So the end of September gave our bees a good rush of ivy – both pollen and nectar and colonies that were marked as ‘light’ became full in just a week or so. And in October we had a couple of days of 20 – 22 degrees, so that very late supercedure queen might well have gotten mated. Something to check for next year now as it’s too late to open the hives and mess about with them. I now have too many colonies for winter – with the addition of three I am looking after for someone and a late cut-out from a concrete box over a gas pipe in someone’s garden. That seems to have transferred to a nuc very well and I am hopeful that it survives winter. Until March the bees will be left alone apart from a heft to check stores levels from time to time and a treatment of oxalic acid in a couple of months’ time.
August is usually a poor month for forage – until the Ivy kicks in. However this year it has been particularly bad and all hives have had to be fed as the honey came off at the end of July or early August. The NBU have been giving starvation warnings in some parts of the country too.
Hives have been very light with honey but there is pollen coming in. Regular feeding is particularly beneficial for nucs as these small colonies will grow which means that they are strong for winter. In my view it’s better to feed gently over August and September than giving a big gulp of syrup late in the season as a gentle supply of food is much more like nature. In addition, I don’t have enough feeders anyway!
And what about varroa treatment? That was completed a few weeks ago for most colonies. Those that were treated late have been suffering from Parasitic Mite Syndrome with dead bees in cells. It’s plainly not efficient for the colony to raise larvae and keep them warm and then they either die in the cells only to be extracted by the undertakers or the resultant bees come out as useless with DWV – Deformed Wing Virus.
The honey is coming off and varroa treatment has started where it can – the nucs are going through treatment and full-sized colonies have had their honey off where there is a noticeable varroa infestation. Rather than wait to treat for any longer, the ‘wets’ from these hives are being put onto others for the bees to clear.
There is no forage to speak of, so some colonies and nucs are having to be fed syrup; there seems to be enough pollen in the hives. We are now waiting for Ivy to start flowering which gives good pollen and nectar for the bees to winter on.
Swarms – 8% of colonies swarmed this year which is good. (Assuming that I don’t get any from now on that is).
With the weather finally warming up after a cool spell, as expected, calls start to come in. One surprised me on Friday – a swarm in a bird box. usually these are not swarms at all but Bombus Hypnorum – the tree bumblebee that likes to use them. This one WAS the exception. The bird box was a little owl box so quite large in the bird box world – certainly a lot bigger than the usual blue-tit box we love to put up in our gardens – and the swarm arrived en mass.
Incidentally we put up 4 boxes in our garden last autumn and 3 of them are occupied which is pretty good; with the parents busily flying in with food from dawn ’till dusk.
More about swarms here:- http://www.norfolkbee.co.uk/swarms
The warm and dry weather of recent days has allowed the bees to really get away. Nucs are crammed full and supers have started to fill. In fact some nucs have had to be ‘down-sized’ to stay in the box, so the extra brood has gone to other colonies.
CHALK BROOD is caused by a fungus ascosphaera apis. A couple of colonies had it this spring. One quite badly. I have seen chalk brood follow the queen – so there must be a genetic component of it – and it tends to occur in spring – maybe it is caused by insufficient feeding of the larvae. It has been rumoured that bananas can help so I put some banana skin in the worst affected colony. After a week or so the colony was noticeably better. But so was the less affected one!
Brief inspections so far this spring of my bees. One colony at my out apiary is dead – looks like varroa was the culprit despite the colony being treated. Maybe the usual quantity of apiguard is not enough for a large double brood colony. If the bees remove it promptly then maybe there’s not enough to go around and kill the majority of varroa? Another large colony was similarly affected by varroa. However as that colony was in view, I noticed the decline in flying bees and dealt with it last autumn. This colony is OK but small. It shows that having the opportunity to look at the hive entrance can be of use. The only other non-viable colony is one with a 3 year old queen that has failed to lay anything other than a small patch of eggs this spring. She had done brilliantly before and was removed by me during supercedure last autumn – so the bees would have dealt with her if I had not ‘rescued’ her. As it is, I can unite her colony with the small one just mentioned. Disappointed to lose one colony but not all will survive, I guess.
It nearly feels like spring is here – or its very close at least. This means that it’s the time of year that calls come in for nucs. As we only have a limited number available as we only use our over-wintered queens, they usually sell out quite quickly. Summer queens won’t be available for a while yet!