The last inspection took place on 5th September (two weeks ago), they will not be inspected again until mid-April next year.
I hefted (manually weighed) the hives and they are all heavy enough to last until February time next year at which time we can put fondant on the crown board if that is necessary. I did not need to go into the hives nor disturb the brood frames.
The bees are ready for winter.
Be Patient:- The key now is to be patient and let the bees get on without us beekeepers disturbing them. Your bees will appreciate this and will repay you next spring. Mess around with them now and there is a very good chance you will adversely affect the colony.
The grass on the apiary site was cut and some weeding carried out on the area at the bottom of the boundary fence where Willow twigs, borage and lavender have been planted. The site is now ready to last the winter.
In two weeks’ time (assuming we have petrol) three things will be done:
the medicine strips will be taken off the hives,
the empty feeder buckets removed and
the mouse guards put on.
These will be done without disturbing any brood frames or the cluster of bees.
Around Dec 21st we will treat the hives against the Varroa mite using Api-Bioxal . This will ensure that the first sets of bees to emerge in the new year are as healthy as possible.
January onwards we heft the hives every 2 or 3 weeks to make sure they have some stores – any hives which are running short of food will be given blocks of fondant.
Around mid-April next year, when the weather is warm, we will start the inspections again. Seems a long time away but you must be patient.
The APIVAR varroa treatment was applied on 22nd August and is a single treatment that last for a minimum of 6 weeks and a maximum of 10. October 3rd is the earliest date to take the Varroa treatment off the hives.
APIVAR is slow acting so I am not expecting to see a massive, sudden, Varroa drop.. More likely a gradual drop over the 6 weeks or so.
Winter feeding was started on 29th August using Invertbee, a ready mixed syrup. The bees prefer it to sugar dissolved in water.
After 6 days all the feeders had been emptied so they were refilled yesterday.
The two bucket feeders means that each hive has been given about 14kg (30lbs) of stores. In another week we will top the feeders up a third time and that should be sufficient winter stores for the colonies.
Beekeeping is not all fun and games in the apiary. Over the course of the season some hives die out, dirty brood frames have to be replaced and super frames that are no longer suitable for honey need to be renewed.
As a result, I had accumulated nearly 200 frames in the shed waiting to be cleaned. About 50 of these were CBKA frames.
At some point we have to bite the bullet and set about boiling the frames.
This is the job I least like in beekeeping but today it had to be done
The burco boiler was set up and after 5 hours slog all the dirty frames that had been stored were clean and drying.
Just over a week ago I went to check the bees. The bees were fine, there was snow on the ground. A couple of hives needed some fondant.
I also found that one of the new Crab Apple trees (John Downie) had been eaten by the local wildlife, the tree guard had not been long enough and they could reach the growing points. If the roots still take it would be a nice shrub shape – I will get a replacement.
– poor tree
Then the car got stuck in the snow as I drove up the hill/incline towards the entrance gate ☹ I managed to reverse back and found a longer and flatter route back to the gate.
Today I went to the site to check it out.
The daffs are growing well:
You can see the line of the Daffs running along the fence.
No sign of any Crocus ☹
The land drain was flowing well:
The bees were all OK – in fact one hive was a bit defensive and did not like being disturbed when I put more fondant on the hive.
I replaced the ‘eaten’ John Downie crab apple with another one – this time making sure the tree guard was well in place.
I planted a Wyken Pippin that had been delivered. It was bare rooted and had to be put into the ground. When the Lord Mayor comes to open the site it will have to be a ceremonially planting – unless we dig up the tree and do it again.
The Wyken Pippin.
Now there are the 4 trees in place.
from front to back – Wyken Pippin, Celeste Cherry, John Downie Crab Apple and Golden Hornet Crab Apple
Plus the two willows and the small leafed Lime tree “Winter Orange” which have been planted.
Dave Bonner inspected the branch bees, so in these times of lockdown, here’s his update:
“I did the first inspections of the Branch Bees on Saturday. Things are looking good.
Previously I had set them up so that the 5 strong colonies were ready for a Bailey Comb change, 1 medium colony had an empty super on and two were weak.
4 of the strong colonies had built up dramatically and were into the new brood box, so the next stage of the comb change has been started – with the queen trapped in the new brood box. Next time the feeders will be removed and a couple of supers put on the hives.
The 5th colony had not got into the new brood box, so I took that away and put a super on. The colony is not strong enough to draw out new comb. I do not know why that should be.
The medium colony was doing OK and bringing in a lot of nectar, so a 2nd super was put on it.
1 of the weak colonies is starting to grow but the other is declining, I suspect bad Nosema – if there is no progress next time I will be despatching it.
There is quite a strong nectar flow. Therefore, a medium to strong colony will require space, so put supers, one or two, onto your hives, drawn comb if you have it, but the bees will draw out foundation .
Give the queen a chance to get a good amount of brood in all stages (end of April) and then think about marking her. The reason for this is in case you damage her, there will be plenty of eggs/young larva to produce a new queen AND there will be mature drones available for a virgin queen to mate with.
While restrictions are in place making it difficult to meet up and share advice / guidance, Coventry BKA is considering establishing a telephone/internet based mentoring system for these novice beekeepers by ‘buddying’ them up with a more experienced beekeeper.
To confirm CBKA branch advice on swarm collection in these unusual times we are dealing with:
The BBKA swarm collection service will continue, so calls will still be coming in:
“24 March 2020
BBKA Chair Anne Rowberry says: “The swarm collection service will still be in operation during the pandemic.
Swarm collection can go ahead but you must take into account social distancing.
Risk assess the situation and do not take unnecessary risks as health services will be under pressure due to the Covid-19 Pandemic.
As always, only collect when it is safe to do so.”
Please use your best judgement when taking a call, and if you can avoid a trip, please do.
Be insistent on identification of honey bees;
Make it clear that honey bees are not protected, and we only offer the collection service as volunteers;
Offer reassurance that the swarm will probably disperse in a coupe of days if it has just arrived;
Only think about attending if the swarm has been there a couple of days or is causing a public nuisance;
Ensure you abide by all social distancing rules;
Do not attend swarms where you have to enter people’s homes
Dr Bill Crofts attended Wolston School to give a general beekeeping talk to the children in March
They were clearly impressed if the reaction of the teacher and thankyou letters are anything to go by. Well done Bill!
“Oh Bill – what a fantastic afternoon – you were amazing – the children have taken on so much of what you told them – thank you so so much for your time, energy and enthusiasm with this afternoons talk about bees. They were so chuffed with the candles that they rolled and were able to take home with them with pride. An absolutely amazing afternoon spent with you – thank you so so much. ”
Bill later received an envelope in the post with a set of thank you letters the children had written.