Spring 2020 – Auntie Bee answers some questions

Question 3:  So I missed my weekly inspection by one day and yup, my biggest hive decided to swam. However, thanks to the fabulous teachers I have had I recaptured it. I pretended I had done an artificial swarm and put the new hive with some drawn and some new combs for them to sort out back to the location where they had come from having shifted the old hive to a few feet away.

So now I have a lot of new bees in a b box and no supers on them although there were two on the old hive. One q cell in old hive. All good there. Interestingly no classic swarm cell clusters, just two magnificent q cells in centre of a frame.

Questions –

  • Should I move supers from old to new hive? I think probably yes but pls confirm.
  • Should I feed new hive? I think probably no especially if I move supers over with some food present.
  • Any other useful pointers?

Answer from Auntie Bee: Well done, you’ve made the best of the situation and got it all right. If it was me I would put a feeder on the ‘swarm’ hive to help them draw out the remaining foundation and leave the brood hive as it is. As always there are many alternatives which would all work, but I think by doing that you will still have your honey crop and a reliable split on mostly newly drawn comb.

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Question 2:  I’m pretty sure one of my hives (luckily quite physically remote from the others) has got cbpv. The bees are very jittery on the comb although I haven’t seen any black greasy looking ones yet. I’ll have another look next week and may consider requeening as I know this can help. I know the virus can develop quite quickly so I appreciate I won’t have the luxury of taking a “wait and see” approach.

My question (which I can’t seem to find anything about online) is how long this virus can survive on equipment. ie. should the worst happen and the colony collapses, would the frames be safe and useable next year. I know typically viruses are quite short lived and can only survive for days at most outside the host but I’d feel much happier seeing something to back up my assumed position. Have you come across anything on this in your studies?

Answer from Auntie Bee: I had an outbreak of CBPV in one apiary a few years ago.  The first thing I noticed was piles of dead bees at the entrance of every hive (6).  At the time I suspected spray damage as well as disease and phoned the bee inspector to find out how to proceed.  Looking at the bees I did see some bald black bees on the top bars, in some of the hives, but waited to see what Kay Wreford would say.  Kay came about 10 days later, she was busy as CBPV is not notifiable so my call was low priority.  By the time she came the bees had recovered and were bringing in honey with no symptoms of the virus, the dead bees in the grass under the entrance remained.

There was no clear cut answer for me, Kay recommended I clear up the bees and disinfect the soil which I did although as you say the virus would not persist for very long outside of a living cell or organism.  She did say that had this been spray damage – the bees are in mixed orchards – there would have been piles of dead bees inside the hive as well as at the entrance so this was not the case.

So, unless your bees are particularly susceptible I think they should recover and I would just clean your hives as you normally would, by blow torching the boxes when empty.  If you are recycling old frames I would boil these in soda.

Bees always do better and look better on new comb so I change my comb in the Autumn by doing a Baillie comb change when I feed and the empty drawn supers go back to the shed where I sterilise them with acetic acid vapour – see BeeBase guide for exact details.- before storing them for the winter.  You could requeen but I don’t know anywhere where you can buy a CBPV resistant queen, I don’t think such a thing exists so personally I wouldn’t bother.

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Question 1: “I’ve put a new super on my hive, the first one, but the bees don’t seem to want to go up there. It’s been on a week and they’re ignoring it, despite being on eight brood frames. What should I do to make them go up?”

Answer from Auntie Bee: This is always difficult when you are a new beekeeper with equipment bees haven’t been in before.  I have two suggestions that might work.

 1.  Try putting a feeder on with weak sugar syrup.  If they draw out the frames under the feeder keep moving frames outwards until all are drawn.  A small feeder, little and often is recommended allowing the feeder to empty before refilling it.  Remove feeder before they start storing the syrup unless you intend to leave it for winter feed.

2.  Try putting the super underneath the brood box,  that way the bees will have to walk over the foundation and will leave pheromones which may encourage them to draw it out.  I would say to begin with leave out the queen excluder as this will knock pollen of the foragers legs if left in place.  As soon as they have drawn a couple of frames put the super back over the queen excluder and move frames around until all are drawn.

I think my preferred option would be 1 but I use large brood boxes that are very heavy for me to lift.

Good luck

Auntie Bee 🐝

Beekeeping in lock-down, April/May 2020

Activity 5: 7 – 12 May

When the BBKA Spring Convention was cancelled this year, we also lost the opportunity to hear one of the main speakers – ProfessorTom Seeley. With a bit of help and sponsorship, however, he has now recorded the talks he would have given and they are freely available via the link here – https://www.bbka.org.uk/spring-convention-videos . The focus of the talks is something quite different to the more technical side of beekeeping that many people tend to stick to these days but provides a fascinating view of honey bees in the wild, as well as a more ‘natural’ style of beekeeping. Maybe this is something we all ought to be more aware of? Anyway, please watch and enjoy them over the next few days.

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Activity 4: 1 – 5 May

A quiz, complied by Keith and with the intention of getting everyone looking round the BeeBase site at http://www.nationalbeeunit.com/index.cfm?

BeeBase contains an enormous amount of useful info for all beekeepers and if you have hives and have not already registered your apiary with them (even if it’s your garden) then you really should.

Quiz – BeeBase 1

The following questions are all based on the national Healthy Bees Plan (Answers now available in blue)

  1. What is the overall aim of the plan Answer : To achieve a sustainable and healthy population of honey bees for pollination and honey production…
  2. What does it set out? Answer : Key actions for protecting and improving the health of honeybees / The relative roles and responsibilities of government and other stakeholders
  3. What potential exotic pests should we be alert to? Answer : Small hive beetle, Tropilaelaps mites, Asian hornet
  4. How many amateur beekeepers (approximately) are there in the UK? Answer : 33,000
  5. What are beekeepers responsible for? What does their duty of care cover? List four items. Answers : A. Recognising pests and diseases and through knowing their legal obligations, reporting any suspicion of notifiable pests or disease to their local Bee Inspector or the NBU. B. Maintaining good husbandry and health practices to prevent and control the spread of pests and diseases. C. Ensuring that their skills and competence levels are appropriate and up to date. D. Signing up to BeeBase. E. Complying with legislation on controlling pests and diseases, including standstill notices and import requirements. F. Using and storing medications and treatments appropriately. G. Maintaining records on the movement and location of their colonies within GB and making records available to their local Bee Inspector on request. H. Seeking specialist advice from their local BKA or the local Bee Inspector
  6. How many Outcomes from the Healthy Bees Plan are the government/DEFRA seeking? Answer : 5
  7. Why should individual beekeepers sign on/register with BeeBase? Answer : To help the NBU monitor and control pests and diseases and disseminate relevant information to beekeepers (e.g. disease alerts).

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Activity 3: 26-30 April

So, how many people had a look at the two downloadable sheets below and worked out what alternative they would use, to get a colony on to fresh combs? It often comes down to time of year/weather forecast (as with most things in beekeeping…), plus any need to manage the bees’ health in relation to an incidence of pathogens in a hive. So, in Julie’s words “unless the bees were in a field of OSR with a forecast of 14 days of high temperature I would feed [while carrying out either technique]. This is actually unlikely as OSR blooms early and often temperatures are lower, particularly at night, AND I wouldn’t be doing a shook swarm in April, I’d probably leave it until late May early June.” The concensus these days seems to focus on feeding heavy syrup during either procedure (having removed any supers for the duration, obviously), no matter what the time of year – it used to be that light syrup was used to encourage the bees to draw comb but heavy is really just as accessible for them. For my own practice, I will be doing a shook swarm on one colony that has chalkbrood, so I can get them off the old comb asap and without them tracking the spores up into the fresh box all the time. Shook swarm is used as part of IPM in relation to varroa certainly. Thank you to Roger S, for his thoughtful feedback during this activity.

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The third activity is focussed on something we all need to be sure of in the spring – that our colonies are on good clean comb for the year. There are two ways of changing all the comb in a brood box in one go, as opposed to changing a few frames each year by moving them further to the outside of the box and waiting until they’re empty of brood or stores (or nearly so). Doing it all in one go has a lot of advantages over the gradual method but it does mean that you need enough new frames made up, an extra brood box and queen excluder, probably also a large capacity feeder and plenty of syrup. The two methods are shook swarm, and Bailey comb change and they are useful procedures to carry out for a variety of reasons. Have a look through the two (downloadable) sheets below that Julie has kindly made available and, in relation to your own colonies, consider:

  1. are most of the frames in the brood box(es) of my colonies more than a year old, so that they are likely to have been in use during at least three anti-varroa treatments and therefore have chemical residues in the wax?
  2. are all the frames in the brood box(es) evenly and fully drawn across each frame face or do they have lumps of old drone comb, big holes that the bees have made through to the other side of the frame, or areas of incompletely drawn comb?
  3. are there any instances of chalk brood, sac brood, bald brood, or wax moth trails in among the current comb, or signs of incipient varoosis?

If any of the above applies to your colonies, which of the above methods of comb change will you carry out this spring, and what would be the deciding factors between methods for any colonies that you know need new comb? Answers by email to me, or Julie, or Keith, please. 🙂

 

Activity 2: 19-23 April

The activity for this period is to watch a short (c. 10 minutes) practical beekeeping video and then to give some examples of what you consider to be good practice from the video, as well as one that you’re not sure about. It is appreciated that for beginners this may be more difficult, but have a look at the video anyway – which is, generally speaking, showing a beekeeper who really knows what he’s doing – and have a go at picking out the good and any questionnable practices.

So, the video is here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z7Z-XUVALZQ&t=5s

and the online form where you can enter your answers if you want to is here: https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/CWPYSVM

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This is the first in a series of online activities that we will be adding to this post over the next few weeks. While those of us with hives are still carefully tending them in the gradually-warming weather, it’s always good to stretch the brain a bit. So check back here regularly, both to access the answers to any quizzes and to explore the links and associated activities we will be putting up.

Time’s up! This quiz has now finished, the answers are shown below in blue so you can see how you got on.

Winner of the quiz in this period was Peter Kingsley, who sent in a very full response, with proper citations for his answers in many cases. Well done Peter! 🙂

Activity 1: 14-18 April

  • What is the queen marking colour for this year?
    1. White
    2. Blue
    3. Red
  • What are the development days for drones to maturity?
    1. Egg 3, Larva 7, Capped/Pupa 14, Mature @ 38 days
    2. Egg 4, Larva 8, Capped/Pupa 14, Mature @ 30 days
    3. Egg 3, Larva 6, Capped/Pupa 13, Mature @ 28 days
  • A colony of honeybees has the following brood ratio: 1½ sides of eggs, 2¼ sides of larva, 4 sides of sealed brood, is it:
    1. Stationary
    2. Contracting
    3. Expanding
  • What is the standard foraging distance for a colony of honeybees?
    1. 1-2 miles
    2. 2-3 miles
    3. 3-4 miles
  • What is the temperature of a honeybee brood nest when brood is present?
    1. 31/32oC
    2. 33/34oC
    3. 34/35oC
  • What is the action of smoke on a colony?
    1. To make them panic and feed
    2. To quieten them down
    3. To distract the guards and disguise the alarm pheromone
  • What is a Snelgrove board
    1. A type of crown board
    2. A board for clearing bees out of supers
    3. A tool to assist preventing swarm control
  • An Apidea is used for:
    1. Catching swarms
    2. Mating Queens
    3. Keeping swarms in
  • When would you avoid giving syrup to a colony?
    1. During the summer
    2. When the daytime temperature is below 10 oC
    3. When you make up a fresh nuc
  • A ‘Thin’ syrup (1:1) is used for
    1. Spring stimulation
    2. Autumn feeding
    3. Winter feeding

The answers to these questions, for anyone not yet convinced that they have all the beekeeping knowledge needed, will be appended here on the 19th. We will then make the next activity visible. Anyone who emails their answers to me (preferably with a (very) brief note justifying each answer choice) before the 19th will be entered into a prize draw that will continue while the lockdown lasts.  🙂

Mid Winter Social – Sign Up Here!

For any members that would like to come and enjoy a meal at The Monument in Church Lane Whitstable on Friday 10th January at 7pm for a 7:30 start, please use the following link to book your place:

https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/G6FWD78

Thanks and see you there!

Please note – as of 8th January, online booking has now been finalised and the choices sent to The Monument.

Getting up close and personal with the bees!

The photos below show the kind of activities undertaken during the more active part of the Beekeeping calendar at the club’s apiaries. Our Mentors work with Novice Beekeepers to give knowledge and confidence to those starting their Beekeeping journey.

 

David, standing ready with the hive tool.

Steve going through a 14 x 12 brood frame with some learners, checking for eggs or unsealed brood.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The new beekeeping year starts here…

The calendar of events, and details of this coming March’s Beginner’s Course, have now been updated for 2019.

We had a very successful year in 2018, with healthy colonies in the branch’s two teaching apiaries, a good harvest of honey, and an even better ‘crop’ of new and beginner beekeepers joining us. Fingers crossed that 2019 is equally successful.

Best wishes for the year to all our members and Friends.

Amanda, Branch Sec.

November meeting and Branch AGM for 2018 – 3rd November

Hello all
This coming Saturday the monthly meeting will be in our ‘winter quarters’ at Herne Mill, starting at 2.30 pm. As this is also the time of year when we hold our AGM, the meeting will be in two parts. The AGM itself will start at 2.30 (papers will be available on the day) and will probably last for about 45 minutes. You will see from the papers that we will be asking members and friends for suggestions relating to spending some of the branch funds in the coming year, so please come prepared to contribute ideas.
Following that, and with some refreshments to hand, we will have a session on ‘Equipment you don’t need’. For this, we would like all active beekeeping members of the branch to bring along (if possible) an item of equipment that they’ve bought/acquired at some stage in their time as a beekeeper but then found that it either wasn’t necessary or didn’t work as anticipated. It is recognised that everyone has different ways of working with their bees but we hope that this session will draw out some interesting and useful pointers for our beginners and novices (as well as causing nods of agreement – or disagreement – from fellow beekeepers). We expect the meeting as a whole will finish around 4.30.
Please note that parking space inside the Mill’s grounds is fairly limited, so if you arrive just before the start of the meeting it’s usually a good idea to park in the side road next to the Mill.
I look forward to seeing everyone on Saturday.
Best wishes
Amanda
Branch Secretary

Saving a small feral colony

Back in July, during the very hot period a couple of weeks ago, the Boughton golf course found that they had some inappropriate guests in the wall of one of their sheds, behind the cladding. They contacted the branch to see if we could remove them to a safe place. This club seems to be a magnet for swarms and feral colonies as we’ve had similar call-outs for the last couple of years.

Anyway, despite the tropical temperatures, some stalwarts from the branch went along and got kitted-up, and carried out what is technically known as ‘a cut-out’ from the wall of the building. It was a nice little colony that obviously hadn’t been there very long, going on the colour of the comb and the small space they were occupying. The bees have been put safely into a nuc and the beekeepers are now recovered from their exertions.

Surveying the scene and getting ready to remove the wall cladding

 

 

 

 

 

 

A nice small colony, that will do better in a proper home and away from the developing wasp nest in the adjacent section!

 

 

 

 

 

 

The amount of stores in the front comb is quite impressive, given the short time they’d been there.

Come and meet the beekeepers, June 2018

The branch will have a stall at both the Whitstable ‘Funday Sunday’ on 10th June and also the Faversham Garden Market on 24th June. We will have some local honey for sale as well as beeswax, but our main reason for taking part in each event is to talk with people about honey bees, and other bees, and help with identification of honey/bumble/solitary bees, or plants that are particularly suitable if you want to support bees and other pollinators. We will also have details of how to become a beekeeper, and will be selling ‘Bee Experience Day’ vouchers for anyone who’s stuck for a present for a nearby friend or relative.

Auntie Bee advises on uniting colonies, and then treating for varroa

Dear Auntie B and Uncle Drone

I have two colonies that I want to unite at the moment. Both need the late summer varroa treatment. How soon after uniting them is it safe to start treating them with Apiguard? I wouldn’t want the smell of the treatment to disrupt the chosen queen’s hold over her newly extended colony.

Auntie Bee answers:

Now is an ideal time to unite colonies and it is essential to have strong colonies going into winter.  As colonies have their own unique odour they will fight unless united slowly with time to get used to each other.  There are a number of methods for uniting colonies but the newspaper method is easy and reliable.

Firstly a few tips about uniting. If you have two colonies to unite – your records should tell you which has the better/younger queen and the other queen should be culled.  Don’t unite and leave both queens to fight it out on the principle of survival of the fittest, the victorious queen may well be damaged in the punch up and then you will have no queen for the following season.

How to unite, This is best done late afternoon when foragers have returned to the hive.

Remove supers from both colonies and place a sheet of newspaper over the brood box in the position that the final colony will occupy.  Secure this with a queen excluder and make a few small holes in the paper to allow the odour of both colonies to permeate.  Place the brood box from the second colony on top and close the hive.  If you want to put back a super with stores a further queen excluder and newspaper sheet are required.

Most text books say it is preferable to unite with the queen in the bottom brood box but I think this is not important.  As you have a queen excluder in between the brood boxes you will know where she is and you can reverse or amalgamate the boxes later on.  Don’t over winter with the queen excluder in place though, if you chose to leave the bees on a double brood.

And the answer to the question. After a week, inspect the colony and if a good proportion of the newspaper is gone and the bees are moving freely between the boxes, I would tidy away any remaining paper and check that the queen is laying.  You will  need to see eggs or very young larvae to ensure that she is laying well.  Then reverse the boxes if necessary so the queen is in the bottom box or amalgamate frames into one box if colonies were both small to start with.  I would then leave everything for a further week before doing the varroa treatment.  Bees are susceptible to stress and I like to do only one manipulation at a time and give them time to recover in between.

Final noteVarroa treatment should be done before feeding as most treatments are temperature dependent.

Good beekeeping

Auntie B

Taster Day , 22 July 2017

A one-day event for members of the public who would like to know more about honey bees and beekeeping, either to see if they might wish to become beekeepers themselves or simply to learn a little about such a fascinating activity. To be held at the branch’s training apiary on the University of Kent campus at Canterbury.

We will start the day at 10.30 in the potting shed/training room where the W&HB branch Education Officer, Julie Coleman, will give a couple of hours instruction on the theory of modern beekeeping, together with some practical tips.  This will be interspersed with some hands on practical work and plenty of tea and coffee. At 12.30 we will break for lunch: we can provide tea, coffee, cold drinks, and biscuits. but please bring a packed lunch.

After lunch, about 1.30 we will suit up in protective clothing provided and go into the apiary to look at the hives.  You will be required to bring wellingtons or similar – something the suit can tuck into so there are no gaps, and marigold type washing up gloves.  A long sleeve shirt may also be advised as bees can occasionally sting through suits.  There will be several experienced beekeepers on hand so we can split into small groups where we can demonstrate handling bees and you can have a go if you wish.

We will then retire back to the shed where you can enjoy a hard earned cuppa and we can answer any questions and discuss the way forward if you decide beekeeping may be of interest to you.  We should finish by 4.00 depending on how the day goes and the number of questions we have along the way.  Beekeeping is a complex and fascinating pastime and there are always more questions than answers and always at least three answers to any question.

We have decided to levy a £10 fee for this event, payable on the day.  If you wish, we can use this for you to become a Friend of the branch when memberships renew at the end of September.  You will receive newsletters detailing monthly meetings and notices of events including our winter programme.  You will also be able to attend our apiary inspections with Keith, our apiary manager, on Friday or Saturday mornings.  If you decide not to continue we will take the £10 as a donation to branch funds, so we will be able to purchase more protective clothing for similar events in the future.  You can upgrade this to full membership when you have bees of your own and have completed our Beginners’ Course.

The branch will be offering a full Beginners’ Course in September 2017, with further details to be confirmed nearer the time.

Anyone interested in this event should contact the Branch Secretary, Amanda Lee-Riley as soon as possible, via the contact details shown on our ‘About us’ page, shown above.