Is it autumn or summer? With the warm and dry sunny days that are predominating of late it is easy to become confused. However the bees are taking full advantage of the mild conditions and every colony is busy bringing in stores.
Watching the returning pollen laden foragers the vivid yellow catches the eye immediately, in all likelihood this will be from the ivy. Work at the apiary is that of cutting back the undergrowth and giving the storage shed another coat of wood preserver. Queen excluders have now been removed plus some unused supers. The next task will be to affix mouse guards to each hive.
We now have a 4 wheeled garden trolley (cage type) and this will make the transport of supers, crown boards and other items from shed to hives a comfortable operation. Previously we have resorted to the use of a wheel barrow, it did the job but the rough ground encountered from shed to hives did mean that pieces were prone to bounce out. Another useful purchase is 3 rigid plastic storage containers (large type) into these will go our drawn comb for winter storage; this is to protect them from mice and the dreaded Wax Moth! However eggs and developing larvae may already be in situ and unseen on the frames going into storage so a pad soaked in Acetic Acid will be added to each container and this treatment will stop eggs from hatching and larvae from maturing (Dead I Mean) failing to store your valuable drawn comb will cost you, so take heed.
Access to the storage shed still requires us to phone ahead for gates to be unlocked! We can walk through the gardens and get to the hives easily enough but supers, frames, crown boards etc., are all in the shed. On busy days it is all too easy for staff to forget us resulting in our abandoning the day’s inspection. Beekeeping is dominated by the weather and not the time! Let’s hope for common sense to one day prevail.
No in depth inspections taking place at this time of the year, however with the temperatures still in the teens and plenty of external bee activity, plus the presence of immature dead Varroa Mites on the yellow inserts suggestions are that as of yet the bees have not formed a winter cluster.
The finding of pale (immature) mites in the hive debris deposited on the yellow inserts does suggest that Queens are still laying and in doing so are providing the wherewithal for the Varroa to also produce offspring. This is not what you would expect to find when winter months set in. Is climate change a reality after all? Something is changing and our bees are responding to the milder weather and are still out and about foraging. If the mild weather persists and if external forays by the bees are still in evidence I may well open up a colony and check for evidence of continued brood rearing going on.
Cutting back the brambles is an on-going project; the mild conditions seem to suit them very well and if left unchecked they do present tripping hazard when working on and around the hives.
All spare equipment is being cleaned and frames of drawn comb and foundation have been secured in strong clear plastic containers, plus Acetic Acid has been included to deter and destroy any wax moth eggs and larvae whose presence is not always observable.
Failure to store your spare equipment correctly, especially the drawn comb will give the larvae of the Wax Moth the opportunity to develop and consequently ruin each and every frame they are on.
Beekeeping consumables are not cheap! Their life can and will be extended if you put a little effort into their use and correct storage.
The continuing unsettled weather is certainly restricting external activity. On days when conditions do allow bees are venturing out and pollen is coming in.
Spring is beginning to show by way of various flowers and the hedgerows are showing definite tinges of green, as of yet no hives have been opened up for inspection but this in itself could be beneficial to our new intake of would be beekeepers who will get hands on experience when they visit Dyffryn. How so beneficial? Well given that fair weather prevails and we do open up the colonies with the newcomers present, they will be able to observe the state of a hive that has come through its winter shutdown. One colony in particular that did not have a mouse guard in place has suffered the ravages of a visit from mice and this will serve as a very visual lesson with regard to incorrect winter hive preparation, there are still bees in it and they are in the upper tiers, they appear well but only a full inspection will provide conformation regarding their viability.
Six colonies were settled for winter and six colonies are showing activity. Throughout the winter inserts have been in place and regular checks of the debris are providing information as to the position of the bees within the hive and of course the Varroa population.
The winter months have revealed dead Varroa and their numbers have been in the teens! Now that the days are getting longer and the Queens are definitely laying the debris is revealing dead adult Varroa and many pale immature Varroa, their numbers are increasing and they now the count is in the 100 plus bracket. There are those who are convinced that they do not have a Varroa problem! We all do. Under floor inserts and checking the contents on a regular basis will show that no one is devoid of this mite.
A hand held magnifier will reveal very well the occurrence of the mites in the floor debris along with many other mites and flies that use the inserts as a source of existence and food.
Please follow the link to download a copy of the March 2017 Association Newsletter.