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Misconceptions and Enemies of Honey Bees
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VARROA MITE
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Number One Enemy Of European Honey Bee Species

  A Short List of Enemies of Honey Bees
and of Beekeepers
 
 
     In all areas of the country, all beekeepers have more than one pest and more than one ailment to deal with when it comes to protecting their colonies of honey bees.   Thankfully, here in our area, we do not have Hive Beetles..... yet.   Some beekeepers in certain areas have more pests to be aware of than in other areas.   But, it all comes down to one united cry:  Why can't these pests and diseases just leave our honey bees alone!
 
     I could note every single pest and disease which can and do harm honey bees, but, the list would be too long.
 
     Following this list is a few misconceptions about honey bees.  I bet you know someone, or perhaps, YOU are the one, who has fallen into this category.
 
Let's begin with our most-hated "demon":
 
 
Varroa Mites
The NUMBER ONE problem!
 
     Varroa Mites are most-likely the most hated predator in the world of beekeeping. 
     Since varroa mites definitely played a part in losing so many colonies in '06, I have written a special article on CCD and the varroa mite's part in it.
    Please see the last page on ourwebsite: BeeNews     
You will find some up-to-date and informative news regarding the "colony collapse" problem we experienced in October 2006.
 
     Note:  The appearance of Varroa Mites on our honey bees at our apiaries were discovered in 1995.  I realize that there might have been some confusion since varroa first reared it's ugly head in this country in 1987.  Sorry for not being more clear on this subject.  
        
 
Yellow Jackets, or Meat Bees (in our area)
 
     The poor honey bee seems to get confused with the hornet, sometimes called a "meat bee" or yellow jacket.  I have been known to give it another name, especially when I have been stung by one.  That certain name cannot be mentioned here, but I think you get the picture!
 
     Hornets, yellow jackets, meat-bees, call 'em what you want, are the type of bug that really "bugs"!  They usually fly around your picnic table and will sting you when you least expect it. 
 
     Honey bees will rarely, and I do mean "rarely", sting without provocation.  Unlike the hornet, once a honey bee stings it's victim, she dies.   The stinger is attached to her "guts" and once that stinger leaves her, that's the end of her life.   Her guts are ripped right out of her!    I guess Ed is right when he says to me after I've been stung, "She won't have the guts to do that again".     Point well-taken!
 
     Yellow jackets can cause a lot of problems for honey bees, also.  They buzz around the entrance of the hive and try to "gang" up on the worker bees who are working hard to guard their hive.   If the hive is weak, or even if the hive is a strong one, the "bad guys" win.  They'll eat up the honey and pollen and eat the honey bees, who end up dying trying to protect their "home".   If that's not enough, the yellow jacket "beasts" will also devour the "yet-to-be-born" brood.   
   
       I might not be giving yellow jackets much credit, I guess, I mean, afterall, except for being down-right mean, one important chore for yellow jackets is that they can really "clean" up a carcass!  I guess that's an important role.  But, heck, Vultures can help us with that, can't they?   
 
     I realize that every thing in this world is supposed to have a purpose.  Well, at least, that is my belief.  But if there is one person out there who can honestly convince me that Yellow Jackets have to exist, let me hear it.
 
     For us, and all of our fellow beekeepers, we wouldn't mind if they would just go away and leave our honey bees alone!  One summer, yellow jackets were responsible for descimating 20 colonies of bees.  We did whatever we could to protect our honey bees.   Because we have many colonies in various areas of the county, it proved to be almost impossible to keep all of  them safe from yellow jackets.
 
     Yellow jacket traps work well, but use meat and not any sugar-based bait because honey bees could be attracted as well.  The last thing we want is for honey bees to get killed unnecessarily.
    
Ants, Mice, and Skunks
 
      Yes, these have their "place" in our wonderful world of "critters", but ants, skunks, and mice, at least in our area aren't exactly innocent.   
    
     Ants can ravish a hive very quickly.  Especially if that hive is weak.  (Another reason to maintain your colonies)   They, of course, can't resist the honey inside.  And, if they get a chance to gang up on a colony of bees, if that colony is weak, the ants will most surely win.  They will have a wonderful feast.
    
     Mice can have a new and "cushy" new home!  They love wax and what is more tantalizing than honey?  Once a pregnant mouse "sets up" home in a hive, she will have the best place to "give birth" to her brood.  I mean, just think how great a home a hive would make: warm, protected... not bad!
    
     Skunks... ah yes.  Boy, do they stink!   But, it's not just that.  One skunk can actually dessimate (wipe out)  a colony or hive of bees in one night.  The skunk goes up to the entrance and "claws" at it and starts "shovelling" dirt directly in front.   This is designed to get those bees who have the job of protecting the hive, ready for combat.   And, those bees alert the other bees inside.
 
     As the skunk claws, claws, and claws in front, the bees "boil" out. 
     "All-right!"  the skunk might think.  "It's working". 
That skunk dines on the crowd of honey bees boiling out from the entrance and has the best meal ever! 
 
     Just imagine, a nice, juicy honey bee filled with sweet nectar!  
 
     Think thousands of them.
 
     By the time the skunk is all filled up and has his toothpick out, the entire colony is so weakened, that if the beekeeper isn't aware of it, that hive will die, probably within a day or two, or less.  Those bees that help feed the queen and brood are now in the skunk's stomach.  
 
     Dealing with critters is definitely on the list of the beekeeper's "Things To Do".   And it's just another reason to pay attention to your colonies of bees!
 
 
 
Buckeye Tree (Aesculus)
 
"DEADLY TREE" TO HONEY BEES!!
 
Who would have ever dreamed that a fragrant bloom of a tree can cause so much harm to honey bees!?
 
     The pollen from this tree is "deadly" to honey bees.    The honey bees go out and forage for nectar and pollen from blooming trees and plants in the Spring and Summer.   The pollen of this tree is brought back to the hive to feed the brood.   What develops is a wingless honey bee.   Without wings, the worker or female bees cannot forage for the necessary nectar and pollen to help keep the colony alive.    Eventually, all the brood which was fed the pollen of this tree is wingless and useless to the hive.
Soon, the entire hive dies due to starvation.
 
It is essential that there are plenty of other blooming plants and trees for bees to feed upon.  But, if the only tree or shrub which is blooming is the Buckeye, then all colonies nearby this deadly tree will soon die.
 
If your colonies are any where near Buckeye and nothing else, you must move them at least 3 - 5 miles away.    Be sure to move them where there are plenty of other flowers to forage upon.
 
***For more about diseases and pests of honey bees, click on link to Wikipedia on the subject :  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diseases_of_the_honey_bee)
 
 
Some Misconceptions About
Our Docile Honey Bees
   
       There are a few misconceptions about the wonderfully-docile honey bee.  More than fifteen years ago, I was one of those people who was scared to death of the little critters.  I came to know and love the very insect that would make me run for cover and be so afraid.
 
     Some people think that they are bad, mean and nasty insects who enjoy wreaking havoc by stinging for absolutely no reason and then flying away laughing at how much they hurt their victim.  (The latter would only be thought by those with very colorful imaginations!)
     
     Honey bees are the most mellow insects with stinging capabilities.  The only true reason to use that stinger is only if that bee feels threatened.   It is another reason to never bother a colony of honey bees, unless, of course, you need to work on them.  I am speaking of vandalism.  When someone vandalizes colonies, it wreaks havoc on the colony or colonies of honey bees and forces a lot of them to fly out and protect their hive. They will sting and die.  And, to me, that is not a good reason to give her life: because someone wanted to mess with or have fun with a colony of bees and a beekeeper's livlihood.
If you see someone trying to vandalize bee colonies, call the police, to have that person or those people arrested for vandalism.
 
Do You "Freak Out"
When You See A Swarm Of Bees?
    
       When you see a swarm of honey bees, what do you do?  Do you panic?  Does it scare you?  Do you run for your life, while yelling, "Run-run-run!  Run for your lives!!!"  to passers-by?    
 
     The fact about swarms is that they do not have any desire or inclination what-so-ever to sting at all.   They are full of honey and are following an old queen to another place to call their home.    Once they find a nice spot, they start to build their new home.  
 
     If they end up staying where they started a new home, they become "feral bees".   Feral bees are what I call "Home Alone Bees".  They generally can take care of themselves without anyone "caring" for them.  They're "on their own". 
 
     Today, most feral honey bees have a very tough time trying to manage on their own.  Due to the Varroa Mite problem and the virus, Nosema Ceranae, to name just a few threats, they usually end up dying.   Once in awhile, feral honey bees do end up taking care of themselves and have been known to live, for years, in certain areas they took residence in years before.
 
     If feral bees have taken up residence in a wall or, perhaps, in a tree, please allow them to live.  Rarely do they pose a threat to anyone.   Of course, in areas where the Africanized bees are prevalent, this advice would not be feasible.
 
***Please Call Before Thinking About Exterminating A Swarm Of Honey Bees.   If there is a threat of them being of the Africanized strain, an expert beekeeper should be called to determine the method for removal.
        
      Before killing a swarm of honey bees, please call your nearest beekeeper.  Most have a "network" of people they know who are either hobbyists or full time beekeepers who need more bee colonies. 
 
     We will do everything possible to help retrieve a swarm.    The swarm needs to be in a location that can be reached and it is best that it is at least the size of a basketball...an inflated one, not deflated!  Generally, a swarm as small as, let's say, a tennis ball, would most likely not be a viable swarm.  If a beekeeper has the time to go and check a swarm smaller than a basketball, then that would be up to the beekeeper.  
     In our year's of talking with people who have had swarms in their yards or places of business, most swarms that were looked at and smaller than a basketball, generally were not swarms that had a viable queen.  And, unfortunately, we have heard of them being charged for the beekeeper's time.  Some amounts as much as $500. even without getting any swarm!   It was just for the "house call". 
     It's tough.  We all want to save every single honey bee that exists, but there are those rare times when older bees either get left behind or the queen died leaving a very small ball of bees.  It happens frequently. 
 
     Sometimes, a swarm will seem to take it's "home", only to have flown away.  As long as a swarm remains in the spot they rest upon for almost a day, then we can be pretty certain that they will stay.
 
      We are unable to come for every call due to time constraints, however, we are always willing to do what we can to help out.   We have acquired a short list of beekeepers from local bee guilds in Santa Cruz and Monterey Counties who are willing to retrieve swarms.  But, they too have "travel constraints".   Some will serve certain areas closeby their home town.   Give us a call.  We will do as much as we can to help out.   If we are unable to come ourselves, we will do our best to refer you to someone who can.   And we appreciate you taking the time to make that call.    Please know that you will be asked questions about the swarm.  It is essential information for the one doing the retrieval.
 
      Another "note" on retrieving swarms:  If they end up in walls or a wall, it will take someone who will charge for getting them out.  And, the person who has the swarm must, of course, be willing to get part of a wall removed in order to retrieve the swarm.   Generally, the "operation" can be very expensive.   
     Unfortunately, the only choice is to eradicate the entire colony.   Not only do we hate this, but the person calling shares in the disappointment.  Even if the person helping out doesn't charge any thing for their trip to retrieve the swarm in a wall, etc., it would be up to the owner of the building to pay for the reconstruction of their house or building.  
 
     Too bad we can't train swarms to end up in accessible places every time they decide to "leave the coop".
      

THE IMPORTANCE OF BEEKEEPERS

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