The number of colonies has been reduced to 9 for this winter; just a little bit less work to do.
Rather than mixing up sugar solution I decided to give Apikel (an invert sugar solution made from maize) another try. My first attempts some years ago could have been the cause of colony loss but others haven’t reported anything similar so I decided to try again. In addition to the Apikel I did give every colony a few pounds of waste honey.
Varroa figures were much higher that I’d hoped so I decided to give an autumn treatment of Apivar miticide rather that wait until mid-winter with the oxalic acid. Better that they go into the new year varroa-free. After three weeks, the Apivar strips were removed, heavily abraded, and then replaced in a different position. Research has shown that abrading increases the efficacy of the strips in the latter half of their life.
I have started compiling my End of Season records; provenance of the queen, average colony behaviour and total honey yield. This gives me a good picture of every colony when they start to emerge in the spring.
Lecturing and classes have been very different this year and will
continue to be so in 2021. To this end Steph Green and I have
started filming what I would call snippets to complement the theory
classes when they start in 2021. So far we’ve done cleaning and
storing of supers and next week we cover the choice of smokers, their
effective use and keeping them clean.
I have had two swarm calls so far but they were only casts. This is a small secondary swarm headed by a virgin queen. They are bees never-the-less and by uniting them I have recouped one of my colony losses. They were treated with 24 hours of Apivar at the same time as hiving to knock down any varroa which had hitched a ride.
The girls have been foraging for oil-seed-rape honey but the nectar flow wasn’t as strong as I’d hoped due to the continual dry weather. This was also accompanied by foraging for hawthorn nectar on the may blossom. This is a rare honey which changes the aroma of the rape honey and crystallises very coarsely.
Queen cells had started appearing so now was the time to start making nucleus colonies to replace my winter losses. One QC in hive 3 was used to start a nucleus but the girls in their wisdom tore it down. A week later they had made 6 emergency queen cells.
hive made three beautiful queen cells so I established another
nucleus and gave the third cell to the other nucleus with the
colony making the queen cells has not made any more so no need to do
an artificial swarm.
the CV lockdown, the road passing the apiary is no longer a tunnel of
air pollution so the bees can can forage right up to the roadside.
lockdown effect that we have noticed is that without the noise
pollution we can hear the whole garden humming.
On 12th of May, there were bees all round the garden pond so I knew the rape had finished. In the absence of nectar to fan for cooling and also thirst quenching they had resorted to water. I put clearer-boards on early next morning so I could do the first extraction the following day.
second brief extraction for just two tubs and that was that. The
June gap had already started a week before the end of May.
of the hives have now been spring-cleaned. A freshly scorched box,
floor, entrance block and crown board are positioned alongside the
hive and frames are removed one by one, inspected, scraped clean and
placed in the new box. Halfway through the exercise, boxes are
exchanged whilst they are easier to lift, and the remaining frames
moved across. Hopefully the queen will be seen and the egg laying
rate assessed. Unfortunately the first hive I did this year had a
drone-laying queen. How could I tell? The larvae and brood in
worker-size cells had domed cappings like full-sized drone brood.
The quickest and easiest way to rescue what remained of the colony
was to unite rapidly. The whole colony was shaken out during the
afternoon and the workers wasted no time in seeking refuge in the
the time of cleaning, the Apivar has been removed as the weekly
varroa counts have dropped to zero or the odd 1.
has been the month when the world was hit by the CV19 virus. Not
only were supermarkets hit by panic buying but honey sales as well.
In four days I sold an average month’s number of jars. No sooner
had I instituted rationing and put a notice in the porch to that
effect than the government introduced a lock-down so sales ceased.
foragers are more interested in pollen rather than nectar. The hives
I’ve cleaned still have loads of honey stores but are in need of
pollen for brood food. I’ve removed several nice clean frames full
of honey and replaced them with drawn comb in order to give more
laying capacity. The honey-full combs are being sterilized and will
be used as food for any swarms.
Dartington hive is finished. I’ve cut some letter-box slots for
the varroa tray and finished painting it. Supers will have to wait
as doing real beekeeping now calls.