Advice on beekeeping advice

5

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

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

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.

Share

Slow bee colony build-up in May

2

Posted by Andy Sivell | Posted in Apiguard Thymol, Bee diseases, Beekeeping advice, Varroa destructor | Posted on 04-05-2011

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Something’s wrong. I only have two frames of brood and the bees are very docile. Too docile. Just a couple of miles away Michelle’s colony has nearly filled its second super.

I have varroa. I have wax moth. I appear to have some small red mites, possibly balaustium, which I’m told are harmless to bees but feed on pollen. I may have nosema. It’s always hard to avoid a slight sense of one-upmanship with other second-year beekeepers, but this isn’t quite what I had in mind.

I’ve recently been to several presentations on honey bee diseases and poor colony hygiene, so am trying to remain objective and to not fall into the trap of transposing it all to my beehive. But I’ve seen the varroa, the wax moth and the balaustium (if that’s what they are). Granted, not in any great numbers: less than one varroa a day, and two wax moths and five balaustium in total. Hardly an epidemic. There’s no sign of dysentery to indicate nosema, and no melted larvae to point to European Foul Brood. The queen is present and laying. I have eggs, larvae, capped brood and newly hatched bees, as well as uncapped stores and pollen. But I have only two frames of brood. Four frames of brand new foundation remain untouched.

It might be the queen. Michelle’s colony swarmed on Friday. On Monday we opened her hive to take a look and found 6-8 queen cells the size of Cadbury’s Crème Eggs. Interestingly, we also found the old queen amid a small heap of writhing workers on the next door neighbour’s driveway. She looked absolutely knackered (the queen, not the next door neighbour), which you could forgive her as the colony itself had bees spilling out from every quarter. They were pinging off our veils. All frames were heaving under the weight of stores, eggs, larvae and capped brood, while drones the size of my thumb stomped about looking ready to pounce – which I guess they were.

So what’s with my bees? I even cut the hedge to give them more sunlight.

Last Tuesday I ran into Robert, my bee guru. He suggested I had nothing to lose by going for a little shock and awe. Apiguard for the varroa, Fumidil B for the nosema (as it will do no harm even if it isn’t present), and an uncapping tool and no mercy for the wax moth. The red mites will sort themselves out, he said.

I’m going in…

Share

Should you treat with Apiguard when your colony is requeening?

0

Posted by Andy Sivell | Posted in Apiguard Thymol, Beekeeping advice, Requeening re-queening | Posted on 04-10-2010

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Early September: Turns out the short answer is, “no”. Sadly I only find that out a day or two after I’ve placed a tray of Apiguard in my (now empty) super. I discover several posts on the subject on the rather excellent Beekeeping Forum. Apparently the smell of Thymol drives them nuts (the bees that is, not the members of the Forum). There’s a chance that my new queens will each hatch in turn, take a whiff, and pack their bags. Fire off an email to Robert. His response is: “You’ve started, so you must finish.”

Beehive frame packed with worker bees

Well you try spotting a queen among this lot

There also appears to be a lively debate online about whether or not one should tear down some of the queen cells. Cue another email to Robert: “No”.

At my next inspection I spend at least half an hour searching for a queen. All bar one of my queen cells appears to have hatched. I say “appears” because I daren’t shake the frames in case any of the new queens drop off. So instead I perform my inspection with hundreds of bees crawling all over the frames, my hands, arms, and veil positioned around two inches from the brood cells. Later Robert tells me that more than likely the first queen to hatch tore down the other queen cells, killing her younger sisters in the process. Either way I never find a queen. So here we go again.

I let us each retreat to our own corner for ten days before going back in. It’s late in the year, the weather’s deteriorating and there are precious few drones left knocking about. The odds are stacked against me. Even if I find the queen she may still not have mated, but the view is that find her I must. It’s therefore with huge relief that I spot her scrabbling about on Robert’s marked frame. She’s quite small and very dark, and her abdomen doesn’t have that swollen look I’ve seen on other queens. I’m guessing that’s because she’s still a virgin. Given that she’s had nearly two weeks to do something about it, it seems likely she’s going to remain one. There’s no sign of eggs.

Share