Sunday, March 21, 2010
Tuesday, March 9, 2010
- Main identified reasons behind colony losses - starvation was top, with poor management, weather, failed queens, mites etc. behind. CCD and pesticides were last.
- The temperature of feed and its placement in relationship to the cluster is very important, which may explain why some of our hives starved to death even with a hive heavy with sugar and honey.
- Treat for varroa early in the autumn, even as early as August. If you treat later, you may reduce the numbers of mites but any viruses will have had time to build up, and won't be affected by any chemicals you stick in.
- Thymol is a naturally occurring chemical (i.e. in thyme) that is used in treatments such as Apiguard. Ian recommended treating with it, saying that he knew one successful farmer who uses it as his only treatment against varroa and nosema. Ian suggested putting it in the feed, and I wonder weather treating hives with it, e.g. sealing them with linseed oil with thymol mixed in, would help also? And would lots of thyme forage be beneficial too?
- Mesh floors should ideally be able to close (something I had no idea about), to prevent treatments and feed etc. just leaking away. Ian also mentioned how bees survive in old oil drums at 100 degree temperatures in Africa and are able to ventilate for themselves. I was interested to note that the hives he brought along had solid floors with small cirlces of mesh put in, much like a crown board - perhaps to get the best of both worlds.
- I was glad to know that it's not just me that finds Eglu's Beehaus laughable! The Beehaus is based on the Dartington long hive, and interestingly these are said to swarm more often. It's interesting to note that in the wild bees tend to prefer to go vertically, so perhaps horizontal hives aren't necessarily the answer. However this could also explain why they are perfect for beekeeping in Africa, where the bees are migratory anyway.
- The bee farmer requeens around every 2 years. Apparently a New Zealand lecturer says that he finds one of the effects of varroa is that it shortens a queen's lifespan, in the sense that when she's a year old she behaves/is in the condition more like a 2 year old queen, when she's 2 years old she seems more like a 3 year old queen, etc.
- The importance of changing brood combs was stressed. I am determined to finally build a solar wax extractor now! I didn't know that apparently in some EU countries it is now a legal requirement to change brood combs every year. This sounds like a lot of cuffuffle but a simple rotation of frames (made even more straightforward by adding new boxes to the bottom of the hive - as in Warre beekeeping - rather than the top) makes this easier than it sounds.
- The amunt of interesting research to be found on the internet was also stressed. I'll be investigating this from now and will let you know about any interesting finds!
- Bees should be fed little and often. Keep checking your hives, even in winter - around Christmas maybe and as the spring starts to arrive. You can always check my hefting, without opening the hives up. Runny syrup can be fed even in early spring.
- Poly hives - I assume he meant the double-skinned plastic hives - seem to be growing in popularity. Apparently Denmark has the lowest incidence of brood diseases in Europe and they keep bees almost exclusively in poly hives. Ian recommended household bleach, caustic soda or even the stuff they used to disinfect wellies etc. during the foot and mouth outbreaks for cleaning the hives, as unfortunately they can't be scorched. They build up quicker in the spring, but Ian finds that the queen start laying a little later for some reason.
- Records can be kept by screwing a jam jar to each hive and keeping records in there. The hive can become a wooden record by colour-coding frames, being meticulous in marking queens, etc. Mark the queens when you first see them, don't (as we usually do) forget your pen and have to come back and do it later!
- The convenience of using a nail gun for constructing hives and frames!
All in all a really interesting lecture with plenty of food for thought...I'm planning to try out lots of new ideas this year and certainly I'll be looking into some of the suggestions here. We're planning our spring inspection for March 20th or the first weekend of April, weather permitting. Until then I think we'll go and heft the hives and see if we need to boil up any syrup already!
Saturday, March 6, 2010
^ I don't know what this evergreeen shrub is called, but the bees love it and when it's in flower it smells wonderful.
^ The garden today.
^ A forgotten Brussels sprout plant left over from 2 years ago!
^ Purple crocus buds