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.
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… 🙂
At the end of summer most beekeepers are considering the amount of stores their colonies will need to overwinter safely. It’s never an exact science, but there are factors that everyone should consider. This post from the US considers a variety of issues that we can translate to our own locality. http://www.honeybeesuite.com/how-much-honey-should-i-leave-in-my-hive/
An interesting area of research, looking to see when drones start to be laid. http://entomologytoday.org/2014/08/21/honey-bee-hive-population-of-4000-triggers-rearing-of-male-reproductives/
Some good graphics on this site, set up for the recent ‘Hive Alive’ series. http://www.bbc.co.uk/guides/zg4dwmn
A massive store of useful information. http://www.ibra.org.uk/categories/faq
A report on an interesting study, in France, looking at the numbers of wild bees (all species) in urban areas and how important such habitats may be. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-28888218
We are now past Xmas and if you have not had a quick peep to make sure your bees are OK then you should have. I do not mean an open hive inspection, just a visual apiary check that they have not been blown over or smashed by trees and no nasty birds have drilled a big hole in the side of the box. Such checks should really be done every week or two at this time of year. While you can get used to them not getting blown over, the bird and animal issues are too variable to call.
Looking over the records of my solar panels reminded me how poor the latter end of the the autumn was but at the same time how warm. Seldom did it get near freezing which would have made the cluster tighter and helped stop the queen laying so she could have been laying all through the winter so far. This will have used a lot of food up so be prepared to heft the hive and put a chunk of fondant on when you visit, better to over-feed than let them starve.
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…
Dear Uncle Drone
What are the key things that a beekeeper should be doing or looking out for at this time of year?
Uncle Drone answers:
Well, the bees should not be disturbed at this time of year so the main thing is to observe and protect. As part of the observe bit you should also make notes of what you see, such as the time of day, temperature, what is the bee activity level. Also within this observation look carefully for signs of dysentery as this is often an indication that nosema will be a problem and if the bees are messing on the front of the hive take some scrapings and get a nosema check done on them.
Unfortunately if nosema is confirmed it will not be possible to cure it at this time of year but having the knowledge does give you some guidance as to one of the tasks to be undertaken in the spring. The nosema spores are often present in many colonies but do not cause a problem till the bees get dysentery often from stores that have started to ferment, the tidying up of the mess spreads the spores and so it goes on.
Turning to protection. This must take the angle of keeping pests out and two stand out as they can and do destroy hives and colonies, Mice and Woodpeckers. Make sure you have good mouse guards in place firmly on the front of the hive, while mice seldom manage to move them, rats can if they are in the area so be warned.
Keeping woodpeckers out and away from the hive can be done cheaply by removing the roof then wrapping the hive with a strong polythene sheet before replacing the roof. Without anywhere they can get a toe-hold they cannot bang a hole in the hive but please make sure that the entrance is not covered and that the bees are free to fly.
Wind can blow hives over or blow roofs off, either can cause the loss of a colony so make sure the hive stand is solid and place an extra weight on the roof, a brick or two will do the job and keep checking the apiary on a regular basis (weekly) throughout the winter.