Louise: reflections on 2022

It was a warm, wet January with ten sunny days but I couldn’t get to my colonies and was reduced to external checks only. All colonies were taking in plenty of pollen indicating queens were already laying.

By putting in and removing varroa boards a week later and then examining the drop of pollen and wax, I could work out broadly how many frames the bees were covering. Six colonies were on more than seven frames. Two were on three and the others were on five or six frames.

There was some difficult weather between February and April with seven named storms and I was still finding it difficult to get into my colonies. Fortunately, there was a window of warmer, dry weather in March so I could begin inspections and plan for shook swarms. Larger colonies were given a second brood box- they were too big for shook swarms (or more precisely, there was more brood than I’m prepared to sacrifice!)

At the end of March, I visited one of my apiaries (three colonies) on a warm sunny day. This was only the second spell of better weather we’d had meaning that there was only limited forage. All three colonies had been flying well the week before. On this visit, I noticed piles of dead and dying bees in front of the hives.

Poisoning was the culprit. My guess would be that the verges- packed with dandelions- had been sprayed by an enthusiastic householder. The dandelions were the main forage available to my three colonies as the blackthorn was not yet in flower. Heart breaking and unnecessary! Raced home to get dilute feed knowing in my soul that it was a waste of time- too many dead and a cold night forecast.

In April, I removed two frames of fully capped brood from the six biggest colonies and hoped that this would catch a good percentage of varroa. In each case, I also removed the three dirtiest brood combs and replaced them with foundation as part of my routine comb rotation procedures. The colonies also had the benefit of the new foundation in the second brood box. All these colonies were fed to help them with wax building.

By mid-April, the weather was still not good enough for shook swarms. I was getting fidgety! A colony at another site had no pollen going in. Investigation revealed a probable drone laying queen. Queen despatched and bees shaken out at the far side of the apiary. Four colonies in a position to accept them. There was one big colony so I assumed the bees would beg to be accepted by the other three. I didn’t like the look of two of them; they weren’t expanding properly. Samples of bees taken for examination for Nosema at the bee health day. Tests for Nosema were inconclusive but Acarine not found.

April also saw lots of planning and frame building for bee practical training day and two training days for basic assessment also completed. Need to lie down!

Practical training day 2022

End of April, beginning of May shook swarms finally completed (yay!) Three colonies still a cause of concern.

28th April, (finally!) some drones around!! Two colonies selected for raising nucs. Both produced a reasonable quantity of honey last year, have not been treated for varroa for three years, don’t follow, lay in a good pattern, haven’t had chalk brood or slipper brood (Sackbrood) I use variations of demerees for a number of manipulations within my apiaries. In this instance, I wanted to raise four nucs without significant loss of honey production.

By now, one breeder queen was already laying on fourteen frames on double brood. My method was to add a queen excluder above the double brood boxes, having first removed a frame of pollen, a frame of honey/nectar, a frame of eggs and a frame of larvae and replacing them with foundation. I then added two supers and an adapted queen excluder with bee space and an entrance. I then added another brood box, placing in the centre the frames of pollen and larvae with nurse bees.

I took the frame of eggs and made large triangular cuts through the comb containing the cells with eggs.

I pinched out alternate cells and placed this frame between the frame of pollen and frame of larvae covered in nurse bees. I opened the entrance, replaced the crown board and roof and made a note in my diary to come back in thirteen days whatever the weather.

Thirteen days later, I had seven queen cells. I carefully removed five and placed them in a dark Tupperware box with damp sponge in the bottom. I made cardboard compartments in the box so that any queens emerging cannot reach each other.

I made another breeder demeree. Although the queen was not so prolific in this colony so I left the queen, all frames with eggs and larvae, one frame of pollen and made up the brood box with frames of foundation. I then added a queen excluder, three supers, an adapted queen excluder with an entrance, adding another brood box with the frames of capped brood, a frame of pollen and honey/nectar. I took two of the queen cells from the Tupperware box and wedged them between two frames. I do this by removing a frame to create a gap, placing the queen cell against the top bar of one frame and drawing another frame close up to it. I then replace the other frames in the box, add a crown board and roof and open the entrance in the adapted queen excluder. For more information on the Miller Method click here. Dave Cushman.

I used the remaining queen cells to make up two nuc boxes, using frames from two other colonies with plenty of nurse bees, a frame of honey/nectar and another of pollen and one containing eggs and young larvae. I achieved three laying queens from this exercise so repeated the demeree and Miller combination using another breeder queen.

All colonies were sugar rolled at least four times and had a drone cull in late June. Two colonies had high varroa counts at the beginning of August (as defined by NBU varroa counter) so were treated with formic acid.

Four colonies (including one of the ‘small ones’ produced five supers of honey each. The breeder colonies each had a full brood box of honey for the winter and yielded two supers of honey each. One colony produced three supers of honey, two colonies produced one super of honey and four colonies produced no honey at all but two of these provided frames for nucs. All the colonies on single brood had a super of honey under the brood box for winter- some also had a super of partially capped honey to empty which was removed in October.

Overall, considering the storms and rain at the beginning of the year followed by crispy forage due to drought I have been pleased with my beekeeping this year. I am frustrated that it is always done with a timer in my pocket, and I did lose a breeder queen to a swarm because I didn’t inspect under one of the demerees due to time constraint.

Following the lectures at last year’s honey show, I also lined some of my brood boxes and roofs with cork to increase insulation. This worked well over the Summer but I have yet to evaluate the winter.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: