in some yards you don’t get choices of where to put a hive. So you try to stand them down.

    In some locations there will always be one or two beetles in the hive. Don’t worry about that. It’s when you see 1 or 2 dozen of them running around on the top board, then you know you have a very big problem and you must take action. And make no mistake, beetles CAN take down a hive.

    It’s of primary importance when dealing with shb’s that you maintain a high ratio of bees per frame in the hive. If there’s a whole empty box worth of frames, take them off. Consolidate and compress. If it’s in 10 frame boxes consider moving it into 8-frame, in order to better consolidate and remove a few barely-used frames.

    This sounds brutal but you MUST kill every hive beetle you see. Each one of those little skunks (female) can produce hundreds if not thousands of eggs. KILL! ๐Ÿ™

    Even if the area around the hive is dappled sunlight or has an automatic drip system nearby, putting the hive up on cinderblocks or pavers will mitigate the ease with which beetles can fly in to the hive. Since they pupate in the soil, a solid, sweepable ground cover also means they can’t pupate right under your beehive, the easier to push themselves in at maturity.

    The “beetle blaster” trap (Larry carries them at LA Honey) I found to be totally ineffectual when I tried it last year, but I only used oil in them and I’m told if you put vinegar in as well it really does work. But it puts drippy crap in the hive that spills on the comb, is hard to handle and the bees would never want it inside their quarters.

    So I have come down to relying completely on the Freeman Beetle Board ( which also comes in a style with ventilation. They are pricey but I have have seen them provide almost total conquest, where 90% of the problem goes away. Also, it doesn’t add anything biological or chemical to the hive interior, since the oil tray remains separated from the bees by screen.

    Now if I could just get Irv to come up with a simpler and cheaper design…

    in reply to: Feeding pollen #8927
    Ruth Askren

    Steve, first of all, the issue of feeding syrup. While it’s true as Susan says that High Fructose Corn Syrup is generally regarded in this beekeeping community as an unhealthy practice under any conditions, it is important to recognize that feeding sugar syrup is a very widely accepted practice in getting bees started out and stimulating them to build comb. Sugar syrup is less desirable than honey because of the reasons Susan expresses above, but there are a ton of beekeepers that use sugar as a temporary measure, including Michael Bush, much as if you were seriously dehydrated you might drink a special drink, or be put in the hospital on IV glucose. No one would suggest that you stay on IV glucose forever! Just until you have enough to get back to a normal lifestyle, which for bees is foraging for nectar and pollen. It would be a mistake to keep your bees on “Feed” all the time!

    About feeding pollen: it is food which is mixed with honey to make “beebread”, a very important protein source for the queen and for the brood. Its also usually abundant in southern california until about October. If you want to be 100 per cent sure, you can buy some pollen and make pollen patties, but if there is pollen to forage they will collect it without hesitation.

    The other thing I want to tell you is to be sure to keep your TBH closely monitored to confirm that the comb the bees are building is straight and not crossing between bars. With a brand new hive this might easily require weekly inspections. Hopefully that will be possible for you, at least in the beginning.As soon as you have one straight comb, you can move it over one more bar into the
    interior of the hive to keep them straight going forward.

    Good luck with your new bees!

    in reply to: Small Hive Beetle Control #8899
    Ruth Askren

    I have been trying different things but don’t have the perfect solution.

    The Freeman Bottom Board is a well-crafted piece of woodenware made for the sole purpose of controlling SHB. so far it does a good but not perfect job for me.

    Moisture is preferred in SHB pupae hatching grounds under your hive. Therefore shady earth with a lot of leaf litter is prime SHB ground. Laying down some paving stones instead is a good idea.

    Don’t water or irrigate around your hives.

    The other important factor is density of bees in the hive. If you have a lot of empty combs it would be better to compress the hive size down so that each frame is full of bees. They can do a better job of controlling the shb’s that way. Don’t leave any empty frames if possible.

    Always kill as many as you possibly can. Each female adult can lay several thousand eggs.

    Any other ideas I would love to know about!

    in reply to: San Fernando Valley hive needs free relocating #8875
    Ruth Askren

    Cherie, it’s important for you to know that the spray expandable foam is not a good choice for entombing bees in a tree. It is very susceptible to erosion in sunlight; it will crumble and the bees will chew through it within a week.

    A better choice would be some form of concrete. If you do decide to close the bees in, you need to be sure that the entire tree hollow is entirely secure. If there are any leaks, the bees will find it and continue in their pursuits.

    in reply to: Baited hive. Next steps? #8834
    Ruth Askren

    Just want to agree that beginners should be able to post questions here and have them answered politely. But it is very important that people recognize themselves as beginners and not be giving out advice that is based on ignorance. For example, this statement: “Bee swarms will build queen cells rite away because they are used to swarming.” Totally false and untrue, and based on a lack of understanding of the swarm process and physiology. Read “Honeybee Democracy” by Tom Seeley. Or, if you don’t have enough money to buy it, I’m sure there are many places online where you can finds excerpts from Seeley’s many studies about swarm behavior. They do not build queen cells right away.

    I just want to say one other thing about AHB’s or Afriucanized honeybees. We do have that genetic strain in our bees in LA, it’s true. And that is why it’s important to be honest about what keeping bees entails, not just in terms of the enjoyment and pleasure of the bee lover,but also in terms of the preservation of public safety. Temperament is a key component of a hive and not to be taken lightly in an urban (or suburban) environment. Please respect the common space around us; it belongs to everyone! As that little swarm you have grows bigger, it will become more important. to protect the people around you by using known methods of inspection -like using a smoker- to keep the bees calm and monitor their mood proactively.

    in reply to: Please help us figure out whats wrong with our hive! #8657
    Ruth Askren

    When you see residue like that on the landing board it is often a sign of hive beetle, or SHB infestation. They breed in the honey cells (and also in the bee bread) and cause it to rot and ferment. The stores then spill out onto the floor of the hive, or “leak”. This is why it’s a good idea to get a look at your bottom board every now and then during inspections.

    When you say “He saw larvae looking sacs”, it tells me that he doesn’t actually know what bee-larvae look like, and may have been seeing Small Hive Beetle larvae instead. That would explain all the detritus on the bottom board.

    The way to save the colony is to open it up, take out every frame and look for “frass”, or the webbing of the hive beetle larvae’s feces. Cut with a serrated knife everything that does not properly belong to the bees in the hive, including rotten/infested stores of their food. Compress what is left down into the smallest space that they can occupy without including the pests, or their left-behind garbage, and hopefully you will still have enough workers, nurses and queens for a colony.

    The swarm that you saw may have been readying to take over the hive in the case that it was queeenless. This is called a “usurping swarm” and our local bees can be quite opportunist when they sense that a hive is in trouble.

    You will find out the answer to your question you need to do a thorough inspection.

    in reply to: Have hive, need mentor to give them a home #8656
    Ruth Askren

    Hi Suzanne,
    Just a little confused by your post.

    A mentor is a teacher who coaches someone, usually on-on-one, and provides ongoing advice and counsel in a given craft or area of knowledge that the “mentee” or apprentice, wants to learn.

    However it sounds like you are looking for
    1) a hive host to provide a location where your bees may be kept
    2) someone who will move the hive to the site

    Are you also looking to learn beekeeping, or rather are you looking for someone to provide maintenance for the hive without your participation?

    In addition, please clarify what you mean by the statement that the bees are making a hive outside the swarm box? Are they building comb outside the box? On the box? On a tree??? The description sounds unlike anything I have ever seen! Maybe you could post a photo of this very unusual sounding situation!

    Thank you for making a request for assistance, it just isn’t clear what you need.

    in reply to: Adding boxes–when and how to do it #8655
    Ruth Askren

    Teri, remember that there are many “right” ways of doing beekeeping. It sounds to me like you made some good decisions.

    It’s always a good idea to put at least one frame of “food” with brood you are moving up into a new box. The bottom box that seems to be used for storage is normal. (Just not from the particular text book that you read!)

    If you have 3 frames of brood in the middle of the box, that means you’ll have 7 more frames in that box that are empty and FOUNDATIONLESS. That is a recipe for cross comb, unless you inspect often (every 2 weeks?) and be ready to press back into place their forays over to the bar next door! I never put more than two foundationless frames next to eachother. I hate cross comb and tolerate very little of it. So be careful with those empties in that box. Keep an eye on them, OR~ move up some frames from below, even if the cells have nothing in them. As long as they’re drawn out straight, you will avoid the nightmare of crossed-up comb that keeps you blind in the hive. Alternate every other frame, so that you don’t have open space without built out comb in it, exceeding two frames. One frame empty is even better.

    in reply to: Beek obligations #8651
    Ruth Askren

    I love browsing at Beesource. Here you will find some interesting philophical writings about bee husbandry and different approaches to the craft:

    Here’s another page there with a large number of resources, from articles about keeping feral bees to “build it yourself” plans:

    There are also several forums there, if you’re looking for a larger group to converse with.

    in reply to: Leveling Hives โ€“ how keep them from slipping? #8650
    Ruth Askren

    I don’t strap or screw my boxes together. I had a terrible experience with screwed on bottom boards when I noticed some moth frass that I wanted to clean off- I couldn’t remove the bottom board from the bottom box without taking every frame out of the box, so I could turn the whole thing upside down, which was totally not in my schedule. So I don’t attach.

    A healthy hive produces propolis. If you takethe lid off your hive to inspect, and it slips right off without you having to pry, that’s a bad sign. Bees that don’t propolize everything may be undergoing some kind of serious stress. Like mites, beetles, starvation, or other.

    I level my hives by putting 1/4″ slate tile pieces under the feet til they’re evened out. Or I use pieces of 2X4 wood, brick, or construction shims. Whatever it takes! Then, on the top, I place a big rock or a couple of bricks to stabilize the cover while the bees are getting their propolis guns loaded ๐Ÿ™‚

    in reply to: Starting over… #8649
    Ruth Askren

    Hi Byron!
    It is upsetting when ants or any pest takes down a hive. It is likely that the bees absconded as you say, because of the ants. Be sure to place the feet of your hive stand in cans of oil, or paint the legs of the stand with “Tanglefoot”, a product that you can buy at any hardware store or Home Depot.

    If all your bees flew off, leaving you with no queen and no brood, it is not enough to try to start up again with only a frame or two of brood. You will need at least two frames of brood, some bee bread which is crucial in queenmaking, and honey. Or you could purchase a queen and supply her with some supportive nurse bees and brood along with the bee bread. It might be easier to just start with a new hive, or a nuc.

    I have a couple of smallish hives I am willing to part with. Call me if you’re interested-


    in reply to: 2 Nice Top Bar Hives- Must Go! #8364
    Ruth Askren

    Hi Kendra, The Bee Pod retail price is something like $675. I am trying to recoup $200 each for the owner. I understand that legality can be an issue, especially if your neighbors are not on board! Good luck.

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