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.
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.
For part of one of the autumn branch meetings we had an enjoyable 20 minutes sharing those ideas and good practice that made things better for us and our bees. In no particular order, these are some of the ideas put forward by members:
- Light your smoker before opening a hive, even if you were not intending to do much. You never know…
- When making syrup (particularly 2:1) warm the sugar first by putting the bags in a moderate oven for 10 minutes. The sugar will then dissolve much more easily when you mix it with the (hot) water.
- If you see a queen starting to be balled, powder heavily with icing sugar immediately (from the shaker you always keep in your bee box… 🙂 ). This often changes their minds.
- Have a look at the National Honey Show’s channel on YouTube (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCiOtIebcpY0Zqqma0H5wLYQ), to see the great series of lectures by experts at past shows.
- Don’t wash your hair just before going off to do a hive inspection. Some shampoo smells are not appreciated by bees.
- Always wash (in soda solution) your gloves, hive tool, and the handle of your smoker, between hives.
- The hood of your beesuit can go in the washing machine with the rest of your suit/jacket if you tuck it down into a sleeve (for the fencing type) or in the trunk of the zipped-up suit (if round type) first. Secure the opening of the suit with a safety pin and remember to tuck the velcro tab away from the veil as well.
- A see-through/polycarbonate crownboard makes it easier to check how many seams of bees you have in the winter.
- If you have a phone camera, taking some pictures up through the OMF in winter can provide reassurance that they’re still alive in there.
- Luggage scales are very useful in monitoring stores situation in winter. Weigh either both sides or front and back at each visit and compare over time to see how much is being used.
- A spray bottle filled with soda solution can be useful in rinsing gloves. Just be careful not to think it’s the one you filled with clean water for inspections in hot weather (when a fine mist of water can be more calming than smoke for the bees).
- A wallpaper steamer fed down into a box of old comb on a solid floor can melt out the wax very well (and is what the Thornes’ Easi-steam system is based on).
- If you go back to a hive after an inspection and having removed your beesuit, because there was something small you’d forgotten to do, the bees will not realise you were not intending to disturb them – “feeling lazy, I decided to quickly creep back and put my varroa floors in without putting my suit on. As I bent over the wind suddenly gusted and three poor bees got caught in the hair on top of my head and stung me. Later that day I looked like a dolphin.”
- If you want to make some cut comb honey, don’t put the super you want to use directly above the brood box as that is where the bees often store some pollen. Always put your cut comb super on after the OSR season and only on a strong colony.
- Dusting with icing sugar needs to be done regularly every seven days for a worthwhile drop in varroa levels over the season.
- An old duvet cover makes a secure container for a boxed swarm in the car (making sure to leave enough ventilation).
- Shaking a swarm into their new nuc/hive rather than running them in avoids having to deal with instances of them clustering under the new home rather than in it.
- Always check to make sure you’ve placed the central cup back over the access hole when using a rapid feeder of some type. Otherwise, you risk finding 100s of drowned bees when you next check them and feeling like a mass murderer.
- When doing a shook swarm, putting a single frame of uncapped brood into the new brood box along with the frames of foundation means that the bees are much less likely to abscond. Take it out and discard it after a week, when most of that brood has been capped, and you will also get rid of most of the phoretic mites that were on the adult bees.
There was a very interesting Bee Craft hangout in January, looking at involving children in beekeeping in safe and engaging ways. The recording is well worth a watch.
Last month, the latest in the series of Google Hangouts organised by Bee Craft magazine
focussed on beekeeping tasks in the wintertime. There were some really interesting discussions so please do have a look at the recording, below.
Dear Auntie Bee and Uncle Drone
My bees are still flying in all this mild weather and I’m worried that they’re using up their winter stores really fast at the moment. Should I give them some fondant now or is it better to let them use their own stores first and put fondant on later?
Uncle Drone replies:
Well this point is of concern to all of us. It is too late in the season for syrup and it is wise to keep as much of their own stores intact as they act as heat sinks/insulation as well as food stores
So, fondant is the only option but it attracts moisture so must be given in small quantities (say 300-400 g) and wrapped in cling film (or flattened out in a ziplock freezer bag), cutting/slicing into it with a knife where it is to be placed over a hole in the crown board.
Once given/started it should be continued on demand till spring.
Now that it’s the time of year when we’re not involved in so much hands-on stuff with our colonies, it’s a good time to consider taking a course, attending a workshop or a bigger event, in order to gain more knowledge and insight.
a) The ‘Beekeepers@KSRC’ group has some good evening sessions coming up next month on the key skills for improvers (beekeepers with a little experience), details of which can be found on their website at http://ksrcbees.org.uk/?page_id=4
b) Another event is a talk by Jennifer Berry, leading American bee breeder, researcher, author and lecturer. 7.30pm Thursday 5th November, Crofton Hall, Orpington.
Sidcup beekeepers would like to remind everyone that Jennifer Berry, a world renowned expert and colleague of Keith Delapane at Georgia University, is giving a talk : ‘an American take on beekeeping’, on 5 November. For the past fourteen years, Jennifer has been the Apicultural Research Coordinator and Lab Manager for the University of Georgia Honey Bee Programme. Recently, she has also undertaken an ambitious campaign to educate the public about the importance of pollinators and other beneficial insects, including honey bees, and how to reduce pesticide use.This should be a fascinating evening – Jennifer has published many articles and academic papers, and some of her queens reside in colonies at the White House. We are very privileged that she has agreed to fit in this event for us whilst visiting the Northern Ireland annual conference – there will not be another opportunity this year to hear her lecture in SE England.
Crofton Hall is immediately adjacent to Orpington railway station BR6 0SX , and also has good parking. Admission payable on the door is £5, which includes tea / coffee and cakes. To help us with catering arrangements, please let Melody Faulkner know if you plan to come on firstname.lastname@example.org
c) The National Honey Show (http://honeyshow.co.uk/) is on at the end of October, in Surrey. This is a major national event and a fascinating one, with so many good talks and workshops, exhibitions and seminars, as well as the mindboggling variety of items in the trade hall. It’s a very good day/weekend to consider attending whether you’re a complete beginner, an improver, or someone who is thinking about becoming a beekeeper.
The most recent BeeCraft hangout was on this subject and the recording can be viewed/listened to here:
It’s the time of year when membership needs to be renewed and the form for this is attached both here and on our Facebook group. For anyone who is not currently keeping bees but would like to join the branch/come to meetings/learn more about honeybees, you can join as a ‘Friend’ – we have quite a few people doing it that way at the moment and everyone is welcome. 🙂
At the AGM this coming October we have some interesting new plans to share…
Hi Auntie Bee and Uncle Drone,
I found a heap (hundreds rather than thousands) of dead and dying bees in front of a hive this morning. A couple of days ago a lot of yellow lumps of pollen had appeared under the hive. Have had a closer look and most of the dead have furry bodies, probosces sticking out, folded legs and wings at more or less right angle to bodies. Recent Varroa count negligible. The hive seems to be thriving otherwise. Could be garden pesticide?
From Uncle Drone: Any situation where there is a sudden increase in dead bees in front of the hive should ring alarm bells as the most probable cause is a pesticide or herbicide being used wrongly and not according to the licensed method. Either a plant has been sprayed with a pesticide to kill greenfly or maybe some grass that has clover in it has been sprayed with a herbicide to remove weeds other than grass such as clover and dandelions.