Back in July, during the very hot period a couple of weeks ago, the Boughton golf course found that they had some inappropriate guests in the wall of one of their sheds, behind the cladding. They contacted the branch to see if we could remove them to a safe place. This club seems to be a magnet for swarms and feral colonies as we’ve had similar call-outs for the last couple of years.
Anyway, despite the tropical temperatures, some stalwarts from the branch went along and got kitted-up, and carried out what is technically known as ‘a cut-out’ from the wall of the building. It was a nice little colony that obviously hadn’t been there very long, going on the colour of the comb and the small space they were occupying. The bees have been put safely into a nuc and the beekeepers are now recovered from their exertions.
Surveying the scene and getting ready to remove the wall cladding
A nice small colony, that will do better in a proper home and away from the developing wasp nest in the adjacent section!
The amount of stores in the front comb is quite impressive, given the short time they’d been there.
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.
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.
New potential beekeepers getting an introduction to what is involved.
Bees recovering after an inspection.
Bees and beekeeper, hanging out together.
Keeping a colony alive through early Spring is always a bit nerve-wracking – is it too cold for them to break out of the cluster and come up to the feed, are they strong enough to find the fondant and make use of it, when should one stop feeding…? As to this last, the photo below shows what happens when the weather suddenly turns just that bit warmer and instead of a deficit of food in relation to need, there’s suddenly a surplus and nectar coming in. This fondant pack was put on when the temperature was still regularly below 10C and all was well for the first two weeks; it was directly on the frames (with a narrow eke to give a little more space) and being made use of. How quickly things can change (and why don’t bees read books).
Bees doing what they do best…