Category Archives: Monthly meeting

December branch meeting

 

December branch meeting.

This month’s meeting had as its topic winter hive management and there were several areas that as always sparked lively debate amongst the virtual club community!

Some of the highlights were as follows:-

Keeping the bees well fed and spotting the signs of potential starvation.

The key to this is to start early, depending on how much honey you have taken, feeding may be needed from as early as August through to October to give the bees the reserves they need to see them through the winter. A hive will need at least 20 – 22 kilos of stores to last until the spring so if you take honey, make sure you take it early enough (ideally before the end of August) so that they can amass the stores they will need after that while it’s still warm enough for them to cap the stores.

Every year is different and this autumn was really very mild which kept the Queens laying more than usual and the bees flying. Don’t assume that because you can see them being active they are OK, all this activity uses resources and checking their store now / hefting the hive will let you know if they have been a little too active and need help. Indeed the NBU sent out a starvation warning recently saying that your bees reserves might be a lot lower than you think.

Monitoring their situation throughout the winter is key. Looking at the drop on the floor tray can tell you a lot about where the cluster is and how big it is. Hefting (lifting each side of the hive in turn) the hive (although far from an exact science) can, with a bit of practise, give you an idea of how much food they have in their larder. It’s all relative, so you need to do this in the autumn to give yourself a reference point and then regularly follow on through the winter. If the hive feels obviously light then they may well need some help (more about that later).

If you think they are in trouble, don’t be tempted to give them any liquid feed, it’s too cold for them to be able to use it, fondant or whole food products with synthetic pollen mixed in are really your only option until early March.

The size of the brood nest that goes into winter can have a big effect on how fast the reserves are consumed, a five frame cluster from a strong colony will probably need feeding, brood and a half may be a good plan for them.

When to apply any winter anti-varroa treatments.

This is best done once the queen has stopped laying and there is no capped brood in the hive. In the meeting it was discussed which of the two governing factors (day length and temperature) were most important in determining the best time to either trickle or sublimate oxalic acid. As always in beekeeping, opinions varied. The important thing is to watch the weather and be pro-active. After a 12-14 day spell of cold weather the queen will likely have stopped laying, and those capped larvae in the hive should be hatching so after that is a good time to apply treatment. Other treatments were also discussed with a regime of hops/lavender and regular twice yearly box changing being seen as potentially effective. Sacrificing drone brood as a “varroa magnet” was also discussed (although this is a summer option) and opinions varied as to it’s effectiveness and also whether it is an appropriate sacrifice to make.

The method of applying oxalic acid was also discussed and there were no shortage of sponsors for both trickle and sublimation as an effective method of treatment. The trickle method is possibly kinder to the bees (from a health perspective) and avoids noxious fumes. Sublimation is highly effective but health and safety is paramount and proper (human) protective equipment must be used – masks must protect against organic acid vapour.  Delivery methods for vaping were also discussed, with some favouring the traditional electric heating element method and some in favour of the new gas-vap equipment.

With the recent cold snap, the bees have really hunkered down and it’s likely the queen will have stopped laying. It might be the ideal time (now) to apply anti-varroa treatments, be that trickling or sublimating, as the bees will all be in the hive and nicely clustered. Those pesky varroa won’t be able to hide in the brood and you can get a really high reduction in their levels (up to about 95%).

Preparing for the next season.

This depends to some extent on your strategy for the season. You may be trying for an early crop from (for example) oil seed rape, in which case you will need to build up the colony quickly, or you may just be wanting a slower start towards the usual end of July /early August main crop. Whatever you are trying to achieve, being pro-active is better than being reactive. For example, in order to harvest an early crop of oil seed rape honey, you will need lots of flying bees at the end of April /early May. As their first three weeks are spent in the hive nursing /cleaning etc., they need to be hatching at the start of April. Which means the eggs have to be laid in March, and to achieve that you will need to start stimulating the queen to lay in February with fondant or a wholefood.

It was also mentioned that having a young queen in the spring can be beneficial as they are vigorous.

It’s good to have a plan, even if it all gets messed up by mother nature having a different one!

One key point to remember here though is that if you do start to give them fondant, you’ll need to keep that up until you can switch to light syrup in the spring. That’s not to say you shouldn’t, if they need help, they need help!

A lively and well attended meeting that gave everyone plenty to think on. If only every question had only one answer!

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.

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

Top tips

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.

AGM and Honey Show, 14 November 2015

Our AGM, and the following Honey Show, made for an interesting afternoon, last weekend.

At the AGM, it was clear that we have had a good year as a branch, as Julie’s ‘Secretary’s Report’ detailed, and Roger reported also on our increased funds in the branch. New branch officers were appointed by the meeting. The Minutes of the meeting are available here:  Bees – Minutes of AGM November 2015.

The Honey Show saw a small but good collection of entries, some of which are shown in the photo below, courtesy of Tilly Bayes:

Some of the entries in the 2015 Honey Show

Some of the entries in the 2015 Honey Show

 

 

Branch update

Last week’s branch meeting was a multi-faceted one, with hive inspections, information exchange, sales, and demonstration + advice for honey creaming. It was also a time for congratulations, as Diane, Ian, Maggy, Sally and Sandy have all passed their Basic Assessment, taken last month. We’re going to have so many knowledgeable beekeepers around if we go on like this… 🙂

Inspections of the branch hives went smoothly, with some newcomers getting their first experience of how a hive full of honeybees looks inside. Julie’s demonstration of honey extraction and how to make ‘creamed honey’ was well received, with many members interested in the process.

Looking forward to the autumn, there will be not only our own honey show to prepare for but also the giant National Honey Show (http://www.honeyshow.co.uk/). Julie will be circulating some more information and tips about this in her next Newsletter, so look out for that soon. There is also the Kent Festival of Bees, at the end of this month, at which our branch will have a stall.

Summer activities for everyone

Now that the sunshine and nectar flow seem to be established, and that long-lasting cold NE wind seems finally to have gone, most people’s colonies seem to be settling down. Our branch meeting last Saturday (27 June) was well attended and had a variety of activities for people to take part in. Those stalwarts about to take the Basic Assessment were busy practising hive inspections, another group were getting a (gentle) grip on how to mark queens by practising on drones, while others again were discussing the proper siting of a new swarm in a nuc, with a view to it settling down happily. It was a good meeting and our usual raffle raised some more money for branch funds, helped by the goodwill of those donating the prizes.

A reminder now that our ‘Honeybee Day’ takes place at the Horsebridge Centre in Whitstable this coming Saturday, from 11 am to 3 pm. Why not come along to support the branch, answer questions from the public, and try some of the newly-extracted branch honey.

Finally, three more pieces of information published recently (and that can be found also on our Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/groups/359167444256663/ ):

 

Honey!

At a time of the year when many of us may be thinking hopefully of honey, the latest BeeCraft Hangout focussed on that topic. If you weren’t able to join the live online session yesterday (Wednesday, 17 June) then the recording is now available here – http://www.bee-craft.com/honey-all-you-need-to-know/ to watch/listen to. It was an interesting session. We (the branch) will have our own session looking at honey preparation, when we have the monthly meeting at the end of July.