Yard Report – August 2012

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

The dog days of summer are here. There’s less daylight. But summer’s heat continues. And this old beekeeper takes things a little slower as:

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

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

The Bees

Colony growth rates slow as the bees match brood rearing with available forage. 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’s no sign of any slow motion CCD type virus. Maybe the virus degrades on it’s own. But using fire and Clorox on those boxes was probably a good idea.

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 use the tiniest gaps between the cactus and feed on the bees. It’s harder for them. And they eat fewer bees. But are still around.

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 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 use 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 rotated. And that causes problems. A wide frame from the bottom box can’t fit  in the space left by a narrow frame from the top box.


To rotate a single frame requires moving many frames, and creates disturbance.

Ultimately, each brood box should be 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 will alleviate any spacing problems. But replacement comb still needs drawn for both kinds of frames. I don’t see an easy solution other than using one size frame.

So far, using two different frame widths to mimic a natural broodnest, is a thumbs down.


The drought continues.

  • the prairie is drier than I have 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. And those bees that don’t like river water can get a  city water from a garden hose. 🙂


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