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P1110997

P1110996Truth can be stranger than any fiction. We were reading an interesting article yesterday about parasitic flies that are eating the brains of Vermont honeybees. These flies, known as phorid flies pierce the abdomen of honeybees and deposit eggs. The fly larvae then consume the insides of the honeybees, turning them into what has been dubbed zombees. These bees exhibit extremely strange behavior such as leaving the hive in the dark and have been seen flying around outdoor lights, where they often are found dead the next day. This is strange with a capital “S” behavior.

There have been a lot of sightings of zombees on the west coast and yesterday we learned that these zombees have been found most recently in Vermont as well. There is a site called www.zombeewatch.org which is attempting to document the presence of these zombees. They are looking for zombee hunters, (a/k/a citizen scientists) so if you’re passion has been to hunt zombies, hunting zombees might be up your alley. There is a tutorial on how to become a zombee hunter on the website, which includes collecting the dead bees that you may find in certain outdoor locations into resealable plastic bags. The guide will instruct you on how to make a light trap to capture zombees and how to contain the dead bees while you wait and then watch the larvae emerge. Since I personally squirm when there are maggots in the summer garbage can, I most definitely can tell you that this is not the project for me; I am sure that those who are of much hardier stock may take some great interest in helping the folks at ZomBeewatch.org document the presence of these infected bees around the country.  I mean, how cool it is t be able to say that you are both a citizen scientist and a zombee hunter in the same breath?

Swarm, that’s what we had today and I’m not making some wisecrack remark about the heat. We had a swarm from one of our bee hives. Swarm, for those of you who might not be as bee proficient as others, is the natural means of reproduction of honey bee hives. A queen takes a bunch of the worker bees and pretty much up and leaves the existing hive in search of new and better quarters. We figure that this happened because the hive got too large.

In the prime swarm, which is what appeared to happen today, about 60% of the worker bees leave the hive with the old queen. A new queen and the remaining 30% of the worker bees stay put in the existing hive. As Tom was outside this morning watering the garden, he heard that distinct and very loud buzzing. He looked up to see a very large, very black, very buzzing cloud of bees over the goat shed (where the hives are located) and followed them across the field and into one of the pine trees. It is common that when honeybees swarm they only fly a short distance from the original hive and take up residence temporarily in a tree on a branch or in shrubbery. They cluster around the queen and send out scout bees to search out a new hive location. It may take a couple days for the bees to pick a new spot or as in our case, they can be captured into a hive and will usually make it their own. Since the bees do not have reserves of honey (which were stored in the hive that they left) they are very vulnerable and can die if a new hive cannot be located and honey production restarted.

Later this afternoon, he and a friend who is also a beekeeper, suited up and climbed a ladder into the tree where the bees took up residence. They cut out the branches and were able to recapture most of the bees and evidently the queen as well. The bees are now in a make-shift hive and seem content.

Looks like a trip to the bee guy over in New Hampshire is in the cards for this weekend to secure another hive set up. Also, we’re going to most likely extract the honey from last year’s hives (all the bees died off from them) and bottle it. Interested to see how much honey we end up with this year. Last year was 48 pounds or about 5 gallons of honey.

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