Yard Report – August 2012

The Idea

Rabbitbrush foretells the season’s end for a Wyoming beekeeper.

The dog days of summer are here. Even though there’s noticeably less daylight, summer’s heat continues. And this old beekeeper takes things a little slower as:

  • colony growth rate slows
  • the bees are healthy
  • cactus frustrates but doesn’t thwart skunks
  • different width frames are a pain
  • the drought continues unabated

Is that rabbit brush and gum weed blooming? Rabbitbrush blossoms are inspirational in our now dry and dreary landscape. And they provide limited bee forage, in protected areas, until a hard freeze occurs a month later. But in Wyoming, their appearance means the bee season is about over.

The Details

The Bees

Colony growth rates have slowed as the bees continue to forage without any noticeable dearth. The bees have mostly ignored their division board feeders filled with granulated sugar.

There’s no sign of any disease or mite problems. The colonies:

  • are productive
  • brood has an excellent pattern and is healthy

When I lost my bees to CCD, I tossed the frames. But:

  • I had a plan
  • used the boxes
  • and kept my fingers crossed

So far, there are no hints of any slow motion CCD type virus. Maybe the virus degrades on it’s own. But I’m sure using fire and Clorox on those boxes didn’t help the virus much.

And so far, the bees haven’t been sprayed with pesticides. It’s nice to be near town!


Transplanting cactus near a hive’s entrance deters skunks. But it doesn’t thwart them. They are:

  • intelligent
  • persistent
  • have small feet
  • and have a long reach

After a time, they find a way to utilize the tiniest spacings between the cactus and feed on the bees. It’s harder for them. And they eat fewer bees, as there’s no bee filled fecal material found near the hives now.

Cactus might work if the hive was in a solid patch with a border twice as wide as a skunk is long. But that would deter the beekeeper as well. 🙂

I just haven’t found a non-lethal deterrent that works. And that’s too bad. Anyone have any a solution?

Frame Spacing

11 upstairs. 9 downstairs. Not an interchangeable mix.

These hives were setup using frames with different widths.

The top box had:

  • 6 frames 1 1/4″ wide
  • 5 frames 1 3/8″ wide

The bottom box had:

  • 9 frames at 1 3/8″ wide
  • and a division board feeder

To facilitate comb drawing, exterior frames are often rotated above the broodnest. And that causes problems when a wide frame from the bottom box, replaces a narrow frame from the top box. It simply won’t fit.

A simple procedure to rotate one frame requires moving many frames, and creates lots of disturbance.

The ultimate goal is to have each brood box arrange the same way. In my case each brood box would have:

  • 3 narrow small cell frames centered
  • 8 wide large cell frames, 4 on each side
  • and a division board feeder replacing 2 wide frames when needed

Maybe this arrangement will alleviate any spacing problems. But replacement comb will still need to be drawn for both narrow and wide frames. And I don’t see any easy solution other than using one size frame width.

So far, using two different frame widths, to mimic a natural broodnest, is a thumbs down unless some advantage becomes obvious.


The drought continues.

  • the prairie is drier than I have ever seen it
  • flowing creeks and springs have become seeps
  • and the forest fires continue to fill the air with smoke

My bees, near the Platte River, have more than enough water to drink as it’s sent downstream from our reservoirs to quench thirsty Midwest corn and soybeans. And those bees that don’t like river water can get a nice drink of city water from a garden hose. 🙂


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