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Sunday, August 31, 2014

My thoughts on feeding post harvest.

Feeding for the autumn and winter


With the honey harvest complete its time to consider feeding your bees. I would love to know the weight of each of my hives, but being a hobby beekeeper its very difficult to weigh each hive empty then calculate what the ideal weight should be. 
Each of my hives are a combination of different parts, some bought, some made so assessing individual weights is very tricky.
For me the easiest way is to take a look at each hive and assess it. Its still a bit open to interpretation  of how you asses the stores in a hive, but to me a good arch of honey across the top one third of each frame in frames 4 to 7, some larger stores in frames 1 to 3 and 8 to 10 would be ideal. Slightly less is of no major concern but empty outer frames and minimal in the brood sections is a real worry.

An ideal frame, neat brood space, pollen beneath and plenty of sealed honey in the top sections


I have made a small video on making up sugar and feeding. 





Its looking like a very positive ending to the year. The ivy is nearly in flower and with the 100mm plus rainfall we have received  this august, its looking very likely that the bees will be going in to the winter with hives packed full of honey.  Lots of flowers have had a second or third flush, plantain and clover to name but a few, are supplying plenty of pollen, theres not really a shortage this year, in others theres literally nothing around, so its all good news.
Ivy in some years can be very generous and is similar to oil seed rape honey in that it crystalises quickly. I have heard of some people putting on honey supers to take a last crop from their bees, but thats sheer folly!!!, its the bees moment to gorge and store around the main hive and prepare for the winter. We might just have a normal winter this year with snow and ice as well as milder periods.

If i can and theres time, I  believe in giving the sugar slowly, over at least a couple of weeks, to much results in a flooded brood nest, the queen must lay and lay well this time of year, its these bees that will last well in to next march, essential for the colonies survival.
 Queens are all to precious now, a lost queen after the end of august is as good as a lost colony in novemebr or december. The chances or re queening within the next 3 weeks are minimal, so be extra careful when assessing your hives. 
You don't get any second chances this time of year, or indeed up until the end of march next year, when the first few drones are produced.

Varroa mite treatment will again be done in November when the brood size is at very small, but thats another 3 month away, but its planning that keeps you ahead with beekeeping.  Its already time to think ahead, consider getting some frames in kit form.



Save yourself some money and build them yourself. Its not difficult, just takes a little time and patients. Something i don't appear to have a lot of these days, where has this summer gone!!


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Summer flowers.

Theres not much left for our bees now.  Close to my apiaries i have a nice field of phacelia in flower. I took this short video as it was such a lovely sight!!


Wholesale robbing




This is a frame taken from a hive combination. It contained  some honey and was completely cleaned out in under 4 hours. just incredible!!







Good results so far!

The artificial swarms I carried out 2 weeks ago seem to be doing very well. All had at least 2 or more queen cells which is excellent and the first queens were due to hatch out this last saturday. on the whole the weather is good. Thats the beauty of doing splits (artificial swarms) this time of year. the weather is good, the nectar flow has finished and you can put your bees to good use. For mating the weather is at its best.

Queen mating
 Reading up on the subject, summer mating is always a better option. The quality of ripe drones is at its highest, as too is the number of drones.
Queens are known to fly to  certain areas where drones congregate in warm summer afternoons.  This gives a much better genetic diversification,  rather than early spring mating, where a queen might have to settle with whats in the apiary. This for me isn't a real problem, as i keep a good selection of swarms, trapped over about a 50 kilometre radius so I can't see this ever being a problem but the summer gives a better product by far.
This year I had a colony that became queen less very early in April. Remarkably a new queen took over but only laid for a few weeks, badly mated i assume. The new one that took over from her is a much stronger and better layer, uniform brood in clear patterns. What we all want in our hives.




End of the swarm season

So with the dearth setting in its also the end of the swarming season. Time to collect back in the traps, sort out the frames, clean them, remove wax moth and put them away for the winter.


Frames in the deep freeze, easy when your divorced!!!!!!


To leave your traps out is just sheer folly. With the previous mild winters we have endured, wax moth numbers seem to be up. To combat this problem I remove all the frames from each trap and freeze them down to  minus 16. This kills off most of the larvae and eggs. Then the hive is scorched with a blowtorch and the frames are replaced, the front of the hive sealed off and the hive stored back in the shed for another year.

As I have a good number of colonies in nucs, I have been utilising the resources I have and have been swapping colonies in well propolised nuc boxes, to nuc boxes that are newer, in an attempt to get them more acceptable for next year.

I transfered 7 last night and it gave me the opportunity to mark some of the queens and assess for winter stores, amongst other things. Thats the next thing on the horizon, starting to plan for next year. not nice but thats the reality of beekeeping.



Saturday, July 26, 2014

Artificial swarms before the dearth bites and an unusual home for a swarm!

In to the next phase 


So, the nectar flow comes crashing to an end! The chestnut trees have well and truly finished, their catkins are falling.  Time to make artificial swarms   and make use of the high population of bees.

Classic chestnut fronds and the developing nut.

I have taken the decision to keep producing as many colonies as possible. All my strong hives from the  supposed honey hives were artificially swarmed, 10 in total as well as a few very early swarms that had made the criteria, so i have another load of nucs full of bees. 

Full of bees they are indeed, the foragers returning came back to find their hive moved and just a nuc  or mini hive in its place.  Subsequently the bees go in to emergency queen cell production and will by now, have floated out a larvae that was less than 2 days old and flooded it with royal jelly to ensure it  turns in to a queen larvae, rather than a worker larvae. In another 13 to 14 days a virgin queen will emerge and claim the throne  for herself.
So when I selected  two frames from my mother colonies I selected one frame with eggs less than 2 days old and another with brood and pollen. This will give the nurse bees plenty of food to nourish the developing queens, prior to  metamorphosis and again after emergence.

Honey supers
So what about these if they are honey supers on the hives, well these get moved too.  Empty ones are removed, or frames juggled around to reduce the empty space in the hive. The bees might consume a little from these supers over the next four or five weeks prior to the harvest ,  but its food they have stored and they will continue to dry and cap over any uncured honey. 
The numbers in your mother hives ( donor hives) will have taken a massive knock, but you should have seen plenty of brood about to emerge (part of the selection criteria)  so this will soon make up the losses and bring the hive back up to full operation within a few weeks.

Create a Flow
Theres no flow really now,( a little bramble and some clover and pollen from the abundant maize plants but thats only for the next two weeks or two) so its really important to create one. So sugar syrup has been fed to each colony, until the queen cells are capped over and they will be fed again upon emergence. 
This is very easy and in the summer its amazing just how quickly the swarmed colonies build up their new home (nucs) in to three to four full frames ( out of the 5) in only a few days. Its also very important to say that you must not over feed the nucs, however tempting.  Just enough to keep the hive in the right balance, keep the bees drawing up comb. but not too much to take away space from the very soon emerging queen.
I was feeding 250ml every 2 to 3 days for the first 6 days, then the same on day 15 for another 3 feeds. Its  worth it, the colonies are then stocked up prior to there winter, and the developing young queens are born in to a strong, well fed environment, during her mating flights.
 This is the way forward for me,  the production of good queens, made under the best possible conditions, but thats for next year, now i have the nuc banks to give me all the resources i need.

Late swarm

So my good friend Alan called me to say he had had a call from a friend who had a swarm of bees in and outside electric meter box, so we went to investigate.

This is what we found, a newly arrived swarm , probably no more than 3 days since arrival, had made this its new home. The entrance was just the small 1cm square hole in the front of the box.
So rushing in, where angels fear to tread, I quickly lifted out the few bits of newly drawn comb and shook the bees from that , in to my waiting nuc box. Sure enough this worked but only for a short time. The queen obviously decided she didn't like the box, or the frames , or something,  did a u turn and left the box initiating a flying swarm with all the bees following her.
Fortunately they landed on a nearby cherry tree, after giving us a nice display of a beautiful swarm, on a lovely calm  sunny day



Lovely swarm, more than a handful Alan!

We then decided it was best to leave them hanging there for the rest of the hot day, rather than risk them moving off through our disturbance. sure enough they were still there in the evening, when they were relatively easy to hive.



Always wear a vail when handling swarms, docile that they seem, it only take one sting on or in the eye and you will really suffer!!

Good result, another swarm safely captured and now doing well. Its also useful to note that all artificial swarms created will not be going in full sized hives, theres just not the nectar flow. These will be kept over winter in  nucs and their spring build up and overwintering quality, together with general state of the hive can be measured.
Next spring is going to be interesting!! Time to make some more Nucs me thinks!!!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

very short video

Heres a very short video of my bees in their summer nectar flow





Hope the weathers good, its actually gone off hear with loads of rain, so i am hoping that they can still find nectar between the showers.
Richard

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Its all coming together nicely!

Apart from my stupidity in not rocognising a very lightweight hive,  things seem to be going well.
We all  make mistakes and this one cost me the hive contents. During what I described as a recent dearth before the main nectar flow started, I moved my hives to a valley where there is an abundance of chestnut trees, but failed to act on a very light hive in time to save it. One unusually cold night and the result was catastrophic for the colony. Probably 25,000 dead in one night.  It was certainly starvation as there was not a drop of honey in the hive and no gradual weakening over days. All other hives adjacent very strong so i can rule out poisoning! well that will be in my diary for next year.

Still the hive did give me an artificial swarm  (split) and i made use of the 10 drawn u frames in my taps. Like always with beekeeping, you loose in some areas and gain in others.



Bramble, clover and of course the chestnut trees are in full flower. The glorious stink of chestnut emminating from the hives is reasuring that all colonies are getting what they need. Full nectar flow means happy bees and hives full of honey. Honey supers should be on all hives now and queen excluders should be cleaned and stored away until next spring. The summer honey  allows a late harvest and all brood (mostly drone) layed in to the upper parts of the hive ( the supers) will mostly hatch out and be replaced by honey, by the end of august, just in time for the harvest, but abpve all the queen has the freedom of the hive to organise more honey storage and brood production, so she is much less lilely to swarm. \Theres also a good arguement that shes already starting to prepare for the coming dearth , before the onset of autumn, depressing though it might be, it wont be far away!!
It is a waste of time putting on a honey super after the middle of july, as its the end of the main nectar flow and the end of the swarming season.



This swarm had been on this garden fence for probably four days and had built comb in to the fence. we managed to get most of the bees off, so we then were able to remove the comb and remarkably the bees just walked off the fence, in to the new hive we placed on the floor just adjacent. Its almost as if they were pleased of their new accomodation. The colony has a very small queen that appears to be laying well, so fingers crossed. Thanks again Alan, it was a rather nasty ditch, that was full of nettles that you managed to climb up, while i stood the other side of the fence, as you smoked them across.

Another person that called me, said they had the remains of a small swarm in their vegetable patch that had mostly disipated to elsewhere, so i put a swarm trap out and he morning after  a swarm arrived and took up residence. Its just having enough traps and material thats the problem. You must have well used nucs, with well used frames in, if you want a realistic chance of success.




My swarm traps have worked well. Over the last week I have found another 6 swarms in my traps. they are all of varying sizes, some on all 5 frames and some on only two. The smaller ones however, seem to be laying just as quickly as the larger colonies. As soon as you see a few eggs you are reasured that that colony has a realisitc chance of making it through this coming winter, in to the next spring. If the queen fails for many reasons, mostly she just is worn out and exhausted, then as long as she has laid a few eggs to cement her dynasty, thats all a colony will need under the emergency response to successfuly flood a larvae with royal jelly, float out and extend a worker cell in to a beautiful queen cell.


So my plan is to keep as many swarms as possible in ventilated nucs for overwintering.
My criteria for this will be, for this year that they have queens from this years artificially swarming, as its a pretty sure thing that most swarms will contain queens that are probably from last year or more than likely the year before.  I cant be any more selective than that, as i havent at this stage chosen eggs to graft from that subsequently will give me better  selected characteristics and so on! you have to start somewhere.

This will give me a brood factory for next year, so i can make up a very strong hive for queen rearing, which in turn might give me better stronger queens, it will allow me to have a nuc, or a queen ready to transfer in to another hive at short notice. and also give brood or frames of eggs to weaker colonies.
The whole concept is so clear to me now and initially is a lot of work to set up but in the long term the results should help make better queens and stronger hives but from a much more sustainable source!!

I hope your Bees are working well, good forecast for the next few days, just when we need it. Enjoy!!





Monday, May 26, 2014

Mini Dearth, Virgin queens and a few swarms

Well, its all nice and quiet, too quiet really. This weather has been a little too cold and wet for the last two weeks now. We have had more rain which is good but were missng the heat. No bees around any swarm traps and a few swarms emerging from managed hives at the glimse of a bit of sunshine, clasially typical of this kind of weather!! Theres enough food around but not a huge flow, a sort of calmer period or "Mini Dearth" before the big nectar  flow starts.

 Phacellia begining to flower, giving purple polen in the frames!
 
After all my artificial swarms were created , with the valued help of my good friend Alan, most of  my hives ( 10 framed hives)  have returned to the home apiary about 400 meters from their original location. Lots of forraging bees thus returning home, to find queen gone and a hugely reduced colony.
I looked through all the reciever nucs last saturday and was pleasantly suprised to find at least 9 of the 13 seem to be queen right. There is the possibility that there could be another one of these may be qeenright but its often difficult to be sure until that queen has begun to lay eggs. So overall I am very happy with these results despite the crappy weather for the nuptual flights, we have laying queens in over 75% of nucs, so thats very encouraging>
I will be doing another load of artificial swarming at the end of the main nectar flow arond the second week of july. this should produce the best queens of the year, when the weather should allow longer mating flights, with more mature males around.

Virgin queen, just emerged!
 
I had a couple of swarms from my apiary, but none of them huge. one was from a Nuc that was full of bees, out comes first queen and decided the shes good to leave, well stocked with aditonal unopened queen cells, so thats now a good laying colony.
 

 
Second larger swarm that i have risked putting straight in to a large 10 framed hive. This was a little more of a difficult  extraction, as most of the colony was within the hedge, but I did the old box trick and they were soon on their way!
 
All hives going to be moved to the summer forraging ground next week. The chestnut trees are begining to show the first few flower stalks. flowering in about another 3 weeks!
 
I will be double supering straight away to give that queen lots of room in the hive and hope reduce the risk of swarming just at the critical time in the necta calender. bring it on!!
 
have you ever heard of the 7p`s..... Perfect Planning and Preparation Prevents Piss Poor Perormance!!
 
Enjoy!
 

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Pollen, Swarms and just about everything else!

Well what a busy busy month its been. Not even time to do any blogging! Still here i am to report back on what has been an excellent April.

I mentioned my new pollen trap in my March posting, well i used it for a few days and have harvested more than I need,although i am thinking that I might stick it back on my hives and just harvest a bit more, a its easy to freeze it down until needed.


I intend to use it mainly during queen cell production. I hope to have my first attempt in about 3 weeks. There will be a small gap then before i move the majority of my hives for the main nectar flow of the summer.

Spring honey and swarming.
 I have been asked many times this spring when will you have your first honey? well this year i will have virtually none. Only one of my hives (of the three) had any appreciable ammount in the super, so on  the other two, the supers were removed and they were artificially swarmed. There was queen cells in a packed brood nest of ten frames. This is good, as they were going to swarm early. So, as far as I am concerned, I am controling the swarming and its going to be at least another 6 weeks before we need the bee numbers high again.
Its been an odd start as well as a good one. Plenty of food around for the bees, a very strong flow indeed. I must remark on how the relacement frames from artificial swarming 4 days previously, were already drawn up! and mrs queen laying in to the majority! the question  will I will be wanting to know, is should i reduce the numbers of bees still further to avoid the bees having another go at swarming. I had masses of unhatched brood in the hives, an i think this spring is so strong that it might be necessary in another couple of weeks. However i am going to monitor my hives  very closely and i am expecting much reduced flow after next week, when the majority of the oil seed rape ha finished flowering and the apple blossom has nearly finished, so i might not have to many problems. I want my numbers high but not too high to enduce swarming again! I may add the first super in about 3 weeks, just to make the queen entirely happy shes got space, but i would dearly love to be able to do this after i have moved my hives but its probably not going to be possible to move them until the 1st week of june!! its all a juggling act.

One of my strongest hives was full of really good sized, accessible queen cells so i cut the majority out and inserted them in to my nucs( with queen cell protectors) for good measure. some had only made one or two queen cells, so i didnt want to miss the opportunity and waste good cells, (made under the swarming response, under deal conditions, by the bees in their own time) possible giving me the best made queens!! Its always something to remember. Thanks to Alan for helping me cut those out and then artificially swarm the hive, the insert all those queen cells!



 
Its also a point to note that eventhough i keep saying "you can never have enough nucs", artificially swarming 10 nucs plus does have its practical difficulties. I have been making more nucs sincelast november, and ive made about another 20 since then, but they soon get used up!
I have also incorporated a ventilated base and also some ventilation in the roof space.
After the last very wet winter and my desire to become more sutainable and create some nuc banks for brood production I have tweeked my nucs a little and this should help against winter humidity and help spring build up.

 
I remove the feet after marking, cut out the middle section and place in the mesh. It could be blocked off, if need be,to create a  sealed box for use as a trap.
I have also cut out a 30m hole in each end of the roof section. Its closed with mesh too. I really think this will help with ventilation problems.


 First very early Swarms
 First swarm of this year, caught on the 19th April, about a month early, and my earliest yet, hadnt even finished putting out all my traps. Lovely to see. This is the afternoon, following arrival late morning, so I am led to believe.  Classic trap senario with nothing two days before, a build up the day before, then swarm arrival mid morning on a lovely warm sunny day.

Close up of the front landing strip, showing bees fanning and generally dancing around the front of the hive.


In total I now have 3 swarms, they all came within the first week, and since then the weather has gone off a little but i am still very pleased. All 3 have good strong laying queens( now marked), that have layed extremely well following arrival, So should give me honey this year. Two of them can go in to full sized hives next week.

Asian Hornet

http://www.frelon-asiatique.com/



Well Its finally appeared at my apiary, but luckily this one was trapped in my special, beer, white wine and blackcurrant mix. so thats one laying qeen dead. I have doubled the number of traps arond here to try and keep their numbers down. It all depends if one makes a nest near my bees or not.
One can only try.

Good times with good strong hives. long may it continue!!
Richard