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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
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    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,350

    Default What's really causing dwindling?

    As I read the many threads about how colonies are dwindling, and what many assume to be the major causes, I wonder how many are still running their hives with entrances that are virtually, "on the ground", or almost at ground level. And, who, perhaps have never gone out, around midnight in mid-Summer, with a red light, to check and see if any nocturnal insectivores were voraciously devouring their bees.

    The old saying, "out of sight, out of mind", comes into my mind. But I think to myself, not out of my sight, any more. About a decade ago, I was still running most of my colonies with traditional bottom board entrances, and using concrete blocks to elevate my hives from the sandy desert ground. That places the entrances about eight inches from the ground. Then, one night I began using a red LED headlight to avoid the oppressive daytime hot sun, to do quick inspections, at night.

    That's when I noticed that each of my colonies had at least one, very large, Colorado River Toad, sitting in front of their entrances, eating bees as quick as they would appear at their entrances, some had several. I was shocked, and thought, what if I had never inspected my hives, at night, with a red light? Because when I used a normal white light, the toads would quickly scatter and few were actually seen.

    Since then I have reconfigured all of my hives for top/upper entrances, and regularly make nightly patrols for toads, especially through mid-Summer, their favorite time of year.

    I now collect many hundreds of toads, each year, from around my hives, during night patrols. Their were literally, thousands the first few years.

    I find it difficult to imagine that here in the desert, there would be more amphibian insectivores, than in moister climates. Yet, I don't remember ever reading of this problem occurring in anyone else's bee yard. Not even in the popular literature. Can it really be that if we can't see it, we don't believe it exists? I often read statements by new keepers, which seem to imply that they think they don't have Varroa destructor, since they can't easily see them.

    Wouldn't it be curious if nocturnal insectivores were partially or mostly responsible for CCD? Rather than something mysterious and difficult to identify.

    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    I want to take this opportunity to issue a challenge:

    Next season, 2014. For beekeepers to get a red light, and add some late night patrols to their schedule (starting in late Spring). See if they can identify any nocturnal insectivores, eating bees from their colonies. Then report it on the Beesource forum.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Laurel Hill, Fl
    Posts
    450

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Joseph Clemens View Post
    Then, one night I began using a red LED headlight to avoid the oppressive daytime hot sun, to do quick inspections, at night.



    = = = = = = = = = = = = = = = =

    I want to take this opportunity to issue a challenge:

    Next season, 2014. For beekeepers to get a red light, and add some late night patrols to their schedule (starting in late Spring). See if they can identify any nocturnal insectivores, eating bees from their colonies. Then report it on the Beesource forum.

    Very interesting, but more interesting is inspections at night. I've always read that you never mess with your hives at night. What kind of inspections are you doing and how do the bees react?
    I live in Florida where it is also very hot, I've often wished I could do night work on the bees, but didn't think you could.
    Thanks for the thread...
    Robbin

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Feb 2005
    Location
    Tucson, Arizona, USA
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    5,350

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    A little:
    Inspecting at night is doable, but can be tricky. There can't be any white light, at all. If there is, they will fly, and be able to find a target, of their choice.

    I still do it, though less often that I once did. Doing it requires a different paradigm. The bees fly very little when the only light is red light. But they can, and do, crawl. The paradigm is to be aware of and anticipate how to avoid the crawlers. They can sense body heat and CO2, so beware.

    Success at night inspections, varies between hives and prevailing other conditions. Whenever it starts getting dicey, I quickly button them up and wait for another day. Letting them get too riled up at night, can leave them riled, even the next day.

    BTW, the majority of my night inspections are limited to checking mating nucs for brood, to verify that their queens are mated/laying.
    48 years - 50 hives - TF
    Joseph Clemens -- Website Under Constructioni

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Mar 2010
    Location
    Santa Fe, NM
    Posts
    665

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    So Joseph..are you sure all your doing over there is beekeeping?

    "The toad's venom and skin are rich in 5-MeO-DMT and bufotenin, alkaloids that contribute to the psychoactive effects with which the Colorado River toad is associated. These can be separated from the toad's venom, purified for human use and then consumed orally, by smoking, or through injection. Hallucination is the intended effect, although the human body reacts in various ways. Recreational use does occur, but the venom's role in religious and medicinal practices have long been recorded.

    In 2011, it is illegal to capture a Colorado River toad in California and New Mexico. Both of these states and Arizona consider exporting a toad from the state to be an illegal activity. The toads have been declared endangered in California and threatened in New Mexico. Their overall chances of extinction, however, are at the lowest risk, or least concern, according to their conservation status. "
    "Tradition becomes our security, and when the mind is secure it is in decay".....Krishnamurti

  5. #5
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Location
    Sacramento, CA, USA
    Posts
    2,848

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    Hi officer, I was just 'checking' my bees at night removing all these 'pesky' toads.....

    Sometimes I wonder the same thing, where some of these cases of dwindling seems like foragers are getting eaten as fast as they fly out of the hives and the colonies dwindle trying to replace them.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Santa Rosa County, Florida
    Posts
    403

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Riskybizz View Post
    So Joseph..are you sure all your doing over there is beekeeping?



    The toads have been declared endangered in California and threatened in New Mexico. their . "
    Anything eating my bees is endangered!

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2010
    Location
    Knox Co, Ohio, USA
    Posts
    833

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    I too switched my hives to upper entrances to combat noctural foragers. In my case they were black and white and striped. For the sake of equipment uniformity, which is big in my book, every hive has a top/upper entrance only.

    Tom

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Lincolnton, NC
    Posts
    1,107

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    Do skunks always leave marks on the landing board from scratching? Are there ways to tell if a skunk has been eating the bees?

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2002
    Location
    San Mateo, CA
    Posts
    4,887

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    I keep hives up in enclosed trailers in a paved industrial yard and they dwindle worse than my outdoor hives on blocks out in the country.


  10. #10
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Herrick, SD USA
    Posts
    4,374

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    Quote Originally Posted by heaflaw View Post
    Do skunks always leave marks on the landing board from scratching? Are there ways to tell if a skunk has been eating the bees?
    You will see a lot of scratching in the ground in front of the entrance quite often accompanied by some pretty dark colored skunk droppings in the area. The affected hives (almost always your best) are usually pretty eager to come out and "greet" you as well.
    "People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe."- Andy Rooney

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2010
    Location
    Auckland,Auckland,New Zealand
    Posts
    5,994

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    I know a lady who keeps her dog chained when she works the bees cos the dog eats them right off the comb if she leaves a comb leaning on the hive. Just slurps away & cleans the bees of the side of the comb.
    44 years, been commercial, outfits up to 4000 hives, now 120 hives and 200 nucs as a hobby, selling bees. T (mostly).

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jan 2009
    Location
    Grosse Ile, Michigan, USA
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    2,864

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    Quote Originally Posted by jim lyon View Post
    You will see a lot of scratching in the ground in front of the entrance quite often accompanied by some pretty dark colored skunk droppings in the area. The affected hives (almost always your best) are usually pretty eager to come out and "greet" you as well.
    I had a real bad skunk problem in one of my yards just recently, which I solved with aspirin-eggs. There was no scratch marks on the hives or entrance boards to speak of, but there was lots of digging in the ground in front of the hives and skunk droppings. I have about six or seven hives in that yard that dwindled down to only a frame of bees, I thought it was mites, but I know now that skunks can decimate hive populations over time. I think it had been going on for months without me realizing it.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Lincolnton, NC
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    1,107

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    Quote Originally Posted by jmgi View Post
    I had a real bad skunk problem in one of my yards just recently, which I solved with aspirin-eggs. .
    Tell me more about the aspirin-eggs solution.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2013
    Location
    Mirabel, Québec, Canada
    Posts
    423

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    That sounds rather... illegal... Putting bait on medecine for wildlife to ingest? I don't think you want the authorities to hear about that.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    May 2013
    Location
    Chattanooga, TN USA
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    685

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    Quote Originally Posted by heaflaw View Post
    Tell me more about the aspirin-eggs solution.
    Skunks naturally like to eat eggs.

    Aspirin overdoses are fatal. Its why they tell you not to take aspirin or other related pain medications for more than a few days at a time, it can build up in blood stream to toxic levels.

    Basically, you take an egg, mix it up like you were going to scramble it, and crush three or four aspirin into it. Anything the size of a skunk that eats it will overdose on the aspirin and won't be coming back.
    Beekeeper since 2013. Read my bee blog at:
    http://harrisonbayhoney.blogspot.com

  16. #16
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
    Posts
    2,981

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    Quote Originally Posted by Dominic View Post
    That sounds rather... illegal... Putting bait on medecine for wildlife to ingest? I don't think you want the authorities to hear about that.
    IT would not be here. it is considered poisoning and it is legal to poison quite a few critters. Including mice. rats, skunks and raccoons. I can also trap them but then have to destroy them right there. It is illegal to transport them and I cannot discharge firearms where I am at. But it is perfectly legal for me to throw them in a water filled ditch behind my house. It woudl actually be illegal for me to release them even in the same spot I caught them. Once caught they must be destroyed. I learned all this in a conversation with Fish and Game when raccoon tried to come into my kitchen.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

  17. #17
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    Location
    Nehawka, Nebraska USA
    Posts
    46,131

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    >Are there ways to tell if a skunk has been eating the bees?

    Little piles of soggy bees near the front of the hives. They suck the juice out of them.
    Michael Bush bushfarms.com/bees.htm "Everything works if you let it." ThePracticalBeekeeper.com 40y 200h 37yTF

  18. #18
    Join Date
    Sep 2011
    Location
    Reno, NV
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    2,981

    Default Re: What's really causing dwindling?

    We usually know if their is a sunk in the area due to the odor. We find them on campus all the time and the first thing that alerts us is the smell. The raccoons we tend to leave alone unless they start damaging the facilities. I get more raccoons in my back yard than anything and the dogs seem to keep them away for the most part.
    Stand for what you believe, even if you stand alone.

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