31 October 2013

smoke, sugar and stung

smokey Agape
Ever since Hurricane Sandy swept through the island a year ago, a good nectar flow has yet to come. With the October nectar flow not being the exception, the young honey bee colonies had to be fed. Colonies are fed supplementary feed to ensure continued colony development through nectar and pollen shortages. By supporting their populations and promoting comb building with supplementary feeding, the bees will have the strength and space to take full advantage of the nectar flows, once they come.
"The relative unpredictability of nectar flows in the tropics and subtropics makes it more difficult for the beekeeper to prepare the colonies." Source.
Most of the farm's colonies are young swarms from this March and are not strong enough to sustain themselves through the dearth. We fired up the smoker with cardboard and coconut husk (usually dried lemongrass is used but it was too wet) and cracked open the hives from the back of the hive rather the front. Smoke disorientates the bees and sends them scurrying across the comb, usually the opposite direction. So when opening up a hive, smoking them from the back will send the bees to the front, where they are less likely to challenge our disturbance. Two baggies of cane sugar syrup were carefully placed as close to the back comb as possible. The bees will chew up the plastic in an attempt to remove its presence from their nest, only to discover a sweet syrup which they will store away.

In the midst of feeding, a honey bee had crawled underneath my left sandal strap and when I lifted my foot, I was stung. I quietly thanked her for her venom.

After feeding, Kwao, Agape and I discussed which sugar was best to feed which led to some research:
"Refined beet and cane sugar are pure sucrose and, of course, are safe and nutritionally equivalent. Unrefined sugars have poisoned bees." USDA
"It matters a lot if it's granulated white sugar or anything else. Powdered sugar, brown sugar, molasses and any other unrefined sugar is not good for bees. They can't handle the solids." Bush Bees.
On the prohibited list for supplemental feeding of Certified Naturally Grown's Handbook For Natural Beekeeping:
"Brown sugar, confectioner’s sugar, sugar produced from GMO beets. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Purchased liquid sucrose or sugar syrup which contains any additives or stabilizers." 

1 comment :

  1. I am already thoroughly enjoying your blog!!! So excited to hear about all of your adventures and what you are learning. Love you!!