Friday, March 30, 2012

Inspecting the Bees and Preparing Hives

We spent a couple of hours looking at James' bee hives around Ote, we were checking the health and clenlieness of the hives as well as repairing some that we knew had fallen over- we wanted to see what needed to be done to attract more bees.

The newly colonised hive was next to the fallen hive about 20m away as they were placed in a line in quite an open semi shaded location.  As usual the KTB (Kenyan Top Bar) hive was covered in a sheet of aluminium for waterproofing and then some leaves of palm were placed on top to keep the sun off, weighted down with a log.

The stands are made of any available material and in this case are fairly hefty trunks of trees

James removed the roof and vegetation to reveal the hive with the top bars exposed and gently tapped along the bars to detect the size of the area occupied.

It was clear from the duller sound that the bees were only on the front 5 or 6 bars confirming that this was a newly formed colony. We then opened up a bar away from the entrance where the sound indicated the bees were not forming comb, to reveal empty bars but quite a number of bees.

We worked our way forwards and eventually took out bar 4 to reveal the small combs being formed and were able to hold the frame up for a close inspection. The comb is a natural shape since no guide is provided for the bees as in the Western style hives that have full frames.  The older and therefore bigger combs are found nearer to the front of the hive where the opening is.

James became very confident when he realised how calm the bees were and took off his bee suit.

Close inspection showed eggs present in some combs and also pollen and some honey being built up.  Everything certainly looked very healthy.

As we moved the bars apart the bees strung out as they attach to each other showing close connection within the colony.

We then turned our attention to the fallen hives.  James opened them up and took all the top bars out.  He then dusted inside the hive to remove any debris that had collected and to inspect for damage.  In several places there was evidence of mouse damage with parts of the floor, bars and edges gnawed slightly.  In some places fungus had begun to grow because the hives had fallen in a period of rain and the inside of the hive had become damp.
 It was decided that to kill the fungus the hives needed to be sterilised and so we lit a fire from sticks found lying around.

 We took the hives and turned them over in the fire to make sure all areas with fungus were slightly charred to ensure regrowth would not occur.  We also made sure that we scorched the outside where signs of fungus  could be seen

We then took each of the top bars and Brian and James held them each in the flames to sterilise and then I rubbed beeswax over the edge where the bees will attach their comb on the underside of the bar.

We also rubbed some beeswax inside the box of the hive. The smell of the beeswax will act as a lure to attract the bees to the hive.  This is because bees will tend to go to a place where bees have been before or have found suitable, and the smell of the beeswax will help to create this.  Honey itself cannot be used as it will attract other insects and pests including ants which are a real pest to bees.

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