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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!!












Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Ivy flow and weather, both superb!!

We've been spoilt this year. The lousy end to August, gave way to two of the best weeks I can remember in September. Shrubs and plants have come back in to flower and given our bees plenty of pollen. 
The ivy has now started in to full flower, the plants and hives are again wreaking of pollen, as the bees hurriedly dry the nectar in to honey for winter storage. The temperatures have been in the upper twenties for the last two weeks!


Ivy flowers.


So whats the effect been on our bees? well on comparison to this time last year, we were at the end of a dearth, queens that had virtually stopped laying, were just starting with the autumn bounty that ivy provides.
This year there was no dearth at all. In fairness you couldn't say there was a huge nectar flow that took over once the chestnut trees had finished flowering but instead most people have found, upon inspection of their hives, 3 to five sheets of unhatched brood and high numbers of bees.
This is an excellent end to our beekeeping year. The prospect of bee colonies going in to the long winter months  full of pollen and natural honey is just a bonus that we weren't expecting! The long range forecast is still showing temperatures in the low twenties for there next two weeks, so its all good news.

So whats next, well the feeding should have finished and weak or queen less colonies should have, or very soon be combined with a queen right one. Don't waste your time leaving drone laying workers weaken the hive. Add any spare bees to a queen right colony and put the good worker bees to good use in another colony. Also you might find yourself with a few spare frames for next years traps.

Its a good time to make sure all your queens are marked. Although it might be a bit more trickier this year, due to the numbers of bees in colonies, patients and careful going through the frames of the brood nest will lead to success and a nicely marked queen. This in turn will make it a lot easier and less time consuming when we open our hives up next year to see whats survived the winter.  You won't have to look hard to see a coloured dot on a small brood pattern, anyhow, just seeing some eggs or brood in March next year will be the major bonus. knowing you've got a good strong queen thats survived the winter!

Following the success I had this year, in spring of next year, I will be utilising my queens from my overwintering nucs and swapping them with my old queens from my honey production hives, This being the first year I have done this, will at least guarantee I have a queen, that has successfully survived its first winter,  and is in a colony for honey production. This will hopefully reduce the swarming impulse and hopefully give me stronger hives. They do say a young well mated queen is at or in her strongest point in her life in the spring of the second season.
Admittedly, these afore mentioned queens were made under the emergency response, during splits, or as  we  call it, artificial swarming but I must start somewhere!!
Following this swapping over of queens in nucs, I will then re queen all my nucs later in the summer, or if they swarm natrually, which is probably going to be more likely, as i will have changed the queen to a much older one!

Its my plan to use these nucs to rear enough brood to add ten frames to a very strong hive and create a cell building colony, in which i will raise my queens, for the first time, under the most favourable conditions, in a flow, and when the bees would do it. Not as this year under the emergency response, when its debatable that the worker larvae thats floated down from a worker cell and fed royal Jelly, may not be just the right larvae or the right age, possible making an inferior Queen. It still might make a good queen but a lot more can be done to ensure its fed right the way through its development before pupation!
Working with the bees is so important in all aspects of beekeeping, work against it and you have a fight on your hands.



When inspecting a hive or nuc, if you see white honey comb when looking in from the top its very likely that you have a good colony, with a good strong queen. Bees don't store honey like this unless they have good direction!! thats all you need to see, if you have no queen this time or year, the colony is lost and you should seriously consider adding the resources of the hive including bees, pollen and honey, to another hive, that might be low on stores. This ivy flow being so strong should  see the majority of our hives like this is the good conditions continue.



Delightful and successful cut out at Scrignac this late august.

 Those bees are doing well in a nuc box. Perhaps a lot of bees in the nuc, but i don't think they will be swarming this year and a strong colony in a small box, will overwinter better than in a large hive!
Thanks as usual to Alan!! we had this one wrapped up in just under 2 hours, but it was 260 kilometre round trip, so we didn't have a lot of time!! how strange is it that we did another one in the same village last year!!

You can see below just how they love their sugar. They emptied 2 feeders in 24hours, so i knew we had the queen, even though i didn't see her during the cut out!! she's marked now, so will leave them alone to get on with being bees.


 Finally, after the harvest, its time to give the bees the honey supers back to lick clean you can see just how mad they go, but be warned, two days outside is enough, otherwise wax moth starts to lay in to the combs and the wasps start to chew the wax and damage the combs!!





After you have stocked your supers, think about wax moth treatment and prevention. Spray the frames with biological control " Bascillus thurgiensis"
It comes in a powder you mix with water. You  then treat the frames by  misting them over lightly. If any wax moth larvae hatch out or have already hatched out, they are consumed by this natural fungus that causes the larvae to rupture and die. a very useful treatment!!









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!!