Tag Archives: advice

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.
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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.

Autumn courses and workshops

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 melody.faulkner@googlemail.com

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.

Report from the branch meeting of 30 May 2015

Today’s meeting had possibly the highest number of attendees (human ones) ever. With lots of new people to involve, plus another group who are going for the Basic Assessment this year and wanted guidance on preparing for that, as well as another few of us who were happy to help out all round, it was a busy afternoon – as can be seen from the photos below. Discussions before the inspection covered topical subjects such as swarm prevention, and how to do an artificial swarm using the ‘cup of tea’ method (for more details, ask someone who was there 🙂 ). Our branch secretary, Julie, and apiary manager, Keith, both had a busy afternoon and we and our bees made full use of the warm and pleasant day.

Lots of people, all learning something.

Lots of people, all learning something.

 

New potential beekeepers getting an introduction to what is involved.

New potential beekeepers getting an introduction to what is involved.

 

Bees recovering after an inspection.

Bees recovering after an inspection.

 

Bees and beekeeper, hanging out together.

Bees and beekeeper, hanging out together.

 

 

Demonstration meeting on how to identify Nosema

Nosema identification on Saturday, 4th April, sponsored by BDI,  was very enjoyable although the turnout was a little disappointing.  Those present brought their own bees and were able to do a Nosema diagnosis – all proved to be negative.  As the bees were not flying particularly well some fun and games was had taking the required sample of 30 bees per colony.
Dale demonstrated an Acarine dissection and Julie demonstrated how to mount some pollen from the legs of one of the bees.
An interesting discussion about the different types of microscope was enjoyed by all with one member following up to buy his own in the near future.  The branch has several  microscopes that can be borrowed by members, please contact Julie if you would like to do so.