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!
This morning I went to East Linton to help my friend treat his hives for Varroa with the Oxalic Acid vaporising equipment.
This afternoon, Stuart and I treated our six hives.
It’s not a difficult treatment but it can be quite dangerous if you don’t follow the correct safety procedures. It does the bees no harm, although by the sound of the roar from within the hive, they don’t particularly like being disturbed! It’s also wise to stand back when you reopen the entrance and put the mouse guards on quickly!!! Running away works too😂.
Many thanks to the East Lothian Beekeepers Association for the loan of the equipment.
Having given the bees all that sugar water back in September they really should still have plenty of stores. However, just to be on the safe side, we gave each a cake of fondant today. It’s there if they need it, and if they don’t, they’ll just leave it alone.
It was good to have a quick look through the polycarbonate crown board. Caitlin in Hive 1, Rebecca in Hive 2, Sam in Hive 3 and Hope in Hive 5 were all busy just under the crown board. In fact, some of the bees from Hope decided to come out and see us off!
Claire in Hive 4 and Susan in Hive 6 had no bees in sight and this was the case the last time I had a peek in! However, I had a good look down between the frames and I could see bees so they’re still in there!
Next visit will be to treat for Varroa in January or February.
We’ve spent the whole month of September feeding the bees. They’ve consumed 120kg of sugar, that’s 72 litres of sugar water. Thank goodness for Aldi, although it was starting to get slightly embarrassing buying 24 bags of sugar every week!
We’ve been battling the wasps all this month too. My homemade wasp traps were full after 2 weeks and we had to replace them with fresh traps, which are also now full. The hive porches definitely helped and, although there were still wasps about today, I’m hoping the numbers will start to diminish soon.
We ‘hefted’ the hives to see how heavy they were to judge the amount of winter stores. They were very heavy so we removed the feeders. We’ve left the smaller hives with a single brood. However, the larger ones have been left with a brood and a super (brood & a half) just to ensure they have enough stores for the winter. We’ve removed the queen excluders from between the brood & super so that the queen is free to move with the colony throughout the hive and stay warm. We also put in Apivar strips to medicate for Varroa, changed the crown boards to clear polycarbonate and put on insulation.
Once home, I cleaned all the removed equipment in a 1:5 solution of Soda Crystals and water and I will blow torch the equipment made from wood to ensure it’s sterilised before being stored for the winter.
The bees were out flying today in the beautiful warm October sun but they know winter is on it’s way! Our final job will be to add the mouse guards once the wasps have gone and remove the Apivar strips in 6 weeks time. After that, the hives won’t be opened again until the spring.
We did a quick inspection today and our lovely friend Lynda joined us as a beekeeper apprentice. What a natural – well done Lynda!
The exciting news is that Hope in Hive 5 definitely has a laying queen. Although we still haven’t seen the Queen, there was a lovely brood pattern over several frames and the hive was healthy and mild.
Drones have been expelled and the supers are not being refilled so the bees are definitely feeling autumnal. Clearing boards were put on every hive to clear the bees from the empty supers and these will be removed in a few days. After that, we’ll start feeding sugar water so they have enough time to process it into stores for the winter.
As Autumn takes hold, the bees will reduce for winter and inspections will be fewer as the temperature drops. I’ll miss the buzz, excitement, stress and bewilderment but I’m absolutely thrilled to have 6 viable hives, particularly as 2 of these were made by splitting existing hives.
Today’s inspection did not reveal what we were expecting or hoping for!
The lovely new queen which arrived special delivery was nowhere to be seen in Hive Caitlin. There was no brood but lots of queen cells so I can only conclude that the hive didn’t accept her. It was worth a try. We’ll just have to see if any of the queen cells produce a viable queen. If not, I’ll merge with one of the other hives. It was a bit disappointing.
Hive Rebecca is a continuing mystery. There is now brood in the top brood box so a new queen has emerged and been mated – great news. I now need to work out how to move it to another site within the apiary. The bottom box has no brood but queen cells. The old queen must have swarmed so we’ll have to wait and see if a new queen emerges, mates and is viable. The Snelgrove technique hasn’t worked, probably due to my inexperience, and I’d be cautious to use it in the future.
We hadn’t ever fully inspected Hive Claire or Hive Susan because, as nucs and only with us for 4 weeks, they should only have been building up. However, on inspection today, we discovered they’ve built up so much that there were several capped queen cell in Hive Claire and several uncapped queen cells in Hive Susan! Fortunately I spotted the queens in both hives so I knew they hadn’t swarmed yet but they’re still getting ready!
I rushed home, got together the very last of my equipment and headed back to the apiary. I felt Hive Claire was the more urgent, as it actually had capped queen cells, so I managed to artificially swarm it before the rain started. I moved the existing hive one meter to the right and I put a new empty hive on the original site. I found Queen Claire and put her in the new hive on the original site with one frame of stores and filled the rest with undrawn brood frames. The old hive, now one meter away, had all the flying bees, house bees, brood and capped queen cells but no queen. The theory is that the flying bees will leave the old hive on the new site and return to the new hive on the old site after foraging. The new hive on the old site with the queen thinks it’s swarmed because there is a lovely empty hive and no brood. The old hive on the new site is full of house bees which will raise the brood and a new queen from the capped queen cells.
I’ll need to do the same with Hive Susan but the weather turned. I’ve got a little time on my side because they won’t swarm until they’ve capped a queen cell or until the weather gets better so fingers crossed I get back to them in time.
So I’ve used up all my equipment and I still have to work out what to do and where to put the top brood box of Hive Rebecca. I’ll have to make another bee equipment order!
You may remember those nasty Varroa mites that live on the bees and in the brood, weakening them and making them susceptible to disease and colony decline. I treated the bees with strips impregnated with medication in the Autumn but that doesn’t kill the mites living in the capped brood cells. When the brood emerge, so too do the new Varroa mites, and the cycle starts again. So, today with the hive having either no or very little brood it was time to treat the bees with Oxalic acid.
This is a highly effective treatment against Varroa with a 90% efficiency. However, it will not penetrate the brood capping, hence doing it at the most broodless time. Vaporised Oxalic acid is not toxic to bees but is highly toxic to Varroa mites and to beekeepers!
Having seen a demonstration of how to vaporise Oxalic acid at one the East Lothian Beekeepers Association meetings, my friend Fraser and I borrowed their equipment and arranged to meet up today to treat my hive, and then to treat his hives.
Firstly, Fraser and I read the instructions carefully! I blocked the entrance so no bees could escape. I then inserted a solid board below the open mesh to create a floor. I removed the fondant from the top and plugged the hole with some foam. We put on our protective equipment and I inserted the crucible on the new floor, plugged the gap with moist foam, linked the crucible to the battery and vaporised the acid. This was done for 2.5 minutes, disconnected from the battery and the crucible left in the hive for a further 2 minutes and then finally, the crucible was removed and dipped in a bucket of cold water to cool, with the hive remaining closed for a further 10 minutes to allow the vapour to act on the Varroa mites. When time was up, I removed the foam and the solid board floor, reinserted the Varroa count sheet and reopened the entrance.
I will return in a week and count the Varroa drop on the count sheet. I’m hoping any Varroa not killed in Autumn will now be dead and the bees can look forward to a healthy start to the spring.
We then headed off to Fraser’s apiary and repeated the procedure. I’m glad to say no bees or beekeepers were harmed in the vaporising!
A big thank you goes to Stuart for pulling the trolley with the equipment and a very heavy battery, to Fraser for suggesting we treat the bees this weekend and for his help with the process and to the East Lothian Beekeepers Association for their advice and loan of the equipment.