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.
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.
A beekeeper asks:
Uncle Drone, I do not seem to be doing anything much with the bees this month – have I been missing something I ought to do?
Uncle Drone answers:
Well, this month and the next two are critical to the survival of the bees this winter. They will be trying to encourage the Queen to lay a few more eggs to replace those workers dying of old age. This uses food which is not being replaced by the flying bees, so depending on the type of bee you have they could use their stores up quickly.
Your task during this month and the next two is to keep track of the food usage of the hives, not by opening them as this could kill them, but by hefting regularly (check the weight) and watching the flying bees on good days. If the weight drops significantly (you should have notes of previous checks on your hive notes) then add fondant packs and monitor how quickly they take this down. By March it should be warm enough to add a warm syrup but do not do this unless the daytime temperatures are reaching 12-15C.
A second and equally important area to keep monitoring is the hive security. Damage can be caused by woodpeckers, wind, excessive rain or impact by branches from overhanging trees, any of which can cause the loss of colonies, so a regular, weekly check (a walk by) is important.
The branch meeting on 3rd January started in somewhat inclement weather. As we huddled in the meeting hut, our branch Secretary, Julie, gave a short presentation explaining the purpose of this seasonal Oxalic Acid treatment, as well as reminding those present about the importance of keeping good hive records
throughout each year as an aid to assessing each colony’s character and performance. As the weather cleared to merely damp, we then went to the bees.
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.
A reminder about the new lecture series:
The lecture series at Tesco’s, entitled “The Beekeeping Year”, is being lead by Keith Hooker and starts next Saturday at 9.30am for 5 weeks. This leads into the “Beginning Beekeeping” series starting in February which has three practical sessions in March. All are welcome, beekeepers and non-beekeepers alike. More details can be found here: The beekeeping year
The long warm September that we’ve just had has given the bees plenty of time to stash away some really good quantities of winter stores. Offering syrup has seemed almost superfluous for some hives, notably the one in the pictures below. Obviously it would have been a good idea to either leave them a super to fill and/or to cover the second opening in the crownboard. Neither of these things having been done, they decided to store more supplies in the only place left to them (the brood box being full right out to the end frames) and used the space round the contact feeder… They have now been given a super to fill and had the feeder taken off, with a replacement crownboard and roof put on – and we have the task of clearing out the wild comb from the empty super. Number 286 in the list of things one needs to be aware of as a junior beekeeper… 🙂
Using the only space left to them
A beekeeper asks:
Dear Uncle Drone
With all the warm and dry weather this month, are my bees likely to delay sealing away the autumn feeds I’ve been giving them and instead raise more brood on it, perhaps to the extent of trying to swarm? I noticed a big patch of drone brood in one colony last week and wondered if I need to start looking for queen cells again, having seen others talking online about swarms being taken recently.
Uncle Drone replies:
You have two different issues here. 1) the unsealed stores and 2) drones and potential swarming.
For the first issue, unsealed stores. This can be due to the lower night temperatures and reduced ventilation. Remember the bees remove a vast amount of water from nectar by evaporation, this will always be better if it is warmer and although most colonies have open varroa floors the entrances are reduced because they are being fed and medicated at this time of year. Another factor is that the bees are still bringing in more stores and need to put it somewhere.
For the drone issue. Until the colonies get to believe winter is coming they will tolerate drones and even breed more. The spring was not one of the best for getting virgin Queens mated and so this could be an indication that they expect to succeed their existing queen with a new one for the winter. This can and does happen even when you have this year’s queen present. Swarms at this time of year are not likely and casts that are seen could easily be mating queens being cared for on their return from the drone congregation site.
A short series of talks and discussions.
For: Anyone with an interest in nature, gardens, pollination or beekeeping.
Where: The Phoenix public house, Faversham (they have a room available)
When: Fortnightly, Wednesday evenings, 6-8pm starting 8th October so – October 8th and 22nd, November 5th and 19th, and December 3rd
Programme: Covering the life cycle and issues surrounding:-
- Bumble Bees
- Solitary Bees
Course fee: £50 payable on the first evening or £60 payable on the first evening to include one year’s annual Associate Membership of the Whitstable & Herne Bay Beekeepers.
For further details of each week’s topics, and of how to join the course, please see the programme download here.