Category Archives: How to

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.

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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.

Winter arrives…some advice from Uncle Drone

Dear Auntie Bee and Uncle Drone

It’s got suddenly quite cold over this 10 days and I’m concerned about how my bees may be coping in early winter. Do you have any recommendations for this time of year?

Uncle Drone replies:

Hi concerned beekeeper.  By now your bees should have been well fed in October followed by a Varroa treatment and protected from the woodpeckers in November.  Assuming that these preparations went ok, all that can be done now is to watch and check the hive security for a while and keep hefting.
Watch to see if they are finding and taking in pollen, how many are flying, what temperatures they are flying at, look in the entrance to see if it is blocked by dead bees, if there are dead bees out front what age are they?
The thing here is that the bees should be just hanging in a state of quiescence and not leaving the hive except to excrete or find nectar and pollen.
If a hive goes light give it fondant, not excessive amounts, but they can take 3-500g in a week if they need it.  My preference is to give them some anyway as an Xmas present following a Varroa treatment which should be timed to around Xmas or New Year following a few days of cold.
Enjoy Xmas and have a glass of mead to toast the bees.
Uncle Drone

Branch membership for 2016/17

For anyone who has not yet returned their completed membership form to Roger, the form can be downloaded here – whb-renewal-16-17

Membership runs from 1st October so please do return the form as soon as you can, so that we can be sure of our numbers for the coming year. For any of our new people who want to take part in branch activities and join in even though they haven’t got their own bees yet, please sign up under the ‘Friend’ category. The same would apply to any colleagues giving up their hives and moving away from active beekeeping.

Beekeeping with Asian Hornets around

This blog post offers some very interesting insights and ideas from France, about working to keep honeybee colonies safe in the presence of Asian Hornets.

Beekeeping with Asian hornets in France

Spring feeding

A concerned beekeeper asks:
Dear Auntie Bee and Uncle Drone

Is it a good idea to give my bees some syrup and/or pollen patties at this time of year, to help the queen start laying and the colony to build up after a rather cold and miserable March? I don’t want to encourage too much growth but it has been really chilly for them so far.

Uncle Drone answers:

Yes, now we are into April the bees should be bringing in pollen and this stimulates brood rearing.  If they are not then you should watch carefully over a period of time in case they have not found a good source of pollen yet.  Pollen is the protein that bees need to produce the brood food needed for the developing larva and the queen so supplementing this can help but is not always necessary if the weather is adequate to provide several hours foraging per day.

The extra syrup and/or fondant can be essential if their stocks are low and the bees get confined to the hive by low temperatures and wet conditions, either way it will not hurt to add a little extra and it will be converted into more bees at this time of year rather than stored.

A down side to adding pollen patties and syrup/fondant is that they will stimulate the colony and in a months time or before the bees can be thinking of swarming, so you need to be prepared for this and avoid letting them get too cramped by keeping to weekly inspections/ checks and adding space as necessary.