Posts Tagged ‘mite’

Autumn’s here and my bees look like ghosts…


October has arrived, the leaves are beginning to fall from the trees and my apiary visits are becoming less frequent now that I have finished treating the bees with Apilife Var for the Varroa Destructor (parasitic mite) and feeding the heavy sugar syrup that will help to sustain my girls through the winter and replaces some of the honey that was removed back in August.

Apart from a  very brief cold spell it has been quite a warm autumn so far in the south and the bees are still busy, the queens in two of my hives are still producing brood, once hatched these will be the workers that remain with her over winter and into the start of the season next year, but all the bees are still flying and bringing in lots of pollen. I am very fortunate that my apiary is located in a semi-rural location and falls adjacent to a heavily forested area with plenty of ivy at this time of year, but my bees do not appear to foraging there, they are returning to hives looking like miniature ghosts dusted in white pollen and not only in the pollen baskets on their rear legs but also all over their thorax as well.

Sloes growing on the blackthorn trees

Sloes growing on the blackthorn bushes

After a brief check on the colonies last weekend I took a wander further down the valley to have a look at the sloes growing on the blackthorn and to see if they were ready to pick and seep in gin, as it was they looked ripe but still feel a little bit hard and its probably best to wait a little longer until they are holding a bit more juice before harvesting.

However as I wandered along the paths through the woodland I was greeted by a familiar buzz and could see my girls working the pink flowers scattered amongst the bramble, ferns and nettles.

A woodland path in the Spa Valley, blanketed in flower of the Himalayan Balsam.

A woodland path in the Spa Valley, blanketed in flower of the Himalayan Balsam.

These flowers are the ‘Himalayan Balsam’ (Impatiens glandulifera) and as the name suggests it is a non-native species that is considered by many to be a weed due to its fast growing and invasive nature. It will tolerate low light conditions and will rapidly displace other plants in the area if not controlled. However my bees seem to absolutely love it with virtually every forager returning to the hive wearing white overalls.

You can see from the two close-up images of the flowers below (apologies these were taken with a phone camera so not that great quality) that the hood-shaped flower invites the bee in to drink nectar held in the central ‘cup’ but there is a small pollen brush above with passes over the top of the thorax as the bees enter and exit, this is a very effective strategy for the plant in order to reproduce.

Himalayan Balsam Flower

Himalayan Balsam Flower open for business

Himalayan Balsam Flower

Himalayan Balsam Flower

I can’t help looking at this and being reminded of one of my favourite quotes from the film ‘Withnail and I’ where Withnails uncle Monty, played by the late Richard Griffiths, is having a rant and says ‘ Flowers are essentially tarts. Prostitutes for the bees.’

But what is good for the bees is not considered to be so good for other species and a biodiversity balance has to be struck, these plants local to my hives are self-seeded and appear to be spreading year after year and supply a rich source of late forage. In July 2011 the BBKA released a statement specifically relating to this plant that says:

“It is unacceptable (actually illegal) to actively distribute balsam seeds to encourage its spread, but this does not preclude the option for beekeepers to have some balsam in their gardens to provide the late nectar and pollen whilst carefully managing it so it does not spread to other gardens, agricultural land and especially watercourses.”

In my opinion it’s nice to see nature fighting back and giving something positive to the bees when there are so many other environmental pressures currently working against them, whether it be agricultural practises that are actively destroying the habitat that they require through removal of hedgerows and wild spaces, monoculture and the excessive use of dangerous pesticides (neonicotinoids) or the spread of parasitic mites and other bee diseases as well as the increasing threat of the arrival of the Asian Hornet in the UK.

I won’t be back to my hives for a  little while now, I hope that the weather holds and as the brood area reduces the bees fill all available space with stores as winter approaches to give them the best chance of surviving again (I lost one weaker colony to isolation starvation last year in the winter). When I return it will be to fit the metal mouse guards to keep out unwanted visitors, the chicken wire to keep the green woodpeckers away is already in place following reports of damage in Hampshire already this year!

Fly agaric

Fly agaric growing in the woodland adjacent to the apiary, October 2013

I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog,  feel free to contact me with comments, suggestions or general feedback, click on the right column to subscribe and receive updates when I next have the time between chasing the bees to write again.

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Dan

 
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Acid and candy – a winter days treat!


Seems like it has been a while since I have added anything to this blog, and I guess that’s because this is generally a quiet time of year for beekeepers in the UK on the whole.

The honey (what honey this year?) has been extracted from the comb many months ago, the bees have been fed a thick sugar syrup which they in turn have further reduced and stored to help sustain them over the long cold winter months and the first set of treatment has been applied to try and knock back the parasitic mite, Varroa Destructor, that inhabit virtually every hive in the UK.

Winter checks

Paul doing the winter checks

During late August and into early September, after the honey crop has been removed,  I used Apilife Var, an organic thymol based treatment with Eucalyptus Oil, Menthol and Camphor as additional active ingredients. This has to be applied whilst the ambient temperature is still warm, and there is brood in the hive so the bees keep the internal temperature around 36 degrees Celsius and therefore it is warm enough to release the vapours and allow their circulation. The mites reproduction cycle mainly takes place within the wax-capped brood cells with the bees own young so it is not possible to remove a large proportion of the sexually mature mites at this stage.

A second part of my ‘integrated pest management’ strategy is to apply Oxalic acid to the hives during the winter months. The Apilife Var would no longer be effective with cooler ambient temperatures and a drastically reduced hive temperature there would be no vapourisation of the oils. The hive temperature drops to around 20 degrees during the short period at the end of December and early January when the queen is not laying and there are no eggs  or brood present. The higher temperature normally maintained in the hive is required for brood rearing so by dropping the heat the bees are able to conserve energy and therefore use slightly less of their valuable stores, 50 million years of evolution has taught them how to survive and not starve! The queen will start to build the colony up again soon in order that she has a new healthy adult workforce ready to take advantage of the spring flowers and early pollen and nectar flows that they bring.

It really helps if you have a ‘bee buddy’ to speed up the acid application process and reduce the stress of cold exposure to the bees.

Oxalic acid

Oxalic acid

Trickling acid between the seams

Trickling acid between the seams

Many of the older beekeepers talk of great summers when their hives were taller than themselves, stacked full of supers of sweet golden honey, but sadly these days seem to have been lost with a change in agricultural techniques, removal of hedgerows, over-use of toxic chemical pesticides, mass-urbanisation, a shift in climate and weather patterns and a number of other factors leading to less areas of natural forage and increasing the struggle for colony survival.

I do not really like the thought of using the acid on my beautiful bees but feel it gives them some additional chances of pulling through to the spring. The weak acid is applied diluted in a sugar syrup solution and is carefully trickled into the hive along the seams, or gaps, between the frames.

In order not to overdose the bees it should be applied evenly across the hive at 5ml per seam (10 seams = 50ml), the acid should be harmless to the bees but burns the feet and mouth parts of the mites meaning they can no longer hold onto their hosts and feed on them so is very effective. The hives are only opened for a minute or so and the frames are not removed or disturbed.

IT IS HOWEVER HIGHLY TOXIC TO HUMANS, INSTRUCTIONS SHOULD BE READ AND PROTECTIVE CLOTHING WORN!

One nice thing about applying the acid is that you have a chance to check the bees are still alive, having only occasionally seen any movement around the hives since late October. All my colonies are now clustered at the top of the hives under the crown board, they were surprising active on December 28th when we dosed them with acid but then it was quite warm outside, around 8 degrees centigrade, and a few of the more inquisitive ladies tried to get up my sleeves.

Bee candy

Bee candy placed over feed hole in crown board

Before closing up the hives again a block of home-made bee candy is placed over the central feed hole  in the crown board. Even if you have heaved your hives and feel there is plenty of stores available the bees may not travel sideways in search of food and can starve in a well supplied hive, they will however travel up so it is another insurance process, if they don’t need it they won’t touch it – don’t worry the bees will not get obese – but I would rather it was wasted than they starved. There is of course the argument that a sudden increase in food leads to the queen laying early, increasing colony size when there is no pollen to feed the young and increased activity uses up the food source far too quickly – you make your own mind up. From my experience over the last few years hives standing in the apiary shoulder to shoulder with similar size colonies and amount of stores have used the sugar at very different rates but ultimately all have survived.

Finally the hive entrances are checked to make sure that they are clear of dead bees. I use mesh floors so don’t suffer from flooding but if you have solid floors on it is worth checking that the hive is slightly tilted forward and there is no standing water inside which would make it too damp for the bees to be comfortable and may well lead to their decline. With these visual checks carried out its back on with the woodpecker guards until my next visit which will be in three to four weeks time to see how they are gettig on with the candy.

Woodpecker protection

Woodpecker protection is replaced

I hope you have enjoyed reading the blog,  feel free to contact me with comments, suggestions or general feedback, click on the right column to subscribe and receive updates when I next have the time between chasing the bees to write again.

I can also be found at @danieljmarsh on twitter or British Beekeepers page on Facebook.

Dan

N.B. clicking on the images opens a higher resolution image in a new window.

Applying oxalic acid

Applying oxalic acid

Finally the bee doctor (National Bee Unit inspector) comes calling …


My last bee blog entry was about winding down the beehives for the year and getting them ready for winter, checking for a healthy queen, bees and brood, feeding sugar syrup to make up for the honey removed in August and dealing with any diseases and parasites in the hive.

My new cross-mated buckfast queen

My new cross-mated buckfast queen

The last few apiary visits have been fine with healthy bees seen in the hive, good br0od (eggs and pupa) and plenty of stores for the winter (honey for the bees and pollen for early brood rearing) and I even got to finally meet my new queen in Ogwen (my hives are all named after Welsh mountains) introduced into the hive back in August by my friend Paul – she is much lighter in colour than my other queens and seems to be laying very well now and I have no doubt it is a good thing to increase the gene pool in the apiary!

My new queen in action

My new queen in action

There is still some evidence of varroa mite on the bees and I am hoping that my Thymol treatment (Apilife Var) has been effective enough to reduce the mite see the colonies through the winter. In the photos you will see that the queen is marked with a white dot (to help find her easily during the inspections) if you look at the picture below you can see that the bee to her left is carrying a red varroa mite in the middle of its thorax (I didn’t spot this when I took the photo).

New queen, varroa mite on thorax of bee to her left

New queen, varroa mite on thorax of bee to her left

There has also been a small amount of unsealed brood in the hive, known as ‘bald brood’ caused by the bees uncapping the developing pupa prematurely due to the presence of lesser wax moth larvae in the cells (they feed on the cell lining) but on the whole the colonies seem to be strong and healthy and very active in all three hives and on both apiary sites.

My hives are registered with the National Bee Unit (NBU), which is part of FERA, and they keep a database of beekeepers and apiary sites called  BeeBase in order that they can monitor for disease and colony loss in the UK and try to prevent the spread of diseases through either treating or culling infected colonies. This is very important at a time when the global bee population seem to have their very existence threatened with many factors affecting their survival.

https://secure.fera.defra.gov.uk/beebase/index.cfm

I visited the NBU website last week and saw that they had been notified of a diseased colony within 5km of my hives and I was dreading hearing from them … well that call has finally come through today as they have had a case of European Foul Brood reported locally and as part of confining the spread they are now required to check my colonies for disease and then make a decision on their future. I am confident they are all okay and that my inspections and treatments have been effective but I am also aware that I am still very much a novice when it comes down to recognising bee diseases and I guess if they are infected that it’s better to find out now and deal with it rather than finding empty hives in the spring and not really knowing what happened.

Hive getting ready for the winter

Hive getting ready for the winter, will it survive or is it destined to be burn't?

If the hives are infected the bee inspector will decide on the best course of action – either treatment for light infestation in a strong colony or burning the bees, frames and even the hives in the worst case scenario.

After so much work in keeping the bees strong and healthy throughout the last two years I will be very disappointed if I lose all my bees now and have to start again in the spring next year but I guess that is all part of bee keepers life and the outcome of the inspectors  visit will no doubt be the subject of my next blog!

If you have enjoyed this blog feel free to tell me (or rate it)  it’s always nice to hear back from fellow bee-keepers and from those who love and want to support the bees but maybe don’t have the time or the opportunity yet.

September is here already and its time to wind down the hives for winter


July and August have been a couple of busy months, extracting the honey crop and getting it jarred up and ready to sell and now it is  time to start thinking about getting the bees ready for the cold winter months ahead.

But before the bees are securely wrapped  up with chicken wire in place to keep the woodpeckers at bay, and the metal guards attached over the hive entrance to keep the mice out, they need to be thoroughly checked to make sure that they have the very best chance of surviving the winter and into next year. This involves checking each colony for a healthy queen, healthy brood, treating the hives for varroa mite (a problem in virtually all UK hives these days) and any of the other bee diseases and hive parasites (of which there are many!) and at the same time feedback sugar syrup to replace the honey that was taken whilst it is still warm outside and there is a sufficient number of bees left to reduce it and store it before the winter period.

Spa Valley Honey

Spa Valley Honey

I carried out three separate honey extractions this year and this produced a total harvest of about 160-170 1bs of honey from just three hives, although one of these hives only yielded about 30lbs of honey so the other two did exceptionally well, but then it has been an exceptionally good year for beekeepers right across the country with the long dry spring being the main period of activity for the bees, unfortunately the summer was once again a bit of a washout being generally cool and wet.

Honey for sale

Honey for sale

The colony is now reducing in size quite rapidly and the queen is currently laying the workers that will join her for the winter and then help her to build up a strong colony early in the spring. Most worker bees only live for about five weeks during the spring and summer months and they literally ‘work themselves to death’ but over winter the bees will live for about five months in the hive, clustering around the queen and keeping her warm, but using virtually no energy in a semi-comatose state. When she starts to lay eggs again early January they will once again raise the temperature of the brood area and that is when they will need the honey and pollen stored in the hive. Bees don’t starve in the autumn or early in the year – it’s at the end of February or beginning of March when there are no flowering plants to supply nectar but the bees need the food that the colony is most at risk of collapse.

I took up beekeeping due to the environmental concerns over declining numbers of primary pollinators in the UK (actually make that worldwide!!!) and the collapse of honey bee colonies  so I leave my bees in two brood boxes over winter, one deep and one shallow, and this allows them to retain far more honey than most beekeepers, or honey farmers, would leave on the hive. This doesn’t guarantee that they will survive the winter or prevent starvation but I am sure that it helps. When the bees start looking for honey in the spring they move up through the hive and may still starve with several frames of stores on both sides of the brood area  so I feed candy in January to counter this.

Apilife Var

Treating hive for mite with Apilife Var

During the most recent inspections I have been unhappy with one hive in particular as the brood pattern seems more erratic than normal and there have been uncapped cells with the un-hatched larva exposed. This looks to me to be a problem called ‘bald brood’ that occurs when the hive becomes infested with the lesser wax moth larvae. Hopefully the colony is strong enough to sort itself out and eject these unwanted visitors that crawl through the capped cells feeding on the cell linings. This time of year also sees a reduction in the bee population and the hive easily becomes over-loaded with the parasitic varroa mites. I am currently treating all the hives with thymol (apilife var) and am hoping that this will be as successful as it was last year.

Treating hive for mite

Treating hive for mite above the brood area

The new queen is also laying well but obviously the colony suffered by having a prolonged period with no queen and therefore no new workers coming into service, I am hoping that the colony recovers enough to see the winter through. Ironically the hive that I was most concerned about losing back at the beginning of August, due to the lost queen and egg laying workers, now seems like the contender for being both the strongest colony and the one with the greatest chance of surviving the winter, funny how everything can change in just a period of 4 -5 weeks!

A beekeeping library


Whilst it is quiet on the actual bee keeping front over winter it is the perfect time to catch up on some background reading, take onboard new knowledge that can applied to your bee keeping practise throughout the following year and increase your enjoyment and understanding of the actual bees themselves and not just the practice of trying to maximise a honey crop.

Bee library

Bee library

Since I started with the bee keeping about three years ago I seem to have gathered quite a few books on the subject, some bought by me and others given as presents. My first book on the subjest was ‘Bees at the bottom of the garden’ which seemed to be a popular choice for including in the bee keeping starter packs that the equipment suppliers provide. This was great introductory book but soon led onto more slightly  indepth books on the subject.

With the risk of being called ‘nerdy’ I thought I would briefly add a few web reviews the books I have here:


Bees at the bottom of my garden

Beekeeping is a hobby any interested amateur could explore - that is the message of this work which aims to take the mystique out of keeping bees. Alan Campion uses his own experiences to describe in plain terms how to go about setting up a hive, and what to expect from your bees.


Keeping bees and making honey

This is a comprehensive and attractive lifestyle guide to beekeeping - from finding your bees to getting them home, housing them, collecting honey and using their produce.It includes a detailed look at the history of bees and beekeeping, and an extensive introduction to help you to fully understand your bees and keep them happy.Whether you have a tiny balcony or acres of land; live in the middle of a city or in the countryside surrounded by flowers, this book caters for every situation, discussing the different types of hive available for every eventuality.It features a detailed section on gardening for bees, as well as comprehensive advice on how to safely collect your honey and wax, with recipes and ideas on how to use them."Bees" fuses contemporary lifestyle design and an authoritative text, to appeal not only to those who already have bees, but to those who are thinking of having them or even just like the idea of having them - it will 'sell the dream'.

 

Guide To Bees And Honey

Intended for both new and experienced beekeepers, this invaluable and highly illustrated volume provides answers to virtually every beekeeping question - from avoiding swarms to setting a hive up for winter."Guide to Bees and Honey" also presents expert advice for readers who plan to maintain a few hives for personal, recreational use, as well as those who want to expand an existing colony into a commercial venture.Also included in this volume is a section on the Varroa mite - a particularly nasty parasite that has proved fatal to many British hives. It explains what it does, how it spreads, and effective ways to treat and prevent infestation.


Hive Management

Offers concise, up-to-date information on beekeeping tasks, including how to prevent, capture, and control swarms, when and how to harvest honey, and dealing successfully with queens.


Honey Farming

This is one of the great beekeeping books of all time. Manley draws on his commercial esperience to explain all aspects of beekeeping. This is a book which is a joy to read, you read it, then reread it. As your experience improves you will understand more & more of the value of Manleys words. STRONLY RECOMMENDED



Bees And Honey - From Flower To Jar

Bees make honey; we all know that. But what happens between the bee buzzing around our garden, and the sticky knife in the jar, is a mystery to most of us. Based on careful observation and years of experience, Michael Weiler here reveals the secret life of bees. He looks at all aspects of a bee's life and work and vividly describes their remarkable world. Did you know that it takes approximately 12,000 bee-hours to make one jar of honey? (At GBP5.30 per hour, that would mean one jar should cost around GBP63,600.) This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in the intricacies of nature and our world.


Honey - natures golden healer

There is growing evidence to show that honey is hugely beneficial to our health, from its antibacterial properties to helping relieve hay fever to even inhibiting the growth of cancer cells. Drawing on her background in the biological sciences, Gloria Havenhand reveals how we can harvest the beehive for anything from reviving tonics to beauty treats. Not only does she demonstrate how honey is essential for healthy living, but tackles other under-appreciated and lesser-known bee products such as propolis, a sticky resin, which can help skin conditions such as psoriasis; pollen used to relieve hay fever and boost the immune system and royal jelly and beeswax uesd in cosmetics to rejuvenate the skin. With increasing numbers of people interested in ditching drugs for natural alternatives to combat health problems from allergies to acne, this book is a timely look at how the beehive can help us look and feel better.


The Honey Bee - Inside Out

This book is designed to present detailed information about the anatomy and physiology of the honey bee in a clear and concise format. Each of the eight chapters covers an aspect of bee biology and all are copiously illustrated. The author has drawn most of the diagrams from her own dissections, giving a realistic, rather than idealistic impression of the parts involved. Also included, are an appendix giving the background to scientific terminology, a wide-ranging glossary including phonetic spellings and suggestions for further reading. This is a book that will inform anybody who is interested in this fascinating insect. It is based on the examination modules set by the British Beekeepers' Association, but this text will prove interesting for anyone wanting to know more about our honey bees.

BeeCraft

On top of the books membership to the British Beekeepers Association also includes a monthly magazine called BeeCraft. The local branch of the BBKA also have a book library with some of the rarer books as well as newer titles. http://www.bee-craft.com/

Preparing for winter – Treating Varroa mite and feeding the bees


After the excitement of taking the honey off the hives, straining, settling and jarring it all up, it almost seems like the beekeeping year is over but in reality there is still alot of work to do before October if you are going to keep your colony strong, mite free and with half a chance of surviving the winter.

The British bee colonies have been under attack from Varroa Destructor for the last few years, this Asiatic mite attacks the very young bees and is considered widely to be responsible in many colonies failing to survive the winter so it must be treated, to remove or at least drastically reduce numbers in the hive, before the bee population number also reduces and the few remaining bees prepare to slow down for the winter. My weapon of choice this year was a Thymol based product called Apilife Var, it is supplied in strips and is cut into squares and placed directly above the brood body within the hive directly across the frames, this then releases a vapour that kills the mites but does not affect the health of the bees, although they may object to the smell a bit! The treatment is repeated four times in each hive on a weekly basis and must be done whilst the ambient temperature is still above 20 degrees. Two of the hives did not seem to object to the treatment, but the other responded differently with the bees ‘hanging ‘ on the outside of the hive around the entrance when the treatment was first administered and on my return a week later I found that the Thymol squares had been chewed into small pieces and ejected from the hive, this however did not seem to prevent the treatment being very effective with a large number of dead mites being collected on the hives bottom board!

Hive treatmentApilife Var - hive treatment for varroa

Apilife Var Varroa Destructer, dead on count board

As well as treating for mite the bees must also be fed sugar syrup in order to replenish the honey that was removed in August. The feeding must commence as soon as the honey is removed and whilst the ambient temperatures are still warm and the bee population is still large enough to deal with the  massive task of taking the syrup from the feeder, moving it down into empty comb and reducing the water content enough in order to stop it fermenting, and to save as a food for the bees that will over winter in the hive.

I only removed honey from one hive this year but have fed all three hives as this will give them a good chance of each having enough reserves to survive the winter, additionally by feeding all three colonies it cuts down the robbing instinct bought on by a sudden abundance of food when the real nectar flow has effectively stopped for the year. As the queen slows down her rate of egg laying, space within the brood chamber is freed up and the bees will now use this to move their winter stores closer to where they will need them once the cold weather sets in. Each hive took about 12kg of sugar mixed into syrup (36 kg in total). The best way to make this up was to use boiling water to dissolve the sugar at home, approximately 600ml water to every kg sugar, and then transport the syrup to the out apiary in a jerry can – this speeded up the feeding process, caused less disturbance and excitement amongst the bees and made sure that the sugar was properly dissolved before pouring into the contact feeders as any loose sugar in the solution rapidly settles and blocks the holes in the feeder gauze leaving the bees hungry and more likely to try and rob the neighbouring hives.

30kg sugar to make into syrupSugar syrup in a contact feeder

Contact feeder on the hiveBees in a rapid feeder

Once the bees have been fed and treated for mite the years work is almost over, the colony must now be checked for overall health and to make sure that the colony is still queen right and will actually survive the winter and into next year. Then the condition of the hive must also be checked and any holes blocked up. These were fine earlier in the year as the bee population was great enough that they were able to guard against robbing at any number of entrances but now the numbers are dropping rapidly and soon the bees only task will be to protect the queen and maintain the temperature within the hive. The hive entrance is reduced and now is also a good time to treat the outside of the hive with any protective paint, a task normally carried out with the bees still inside.

Wear and damage on hive boxes Hive entrance block in place

The bees will soon remain huddled in a cluster around the queen; they enter in almost inactive state where little food is required to sustain them over the winter months until the queen starts to lay eggs again in February. In October there are approximately 50,000 bees in the hive but this number will dip as low as 10,000 by February before the queen starts laying to build the colony up again for next year’s work.

Winter is also the time of year that ‘visitors’ such as mice also find the hive very attractive, afterall it is heated to 36 degrees and has an abundant supply of honey and the bees are too busy huddling to evict any intruders so the answer is too attach a metal mouse guard over the entrance at the beginning of October (after removing the entrance reducing block!). This will help keep the mice out but also allow good air circulation in the hive which in turn will help to reduce condensation and prevent the combs on the outside from going mouldy during the winter months. It is also a good time of year to wrap chicken wire loosely around the hive in areas where green woodpeckers reside as these are known to turn a whole beehive into matchsticks in a very short amount of time, chilling the bees and their brood so killing the colony and destroying your hive!

Finally it is time to put your feet up with a hot cup of tea and some honey on toast in front of the woodburner. The bees will not require much attention now until early April next year, other than the occassional check to make sure that they are not starving and that the entrance is clear in the event of heavy snowfall.

Apiary visit and checking for Varroa destructor in my hives


Its amazing how fast seven days go but with a busy weekend ahead it was neccessary to check the bees earlier today just to see how they were getting on since the last visit. The hives are really beginning to build up well with strong colonies in them all and good brood patterns on the comb and they are bringing in good amounts of nectar and making honey now so they should have enough stores for over wintering and maybe even a little for me to take out and enjoy! With this in mind I made a flying visit to Thornes in Windsor to pick up some 40 kg honey tanks to allow the settling, or ripening, of the honey after it has been extracted from the frames and strained as it will need to sit for at least 24 hours to allow any air bubbles to rise t the surface of the honey before it is poured into the jars.

The third hive that had the swarm put in it back in June had an extra shallow brood supper added last week – this was made up of all new undrawn wax foundation and again the bees have amazed me with how fast they can draw out the wax comb when there is a nectar flow on – about half of these frames have been drawn out on both sides in the week and partially filled with honey already – I had a taste of some of the honey filled brace comb today – it’s an amazing experience to taste totally fresh, unfiltered, strained or unheated honey straight fom the hive, the aromas fill your mouth and go to the back of your nose and you realise why honey is refered to as the  ‘food of the gods’.

Now that the colonies are hopefully past swarming, the queens are laying well, the brood has expanded and there are many adult worker bees in the hive bringing in the honey my mind has turned to looking again at the health of the colonies. The weekly visits are always looking for irregularities in the brood as this can indicate a number of viral, fungal or parasitic problems within the hive of which there are very many, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diseases_of_the_honey_bee

I have varroa mesh floors on all the hives and this is meant to reduce the mite count by 40% but as yet I have yet to see any mites in the hive, on the bees or on the floor board during mite checks. I decided to use the uncapping fork to lift some drone brood from the comb today as these are likley to be the host areas for varroa mites and gives you an indication of the amount of mite present in the hive. The only problem with my newly queened hives is that there is a lot of worker brood but not much drone brood at present at the moment. I checked the hive that had the most drone brood but after several ‘excavations’ I had only found one mite – I am hoping that this is a good sign and that the strong colony is dealing with the mites but it does also show that they are present, whereas prior to this I had not seen any evidence of their presence in the hive.