Oxalic Acid Vaporisation Treatment

It’s that time of year again when I like to zap those pesky Varroa mites with an Oxalic acid vapour! Although deadly for Varroa mites and humans, it’s a harmless treatment for the bees.

Hopefully, with limited brood this time of year, there should be very little Varroa mites protected in capped cells.  Therefore, the oxalic acid vapours should kill those Varroa mites attached to the bees, they’ll drop off through the open mesh floor and come spring, there should be a significant reduction in their numbers which in turn will reduce their reproduction. That’s the theory anyway!

Having borrowed the equipment from the East Lothian Beekeepers Association, I felt I should use the equipment as quickly as possible so I could pass it on to another beekeeper. However, family commitments and a flat battery in the equipment meant I couldn’t do the treatment over the weekend. With the battery now charged, thanks to the loan of a charger from my friend Euan, I was ready to go. Only one problem, as it’s potentially a dangerous procedure, I needed a buddy to do the treatment with. As it’s a lengthy process, Stuart didn’t have the time during office hours so it was Mum to the rescue! She accompanied and helped me at both the Gosford and Archerfield Apiaries and we got all the hives treated today.

Hopefully another step forward to a healthy and happy Spring for the bees!

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Honey show!

Tonight was the first East Lothian Beekeepers Association Honey Show for many many years.  The Association decided to resurrect the show tradition and all members were encouraged to enter.  There were various categories of honey: light, medium, dark, creamed, heather and cut comb.  There was also a honey frame category and a wax category.  It was fantastic to see so many entries and amazing to see the different colours and consistences.

I entered the medium and the creamed categories and, although I didn’t win a prize (this year!), I was very happy with my entry and pleased to have participated.    Well done to everyone who competed, congratulations to those that won and many thanks to the East Lothian Beekeepers Association for a fun and interesting night.

In other news, I checked on the bees last week at both the Gosford and Archerfield Apiaries to see how much fondant had been taken.  To my surprise 3 hives had finished their fondant so I put on more last week with 3 hives almost finished so I went back today and put on more.  I gently smoked them out the empty bag, back down into the hive and I’m please to say, only a few stubborn bees were lost.  Of the other 5 hives, 3 hives have taken some fondant but 2 appear to have taken none. Those 2 don’t have much activity in the hive and only a few bees were spotted.  They may just be working through their own stores or they could be weak and may not make it – we’ll know more by the Spring.

 

 

The Orchard, Archerfield Walled Garden!

It’s been quiet at the apiary with the occasional addition of an extra bag of fondant. All the hives have bedded down for winter and, other than a varroa treatment, there shouldn’t be much happening until Spring.

However, today was an exciting day! As some of you will know, I’ve been looking forward to moving some hives to their new site. I’m delighted to announce that Princess Leia in Hive 11, Daisy in Hive 12 and Rose in Hive 13 are now residing in The Orchard at Archerfield Walled Garden.

Moving hives has a degree of risk but, having cancelled last weeks scheduled move because I was worried that the journey would jiggle them out of their cluster and, at 0 degrees, that could potentially kill them, today was a balmy 11 degrees and perfect. We sealed the hives at about 3pm yesterday so that no bees would come out today prior to the move, and moved them without incident. It’s amazing what you can fit into a Leaf!

I was hoping to leave them sealed to allow them to settle but the bees in Hive 12 had managed to find a tiny hole and, as we took them out the car, a few were filing out to investigate so I removed their foam seal and let them fly. The other two hive entrances will be opened tomorrow. Hopefully the move hasn’t traumatised them too much, they’ll settle into their cluster overnight and, if they fly tomorrow, they’ll re-orientate themselves without difficulty.

I’m thrilled that Archerfield Walled Garden has been so welcoming and a huge thank you to Elly Douglas Hamilton for agreeing to have resident bees, Ross for making it all happen and Erica, Kerry and the gardening team for all their hard work clearing the site beautifully and making sure the bees have enough light. I am very grateful. As always, a big thank you to Stuart for all his help and support.

Fingers crossed for a quiet winter, an expanding spring and a productive summer but, bees will be bees, so anything is possible!

 

 

Bee-n quiet!

I knew I’d bee-n quiet on the blog front but I didn’t realise my last post was May! Sorry for the blog silence and here’s a quick update:

At the end of June, the bees had artificially and naturally swarmed to 13 hives. Some had laying queens and some didn’t. Some had queen cells and some we added queen cells. Once again, we went on holiday not knowing how many viable hives we would return to.

Well, nature is a wonderful thing, and our return from holiday saw 12 viable hives and 1 drone layer. That was fantastic news and they looked like they were building up nicely.  However Hope in Hive 5, always a trouble maker, looked good with a queen spotted mid-July but by the first week in August the hive was completely empty. The queen possibly never got mated so didn’t start laying but, I suspect, it was more likely they didn’t have enough stores because the weather had been so poor with lots of rain. On inspecting the other smaller hives, they looked like they didn’t have much stores in the brood boxes either and the supers were empty. I started to feed them syrup water which proved to be a good decision as they became stronger and busier during August.

Apart from feeding the smaller hives, I decided to mostly leave the bees alone in August. The swarming season was over, drones were being thrown out, there wasn’t a wasp threat, the weather wasn’t great making inspections difficult so I just let them get on with things. Those that had supers were feeling heavy and I was hopeful for a good final honey crop. We removed all the supers at the start of September and, although I got a reasonable honey crop, they had definitely eaten some of their own stores during the poor weather. I was so glad I’d left the supers on for them to eat and I can’t complain having jarred 87kg of honey this year!

Having removed the supers, it was now time to feed the bees to ensure they have enough stores in their brood boxes for winter. With 11 hives and only 6 feeding troughs it was tricky trying to get round them all. Most hives had at least one round of syrup water but it was becoming difficult so I swapped to bee fondant and they’ve been wolfing it down.

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Today the bees were flying in the warm Autumn sun so we did a quick pre-winter check to see how strong they looked. I’m delighted to say all the hives had between 7 and 9 full frames of bees except Rebecca in Hive 2 who had 6 frames of bees. This looks hopeful  for going into winter, although nothing is ever guaranteed! I’ve also got my new site which some of you will know about – official announcement to follow. We visited there today to finalise the arrangements and we’ll be looking to move 3 or 4 hives there in November – exciting times!!

Next steps will be to add mouse guards, puts on some insulation and administer varroa treatment. We’ve also finally got round to naming the newer hives:

Hive 7 – Joe

Hive 8 – Karen

Hive 9 – Poly (it’s in the only polystyrene hive I have)

Hive 11 – Princess Leia

Hive 12 – Daisy

Hive 13 – Rose

The numbers may change when some are moved to the new site but the names will remain the same!

Finally, there are still some jars of the last batch of honey available. It’s deliciously runny and golden from local flora.  Don’t forget to message me if you want a jar.

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Swarms, stings and steroids!

Quite a lot has happened since my last post – not all good!

After my last inspection, I returned the following day to take off some supers. Unfortunately, just as I had finished loading everything into the car I got stung on the forehead and I took an instant allergic reaction. I got home, took some Piriton but I was uncomfortable, coughing, wheezing, had a tight indigestion like feeling, hives all over my body, blocked nose and ear canals and the soles of my feet felt like they were on fire. We decided it was best to head straight to A&E in case my airway closed. A&E were fantastic. I was given steroids, an ECG and monitored closely for several hours. My airway did not close and I was released to spend the next 4 days with various weird swelling on my face. I have to admit, I got a bit of a fright!

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So, feeling slightly nervous, I returned last Thursday for a full inspection. Stuart decided I wasn’t to go on my own anymore so, as Mum was staying for a few days, she put on a bee suit, brought a chair and her mobile and was the emergency back-up!

On arriving we could see a huge amount of bees in the air – one of the hives was swarming in front of our eyes. What a sight! Thousands of bees circling the air and then coming together on a branch. The first branch broke under their weight and they had to re-cluster on another. Unfortunately, it was high up the tree so I wasn’t sure how I was going to get them down.

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Meanwhile, I inspected the other hives. They were all in varying stages of swarming or not swarming! I think the warm weather and the abundance of Oil Seed Rape has made it very challenging to try to prevent swarming. I’m just trying to monitor and do my best. Some looked Queenless with no eggs but the Queen may still be waiting to mate. It’s a waiting game and if they are Queenless then I can merge them with another hive later on and nothing is lost.

But, what to do about the large swarm up the tree? Stuart and I returned later in the evening to see what we could do and it had gone! However, there was quite a bit of activity in a bramble bush further down the road so we went to have a look and they were trying to cluster on an old log on the ground in the bramble bush. This was challenging as we couldn’t shake them into a box. We cut away the branches around the log and dumped those on branches into a nuc box. We then smoked the rest up into the air and placed the nuc, with a frame of honey, next to the log. As they came back down, they went into the nuc rather than on the log. We just stood back and watch as most of the bees went in. The advantage of using the nuc is that it’s a mini hive which can can hold frames and has an entrance so we just moved it back to the apiary and didn’t have to disturb them again – Hive 10!

No stings that day – so all good!

The following day, Friday, we returned to take some supers off and found another swarm in a tree. We got it into the catching box and left it there to allow them to settle. Unfortunately, when we returned later they’d absconded and were nowhere to be seen. That was disappointing!

On Saturday, I decided to do a quick perimeter check for swarms as the apiary is close to the EMF route and I didn’t want a potential problem on Marathon day. My sister and family were visiting so Claire accompanied me to see the apiary to be my backup. We didn’t find any swarms and the bees seemed calm. I was just getting into the car, having taken my vail off as there were no bees at the car, when a bee came from nowhere, flew past Claire at high speed and stung me on the forehead about 2mm from the last puncture mark – unbelievable (that wasn’t the word I used at the time)! I quickly took a double doze of Piriton and got home. I recognised straight away that this was completely different from the bad A&E reaction. It was just localised and the swelling was coming up straight away and I didn’t feel ill. I took this as good sign and applied ice. The swelling continued until it closed my left eye. Then my right eye began to close. The prospect of not being able to see was beginning to worry me and I was all for taking the dogs prescription steroids but Stuart decided I needed a doctor, and fast, before my right eye closed too. The wonderfully kind Doctor Cara came to the rescue and gave great help and advice in the nick of time. My right eye closed to a slit and then started to re-open. The left eye finally opened the following day and I’ve been slowly returning to normal with just a little swelling today. However, I’m taking all this as a positive. I didn’t have the ‘bad reaction’ so I haven’t built up an intolerance, which was what I was worried about. I’m also convinced that I must have still had some sting pheromones in my forehead because that bee came out of nowhere just to get me! I’ve set up a new protocol – I’m wearing a sweat band (like the 118 guys) over my forehead at all times while in my bee suit (I look a right plonker) and I don’t take the vail off until I’ve driven down the road a bit where I can pull over and take it off away from the apiary.

So today’s job was to move the bramble bush swarm from the nuc box into a full sized hive. Simple and quick until we noticed that two of the hives seemed busier than usual. Yip, they swarmed in front of our eyes. We watched them pile out and settle in a tree. They seemed to cluster in two distinct swarms. We’re not sure if both hives swarmed at the same time or whether one swarmed and they’ve just clustered in two groups. We caught them separately, one in the newly emptied nuc box (Hive 11) and the other in a catching box which was later put in a hastily constructed hive (Hive 12). We’ll soon know if there are two queens or not! My new protocol worked and I didn’t get stung!

This bee business is becoming a full time job and slightly out of control. I haven’t even done my inspection this week!

 

No Swarms today!

As of 1.30pm today, there were not swarms at the apiary – yeah.  I’ll check again tomorrow in case they did it from 1.31pm onwards!

Full inspection today. Sorry no photos as I was on my own, had to concentrate on queens and queen cells and it was very hot!

Caitlin in Hive 1 – No Queen seen, no eggs but larvae, and capped brood. Tore down all queen cells except two uncapped. That should be enough to raise a queen and hopefully prevent a secondary swarm. Honey ready in the super so I put on a clearing board.

Rebecca in Hive 2 – I wasn’t suppose to open this hive as I believed it had swarmed and was making a new queen but I wanted to check that there weren’t multiple queen cells which would cause secondary swarming. I did spot the new queen but no eggs so she’s possibly still unmated or not ready to lay. I tore down all the other queen cells which should prevent that queen from swarming as there are no queens to follow. Honey ready in the super so I put on a clearing board.

Sam in Hive 3 – Still no queen cells so not intending to swarm. But, I found eggs in the first super again above the queen excluder – puzzling! Either there are two queens or she’s getting through the excluder. Honey ready in the other super so I put on a clearing board.

Claire in Hive 4 – Blue queen seen, no queen cells. Artificial swarm seems to have worked. Honey ready in the super to I put on a clearing board.

Hope in Hive 5 – Did not open as they’re making a queen. No honey in super – it was light.

Susan in Hive 6 – Queen seen in lower brood box. Eggs in super – again puzzling. Either there are two queens or she’s getting though the queen excluder. I cut down all queen cells to prevent swarming. Honey in the other super so put on clearing board.

Hive 7, 8 & 9 – Didn’t open as they’re making queens. Entrances were busy. Hive 7 was making honey but it wasn’t ripe yet. Hive 8 was taking fondant. Didn’t look in Hive 9.

The hive’s seems be in various stages of queen rearing but most are taking advantage of the Oil Seed Rape flow. Hopefully I’ve taken the necessary measures to curb any more swarming but daily checks are still require.

Unfortunately I heard today that the large swarm I had given to Graeme last week had absconded. Sometimes the bees do this – they all just leave for some reason. That was disappointing and the hive was empty. However, I still hadn’t found a home for the swarm I caught yesterday. Graeme is on holiday, so Sandy and I visited his apiary and installed yesterday’s swarm into his hive. I added two frames of honey so hopefully that will entice them to stay.

Other than the swarm checks, hopefully that’s me done for another week.

 

 

And again!

Stuart said, “I’m really good at making Queens.”

I said, “I’m really bad at keeping bees!”

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They’re in a closed bee box in the back garden with some frames of honey to keep them going until the new hive arrives. Hopefully there won’t be another one tomorrow or I’ll have to consider crowdfunding!

Turn the volume up and have a listen to them in the box….

Checking for Swarms

Given it’s felt quite muggy, I decided to do a quick perimeter fence check of the apiary this afternoon for any swarms. I wasn’t far into my check when I came across a small swarm attached to the old fence post between the two newer barbed wire fences – handy location!

As it was on the fence post, I couldn’t shake them into the box so I attempted to brushed them in. The style of the post, the location and the attached fencing made this quite difficult and it became obvious that I hadn’t brushed the queen into the box as the bees were returning to the post almost as quickly as I was brushing them away. I had one last attempt at getting as many in the box as possible then put it on the ground with the lid wedged open. A secondary cluster was forming on another post so I was thinking I hadn’t got the queen when all of a sudden, I noticed her landing on the outside of the box. Unfortunately, a large gust of wind dislodged her and she flew off, a potentially disastrous situation as she could be lost. My heart sank but then, she fought the wind, approached the box and flew in the gap of the lid. That was very fortuatous! I left the box ajar and came home to think about what to do.

Unlike the last swarm, this one was quite small so I suspect it’s a secondary swarm. Meaning, the hive has swarmed already with the first queen and most of the worker bees and this is a second attempt with a new queen, possibly still unmated, and fewer worker bees. It’s not really worth offering it to another beekeeper as the quality won’t be as good as a prime swarm. I’ve hived it myself in the dregs of my remaining equipment and we’ll see how it gets on. They were fanning the entrance and doing orientation flights before I left. Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

 

 

Supers, Swarms & Settling in!

I visited the bees on Tuesday with the view to finding out if they’d made any honey from the Oil Seed Rape close by. To my delight, Rebecca in Hive 2, Claire in Hive 4 and Hope in Hive 5 had a full super each. I put on clearing boards and intended to return the following day to remove them. I didn’t do a full inspection because I thought, what’s the point if I don’t have any more equipment. If they’re going to swarm then they’ll just have to get on with it. I did take a video tour of the apiary which I’ll post up separately when I can remember how the technology works! It was quite a chilled visit with time to sit and enjoy the bees!

Driving back yesterday to pick up the hopefully cleared supers, I noticed a lot of bee activity along the fence. Yip, one of the hives had swarmed! It was attached to the fence post but also to a low lying branch next to the fence. At this time of year, I always carry a bee box for such eventualities so I was able to brush the bees from the post into the box and then shake in the large cluster on the branch. I wedged my bee brush into the box to keep the lid slightly open and was delighted to see the bees on the outside of the box march in. I had definitely got the queen!

I then went and attended to the cleared supers, leaving the box open to allow any remaining bees from the swarm to realise the queen was in the box and follow suit. I got the supers off without too much bother and then picked up the box with the swarm and brought them home.

Now to find a home for the swarm. With all my equipment used up, I was going to have to give them away. I had mixed feeling about this. It’s a shame to loose such a big, vibrant colony but I just couldn’t keep them. Thinking positively, swarming is how bees naturally reproduce, so giving them away allows the gene pool to diversify and gives another beekeeper a chance to raise them. Fortunately, Graeme was keen to take them as one of his hives was queenless and dwindling. The bees stayed overnight in the back garden covered with a blanket and then it was off to hive them today.

The bees were find overnight and I took them to Graeme’s apiary this morning. It’s alway slight never racking transporting potentially 20,000-30,000 bees in a box, especially when they’re all not actually in the box – but it went fine. We tipped them into a new hive box and the existing queenless bees were merged with the icing sugar and newspaper technique. It was good to watch them settling in and doing orientation flights. I felt happy leaving them on such a nice apiary site and I’m sure they’ll do well.

I then returned to my apiary to put the empty supers back on the three hives I had removed them from. That was all I was going to do but my curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to know who had swarmed!

Caitlin in Hive 1 – the queen was seen and I tore down some queen cells.

Rebecca in Hive 2 – no queen seen, loads of queen cells and fewer bees. This is where I think the swarm has come from.

Sam in Hive 3  – no queen seen but no queen cells either so can’t have swarmed.

Claire in Hive 4 – blue queen seen, no queen cells, eggs seen. The artificial swarm must have worked.

Hope in Hive 5 – Didn’t open as they should still be raising a queen and I didn’t want to disturb.

Susan in Hive 6 – Queen seen, tore down some queen cells.

Hive 7 & 8 – Like Hope, I didn’t open as they should be raising a queen and I didn’t want to disturb them.

So, I’m pretty sure it was Rebecca in Hive 2 that swarmed. With having to tear down some queen cells in Caitlin in Hive 1 and Susan in Hive 6, they have the potential to swarm too. It’s been a pretty interesting few days if slightly intense!

The observant amounts you will realise that I’ve taken off supers.  Yes, I spent Wednesday afternoon and evening spinning honey. I’m assuming it’s Oil Seed Rape and it’s currently in the settling tank. I’m awaiting jars to be delivered and then I’ll do the usual FB post if anyone is interested. It tastes good!