On Saturday 31st January we had a very interesting talk on ‘Queen rearing for the small beekeeper’ from Terry Clare, a national authority on queen rearing and a past-president of BIBBA. His style of presentation was unexpected but very very relevant and the outcome seemed so simple to understand by all levels of beekeeper. The importance of starting with bees that were as healthy as you could help them to be, that had been assessed over a whole previous season for valuable characteristics such as, for example, fertility, docility, health, non-following and no excessive swarming, was very encouraging for those of us with 3 – 8 colonies (who are apparently the norm in England). His clear outline of doing an artificial swarm with the chosen colony in May or June, so ending up with two colonies rather than one, was also well received. It was an inspired talk that all could understand and appreciate.
The four branch hives had their roofs and crown boards removed, 5ml of Oxalic Acid was syringed down the space between each top bar where there were bees present; this varied between 5 and 8 applications per colony. The crown boards and roofs were then replaced quickly to avoid chilling, and we returned to the hut for tea and debrief.
For anyone who has been watching news updates about the spread of Small Hive Beetle in the Calabrian region of Italy over the last few weeks (a very alarming prospect, given the number of bees imported into the UK from Italy this year ) it would probably be useful to join the online Google Hangout being put on by BeeCraft next Wednesday, 19th November. You can join the Hangout from this page: http://www.bee-craft.com/beekeeping/hangouts/ . If you want to express your concern about the current situation and send a message to DEFRA to do something constructive to protect our bees, then you might also consider signing and sharing the petition that’s been set up here – https://you.38degrees.org.uk/petitions/stop-the-small-hive-beetle-spreading-to-britain
Our branch meeting for November had originally been intended to cover the use of beeswax for making creams and cosmetics. This has not, unfortunately, been possible to arrange and there will therefore instead be a session at the branch apiary on checking hives for their winter preparedness.
The branch committee met earlier this week and Julie will shortly be circulating news and information arising from that.
Linked here is a downloadable pdf of the report put together by Keith Hooker, using some of the photos he took yesterday. It was a good meeting and several members commented how useful it had been.
There will be a meeting up at the campus apiary on Saturday, 28th December at 11.00 am, for a demonstration of when and how to give the oxalic acid anti-varroa treatment. We will also be putting the fence up again, doing a bit of planting, and generally making sure all is well up there.
Attendance at the meeting could also be useful in treating ‘Christmas over-indulgence’ for anyone suffering from it…
The first meeting of 2013 was held at the university apiary on Saturday 5th January and was very well attended. The weather was dry but quite cold.
Julie gave a demonstration on how to administer oxalic acid (for varroa control) to your winter hives. A midwinter treatment of oxalic acid is usually used in conjunction with an autumn thymol treatment. Julie explained that it is best to apply oxalic acid when there is no brood in the box so that the mites will still be on the adult bees. Oxalic acid damages open brood but can’t kill mites in sealed cells. So the depth of winter (between Xmas and mid-January, say) is the best time to apply it when the bees are in a cluster and before the lengthening warmer days send signals to the queen to start laying.
In view of the cold weather it’s important to make this a quick visit so it’s a good idea to have everything ready, have had a practice with your chosen method and be able to limit yourself to 5mls per seam. If you have only a few hives Thorne’s have produced a new contraption – a plastic bottle holding enough to treat two hives, with an ingenious easy fill compartment holding exactly 5mls for each seam. Treatment will be better received if the acid is at room temperature.
After you remove the crown board the cluster should be clearly evident, and you can trickle your 5 mls along each seam and close the hive up quickly
Care should be taken not to inhale the acid or get it anywhere near skin or eyes.
On the 24 November we were pleased to welcome Keith Hooker to talk to branch members and share his passion for bees and pollen.
Keith has had an interest in bees and been a beekeeper himself for many years, especially while working as a fruit farmer when he kept bees for pollination in Chartham. He lamented the loss of many hedgerow flowers, a reduced biodiversity which had greatly affected the bees, and urged the beekeepers and gardeners present at the talk to increase the number and diversity of floral nectar sources wherever possible.
He pointed out (as we are all well aware after last spring/ summer) that weather is the biggest deciding factor on the outcome of the beekeeping year. He emphasised the value of willow in early spring in getting the hives started and bemoaned the decline of orchard fruit since the 1960s and the rise of oil seed rape since the 1970s urging us all to gather the seeds of plants that we know are popular with bees (with the possible exception of Himalayan balsam) and scatter them widely to make up for the lack of variety.
Keith explained the detail of how bees pollinate flowers and how the proximity of the hives to the blossom could affect the seasonal crop in various ways. He also explained some of the planting rationale within orchards for maximum cross pollination, which was fascinating.
Keith then shared with us some of his own data, collected while studying honey and bumble bees during foraging flights.
The venue was a University of Kent lecture theatre which was outstanding but as the weather was atrocious the audience was disappointingly small. Those of us present though enjoyed the talk very much and our thanks go to Keith for an interesting talk that kept us fully entertained on a dark, wet and miserable Saturday afternoon.