Advice on beekeeping advice

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Posted by Andy Sivell | Posted in Bee diseases, Beekeeping advice, Requeening re-queening | Posted on 14-06-2011

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Beekeeping advice

"Bless him, he's doing his best. But perhaps if he just left us alone..." (Pic: Subbotina Anna)

Got a bit of a mauling on the Beekeepers’ Forum. Essentially, I was reprimanded for not reading the textbooks properly and for medicating my colony without proper evidence of disease or infestation. Some of it I’ll take as fair comment, some of it as a reminder of the perils of ‘diagnosis by forum’.

I opened the hive four weeks ago and found – surprise, surprise – a sealed queen cell. I removed the tray of Apiguard and the temporary solid floor and found – surprise, surprise – no sign of varroa. Not-a-one, in seven days. Which I recognise wasn’t to say they weren’t there, just that I clearly wasn’t overrun with mites. (Either that or they were really good at climbing back onto the frames). No balaustium / spider mites either. And no wax moth… although I rather forgot to look for them (it’s so hard to remember everything).

As for the nosema, since I don’t have a microscope we’ll probably never know. Robert said that treating with Fumidil B would do no harm regardless. The Beekeepers’ Forum begged to differ.

So I found a single queen cell and I tore it down. That was a mistake too, apparently. Trouble is, Ted Hooper said you should have a plan for these situations, but I couldn’t quite remember what my plan was. I was pretty sure it involved tearing down the first lot of queen cells, but then I only had one. Then again (I reasoned after the event) my worker bees may have been inhibited from creating more by the smell of Apiguard.

Anyway, I was concerned that the old queen – still very much alive and present – might kill the virgin new queen, or else slink off with a batch of workers and leave the colony even weaker. Which, in the cold light of day, I now accept wasn’t very logical. (Old queen knackered, workers create new queen to ensure survival, then …bugger off with old knackered queen)? Nevertheless, I was sufficiently concerned to commit my fears to a new forum thread, only to find that I’d placed myself at the centre of a hail of criticism. I should read up about swarming and supersedure I was told (agreed, I should). It’s all there in Ted Hooper, I was told. Er, no it wasn’t. Not what I was seeing. I’d riffled backwards and forwards through its pages looking for relevant passages. Bits sounded familiar, but nothing covered my exact circumstances.

Which is not to condemn the beekeepers that offered their ha’penny worth on the Beekeepers’ Forum. They were all trying to help, and I appreciate that. But this was a classic example of why I set up a novices’ beekeeping blog in the first place. Because no two colonies are alike, and because no text book can cover every eventuality.

Anyway that was four weeks ago, since when I’ve hatched a new queen and acquired a second colony. And while I haven’t done a particularly good job of writing about either I have at least begun to appreciate that, when it comes to beekeeping advice, there are usually several good ways of achieving the same objective, and that invariably one of them is to do absolutely nothing.

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Comments (5)

Hi Andy,

Yes I’m aware that this comment is almost 2 years too late, but, have you tried the BBKA forum, it’s a much friendlier crowd on there, not as busy, but you will always get good advice without the snipey comments.

Thanks Steve. I haven’t (tried the BBKA forum). I should do. I confess that I still find the Beekeeping Forum well-meaning – but bruising!

Some beekeepers can be a tad abrupt – it should be ok to ask for advice and help, that’s part of how you learn.

At my apiary we monitored for varroa recently and found very little falling on the monitoring boards. A good sign but I suspect most will be safely breeding in the brood cells.

I usually give my bees Fumadil B in Sept/Octoberish time along with their last feed of the year, whether I suspect they have nosema or not.

excellent news, and may your way of beekeeping produce many more hives!

I heard this from a friend who I have just given a hive of bees, he lost 2 hives last winter

Wife was leaving home to pick up son from school. She was aware of a cloud of something, then realised they were bees (had only seen a swarm as a cluster) phoned husband who asked her to spray them with water from a hose, which she did. The swarm took cover in a empty hive in their garden, artifical swarm complete!!!!!!

Ha! I loved the last line. You are a writer of extra-ordinary talent.

I find these musing very funny, very inspirational and very personal. Love it all.

My bees are coming on Wednesday. So as I’m an illustrator and a designer, maybe I’ll be sending you articulated drawings and sketches of how I manage to cope with my first swarm!

Thank you for your insights – always nice to have a punchline that really makes you laugh.

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