Monday, April 6, 2015

Queen substitution. Old queens from production colonies, replaced with last years queens from nucleus colonies.

So, we finally are starting to get some decent weather. We have had a week of very windy and cold conditions, worse than the previous 2 weeks before.  However bees are in great shape.

I have been collecting queens from Nucleus colonies (last years) and swapping them with older queens from unknown years, in an effort to get all my queens two years or less in age. This in turn should give me better honey crops and less swarming.

When I start making queens in a couple more weeks( when the bees will be doing the same), I will then re queen the "older queens" in my nucs and also obviously be making more nucs but its still a little early and as I need to be harvesting bees and brood from strong  Nucleus colonies. Depleting them enough to stop them swarming, but not too much so they become weak.
I will still probably harvest a little  resources from my production colonies. May be one frame of bees and brood, but not carrying out an artificial swarm as was the case in previous years and hoping they build up enough in time for the summer harvest. That way the field bees stay with the colony, and things should be a lot stronger.

Theres a big pause between middle of may and the middle of June here, before the chestnut trees come in to flower, so thats when we tend to make bees  but we have to feed lots!!

Will be posting about making good queen cells. thats in another couple of weeks though!

Filling up hornet traps today too, always loads to do!!

Friday, March 20, 2015

Nuc Roof protection and late spring.

Late spring?

Lots happening here and struggling to get all my equipment finished in time for the season, which thankfully, is a little late in warming up. we have a nagging easterly wind, but i don't really mind, its the first "longish" dry spell we have had all winter and its great for outside work!
Spring is being rebalanced this year. Its already 3 weeks later than last year, which may give us a good honey crop. By the time the nectar flow starts, we may have some decent numbers of bees to gather up some nectar! fingers crossed.
I have checked inside all my colonies and only lost 2 out of 47 colonies, so very pleased with that. thats a very small percentage winter loss.
I have also removes 2 frames of honey from each end of my honey production colonies, and one from my nucs, as theres just too much honey in the colonies, which in turn would result in swarming  and theres just going to be no room in the brood nest! I may even remove more frames and substitute for new ones if we suddenly get in to a heavy flow and the bees have no space.
I am not using a queen excluder this spring, and giving the queen unlimited room in the hive, and also reversing my brood box with one super if necessary. its all about space for the queen.

Frames from the extremities of the brood nest full of honey!

I might have eggs in my supers but at least I won't have my bees hanging from the trees! think about it, whats the best option for you??

My Nucs are building up well, quicker than the main colonies, so will be swapping queens over when it warms up a little more, but while the brood area is a bit smaller, making finding queens a little more easier.

Roofs for Nucs

So heres a little video i did to show how I cover my roofs on my hives and nuc boxes.  A bit of fun.

Still time to make up Nucs, you can never have too many!!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Mating Nucs

Making mating Nucs

So heres my first mating nuc I  made up, a few more to follow. Short video, going through various points!

Not that difficult to make,  just  a bit time consuming and fiddly, but should last a very long time. I have used what I have , So I have used my standard sized dadant frames and cut them down.
I can't see any reason why they won't work!

I have made an adapter bar so I can put these small frames in to a standard sized Nuc box and get the bees to draw up the frames Let them do the work!!.  I was lucky enough to find a piece of ready made plastic frame at my local DIY shop. This makes things very easy, sure they will probably build between the frames between that gap, but if they draw out the rest then I can harvest this and insert it in to the new mating box, usually made up the day before the queens are harvested from your cell building colonies. This will leave them queen less overnight and may also help them accept another queen cell.
I will be looking for  frame or two  of honey , two or three of brood and one undrawn. This will mean theres plenty of hatching brood to keep the colony strong until the queen starts to lay. Then I will have to watch the colonies that they don't get too big (congested). I might even have to harvest brood and bees if i don't need a queen and if they get too strong,  or i can  simply make a new colony using the resources of two or three nucs!

 The plastic frame adapter that joint the two frames together.

 Plastic frame holder fitted to show comparison next to standard frame.

Two internal shots of the interior of the mating nuc.
you can see I have tried to use up all the small bits of ply I had in the shed, by making the frame support and bottom frame holders. You can see there is a gap between the two, which the bees may build in to but thats the cost of trying to economise but needs must!

You can see the entrance and exit to the bottom right , painted brown. Front viewing showing the circular entrance disc, which I got on eBay, from Simon the beekeeper, good immediate service.

I wanted to have larger than average mating nucs because I am not on a time scale to sell these onwards, only to produce the best queens, so I can requeen all of my own stock if necessary. This larger  mating nuc will also buy me time so they won't abscond or swarm before if i am a few days behind in swarm prevention and stock management (I hope) . However if anyone needs a queen I hope to be in the position to help out from mid may onwards!! Just hollow!!

Would recommend to everyone to read Brother Adams "queen introduction."
He maintains that queen acceptance during substitution is mainly because of the condition of the queen and her laying condition. If a queen is not mature when she is taken from a nuc box and is not laying well this behavioural difference will be noted by the new carers in her substitution ( when she may be balled and rejected) , so make sure your substituting a mature queen in the place of an old one. The subject is fascinating and well worth a read.

Sugar candy

Didn't want to feed my nucs a large bags of sugar candy, so instead I have put it in to old butter pots, taking about a quarter of the original sized packet. This can be neatly inverted on top of the open hole on top of the colony, where they can take this directly if they so wish. This is only going to be given to colonies that are light on stores. Next year i want to weigh all my colonies dry, then with a full colony in depleted in stores,  then full of stores so come autumn next year should be easier to ascertain their needs!!
I can always give them more if need be later in the winter, its far from over yet.

So if you haven't got a Nuc readyor a  spare yet or a spare hive,  go and either make one of pick one up!!! you will need it!!

Enjoy the quieter months and use your time wisely!!

Thursday, January 8, 2015

The challenges ahead!

On reflection, 2014 it has to be said, for me it was a fantastic year,  My bees behaved themselves, or did i begin to understand how to manage them better?

Swarms came very easily, the first on the 17th April, a record for me followed by another 4 days later which proved it wasn't just a freak swarming. I have various theories about this, but logically one can put this down to several reasons, the first being the very mild winter we had previously. We had lots of honey in our managed colonies, so theres no doubt that unmanaged colonies may have had even more stores. Little of this was used up over the winter and when we came in to the early spring nectar flow in very early April, colonies quickly were full of fresh honey, very early in the year. It was the perfect trigger to induce swarming, subsequently making a great start to the beekeeping season.

Swarm traps, all you need to know, click here!!

I deployed nearly 40 traps last year and as the year before my success rate was just under half at about 45%  success, which i was pleased with. The majority were in places I had previously trapped in and overall the quality was better than the year before but the overall size was slightly reduced. This I put down to early swarming, before brood laying comes to a maximum, in other words the queens were not laying at full capacity before swarming due to not enough room in the honey bound nests. I call a swarm of good quality, if it gets away well without the need for requeening. The 2013 season saw probably 30% of my recently trapped swarms try to requeen as soon as the current queen started to lay.

Now when I say swarms, I mean swarms that are from  "wild or Feral" colonies.   I believe that in North Brittany we do still have wild swarms, they may in fact, be feral colonies that have survived in a chimney or cavity of a tree but they still throw out swarms every now and again.  This is something I feel very sad  about, as over the next 2, 3 or 4 years we will, with out doubt,  loose these swarms that have at present, struggled through the problems with Varroa mite and its associated viruses.
 The Asian hornet, Will probably  be the nail in the  nail in the coffin of wild colonies. An established Asian Hornets nest will go back again and again to where a food source is found, their nest will usually be high up in the canopy of the tallest tree , on the slope of the steep sided valleys we have, making detection of the nest very difficult, eradication , even more of a problem. I am not looking forward to that part of the forthcoming season!!!
I really don't see how a wild or feral colonie will be able to cope with this additional weakening of the nest, to a point where the nest just can't keep itself strong enough and  maintain itself.  Its such a shame, as its these colonies that have adapted to the diverse and changing  needs, kind of coped with varroa and still produce swarms. this also highlights how dynamic our bees are.
I will trap this year and probably next, as I want to document the decline (if thats the case). I know this sounds all very negative but unfortunately we cannot escape the fact that its a disaster for all out wild bee populations.
I will be doing an article on this problem in the next few months. Subscribe so you don't miss it!!

In the shed

Frame covers of 12mm recycled exterior ply, with feeder holes also installed.

 My first double nuc box is now completed, however I have found whilst building this, that I will make alterations to the design when the next is made.  I have realised that the thickness on the centre divider board is  the issue when the two share the same colony,  so to allow better heat transfer between the two colonies the thinner the division board, the better. This in turn creates problems as I want to add some supers to each side (individually) in the spring. With this  double nuc (pictured), I will just build two supers together that will just fit over the lower hive, but when I make my next set, I will be basically be putting two fully made nucs together and where they meet I will cut out the two whole wall sections and replace it with mesh on each side. This means that you can then make individual supers and also i will be able to inspect them individually afterwards, which was one of the reasons for going down this route. The division board will be 32mm wide, but the mesh will stop any problems with bees fighting and also mean theres plenty of room to place on subsequent supers.
Also to mention these supers are not for honey production, there are for brood and egg production. bees like to up, don't forget this! work with your bees, not against.

It's also a good time to re check your stored supers and frames against wax moth. With the recent cold weather things should have slowed down and any wax moth larvae doing any damage should be on a go slow  but that dosent mean it won't do any damage, be vigilant, come march when light levels and temperatures start to rise you could be massively disappointed when you discover wax moth infestations.

Theres so much to do over the winter months. I have been planning and expanding my apiary I have in a valley very near me. Its actually in a very small quarry where stone was once cut out of the hill side and in fact for me its just the perfect place to put my bees. Although it dosent get the sun until mid morning, it gets it the rest of the day, right up until sun set.
I had 7 colonies there in 2014 and they were all really strong, So I have spent time clearing the wild gorse and brambles to give me more space. I am fitting two more wracks, so potentially enough for another 15 colonies, but over all more space to move hives around as and when needed this is all investment, but will last a long time and really pay dividends during this coming spring.

 Keep an eye on the weight of your overwintering hives. Knowing the weight is important but shucking a  few will give you an idea of whats going on. If you find one very light, then feed some candy to directly to the top of the  colonie, above the crown board. This will be taken down inbetween cold spells and  will offer emergency food if needed. A good sign is the visible old wax cappings dropping through the bottom of the hive and the bees start to consume their winter stores.
A colonie that dosent fly at all on a brief mild spell is probably a dead hive.
If your running a few hives, this will happen from time to time, so just make use of the resources it may leave. You will have the chance to clean out the hive in early spring, repaint it and give the frames to other weaker colonies. nothing is wasted.

Flowers at the moment are :

Winterflowering honesuckle "Lonicera brilliantissima
 Hellebores, loaded with pollen
 Of course the Camellia , Variety" blood of China", tons of pollen for bees!

I am also starting a film on all the different types of plants, and trees that flower throughout the year, to highlight whats in flower and when in this particular part of the world. It will take all year to film but should be a lot of fun!!!!  after all, thats what beekeeping should be!!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Varroa Treatment

Varroa Mite control.

So, were in to late autumn, the temperature has finally dropped and its the perfect time to treat our colonies against Varroa Mite.

I prefer to use this treatment as its very effective, Organic, has little chance or resistance build up and is also less likely to compromise the bees auto immune system, post treatment, which some other treatment might do! (very topical debate at the moment)
It is also very quick and easy to apply and not at all invasive during treatment.

The price is also another fact. I certainly wouldn't be keeping spare colonies if i had to use the chemical treatment in the late summer, that rely on temperature for diffusion around the hive.

The results speak for themselves, though they suggest a second treatment may be of benefit (mite count more than 1,000), two weeks later. will review this and treat a couple, just to see if further treatment produces and further mite fall.

"In the shed

I am making up a double nuc box with a thin partition in the middle( not fitted yet), this will be the first of many. The evidence that two colonies in one box, with a partition down the middle of the box, as if you were dividing the colony in to two, gives stronger results.

In each side the  centre of the brood nest is actually against the divider  board.
This heat sharing, although may benefit  more the colonies that overwinter much further north, should help on numbers of bees overwintering.
One of the biggest problem here is that i find that the numbers of bees  are too low for much honey in the spring, at the critical time when the oil seed rape comes in to flower (sometimes too quickly).

I will be adding bees, in the form of "bee bombs" to other production colonies, this is capped brood from other nuculeus colonies (brood factories), that literally makes the colony explode in to life, with an extra load of bees! Its important to use your resources wisely.

Time is ticking away!! get your frames made and make a plan for next year.!
 Happy winter beekeeping.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Already November, what a great end to the season its been!!

 The National Honey Show

I won't go on about how fantastic the Nation Honey Show was for me!! (we'll i will a bit then) But indeed it was a truly great experience.  Great speakers and also a very useful afternoon workshop on bee diseases and their identification and a great bit of shopping in the trade hall One day just wasn't long enough!!
Picked up a lovely new smock top, with a round bee veil. Hopefully I won't get stung at the back of the neck now !
Also picked up 10 extra feeders, at a fraction of the cost, From Maismore apiaries

Also found "mannlake"     They had all the small things that others didn't!!

Great books too! bought a couple I could have bought another twenty !! Northern bee books  Their range is impressive to say the least!!

So all in all an excellent day ! but i was exhausted, got up at 5am, left at 05:30 arrived just before 9, left at 17:30, 6 lanes of stationary traffic on M25 for an hour, got back to shropshire at 09:45 !!
Wont be doing such a long drive again, will stay closer next time, but still well worth it!!

Back to reality !!

Well what a great end to the season too.  The incredible Ivy flow has just about finished (here in Brittany), still some plants with a little on but it must have been in flower for nearly 6 weeks!! and yes i am banging on about ivy a lot, because its such an under valued flower at a time of year when theres really not much else around. I also want to make the point that this year the Ivy gave us a flow, A real strong flow!! Its a great example of what can be achieved by our dynamic bees in the right conditions. I  have learnt a huge amount from this autumn!!

Just before I went away, I  finished sorting out my nucs, transferring colonies in to ventilated Nucs for the winter and sorting out a couple of drone laying worker colonies, that were weak, so I moved them to adjacent nucs and mixed the bees that were remaining with colonies that were queen right.
As a result I have a few extra frames that will come in extremely handy next year, in my traps and in my cell builder for queen rearing.

There was a little honey in a few of the frames but i have washed that out, so if i put the frames in a trap they don't attract mice, wasps or hornets!

I have found a way of washing out the honey, simply with fine rose or jets from a multi head kitchen tap, warm to hot water and a lot of patience. It has to be said that this is a lot of work to get the frames clean, but these frames to me are priceless and you just can't buy these, no one will sell you them!! I certainly wouldn't. With out these its unlikely you will catch many swarms! The first pic is before being cleaned, the second is cleaned.

                                                                               Before cleaning                      

After cleaning

So you are also probable asking, why waste a bit of honey, well that a good question. If the frame was more than a third full of honey on one side, then i usually keep them to give to a weak colony, or an artificial swarm next year. Less than that, I bite the bullet and clean them up. I am pretty sure that following last septembers very generous flow, I am going not going to have many empty frames in my hives next spring. So I am capitalising on the few spare frames I have now and putting them in to reserve now!
Three years ago we opened up our hives and the frames we usually remove (number 1 and 10) were completely honey bound in March, I feel its going to be the same this coming spring, Unless we get some serious periods of cold and warm in-between. I can't see our bees using up all the frames of stores. Time will tell.

The death of the drones!

The eviction has well and truly started! Queens are booting out the un economic drones, their job is done for another year. Colonies are also doing hygienic cleaning and removing any diseased workers or remaining bees with parasitic mite syndrome!! Don't worry about this , its all good news!

The long range forecast (according to the experts) is for really cold weather to start mid December and it could continue in to March! Phew, if so thats great. We need a good spell of cold, shrubs are in flower that should'nt start for two months yet. cold and dry, bring it on!!

The good stuff!!!!

I am really enjoying my honey this year and I nearly cry when I go to the supermarket and wonder how they are allowed to stock poor quality imports that are more than likely full of American Foul Brood spores!! Its one of the two main ways of how this dreadful disease is spread.
I personally think our local honey, and to that , all local honeys are massively undervalued!!
Its just sooooo good!!

Monday, October 6, 2014

Autumn has arrived.!!

Well as i write this, were experiencing the first of the autumn gales!! but it is October, and we've past the equinox without any wind and rain whatsoever, so i am not complaining. Took this video only two weeks ago, how its all changed since then!!

We were spoilt in September this year, a truly wonderful period of weather, in a truly strong nectar flow.  Alan took some honey from supers that remained on his hives after the previous summer harvest and extracted it. It was as I thought  ivy honey would be,  very course, quick to harden and very strongly scented with the rich smell of the ivy pollen. Not my cup of tea!
Alan fed most of it back to his bees, they have fortunately taken it up fortunately in time before it start to congeal. The pot he saved me has gone a dark cream to brown colour and has gone totally solid in 3 days!!

Drone Laying workers

Sure sign of a drone laying workers  would be in  the above photo.  The presence of multiple eggs in each cell, uneven laying, drone cells in abundance and no visible presence of the queen are all sure signs that your colony is queen less.
Also the hive would be generally be in a mess, with much reduced foragers doing  a lot less work than adjacent hives. Always compare with other and see what the majority are doing at a certain time, this will help you identify a problem earlier!!

So, what are your options with the above problem!
well you can combine the colony with another one that is queen right, or just let the colony die off naturally if its already very diminished.  Sometimes theres no point in doing anything if the colony is full of drones and had very few workers. Even requeening is really a waste of time, unless you have extra brood to add to the colony, that will hatch out and assist the queen in restrengthening the colony.
Books talk about moving the colony to more than 200 meters away and shaking the contents out on to the floor, in an attempt to get rid of the laying workers. The idea is that the laying workers are not able to fly that well and they won't make their way back to the colony.
Personally i have just requeened and found that there has never been a problem. A new queen seems to stop the  workers laying by the presence of her pheromone or her ability to find them and kill them. I never see this as being a problem.

Asian hornets!!

 Hopefully a lot of their colonies will have been discovered and destroyed this year,  but its important for you to refill your hornet traps this time of year. Common hornets are a plenty, and are constantly taking some of our bee, but its of no real consequence,  as our bee numbers are very high this year and the hornets will soon be mating and dying off.  All the more reason to try and catch the queens of these colonies and you will be trapping next years queens that will forge new colonies.

We will have another chance to trap them next spring, when the success rate seems to be greater, however and asian queen trapped this year in one less!! There is going to be more and don't even thing there won't be, their a blasted nuisance, but saying that alone won't reduce their  numbers. careful watching in front of your hives next summer could easily lead you to determine the direction of the nest.  Once you've found it, always call a specialist, out bee suits just aren't up to the job!!
you will get multiple stings, and it hurts!! if you think a bee sting is bad, then thing again!!

So its just Varroa treatment and mouse guards for me, then my bees are fit for winter.
Time to get on with next years prep. Old hives to clean, Nucs to finish off and frames to put together. Theres always plenty to do!!